July 31, 2013


If the White Sox had any consistent offense this season, word is that they would be competing with Detroit for the AL Central crown. But the offense has been bad. And the defense has followed suit. The front office still likes their young pitching corps, but need to bulk up fast on position players.

Jake Peavy told the team he wanted out. He wants to play for a contender. He wants a championship. That moxy, that macho attitude is what most teams want in their players. Whether Peavy can stay healthy for a pennant run is another question. But Peavy was going to be traded no matter what direction the White Sox are going to take this off season.

This three team trade was made purely based upon looming fear. Boston worried that its starting rotation may not come back from current ills. Detroit was worried about losing their starting shortstop to a PED suspension.

The Red Sox receive Peavy and Tiger minor league pitcher Brayan Villarreal. Peavy, 32, has a 4.28 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 and a 35.2 percent ground-ball rate in 80 innings for the White Sox this season, though he's spent some time on the disabled list with a broken rib. He is signed through next season. Villarreal allowed 10 runs in just 4 1/3 innings for the Tigers this season prior to the trade. In  2012, he posted a 2.63 ERA for Detroit. He averaged 97.1 mph on his fastball.  In 34 1/3 innings at Triple-A Toledo this year, the 26-year-old Villarreal owns a 3.15 ERA with 10.7 K/9 but a troubling 6.8 BB/9 rate.

The Tigers receive infield insurance with the Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias. Iglesias has out performed his minor league offensive numbers when promoted to the major league roster.  He played third base, but most believe he is the most talented shortstop in the organization.  Iglesias, 23, is hitting .330/.377/.410 in 231 plate appearances for the Red Sox this season.  Baseball America ranked him ninth among Red Sox prospects prior to the season based largely on his glove, calling him perhaps "the best defensive shortstop prospect in the game."

The White Sox prize in the deal is Detroit outfield prospect Avisail Garcia, who scouts compare to a more athletic Magglio Ordonez, a 6' 215 lb outfielder who had a productive career. Baseball America ranked the 22-year-old Garcia as the No. 74 prospect in baseball prior to the season, and he's delivered on that hype at Triple-A Toledo, hitting .382/.414/.549 with five home runs in 152 plate appearances. Garcia has the tools to be an everyday right fielder with average defense and All-Star upside, BA wrote in its preseason scouting report.

Garcia appears to be a "major league ready" prospect. In AAA this season, he hit .374, 5 HR, 23 RBI, .410 OBP. In 30 games with the Tigers, he hit .241, 2 HR, 10 RBI, .273 OBP.   He appears to be the replacement player if the White Sox can trade Alex Rios.

The White Sox also received three low minor players, two pitchers who may develop into relievers, and a shortstop with a good glove and no bat.

No one can blame the White Sox from trading away salary of high priced veterans for replacement field players. The White Sox farm system has no depth at fielding positions. Garcia becomes the White Sox number one prospect because he is the closest thing to a contributor this season.

With the league ready to announce 9 more player suspensions by the end of the week, there may be more insurance trades today by teams worried about the ramifications of player suspensions on the pennant chases.


Fans still think the White Sox world series victory was only a few years ago. It is a strong memory. But that was 8 years ago, in 2005. The White Sox have fallen to last place in the AL Central.

A comparison of starters should tell the tale.

2005 . . . . 2013

C Pierzynski . . . . Flowers
1B Konerko . . . . Konerko
2B Iguchi . . . Beckham
SS Uribe . . . Ramirez
3B Crede . . . Keppinger
LF Podsednik . . . Vicideo
CF Rowland . . . De Aza
RF Dye . . . Rios
DH Everett . . . Dunn
SP Buerhle . . . Sale
SP Garcia . . . Peavy
SP Garland . . . Quintana
SP Contreras . . . Danks
SP O. Hernandez . . . Santiago

Positions where production has fallen off dramatically from 2005:
catcher, second base, and short stop.

Positions that are a wash from 2005:
third base, left field, center field, right field, DH, and the starting rotation.

Konerko's production is down because of injury. The White Sox third base situation has been a sinkhole for a long time. Dye and Rios are the best hitters on the club. What put the White Sox deep into the playoffs was elevated career seasons by the likes of Iguchi, Uribe, and Contreras.

The difference between a bad team and a playoff team is very slight. It still boils down to the players playing at a level "above" their baseball card averages on a consistent basis. During the White Sox World Series run, every time a starting pitcher threw a gem, the next guy up in the rotation came into their start with the attitude "I can do better."  They mowed down their opponents. It is that type of hubris that is missing from the current White Sox roster, especially with the position players who have produced little offense and kicked the can with poor defense all season long.

July 30, 2013


The trade deadline market may change dramatically if the Phillies decide to unload to rebuild. Players like Cliff Lee, Michael Young, Jimmy Rollins, Ben Revere, Delmon Young or  Chase Utley could suddenly be on the market at a talent level higher than the players the Cubs are willing to trade. Likewise, the White Sox have more valuable assets in Alex Rios, Jesse Crain or any young pitcher than the Cubs have to offer.

When a team has been competitive for a while like the Phils, when the veteran team runs out of gas (age, injury, free agency, etc) it is usually sudden and unexpected. High payroll teams have high expectations.So when the Phils are 49-56 and in 3rd place in the NL East with a player average age of more than 29, losing may happen sooner than later. Last year the Phils were 81-81.

The question is whether the Phils believe ace Roy Halliday will come back strong in 2014. If not, then the flood gates could open for trades.

By comparison, who has more value to a contending team?

Cliff Lee or Carlos Villanbuena?
Michael Young or Luis Valbuena?
Jimmy Rollins  or Starlin Castro (if he was available)?
Chase Utley or Darwin Barney?
Ben Revere or David DeJesus?
Delmon Young or Nate Schierholtz?

Now add the Giants to the mix of New Sellers. MLBTR reports the Giants will entertain trade offers for veterans including potential free agents Tim Lincecum, Hunter Pence, and Javier Lopez. This adds pressure on the Cubs to up the asset sales, too. Numerous reports now have teams asking about Jeff Samardzija, who is under team control for another two seasons. But the asking price has been extremely high from the Cubs side, as expected.

Most likely, an objective GM would pick the Phillie or Giant over the Cub. The only difference would be the price for the talent. By eating salary, a new club could take on a Phillie veteran and give up low minor prospects in return, which would be on par with any Cub deal for a lesser player.

July 29, 2013


He may be the best of both worlds. He may be the staff ace the Cubs have been searching for since Kerry Wood's 20K performance. He may also be the hitting pitcher without the attitude of Carlos Zambrano.

Clearly, this was the best trade the Cubs have made in a long time. Reliever Sean Marshall for Travis Wood.

T. Wood in 2013 has pitched 21 games. His record is 7-7. 2/79 ERA, 1.079 WHIP. The lack of run support has been a key to the Cubs pitching staff not having better records.  In 2012, his record was 6-13 in 26 GP, 4.27 ERA and 1.191 WHIP.  In 47 games for the Cubs, Wood is 13-20.

Kerry Wood's first two years are slightly different. In 1998, he went 13-6, 3.40 ERA and 1.212 WHIP in 26 games. He did not pitch the next season due to injury. In 2000, he went 8-7, 4.80 ERA, 1.453 WHIP in 23 GP. In his first 49 games for the Cubs, K. Wood was 21-13, but on a better ball club.

T. Wood's batting far exceeds the majority of the regulars in the line up. In 2013, he is hitting .293 BA, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 1 SB.

In contrast, Zambrano in 12 seasons hit 24 HR, 71 RBI and had a .238 BA. His best Cub homer year was in 2006 when he hit 6, with 11 RBI but a low .151 BA. In 2008 he had his best overall year at the plate, 4 HR, 14 RBI. 337 BA.

People tend to gravitate towards Jeff Samardzija or Matt Garza as an "ace" pitcher because they throw harder.  But the speed of a fastball is only one element to a quality pitcher. How to pitch is different than just throwing a baseball at 97 mph. Many teams have inquired about T. Wood in trade talks. Since it is hard to develop starting pitchers, the Cubs should keep T. Wood and build the staff around him.

July 27, 2013


Theo Epstein had a reputation of throwing money at problems to solve issues with the Red Sox. Apparently, he cannot get over that spending mentality to cover up flaws in his system.

The Cubs have gone overboard on international free agent signings this summer.

Steve Adams of MLBTR reports that with the latest foreign player signing, the Cubs are $1.059 million over the spending limit. As such, the Cubs will be penalized  $1.059 million MLB tax and be restricted to a limit of only $250,000 per foreign player next year.

There are several theories on why the Cubs went on a rabid shopping spree. One, the front office is in panic mode. Two, Ricketts will be cutting back the baseball budget significantly next year in order to start building his huge new redevelopment project around Wrigley Field. Three, the front office went all-in with these prospects because they were the best of their generation.  We can probably eliminate the last one.

When the Cubs have signed 18-year-old Taiwanese right-hander Jen-Ho Tseng for a $1.625 million bonus, and will ink prospect Eloy Jimenez, for approximately $2.8 million, the Cubs final price tag was more than $7.89 million on foreign teenagers. The Cubs had already signed Gleyber Torres for $1.7 million, Jefferson Mejia for $850,000, Erling Moreno for $650,000 and Johan Matos for $270,000.

In addition, the Cubs spent $11.068 million for signing bonuses for their June draft picks.

The Cubs spent a total of approximately $18.96 million on prospects. That is 3.8 percent of Ricketts redevelopment budget of $500 million.

And when will the Cubs recoup any of these investment dollars in foreign players?

Many will not start their pro careers for a year or two. Once in the states, they will start in rookie ball, then progress through two levels of Class A ball. So by year four, a few may make it to Class AA. Add two more years of seasoning, a foreign prospect is at least six years away from making the Cubs. And with foreign prospects, the odds are maybe 2 of 10 selections will make it to the big leagues.

