November 29, 2012


The Cubs and the White Sox have to tender players contracts by tomorrow.

The Cubs have one big question on their 40 man roster: do you offer Ian Stewart a contract for 2013?

Stewart was supposed to be the answer when Aramis Ramirez left for free agency. Stewart was supposed to be a power hitting third baseman. He came to the Cubs in a trade. He came to the Cubs with an injury history that put him on the disabled list for most of 2012.

But with the dismal debut of Josh Vitters at third, the Cubs have nothing ready in the minors to fill the hole at third base. Stewart made $2.237 last season, and is arbitration eligible. Even with a pay cut due to lack of performance, he may be a $2 million question mark this year.

He has not played a full season since 2010 with the Rockies.  In the last two years, he has played only 103 games, hitting 5 HRs and 23 RBI. He is really damaged goods and should not be tendered a contract by the Cubs.

The White Sox have a harder to make. Do the White Sox, who have a sudden wealth of young pitchers, offer Philip Humber a contract for 2013? Humber has the distinction of having "no hitter" stuff, but that spark is encapsulated by below average consistency.

Humber, 29, has been a late bloomer, pitching in only 26 games in 2006-2010. His first full time work came with the White Sox. In his last two years with Chicago, he is 14-14, 4.79 ERA in 42 starts, with a 1.317 WHIP.  He is an average pitcher with major league experience. He is first year arbitration eligible. And he would be entitled to a large raise.

The White Sox have almost $90 million committed to 10 players. Dayan Viciedo, Gordon Beckham and Alejandro De Aza will cost the team combined another $9 to $10 million. The White Sox may not be able to afford another $6 - 7 million fifth stater like Humber.

It is ironic that if the White Sox do not tender Humber a contract, the Cubs are the type of team that would make him an offer, as a second tier starter on the free agent market.

UPDATE: I did not know this was possible, but the White Sox tried to send Humber through waivers. The Houston Astros claimed him. The initial story does not say what type of waivers are at issue.

There are three  kinds of waivers. Teams will place a player on unconditional release waivers before they cut him. Irrevocable outright waivers come into play when a team wants to remove a player from the 40-man roster but keep him within the minor-league system. If, however, another team claims him, then he's gone. Finally, optional waivers cover players with options (more to come on the subject of options) who are being dispatched back to the minors three years or more after debuting in the majors. Like trade assignment waivers, optional waivers are revocable.

November 28, 2012


From the Cubs press release:

CHICAGO -- Right-handed pitcher Casey Coleman was designated for assignment to make room on the Cubs' 40-man roster for recently acquired pitcher Scott Feldman. The Cubs' roster is at 40.

Feldman signed a one-year, $6 million deal on Tuesday, and is projected for the rotation.

Coleman, 25, has compiled a 7-13 record and 5.76 ERA in 48 career games with the Cubs, including 26 starts. He was 0-2 with a 7.40 ERA in 17 games last season, including one start, while posting a 2-4 record and 4.34 ERA in 13 games (11 starts) for Triple-A Iowa.

As we discussed in an earlier post, the team's 40 man roster is the foundation for the next season.

Pitchers (21): Baker, Beliveau, Bowden, Cabrera, Camp, Castillo, Chapman, Concepcion, Dolis, Feldman, Garza, Marmol, McNutt, Putnam, Raley, Rusin, Russell, Samardzija, Vizcaino, Whitenack and Wood.

Catchers (3): Castillo, Clevenger, Navarro

Infielders (9): Barney, Castro, Lake, Rizzo, Stewart, Valbuena, Villanueva, Vitters and Watkins.

Outfielders (7) : Campana, DeJesus, B. Jackson, Sappelt, Soler, Soriano and Szczur.

On Friday, the Cubs need to make their next roster decision: whether to tender Ian Stewart a contract. The smart money says the team should non-tender Stewart, who would become a free agent. However, a few pundits believe the Cubs are so sparse at third base, the Cubs will have to keep Stewart as insurance that Valbuena and/or Vitters falters in 2013. The Cubs could still non-tender Stewart and attempt to re-sign him at a lower deal. But Stewart's nagging injury has bust written all over any contract at this point in time.

November 27, 2012


Buster Olney reports the Cubs are close to signing former Ranger starter Scott Feldman.

Exactly, who in the hell is Scott Feldman?

Feldman, 29, has played only for the Rangers. He must have been their 5th starter because
in 2012 he went 6-11 in 21 starts (and 8 relief appearances) with 5.09 ERA, in 123.2 IP, with 96 K and 32 W, 1.383 WHIP.

In 8 seasons, he has a career record of 39-44, 4.81 ERA, 1.4167 WHIP.  Not stellar.
His best season was in 2006 as a middle reliever.

In 2012, he made $6.5 million. The Rangers declined a $9.25 million option so Feldman became a free agent. 

The Cubs will have to make a roster move to put Feldman on the team. I expect that Casey Coleman will be outrighted to Iowa.

Feldman is another experienced arm that the Cubs needed to patch together a 2013 starting rotation, and to give fans with blinders on some optimism for next year.

The starting rotation is now shaping up as Garza, Samardzija, T. Wood, Baker and Feldman. 

The rotation could change if Garza is healthy and traded; and if Vizcaino is healthy and can start the season as a number one starter.    


The Mets have offered third baseman David Wright a 6 year, $100 million deal. Wright, a free agent after 2013, is expected to decline the offer.

The Mets offer is the same as two other third basemen who signed this year: Evan Longoria of the Rays and Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals.  At $16.67 million per season, the market has been set for a quality third baseman.

Zimmerman was the face of the Nationals franchise when it was bad. He has had two injury seasons, and durability going forward was a small factor in his recent new contract. In 8 years, Zimmerman is a career .287 hitter, with 153 HR, 593 RBI, .353 OBP, 30 SB, .959 field percentage and 28.6 WAR.

Longoria is less than two years younger. He burst on the scene in 2008. He is also the face of the Rays franchise. However, he was hurt last season so his long term durability came into question. But in his 5 years, he is a career .276 hitter, with 130 HR, 456 RBI, .361 OBP, 36 SB, .963 field percentage and 28.5 WAR.

Wright, 29, has been a career Met. He had one injury shorten season in 2011. Last year he rebounded by playing in 156 games. In his 9 seasons, he is a career .301 hitter, with 204 HR, 818 RBI, .381 OBP, 166 SB, .953 field percentage and 39.1 WAR.

It is not a direct apples to apples comparsion, but these three proven players are similar enough to set the market value for a steady, quality third baseman at $16.67 million plus per season. Wright will probably ask for more money based upon his slightly better stats than Zimmerman. And in the league with power third basemen at a premium, he will probably get more than a $100 million deal.

UPDATE: Wright signed an 8 year/$138 million deal to stay with the Mets. That averages $17.25 million per season.

November 26, 2012


The numbers are getting obscene.

The Dodgers will ink a new 25 year, $6 billion plus local television deal with Fox Sports.

The Angels just completed their own $3 billion local package.

The Cubs are going to start to uncouple the old Tribune broadcast contracts, beginning in 2014. The Cubs will be the last team to jolt their local television revenues.

Major league baseball's new national television contract is worth $12. 4 billion. It will kick $51.8 million to each team by 2014.

Professional baseball is no longer a sport. It is expensive television programming.

