Cubs Notes: Samardzija talk, Jackson on the rise, Vizcaino the future closer?

Cubs Notes: Samardzija talk, Jackson on the rise, Vizcaino the future closer?

The Cubs pitchers are the subject for this round of Sunday news and notes....

Samardzija Talk

A lot of talk is going to turn to the trade deadline soon and Jeff Samardzija heads the list in terms of trade value.  The hard-throwing RHP is having his best season yet with a 1.62 ERA, 2.87 FIP, and 2.80 BB/9IP -- all career lows and ranking him among the tp 20 pitchers in baseball and, depending on what the Rays decide to do with David Price, the best starting pitcher expected to be available on the trade market.

Buster Olney writes about his tremendous trade value.  He writes,

The Cubs need high-end pitching to match the strong collection of position players they are developing, and rival officials are already taking deep breaths and preparing for an extremely high asking price whenever they start conversations about Samardzija.

Given that there might be only one comparable pitcher in the market this summer -- David Price would be the No. 1 starter available, if the Rays choose to go that route -- the Cubs will be justified in setting a very high bar for Samardzjia. It will be a seller’s market.

“All it takes is one team saying yes,” one GM said.

Olney also uses the Garza trade as a reference, saying the Cubs should get at least that much value.  And given he has an extra year of cost control and the comp pick that goes with it -- and then add that many evaluators believe he is better than Garza was at this time last year -- he should bring back even more.

“So you have an idea of just how expensive it will be,” one evaluator said.

Yes. Very, according to Olney.

Edwin  Jackson

We've had a couple of posts here on Edwin Jackson before the season started, one by contributor Adam Brown and another by guest poster by Joe Piscopo (@Joe_MLB_MAN), "The Case for an Edwin Jackson Rebound."  Both recognized some of the bad luck Jackson has had, and the latter was  more optimistic that he could bounce back this season.  After 3 good starts, include yesterday's brilliant outing, Jackson appears to be doing exactly that.  In fact, his current FIP of 3.02 would easily be a career best if he can maintain that for a full season.  Jackson's K rate is at a career high 8.12 per 9 IP (21.4%) and he is already at 1.2 WAR this year after being just 2.0 WAR all of last season.  ZiPS now projects him to have a typical Edwin Jackson year at 10-12 with a 3.93 ERA, which would be a 3 WAR season.  This is the Edwin Jackson the Cubs thought they were signing last year.  And given the way Cubs season is going, he may become a legit trading candidate.  A big chunk of Edwin Jackson's contract was paid up front and he now will cost a team around half his original contract ($27M for 2 1/2 years) by the trade deadline.

As good as Samardzija has been, you have to wonder if some teams might be interested in the cheaper prospect return and extra year of cost control Jackson offers.  His numbers have been just a notch below Samardzija's this season.

Short and long term closer options

Hector Rondon is having an outstanding season and has taken over the closer role with Jose Veras on the DL.  Rondon has saved 4 games and posted a 1.40 ERA -- and his 1.73 FIP indicates that good start hasn't been a fluke.  Rondon has consistently maintained the velocity he showed late last season (averaging about 95 but topping out at 97-98) while improving his slider.  His cutter gives him a good third optio/n.  He has upped his K rate to 10.24 per 9 IP while lowering his walk rate to a solid 2.79 per 9 IP.

But Jose Veras looked impressive in his return.  Could he get his old job back?  Manager Rick Renteria addressed the subject, though he did not give a direct answer,

"Those are situations he's pitched in before; it's not foreign to him," Renteria said of late-inning work. "We want him to continue to build as much confidence as he possibly can and [Friday] was an opportunity that we had for him, and we used him. In the end, as it evolves and how he continues to perform will dictate how we move forward."

I think you can gradually work Veras back to a high leverage role, but Veras' trade value aside, you have to stick with Rondon in that closer role.

Meanwhile, Arodys Vizcaino looms.  He has pitched 13 innings over 2 levels, walking 4 and striking out 17 while allowing hitters to bat just .159 against him.  It is only 4 IP, but his FIP in AA is less than zero.

Chris Crawford of ESPN rates him as the #1 future closer option in a fantasy baseball article,

His fastball sits in the 94-96 mph range, occasionally touching 98 with explosive life to the pitch. He complements that with a power curveball with solid spin and quality depth and a changeup that keeps hitters honest. Chicago will be mindful to keep his workload to a reasonable limit, but with his stuff, it wouldn't be a surprise if he was closing games for the Cubs as soon as this season.

