March 28, 2013


True to their word, the Cubs brass did claim a player off the wire.

The Cubs claimed right-handed pitcher Guillermo Moscoso off waivers from the Blue Jays in their continued search for bullpen help.This decision made Cory Wade, one of the in-house bullpen candidates off the 25-man roster. Lefty Hisanori Takahashi in still camp, but the Cubs state they are are still monitoring the waiver wire. Takahashi is a non-roster invitee, and the Cubs would need to open a spot on the 40-man for him as well.

To make room for Moscoso on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher Arodys Vizcaino was placed on the 60-day disabled list. He is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Moscoso, 29, is 11-12 with a 4.16 ERA in 57 Major League appearances, including 24 starts, over four seasons with the Rangers (2009-10), Athletics (2011) and Rockies (2012). In each of the past two seasons, he made 23 big league appearances, with 21 of his 23 outings as a starter in 2011, and 20 of his 23 appearances as a reliever last year.

In his three starts last year, the right-hander was 0-1 with a 10.80 ERA, and he compiled a 4.42 ERA in 20 relief appearances. With most waiver wire selections, the hope is that the player may "get better" with a change of scenery or be "coached up" by the pitching guru on staff. It does indicate that the Cubs would like to go with major league experience over a rookie in the bullpen.

The Cubs also have yet to finalize the position players on the Opening Day roster. Steve Clevenger is in the same situation as Takahashi. He's the last in-house candidate.

If the Cubs keep Clevenger, they would have the rare situation of carrying three catchers on the opening day roster. Clevenger has been playing other positions (1B, 3B) but one cannot say that he is a true utility infielder.

Moscoso was immediately put on waivers by the Cubs. He has cleared waivers and he has been outrighted off the 40 man roster to the minor league camp. It is expected that he will be assigned to AAA Iowa to start the season.

March 27, 2013


The Cubs have indicated that the front office will burn through the waiver wire in the next few days to see if there are any cast-offs that could help the club on Opening Day.  It sounds like a noble pursuit until one realizes what the waiver wire represents.

If a player is out of minor league options, a team cannot send him to the minors without first putting him on waivers. Then the 29 other clubs can put in a claim for that player's contract.

Since at this time of the year, most teams have their 40 man rosters set, this would mean that if the Cubs are looking for talent now they would be picking up players ranked 1201 of higher in the collective depth chart. (30 clubs times 40 protected roster players equals 1200.) Only the Astros can beat the Cubs on any selection.

Then, again, the Cubs would have to move a player to the 60 day DL or release a player from the 40 man roster in order to take a waiver player. So the club has to make the determination that the 1201th best player in the majors is better value than someone already under Cub control.

The pipe dream is that the Cubs will find a fifth starter on the wire. Teams have enough problems finding starting pitchers to let any go now. The Cubs may be looking for a reserve infielder to be the 25th man if Clevenger does not make the roster. This is most likely a career minor leaguer or a long-in-the-tooth veteran journeyman.

It is interesting to note that the Cubs have become more stubborn in their insistence that they will not promote quickly their prospects. And in this situation, not even marginal tweeners are not getting any attention after the poor showings last season by B. Jackson and Vitters. The Cubs are holding the line for their key players at the AA and below levels for 2013.

March 25, 2013


After the injury plagued rotation issue, the Cubs appear to have set their bullpen.

Carlos Marmol retains his role as the closer.  Even though the off season plan was to move Marmol, the Cubs are stuck with him.

Kyuji Fujikawa, the Japanese closer, was supposed to be the two-year bridge to get the Cubs pitching staff to a competitive level in 2015. Whether Fuji will be able to adapt to major league hitters is still a question. The Cubs only other Japanese import, Kosuke, did not pan out well.

Dale Sveum's 2012 MVP Shawn Camp is back in middle relief. He made an outrageous number of appearances last season. There is a question of whether he can handle another season of such a workload at his age.

James Russell has become a dependable relief pitcher after his disasterous forays into the spot-starter role. As a left hander, he projects to be the next Sean Marshall of the staff.

