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Around the League: On Baseball Around the World and Cubs Pitching Needs

Around the League: On Baseball Around the World and Cubs Pitching Needs

For those of you who don't know, my day job is Ph.D. student in economics.  One of the cool things about big grad departments is they tend to bring in people from all over the world.

My friend, lets call her Lajja, can't stand baseball but loves cricket.  You can feel her excitement when she shares stories of her favorite bowler from her native India going up against the Australians.

In her 3rd year, Lajja needed to teach a class on statistics.  To give the students an example that they could relate to, she wanted to talk about baseball.  Knowing nothing about the sport, and afraid that she may make a fool out of herself in front of her first class, she spent about an hour learning the basics of the game.  With a lot of focus, she managed to master batting average, ERA, OBP.  She was ready to go.

She walks into the classroom, introduces herself, and says, "Okay, so which country does America play in the World Series?"

I now need a transition to talking about free agent pitchers.  So, speaking of foreign conceptions of American baseball, the Cubs lost out on Masahiro Tanaka.  However, there's still talk that the Cubs might get involved with guys like Bronson Arroyo.  That would be good for this year.  However, an interesting situation is developing in Cleveland.  Talks between Justin Masterson and the Indians about a long term extension broke down on Monday, with both sides now focused on his arbitration case.

If an agreement with Masterson can't be hammered out, the soon-to-be 29 year old will hit free agency this winter.  Masterson was masterful for the Tribe last year, putting up a 3.35 FIP and striking out over a batter an inning.  He would be in the middle of his prime and set for a long term deal with a similarly dominant season this year.  The Cubs would have the financial flexibility to make a move if the front office likes what they see in him.  It's a situation that bears watching as we move forward.

Around the League:

Tuesday

  • According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, A.J. Burnett will pitch again this season and will test the open market.  This comes as a bit of a surprise to the Pirates who were expecting the decision to come down to Pirates or retirement.  THURSDAY UPDATE: The Orioles are "all in" on Burnett according to Gammons.  This makes a lot of sense as they need pitching and Burnett comes relatively cheap and without any draft pick compensation.  The Rays are also involved.

Wednesday

  • Scott Baker, who spent most of 2013 on the DL for the Cubs, signed a minor league deal with the Mariners.  Baker is trying to salvage his career following Tommy John surgery in 2012 which, to this point, has robbed him of his former velocity.
  • Interesting article by Jim Callis looking at the signing bonuses of the Top 100 prospects.  Keeping with the new emphasis on player development, the Cubs have #1 (Jorge Soler) and #2 (Kris Bryant) on the list.  However, they also have #99 (Arismendy Alcantara) and #97 (CJ Edwards, though that was obviously paid by the Rangers).
  • Ken Rosenthal has a story pointing out that former Yankee Vernon Wells could lose money by playing in 2014.  Wish I could earn $21 million by sitting around playing video games all day...

Thursday

  • Jim Bowden has the Mariners in big on free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz, with an offer possibly coming today (Thursday).  This is an interesting signing for the Mariners.  Cruz's power will almost certainly decline moving from the launching pad that is Arlington to Seattle.  It also costs them another draft pick, putting them completely all-in.  Does that mean they may trade some of their non-Walker pieces for another starter?
  • Michael Young has decided to hang up his glove.  He finishes his 14-year career with a .787 OPS and 185 home runs.  All but his final season were spent with the Rangers.

Friday

  • Jeff Todd at MLBTradeRumors.ccom has an excellent piece on salaries over the last seven seasons.  Well worth a read.
  • The Marlins have signed ex-Cub Reed Johnson to a minor league deal.  Johnson really struggled for the Braves last season, finishing with a .652 OPS, causing the team to decline his option.
  • The Rangers picked up Daniel Bard.  Bard was an excellent setup man for the Red Sox early in his career, but injuries and control problems have made him a reclamation project for the Rangers.
  • Interesting tweet from Ken Rosenthal: the Orioles plan to add at least $15 million more to their payroll before the season starts.  That would seem to be enough room to put them in free agents Nelson Cruz, Ervin Santana, and Ubaldo Jimenez.

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  • Interesting situation with Masterson. Even if we suck and are selling off by the deadline again this year. If a team misses, and has a guy like Masterson/Price/Scherzer, etc on the market, I can see us making a deal for them. Especially of we draft Turner in June.... just sayin'

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I would hope they don't go for Price, seems like pitchers leaving Rays tend to have arm problems soon after they leave Tampa. They rarely if ever seem to be the same after they leave. I tend to believe that Tampa are excellent in evaluating players and seem to know when to move on. Few teams ever seem to come out on top of trades with the Rays.