The Dodgers will soon bank annually $240 million in local television, plus $51.8 million in national revenue. The Dodgers will have to kick in 34 percent of local revenues back into the league subsidy pool, or $80 million. Even with that surtax, before the first game of the season starts, the Dodgers will have $211.8 million in revenue. With the luxury payroll tax set at $189 million (which clubs do not want to reach), before one patron buys a ticket for a game, the Dodgers are ahead in positive revenue by more than $22 million. If the Dodgers hold steady at 2011 ticket revenue numbers of $107 million per season, the team is a profit machine of more than $120 million per year.

Again, the revenue driver is not attendance in MLB. It is television contracts. In the Dodgers case, television revenue is 2.73 times more than attendance revenue.

Now, these television deals are long term contracts. The money is guaranteed no matter what the Dodgers record will be in the future. Cable operators are counting on a loyal fan base and ownership egos for a desire for championship seasons - - - to hold viewership and advertising ratings. But is there really an incentive for ownership with these huge television deals to continue to spend money on players to the lux cap max?  Probably not. Owners and their investors want return on their investment. With these outrageously generous television deals for local rights, owners want to pocket as much profit as possible, and then flip the franchise at its peak value to a new ownership group.

There is a television "bubble" in regard to value of these television contracts. Just like with any other bubble commodity (real estate for example), there is a crash - - - a retreat back to the norm. The question is when that will happen. And who will be holding the hot potato when the bubble bursts.

November 23, 2012


The New York Mets have a unique problem. One of their starting pitchers had a break-out season. And he won the NL Cy Young.  That should be a good problem to have, especially for the Mets franchise.

But the player is R.A. Dickey. The issues are:

1. He is 38 years old.
2. He is a knuckleball pitcher.
3. He has a had an average journeyman career.
4. He probably wants an expensive extension.
5. Knuckleball pitchers have inconsistent careers.

Dickey's career was unremarkable. He debuted in a short stint with the Rangers in 2001 at age 26. In 2003 and 2004 he was a part time starter, going 9-8 and 6-7 with ERAs over 5.00. He bounced around Seattle and Minnesota. In 2009, he went 1-1. 4.62 ERA in 35 games (1 start) for the Twins.
In 2010, he landed with the Mets as a starter and had is best year: 11-9, 2.84 ERA in 174 IP.  At age 36, the Mets signed him to a 3 year/$12.5 million deal.

Dickey was the first knuckleballer to win the Cy Young. He was also a late bloomer. Those two things go against a player. Knuckleball or junk pitchers are usually gimmicks players use to try to extend their careers a year or two. Knuckleballers have consistently and control problems. The only advantage of one is that there is less strain on the shoulder or arm. They become innings eaters, like Dickey last season with a league high 233.2 IP.

Most teams do not favor knuckleballers in the rotation. First, most scouts prefer balanced power pitchers who have an "out" pitch (a curve or a change). Second, most general managers prefer pitchers with multiple pitches (fastball, curve, change or slider) which gives managers more flexibility in case a pitcher does not have one pitch working during that start. Third, it takes a special catcher to catch a knuckleballer. Since most of the pitchers may go anywhere, including the dirt, it takes a toll on a catcher's back and knees. Fourth, the velocity of a knuckleball is dramatically less than a normal major league pitch. As a result, most good hitters can adjust quickly. And once a knuckler fails to knuckle, it turns into batting practice at 65 mph. Fifth, knuckleballs are difficult to throw for strikes. That leads to higher on-base percentages for opponents, and potential big innings.

Dickey throws his knuckleball "harder" than most pitchers of the genre. His knuckler is thrown in the high 70s. The twist with Dickey is that he throws his knuckle ball at two different speeds (one, 73-75, the other 76-80.) Most pitching coaches preach that the change in velocity of a pitch is a pitcher's greatest weapon against a major league hitter. It throws off the hitter's timing.

So Dickey is a unique pitcher. But he is also a pitcher that throws an historically inconsistent pitch.

Pitching is a premium in baseball. Dickey is an innings eater. He had a career year. The problem with the Mets is that Dickey will be asking for a contract extension. Is it good to sign a pitcher into their 40s? Or is it better to trade Dickey when his "value" as a starter is at its peak? Dickey went 20-6, 2.73 ERA in 34 games in 2012.

The Mets went 77-88, finishing 4th in the NL East. The team is caught in a near-rebuilding mode. They have two young pitchers who can compete for rotation spots. It is probably a coin flip of what the Mets will do with Dickey this off-season.

November 21, 2012


The Cubs added four minor league players to complete their 40 man roster.

Second baseman Logan Watkins, the Cubs  Minor League Player of the Year,  right-handed pitcher Trey McNutt, infielder Christian Villanueva (who came from Texas in the Dempster trade) and right-handed pitcher Robert Whitenack were added to the Cubs' roster.

Watkins, 23, a 21st-round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, batted .281 for Tennessee and finished second in the league in walks and triples. He led the league in runs scored (93) and compiled a 13-game hitting streak in June, collecting seven multihit games in that stretch.

McNutt, 23, has been considered a top prospect since he went 10-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 2010 for Class A Peoria, Daytona and Tennessee. In 2011, he was 5-6 with a 4.55 ERA in 23 games for the Smokies, and this season, went 9-8 with a 4.26 ERA in 34 games (17 starts).

Villanueva, 21, was acquired from the Rangers in the Ryan Dempster deal in July, and batted .279 for Class A Myrtle Beach and Daytona combined, with 14 home runs, 24 doubles and 68 RBIs. He was playing for Obregon in the Mexican Winter League. He began his Cubs career by hitting a home run in each of his first two at-bats in his first game with Daytona.

An eighth-round pick in 2009, Whitenack, who turned 24 on Tuesday, has been slowed after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011. He began the 2011 season 7-0 with a 1.93 ERA in 11 starts between Daytona and Tennessee, earning Southern League All-Star honors, before he was sidelined with an elbow injury.

Major league teams must protect players first signed at age 18 on the 40 man roster within five years or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players signed at 19 years old are to be protected within four years.

At the winter meetings, clubs can pay $50,000 to select a player in the Rule 5 Draft
 If that player doesn't stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $25,000.

The Cubs selected pitcher Lendy Castillo from the Phils in the last Rule 5 draft. By all accounts, Castillo was a reach by the Cubs.  In 2011, Castillo pitched in A ball. He appeared in 21 games, with a record of 4-2, 2.54 ERA in 46 IP. For the Cubs, Castillo had to remain on the major league roster. He was hid in the bullpen and appeared in only 13 games, going 0-1 with 7.88 ERA and 2.250 WHIP. He spent most of the season on the disabled list.  But he is now a Cub property. That is the risk-reward of taking a young player with a live arm.

Two players left unprotected by the Cubs may get drafted by other clubs. Right-hander pitcher Nick Struck, who was the organization's 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, was left unprotected. Struck, 23, started 26 games in AA in 2012. He went 14-10, 3.18 ERA in 155.2 IP, with 123 K and 44 BB, and 1.182 WHIP. Some may question why Whitenack was protected over Struck.

Also unprotected is Frank Batista, 23, who converted 23 of his first 24 save opportunities for Tennessee. A Southern League All-Star, he compiled a 2.22 ERA in 43 games, but did struggle in a brief stint with Triple-A Iowa, posting a 5.87 ERA in six games. If the Cubs are trying to move Marmol in the off-season, they need to develop a new closer.

