In a very Cub-like move, the Indians have signed former Cub Rich Hill to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. Hill underwent Tommy John surgery in June of 2011.
Boston, however, deserves credit for saving Hill’s once promising career as a starter. The Red Sox lowered his arm angle and transitioned him to a full-time reliever in 2010. *(Hill did pitch some relief innings at Triple-A with St. Louis, but never reached the majors)
During the past three seasons, all with Boston, Hill is (2-0, 1.14 ERA) in 40 games–including 25 games last season after recovering from TJS.
Despite a solid season with the Cubs in 2007, in which Hill made 32 starts, pitched 195.0 innings and won 11 games, he lost the confidence of Sweet Lou the following season by walking 18 batters in 19.2 innings of his first five starts. The Cubs subsequently optioned Hill to Triple-A Iowa, where he finished out the ‘08 season, and his career with the Cubs.
Baltimore took a flyer by purchasing Hill from Chicago in Feb. 2009. But the southpaw pitched even worse with the Orioles, winning just three games in 13 starts while posting a 7.80 ERA. Then Boston came calling, made a few alterations and wound up with a decent bullpen arm.
It’s a bit surprising Boston let the 32-year-old go, which could now prove a big steal for Cleveland, if, in fact, Hill has fully recovered from his elbow injury. And that’s exactly what the Cubs are hoping for with recent Tommy John Club members Scott Baker, Arodys Vizcaino and Chang-yong Lim.
Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer comprised a list of the Indians’
Top 5 and Bottom 5 free agent signings in their franchise history.
Two former Cubs made the list…in the Bottom 5, no less.
Kerry Wood and Ricky Gutierrez.
In Hoynes’ words:
- 2. RHP Kerry Wood – Signed: Dec. 13, 2008 to a 2-year, $20.5M deal. Stats: Former GM Mark Shapiro thought the Indians were ready to win and Wood would be the last piece as a lock-down closer. Wood, as his history showed, couldn’t stay healthy and never really got the hang of closing after being a starter most of his career. The Indians have not spent big money on a free agent since.
- 4. 2B Ricky Gutierrez – Signed: Dec. 17, 2001 to a 2-year, $6M deal.
Stats: In their haste to replace Roberto Alomar at second base, the Indians signed free agent Ricky Gutierrez, who was coming off a career season with the Cubs. The problem was Gutierrez was damaged goods. He needed two vertebra fused in his neck and played only 110 games in two years for the Tribe.
Cubs fans are asking me with more frequency how much longer before our boys in blue are competitive again?
What I can say with certainty is: not next year, and probable not the following season, either.
A best case scenario, meaning most of the Cubs’ young prospects and draft picks pan-out, is three years from now in 2015–and that might be pushing it.
A more cautious, but realistic prediction, is actually four or five years down the road before we’ll see the Cubs in championship form. That feels like eons from now, but such is life for a rebuilding baseball franchise.
LOOK NO FURTHER THAN THE REDS
A current example of a proper rebuild is the Cincinnati Reds, who coincidentally, were busy taking three of four games from the Cubs at Wrigley over the weekend.
It’s already been seven years since Bob Castellini purchased the Reds and promised the return of championship baseball to the Queen City.
The Reds, of course, haven’t won a championship or even appeared in a World Series during Castellini’s reign, but it hasn’t been from a lack of effort.
Similar to the Cubs recent state, Castellini was rebuilding the Reds from the ground-up in 2006.
He began by breaking the franchise’s frugal traditions and re-signed top of the rotation arms Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo to major extensions.
He then signed high-priced manager Dusty Baker, parted ways with over-valued stars such as Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn, and sought the services of general managing guru Walk Jocketty.
The Reds maintained its emphasis on the June amateur draft (Homer Bailey & Jay Bruce were 1st Rd picks in 2004-05) selecting Drew Stubbs, Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier, Mike Leake, Brad Boxberger and Yonder Alonso–the later two being dealt this past December to San Diego for starting pitcher Matt Latos (10-3, 3.81). The others are regulars in the Reds everyday lineup.
