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Cubs Connection: Jamie Moyer, Matt Garza & Big Z

By bullpenbrian - January 8, 2013 - 3:00 am Leave a comment.

Cubs transactions for January 8th:

1992 – Signed Jamie Moyer as a free agent

2011 – Traded Hak-Ju Lee, Chris Archer, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer to Tampa Bay for Zach Rosscup, Fernando Perez and Matt Garza

Would you make the same trade today?

-Carlos Zambrano, Anyone?

Still no takers for Big Z. Not surprising, really.
In years 29, 30 & 31 he’s averaged just 22 starts per season.
Hasn’t pitched more than 200 innings since 2007 (216.1).
Has won fewer than 10-games in 3 of last 4 seasons…(11 in 2010).

Part of Z being a head case wasn’t just his childish behavior and immaturity. It was always a concern of mine Zambrano wasn’t learning how to be a pitcher vs. a thrower.

Miami was suppose to rejuvenate the big right-hander. Instead, he went (7-10, 4.49) while Ozzie, of all managers, demoted him to the bullpen mid-season.

Zambrano had long mentioned he would retire at the end of his 5-year, $90 million contract extension originally signed with the Cubs in 2007. Currently that appears to be his only option.

When Theo shipped Z to the Marlins last January (along with $15 million) it was never a matter of what the Cubs were getting in return. Rather, the Cubs needed to rid the team of a malcontent in favor of revitalizing the clubhouse culture.

Chris Volstad was the return piece of course, but regardless of how poorly Volstad (3-12, 6.31) was last season the Cubs were no doubt better off distancing themselves from El Toro.

My gut feeling, however, is some team will reach out to Z before spring training. What a mistake that will be.


Berkman To Rangers Shades Of Pena To Cubs

By bullpenbrian - January 7, 2013 - 2:15 pm Leave a comment.

Jim Hendry was desperate for a first baseman in the winter of 2010, which is why he seemingly overpaid to sign Carlos Pena to a 1-year, $10 million deal.

Although Pena’s individual results in 2011 were not disastrous, it did little to keep Mike Quade from running the team into the wood chipper.

Flash forward to Friday where the Rangers made a similar desperate move by inking Lance Berkman to a 1-year, $10 million deal.

The Rangers have suffered Texas-sized heartbreak this winter. They’ve lost Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young while struggling to keep up with those pesky Angels.

So it’s reasonable to wonder if that’s why the Rangers are suddenly in favor of offering up 10-large to an injury-riddled DH who needed to be coaxed out of retiring?

For certain it puts a new shine on Pena’s old deal with Chicago. His offensive numbers in 2011 were clearly not worthy of $10M alone, but Pena did provide the Cubs with Gold Glove defense and much needed clubhouse leadership during a trying season.

It’s hard to imagine Berkman, four years older than Pena, can be of the same value for the same price as Pena was to the Cubs.

Granted the Rangers are in much better shape than those 2011 Cubs were, but it’s safe to say Berkman’s far from a Gold Glover and fair to assume he’s not going to be the same hitter he was just two years ago during his All Star season in St. Louis, which many seem to forget…was two years ago!

If the Rangers fall short of expectations next season, which presumably is a division title, no one will point to the Berkman signing as the team’s shortcoming. Instead, it will be the many moves that led to Berkman’s signing, just as it was with Hendry when he signed an over-priced first baseman to the Cubs.

Carlos Pena
2011: 33 years old, 1-year, $10 million
153-games, .225/.357/.462 – OPS+123
28 HR, 80 RBI…101 walks set franchise record for 1B
Gold Glove defense, clubhouse leader

Lance Berkman
Magical season of 2011 including postseason:
177-games .295/.408/.533, 33 HR, 105 RBI

*Then 2012 season…
32-games, 81 at-bats, 2 HR, 7 RBI
Plagued by left calf and a a torn meniscus in right knee
Is he worth $10 million?


Cubs Sign D-Train to Minor League Deal

By bullpenbrian - January 5, 2013 - 9:00 am Leave a comment.

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports the Cubs have inked Dontrelle Willis to a minor league deal. Really?

The Cubs could use another lefty reliever, but this is one heckuva long shot. If Willis can adopt to a bullpen role, specifically as a loogy, there’s a chance he could make the team in spring training, but it’s a slim one.

