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Playing catch-up: Thoughts on the Cubs offseason so far and the options ahead as the hot stove should begin to warm up soon

Playing catch-up: Thoughts on the Cubs offseason so far and the options ahead as the hot stove should begin to warm up soon

Hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend.  We are ready to resume our coverage as things should start heating up.

It is early in the offseason but so far the Cubs are attacking one area of concern with vigor -- MLB ready pitching depth.  The Cubs consider themselves pretty lucky that they didn't have to delve into their minor league depth -- especially since that, other than CJ Edwards, the Cubs really didn't have a lot of pitchers healthy and ready to contribute at the MLB level last year.

They're not counting on getting that kind of luck again.  They've stocked up on pitchers, especially those who can  miss bats.  Their roster is now up to 38 and the Cubs have yet to add a starting pitcher or a center fielder.   Right now it would seem the Cubs will fill at least one of those holes via trade.  But the Cubs have added both SP and RP depth as they head into December.  That depth is as follows...

Starting Pitching

  • Pierce Johnson, RHP (added to 40 man roster)
  • Drew Rucinski RHP (signed to minor league deal)

Relief Pitching

  • Ryan Cook, RHP
  • Andury Acevedo, RHP
  • Jeff Leaathersich, LHP
  • Spencer Patton, RHP
  • Rex Brothers, LHP

None of those names are going to get Cubs fans excited, but the Cubs are more concerned with being able to rotate in quality arms should their regular pitchers get hurt.  Last year they got by with late season pickups such as Trevor Cahill and Clayton Richards.  They also traded for Yoervis Medina, who is still on the roster.   The Cubs also still have Edwards, Richards, and Zac Rosscup.  They've stockpiled a lot of talented arms who are all are still in their prime years, but all are also unproven, so the Cubs are hoping that they can catch lightning in a bottle with at least a couple of these additions.  It may even give them some flexibility if they feel confident enough that one or more of these bullpen arms can step in right away.

The Cubs haven't given up a whole lot to acquire this depth.  They've traded 2B Frandy De La Rosa, who is a talented but raw player at a position of great depth.  Wander Cabrera  is an intriguing LHP, but there are still a lot of things that have to happen -- will he fill out and get stronger?  Will he develop his curve ball?  Can he learn to throw a change-up?  He's the kind of pitcher a lot of organizations have -- good velocity, projection --and it if all comes together they can become good prospects.  For the Cubs it's worth the gamble given an increased urgency to win now and the confidence they can replace a low level minor leaguer through the draft or IFA signing period.

If we're optimistic, we'll say the Cubs are set to go big because...

a) they have saved their payroll and prospect currency

b) they only have two roster spots left and they haven't yet landed an impact player

The Cubs have been linked often to John Lackey lately.  They've also been tied to Jeff Samardzija, Alex Gordon, Jason Heyward, and David Price among others.

The Jays may have signaled that they are losing confidence in Price returning, despite David Kaplan reporting earlier this week that Toronto was his preference.  They just signed J.A. Happ and now have 5 starters in Happ, R.A. Dickey, Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, and the recently acquired Jesse Chavez.  That would seem to make the re-signing of Price much less urgent.  The Red Sox, meanwhile, have indicated they intend to outbid the field for Price -- and by a wide margin.  Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe is speculating they will surpass the $200M mark to sign him.   After losing out on Jon Lester to the Cubs, the Red Sox may be anxious to recover those top of the rotation innings and with a new man in charge in Dave Dombrowski, an aggressive GM who has shown a willingness to spend on a free agent pitcher what the previous front offices have not, they certainly have to be taken seriously.

The signing of Happ by the Blue Jays may  mean that Toronto has been priced out.  The same may  hold true for the Cubs, whom I believe would like to have Price but not on those terms.  I also believe they  expected the price to reach those heights before the offseason even began, so they are fully prepared to move forward regardless of what happens with the ace lefty.  It appears that while we cannot rule the Cubs out on signing Price, it will have to be on the condition that he will take less money -- perhaps significantly less -- to sign with Chicago than with Boston.

The fact the Cubs have just two roster spots left tells me that they intend to fill at least one of the remaining needs via trade, probably pitching,  The Cubs would have to deal at least one player off the 40 man roster to fill out their remaining wish list.  The other option would be to move a pitcher like Yoervis Medina, Dallas Beeler or Eric Jokisch off the roster now that the team has acquired significant pitching depth.

It has been a slow offseason in terms of free agency to this point.  J.A. Happ is the first significant free agent to sign so far, but I think the flood gates are about to open.  The winter meetings begin on Dec. 7th until the 10th, but don't be surprised if the Cubs make at least one significant move before then.

Stay tuned, things are about to get interesting.

 

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    John, you list Pierce Johnson as depth in SP. He started 16 games in AA, do you see him challenging for a spot on the ML roster out of ST or later in the year? His problem has been staying healthy, and if he can do that is 2016 his year to break through? It would be what the Cubs have been hoping all along--not to spend mega-bucks for players but have them grown internally. It certainly seems like in maybe 2 years we'll have a number of arms ready, but that doesn't address 2016 unless we get very surprised.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    As we saw last year with T Woods decline, it's important to have rotation depth to step in. We got extremely lucky last season with decent outings by Richard and Wada once T Wood went to bullpen...-and we had to bring in Haren at deadline...I'm sure at times Theo made some jokes similar to the way I have in fantasy football this season.(I picked Andrew Luck for my QB and have had to start 4 different waiver QBs this season-not the way you want to go- but somehow still in playoffs) Theo kept playing waiver wire all season for pitching depth...somehow we were still in playoffs..