Hector Rondon, a Rule 5 pick up who must make the roster in order to be retained, wins a slot like Lendy Castillo did last season, because he has to or the Cubs lose his rights. The Cubs say they are impressed with Rondon's spring, but they also said the same thing about Castillo last year. It is hard to promote a AA pitcher to the majors. It is hard to "hide" a Rule 5 pitcher in the bullpen on a bad team, because the bullpen will be taxed on a bad team with a suspect rotation.

Michael Bowden makes the team as a reliever because he is out of options. He can't be sent to the minors without clearing waivers. So he makes the squad by default.

The remaining bullpen spot will go to Hisanori Takahashi, another veteran left hander. He has had the best ERA among those other candidates for the last pitching spot. And he is the only left hander left in camp after Russell.


In a spare moment over the weekend, I had a chance to see part of the Cubs-Angels exhibition game. The Cubs were playing mostly with their projected opening day line up. Edwin Jackson was the starter. The Angels were playing with a minor league split squad team.  And the Angels were cruising to a victory.

A few observations:

The Angels minor league system is more advanced than the Cubs. Their hitters were much more patient and ready to hit major league pitching. The Cubs have a long way to go to catch up.

The Cubs television booth is going to take a while to gel. It could be painful to listen to when the Cubs start poorly.

The organization raves about Anthony Rizzo's play at first base. I came away not very impressed by his defense. On one pick off play, instead of having his right foot on the nearest corner to the pitcher he had it on the back corner (which blocked the umpires view of the tag). Because of poor foot positioning, the umpire could not see the tag and called the runner safe. That was a mental error on Rizzo's part.

Also, Rizzo does not have very good range fielding his position. On a slow chopper to his right, he could not make the play. And on a high bouncer down the line, he could not move two feet to the line to get it before it landed on the skirt of the infield dirt on the line.

He also showed that he had trouble with high throws. When he had to leave his feet, he had trouble coming back down on the bag.

One could explain that he is a young player and experience will make him better over time. But he is not now a gold glove caliber first baseman.

From a hitting perspective, Rizzo is going to struggle. The other teams now have the book on his weaknesses. Joe Blanton threw him four straight off speed pitches down and away and he made Rizzo look a clueless t-baller. It was only when a breaking ball did not break that Rizzo looped a weak single to left center. Again, one could explain that he is young player and experience will make him better with in-season adjustments. But he is slotted third in the order. That is reserved for the team's best hitter. People hope he has the repetitious line drive .300 swing of a Mark Grace, but people fear he could be another Micah Hoffpauir.

March 22, 2013


You might have heard that a $3 flea market bowl turned out to be a 1,000 year old Chinese treasure which was recently auctioned off for $2.2 million. Now that is quite the return on investment.

For the past two years, Theo Epstein and the Cubs have been trying to sign and flip "assets" in order to push along a young rebuild of the entire organization. The veterans that the Cubs have traded have been yielding rookie and Class A prospects, that are years away from making any impact on the major league roster.

In the current basket of Cubs assets, are there any players that will actually return more than the initial investment?

It seemed like the front office really thought they could repeat a Dempster and Maholm pitcher flip at the trade deadline this year when they signed Scott Baker and Scott Feldman. Both Scotties needed to "prove" themselves after last season's woes. Baker did not pitch due to injury. Feldman got demoted from the Rangers rotation. But both pitchers this spring have been disappointing. Feldman has been shelled in most of his work. Baker only got one out before he was shelved to the disabled list.

The other pitching assets the Cubs have to deal are Matt Garza and Carlos Marmol. Garza is also injured so he has no trade value unless he comes back strong. But he has had eight months to recover and he is not close to pitching at the major league level. Marmol was almost traded to the Angels for Dan Haren (a swap of big money contracts), but the Cubs nixed the deal. Marmol is an expensive closer at the end of his deal. Not many teams are interested in Marmol. It would take a significant injury to a mid-season contender for Marmol to have a limited market.

Those assets who are at their prime peak for trading value include Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney. Castro is a legitimate All-Star caliber player who just signed a long term extension. The Cubs have no plans to trade him, even though he would bring back the most talent. Barney had his best season, but it was on the defensive side of the slate. Most teams view him as a middle infield bench player than a full time starter. If the Cubs were ever going to get anything for Barney, it would have been this off-season when the sports pages heralded his gold glove award.

The rest of the roster appears to be filled with trinkets of bench types that would not be starters on other teams.

