November 30, 2013


The Baseball Writers Association has announced the 2014 Hall of Fame Ballot.

The players listed on the ballot are:

Moises Alou, Jeff Bagwell, Armando Benitez, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Sean Casey, Roger Clemens, Ray Durham, Eric Gagne, Tom Glavine, Luis Gonzalez, Jacque Jones, Todd Jones, Jeff Kent, Paul Lo Duca, Greg Maddux, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Mike Mussina, Hideo Nomo, Rafael Palmeiro, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Kenny Rogers, Curt Schilling, Richie Sexson, Lee Smith, J.T. Snow, Sammy Sosa, Frank Thomas, Mike Timlin, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker.

Qualified voters can select up to 10 players on their ballot. A player needs 75 percent of the vote to get into the Hall.

If I had a vote, I would vote for:

Lee Smith
Frank Thomas

November 29, 2013


People have a right to spend their money, their savings, their entertainment dollar, anyway they want to . . . it is free country.

Various web reports indicate that the Cubs are pushing hard to secure season ticket sales. The team wants and needs those ticket package deposits as revenue dries up during the off-season. It is projected that the Cubs have burned through approximately 50,000 fans on their waiting list to try to secure new season ticket purchasers. Some fans now believe there really is no "waiting list" for tickets, but merely the Cubs data mining old lists to fish for returning fans.

It is going to be a hard sell. Though the Chicago Tribune called the 2014 ticket prices "stable," the Cubs are still a very expensive ticket.

With the 12% amusement tax, a season ticket costs per seat:
Infield Club Box: $7,958.72
Outfield Club Box: $6,596.80
Infield Field Box: $6,5322.80
Outfield Field Box: $5,136.32
Infield Terrace Box: $4,795.84
Outfield Terrace Box: $3,841.60
Infield Terrace Reserved: $2,898.56
Outfield Terrace Reserved: $2,432.64
Upper Deck Infield Box: $4,744.32
Upper Deck Outfield Box: $3,393.60
Upper Deck Infield Reserved: $1,836.80
Upper Deck Outfield Reserved: $1,625.12
Bleachers: $3,068.80

Now, for most you would have to double the cost because who goes to a ball game alone. There are some fans who still buy as groups and divide the tickets among several families. But the trend is pulling back from those arrangements.

A good deal of former season ticket holders bought season packages as an investment. The sell-outs and popular team made an active secondary market for their tickets, which could be sold at a profit. Ticket brokers used to have a near monopoly on this secondary market, but the internet allowed individual fans to undercut the trade. It got worse when the Cubs created their own ticket broker to try to collect on the premium above ticket price for marquee games.

But in the last three seasons, the Cubs secondary ticket market has collapsed. People could not even give away tickets for games last season. StubHub game of day tickets fell to less than a dollar.  So a segment of the "investor" season ticket market is now gone.

Some of the former season ticket holders have written that instead of buying season ticket packages, they took the $5,000 they would have spent and invested it in the stock market and mutual funds. Some report that they have nearly doubled their money, having $10,000 in the bank. They can still get their Cub fix by watching games on TV, or buying cheap tickets on the web. And this is the real concern for the Cubs business operations: former season ticket fans have now found a better use for their season ticket budgets.

Given the fact that the Cubs may not be competitive until 2016, a former season ticket holder can save in three seasons $15,000 in ticket expenditures. He could take that money and invest it and have $17,250 in the bank by the time the 2016 season ticket pitch begins. He could hold onto the money and use the profits to buy expensive playoff tickets from those die hards who are taking the long term approach to recoup their ticket outlays.

The Cubs are also fighting an upstream battle for those saving dollars. The Chicago metro economy has not recovered from the financial crisis. Real estate prices continue to fall. More employers are leaving the state due to high taxes. State and local pension debt loads are ballooning, which will cost taxpayers more and more each year. Inflation for basic goods like groceries and gasoline continue to rise. There is less and less disposable income for families. The first thing that would be cut in a family budget is entertainment like season ticket purchases for any sports team.

But the Cubs do not seem too concerned about the fate of their fan base. There was no gesture to lower ticket prices for their fans. In fact, the Cubs plan is to try to extract more money from fans through their real estate projects, more club bars, and a street fare to hawk Cubs merchandise. The Cubs internally project that they get $70 per fan per game in revenue. For every 100,000 less tickets sold, the Cubs lose $7 million in top line revenue. That is why the Cubs are so adamant on pushing a ton of new advertising signage in and outside Wrigley Field to off-set the fan defections. If the current attendance slide continues, the Cubs will need to pepper Clark and Addison like it is Times Square.

So the Cubs have a fan base which:
1. Is not happy with the losing seasons and the product on the field.
2. Is not happy with the direction of the team.
3. Is not happy with the cost of attending games.
4. Is not happy that there is no secondary market for unused tickets.
5. Can find better uses for their savings than buying season tickets from the Cubs.

November 28, 2013



Most people gravitate towards the poor offense the Cubs had in 2013. However, looking at the bullpen as we head into the off-season, there is also concern in the pitching department. Per ESPN:

Chicago Cubs
2013 statistics: 4.04 ERA (13th), .736 OPS (13th), 20.4% K rate (12th), 10.3% BB rate (14th)
Record: 21-31, 39 saves, 26 blown saves, 48-14 when leading after six innings
Closer: Open for battle
Top setup guys: James Russell, Blake Parker
Others: Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, Daniel Bard, Chang-Yong Lim, Brooks Raley, Carlos Villanueva, Kyuji Fujikawa
Free agents: Kevin Gregg, Matt Guerrier

Gregg and Guerrier will not be bad in 2014.  The Cubs had the fourth-most blown saves in the majors in 2013, so the entire pen shares blame.  The Cubs had counted on Fujikawa, a  closer in Japan, to serve in that role but he underwent Tommy John surgery after pitching just six innings. It is unclear when he will return so there will be an open competition for closer.

Strop appears to be the in-house favorite to be promoted to closer, but the Orioles had given up on him due to his inconsistent control.  Parker struck out 55 in 46.1 innings but doesn't have live fastball to get out of 9th inning jams. Bard is struggling in the winter ball. None of the current relievers seem to be a knock-out closer in 2014.

In addition, Rondon, the Rule 5 pick up last year, will most likely be returned to the minors for additional seasoning like the Cubs did with Lendy Castillo. Depending on what the Cubs do with Jeff Samardzija, Villaneuva could be the 5th starter or long reliever next season, a role he did okay with in 2013. Lim and Raley are replacement level soft tossers. Russell may have been overworked to the point of ineffectiveness.

So it is possible that the Cubs will need to drastically re-tool the pen this off-season. Strop, Parker, Villaneuva and Russell are the only known commodities. That means the Cubs will need to find at least four more bullpen arms by the end of spring training.

November 26, 2013


With Arismendy Alcantara (2B/SS), Dallas Beeler (RHP) added to the Cubs 40 man roster, the Cubs have one opening to fill if management chooses to do so.

In the past seasons, the Cubs have selected an unprotected player from other teams in the Rule 5 draft at the Winter Meetings. Remember Lendy Castillo? Or Hector Rondon? Those young pitchers had a live arm, but were hidden in the bullpen for a full season. That is because in order to keep a selection, the player must be on the active roster for the entire year, or he gets sent back to his original club.

