Cubs Notes and Preview: Whitenack claimed, Castillo the secret weapon, and will Cubs trade an OFer?

The acquisition of Ryan Sweeney has led to some speculating and while there’s nothing concrete right now, logic suggests that the Cubs have more flexibility in their OF than they did two days ago.  The Cubs had done a good job acquiring depth this offseason, but Sweeney is a proven commodity in the MLB.

Granted that commodity is essentially an extra outfielder or platoon player, a tweener who is stretched defensively in CF but doesn’t have the bat for RF — but that may not be a whole lot different than what the Cubs have now with David DeJesus.

Like DeJesus, Sweeney is far more effective vs. RHP, putting up a line of .293/.347/.402 in his career, so its likely that if he does get a chance to play regularly with the Cubs, it will be a platoon situation in CF with Dave Sappelt.

While a lot of the trade talk in Chicago tends to swirl around Alfonso Soriano, it’s DeJesus who seems to have more value around the league because of his friendly contract, proven defense, and OBP skills.  Speculation at various times this year have included the Mariners, Yankees, Royals, and now the Reds will be short an OF’er with Ryan Ludwick scheduled to undergo shoulder surgery.ack.  Logic says Soriano would be the best fit to replace Ludwick in the short term, but DeJesus offers the flexibility to move Shin-Soo Choo to LF and to seamlessly transition into a bench role when and if Ludwick returns this season.

The Reds have said they will look to fill the hole internally, but you should know by now that anything front office people say publicly should be taken with a grain of salt.  The last thing they want to do is convey the message that they are desperately looking for a deal.

Stay tuned.

News and Notes…

  • UPDATE 4:00: I put this on my Facebook page/Twitter feed, but for those who didn’t see that, the Cubs have signed utility infielder Donnie Murphy.  Iowa was short a utility infielder without Alberto Gonzalez and were using Wes Darvill for that role even though Darvill played at Class A Peoria last year.  The extra infielder also gives the Cubs some flexibility in case they need to remove Gonzalez from the 40 man roster to add a player.  Murphy is a solid depth guy in the infield.  He has some pop and a decent approach at the plate.  He’s not as good a fielder as Gonzalez, however.
  • For those following the Wrigley renovation saga, it may be on the verge of ending.  CBS Local is saying that an agreement could be reached by the home opener.
  • On the heels of our draft piece yesterday, Kevin and Big League Futures completed their own mock draft last night.  It seems that the top 5-8 names are beginning to solidify.
  • Phil Rogers notes that the Cubs are utilizing Welington Castillo‘s arm as a weapon behind the plate.  They’ve worked with him on throwing behind the runner. He did pick off a runner late in the spring and we should expect to see more attempts to do that this season.  Even if he doesn’t catch them off base, manager Dale Sveum hopes that the treat of Castillo’s cannon arm will hold runners closer at 1B and perhaps save them a few runs — and maybe help them win a game or two — during the season.  In the opener we also saw the Cubs utilize Castillo’s bat on offense, calling the hit and run 3 times while he was at the plate.  Two of those ABs resulted in doubles and one drove in a run.
  • Robert Whitenack has been claimed by the Cleveland Indians, according to Carrie Muskat.  Whitenack was never able to regain velocity after Tommy John surgery, working at 87-88 rather than the 92-93 mph (peak 96) where he is most successful.  Making it even more difficult to keep him, Whitenack has also had a lot of trouble regaining command of his slider.
  • I don’t know if any of you watched Yu Darvish’s gem got me talking about previous close calls with Cubs no-hitters/perfect games.  It gave my father a chance to talk Milt Pappas again while Tom and I instantly thought of Chuck Rainey‘s no-hit bid that was broken up by Eddie Milner with two outs in the 9th.  Tom also mentioned Angel Jose Guzman‘s bid, while I went way back to remember Dennis Lamp‘s one-hit game vs. the Padres.

Today’s Lineup

The Cubs face Wandy Rodriguez and the Pirates at 6:05 CT. TV will be on CSN and radio on WGN 720 AM.