The 40 man roster is the foundation for the major league team. The Cubs foundation currently stands as follows:

Pitchers (21): Baker, Beliveau, Bowden, Cabrera, Camp, Castillo, Chapman, Coleman, Concepcion, Dolis, Garza, Marmol, McNutt, Putnam, Raley, Rusin, Russell, Samardzija, Vizcaino, Whitenack and Wood.

Catchers (3): Castillo, Clevenger, Navarro

Infielders (9): Barney, Castro, Lake, Rizzo, Stewart, Valbuena, Villanueva, Vitters and Watkins.

Outfielders (7) : Campana, DeJesus, B. Jackson, Sappelt, Soler, Soriano and Szczur.


Slightly raise an eyebrow while scanning this morning's transactions:

The Cubs continue to nibble around the stale cracker of the low prospect talent pool by re-trading reliever Jake Brigham (who was acquired in the Soto deal) back to the Texas Rangers for AA pitcher Barret Loux.

Loux, 23, started 25 games in AA last season. He went 14-1, 3.47 ERA in 127 IP. He gave up 41 BB to 100 K, and had a 1.268 WHIP. Texas is known for developing pitchers, so why did Nolan Ryan and Rangers part with Loux?  Loux was drafted by Arizona in the first round in 2010. However, he failed his physical due to a torn labrum and other elbow injuries. He later signed with Texas.

Brigham, 24, had a very short Cub career. In two starts at AA, he went 0-2, 19.54 ERA with a 4.091 WHIP. He was shut down due to an elbow strain. The Rangers must believe he has something in power pitching. During 600 career minor league innings, he has 543 Ks. But he also has a career 1.401 WHIP.

So the trade seems too lopsided to be true, unless Loux is Mark Prior fragile.

UPDATE: Dave van Dyke of the Tribune reports that Loux  is considered a "compensation" replacement for Brigham, who was acquired from the Rangers during the season for catcher Geovany Soto but came to the Cubs with an injured elbow.
The other news of the day is that the Cubs designated for assignment Bryan LaHair. This is the first step to releasing LaHair, so he can "pursue opportunities" in Japan. The Cubs have 10 days to trade or release him. The Cubs tried to package LaHair in various July deadline trades, but no other team had interest in the Cub All-Star.

People forget that LaHair was statistically the best NL first baseman in the first half of 2012. But the league adjusted in the second half, and LaHair lost his job to Anthony Rizzo. LaHair turned into a bench and fourth outfielder, ending the season appearing in 130 games, hitting 16 HR, 40 RBI, batting .259, with .334 OBP.  He had a career major league WAR of 0.2. He is the classic AAAA player, because in his 9 minor league seasons, he hit .295, 156 HR, 651 RBI with a .405 OBP. He hit 38 HR and drove in 109 runs in 2011 Iowa.

It is a surprising move to release LaHair at this point of the off-season. First, the Cubs have no back up first baseman in case Rizzo gets hurt. Second,  LaHair is currently the third outfielder on the depth chart in RF. Tony Campana and Dave Sappelt do not project to starting RF candidates. Third, LaHair would have provided a left handed power bat off the bench. Fourth, LaHair is projected to make the major league minimum of $500k in 2013. Fifth, unless there was absolutely no interest in LaHair at the GM meetings, why release him before the winter meetings? The only reason to release him now is to open up a spot on the 40 man roster to protect another player from the minor league Rule 5 draft in December.

The LaHair move just adds another hole in the Cubs opening day roster.

November 19, 2012


The Cubs re-signed their 2012 MVP: Shawn Camp.

Camp, 37, was a journeyman released from the Mariners camp. The Cubs signed him to a minor league deal, then promoted him to be a middle reliever.

Camp will earn $1.35 million in 2013 with $200,000 in bonus incentives.

In 2012, he had a career high 80 game appearances, which led the majors.  He went 3-6, 3.59 ERA in 77.2 IP. He had 54 SO, 21 BB, 1.288 WHIP. In all told, a average major league middle reliever stat season.

It seemed the Cubs were in the process of shuffling their bullpen this off season. First, the Cubs were on the cusp of trading closer Carlos Marmol to the Angels for Dan Haren. Even though that deal did not go through, it does appear that the Cubs want to part with Marmol this off season.

The Cubs previously signed low tier free agent pitchers Zach Putnam (waivers from Rockies) and Carlos Guiterrez (off waivers from the Twins) to replace Manny Corpas, Miguel Socolovich, and/or Jason Berken in the bullpen.

There are also reports that the Cubs met with Japan free agent closer Kyuji Fujikawa. Fujikawa, 32, was a top closer in Japan for the last six seasons. He was ranked the 34th best free agent by MLBTR.
His career numbers: 26-18, 1.36 ERA, 202 saves, 369.2 IP, 510 K, 94 BB, 1.028 WHIP.

Marmol, 30, is in the last year of his current deal. He will be paid $9.8 million in 2013, which is on the high end of closers. Marmol went 3-3, 3.38 ERA, 20 saves in 55.1 IP. He had a high WHIP of 1.536, which showed he had control issues. He had 72 K to 45 BB. One can see the Cubs trying to dump Marmol's salary this off-season and take a flyer on a nominal free agent closer.


There has been more buzz on the glacial speed of the Cubs rebuilding process than on hot stove rumors in this off-season.

Yes, Scott Baker and Dioner Navarro signing do not stoke the fires of fans as the darkness of winter falls upon the Cub collective.

Part of the problem with the Cubs is the bi-polar messages being sent by the team to its fans. When Ricketts purchased the Cubs, he said that the team was only one or two players away from winning a championship. When Epstein was announced as the new team president, Ricketts said that the team was one or two players away from championship caliber. Ricketts also promised to maintain a competitive team.

Maintaining a competitive team, in reality or in illusion, is the main goal of the business side of the Cubs: the marketing and ticket sales departments. The Cubs had the luxury of an almost guaranteed 3 million gate per season. The Cubs steadily increased ticket and concession prices because it was the "hot" place to be, especially for the Gen X party in the bleachers crowd. But after the financial meltdown of 2009-2010, the economy has not had a robust or even a dead cat rebound. Attendance is down, and season ticket renewals are no longer automatic. For the first time, there really was no viable secondary market for Cub game tickets. In order to maintain cash flow, the Cubs need people sitting in those Wrigley seats.

On the baseball side, Epstein said he believed in turning around a club through upgrading the minor league system with top level prospects. He poured resources into scouting and drafting players (mostly pitchers in his first draft) and overpaying international free agents (until the new CBA capped that loophole.)  Loading up the minor league system with prospects is fine, but the way Epstein has gone about the process, most of his prospects began at rookie and Class A levels. That means that the normal promotion course leaves Epstein's prospects in the minors for at least four years. If everything goes perfectly well, an Epstein drafted major league roster would come to bear in 2015.

It is a small market mentality to rely almost solely on the farm system to produce major league talent. For every organization that drafts 50 or more players a year, the odds are that only 5 or less will ever hit a major league roster. The upside of home grown talent is that a team controls the prospects longer, and they are cheaper when they are promoted to the major league roster.

The downside of the focus on minor league players is that general managers hold on to their assets like their own children. Some become enamored with a prospect's "potential" even when the player is not developing as projected; and that is the real bear in the equation: do you trust your lower level instructors to actually develop talent.