The Cubs overspending for talent this year is a precursor to the team shutting down spending on talent for the next few years. These are the key Epstein-Hoyer picks. This is the talent they said would turn around the organization. But they are continuing to push the impact of their selections farther and farther into the future.

An example of pulled in purse strings is selling player contracts for cash. The Giants just acquired pitcher Guillermo Moscoso  from the Cubs in exchange for cash or a player to be named states the SF Chronicle. Moscoso was pitching for Triple-A Iowa with the Cubs, but he will report to the Giants' big-league team and will be activated Saturday. Moscoso had a 3.93 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 with Iowa. He has pitched parts of four big-league seasons, appearing with the Rangers, Athletics and Rockies. Schulman indicates that the Giants have acquired Moscoso to add another starting pitching option. Moscoso started 21 games for the A's in 2011.

July 26, 2013


MLBTR reports  that The Yankees and Cubs are in agreement on a trade that will send  Alfonso Soriano back to the Yankees, the team he started his professional career, pending approval from Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig. The Cubs will receive a Class-A pitching prospect in exchange. ESPN's Buster Olney reports  that the Yankees will pay $6.8MM of the roughly $24.5MM remaining on Soriano's contract -- $1.8MM in 2013 and $5MM in 2014.

Soriano's Cub teammates are bitter sweet about the move. Despite certain fan opinion, Soriano was well liked by his teammates and coaches. He was a professional. He handled the down times with class. Despite injuries, he continued to play left field.

But Soriano was the tarnished symbol of fan expectations. He was the big time free agent the Cubs needed to win the series. But his huge contract and poor post season statistics when the Cubs were swept twice in the first round of the playoffs, made Soriano a target.

He did do what he was supposed to do. Since 2007 as a Cub, he hit home runs and drove in runs. For his 6.5 years as a Cub, he hit .264 BA, 181 HR, 526 RBI and 70 SB. His defense was below average because he had a fear of running into the wall. Many line drives and deep flies fell over his head. But he continued to work on improving his defense.

He got tagged as a player who thrives in non-pressure situations, like playoff caliber teams. Soriano was a free swinger at the plate which also lead to a reputation of being a stats-first player. But during his entire Cub era, most of all his teammates were in the same role since the Cubs could not manufacture a run.

It is ironic that Soriano ends his career as the Cubs best current hitter and leading base stealer.

There has been much made about the concept of team chemistry. The attitude of team leaders will mold a team into a style of play. Soriano's laid back style and quiet speech may have given us the impression that there was little drive or passion. That the team would rather go through the motions than hustle for a victory. There is complacency in losing year after year. As a club house leader, Soriano has to take some of the blame for the team record of mediocrity.

The Cubs have tried for years to get rid of Soriano even though the team had no prospect ready to replace him. Junior Lake is on a debut tear, but scouts will figure out holes in his swing in a few weeks. Whether Lake can adjust to continue to make consistent contact will have to be seen. 

The only thing the trade does for the Cubs is give them about $6 million in salary relief, or 1.2 percent of the redevelopment costs of Rickettsville. It would not be surprising that the marching orders to the trade deadline is to pare back more salary moving forward.

Soriano did what he was brought to Chicago to do: hit home runs. The Yankees are buying a hitter in the twilight of his career, but who is still productive at age 37 with 17 HRs and 51 RBI. Soriano gets one last chance for a World Series ring, even though New York has many teams to catch in the AL East. Soriano agreed to the deal (after passing on others) because he is a sentimentalist. His career goes first circle now; back to the club that gave him his first pro start.

July 25, 2013


There is a great debate on how long will it take Epstein-Hoyer to rebuild the Cubs into a championship caliber club. By stuffing the low minors with prospects may be part of The Plan, but there have been other teams doing the same thing for a longer time. The question may come down to what path the Cubs are on: the road to Pittsburgh (currently in 2nd place in NL Central) or to Kansas City (a club in perpetual rebuild mode).

Pittsburgh began pro ball in 1882. It's first playoff team was in 1903 (21 years later). In 1909 and 1925 it won the World Series. In 1927 it lost the series. In 1960, after a 33 year playoff drought, the Pirates won the World Series. In 1970, the Pirates started another playoff run. In 1971, it won the World Series. In 1972, 1974 and 1975, it lost in the NLCS. Then in 1979, it won the World Series. The next year, the team missed the playoffs with a 83-79 record.

The next playoff run for the Pirates began in 1990, and for three season they lost in the NLCS. In 1993, the team record fell to 75-87. Since 1994, the Pirates did not have one .500 team. It has been 20 years since a playoff berth.

The Pirates history indicates that it usually takes 20 years to get champion caliber teams.

The Royals began in 1969 as an expansion team. It had to build an organization from the ground up. It's first playoff team happened  7 years later in 1976, losing in the ALCS. This was repeated in 1977 and 1978. In 1980, it lost in the World Series. In 1981, it lost in the first round of the playoffs. In 1984, it lost in the ALCS. Then, in 1985, it won the World Series. The next year, the club went 76-86.

Since 1987, the Royals have had seven above .500 teams. The last .500 team was in 2003 (83-79). The Royals have gone 10 years since being a .500 squad. The Royals have gone 27 years without a playoff team.

From what the Cubs plan on doing, these comparisons are valid even though Chicago is not a small market team. At best, it may take seven years of building to get a playoff team (which would mean 2018). At worst, it could around 15 years or 2025 to have a championship caliber team. And the worst case scenario is a possibility because ownership will be borrowing most of the $500 million to redevelop the Ricketts properties. The Cubs ball club only rents Wrigley Field. It does not own it. Separate legal entities own the three main parcels to be redeveloped. The new revenue streams will flow into those separate businesses to pay down the massive debt and maintenance for the new buildings. For all the assumption that the Cubs will suddenly have unlimited resources to spend on free agents in the near future is a myth. The Cubs will be rebuilding like a small market team since the new revenue will be diverted to pay construction and land development expenses first, with very little trickle down to the club (only the improvements inside Wrigley).

July 24, 2013


The Cubs are finally looking toward more polished prospects in trade discussions. In the past, it has been clear that the Cubs sought Class A players with "high ceilings." But those prospects take longer to develop and are risky bets.

It may be a good idea to chart what the Cubs championship team blueprint may look like:

2013: Soriano   Projected Replacement: Soler  Year to MLB: 2016

2013: DeJesus  Projected Replacement: Almora Year to MLB: 2016

2013: Schierholtz Projected Replacement: Bryant Year to MLB: 2015

2013: Valbuena  Projected Replacement: Olt  Year to MLB: 2014

2013: Castro    No replacement projected; core player.

2013: Barney   Projected Replacement: Baez Year to MLB: 2015

2013: Rizzo  No replacement projected; core player

2013: Castillo No replacement projected; core player

 Only 37.5 percent of the starting field positions are currently on the major league roster. The total team may not come together until 2016, three years from now. The three players labeled as "core" players during the rebuild are having under par seasons.

July 23, 2013


There is a lot of fan debate on whether the Cubs made a good deal in trading Garza to the Rangers.

On Monday, the Cubs completed the Matt Garza  to the Rangers for C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm, Mike Olt, and a PTBNL (either Neil Ramirez or presumably two lower-level arms). Olt is a potential power-hitting third baseman with a good glove, though there are questions about his ability to make contact. Edwards is a high-ceiling arm who has emerged from obscurity to show great stuff in Class A ball.  Grimm is a rookie pitcher that has been getting shelled in the majors but may have mid-rotation upside. Ramirez is a 24 year old AA-arm with good pitches except he is coming off shoulder issues.

So when takes a quick gut check observation of the trade, it seems okay if you are a risk taker. Olt may not be the great prospect he once was because of concussion/vision issues. Grimm is putting up Chris Volstad type numbers in Texas. Can the Cubs turn him around like they did Scott Feldman? Edwards appears to be the prize, but he is probably four years away and some consider his frame to be a real issue. Ramirez may be good but injuries at an early stage of his career are a potential concern.

In essence, the Cubs think they received two major league ready players (Grimm and Olt) but who may really be AAA+ players. Ramirez is a Class AA arm and Edwards is a Class A prospect with a high ceiling and some buzz.

This trade comes nearly two and a half years after the Cubs' acquisition of Garza from the Rays. In that trade, the Cubs sent Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Brandon Guyer, Robinson Chirinos, and Sam Fuld.

Did the Cubs get more in return for Garza than they gave up to get him? With the Cubs, Garza had 60 starts and only 21 wins.

The current performance lines of the former Cub prospects:

Archer, 24, 5-3, 2.76 ERA major leagues, FA 2019

Lee, 22, SS, .422  BA, 1 HR, 7 RBI in 15 AAA games, coming off injury;  5 minor league seasons: .290 career BA (#90 prospect BA/#56 MLB)

Guyer, 27, OF, .300 BA, 7 HR, 38 RBI, 19 SB in 87 AAA games; FA 2018

Chirinos, 29, C.154 BA as #3 catcher in Texas, FA 2018; coming off injury

Fuld, 31, OF.198 BA, 2 HR 11 RBI 3 SB in 75 GP with Tampa as 5th OF; FA 2017

Archer will be a starting pitcher for the Rays for years to come. He has quality pitches but some scouts worry about his command.  Lee has the tools to be a starting major league short stop. An injury has set him back a year, but he could be on the Rays roster next season. Guyer has been blocked by current Rays outfielders, but he is major league ready. Chirinos had a concussion and lost a full season plus. Before his injury, he was on the Rays major league roster and getting good reviews as a back up catcher with some power. Fuld continues to be the person he was with the Cubs: reserve outfielder with plus defense and stolen base potential.

