Looking back at how Cubs built their pitching inventory: The Top 11 moves and the areas that still need work

When Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod took over the organization, the pitching cupboard was almost bare.  There were no front line pitching candidates on the horizon — there really weren’t any good bets even lower in the system.  There were a few good arms: Trey McNutt, Dillon Maples, Dallas Beeler, and Ben Wells to name a few, but injuries have slowed down the progress of those pitchers.

Because of that, it seems that when we talk about the farm system and the MLB Draft, we talk about how the Cubs need to add pitching.  The Cubs have not spent a first round pick on a pitcher since Hayden Simpson in 2010 and haven’t had one make the majors since Andrew Cashner in 2008 — and they haven’t spent a top 10 pick on a pitcher since Mark Prior in 2001 and Kerry Wood in 1998.  The Cubs have instead chosen to attack the problem with volume.  The thinking here is that pitching is higher risk and at the top of the draft you want — as much as possible — to mitigate that risk.  You’ll take that “sure thing” like Prior if he he’s there, but as we saw in last year’s draft, even the slightest doubts will steer the Cubs toward the position player.  The Cubs were prepared to take the well-established Mark Appel, but were not ready to make the same commitment to a rising one year phenom like Jonathan Gray — at least not over the best position prospect in Kris Bryant.

So how has the Cubs strategy worked so far?

Well, it’s one thing to say you are going to attack pitching with volume but the larger question is, how do you acquire the volume in the first place?  The rules for compensation in the draft have changed since the front office’s first year here so they’ve had to be creative. Much of that volume has had to come through this front office’s willingness to acquire short term assets and convert them to long term assets via trades.

So lets’s go back and take inventory. Here are the FO’s best pitching acquisitions since arriving in Chicago…


  1. Letting Aramis Ramirez go for comp pick: That compensation pick turned out to be Pierce Johnson, whom some would argue is the Cubs best pitching prospect right now.  Johnson finished the year a combined 11-6 with a 2.71 ERA with 43 walks and 124 strikeouts in 116.1 innings. What’s even more encouraging is that he got even better once he moved up to the Florida State League (6-1, 2.21 ERA, 2.95 FIP).
  2. Letting Carlos Pena go for comp pick:  That pick turned out to be Paul Blackburn and while he is not as well known as Johnson in prospect circles, he may have the greater long term potential.  Blackburn is a pitcher who has a chance to put all the desired skills together: command, velo, secondaries, and makeup.  I consider him a top 10 prospect with the Cubs, though I may be in the minority on that one.  Blackburn had an up and down year at Boise (2-3, 3.33 ERA; 4.35 FIP) but came on strong in the playoffs, chalking up two dominant performances that showcased his ability to throw strikes and miss bats.
  3. The Sean Marshall deal: A deal that wasn’t very popular at the time but many saw this as a great deal from day one because it was a chance to acquire a young, cost-controlled LHP for one year of a relief pitcher.  Travis Wood has turned out to be more than a cost-efficient back of the rotation guy.  He has arguably been the Cubs best pitcher this year, going 9-11 with a 3.05 ERA (3.86 FIP) and he’s still just 26 years old.
  4. The Ryan Dempster deal:  Perhaps one of the Cubs most resourceful deals, they were painted into a corner by Dempster’s no-trade clause and desire to go to the Dodgers.  When it became apparent the Dodgers weren’t prepared to give up anyone the Cubs liked, they quickly turned to the Rangers at the last minute and picked out two sleeper prospects from a deep system.  The pitcher in that deal was Kyle Hendricks, who didn’t even make Baseball America’s top 30 list but has since become the odds-on favorite for Cubs minor league pitcher of the year.  He has put up video game numbers at 13-4 with an even 2.00 ERA between AA and AAA.  He has walked just 1.8 batters between the two levels and showed little signs of slowing down after being promoted to the hitter friendly PCL, posting a 2.48 ERA (3.18 FIP).  Whereas once some considered him a sleeper prospect (Keith Law even called him “an organizational arm”), most evaluators now believe he has a chance to be a #4 starter in a big league rotation.
  5. The Jeff Samardzija conversion:  This is lower on the list because, technically, this wasn’t the front office’s idea.  It came from Samardzija himself and Hendry promised to give him that chance.  The new front office honored that promise and, with their guidance, Samardzija has run with it.  It looked like his career was coming to a crashing halt in 2010, but Samardzija has become the Cubs best pitcher from an advanced metrics standpoint (3.68 FIP/3.47 xFIP), though he hasn’t had the same successful results as Wood.  He has top of the rotation stuff, but so far his lack of plus command and general inconsistency has made him more of a mid-rotation guy.  He’s still just 28 with very low miles on his arm, especially in the all-important early stages of his amateur and pro career.
  6. The Paul Maholm deal:  The Cubs got a bargain deal with Paul Maholm, who had questions about some nagging shoulder issues and waning velocity prior to his free agent season.  The Cubs signed him to a one year deal with an option and he quickly became the most reliable pitcher on the Cubs staff in 2012.  The Cubs seized on the opportunity to deal him at high value for Arodys Vizcaino, who was ranked as the #12 prospect in all of baseball per Keith Law in the previous season.  Injuries have changed his outlook but from a pure talent standpoint, Vizcaino could well be the Cubs best pitching prospect — maybe their most talented pitcher period.  But obvious health and stamina questions have derailed him so far and Vizcaino’s status as a starting pitcher is very much in doubt for now — but if he can’t stick as a starter, he has the chance to be a dominant closer.