    If Pierce Johnson is a significant rotation piece then something went terribly wrong...but it will be nice to have Johnson to go back and forth between AAA and spot starts...especially early on as Maddon will likely reduce starters innings throughout year with some spot starts without having to search the waiver wire all season

  • In reply to David McKenzie:

    Another scenario is that PJ is healthy, performs well in the spring and has a good first half of the season. Then in July or August, he is called up for a sport start or to replace a Hammel or Hendricks because of poor performance or an injury to another SP.

    PJ pitched very well when he came back last season. If healthy, he could be an important piece in 2016 and certainly 2017.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    my friend's step-aunt makes $70 an hour on the computer . She has been without a job for 5 months but last month her pay was $18819 just working on the computer for a few hours. look at here
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  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Lamson Jallow:

    John, I would really love it if you could treat emails like this one as spam. Thanks

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    my friend's step-aunt makes $70 an hour on the computer . She has been without a job for 5 months but last month her pay was $18819 just working on the computer for a few hours. look at here
    ➨➨➨➨➨➨➨➨➨➨➨ w­­w­­w­.b­u­z­z­n­e­w­s­9­9­.­c­o­­m

  • I love the versatility of this FO, who seems to find multiple options for each problem. The moves they've made so far are certainly "depth," but who knows what happens after Bosio and company start working with them? If the "next" Jake Arrieta comes from a waiver pickup, it'll outshine the Feldman deal! But depth could produce the next Feldman, too, benefiting the team several moves down the line at another time or even another position. Or, perhaps, this latest group never produces anything more than a couple of guys that cover some innings while an injured pitcher heals. It's hard to see a down side to any of these moves.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    This is a strategy St. Louis has employed for years. They simply acquire arms at all levels and see how they fit. The had a weakness there early last year, the recently departed to the Rockies Brian Schlitter come so mind, and they had a bit of luck late with the likes of Cahill and Richard. The kind of arms they're picking up are utility arms for the most part, some could spot start I suppose but most could fill middle relief roles if needed. The emphasis on velocity is key. The 2013 playoffs come to mind where St. Louis and Boston each trotted out a seemingly endless stream of power arms en route to the World Series. That is clearly the template here. I like it.

  • One way I think the Cubs have a financial advantage over a AL team(Boston) is the fact that Pitchers also bat. Boston for instance has to also pay for a DH to bat for that same Pitcher. I think there are so many ways the Cubs can justify that spending. If they are willing to eat 13M for E. Jackson to go away I think they have the financial flexibilty to sign a quality pitcher like David Price. This is a Poker game among teams. The big boys do not want to show there hands. Price makes the most sense. John you have said Theo likes Pitchers from AL, no draft pick compensation involved, incredible regular season tract record(imagine his numbers in the NL where he will face a pitcher twice a game), and his "make-up" is off the charts. This is such a no brainer that I just think it's destiny.

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    In reply to notownlikeChicago:

    You make a great point notown. I hadn't thought of it like that, but since the DH is a salary to be considered in the AL for us it would be like found money. Why not use that for a pitcher?
    I do like the idea of trying Cahill as a SP this year. He would be no doubt better than our 5th starter last year, that revolving door of trying to find something. We did have the 3rd best ERA in the ML last year for all our moaning about the staff. Joe knows, and with the "arm whisperer" Bosio let's see what kind of development we get this year from all the arms we've accumulated.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I disagree Jonathan on Cahill. I live out in AZ and have watched Cahill pitch several times for the Snakes. He has very average stuff as a starter. He picked up significant velocity coming out of the pen last year. Those 90-91 mph fastballs just don't play for 6 innings, but those 93-94 mph heaters are just fine in a relief role. Cahill found his calling last year in the pen.

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    In reply to danlab21:

    He was very good in relief and if that's what he's best at then keep him there. I was going by what I saw here--you obviously have a better perspective than I have. thanks.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Loved Cahill in relief. That's definitely where I'd like to see him if he returned.

  • In reply to notownlikeChicago:

    I will eat my hat if the Cubs sign Price. He's likely going to Boston and St. Louis would not surprise me but I just don't think these guys will take on another contract like this.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Absolutely right, agree completely. If I can find a gluten free hat, I'll eat mine as well.

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    In reply to notownlikeChicago:

    If Price signs for 5/160, then he'll be a Cub. Otherwise, it's very unlikely.

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    In reply to notownlikeChicago:

    Right now if there were a DH in the NL some of our problems would be solved rather than creating a new problem. Not all DH have to be expensive hitters. They just have to hit only, play no defense.

    I don't think it necessarily comes down to "There isn't room in the budget for that" as much as, "at a certain point the salary of a player ceases to match his 'value' to the team." To another team Price may have more value than to the Cubs.

    While we could look at last year and say that "we were a couple good pitching performances away from the WS" we could also look at it as "We caught lightning in a bottle and rode it quite a ways. There are significant things to be addressed beyond 'a couple good pitching performances.'" I do think that Epstein is looking to address the problems we still have with the roster (too many K's in the line-up, inconsistency at the bottom of the rotation to name a couple).

    Top to bottom this club is in a much better situation than we were a year ago. We have seen successful debuts of Bryant, Russell, Schwarber and continued development of Soler, Baez. That is 5 guys that we hoped/believed would succeed that actually did succeed, or, at least, didn't flop. They have beaten the odds and had probably our top 5 prospects pan out (so far). That could change, but it is just as likely to stay the course. We have catcher pretty well set for the next couple of years. If we can get a solid CF and a MOR starter through FA or trade this will be a scary good team for several years. And the goal is to go to the playoffs. Anything can happen at that point. Who would have thought the cubs would win 4 post-season games and lose only 1, only to be swept in the NLCS; or that the cardinals would pick an inopportune time for a 3-game losing streak and only win 1 game out of 4 after winning 100 during the regular season.

