December 31, 2013


Masahiro Tanaka is the buzz of the off-season. The media believes the Cubs will push hard to sign Tanaka.  Except, such a signing goes against everything we heard about The Plan.

1. Yes, Tanaka has the potential to be a Number 1 starter in the majors. However, there are several scouts who believe that Yu Darvish was a better pitcher when he signed with the Rangers. Tanaka is actually looking to surpass the Darvish contract cost, even though the posting fee is capped at $20 million. The Cubs have stressed building the minor league system as the foundation for long term success. To sign a high priced free agent to a long term contract (5 to 6 years) is a real gamble.

2. There is always a question of the transition foreign players have when they come to America. Less than 6 percent of international free agents become major league ball players. Even the most major league ready players can struggle (example, Starlin Castro). So there is no guarantee that an international player will be an impact player. The only guarantee is the amount of money in the player's contract.

3. The finances do not make sense. The Cubs have stalled on their rebuilding plans because of myriad of excuses such as the threat of a rooftop owner lawsuit. Some people are considering the possibility that the Cubs are not as financially sound as fans think a big market team would be in 2013. The team wants to double its local broadcast license fees, but the one outlet, WGN, is balking at any increase. The Cubs overspent on the draft and international player pool last year, perhaps in anticipation that new revenue streams would be online by now. But they are not. Payroll has dropped for the past 4 years, and it is expected to continue that trend in 2014.

4. Big contracts tend to create big headaches. The Cubs are just unwinding the Soriano dead money deal. Why get out from under that contract yoke to sign another new one, with a pitcher no less. Fans have been critical of the Edwin Jackson $54 million deal, which again came out of no where and was not part of rebuilding strategy. It was a knee jerk reaction to losing out on A. Sanchez. The signing of Tanaka would be effectively putting 20 percent of your payroll into one player who may get 33 starts per season.

5. A big splash on Tanaka means that the organization is signaling that it may not be able to draft and develop major league pitching talent. The Cubs have drafted a wagon load of pitchers the past two seasons, and none are on the radar for the Cubs roster. In fact, the only drafted and developed starter is Jeff Samardzija, whose own contract status is in limbo. If the organization cannot develop its own core pitchers, then it will have to overspend on free agents to make up the talent gap. But star pitchers tend to be overpaid, and subject to more injuries than positional players. That is why the White Sox have a philosophy of never signing a pitcher to more than a 4 year deal.

6. There is also the heavy burden that managers, coaches and players talk about AFTER they leave the Cubs. There is a heavy expectation to outperform because of the historic losing streak of the franchise. Players may not believe in the curse, but there is a crushing difference in playing for the Cubs than other teams. Lou Piniella called it a different kind of pressure that got to him so badly that he quit. How a Japanese player with a language barrier in a large city is going to cope with all the sideshow circus expectations is a difficult question. Kosuke Fukudome never lived up to his expectations when he was a Cub.

7. The Cubs roster is not built to win now. Tanaka will have the choice of many franchises that are currently built to win now, such as the Yankees, Angels, Dodgers or Red Sox. Talented pitchers on a losing team tend to get frustrated - - - as Samardzija has beefed about the last two seasons. Tanaka is not going to go 24-0, 1.20 ERA with the Cubs in 2014. The reality of being smothered into being a .500 pitcher because of the bad team around you can tend to make pitchers lose concentration, focus and the desire to win. Then, you may not be able to move a high priced .500 pitcher in the future.

Tanaka may become a quality starting pitcher. However, he really does not fit into the short term plan for the Cubs.

December 28, 2013


The Cubs have not toned back the media stories about the Cubs going "all in" to win the Tanaka sweepstakes.

Yes, the Cubs are one of 8 teams who will try to sign the coveted Japanese pitcher.

And several of those teams have large, profitable new television contracts which inflates their payrolls dramatically (i.e. the Mariners, Dodgers, Angels and Yankees).

But the notion that the Cubs "won't be outbid" for Tanaka seems ridiculous. It is not a question of what the amount of money the Cubs will bid, but it is also where Tanaka wants to pitch (most likely to a contender).

Cynical fans also think that there is more "talk" than action in recent years from the front office. They say they made bids for start free agents like A. Sanchez, but in truth, those bids were much lower than the team that signed him. A low ball bid with almost zero chance of acceptance is really not a qualified, good faith effort. Many fans believe that the Cubs are not going to win in 2014 or 2015. So why would a team with no chance of winning try to sign an "ace" pitcher  and basically "waste" 2 or 3 years of salary in a losing effort? That does not seem feasible if the Cubs continue to pull in the purse strings in order to pay the team's massive debt service and fund Ricketts massive real estate development project.