The Cubs track record for developing their own talent is poor. In the playoff teams of the 2000s, the few pitching promotions were really off-set by the big spending, free agent moves that Jim Hendry made with the Tribune deep pockets. So there was a lack of emphasis  on minor league development under Hendry.

For years, experts had scoffed at the White Sox as having one of the worst farm systems. Kenny Williams used trades and selective free agent acquisitions to build his teams. His trading mentality did bring the White Sox a World Championship in 2005. That veteran team was dismantled as contracts expired, leaving the White Sox in a small market position against the Cubs TV and fan base.

But an odd thing happened in 2012. The beleaguered White Sox farm system produced a great crop of pitching prospects: Quintana, Sale, Santiago, Reed, Axelrod, Jones, Omogrosso, Septimo. The roster also contained home grown fielders in Flowers, Morel (hurt most of the year) and Vicideo. This young White Sox crew out performed expectations. This off-season, Williams and new GM Hahn have re-signed Peavy and Floyd to add depth to the starting rotation, and to maintain their rich asset base in pitching.

The Epstein single fixation method of total focus on drafting and signing prospects is the new Cub mantra of the organization. Now, the front office is telling all fans to be patient, and their patience will be rewarded "years" down the road. But for some fans, this change is a bait and switch. They were promised by Ricketts that the Cubs would remain competitive, even during a re-building process.

And the bottom line is that the Cubs can rebuild the minor league system AND remain competitive through trades and free agent signings. There is no rule against having a balanced approached to roster building in major league baseball.

There is a growing excuse from the Cubs camp that the team cannot make "good" trades because the farm system is barren. Well, that never stopped Williams and the White Sox from making deals which are now paying off. The Epstein trades have been expensive veteran talent for multiple prospects at the July trade deadline. But the other bottom 15 teams have the same blueprint in regard to rent-a-player deals for prospects. And more general managers guard their top prospects making those type of deals harder to complete.

The Cubs have given up on signing top tier free agents. One, those long term contracts tend to block their own prospects. (The example is Soriano's deal). Two, the Cubs know they will not be competitive so they are not willing to spend top dollar on free agents for another 100-loss team. Three, top free agents want to win and not babysit a journeyman roster for several years so that makes the Cubs a bad destination for most free agents.

The Cubs are plugging gaping holes with "caretaker" or stop-gap journeymen players, including career minor leaguers like Valbuena at third base. This does not sit well with the fan base who sees the White Sox with the same gaping hole at third last year, go out and get a Youkilis to play the position. So the Cubs are again painting themselves into a corner. They will have to promote position players quicker just to field a full roster - - - which adds to the risk of failure.

There is no reason why the Cubs cannot rebuild quicker than the current player development only game plan. A team can rebuild its franchise through a combination of good drafts, player development, trades and free agent signings. 

November 16, 2012


One of the core philosophies of the new front office was stated that they were not going to pay "for past performance." Well, Epstein  and Hoyer need to update their subscriptions to Baseball Digest, because they continue to sign players who had good years, maybe four years ago. 

Current example is your new Cubs catcher, Dioner Navarro. I really never heard of him before this week. And there are plenty of reasons for that. Navarro is 28. He has kicked around for bits and pieces of nine seasons with 6 different teams.Journeyman, right. He landed in Tampa in 2007 and hit .227 in his first full year. But in 2008,in a contract year where he was paid the minimum, he suddenly hit .295, 7 HR, 54 RBI andgot an All Star selection from a very good Rays team. 

That one season got him a payday: $2.1 million for 2009. After getting the deal, his batting average tanked to .218.His career average is .245. But he has only caught three seasons in the majors, the last being three years ago.

Now, he is also small, 5'9". I checked with a Tampa fan site who said he is both a below average hitter (problem with contact) AND a bad defensive catcher.  In 2011 Tampa cut him. The Dodgers picked him up as a back up. He hit worse, .193 and was out of baseball in the minors for most of 2012 in the Reds system. 

So, everyone is asking why in the hell did the Cubs pay Navarro, who only had a minimum minor league deal in 2012, $1.75 million guaranteed major league contract  for 2013?? 

There is absolutely no evidence that Navarro is back to his 2008 batting form. Some people compare him to Koy Hill, which is pretty spot on for another below .200 hitting back slug. So why the huge contract for someone who punched his own ticket out of baseball?

Here are some troublesome alternatives:

First, Epstein has no concept of player value.

Second, Epstein cannot project a player's recent play into future play with any accuracy.

Third, Ricketts is not minding the cash register.

Or worse, fourth, that Epstein sees Navarro as the Cubs opening day catcher.

Most people pencil in Beef Castillo as the Cub catcher. He hit .265 in 52 games with 5 HR, 22 RBI. He had a 1.2 WAR. But his fielding was below average at .981. And he has the curse mark of being a Hendry draft choice. It is hard to fathom why the Cubs would pay a back-up catcher to Castillo more than three times what Beef will make in 2013 unless Navarro is going to be the starter.


A favorite stat for people to debate the value of baseball players is WAR. WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement. A player's WAR number is supposed to represent the number of team wins the player has added to the team total above that of a AAA-AAAA replacement player. The calculation includes factors for defensive support and value for high leverage or more difficult positions and situations.

The components in the WAR calculation track how much above "average" a player was during a season. But the WAR number itself is Wins Above Replacement. It has been said that the difference between an average player and a replacement level player is about 20 runs during a full season. The runs-to-wins is put through a conversion formula (typically, 10 runs equals 1 win).

This is fine to attempt the judge the value of individual players in an average talent pool. But baseball is still a team sport relying upon individuals to get wins.

Which led me to check on the 2012 season from a team perspective.

The San Francisco Giants won the World Series. The regular season record was 94-68. If you total up all the hitting and pitching player WAR numbers you will find:

28.9 hitter WAR + 5.5 pitcher WAR = 34.4 team WAR.

Then the question, what is an "average" baseball team? In a 162 game season, it is simple. A team that goes .500 (81-81) is average. Two teams ended 2012 at .500: Arizona and Philadelphia.

The Diamondbacks season record was 81-81. If you total up all the hitting and pitching player WAR numbers you will find:

17.7 hitter WAR + 13.3 pitcher WAR = 31.0 team WAR.

The Phils also finished the season 81-81. If you total up all the hitting and pitching player WAR numbers you will find:

15.0 hitter WAR + 10.8 pitcher WAR = 25.8 team WAR.

If we compare the World Series champion Giants to the Diamondbacks and Phils team WARS, the Giants team was +3.4 WAR better than Arizona and +8.6 WAR better than Philadelphia.

Since we have "two" average teams, if we average the team WARs (56.8/2) the average team WAR is 28.4. If you compare the average team WAR of 28.4 to the Giants team 34.4, one can calculate that the Giants as a team were 21 percent better than an average major league team in 2012.

If you compare that to victories, the Giants were +13, or 16 percent above an average .500 team.

Now for the other end of the standings.

The Chicago Cubs had a bad rebuilding season. The team 2012 record was 61-101. If you total up all the hitting and pitching player WAR numbers for the Cubs you will find:

11.8 hitter WAR + (0.1) pitcher WAR = 11.7 team WAR.

If you compare the Cubs team WAR of 11.7 to the Giants team WAR of 34.4, the Cubs are -22.7 WAR. That means the Cubs were 66 percent worse than the Giants.