    I look forward to seeing how the FO goes about this off-season. I am sure they have several contingency plans set up that cold lead to success. Right now they are in the "throw mud at the wall" stage. But I don't think that is where they will stay. I think at least 2-3 major league quality players will be added this off-season. More only if we have to trade some of our MLB quality players currently on the roster.

  • In reply to notownlikeChicago:

    Kind of a false analogy here. If you have a DH that's 1,2,or 3 pinch hitters you don't need and have to pay. For all their worth in the field and in the club house J Herrera and D Ross were at times a drag on the team when you needed a PH. In the American League they would have both had more value because you didn't need their bat nearly as much. Remember all teams are limited to 25 players and they all get paid. Paying for a DH saves money to spend elsewhere.

  • Great article. I just had this same discussion over Turkey on Thursday. The depth they have built at low cost gives them reliever depth for the 40 man. These are all power arms whowho are Bosio's to work with. You can see the analysis and input from Maddon in how he wants to establish his pen with guys who either throw Ks or ground balls.

    Beeler needs to learn to throw one more type of pitch and control all of his pitches better to be more than the #8 starter. If you had to pick a guy to move off the 40 man he would be my pick. I feel Johnson can get there and Jokisch can put in a full season. They will fill out the AAA rotation with a few more depth guys. AA starters will be on the horizon.

    This FO punched those pennies and got hopefully moldable talent for the back end to shorten games

  • I had Thanksgiving with my friend who is in Atlanta's front office. Here were some of the nuggets he shared:

    1) the Mets and Braves never discussed any deal for Simmons--office divided 50/50 on trading him when they deal went down
    2) the Giants and Braves are close on a deal sending Miller to SFO for Panik and Duffy. Haggling over which additional players get included.
    3) Braves are in the market for a front line C. Do not like their catchers. Also, any trade for Miller or Teheran will have to include 2 MLB ready bats and a future arm. Or 1 MLB ready bat, 1 MLB ready arm and a future bat.
    4) willing to trade Miller because they don't feel he will be able to control the outside half of the plate--"he's an arm-side heavy pitcher"
    5) Freeman is indeed available as they are looking for more "pull power like a Goldschmidt or Rizzo". He is too content to go LCF with drive-able pitches.
    6) very excited to see Max Fried in ST. Hearing he is the real deal.
    7) the field at the new stadium may have been laid out wrong. Hearing the the sun will set in CF. The local AFB provided all the wind data but apparently the construction people never looked where the sun set. Said they are looking at this right now. They have discussed earlier/later start times and a 15 or so minute "sun delay" if this is true.
    8) Cubs and Braves have not had any formal talks regarding players yet. Just informal talks like they do with every team.

    Cheers!!!

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Wow. Good stuff

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    "the field at the new stadium may have been laid out wrong...apparently the construction people never looked where the sun set."

    the ballpark is aligned with cf pointing south-southwest! I don't think this is a construction issue, the models seem to all show the same alignment. looks like a design snafu.

    then again, it is called sun trust park, so...

  • In reply to Eldrad:

    I laughed out loud when he mentioned that. That would be an epic gaffe if it happens.

  • In reply to Eldrad:

    Wow, I live in Giants land and would be shocked if the Giants traded Panik for Miller, much less Panik and Duffy.

  • In reply to CA Cubbie Fan:

    There are more parts. As the conference call went on Sabean asked for Rio Ruiz. Sabean checked in on Markakis and Freeman and asked the Braves how they felt Justin Upton was in the clubhouse.

    We'll see what happens in the coming week(s).

  • In reply to CA Cubbie Fan:

    The Giants may be selling high on both players. They may not expect to get 4+ WAR from either of those players going forward. I don't think I'd blame them if that was their outlook.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to CA Cubbie Fan:

    That would be a huge overpay, but it could take the Giants out of the running for one of the big dollar FA starting pitchers.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Eldrad:

    "You had 1 job!"

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I drive by there regularly I will have to stop and look at that. That stadium is going to be horrible to get to when it opens. But that is good stuff thanks for sharing.

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    I highly doubt the Giants would trade either Panik or Duffy, let alone both. Unless they have inside information that Panik won't recover from his back injury. I think the Giants go free agency.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Great stuff. What qualifies as a "MLB ready bat" or "MLB ready arm"? I see this posted from time to time and am having a little difficulty understanding exactly what it means. Does it mean a young prospect like Baez, a veteran like Coughlin, or either depending on the situation?

  • In reply to Pelon:

    They want players in MLB today. They don't want prospects.

    They have had debates in the FO over what direction to go. The Field Staff is not very fond of trades that are not for the now because they are on the last year of their contracts. The others are trying to build for the future as they move into the new park.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Thanks :)

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Thank you rbrucato! Understanding that the Cubs/Braves haven't formally discussed trade, were you by chance able to elicit any must have names from the Cubs if such a deal were discussed?

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    He said they need at least two MLB now bats. He said they could start with Bryant and Schwarber as he started laughing. He mentioned Montero because they want an everyday C. But he said not at his full price. He likes Baez out of all the Cubs not currently holding down a full time slot.

  • fb_avatar

    I just had my comments flagged to go to the administrator, and the other day was the same thing and it never appeared. Is this something new? thanks.

  • Cook and Brothers are steals if the Cubs can get them back to pitching right. The bullpen could be 1 of the best next season with Strop and Rondon already in place.

