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Browsing posts from December, 2012

Name That Cub!

By bullpenbrian - December 11, 2012 - 12:45 pm Leave a comment.

CT CityHall2.JPG

Selected by Cubs from Cardinals in Rule 5 Draft.
Made 2 All Star appearances and won 1 Gold Glove with Cubs.
Became a huge fan favorite on the North Side.
Finished his career with the Braves.
Later managed in Cubs’ minor leagues (Peoria, Daytona & Boise).
Name that Cub! (Answer after jump)

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Why Cubs Are Waiting To Spend Big

By bullpenbrian - December 10, 2012 - 3:30 am 6 comments.

Cubs Pie 5

Here’s a visual reminder that it’s not about how much the Cubs spend, but how they spend that’s important.

Only twice in the past 10 years have the Cubs seen an increase in payroll translate to more wins. However, four times they spent more on player salary than the year prior–only to lose more games.

The result of careless spending ultimately limits roster flexibility. It makes it tougher to acquire players and increasingly difficult to trade underperforming ones signed to gaudy contracts.

Doubling down on payroll can open a small window to win a championship, as it did for the Cubs in 2007-08, but we know it’s no guarantee to winning a ring and the long-term effects makes it virtually impossible to maintain any success.

That’s why Theo Epstein is taking a more careful approach with team payroll than his predecessor Jim Hendry. Building the Cubs into a consistent winner, one that reaches the postseason year-after-year, gives the club its best odds of winning a World Series.

To build that model Epstein has to first relieve the pressure of what became a suffocating team payroll and roster gridlock under Hendry. It means making smarter investments, taking fewer risks and practicing more patience until some roster flexibility returns.

Of course building a core player group won’t come on the cheap. Neither will supplementing the core group with the best available free agents. No doubt Tom Ricketts realizes it’s going to take significant dollars to build a championship roster. It’s just important the payroll and roster talent grow together and not apart.

A staple of smart investing is discipline and patience. It’s understanding there’s no penalty for making smarter, smaller moves. But there are, however, severe consequences for losing sight of the long-term goals with greed and impatience.

What better way to sum up the chart above.

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Is Ryan Dempster Worth 3-Years?

By bullpenbrian - December 9, 2012 - 1:15 am 1 comment.

Ryan Dempster has turned down 2-year offers from the Royals and Red Sox. He’s wants a 3-year deal.

Teams are so desperate to sign quality starting pitching you can’t blame Dempster for holding a hard line. But it makes perfect sense why teams are hesitant to sign him. He’s already in the backend of his career and will be 39 at the end of a 3-year contract.

We saw how patient Dempster was during last July’s trade deadline. His endurance then, however, didn’t pan out as the Cubs shipped him to the Rangers instead of his preferred choice to play for the Dodgers.

A similar scenario could unfold this offseason if Dempster is stead fast in holding out for a third year. Although I believe some team will ultimately meet his demands, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best fit for Dempster the pitcher.

Texas certainly wasn’t an ideal fit for Dempster. He was lit up to the tune of a 5.09 ERA in his 12 starts following the trade. By the time the Rangers coughed up its division lead to Oakland and limped into the postseason as a wild card Dempster had virtually pitched himself out of the rotation.

So maybe that partly explains why he’s turned away two American League teams. But what about the Brewers? There’s reportedly a mutual interest, the team trains in Arizona (another sticking point for Demspter) and there’s his familiarity within the National League and Central Division.

I guess that’s what surprises me most. You’d think a guy still chasing a ring and entering the sunset of his career would be more intrigued by quality vs. quantity. Signing with the first club to simply offer a third year would appear to go against such logic. That doesn’t make Dempster wrong, just some food for thought.

Based purely on speculation, here are a few places (in no particular order) I think Dempster could land–and no, the Cubs don’t make the list.

