Cubs could be primed for a surprise season as "mid-term" portion of plan starts to come to fruition

Cubs could be primed for a surprise season as "mid-term" portion of plan starts to come to fruition
The young talent in 2014 will point the Cubs in a new direction

It's inaccurate to say that the Cubs are sitting around waiting for prospects to arrive and it's too simple to say that the Cubs have a long term plan that they will someday switch to a short-term plan.  It's more to accurate to say they have a multi-level plan that they operate simultaneously.  Part of that plan is starting to come into fruition this very season.

When we talk long term, we mostly talk about scouting, acquiring, and developing first year talent and that is indeed a big portion of the puzzle.  It's how the Cubs have acquired top prospects Javier Baez, Albert Almora, and Kris Bryant.  But draft and IFA classes can take time before they reach the big leagues, much less make an impact.  It's too soon to invest big in short term players who will be past their prime before those players get there.  Moreover, the new CBA has made it difficult to acquire multiple first round talents in a single draft.  The Cubs needed more than just the draft and the IFA signings for the long term.  They needed upper level talent to, in effect, create a new first wave that would have otherwise been too far away.

One of the things this front office had to address right away was the lack of young MLB ready talent.  The team they took over had some talent, but much of that was at the lower levels that were mostly acquired through the 2012 draft and a couple of recent solid IFA classes.  There was some talent but beyond Baez -- who was still a pretty big question mark at that point, you had to look deep to find guys like Jeimer Candelario, Dillon Maples, Carlos Penalver, Mark Malave, and Dan Vogelbach.

Another part of the mid-term plan was to develop some of the existing talent in the system, talent that included upper level prospects such as Brett Jackson, Junior Lake, Welington Castillo, Trey McNutt, an already fading Josh Vitters, and a whole lot of role players.  There was some talent, but hardly enough to feel confident about once you take prospect attrition and injury into account.  Sure enough, Lake and Castillo are the only players from those Pre-Theo upper levels of the minors who figure to play a significant role in 2014.

The Cubs also hoped to continue to develop some of the lower level, higher ceiling talent in the hopes that it could develop with a greater emphasis on improving approach and defense to fit the organization's philosophy.  They've struck gold with Baez on that front, who has developed faster than most imagined, and also have to be pleased with the improvement of a second potential MLB starter in Arismendy Alcantara.

But that still wasn't going to be enough to bridge the gap.  The Cubs still needed to bring in talent they could add to that group and give them some young talent to build around Starlin Castro and fill the roster with young talent until the front office could draft and develop it's own prospects.

There are essentially two ways to pick up this talent.  One is to trade for it and the other is to take some flyers on failed prospects and hope you strike gold with one or two.  The first can be costly and the second method doesn't exactly yield a high rate of return, as we've found out in recent years, most notably the failures of former top prospects Ian Stewart and Chris Volstad.

But things are beginning to turn around this season in what I believe will be the first significant step forward in terms of young talent at the MLB level.  Taking a quick look at the Opening Day Roster, we get a glimpse of some key young MLB ready talent from that mid-term plan:

  • 1B: Anthony Rizzo - acquired for Andrew Cashner
  • 3B: Mike Olt - acquired as part of Matt Garza package
  • C: Welington Castillo --  signed by Hendry regime but development accelerated by this organization
  • OF: Junior Lake -- signed by Hendry regime but development accelerated by this organization
  • OF: Ryan Kalish - former Red Sox top prospect signed as free agent
  • SP: Travis Wood -- acquired for Sean Marshall
  • SP: Jake Arrieta -- acquired for Scott Feldman
  • RP: Pedro Strop -- acquired for Scott Feldman
  • RP: Justin Grimm - acquired as part of Matt Garza package
  • RP: Hector Rondon - Rule 5 selection

The Cubs also have a number of players of this ilk who could be ready mid-season or sooner:

  • SS-2B: Javier Baez -- drafted by Hendry regime but development accelerated by this organization
  • 2B-SS Arismendy Alcantara -- signed by Hendry regime but development accelerated by this organization
  • SP: Kyle Hendricks -- AAA starter acquired for Ryan Dempster
  • 3B: Christian Villaneuva -- AAA starting 3B acquired for Ryan Dempster
  • RP: Arodys Vizcaino -- AAA SP/RP acquired for Paul Maholm
  • RP: Neil Ramirez -- AAA SP/RP acquired as part of Matt Garza trade

That's 10 players on the Opening Day roster that have either been acquired, re-developed, or re-purposed by the new front office -- and as many as 16 by the end of the season.  15 of those 16 players were once ranked as top 10 prospects within their respective organizations while  Kyle Hendricks, the lone exception, has been on the cusp of that status.

Even if you strictly count acquisitions, we're talking 12 players with the potential to make an impact this season.  Not all of them will, of course, but I like the odds that several of them will at least approach their expectations.

And you know what the real scary part is?  All of the players listed above are at their prime athletic years or younger.  Their arrow is pointing upward.  And it's not like they're being paired up with a bunch of overpaid,  past their prime geezers.  The oldest player on the Opening Day roster is Justin Ruggiano, who just turned 32 in February.  Jason Hammel is 31 while Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva are 30.  Those are all still considered within a players prime range.

If you want an Oakland Athletics-style, non-star, low payroll style turnaround that's pretty much the formula -- stock up on prime and pre-prime aged players.  A look at the 2012 Athletics roster that surprised and won 94 games shows a similar breakdown as far as the age of their players.  That does not guarantee the same results, of course, but good things can happen when you fill your roster with a bunch of talented players who still have yet to play their best baseball.

So, if you think this plan has been standing in place and twiddling it's thumbs waiting for the front office's hand-picked prospects to arrive then you are missing the larger picture.  The Cubs have already started the transformation to a younger, more athletic, more talented roster and we don't have to wait until next year to see it happen.  This is a team that has been evolving right under our noses and, from a physical, athletic, and age standpoint, already looks drastically different than the roster they inherited.  It's still hard to imagine this team going very far this season but it's clear the focus has switched from shedding old contracts and changing a failed clubhouse culture.  The attention now turns to the actual addition of MLB ready talent.  Even if they don't all pan out as hoped, a few probably will.  If nothing else, it's the first step toward a new direction for the organization - and the exciting part is that the best is yet to come.

 

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  • You have highlighted why I am optimistic this team could win 75 games or so.

    Rizzo, Castro, Welly, Shark, Woods, Olt are the young Core. You have anther 6-8 guys you have listed that could step up and continue their development that can be added to this list.

    Now, not everyone is going to continue to develop, but this isn't like we have a bunch of 34 year olds on the back side of a solid career.