From a major league asset stand point, the Cubs 40 man roster table  is pretty picked over. The Cubs, as Sellers, will have a tough time finding quality prospects from their veteran roster.

March 20, 2013


The starting rotation and fielding eight are pretty much set for opening day. How good are these Cubs?

Based upon last year's performance, not so good. By WAR (Wins Above Replacement) metrics, the Cubs are well below average. A replacement player (AAA-AAA level) is a zero. A zero to 2 represents a bench player level. Two plus indicates a player is a MLB starter level. Five plus indicates that player is of All-Star quality. An eight plus indicates that a player is MVP caliber.

The starters for the Cubs:

Barney 4.6 - - - mostly calculated based on his defense, a starter
Castro 3.5 - - - a starter level player
Rizzo 2.2 - - - a starter level player
Soriano 1.8 - - - a bench level player, as in former starter losing his skills
DeJesus 1.6 - - - a bench player
Valbuena 0.4 - - - a low bench player level player, barely above a minor leaguer
Schierholtz -0.1 - - - negative zero point one is below a replacement level player.

Samardzija 1.6 - - - a reserve or middle reliever level pitcher
E. Jackson 1.6  - - - a reserve or middle reliever level pitcher
Villanueva 1.2 - - - a reserve or middle reliever level pitcher
T. Wood 0.6 - - -  a low reserve or middle reliever level pitcher
Feldman 0.0 - - - at minor league replacement level.

The Cubs will field only three legitimate major league level starters: Barney, Castro and Rizzo.
The rotation is filled with long relief-spot starter bullpen pitchers, and two that are replacement level AAAA minor league talent.


March 19, 2013


Dale Sveum said that the "window is shutting" on Ian Stewart's chances of remaining a Cub. Stewart had another MRI on his strained quad. The time is long past to move on - - - he was a bust last season and a bust in spring training.

The window is now open for the Cubs to draft third baseman Kris Bryant with the #2 pick. Bryant is considered the the best power college bat in the draft. Some publications question whether he can stick at third for the long-term. He’s got a plus arm, but some feel he might have to move to right field or first base in the future. Bryant is currently ranted by Baseball America as  #12 prospect; Jonathan Mayo,  #7and Perfect Game: #8.  The Cubs have a desperate need for power and third base. Bryant continues to fill most those needs.

The window is also shutting on available roster spots.

Lefty hitter Brian Bogusevic and right handed hitting Dave Sappelt and Darnell McDonald have been battling all spring for the last outfield spot. Sappelt has the advantage of being right handed hitter, is currently on the 40 man roster and was with the club last season.

In regard to the infield situation, Luis Valbuena has won third by default. With Stewart's roster cut now almost a certainty, most observers believe Brent Lillibridge is going to be the back up infielder/third baseman this year. Alberto Gonzalez or Edwin Maysonet have a chance at breaking camp with the team as the final back up infielder, but one more 40 man roster spot would have to be created to add one of them.

Sveum has cued up his starting lineup:

DeJesus cf
Castro ss
Rizzo 1b
Soriano lf
Schierholtz rf
Castillo c
Valbuena 3b
Barney 2b
Samardzija sp

DeJesus is not a very good lead off man. Castro will be more comfortable hitting in the #2 slot, as he will see more fastballs as Rizzo is protecting him in the order. Rizzo will need to learn how to handle the variety of off-speed pitches this season. Soriano is moving up to bat clean up, which is probably the best of a bad situation. The 5 through 7 hitters are going from part time roles to full time status. And Barney bats 8th which is about right considering his offense deficiencies.

UPDATE: The Cubs will put Stewart and Baker on the DL to start the season. It makes no sense to put Stewart on the DL and have to pay him his $2 million contract with no guarantee that he will not repeat the 2012 debacle. 

March 18, 2013


ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine has finally come around to our concerns about the Cubs starting pitching woes. For the entire winter season, Cubs management has taught the media that it was aware of a pitching need and went out and signed a ton of starting pitchers: Baker, Feldman, Villaneuva. The Cubs said their rotation was more solid than last season.

Well, we were among the doubters. Baker was coming off a lengthy Tommy John surgery rehab. Feldman was demoted to the bullpen by the Rangers. Villaneuva was demoted to the bullpen by the Blue Jays. Edwin Jackson was not even a .500 pitcher for the NL champion Nationals. None of these signees were coming off career years.

