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Browsing posts from September, 2012

Has NHL Not Learned Anything From MLB Labor Disputes?

By bullpenbrian - September 17, 2012 - 5:05 am Leave a comment.

The stupidity of the NHL lockout is breathtaking. It’s the fourth time since 1992 the league has shutdown, and the third time it’s happened under Commissioner Gary Bettman’s watch.

The last lockout cost the league (and its fans) the entire 2004-05 season. But to the league’s credit, major changes prevailed during negotiations that set the course for the sport to reach an all-time high in popularity in the United States after years of clinging to any sense of relativity among the country’s other professional sports leagues.

At last, the NHL reached the cusp of entrenching itself as a major contender for sports fans’ attention. For all intents and purposes, NHL hockey in the States has never been better…until now.

The latest lockout that began Saturday at midnight puts all that’s been gained over the past seven-years in jeopardy of being lost. And if that sounds like a familiar tune, it should.

Major league baseball, of course, has seen its fair share of work stoppages. It took two hands to count all the strikes and lockouts from 1970 (eight) to the most damaging stoppage in 1994, which brought on the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in 90-years.

Baseball’s eventual implementation of revenue sharing and luxury taxes did help stabilize the industry, but fans felt so spurned by all the bickering between players and owners that attendance plummeted 20-percent when the league finally resumed play in the spring of 1995.

It took years for baseball to recover, and had it not been for the steroid infused home run chase in 1998, it could have easily taken much longer.

Perhaps, what baseball (and Bud Selig) doesn’t get enough credit for is the deal the two sides struck in August of 2002 on a new tentative collective bargaining agreement. Although the deal came right down to the deadline of a player’s strike, no games were lost, and the season carried on without a work stoppage.

Since then major league baseball has seen continual growth including setting year-over-year attendance records and a steady rise in the game’s popularity, not only within the States, but globally.

What more does the NHL need to know about the damaging effects of a work stoppage that they couldn’t learn from major league baseball, or from their own past for that matter? How could hockey let this happen again?

Does the NHL not realize another lengthy lockout risks damaging its reputation beyond repair, or that the almightily dollars both sides are squabbling for won’t be there like it once was?

Baseball, thankfully, did realize the negative magnitude of another labor dispute, found a way to strike its ‘historic’ deal in 2002, and is now thriving.

That very same opportunity still exists for the NHL—if a deal is reached before losing any regular season games. But if they don’t, and regular season games are lost, and so too is the Winter Classic, good luck rebounding a second time.

It seems the NHL may be misjudging its recent success as having weaved its way into the fabric of the American sports landscape, which is a huge mistake. Hockey has always been, and remains, icing on the cake for the average American sports fan. The masses can live without it, unlike the big-three: NFL, MLB & NBA.

There isn’t a home run chase that can save the NHL from another drawn out work stoppage, and even if one could, hardly anyone will be paying attention. The only answer remains the obvious one–labor peace.

Shame on the NHL for thinking otherwise.

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Mr. Cubs Race!

By bullpenbrian - September 16, 2012 - 6:00 pm Leave a comment.

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Projecting Cubs 2015 Rotation

By bullpenbrian - September 15, 2012 - 1:50 pm Leave a comment.

JP

This is a guest post by devoted Cubs fan JP Hochbaum. Read his last post “Projecting Cubs 2015 Lineup” by clicking here.

The current crop of pitchers at the major league and minor league levels make it hard to predict who could be here come 2015 because there isn’t much talent there, at least that could be called up anytime soon. 

With the current starting staff of Samardzija, Garza, Wood, and the bunch that keeps getting rotated from Triple-A and the major league team, I see only Samardzija as the only likely starter still around in 2015, so I am going to slate him as the ace of our 2015 team.

Sorting out the rest from our minor league system is tough, and there isn’t a starter that cracks most top 100 prospects, assuming that Arodys Viscaino becomes a late inning guy.  But because the team is really thin in starting the Cubs may try to turn him into a starter, and so for the sake of making this projection look better I am going to put Viscaino as the No.2 starter, which is what many scouts consider as his ceiling.