It is a process where some teams can cherry pick and upgrade their overall minor league prospect pipeline by selecting a player from another team. It only costs $50,000, as well as that roster spot. It is a low risk strategy, if you don't have better talent in the wings at AAA.

The Cubs have the 4th choice in the Rule 5 draft. Most expect the Cubs to use that selection to draft a player. Whether they keep the player is another matter, as the team has immediately traded selections to another team. Most assume the Cubs will make a selection, and the easiest place to hide one on the roster is in the bullpen.

Baseball America does an excellent job at covering amateur and minor league prospects. BA has created a list of potential Rule 5 picks (with my comments):

Junior Arias, of, Reds: Like many potential Rule 5 picks, Arias only fits on a team that is building for the future. Arias has yet to have an at-bat above Class A and he spent much of last year in low Class A Dayton. His bat is in no way ready to actually help a big league club in 2014.  If he is on a major league roster, he would be limited as a pinch-runner, late-inning defensive replacement and even an occasional pinch-hit appearance because of his power.

Danny Burawa, rhp, Yankees: After missing 2012 with a torn oblique and a cracked rib, Burawa finally made his Double-A debut last season. He sported a fastball that sat in the 92-97 mph range and sat comfortably at 95 on most nights while featuring average sink. He couples that with an inconsistent, sweepy, 83-86 mph slider that he tends to cast and a show-me changeup that sits between 83-87 mph. He could be a player a team could stash in the bullpen for a year, as the Cubs have done in the past.

Darrell Ceciliani, of, Mets:  The 23-year-old bats lefthanded and has a full season of experience at Double-A Binghamton, where he ranked second in the Eastern League with 31 stolen bases. Scouts project Ceciliani to have three average tools: hitting, running and fielding, and while his walk rate dried up at Double-A, he did hit .276/.328/.390 versus righthanders and could be a functional extra outfielder. A fifth outfielder candidate with just average skills leaping AAA would be a reach.

Brody Colvin, rhp, Phillies: Once the top pitching prospect in the Phillies’ organization, Colvin’s career has been been on a decline the past two seasons. His control has fallen apart; his once well-above-average fastball now sits 90-92. Colvin’s lack of control would make it hard for a team to use him in anything more than mop-up situations right now. A team who thinks they can fix his mechanical problems could take a chance on him. The Cubs have often seen fallen players as an opportunity to strike gold with a turnaround.

Jose De Paula, lhp, Padres: If not for a bout of shoulder tendinitis that sidelined him at Double-A San Antonio from mid-June to the end of the season, De Paula probably would have stayed on the 40-man roster and thus not be eligible for selection. That’s because he’s the rare pitcher from the Dominican Republic who throws lefthanded, pounds the strike zone (career walk rate of 2.2 per nine innings) and has natural feel to spin a curveball. The 23-year-old De Paula pitches at 89-91 mph with an easy arm action and the potential for three average pitches, plus he can start or relieve as needed.
This is an interesting player because of the Hoyer-San Diego connection. There will be turnover in the Cubs bullpen this season, and if the Cubs think Russell has burned out, this could be the Cubs selection.
Brian Fletcher, of/1b, Royals: Fletcher has been on the back end of the Royals’ Top 30 prospects list in both 2011 and 2012 thanks to his power potential. He hit well in a return to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, although he slumped after a midseason promotion to Triple-A Omaha.
He swings and misses too much and doesn’t walk as much as teams would like. He has some position versatility, but he’s his well below average speed limits his range in the outfield and he has only limited experience at first base.

Mike Freeman, 2b/util, Diamondbacks: Freeman hit just .247 this year, and the 26-year-old doesn’t have the pop to be an everyday player for a championship-caliber team. He does fit the utility profile well, however. He bats lefthanded; he draws walks (65 with Double-A Mobile this season); he can fill in at shortstop in a pinch and played second base (his best fit), third base and left field in the Arizona Fall League. The Cubs also collect replacement level utility players like kids collect baseball cards, but there seems to be little upside here.

Jae-Hoon Ha, of, Cubs: Although he’s an average to tick-above average runner, he plays a very solid center field because he gets good jumps. He has enough arm strength to play right field as well.
Ha doesn’t have much power, but at his best the lefthanded hitter can draw some walks and get on base. He doesn’t profile as more than a backup outfielder long-term. He projects to a career fifth outfielder at best with limited tools so this is why the Cubs left him unprotected.

Marcus Hatley, rhp, Cubs:  A big (6-foot-5) righthander with a plus fastball (92-95 mph) that he throws with good downhill plane and an average slider and curve, Hatley ranked at the back end of the Cubs’ Top 30 prospects list after the 2011 and 2012 seasons. He struck out 74 batters in 61 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this year with adequate control (35 walks) and iffy command. In the Mexican Pacific League,  he’s 1-1, 2.57 with six saves in 14 innings with Culiacan. He’s struck out 18 and walked only four.  In a system where there is lack of pitching assets, the Cubs chose Dallas Beeler to protect over Hatley. It seems BA believes that Hatley can contribute at the major league level in 2014 so I expect some team to select him.

Marco Hernandez, ss, Cubs: Hernandez is a long ways away from being ready to actually help a big league club, but the switch-hitting shortstop has a lot of the attributes teams look for in a potential Rule 5 pick. He has defensive value because he can handle shortstop with range and a plus arm, he’s a tick-above average runner and he has some hitting potential with a solid swing from both sides of the plate. He is a raw talent whose development would be severely diminished if stashed on a major league bench for a year.

Tommy Kahnle, rhp, Yankees: Similar to Burawa, Kahnle is a hard-thrower who features premium velocity and spotty command. His heat ranges between 91-96 mph and sits comfortably in the mid-90s with a little sink. Another pitcher that may interest the Cubs.

Stephen Kohlscheen, rhp, Mariners: Pitching with an 89-92 mph fastball and a below average breaking ball and changeup, Kohlscheen went 7-3, 2.30 with 47 hits allowed in 67 innings at Double-A Jackson last year. He struck out 85 and walked 25. He’s struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings throughout his minor league career. Kohlscheen’s bigger problem is a tendency to give up home runs. At 6-foot-6, he’s an imposing presence on the mound, but his lack of a quality changeup makes him a comfortable at-bat for lefthanded hitters. There is always a concern about a tall, soft tossing pitcher.

Freddy Lewis, lhp, Yankees:  A 47th-round pick in 2010, Lewis hit 96 as a reliever with the Yankees and sat in the 88-92 mph range while making five spot starts for Double-A Trenton, with good life down in the zone. Lewis threw well in the Arizona Fall League as well, tossing 11 scoreless innings and striking out 10, and showed his durability by tossing 70 innings overall on the year counting the AFL. His slider remains inconsistent and he throws a fringe-average changeup, but his attacking mentality helps him be more effective in 2013 against righthanded hitters (.632 OPS) than lefthanded ones (.790 OPS). He appears to be well suited to transition to immediate bullpen work.

Matt Lollis, rhp, Padres: Though he has only one major league-caliber pitch, Lollis makes it count with a double-plus fastball he pumps up to 98 mph from a low three-quarters slot. The 6-foot-9, 250-pound behemoth pitched out of the bullpen exclusively in 2013, but that didn’t seem to help his secondary stuff (slider, changeup) play up, nor did it add to his deception. This is an interesting choice for bullpen help for the Cubs; a power arm that could possibly be groomed into a closer role.