  • In reply to peoria cubfan:

    I'm not sure it's that the Rays know something about their pitchers that others don't. I think it's a general (and smart) reluctance to sign any pitcher to a big bucks contract that takes them well into their less productive 30s. They've traded consistently every one of their pitchers as they approach free agency, not selectively. It's smart, but of course only possible because they have the pitching pipeline to feed that approach, which they've buttressed by getting some young pitching in return (Archer from the Cubs in particular, although even he did require significant patience).

  • It wouldn't make sense for us to trade prospects for a guy we expect to get to free agency.

    After adding Hammel I don't think Arroyo makes any sense for us.

  • In reply to Eric:

    Agreed. I think Hammel will be their biggest signing this offseason. If they sign another pitcher (and I think it's unlikely), I could see it being someone like Chris Capuano.

  • In reply to Eric:

    Id kinda hate to see too many of Arroyos 80mph "fastballs" getting launched out of Wrigley in July and August. For $10 m, no thanks. Now if he wants to talk 6-7 million, then Id warm up to the idea of a 2 yr contract.

  • Very funny story about Lajja Mike, I guess the moral of the story would be a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous.

  • Sorry Mike, but Masterson won't become available this winter. He'll be a free agent next winter.

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    In reply to JeffK:

    If by next winter you mean after the 2014 season, then I agree. Perhaps I was a little unclear there.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yes, Mike, next winter means 2014/15 after the 2014 baseball season. This winter is 2013/14. And, since he is currently an employee of the Cleveland Indians and possibly going to arbitration it can't be this winter.

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    In reply to JeffK:

    Clearly you think I'm an idiot. I more than understand that and already said I may have been unclear. However, in baseball terminology, with Spring Training only a few weeks away, Winter 2013/2014 is all but over.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Baseball's winter maybe almost over, but it is still this winter, therefore, he isn't available until next winter or this coming winter.

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    In reply to JeffK:

    He also said he WILL hit free agency.

    The FAs for the winter of '13 went on the market two months ago.

    It's 2014 now.

    You're not even being pedantic, just annoying, and wrong.

  • In reply to JeffK:

    ok, ok, we get it! Geez

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I read the post, and it took 2 seconds to figure out what he meant (yes he said "this" winter, and should have said perhaps "after this season, or "next" winter. But logic would lead one to the correct conclusion. Why the semantics? I think the more feeble minded might have a different conclusion.

  • I agree, don't trade prospects for someone who wants to test Free Agency. He will be hitting it as we have money to spend anyway.

  • The Indians have gone to crap ever since they signed Kevin Gallo as a scout......

  • In reply to felzz:

    Haha! I don't think it's a coincidence. He's made his impact felt already.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    john,
    I see 3 pitching spots potentially up for competition
    this spring with 3 pretty solid candidates and many
    other good choices.
    1. #5 starter: Arrieta then Cabrera (hes out of options)
    Rusin,Grimm,Wada,Marshall & McDonald
    2. lefty reliever: Wright then Sanchez,Rosscup,Raley
    Hottovy & Rusin
    3. righty reliever: Rondon then Cabrera,Grimm,Vizcaino
    then Fujikawa when he is healthy. Then we have Beeler,
    Hendricks & Ramirez that are close. Thats 27 pitchers
    that are MLB ready, its amazing how much the depth has
    improved. We still dont have the studs though.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Iowa will have pitching roster of:
    SP: Hendricks,Cabrera,Rusin,Grimm,Ramirez,Wada,Marshall,
    McDonald,Jokisch & Loux
    RP: Schlitter,Pimentel,McNutt,Sanchez,Vizcaino,Rosscup
    Raley,Hottovy still leaves Negrin,Coleman,Cerrano and a
    few others.
    I think Raley & Cabrera could be traded this spring they are
    on the 40 and Cabrera is out of options. During the season
    I see Russell,Hammel,Jackson,Villanueva (depending
    on how Vizcaino does) and Veras being trade candidates
    we have guys that could replace them pretty quickly.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Beeler, Hendricks, and Ramirez are Not close and won't be real competition this spring. Perhaps Hendricks might be next spring and the others in 2016.

  • In reply to felzz:

    If they get tired of Kevin we will take him back at Cubs Den.

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    The Royals have DFAd Emilio Bonifacio. Here's hoping the Cubs are interested.

  • Good stuff, Moody, but ummm, what happened with Lajja? This was going some where good and then nada. I have to agree with her, though. I've been asking that same question since I was 12. Why is it called the World Series? This really should be changed to Championship game or something that makes more sense.

  • In reply to lokeey:

    Pretty sure it's the World Series because the old NY World newspaper was the initial sponsor. Someone correct me if my memory fails.