  • I am interested in the Rule 5 and whether the Cubs take anyone in the MLB portion or simply make a trade as part of it to give them flexibility.

    I am a fan of the concept but not the guaranteed spot on the roster

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Gator:

    I doubt the cubs pick anyone. The Rule 5 draft is great for teams re-cuilding. Everyone is hoping for a Hector Rondon. But a team unlikely to contend can afford to "lose" a spot on the roster to get a very talented player. A team looking to contend will suffer. If they can get someone really special then maybe they go ahead. But they are not in a position to give 25-man roster spots to guys to see what happens in a couple years.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Gator:

    To me I am a fan of the concept AND the roster spot. I think it is a good thing as a player can't be "stuck" indefinitely behind someone at the MLB level. And the guaranteed roster spot makes things interesting for the acquiring team. Otherwise it would be easy to "pluck" talented but raw players from other team's systems.

  • fb_avatar

    This has got to be a no brainer for Theo, we need starting pitching and one is available who seemingly wants to play for the cubs. Simply sign Price and you have EJ and Hamel coming off the books after one year, you're essentially getting Price for 5-10 per off what you have now after the first year.You also have insurance if Jake doesn't resign or regresses...
    With the extra capital the cubs generated this year it is easily doable, make other teams come to you for position players for their pitching instead of us wanting their pitching, we would be in a position of strength, we don't need to make any moves or weaken our depth,
    we can still sign Cahill and Richard as backups and let Wood go..

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to tater:

    I wasn't convinced that signing Price was the right move until reading this comment thread. I think the point you made about EJ and hammel coming off the books after next season and the lack of DH salary completely justifies signing Price. Adding in the fact that they will not have to lose a draft pick by signing him. This is now a no brainier for me. Love this site keep up the good work guys!

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    In reply to Warren Sims:

    I go back and forth on Price. Sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it doesn't. I am, however, very skeptical of the "Boston will outbid everyone" rumor. That isn't their MO (they have a team policy against spending but on 30-year old pitchers). Reminds me of all the rumors that Price wanted to stay in Toronto, which now looks unlikely.

  • In reply to tater:

    Don't know why you would let Wood leave. Once he went to the pen he became invaluable both as a long man and occasionally to close out a couple of games. He's key because of his flexibility.

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    In reply to veteran:

    He's probably going to cost upwards of 6M, we can use that for Cahill and Richard, just trying to keep money close...

  • In reply to tater:

    Its not just about next year, or two years down the road. It's about value over the duration of the deal. Price will start to regress sooner then later, and his salary will limit our financial flexibility going forward. Our young bats will be going through arbitration while he starts to decline, and we will still be on the hook for his salary when they start to hit free agency, all at a younger age then when we hypothetically signed Price. We've already established on this board that we don't need a plethora of aces to win in the post season, just two more quality arms behind Arrieta and Lester. Regardless of the lack of an attached draft pick, or perceived bargaining position, 200 million dollars for a 30 year old pitcher just isn't a good investment however you swing it, especially after our 155 million dollar investment in Jon Lester. You're getting into "Jim Hendry" era tactics here, and that's exactly what we're trying to avoid. Look at what happened to us in 08. Look at what the Phillies have been going through. The hypothetical Price deal may not come back to bite us in the you know what until 5 years down the road, but the chances it ends up as a resounding success are pretty slim at the suggested dollar amount. If David Price is willing to come to the north side at a large discount, then I'm all for it. Otherwise it just doesn't support our FO's goal of maintaining long term organizational health. The cards didn't become a perennial contender by throwing large sums of money at an issue, and neither will we. We also can't keep every young stud we have on our 40 man roster, and in our system. Some will have to go, and you have to give value to obtain anything of value. It makes more sense financially and long term if we trade from our positional depth to acquire a young starter, and sign a cheaper free agent starter who slips through this extremely deep pitching market.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to CubbieInfantry2327:

    If we sign Price, we will have 5 years before the tv contract kicks in, with the savings on Hammel and Jackson we would be paying him 5-10 M a year, not very much. We had a good year from our plyers last year and people are proposing using some of our players for pitchers who have no track record, how do we know they are any better than what we had, I would rather play with what I know than gamble on a young pitcher to get us a championship. If we land someone other than a TOR we are going backwards or at beststatus quo, if you think we get a WS with the pitching we have, good luck, I'll keep my players and sign some pitching and keep my draft picks...

  • In reply to tater:

    I'm sorry, but I strongly disagree with your assessment. Yes, we know we're getting a TV deal at some point around 2019-2020. We can reasonably assume it will be a lucrative one, but that's still an unknown quantity at this point. It's difficult to project a budget when you don't know how much you will have to spend. Also, who are these "pitchers with no track record" you're speaking of? Danny Salazar, Tyson Ross, and other young controllable starters discussed here obviously don't have the experience David Price does. But they also are under team control for reasonable deals that are below market value, versus a a 30 yr old pitcher who will command 7 years at a 30M AAV. They still have upside, and they also don't have a history of utter failure in the post season, the time where having TOR arms matters the most. You're taking a very black and white approach. We had one of the best staffs in baseball from a statistical standpoint last season, and you're now stating "anything other then a TOR pitcher we are going backwards, or at best status quo." I'll take status quo if it means those all around great numbers are replicated, and two more solid 2-3 types definitely isn't going backwards. Look at the royals starting staff. They had one ace who was inconsistent after he was acquired, one young starter with TOR upside, and a rotation full of bargain bin pieces. It's been established time and time again that you don't need a rotation full of TOR starters to win. Plus a rotation with 3 30+ year old starters all on expensive contracts with AAVs of 25 M or above just isn't a good investment long term, and its not a smart investment short term either when you're throwing that much money at just three pitchers. That's exactly what we will have if we add Price, and extend Arrieta. Or we don't extend Arrieta, or trade him, and then we're back exactly where we are right now, with Price and Lester two years older, and our team quickly becoming expensive. Throwing massive contracts around doesn't breed success, it just makes it more difficult in the long run

  • In reply to tater:

    The rumors are that Price will get 7 years for a total of 210 million. I doubt that saving 11 million on one year of Jackson's contract will make the slightest difference. And if they let Hammel go, they will just have to sign someone else for about the same amount of money, so that has no impact at all.