In retrospect, Archer may have had half the starts of Garza over the last 2.5 years, but he would also been more affordable with upside. Lee would have been in the same position as Junior Lake, a talented shortstop blocked by Starlin Castro but who could move to a new position. Lee could have given the Cubs more offense this year at second base. Guyer would have been playing OF for the Cubs the past few years, since he has similar David DeJesus numbers without the at bats. Fuld would have been the mainstay fifth outfielder since he is clearly better than Dave Sappelt, Marlon Byrd, Julio Borbon or Joe Mather. And Chirinos would have been a much better catcher than Koy Hill and would have pushed Geo Soto for a starting job.

All five of the former Cub prospects will reach the majors.  Two of the Ranger prospects the Cubs received have reached the majors, but have struggled and it is unknown if the other three will make it in the future.

At the time, I thought the Cubs gave up too much to acquire Garza. Yesterday, I thought the Cubs got a mish mash of talent for Garza which is understandable since he is a two month rental. So comparing the two deals is like comparing apples to oranges. I just do not think the Ranger prospects have more upside than the Cub prospects when they were traded to the Rays for Garza.


The Cubs trade of Matt Garza was lost in the big baseball news of yesterday.

No one saw it coming late yesterday afternoon that MLB had suspended Brewers OF Ryan Braun for the rest of the season (65 games) without pay. The shocking thing was that Braun accepted the suspension, but only admitted "he made some mistakes" in the past and left the Milwaukee clubhouse to avoid the press.

Yahoo Sports columnist Jeff Passan went off on Braun's conduct in his column today. He called him a self-centered liar and cheat. He was the ultimate self-protectionist.  He took the deal to get ahead of the massive suspensions to come down later from the Biogenesis scandal. But Passan believes that Braun is not "sorry" for his actions, or even letting down his teammates and defenders.

Comments from fans on Milwaukee radio were very harsh. They were duped by Braun's strong denials during the first drug test appeal (which was tossed on a contract technicality). When he told the fans afterward that he had "proved his innocence," it seems that was another bold face lie. Brewer fans were angered by the fact that in retrospect, Braun burned the local drug test taker with malicious lies but gets to go home with the remaining $117 million contract as his security blanket. The face of the Brewers franchise is now closer to a mug shot.

Brewers GM Doug Melvin was terse with the media before last night's game. He was happy the suspension was done but he was blindsided by the news. Braun took the suspension in stride because he was probably going to be put on the DL anyway with a hand injury. Braun gets an extended vacation and will return in 2014. Melvin gritted his teeth when asked if Braun would continue to be the future of the Brewers. Melvin signed Braun to the huge extension that now looks worse the scandal itself. If Braun's consistent career MVP numbers were created in large part by HGH, steroids or some other PED, then Braun's return to the team could be a bad dead money contract if he hits .220 and his production fades away. The Brewers are stuck with Braun. He is untradeable.  It will be hard to spin PR to change the negative attitude towards a patent liar.

The Brewers fans lost their naive innocence last night with Braun's suspension. It was a sucker punch in the throat. It will be hard to imagine that the blue collar folk will embrace such a stained role model next season.

ESPN commentators were of the opinion that there has been no incentive for players not to cheat. Melky Cabrera took his suspension last year and parlayed it into a multi-million deal with the Blue Jays, partly based on his previous juiced statistics. Braun gets a "light" 65 games without pay ($3.4 million) but he gets to keep the remaining $117 million, which in part was based upon his PED past. Unless players get "season long" or the possibility of a lifetime ban (like the gambling on baseball rule), there is no real disincentive not to cheat.

Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees will be the nuclear bomb in the scandal. If the reports are true, that MLB has a mountain of evidence against him from the Miami clinic, then A-Rod's huge contract could be essentially voided which would benefit the Yankees. A-Rod has already admitted to using PEDs in the past. Every team he has been on in his career has been tainted by the steroid era rumors. One would suspect that MLB will come down hard on A-Rod.

None of the players caught up in the Biogenesis scandal answered MLB investigators questions. That was their right under the CBA and law. But even the union president signaled last week that the union would not support an appeal of players who clearly violated the drug policy rules. The union head inferred that his recommendation to players would be cut "a plea deal" with MLB. Braun took that advice and cut a favorable outcome for himself. A move as Passan said was solely motivated to protect Braun from harsher penalties.

MLB has tried to clean up the sports image. But this latest round of PED allegations brings back the ugly cloud of suspicion and doubt of the steroid era back in every clubhouse.


After sweating various medical reports from both sides, the Cubs and Rangers finally made the Matt Garza deal.  The vast majority of the Cub fandom was pleased by the trade results. But it may be based on superficial headline fodder such as the Cubs receiving the Rangers No. 1 prospect.

Garza was dealt for former No. 1 prospect (BA MLB No. 22 last year) Mike Olt. Olt, 24, batted .288/.398/.579 at Double-A Frisco last season and making his Major League debut with the Rangers.  However, in the off season he suffered a concussion. He's battled vision problems in 2013 and  his production has tanked to .218/.318/.438 at Triple-A Round Rock. Prior to the season, BA praised his plus raw power and advanced hitting approach, calling him "a threat to go deep anytime he steps to the plate." BA, ESPN's Keith Law and MLB.com's John Mayo all agree that he's a plus defender at third though Law questioned whether or not he will make enough contact to hit at the big league level with any consistency. So Olt was the Rangers best prospect, until he was injured. Last year the Rangers would not deal Olt to the Cubs for Ryan Dempster. The change in Texas's plans should have raised a red flag to the Cubs.

The Cubs hedged the trade by asking for one or two players to be named later if Olt cannot perform at a reasonable level. The PTBNL are from a list of pitchers, some of whom have past injury concerns such as Neil Ramirez, who was once part of the original package.  Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that the Cubs select Ramirez as the PTBNL in the deal the Cubs will not receive a second PTBNL.

In addition, the Cubs received two other pitchers: major league right handed starter Justin Grimm  and Class A right hander C.J. Edwards. Grimm could be best compared to Chris Volstad, a marginal No. 5 starter with a high ERA and high WHIP.  Grimm,  24, has made 17 starts for the Rangers this season but posted an ugly 6.37 ERA in 17 starts.He seems to be a placeholder selection for Garza's spot to finish out the season. Many people are excited by the Edwards pick. He is a string bean 6'1" 155 lb pitcher. Edwards, 21, ranked as Texas' No. 15 prospect prior to the season.  Edwards' stock has skyrocketed in 2013, as he's pitched to a pristine 1.83 ERA with 11.8 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 93 1/3 innings for Class A Hickory.

By comparison, former Cub pitcher Chris Archer when he was 21 had a minor league record of 15-3, 2.84 ERA, 1.174 WHIP in High Class A and AA . Archer was the centerpiece of the Cubs trade to acquire Garza from Tampa Bay.

The Rangers stepped up their initial offer because it appeared that other ball clubs were in the mix. Oakland, which is trying to keep the Rangers at bay in the AL West, were rumored to have interest in Garza in order to keep him away from the Rangers. Oakland's interest may have been accelerated by the PED suspension rumors of the Biogenesis scandal which could affect one of the A's starters. But it seemed the A's did not have the quantity of prospects the Cubs were seeking for Garza.

It was possible that the Cubs could have held on to Garza if  the Cubs were not going to get the prospect package they want for Garza. That would have meant Garza could stay a Cub for the rest of the season. And this would give the Cubs another option: allow Garza to go unrestricted free agency or give him a qualifying offer.

MLBTR explains:
  • Teams will have until five days after the World Series to make qualifying offers and the players will have seven days to accept.
  • Once a team makes a qualifying offer, the player has two choices: he can accept the one-year deal or decline in it search of other offers. If he declines the offer and signs elsewhere, his new team will have to surrender a top draft pick (the selection doesn't go to the player's former team). 
  • Teams that sign free agents who turned down qualifying offers will surrender their first round picks. However, the forfeited picks don't go to other MLB teams. Instead, the first round simply becomes condensed.
  • The first ten selections in the draft are protected. Teams with protected picks will surrender their second-highest selections. 
  • The player’s former team will receive its compensatory selection at the end of the first round. Teams now obtain one compensatory selection, instead of two.
  • If teams don’t make a qualifying offer, the player can sign uninhibited.
  • Only players who have been with their clubs for the entire season will be eligible for compensation.
 The projected qualifying offer for this off season is approximately $13.5 million. Garza is currently making $10.25 million. So the Cubs would have to balance this situation: 1) give Garza a 32% raise for a one year deal or 2) hope Garza declines the offer so the Cubs can get a supplemental first round pick. The latter result is based upon whether Garza will receive substantially more than $13.5 million per season. Given his injury history, and the potential loss of a first round pick, many teams may be hesitant to give Garza a long term contract (such as 5 years $80 million). So, can the Cubs live with Garza in the rotation in 2014? Yes, especially since the front office is trying to blow up the pitching staff again at the trade deadline. But no, if moving Garza is another Rube Goldberg gear in the Epstein-Hoyer rebuilding plan.

Cubs thought that the package of an injured third baseman in Olt, a young arm in Edwards and at least one other minor league pitcher more valuable than the possibility of a low first round supplemental draft pick in 2014. The Cubs have contract control of Olt to 2019 (arb eligible in 2016). If Olt regains his form and is the third baseman with plus defense beginning in 2014, then the Cubs would adjust the Plan and move Kris Bryant to RF. If Olt and Edwards work out as major league talent, then the trade would have been deemed very good. If not, since the Cubs were not going to re-sign Garza, it was a mere shuffling of the deck.

The acquisition of Olt does slow down the need for Bryant to be part of the 2014 Cub roster. He fills the hole at third base. Bryant is one the most major league ready draft choice of the Cubs have had in many years. If the Cubs will convert him to the outfield, they can hold him back in the minors under the guise of needed development, such as starting him in rookie league instead of Class AA. This will add one or two years of promotional steps until Bryant makes the Cubs roster.