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    In reply to lokeey:

    The joke ended with her spending an hour learning about the game but all of us forgetting to explain to her where the teams are from. If you're interested in what happened next, the students spent 5-10 minutes explaining the teams and how the World Series works to her.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    My day is now complete. Thanks. Hehehe!

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I thought maybe she was going to give her presentation only to have people tell her that those are meaningless stats now and then proceed to fill her head with a bunch of sabermetrics crap...

  • Id stay away from Masterson myself. Too inconsistent, and still has trouble retiring lefties.

  • The long-term SP situation is the only thing that gives me a great deal of worry about the "plan".

    I have some confidence- perhaps misguided- that biz plans will come together. I also have the utmost confidence in B& B boys leading an offensive renassaince , sooner rather than later.

    I just don't feel confident that we can just decide we're ready to get elite SP and make it happen at the drop of a hat. Do these big names(Scherzer, Bailey, Masterson, Shields, ) get to mkt? Are we gonna be blown away by LAD or NYY ? Nobody seems to want to trade their elite SP prospects( Bradley, Walker, Bundy, Stroman). It's a bit of a conundrum....

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I agree. Yet at the same time, no one is really dealing their elite power prospects either. I think Theo/Jed saw a market inefficiency in elite power prospects and when we do decide to go "all in" for TOR talent, we are going to have to eventually offer the likes of Bryant, Beaz, and/or Solar for it. No way around it. That is why I think it is funny when people list our 2016 everyday line-up and it includes all of those prospects. Some of them will have to be sacrificed for pitching (some meaning more than just one of them).

  • In reply to travelguy:

    I think the Theo and Jed strategy is hit the pitching problem with volume and that is what they are doing. They have been "all in" for the last 2 years. If we still have a hole then use FAs. I don't think they will trade their elite bats unless there is a surplus/redundancy. And even then they won't offer their very best bats. It is very unlikely Baez and Bryant get traded as young players, maybe as expensive veterans later in their career. Why trade a core player for another core player? Now if we could trade one core player for two core players, I could see Theo doing that.

  • In reply to John57:

    I suppose it depends on what your definition of "all in" means. What I was talking about was TOR talent that they could use at the major league level that could be used immediately to help them win more games (and more meaningful games in September/October). They are not going after those pitchers yet. Sorry Maholm, Feldman, Baker, Jackson, Hammel, etc is not whom I am talking about. Once the Cubs decide to go after the Shields, Fisters, etc of the world to address the TOR holes, I see them having to sacrifice some of their elite hitting prospects.
    By the way, I see this as a pretty astute strategy (I apologize for not running a series of Big Data computations to support this theory John ;). But it would appear that data would support there being less risk in drafting elite hitters at the top of the draft than elite pitching. If that is the case, why not stock pile elite hitters and then when they are major league ready, trade them for elite pitching (who would also have to be major league ready). In that way, you are forcing other team's to carry the risk of whether a pitching prospect develops or not.
    I truly believe the Cubs are employing some variant of this type of strategy. That is why I am not too concerned about whether the Cubs draft Turner versus some pitching prospect not named Rondon or Beede.

  • In reply to travelguy:

    My definition of "all in" is drafting in volume in the draft and developing our own TOR pitchers. TOR pitchers can be drafted outside the first round. We signed a number of international free agent pitching prospects this last year too. Also going after FA Tanaka and Ryu were attempts to acquire a TOR pitcher. They definitely were "all in" on Tanaka but unfortunately NY gave a crazy offer to beat us. I do agree with you that Maholm, Feldman, Baker, Jackson and Hammel are not attempts to get TOR pitchers. I never said they were. They are place holders that can win some games right away.

    But I still don't agree with you that they are going to trade more than one of Bryant, Baez and Soler for pitching, as you stated. I don't see it happening. We will just have agree to disagree.

  • In reply to John57:

    Well, I agree that we will have to agree to disagree on this because I just don't think it is realistic to think that we are going to luck into TOR talent but drafting heavy on pitching AFTER the first round (where most of the TOR talent resides). Also, I wasn't limiting our trade chips to just Bryant, Baez, and Soler (re-read my earlier post, I said "the likes of") as you mentioned. I was suggesting that any elite hitting prospects that we gather could be used. This could include Vogelbach, Jimenez, our pick this year, etc.
    It seems to me that there is a pretty common template for winning teams in baseball and it includes at least two elite SP's (and usually a pretty decent support cast of SP's). Right now, I don't see where those are in our system but I do see us stockpiling a nice set of elite hitting prospects. It seems like pretty simple math at this point.

  • In reply to travelguy:

    I mentioned we would go after FAs too. Ones that want to test the market like David Price. If they are free agents then we don't have to give up prospects or MLB players.