    And, as you point out, as the Cubs add in some guys later this season, things could be interesting in the 2nd half.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I considered adding Shark since he became a starter under this regime and is still in his prime range. That was a borderline call, though as some of his improvement started in the second half of Hendry's last season and it was that Hendry regime who promised him a shot of starting. In the end, I think Hendry still deserved most of the credit for Shark, but that's not to say the FO hasn't given him a bit of a boost.

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    In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I also have them at 75 wins, but the pitching is feast or famine. Expect a lot of 3-1 wins, 8-7 losses.

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    I like your assessment. The only thing I'd quibble with is that the players who have gotten better with the new regime might have improved under Hendry. So, I'd say they've advanced under Epstein/Hoyer, and not that their development has necessarily accelerated because of the new regime.

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    Yes, thats true. We don't know that for certain they wouldn't have improved any differently, but the improvement in Baez/Alcantara/Lake approaches/walk rates makes me think it's highly probable that this was the emphasis of the new FO and not the old one. We also know how hard they've worked with Castillo and Lake on defense. I think they deserve a lot of credit for those guys improvement but, of course, it's impossible to know with any real certainty.

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    In reply to Glen Krisch:

    Well, the one thing we DO have to go off of is that Theoyer have had their top prospects do well at the MLB level in the past, and a great many Hendry prospects did not.
    So when we see success from Hendry draftees after the Theoyer regime took over, I'm inclined to believe that the overhaul of minor league coaching staffs and other personnel changes may have something to do with some of it.

  • John,
    I still question the original Garza trade and the Cashner trade (of course I get the complete benefit of looking in hind-sight while in real-time management had to play the odds). I know that would mean that we wouldn't have such regulars/prospects such as Rizzo, Olt, CJ Edwards, Ramirez, and Grimm. But imagine a starting core of:
    1. Cashner
    2. Archer
    3. Samardziga
    4. Wood
    5. Jackson

    That looks pretty good, doesn't it? I am just such a huge fan of building a team by pitching and defense. Perhaps some day we will once again lead the league in homers with Beaz, Bryant, Olt, Solar, etc. but those teams usually don't do very well once things tighten up in a playoff atmosphere. I still don't see anywhere in our current system where we would have the type of talent Cashner and Archer would have brought.

    Would be curious what you think. I believe the the plans of the front office of drafting/finding the best athlete. In my world, I just wish they would more often error on the side of pitching/defense versus big bats.

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    In reply to travelguy:

    I'm not too concerned by the imbalance of positional/pitching prospects. If it ever gets to the point where we're overflowing with offense but lacking pitching at the major league level, you can always do something like the Cashner-Rizzo trade except in reverse (where we're getting the pitcher).

  • In reply to Jason Pellettiere:

    I believe that if a team has enough offense and defense, pitchers would settle for fewer dollars or a shorter contract to win in order to help themselves long-term.

  • In reply to travelguy:

    Archer and Cashner could come back to bite the Cubs but I don't agree that you put all your marbles in young pitching. And you certainly don't take a less pitching talent when you consider the higher risk involved. Less talent and higher risk isnt a sound strategy in any endeavor and baseball is no exception.

    Bats are more likely to pan out and if you have a surplus, so be it. We've seen how much a teams pitching fortunes can change in a heartbeat, with the Braves being a prime example.

    If there is a developing shortage in today's game, it's power hitters. And if you have a surplus of those, you will be able to purchase just about anything you want when the time comes.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm not sure I agree with that. Go back to those mid-1990 Texas Ranger , Cleveland Indian, and late 1990 Baltimore Oriole clubs that had all of those great bats but thin pitching. Seemed to bite them each once they got into the playoffs. Personally, I would have preferred being build like those Brave's teams of the same era.

  • In reply to travelguy:

    Power bats weren't at the premium in that era that they are now but that isn't really the main point. Those teams competed every year, which is all you can really ask. That they did not break through and win a World Series proves no more than a pitching dominant Braves dynasty that won only one ring -- and they barely won that one.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Well, the hitting-rich Rangers, Indians, and Orioles of that era didn't win any. The Braves competed every year...didn't they win their division some ridiculous number of years in a row (10 or something like that?). I like Theo's philosophy of trying to put the Cubs in position to get "lucky" every year (versus the Hendry mindset of "loading up" on a given year). I just wish the the mindset was to error more on pitching/defense versus bats. Again, just my opinion.

  • In reply to travelguy:

    Boston emphasized hitting and competed every year with good but not great pitching staffs. You don't need a star studded staff and the odds that you can keep them together and healthy are low. The Braves are a rare example, the best case scenario, and even they have shown it only guarantees you will compete.

    Do yourself a favor and look at your past World Series teams/playoff teams and take a look at their OBPs and slugging percentages, they are always near the top. Pitching and defense are part of the game but offense has also shown to be a consistent trait of winning teams. Talent is what wins in the end so you get it where you can and sort the rest out later. Theo himself showed this with the Red Sox, who won with great offensive teams with good but not great staffs -- acquiring a good chunk of their best pitching from outside the organization, sometimes with their surplus prospect talent, as in the case with Beckett.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I happen to think that good pitching beats good hitting, but good pitching is much more volatile....that's why I'm comfortable with the hitting-first approach. Pitchers get hurt much more, and pitching performance also seems to vary more than hitting performance, even for players in their prime.

    The other factor with injuries is that pitching depth is so important; the more, the better

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Wow! John, I hope you aren't saying the Braves were a poor template in which to build a sustainable winning program. The Brave's won divisional titles '91-'93 and '95-'05. That means over a fifteen year period they put themselves in position to win a title 14 times. Yes, Boston has won three titles in the past decade but they also have been terrible during that time. But that isn't even my point, even Boston was built on solid (and often times) spectacular group of pitching/defense (I don't even remember who their big bats were in '04 but I certainly remember Pedro and Shilling from that team. Actually your mention of Boston and their '04 team sort of makes my point for me.

  • In reply to travelguy:

    Not a poor template at all, but almost impossible to duplicate. Can you name any other team that had that kind of sustained success while keeping the same starting 3 or 4 intact? I'm saying that's a once in a lifetime record of success with starting pitching and it still doesn't guarantee rings. The rate of attrition for pitching prospects makes this a high risk strategy -- one, in fact, that another smart front office type, Andy McPhail, attempted and failed -- quite miserably. So if you're going to forgo superior talent for lesser talent because you think the org need pitching or that having 3 studs at the top of your rotation is the only path to success, then I think you're going to force yourself into making mistakes.

    And going beyond that -- which of those pitchers were selected at the top of the draft? Maddux was a 2nd round pick they acquired through FA, Smoltz was a low level, high risk pitcher acquired for a rental, Glavine was a 4th round overslot type pick. Is that really any different than what the Cubs have tried to do?