Fans must temper their buy-in of the Plan by the quick start of Junior Lake this week. Lake was a Hendry selection. His promotion has been moved along quickly because of injuries to the many journeymen outfielders the current front office have signed to fill outfield spots.  We do not know whether Lake is actually part of the current rebuilding plan. He is getting his show case now, just as Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters did late last year.

But the fans like the idea of the Cubs stockpiling so many new Class A players in the system. The problem with a bottom heavy system is that it takes more time to develop and promote that talent under the current goal levels set by the Cubs management. In addition, one can only realistically project only 6 minor leaguers in the any ball club system to make it to the major leagues as a starter. The Cubs actually need to acquire more major league ready and Class AAA ball players to balance their minor league system.

The next part of the Plan is to trade off more major league roster pieces before the trade deadline. Players mentioned to be part of the trade market include Alfonso Soriano, Kevin Gregg, and David DeJesus.

July 22, 2013


The Cubs lost the series to the Rockies. Sunday's game was another shut out on a key offensive stat: 0-for 9 with runners in scoring position (RISP). For the series, the Cubs were 1 for 25 RISP.

The one bright spot for the series was the debut of Junior Lake. He is a slightly bigger clone of Starlin Castro at the plate. He has a nervous hitch in his set up, but he has very quick bat speed through the zone. He came to the team and had an immediate spark of rookie energy, first by hitting a double on his first major league pitch, then stealing third base. He also got caught in a run down between home and third, but showed some baseball intelligence by extending the run down sufficiently so his team mate could take second. But in the last game, his wild throw from center field to home plate may have been the difference in the loss.

Lake wants to impress the front office in order to stay in the Show. He does have flashes of being a major league talent but he is still a raw talent learning a new position, center field.

Lake's debut also took away from some of the weekend Garza trade talk. Everyone expected that Garza would have been traded by Saturday night. Numerous reports had the Rangers having a tentative deal with the Cubs. But the traded was nixed because of an medical concern with one of the players coming back from the Rangers (probably Mike Olt who has had concussion/vision issues). Or, the worst case scenario is that the Rangers looked at Garza's medicals and determined that he is one hard slider away from the next DL stint. Either way, the rumored second team has not materialized to submit a package to the Cubs for Garza.

It was unthinkable at the All-Star break that Garza would make another start of the Cubs. But he is scheduled to throw tonight. All things point to Garza remaining a Cub for the next week. The front office tried to get teams to submit their "best" Garza offers, but maybe the market softened after Ricky Nolasco went to the Dodgers and Scott Feldman was traded to the Orioles. It would seem that the longer the Cubs wait to make a Garza deal, the less value Garza has a rental player.

July 19, 2013


With all the talk that the Cubs will be big Sellers at the trade deadline (again), the front office continues to preach to fans "be patient."

Patience is a virtue.

A virtue is a behavior showing high moral standards.

Standards are a level of quality or attainment.

Attainment is the action to achieve a goal.

A goal is the object of one's ambition or effort.

Ambition is the strong desire to achieve something.

Something is a thing that is unspecified or unknown.

So, be unspecific.

Embrace the unknown.

No wonder patience wears thin after a while.


Junior Lake is expected to be called up by the Cubs. He was one of the top prospects under the Hendry era.

Lake, 23, has been in the Cub system for seven years. His career minor league stats are:
619 GP, .271 BA, 47 HR, 260 RBI, 117 SB, .322 OBP.

He has a career fielding percentage of .926 which is well below average. He has played various positions including SS, 3B, 2B, 1B. This season he has played 3B then moved to the OF.

In Iowa this season, he has played 40 games. His stat line: .295 BA, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 14 SB, .341 OBP.

How Lake fits into the short term and long term plans of the Cubs is unclear. He has worked his way out of the infield and into the outfield because of his defense. The Cubs have collected a hoard of journeymen outfielders, most who are on the disabled list or pushing through minor injuries. Lake's experience as an infielder could make him a utility bench player if he has the poise for that role.

But this call up is probably his one show case. Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters, higher touted prospects, had their moment to shine last season. They failed and new management seems to written both of them off.

If Lake can play a decent outfield, get on base and steal bases then he may have an expanded role for the rest of the season. It depends on whether the Cubs will clean house and trade players like Nate Schierholtz, David DeJesus, Alfonso Soriano or even Darwin Barney.

Others have suggested that Lake's call-up may be a show case to add him in a deadline deal as a "major league ready" prospect to get higher ceiling players from other clubs. But at the same time, Lake appears to be the only "ready" AAA prospect who may be cheap and valuable for the Cubs in 2014.

July 18, 2013


There was nothing more rebellious than White Sox fans in 1997 when their team decided to trade away valuable players when the Sox were only 3.5 games out of first place. It was called "The White Flag Trade."

It was made on July 31, 1997. The White Sox traded three major league players (LHP Wilson Alvarez, RHP Danny Darwin, and RHP Roberto Hernandez) to the Giants for six minor league players (RHP Keith Foulke, RHP Bog Howry, and four other players who had no career impact).

The ramification of the trade was immediate. White Sox fans were angry that ownership gave up the season at the trade deadline. The Giants would go on to win the NL West, but lose to eventual World Series champion Marlins in the NL Series. The White Sox only finished 6 games behind the Indians.

Three years later, in 2000, the White Sox won the American League Central with a league-best record of 95-67. They made the playoffs but were swept in the division series by the Mariners. However,  Foulke and Howry were a large part of theWhite Sox successful playoff season, with Foulke earning 34 saves in his role as closer.

The White Sox cannot be criticized for dismantling this year's team. The Sox are a major disappointment. At 37-55 and in last place in the AL Central, the team with the 10th highest payroll is floundering against higher expectations. They had finished second last season with 85 wins.

The Sox have few trading chips. Starter Chris Sale dominated his two innings in the All Star game. He is a building block for the future so he won't be trade bait. The two best chips the Sox have are on the disabled list: starter Jake Peavey and reliever Jesse Crain. Pitching has been the team's best performance this year. Reports have the front office underwhelmed by offers on OF Alex Rios, the team's most consistent hitter.

All factors point to the White Sox being a non-factor at the trade deadline. The Sox would like to pull off a big multiple player deal to restock their roster with younger players, but there are no takers for their underperforming major league players.

July 17, 2013


While the Cubs are pushing hard Matt Garza in trade talks, is he really the most valuable asset the Cubs have to trade?  No, he is not. He will be a free agent at the end of the year. He is a rental player to a trade partner. He wants a significant raise next season from his current $10.5 million contract.  As in previous posts, Garza will not generate the number or quality of prospects in a trade.

Who are more valuable trade chips?

1. Travis Wood. The Cubs lone All-Star has the added advantages of being a left handed starter, and team control to 2017. He is arbitration eligible after this season. So he is a quality and affordable starting pitcher. He would bring back the most talent in a trade. However, is he more valuable to the Cubs to build a long term starting rotation?

2. Jeff Samardzija. The Cubs consider him "ace" material. He is a free agent in 2016. Like Wood, he is arbitration eligible but affordable to most teams. He would bring back more talent than Garza in a trade, but the front office is signalling that they want to keep Samardzija long term.

3. Dioner Navarro. Most contenders look to add a missing component to their bench (back up fielders or quality pinch hitters). Navarro has excelled at the latter. He signed a one year $1.75 deal with the Cubs so he is a free agent after this season. But being a catcher plus a switch hitter makes him a valuable commodity to the right team.

4. Kevin Gregg. Most contenders also look to bolster their bullpens for the final drive in September. Gregg has experience in set up and closer roles (even though his last five outings have been less than stellar.) He is also a free agent at the end of the season so he is a good choice for a contender who just wants insurance for this season.

5. Luis Valbuena. He may be the most versatile Cub to reach the market this year. He can play three infield positions. He bats left handed. He is a free agent in 2017 and arbitration eligible next year. He could be a valuable bench player on a contending team who has possible injury issues with its starters.

6. Carlos Villanueva. He is also versatile in that he can start and throw long relief. As staffs wear down this summer, a team may seek more live arms to get through the dog days of August. Villaneuva fits that role. He is signed for next season at a reasonable $5 million salary for a 5th starter so that should bring in an extra prospect in a trade.

7. Jeff Russell. He would have been more valuable, but during recent "show case" games he struggled. The amount of work may be catching up to him. However, he is a lefty reliever with experience that some teams need in order to compete in the latter stages of a pennant race.

It would not be surprising that at least half of these 8 players are traded by the Cubs before the deadline.

July 16, 2013


Various media reports indicate that the Cubs are pushing hard to get top dollar for Matt Garza. However, most general managers polled indicate that Garza is not a touted number one ace but a "solid number three" starter. The Cubs may be wanting too much for Garza.

The Texas Rangers have now been linked to be the most likely trade partner. Garza has gone 5-0 with a 1.24 ERA in his last six starts and has experience pitching well in both the AL East and the postseason.The Rangers have four starters - - - Yu Darvish, Alexi Ogando, Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis — on the disabled list, so they have need some insurance for the rest of the season.  Texas is expecting Darvish and Ogando back. Things are more uncertain with Harrison and Lewis. A second half rotation of  Darvish, Garza and Derek Holland would line up 1-2-3 for the playoffs. The Cubs have traded with Texas last season.

As indicated previously, it is doubtful that the Cubs will get more than the Rays received when on January, 2010,  GM Jim Hendry finalized a trade that brought Garza (and Fernando Perez and Zach Rosscup)to Chicago from the Rays for Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer. Archer, 24, is now in the Rays rotation. The rest have hit the majors. Fuld has been the 5th OF for the Rays. Lee, Chirinos and Guyer have had injury problems, but Lee would have made it to the majors this year except of a knee problem this spring.