If you compare the Cubs team WAR of 11.7 to the average .500 club WAR of 28.4 WAR, the Cubs are -16.7. That means the Cubs were 58.8 percent worse than an average team in 2012.

So how far are the Cubs away from being a competitive ball club?

The WAR scale for players indicates that one who is 8.0 WAR plus is an MVP type player; 5.0 WAR plus is an All-Star caliber player; 2.0 WAR plus is a starter; 0-2 WAR is a bench player; and below 0 is replacement level.

The highest WAR player on the roster is Darwin Barney at 4.6, then Starlin Castro at 3.5, then Ryan Dempster at 3.3 (who is no longer on the team) and then Anthony Rizzo at 2.2. Barney's WAR has to be skewed by his defense error less streak. Even so, based on the WAR player scale, the Cubs only have three starters on their 25 man roster, and not one is of All-Star caliber.

In order for the Cubs to competitive, the team needs double digit WAR numbers for hitting and pitching. The team needs to add 11 players of 2.0 WAR  and above (6 fielders and 5 starters) just to become an average team in 2013.

November 15, 2012


There is almost universal outrage over the Miami Marlins trading away most of their veteran players only after one season in a brand new, state of the art public ball park.

The baseball team got a sweetheart new stadium. It got a 46% boost in attendance in 2012. More revenue. Big market dreams. All which imploded by mid-season.

Then the owner dumps $185 million in salaries of high priced veterans. By the end of next year, the Marlins will have no guaranteed contracts on their books.

It is not the first time owner Jeff Loria ruined a franchise. He killed the Montreal Expos,which led to the league taking over the team and moving it to Washington D.C. But Loria was rewarded by the league with a new Florida franchise.

Many people call the whole South Florida timeline a fraud, a scam and a sham. The taxpayers are on the hook for $2.4 billion in bond expenses for what is morally bankrupt team. But the public officials entrusted with tax dollars never had to give the Marlins a dime. The vast majority of sports economists will state that public subsidized stadiums are really bad deals for taxpayers. It does not help the local economy. It does not spur redevelopment. It merely lines the pockets of the team ownership. There is plenty of blame to go around Miami.

But the public is told that a pro team cannot be competitive or survive without a huge amount of corporate welfare. But look at the San Francisco Giants situation: that owner built his own new stadium with his own money. It was hard, but he survived. And the Giants just won the World Series. So it is possible that win without massive government subsidies.

November 14, 2012


The Blue Jays own website called the proposed deal "epic."

Blue Jays General ManagerAlex Anthopoulos has never been afraid to make the big deals, but the one with the Marlins suddenly catapults Toronto to near the top of the AL East.

Toronto's general manager appears to have orchestrated a 12-player deal with the reeling Miami Marlins that provides a major boost to the club's chances of reaching the postseason. In one quick strike, the Blue Jays filled their holes in the starting rotation and acquired an elite hitter to place at the top of their lineup.

The blockbuster trade was first reported by and sees shortstop Jose Reyes, right-hander Josh Johnson, left-hander Mark Buehrle, catcher John Buck and utility player Emilio Bonifacio headed to the Blue Jays.

The demolition Marlins are to receive seven young players in return: shortstop Yunel Escobar, right-hander Henderson Alvarez, Cuban prospect Adeiny Hechavarria, outfield prospect Jake Marisnick, pitching prospects Anthony Desclafani and Justin Nicolino and veteran backup catcher Jeff Mathis.

The deal is pending player physicals and MLB approval of money to be exchanged between the teams.

Clearly, the Marlins have been in salary dump mode since their touted season in a new publicly financed stadium under a new world series pedigree manager Ozzie Guillen crashed and burned on take off. The small market Marlins suddenly spent huge sums on free agents such as Buerhle, Reyes, Heath Bell - - - cracking the $100 million payroll for the first time. But the team quickly fell to the bottom, and ownership was arguing with team executives at the end. The fire sale started before the end of last season with the trade of unhappy Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers. Now, the completion of the dismantling of the team is apparent with the Blue Jays deal.

With the deal, the Blue Jays will take on upwards of $165 million in salaries. It's by far the highest guaranteed salary trade the Blue Jays have made during their existence in Major League Baseball.

Toronto was always interested in Reyes, who has five years remaining at a total of $96 million. He would give the Blue Jays a traditional leadoff hitter for the first time in recent memory and will allow the club to move third baseman Brett Lawrie down in the order.

Reyes is coming off a season in which he hit .287 with 11 homers and 57 RBIs in 160 games. He is just one season removed from winning the National League batting crown with a .337 average and would now play a pivotal role in Toronto's lineup by attempting to get on base for sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

The presence of Johnson and Buehrle in the deal would fill a couple of glaring holes in Toronto's starting rotation. The two proven arms would join Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero in the starting five, while J.A. Happ would become the early favorite to win the final spot.

Johnson has just one year and $13.75 million remaining on his contract and is set to hit free agency following the 2013 campaign. Last year, Johnson went 8-14 with a 3.81 ERA during a somewhat inconsistent campaign, but he has the type of potential to be a bonafide front-of-the-rotation starter. From 2009-2011, Johnson went 29-12 with a remarkable 2.64 ERA in 70 starts.

Buehrle, 33,  is the former White Sox ace. He is a consistent innings eater.  He signed a four-year free agent contract worth $58 million with the Marlins to follow his manager, Guillen, to Miami, but now finds himself relocating for the second time in just two years. Last season, Buehrle went 13-13 with a 3.74 ERA in 31 starts.

The Marlins are to receive quality prospects. Marisnick (No. 2) and Hechavarria (No. 7) were both ranked among the Blue Jays top 20 prospects by, while DeSclafani would have been a candidate to crack that list in 2013.

Alvarez, 22,  was once considered one of Toronto's best pitching prospects, but he took a noticeable step back in 2012. He went just 9-14 with a 4.85 ERA and the lack of a consistent third pitch helped offset an otherwise overpowering fastball in the high 90s and a changeup combination.

The deal also provides a fresh start to Escobar, who  received a three-game suspension for a racial slur, which only added to the disappointment of a frustrating season that saw him hit just .253 in 145 games.  However, he is an above average defensive shortstop.

Mathis' inclusion in the deal had as much to do with Toronto's catching depth than anything else. The Blue Jays already have J.P. Arencibia entrenched as the club's starting catcher, while top prospect Travis d'Arnaud is waiting in the wings at Triple-A.

Buck could help the Blue Jays remain even more patient with d'Arnaud while backing up Arencibia, but there's an even stronger likelihood that Anthopoulos isn't done dealing and will eventually move another catcher. Or Buck could be moved in a trade to restock the Toronto farm system at a later time.

For the past couple of years, the Blue Jays front office talked at great length about the upside of Toronto's baseball market. President Paul Beeston envisioned one day of having a payroll around $150 million, but it always came with the caveat that attendance would have to increase first.
That finally happened in 2012, as Toronto increased its ticket sales by more than 3,000 per game. The Blue Jays ranked third in attendance with 2,099,663, which was their highest total since 2008.

Clearly, the Blue Jays are going "all in" in 2013 with the aging Yankees losing several players in the off-season and the Red Sox still in turmoil (after their blockbuster salary dump trade with the Dodgers). The Blue Jays now project to be #2 in the AL East behind the Tampa Bay Rays.