    The best Boston pitchers were acquired from outside the organization. Let other teams take the risk of developing them and then you can pluck them with your excess talent and the payroll space you've saved up. Every year we see pitching become available via trade/free agency, but I don't believe in investing early picks on such high risk prospects -- as nearly all pitching prospects are. Neither the Braves or the Red Sox did that. If it turns out that the pitcher is the best talent available great, and in fact, I think it will be this year, but to reach for it is a mistake. It's been shown over and over again that you can acquire pitching when the time comes. No need to force the issue now.

  • In reply to travelguy:

    I feel there is something poignant that you are forgetting. If build your team with free agent bombers the way the Yankees like to do, and the Texas Rangers did with Alex Rodriguez, then you will not have funds for free agent pitching.

    I do not see the Cubs needing free agent bullpen help in the future. They have some live arms in waiting.

    They should not need position players either, except possibly at back-up catcher. So where will the money go?

    If there will be a need, it might be as a #1 and #2 pitcher. The money should be there in my opinion.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    Actually Rafael Lopez @ AAA/Iowas is an excellent defender with a great arm. He's not the offensive threat Beef is, but profiles just fine as a b/u spot starter. The only problem is he's a RH batter. Ideally, we'd like a LH hitter to compliment Beef.

    But our lower minors are full of intriguing catching prospects. I really don't see them spending big FA dollars on anything but SP going forward. Some might argue a LH power bat, but I think that will come via a trade or piecing together with value signings ala Kalish/Schierholtz, etc and our prospects coming up...

    So I agree the money will be spent on a #1 & #2 SP...

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Yea that young pitching thing never really worked out for the Braves. Oh wait... And it still is by the way.

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    In reply to Dave Cookfair:

    Sure. Because they're all healthy this year.
    ...Oh, wait.

  • In reply to Dave Cookfair:

    That's not what I said. What I said was,

    Those teams competed every year, which is all you can really ask. That they did not break through and win a World Series proves no more than a pitching dominant Braves dynasty that won only one ring"

    Read that carefully and it's quite the opposite of what you seem to think I'm saying.,

  • In reply to travelguy:

    please dont cherry pick past trades. remember we wouldnt have: wood,jackson, baez, almora, johnson, vizcaino,hendricks, strop, arrieta & bryant and (all the others you mentioned) if we wouldnt of made any trades the last 3 years. The rotation would be pretty good (feldman,archer,cashner,shark,garza) but overall we would be older and still just mediocre at best.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I'm don't believe that I "cherry picked" my examples. I used the two that quickly came to mind where the Cubs gave up promising, cost-controlled starters for other assets (granted one was nine months before Theo came on board - that would have been a good point to debate). All other trades I could think of had us either trading away pitching assets that were not starters to begin with, were losing their cost control, or where at the tail end of their career. I challenge you to think of another example that I failed to use that didn't meet this criteria. Besides at the very beginning I made it very clear that I was in fact using hindsight and that this was just my opinion. I don't understand why this is even being debated.

  • In reply to travelguy:

    We took that apprroach with Prior, Wood Zambrano, Cruz Farnsworth ,etc in the early 2000s. We had the prospects that enabled us to Get Lofton and Aram from the Pirates then, but injuries derailed virtually our complete depth in the minors(Guzman, Brownlee, etc all got hurt).

  • In reply to travelguy:

    I know you mentioned it in a later comment, but I'm not really sure why you even bring up Archer in the context of this article. He was traded by Hendry. Besides that he was traded for pitching so even that trade in no way implies an organizational tilt towards pitching vs. hitting.

    Cashner is an example of the Cubs trading pitching for hitting, but that trade is really the only major example of that. Would it be nice to have Cashner? Sure. However, lets not forget that the Cubs got Rizzo in return. Yes, Cashner was solid in 2013, but he's still a 27 year old pitcher with only 33 career starts and a history of arm trouble. Rizzo is 3 years younger and while 2013 wasn't great last year, I'd still make that trade all day.

    Finally, you COULD look at the Cubs picking Almora and Bryant and come to the conclusion that they value hitting vs. pitching. However, you could also surmise that Cubs, who were bereft of talent at ANY position when Theo arrived, were just taking the best player on the board and you could also consider that the Cubs took 7 straight pitchers after drafting Almora and 7 of the 9 picks following Bryant were also pitchers. In addition, the Cubs have been consistently flipping short term assets for young, cost controlled pitching. Seems to me they are working pretty hard to acquire pitching.

  • I hope people don't think that the Cubs have been "twiddling their thumbs" waiting for the prospects. However, the question is what could have been done in the meantime to avoid such a disastrous 2011-2014? Was bottoming out the only way to do this? I tend to say no...that it was a combination of poor financial management on ownership's part, a few costly mistakes by this front office, and numerous mistakes in the draft in the years 2005-2010. There could have been a less painful way to get where they are now, but the point is moot I guess.

    Also, you've presented a compelling case and good facts--the success of their minor league endeavors can't be denied--but I think it's just a little too much of a love letter to the Cubs' FO. For example, you don't need to go so far as to say "drafted by Hendry BUT..." The current FOs drafts and trades should be able to stand on their own. Adding "but" to every pick/signing they're not responsible for seems a bit over-the-top.

    Overall, I agree with your conclusions and (desperately) hope the prospects that are impressing at the upper levels of the minors turn out to be cornerstones (well, at least 2-4 of them). It would just be that much better if the team were going into the season with a rotation made up, even in part, of Darvish, Iwakuma, Samardzjia, Tanaka, Ryu, etc.

  • In reply to caryatid62:

    If you get free agents to open up a 2-3 year window where you win 78-82 games then you don't get Almora, Bryant, and the big IFA haul last year.

    There is no question this FO has put a development plan in front of Baez and others that simply did not exist with the old front office. If you think the old FO had a detailed plan to develop Baez as a player, look no further than Josh Vitters, Corey Patterson, and other talented players who weren't very different from the raw talents they were as teenagers. You could say that to a lesser degree about Starlin Castro. We don't know for certain, but to say things would have been exactly the same is what I would personally label as wishful thinking. It doesnt' fit the pattern between how players developed under old FO and the new one.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I don't necessarily think that getting those free agents would have necessarily made them a 78-82 win team in the short-term, as they were selling players off in ways that insured that this wouldn't happen. But that's not really the point. Given your premise that the talent in this front office is remarkable (one I agree with), it would be likely that they would have found quality, potentially equally talented, players at the 9-15 spots in the draft instead of the 2 or 6 spot. In 2012, maybe it's Addison Russell or Lucas Giolito. In terms of the IFA haul, that's not correct at all. The amount they were allotted by MLB turned out not to matter at all, as they went more than 15% over it--which incurred the same penalty that they would have had if they only had half the pool money, as once you go over the limit by 15%, you're assessed the same penalty regardless of how much you had to spend in the first place. They could have gotten the exact same IFAs this past year if they had won 100 games in 2012.