Matt Loosen, rhp, Cubs: A righthander with an 89-94 mph fastball and a pair of erratic but promising breaking balls, he has been stuck at a Class A ceiling for several years.

Kevin Munson, rhp, Diamondbacks: He has a plus fastball (91-94) and an average-to-tick-above-average slider. He doesn’t always hit his spots, but he does throw strikes and he struck out 66 batters in 55 innings last season. Possible bullpen material.

Hector Nelo, rhp, Dodgers: Nelo needs to develop a quality second pitch, but if you’re only going to have one plus pitch, a 95-98 mph fastball is a pretty good solitary pitch. Like Lollis, Nelo has the possibility to help a bullpen and develop into a closer.

Angel Nesbitt, rhp, Tigers: Nesbitt can hit 95-97 mph with his fastball, but his slurve isn’t very advanced, which explains why he struck out 54 batters in 67 inning in low Class A. The Tigers took an understandable gamble in leaving Nesbitt exposed, as unrefined low Class A power arms rarely can stick on a new team, even if they are picked. Cubs righthander Starling Peralta from last year’s Rule 5 draft is an example of that. But a team may take a chance on adding a righthander with potential long-term setup or closer potential. It is extremely hard for a pitcher to jump from Class A to the majors and to have success.

Carlos Perez, c, Astros: Perez passed through the Rule 5 draft last year, but there’s a greater chance someone might roll the dice on him this time. Perez could be a fit for a rebuilding team with an established everyday catcher.  Perez, who turned 23 last month, is a dependable catcher who moves well behind the plate, blocks well and earns praise for how he handles a pitching staff. His arm is average and he gets rid of the ball quickly, helping him erase an impressive 47 percent of basestealers last year in Triple-A Oklahoma City. The question scouts have on Perez is his offense. His bat speed is below-average, he has minimal power and his swing can get long. But Perez doesn’t swing and miss much and he controls the strike zone, which helped him hit a respectable .269/.328/.345 with 25 walks and 39 strikeouts in 75 games in Triple-A. BA thinks that the White Sox who pick one slot above the Cubs could select Perez. The Cubs also have a real need for a back up catcher, too.

Boone Whiting, rhp, Cardinals: Smallish at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, Whiting is a fly-ball pitcher who lacks plane on his fastball and doesn’t overpower hitters. His competitiveness, command, athleticism and feel for three average pitches helps him miss bats, as he has a career 9.31 SO/9 IP ratio. Whiting’s fastball sits in the 88-92 mph range and touches 93, and he locates it well. His changeup earns some above-average grades and is his best pitch. He needs to play in a pitcher's park, which Wrigley and the Cell are not.

November 25, 2013


The Blue Jays are an organization that is not afraid to pull the trigger on major trades.

Several reports state that the Blue Jays  have inquired on Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija, and that the Blue Jays are putting together a package of young players to try to land him, a source tells Bruce Levine of   For his part, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos didn't deny that he has discussed Samardzija with Chicago in an interview with Jim Bowden of SiriusXM.

The Blue Jays are stocked with pitching prospects. It is doubtful that No. 1 prospect RHPAaron Sanchez or No. 2 RHP Roberto Osuna would be part of a Samardzija deal, No. 3 AA pitcher Marcus Stroman could be, or No. 4 LHP Daniel Norris.

No. 5 LHP Sean Nolin got a taste of MLB action last season. No. 6 prospect RHP John Stilson was at AAA last season and could be promoted as insurance for the Jays current MLB roster pitching depth (Dickey, Buehrle, Morrow, Happ, Hutchinson, Drabek - - who is coming back from Tommy John surgery).

The Jays also have a third catcher on their 40 man roster, A.J. Jimeniz, who projects to be a solid major league catcher. He is currently inactive (injured) but the 23 year old played well in AAA last season.

If the Blue Jays propose a package of two pitching prospects and Jimeniz, the Cubs would be foolish not to jump on that deal.


Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano is the best player available this off-season. No one will question that statement. His new agent, Jay-Z, is demanding a 10 year, $300 million deal for his client.

The Yankees recently said that they were not going to wait for Cano and his representatives to wake up to the reality of the new baseball model. The Yankees will explore alternatives to fill the second base position.

Likewise, the Dodgers quickly got out of the second base market by signing a touted Cuban defector, Alexander Guerrero, to a much more affordable $30 million deal.

In order for any agent to pump up his client's value, he needs to have two bidders in the process. Some agents have been daft to create a "ghost" second team to have one interested club bid against itself (as the Rangers did when they first signed A-Rod). But most front offices have enough street sense to not stumble on that ploy.

In addition, baseball clubs have become more realistic with their baseball payrolls. They have taken both the short term and long term view on player salaries. Owners are more wary about long term, dead money deals for veteran players nearing the end of their productive years. This may be a side effect of the steroid era, where 35 year old players put up numbers of 26 year old All Stars in years past. 

If Cano is convinced he is worth $300 million, he will sit alone for a long time. There is no general manager in the game that has come out and said that Cano was worth that much money. And the longer Cano sits on his roost, the less likely there will be an 11th hour mystery bidder for his services.

Cano wants the Yankees to re-sign him. The Yankees are trying to cut payroll to get under the luxury tax. The Yankees are also an old team that needs to rebuild with younger players. It may be time to evaporate the Jeter-Cano double play combination.

Are there any real alternatives for Cano? His representatives want to meet with the Mets, another big market team. But the Mets still may have a Madoff hangover, the financial constraints of ownership placing millions in a pyramid scheme. The Mets had tried to sell minority stakes in the team to raise capital. It is doubtful that the team would commit $300 million on one player if it cannot raise that type of money in an equity sale.

The Angels are another big money spender, but the owner has to be concerned that last season's two big agent signings turned into megaflops. The Angels have a huge payroll and injured stars like Pujols. The Angels seem uninterested in going back to the big time free agent well.

The Rangers are another team not afraid to make big money deals like the Yu Darvish signing. But the Rangers have a surplus of quality middle infielders so Cano does not fit a need. The Rangers are probably more interested in spending money on starting pitching than infielders.

The Phillies were another big spender, but after a couple of weak seasons, they have cooled their jets. They signed Marlon Byrd and re-signed their catcher, Carlos Ruiz. Besides, the Phils still have Chase Utley at second base.

Hernan Perez and Danny Worth are the second base depth chart for the Tigers. The Tigers have given big contracts to their starting pitchers, Cabrera and Fielder, but it is not clear that ownership is willing to spend $300 million on Cano. The Tigers would rather spend money to keep Scherzer or add a third baseman to the lineup to move Cabrera to DH.

So there are very few landing spots for Cano in big market, big payroll teams. Unless he is willing to take an offer from a second tier ball club (say, a Toronto, Seattle, or a Cleveland) at a discount, he may lose money by sitting on the sidelines.