  • SAN DIEGO. The Padres still need rotation depth, they train in Arizona and have money to spend with its newly inked $1.5 billion TV contract.
  • LA ANGELS. Despite the additions of Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton, the Angels, who also train in Arizona, could use more quality starting pitching. The money is there, the team’s competitive and Dempster wouldn’t have to face his long-time nemesis Albert Pujols. Bonus.
  • BALTIMORE. The Orioles are desperate to add a quality starter. Perhaps enough to kick-in that third year. However, the O’s train in Florida and play in the always tough AL East, which is even tougher now that the Blue Jays are a formidable division threat.
  • MINNESOTA. The Twins are also spring residents of Florida, but they are closer to one of Dempster’s homes in Chicago and need to upgrade a very thin rotation.
  • CLEVELAND. The three-years and roughly $35-million it would take to sign Dempster seems unlikely for the cash-strapped Tribe. However, the Indians need starting pitching and they could view Dempster as a valuable trade piece down the line.
  • MILWAUKEE. For all the reasons stated previously and with the thought one side will cave; either Dempster settles for a 2-year deal or Milwaukee extends itself for three.

Is Dempster worth a third year? You tell me…

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Will Dale Sveum See Cubs On Right Side Of Rebuild?

By bullpenbrian - December 7, 2012 - 5:15 am 1 comment.

Any idea who’s currently the longest tenured manager with one team in MLB? It’s Mike Scioscia. He’s been at the helm of the Angels the past 13 seasons.

In the long history of the Cubs only one of its managers lasted as long as Scioscia has in Anaheim. Cap Anson skippered Chicago for 19-straight seasons from 1879-1897. Quite awhile ago.

Meanwhile, the present runner-ups to Scioscia include Twins manager Ron Gardenhire who’s lasted 11 seasons in Minnesota, Charlie Manuel with 8 seasons in Philadelphia, Jim Leyland with 7 seasons in Detroit and Joe Maddon with 7 seasons in Tampa Bay.

Outside the Top 5, however, there’s a noticeable decline in manager’s staying power. In fact, the average length of time spent on the job for current managers heading into 2013 is less than 3.5 seasons.

Only five managers exceed that average: Ron Washington in Texas (6), Bruce Bochy in San Francisco (6), Bud Black in San Diego (6), Joe Girardi in New York (5) and Dusty Baker in Cincinnati (5).

Otherwise, two-thirds of the league’s managers have been on the job three seasons or less. Six begin their inaugural season with their respective clubs next spring, half of which are rookie bench bosses: Bo Porter (Houston), Walt Weiss (Colorado) and Mike Redmond (Miami).

I became interested in this topic thinking about how much string Dale Sveum will receive as the Cubs manager? Epstein and Hoyer reiterate they envision Sveum as‘the guy’ when the team finally turns the corner from rebuilding, which still appears several seasons away.

If we project the Cubs to be .500 or better in 2015 Sveum will have already been on the job three years. And if he’s lasted that long there’s reason to believe he’ll be retained with a team poised to compete for the postseason.

That could put Sveum on path to near the head of the class for the league’s current list of longest tenured managers with one team, assuming the Cubs continue to win.

On the other hand, as the Cubs climb closer to being competitive the patience of the rebuild will have worn thin on Team Theo and the fans. Everyone will expect a winner given the talent on the field and the tedious wait to assemble a competitive roster.

Sveum, needless to say, will have little room for error if he’s to become the Cubs’ version of Mike Scioscia vs. the latest quadrennial skipper. Of course, all he needs to do is win a World Series. And how hard can that be?

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Cubs Staying The Course, Sign OF Nate Schierholtz

By bullpenbrian - December 6, 2012 - 10:30 am 2 comments.

Nate Schierholtz? Didn’t see this one coming, but it falls right in line with the Cubs’ course of action this offseason–patching up holes with affordable stop-gap players.

First Scott Baker ($5.5M), then Dioner Navarro ($1.75M), next Scott Feldman ($4.5M) and now Schierholtz ($2.25M).

The upside for Schierholtz is his left-handed bat and ability to play both corner outfield positions. He’s also in his prime, 28, and could stay under team control for a second season if all goes well in 2013…or could be used as trade bait come July.

In the meantime his signing adds outfield depth with the likelihood Soriano is dealt before Opening Day. With David DeJesus moving to center Schierholtz projects as the starting right fielder leaving Brett Jackson, Dave Sappelt, Tony Campana and Bryan Bogusevic filling-in as needed.

Schierholtz is far from a splash signing, but he does fill a need and comes with low-risk, high-reward potential.

Given the Cubs’ track record this offseason it appears we should expect a similar signing for third base and at least one more bullpen arm; the two biggest remaining needs.

