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It's time to catch up on some activity around the league. We'll officially start to see movement in terms of roster decisions, the Cubs managerial search, and perhaps the proverbial kicking of a tire or three -- including some very interesting left-handed tires.
The Cubs today activated 3 players from the 60 Day DL which adds them back to the 40 man roster. Those players are Arodys Vizcaino, Matt Gamel, and Kyuji Fujikawa. The roster now stands at 37 as the Cubs head into the GM meetings. As it stands now, presuming the Cubs would only protect two players from the Rule 5 draft. Arismendy Alcantara and someone else, maybe Dallas Beeler. I know that if I were a team out there, I would be looking at Beeler above some of the other draft eligibles -- the stuff, command and approach is probably good enough for him to be a viable bullpen guy with starter potential. But that's just me. A 6'5" guy with a heavy 92-93 mph 2-seamer, a hard slider, and solid command is a guy who can make it in this league in a variety of roles. Still work to be done, but you have a nice starter kit for something there.
Wood Contract Extension?
As we've talked about in the past -- as early as this past May, the Cubs are working to make Wood a part of their core. They are currently looking to sign him to an extension. It's a no-brainer in my opinion. Wood is entering his prime years, he's a rare commodity in that he's a talented left-handed pitcher, and he is about to see a significant increase in salary anyway.
Starlin Castro, David Price, and asset depth/flexibility
I talked to one scout who is a bit down on Starlin Castro. Not in a "he's terrible and will never be good" kind of way, actually quite the opposite. He thinks he has more ability than Jurickson Profar, even star potential -- a Hanley Ramirez type, but he is down on his ability to reach that ceiling, believing he needs to mature and learn better from his mistakes. He can still be very good, but the feeling is more in the sense that if he doesn't learn better pitch recognition/selection he may not play up to his God-given ability and won't be an essential piece of the puzzle once the Cubs become competitive. He may have greater value in what he can bring back, saying that getting Castro cheap for 7 years is about worth 2-3 top shelf prospects alone.
He also sees the Cubs as a team with the prospect depth to package Castro that would include one of their 3B prospects (perhaps Carlos Villanueva) to try to acquire a young cheap arm and perhaps a young corner outfielder with power and some cost control. He also said the Cubs even have the depth to make a run at David Price.
Now that would make the offseason exciting. And it's certainly a way to add impact talent without adding too much to the 2014 payroll. By the time Price really gets paid, the Cubs should be ready to expand their payroll. Dealing with the Rays, however, is never an easy task.
It's an intriguing idea. The Cubs have built depth and have stashed quite a few assets. We've talked about that at some point, the plan is to rearrange some of the current assets and perhaps obtain equal value at positions where the Cubs have holes and lack depth.
Could it be the time to do that now? My feeling is that as long as you don't completely deviate from the long term plan, there is no time frame to make these kinds of moves. You do it if the opportunity presents itself.
The Catcher Roulette and the search for a lefty bat...could Curtis Granderson come home?
The possibility of dealing Welington Castillo has been broached before. Not because the Cubs are unhappy with him. Quite the contrary. They know he's a great asset at just 26 years old and a budding defensive star with offensive potential at a premium position. He is going to be a big factor in the Cubs long term success one way or the other.
We've talked in the past about how we should look at the Cubs talent as inventory or assets. I've used the analogy of it not being a jigsaw puzzle but more like a game of Settlers of Cataan. The key is to use your assets wisely -- using some, exchanging others, and sometimes buying what you need. You do not build a team a piece at a time -- at least not at this stage of the process.
So getting back to Castillo, we see the Cubs heavy on young RH hitters and short on LH hitters and pitching. Today we learned that Brian McCann received a qualifying offer but Jarrod Saltalamacchia did not. Is Saltalamacchia a better long term prospect than Castillo? Probably not, but he does add a much needed LH bat and allows the Cubs to perhaps use Castillo to fill another need -- pitching. Maybe he even becomes part of the David Price package we alluded to above. Of course, that's just speculation, but the point is to show that the Cubs may need to get creative in the use of their inventory/assets and while they may not want to lose a player of Castillo's talent, you certainly wouldn't pass up an opportunity to improve the team overall.
Speaking of lefty bats, another source tells me to keep an eye on Curtis Granderson if he's not given a qualifying offer. Granderson may want to come home to Chicago and unlike Ellsbury he could be had on a 3 year deal -- a perfect situation for the Cubs right now.
UPDATE: Curtis Granderson received a qualifying offer. So much for that.
The same scout gave me 4 deep sleepers to watch in the Cubs system:
- IF Daniel Lockhart
- OF Charcer Burks
- RHP Erling Moreno
- LHP Jesus Perez
The one I know the most about is Daniel Lockhart because I had the opportunity to talk about some Cubs people about prospects at length while at the Kane County game. Lockhart is a tremendous instinctual player with a high baseball IQ, solid athleticism, and bat to ball skills that should allow him to hit for a decent average. He's not a big kid, so he won't hit for much more than doubles power, but he's a guy to watch. Good bloodlines. His father, Keith Lockhart was an MLB player himself.
Charcer Burks is a quick twitch athlete with great speed, quick hand and surprisingly advanced ability to make consistent hard contact for a prospect considered to be raw. The Cubs pounced on him in the 9th round and signed him to an overslot deal.
I admit I don't know as much yet about Moreno and Perez, but if I get some more info on them, I will pass it on.
A Post Modern Manager Search
We've scaled back our speculation on the manager search simply because it's all been covered. In it's place, there has been a sense that most people want it done and over with. Reader Mike Partipillo took a humorous look at a previously unconsidered criteria -- facial hair, and our colleague Mauricio Rubio of World Series Dreaming takes an existential look at the search.
As for the coverage of the search, I'm strangely reminded of a passage in the book White Noise by Don DeLillo where, while on the road, a driver heads down seeing signs alerting to a tourist destination -- the "Most Photographed Barn in America". As the driver proceeds down the road, the signs excitedly announce the pending location of this barn -- "10 more miles to see the most photographed barn", "Just 2 more miles!!", etc. When the driver finally arrives at the destination, he sees a crowd of people taking pictures.
But there is no barn.
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