November 24, 2013


The Cubs will probably enter the Winter Meetings with this active roster:

# Pitchers B/T Ht Wt DOB
49 Jake Arrieta R-R 6'4" 225 Mar 6, 1986
28 Daniel Bard R-R 6'4" 215 Jun 25, 1985
55 Alberto Cabrera R-R 6'4" 210 Oct 25, 1988
11 Kyuji Fujikawa L-R 6'0" 190 Jul 21, 1980
52 Justin Grimm R-R 6'3" 200 Aug 16, 1988
36 Edwin Jackson R-R 6'3" 210 Sep 9, 1983
12 Chang-Yong Lim R-R 5'11" 175 Jun 4, 1976
50 Blake Parker R-R 6'3" 225 Jun 19, 1985
43 Brooks Raley L-L 6'3" 200 Jun 29, 1988

Neil Ramirez R-R 6'4" 190 May 25, 1989
56 Hector Rondon R-R 6'3" 180 Feb 26, 1988
59 Zac Rosscup R-L 6'2" 205 Jun 9, 1988
18 Chris Rusin L-L 6'2" 195 Oct 22, 1986
40 James Russell L-L 6'4" 200 Jan 8, 1986
29 Jeff Samardzija R-R 6'5" 225 Jan 23, 1985
46 Pedro Strop R-R 6'0" 215 Jun 13, 1985
33 Carlos Villanueva R-R 6'2" 215 Nov 28, 1983
41 Arodys Vizcaino R-R 6'0" 190 Nov 13, 1990
37 Travis Wood R-L 5'11" 175 Feb 6, 1987
# Catchers B/T Ht Wt DOB
53 Welington Castillo R-R 5'10" 210 Apr 24, 1987
# Infielders B/T Ht Wt DOB
15 Darwin Barney R-R 5'10" 185 Nov 8, 1985
13 Starlin Castro R-R 5'10" 190 Mar 24, 1990

Mat Gamel L-R 6'1" 220 Jul 26, 1985
8 Donnie Murphy R-R 5'10" 190 Mar 10, 1983

Mike Olt R-R 6'2" 210 Aug 27, 1988
44 Anthony Rizzo L-L 6'3" 240 Aug 8, 1989
24 Luis Valbuena L-R 5'10" 170 Nov 30, 1985
61 Christian Villanueva R-R 5'11" 160 Jun 19, 1991
5 Josh Vitters R-R 6'2" 200 Aug 27, 1989
22 Logan Watkins L-R 5'11" 175 Aug 29, 1989
# Outfielders B/T Ht Wt DOB
47 Brian Bogusevic L-L 6'3" 220 Feb 18, 1984
7 Brett Jackson L-R 6'2" 220 Aug 2, 1988
21 Junior Lake R-R 6'3" 215 Mar 27, 1990
19 Nate Schierholtz L-R 6'2" 215 Feb 15, 1984
68 Jorge Soler R-R 6'4" 215 Feb 25, 1992
6 Ryan Sweeney L-L 6'4" 225 Feb 20, 1985
72 Matt Szczur R-R 6'1" 195 Jul 20, 1989

Just before the deadline, the Cubs added Arismendy Alcantara (2B/SS), Dallas Beeler (RHP) to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft at the Winter Meetings.

Looking at this roster, we can begin to eliminate those players who really have no future with the new front office: 3B Josh Vitters, OF Brett Jackson, OF Matt Szczur. Whether any of these "old" prospects have any trade value except for exchanging "change of scenery" players is debatable.

Then we have the journeymen'replacement players who have no future as being part of the "core" rebuild: RP Alberto Cabrera, RP Hector Rondon, RP Zac Rosscup, 2B Logan Watkins, OF Brian Bogusevic, OF Ryan Sweeney.

Then you have projected utility/bench guys for other teams: 2B Barney, 1B Mat Gamel, IN Donnie Murphy, IN Luis Valbuena, 3B Christian Villaneuva, OF Junior Lake.

If one has to rank the player values (for trade purposes), this is what I get:

1. Travis Wood, LHP: There would no reason to trade Wood as he appears to be the most consistent starter.
2. Nate Schierholtz, OF: After a career best offensive season, it would probably be best to trade him at his peak.
3. Jeff Samardzija, RHP: Since there is other team interest in the Shark, he has value, especially since he hit 200 IP this season.
4. Wellington Castillo, C: There is a shortage of power hitting catchers in baseball, so Castillo's value is very good. However, since the Cubs have no heir apparent in the organization, Castillo will not be traded.
5. Starlin Castro, SS: Castro is an interesting candidate because he is still young, and has had success in the past. Some teams may think they can "fix" his swing to bring back his production. But after a regression year, his trade value has taken a hit.
6. Anthony Rizzo, 1B: Rizzo is in the same position as Castro, a regressive season after a lot of front office hype. Despite the press releases, Rizzo is barely an average first baseman defensively. The NL is looking for power hitting first basemen, but his poor BA devalues him.
7. Donnie Murphy, IN: A scrap heap in-season signing, Murphy surprised everyone with his power and play at third base. However, every team passed on his services before last season started; he may be one of those journeyman guys that a contender may want to solidify their bench.
8. Chris Rusin, LHP: He has show some ability as a starter, and lefty starters are in demand; but he is not overpowering pitcher so a team with a large ball park (like San Diego) would be suited for him. His trade value is low because he projects at best as a 4th starter on the right team. The Cubs probably think he is more valuable staying a Cub in 2014.
9. Pedro Strop, RHP: Strop was traded by the Orioles because of his inconsistent control. He got some of that back with the Cubs, so some teams may like to have his arm in their pen. However, given the uncertainty of the Cubs bullpen, Strop won't be traded.
10. Brooks Raley, LHP: Like Rusin, he has show some ability as a starter, and lefty starters are in demand; but he is not overpowering pitcher so a team with a large ball park (like San Diego) would be suited for him. His trade value is low because he projects at best as a 5th-6th starter. I think the Cubs would package him in a trade to get more value.

November 23, 2013


The Cubs off-season is off to a slow start.

With clear signals that the team will not be spending heavy on free agents, the front office has started to sign AAA players.

11/12/13 Cubs signed free agent C  Eli Whiteside to a minor league contract.
11/11/13 Cubs signed free agent RF Aaron Cunningham to a minor league contract.

 Cubs signed free agent SS Walter Ibarra to a minor league contract.
11/04/13 Cubs activated RHP Kyuji Fujikawa

 RHP Arodys Vizcaino and

 1B Mat Gamel from the 60-day disabled list.

They may be looking to find journeymen talent in these signings like Bogusevic or Sweeney last season in which to fill a need during the 2014 season. Cunningham fits that cookie cutter mold.

Gamel was the hot prospect from the Brewers organization who flamed out mostly due to injury. He may be targeted to back up Rizzo at first base.  Whiteside could compete with J.C. Boscan for the back up catcher role since free agent  Navarro is getting a lot of interest from other teams. The signing of Ibarra, a speedy defensive tools player, may not forebode a change at second base with Barney, but there are rumors that Barney's starting job is not safe for 2014.

Fujikawa will be slated to be the new Cubs closer, barring any set backs. Strop appears to be the set up man in the bullpen. Vizcaino has had numerous set backs coming off surgery with the Braves. The Cubs traded for the injured pitcher and he has yet to make a major league appearance. No one can really count on him contributing in 2014.

November 21, 2013


It is quite stunning. There were ripples in the off-season market that more teams would seek to improve their clubs by trades than by signing expensive free agents. But two top contending AL teams swinging a big deal before the Winter Meetings is rare.

The Tigers traded Prince Fielder and $30 million in salary relief to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler. The Tigers save $76 million in Fielder's contract as a result, and get a top tier second baseman. It may open a spot to move Miguel Cabrera to first base to cut down on defensive strain on Cabrera's nagging injury history. The Rangers remove a crowded infield picture and add a power bat to their line up.