November 13, 2012


The Cubs have gone back to scrap heap of injured pitchers to try to find lightning in a bottle.

The Cubs signed Scott Baker to a one-year contract. Baker sat out all of the 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery.

Before 2012, he spent time with the Minnesota Twins.

Baker, 31, has career numbers over 7 years of 63 wins, 48 losses, 4.15 ERA in 159 starts. He has a career 1.264 WHIP and 3.44 K/BB ratio.

His best season was 2009, when he went 15-9, 4.37 ERA in 200 IP.

In 2012, on the DL, he made $6.5 million.

Twins fans believed that it was a foregone conclusion that the Twins would decline Baker's contract option, but quickly re-sign him to a new contract. The Twins are in need of pitching, and have a known quantity with Baker. The only way Baker would leave the Twins, fans thought, was if he was offered a 2 or 3 year contract elsewhere. Apparently, the Twins front office decided not to match Baker's 1 year offer from the Cubs, which may not raise a red flag, but put it on the rope of the flag pole.

Baker is automatically penciled in to take Volstad's slot in the rotation. A rotation that is still in the state of flux. Matt Garza is the default number one, pending recovery from injury. Jeff Samardzija is slated as the number two starter. Travis Wood is the only lefty with experience so he moves up to the number three starter. Baker becomes your default number four pitcher, pending recovery from injury. And the Cubs are praying that Adrodys Vizcaino can recover from his injury to join the rotation sooner than later. So the Cubs have 3 of their 5 starting pitchers (60%) coming back from significant injuries. That appears to be the new team pitching standard.

Baker is the second Twin pitcher taken by the Cubs. Earlier, the Cubs claimed injured AAA reliever Carlos Gutierrez.

November 12, 2012


The Dodgers won the expensive ($25.7 million) posting fee for Korean LHP Ryu.  The Dodgers have 30 days to reach a deal with Ryu's agent, Scott Boras.

The Dodgers have spent like drunken sailors since the new owners came on board after the McCourt bankruptcy/MLB litigation. The engine for the spending is a new multi-billion local television deal.

But are the Dodgers spending themselves into "baseball bankruptcy?" The team is saddled with high price, multi-year contracts for aging veterans.

In 2013, the Dodgers are already committed to spend $189 million on 18 players. Add in the buyout numbers for Manny Ramirez, Andrew Jones, H. Kuroda , Gwynn Jr. and other players, the 2013 payroll stands at a lofty $204.5 million.

Adding an expensive Ryu to the equation (Boras is looking for a "short term" deal, 2 year contract, which makes the posting fee proration giagantic) raises financial concerns. How can the Dodgers continue to add big money players?

Starting pitchers under contract (salary plus * multiyear): Josh Beckett (17*), Chad Billingsly (11*), Chris Capuano (6*), Clayton Kershaw (11 *),  Aaron Harang (7 *) and Ted Lilly (13.5). The team already has six starting pitchers making $65.5 million. To sign Ryu, the 2013 starting staff pushes past $100 million.

Some will argue that the Dodgers are pitcher rich in a market that seeks out starting pitcher. The
Dodgers could always trade their surplus pitching for prospects. Except, most general managers today do not want to trade for pitchers with long term contracts, especially veteran starters who tend to break down with age and IP.  Billingsly, Capuano and Harang seem to be possible trade bait at the winter meetings. It depends on whether Lilly has recovered from his injury.

There are some reports that the Dodgers may also make an offer for free agent Zach Greinke. It would seem nuclear overload to try to sign Greinke and Ryu in the same month.

The players and their agents like when one team decides it will try to buy a championship. It raises the salary structure for the entire league. But at some point in the near future, the team will be hampered by dead money contracts like Carl Crawford's.

November 10, 2012



It is apparent that the Cubs have a crater to fill at third base. The Josh Vitters Experiment will continue in Iowa next season. Luis Valbuena is not the answer at third in 2013.

Valbuena, 27, is a journeyman bench player. He hit .219 for the Cubs, 4 HR, 28 RBI, .310 OBP, 0 SB and .963 field percentage at third base. His WAR was 0.4, barely over AAA replacement value.

The free agent market is weak at third base.  Realistically, the Cubs have the following free agent options:

1. Jeff Keppinger, 32. He hit .325 with 9 HR, 40 RBI for the Rays. He made $1.53 million last season. He could be considered an overachieving utility infielder. For a full time third baseman, he would lack power numbers for the position. But he would appear signable.

2. Eric Chavez, 34. He hit .281, with 16 HR, 37 RBI for the Yankees. He is on the down slide of his career. He played mostly part time last season. He could hold the position like Gary Gaetti did for the Cubs at the end of his career. He would only cost around $2 million.

3. Casey McGehee, 30. The former Cub has struggled since his first 1.5 seasons with the Brewers. He hit .217, 9 HR, 41 RBI last season. He fits into the Chavez category as a stop-gap measure at around the same free agent price.

4. Brandon Inge, 35. He also is nearing the end of his career. He hit .215 with 12 HR 54 RBI last season in 83 games. Durability may be an issue. He projects to Ian Stewart type numbers.

5. Alberto Gonzalez, 29. He has played for 4 teams in the last 7 years, mostly as a back-up replacement player. In Texas, he played only 24 games, hitting .241, 0 HR, 4 RBI. He can play 3B, 2B and SS. He is the cheapest alternative at $750,000. But he gives little offense and no power.

With the poor choices on the open market, besides Vitters, who played third base at Iowa?
Nate Samson played 19 games, hit .280, 0 HR, 3 RBI, .333. OBP, and 1 error. He started the season in AA, where he hit .271, 2 HR, 14 RBI, .317 OBP. He ended the season on the disabled list. So he is not ready to compete for the starting third base job in 2013.

November 9, 2012


The Rangers, Dodgers, Phillies and the Cubs have reported put in posting bids for the right to sign Korean starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu. Ryu is a 25 year old left handed pitcher, with low 90s fastball and a plus curveball. He is probably the best professional Korean baseball player. He has been called an unfortunate ace because his team is usually near the bottom of the standings. But his career record is consistent:

2006: 18-6. 2.23 ERA, 1.05 WHIP
2007: 17-7, 2.94 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
2008: 14-7, 3.31 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
2009: 13-12, 3.57 ERA, 1.30 WHIP
2010: 16-4, 1.82 ERA, 1.01 WHIP
2011: 11-7, 3.36 ERA, 1.10 WHIP
2012: 9-9, 2.66 ERA, 1.09 WHIP

The question is whether Ryu’s Korean league performance will equate to MLB performance. Most people consider Japan’s level of play around AA-AAA level. Korean league is judged around a AA level. But there are exceptions to the rule.

Yu Darvish was the most sought after Asian pitcher last season. He signed a big money contract with the Rangers (6 years/$56 million). For the Rangers, he went 16-9, 3.90 ERA, 1.280 WHIP in 29 starts.

Darvish was also 25 when put out to bid. After the earthquake delayed the 2011 Japanese baseball season, Darvish  pitched 18 wins, 1,44 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in 28 starts. It was a career year for him.
This is the last loophole in the current CBA. Any player who is older than 23 with 5 pro years in his home country, does not fall under the international player signing restrictions. This is the last area where a team can “overspend” with unlimited dollars in order to get a free agent. This had been the overpay system that Epstein cultured when he was in Boston. However, it is uncertain whether Ricketts and business side of the Cubs have put the brakes on wild free agency spending for the near term.

