Cubs Notes: Soriano, Brooks Raley, Soler's swing and 2013 playing level

It’s a bit of a slow day.  In fact, it’s been a slow month as rosters begin to get finalized.  There are still some names out there and teams may reassess needs late in the spring, so it’s likely it will pick up later.  But for now we’ll pick up on some odds and ends…

Around the league…

  • Chris Carpenter has been DFA’d by the Red Sox, meaning they have 10 days to trade him before trying to waive him and then hoping he clears so that they can re-sign him.  Until then it’s possible that a team  will try to acquire him via trade or waiver wire pickup.  The Cubs appear to be one of those teams, according to Bruce Levine.  I think the Cubs would only take Carpenter back on a a minor league deal.  To claim him would mean clearing a roster spot and it’s doubtful to me the Cubs are significantly higher on Carpenter than some other BP arm they’d have to cut to make room.  If they do think Carpenter is at least a minor upgade then perhaps a minor deal would be in order.  All in all, I think it’s unlikely he returns.  If I’m the Cubs and I just gave up as what I thought was fair compensation for Theo Epstein, I’d at least make appearances that I was still interested.
  • Speaking of ex-Cubs, Joe Mather has been signed to a minor league deal with the Phillies and will get an invite to spring training.
  • A more signficant signing by the Phillies in Cubs fans minds was their deal with OF Delmon Young.  The good news for them is that he signed to very incentive laden contract ($750K) with a chance to make well over $3M if he reaches certain goals.  The bad news is that the Phillies aren’t just using Young as a RH bat bench/platoon guy, they’ve pretty much declared him their everyday RF, a position he hasn’t really played in 6 years, not to mention he’s a bad defender at any position.  A curious move for a team that has a short window to contend, but Young is known as a bad defender with questionable makeup and poor OBP skills.  Hes been a replacement level player the past 2 years and has never even held the value of even an average regular.  This rules out any chance of the Cubs trading Soriano there for now, though I think that deal has been dead for weeks.  Perhaps it could be revisited if Young struggles, the Cubs get off to a poor start, and Soriano is playing well.  But for now, expect Soriano to start with the Cubs.
  • Another possible Soriano suitor, the Baltimore Orioles are far more interested in Jason Kubel .  The D’Backs are said to be looking for young pitching and the Orioles have Chris Tillman, whom they should not trade, in my opinion but perhaps they can interest them with LHP Brian Matusz instead.  I think the Cubs would likely ask for the same players but that the Orioles would be more likely to give them up for the younger Kubel.  The Orioles also like Rick Porcello, a one-time Cubs target.

Down on the farm….

  • Prospect guru John Sickels has a write-up on Cubs LHP Brooks Raley, whom he seems to like a little bit.  His report doesn’t say anything we haven’t said here before, that Raley has average stuff and thin margin for error, a guy who relies on command more than pure stuff.  That said, you have to like Raley’s athleticism and thus the potential to repeat his delivery and develop that kind of command.    It’s looking like he can at least be a LHRP, perhaps a LOOGY, for a while in this league.  Sickels thinks he can even have a Scott Diamond-like season.  Diamond made 27 starts and went 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA for the Twins last year.  I think the Cubs would take that.
  • There is some debate already as to where Jorge Soler should start next season.  The Cubs would like him to start above Kane County (probably Daytona) but he’s going to have to earn it.  Soler turns 21 in February and you’d like to see him get a shot at reaching AA by the end of he year along with fellow mega-prospect Javier Baez.  Soler is enormously talented but there are some questions with his swing.  Keith Law has said he has a deep load which might catch up to him later, but thinks his hands are still fast enough to get through the zone in time.  Other scouts have described what they’ve seen as an arm bar, and the two can often go hand-in-hand.  What an arm bar means in scouting terms is an early extension of the lead arm, causing a long swing and less torque generated through his mid-section.  This coincides a bit with what I saw in instructs where the Cubs were working with Soler to use his lower half better.  Obviously Soler will have to show the Cubs he’s ready to make the proper adjustments before he moves up to the higher levels.  He can get away with the hitches now, but that could change later.  Which brings us again to what a tremendous, pro-active approach this front office has to player development.  Diagnose and fix the problem before the player has a chance to ingrain those habits later.  You also have to be careful not to tinker too much, as Law noted and as many have seen with Soler’s Kane County HR, Soler still generates tremendous bat speed  despite the slight hitch.  The balance is tweaking it just enough while not affecting his bat speed and power.

Filed under: News and Notes

Tags: Raley, Soler, Soriano


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  • I'd like to see Soler start at Kane to work on his swing, and if he corrects it quickly then send him off to Daytona with an eye for a late season promotion to AA.