Of the remaining prospects in their system there’s a list of possible starters and relievers to sort out from: Pierce Johnson, this year’s 1st round sandwich pick, Dillon Maples, possible top of the rotation guy, Duane Underwood, this year’s 2nd round pick, Trey McNutt, whose stock is falling, Robert Whitenack, probably a reliever, Ben Wells, projected as a No.3,  Juan Carlos Paniagua, amazing fastball and little known about him (could be a sketchy character), Nick Struck, could be called up next year, Erik Jokisch, pitching great for Tennessee Smokies,  Austin Kirk, doesn’t strike out enough people.

What makes this crop weak is that few of them have pitched long enough in the minors to know enough about them. The guys in the top levels of the minors Mcnutt, Struck and Jokisch make the safest bets to be here when it comes to the 2015 team, simply because the other top of the rotation guys like Wells, Paniagua, Maples, Underwood, and Johnson just have too small of a sample size to judge them.

What makes the Cubs strong is that they are collecting up-side depth in pitching, meaning they are collecting guys with high ceilings who could move through the system fast.  And by fast I mean no sooner than 2014 is likely.

That being said, all this guessing makes projecting very difficult, and so I am going to just sort out the guys of where they are projected to pitch in the rotation.

  • Potential No.1 starters:  Samardzija, Pierce Johnson, Juan Carlos Paniagua
  • Potential No.2 starters: Duane Underwood, Viscaino, Dillon Maples
  • Potential No.3 starters: Ben Wells, Nick Struck, Paul Blackburn
  • Potential No.4 starters: Erik Jokisch
  • Potential No.5 starters: Austin Kirk,

Relievers:

  • Robert Whiteneck,
  • Tony Zich,
  • Alberto Cabrera,
  • Viscaino (if the high level guys make the team in 2015)

As you can see they are deep at the top, but these guys won’t be here until much later and 2015 could be a stretch for seeing them, but I am assuming that the Cubs move them through the system fast to do so.  The hope is that most of these top of the level rotation guys pan out and could fill in the 4th, and 5th starter spots.

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#Cubs Tweet Tweet!

By bullpenbrian - September 15, 2012 - 1:00 pm Leave a comment.

http://twitter.com/ValerieStokes/status/245288276074823680

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Cubs Hosting 2nd Social Media Night Mon. Sept 17

By bullpenbrian - September 14, 2012 - 2:45 am Leave a comment.

Give me a shout if you’re attending the Cubs’ Social Media Night this coming Monday, Sept. 17. I’ll be joining the pre-game festivities at the Captain Morgan Club and then hitting up the bleachers for the game (Travis Wood starting vs. Pirates).

The Cubs held its first-ever Social Media Night in May. It was a huge success, which is why they’re holding a second outing this season.

You’ll obviously be introduced to a ton of fellow Cubs fans, have an opportunity to swap Twitter handles and actually meet people you’ve only interacted with on Twitter and Facebook.

That last one, of course, was a really cool experience for me and what I’ll be looking forward to again on Monday. I expect many of the same folks to be back for round two, and there’s certain to be some new faces, so I’ll be glad to meet up and share another evening in the bleachers together.

If you’re interested in going but still need a ticket, make sure to purchase one by using the link provided here. (Do not purchase a regular game ticket. Doing so will not allow you access to the Social Media Event and you’ll miss all the fun!)

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The cost is less than $30 bucks and includes a game ticket to the Budweiser Bleachers, an exclusive Cubs Social Media Night shirt (as pictured) and access to the pregame social events at Captain Morgan Club beginning at 5:15pm.

A dozen fans will win an upgrade to an all-inclusive suite, another lucky fan will be selected to throw out the game’s first pitch and everyone gets to enjoy a foot-long Truffle Mac & Cheese Dog served up by Levy Restaurants…please allow me to apologize in advance for making a pig of myself. Sorry, (burp).

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There’s also the chance one Social Media Night fan will be called upon to pitch out of Dale Sveum’s bullpen. Well, maybe not…I made that part up. But, I do throw a pretty good splitty, no worse than say, Alex Hinshaw. Eh?