Some believe that Epstein may be allowed to make a 5 year/$55 million Edwin Jackson style bid (which in reality would be a $75 million investment with the posting fee), but that will not come close to the projected $100 million asking price. The "we tried" to sign him excuse may help in PR, but does not help shore up fading trust with the fan base.

With the mountain of pitchers the Cubs have drafted in the last two years, and none making waves in national scouting service reports, the discussion about the need to sign free agents or trade for quality major league ready arms calls into question the whole rebuilding plan.

Bottom line: the Cubs have less than a 5 percent chance to sign Tanaka. And if they do sign him, they will be overpaying for a major league ready prospect to gain some publicity for a few years for a bad baseball team.

December 27, 2013


We all know how bad 2013 was for Chicago baseball.

Comcast SportsNet published just how bad this baseball season was in Chicago:

• The 195 losses are the most combined by both teams. The previous high was 191 in 1948.

• The .398 combined winning percentage trailed only that 1948 season (.376).

• Cubs and White Sox fans saw 94 home losses in 2013, which eclipsed the previous high of 90 in 1948.

• The Cubs set a new franchise record for home losses in a season with 50. They had 49 in 1962, 1966 and 1974.

• The White Sox set a new franchise record for road losses with 55. Their previous mark was 54 in 1969.

• The Cubs finished with a .238 team batting average that was their lowest since 1981 (.236) and their lowest over a full season since 1965. They scored 602 runs, their lowest total over a full season since 1992.

On a futility scale, Chicago baseball hit a 9.9 in badness. Only the Houston Astro's pitiful performance keeps Chicago from getting a perfect futility score.

 But as bad as 2013 was, what does 2014 hold?

The Cubs continue to interchange spare baseball parts for bad baseball roster spots. There appears to be no change in operating plans for 2014, despite the rumor that the Cubs will win the Tanaka sweepstakes. The Cubs will more likely trade a few veterans at the deadline for more prospects, and waddle through another 90 plus loss season.

The White Sox have made several moves, via free agent signings and trades. The Sox have improved their offense if Eaton is healthy, Davidson can play at third and Abreu can adapt to American baseball. The Sox rotation is still one of the best in the AL so they could bounce back toward an 81-81 season.

December 26, 2013


After a lot of internal angst and anger over the new posting fee system with MLB, Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 212 innings this past summer for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, was "posted" (free to negotiate with American teams) on Tuesday evening to pursue his dream of pitching at baseball's highest level.

Tanaka, 25, has impressive numbers in Japanese baseball. In 7 seasons as a starter, he has compiled a record in 175 games 99-35 (.739 win percentage), 2.30 ERA, 1.108 WHIP, 8.5 K/9 IP, 4.5 K/BB ratio.

His old team will receive $20 million posting fee if Tanaka signs with a MLB club.

Tanaka is expected to ask for approximately $100 million deal. This will blow past the record 6 year/$58 million contract with the Rangers (plus the $51.5 million post fee).

Darvish has been one of the few exceptions to the general rule in regard to Japanese baseball players coming over to make an impact in the game. Irchiro had a stellar career in the States, but it more often than not that pitchers tend to struggle unless they have major league power velocity.

The Cubs, Diamondbacks and Angels are rumored suitors for Tanaka, but do not count out the Yankees or Dodgers deep pockets from making a bid. 

The Cubs claim they will aggressively seek Tanaka, but every time they attempt a major signing during the rebuilding process, nothing came of it. The statement that the Cubs will bid on Tanaka is meaningless because one can submit a confidential low ball bid, then tell the fans later that it was not accepted. It is a weak attempt for positive winter PR.

Tanaka's U.S. agent also represents the Dodgers Kershaw and Greinke which leads some to speculate that LA will have an inside track on signing Tanaka.

December 24, 2013



The White Sox continue their re-tooling for 2014, with an interesting pick-up replacement for traded Hector Santiago.

MLBTR reports the White Sox have claimed left-hander Eric Surkamp off waivers from the Giants. Surkamp was designated for assignment by the Giants last week.