    Off topic: When are the workouts for Aledmis Diaz supposed to happen? I'm sure he'd like to end up in someone's camp next month.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I'd also like to see Kane because I can see him live a few more times :) It's probably going to depend on what he looks like in the spring. I don't think the Cubs are going to be conservative with their impact guys.

    As far as Diaz, the workouts have already happened and the Cubs were among the teams there. Haven't heard anything yet.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I thought they would keep him with Almora for awhile. I would love to see Solar Almora and V-bomb in the same lineup, but I just want that for our local entertainment.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Soler should start at Kane, if only for the opportunity to familiarize himself with life in the states. He no doubt finds it a huge improvement over Cuba. From a baseball prospective its also better, he can work out the kinks against lesser competition.

  • Delmon Young: Yeesh. Could be that Philly is setting up a perfect storm of sports disappointment: Eagles, Flyers (0-3 to start the season) and the Delmon-in-right '13 Phils.

    Regarding Carpenter, of we claim him do we have to send Theo back? Just checking.

    John, glad to know you are well again (at least enough to provide your great insights).

    Also a shout out to Felzz, for his committedindians Blackhawks blog recommendation.

  • In reply to kansasblackhawk:

    That's the blog I always recommend as well.

  • slow day here as well so I've clicked on the site 1/2 dozen times in the last 2 hours hoping to see something new. I'm wondering if Soler couldn't work on his swing just as well in Daytona as Kane County. He'd be up against a little tougher pitching so it might make the results make more sense to him. As for Delmon Young....better them than us.

  • In reply to carolinacub:

    I think he can if he's at least shown progress this offseason. He just needs there's someone there to keep him on it. Talent-wise I think he can handle Daytona.

  • Speaking of great right handed power strokes, one of my recent favorites was Mike Piazza. He lead with hands and really pulverized pitches. Soler's look anything like that?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Piazza's swing was shorter, didn't have that arm bar. For the record, I don't think Soler has a serious arm bar but it could use some tweaking. Piazza didn't use his lower body a lot but he had tremendous upper body strength. I think Soler will have great upper body strength as well, but would still like to see him shorten up just a little to help him adjust to pitchers better the way Piazza did.

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    Hopefully Sori can use the fact that the Phils wanted Delmon Young more than him as big time motivation. And have another huge year.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I'd like to see him start off strong this year and sustain it. He certainly keeps himself in good enough condition to to do that. The cold weather is tough on those knees though, so may not happen.

    The Cubs are lucky in that Soriano isn't blocking anyone, is not a problem in the clubhouse, and is their only proven source of RH power. There really is no pressing need to trade him.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    No, and I don't think they should. If they can get value back, awesome, do it. But nothing good comes from trading him to the Dodgers for Brett Wallach and Kyle Smit. if all he does is teach the rookies to handle themselves like he does, contract more than earned.

    I'm just kind of offended for him that the Phillies made this choice.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Agreed. My sense is that while his reputation has been restored here in Chicago with the FO and fans, it's not the same elsewhere. I think teams are still wary and the days when he refused to move to the OF, the stories of his diva personality (some of which are true), the stories of his bad work ethic (which were untrue and unfortunately perpetuated by some local media members).

    I think if he has a strong start teams will finally start to shed those preconceptions and he'll get some interest.

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    Jon Sickles just put up a similar scouting report on Brett Jackson that is a good read:

    My favorite line in reference to B-Jax's hitting: "What do I think? I think he's the bastard son of Rob Deer and Andy Van Slyke."

    Also, I don't get that move by the Phils. If they were going to do that, why not just keep Schierholz? He's not a great hitter either, but he at least can field the position.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Thanks Zonk for that link. Great line!

    Good point. I wouldn't trade Schierholz for Young in million years. A definite step backward in terms of overall quality, though I do think they were looking for a RH bat.

  • I know Texas is waiting to see how Garza really is health wise, but the Cubs couldn't try to package Garza and maybe Marmol to Texas right now in a three way deal that lands the Cubs Upton? Boy, I sure would love a righty Castro, lefty Rizzo and righty Upton 2-3-4...

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    In reply to apalifer:

    The Cubs have said no to the Dbacks Upton requests, the Rangers have said no to their requests also, and Upton has the Cubs on his no trade list... there's pretty much no way that Upton plays for the Cubs this year.

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    Soriano's contract will never be earned.

  • was there ever a time that is was?

  • In reply to eddie35:

    ...a time that it was? , that is...