By the end of the year, the Cubs may be able to shorten games to 6 innings with a formidable trio of  Neil Ramirez/Hector Rondon/Arodys Vizcaino providing the late inning hammer.

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  • fb_avatar

    "By the end of the year, the Cubs may be able to shorten games to 6 innings with a formidable trio of Neil Ramirez/Hector Rondon/Arodys Vizcaino providing the late inning hammer."

    That my friend is the key to a great pitching staff. If Grimm and Rosscup can get healthy and improve (mostly Grimms walk rate), then we are talking about the depth to also throw different looks at guys after the starters are done.

    Now lets get some live arms ready for the rotation and we are going to be in for a treat when the bats start to trickle through the system.

  • In reply to Richard Hood:

    Exactamundo!

  • In reply to Richard Hood:

    If we unload shark and Jackson we might not make it til the 6th

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    In reply to Richard Hood:

    The Cubs also have some kids down below with some heat too. Vizcaino as John mentioned but Armando Rivero is putting up some ungodly numbers himself, and ca be a part of that bullpen. They may not have enough room for all these guys. Looks like Bullpen arms is another organizational position of strength in which to deal from to acquire players to fill in spots of organizational weakness. Dare I say even rental player or two for a stretch run at the playoffs. maybe as early as next year.

  • With the emergence of Rosscup I wouldn't be opposed to dealing Russell now. This bullpen is really starting to become quite formidable and also fairly young

  • In reply to Javier Bryant:

    I would be okay with that as well. Some other options for the bullpen in the high minors too (Rusin, Jokisch, Cervenka, and soon McKirahan)

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I hadn't noticed McKirahan until recently; what kind of stuff does he have? He appears to be grooming as a "LOOGY"....you can't have too many lefty specialits

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Intriguing, a sleeper within a sleeper because some thought he'd go even later than round 21. Now showing a low to mid 90s fastball, good slider, could be more than a LOOGY if he can be consistent with command, which he has been so far this year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    What do they do with Fujikawa when he is ready?

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    In reply to John57:

    Pitch him until he goes on the DL again.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Sounds a lot like Rosscup.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    What happened to Del Valle? I don't see him anywhere.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    It's because of that, and some of the SP that I think the Cubs can still make a little run here. They'll be able to sustain the loss of any purge to the pitching staff by bringing in guys like the ones you mentioned which will limit the amount of innings a starter will have to pitch so they can go all out for 5-6, and than of course they can bring up starters like Hendricks, Wada, Rusin, maybe even Jockish. Their pitching staff won't be trash. Tat's not even figuring in what they'll get back in ready or very close to ready for the show pitching. I think Corey black may be included in that discussion too. Hope he gets his command fixed. he's someone who may start, but if not that live arm would be a bitch to deal with for opposing offenses in the late innings. I also think weather will factor with the offense too. I know its the same for everyone, but this offense could find itself in the warmer months. Won't help with approach maybe, but hope time will do that. If only lake was a tad more selective. He'd be a legit superstar.

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    I am imagining a scenario where GMs need to call Jed (and Theo) and make their "pitch." "What can I get for Prospect A (close to mlb ready pitcher), Prospect B (journeyman minor leaguer) and Prospect C (guy in high A with enormous boom/bust potential)" and we can simply respond "Pitcher A. Take it or leave it. I would like to keep Wood, and would like to keep Arrieta, but beyond that the whole starting rotation is on the table.

    What I am really excited about is that Jackson is pitching well. His ERA is dropping and his FIP indicates it isn't a fluke. If he can get his ERA down in to that 3.70 range there might be some interest in a guy who has no significant injury history, a veteran, and under contract (and a very reasonable one at that $11M/year) for 2.5 years. Worst case scenario, I wouldn't mind keeping him, but if he can net us a decent haul of prospects I would say, "Happy Trails".

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Agree. The Cubs are suddenly in a much better spot with Jackson -- even keeping him isn't terrible. Not much you can buy for $27M on the FA market and the Cubs have a guy who is pitching like a solid mid-rotation starter.

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    In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Unless we are holding onto Shark, I would rather not trade E-Jax right now, and I don't think the Cubs will. Somebody has to take the ball, and one thing E-Jax has always been is durable; he'll take the ball every 5th day. I can see him traded, though, in 2015 or 16.

