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Browsing posts from July, 2012

Celebrating the Trade Deadline

By bullpenbrian - July 31, 2012 - 5:59 pm Leave a comment.

I found today’s non-waiver trade deadline thrilling. Lots of player movement, big names in the mix, and the hotly contested division races in both leagues seemed to get even tighter.

I’d love to ramble on about the winners and losers during today’s trading period, but the exhaustion of pulling an all-nighter and then updating the trade tracker this afternoon is finally taking its toll.

By no means is this a complaint. There’s simply no place I’d rather be than working the phones and the keyboard like a mad-man! But the adrenaline from the early mornings hours has worn thin—Dempster, after all, has been traded!

So we’ll save those thoughts on the deadline trades for a latter post.

In the meantime, I’m taking a break from the computer and heading to Wrigley Field for tonight’s Cubs vs. Pirates game.

I’ll definitely do some tweeting, but I’m largely looking to relax for a bit and just enjoy watching the Cubs, or what’s left of them.

Greatly appreciate everyone who checked in on the Trade Tracker. Always looking out for the visual learners :)

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MLB Trade Tracker 2012

By bullpenbrian - July 31, 2012 - 7:00 am 1 comment.

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Reaction To Cubs Trades: Maholm, Johnson & Soto

By bullpenbrian - July 31, 2012 - 3:10 am Leave a comment.

I watched the Cubs 14-4 shellacking of Pittsburgh (you’re welcome Reds fans) from the bleachers Monday night. Definitely one of the most enjoyable games I’ve been to all year.

But all the excitement that came from a nine-run fifth-inning and home runs from Barney, Castro and Rizzo, quickly turned the buzz in the bleachers to trade anticipation after Reed exited the game in the fifth inning and Soto soon after.

I rushed home after the final out, quickly showered and then began digesting the Cubs latest player movement.

Quite honestly, my initial reaction to the trades was “Thank gawd. Something finally went down.” I’ll admit, I was growing more nervous with each passing hour the Cubs didn’t make a move as we close in on today’s 3pm EST non-waiver trade deadline.

PAUL MAHOLM & REED JOHNSON TRADED TO BRAVES

It turns out my gut feeling was right about Paul Maholm ending up with the Braves.

July 29 Post: “My gut feeling is Maholm ends up in Atlanta. The fact the Cubs and Braves already came to terms for Dempster, despite the outcome, tells us the Cubs like what the Braves have to offer as far as talented pitching prospects and Atlanta is clearly ready to deal.”

It’s a good fit for Paul and for Reed. It also appears what the Braves can’t make up in talent towards catching Washington in the NL East they’ll instead rely on high-character, team-first personnel the likes of both Maholm and Johnson.

There’s never anything wrong with adding a couple of high-character guys to a ball club. The Cardinals dynamic team-character largely outweighed its talent en route to winning the World Series last year.

The return pieces in the trade with Atlanta look favorable as well. You can read more about it here.

GEOVANY SOTO TRADED TO RANGERS 

In the ‘Lucky Dog’ trade of the day, Geovany Soto is changing his Cubbie blue for silver spurs. Good for him, good for the Cubs.

Soto couldn’t be in a better situation. Texas needed a quality back-up catcher and Soto is plenty good to fit the bill for a couple of months.

Despite not hitting worth a darn this season (.199/.284/.347), we know the potential is there for Soto to contribute offensively with Texas, not that the Rangers are in any need of offensive help.

But Soto’s greater value to the Rangers is his ability to call a good game and provide much needed relief down the stretch for his counter-part, Mike Napoli.

I’m happy Soto gets this opportunity to compete for a ring considering his career has basically trended downwards since his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2008.

This could very well be the last shot the 29-year-old gets, not just to play for a contender, but to remain in the majors before he hits himself out of the league.

Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo, meanwhile, will fill out the Cubs catching corps nicely throughout the rest of the season.

It was time the Cubs moved on from the underachieving Soto, and time to find out whether Clevenger or Castillo should remain as part of the Cubs rebuilding plan.

WHAT TO EXPECT OF THE PLAYERS COMING IN RETURN

Not surprisingly, the return for Soto is minor league RHP Jacob Brigham. The 24-year-old is (5-5, 4.28 ERA) through 20 starts with Double-A Frisco.

You can read more about Brigham here.

With two trades the Cubs received three minor league hurlers. Knowing trades are never a sure thing, and neither Maholm, Johnson or Soto were of great trade value, my hope is for two of the three prospects to pan out.

It might only be one that finds his way to the Cubs 25-man roster, or none for that matter. But given the current state of the Cubs, these are calculated risks Team Theo needed to make.