Levine observed that what initially looked like a deep, if not spectacular, starting rotation now appears questionable ("iffy") at best with two weeks left until opening day. Baker and Garza are coming off major injuries. They are not expected to be on the opening day roster. Garza's return was complicated by a February 17th left quad strain.

Baker got shelled in  his first game appearance on Sunday. Levine reports that six members of the Cubs front office, including president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, watched the former Twins pitcher labor through a "less-than-competitive outing."  Baker was able to retire just one batter of six that he faced. Baker's fastball barely tipped 85 mph. That is beyond disappointing if the front office put all their eggs on the Baker basket to repeat a Ryan Dempster type first half.

Levine states that the main concern for the rotation at this point has been the below-average spring for both Feldman and Villanueva. Normally spring training is a time to get your work in and not worry about results but that principle is challenged when pitchers you are counting on are new to an organization like Baker, Feldman, Jackson and Villaneuva. Likewise, Garza has to prove something to the organization and the rest of the league because this is contract walk season.

As we observed, this new rotation on paper did not blow away last year's staff that included a remarkable run by Dempster and a solid top of the rotation consistency of Paul Maholm.


Most major league teams cringe at the thought of their young players going off to play in the MLB dogma called the World Baseball Classic. The WBC was the marketing brainchild of Selig's crew in order to grow the game of baseball internationally. If they believed it would turn into a World Cup Soccer for Baseball, they were mistaken. The WBC has the impact of a splinter on a pitcher's non-throwing hand.

And how the teams are made shows the lack of pure international sport. Anthony Rizzo was born and raised in the United States. But because a grandparent lived in Italy or his last name is Italian, he was offered a position on the Italy squad. And he took it. Manager Dale Sveum said it would be a good experience for him.

The Cubs have invested a lot in Rizzo to be the cornerstone of the team for the next decade. As a power hitting first baseman who will bat in the middle of the order, it is important that Rizzo be successful or the rebuilding house of cards fall. The only organizational competition for his position is Dan Vogelbach, the power hitting Class A first baseman.  So there is little internal pressure on Rizzo's job security.

Most teams do not want their players to play in the WBC because even though it is a glorified exhibition series, the intensity level is ramped up a notch. Players are under the control of non-team managers and trainers. Players may push themselves to play more or harder. It disrupts the rhythm and training for a player's regular season.

The Cubs gave Rizzo the opportunity to join team Italy. Rizzo  played well in his 5 WBC games. He finished without an injury. At the plate he went 4-for-17, including a couple of doubles, scored 4 runs, drove in some clutch RBI (6) and walked 5 times vs. 3 strikeouts. His five walks led the team. His 6 RBI and .409 on-base percentage ranked second-best on the squad.

But more important was that Rizzo was on an underdog team that overachieved during the tournament. The Italians unexpectly won their first two games in round 1 defeating Mexico 6-5 and Canada 14-4. Then they nearly won both their games in round 2 against better teams, but eventually fell in thrilling one-run losses to the Dominican 5-4 and Puerto Rico 4-3.

The experience of "winning" was the valuable lesson that Rizzo received by playing in this year's WBC. Players still need to learn "how" to win as a team. Teams that have year after year of losing seasons don't know how to win; they subconsciously accept losing as a way of life. It creates a permanent downward spiral of losing seasons (i.e. Kansas City). The WBC at least gave Rizzo a taste of success to tell his young teammates about during the course of another losing Cub season.

March 14, 2013


As spring training begins to wind down, opening day rosters are becoming quite clear. CBS Sports published this week a projected opening day lineup and rotation with closer for each team.

Our focus is on the NL Central. In 2012, the NL Central teams (excluding the Astros, now in the AL West) won a total of 408 games. If you divide 408 wins by 5 teams, the average is 81.6 wins/team. That is consistent with the average of 81 wins for a .500 club.

Using the published projected lineups, I ranked each team position player with his divisional peer.  The ranking was 5 (for the best) to 1 (for the worst). This would equate to a total possible of 210 points.  For each team rank point, it would project to 1.943 wins.