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What To Look For On Cubs 2013 Schedule

By bullpenbrian - September 13, 2012 - 2:45 am Leave a comment.

Here are some quick thoughts on the Cubs’ 2013 schedule released yesterday.

APRIL

It only makes sense the Cubs should open the season away from Wrigley Field, as they will against the Pirates on April 1. Pittsburgh is doubtful to have better spring weather than what we’re use to in Chicago, but still…

Maybe the cool weather works in the Cubs’ favor when the Rangers visit town during the second week of the season?

Cold, damp weather won’t be a factor, however, with the Cubs playing one series under the roof in Milwaukee and another four-game set at Miami.

Most importantly, the Cubs begin a stretch of 20-games in 20-days starting April 16, which will no doubt put some stress on the pitching staff.

“It’s very difficult to get your pitching ready for those kind of innings and those pitch counts that early.” –Dale Sveum

MAY

I fully support the reduction of interleague games against the White Sox. Instead of the traditional home & away three-game series, the fake rivalry is scheduled for back-to-back two-game sets, the first of which is played at the Cell. And those pesky White Sox still lead the all-time series (49-41).

JUNE

There’s an interesting wrinkle with the Cubs wrapping up a late May homestand to journey out west for just two games at Anaheim. Then it’s right back to Wrigley for a seven-game stretch against the Pirates & Reds. This one’s a real head-scratcher.

The month concludes with a three-game interleague series against the Mariners. I’ve always wanted to visit the city of Seattle and Safeco Field, so here’s to planning my summer weekend get-a-way trip, which could only be made more awesome if King Felix is scheduled to pitch!

JULY

The Cubs begin the month heading straight from Seattle to Oakland. It’s Chicago’s first-ever visit against the A’s and marks the 114th ballpark the Cubs have played in during its franchise history.

The Angels come to town for a two-game set the following week. That’s a plus for Cubs ticket brokers, who’ll have a chance to sellout a mid-week series (Tue., Wed.) with Pujols, Trout and Trumbo in the house.

Most notably, the Mid-Summer Classic has been pushed back from its tradition second week in July to the third week on Tuesday, July 16 at Citi Field in New York.

Lastly, the Cubs finish the month at home against Milwaukee on July 31—the non-waiver trade deadline.

AUGUST

You guessed it! One of the first things I looked for on the Cubs’ 2013 schedule is where they’re playing on the third weekend in August. Why? The Chicago Air & Water Show! And lucky dog, the Cubs are at home against the Cardinals over the third weekend of August 16-18! Double your fun and plan on coming out to the ballpark to enjoy the best of both worlds–in the air and on the field.

This month, however, appears to be one of the toughest for Chicago with home & away series scheduled against the Cardinals, Dodgers and Phillies…plus a four-game home set against the Nationals, and a three-game home series vs. Cincinnati.

SEPTEMBER

The final month of the season could prove a real test. It’s not only likely the Cubs are playing more meaningless late-season baseball, but 14 of its last 20-games are played on the road…and 20-games this month are scheduled against NL Central opponents: Brewers, Reds, Pirates & Cardinals. Perhaps the best we can hope for is the Cubs will play a significant role as a postseason spoiler.

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Possible FA Signings For Cubs | Part Two

By bullpenbrian - September 12, 2012 - 3:30 am 4 comments.

This is the second post of a two-part series addressing possible free-agent signings for the Cubs entering the 2013 season. This article addresses FA position players, the first article covers FA pitchers

The Cubs have several key holes to fill around the diamond this winter in hopes of fielding a more competitive team in 2013. For starters, there’s a gaping hole at third base. The outfield is thin and so is the catching depth.

Although the Cubs recently added some quality and promising prospects to its lower-level minor leagues, most of these guys are years away from reaching the majors, if in fact, they even make it that far.

That means the Cubs will need to forgo the in-house options in favor of the free agent route. And as I mentioned in Part One: Chicago will be targeting mid-level FA to supplement its big league depth.