  1. The Matt Garza Deal: This was a deal that was supposed to go down last year but Garza had one of the worst-timed injuries in recent memory as he hurt his elbow shortly before the Cubs were ready to send him to Texas for Mike Olt and LHP Martin Perez.  The Cubs did eventually get Olt, but the injury cost them Perez.  As a consolation prize, the Cubs picked up the fast rising CJ Edwards and those who don’t think Pierce Johnson is the Cubs top prospect will point to Edwards as the Cubs top minor league arm. Edwards has been ridiculous all season long, going a combined 8-2 with a 1.86 ERA.  In 116.1 innings — the same as Johnson, he has walked 41 batters and struck out an incredible 155.  He was even more dominant in the playoffs, twice combining for one-hit shutouts.  Those who question Edwards long term viability have concerns about his slight build and still underdeveloped secondaries, but I’ve heard from one top evaluator who sees him as a #3 starter with the only question being whether he could handle the load of a TOR starter long term.  As if Edwards wasn’t enough, the Cubs also picked up Justin Grimm, who has a shot to be a back of the rotation starter and Neil Ramirez, who has #3 stuff, but delivery and command concerns make him a likely bullpen candidate, where he has enough arm to profile as a late inning guy.
  2. The Scott Feldman Deal: One of the front offices most inspired moves, the Cubs took a career 5th starter/swingman and correctly gambled he was due to put up some legit starter numbers.  He did and like the Maholm situation, the Cubs capitalized and sold high, picking up a couple of live but erratic arms in Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop.  Strop has had a huge, immediate impact on the bullpen but the people I talk to aren’t convinced he can maintain that level of control/command for very long based on his history.  So the jury is still out there.  The gem of the deal may be Arrieta, who uses an easy, clean delivery to generate mid to high 90s heat and a slider that can reach 90.  The stuff screams TOR. The command screams bullpen.  Either way, the Cubs should get impact but if he figures out how to command his filthy repertoire, this deal will go down as one of the biggest Cubs steals in recent memory.
  3. The Alfonso Soriano Deal: Soriano has lit up the scoreboard for the Yankees and has vaulted them into the thick of the pennant race, but there is no question he was a short term player for the Cubs.  They will miss him this season and next year from many aspects but the Cubs did well to move on and get a piece that may help them in the future.  Corey Black is undersized at 5’11”, 175 lbs but possesses a lightning bolt for an arm, able to hit the high 90s and often sitting in the mid 90s.  His numbers weren’t special with the Yankees but the Cubs let him loose and he responded by going 4-0 with a 2.88 ERA and striking out a shade over 10 batters per 9 IP (26.7% K rate).  His role is almost certainly going to be in the bullpen, but acquiring this kind of arm for a player that didn’t fit your plans has to be considered a steal.
  4. The Scott Hairston Deal: Who’d have thought that a last minute signing like Hairston — who went on to have the worst statistical season of his career, would turn into anything useful?  I’ve received mixed reviews on Ivan Pineyro, who is really a guy who relies on changing speeds and command more than pure stuff, but there is no question he does that very well.  He has gone 9-4 with a 3.29 between two levels and two organizations, walking just 31 while striking out 111 in 125.1 innings.   What Pineyro lacks is a true out pitch and instead relies on keeping hitters off balance with a very good change-up and good location.  As we’ve mentioned in the past with Hendricks, that makes his margin for error increasingly small as he moves up the ladder, but Hendricks has proven he can adapt with each league.  Will the Cubs strike gold again?  Pineyro sharpened his command upon joining Daytona (1.8 walks per 9 innings) while continuing to miss enough bats.  He also did his usual good job of keeping the ball in the park.  His FIP of 2.89 bodes well for his numbers next season.
  5. The Tony Campana Deal: This is the 3rd consecutive deal mentioned here where the Cubs traded a player who simply didn’t fit and had no long term future on the team — and still turned him into something useful.   The Cubs seized on D’Backs managers obsession with grit and effort over talent and turned speedster Campana into two very raw young arms with intriguing potential.  The more advanced of the two arms is Erick Leal, whom the Cubs brought stateside to pitch with the rookie level AZ team.  The 18 year old Leal posted a 2.77 ERA (2.28 FIP) in 48.2 innings with a strikeout/walk ratio per 9 IP of  9.62/1.48.  17 year old Jesus Castillo may have the better raw arm and showed some promise in the VSL in just 19 innings before being shut down.  I’m not aware of the reason, whether it was trying to preserve his arm at such a young age or if there is some physical injury – -but either way there is plenty of time for him to recover and develop considering his age.