  • I've had same problem from time to time, as well. It usually happens when posting off a Twitter link, not sure if that has anything to do with it.

    I still really see us matching up well with TB to fill one of SP slots and possibly other needa( LH RHP??). Given their chronic shortage of quality hitting prospects & our surplus of cost-controlled ones, you'd think framework of a deal could be made. Matt Moore, anyone?

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    In reply to Carl9730:

    Moore I would love, I know a few on here are scared of his walk rate when he came back,but the arm would be worth the risk, if I was Theo I wouldn't chase any trade, I would sign my top pitcher and let it ride, we won 97 last year, why make trades we don't need to now, keep our depth, that and injury free luck from our pitchers gave us our run. You can't count on injury free luck every year, that's why we need a TOR pitcher...

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    AJ Griffin - woud be another good "depth" signing
    He's a #4 or #5 pitcher. Kind of surprised A's released him.
    I know he was hurt but looks like he pitched at the end of the year
    and was only due -$1.5 or so.

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    In reply to deport soriano com:

    I'll try again. I just looked up AJ Griffin. He had TJ surgery in April 2014, should be better by now and especially by ST. This is just the kind of pitcher we've been accumulating. If Chris "the arm whisperer" Bosio can help 1 or 2 of all these arms the Cubs will have a great bullpen. Maybe put Cahill in as a SP and suddenly our depth is strengthened. I still would like to add a difference maker SP and an OBP CF and suddenly we have more depth all over. If we can't get a TOO batter, why not put KB there, esp. with Russell batting 9th. Boston did it with Wade Boggs, and then it gives us someone who gets on base, can run well and has a very high baseball IQ. It isn't ideal, but would work.

  • John, I understand why the Cubs would be interested in Gordon (WS winner, LHH, plate approach, great defender), but I don't understand why they'd pursue him given the other side of things, namely his age, lack of positional flexibility, probable contract terms + QO + age, and most importantly, such a signing would appear to push Schwarber to full-time catcher or traded.

    I would expect Contreras to be ready before Gordon's last contract ends. So does one of Contreras/Schwarber get traded if Gordon signs? Montero too?

    There's just so many intricacies involved in signing Gordon that just don't exist with someone like Heyward.

    Plus, it doesn't solve the hole in CF...surely the Cubs don't think he can play CF? I know they've shown that they believe they can coach up defense, and that CF at Wrigley is easier than most places, but surely that isn't their thought here.

    Waiting for an explanation here. Just due diligence?

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    You would have to think if Gordon is picked up his signing would be followed/preceded by a Soler trade.

  • In reply to KingTheo:

    Sure, possible, but Soler plays RF. Gordon plays LF only. Schwarber can only play LF and C. That forces Schwarber to basically catch full time, and would necessitate trading Montero. And then what happens to Contreras?

    Lots of moving parts come with signing Gordon that don't come with other options like Heyward, who can just be plugged into CF and then moved to COF once/if Almora is ready.

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    The reports are that Gordon would be open to playing RF. That's the only way it works.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I don't believe he has the arm for it. And his defense immediately becomes less valuable by moving him from the position that weak fielders are hidden to RF.

    And IMO Bryant probably moves to RF here soon. I just don't see it.

  • I'm still hoping for a Heyward signing. It gives us substantial options, including trading for quality pitching.

  • In reply to wthomson:

    Agreed. This is the one signing I really want to see.

  • In reply to wthomson:

    I agree with you a 26 yr old generational talent not even in his prime. That would play gold glove defense and hit for a high on base in the top of the order and probably more power over the next 5 years than we have seen in the top of the order in forever sign me up.

  • I would think that a heyward signing would be interesting, but I disagree that he is a generational talent. He's good, but the only reason why he is rumored to get so much is because he younger (26). I do wonder is heyward would be a good fit. I think he could be good as a leadoff hitter, but I wonder if he makes enough contact to be a perfect fit for what the cubs are looking for.

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    I'm with you, Heyward is far from a "generational talent." When it's all said and done, I actually expect Soler to have a better career. And Soler is an order of magnitude cheaper. I would be shocked if the Cubs sign Heyward. The Cubs' MO has been to stockpile young, cheap, high-upside hitters, and then sign FA pitchers. Unless a trade from a pitcher materializes where the Cubs get real clear value, I don't see them altering their blueprint.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    If Theo really felt strongly that Heyward could play CF for the team, for 3 years - and also not require a trade of Soler, I would be ok with going after Heyward. He is a good hitter and might become a triple machine in Wrigley - with all the room in both corners. But it would be a must, that they view him as the answer in CF.

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    In reply to cubbustible:

    If I'm a betting man, I see Heyward on the Angels. If the Cubs do spend Heyward-like money on a FA, it would be for a pitcher (e.g., Price or Grienke). Signing Heyward and then trading for Soler for a pitcher because it makes more sense to sign an expensive FA hitter than a FA pitcher is something dreamed up by people who spend a lot of time posting comments on sites like this, or who have to drum up a story during the current cold stove league. Ha!