Ryu is represented by Scott Boras, who will seek maximum dollars for his client. He may ask for more than Darvish contract, but it is doubtful that will happen since the leverage of the open market is restricted to the one winning post bid team. But even at $6 million per season, there is a risk of whether Ryu’s ability will continue once he faces a season of major league hitters. The foreign starting pitching signees have had spotty records in recent years.

For the Cubs to make a large commitment to Ryu, he would have to be the ace of their rotation for the next six years.

INSANE UPDATE:  The Hanwha Eagles have accepted a bid of $25,737,737 for Ryu. The Rangers made a bid, and the Dodgers  submitted "an aggressive bid,"  but a winner has not yet been announced. Jon Heyman reports that the Cubs made a bid but are not the post winner. Again, this puts Ryu in the $100 million contract range which is quite expensive and risky.

November 8, 2012


Knowing the Cubs desire to sign and flip starting pitchers during the long rebuilding process, there have been numerous names floating around as potential targets, such as Dan Haren or Shaun Marcum.

I think better value could be made with more under the radar selections.  My quick list of major league starters at reasonable salaries who fit the Cubs 2013 profile are:

1. John Lannan, 28, LHP.

He was the odd man out in the Nationals rotation last season. He spend an unhappy year mostly in AAA. He went 4-1, 4.13 ERA 1.439 WHIP. He would be a motivated player in 2013. He has no injury issues. He made $5 million last season. So if the Nationals don't tender him a contract, he could be signed at the $5 million range.

2. Carlos Villanueva, 29, RHP

He played through some highs and lows with Toronto. Playing for the Blue Jays keeps him under the national radar.  He went 7-7, 4.16 ERA, 1.269 WHIP. He made $2.28 million last season, and he would expect a raise to around $4 million. The question with him is command and control.

3. Kevin Correia, 32, RHP

He was in the doghouse late in the season and wanted out of Pittsburgh. The Cubs have historically done well in signing ex-Pirates for the short term. He went 12-11, 4.21 ERA, 1.298 WHIP. He made $3 million last season so he would expect near $5 million for 2013.

4. Jair Jurrjens, 26, RHP.

One of the Braves young guns who had nagging injuries the last few seasons. He was on the trade block before last season as the Braves have a bountiful of young arms ready for major league duty. He went 3-4, 6.89 ERA, 1.862 WHIP.  Those numbers could scare off some teams. If the Braves do not offer him a contract, Jurrjens could be the high risk-reward type signee that the Cubs front office would pounce with glee. Jurrjens made $5.5 million last season. Even with injuries, one could expect a small raise in a discounted multi-year deal. But he is still young.

November 7, 2012


Baseball Prospectus has its new Top 10 Cubs prospects list (with my commentary):

1. Albert Almora, OF.  He was Theo's first first round draft pick. Passed up college for pros.
He is still at least three full seasons from any major league look.

2. Javier Baez, SS. He is a holdover from the Hendry regime. He is a shortstop with some power.
His development setback in fall league: dislocated thumb. He is still at least two years away.

3. Jorge Soler, OF. Theo's big international, big money signee. However, the Cubs placed him in the low minors to begin his U.S. pro career. It depends on how desperate the Cubs are to promote a big bat prospect.

4. Arodyz Vizcaino, SP. He was acquired in the Maholm deal with the Braves. The issue is that Vizcaino, though young, is in the midst of Tommy John surgery rehab. There is always a question
of whether he will return to full velocity and full control. He probably will not make the roster until

5. Dan Vogelbach, 1B. He is the beefy high school kid that hits monster home runs. And apparently, that is it. He is another Hendry hold over, so there is no time frame or need to promote him quickly since Rizzo is the cornerstone, franchise first baseman.

6. Brett Jackson, OF. Jackson's major league debut was a fizzle. There is now a question of whether there is no loyalty to Hendry's top prospects when it comes to final exams. Jackson is slated to start 2013 in Iowa, which may curse his Cub career. The Cubs have stated that they are looking for a new CF in 2013.

7. Pierce Johnson, SP. Another high Epstein draft choice. He probably will not be rushed to the majors before 2014.

8. Duane Underwood, SP. Another high Epstein draft choice. He also will not be rushed to the majors before 2014.

9. Christian Villanueva, 3B. Acquired in the Dempster trade from the Rangers, Villanueva's career was blocked in Texas. There are no road blocks in Cubs system, as Vitters debut was a disaster in 2013. Vitters will be in Iowa in 2013. The key question is whether Villanueva can make a large leap from AA ball to the majors in 2013. It is doubtful, since the front office has this arbitrary rule about prospects getting 500 AB in AAA.

10. Dillon Maples, SP. Another Hendry pick who has lanquished with slow progress in the minors. He was injured for part of last season which was a set back. With the massive emphasis on drafting pitchers in 2012, it is doubtful that the new management will hold on to aging prospects in the system.

November 6, 2012


Cubs GM Hoyer was quoted by ESPN Chicago about the work at hand for the 2013 season. One of the holes to fill is center field. He is looking for a "short" deal free agent for whom they can trade at the deadline. It seems like a empty fantasy.

Here is a list of free agent center fielders:

Rick Ankiel (33)
Michael Bourn (30) - received qualifying offer
Josh Hamilton (32) - received qualifying offer
Reed Johnson (36)
Mitch Maier (31)
Nyjer Morgan (32)
Angel Pagan (31)
Scott Podsednik (37)
Grady Sizemore (30)
B.J. Upton (28) - received qualifying offer
Shane Victorino (32)
Dewayne Wise (35)

Any player with a qualifying offer who does not re-sign with his team carries with him the loss of his new team's first round draft choice. For the Cubs, that is the #2 pick. There is no way that the Cubs will want to forfeit the #2 pick in the draft.

The next problem with the CF FA list is that no other player is under the magic "30 years old" standard that Team Theo has advocated since day one. Yes, it is an arbitrary age in a long term rebuilding cycle.

If you get around the age factor, who left in the list that is a candidate for a flip-trade?

You can eliminate the journeymen: Ankiel, Johnson, Podsednik and Wise.
You can eliminate Sizemore due to injury issues.

Maier played only 32 games with the Royals and batted .172.

Morgan played 122 games with the Brewers. He batted .239, 3 HR, 16 RBI and 12 SB. He made $2.35 million last season.

Pagan is the former Cub who played 154 games for the Champion Giants. He hit .288, 8 HR, 56 RBI, 29 SB and lead the lead in triples (15). He made $4.85 million last season and will command a hefty raise today.

Victorino's career has been slowly sliding since his Phillies days. In 2012, he played for Phils and Dodgers. In 154 games, he hit. .255, 11 HR, 55 RBI and 39 SB. He made $9.5 million last season and could get a raise in a weak free agent market this off season.

The Cubs are kidding themselves if they think Pagan or Victorino would sign with a last place team on a short term deal. Quality free agents control their own destiny. They tend to go to big market "contending teams" on long term deals.

November 3, 2012


There is a disturbing trend in the new Cubs front office. The Dempster for Delgado trade to Atlanta was botched because of a lack of communication. And now, a late night deal to acquire a quality starter fell by the wayside due to apparent communication issues.