Jury Still Out

International Market

What makes these deals even more important is that the jury is still very much out on the Cubs international acquisitions.  Gerardo Concepcion has been a bust so far while Juan Paniagua has been derailed by visa issues and never recovered in 2013.  The most successful acquisition in the Latin American market so far has been Armando Rivero, who profiles as a bullpen arm.  The Cubs haven’t fared much better in the Pacific Rim where Kyuji Fujikawa suffered an injury that has already jeopardized his future as a Cub.  The Cubs also missed out on the top arms including Yu Darvish and Hyun-Jin Ryu.  Again, the Cubs most successful story may be a bullpen arm.  This time it’s Chang-Yong Lim, but at 37, he is a short term solution at best.

Oh, did someone say Masahiro Tanaka?

The Tommy John Experiment

The Cubs looked to capitalize on what they hoped would be a market inefficiency in targeting pitchers with a past history of Tommy John surgery.  So far that hasn’t worked out for them as Scott Baker, Arodys Vizcaino, Josh Conway,  and Hector Rondon  have struggled to stay healthy and/or effective.  There is still some hope here and there have been encouraging signs from all of these pitchers at one point or another, but overall the Cubs haven’t been able to exploit this market the way they’d hoped so far.


The Cubs have done a remarkable job building up pitching depth through trades and comp picks, but they still lack that top level impact arm.  C.J. Edwards and Pierce Johnson have the best shot of cracking the top 100 — and perhaps top 50 or better down the road as they continue to develop.  Travis Wood and Jeff Samardzija have given the current rotation a boost as well.  Jake Arrieta has shown flashes.   But, for now, there is no question the Cubs still lack that high level top of the rotation arm, so there is work to do — and some of that (ahem) should start with the international market.  It’s also possible that this will be the year to gamble on that college arm in the MLB Draft — though we should expect that the Cubs will only take that arm if they feel he is truly the best player available.

Overall, however, there is no question that the Cubs have restocked the organization with promising arms and in time should be able to produce cost-controlled mid to bottom of rotation starters.  At the same time, they should also develop an inexpensive, homegrown bullpen with the talented arms who don’t pan out as starters.




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  • Either that photo of C.J. Edwards is an optical illusion or he has one of the smallest head-to-body ratios in the history of the world.

  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    LOL! I'm going to go with optical illusion.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm going with smallest head-to-body ratio in the history of the world.....

  • In reply to felzz:

    Sure, why not? Bruce Bochy is the guy on the other end of the spectrum.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Nah, Barry Bonds of 2003, after the roid abuse.

  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    Not to mention the teeny little people sitting in the stands. Them kamerras take funny fotos.

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    In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    If you google him for images, though, almost all his photos look that way......it's weird. His physique is probably one reason he lasted 48 rounds or whatever

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    In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    His head's not that small in person, but the rest of him is! I had seen him a couple of times before last night on his off nights and was scratching my head, wondering if he was for real. Dude is TINY! But, after watching him pitch last night, stuff is for real! though the velo did drop off from about 94-95 to 91-92 by the 5th (I'd give him a pass there, as this has been his longest season by quite a bit). His curve looked very developed to my amateur eye, big break at about 79-81, and he commanded it well last night!

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    Thanks Matt. Great stuff.

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    Amen on this article.....we've added some nice depth, but still so far to go. This FO inherited almost nothing in the area of pitching.

    I would like to ask Callis where he would rank the Cubs system on pitching only. Most analysts will say Cubs are top-3 overall, based primarily on impact bats, but on pitching alone I bet we are in the 18-25 range still.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Thanks Zonk. It would be fun to ask of guys like Callis and Parks. And one guy who has always liked the Cubs pitching better than most is Law.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Honestly I think we would be higher than that. The depth cannot be overlooked. There are not 17 teams with better depth. Only thing we are missing is a TOR guy. But there are not 17 teams with one of those either.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Good point TOR guys are pretty scarce all around baseball, not just the Cubs org.

  • Excellent article John. Taken together, the sheer amount of work the front office has done is pretty staggering. It's true that it would be nice to have snared a potential 1 somewhere along the way as opposed to a whole lot of potential 3's 4;s and 5's, but the plan was for waves and waves of pitching, and so far, they have been successful. Because of the success of adding position player talent, I still believe that a reverse-Cashner trade is a possibility to target a potential TOR if the right deal comes along.