    In regard to your second point about development, I would disagree about Patterson (as it was likely the injury in 2003 that did more damage), but that's not really the point either. I think my point was more along the lines of "why"? The success of the current front office in terms of their additions has been great--adding these "buts" in your premise comes off as unnecessary. It's quite enough to talk about their drafting and scouting success without taking additional steps. It just seemed to be a pile-on.

  • In reply to caryatid62:

    While there are always exceptions, in the big picture you don't get equal talent at 9-15 than you do at 2-6 in the draft. History is quite clear on that.

    When you are in the business of forecasting, evaluating, and procuring talent, you rely on percentages,. you don't depend on getting the exceptions to the general rule. A team that thinks they can consistently get an equal player at the 15th pick that they can at #2, particularly under this new CBA likely suffers from sort of incurable hubris and unrealistic faith in their own capabilities along with the incompetence of his peers.

    As for Patterson, the injury is coincidental and a convenient excuse that hides a greater truth. He was playing above his peripherals at the time of his injury. He was due for regression anyway. In the end it was his poor approach that was his undoing.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    True, but this is (as you have argued) an exceptional front office, so the likelihood of finding them would increase.

    Furthermore, it raises the hypothetical (and somewhat simplified) question: Would you rather have nothing+Albert Almora or Yu Darvish+the 15th pick in 2012? I think I'd rather have the latter. I don't think the difference between 15 and 6 would equal a player as valuable as Darvish (or "insert most Japanese or Cuban Free Agents here").

  • In reply to caryatid62:

    The exceptional front office is only part of the equation, having a top 5 player slip to #15 also requires the miscalculation of a dozen other organizations. That is the part you cannot control and certainly cannot plan for.

    Any team would want Darvish but only one can have him. Automatically assuming the Cubs should win a blind bid on a player that everybody, including every other big market team, wants is unfair and unrealistic. Why didn't the Yankees win? Or the Red Sox? Or the Blue Jays? The Jays were a team with enough money who invested a ton of resources scouting him for years only to not only fall short of Texas bid, but the Cubs bid as well. Sorry, but you can't have a player just because you want him. There are a lot of factors in play and a lot of competent teams to compete with. The Cubs don't operate in a vacuum.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think you're missing the point. Darvish is but one example. How about Ryu? Or Iwakuma? Or, for that matter, Tanaka? Or Cespedes? Or Puig? I'm not sure any of these players' value (even Cespedes, who wasn't great last year) would be less than the value between pick 6 and pick 15, for example. All of the above are, at the very least, contributing players at the major league level. Would I trade any of them (if it were allowed) to move from 15-6 in the major league baseball draft to select a high school prospect or even a college senior? Probably not.

    Also, you also cannot control or plan for stumbling blocks in the development of players who are 18 when drafted. Frankly, we don't know what they'll get if/when Almora makes it to the major leagues. There is a lot of risk there, as well, but the front office consciously chose to take on those risks. There are risks in either strategy--I simply think that the strategy they took (whether forced to by economics or a conscious, baseball-driven choice) was not the ideal one.

  • In reply to caryatid62:

    The Cubs made a strong play for all of those players except for Iwakuma (on whom no team made a large bid so this is just hindsight). Nobody is saying the Cubs shouldn't want them, they certainly did. If they could have gotten one or two of those players we all would have been ecstatic. We can express frustration it didn't happen and look back and say they should have done more. But if you're saying they didn't want them because they just wanted to tank for draft picks, then that's simply not true.

  • In reply to caryatid62:

    I definitely wasn't saying they were tanking for draft picks. Regardless of what they "wanted," they didn't get them. And that, in and of itself, is a failure. When we grade organizations based on their intentions, we're not really focused on what's important: success. Not signing these players was not a good move, not even in if it meant the difference between Almora or Bryant and the 15-20th pick in their respective drafts. Saying anything to the contrary seems to me to be excuse-making. They simply didn't do it, regardless of why. And yes, we can look back and say they should have done more. That's pretty much exactly what I'm saying. The future looks good at the moment, but the past three years have been terrible and didn't necessarily need to be. That's my thesis.

    I'm not speculating as to anything they want or didn't want, or why, specifically, they did not acquire these players. I'm simply stating that they did not acquire these players because they (either the front office or ownership) did not offer enough money (for whatever reason), and that, by not acquiring these players (for whatever reason), they (either the front office or ownership) made a mistake.

  • In reply to caryatid62:

    Failure is a harsh word in a situation when only one team can have success. I think Ryu was realistic from that group, but knowing the dynamics behind all of this, it was always expected Darvish would go to TX or TOR. The Puig bid was a huge risk because nobody had seen him play in live games. Only LAD could afford to potentially throw away $40M like that. The As outbid larger markets by giving up cost-control, which no other team, not just the Cubs, were willing to do. In fact, there are rumors the Cubs offered more money. They also offered more money for Anibal Sanchez. From people I've talked to, Ryu was the guy who could realistically have been had by the Cubs. I call that a "failure" of sorts, but to apply it every player they don't sign is quite the impossible standard. As I said, the Cubs don't operate in a vacuum here. There are other teams who want to win, have as much or more to offer, and have invested as much or more in their success of that pursuit.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Baez was the #9 overall pick in 2011, and if that same draft were held today he'd probably go top 5, knowing what we know now. Teams blow high draft picks all the time, and looking at the Red Sox and Cardinals, draft position really does not guarantee you anything. History is quite clear on that.

  • In reply to youngchopondabeat:

    Actually, history is not clear on that at all. At best it's yet to be determined. That's a false assumption people make based on cherry-picked examples. And even those are made in a very different drafting environment under the old CBA guidelines.

    Cardinals recent first round picks (since 2010) include Patrick Wisdom, Steve Bean, Stephen Piscotty, James Ramsey, Seth Blair, and Zack Cox. Marco Gponzalez, Rob Kaminsky, and Tyrell Jenkins are all either moderate ceiling or in the case of Jenkins, high risk prospects. Kolten Wong is a good player, but he's not a star, perhaps an average everyday 2B. How long can you hang your hat on Michael Wacha as exhibit A as to why Cardinals draft better lower than team in the top 5?

    History indeed. Take a closer look and you'll find that percentages of success apply to everyone, even the Cardinals.

  • In reply to caryatid62:

    I disagree with a number of your statements.