  • In reply to eddie35:

    Yes, first 2 years...He earned it easily and more. See my response to Ray below. He built up so much surplus value those first 2 years that it almost made the whole contract fair value so far (for first 6 years). Overall, it was a bad deal but if this were a 6 year deal, I could have lived with it.

  • Agreed, he certainly won't. But it hasn't been a horrible disaster... so far. The contract is back loaded, so he actually has been paid $97M so far and he has earned, in terms of WAR value, 84M. That works out to an average of being overpaid $2M/yr.

    On the other hand, most of that surplus value was garnered in his first two seasons.

    In the last 4 seasons he's been worth $37M while being paid $73M. That's almost half. Not a good trend and he'll get another $37M in his last two years. That's an overpay of about $9M per year in the last 4 seasons and it could get worse.

    Certainly a loss and the only way it would have been worth it would have been had the Cubs won it all in one of those first 2 years.

    Moreover, this would have been palatable if it were a 6 year deal, but we all know now about how Crane Kenney and John McDonough conspired to add those last 2 years. That killed any chance of the deal being respectable.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    What? Kenney and McDonough added those two years? Over Hendry's objections? I hadn't heard that one.

    Fangraphs did an article on that very subject earlier this offseason, and came to the conclusion that the contract hasn't been that awful; not great, but not the worst ever (Vernon Wells?)

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I seem to remember reading an article that said Hendry only wanted to do 5 years but the Phillies already offered 6 years so Kenny and McDonough told Hendry to offer 8 years.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Hendry took the fall for that 8 year deal but he didn't want it either. One rumor has that they agreed to it while he was on transit on an airplane.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Interesting.....I know he agreed to Ted Lilly's contract while on a treadmill at hospital after minor heart attack. At least that one turned out well, probably the only good FA signing of the late Hendry era.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    DeRosa wasn't too bad either.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    ...getting Archer for DeRosa was just icing.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    If he earned it the first two years and last year, I would think if he put up similar numbers and mentored the younger guys the next two years then he will have earned it those years as well. That would be 5 out of 8 years that he's earned his keep so it will actually have been a pretty good contract imo. The only negative will be that he'd be blocking a prospect but the Cubs haven't exactly been a pipeline of talent the last couple of years and they don't have anybody coming up in the near future either. By the time they are ready to come up his contract will be up or close to it.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Thank you, John.

  • If Soriano puts together a couple of years like last year nobody will have to hang their including Kenney, McDonough, Hendry, and Alfonso.

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    Also in a couple of years Soriano will no longer be a Cub.

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    It's just a gut feeling, but we may end up being glad we didn't trade Soriano, at least not traded him yet. I've said this before in other threads, but I still believe it's true.

    Soriano's trade value is all about the present, and right now, he isn't playing. If he's playing well leading up to July 31st, he will have value to some team as long as the Cubs are willing to eat enough money, and he's willing to waive his blanket NTC. If he's not playing well, neither of those things will matter, because he will have not trade value.

    Soriano is 37 years old, and he's walking around on shaky knees. He's also had hamstring issues in the past. Also, fair or unfair, the issues surrounding his position change from 2b to Lf while with the Nationals left him with a reputation. Furthermore, it didn't help that he continued to use heavy bats, even when it was obvious his bat speed was diminishing. The Cubs had to practically force him to use a lighter bat. It was very reminiscent of his move to the outfield by the nationals, and frankly, I still think he needs to drop another ounce or two off his bat. Finally, there is the high strike outs and the lack of walks, and his 2012 numbers as compared to his 2009 through 2011 numbers. Offensively, if he's not hitting, he's not doing your team any good. 2012 kind of went against the trend, but he was never completely healthy in those years either. Still, the question beds, which is he? Is he the declining Soriano of 2009-2011, or is he the resurgent Soriano of 2012. Only time is going to answer that question.

    All that said, there are some positives to Soriano. In spite of some personal stubbornness over changing positions and going to a lighter bat, he's not a bad teammate. We aren't talking about Sammy Sosa here. He's a hard worker and an all around good guy. He's neither lazy nor a clubhouse cancer in the same way Delmon Young is, and he's a lot better defender. He's not a guy you're going to be afraid to have around young players, and he's never likely to embarrass you off the field either. I also think that, when he is in one of those hot streaks though fewer and farther between now, he can still carry a team.

    Anyways, this is what I think other GM's see, and he's a bigger gamble right now than he would be in July, when you know whether or not you are in the hunt, you have a better idea of exactly what you need, and you know more about what Soriano is and whether or not he can help you.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    It's a combination of things with Soriano, both on and off the field that has teams wary. Personally I'd be more wary of on the field regression if I were a GM than anything else.