  • In reply to CoolerbytheLake:

    Thanks. I can dig the reverse Cashner trade idea. And I hope the new Matt Garza trade turns out to successfully reverse the old one -- with CJ Edwards playing the role of Chris Archer.

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    Your article illustrates John the limited avenues available to rapidly stockpile talent. Those Type A/B picks are gone, so no more converting Carlos Pena into a real prospect. Spending in IFA market for young talent is restricted, and we will have signing limits next year due to penalties. No more spending on overslots, like Shark.

    The only good news is that the Cardinals were very smart about using all these tricks in 2007-2010, and you can see the results now. They won't be able to repeat that in the long run (I hope!)

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I was just saying that to Mike too and wondering how much further along they'd be under the old CBA, but they could use this to their advantage and get the jump on new market inefficiencies. So far, so good except maybe for the two areas mentioned.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    What do you think the FO thinks the current market inefficiencies are? Just curious. It's a tough question, because if everyone knows about a market inefficiency, market adjusts and it's gone.

    From what I can tell:
    1. Early jump on trade deadline where there are fewer sellers
    2. Don't spend on bullpen; build from within, and save for elsewhere
    3. Spend big in IFA; dollars well spent

    Not sure what else, current environment is making it tougher to find value, that's for sure

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    I think is very fair, and kind of points out the benefits of this front office's attempt to add talent any way they can. Even when some ideas (international signings, Tommy John reclamations) don't work quite as well as the front office hopes, if they're hitting on others (the draft and smart trades), the organization as a whole ends up positive.

    This is really part of the refreshing change of this new front office in that they're just overloading the system with talent, in the hopes that maybe 10% of it arrives at the majors.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Thanks, i tried to make this as far as possible and point out that not everything has gone according to plan -- but you're absolutely right. Overall it's been a big plus. I just wonder how much further along they could have been with the old comp system in place and the less strict slotting rules.

  • What is the time frame with the international market, i.e. when will the bidding begin for Tanaka?

    Great column, John.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    Thank you. He's not out there yet but is expected to become available sometime during the winter offseason.

  • Nice work John. We have indeed added some nice depth, but there is still a lot of work to do. This will actually be a constant effort, even after we have "Waves" of talent hitting Wrigley. Like Zonk mentioned, the avenues for stockpiling talent are becoming more limited. I'm not too worried, because I trust this F.O. to stay on top of it. Plus a position prospect can easily be converted into a SP ala Rizzo for Cashmere... Some will disappoint, others will surpass projections ala T. Wood, & Hendricks, etc... Maybe an Ace emerges, maybe we make a move for one.

    I think one intriguing aspect to a 2014 season will be that we are competitive and not necessarily doing a "liquidation" sale at the deadline. But let's not fool ourselves, we won't be in the hunt for the division or a WC next year. So I could easily see them trading short term guys ala Nate, etc for pitching prospects again. We'll have some guys coming up next year late vs all we had this year was Jr.

    We NEED to go balls out for Tanaka. I don't want to hear money had anything to do with it either if we don't get him. If we don't get him and Theo says "we didn't see him as a TOR guy", fine... even if we're wrong. But IF our F.O. thinks he's a #1 or a #2, we need to land him, no excuses.

    We've got a ton of power arms to choose from for the BP in 2014. I don't remember having so many potential late inning relievers in the wings as we have now.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think the Cubs won't have the same kind of bullpen issues again where they've had to go dumpster diving. They are getting to the point where they should start producing enough live arms to make it a tough bullpen year in and year out.

    Agree completely on Tanaka (I've made no secret of that!)

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    The interesting flip side of getting competitive, though, is that in the mid-teens of the draft the front office may take a high-upside pitcher there because there will be no sure thing position players available. That could actually fill in some "ace" type pitchers in the waves. Of course, that does make it more difficult to generate the next wave of impact bats.

    I guess that's where Eloy Jiminez comes in. No pressure, kid.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Pitching can be found throughout the draft. Look at CJ Edwards... Though admittedly, We're not sure exactly how much the dynamic of not be able to pay 1st round money on a 20th rounder is going to affect that statistic...

    Still, whether we are picking #2 or #15 or #30.... I expect this FO will stick with BPA on their board. We're just as likely to have a high upside Ace type HS Pitcher be the BPA at #15, etc...

  • Now this shows a better than average front office. The position player strength was either inherited or 'no brainer' decisions. I can't see this not being a top 2 farm system for at least 2 years. (yes, if all of Bryant, Baez and Soler get promoted next year, they will fall significantly).
    John, in your time watching the minor leagues, have you ever seen such a deep top 10? I haven't.