    1. "a disastrous 2011-2014" First of all this Epstein led FO had nothing to do with 2011 and secondly who said 2014 will be disastrous? It could be a pleasant surprise.

    2. "a few costly mistakes by this front office, and numerous mistakes in the draft in the years 2005-2010" I can't think of a costly mistake this FO has made. Maybe you could mention one and we could discuss it. Of course every move hasn't turned out the way they planned but I see that they took some good risk moves and more have been successfull than not. As for 2005-2010 drafting mistakes, they were not here yet.

    3. "It would just be that much better if the team were going into the season with a rotation made up, even in part, of Darvish, Iwakuma, Samardzjia, Tanaka, Ryu" Well we do have Shark but if we added one or two of the others to the team that would have significantly added to our payroll and improved our record the last couple of years. That means we would have had significantly less money to acquire prospects and improve training facilities to develop our prospects. Also we would have been drafting later preventing us from getting Almora, Bryant and whoever we get at #4 this June. So our prospects would be significantly worse but our starting rotation would be better.

    I do agree with you that some people are over the top with this FO but you seem to be too far in the other direction.

  • In reply to John57:

    To reply:

    1. I wasn't really critiquing this front office--it was a critique of the Cubs' organization. Hence why I added "disastrous drafts from 2005-2010."

    2. I'd be happy to mention several, but there are excuses for each that I'd rather not bother to get into. If you believe there were mitigating circumstances that prevented this team from signing any of the Darvish, Ryu, Iwakuma, Puig, Cespedes, Tanaka, etc. group, there's no way I'm going to convince you otherwise. Furthermore, if you think Edwin Jackson's signing was not a costly mistake, then I also can't convince you otherwise. The Sveum hire certainly looks like a mistake, although we can't necessarily quantify it's impact on Castro or Rizzo, for example--Epstein himself has essentially admitted as much. Finally, (and this is on a MINOR level), if you don't believe that the Rony Torreyes deal for IFA money wasn't a costly mistake when they ended up blowing past the IFA limit anyway, then I don't know what to tell you--they literally traded a minor, but not insignificant, prospect for literally nothing. I'm sure there are excuses for each of these from one who might be prone to support this front office much less conditionally. However, all of these examples above are mistakes that were, in the most sincere definition, costly. I really like this front office, but to argue that they "haven't made ANY mistakes that I can think of" can't be supported.

    3. See my comments above.

  • In reply to caryatid62:

    I see you say the FO made multiple costly mistakes and failed here and failed there. That certainly sounds like critiquing to me. I don't think your statement of not critiquing this FO can be supported.

    As for Edwin Jackson he did have a disappointing 2013 but his contract was for 4 years. That won't be a failure until 3 more years are up and he underperforms those 3 years too. It could turn out to be a decent signing. You don't know now. Why are you so negative?

    Sveum did a good job in 2012 and the FO was very please with him. A number of things did not work well in 2013 and he was released. He had success and failure, I see that as a mixed bag. Like I said above you take appropriate risks for success, all do not work out exactly as planned. You cherry pick Sveum's short comings and ignore the things he did well. I do not think your critiquing takes everything into account.

    And for Torreyes I think he upset the FO by not doing what he was told. He was not in their plans. He was traded for IFA money. It saved the team around $900,000 dollars. Is $900,000 dollars literally nothing to you? For a prospect not in their plans that was a good trade.

    And finally I did not say the FO did not make "ANY" mistakes. I said costly mistakes. And I mean mistakes that significantly hurts the them developing into a contending team.

  • In reply to John57:

    Tanaka got an op-out clause after 3 seasons and a full no-trade clause from the Yankees. I am a HUGE fan of this front office and if they had made that deal I would have resigned my Theo Fan Club membership in disgust.

    Saying the Cubs "lost" Tanaka by refusing to match a deal that took all flexibility out of the club's hands seems a bit much for me. I prefer to think they "won" the Tanaka sweepstakes by putting in a bid that shows they are serious while refusing to match a disastrous contract.

    I wanted him as bad as the next guy around here, but that deal was crazy!!!!

  • In reply to JamesInFLA:

    I agree with you 100%. Just because you get the guy doesn't mean you won if you over paid. If you overpay and can't do something else that the team needs then that should be considered a mistake. That will mess up your financial flexibility going forward. Theo and Jed are doing a fantastic job taking into account many variables that most, including myself, are not aware of. I trust them running this team. I am glad they aren't giving the fans a cookie. A feast will be much better.

  • The first month and a half should be a good barometer of the Cubs season. They play the Cards and the Pirates and the Reds quite a few times.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Agreed. I think we'll know my mid-May whether this team is going to make a run at something better or see another sell-off at the deadline.

  • I think my favorite thing about the new FO, is their ability to create competition for every spot on the roster. We had 2-4 guys competing for every open spot on the 25-man. Even if the guys are organizational-filler types or long-shot prospects; I am of the belief that competition brings out the best in players.

    In addition to that, I love the way they give our prospects a taste of the big leagues during spring, but let them know that they will have to earn their way to Wrigley in the regular season.

  • That's a good point. And not only does it give you competition, but it protects you from getting decimated by prospect attrition and injury. It's going to happen but if you have a bigger talent to start with the odds that some players stay healthy and produce increases.

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    I agree, I'm seeing some intrigue with this roster. Still think we are lacking a lot of talent in the rotation and OF. Fowler, fister, a few others could have been nice gets.

    I feel we can't evaluate at the ml level with out meaningful situations

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    I think the "developed under Jed and Theo" part is the most important, if also most controversial, part of this post. I can see where some would claim that we're giving unfair mystical powers to Jed and Theo by complimenting them for that.

    However, I'd counter that we've seen first hand many extraordinarily talented prospects fall by the wayside -- Patterson and Pie likely head the list. That isn't alone. The White Sox are another team that has a tendency to turn athletic up-the-middle players into real estate salesmen. To lesser extents, the Tigers and even the Yankees struggle with developing players.

    Theo and Jed's teams, on the other hand, have a strong history of developing impact talent through their organization. We're well past the time on this when it can be chalked up to pure dumb luck. Clearly, even though most of us don't know the details, there is more to developing a player than picking the right guy and crossing your fingers. It also makes sense that some organizations will be better at this than others. Jed and Theo have established, to my satisfaction, that they are one of the best at this. Hence, when we see guys like Baez and Alcantara sand off their rough edges and become impact prospects under this regime, I don't think it's unfair to credit their development techniques with this change.

    The real test, of course, will come when these guys reach the majors. (Also known as "now" for Rizzo and Olt.) But while we're conditioned to expect disaster from prospects as Cubs fans, Jed and Theo's history suggests the outcomes may be better this time.