    Anyway, I agree his best value may be right here on the Cubs for now.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    If I am another GM, I am very wary of regression as well. Soriano with that heavier bat was having trouble turning on good FB; he regained some with lighter bat, but if he loses just a tick of bat speed, he could easily be that April version of Soriano last year, who looked like he was cooked.

    But as you say John, he isn't blocking anyone, and the money is a sunk cost anyway. So why not keep him?

  • In reply to Zonk:

    And it seems teams want the Cubs to give him away. They can always give him away later if he loses it the way Marlon Byrd did -- and the Cubs still managed to get a decent middle reliever in Bowden there.

    Just no reason to give him away at this point.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed, there is no point in giving him away, unless he totally tanks like Byrd did. Best case scenario for him is to be around where he was last year or slightly better. Hopefully, he is at least a little better than Bill James is predicting, but if he is worse, they can always release him.

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    Also, since it looks like the Angels don't want to eat any of Wells' contract, there's one less bat on the market.

  • Wells. Can't believe Angels took on his salary and gave up Napoli. What the heck were they thinking?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Scioscia didn't like the way Napoli worked behind the plate. But Scioscia would quibble with the work of Bench, Hartnett, Dickey, and Molina too.
    Wells? Only Arte knows, I guess....

  • Question: Why wouldn't the Phillies commit to playing Domonic Brown if they were gonna go after Delmon Young? Brown has to be better right? It's strange to me that they would value a dude that you would even trade for Scheirholz more than Soriano or Brown.

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    I think Brown is already a better player because of his defense and the other tools he brings to the game.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I think Reuben Amaro is trying to get fired.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Right, so why are the Phillies reluctant to give him the starting position in the OF? I don't get why they find him too valuable to trade for Soriano but not valuable enough to start in front of Delmon Young. It seems totally bizarre to me. I get not going after Soriano, but then going after Young instead... In the immortal words of Moe the bartender "Waaaa?"

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    In reply to Pura Vida:

    In all honesty, I think that Amaro is afraid that if he deals Brown and he develops elsewhere he'll look more stupid than he already does... Soriano @ 5mill per year is great deal for Philly, but he'd rather sign Milton Bradley Jr....what a dumb ass

  • John, better write an article about the Cubs signing Scott Hairston... Rosenthal is just reporting it.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Still waiting to hear how much he got, but even at the numbers he was asking for (2 years, $8M total), I think he could be a solid addition. Now we can let the Campana DFA talk begin.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    He's not great, he wouldn't be my first choice to be an everyday OF, but Soriano, DeJesus, Schierholtz, Hairston and Sappelt look like an improvement over Soriano, Byrd, DeJesus, Campana and Mather.

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    Not a bad signing but his on base % sucks !!!! Whats a corresponding move???

  • I looked at several of his swings. I could get in-depth, but what I mainly see that is consistent with what others are saying is, Soler doesn't use his lower half properly. If you look at his swings, not one but many, his hands get ahead of his hip rotation, and he loses "connection" at the hip. His back elbow and hands should be perfectly lined up vertically at the pant seam near the end of rotation. His hip never catches up! In fact, the hip rotation should be leading the swing, driving the hands and bat knob to the ball. If you look closely, even when his hip is rotating, his back foot is flat. Now what does this mean? Well this can cause upper body technique problems with the swing. If fixed, it can give even more power. It can also speed up the bat.

    The other issue was the "deep load". I am not seeing it. His lead elbow is staying bent, which it should. What I am seeing is a little excessive bat-wrap during his load (behind his head). This can start the wrists "rolling" into the swing, or breaking early. The bat head leaves the shoulder early (not a part of proper connection), and can cause a sweeping swing and, or, "barring of the front arm (straight elbow) as John mentioned. With some hitters it can also cause a "loopy" swing (not flat), down through the balls plane, under it, and back up through it. Guys or gals with poor hip rotation will also often beat balls in the dirt to the pull side. Soler isn't doing that though.

    I might mention that in Brett Jackson's old swing, I saw bigger fish to fry! They will fix them both!

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    Worded poorly! It should read the combination of poor hip rotation and an exaggerated load could cause a loopy swing.

  • Jorge Soler, from what I have seen of him, reminds me of a young Dave Winfield. Want to see an arm bar swing that worked, check out some video of Winfield.

  • I will try to do so. I don't analyze baseball players much as I coach fastpitch softball. So Cubs only interest me unless there is a teaching element to a specific player. As a coach it is hard to coach from a compromised position. I often start working with 15-16 year olds on various nation's junior national teams. It is early enough to keep out too many bad habits. An arm bar is just one thing on a list of many that I prefer not to see. With the older girls and women, even if they are batting .200 it isn't easy to create the changes.

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