Below is a list of several FA the Cubs could sign this offseason to help transition the team from pretender to contender. (Player age listed in parenthesis)

CATCHER

-Ronny Paulino (32): A career journeyman behind the dish. His eight-years in the bigs have seen him play anywhere from 133-games in a season to just 20-games with the Orioles this year before being outrighted to Triple-A in July. Like so many of his peers, Paulino’s defense has kept in the league more than his bat: career .272/.324/.376. But for $1M or less, Paulino’s a likeable fill-gap option to complement Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger.

THIRD BASE

The thing to keep in mind about the crop of free-agent third basemen is that it’s largely comprised of guys on the very back end of their careers. Basically, the pickings are slim, at best.

-Maicer Izturis (32): It’s virtually a lock Josh Vitters will begin next season at Triple-A Iowa (.093/.148/.200). Bringing back Ian Stewart, if healthy, could be one option, but why waste money on Stewart’s untapped potential if the Cubs can land a more proven veteran like Izturis? Although Macier is only a slightly above-average fielder, he does bring the ability to play multiple infield positions, which he’s done for the better part of his nine-year career (3B: 290 games, 2B: 242 games & SS: 191 games). He’s not the ideal power-bat you want at a corner infield position, averaging 7 HR & 60 RBI over 162-games, but he is an automatic upgrade over Vitters and Stewart, with a price tag well within reason of $3-4M. That’s also an affordable insurance policy if Castro or Barney were to be lost for any length of time due to injury.

OUTFIELD

Almora, Jackson & Soler has a nice ring to it, but who knows if that day will ever come for the Cubs’ outfield. What we do know is that won’t happen in 2013. Jackson, of course, is no guarantee himself to be on the Opening Day roster next season. Almora and Soler, meanwhile, are at least two years away from making their big league debuts. Even if BJax makes the team out of spring training, this outfield still needs some depth. And am I the only one getting the feeling Alfonso Soriano is as good as gone this winter?

-BJ Upton (28): Hard to believe Upton is already in his eighth season with Tampa Bay, and even harder to believe we’re still waiting for his break-out year offensively. But what Upton has accomplished with the Rays is far better than what the Cubs currently have in its outfield. Despite not delivering on his ever-expected break-out season, Upton still averages 20 HR & 75 RBI per season. And since transitioning from SS to 3B to LF to CF (2008), Upton has also grown better defensively along the way.

While many have given up hope Upton becomes that 30 HR, 100 RBI guy we once thought he would be, there are certain to be teams willing to pay him in excess of his actual market value for what he still might become as a hitter. As it is, even a deal based on Upton’s current track record may prove too pricy for Team Theo’s tastes. With Upton entering his prime years, however, I’d have to believe the Cubs would at least explore the possibility of landing him, especially if the Cubs can move Soriano this winter and Upton’s asking price stays below $10M. It’s not the likeliest signing for the Cubs, but offering a 2 or 3-year deal with the option to trade Upton before his early 30’s would be awfully sweet.  

-Grady Sizemore (30): A three-time All Star, two-time Gold Glove Award winner, a Silver Slugger Award and a four-time recipient of AL MVP votes. So what’s the catch? A long list of nagging and major injuries, that’s what. Sizemore has been plagued by significant injury setbacks over the past four seasons, including having sat out this year entirely. Yet, we’ve seen what Sizemore can do when healthy. And while it’s fair to imagine his latest knee and back aliments will limit him from being the player he once was, there’s an equally good chance he could still be pretty darn good. The best part is the Cubs won’t need to take much of a financial risk to find out. Grady is expected to fetch a one-year incentive-laden deal this offseason. That’s perfect for the Cubs to jump at the chance to upgrade its outfield depth and potentially land what could be a lucrative trade chip come July 31 next season. It’s a classic buy-low, sell-high move with no guaranteed money involved. The hardest part, of course, is the Cubs will have plenty of competition to sign his services.