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    I am not calling you Nostradamus John but in the short time that I have been following this blog I have learned you have some fantastic insight that is usually true. I hope this is the bridge year for the Cubbies. I would love to see them win 75 games or even hit that .500 mark! Even if we don't win I think the FO will start pursuing free agents differently after this year with all the kids on the cusp.

  • In reply to Brandon Halford:

    Thank Brandon. I've got a good feel for this season and I can't seem to shake it off. It seems like the easy thing would be to predict another 95 loss season -- but I just can't see it. But ask me again by early to mid May and we'll know for sure. It's really important they get off to a good start if we're going to see a significant improvement with bottom line results.

  • I wasn't a fan of hendry but to not give credit for drafting Baez, Castro, Wellington and say all developing credit goes to Theo and company is inaccurate.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    That response is inaccurate. I never said all credit goes to Theo and Castro isn't even particularly relevant to this article's subject matter. The fact that he's not listed gives implicit credit to Hendry. But you'll have a hard time convincing me they don't deserve some of the credit given the development history of the past regime and the track record of this one. We can say that both Baez and Castillo have improved under this FO's watch and while that may have still happened under the FO, we don't know for certain. But history casts some doubt that they would have developed the same way -- particularly when we see their improved approach on both offense and defense.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I gotcha you left Castro, Rizzo, shark, and Jackson off because they had worse years under theo and company. You gotta give hendry for drafting those guys. I believe some guys like Baez and Bryant are gonna do well no matter who is in front office.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I didn't leave Rizzo off the list. He's on there. Jackson isn't a pre-prime player so he didn't fit (and I'm also not ready to decide he's a bust after one off season in which his peripherals didn't change), Shark actually got better under Theo FO, but I didn't feel comfortable giving this FO much credit for that.

    As for Baez and Bryant, you are making an assumption but we don't have to make one if we take the other point of view. We know they improved under this FO. That is a certainty. That trumps your assumptions that Baez and Bryant would have thrived anyway (or that the Cubs would have even drafted Bryant to begin with under the old FO, they weren't very big on taking college bats).

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Fair enough. I just think it is to early to give theo all this credit yet. I feel like some believe if Lake does well it is all cause of theo and company and if he fails some people will say why did Hendry draft him. I have came in with mentality that thro needs to prove it. I am willing to give him his 5 years to do so. So if Barney has a solid year this year...what will be the reason?

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I think both Hendry and Theo deserve credit for Lake, Baez, and others.

    I think if Barney has a good season it will be partly because he gets back to what he does best along with improving his approach. But I think Barney is a fringe starter even if he hits .270 again, which is about what we can hope for.

  • I start to see the (potential) brilliance of how this team has been put together most illustrated by two moves - and I list these two as examples of the kinds of moves that have been made:

    Signing Kalish on a flier as a FA (several other individuals could also have been used in this illustration).

    Trading Garza and his expiring contract for Olt, Ramirez, Grimm, and Edwards (the Feldman, Dempster, Maholm or Marshall trades also apply).

    The have made several bold long-term moves, that have brought the ire of many Cubs fans while the teams stunk, but that will be paying off beginning in 2014.

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    I'm very satisfied with Theo's plan so far. We have a great minor league system and I think that Theo has hired some great coaches and scouts. It will, most likely, translate into being perennial contenders at the major league level. It's exciting. It will be quite a feat when Theo does actually turn around this franchise and if he wins a World Series what will the next team pay for him to turn around that franchise? What would Epstein's worth be? That's an interesting question? Go Cubs!

  • Maybe it's just spring fever, but I share your optimism, John. After reading Jayson Stark's piece on the Rays and why he thinks they will win the WS this year, I saw similarities - mainly the host of interchangeable parts, guys who can play multiple positions and give the manager depth and great flexibility. The Cubs could very well surprise this year because the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts, although we will have to see if Renteria can do the math.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Good comparison there. I think they are sneaky good -- but maybe I'm a little optimistic here. I predicted 74 wins last year and that turned out to be too much -- but I think they will top that number this year.

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    John, sorry but I come down on the side that thinks you go to far in your "but" comments and your use of "certain". You really have no idea how or if these guys would have developed under the Henry era, period. So, not knowing for "certain" is a no-duh.

    Second, IF these guys developed under Theo better then they would have under Henry, it is only incrementally. And there is no way to measure that.

    Conclusion: You are a Theo/Jed homer and none of us know anything for certain! BTW, I also support the rebuild and the new CUB WAY! I love this front office and can see the future. But you need to give credit where credit is due.

  • In reply to Randy Michelson:

    Given their history in failing to develop Josh Vitters and Corey Patterson, I think I have every right to be skeptical that they would have had greater success with Baez.

    But maybe this time was going to be different!!!

    We do know they've failed to produce position players throughout their history and this FO has had a track record of success. But we can throw our hands up in the air and pretend these trends and patterns with both front offices mean nothing.

    Maybe you assume Bqez and Alcantara might have improved their walk rates under Hendry?

    But really?? Really? Given everyting we've seen. C'mon now, you completely ignore the development track records of both front offices. No one doubts old FO could spot talent, but their record shows they could not develop it. If recognizing that consistent pattern makes me a "homer", so be it. It's just the way it is.

    But yeah, maybe this time it would have been different. Because, well...just because. Sorry, but that's just not a great rebuttal. The old front office doing the same thing over and over again in terms of development but now we think the results could have been different. We know what Einstein would have said about that.

  • I'm gonna shoot one into the gap, because I believe this team, even with some minor call-ups in June, July or August will win 79 or 80 games.

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    Given what we got for dempster, Feldman and Maholm, and knowing that trades were not hendry's weak point, why did we get nothing for Ted lilly? Only because we didn't eat his salary?

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    In reply to SKMD:

    Hendry never got much at midseason -- Blake DeWitt was probably the best return he ever got and that is telling.

    I'd say there were two issues there. First, Hendry's scouting department wasn't even close to as good as Theo's, so he may not have had a good idea of who to fight for. But I think more importantly, and there's some reading between the lines involved here, is that Hendry was more concerned with getting the guys he traded into good situations that they were comfortable with. This makes him a very decent human being but not the best GM.

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    Personally, I see another sub .500 ballclub. Another last place finish. But much of that due to a deep division. The improvement will absolutely be there. We don't lose 95 games again.
    One more sell-off. And with the depth in the organization, I don't view that as a bad thing.
    Look at the AAA bullpen! Vizcaino, Ramirez, Parker, Rosscup. All ready to step in.

    Same with position talent. Baez, Alcantara and maybe Bryant. A case could be made that trading at the deadline makes the 2014 club better, while also acquiring more minor league arms.
    A free agent pitcher and retaining Shark could mean an above .500 team in 2015.