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    It depends on what you value. Soler will certainly be a better power hitter than Heyward, likely much better but the thought of living with his OF play for years concerns me. Ideally he'd play LF but unless Schwarber becomes a full time catcher that's unlikely. I guess I don't know he fits the picture long term. To me Bryant is a corner OF as well within a couple of years so there's a ton of redundancy with no easy answers. I sort of like the idea of signing Heyward and eventually moving him to RF but then that means Bryant is at 3B for the foreseeable future and that's an issue. Defense and hitting for contact look to be problems with no easy answers. There's a lot of promise on the team but more serious issues than people like to talk about and that's before you discuss pitching.

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    In reply to TC154:

    I think Soler will match Heyward in OBP, have a better SLG, and hit a ton more home runs. Defensively, Soler's arm is already as good Heyward's, which is saying something. Heyward takes the best routes to the ball of any fielder in the league, and Soler is not good there. But that strikes me as teachable, at least to the level where Soler isn't a defensive liability. And the different in annual salary for the next five years will be ridiculous. As I see it, Soler may be traded, but it would be for an exceptional pitcher (e.g., Gray, Sale). It isn't going to be for a guy like Miller. As for Bryant, he's already ranked in the upper half of third basemen defensively, and I expect that to improve. Hoyer is on record saying the team has a "strong preference" for him to play third. He is so much more valuable there, I don't see the logic in moving him to RF. People have been trying to move Bryant to RF since the day he was drafted. I just don't see it happening. The real question to me is do the Cubs dig deep for a guy like Price, or go for someone like Shark instead? And what kind of trade for a pitcher can they pull off that would include Castro or Baez?

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    I think Bryant is OK at 3B but wouldn't you like to see better defense there? Then there's the injury issue. Injuries hurt Troy Glaus significantly at 3B and in many ways he's the best comp to Bryant. As far as Soler goes I hope you're right. I can see star quality but the soft tissue injuries and inability to play in the cold concern me not to mention the defense. We know baseball development is not linear. One if these young stars is likely to be bad next year. Doesn't mean they won't turn it around later but someone will fall off, they always do. That could be used as an argument to trade for a different mix or keep the depth. I probably lean towards the former but what do I know. With so little activity so far I'm getting nervous.

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    In reply to TC154:

    Bryant had too many errors last season: that was his defensive weakness. But his advanced statistics were good. In fact based on his advanced statistics, he is actually in the top third of defensive third basemen. "One of these young stars is likely to be bad next year." Call me a homer, but I completely disagree. I think next season you are going to see guys like Russell and Soler take big steps forward. And Bryant is going to move toward being a MVP-type player. For me, the Cubs have acquired all of these potentially great young players and now is not the time to break them up. It certainly isn't the time to spend a lot of money on another positional player. Maybe I would trade Baez, but that is only because Castro is pretty darn good himself, young, and probably harder to trade. But I am okay with them keeping everyone and signing some FA pitchers. Price, if the price is right. Or Shark. Or whoever.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    I think you're overvalueing Soler. It'd take a lot more then just him to acquire Sale or Gray. You also aren't factoring Soler's injury history or inability to play in cold weather into the equation. Don't get me wrong, I love his potential. But its highly debatable that he will even stay on the field enough to be as productive as Jason Heyward. Heyward is also just entering his prime years, and still has room for some projection. He's just a better fit long term then a Price or Greinke due to the fact we would be getting 5-7 prime years, compared to 2-4 from the pitchers. Heyward also gives us contact, and elite defense, which we're lacking, while also adding a great OBP oriented approach. It would be a better investment of our resources if we're going to spend big to ink Heyward, and avoid these aging arms

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    Soler's injury history and health are important to the equation. There's no doubt he's a high floor high ceiling player WHEN HEALTHY. That risk may make him the most valuable and most likely trade chip.

  • In reply to wthomson:

    There is no way they sign Heyward as much as they drive up his price. He takes up too much long term payroll flexibility at a redundant position.

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    In reply to wthomson:

    Don't understand Heyward, love him as much as anybody,but he is something we should like to have, not someone we need, we neeed pitching, we need pitching etc..We won 97 without him and we'd probably win 90 with him after you break the teams depth to trade for another pitcher, who might win you 10 -12 games, don't see it...

  • In reply to tater:

    Heyward does the little things that Maddon loves that doesn't always show up in a box score. He also has 5-7 prime years left with room for growth. There's a lot to like, and that's why an intelligent organization such as the STL cardinals paid a pretty penny to acquire him. I agree we need pitching, but our pitching was the main reason we won 97 games last year. We were top 10 in baseball in nearly every category, and top 5 in a fair amount of categories as well. We need two quality starters after Arrieta and Lester. There isn't this dire need to another ace or two like some fans seem to be clamouring for. If we sign a Shark type starter and trade for a young starter like Salazar or an talented bounce back candidate like Matt Moore, it wouldn't destroy our depth to the point where we'd be seven games worse. Though most projection systems said we were closer to a 90 win team last year then a 97 win team thanks to Joe's black magic.

  • In reply to CubbieInfantry2327:

    Heyward has the same OPS and OPS+ as Coghlan over the last two years. At his size, any chance of playing CF will likely diminish over the next few years. In which case, you will be paying $20+mm per year for Coghlan's bat in RF. Do you think that if Chris Coghlan were a gold glove RF he would be worth $20+mm per year?

    Heyward's strike outs have gone down, but he still is about 100 per year. I don't know how you measure "does the little things" but Atlanta is a pretty smart team as well, and they traded him.