There may be some irony if a deal gets done. Chirinos is now the #3 catcher with the Rangers. If the Cubs move Dioner Navarro, then the Cubs need a back up to close out the season. Mike Olt, the player the Cubs wanted last season, is still blocked by Adrian Beltre at third. The Cubs drafted Kris Bryant to play third long term. Olt batted .194 this year and has been reassigned to AAA. He is still ranked the Rangers No. 1 prospect.

The Cubs will not get a top 10 prospect like #3 SP Cody Buckel, major league ready #5 RP William Font, #8 19 year old power hitting 2B Rougned Odor, or #10 SP Luke Jackson. The Cubs may get a next tier player such as 24 year old Class AA SP Neil Ramirez or 21 year old Class A SP Alec Asher.

The problem is two fold. The Cubs may have priced their demands outside the market for teams looking for a No. 3 starter. Also, the Cubs have made it clear that they do not intend to keep Garza, which lessens any bargaining power.

July 15, 2013


 With the Rays Chris Archer throwing his first career complete game shut out last night against the Astros, it is appropriate to review what is going to be the true value of Matt Garza on this year's trade market. In my view, the Cubs will not get anything close to Archer's value in return.

Since coming back from his disabled list stint, Garza has been throwing the ball quite well. He has had the reputation as a front line starter. He is making $10.25 million this season in the last year of his contract. He has been paid more than $29 million for a career 5.0 WAR over the last 8 seasons.

At best, a new team will have Garza for 10 to 12 starts, for an average cost of approximately $307,000 per start. Only a team that really needs a quality starter for the stretch run would pay that kind of rental per diem.   This will limit the amount of truly interested teams in the Garza trade market.

Scott Feldman was a more affordable, therefore more tradeable commodity. At $6 million this season, the Orioles will probably get 14-15 starts, at a cost of approximately $133,000 per start.

For Feldman, the Cubs received two major league service time players who were on the downside in the Baltimore careers. Pedro Strop, 28, has struggled this season, going 0-3 with a 7.25 ERA in 29 relief appearances for the Orioles.  The hard-throwing right-hander was Baltimore's primary setup man last season, when he posted a 2.44 ERA in 70 games. Former top prospect, the 27-year-old Jake Arrieta was 1-2 with a 7.23 ERA in five starts this season. The right-hander owns a 5.46 ERA in 69 games -- 63 starts -- over parts of four seasons with Baltimore. So the Feldman trade yielded two pitchers that had current ERAs over 7.00 and who were probably destined to the minors or waivers.

Now, the Cubs think they can rehabilitate both pitchers. Strop is in the Cubs bullpen and Arrieta is at Iowa. Strop has done well in his 6 IP for the Cubs, only giving up 2 hits for a 0.667 WHIP.

With a 1.688 whip and 4.22 ERA in 3 game starts for Iowa,  Arrieta is not setting the world on fire. He appears to be the insurance policy starter when Garza is traded.

The best trade value to find is a team where a polished AAA player who is position blocked at the major league level. It is easier to find position players in this bind than pitchers, who can always be used in the bullpen. The problem is that the Cubs are looking for more long term prospects, maybe at the AA level. These prospects are the type that most teams will not give up for a two month player rental.

And player rental is a key component. Garza will be looking to seek more than the expected $13.5 million qualifying offer other starters will receive this off season. A team acquiring Garza cannot get a draft choice if he hits the free agent market. The team could try to negotiate a long term extension, but all signs indicate that Garza will test the open market. That will again lessen the quality of players coming back to the Cubs.

The Cubs want a lot in return for Garza. The Cubs would like to get at least three prospects in return for Garza, including a AAAA-ready starting pitcher (like Travis Wood in the Sean Marshall deal) and two low level prospects with high ceilings. The idea of giving up a young, major league ready starting pitcher to the Cubs for Garza is always going to be a tough sell. Many general managers will just take that major league ready prospect and promote them rather than mortgaging the future.

I highly doubt that the Cubs will receive any team's Top 10 prospects for Garza. At best, the Cubs will probably get an "older" Top 25 prospect and maybe coupled with a marginal major leaguer who would be optioned/DFA in order to open a space for Garza on the new roster. An "older" prospect means a high school draft choice who has been slow to develop in the team's system. He may be on the last chance mode (think Josh Vitters). So my expectations for Garza value could be like trading for a Rafael Dolis, Josh Vitters and/or Dave Sappelt clones.


The Cubs were in the midst of a mid-season bullpen make over, highlighted by the trades of Carlos Marmol and Scott Feldman.  The Cubs were adding power arms with a recent history of control issues, like Henry Rodruiguez from the Nationals and Jake Arrieta & Pedro Strop of the Orioles.

So it was odd that the Cubs designated for assignment Rodruiguez after just five appearances in order to claim and activate off waivers former Giant outfielder Cole Gillespie.

Rodriguez, 26, pitched 5 games for the Cubs. His record was 0-0 in 4 IP, giving up 6 hits, 4 runs, 2 earned runs, 4.50 ERA, 2.500 WHIP. For 2013, his record was 0-1, 4.09 ERA, 1.818 WHIP in 22 games. He was actually worse with the Cubs than the Nationals.

So the Cubs cut Rodriguez in order to continue the Iowa pitching shuffle, with Michael Bowden replacing Brooks Raley.

Gillespie is a 29 year old outfielder who only played in three games for the Giants this season. He batted .000. He had a negative 0.3 WAR. In the minors, he hit .277, 9 HR, 31 RBI. He was an average fielder. He does not project as a prospect or an everyday player.

The Cubs have plenty of AAA outfielders on the roster already. Why add another one?

One thing Ryan Sweeney, Brian Bogusevic, Nate Schierholtz and Gillespie have in common are they are tall, lanky, non-speedy bench to AAA outfielders. It seems Hoyer likes to collect these type of players like former general manager Jim Hendry collected scrappy but no good second basemen.

Gillespie is not the future for the Cubs team. Most would consider him not even a bench warmer. It was not that the Cubs needed an outfielder to replace someone with an injury. It is not even necessary to add an outfielder if the team is on the cusp of trading a starting outfielder.

It also means that the front office has no confidence in any of the Iowa outfield corps: Jae-Hoon Ha, AWOL Brett Jackson, Darnell McDonald or Ty Wright.

It also shows that the Cubs coaching staff could not correct Rodriguez's mechanics or mental aspect of the game because he was worse with the Cubs than with his prior team.  If the Cubs continue to gather discarded pitchers with control problems but cannot fix them, what is the point in that futile exercise? Does it indict pitching coach Chris Bosio skills? Adding a line of broken pitchers to the bullpen is not going to win games for the team.

But what these transactions do show is that the Cubs management still wants to sit on the fence to push off the idea of being a good team as long as possible. After the Cardinal series split, the team is a surprising 42-51 .452 15 GB. This projects to a 73 win team, or a 12 win improvement over last season.

This season's success was built upon the quality starting pitching which the team wants to dismantle by the trading deadline. Ownership is more fixated on real estate development projects than baseball. And management is more fixated on gathering up more prospects and journeymen projects than building a competitive baseball team right now.

July 13, 2013


Oh, this is hard to take but easy to explain.

The Des Moines Register reports that the Cubs No. 5 prospect, Brett Jackson, is missing in action.

The paper reports that Jackson, 24, landed on the disabled list late last month with a quad strain. He has been missing from the team since then, and now is "no longer listed on the Iowa team roster."

The Iowa Cubs manager is quoted as saying all he knows is that Jackson is not here with the team. Unless granted permission by the club, a player is AWOL. Normally, disabled players stay with the team to continue their supervised rehab with the team's medical staff.

It has been a horrible, regressive year for Jackson. He was hitting just .223 (48-for-215) with seven doubles, three home runs and 23 RBIs in 61 games in AAA.

Jackson has struck out 77 times in 215 at-bats this season. He fanned 158 times at the plate last year, one shot of tying Iowa’s team record for a single season.

Jackson made his major league debut last season, hitting just .175 with six doubles and four home runs in 44 games with Chicago. He was also a strike out machine. He was once considered to be the Cubs center fielder of the future. A potential middle of the order, five tool player.

It may be speculation, but this seems out of character for Jackson. But he may have picked up this new behavior from the last frustrated and disgruntled Iowa Cub, Ian Stewart. Stewart whined, moaned and pouted his way to a suspension then eventual release (with pay) after batting a miserable .194 in AAA this season. Stewart was a bust when the Cubs traded for him. He was an injured bust when the Cubs, for no apparent reason, re-signed him this spring to a multimillion dollar contract.

It may be a ploy by Jackson for the Cubs to trade or release him. The writing may be on the wall that the new front office sees no major league future for him. But his current performance may leave doubt in other clubs what Jackson's future is going to be this year or next.  A change of scenery or organization may do him good. Or not. Stewart caught on with the Dodgers AAA team. He continues to hit around .200.

July 12, 2013


Wrigley Field is a landmark. It is an iconic ball park that harks back to the early decades of professional baseball. Most people believe that it should be saved from the wrecking ball.

Sportswriters and visiting teams (most vocal being Ozzie Guillen) called Wrigley's infrastructure a dump. It was old, dank, musty, dirty and rodent infested locker rooms. It has no modern player facilities. The Tribune had to put up netting to catch falling concrete from the upper decks. There is no question that Wrigley is in poor shape due to the fact that prior owners refused to do capital and routine maintenance.

Tom Ricketts knew or should have known the condition of Wrigley prior to his purchase of the team. The Tribune was talking to the governor about selling the place to the State so it could fund the $400 million renovation. Instead of asking for a reduction of the purchase price to off-set the repair issues, Ricketts paid Sam Zell's full price. In addition, the new owners had to use large amount of financing as part of the purchase (and currently have more debt than MLB ownership rules). When purchasing the club, Ricketts should have known the costs of maintaining Wrigley in his own budget process. It could not have been a surprise that a large capital expense was required to bring Wrigley back up to speed.