  1. Dave Sappelt CF
  2. Starlin Castro SS
  3. Anthony Rizzo 1B
  4. Alfonso Soriano LF
  5. Scott Hairston RF
  6. Welington Castillo C
  7. Brent Lillibridge 3B
  8. Alberto Gonzalez 2B
  9. Edwin Jackson P

What to Watch For…

  • Tom: Excited to see EJax  Cubs debut could be really huge for this team to get consecutive strong starts out of the gate.
  • Felzz: The BOTO blues- The bottom of the order (BOTO….) looks like it’s gonna eat away at our souls all season. They were god awful on opening day, stranding a full day care of base runners and not getting a single hit. Nobody is expecting miracles. But if Sveum can set the tone early and kick Lillibridge, Valbuena  & co. in the rear…..all the better.
  • John: I’m looking forward to seeing the RH dominant lineup vs. LHP.  Last year the Cubs had trouble scoring runs with Jeff Baker and Joe Mather making a lot of starts.  This year the Cubs will try and see if they have better success with Scott Hairston, Dave Sappelt, and Brent Lillibridge.

 

Comments

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  • I get a funny feeling that Whitenack has a better chance at a major league career than Josh Vitters. And it seems silly that for 15 days, we couldn't carry Logan Watkins instead of adding Gonzalez to the roster.

    I guess we'll just assume our FO knows what they are doing.

    PS Other awesome no-hit bids, Steve Stone and Frank Castillo, and Big Z missed quite a few before he finally got one.

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    I forgot about Castillo's bid!

    Reports are grim on Whitenack. That fastball is at 87-88, well below average for a RHP. He's had enough recovery time so velo likely won't improve. He also hasn't regained the command he once had, especially on that slider.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I read that some guys can take a full two years to fully recover, so IDK. I'm confident in our FO that they know what they're doing. The real problem is we have a lot of fringe 40-man guys that other clubs would like, but not enough of the Shark's/Rizzo's/Castro's.....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Not so much anymore. The surgery has become much more advanced and it's rare that it takes that long -- especially for an otherwise healthy, young athlete. Usually command is the last to come around so it is a bit troubling that Whitenack's velo is still well below what it was in 2011.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Kind of curious if they have a spot for Whitenack, why didn't they protect Rondon?....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Hmmm. Good point. Not sure. Maybe they just took Whitenack just to spite the Cubs for taking Rondon ;)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    We should have offered them Whitenack for Rondon, so we could be done with the Rule 5 garbage. These kinds of deals do happen.

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    I think I recall Jamie Moyer taking a no hitter into the 9th in Philly in about 1987.

  • In reply to Ken Roucka:

    That sounds familiar. Trying to fire up that memory (not as good as it used to be -- though why I remember Dennis Lamp, I have no idea).

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/PHI/PHI198704130.shtml

  • In reply to Ken Roucka:

    Thanks Ken!

  • In reply to Ken Roucka:

    I keep half thinking that 'somebody' is going to pick up Moyer sometime this seaon,... just seems weird to NOT see him taking the mound once in a while.

  • If there is a need for one of our outfielders do we go for the best
    deal (a great/good prospect) or do we just wait.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Hard to know what best deal will be so I think as long as the Cubs think they get surplus long term value, they'll do the deal.

  • Thanks John

  • In reply to KGallo:

    You're welcome!

  • I was at County Stadium in Milwaukee (late 50s?) when Warren Hacker had a no hitter broken up with one out in the 9th by big George Crowe who doubled.

  • In reply to JayPea:

    Wow. Nice one.

  • If DDJ is traded his patient approach between Barney in the 8 hole and Castro at 2 will be sorely missed.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Agreed. Sweeney will take a walk but not as good an OBP guy as DDJ.

  • Speaking of no-hit teases, and even though it didn't go into the ninth, my favorite has to be the 1998 one-game playoff against the Giants.

    I was in the right field bleachers and seem to recall that Steve Trachsel threw 7 innings of no-hit ball and Gary Gaetti won it with a late 3 run homer to left. Was it the beers? Or did that happen?

    Trachsel was one of the most frustrating Cub pitchers of all time, but what a big time performance that night.

    In fact, I wonder why that game isn't mentioned more often. I believe it is the ONLY time -- since at least 1945, and probably longer -- that the Cubs won a game they absolutely had to win or their season would be over. When else has that happened?

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    Trachsel...now that was a clutch performance. Good call.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    Trachsel won 16 games that year, and was our best starter after Kid K got hurt. He also gave up McGwires homer #61 that year, so he also becomes a trivia answer. Never understood why Trachsel never seemed to improve his c/b , which was the key to his success.

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    In reply to mutant beast:

    Also answer to one more trivia question: What pitcher won the most games for the Cubs in the 90s? Trachsel won 60. Which doesn't say alot for our other guys.