    The Heyward love has grown since his rookie year and now just seems out of control no matter what statistics he puts up. I think Shark would be a terrible waste of money and an albatross potentially comparable to EJax. Yet I would rather sign Shark than have 8 years of $20+mm on Heyward.

  • In reply to springs:

    You just compared Jason Heyward to Chris Coghlan. I'm not going to boil down two players and go by OPS as the only worthy stat or tool to measure a player. If you aren't familiar with what he brings to the table and his room for projection, then there's no point for us to discuss player comps, because that Coghlan comp just isn't there. They're too different of players. I wouldn't say ATL is a bad organization, but they don't have even half of the proven track record as the cardinals.

    As far as Shark goes, he's just an example, but I don't understand the hate. He'll most likely get third tier money, he's got low mileage on his arm, and he has TOR stuff. Out of any pitcher who inks a multi year deal this off season, he has the best shot at providing surplus value, and that's our FO's bread and butter.

    I'm also not advocating a Heyward deal, just that I'd prefer to give him a large deal than David Price. More prime years, isn't a pitcher with a lot of mileage, and he will play every day

  • In reply to tater:

    Cubs were like third in ERA. The offense was a huge let down in the post season. The offense needs fixing too. And don't forget sophomore slumps and defensive issues. Improved defense improves pitching! Heck, I'd argue that the staff that won the WS was an inferior rotation than the one the Cubs had...

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    Yes, but they were top heavy. There was no one who could be trusted to start a game 3 much less a game 4 in a 7 game series. Plus the comparison to KC's staff is not germane because their team was built on on contact hitting and defense where the Cubs are, and probably will remain, a power hitting team. Plus the Cubs staff was more of a regular season staff. The balancing act is to have pitching to win in the postseason as well.

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    Yet why would Heyward make our offense better? His numbers are rather menial for a RF.

  • Arrieta Castro Montero Vogelbomb for
    Betts pedroia swihart
    Sign Heyward
    Sign lackey
    Sign shark
    Soler cj Edwards for carrasco

    Betts .5
    Heyward 25
    Bryant .5
    Rizzo 7
    Schwarber .5
    Pedroia 13
    Swihart .5
    Russell .5
    Pitcher

    Lester 25
    Carrasco 5
    Shark - 16
    Lackey - 18
    Hendricks .5

    Total of 115 mil for starters can probs fill out bench and bullpen for 35-40. As crazy as this looks I don't see this as impossible. I feel like I am the only one on the trade Arrieta train though. I just feel his value is never gonna be higher and he is gonna get super expensive. He is a hard player to judge cuz he is a late bloomer so is this just an incredible few season run or will he be like this late into his 30's. Please let me know what u think

  • In reply to Cubsfan2783:

    Arrieta probably fetches that himself. You don't add an ace, but subtract the staff ace and CY Young winner while adding three mid-rotation arms at higher AAVs. Arrieta still has two years of arb eligibility. That's cost controlled, as he wont be making near what he's worth on the open market.

    Swihart isn't needed with Schwarber and Contreras.

    Just too much of an overpay IMO. That, and too many players from the MLB team. You don't want to drastically affect what was a strong team chemistry in 2015.

    CF and SP are the only real needs. Doesn't take huge trades to do that.

    I'm not against trading Arrieta necessarily, but I think finding a match isn't easy, as you need MLB ready pitching either from the deal or need to flip MLB ready power bats received in the deal for pitching. Just doesn't seem realistic. I think you just ride out Arrieta's contract and see what happens. QO him at end or flip him that summer if things fall apart.

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    In reply to cubbie steve:

    If you want to trade Jake trade him to the Marlins and try to get Fernandez, Jake is worth more than that from red sox by himself

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    In reply to Cubsfan2783:

    I would trade Arrieta in the right situation. My dream scenario would be Giolito plus but I doubt that happens. I agree his value will likely never be higher unless he can continue what he did in the 2nd half. I also think he will get expensive fast. While arbitration will keep his cost below "market" it will go up relatively quickly.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I really like Giolito but I won't trade Jake for him. Jake is too valuable to trade right now.

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    In reply to Cubsfan2783:

    1000 no thank yous.

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    I agree. We can't trade Arrieta with two more years on the cheap. Whether or not he is dominate or

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    not over the next few years. We have the opportunity to see how it plays out. He could get injured next year or break down over the next two years, but the Cubs are getting whatever version of Arreita on the cheap.

  • In reply to Warren Sims:

    Agree Warren, no need to reinvent the wheel. I can't see any reason to gamble by trading Arrieta - or extending him now. I see the Arrieta situation as very unique. At this point I can't see over paying for him, when he is under team control for two more years. Lets see how his arm stands up to the innings increase from last year. It's a win-win for the Cubs.
    But I sure would have no intention of trading him either. Then trading young talent to 'hope' to get someone who can pitch like Arrieta in the future.

  • What about charlie blackmon as an option for CF?

  • How about Charlie Blackmon as an option? Weren't the rockies even rumored to be shopping him last offseason?

  • One interesting trade option for CF is Blackmon. He checks off a couple of boxes for the cubs: he's left handed and gets on base at a high level

  • One interesting trade option for CF is Blackmon. He checks off a couple of boxes for the cubs: he's left handed, gets on base at a high level, and has a lot of speed (43 SB). The rockies were rumored to be shopping him last year too. May be an interesting fit.

  • Blackmon might be a good fit, but only if the price was right. I would be for it, if someone like Almora and another MiLB player would be centerpieces - not named Contreras or Candelaria or Torres.
    Of course a Castro trade for Blackmon or a player that also checks off those boxes, would also be nice.
    Then sign a solid #3 started, and lets go to Mesa.