So when Ricketts claims that he needs to spend $500 million to bring his property up to par with other professional teams, he is being slightly disingenuous.  He is throwing around large numbers which include the large commercial redevelopment across the street from Wrigley. The Ricketts bought the McDonald's block in order to control both sides of Clark Street. The preservation of Wrigley plan really includes a massive hotel-retail-commercial center in the heart of Lakeview, which is lost in the discussion of the massive changes to the aesthetics of Wrigley Field.

Further, Ricketts claims that he needs to "maximize" all revenue opportunities to pay for his redevelopment plans. He wants advertising signage in and outside the ball park which rivals Times Square. He wants to expand the ball park foot print in order to add more bars and restaurant facilities inside the ball park. The plan is to try to capture every dollar possible from the fans who enter the neighborhood.

The problem is that a) you have existing businesses in the neighborhood who predate Ricketts ownership; b) you have rooftop owners who have a valid contract with the team not to block their views; c) you have a alderman with zoning power concerned about the nature and extent of the development projects; and d) you have residential neighbors concerned about traffic, parking, safety and pollution issues.

Wrigley Field as a unique use is not exempt from city building and zoning laws. Every business in the city has to go through the hearing and approval process. Most business owners find it frustrating, lengthy and expensive. Even though privately owned, property owners are at the whim of city regulations and use restrictions whether you are opening a nail salon, a restaurant or running a baseball team.

Last night, the city landmarks commission approved the last of the signage requests of the Cubs. It approved a 5,700 square foot video board and a 650 square foot see-through sign along the outfield walls. This vote allows the Cubs to have the Plan Commission and City Council consider the team's full $500 million plan to not only renovate Wrigley Field, but also redevelop surrounding land in the Wrigleyville neighborhood with a hotel and an office-retail complex.

Previously, the commission  gave the Cubs permission to nearly double the amount of signage at the ballpark to 45,000 square feet — not counting the two massive signs approved Thursday. In reality, the landmarks commission has voted to rescind much of the landmark features of historic Wrigley Field. A new video scoreboard next to the smaller manual center field scoreboard takes away any historical significance of the bleacher configuration.
However, everything still needs to be approved by the city council. Ald. Thomas Tunney testified that he objected to the scope of the ball park changes and the impact on the neighborhood including the rooftop businesses. In the past, alderman in the city council followed what the ward alderman wanted to do in  regard to zoning and construction in his district. It is still uncertain how the city council will vote on these plans. It appears Tunney and the mayor are at odds on this issue.
The Cubs claim that all the signage is necessary to complete the restoration process. A team spokesman said that the expected revenue will fund much of the plan and  keep Wrigley Field a competitive ball park.  Reading in between the lines, this means that the new advertising revenue streams will be used to pay for the construction (i.e. the new mortgages and construction loans) and to used to maintain the building and facilities. This means the new revenue sources are earmarked for capital and operational facility costs, not baseball operations like player payroll.

Several rooftop club owners told commissioners they have invested millions in their buildings, in part to meet city demands, and the signs would harm their ability to repay money they borrowed.
"How are we going to pay our mortgages after we are blocked?" said rooftop club owner George Loukas. As a result, the rooftop owners could sue the Cubs for an injunction to stop construction of the signs for the remaining length of their current deal, approximately 10 years.  Some of the rooftop owners have threatened to sue if the large signs block their views, saying it violates both the stadium's historic protections and a revenue-sharing agreement they have with the Cubs.

But the Ricketts plan is not about historic preservation. It is about money. The Ricketts family have turned into aggressive real estate developers. The family wants to turn Wrigley Field into a multi-purpose entertainment facility, a mini-Disneyland destination for concerts, meetings, special events, football, soccer and corporate outings. In order to pay for this vision, Ricketts will need to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars. Lenders will want to see how they will get paid back - - - and that is why Ricketts needs all the new signage (especially outside the ball park) so he can generate more revenue throughout the year (beyond the baseball season). All the new revenue sources will be diverted to pay for the construction loans. This diversion could last ten to twenty years.

The foundation of the development plan has little to do with the Cubs. The Cubs have been a bad team and project to be bad for the next several years. Attendance is falling and no shows increasing with each home stand. The Cubs are paring down their payroll. The front office is flipping its veteran players for prospects. The baseball rebuild is being pushed further down the road towards 2017. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have refused to answer direct questions on when the team would get the benefits of the new revenue streams. There is nothing in the project plans that gives the baseball team an influx of money to buy long term free agents or build a competitive team right away. On the contrary, the financial aspects of the development projects put the Cubs in the position of a mere tenant in the new Wrigley, a transformed multi-purpose entertainment facility.

It is a misrepresentation to say that granting the new revenue wish list to Ricketts will guarantee the Cubs in the World Series. It is also a slight of hand shell game to say that the new revenue streams are needed to "restore" Wrigley Field when most of the new funds are going to pay for new construction in the triangle section and hotel complex across Clark Street. If one listens closely what is being said, the projects are not tied to increased revenue for baseball operations but for real estate improvements and facility maintenance. There is an emotional link between Cub fans and Wrigley Field, and those emotional strings are being played like a violin. The scope of the project is bigger than the Cubs at Wrigley. The New Wrigley facilities are going to be more important than the Cubs. The owners want the  New Wrigley is going to be the Metro on steroids, a destination bar-restaurant-concert-entertainment facility, especially when the Cubs are not playing baseball.

July 11, 2013


Baseball America reports that the Cubs have agreed to sign their number one pick, Kris Bryant, to the slot value of $6.7 million bonus.

It is the largest bonus in the 2013 draft and the biggest in the two years under the new draft rules, surpassing the $6.35 million that the Astros paid Mark Appel, this year’s No. 1 choice.

Bryant’s bonus also sets a Cub franchise bonus record, beating the $6 million that Chicago paid Cuban defector Jorge Soler as part of a $30 million major league contract last summer. The Cubs’ previous draft bonus standard was $4 million, which Mark Prior got as part of a $10.5 million big league deal as the No. 2 overall pick in 2001.

Bryant was the best power hitter in this year's draft. He was Baseball America’s 2013 College Player of the Year by hitting  31 homers,and leading all Division I players in runs (80), walks (66), total bases (187) and slugging (.820) while batting .329.

BA believes that  his arm strength and patience at the plate are two more assets, and he’s also an average runner wtih good athleticism for a 6-foot-5, 215-pounder. He played third base at San Diego but may wind up in right field in the long run.

Bryant's season ended in early June, and once the Cubs get the third baseman signed, the team states he will report to their facility in Mesa, Ariz., to work out before being assigned to a Minor League team.

"We would need to get a feel for how rusty he is," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Wednesday. "Once we get a feel for his conditioning, we'll figure out exactly what the right path is. Certainly, he'll start out at the very low levels [in the Minors]. We're hopeful he can move quickly through those."


Bryant stopped playing about a month ago. He is 20 years old. How "rusty" can he get?

Also, the Cubs plan to stick Bryant in "very low minors" which would be Rookie or short season Boise which makes very little sense. You don't pay $6.7 million to have a the best prospect in the draft sent to summer camp. Bryant played at a high level in college. He should be assigned to AAA Iowa to play third right away, or even AA Tennessee if the Cubs are going to try to make him an outfielder. There is no reason to believe Bryant could not be in the starting line up in 2014. But it is apparent that the Cubs front office is going to bury him in the low minors to impede his promotion curve from level to level. This would put Bryant on a three year apprenticeship or a 2016 Cub debut. This is to give the front office "more time" before their best prospects are "major league ready."  But Bryant is as close to major league ready as any prospect in the system.

Yasiel Puig played 46 games at Rookie-A+ ball in 2012 and 40 games in AA this year when he was called up. Puig signed a big money IFA deal the same year as Jorge Soler. During that same time period, Soler continued to play in Class A ball (until he was injured). Other teams have found great success in promoting their star prospects early (example, Bryce Harper with the Nationals).  Bryant should be no different.

July 10, 2013



Several news organizations are reporting that there is going to be a major fall out from the Biogenesis scandal. The Florida "anti-aging" clinic has allegedly been connected to several high profile major league players. The allegations are that several MLB players connected to this clinic may have received banned performance enhancing substances.

ESPN has reported that the league may suspend approximately 20 players as a result of its investigation. An investigation which has been criticized, in part, because MLB sued the clinic's founder in order to subpoena medical records. There were also allegations that MLB may have "purchased" medical records from ex-employees, which would be in violation of federal and state health privacy laws.

The league is looking to suspend these players for 100 games, the penalty for a second offense. Many players on the suspect list have not been officially hit with a first offense conviction. MLB is trying to tag multiple violations into one charge to get the severe penalty. Everyone expects the the union and the player agent to fight the charges including litigation outside the collective bargaining agreement's drug testing policy.

The stakes are enormous. The league is still under the gun from Congress who pushed the owners to clean up their sport after the steroid era. The threat of Congressional oversight into baseball operations gives ownership the incentive to act quickly and harshly against alleged violators. On the other hand, the players are subject to 100 games without pay and tarnished reputations which will impact their income after their careers.

It would be unprecedented for the league to suspend an entire All-Star caliber roster. But that is where the sport is heading when at least 10 players have refused to answer league officials questions on this matter.

The trade deadline is only three weeks away. The timing of the proposed suspensions (and subsequent appeal hearings) can dramatically impact the divisional races and playoff series. If you are the general manager on a contending team with a player that is being tied to Biogenesis scandal, do you hedge your bets to find a quality replacement player prior to the deadline? Will that give Sellers a greater advantage this year?

The league is trying to send another message to the players that PEDs do not belong in baseball. But since the big money long term deals are all based upon high performance, players will be tempted to boost their skills by using PEDs. Many polls indicate that the fans really don't care that much about the steroid scandal. However, youth sports officials continue to worry that the PEDs in pro sports continue to work their way down through college and high school athletes, which is a dangerous, unsupervised situation.