Castellini also surprised the entire league with a Jorge Soler-type commitment to Aroldis Chapman, signing the Cuban Missile to a 6-year, $30.25M deal in 2010.
And that’s just a brief look at the over-haul, which doesn’t include the emergence of Joey Votto as the National League MVP or the acquisitions of key veteran players such as Scott Rolen and Ryan Ludwick.
However, it took the Reds five rebuilding years before they posted a winning record, an NL Central division title in 2010.
But even then, the young club was caught in the headlights of postseason baseball, no-hit by Phillies’ Ace Roy Halladay in Game 1 of the NLDS and quickly swept out of October two games later.
Last season was another down year with a few more additions needed to complete the rebuild. And finally, seven years later, the rebuild has come to completion.
The Reds, at long last, are poised for a World Series run, and should be for the foreseeable future.
DAVE OTTO KNOWS BEST
Former Cubs pitcher, Dave Otto, a part-time radio/television analyst on Cubs broadcasts, reinforced the patience of a rebuild during his on-air interview with Len and Bob Sunday afternoon.
Otto was a member of the Cleveland Indians during the 1991-92 seasons when Cleveland’s recommitment to rebuilding through the amateur draft brought in the likes of Manny Ramirez, Chad Ogea, Paul Byrd and Paul Shuey.
These players joined the ranks of the Indians other young core players such as Jim Thome, Kenny Lofton, Mark Lewis, Charles Nagy, Carlos Baerga and Julian Tavarez.
The Tribe, mind you, lost 105-games in 1991 and 86-games both the following two seasons.
In 1994, however, Cleveland was on its way to a winning season before the infamous strike, but rebounded in 1995 with a 100-win campaign.
The Indians lastly surrounded its young core with talented free agents such as Dave Winfield, Orel Hershiser and Dave Martinez, among others.
The 1995 season marked the first of seven consecutive winning seasons, including six playoff appearances and two World Series births–all over the stretch of 10 years since the beginning of its rebuild.
REBUILDING THE RIGHT WAY
The example of the Reds and Indians are just two of many successful rebuild stories that have happened in my time following the game.
But I choose these two franchises because they rebuilt the right way; from the ground-up using draft picks to create a young, talented core surrounded by quality veteran free-agents.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are taking similar action with the Cubs rebuilding efforts. Out with the old, in with the new and waiting to sign big-name free-agents as icing on the cake. And as we understand from the two examples above, that doesn’t happen in one offseason.
So to best answer the question “how long will it take the Cubs to rebuild?” is–not any time soon. But however long it does take should be well worth the bumpy ride in the long run.
As Tom Petty would sing, ‘it’s the waiting that’s the hardest part.’
QUESTION: “I want to hear your thoughts on Fukudome. The Reds are looking for a 3rd/4th outfielder, and I don’t know why this guy isn’t signed yet?
It seems like he still gets on-base, is a above-average fielder, and can play all 3 OF spots, right?
Considering they are also dabbling in the Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick, and Juan Pierre pool, Fukudome seems like the best choice.”
- email from Michael P., Indianapolis
ANSWER: You’re right, Mike. I haven’t heard the name Kosuke Fukudome mentioned at all this offseason and I suspect that has a lot to do with his four underachieving years in Chicago and poor finish last season in Cleveland.
Kerry Wood’s spent 12 seasons in the bigs. He’s also made 12 trips to the DL, and a 13th is in the making.
Prognosis: a strained muscle below his lower right shoulder–out 6-8 weeks.
The Indians had to know this was coming. But they still forked over $20.5M for two-years. Foolish.
Last season the 32-year-old went 3-3, 4.25 ERA, and 20-of-26 in save chances. Decent, but clearly not worth the money.
My guess, given Wood makes a full recovery, is the Tribe eats some of the contract and deals Kerry by the end of July. Somebody will take him, I just hope the Cubs are not that desperate.
This is how Cubs baseball is suppose to look.
The lineup hit like it should…a quality outing from Randy Wells…and Kevin Gregg closes the door.
Keep hitting the repeat button and the Cubs close in next on St. Louis.
I said Saturday the Cubs could use a nice 6-3 win to complement its three consecutive walk-off wins. Sunday’s 6-2 margin of victory does the trick.