    As for players in our organization who could be TOR pitcheres, I think we have some potential ones. In our current rotation we will have Shark and Arrieta. They both have Ace potential but they have to work on their consistency. If the light bulb goes on for either of those two, I think we have a TOR pitcher. In the minors we have CJ Edwards. If he proves he can handle the workload, I think he is TOR material. Then our draft picks of Blackburn, Johnson, Tseng and Rob Z. all have TOR potential but are farther away. We could have a few TOR SPs developed organically. I just don't see our FO giving away elite prospects of any kind away unless it is absolutely necessary.

  • In reply to travelguy:

    See John's article today about pitching. He says what I was trying to say much more eloquently.

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    Jackson or Turner as a draft pick are a possibility,but I'm still thinking Cubs grab Beede if he's there in the 1st. round at # 4. I don't really know if he profiles as a TOR starter,but the Vanderbilt & Johnson connection is compelling to say the least.

  • In reply to TheRiot2:

    I believe we will either draft Turner or Beede. Wouldnt have a problem with either, to be honest. Really, really like Turner though...

  • In reply to TheRiot2:

    Yes Beede most definitely profiles as a TOR starter. But I think Rodon, Hoffman, Kolek, and Newcombe profile as TOR SPs too. But if you look lately they have been choosing bats and Turner looks good, really good. I won't lose any sleep worrying about the pick. We have Epstein/Hoyer/McCloud doing our selecting.

  • In reply to John57:

    I think we have read many times the FO approach to the draft, it to take the "best bet"! Almora, Bryant, etc., high ceiling, low risk. The White Sox article I read said the Sox plan to draft a pitcher. Rondon is the only draftee I absolutely think will not drop to the Cubs. But I have questions about a few others. I think the Cubs certainly would take Trea Turner or Hoffman without question. But what about Tyler Kolek. He is a HS kid, big, with huge upside, but does he answer the Cubs needs within say a 3 or 4 year window? That covers I think the top 4 picks for the Cubs unless they would draft a HS catcher in Jackson. I doubt it!

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    I forgot Beede who is listed 6th I think.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    Yes between Rodon, Beede, Hoffman, Turner, Newcombe and Kolek we will get a very good prospect. I don't think we will go after any of the HS hitters.

  • I agree. That is exactly the plan that will unfold with at least one of the big 4. Even if we find quality from our stable of current minor league pitching. The next 2 drafts will tell us more about the necessary approach the FO will need to take. The thing to remember is the plan is fluid ...action and reaction.

  • The above was a suppose to be a response to TravelGuy.

  • I heard Taijan Walker on the MLB network today. I have to say i was very impressed with his intelligence and personality. He is a home-body, not a strip-club or night-club patron. He likes his mother's Mexican cooking. After that interview I can honestly say he was my new top pitching prospect not in a Cubs uniform!

  • Loved that story about the Indian girl! If baseball gets boring we can talk about adam Smith, Marx, Fredrich Hayek, Frederic Bastiat, John Maynard Keynes, and Milton Friedman! They were all fire-ballers except Keynes!

    I never fail to be impressed with you guys intellect!

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    In reply to Quasimodo:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0nERTFo-Sk&noredirect=1

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTQnarzmTOc&noredirect=1

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Loved them! Thanks Mike!

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    My understanding is that Bernanke commissioned them for a Fed meeting, but they are excellent for teaching undergrads the difference between the two and about competing interpretations of the Great Depression.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Thank you! So true; well except the part about Keynes and the girls!

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    Not sure that you can just dismiss Keynes like that, even if you're not really a fan.

    While history, and to a lesser degree, economics are a hobby of mine, I really hope that we don't bring politics into this board (other than the politics played by the Ricketts ownership and the Rooftop owners). Cubs Den is one of the few places on the internet that I can read comments from readers that don't devolve into left vs. right nonsense.

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    Mike took the right approach.

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    He wasn't dismissing him, merely pointing out his sexual orientation.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    I don't know about that; Friedman appeared to be a knuckleballer.

  • In reply to krn99:

    Perhaps, but Keynes relied mostly on his "back-door slider".

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    In reply to Quasimodo:

    This really needs to stop here...

  • Oh boy, a bunch of baseball fans discussing macro-economics. What could possibly go wrong?

  • In reply to Quedub:

    LOL! If I enter the conversation then it will going completely haywire.

  • How about a Moody Blues book review of AFTER THE MUSIC STOPPED?

  • Well, what can one expect on Super Bowl Sunday. All that excessive fuss over a football game. I hope baseball never gets that full of itself.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    That was quite a spectacle. The football game didn't live up to the hype. Always liked baseball's style. More understated and the WS nearly always delivers.

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