Now how could trading a player who makes the league minimum help the Cubs cut costs you ask? Well, when the player is Tyler Colvin, the savings on the team dental plan alone has to be in the tens of millions.
And so, the Cubs traded him and his lofty stat line last year .150/.204/.306 with 58 K’s to 14 walks along with oddly misshapen infielder DJ LaMehieu to the Rockies for a third baseman who put up stats nearly as terrible as Colvin’s and a pitcher who can’t throw a strike.
Writers are trying to figure out “where it went wrong” for Colvin. I’m not sure where it went right. Sure he had an .816 OPS as a rookie, but only .316 of that was on base average, and it’s hard to support any level of competence when you can’t get on base with regularity. Colvin had a low on base average in college, and a low on base average in the minors. He struck out a lot and he never walked. Those are the hallmarks of a shitty baseball player.
Granted, he shouldn’t have been .150 shitty, but he was a much better bet to fail than to succeed. LeMahieu’s bat plays like a second baseman, but at 6’4 he’s the size of a third baseman. Unlike his buck toothed counterpart, LeMahieu consistently hit for average and got on base all through the minors. If he develops any power (he currently has none) he’s got a shot to be a solid player at third. That doesn’t seem likely, though.
In return, the Cubs got Ian Stewart. No, not the former keyboard player from the Rolling Stones, the former first round draft pick of the Rockies. At 19 he hit 30 homers a class-A Asheville in the Sally League and was ranked as the fourth best prospect in baseball. By 22 he was at AAA hitting for power and average.
He even had success in the majors. Ten homers in part time duty and a .349 on base in 2008. Twenty-five homers (but with a .228 average) in 2009. But this past year he was back in AAA Colorado Springs for a long spell. He put up a pathetic .156/.243/.221 and was on his way out. If your team would rather play Ty Wigginton, Kevin Kouzmanoff or Jose Lopez at your spot, you are done for.
The last player in the deal is Rockies pitcher Casey Weathers. He was a first round pick in 2007, but caught Tommy John Disease in 2009. He came back in 2010 to pitch 30 innings in the minors. Last year he was in the bullpen at AA and struck out 48 guys in 45 innings and only gave up 32 hits. Of course, he walked 48 guys. He clearly did not face Tyler Colvin enough.
On Saturday, the Cubs picked up Jeff Bianchi off of waivers from the Kansas City Royals. I don’t have to tell you who Jeff Bianchi is.
Though I should, but first I have to figure out who he is. Fine, I’ll look him up.
(Uses his Google-machine to look up Jeff Bianchi)
OK, he was a second round draft pick of the Royals in 2005 and he hit better than .400 in his first two minor league seasons (both abbreviated). He’s played mostly short, but some second in the minors. He’s a right handed hitter and, you might have guessed by his positions, a right handed thrower.
He struggled in both the Midwest League (but if you got sent to Burlington, Iowa to play baseball you’d either struggle or kill yourself) and Carolina Leagues. But a second stint in the Carolina league at 22 in 2009 went well and he was promoted to AA Northwest Arkansas at midseason and hit well there. He then missed all of 2010, either due to injury, or perhaps (and slightly less likely) a stint in the French Foreign Legion. He returned last year to be completely underwhelming in a return to Northwest Arkansas. He’s shown an ability to steal bases in the minors 76 in 98 attempts and he enjoys a good strikeout (382 in 490 games), though not at the frequency that Jim Hendry-era Cubs would have liked.
He’s being brought in to fill out Iowa’s roster in LeMahieu’s absence…though, Junior Lake probably has other ideas about going back to AA Tennessee, and if Junior gets off to a good start there this year, who knows?
OK, since we’re impatient, and even though camp doesn’t open for two months and the Cubs will have made several more changes by then, let’s try to figure out what they’re doing.
So far they’ve added a lefty hitting outfielder in David DeJesus, who is coming off a lousy season, but he’s athletic, has played well in the past and because he’s coming off an injury plagued year they’re buying low on him. He could very well fill that pesky leadoff spot, allowing the Cubs only good hitter to hit second or third. They’ve added Stewart who is a lefty hitting third baseman who plays plus defense and has shown flashes of being a very good player. However, he showed none of those flashes last year. Given how early in the offseason the Cubs started trying to get him, you have to think that they see something in him. There’s no question there’s a lot of talent there. That doesn’t always equate to performance.
So early signs are that the Cubs are looking to acquire players they fell are about to bounce back. They want them cheap and they want them short-term. The 2012 Cubs are not being built to make a dash at the pennant. They’re being built to sort through what players are worth keeping and which ones aren’t. Criticize Jim Hendry’s contracts all you want (and there’s plenty of fodder there) but the Cubs enjoy a lot of short term flexibility right now.
Consider that on the 40-man roster the only players the Cubs are committed to past 2013 is Alfonso Soriano. That’s it. After this season, the Cubs can wave goodbye to anybody else. Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster are in the final year of their deals. Marlon Byrd is done after this season. Even Sean Marshall can walk.
This season will be about trying to get value for whatever he can. Zambrano and Dempster should both be traded during the season (unless Carlos goes nutso again…pretty safe bet, I suppose), as should Byrd. The Cubs will make an effort to get younger and more athletic in the field, and at times this offense could be brutally punchless for a while. You know…like last year. But suddenly a team that can afford a $140 million payroll will be paying far less than that, opening them up for the kinds of trades where you can clean up on, when a team decides it can’t afford a really good player any more.
The Cubs might surprise and throw a big contract at Prince Fielder, but that seems unlikely. He’s an awesome offensive player, and if he’d sign for five years it’s a no-brainer, but he’ll want 10 and his agent, Scott Boras, will get that…and a no-trade. Prince is, to put it bluntly, too fat to sign through is age 37 season. So…no.
But until they’re ready to contend, enjoy Kim DeJesus: