Yesterday we took a tour of the Cubs position players as we head into the 2012 season. It wasn’t a pretty sight. It was like coming up on a motorcycle accident and realizing that the driver wasn’t wearing a helmet or pants.
Today, we hold our nose and cast a quick glance at the other half of the roster. The pitching staff.
Not since the days of Steve Rain, Daniel Garibay and Ruben Quevedo have the Cubs been this stacked with talent. Wait. I think I just lost the will to live.Read More
Every time I see outrage on the Interwebs among Cubs fans I reflexively run to the side opposite the outrage. The reason? Cubs fans are idiots.
What caused the idiot horde to take their rage out for a spin yesterday? Busty Olney reported the Cubs would listen to trade offers on Matt Garza.
WELL HOLY SHIT MERLENE, GET THE PITCHFORKS AND TORCHES, WEEZE GONNA PAY THEO A LITTLE VISIT!
A quick scan of the Cubs 40 man roster is a depressing scene. There are two really good players on the roster. Garza is one. Starlin Castro is the other. The rest can be separated into three tidy piles. Shitty players. Shitty, expensive players. Young players who will someday prove to be shitty and possibly expensive.
So I understand the urge to put a wall up around the two good players. (And that thudding sound you hear is just Starlin and Matt trying to play catch, which, given their fielding exploits in 2011 is a mostly futile effort.)
Let me be clear. I doubt that the Cubs will trade either player. Castro is 21 and already has a pair of .300 batting seasons to his credit. He’s just scratching the surface of his hitting talents. He’s a gawdawful shortstop, but either he’ll figure it out, or they’ll find another spot for him in the field. Maybe him and Alfonso Soriano can share left field? I don’t mean platoon, I mean both play it at the same time.
Garza just turned 28 and he’s a stud. His record was only 10-10 because the team sucked so hard, but he was as good as advertised last year. (Well, except for when the ball was hit at him. He made seven errors in 33 chances. Holy shit. It would hard to make that any errors in that few chances on purpose.)
But consider that the Cubs new boy band front office seems to grasp the idea that it’s going to take a while to turn this team around. They hired Dale Sveum to prop up the dugout for three years while they shovel the crap out of it, at which point they’ll thank him and hire a real manager.
So what’s the harm in finding out what players like Garza and Castro are worth in trade? Just because you talk with other teams about a player doesn’t mean you’re going to trade the guy. Shouldn’t it be the obligation of every general manager to have a handle on what his players are actually worth? For whatever reason, Jim Hendry refused to talk to other teams about certain players. Do you think he really ever had a substantive discussion with another team about Ryan Dempster? Last year he wouldn’t even talk to teams about free agent to be Carlos Pena. I’m not even sure that if Marlon Byrd hadn’t broken his face last year that Hendry would have shopped him around. That kind of stuff never made any sense.
What Cubs fans are (hopefully) going to have to get used to with Jed and Theo running things is a different way of doing business. Players could now be traded (gasp!) at the height of their trade value, not the absolute rock bottom. Fan favorites could very well get shipped out of town, because often times the guys the fans like aren’t nearly as good as the fans think they are.
If Jim Hendry had inherited the Red Sox roster the year after they won the World Series in 2004, you know what he’d have done. Kevin Millar would have gotten a five year contract extension for being folksy and a “team leader.” Bill Mueller would have been given a lifetime deal for winning a batting title in 2003 and being a grit factory in 2004. Keith Foulke would have been given a 12 year extension.
You know what really happened to them? Millar wasn’t brought back when his contract expired after the 2005 season and ended up being annoying in Baltimore instead of Boston. Mueller was a Dodger by 2006 and out of baseball in 2007. Foulke’s arm fell off, he missed all of 2007 and tried to come back in Oakland in 2008 and then retired.
So how much did the Red Sox suffer on the field and at the gate with the loss of these three World Series heroes? They sold more tickets than they ever had before and they won another World Series in 2007.
And…if you really want to know what Jed and Theo think about making deals that make fans happy, just remember what happened on July 31, 2004. They traded the second most popular Red Sox player of all time…to Jim Hendry and the Cubs, and won the World Series three months later.
So yeah…they’re willing to trade anybody.
A lot has been made about how the new collective bargaining agreement and its archaic limits on what you can pay draft picks and international signings will do to screw up Theo and Jed’s plans. It throws a wrench in them, certainly, but, whenever the rules change it pays to have the smart guys on your side. Guys like Theo and Andrew Friedman in Tampa and Jon Daniels in Texas will be the first ones to figure out how to use the new rules to their advantage.
Right now they all throw big money at draft picks. It allows them to convince players who are sure to go to college to take the money and head to rookie ball instead. It allows them to get first round value in the third, fifth, or this year, the twelfth rounds. They stockpile as many top prospects as possible and use them to fill holes on the big league roster or package them in trades to get bona fide big leaguers for them.
To some extent, that strategy will still work. The spending limits on draft picks will bring average signing prices down. A guy like Bryce Harper or Steven Strasburg is still going to get paid, but most of the first round picks will get far less money than they would have in the past. Teams will good scouts will still have an edge. In fact, if you really trust your scouts and they identify the subsequent year’s draft to be weak, you could load up in the current draft, blow past your spending limit and tell Bud you don’t care when he takes your first…or even first and second picks in that next draft. For a team with means, a mid to low first round pick isn’t that much more important than a second or third round pick. So if you lose it, big deal, you’ll draft a hard to sign player with first round talent later on in the draft and hope to make up for it.
The Players Association pushed for the new draft rules to try to shift money more towards the big league rosters. It may be something that’s going to work. Take the Cubs for example.
Tom Ricketts gave Theo a budget for next year and it included (presumably) a lot of money to spend on the draft. Now that draft spending is ‘capped’ Theo and Jed are trying to figure out the best way to spend that money. According to Ken Rosenthal they’re now talking to the agents for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.
So how does that make sense if we’ve already acknowledged that the Cubs roster is terrible and it’s going to take several years to rebuild? It makes sense if you feel that player is still going to be a big time run producer three years from now. Fielder will be 30, Pujols will be in his mid 50s. Both will probably still be pretty damned good. There are risks. Pujols isn’t going to be a great player for eight or nine years, but you probably have to sign him for that long to get him. That seems foolish. Fielder is a tremendous offensive player, but he’s obese. At some point his tiny little skeleton (he’s listed at 5’11, but he’s barely 5’9) is going to start to crack under all of that blubber. It might happen in 2014, it might not happen until 2020. That’s why they pay guys like Theo big money…it’s to figure this stuff out.
One thing is for sure, business as usual gloriously doesn’t apply to the Cubs anymore.Read More
But I have got to tell you, recent moves by the Chicago Cubs have got me thinking that as Ron Santo used to bellow at odd times, THIS IS THE YEAR!
There’s no mistaking that the Cubs went off the rails after the 2008 collapse against the Dodgers and they got rid of their grit. Trading Mark DeRosa was inexcusable. Letting Kerry Wood leave town was incalculably wrong. Replacing them on the payroll with Milton Bradley was fool-hearty.
Things got bad. They got so bad that Lou Piniella may or may have not slowly poisoned his own mother just to have an excuse to leave. (I’ve heard it both ways.)
But recent events have me thinking that this Cubs organization GETS IT! They understand that in order to achieve true greatness you need to understand three things.
1) You need to get gritty, dirt dog, hard working players. Doesn’t matter if they are any good. Just as long as they look like they’re trying really hard.
2) When you want to EMPHASIZE something you CAPITALIZE THE SHIT OUT OF IT! See, it works. Now look at the Cubs ticket ads. Not a single sissy lowercase letter on the damned thing. Holy shit, Wally Hayward knows his shit.
3) You have got to be MOTIVATED to be a WINNER.
So, the Cubs have brought in winners. Guys like Reed Johnson, Kerry Wood, Augie Ojeda, Todd Wellemeyer, and, of course, Braden Looper. Did you know Braden Looper won 14 games in 2009? Of course you did. He was so good that he took all of 2010 off, not because nobody wanted him (the guy is a WINNER who wouldn’t want him?) but because he wanted to reflect on how awesome he was in 2009.
They got Matt Garza, Carlos Pena and Fernando Perez because in recent years they have been WINNERS at Tampa Bay. They brought back guys that had left the organization to work on the Failed Cubs Prospects Work Farm and Halfway House that Andy MacPhail runs in Maryland, because Lou (Don’t call me Luis, Luis is for LOSERS) Montanez and Scott Moore are finally ready to WIN.
Spring Training starts in 17 days and I can’t wait. Wow, this going to be great.
But you know what really has me sold on these Cubs?
They’re bringing in a guy as their WINNING CONSULTANT to work with the players, coaches, front office guys, and the dumbass who threw his hot dogs away and couldn’t hose down the bathrooms correctly.
The Cubs are going to be the first big league team to buy into the Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness.
They can’t be stopped now.Read More
Today, the Cubs struck a blow for freedom of the press (or something.) It was just three days ago that the pigment challenged beat writer of the Sun Times stuck his little pencil neck out and declared the Cubs the front runner to acquire the talented, but batshit crazy Tampa Bay Rays righthander Matt Garza. Fellow baseball writers on the internet scoffed at poor little Gordon. Buster Olney said the report was full of crap. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay-Del Boca Vista Review (or whatever the hell it’s called) said it was just wrong. Bruce Miles rolled his eyes. Paul Sullivan halted his latest bobblehead photo shoot to debunk the rumor.
Even Carrie Muskat took time out from shushing people at the library to tweet that it wasn’t accurate.
And today, the Cubs have traded at least four players to the Rays for Garza and possibly a second player. Desipio has confirmed that the second Rays player in the deal is likely to be Fred McGriff. Wait, I hope that’s not right. Never mind, that was an e-mail from 2001. Too bad it was right at that time, though.
The deal is likely to rile up the pseudosabermetricians that make up so much of the Cubs blogosphere. I’m as big a fan of advanced metrics as the next guy. I once traded our dog to the neighbor because I thought his German Shepherd had a higher OPS-plus than our Schnauzer. (We had to take the Schnauzer back because she flunked her physical–fleas.) But the reason they’ll be upset is because the Cubs are giving up four prospects, three of whom actually have pretty solid minor league numbers and the other is a guy who was converted from infielder to a catcher and he hit the shit out of the ball last year. It’s not the numbers that I don’t trust. It’s the analysis of the self-proclaimed experts that I don’t trust.
The Cubs are sending their minor league pitchers and hitters of the year to the Tampa. These awards are prestigious. I’m sure Corey Patterson and Donnie Veal are using theirs at the moment to keep their XBox 360s from overheating. Corey’s still jealous that his little brother was once given $100 from the www.nsbb.com for being THEIR minor league player of the year once upon a time.
Chris Archer had a great year for the Cubs last year. In stops at high-A Daytona and AA Tennessee he went 15-3 with a 2.34 ERA, 149 K’s (to only 65 walks) in 142 innings and he allowed only 102 hits. That’s getting it done. And he’s only 21.
Brandon Guyer spent all of 2010 at Tennessee and he had his breakout season. He hit .344 with 13 HR, 58 RBI, 30 stolen bases and a .986 OPS. He’s 24 he can play all three outfield spots and the only real knocks on him are that he projects as corner outfielder but he doesn’t have much power and he bats righthanded. But he did have 39 doubles last year, which oftentimes can be a portent of power. Yes, portent. Hey, I went to college and junk. The other thing he could do to improve his chances of being a regular in the big leagues would be to start using steroids.
Hak-Ju Lee is a shortstop who is alleged to be a whiz defensively. He played in the Midwest League last year at 19 and held his own. He hit .282 with a .354 on base average (his slugging was lower than his on base at .351). He’s from the good Korea and your guess is as good as anybody’s as to whether or not he’ll be a big league shortstop. The Cubs have a 20 year old at the spot right now, some hack named Starlin something, and felt like shortstop’s not a big need for them for the next decade and a half or so. Time will tell, on both counts.
Robinson Chirinos is 26 and he’s been in the Cubs system for ten years. No, I’m not making that up. He spent the first seven years playing third, second and short and not hitting. In 2008 they converted him to catcher and he’s hit fairly well since. Though, to be fair, until the very end of last year his post-conversion seasons were all spent with him being too old for his level. But that’s what happens when you learn a new position, you have to go down to get back up. Even last year when he finished the season at Iowa (where he hit .364 in 15 games) he spent most of the season in Tennessee and if you can’t hit in the Southern League at 26, you need to go home.
The Cubs had him ranked behind Welington Castillo in their system at catcher. Castillo has not hit really well in the minors, but he’s a much better defensive catcher and he’s three years younger. Hell, Geovany Soto is only a year older than Chirinos is.
So what did the Cubs give up? In a nutshell, they gave up a young pitching prospect with a chance to be really good. They gave up an outfielder who has a better chance of being a fourth outfielder than a starter (though if his power develops he could be a nice piece to a team), they gave up a talented shortstop prospect with a long way to go, and they gave up a novice catching prospect who is already 26.
What are they getting?
They are getting a 27 year old righthanded starter in Garza who has a plaque in his house that’s just a little more impressive than the ones Guyer and Archer are hauling to Tampa. He was the 2008 American League Championship Series MVP, and he won games three and seven of that series for the Rays. He also pitched well in game three of the ALDS this past offseason against the Rangers, holding Texas to one run in six innings before the Rays rallied to win the game and pull within 2-1 in the series. Rays manager Joe Maddon took crap for passing over Garza in game two to pitch James Shields, but Maddon said he wanted Garza to take the first road start of the series for Tampa because he had the balls to win a must game on the road.
Garza’s posted three straight sub 4.00 ERAs pitching in the AL East which is pretty impressive, especially since if you pitch for Tampa or Baltimore you have to face three of the best offenses in the AL over and over in New York, Boston and Toronto. In his three seasons in Tampa he never threw less than 184 innings (he threw over 200 each of the last two seasons) he hasn’t allowed more hits than innings pitched and he’s averaged 156 K’s to only 67 walks per season.
He’s going to benefit mightily from trading the rough and tumble AL East for the mediocrity of the NL Central. He’ll slot in right behind the erstwhile ace of the Cubs, Ryan Dempster and in front of the reborn, rejuvenated, newly matured (cough, cough, bullshit, cough, cough) Carlos Zambrano in the rotation. It makes the Cubs formidable, especially if Andrew Cashner is as good at starting as the Cubs think he will be. It’d be great if Garza could also learn to bat lefty and play second base, but they’ll take what they can get.
It’s not to say life is all sunshine and double rainbows all the way across the sky with Garza. He can be an asshole, and he’s been known to get into it with teammates in the dugout and on the mound and at times his temper will get the best of him on the mound.
Remind you of anybody?
How does the package the Cubs gave up to get Garza compare with the one the Brewers gave up to get Zack Greinke?
They’re similar. But there are two big differences. The Royals wanted big league ready players at short and center, so the Brewers gave them shortstop Alcides Escobar and outfielder Lorenzo Cain. Cain has lots of tools and no toolbox, Escobar is a legit big league shortstop (with the glove, not with the bat, yet). And Greinke is owed $27 million the next two years, then he’s a free agent.
Garza made $3.35 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility last season. He’ll get a nice raise to $6 million or so this year, and the Cubs will control him for two more seasons.
Oh, and Garza’s not as good as Grienke, obviously.
But he’s pretty good, and if somebody bitches that the Cubs should have traded for Greinke instead of Garza a) they’d be right, but b) they’d have had to have given up Castro and Brett Jackson and a couple of other prospects and paid Greinke the $27 million, and hoped that his “social anxiety disorder” didn’t come back in the ivy covered fishbowl.
Contrary to some takes on this, this wasn’t a reckless move by a “holy crap I have to win now or they’ll can me” motivated GM. This is what proven top of the rotation (Garza should be a legit #2 starter) pitchers in their 20′s cost. And it’s part of why you have a farm system. You ‘grow’ cheap young players to either plug them into your team (like Cashner, Colvin and Castro) or you trade them for pieces you need.
Hendry’s trade track record is pretty good. The Juan Pierre move is the one really awful one. But we saw that coming. In that one he traded three pitching prospects for a one trick pony who needed his legs to have any value, who was in the last year of his contract, and who was heading to the wrong side of 30. In this move, he gets a proven big league starter on the right side of 30.
UPDATE: Two of the other players in the deal are now known. Bleed Cubbie Blue mascot Sam Fuld, he of the enormous forehead and hatred of wearing his hat in the dugout, is going to Tampa in exchange for outfielder Fernando Perez. Perez is an interesting player. He looked like a legit prospect as recently as two years ago when he had a .361 on base average and 43 stolen bases in AAA, just a year after posting a .423 on base average and stealing 32 bases at AA. He was on the 2008 postseason roster for the Rays. But he dislocated his wrist in the spring of 2009 and that season was a washout and he was bad last year in AAA. He had a .280 on base average and awful .579 OPS at AAA. He’s also 27. And he strikes out a lot. I mean, A LOT. Well, so much for that.
There’s still a chance for the Cubs to receive a third player from Tampa. Gee, I hope he’s as good as Fernando Perez! Do they still have Joey Gathright? That went so well the first time for the Cubs.
The key to this deal for the Cubs is just how deep their farm system is. Supposedly they have real talent there now. If that’s true, then trading even good prospects like Archer and Lee won’t hurt too bad. If not? Ehh, let’s worry about that later.
Either way, I endorse Jim Hendry’s attempt to restock his team with Tampa Bay Rays castoffs. At the very least it seems like a better idea than Andy MacPhail’s attempt to horde every ex-Cub he can find.
UPDATE AGAIN: Thanks to Intrepid Reader Eli Gieryna, we have another awesome reason to like Fernando Perez more than Sam Fuld.