-Cody Ross (32): It’s a bit puzzling Cody hasn’t found a permanent home having played for six different teams during his nine-year career. He’s an above average fielder who plays all three outfield spots well. He’s averaged 22 HR per-season and has driven in as many as 90 RBI. Ross has also shown a knack for hitting in the clutch, won the 2010 NLCS MVP Award and was a huge factor during the Giants’ World Series championship. What Ross doesn’t do particularly well is draw walks. Instead, he’s been somewhat of a strikeout master having averaged 126 K’s per-season. That, obviously, is in direct contrast to the patient hitting approach Team Theo is seeking to add to the Cubs’ roster. But, is it possible a proven winner like Ross would be willing to adapt to the Cubs’ new grind-it-out plate mentality? I think so. Although, that’s a super risky proposition–paying a player with the notion he’ll need to change his game when neither side can be certain of the outcome. But the risk sure beats seeing Joe Mather in the lineup, especially for what could be an affordable 1 or 2-year deal in the range of $3M.

-Reed Johnson (36): I know what you’re thinking…I’m a Cubs softy thinking with my heart instead of my brain. That may be true to some degree, but there are positives you can’t ignore about Johnson despite his old age. He’s the upmost professional who plays the game the right way and sets a positive example for not just the younger guys, but for all his fellow teammates. Yes, his body has been worn ragged over the years with his all-out style of play, which limits his everyday availability. But…we do know Reed loves playing for the Cubs, and we know the youthful Cubs need leadership, and we’ve seen Johnson develop into one of the best, if not the best, pinch-hitters in the game. His positive impact on the team would far exceed what the Cubs would have to pay to bring him back, and even so, it would only need to be for one more year.

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Possible FA Signings For Cubs | Part One

By bullpenbrian - September 11, 2012 - 4:00 am 4 comments.

This is the first of a two-part series addressing possible free-agent signings for the Cubs’ entering the 2013 season. This article addresses FA pitchers, the second article covers FA position players

Eventually, Tom Ricketts will open his wallet and invite the game’s top free-agents to join the Cubs. But until Team Theo builds Ricketts’ team into a contender, which will take a few more years, the free-agent ‘A-listers’ remain a pie in the sky.

In the meantime, however, the Cubs will look to sign mid-tier free-agents to round out its roster for the 2013 season. Below is a list of potential FA that could fit the Cubs’ needs for next season. (Player age listed in parenthesis)

Starting Pitching

-Brandon McCarthy (29): Career record (37-39, 4.02) He’s statistically improved with age while becoming somewhat of a stat-head paying close attention to sabermetrics, which shouldn’t hurt his chances with the Cubs’ new front office. The Cubs could land him with a deal similar to what they gave Paul Maholm last year: 1-yr, $4.75M with a club option, that is, assuming McCarthy returns to full health following his recent emergency brain surgery after being hit in the head on a come-backer.

-Anibal Sanchez (29): Career record (46-50, 3.79). The high price tag of $8.0M he’s due this season isn’t in the Cubs’ favor, and they shouldn’t spend as much on a guy who’s been good, but mostly inconsistent throughout his career. But if the price is right, the Cubs could find a pitcher with his best days still ahead.

-Chris Young (34): Career record (53-41, 3.81). The tall right-hander (6′ 10″) hasn’t been the same since Albert Pujols lined a ball off his face in May of 2008. Additionally, Young’s been hampered by arm injuries limiting his starts to just 25-games over the past three seasons. There’s definitely some risk with signing him, but he is affordable and could be had for less than a million bucks.

RELIEVERS

I view the bullpen as the Cubs’ greatest area of need entering next season. I’ve listed the possible FA candidates by age.

-JP Howell (28): Career record (21-23, 4.42). In 2008 the Rays transitioned Howell from the rotation to the bullpen, the results of which, have been promising. The lefty has been a key cog in Tampa’s pen and shows signs he’ll only get better. After a disappointing year in 2011 (6.16 ERA), Howell has bounced back to form this year posting a 2.89 ERA. A lefty like this won’t come on the cheap, but with the kid entering his prime a multi-year deal around $6M could get the deal done.

-Carlos Villanueva (29): Career record (33-33, 4.14) He’s the rare, but convenient, starter/reliever type that could make sense for Chicago. He’s made 13 spot-starts in each of the past two seasons while also being a serviceable arm in the bullpen. A deal of $3 M or less wouldn’t be bad for utility arm like Villanueva’s.