Current Cubs southpaws:

  • Travis Wood
  • James Russell
  • Brooks Raley
  • Chris Rusin
  • Hisanori Takahasi

Dontrelle Willis – 31 years old
All Time (72-69, 4.17) ERA+101
Lifetime .244 batter, 9 HR, 39 RBI
Last pitched in the major in 2011 with Reds
13 starts, (1-6, 5.00) ERA+79

Tigers (2008-10)
3 years (2-8, 6.86) in 22 starts
Total bust ERA+64

Marlins (2003-07)
5 years (68-54, 3.78) in 162 starts
15 complete games, 8 shutouts
Won ROY 2003
2-time All Star
Finished 2nd Cy Young 2005 (22-10, 2.63)

Vs. Cubs in 2003 NLCS
(0-1) 2-games, 1-start
Started Game 4 – 8-3 win for Cubs at Miami
2.1, 6-ER, 3-H, 5-BB, 2-K, 12.38 ERA: allowed first inning grand slam to Aramis

Cubs in minor leagues
2000: Rookie League (3-1, 3.76) 9-games, 1 start
2001: Boise (8-2, 2.98) 15 starts

Drafted by Cubs in 8th round 2000
Traded to Marlins in 2002 for Antonio Alfonseca & Matt Clement
Traded by Marlins to Detroit with Miguel Cabrera in 2007 for Dallas Trahern (minors), Burke Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller and Mike Rabelo


North Side & South Side Players

By bullpenbrian - December 29, 2012 - 11:35 pm Leave a comment.

Here’s a list of 10 noticeable players who have suited up for both the Cubs and the White Sox during their playing careers.

Ron Santo, Sammy Sosa, Steve Stone, Goose Gossage, Juan Pierre, George Bell, Kosuke Fukudome, Neal Cotts, Lance Johnson & Darrin Jackson.

Tony Campana nearly joined the list last summer, but the Cubs declined a White Sox’s trade proposal for the scrappy speedster.

Ron Santo, however, wrapped up his 15-year career on the South Side in 1974. He spent the majority of the season as the DH hitting .221, 5 HR, 41 RBI–the lowest totals of his entire career.

Santo’s move south was actually part of a trade that brought Steve Stone to the Cubs in December of 1973. Stone spent three rather mediocre seasons on the North Side compiling a (23-20, 4.04) record before rejoining the White Sox for 1977-78, where he won 27-games total during the following two seasons.

Ten years later the Rangers traded Sammy Sosa to the White Sox in July of 1989. He played another two seasons for the White Sox hitting .227, 28 HR, 113 RBI all totaled before being shipped to the North Side for George Bell in March of 1992.

Sosa was 23 when he arrived with the Cubs and of course went on to hit 545 home runs with the club to become the franchise’s all-time homerun leader.


Cubs New Look BP Caps

By bullpenbrian - December 28, 2012 - 12:30 am Leave a comment.

Cubs Batting Practice

Here’s a look at the Cubs’ new batting practice caps for the upcoming season.

It’s a similar look to the old road caps, which I’ve been clamoring for the team to bring back since ditching them in 2009.

If you look closely it appears the center of the ‘C’ is a grey color, which has recently become popular in new uniforms, but I’m not 100-percent sure it’s an off-white.

It will be nice to have the red brims back for a few seasons (until the league redesigns the caps again) but I really hope it’s a look for the Cubs that’s here to stay.

Paul Lukas of ESPN Fandom reviews all the new lids here.


Cubs Need Another Southpaw

By bullpenbrian - December 27, 2012 - 12:39 am Leave a comment.

The Cubs could use another left-handed reliever to compliment James Russell.

Jeff Beliveau, who was an up & comer, became a casualty of the Cubs freeing up their 40-man roster last week when he was claimed off waivers by the Rangers.

Southpaws Brooks Raley and Chris Rusin made their MLB debuts as starters last year, and so far there’s no indication either will transition to the bullpen for the upcoming season.

That leaves Travis Wood as the lone remaining left-hander on the roster, which should give him a slight edge in making the rotation vs. pitching out of the bullpen.

Additionally, the free agent market for lefty relief arms is slim pickings. Of the eight remaining lefties still available here are three I think the Cubs should take look at:

  • JP Howell, 29, tops the list and the Cubs have already been linked to him. He missed all of 2010 due to shoulder surgery, had a horrible 2011 season and then rebounded nicely in 2012 wrapping up his fifth season in Tampa Bay. The tough part is there’s plenty of competition for Howell, including the Nationals, Rangers and Phillies. So if the Cubs want him they’ll probably have to come with the dollars and a multi-year offer.
  • Mike Gonzalez, 34, is coming off a decent campaign in Washington. He spent the previous two seasons in the AL with Baltimore and Texas posting an ERA above 4.00. He’s also pitched in the postseason the past two years with moderate success and could be another flipable trade piece for the Cubs in July. Like Howell, however, Gonzalez’s services are also being sought after by contending teams such as the Nationals and Reds.
  • Rafael Perez, 30, suffered through a nagging shoulder injury in 2012 that limited him to just 7.2 innings. Previously though he was one of the best lefty relievers in baseball with Cleveland. He’s no longer dominate as he was in his earlier years, but Perez is still a tough match vs. left-handed batters and could provide Russell enough of a breather to make him valuable.