For the positional players, the points from the rankings finished as follows:

Reds 29
Cards 27
Brewers 25
Pirates 24
Cubs 15

For the pitchers (5 starters and closer), the points from the rankings finished as follows:

Reds 25 & Cards 25
Pirates 15
Brewers 13
Cubs 12

Total points were:

Reds 54 = 104.92 wins
Cards 52 = 101.04 wins
Pirates 39 = 75.78 wins
Brewers 38 = 73.83 wins
Cubs 27 = 52. 46 wins

From last year's standings and this projection:

Reds 105 wins = +8 wins from 2012 (97)
Cards 101 wins = +13 wins from 2012 (88)
Pirates 76 wins =  +3 more losses from 2012 (79)
Brewers 74 wins = +9 more losses from 2012 (83)
Cubs 52 wins = +9 more losses from 2012 (61)

The Cardinals may project on paper as the most improved in the division, but the difference between the Reds is not enough to overcome the gap; even if the Reds repeat the same season, the Cards gain of +5 would still leave them only with 93 wins (6 GB). There will be a battle for first place, and a close battle for third place. The Cubs appear to be the bottom feeder by a wide margin.

March 13, 2013


Jim Bowden writes a baseball column for ESPN. He comes from the perspective of being a former front office guy.

He wrote this week that the Cubs minor league system has been raising eyebrows in the past year. The organization jumped ten spots to sixth in the latest ESPN baseball prospect rankings.

Many scouts have been impressed by the batting shown by Javier Baez, Junior Lake and Jorge Soler. However, Bowden stated that:

all three have some “hit” tool issues. Odds are one of them never pans out and follows Corey Patterson and Felix Pie  as Cubs prospects who failed to live up to the fans’ often unrealistic expectations.

However, Bowden praises one Cub prospect as "a slam dunk:  center fielder Albert Almora. He was the Cubs’ first-round selection in last year’s draft and Bowden believes looks like a future All-Star.

Yes, there is a logical inconsistency in Bowden's statements regarding the young players. All prospects have a learning curve in order to improve their skills. It is highly unusual that a drafted player begins his professional career on a major league roster. That is why training and development is so critical in a baseball organization. Having the right teachers and right philosophy will create a steady stream of quality players (i.e. the Dodgers organization).

Baez, Lake, Soler and Almora are early in the careers. Almora has the least amount of pro experience so it is hard to judge that he will be better than the other three. Only Lake has a chance to reach AAA this year. His promotion may be more need based as the Cubs are devoid of third basemen at the higher levels.

I think the team's front office has higher expectations of Baez, Lake and Soler than the average Cub fan. Since so many scouts have positive reviews of the Cub prospects so far, it is unfair to make Patterson and Pie comparisons. (The opposite is true on another Cubs' vaulted prospect, Cuban pitcher Concepcion, whom many scouts ripped last season as a poor prospect in rookie-A ball). And some observers will question why with all the emphasis on pitching in the last draft, no pitcher has been labeled by other team scouts as a can't miss prospect.

Baseball player development is a hit and miss crap game. On average, one of ten prospects reach the majors. Maybe one in twenty become quality starters (2.5 + WAR). That means the Cubs have really a chance to have four players in their minor league system contribute to the major league roster in time. Apparently, the consensus is that those four are Baez, Lake, Soler and Almora.

March 11, 2013


Ian Stewart is confident that he will be the Cubs opening day third baseman. Stewart is not worried that he injured his quad at the beginning of camp. He is not worried that he has not shown he has recovered from his wrist injury. He is not at all concerned that he has not played a single exhibition inning so far this spring. Stewart believes third base is his job. Period.

The hubris arrogance of Stewart is formed by the fact that the Cubs are devoid of any talent at third base. Luis Valbuena has been taking the most action at third. At best, he is a journeyman utility infield bench player. Josh Vitters tanked on his major league debut last season. He is set to start the season in AAA Iowa.

So Stewart can make his boast because there is no competition for his position. The lack of competition for roster spots is a bad thing, especially on a bad team.

One could argue that Stewart also has a hole card that Epstein Hoyer traded two good players for him. As a result, most general managers do not like to admit to their mistakes. So Stewart gets a free pass on the bust 2012 season in order for the GM to get some positive points if Stewart can play well in 2013. However, Hoyer has not been slow to cut players picked up on waivers. And the owner, Ricketts, may be wanting to contract salaries. Stewart would be paid a modest $2 million for 2013; but if he is cut, the Cubs are only on the hook for 20%, or the equivalent of three promoted minor league prospects (which may in the form of pitcher call-ups as the starting rotation continues to struggle.)