  • Lets hope the Reds really want to go for it this year

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I think they do.

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    One of the first games I ever saw at Wrigley, Memorial Day 1994. My friend Jorge and I went downtown and saw the immortal Willie Banks take a no-hitter into the 8th inning against the Phillies. That was a pretty awesome day.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Willie Banks! That guy actually had some talent. That day may have been the closest he has come to putting it together.

  • I really don't see the Reds trading for an outfielder. Chris Heisey is a nice fill in for the short term and I beleive it's just a matter of time before Billy Hamilton gets the call to the big club... and of course he has game changing ability. I have to believe the Reds front office on this. I think they have every intention of filling the position internally.

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    Agreed he is a solid 4th guy and they may well just try and see if they can get by with what they have internally.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    At any rate, I don't think a trade is happening any time soon.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Soriano for the Reds competitive balance pick?

    They want to win now, we want to focus on the draft. It might be selling a little low but it gives us a player just 3 spots ahead of our 2nd round pick.

    And considering the dropoff in talent that seems to happen even in good years around picks 50-60, might be worth it. (all the more if we can move DDJ for KC's CB pick.)

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Another option is playing Xavier Paul in CF, and moving Choo to a corner. That at least improves the defense, as Choo is very borderline in CF. Reds will probably do a combo of Heisey and Paul and whomever

    They could use Sappelt back right now.......

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    Clay Rapada worth a flier?

  • In reply to SKMD:

    If healthy, yes. I was curious as to why they let him go. Seems like he has a shoulder injury of some sort. Maybe it's serious. I can see no other reason to just release him.

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    In reply to SKMD:

    "I wish we had him six years ago."

  • Cubs picked up Donnie Murphy, I think thats his name, an infielder

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    Add Donnie Murphy to the mix.

  • Keep on adding players until we find a good one

  • Keep in mind that the Cubs had Wes Darvill listed in the AAA roster, he's never played above A ball, so the FO probably thought it was a bad idea to skip him 3 levels.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Good point. I think you nailed it there.

  • Kevin, thanks for the mock. Tell me more about this Aaron Blair kid you got slated for our 2nd pick.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Yes please. Don't know much about Blair outside of good size at 6'5" and had a good 2012 summer league.

    I'd be happy with Clinton Hollon, who you have going the pick after the Cubs in your Mock or either Austin Wilson or Chris Okey. I'd be thrilled if the Cubs could get either of those guys in round two.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Blair is a College pitcher who show mid 90s FB with very good secondary stuff. We have an article on our site if you reach his name.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    http://bigleaguefutures.net/1/2013/03/11/aaron-blair-is-a-big-time-arm/ here is the link.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Excellent work Kevin! He sounds like a great kid, who happens to have a ton of potential as a player.

  • I don't remember an Angel Guzman no-hit bid. When was that?

    Were you guys thinking of Jose Guzman in his first game as a Cub taking a no-hitter to two outs in the 9th? Guzman was the main "replacement" for Greg Maddux in 1993 after Larry Himes let Maddux go over $100,000 difference in salary.

    I was at that game. 2nd game of the year. Freezing cold. A few thousand frozen Cubs faithful standing, clapping and making as much noise as they could. I couldn't believe I was going to witness Guzman pitch a no-hitter against the Braves, the team the Cubs lost Maddux to, in his first game as a Cub. That's what made it extra special...and extra painful when Otis Nixon broke it up with one out to go.

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    In reply to Quedub:

    Apparently I need to read comments better...

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    LOL, that's hilarious.

    I liked that you mentioned that it was not only his first start but also his best for the Cubs. So sad. So true.

    Boy, what could've been had Himes done what it took to keep Maddux...

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I meant Jose Guzman. It was a typo on my part. Despite Jose's near no-hitter, Angel is still my favorite Guzman.

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    Another Cub near-no-hitter, Jose Guzman's first (and best) start for the Cubs.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CHN/CHN199304060.shtml

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    One of the most dominant games I saw in 1995, Frank Castillo took a no-hitter into the 9th and the lone hit was a triple because I remember Sammy making a diving attempt to preserve the no-no and the ball rolled all the way back to the wall.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CHN/CHN199509250.shtml

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I meant to say Jose, not Angel. Thanks.

  • I remember Jim Bullinger had a no hitter broken up in the 8th inning when Kurt Manwaring hit a homerun. He ended up with a complete game 1 hitter...