The Tigers have freed up salary budget, probably to make a long term deal with Max Scherzer. MLBTR quotes GM Dave Dombrowski:

"It makes it perhaps more possible.  As we've talked about in the past, we have a lot of stars on our club, They're well paid stars and under any circumstances, even with an owner like Mike Ilitch, you can only be in a position where you have so many of those types of players," Dombrowski told reporters on this evening's conference call.  "Does it make it probable?  I can''t say that.  But it makes it more possible going forward."

This move also closes one possible landing spot for Number One free agent Robinson Cano.

Kinsler's 2013 season was very good: 13 HR 72 RBI .277 BA 4.9 WAR.
Fielder's 2-13 season was also good: 25 HR 106 RBI .279 BA 1.7 WAR.


It appears that Theo Epstein lets down his guard a little when he does interviews with non-Chicago media. In a recent New York Post interview, Epstein made some comments which if said in the Chicago press would have caused a stir:

NYP: During the World Series, what was your emotional investment watching all the guys you know in Boston. What was that like for you?

Theo: It was a lot of fun watching those guys. I still feel really connected with a lot of guys in the baseball operations group. Still very good friends with them. We spent a decade together. So it was great to watch them have success after a really tough seven months of baseball, going back to September, 2011 and then in 2012.   And then John did an outstanding job. Watching the players perform at such a high level was great. Restoring the franchise back to where it had been for most of the last 10 years, it was a lot of fun to watch.

NYP: What has it been like for you? Chicago is a great baseball city, but I think Boston is just so intense, especially your role in the rise.
Theo: I think the biggest difference is … the difference exists because of where we are in the process. Starting two years ago, really building from the ground up in a lot of ways. Rebuilding the scouting department. Rebuilding the player development operation. Trying to build a base of young talent. But it takes time, and a lot of that work is very enjoyable, but it’s also under the radar, which gives us space and freedom and creativity. But it makes for a different experience. Unfortunately, you can’t provide your fans with what they deserve along the way, which is teams that play meaningful games all year long and play until October. So we just have to take a patient, long view. It’s a different experience.
But I’ve always enjoyed the scouting and player development aspects of the game, the investing in young players, more than any other aspect of it. So to that extent, it’s been really fulfilling. But it’s different. It’s different. It’s strange walking around the meetings and being a little irrelevant, because we’re not major players in some of these deals.
NYP: And what about just walking around Chicago? Are you approached a lot less than you were in Boston?
Theo: Yeah. It’s been nice. It’s been a little more … Boston’s a great place to live. In Chicago, it’s easier to blend in. There are more teams, more professional teams around. We’re not exactly the talk of the town right now, so it’s easier to go under the radar. It’s nice.
What Theo said gives us some insight on his viewpoint of the Cubs and their fans.
It is clear that Theo does not feel the pressure of winning in Chicago. He enjoys being under the radar. That is not what fans want to hear. They want their teams to be as hungry and aggressive to win as the fan base. Fans want to have their team winning games year after year. Otherwise, what is the point of being a fan?

Next, another clear signal that the Cubs are not going to spend any money on free agents. "We are not major players" means that the Cubs will not be interested in any of the top veteran players such as Cano, Choo, Tanaka, etc. Any player who turned down a qualifying offer is off the Cub radar. So, the 2014 team will not improve significantly if the Cubs are only bottom feeding with second or third tier free agents.

The idea that the Cubs are putting their resources into rebuilding the organization is an excuse not to spend money on major league roster players. Rebuilding means diversion of revenue. And in the Ricketts case, the diversion is more to the real estate development projects than fielding a competitive team on the field. As a large market team, fans are given excuses or promises for future greatness from home grown players rather than an operation that goes out and spends money to field good teams (such as the Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, or Rangers). Good teams realize that they have to spend money on players to make money and keep fan support. Ownership and management need to want to have their team winning year after year. Otherwise, what is the point of running a team?

The last point Theo made was the Cub challenge was to rebuild the organization from the ground up. It is a backhanded slap to prior management (which during the Tribune tenure did get the post season by signing free agents, making trades, hiring veteran managers and developing young talent.) The "process" is a large tent in which we are not allowed to peek into. It is a nebulous concept that does not spell out how it gives the team "space and freedom and creativity." Fans want players who can hit, field and run. It is a condensing approach in talking down to the fans.
But the most disturbing quote from Theo was  "Unfortunately, you can’t provide your fans with what they deserve along the way." That is false. The Cubs can provide the fans an exciting, winning baseball product at Wrigley Field if ownership would spend the money to sign the quality talent available on the market. The Cubs are choosing not to spend money on free agents or build their team through trades for veterans. Yes, the Cub system has produced a few players during Ricketts 4 year tenure (such as Samardzija, Castro, Lake and Castillo), but to put the major league team into neutral for an undetermined amount of years so Theo's draft choices can work their way slowly through the minors is incomprehensible business model.
Look at Theo's prior nemesis, the Yankees. The Yankees spend more money than just about every team in the majors. In the Red Sox AL East Cold War, it was a race to sign the best free agents year after year. But the Yankees also had a good enough farm system to trade prospects for other key veterans. They restocked their farm system with supplemental high round draft picks when their players hit the free agent market and signed with another team (this year the Yanks are expected to get 3 supplemental first round picks). So there is a way that uses all the available tools to field a quality baseball team (free agent, high payroll, trades, and prospect development.)  The Cubs are putting all their eggs (the future) on one aspect of roster building: prospect development. For all the acclaim that Theo is the smartest guy in baseball today, putting your eggs in one basket seems to be a dumb idea.
As we have discussed before, it is a risky gambit because statistically less than 6 percent of all minor leaguers ever reach the major league roster, and about 3 percent become quality starting players. The Cubs plan assumes that their prospects will hit at a 80-90 percent success rate, which is insane. 
Theo's job now is the give the public enough corporate-speak to keep them at bay while Ricketts builds out his neighborhood real estate theme park of ancillary secondary buildings, businesses and commercial operations. You can see the business side of the organization already laying down the foundation for future excuses when it blames the neighborhood or adjoining business owners from delaying the rebuilding operations with the threat of lawsuits.  

And then there was the Cubs General Manager, Jed Hoyer, who spoke to a local reporter and said the front office was not going to change its approach to placate anxious fans.  "We will not hit the fast forward button on our plan simply because people are impatient," Hoyer said. "It will make it worth it in the end."

That is another discouraging quote from the front office because Hoyer is promising something he cannot guarantee.

November 20, 2013


Who are Cub fans?

There are many traits.
They are extremely loyal.
They are extremely forgiving.
They are extremely patient.
They are very supportive.
They are very knowledgeable about baseball.

They are also depressed.
They are worn down.
They are ridiculed by other team fans.
They are abused by the longest championship losing streak in modern sports.
They are Charlie Brown.

There is some evidence that teams do mirror their fan base. The Cubs have had a series of bad teams that parallel the Charlie Brown Nine, a bunch of scrappy but baseball losers.

Why have Cub fans been in this status quo for generations?

Cub fans feel for the underdog because perhaps in their own lives they see themselves as the underdog. It is a heroic story when the underdog prevails against the evil empires that throw up road blocks to success (i.e. Cardinals).