July 9, 2013


Jeff Samardzija was unhappy when the Cubs traded Scott Feldman to the Orioles.

He sees the Cubs continue to trade away starting pitchers for prospects and journeymen.

Samardzija was a risky prospect that former GM Jim Hendry signed a high bonus rookie deal that has paid more than $2 million per season in order for Samardzija to pass on an NFL career. He had command trouble early so he was moved to a relief role. Then, as the Cubs skidded down the standings, he was given another shot at starting. He took the challenge and is now a fixture in the Cubs rotation. Career stats 26-30, 3.79 ERA, 1.333 WHIP.

At 28, Samardzija is entering his prime pitching years. He is under team control for the next few years. He has hinted about getting a contract extension to buy out his arbitration years, but both sides have been far apart.

Like the rest of the starting staff that leads the NL in quality starts, Samardzija has to be getting frustrated with the annual de-construction of the pitching staff. And the drumbeat that Garza may have pitched his last game as a Cub has to be another downer in the clubhouse.

The hardest thing to do in baseball is build a starting rotation. For the second year in a row, the Cubs plan to destroy the rotation in order to gain prospects. But this week the front office said they now need to "build up the bullpen" with new arms. One does not trade away starting pitching for relievers.

Samardzija was a two sport star at Notre Dame. He knew what it is like to play big time sports. He has grown up with the attitude of winning games. Even in the minors where development is more important than wins, the drive to win games is still a focus of quality players. Major league players have that drive to win each game, but there comes a time when they are beaten down and go through the motions. Samardzija, by his comments, is not at that defeatist level. On the contrary, he is mad that the Cubs are selling off his teammates under the guise that the team will get better in the future. But winning is in the present.

It is frustrating to pitch well but still lose the majority of your games. But it has to be more frustrating when the solution to losing is not correct or improve the problem areas, but to knock down the areas of success. The front office will say that it can only sell its quality assets in order to get quality prospects in return. But then again, they just traded Scott Hairston for the Nationals 27th best prospect.

One would think that the Cubs would want to lock up four quality starters for the next four years. Build a staff like the Orioles did in the late 1970s. But that is not the case. Garza will be traded soon. Samardzija may also be discussed in trade talks because he is set for a large raise this off season. The only starter that will be around for some time is Edwin Jackson, a long term signing which was contrary to the rebuilding blueprint.

Samardzija has the right to feel frustrated with the team. Fans are also frustrated by the lack of tangible proof that the rebuilding process is going to work at the major league level. The real dark cloud on the horizon is that after this trade season, the Cubs will most likely be in worse shape than today. That means more losing and more pressure on the remaining starters to do even better. That will be quite a frustrating chore.


Dale Sveum said something peculiar in regard to the All Star game representative. He said Travis Wood's Sunday start on national television would be "enough of a show case" than skipping his start so he could pitch in the All Star Game.

There are several problems with that statement.

First, does anyone actually watch Sunday night baseball? Most teams are traveling on Sundays after their weekend series.

Second, the Cubs are not even close to contending for a playoff spot. So there is no compelling need for Wood to make a start on Sunday.

Third, a "show case" is a stage where one displays their talent to a wide audience. In baseball, there is no better place to show case one's talent in front of every front office general manager and team president than the All Star Game. All teams top brass attend that Game.

Fourth, many players believe it is a honor to play in the All Star Game. It represents recognition by the fans and their peers of their excellent skills. It is more exciting for a first time player like Wood. But by pitching on Sunday, he will not be able to pitch in the ASG. He will just be a fan with very good seat in front of the action.

Fifth, if Wood is the future of the Cubs rotation, why would the team take away his opportunity to pitch in the ASG?  Why make Wood upset? Wood may never get another chance to do so.

It is hard for some fans or players to see the ASG rosters and debate whether someone deserving was snubbed by the league or the coaching staff. But in this case, Wood is getting snubbed by his own team!

July 8, 2013


Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper wrote a column for the Daily Herald. In it, he states that the Cubs front office recent transactions moves the club closer to a World Series.

Kasper is one of those expanded stats guys. He likes to talk about the sabermetrics of a player or a situation, especially on lazy Sunday afternoon broadcasts. He believes that Epstein-Hoyer front office is using the principles of sabermetrics and Moneyball philosophy of Billy Beane, Oakland's successful GM, to build a winning organization. Beane found a way to analyze player performance by new metrics such as OPS, OBP and situational performance measures. Beane realized that you do not need a line up of HR, RBI and high BA players in order to produce runs. (Which had historic precedent before with the Go-Go- White Sox in the 1950s).

Kasper writes that "But, for the millionth time, "Moneyball" was not about on-base percentage. Or computers taking over for scouts. It was about exploiting market inefficiencies. Again, repeat after me: It was about EXPLOITING … MARKET … INEFFICIENCIES."

What Oakland did and continues to do is to find players that fit into their run production system. Players that have consistent performance traits who when put in the right situation have an opportunity to perform well. A player who can coax a walk and steal a base is just as valuable as a .300 hitter making contact for a double. That is not a market "inefficiency" but scouting players to fit specific roles on the ball club.

This was the first year that teams could "trade" international salary pool money. Kasper believes the Cubs strategy of trading for more bonus money was a genius move. He believes the Cubs were the first team to target pool money in trades to give them an edge on other teams in signing young, raw players from other countries. Except, that observation misses the point.

In prior years, teams could spend an unlimited amount of money to sign international free agents. The Cubs overspent tens of millions of dollars on international players, including Jorge Soler and the bust, Geraldo Concepcion. However, other teams such as the White Sox, spent little on foreign players by comparison. But an objective view of current rosters shows the White Sox have more impact foreign players on their roster (especially in pitching) than the Cubs.

Further, the Cubs are not "exploiting" the situation when the rules clearly state clubs can trade bonus money. What the Cubs are actually doing is overspending for foreign players which in the long run inflates the cost for talent for every club. The Cubs may have to scramble to find more IFA bonus money to sign the number one prospect for $2.8 million (to avoid a penalty tax and future signing restrictions). The Cubs did not corner the market in talent, but may have cornered themselves in a budget and future signing sinkhole by overspending this year.

And the Cubs also overspent on the amateur draft. The team has overspent on lower round draft choices which now has impacted on whether the team can sign No. 1 pick Kris Bryant. Currently, the Cubs do not have enough bonus pool space to sign Bryant at even the recommended slot price. Bryant's agent wants more than the slot value. If the Cubs sign Bryant, the team will incur a financial penalty. If the Cubs don't sign Bryant, the team will incur more substantial penalties including potential loss of future first round pick.  Again, this compulsive overspending on prospects is not gaming the system but creating one's own budget inefficiencies.

And Kasper buys into the myth that spending big money on a player means that player will be great in the future. "Because it accelerates the essential process of adding a large quantity of young players to a system that badly needs it, which in turn should push championship-caliber talent to the big leagues on a yearly basis," Kasper states.  Except, that is not true.

Less than two percent of the international players signed this year will have any impact on a major league roster. High school players drafted by teams have less than a one percent chance to have an impact on a major league roster.

Spending bonus money does not equate at all to actually finding and developing baseball players. Old time scouts would tell you that there are things that they could observe that do not show up on a stat sheet. Things like whether the prospect positions himself correctly in the field; whether he understands the game situation; whether he is anticipating the play on the next pitch; whether he makes the correct baseball IQ play in the field (hitting the cut off man, taking an extra base, etc.) Also, whether a prospect has the demeanor to play at more competitive levels. The raw stats like height, weight, 40 yard dash, mph on fastball are only starting points. Like at the pro football combine, people get caught up with number of bench reps or vertical leaps. But the wise general managers come back to a simple question after seeing all that data: "can the kid play football?"

Oakland has developed a long line of baseball players who play fundamentally sound baseball. That is the key to building a successful organization, not the ability to spend a fortune on 16 year old kid's potential.


Scott Hairston is no longer a Cub. The 33-year old outfielder has been traded to the Nationals for a Class A player. The Cubs also sent some salary relief ($500,000) to offset the remaining balance of the two-year, $5 million contract.

In 52 games, Hairston had 99 AB, and hit 8 HR, 19 RBI but batted .172.  His season WAR is negative 0.5, which is worse than a AAA replacement player.

Why would the Nationals want a veteran like this? The Nats have had injury problems in their outfield and may wish to solidify a home run bat off the bench.

It also seems that the Cubs are not getting very much in return for their "assets" on the 25 man roster.

How many Class A level prospects can the Cubs absorb in one year (draft and international signings plus trades)?

One must also consider the possibility that the Cubs need to move payroll in order to balance overspending on prospects. The Hairston trade will cut $2 million off the 2014 payroll.

Even though the Cubs are playing poker with Matt Garza by holding on to him to the last minute to try to get a bidding war for that trade, the risk that Garza has one or two bad outings (or gets hurt again) is growing which each start.

The two most valuable trade pieces right now are Luis Valbuena and Dioner Navarro. Valbuena because he is a utility infielder who has flashed some glove skills recently. And Navarro who has excellent pinch hitting numbers, plus he is a switch hitting catcher (a rare commodity). I would not be surprised if these two players get traded before Garza.

July 5, 2013


It is kind of hard to read the tea leaves with the cup is on fire.

"Realistically, our chance of playing in October is very small and we need to add a lot of talent to get better for the future. That's the reality of the situation." - - - Jed Hoyer

The real question is which October?

2013 was an expected write-off season like 2012.

2014 was the first competitive marker when Epstein and Hoyer joined the Cubs. Since the Cubs plan is to blow up the current roster for more prospects, the team will not be competitive in 2014.