The Cubs Other Third Baseman, Jesse Hodges

By bullpenbrian - December 27, 2012 - 12:15 am Leave a comment.

Jesse Hodges. An 18-year-old third baseman born in Canadian and discovered by the Cubs in Korea.

This past October he played in the Cubs’ Instructional League in Mesa, Ariz. with the likes of Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Daniel Vogelbach, Trevor Gretzky, Duane Underwood and Dillon Maples.

Cubs beat writer Carrie Muskat brings us the story of Hodges’ dream to one day play for the Cubs in the major leagues. Click here.


Who’s In/Out of Cubs Rotation?

By bullpenbrian - December 26, 2012 - 5:45 pm Leave a comment.

GUEST POST | Josh Helms

How will the Cubs’ rotation shake out now that the team has seven serviceable starters?

Garza and Samardzija are the only pitchers from the 2012 staff who are assured spots in the starting rotation.  And let’s assume newly signed Edwin Jackson (4-years, $52 milliom) will be in the rotation come opening day, as well.

This leaves two starting spots left with four pitchers in the mix: Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Carlos Villanueva and Travis Wood.

Baker, recovering from TJS, is reportedly scheduled to be ready for full-time duty come spring training. But if we proceed with caution on Baker, that narrows the list down to three pitchers for the final two spots.

Wood holds a slight advantage over the field as the only left-hander, which could very well be enough to make him the No.4 starter. Behind Wood is either Feldman or Villanueva. Neither pitched as full-time starters last season, but both specifically signed with the Cubs in the hopes earning a full-time starting role.

So it’s likely Feldman and Villanueva battle it out this spring for the final rotation spot with the loser headed to a bullpen as a spot starter.

From this perspective the Cubs would break spring camp with the following rotation (not necessarily in this order): 1.Garza, 2.Samardzija, 3.Jackson, 4.Wood…5.Feldman/Villanueva, and 6.Baker as the wild card depending on his recovery.

Meanwhile, the speculation of the Cubs trading Garza is alive and well, but a trade is unlikely until Garza can prove he’s healthy after suffering the elbow injury that ended his season last July.

If that means the Cubs are stuck showcasing Garza for a few months, it’s all the better for the rotation. And as a nice change of pace the Cubs should actually have enough pitching depth to replace Garza with a quality arm (not an ace arm) if he’s dealt.

Potential trades and unforeseen injuries are certain to alter the pitching landscape as we get closer to the regular season. But it’s a reassuring sign the Cubs will be better this year knowing they have more good arms than available rotation spots.

Josh Helms is a husband and father of two. He has served in the US Army since 2002 and is currently stationed at FT Carson, CO. Josh originally hails from Byron, IL. His favorite player as a child was Ryne Sandberg, and by default, he became a Cubs fan/sufferer.


Al Michaels Says Hawks Nest As Wild As Wrigley’s Bleachers

By bullpenbrian - December 24, 2012 - 9:15 am Leave a comment.

Al Michaels likened Seattle’s 12th Man at CenturyLink Field to the Wrigley Field bleachers during the opening of NBC Football Night in America.

It’s a nice complement from the legendary broadcaster, but we all know the bleacher bums haven’t been on par with Seattle’s Hawk Nest in recent seasons. Bad Cubs teams and higher priced bleacher seats have understandably made for a more timid and well mannered crowd in the outfield.

Meanwhile, Seattle’s rambunctious crowd is recognized as the loudest in the NFL, and one of the toughest venues for opposing teams to play in. The Seahawks are undefeated at home this season (7-0), including a convincing 42-13 win vs. San Francisco Sunday night.

Prior to kickoff at every home game the Seahawks welcome back a former player or coach, or invite a local celebrity to raise the 12th man flag, a number the franchise retired in 1984 to honor the fans.

Sam Adams Seattle

In the video it’s former Seahawk great Sam Adams whipping the crowd into a frenzy. He was selected eighth overall by Seattle in the 1994 Draft and played six seasons for the team (94-99).

No doubt better days are ahead for the Wrigley Field bleacher bums. Cubs fans have never let a bad record stand in the way of a good party. And we should expect a better product on the field soon, too.

Stay tuned, Seattle.


Two Cubs Land In Indians Bottom 5 Free Agents

By bullpenbrian - December 24, 2012 - 9:00 am Leave a comment.

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.

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