  • In reply to djriz:

    No. The closest is back in the days of Green and Goldsberry when they were producing MLB players left and right (some to be traded later by the hapless Jim Frey). I'd be happy if it turned out that well but with the Cubs keeping more guys and continuing to build in the next few years.

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    In reply to djriz:

    Royals had 9 guys in BA Top 100 a couple years back....that's good depth 1 to 10!

  • Still should try to acquire young arms let go for various reasons

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    There's nothing wrong with taking those kinds of flyers. They don't cost much and very few pan out, but even getting one to pan out can make it worth the effort.

  • John, off the wall question. What do the guys who are playing in the AFL going to do until Oct 6th? I would imagine there would be some kind of training camp for each team, but until then, do the guys rest, or do they go to the Cubs complex and play?

  • This is a very good article.

  • I remember the days when I hoped that Carpenter would pan out. Its nice to see volume and upside in the system. Too often I'm focused on the Big-4 and assume any #3 or better pitcher will come from a top-5 pick in the draft. Sure, most of these guys will fizzle out or be a 7th inning guy, but it would be nice to have some cheap #4/5 starters. It beats paying Jason Marquee 3/$21M for the same production.

    Or, these guys will continue to improve, make it on to some top-100 lists and can be used to acquire talent via trades.

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    Very impressive analysis. I had forgotten where some of these guys came from. I also think it's very objective, staying realistic about the ceilings for the top guys.

    However, I think C.J. Edwards, if everything goes right, could be a No. 1 or 2. I think people are looking at his build and saying that because of that, his limit is a No. 3. But he's either going to work out as a starter or he's not. And if he does, I think he has TOR ability. If he doesn't, hopefully he's a dominant bullpen guy.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    Thanks Greg. And thanks for your thoughts on Edwards. I think his fastball especially in the early innings, is as good as anyone's out there and it's a nice place to start for a TOR. It will be interesting to see if he can build that stamina and continue to develop those breaking pitches.

  • The other potential upside is the three pitchers signed this summer -- Erling Moreno, Jen Ho Tseng and Jefferson Mejia. Moreno may develop into a #2 or #3 and Tseng, at times, looked dominant.

  • In reply to springs:

    The jury is still out on those guys but there's some nice potential. Tseng is my favorite in that group. He reminds me of Rhee in that he's so mature and polished -- but I hope he avoids the same injury bug, of course.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Could/will Tseng be sent to the DSL/VSL or do you envision him camping out in Arizona?

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    I'm not sure. We know that Rhee started off in the Midwest League and I think there are similarities in terms of polish and maturity. Rhee's stuff may have been a tick better, but I think Tseng could start at Boise.

  • Love the article (and the analysis), John. I've cut and pasted and printed it out for future reference because its so hard to remember where everyone came from. Thanks.

    They key here seems to be landing Tanaka. Agree with you and HoosierDaddy: We gotta get him. No excuses.

    Wood, Shark, Tanaka would be a formidable top 3 for the rotation -- with EJax, Arrieta, and maybe Vizcaino for the last two spots, along with potentially a Feldman/Maholm-type short term assets signing. I'll take that rotation to war next year and we watch and wait for P.Johnson and CJ Edwards. Gotta feel good about that.

    Gotta really applaud what FO has done. And my sense is they will look to accelerate things to at least be in the mix in 2014, because we are much closer to being truly competitive than most think.

    I can't wait for to see what FO does this offseason. And I can't wait 'til next year!

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    Thanks nondorf!

    You can start to see them building on a foundation, though it did take a bit longer to do with the pitching.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    Agreed this is a great article, the content almost worthy of it's own special link at the top, like the prospects list. A recap of all the trades the FO has made.....

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    Thanks. I think at some point in the offseason I will add to those links and archive some old prospect lists and articles. It'll be a project, though!

  • I would rather not trade one of our top hitters (i.e., Baez)
    for a young pitcher. TO many things can go wrong with
    a pitcher.

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    Great article. Sadly there are still so many fans that don't see the forest for the trees. They simply don't understand the concept of rebuilding, roster management and expiring contracts. Those are the ones who cry about the Cubs "trading away all their good players."
    Those same fans often complain when they see the money being spent on international free agents, and instead want to see stupid money thrown at free agent mercenaries. (See how well that worked for the 2012 Marlins and '12/'13 Angels)
    What they don't realize is that some of their favorite Cubs like Junior Lake (16), Starlin Castro (16) and Pedro Strop (17 -by the Rox)were signed as international free agent kids.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Agree, at this time in the Cubs rebuilding process going after
    high price FA's or trading away top prospects for a quick fix
    would not work for many reasons. One more good draft and
    a few good pickups would help untill 2015.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Thank you Mike. Thought I'd throw out a big picture look today. Sometimes it helps to look back.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Hey Mike, great to see you over here:) The stars are beginning to line up along the pipeline---just takes time with our new FO.