    I also remember Jose Guzman giving up a hit to Otis Nixon with 2 outs in the ninth. I was so bummed about that. I remember telling my buddy, "who needs Maddux when we have Guzman".....

    Kerry Woods 20 strikeout game probably should've been a no hitter. I still say Orie should've made that play, and if that happened in the 7th or 8th inning it would've been ruled an error!!

    I seem to recall that in addition to almost throwing a no hitter, Frank Castillo had a pretty good looking wife too.

  • In reply to Larry H:

    I remember that Bullinger game as well. That one bummed me out.

  • Man I'd really hate to see Double D wearing a Reds uniform!

  • In reply to Ben20:

    I'm not eager to see DDJ leave either. He's a great fit here, but if you can get value, you have to do it.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I honestly keep expecting a story about him returning to the Royals. That move just makes too much sense.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    It's a good fit there.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Kim needs to stay on the Northside though....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Maybe the Cubs can work out a deal.

  • Edwin Jackson with a nasty slider today.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Meanwhile, Javy Baez just struck out against a NAIA college pitcher.

    Off-speed pitch.

    Ouch.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I don't have any worries about Baez hitting NAIA pitchers.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Baez just walked.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Four pitches. Have to wonder if any one of them was within 10 feet of the plate.

  • Hooray, Alberto Gonzalez finally breaks through for the bottom of the lineup! Edwin Jackson with a sac bunt, and suddenly we're in business.

  • In reply to Taft:

    Was nice to see. Couldn't come through though. Doesn't look like a fun game to swing the bat.

  • Rough inning by Jackson. Stopped throwing fastballs and chose to throw numerous sloppy sliders instead.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Not an efficient outing for him. But the Pirates have a tough lineup, so if you can hold them to three hits and two runs in five innings, that's not bad. It was good to see him come back and have a strong fifth inning. Now we'll get a nice long look at our bullpen.

  • Rondon just 90-91 with his FB today.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Now down to 88-89. Do I need to be worried here?

  • Lillibridge is on the team why?

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    In reply to Bryan Craven:

    He's Sveum's favorite this year, like Mather was last year. But he does not belong in the majors. Can't hit and can't field, and has a long track record of showing he can't do either in the majors.

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    In reply to Bryan Craven:

    because we're bad?

  • Lillibridge followed by Gonzalez. Good thing Spring Training is over, or the Pirates might be in some trouble!

  • How not scary is that bottom of the Cubs' order? Wow. I sort of feel like I would have a chance to squeak out of that inning and I haven't pitched since like 7th grade.

    Putting aside the sarcasm though, it sure does look like this is how a lot of games will look this year... pretty decent starting pitching that will keep them in the game and just hoping that someone other than Castro or Rizzo can actually hit the ball out of the infield. Could be a year full of tight games and lots of frustration.

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    In reply to Pura Vida:

    That's how last year went, and there was never any reason to think this year would be different.

  • This team needs more slugging from the middle of the order. If they walk or hit singles, then we're in the unenviable position of hoping guys Lillibridge, Barney and Valbuena will drive them in. The 7 - 9 spots in the order are just rally killers at this point.

  • In reply to Taft:

    Brett Jackson would be a nice shot in the arm if he can temper the strikeout issue. This team doesn't slug and it doesn't get on base. Jackson offers both.

  • Ludwick supposed to miss 3 months. Saw some injuries for other guys with dislocations and that's much longer than some other guys were down. Must be bad. DeJesus makes a ton of sense from them. Hope it happens. Looks like the Reds have a whole bunch of good pitching prospects. 7 of their top 10 and 4 of their top 5. Would love to grab someone from their top 10, although maybe that's a bit of a stretch.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    Lets hope they get off to a slow start to force them to make a trade

  • I was wondering why Rondon was mostly throwing in the upper 80s tonight. I assume he was hitting higher numbers in spring training, but I didn't see any games, so I'm not sure how much (if any) game time he saw in Az.
    He was clocking higher speeds in March...right?

  • I'm not sure if other clubs share this frustration, but it seems that every year there is a Cubs pitcher or two that completely loses focus and control for an inning. As if their contract stipulates that they are not allowed to pitch an entire outing without 1 inning where they have completely lost the ability to locate pitches anywhere near the strike zone. Tonight's outing seems to be a continuation of a trend that goes back for many years...

  • Maybe Sveum should institute a put-the-ball-in-play-with-the-bases-loaded contest.

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