    After Tsuyoshi Wada and Hendricks, I don't see any more viable replacements for the rotation this year. "Chris Rusin", you may say, but we need a 6th option, but he is very fringy IMO, and suitable as more of a AAA shuttle guy

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I agree with you in theory, but if we get offered more than he is worth, not sure we can keep E-Jax for that reason. I am "comfortable" (at least as this lost season goes) with a combo of Villaneuva, Jokisch, Wada, Rusin and Hendricks (and maybe Beeler, Rhee or someone we acquire) filling the roles of Shark, E-Jax and Hammel for the 2nd half of the season, assuming we get good value in trades for those three.

  • Everyone is so focused on getting pitching for Samardzija but for 2 years now, the problem has been hitting, not pitching. Just get the best available player(s) for him regardless if it's pitching or hitting.

  • Rondon /Vizcaino could be , I hope a better version for the Cubs than the Martinez/ Rosenthal combo in STL .

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    The Cubs originally signed E-Jax as a mid-rotation guy, because he was relatively young, had a track record of decent results, and no health issues. His FIP last year was a 3.79, right in line with those results, he was just unlucky

    This is the E-Jax we thought we were signing; somewhat inconsistent, but overall a durable, mid-rotation guy. Good summary.

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    I had never seen such a thing as a negative FIP! How is that even possible?

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    In reply to João Lucas:

    Here's the formula from Fangraphs. Essentially, your stirkeouts have to be much, much higher than your home runs allowed and walks. (Both are zero for Vizcaino, vs 7 strikeouts.)

    FIP = ((13*HR)+(3*(BB+HBP))-(2*K))/IP + constant

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Thanks, Mike.

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    I think it's pretty clear that Shark is on his way out of town, and Jackson and Hammel will probably follow him if they can get a decent return. But that leaves our rotation Wood-Arrieta (who is going to the bullpen, eventually)-Hendricks-Wada-Rusin. I mean, It's night-and-day better than trotting Germano and Berken out there to get killed once a week, but it's still a bunch of middle of the rotation arms, at best.

    It seems like (a) getting Rodon in the draft is that much more important because we need someone who can step into the top of the rotation sooner rather than later and (b) we HAVE to get high-end, near major league ready talent in these trades. Both are easier said than done.

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    I have been really surprised by Ramirez. Not the fact he has swing and miss stuff.....scouts have said that consistently. But the fact that he isn't walking anybody. THAT is surprising!

    That's really the only difference between him and Grimm in terms of results.....Grimm so far walks people, Ramirez doesn't.

  • Arodys Vizcaino, Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon Zach Rosscup, Armando Rivero... Sounds like the makings of a good young bullpen... Hopefully Corey Black can be added as another hard thrower from the pen... May need another lefty, but I think Chris Rusin could do a good job as a lefty/swing man... Or even Hunter Cervenka, who might be ready at some point next season.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Hatley is bringing it too.

  • In reply to John57:

    Agreed, forgot to mention him.

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    So if you can't obtain a Verlander/Kershaw type starter, I don't know why you can't depend on a rotation of #2/3 types with a lights out bullpen. Combine that with an offense built around 3-4 power bats with a couple high OBP hitters, to go along with above average defense and I think you have a team that can contend for not only the division consistently but also able to go deep in the playoffs.

  • In reply to JimL:

    You've just basically described the White Sox 2005 Championship team, their pitching was lights out but the Chamionship rotation was Garcia, Buehrle, Contreras, Garland and guys like Posednik, Iguchi (OBP), and Konerko, Dye, Everett, Rowand as the 3-4 power bats.

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    The Cubs already have a run differential that suggests they are better than their record, despite an anemic offense.

    And in addition to the bullpen arms mentioned, there are more on the way. So I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Here's my dream scenario:

    1. Bryant continues to rake and makes the Cubs out of spring training next year as an outfielder.

    2. Baez figures it out and lands the third base job for 2015.

    3. Alcantrara regains his patience and continues to develop and is the every day second baseman by 2015.

    4. Cubs sign Matt Scherzer and Jeff Samardzija (who sees the Cubs future taking shape).

    5. Jackson continues to rebound and the Cubs get a decent prospect for him at the trade deadline.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    I could see everything but #4 happening, Shark isn't staying unfortunately, but on the bright side I have a very good feeling about the value the Cubs will get in return for him. Hammel is as good as gone as well. EJ I go back and forth on as I don't know if the Cubs can get fair value for him which could make it worth it just to keep him at his very reasonable contract if he is pitching well. The beautiful thing is the Cubs have a starting pitcher for every level of the market.

    Hammel - 2nd half/postseason rental - cheap -
    Samardzija [+Comp Pick] - 1.5 years remaining arbitration - cheap
    Jackson - 2.5 years remaining - value contract

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    The BP looks to be in great shape, lots of young, power arms. But with that comes a bit a disappointment. I was hoping a few of these guys would evolve into a least mid-rotation starters to help stabilize the rotation for 3+ years.