-Matt Capps (29): He saved 42-games between Washington and Minnesota two years ago, but shoulder inflammation has burdened him since 2011 and squashed the Twins’ hopes of trading him this past July. The Cubs would be buying low and at a risk; and anything more than $2M is probably too much to fork over. Whether or not Capps remains closer material is up for debate, but the Cubs do need someone to close if they still intend to deal Marmol this winter.

-Brandon League (30): He saved 37-games last season and made the All Star team for Seattle. The Mariners traded League to the Dodgers this July where’s he’s performing on-par with his 2011 season. He’s likely going to cost more than what the Cubs want to spend, especially to join the rebuild, but for $5M or less Chicago could pull the trigger.

-Mark Lowe (30): Injuries have plagued the Rangers’ right-hander the past two seasons. He has, however, rebounded nicely posting a 2.61 ERA over 34-games in 2012. His injury history may limit his price enough the Cubs could land him with a deal around $2M.

-Ramon Ramirez (31): Career record (23-20, 3.32). A rolling stone; Mets, Rockies, Royals, Red Sox and now the Giants. Surprising because he’s been good for around 70-games and 60-innings throughout his career. Consistency appears to be an issue, but a rubber-arm like his would be awfully valuable to the Cubs for $3M or less.

-Francisco Rodriguez (31): Career 2.71 ERA & 294 saves. His second season in Milwaukee has been the worst of his career (2-7, 4.37). After leaving Anaheim to sign his mega-deal with the Mets paying him $12M, the Brewers chopped it to $8M last season in a surprising move to resign K-Rod, who expressed his unhappiness as a set-up man to John Axford. Milwaukee won’t make the same mistake twice, and given his poor season, the Cubs could also try cutting his pay. I’ve got to believe K-Rod is better than he’s shown this season, and for $6M it’s a chance the Cubs should take to give K-Rod the closer’s role.

-Clay Hensley (33): He’s been hot & cold during his tenure with the Marlins and Giants. A 2.16 ERA in 2010 preceded his 5.19 ERA last season. This year he’s (4-3, 4.37). Hensley’s not the sexiest pick on the list, but he’s certainly within the Cubs’ price range for $1M or less.

-Mike Adams (34): He’s been a stud throughout his eight-year career. Although his age is a concern, it wouldn’t hurt the Cubs’ young bullpen to have a veteran around the likes of Adams. The hard part is, Adams has been so good for Texas the past two season, it’s hard to believe he would sign with a rebuilding franchise. I’m guessing he’ll fetch somewhere around $7-9M, and likely more to be enticed to join the Cubs. Not likely, of course, but if age keeps other contenders from giving Adams the deal he wants, the Cubs could splurge some to land him. A huge coup if it were to happen.

-Juan Cruz (34): Yes, the former Cub! (2001-’03). He pitched really well for Tampa last season in 58-games (5-0, 3.88). And this season he’s been a major contributor for the Pirates’ strong bullpen appearing in 43-games going (1-1, 2.78). Cruz is probably looking at a deal worth $2-3M, which is within the Cubs’ budget for a mid-level FA. It might take more to get him to join a 100-loss team, but the price would be well worth it for a reliable short-term fix.

-Jeremy Affeldt (34): He’s an 11-year veteran and good clubhouse guy who’s certain to field plenty of offers because, well, he’s left-handed. Affeldt’s averaged 60-plus games per-season since 2007 and put up terrific numbers the past two season with San Francisco: 2.63 ERA 2011 & 2.65 ERA this year. I expect Affeldt to land a deal more than $5M, and at his age it’s unlikely he wants to join the lowly Cubs. At best, it’s a stretch to think the Cubs would even get a meeting with his agent this winter…unless they’re willing to over-spend to get him, which doesn’t make sense, but could happen. Good left-handed relief is hard to find, and aside from James Russell, the Cubs really don’t have any.