Cub fans are also hard working folk. They like scrappy players who give 100 percent when they are really not very good players. That is why players such as Ryan Theriot and Darwin Barney are fan favorites, not for their skills or stat lines, but on how they played their game.

The idea of losing has become a habit; a way of life. The expectations were whittled down since 1945, even though families continued to come to Wrigley Field to root on their team. If there is such thing as mental viruses, families have indoctrinated their children to become Cub fans.

Cub fans understand life lessons such as "winning is not everything; it is how you play the game." the idea of sportsmanship, hard work, fair play are part of the Cub fan culture.

While other fan bases demand their teams win, such as the Yankees or Dodgers, the Cubs give their fans what they want: a pleasant throw back to the game as it used to be played, in the sunshine in a parkland setting.

But once the Tribune gave up its ownership of the team, some fans began to expect more from the Cubs. A couple of playoff seasons gave fans new expectations. But those quickly faded with early exists from the playoffs. It was like the line drive that blisters past Charlie Brown, knocking off his socks in route to winning the game for Brown's opponent.

This off-season Cubs management is trying to play off fan traits such as loyalty and patience in order to keep them loyal and supportive fans. There is no automatic renewal of ticket purchases. The team is finding itself having to market the team to fans to keep them coming to Wrigley and paying premium prices.

Cub fans have lost some of their childhood innocence. They want more from their team but expect at some deep level the same old stagnation. They are conflicted; they are at a cross roads. The old Conestoga bandwagon is falling a part. But there are still plenty of riders on board, but it will continue to be slow going into the future.


They pay GMs to make hard decisions.

Rick Hahn has one.

Alejandro De Aza is a bipolar starter: he has his good attributes and bad ones.

De Aza, who had a .264/.323/.405 line with 17 homers, 62 RBIs and 20 steals, but with a negative 0.3 WAR, is arbitration eligible and expected to receive a bump to $4.4 million this season, per MLB Trade Rumors.  De Aza struck out 147 times, which Hahn thinks was a result of being a “little too power focused.” He also committed eight errors and saw his Ultimate Zone Rating drop from 8.9 in 2011 to -2.5 last season. Also, De Aza made 26 outs on the bases. Had he simply instead not reached base those 26 times, De Aza’s on-base percentage would have slipped 39 points to .284.

The problem is that De Aza gives the line up one of its few left handed power hitters. Adam Dunn is in the final year of his contract. De Aza gives the White Sox better offensive production for a standard CF, but his defense and base running gives the team fits at times.

Also, the White Sox don't have a ready replacement for him. Jordan Danks hit .241 in the role as the 5th outfielder last season. Several media pundits have campaigned for the White Sox to sign free agent Curtis Granderson, but his price tag would be above $14 million per season, a payroll buster for 2014.

The Sox could move Alexi Ramirez to CF to allow the young infielders (Semein and L. Garcia) to get playing time. Ramirez may not make the defensive transition to center field. Besides, Ramirez as well as Beckham, have been the top two trade chips for the team this off-season.

If the Sox trade Ramirez or Beckham, one would assume the team would keep De Aza.

There are bigger holes to fill in the line up. Third base continues to be a black hole with no real solution so far. Paul Konerko has an offer to return (but we don't know in what role). The bullpen can always use some tweaking, too.

It would seem then that De Aza should stay for at least another season in Chicago.

November 19, 2013


Scott Boras is a brash agent who speaks his (bias) mind.

In a recent ESPN story, he lashed out at several clubs, including the Cubs.

Despite the Cubs being15th in payroll this year($101 million), Boras said the Rickets family, which bought the team four years ago, has put too much emphasis on the redevelopment of Wrigley Field and not enough on major league payroll.
"You're developing the infrastructure, but fans don't come to see seats, grass, cement. They come to see players," he said. "They've done a great job in the draft and development and they've got a really good core of young players coming, but it is just not what's expected when you have a (family) buy a major-market club."

The agent speak is that more of the $500 million redevelopment project should go to costly free agents whom he represents than in revenue generating fixtures.  Boras and other agents have to be realizing that the free agent market is shrinking: more teams are spending money on minor league signees and international players. The days of A-Rod $250 million deals are all but over.

But then, Boras flipped on his own logic in the ESPN article.  Boras compared the Rays' situation to Charles Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities," saying there was "the one they're in and the one they should be in." The Rays repeatedly have said Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg is inadequate, and they drew a major league-low 1.5 million at home despite reaching the playoffs for the fourth time in six years.
"They need a new ballpark. They need to address that," he said. "But certainly the bell's been answered by the organization as far as putting a product on the field that would normally attract fans."

So, the Cubs are spending too much money on real estate development costs, while the Rays (and the community) have not spent enough money on the team. A new Rays park would generate more revenue which would increase the team payroll budget which means Boras and his clients could get raises in the future.

Boras joked about the Astros, who traded veterans and cut payroll to around $29 million -- $13 million less than any other big league team. Houston went a team-worst 51-111 and the Astros' 324 losses over three years matched the 1917 Philadelphia Athletics for third most in major league history.

"The Astros," he said, "they're like Disneyland. If the kids come, it's a great attraction."

The Astros, under new ownership, paid dearly for the franchise. The move to the AL West would be a costly broadcast revenue issue for the team going forward. The owner decided to tear down the organization and build it up from scratch which meant cutting the major league payroll to bare bones and signing high quality prospects. (This is actually the same plan the Cubs have started, except for the deep cuts at the major league level).  The Astros have decided to be bad for many years in order to save money. There are no high profile free agent signings in Houston's future.

November 18, 2013


Jeff Samardzija appears to be a hot topic as the off-season trade market opens for business.

The Nationals seem to be on the Shark hunt. The Diamondbacks inquired before July's deadline.

The Nationals are probably better suited for a Cub trade. And this would be an easy one: CF Denard Span and LHP Ian Krol for Samardzija.

Span, 29, hit .279, 20 SB and 2.4 WAR for the Nationals last season. He would upgrade the lead-off spot for the Cubs and roam centerfield for the next two years at $15.5 million.

Krol, 22, a local kid from Naperville, IL, pitched 32 games in relief going 2-1, 3.95 ERA, 1.311 WHIP. He could move into the 5th starter role like Travis Wood did a few seasons ago.

If the Cubs are going to trade a starter, the team needs to get back manageable starters in return. Span would be under team control through 2015 so he won't block any prospect's promotion. Krol is young enough to contribute long term to the pitching staff since the Cubs don't have any minor league starter ready to make a permanent starter assignment. (Kyle Hendricks is probably the closest, but he was in Class AA last season.)

A Diamondback trade would most likely return more low level prospects.

The 40 man Snake roster has Randall Delgado, a pitcher who was going to part of the Dempster to Atlanta deal that fell a part. The D-Backs also have ex-Cub Tony Campana or another small OF in Adam Eaton as possible trade chips.  A Samardzija for Delgado and Eaton trade seems to be less upside than the Nationals one above.

The Diamondbacks also have some interest in OF Nate Schierholtz, who could be packaged with Samardzija or traded alone. Arizona has payroll limitations bearing down on 2014 so Schierholtz fits in their outfield rotation at a reasonable cost. The more the Cubs could package to the Diamondbacks, the more talent the team should receive in return.

The D-Backs are not parting with number one prospect, Archie Bradley. However, No.4 prospect, RHP Braden Shipley or No. 5 prospect, LHP David Holmberg would be interesting prospects. Shipley played in A ball while Holmberg excelled in AA.