Perhaps the relief arm can be filled by RHP Hector Rondon (Indians) who the Cubs selected in the Rule 5 Draft this morning. Nonetheless, there’s still plenty of time this winter to find a couple more serviceable players before the spring.

Of course none of the players the Cubs have added this winter can be considered a sure-thing, including Kyugi Fujikawa, but those they have signed should help stop the bleeding of a 101-loss team. That’s an important first order of business and a reminder patience is a virtue.

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When Cubs Had Josh Hamilton, Angel Pagan and Alfonso Soriano

By bullpenbrian - December 5, 2012 - 5:15 am Leave a comment.

Crazy to think at one point the Cubs could’ve played an outfield of Josh Hamilton,Angel Pagan and Alfonso Soriano.

It could’ve happened as early as 2007, but the possibility hardly had a chance to take root and likely wouldn’t have lasted long anyway.

Chicago selected Hamilton with the third overall pick in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft, but immediately traded him to Cincinnati for $100,000.

Meanwhile, Pagan, then 24, had just made his major league debut in 2006. He stayed through 2007 as a part-time player (injuries too) before Jim Hendry traded him during the offseason to the Mets for Corey Coles and Ryan Meyers, neither of whom reached the big leagues.

Granted the Cubs won back-to-back divisions titles in ’07-’08, but what might have been had Hendry not pushed all his chips in on outfielders Matt Murton, Felix Pie and Kosuke Fukudome?

And that’s not to forget Soriano’s mega-deal of 8-years, $136M.

To be fair, Hendry wasn’t always afforded the luxury of a long-term approach to win a world series. The Tribune company wanted to sell the team and a championship trophy was the leverage to increase the selling price. The future success of the organization was barely an afterthought.

Shortsightedness, however, is one of the pitfalls of a ‘win-now’ mentality the Cubs were operating under five-years ago. It induces panic to set in when falling short of the ultimate goal, and when panic takes hold you sign Milton Bradley.

That’s why it’s so encouraging Tom Ricketts is taking an opposite approach from the previous ownership. With Team Theo the Cubs are methodically building a plan for sustained success.

The ultimate goal will always be winning the world series, but when the Cubs fall short it won’t take hitting rock-bottom to get another crack at the hardware.

The pace of rebuilding is painfully slow, but the chance another dynamic outfield trio slips through Chicago’s hands is unlikely. With Epstein at the wheel the future will never be out of sight out of mind; for that we can be thankful.

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Does Jim Deshaies Play Guitar?

By bullpenbrian - December 4, 2012 - 2:00 am 2 comments.

Jim Deshaies is replacing Bob Brenly in the Cubs’ broadcast booth.

He’s not who many fans wanted, or was even among those we thought might get the job. In fact, Deshaies wasn’t even mentioned as a candidate until a month into the search. Now he has a 4-year deal with WGN and the Cubs.

I don’t have a real opinion of Deshaies because I’ve never actually heard him during a full broadcast. I don’t recognize his voice and I couldn’t tell you what his face looked like until Monday.

What I do know, however, is Deshaies is highly regarded for his broadcast work, which began with Houston in 1997. That’s plenty of time to build a reputation, and it’s one Astros fans have thought highly of over the past 15 seasons.

Remember Drayton McLane letting Alan Ashby go? Letting JD walk out of the Astros broadcast booth could be Jim Crane’s Ashby, and believe me he doesn’t want that on his permanent record. -Timothy De Block, CrawfishBoxes.com

In March FanGraphs.com rated Deshaies and his former partner in Houston, Bill Brown, as the No.4 broadcast duo in MLB–two spots ahead of Len & Bob. The fact the Cubs went ‘outside’ the organization to hire Deshaies also speaks to his talent.

Deshaies’ broadcast style of dry-wit and solid game analysis has been likened to Brenly’s on-air style. Perhaps his decision to take a new opportunity is similar to Brenly’s as well?

The Astros organization is going through a major upheaval. The team’s posted its two worst regular seasons in consecutive years and is making a move to the American League West in 2013.

One of Deshaies’ three daughters is currently in law school at the University of Illinois, another is a senior in high school; Brenly makes a home in Arizona, wants to retire there and is already loved by the Diamondbacks’ fan base for leading the team to its only World Series championship in 2001.