2015 should have been the end line: playoffs. But since most of the Epstein-Hoyer talent is in rookie and Class A ball, none will progress through a full season at AAA Iowa (a metric for hitters to be promoted). Further, most of this year's international signee class will not even make it to the United States until 2015 rookie ball.

2016 now appears the earliest glimmer of hope if Baez, Soler, Almora, etc. pan out as the front office projects. But to have a rookie heavy everyday roster is fit with perils, too. Think Kansas City Royals.

2017 will be when the current low level minor talent straggles to the big league club to join the first wave who may or may not have their sophomore slump seasons. The roster core should be in the prime production years. But it still less than a fifty-fifty proposition that the Cubs will make the playoffs based upon the historical record that only one in five players make an impact when they make the major leagues.

Realistically, there is a very slim chance that the Cubs will have a playoff caliber club in the next four years. This year's motto may be "spend now, pray for results later."


I don't know if it is a desperation move or laying the foundation for the Big Excuse, but the Cubs have blown through their international signing bonus pool money. As a result, the Cubs could face stiff penalties including a 100 percent fine and signing limitations for next year.

Steve Adams of MLBTR believes that with the signing of Elroy Jimenez, the Cubs have spent $6.27 million for international players. The Cubs original bonus pool of $4.557 million and the trades that brought in bonus slot values gave the Cubs only to $5.520 million.

That would mean the Cubs are over their allotted bonus pool by $749,700 -- an overage of 13.6 percent.  The CBA  penalty for exceeding a bonus pool by 10-15 percent would be a 100 percent tax on the overage as well as the inability to sign a player for more than $500K in next year's signing period.  The penalty for exceeding the pool by 15% or more is a 100 percent tax on the overage and a $250K per player limit next year.

If the reported signing bonuses aren't 100 percent accurate, the Cubs could be less than 10 percent over. However, barring a significant inaccuracy, they would still fall into the 5-10 percent overage bracket, which would prevent them from signing a player for more than $500K in 2014-15 but require only a 75 percent overage tax.

Per the new CBA, teams are allowed to acquire up to 50 percent of their initial bonus pool. That would be a total of $2,278,600 for the Cubs, meaning they can still acquire an additional $1,315,600. That would be enough to cover the remaining difference and keep the Cubs from incurring limitations on next year's spending.

 The problem is that every other team now knows what the Cubs are up to with the international draft pool. They all know that the Cubs have overspent their allotment and will seek to get more slot values in trades before the deadline to offset their overage spending. But other teams have no duty to help the Cubs out of their problem. Other teams have been using their bonus pools to sign players. It would be in those teams best interests to NOT send additional cap money to the Cubs in deals so the Cubs will be forced to spend significantly less per player next season.

It is a familiar refrain that we will hear in the near future. The Epstein draft model was to overspend on the draft picks, but the new CBA made that nearly impossible with hard caps and harsh penalties. Epstein whined about the new CBA hindering his ability to stockpile talent. Likewise, we will hear that the Cubs rebuilding plans will stall next year if the Cubs are penalized by only being able to offer $500,000 bonuses to 16 year Latin ballplayers.

In any event, is this money well spent? The Cubs are on pace to spend more than a million dollars each on a hand full of foreign teenagers. This is the equivalent of first round draft slot money for six kids who have no real high level competition or experience.

High schoolers drafted in the normal draft only have a 0.5 percent chance of making to a big league roster during the professional career. It is not that much better for Latin teenagers. Only two percent of prospects signed out of the Dominican Republic make it to the majors. SI.com examined the signings of 3,099 Dominican amateurs from 2003 to 2010 and found that 18-year-old players were twice as likely to appear in the majors as 16-year-olds, and at a fraction of the price.

That is why many teams will sign as many international players as possible in the budget. The Blue Jays have averaged more than a dozen over the years, but at a fraction of the U.S. draft signing allotments for players chose after Round 10. 

The Cubs, with penalties, may spend $7.7 million for five players. With the odds that only two percent of foreign signees make it to the majors, the odds are that none of the Cubs signees will make it to the big club.

Then, one has to consider what the Cubs could have done with $6.25 to $7.7 million to better this season the current major league roster.  When Ricketts bought the club, he proudly proclaimed that the team was only one or two players away from competing for a championship. Many thought his statement was naive. But it was all about winning from Day One. Now, three years later the regression continues.

Overspending does not guarantee success.  The financial ability to spend more to cover one's mistakes is a crutch that many general managers have used in the past. But the Cubs are quickly turning into a small market team by diverting all capital and resources to develop real estate holdings at the expense of the actual baseball operations. Epstein's international spending spree may have been done because he will not be allowed to spend like a drunken sailor anymore once the Wrigley renovations begin.

July 3, 2013


The Dodgers made a surprise move in acquiring Carlos Marmol from the Cubs. The Dodgers made an even more surprising move by designating Marmol for assignment, less than 24 hours after acquiring him.

MLBTR states that Peter  Gammons reports that the Dodgers were only interested in the $209.000  international bonus slot they acquired in the deal, not in retaining Marmol as a member of their bullpen.

The Cubs claimed that the deal gave them some salary relief. But MLBTR indicates that the Dodgers spent about $500K of actual money to acquire just under $210K of pool money.

So Marmol is in another 10 day limbo period.

UPDATE: New reports indicate that  Marmol has already been placed on outright waivers. If no team claims him, the Dodgers can move him to the minors. It was also reported that Marmol has agreed to go to the minor leagues and try to work out his struggles there.


The Cubs blew out many transactions yesterday like they were itching to get out of town for the long holiday weekend.

Theo Epstein made it clear that he did not like the new collective bargaining agreement. The hard bonus caps and harsh penalties for violations made his job harder to sign young players. His Red Sox Way was to draft players in the third, fourth or fifth round but pay them first round money in order to get them signed. But you cannot do that effectively with the hard cap for the first ten rounds of the draft. Same was true with the international player market. In the past, it was the Wild West, no cap on signing players. But after some scandals and alleged scout kick backs, MLB put in hard cap on international player signings. The one loophole in the CBA was that teams could trade certain of their international slot allowances to other teams. Teams were limited to adding no more than 50% of their full international signing budget.

So the Cubs acquired a net $983,000 in more international signing money. And Theo and his boys went on a shopping spree.

Top international prospect Eloy Jimenez has decided to turn down more money from another club to sign with the Cubs, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez. If true, one has to question the player or his advisors.  Jimenez, a 16-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic, is regarded as the top international prospect by both Baseball America and MLB.com.  Jimenez is 6'4" and 200 pounds, and Baseball America's Ben Badler says that his average raw power and flat swing produce line drives -- a combination that could lead to above-average home run power in the future. MLB.com said Jimenez has one of the best baseball bodies available this year and is considered to be the total package. The teenager has impressed scouts with his intelligence, plus-speed, and gap-to-gap power that is expected to improve as he grows into his body.Jimenez's asking price was reported to be $2.7 million.

The Cubs also signed 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Gleyber Torres to a $1.7MM deal according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez.  Torres ranked second among international prospects on the list from Baseball America's Ben Badler, and third on MLB.com's list.  The Cubs also signed Dominican righty Jefferson Mejia for $850K today. He was drafted last season but MLB rejected his contract due to conflict with his age, now believed to be 18.

The Cubs have also secured Colombian right-hander Erling Moreno for $800K, according to Badler. Moreno ranked as BA's No. 16 prospect and MLB.com's No. 17 prospect. The 6'3", 190-pound 16-year-old has touched 90 mph with his fastball and projects to become a power pitcher down the road.

Jimenez, of, $2.7 million. 
Gleyber Torres, ss, $1.7 million
Jefferson Mejia, p, $850,000
Erling Moreno, p, $800,000

To summarize, the Cubs spent $ 6 million on Latin American teenagers for whom no one can fully evaluate for another five years. To put it in prospective, the high estimate for annual wages of a worker in the Dominican is $4,000 (US). A person's lifetime earnings projects to be less than $250,000 (US). A U.S. dollar has at least five times the purchasing power as the local currency. These children have blown past their countrymen in earnings for life. In other words, it does not matter whether they make it in baseball - - - they have broken the bank back home.

Which is why international player signings are so risky. Scouting reports are filled with objective information like size, weight, and general information about swing planes, etc. But there is little information on performance, level of competition, or comparison with in game situations. But to the Cubs this appears to be the promised land for new talent.

The Cubs need to find new talent quickly. But the Cubs front office are control freaks who like to have young players they have under contract for multiple years. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reports that Jake Arrieta (acquired in the Feldman deal) has two year and 99 days of service time, meaning that the Cubs can avoid Super Two arbitration  status if he accumulates less than 53 days of service time this season. That is why the Cubs have sent him to Iowa to stop the arbitration clock.  If Arrieta picks up fewer than 73 days of service time, he will be controllable through the 2017 season.

 But some people doubt whether Arrieta will amount to much. Orioles executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette, Theo's old boss - - - the man who built the Red Sox team that won its first championship,  told Jim Bowden of ESPN that he didn't want to trade prospects whose capabilities are unknown at this point. The Orioles traded Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Cubs because the Orioles believe they know what those arms are capable of (which at the time were plus 7.00 ERAs and control issues). Some have said that in essence, the Cubs traded Feldman for two Carlos Marmols. But in reality, the Cubs traded Feldman for Baltimore's international bonus money.

It is a real Hail Mary strategy to trade major league players for money to acquire little known teenagers.  But Peter Gammons said on the radio this morning that this may be the future of baseball. He opined that the NCAA has made it difficult for minority talent to play in college. He believes that there is a real deficiency in positional player talent at NCAA schools that only international markets such as Latin America can fill. He admitted that many front office personnel cannot say how well an international player will be; they tell him "ask me that question six years from now."

For Cub fans excited that the team is spending big money on prospects, they need to be aware that strategy pushes part of the rebuilding process back to 2019 for tangible results for these new players.