The Cubs were going to trade closer Carlos Marmol to the Angels for starter Dan Haren. The deadline was midnight for the Angels to exercise Haren's $15.5 million option for 2013. The plan was to exercise the option and trade Haren for a player. Otherwise, the Angels would decline the option, pay the $3.5 million buyout and let Haren become a free agent.

Haren was one of the potential targets for the Cubs in the free agent market. The Cubs are in desperate need for rotation help, and if Haren stays healthy, he could be flipped at the July, 2013 deadline for more prospects.

Marmol would make $9.8 million in 2013. Reports indicate that Marmol did not object to the trade.
Initial reports stated that the Cubs were "confused" over the Haren buy-out contract language.

Why would the Cubs be confused with a buy-out clause when it is standard practice in player contracts? And why would the Cubs care about the buy-out because it would be moot if the player option was exercised for 2013, which had to be a condition of the trade?

If that was the reason, then that is pretty dumb.

However, ESPN's Bruce Levine reported on the radio this morning that the hang-up over the deal was money. 

The true reason may have been about equalizing salaries. Haren would have made $15.5 million. Marmol will make $9.8 million. That is a $5.7 million difference. If the Cubs were looking for the Angels to trade Haren with $5 million in cash for Marmol, that would have been a deal killer. And that would also have been a dumb move.

It is a hard sell to pay a new closer, who you will only have for 2013 season, the equivalent of $14.8 million. So the Angels would have balked at such a deal.

But from a Cub prospective, Marmol's $9.8 million is dead money. The Cubs are projected for another 100 loss season, so an expensive closer is a payroll burden. If the Cubs would have off-loaded Marmol's salary, that would have been a financial plus in the payroll budget because the Cubs still had to sign several starters this off season.  To get Haren today, it will cost the Cubs at least $15 million plus Marmol's contract which is still on the books. At the very least, a straight up deal would have given the Cubs the flexibility to use Marmol's $9.8 salary slot to sign another free agent starting pitcher. So trying to get cash from the Angels was a dumb move.

The Cubs could have immediately upgraded the rotation with the Haren deal. He would be the #1 or #2 starter for 2013. Now, if the Cubs want Haren, it will cost the team MORE money than what was involved in the Angels deal.

This is another strange trade tale. It is also a clear signal that the Cubs are money conscious. Despite a horrible season, the team refused to really reduce any of the season ticket package prices. Instead, shifting any discounts to increases in single game ticket prices. In addition, the team is attempting to crack down on season ticket re-sellers which makes little sense since there was no viable secondary ticket market for a bad Cubs team in 2012.

November 2, 2012


The winter baseball season has started with many writers culling the free agent list to speculate where the top fifty will land in 2013. Real movement will begin at the Winter Meetings in December.

But it does not stop the crystal balls from being polished by wordsmiths.

Here are the names currently attached to the Cubs as potential free agent catches:

1. Shaun Marcum, sp (Brewers), 30 years old. He went 7-4, 3.70 ERA in 21 starts. 1.266 WHIP. He made $7.75 million last season. The real issue is that he has an elbow injury or concern. The new front office is like the old front office in that they are willing to take fliers on injured pitchers (example, Maholm for Tommy John repaired Vizcaino.) The Cubs destroyed their starting rotation at the trade deadline, and will try to move Garza this winter. There are no ready capable starters in the minor league system. So the Cubs have to fill the rotation with second or third tier starters just to field a team. (If the Cubs kept Maholm, he would have been cheaper at $6.5 million). The plan will be to try to sign a down pitcher, and if he performs,  to flip him for more prospects at the trade deadline.

2. Jeremy Guthrie, sp, (Rockies-Royals), 33 years old. He went 8-12, 4.76 ERA in 33 starts. He did do better in Kansas City,going 5-3 with 3.16 ERA.  He made $8.2 million. So you do not know what you are getting with Guthrie, bad Rocky or good Royal. He is only has a .417 career winning percentage. But he could give you 180 IP.

3. Ryan Dempster, sp, (Cubs-Rangers), 35 years old. The Cubs pushed him out the door to get a third base prospect from the Rangers. With Texas, he went 7-3 with a high 5.09 ERA in 12 starts and 1.435 WHIP. Was it the AL that made Dempster a dramatically worse pitcher? Or has the decline started? Why would Dempster want to come back to the Cubs who traded him at the deadline?  The Cubs PR department wants to get fans looking forward into the distant future, so bringing back the "ace" of the staff for a 101-loss team seems counterproductive. Dempster made $14 million last season, and would probably want a multi-year guaranteed deal to get a discount.

4. Torii Hunter, of, (Angels), 37 years old. The Angels have no room in the outfield for Hunter. The idea that the Brett Jackson experiment will not pan out is premature. Hunter made $18 million last season.  He hit .313, 16 HR, 92 RBI in a very powerful lineup. It makes little sense to spend $10 million or more on an outfielder on the bare bones rebuilding club when that money can be spent on a #4 starter or three veteran bench players.

5. Dan Haren, sp, (Angels), 32 years old. He made $12.75 million and the Angels have a $15.5 million option to be exercised today if the team wants to sign and trade him. Some believe he is an injury waiting to happen, Haren did make 30 starts for the Angels. He went 12-13, 4.33 ERA, 1.291 WHIP. He would be an expensive acquisition, and would be very difficult to trade at the deadline because of his salary.

November 1, 2012


Some writers grumbled why the White Sox quickly signed Jake Peavy to a new two-year contract.

Because, Peavy is a "quality" starter.

Stats guys believe a "quality" start is a pitcher throwing 6 innings and allowing 3 or fewer runs. However, critics believe that a 4.50 ERA is hardly a "quality" outing for a pitcher, even in the juiced ball era.

So what is a quality start? Is it total victories? Or is it keeping your team in the game with the opportunity to win? Is it shutting down your opponent to take the pressure off your offense? It is probably a combination of those factors.

The oldest markers of a good pitcher is earned runs and control (WHIP).

And baseball as a whole has some clear statistical benchmarks in ERA and WHIP.

In 2012, American League teams combined had an average ERA of 4.08.

In 2012, National League teams combined had an average ERA of 3.95. This probably is the differential of the NL not having a DH.

In 2012, all teams combined had an average ERA of 4.01. So one could argue that 4.00 is an "average" major league pitcher benchmark.

It is also confirmed by a means test. In 2012, 7 of the 14 AL teams had a team ERA under 4.00 while 7 of the AL teams had an ERA above 4.00. In the NL, 9 teams had team ERA under 4.00 while 7 teams were higher than 4.00.

Clearly, a "quality" start of 4.50 ERA is false, considering an "average" pitcher is significantly below that number at 4.00 (11.1 percent).

It may get subjective at this point, but one could argue that a "quality" pitcher has an ERA of 3.50 and an "excellent" pitcher has an ERA of 3.49 or below.

In conjunction with lower ERA is a lower WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched). In regard to both the AL and NL, in 2012 the average WHIP was identical at 1.31. This figure represents the average "control" a major league pitcher has on the mound. The lower the number, the more control. The higher the number, the less control (since walks is an equal component).

So how was Peavy's 2012 season? He had 32 starts, a 3.37 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. His ERA was 15.76 percent below the 4.00 standard. His WHIP was 16 percent below the 1.31 standard. You would have to put Peavy's season in the "excellent" category.

And that is why the White Sox signed Peavy to maintain an excellent one-two punch with starter Chris Sale (29 starts, 3.05 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) at the top of the 2013 rotation.