  • John, which of our prospects are going to be given 1 more year
    or they are gone.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I'd say Vitters is definitely one.

  • Henry Rodriguez - high upside high risk addition to the Cubs system as well.

  • In reply to StatHead:

    Upside referring to high-leverage arm for the pen, of course.

  • In reply to StatHead:

    Can't hurt to give him a look. The arm strength is there.

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    Whitesox might be looking to trade some pitching to fill some holes, including 3b. Cubs potentially have 5 third basemen. Any scope for a trade there?

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Do we have anyone after Bryant and Baez worth them wanting?
    Maybe in a big package deal

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    In reply to emartinezjr:

    Villanueva, Geiger, Candelario, Olt...Although only Olt and Villy are near MLB ready. They can have Vitters. He comes complete with a lifetime supply of ace bandages and a frequent customer card from the local immediate care facility.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Someone needs to light a fire under Vitters, in my opinion.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John... about lighting that fire. I wonder if the kid, being drafted as young and as high as he was, might have a sense of entitlement. Surely that's gone with the regime change.

    Maybe he's one of those 'needs a fresh start' situations where it would do everyone good to trade him

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    I honestly think Vitters does need a fresh start with another organization. I'd like to see him do well. Sometimes a change of scenery can do wonders.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I normally agree with just about everything you say, but I think you're wrong here. I know the prospect fatigue with Vitters is high, but he's just 23. He's put up more good numbers in AAA this year. Improving his patience. I do think it is unlikely he's the impact bat we'd hoped he be, but I could see him playing his way onto the team and filling an Eric Hinske type role of LF/RF/3B/1B. As a RH he'd be a solid compliment to Valbuena, Scheiroltz, and even spell Rizzo occasionally.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    No doubt I could be wrong here. I just don't see Vitters as a guy who will get on base enough or hit for enough power to make up for what will be average or below average defense.

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    Edwards looks like he's built a lot like Pedro Martinez. Hopefully, he'll pitch like him too.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    I can live with that :)

  • Except for our core top prospects they should explore trading
    any other prospect(s) for the right deal

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Sure, but you won't get as good a player if you don't trade those top guys.

  • Talking about of pitchers ... was there ever an explanation to R. Dollis re-injury ?

  • In reply to SouthsideB:

    It looked like elbow to me the way he was favoring it after releasing the pitch. I happened to be there and that's what it looked like to me, but the didn't really examine him on the field so hard to say.

  • Definitely not the right forum...but I have to ask this question because I've been thinking about it. Am I crazy to think the Dodgers would make this guy available and the Cubs would make a play - how about Matt Kemp? What would it take the Cubs to get him? Would T. Wood and Schierholtz be suffice with no money exchange? I'm not sure Ethier or Crawford can be traded with those huge contracts without big money being thrown in and they both have actually been playing well. Oh, and they also have Puig who isn't going anywhere. Maybe they are willing to part with Kemp due to that outfield, his injury history and that huge contract (tho I know money is no object to them). Kemp is under control for six more years at $21.33m per year. Kemp is 28 and that contract ends at 34. Worth the risk?

  • In reply to apalifer:

    Not if it evolves any top players or prospects

  • In reply to apalifer:

    No worries about off topic but I'm not sure they'd give up Kemp so easily. They certainly don't need to save money and they have back end starters.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Dodgers probably want to give up Crawford or Ethier, which are the guys you don't really want, at least not without a pile of money to go along. I personally wouldn't touch Crawford, speed declines first

  • Which of all these starting pitchers, barring injury, should be in
    our rotation in 2015 or 2016

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I'd put my money on 3 guys: Kyle Hendricks, Pierce Johnson, and CJ Edwards. Not saying all 3 would be there, but I give them the best chance. Maybe Blackburn by 2016.

  • in regards to edwards build: paul blackburn put on 30 pounds of muscle in this last year, and while he is probably an exception rather than the rule there is no saying that edwards cant do the same.

    as far as the rest of the pitchers go, id really like for the front office to explore extending samardzija and wood in the next year (hopefully during this offeason). i think if they cant sign samardzija they should ship him to arizona in a skaggs and bradley deal *crosses fingers*.

    a rotation of bradley-skaggs-wood-arrieta-jackson would be very fun to watch and that is without a possible tanaka signing.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    True, but scouts always thought Blackburn had the frame to add weight. Looking at Edwards, he's just not that big a guy. It's not like he hasn't grown into his frame - his frame just isn't that big to start with. I'm assuming he'll stay relatively small. I'm just hoping he's a freak of nature.

  • In reply to John Arguello:


  • In reply to wastrel:

    Another good one.