  • I'm watching Rizzo as key to the offense and Arrieta could be a huge lift to the rotation.

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    I also see this next offseason as the time we deal from our surplus and acquire a power hitting LH outfielder.

  • In reply to Eric Foster:

    I would rather deal for a LH TOR SP. I think that would help the team more.

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    In reply to John57:

    I think we may end up drafting one. But I agree that pitching needs to be addressed.

  • I'm guessing 95 losses and I'm ok with that. Another top 5 pick isn't a bad thing.

    This was a 96 loss team that has done little to nothing to improve this off-season. The bullpen is still full of question marks and while they weren't very good last year they had a stable closer for the majority of the season with Gregg, I'm not sure we can say that with Veras. He was good last season but it was his first taste doing it. The pressures of Chicago, even with the team we currently have, is nothing like Houston. I could see a revolving door of disaster happening. Once he blows a couple saves in April people will be asking if they package him and Barney to a desperate team to try to get a haul.

    The OF is one of the worst in all of baseball. I have hopes for Rizzo/Castro to have bounce back seasons but this is still a below average offense if they do. They were a bad offense when Castro was an all-star.

    The rotation is below average. I'm personally not big on Olt or Hammel to make a difference. Having less Barney could only be a positive though.

    There's a lot of optimism but what about the negatives that is sure to negate these bounceback candidates? The injuries that are sure to come, which happens to every team every year, having no depth at a lot of positions when those injuries do come. The regression from someone unexpected that will happen. What happens if Castillo takes a step back? Catcher is then a black hole. People can't just assume guys continue to steps forward, Rizzo and Castro's seasons from last year should have been a lesson.

    Sure if everyday stays healthy and several guys have bounceback seasons the Cubs could be competitive, that's not going to happen though.

    Besides not improving the team and counting on several bounceback candidates for this team to be remotely competitive, the main reason they won't compete is the division they play in. The Cardinals, Pirates and Reds are going to use this team as a punching bag. They're all 90+ win talent teams and they're going to beef up their records on the Cubs. Even the loftiest of expectations can't see the Cubs being in the Top 3 of the division.

    The good thing about this season is I'll have a lot of bonding time at games with my son who is coming home from college after 4 long years. I'm hoping for success from individual players and it will be fun when the prospects do come up but I don't share the same optimism as some of you who paint this beautiful picture on how things can turn out year after year and continue to be disappointed. My expectations are in line.

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    This blog predicted 74 wins last year.

    This article is about the great in-prime and pre-prime talent they've added and developed. It says nothing of wins expectations. We have not made that prediction this year but I guarantee you it's not going to much higher than that from any of the writers.

    But then, if you were to actually address the contents of the article, you wouldn't be able to tirelessly repeat your same point over and over again. So whatever. Standard tunnel vision response that lacks open-mindedness and possibilities and takes the safest route and yet considers that special. How dull.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Wins expectations is covered time and time again in the comment section, of not only this but almost every article.

    People routinely make comments that do not address the article.

    Terribly sorry my opinion doesn't jive with yours.

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    Not the articles. This article is talking about thought process as it pertains to roster construction and what the Cubs are trying to accomplish, we don't get much into predicting results but we do that once a year for fun -- and I'll be shocked if any of the writers predict a winning season, myself included. It's one thing to outline how it can happen, it's quite another to predict that it will. Easiest thing for us to do is predict 95 losses based on past record and lack of star acquisitions, nobody would argue with that, but I don't see the potential for any new insight in writing such an article.

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    In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    I agree that we didn't do much to upgrade the major league product. But that fluidity between AAA and the big league team allows more of a chance to analyze potential "core" talent, and showcase trade-bait.

    I'm not a believer in Jose Veras. Maybe as a setup option. Not as a closer. But as long as he isn't a Marmol-esq disaster, he's a short term asset, we can trade. And a veteran presence for the kids.
    I feel like we have a decent fallback option in Strop. And an even better one in Vizcaino.
    No more waiver wire garbage rotting in our bullpen, like last year.

    I'm happy with a boring 2014 offseason.
    Flexibility is more valuable than the burden of long term contracts.
    I think we'll make quite a splash in both trades and free agency in 2015.

  • John, not only a good article but some good responses.

    I like this sight because it holds MANY different opinions, not just homers and haters.

    Just a couple of observations and predictions.

    1---Baez, (in the FO minds) is way ahead of Bryant and could be up the day we get another years salary protection.

    2---Alcantara looks like a solid prospect.

    3---Relief pitching might have some stronger arms, but still looks shaky to me. At least we will have a few new names out there.

    4--If Hammel and Arieta bring us some stabily, we may win 72-75 games.

    5---things that would be GREAT.

    a--Olt is solid, .260 and solid in the field.

    b--Olt starts 125 games.

    c--Jackson is a .500 pitcher.

    d--CUBS become feisty, a together bunch of guys like the Bulls.

    e--Rizzo and Castro return to their norms.

  • In reply to rakmessiah:

    Thanks -- I iike that as a template of what is needed for the team to make progress and have greater success.

  • Let me preface & say that this is a good article John. But I will only disagree with you on at least 2 ballplayers signed by Hendry & possibly a 3rd.

    Castillo was well on his way in the Cub system & was going to be on the cusp of coming up, & actually had a couple cups of coffee w/the big club. Soto & the competition w/Clevenger were the only things standing in his way. We saw him beat out Clevenger. He may have beat out Soto or the old FO if still here may have traded him as well. But I don't think, other than at the ML level, this new FO had anything to do w/accelerarting his development.

    Alcantara is the other. He was already hitting w/obp before the new guys got here. I'd argue w/Junior Lake as well, but his obp did get better after the New FO got here.

    But again, great article & I agree w/most of it. And to touch on what another poster brought up, I would argue that yeah, we lost Archer, but we gained a boatload & still have Rosscup who came w/Garza. All 4 who came for Garza & Rosscup look to be guys who can/will contribute at the big league level at some point. Olt, this yr. & maybe Grimm. Rosscup & NRam on speed dial. And Edwards w/his high ceiling in a couple years depending on his development. But other than Archer & Garza being gone, I'm happy with the 5 that are here as a result.

    I do agree w/the other poster that we gave up on Cashner a bit too soon... especially after losing Archer the previous yr. & no others in the system seemingly ready to fill that void. To me, 1Bman are easier to find than TOR SPs. Just my opinion.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I'm not trying to give full credit to these guys for any of the Hendry picks, but it's hard to deny that Castillo has vastly improved his defense the last 2 years. I think that is what has made him into a legit MLB starter. He's always had the tools but there was a lack of focus and directions. When the Cubs got to work with him, they found out he was a sponge and an extremely hard worker -- he just needed someone to show him how to do his job better. I give that part of the credit to this front office.