-Mike Gonzalez (35): We saw plenty of this guy while he broke in with the Pirates to start his career. Ever since, however, the hard-throwing lefty has battled injuries which ultimately limited him to just 7-games with the Rangers in 2011 before undergoing knee surgery. He’s made a nice recovery with the Nationals this season posting a 2.73 ERA in 39-games, and like Affeldt, he’s older, but left-handed, which means there should be plenty of good offers available. But being long in the tooth with a history of nagging injuries should keep his price tag under $6M. That’s probably more than the Cubs are willing to spend, but again, he’s a solid southpaw and the Cubs need all the help they can get for its patch-work bullpen–even if it comes with some risk.

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Darwin Barney Sets NL Fielding Record

By bullpenbrian - September 10, 2012 - 2:30 am 2 comments.

How about a hat-tip to Darwin Barney for breaking Ryne Sandberg’s NL record 123-consecutive games errorless streak Saturday night at Pittsburgh.

The new record came and went without much fanfare, but there’s nothing cheap about Barney’s streak. He’s been the best fielding second baseman in the NL this season while showing he’s not just Gold Glove worthy, but the clear-cut winner.

The streak is but one example of how far Barney has come as a defender since arriving with the Cubs in 2010. Having already matched his games played at second base from a season ago (135), Barney has 11 fewer errors, turned 17 more double plays and improved his Range Factor from 4.92 to 5.15.

He played another clean game on Sunday continuing his streak to 125-consecutive games without an error–a run which began in mid-April and has spanned more than 1,000 innings. And with 22-games remaining this season, it’s still possible Barney could surpass Placido Polanco’s major league record of 141-straight games without an error at second base.

The bat, of course, hasn’t been as consistent for Barney. But given his encouraging work ethic to improve his fielding, there’s hope he’ll eventually come around at the plate, too.

Not everyone agrees Darwin will remain a staple of the Cubs’ rebuild, and that might remain true. Team Theo, after all, did explore dealing him at the July 31 trade deadline.

But even if Barney only improves marginally on offense, it’s still hard to depart from a solid Gold Glove defender up the middle, especially considering the Cubs’ thin pitching staff heading into 2013.

Additionally, Barney turns 27 in November beginning his prime years as a ballplayer. He’s shown not only the ability to improve his game at the highest level, but has done so while maintaining his high-character and winning attitude on a dreadful team, no less.

There’s simply a lot to like about this kid. And while he may not have been the answer Cubs fans were looking for at second base this spring, there’s really no reason to think he won’t be the answer moving forward.

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What’s Next For Jeff Samardzija?

By bullpenbrian - September 9, 2012 - 11:05 am Leave a comment.

Shutting Jeff Samardzija down for the remainder of the season is a no-brainer.

His 174.2 innings pitched doubles his innings total from a season ago and accounts for slightly more innings pitched than he accumulated during his first four seasons with the Cubs (169.2).

It’s been a heavy work-load for the 27-year-old, and with the final month of the Cubs’ regular season being spent as nothing more than an evaluation period determining what players should return in 2013, there’s no reason risking injury to a player the Cubs desperately need in its rotation next spring.

Samardzija’s first season as a starter has largely been a success. He leads the team in starts (28), innings pitched (174.2) and strikeouts (180). He’s also accomplished 17 quality starts, including his last four, posted and ERA of less than 3.00 since the All Star break and tossed his first career complete game against Pittsburgh Saturday night–only allowing a further glimpse of how high his potential ceiling could reach as a top-of-the-rotation arm.

The Shark finishes his season with a respectable 3.81 ERA, but a losing (9-13) record, which can hardly be held against him given the Cubs’ anemic offense. And he easily pitched well enough for at least two, if not three more victories, and arguably more. So it is nice knowing Samardzija is capable of winning 15-games or more over a full season.

What’s really of interest, however, is Samardzija’s expiring 1-yr, $2.64M contract, keeping in mind, the Cubs declined Jeff’s major league option last year to resign him to a more team friendly deal.

But oh, how things have changed.

Samardzija is no longer a pitcher trying to prove himself as a starter, and the Cubs have basically zero rotation depth behind him, aside from an unhealthy Matt Garza and an inconsistent Travis Wood.

So how much and how long? That’s the next question Jed Hoyer needs to address in Samardzija’s career. And here we thought ending the Shark’s season early was the hard part.

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