    Now it's looking like guys like Grimm, Ramirez, Vizcaino, Rondon(who was a starter at one point), Rivero, Cabrera, Paniagua, etc are all ticketed for the BP long term

    Where are the homegrown TOR pitchers all the good teams have going to come from?

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Grimm has expressed a desire to go the Jeff Samardzija route to the rotation -- but his command is going to have to get a lot better to do that.

  • I do see Shark and Hammel almost certainly being traded. Jackson I am not so sure about. I don't think the Cubs will be contending in 2015 or 2016, even if they go all out an acquire a Lester and/or Sherzer and/or David Price and/or James Shields (even with the Yankees going crazy one of these four should be obtainable if the Cubs want a true No. 1 starter at the front of the rotation. That is if the Cubs really want to - a subject of a another post as to the true intention of the Ricketts-Zell ownership and their current business plan. I increasingly suspect that they have taken out P.K. Wrigley's business plan. It is all about "Cubbiness" and the "ball park experience" without the expense of paying for good ball players. Trading Jackson saves the team $27 million in payroll and helps in the goal of tanking worse then Houston and getting that No. 1 draft choice for 2015, so I will not be surprised if it happens. Then you could in a "hard luck" second in the bidding for all the pitchers I just mentioned )

    If trades are to be made, I would like for the Cubs get some immediate left handed hitting pop for their outfield as well as add more minor league prospects who are potential 3-5 starters and bullpen parts. I would hope the Cubs management starts to be creative, using multiple players and even offering some of these extra minor league prospects that they built with their depth in order to add the pieces to Major League team that will be needed for a champion.

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    In reply to sherparick:

    Yes, Theo, Jed, Jason McLeod and Jaron Madison all left good gigs -- and sure employment anywhere in baseball -- to come manage a team ownership doesn't want to win.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Thank you. My sentiments exactly.

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    In reply to sherparick:

    Watched "Major League" one too many times?

  • John have you heard if the goal of Vizcaino is to make the cubs by the end of the year? or is this year strictly for him to regain his feel for pitching and stay healthy? Don't have much of a problem if they keep him in the minors with the way the season is going, just wasn't sure on the end goal of him this year (other than obviously not getting hurt)

  • In reply to Cubswin2015:

    They could bring him up later in the area and use him sparingly. I think they will. It's a nice reward for a guy who worked very hard to get back.

  • I think the Cubs-Yankees dance over Edwin Jackson would be fascinating to watch as a fly on the wall. Ca$hman will be adamant that for taking $27MM off Theo's hands he shouldn't have to give up ANYTHING worthwhile and will say no other team will accept him without some cash coming back. He will also be trying to make up for, in his mind, giving up Corey Black when he had the Cubs over the barrel in the Sori negotiations.

    Meanwhile, Theo will NOT want to do Cashman any favors but at the same time will get pressure from the business office to take it.

  • In reply to Deacon:

    Why would we ever want to trade Edwin to the Yanks? We should keep him. He is doing what we signed him for and he is healthy.

  • In reply to John57:

    Also, who would the Yanks give of any value? I doubt there is "pressure" from anyone to dump payroll right now, so any trade for EJax will likely pick up a bit of his salary (though it isn't problematic going forward, as John indicated) and get a decent prospect. Otherwise he won't be traded. Unfortunately, the Yanks don't have a prospect they'd give up that would be enough to get Jackson (as far as I know).

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    Couldn't help but notice that the Phillies, with a payroll in excess of $160,000,000 and stars named Rollins, Howard, Lee and Utley are just a few wins better than the Cubs and 4 games under .500 themselves. My only guess is that they must have hired some bum for a manager.

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    In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Who goes first in Philly? The manager or the GM?

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    In reply to Ray:

    I say the GM. Amaro has been on the hot seat for a while now.

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    In reply to Ray:

    A friend of mine lives in Philly and knows people that have cancelled their season tickets until Amaro is fired.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    He's the guy who has to go.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    You're just using facts to prove you're correct. Anyone can do that. Except Gordon Wittenmyer

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    In reply to jorel1114:

    Ha! Love it. He's such a hack with his fake sources who are Wordon Gittenmyer and Nordog Rittenmyew.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Ha! I remember when some wanted him here so badly.

    But wow, it'd be really tough to be in this position where they'd have to consider firing him in a year or two.