Maybe the combination of a new chapter in Astros’ baseball and Deshaies’ home life helped spark his decision to head north? Or in both cases, maybe Brenly and Deshaies had their fill of covering 100-loss teams and felt they could be more comfortable professionally elsewhere?

Whatever the reasons, both Brenly and Deshaies publicly stated they expected to return to their respective clubs following the 2012 season. Neither did of course.

As a fan I was particularly interested in the Cubs hiring either Dan Plesac or Doug Glanville as Brenly’s replacement. But that doesn’t mean I won’t give Deshaies a fair shake.

Instead, I’m grateful the Cubs went with an experienced and proven professional. By all accounts Deshaies is no hack. He’s informed, entertaining and best of all, a likeable guy.

“He works hard and brings with and humor and knowledge of the game to the booth every single night, he’s one of the best broadcasters in the country and a fan favorite. People always comment to me just how much they enjoy his work.”       -Bill Brown

Of course it’s going to take some getting used to Deshaies, just as it was with Brenly, but I’m already looking forward to hearing the Cubs’ new broadcast team.

I’m also curious to find out if Deshaies’ is musically talented? Does he play guitar, the drums…anything? Who’s Len going to partner with on stage now that Bob’s history?

Paul Sullivan of the Tribune tweeted Kasper pushed hard for WGN/Cubs to land Deshaies, so there must be a musical connection, right?

Nonetheless, I now introduce to you the “Len & JD Show.”

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Cubs Better Off Keeping Soriano?

By bullpenbrian - December 3, 2012 - 1:45 pm 2 comments.

Theo Epstein says he won’t ‘give away’ Alfonso Soriano this week via trade.

But the more I think about it, ‘settling’ on an offer for Sori during the Winter Meetings might be the best option for Chicago.

Soriano turns 37 in January. His trade value will likely never be higher than what it is now coming off his productive season in 2012.

If the Cubs wait to deal Soriano there’s the risk he gets off to a slow start in 2013 or worse, gets injured. Then what do you get for him?

His full no-trade clause could also make it tougher to deal him next July, as was the case this past year, which only increases the risk of hanging on to him.

Perhaps the biggest trouble is replacing Soriano’s offensive production (32 HR, 108 RBI, 121 OPS+).

The Cubs finished 28/30 in runs scored last season with only a few signs indicating the offense could be slightly better next season.

However, if the Cubs land a quality center fielder this week the offensive outlook changes. Another legit hitting outfielders alongside Soriano could survive with a rotating platoon in right field.

It may take the Cubs figuring out what they’re going to do in center field before determining what to do about Soriano in left.

But if I’m the Cubs I’d pull the trigger on the best offer for Soriano in Nashville. He needs to be replaced eventually and it’s hard to imagine the offers for him are any better following the Winter Meetings.

I don’t want to see the Cubs ‘give away’ Soriano, either. But I would like to see something of value in return for him, too.

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Cubs Build Momentum With Kyuji Fujikawa Signing

By bullpenbrian - December 2, 2012 - 7:00 am Leave a comment.

This move is really exciting. The Cubs desperately need bullpen help and adding Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa is an immediate upgrade.

It’s not your classic rebuild move, Fujikawa is 32, but his successful career in Japansuggest he’s well worth the reported 2-year, $9.5M deal (202 career saves in six seasons with the Hanshin Tigers, including a 1.32 ERA in 2012).

Part of rebuilding is a balancing act between patient for the organization’s long-range goals and promptest to better the team in the standings year-to-year.

So occasionally the Cubs will need sidestep the classic rebuilding moves (young, unproven prospects) in favor of players who can impact the club immediately, which is exactly how I view the Fujikawa signing.

This is why I’ve been adamant Team Theo would have a surprise signing or two for us this winter (Fujikawa included); the Cubs simply can’t afford another 101-loss season in the name of rebuilding.

It’s one thing to patch holes with prospects, but making the team more competitive in 2013 will require more proven players, albeit more expensive ones who may only be around a year or two.

With baseball’s winter meetings beginning in Nashville on Monday, don’t be surprised if the Cubs make another splash through trade or free agency.

Even with the addition of Fujikawa the bullpen remains thin and finding a solid center fielder is another priority–among other needs.

I’m not suggesting the Cubs will make a move for 2013 at the risk of jeopardizing the long-term rebuild, but acquiring another name-player like Fujikawa doesn’t appear out of the question.

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