Now that the ball’s rolling, it doesn’t appear the Cubs will stop here with player trades–nor should they.

The big fish of Dempster, Garza and Soriano are left to fry. And the best part is, today’s the deadline…no more waiting games.

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Anthony Rizzo | Bryan LaHair | Jordyn Wieber

By bullpenbrian - July 30, 2012 - 3:15 am Leave a comment.

It wasn’t the Sandberg Game, but Anthony Rizzo’s walk-off home run against the Cardinals will hold a similarly special place in our hearts.

The kid’s flair for the dramatic has been simply unreal since his call-up on June 26 and seems to grow stronger with each opportunity to deliver when it matters most.

Rizzo quickly collected three game-winning RBI in his first five games (the first Cubs player ever to do so) and four game-winning RBI through his first 10 games as a member of the Cubs.

His walk-off blast Sunday marked his sixth game-winning RBI–second only to Alfonso Soriano’s team-leading 10.

Additionally, Rizzo wrapped up the Cardinals series going 5-for-12 with 2 HR, 5 RBI and 3 runs scored. His first home run came Friday against one of the NL’s toughest starting pitchers, a first inning two-run shot against Lance Lynn giving the Cubs a brief 3-1 lead.

Rizzo, not to forget, was also twice robbed of hits during the series. The first, a spectacular diving catch by CF Jon Jay on Friday. The second, a nifty play in the hole by SS Daniel Descalso on Sunday.

It’s only been a small 27-game sample for Rizzo, but it’s head-shaking to imagine how much better things will get for the calm, cool and collected 22-year-old budding star.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH BRYAN LAHAIR?

I’ve started to wonder if Bryan LaHair’s steady decline offensively has anything to do with Rizzo’s arrival, which forced LaHair from first base to right field?

It’s not uncommon for players to struggle offensively when asked to play out of position, and LaHair has clearly slumped since June 26: .214, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 8 walks vs. 29-K.

Although LaHair did play some outfield in the minor leagues, he spent the majority of his time at first base, perhaps suggesting one reason he’s struggled so mightily since a blazing hot start to the season.

I noticed some Twitter followers point out LaHair’s altered batting stance since the beginning of the season, a possible attempt to help him hit inside breaking balls?

I suspect advanced scouting has something to do with his slump as well, updating ‘the book’ on how to get the once hot-hitting LaHair out.

Of course, it could be any number of issues plaguing LaHair: new fielding position, new stance, better scouting, or even something as simple as Rizzo stealing LaHair’s early season thunder? Or maybe LaHair’s experiencing some personal guilt with not performing the way he believes a first time All Star should?

Whatever the case, LaHair’s looked miserable at the plate the past several weeks. No confidence, it appears, whatsoever. This couldn’t have been more obvious Sunday as LaHair went an ugly 0-for-3 at the plate with three strikeouts while stranding three runners on base.

KEEP LAHAIR OR TRADE HIM?

My hope for LaHair is that whatever change(s) needs to happen for him to get back on track offensively is anything but a return back to first base.

Rizzo is far and away the better fielding first baseman, his left-handedness is also a plus, and there’s no way Sveum’s moving Rizzo to the outfield or platooning him with LaHair at first base.

In fact, the more I think about it the more I believe the best fix for LaHair is a change of scenery before the trade deadline.

OLYMPICS A REMINDER THE BEST DON’T ALWAYS FINISH FIRST

The luster of the Summer Olympics wore off on me some time ago. I’m not sure why it happened and I don’t care to bother you flushing out the details in a blog post, either.

However, I still enjoy watching the Olympics from a distance, catching whatever events happen to be televised at the time I tune in.

Sunday night it was the USA women’s gymnastics team (in favor of yet ANOTHER Yankees vs. Red Sox broadcast on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball).

The headline story was Jordan Wieber, the defending world all-around gymnastics champion, failing to qualify for the same event at the London Games.

A silly and very controversial rule allowing only two team members from one country to compete for the gold medal in the all-around competition squeezed Wieber out of the hunt.

The television analyst felt Wieber had been judged too critically during her performance and the silly two-member per-team rule deprived not only Wieber of the chance to defend her world title, but the rest of the Olympic women gymnast from legitimizing the gold medal with the world’s reigning champion on the sidelines.

HEARTBREAK

Wieber was emotionally crushed, rightfully so, teary-eyed and heart-broken in front of the world. It was brutal television watching this 17-year-old girl trying to collect her emotions for what I considered an ill-advised television interview.