Also add the Blue Jays to the mix. The team has signaled it wants to be more active in the trade market than the free agent market this off-season. The Jays have targeted need areas of starting pitching, catcher and second base.

November 17, 2013


The Cubs spent a weekend trying to rally current season ticket holders to renew their seats for the next season(s).  The Cubs thanked the fans for their loyalty and patience, but still wanted the renewal deposits this week.

In all the buzz words of how the Cubs are going about their rebuild, there is little time table for success being given as the goal line for the plan.  In interviews, Epstein says the team is a
"couple years away" from the start of the core prospects making it to the major league roster. The team continues to stress that the farm system is now ranked in the top 5 in major league baseball. There are plenty of good prospects on the horizon. Patience and loyalty will be rewarded.

That is all fine and good for the long term. But most fans want to know about the present and near term. Since Ricketts purchased the team, it has set futility records.

Cub fans have inherit qualities to root for the underdog. Top prospects are now the underdogs that fans can root for as they make their way out of Class A ball. When die hard fans know more about the Daytona Cubs than the Chicago Cubs, that is a problem because the revenue core must be generated at the major league level to support the entire organization.

More and more fan comments have fallen on the side that the Cubs are being run like the small market Kansas City Royals. That is not a compliment. If ownership and the team have limited revenue resources being in a small population center, and relatively smaller advertising and broadcast rights markets, then the emphasis must be on developing one's own talent. But even the Royals trade their talent to acquire quality players and sign free agents to fill need positions on the major league roster.

In all the off-season talk so far, the Cubs have not outlined what they are going to do this off-season to improve the major league club. They have said that the team will not be in the big money free agent market place, so top talent like Choo, Cano, and Tanaka are off the radar. In addition, the Cubs current roster is not blocking any of the prized prospects from promotion this year or next year. Even signing a quality free agent for two years is not going to upset the rebuilding and promotion of prospects long term.

The concern for the fan base is that 2014 is going to be a repeat of 2013, another non-competitive punt season. Field position works as a strategy in football, but in baseball there is a constant need to look at, evaluate and upgrade every position on the roster.  The fan base does not get any sense of urgency from Cub management.

November 16, 2013


Cubs management spent last weekend trying to massage away the knots in the pocketbooks of disgruntled season ticket holders.

Afterward, Theo Epstein told the media that he has been pleased with the progress of the club.

"If you look at a two-year window going forward as opposed to a two-year window looking back, now we're actually going to start breaking in a lot of our core prospects," Epstein said after an event for season-ticket holders Friday. "It puts a premium on the teaching, the environment and the amount of support and accountability at the major-league level.

"I'm excited about the progress we've made in the minor leagues. Not just that we're ranked 'here' or we have 'this many' of the top prospects in the game, but the morale in the minor leagues. Our players fully believe in 'The Cubs Way.'

The undefined "Cubs Way," sounds like a tag line for a snake oil commercial. 

"A lot of our prospects feel like it's a secret. 'The Cubs are coming.' That's what they tell each other," Epstein said.

I don't know what that means - - - the Cubs Way is a great big secret that is coming to Wrigley Field in the next couple of years when the "core prospects" arrive? Or is it a secret because the Cubs Way is a fictitious marketing ploy to gather good will more than good baseball fundamentals.

November 14, 2013


Last night, the winter hot stove rumor mill started to pump out a lot of heated gas.

It was reported that the rumor was the Cubs would trade Starlin Castro and Junior Lake to the Marlins for OF Giancarlo Stanton.  Only in a Cubs dream. When the season ended, the Marlins were adamant that they were not going to trade Stanton.

Stanton, 24, is the Marlin franchise. Last season in 116 games, he hit 24 HR, 62 RBI, .249 BA and .365 OBP and 2.4 WAR. In his four year career, he has hit 117 HR, 294 RBI, .265 BA, .354 OBP, 14.8 WAR.

In comparison, Castro's 2013 WAR was negative 0.6 and Lake's 0.8. Castro's career WAR is only 7.4 over four seasons.

To make a trade make sense, the Cubs would have to add another starter with a WAR more than 2.2 per season (a commodity the Cubs do not have) plus additional prospects.

But this is silly trade speculation on the part of media, fans, and agents who want to stir the pot at the winter meetings so their clients names are in the newspapers as being seen as something valuable.

There is no question that Castro and/or Lake could be traded this off season. Really, no one on the Cub roster is untouchable. However, it would be a public relations disaster to trade away a "core" player for more prospects when management just told its season ticket holders that their plan is just about ready to come together with the core prospects.


Rick Renteria gets his first major league manager gig with the Cubs.

Just as any manager's duty is to put his players in the best position to succeed, it is the general manager's duty to put the best coaching staff together to help the manager put the players in the best position to succeed.

The most important hire for any major league coaching staff is the pitching coach. The wear and tear of a season will affect every pitcher's mechanics. A good pitching coach will know what works and does not work for each pitcher. He will be able to quickly correct flaws. He is able to get the most out of each pitcher from game to game with proper preparation and scouting of the opponent.

Chris Bosio was been flying under the media radar. The Cubs pitching staff has had such a great turnover it is hard to tell whether he would be a good fit for a crop of young arms if the Cubs system ever develops such talent. There is no question that Chicago does have a great pitching coach: White Sox's Don Cooper. Cooper has consistently brought along several young pitchers (Sale, Quintana, Danks, Santiago, Reed). The Cubs need to hire a Cooper clone.

The next most important coach on the team is the hitting coach. However, many people debate whether the hitting coach can actually help an individual batter because there are too many variables when a hitter is at the plate. Some complain that some coaches over analyze their pupils to the point of mentally screwing them up (like in the case of Starlin Castro, who was to change his natural hitting style to be more selective and create more power). Then there are some hitting coaches who allow their players to work things out for themselves; they are merely present in case the batter is looking for advice.  Then there is the hitting guru, a person who has studied and loves the art of hitting and all of its components. The last great hitting mentor was Charley Lau, whose program helped hitters like Frank Thomas have long, productive careers. However, the best hitting coaches on a team may be other players. For example, when Daryl Ward was a Cub player, he would counsel his teammates on how to hit in situations and how to work a pitcher to a proper count. In some ways, the team needs a hitting coach that players can relate to and trust with their livelihood.

And established manager would have enough clout to bring his own people with him, like Tony LaRussa did with his pitching coach Dave Duncan. But Renteria has no such track record to demand hiring his own guys. In some ways, it diminishes the manager's staff loyalty because the coaches are more tied to the front office than to the actual bench skipper.

Baseball management likes that dynamic because the new executives want to micromanage all aspects of the operation. The baseball game is like a factory assembly line. Management just wants to plug in workers along the line, then fiddle with the product during the season. Executives want loyal staff members so they can monitor what is going on in the locker room. The Cubs have already stated that some of the current staff would be retained, but there would be some new hires.

November 13, 2013


Players who did not accept a team's qualifying offer are now free agents.

All 13 players turned down those offers of a one-year $14.1 million deal — a value determined by the average of the top 125 contracts, up from $13.3 million last year — making them free to negotiate with any team. Any team signing one of these 13 free agents will cost their club a first-round draft pick, unless that pick would be among the top 10 in the upcoming amateur draft, in which case those teams will lose a second-round pick.