Of course, walk-off wins are positive reminders that you’re never out of the game, but winning in the fashion the Cubs did Sunday should remind this team what winning feels like on a consistent basis.
At last, some Cubbie swagger!
We’ll all remember the Cubs’ three consecutive walk-off wins if they make the postseason.
Had they gone the other way, however, the Cubs would have been in a world of hurt. Instead, they’re just 2.5 games back of first place St. Louis.
Another steal sets the table for a walk-off win–Fukudome stealing second base after leading off the 13th with a single.
I’d like to see Lou run his guys more often. There’s no reason Theriot, Soriano, and Fukudome shouldn’t be on the move after reaching base.
Ever since Soriano’s hot start fizzled out and Aramis went down, the Cubs have been without a clutch hitter. It’s been the root of their problems offensively.
Cubs baseball hasn’t been this exciting for a long time.
Maybe the confidence is back to string together a winning streak?
It should be after erasing a 7-0 deficit!
This is the Derek Lee the Cubs need batting cleanup: three hits, two home runs, and a 16-game hitting streak. Plus, the man has reached base safely in 26 straight games!
When you’re down a run in the bottom of the ninth, you want the cleanup batter at the plate. Lee delivered with a game-tying blast, and that’s the way it should be!
As a guest Monday morning on ESPN 1000′s Waddle & Silvy Show Mark DeRosa says he still has moments when he gets ticked about being traded by the Cubs.
The former North Sider went on to say that despite his arrival in Chicago as a virtual unknown player (to Cubs fans) the Chicago faithful welcomed him with open arms even to the point of making him a fan favorite, and that affection continues to resonate with him.
Plus, on top of his popularity in Chicago is the fact he’ll miss out on a chance to be part of the first Cubs team to win a World Series in more than 100 years.
Of course, listening to the interview made me wish for sentimental reasons that DeRosa was still a Cub, but I stand by my earlier opinion that dealing Mark was in the best interest of the team.
However, because D-Ro is a class act I have no doubt he’ll be shown the same love in Cleveland.
And according to Forbes.com DeRosa has plenty of company leaving town.
In this article Chicago is listed as one of America’s most miserable cities: terrible winter weather, high sales tax and plenty of corrupt public officials – to name a few – has steadily pushed Chicagoans to seek better living elsewhere during the past seven years.
Heck, even Obama left for Washington.
On the bright side, with the Indians playing in the AL Central Cubs fans still have an opportunity to get some more D-Ro when the Tribe visits US Cellular (June 4-7).
Replacing Mark DeRosa in the lineup won’t be as difficult as finding a new quote machine for the Cubs.
Always well spoken, DeRosa was a regular guest on Chicago sports radio as well as the mouthpiece for the the Cubs’ players in the post game interviews.
It’s rare these days to find any player who speaks his mind truthfully rather than settling for the good ‘ol sports cliches.
Still, on the baseball side it’s not a bad move by Hendry; DeRosa’s stock is high after setting career highs at the plate in HR (21), RBIs (87), walks (69) and runs (103).
And, at 33-years-old Mark will finally have a full-time spot at with Cleveland at 3B – or wherever else he’s needed.
The addition of Aaron Miles fills the utility-role left vacant with DeRosa’s departure to Cleveland and it’s also time to find out if Mike Fontenot can be an everyday player at 2B.
Completing the D-Ro deal are three minor league pitchers, none of which appear to be around for long in the Cubs organization.
Everything I’m reading says Hendry is going to swing the newly acquired prospects in another deal, preferably for a left-handed power bat.
And let’s face it, nothing brightens a trade proposal like young starting pitching…something EVERY TEAM is in search of these days.
Of course, I feel disappointed for DeRosa, a stand up guy who wanted nothing more than to help bring a championship to the North Side.
Sure, in many ways Cleveland offers DeRosa similar opportunities: the Indians haven’t won a championship since 1948, the Jake is a modern day gem and the club itself is a legitimate playoff contender.
All that being said, nothing quite matches playing in Wrigley Field on a team World Series bound.
So long No. 7, we’ll miss you, especially in the post game.