Emotionally charged as the scene was, I had to fight back tears. My heart was heavy for Wieber. Four years of hard training for this–a technicality keeping her from achieving “her dream to win the all-around gold medal.”

It’s a saddening feeling I’ve felt many times as a sports fan, and particularly when thinking back on the Cubs quick exodus from the 2008 playoffs.

Wieber, as sad and unfortunate as the case was Sunday night, is just another reminder that the best team doesn’t always win top prize, as our Cubbies should have four years ago.

Sometimes, it’s just not your day. Other times, often when least expected, it turns out everything you touch turns to gold.

It happens in October all the time.

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Mr. Cubs Race!

By bullpenbrian - July 29, 2012 - 10:00 am Leave a comment.

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Paul Maholm Cubs Top Trade Piece

By bullpenbrian - July 29, 2012 - 9:30 am Leave a comment.

In early June I wrote a post saying the Cubs needed more from Paul Maholm. At the time he was (4-5) having gone winless over his last five starts and was struggling to get past the fifth inning.

It was unsettling for two reasons:

  • 1.) The Cubs simply needed more innings logged from its 30-year-old southpaw to reduce the stress on its subpar bullpen.
  • 2.) Maholm’s trade value was seemingly decreasing with each start.

Oh, how things have changed.

Maholm enters today’s game against St. Louis looking to win a career-best sixth consecutive start. He’s (5-0) over his last six outings (five starts, one brief relief appearance vs. Mets before the All Star break) with a dazzling 0.94 ERA.

He’s averaged nearly 8-innings pitched during the stretch and no more than one earned run allowed per outing. His trade value has risen from a blip on the radar to arguably the Cubs strongest trading chip before Tuesday non-waiver trade deadline.

DEMPSTER & GARZA TRADE VALUE THE GREAT UNKNOWN

The precarious case of Ryan Dempster’s refusal to approve a trade anywhere other than Los Angeles (for the time being) has deprived Team Theo of leverage in trade discussions. And it’s entirely possible Dempster may not be dealt at all.

Same can be said for Matt Garza who’s dealing with fluid buildup on his right triceps. Trading for Garza would be to buy “blindfolded,” according to one National League executive speaking to Yahoo! Sports Tim Brown on Friday morning.

This, of course, leaves Maholm as the prized trade piece on a Cubs roster On Sale from top to bottom.

WHO WANTS MAHOLM?

The Pirates and Royals were quickly tabbed as suitors for Maholm two weeks ago. But the list has obviously grown with Maholm pitching like Cy Young and Pittsburgh having already traded for lefty starter Wandy Rodriguez.

The Braves, Nationals and Orioles are still in the market for pitching help, and with Zack Greinke dealt to the Angels and Cole Hamels locked up long-term in Philadelphia, Maholm’s stock is steadily rising with the big-guns falling off the trade board.

The Dodgers, as Cubs fans well know, are also seeking another starter. What a weird turn of fate if Maholm–and not Dempster or Garza–ends up the Cub pitching in Dodger blue.

My gut feeling, however, is Maholm ends up in Atlanta. The fact the Cubs and Braves already came to terms for Dempster, despite the outcome, tells us the Cubs like what the Braves have to offer as far as talented pitching prospects and Atlanta is clearly ready to deal.

I never thought Paul Maholm would be the Cubs saving grace come July 31, but it’s unquestionably turned out that way considering every attempt at rebuilding through the trades of Dempster & Garza has been futile for TheoJed to date. Indeed, how things have changed.

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Priceless Chicago

By bullpenbrian - July 29, 2012 - 9:00 am Leave a comment.

Mastercard

The launch of MasterCard Priceless Chicago took place this weekend. Its design brings customers closer to their passions, including the Chicago Cubs. MasterCard is providing millions of cardholders with coveted and memorable experiences such as pre-game batting practice with the Cubs. To learn more visit www.facebook.com/MasterCard

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#Cubs Tweet Tweet!

By bullpenbrian - July 28, 2012 - 7:01 pm Leave a comment.

https://twitter.com/_DosEquisMan_/status/217386710743531521

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Latest Alfonso Soriano Trade Rumors

By bullpenbrian - July 27, 2012 - 3:01 am Leave a comment.

Soriano Trade

I’ve updated the graphic according to the latest trade rumors surrounding Alfonso Soriano.

The Indians have long been searching for a right-handed power bat and  appear they won’t stand much of a chance in the playoff race without one.

Tampa Bay is another likely suitor, but will need plenty of help financially from the Cubs, who by all accounts are willing to eat a generous amount of the enormous sum of money remaining on Soriano’s contract. The Rays also DFA 38-year-old Hideki Matsui (.147, 2 HR, 7 RBI) on Wednesday.