  • In reply to John Arguello:


  • Unless Jeff if great his last few starts I would not extent his
    contract after this season. As of right now his is not a big money

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    In reply to emartinezjr:

    emart - Samardzija is still under team control. Although Jeff cannot become a free agent until after the 2015 season, he is arbitration eligible, but thanks to his somewhat erratic season, he won't see a huge payday.
    The Cubs most certainly wont non-tender him, which means one of three things will happen: They will negotiate a team friendly extension, in which Samardzija gives up his final arbitration years and a couple of free agent years as well in exchange for security, they will listen to trade offers, or they will wait it out, as they have time since Jeff can't take his services elsewhere.

  • How does it work with posting fees for Tanaka? I hope Epstein and Hoyer read this blog to realize how badly we want him! If the posting fee is $30 million does that need to be paid upfront or can it be spread out over the life of the contract.

    How much payroll flexibility do we have this offseason. I assume close to $40 million (contracts that are off the books include $6 mil Baker, $6 mil Feldman, $10 marmol, $10 garza, $4 million Soriano, $6 Dejesus plus EJax signed for a $8 million signing bonus last season). I do not expect to be competitive next year so might as well blow all the money on a 24 year old that can help out for awhile.

  • In reply to Sandberg2014:

    I think the posting fee is more likely to be in the 50 million dollar range. The success of Darvish and Ryu is going to drive the international market up.

    As far as I know, the money is paid in a lump sum after the player signs.

    The Cubs are not the only team that will want Tanaka "at all costs".

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    Best breakdown I've read on the Cubs pitching prospects. Great job as usual. I even learned two more names to pay attention to because of this well researched, and written article in Erick Leal & Jesus Castillo. Man I sure hope the Cubs can land Masahiro Tanaka. Maybe he can be that Ace. Young & that arm is amazing with a real crazy looking delivery. Real hard to time and pick up I think.

  • In reply to Johnny Hatelak:

    Thanks Johnny.

    Agreed on Tanaka. I like the deception he adds with his delivery. We know he has good stuff, but always helps to add deception. If you're easy to pick up, MLG hitters are going to hit you even if you can throw 98.

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    I am amazed by how much research that you do for us Cubs fans !

    Thank you again!

  • In reply to Bob from Salem:

    Thanks Bob! Sometimes I start writing something and it grows into a bigger article than I planned -- like it has a life of it's own! It was a lot of fun looking all this stuff up and writing it up.

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    Another fantastic piece, John. I may not be able to comment as much as I used to but rest assured I read every single article that goes up on this site. It's become a way of life lol Good stuff day-in-and-day-out.

    I absolutely love what the FO has done with the pitching from A-ball to the majors. Like someone mentioned above, the only thing were missing is that Gerrit Cole, Matt Harvey-type. The "cant miss" guy. But how many teams really have one of those anyway? I think between Edwards, Johnson, Vizcaino, Arrieta, Blackburn, Underwood, etc at least one of them should exceed expectations and develop into a #1-2.

    Speaking of which, no mention of Underwood? When he's right you could argue he's the only pitcher in the system with a legit #1 blueprint though he's more of a project than a guy like Blackburn.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Thanks Marcel. Good to hear from you.

    I would be nice for one of those guys to exceed expectatons and those 6 you named probably have the best shot of doing that.

    I didn't mention Underwood because he wasn't acquired through a front office maneuver like Johnson and Blackburn were (comp picks). He was just a standard draft pick. Same reason I didn't mentions Zastryzny or Skulina either.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Gotcha, didn't think of that. Our system looks deep just going by the prospects in this article alone. Add all the guys the FO drafted normally and it looks even better. Zastryzny and Skulina looked great in their short stints. Add Frazier, Garner, etc to the list as well. Picked up some nice arms the last 2 drafts.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Definitely. All those guys are legit prospects and Underwood has crazy potential. Maybe one of the few guys who can be a #1, but he needs to develop consistency.

  • In reply to John Arguello:


  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Maples was acquired by the old regime.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    True, but I was referring to his potential to be a true #1. There's a long list of "IF's" for that to happen, but he does have that kind of upside.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    He does have that kind of upside. He needs to do 3 things for that to happen.

    1. Stay healthy
    2. Develop the changeup to at least average
    3. fine tune mechanics.

    I think 1 and 2 are doable but 3 is what I think will hold Maples back from being a #1. The way his delivery naturally works will keep him from ever having plus command or maybe even average. It's gotten a bit cleaner the last few years but you don't want to completely revamp it and ruin him.

    But yeah I agree he has #1 upside. His fastball-curve combo is probably the best in the organization when he repeats his mechanics. That's high praise considering we have power guys like Arrieta, Vizcaino, Edwards, and Samardzija who all have 2 plus-plus pitches. I really want him to take another big step next year.