  • I have the line for Olt's final HR total (assuming health) at 32 1/2. Who would take the over?

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    With all this talk about how bad the rotation would be with Wood, Arriata, Wada, Hendricks, etc, where is the talk about major league ready starting pitching we would get in return? Sounds like we are assuming that whatever we receive in trades would not be any starting pitching that could move into the rotation right away.

  • In reply to Drinkin Olt Cola:

    Agreed -- that would have to happen (getting MLB ready SP) in any deal, IMO.

  • Maybe I am the lone holdout here, but I am still hopeful that Vizcaino will be in the rotation come April of 2015. Milk it this season in the BP and then begin stretching him out over the winter.

    Plenty of bullpen options and Rondon is showing he can be a closer. We lack SP and Vizcaino has done this coming up through the Braves system.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Innings jump will be too great for next year, makes it a big injury risk.. If Vizcaino is to be a starter, it will happen more gradually.

  • So weird...the bullpen's good right now. The starting pitching is good right now. Castro & Rizzo are playing very well. Worst record in the game.

    The Schierholtz/Kalish/Coghlan spot on the roster is killing us. That needs to be held by a highly productive, everyday player (Kris Bryant when he arrives) who is genuinely suited to hit 5th in the show. Villanueva is not contributing. He could be replaced by Vizcaino (or Hatley) on the roster and Grimm could fill the swingman role.

    It makes sense to wait. I get it. Its ironic though that our best hitting prospect and our best pitching prospect could both help the team right now...the perpetual waiting game that is being a Cubs fan. Just saying...

    I still don't completely get it. Come June can they not just let Vizcaino pitch 3 days a week in the bigs? The pen is set right now so he's not going have to pitch two or three days in a row if he's not quite ready to do that.

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    Jim Bowden suggests the Blue Jays trade for Shark NOW... but thinks they can do it without trading Stroman OR Sanchez.

    I realize he's worthless click bait, but... ugh.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Yeah, I saw it -- didn't want to link him. Can't believe the Jays gave up so much for a 38 yr old Dickey now people think they shouldn't give up anything for Samardzija.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    My god, I had blocked out the Dickey trade. What the hell were they thinking.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Yeah. It's as if they traded based on his wins or Cy Young. We were talking about a 38 year old knuckleballer. Definitely a head scratcher.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Theo knows how to get the max value in a trade. If Jeff is traded we will get a boatload of talent back. Though I may be in the minority, I would like to keep Jeff. He is a TOR SP in my book.

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    In reply to Giffmo:

    Maybe we should be nice guys and trade him for Kyle Smit, Brett Wallach, and Blake DeWitt.

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    As much as we need pitching, and as much as I personally WANT pitching, does anyone else want the FO to offer Shark to the Dodgers for a Job Pederson package and dare them to turn it down?

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    In reply to Giffmo:

    It's a tough call -- because if we don't get front line pitching for Samardzija, it's difficult to see where we're going to get it in the near future.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I actually like that idea. If we are going to trade Shark, then a trade to the Dodgers for Joc makes sense. He, being a lefty, would fit nicely into a primarily right-handed lineup.

    As far as acquiring SP, why not a trade with a team that needs some bats, that have some arms to give up in return...something like Soler/VBomb (who I love both) to a team like the M's?

    At least, if they both break out, we wouldn't have to face them in the M's lineup...once every six years.

    Thoughts?

  • In reply to SymposiumX13:

    I think if you can get an MLB ready hitter with a good approach, you have to consider it. Pedersen is a pretty safe bet at this point.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Especially with arms falling off of high profile pitchers all over the place.

    Our FO has had an uncanny knack for finding effective starting pitching. Maybe not dominant, but effective. I'm not saying they can cobble together a whole rotation like that from scratch, but I think its impossible to ignore what Joc can offer. And all the more so when you consider what LA has and what they need.

  • i have really liked the roster composition since Ruggiano's injury. It has been an open audition for the pen spots and opened up some high leverage spots at Iowa too. The work load on Russell has lessened and he has looked better from what I have seen. Great weekend from the pen.

  • Thank you for the response. It's good to know that there are possibly multiple trade possibilities. I really don't want to lose VBomb or Soler to trade, but it makes the most sense with no position to play (VBomb) and needing a lefty outfield bat (not Soler).

    It may be selling low for both, at this time, but what sort of trade scenerios seem equitable for these guys? What sort of SP is out there, that if the Cubs did trade Soler and/or VBomb, you'd say "hey, I'm ok with that trade"?

    Have to give up talent to get talent.

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