The threat of a lost pick can deter some teams from getting involved, particularly when it comes to players more likely to sign short-term deals. However, those team who gave players a qualifying offer that was not accepted, are probably in line to recoup a lost draft if they sign a different top free agent. The Yankees and Red Sox made qualifying offers to three players, and appear likely to lose at least one, meaning that the sandwich-round pick they’ll receive between the first and second rounds will help offset whatever draft pick they might lose.

Here are the players subject to a draft pick forfeiture:

Carlos Beltran, RF
2013: Cardinals, .296/.339/.491, 24 HR, 2.4 WAR
2014 age: 37

Both the Red Sox and Yankees are said to be interested, but Boston has no room at DH given the presence of Ortiz and would have to play him in left field because Jackie Bradley Jr. is ready to take over in center and Shane Victorino is established in right. New York is awash in ancient outfielders — Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells are all under contract — and has other significant needs that would be more worth sacrificing a first-round pick for (such as Brian McCann at catcher or Ubaldo Jimenez for the rotation).

Robinson Cano, 2B
2013:Yankees, .314/.383/.516, 27 HR, 7.6 WAR
2014 age: 31
Cano's new agent wanted a 10 year, $300 million deal. But that is now out of the question, especially since the one potential suitor, the Dodgers, filled their second base needs by signing a Cuban defector.

Shin-Soo Choo, RF
2013: Reds, .285/.423/.462, 21 HR, 20 SB, 4.2 WAR
2014 age: 31
Choo hits the market after setting career highs in walks (112), hit-by-pitches (26) and on-base percentage, and is looking for is something north of $18 million per year. The Mets, Yankees and Mariners and possibly the Reds are interested in Choo.

Nelson Cruz, Rangers
2013: .266/.327/.506, 27 HR, 2.0 WAR
2014 age: 33
A 50-game PED suspension cost Cruz significantly in terms of counting stats, and he’s a liability defensively. Even so, he’s a mid-lineup option who will get a substantial multiyear deal, around a three-year, $39 million contract last year than with Werth money. Teams in the mix include his former club the Rangers or the Mariners.

Stephen Drew, Red Sox
2013: .253/.333/.443, 13 HR, 3.1 WAR,
2014 age: 31
There are several teams in need of a quality shortstop, including the Cardinals and Pirates, but those teams are likely to guard against losing a draft pick. The Red Sox (who would presumably keep Xander Bogaerts at third base and trade Will Middlebrooks), could look to re-sign him, or on the outside,  the Mets are another possibility.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
2013: .298/.355/.426, 9 HR, 52 SB, 5.8 WAR
2014 age: 30
Around Chicago, Ellsbury has been the buzz free agent for both sides of town. However, he is prone to injury. Boston will move on with a rookie in his place, so he will land with a new team for 2014.  The Mariners, Rangers, Mets and Nationals top the list of rumored suitors, with the latter  open to Denard Span if they sign Ellsbury.

Curtis Granderson, Yankees
2013: .229/.317/.407, 7 HR, 1.1 WAR
2014 age: 33
Granderson has been clued into White Sox talk, as a quality local guy with good clubhouse leadership skills. Last season he was limited to 61 games due to a pair of hit-by-pitch-induced fractures, the first of which cost him virtually all of the exhibition season and the second of which required midseason surgery. He ranks well below Ellsbury, Choo and Beltran in terms of both desirability and cost. A team that loses out on Beltran, Ellsbury or Choo may find Granderson the last alternative to fill a corner outfield need.

Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians
2013: 3.30 ERA, 9.6 K/9, 2.7 WAR in 182 2/3 IP
2014 age: 30
The Indians tried to re-sign their free agents in order to keep their competitive squad together. However, workhorse starting pitchers are hard to come by. Jimenez ranked fourth in the American League in strikeout rate and 10th in ERA. Still, his lost 2011 and ’12 (365 innings with a 5.03 ERA) may scare off suitors when it comes to a long-term deal, particularly given the drag of draft pick compensation. However, as Edwin Jackson showed with the Cubs last year, it only takes one team to offer something like four years and $48 million to a durable but erratic hurler who retains some upside. The Yankees may look at Jimenez even if they do sign Japan’s Masahiro Tanaka, while the Royals and Orioles are among those who could consider him as well.

Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees
2013: 3.31 ERA, 6.7 K/9, 4.1 WAR in 201 1/3 IP
2014 age: 39
Age may have come down on Kuroda, who was stellar for three-quarters of the season, with a 2.33 ERA and 17 quality starts out of 24 turns through Aug. 12, but then he fell off a cliff with an ERA more than 6.56 ERA over his final eight outings.  He is a candidate for  one-year deal of slightly higher value than the qualifying offer, meaning that he makes far more sense for the Yankees than for another team unless they can offset the lost pick.

Brian McCann, Braves
2013: .256/.336/.461, 20 HR, 2.2 WAR
2014 age: 30
He’s the top catcher on the market, likely to wind up with a contract in the $75-100 million range via the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers or Angels. That estimated price tag makes a return to Atlanta seem unlikely. McCann has a history of injury problems, so an AL destination would be smart choice given that he could keep his bat in the lineup for another 20-30 games per season as a DH.

Kendrys Morales, Mariners
2013: .277/.336/.449, 23 HR, 2.7 WAR
2014 age: 31
The switch-hitting Morales played in a career-high 156 games in 2013 and showed a much more even platoon split than in recent years, though it’s inaccurate to say that Safeco Field had a significant impact on his performance given his splits (.282/.339/.472 at home, .272/.339/.425 on the road). Given just 61 games in the field over the past two years, he’s mostly a DH option, but contenders such as the Orioles, Rangers and Rays have openings at that spot. Still, the draft pick compensation matter could loom large, raising the likelihood that he stays in Seattle via a multiyear deal.

Mike Napoli, Red Sox
2013: .259/.360/.482, 23 HR, 4.1 WAR
2014 age: 32
The degenerative hip condition may keep some teams at bay. His preference is to return to Boston, but going back to Texas, where he played from 2011-12, is among his other options.

Ervin Santana, Royals
2013: 3.24 ERA, 6.9 K/9, 2.9 WAR in 211 IP
2014 age: 31
Santana had one of those "contract year" performances. Some teams may question whether he is the real deal long term. He’s in line for a multiyear deal in the $80 million range, but his career 1.2 homers per nine has scared the Yankees off. The AL East may be a bad idea for him in general, though the Blue Jays might be the team willing to pay him the most.


The hopes and dreams of Cubs management can best be summed up by this field diagram:

LEFT FIELD                            CENTER FIELD                    RIGHT FIELD
    Lake                                            Almora                                   Soler

THIRD BASE          SHORTSTOP                   SECOND BASE                   FIRST BASE
    Bryant                         Baez                               Alcantara                                 Rizzo

A lineup of:

1. Almora cf
2. Alcantara 2b
3. Rizzo 1b
4. Baez ss
5. Bryant 3b
6. Soler rf
7. Lake lf
8. Castillo c

The dream is that lineup card would be less than the Royals or Marlins eight starters in payroll. It would be all young players under team control for many seasons.  Half the line up would have legitimate power hitters (Bryant, Soler, Baez and Rizzo). It could be an exciting team (on paper).

But can all these players make it to the majors (maybe), and then perform at a high level (doubtful).