The only bright spot in spring has been Junior Lake. The AA shortstop has been playing third base in split squad games. In 10 games, he is batting .304 with 1 HR and 3 RBI. But the Cubs will not rush Lake to the majors this year. With Vitters at AAA, Lake will remain at AA to get extended playing time. Besides, management has its new rule that all prospects need 500 AB at AAA first to conclude their development. Which means Lake will not reach that goal until 2014.

Cubs' third base position will be a sink hole for the next several years.

March 8, 2013


The White Sox locked up starter Chris Sale with a long term extension.  Most people agree that it was a very good deal for the White Sox to lock up a young ace through his arbitration-peak years.  Some fans question whether Sale and his agent left a lot of money on the table.

The deal was a five year extension worth $32.5 million (base).  The contract also includes club options for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. The 23-year-old will earn $850K in 2013, $3.5MM in 2014, $6MM in 2015, $9.15MM in 2016 and $12MM in 2017. The White Sox have options for $2018 ($12.5MM) and 2019 ($13.5MM) with $1MM buyouts. CSN Chicago reports that the contract contains an bonus program that could make the total contract worth $60 million.

Why are young pitchers like Sale, Jonathan Niese, Derek Holland, Yovani Gallardo and Jon Lester, signing five year extensions worth more than $30 million only after two years of MLB service time?

First, it may the guarantee money. If a pitcher, especially one with health risks because of wind up or other issues, the incentive is to lock up as much guaranteed money as soon as possible.

Second, is to accelerate the level of arbitration money while discounting the overall contract value. If Sale did nothing, he would be paid slightly more than the league minimum of $500,000. So he gets a raise in 2013. His first year of arbitration usually yields around 25% of a comparable veteran starter salary (which today is around $13 million). That would be $3.25 million. The extension gives a tad more.  Second year arbitration is around 50%, or around $6.5 million. The third year of arbitration is around 75% or $9.75 million. So the White Sox are getting a slight discount on the back end of the deal. Third, with the guarantee money settled, the contract will still expire when Sale is under 30, which is going to be a huge payday if he is healthy and continues to perform well.

Third, the risk of injury is apparent. Sale has seen ace John Danks go down for almost an entire season. And scouts still question whether Sale's quirky deliver will lead to injury issues. 

The risk to the White Sox is that it has spent $32.5 million no matter what Sale accomplishes going forward. The White Sox have loathed the long term starter deals, but new GM Hahn is thinking more long term. But it makes sense to lock up two lefty aces in Danks and Sale to what are currently perceived as below market deals.

March 7, 2013


In the sleepy spring training camp, besides the injury news, comes the short feature that the coaches may have found their "new Joe Mather."  One would think that is not earth shattering news. The powers that be are looking to Brian Bogusevic as a potential 5th outfielder, back-up first baseman. The left handed hitter is batting .444 this spring, but mostly in split squad games.

So why are the Cubs salivating over the "next" Joe Mather?

Mather, 30, was a utility player last season. He played OF, 3B, 1B and pitched a scoreless 1/3 of an inning. He had a woeful .870 fielding percentage at third. He was not a stellar hitter either. He batted .209 in 243 PA, with 5 HR, 19 RBI, 5 SB, 256 OBP, and a negative 2.0 WAR.

So when the Cubs coaches say they may have found their "new" Joe Mather, one should ask "why do you want to find another Joe Mather? He was terrible."

So why is Bogusevic such a prize?

He is 29 years old. He is from the Chicago area, so maybe his family will buy a few more baseball tickets this year. He played for the lowly Astros last season. He was a three-position outfielder, and pitched one inning in mop up duty. So he is not as versatile as Mather. He hit .203 in 404 PA, with 7 HR, 28 RBI, 15 SB, .297 OBP and a negative 0.1 WAR. Not very good.

And the concept of Bogusevic learning to be a major league quality first baseman during the few weeks of spring training is far-fetched pipe dream.