    I did cringe when they gave up Cashner but you can't just get a guy like Rizzo for nothing -- and Cashner was very high risk at the time. Nobody seemed to regret it all that much when it happened because of his injury history. It's still likely Rizzo outperforms Cashner long term and let's not forget LH power is as scarce as starting pitching in this organization, perhaps more so.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Also, Alcantara was a free swinger up until last year and the last month of 2012. The walk rate has been a huge improvement in his game.

  • Great article, you're speaking for me JA, and definitely better than I would. But the day before baseball begins (not including those lesser teams in the west ;-), I have to add my prognostication.

    The Cubs will be a competitive team this year, and may even make the playoffs. What's more, I think the FO is pointing to this year as the year the Cubs become good again. Guys like Rogers over at ESPN Chicago have been (mindlessly) continuously beating the "Cubs will stink this year" drum over and over again. By midseason they will be breaking out their excuses for why they appeared so dim-witted early.

    Look. Cabrera is DFA'd, who has a ton of talent. Parker, probably our 2nd best RP last year, is sent to the minors. There is no protecting people in the pen this year, like Rondon and Castillo in the past. Only those most capable of bringing W's are there now. The FO is not about just aquiring assets anymore. They are expecting a good team in '14. Yes, this year.

    Modest upside surprises are all the Cubs need. A rebound for Castro, improvement from Rizzo. Moderate growth from the pups Lake and Beef. The Barbuena boys flashing a little lumber with the good leather. Olt providing the first legit 3B since Aram. Shierholtz, Sweeney, and the rest in the OF providing synergistically positive results. The run scoring is going to improve, may even be league average, which would be huge.

    Add in a solid pitching staff, improved pen, and the Cubs will compete. 80-85 wins this year.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Thanks HefCA.

    I'm glad you took it in the spirit it was intended -- which is to emphasize the amount of young talent they've brought in for this roster.

    That is not to say it will succeed or that they don't have holes, but man, if I'm going to predict a surprise, give me a team that has a bunch of young talent that has yet to play it's best baseball. Lots of talent that has yet to reach their prime and if they get a few that do oerform up to expectations, crazy things can happen.

    Realistically, it'll probably be a struggle, but each year I see this plan coming together gives me just a bit more optimism.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly. No, there were no big moves to improve the on-field product, but there were some important "maneuvers", if you will, that ought to at least give Renteria a chance to compete - and that young talent cannot be overemphasized.

    And this defense of Hendry as if anyone was bashing him is unfounded. Hendry was good at bringing into the organization that young talent, but it pretty much stopped there. He has his place in MLB for that reason. But what do you or any of the rest of us have to gauge the two GMs but track record when it comes to developing MLB talent? Proof is in the pudding.

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    Bogusevic DFA'd. Score that as a big win for Team Theo.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That was a good deal no matter what Bogusevic did. I'm sorry he didn't make it with the Marlins. I was rooting for him.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Well put, John. I'd have liked to see Bogusevic make it as well. I'm old fashioned and I believe the best trades are the ones that benefit both teams.

  • In reply to Ray:

    I find myself rooting for most guys they trade unless they were unlikable to begin with.

    It's going to hurt to see guys like Cashner and Archer succeed when that could have happened in a Cubs uniform -- but I don't want them to fail either. Those were two guys I didn't want to lose.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I was at one of Cashner's starts prior to injury and he was fun to watch, he was an exciting pitcher. I hope he never beats us in a game but has a great career.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree, losing both hurt , but if you want someone good ( e.g. Garza, Rizzo) you have to trade value in return. The Garza trade hurts a little more because he's no longer here , but that's what happens

  • I obviously enjoy this blog very much and am an ardent Cubs fan. There are two points I would like to offer that I hope have some relevance to this thread.

    First, I think development is an intangible that is subjectively applied to talent. You can certainly give credit to systematic approaches, however, they are difficult to measure based on all the factors that separate a small, successful minority from a much larger failed majority.

    Second, this ownership and front office have yet to prove that they can successfully sign top-tier FA players. They have shown a willingness to spend money under the right circumstances, however, as the economics of the game continue to evolve, you could logically assume that they may have to already start budgeting their money, in case they have to pay a Baez or Bryant the kind of money the Mike Trout's of the world are now receiving. In addition, assuming the pitchers you need will be available when you need them at the price you are willing to pay them, or even overpay them, is no sure thing. Pitching will always be available, but with the prices the top pitchers command, free agency has become more like cashing in a lottery ticket like the Pirates did with Liriano, then with having the wherewithal to grossly overpay a Tanaka.

  • The problem is there's a pretty reasonable chance that most of the players you listed kinda suck. Of the 16 you listed, only Rizzo and Baez have my total confidence in being above-average major league players.

    If most of them don't suck, if they get a lot of meaningful MLB contributions from that list, then the team won't be as bad as we fear and my faith in the Epstein organization will grow considerably.

  • I believe I heard that the Cubs development program is structured to each individual player so that in a sense does accelerate their growth. I'm on board that those timetables were sped up. An exciting year. I hope they do surprise and start making some ripples.
    Why do I fear that Veras and Wright are going to be giving up games? I hope if this happens Rentaria pulls the plug right away and doesn't allow them to slow the momentum.

  • John, This is probably a crazy question but looking back over time Babe Ruth was converted from being a pitcher to an outfielder so his bat could be in the lineup every day. Vogelbach seems to have the same build as Ruth and there's talk about converting him to another position - outfield and catcher, which are normally dismissed because his mobility is still in question. I wonder if he's ever pitched? Mobility may or may not be a question there and you'd lose his bat if he was placed in the position of being a pitcher. . But given his body type, it would be a reversal of the Ruth move. I'm not advocating it, ust curious.

  • In reply to pricewriter:

    He doesn't have that great an arm and you're right, you'd throw away his best tool, which is his bat. You could probably trade Vogelbach for a pitcher at some point.

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    Minor Note (Literally): Nick Struck was released.

    That's only important because he was our 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. It goes to show you the progress in our minor league pitching, because he wasn't really that good. Ultimately, we likely did not have a rotation slot for him at AAA or AA, too crowded....

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Interesting. He did stall last year and a number of pitchers passed him up.

  • John,

    What's happening with Jorge Soler? We don't hear much about our $30 mill investment lately.

    Same with Concepcion. Is he even in the organization anymore?

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    I think Soler has just been overshadowed by Baez, Bryant, and Almora this spring. I suspect we'll hear about him a lot more during the season. I wouldn't count on Concepcion much. We can chalk that up to a mistake except in the sense that it helped bring in Soler.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Soler is going to be at AA this year, right?

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