  • He's not that strong of a hitter away from coors. He hit .238 with a .300 obp while hitting .331 with a .390 obp at coors. I wouldn't give up much value for him. Tommy La Stella and a low A arm is all I'd be willing to send to Colorado unless Blackmon proves he can hit away from coors

  • I'm sorry guys. Past experiences with the filter is that it never came out. My apologies

  • John, Great article.. I agree with your thinking that the Cubs will continue to fill the bullpen with these type of small signings. It provides depth at AAA. Medina, Jokisch, and Beeler look like potential DFAs with new free agent signings. I could see the Cubs signing Alex Gordon, and keeping Soler and Schwarber to split time in RF. I think they will try to trade Miggy, and let Schwarber catch more with Contreras ready at AAA to join the team in June/July. CF will probably be filled with a trade for a LH, and hope that Szczur or Almora can play the platoon. I have seen Almora a lot in spring training, he looks like a defensive upgrade to Dex. Bat him 9th. With Gordon's high OBP, I could see him in the leadoff spot. For SP, I think Shark and Lackey could be excellent signings. same with Jordan Zimmerman, but then that's all they can afford.
    December and January will be fun!

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    He would be great -but Rockies need / want pitching which
    Cubs system is thin on.

    they might match up well with Cleveland or ATL.

  • Just read an article on MLB about Cespedes who adjusted well to CF for the Mets. Wrigley with it smaller area would only make his defense better. His biggest asset is his ability to drive in runners in scoring position with less than 2 outs. So far his numbers have been down the first half but after the All Star break he explodes. What a difference maker he could be. I'd rather spend the money on him than Hayward. Suggest you take a look at the article---MLB.com.

  • Is Strop signed for next year, or is he a FREE AGENT?

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    In reply to rakmessiah:

    FA 2018 per Baseball-reference.com.

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    Last year the Cubs picked outfielder Ariel Ovando from the Astros and converted him to a pitcher. He was in AZ last year. Does anyone know anything about him? I imagine him as another power arm that will make his way through the system.

  • I believe it was reported that he was a big guy but not a power pitcher.

  • If Boston is foolish enough to give Price 200 million.....let them. Seems as if the Yankees are finally realizing that giving away huge money doesnt guarentee consistant results and are taking a somewhat different approach while still stuck with A Rod, Texiera, and Sabathia. As much as I hate sports agents (especially Boras) you cant blame anyone for taking money someone is dumb enough to hand them. I think Theo is more than aware of this and has structured the Cubs in such a way as to not be as dependant and desperate as the Red Sox now are.
    If you look at what Ricketts is really doing.....building the entire Cub business into a printing press for generational money I see them in a
    situation for years to come where they will never again need to get involved in a foolish contract like a Pulous or a Zito or A Fraud....

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    Reference the Braves' new stadium, from the time the design was announced, it was known that home plate was facing "Southwest" e.g. right into the sunset in the Northern Hemisphere. Although violating a major league rule, (http://www.hardballtimes.com/lost-in-the-sun-the-physics-of-ballpark-orientation/), it appears the design was done intentionally by suits who don't have to try to see 100 mile pitches while staring into a setting sun. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SunTrust_Park#New_stadium_plans.

    I don't think this played a big factor, but I expect this strange design will be an advantage to the Braves as the home team since the visiting batting first will be staring at that sun and by the bottom of the 3rd or 4th inning the home team may be able to see the ball when hitting.

    Reference David Price, his "price" is what it is based on the market set by Max Scherzer last year, a very similar pitcher except Price is left handed and has a better track record for pitching deep into games.

    David Price was always going to sign for more than Scherzer. Now Scherzer will has an interesting contract, and I would expect a similar structure for Price's contract, for a present value of around $210 million. http://sports.yahoo.com/news/details-nationals-hander-max-scherzers-contract-034738619--mlb.html
    Scherzer, for a lot of years in this contract, only costs the Nationals $15 million per year. Of course, they will be paying $15 million a year for 6 years after Scherzer baseball career likely ends (thru 2028). Would the Rickett's family be willing to do this? Are Dombrowski and Boston trying to scare the other clubs off by putting out that they will offer $40 million more than anyone else's best offer. http://www.overthemonster.com/2015/11/27/9806802/red-sox-david-price-free-agent-rumors

    Right now the Cubs have a 5 year window thru 2020. 2021 will be the walk year of Bryant, Soler, Russell, and Schwarber. 2020-21 will likely also be they years Lester, Price, and Arrieta's value will age out to replacement level. http://www.si.com/mlb/2015/11/23/david-price-free-agency-whats-he-really-worth Signing Price and extending Arrieta (Arrieta is represented by Boras, but Scott is smart enough to know that every situation is different. He may be able to get a better deal for Jake from the Cubs now in return buying out Jake's arbitration years and 3-5 year extension rather than Jake going into free agency at age 32 with 3 hard seasons of use) will give the Cubs a great top 3 in their rotation at least for 2016-2017, with plenty of depth as their position players are approaching their peak.

    One alternative that preserves flexibility is seeing if the Nationals will trade Stephen Strasburg as a one year rental. The Cubs may be able to do it with a package that contains Hammel, Pedro Strop, Coghlan, and Billy McKinney (the key piece being McKinney since he helps with one of the two biggest problems IN the Nationals offense: the lack of a good contact left handed hitter with occasional power to insert in a line up that is otherwise all right handed except for Harper (also, McKinney and Coghlan both help with the other problem the fragility and declining offense of Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth). I would ask the Nationals for Drew Storen as part of the Strasburg package. (Both Strasburg and Storen are heading into their "walk" years and neither have a good relationship with Nationals management.)

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