Baltimore, in need of more pop in its lineup, traded for Jim Thome three weeks ago. But the oft-injured 41-year-old slugger (he missed a month with back issues in Philadelphia) has hit but 2 HR with 5 RBI since joining the O’s.

The Giants are a dark horse, but could use more run production in its outfield, especially after the Dodgers landed Hanley Ramirez earlier this week.

I’m not ruling Los Angeles out until Ryan Dempster is traded elsewhere or it’s announced he’s sticking with the Cubs through 2012. The Dodgers still need offensive help, even after dealing for Ramirez, and the Cubs must be creative in trade talks as long as Dempster holds fast to his preference to pitch in LA.

As a reminder, the larger the team logo, the more rumored interest.

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Dempster On Damage Control

By bullpenbrian - July 26, 2012 - 7:37 am Leave a comment.

I get the sense there’s more to Ryan Dempster’s dugout tantrum than meets the eye.

Dempster says he was upset Dale Sveum pulled him after 6 innings and having allowed the go-ahead (and eventual game-winning) run to score during the Cubs 3-2 loss vs. Pittsburgh.

That seems reasonable. But what about what Dempster didn’t say?

It’s purely my speculation, but perhaps part of Dempster’s frustration taken out on the water cooler was the realization his final days wearing a Cubs uniform wasn’t turning out the way he envisioned.

It’s not ridiculous to think the drama of the past few days didn’t creep into Dempster’s head before, during or after his departure from Wednesday’s start, which is why I believe Dempster’s dugout tirade was fueled more from the unraveling of this past week than Sveum’s completely reasonable decision to pull his pitcher from the game.

Not only was Ryan coming off a tough loss against St. Louis, he was also dealing with the disappointment of not being traded to the Dodgers and then alienating a large portion of Cubs fans on Monday by exercising his 10-5 rights to refuse a trade to Atlanta–a team reportedly on Dempster’s approved teams to be dealt list.

Meanwhile, Dempster’s continued indecision approving a trade anywhere other than Los Angeles has only further ruffled feathers leading up to his recent start. The pressure was mounting, Sveum merely lifted the lid.

ARE THE DODGERS STILL AN OPTION? 

The Dodgers, who staunchly refused to come off its top pitching prospects in trade negotiations for Demspter last week, will now barter with Chicago knowing Theo & Jed have virtually zero leverage in peddling the 35-year-old rental.

It obviously posses a high-hurdle for the Cubs front office who now find themselves in a precarious spot: trade Dempster to the Dodgers for donuts, or risk playing chicken with the man who could toe the July 31 trade deadline still undecided about joining the Braves, or anyone else for that matter?

IS THIS WHAT DEMPSTER REALLY WANTED?

Say what you will about Demps, but the man’s no dummy. I’m certain he’s well attuned to his potential options, the ticking trade clock, and the volatile backlash from Cubs fans.

There’s simply no believing this is how Dempster wanted his Cubs farewell to play out–muddied up on Twitter and stealing the spotlight of baseball’s biggest trade rumors. But that perfect farewell, as Paul Sullivan of the Tribune alluded to, seems to have already come and gone.

For me that perfect ending came when Dempster tossed six shutout innings against the Diamondbacks on Saturday July 14 at Wrigley Field when he not only extended his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 33.0, but also retained the major’s best ERA and had won his fifth straight outing.

It presented the optimal chance for Team Theo to deal Dempster, his trade value was likely never to be higher, and what better sendoff could Dempster really expect?

Lord only knows if Dempster will depart Chicago via trade at this point. I sure as heck have given up making such predictions. But whether he stays, or he goes, it’s very possible Dempster can never recover from his fallout with Cubs fans after this week.

DEMPSTER’S DAMAGE CONTROL 

I see three scenarios that could cure the Dempster hurt once and for all.

  • 1.) Dempster throws a complete game shutout against the Pirates at Wrigley Field on Monday and then happily tells TheoJed he’ll approve any deal to the bust suitor for the Cubs.
  • 2.) The Dodgers agree to trade one of its top pitching prospects in return for Dempster sparking a no harm, no foul reaction from Cubs fans.
  • 3.) The Braves reconsider trading for Dempster and agree, at least in part, to the original framework of the trade that included highly regarded pitching prospect Randall Delgado.

We could stretch our imaginations to come up with a fourth scenario, but why waste our time? The way things are developing it’s probably more likely to happen than the first three.

Whatever the case may be, I’m still hopeful this maddening situation ends the way I expected it to days ago–a win for Dempster and for the Cubs.

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