It goes to show that the Cubs interest in Bogusevic is an admission that the organization is devoid of any roster depth at the major league level. Bad teams rotate in journeymen major leaguers or the career AAAA talent that hangs on at the fringe of small market team rosters. The Cubs new management has had two years to bolster their AAA roster to find players for the back-up roles at third, first, second and pitching but they have failed to even budge on the huge talent gap. Instead, the emphasis has been on scouting and signing rookie and Class A players. That leaves the major league roster a patchwork of Mathers and Bogusevics to field a team.

March 6, 2013


It has been a pretty boring spring training. The only "news" from camp of note is the team video camera operator advancing in the team's bunting tournament.

So, the talk turns to the inevitable July trade deadline flea market sale of Cub talent.

What are the trade prospects?

Matt Garza would have been pushed hard at last year's deadline, but he hurt his arm. One would have thought he would be fully back in form by now, but he had another set-back injury at the beginning of spring training. As it stands today, he has the label of "injury prone" risk. Garza will be on the DL to start the season, so the idea of trading him before opening day is ZERO chance. Even a trade at the July deadline seems remote.

Carlos Marmol would have been traded to the Angels in the off season but for the Cubs allegedly panicking about Dan Haren's medical records. The Cubs worried about a pitcher's medicals? Really? But Marmol is an expensive closer in a weak closer market. Most teams now have an emphasis on starters than expensive relievers. Marmol has a limited no trade to at least 4 west coast teams (and that is where the monied owners live). The odds of Marmol being traded before opening day is around 10 percent; by the trade deadline 20 percent.

Alfonso Soriano has been the trade rumor mega-factory for the last several years. He is still owed $36 million. He was productive last year, but has the fragile body that screams "fragile." Soriano has a full no trade right. He has hinted that he would go to an east coast contender like the Yankees, but the Yanks are in no position to add old money to the roster. Besides, Soriano may be just telling those stories to make the fans think he is a good guy, a team player. Soriano is more comfortable on a team with low expectations, low stress - - so the odds of him agreeing to a trade are about 1 percent.

The Cubs signed the Scotts (Baker and Feldman) to short term deals for the sole purpose of having themselves rehab into trade bait. Baker will also start the season on the DL. Feldman has not looked sharp so far in camp. It would appear that neither Scott will be high on any team's "want list" by the trade deadline. The only advantage is that both are truly rent a players. The odds are low, around 10 percent, that one would be traded this year.

People still question why the Cubs re-signed Ian Stewart. Third base is thin, for sure. But Stewart had an injury bust 2012. And he came back into camp not fully healed; and then had a new injury that set back his playing time. If the Cubs signed Stewart as a player to be traded this season, it is now doubtful that Stewart will even make the opening day roster. The Cubs will probably cut him to avoid paying him his full contract sum.

The Cubs have several chips they wish to cash in on, but those players do not have very much trade value.

March 4, 2013


The Cubs are quickly making announcements to shore up the spring training news cycle.

So the shaky rotation is falling apart like radial tires after 60,000 miles:

1. Jeff Samardzija is the ace of the staff (?)
2. E. Jackson is #2.
3. Scott Feldman is promoted up the ladder.
4. T. Wood goes from possible AAA to 4th starter
5. C. Villanueva goes from bullpen duty to 5th starter.

It appears that both Matt Garza and Scott Baker will start the season (a month from now) on the DL.
For all the press releases from the front office that this year's pitching staff was better than last season, the reality is that statement is a fiction.

In other news, Steve Clevenger, the back up catcher from last season, is now trying to become a "super sub" by playing first, second, third and outfield in camp. The idea that a .200 hitting catcher trying to learn major league skills at four new positions in less than four weeks seems laughable, sad and strange. The Cubs brought into camp a "known" utility player in Brett Lillibridge, who can also play shortstop. Why the Cubs coaches want to create a forced competition for the last bench spot between Clevenger and Lillibridge is an old dime mystery novel. Inconsequential in the big picture.

If Sveum is looking for balance on his bench, Clevenger bats left handed (which starters at third and first base do). Lillibridge bats right handed. Clevenger has only come off the bench to play catcher and first. Lillibridge has more experience in the double switch context of in-game action.

Neither player is going to make a difference in how many more Cub victories there will be this year. 
It is just an observation on how tangential spring training camps can be if the roster is pretty much set in December, especially for bad teams.