    He was healthy all year so that makes 2013 a success no matter how he pitches.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Ahh. I don't know. The lack of a change-up is one obstacle but I see the lack of command as being the bigger one.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    The Tommy John Enigmas -- Ryan McNeil and Josh Conway -- were looking pretty solid before the wheels came off in the spring. I'd give them chances, too.

    Nice to see you posting, Marcel.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yeah Mike, I think the grade for that whole strategy has to be an "Incomplete" for now. Sure, it would've been great to see some immediate results other than Lim. But if one of them, Vizcaino, etc "blossom" as a Cub... Epstoyer are genius rockstars again.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yes, both of them looked good and the Cubs can give them plenty of time to recover.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Thanks. I wish I could post more. Missed some pretty good discussions.

    Per AZPhil McNeil and Conway were throwing gas before they got hurt. He said he a "potential TOR starter" in Conway at times. Conway's injury was a freak accident that should will probably happen once every 10 years so the good news is that aside he was staying healthy.

  • John,

    I'm curious how much more time do you think PJ, CJ, Black & Ivan need at A+ ball? I look at that exceptional Daytona staff as our first "Wave" of "Homegrown" talent. Ironically, they've all been acquired by the new FO. I think Johnson moves the quickest, but could we get a peek of any of them in 2015 or is it more like 2016?

    They've been doing all they can at the upper levels, but it was so bare to begin with. Still lots of arms at AA/AAA & MLB acquired. But when you look at Daytona, KC, & Boise... you see the waves forming.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think Pineyro may move about a level at a time but Johnson and Edwards can move pretty quickly. I think they both have a shot to start at AA and finish up in AAA by next season. The same goes for Black but I think at some point they'll make him a reliever.

    So honestly, I think there's a chance we can see all of them by 2015.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You're more optimistic than me, but I sure hope you're right.

  • It is amazing the number and quality of pitchers picked up through basically trades in less than 2 years. But one of the most important pick ups is Derek Johnson. He will get the most out of our pitching prospects. First you scout them, then you draft/trade for them, and you develop them. The final step is win WS, then repeat.

  • In reply to John57:

    Sounds like a good plan!

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    Overall, a very good year for Cubs pitching. But some bad performances, too. I'd be curious John to hear your thoughts on some of the disappointments, and whether they can right the ship, or it's hopeless.

    I am thinking of:
    Jose Paniagua
    Starlin Peralta
    Gerardo Concepcion (forgot about him, until I read Cot's, and see we still owe this guy a few million $)

    There will be prospect attrition, but I wonder of these guys which one is most salvageable. Common theme here: Lack of command

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I think Concepcion needs to get back to 100% healthy before we can expect any consistency. He's still young enough to navigate the system at an age appropriate level.

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    In reply to Zonk:

    Paniagua gets the benefit of the doubt imo. Rough year for him outside the game.

    Peralta lost valuable instruction time with he got selected. Stuff is too good to give up on right now. At worst you have another power reliever.

    Conception is a bust until we see anything from him

    Mcnutt id keep around. Could still be a mid-rotation starter at best, late inning guy at worst.

    I think Paniagua is the most salvageable. At one point last year he was a consensus top 10(some even had him top 5) prospect in our organization. Stuff is still great. I think he'll dominate next year.

  • Some excellent analysis and also quite relevant because I think building the pitching inventory has been the #1 accomplishment by the FO thus far. Seeing how not one of the names you mentioned was selected as a normal draft pick shows the creativity Theo/Jed have displayed in acquiring talent. I anticipate the high profile TOR starter the Cubs lack will eventually come from dealing some of our glut of position prospects or FA... when the Cub offense is finally in a position to score enough runs to be competitive. My guess is the desire to lay out a $100M type contract for pitching won't happen for another 2-3 years, so we'll have to sacrifice Soler, Almora, etc. if we want the big arm.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    Thanks Paulson. I think when the time comes the Cubs may indeed make that kind of deal if they can't develop one within the organization. Prospects are assets/inventory and sometimes you need to move them to get what you need.

  • Hey, there goes that over-rated Wellington Castillo with another homer tonight. Where's ol' Etch-a-sketch Jeff to bash him now?

  • In reply to Paulson:

    That first one was a monster. No doubt he's got some raw power.

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    In reply to Paulson:

    There's that power we all knew he had.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    And what's exciting is WC has barely played 1.5 years so far and is just scratching the surface of what he can accomplish. After tonight his cumulative WAR of 4.0 will rank him ahead of Joe Girardi for 16th out of 209 catchers on the all-time Cub list. Putting up another 10 WAR in the next 5-6 years would rank him fifth all-time along guys like Jody Davis & Randy Hundley. That's some decent company if Beef continues to stay motivated, which doesn't appear to be a problem.

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