Surkamp split the season between Double-A and Triple-A as he recovered from 2012 Tommy John surgery, spending the bulk of his time in Triple-A Fresno. His work in the minor league was excellent, as he pitched to a 2.80 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 86 1/3 innings.

In his minor league career, Surkamp has a 2.84 ERA with 10.0 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 484 2/3 innings. The former sixth-round pick made his big league debut for the Giants in 2011 and ranked among Baseball America's Top 30 Giants prospects from 2010-13.

Surkamp will provide the White Sox with more pitching depth that is essentially big-league ready. Chicago currently has Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks as locks for the rotation, with right-handers Erik Johnson, Andre Rienzo and the recently signed Felipe Paulino all as options for the back of the rotation. Surkamp figures to compete with those three for the fourth and fifth slots in the rotation following Santiago's trade to the Angels.

This is the type of pitcher the Cubs usually try to target in their rebuild: major league ready starter coming off an injury. But in this case, Surkamp appears to have fully recovered with good AAA numbers.  

In contrast,  the Cubs have claimed right-hander Brett Marshall off waivers from the Yankees.

Marshall, 23,  was designated for assignment last week when the Yankees made the signing of Carlos Beltran official.

Though he made a trio of relief appearances at the big league level in 2013, the bulk of his season was spent in Triple-A where he posted a 5.13 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 in 25 starts. He ranked sixth among Yankees prospects just one year ago, drawing praise for having the best changeup in their system. In 2012, Marshall posted a 3.52 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 158 1/3 innings at Double-A Trenton.

Of the two prospects, Surkamp appears to be much more polished and major league ready than Marshall.

December 23, 2013


The Cubs have not had a long term solution for third base since Ron Santo retired.

Some say the Cubs now have stock piled third base prospects in the minors which may suddenly cause too much competition for the spot.

Many scouts probject Kris Bryant as a corner outfielder when he reaches the majors, but the Cubs have many other options in the pipeline as well (Soler, Lake, Baez potentially). However, Bryant's college coach told teams he believes Bryant is capable of playing the position.

Some other people thought that the Cubs found their solution(s) with recent trades with the Rangers, but others believed the Cubs may have been snookered by Texas. Mike Olt ended last year at AAA, but he continues to struggle at the plate with possible visions issues. Christian Villanueva was supposed to be the hot prospect, but he ended at AA and not has progressed as fast as his press clippings.  Kris Bryant dominated in his first rookie season, ending at high A. There is no reason not to fast track Byrant to AA in 2014.  Holdover Jeimer Candelario has kept off the radar, ended last season at low A.

The best third baseman of the bunch could actually wind up to the Baez. But the team has continued to keep Baez at shortstop. This may be a clue that the front office is still on the fence on Starlin Castro, even though they signed him to a long term extension. As I speculated, Castro's contract could easily be traded to a team like the Yankees after Derek Jeter retires. But if the Cubs keep Castro, then Baez will need to move either to third or second (which would be a harder transition) or play the outfield.

The team will not have to make the hard decisions if Olt wins the third base job in spring training. It would buy the Cubs another year to sort out where their prospects best fit major league needs. But there has been nothing shown to make the case that Olt is going to play better than the Valbuena-Murphy platoon.

December 21, 2013


The White Sox have quietly but efficiently re-tooled their 2014 roster.

Subtracted from the roster were closer Addison Reed and LH starting pitcher Hector Santiago. Reed was a good closer and Santiago was the team's #4 starter. In return, the White Sox received CF Adam Eaton and 3B Matt Davidson. Eaton projects to be the lead off hitter and spark plug for the offense. Davidson is a major league ready AAA prospect who could fill the gaping hole at third base.

In addition, the White Sox signed several free agents: RHP Felipe Paulino, RHP Ronald Belisario and LHP Scott Downs.

Belisario will probably be in the role as new closer. Belisario signed a one year, $3 million deal. He  ranked second in appearances in the National League last season as he went 5-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 77 games with the Dodgers last season. In relief for the Dodgers the last 4 years,  f Belisario recorded four saves, 220 strikeouts and a .227 opponents average in 273 games. This puts the pressure off Nate Jones to assume the closer role. A competition for the position will strengthen the options for manager Robin Ventura.

“Belisario provides us with a veteran reliever who owns a proven record of recording key outs at big moments of games,” general manager Rick Hahn said via the team press release.  “He is a power arm with plus stuff who profiles well for our ballpark.  He has experience pitching in hold and save situations, and we see him as yet another very strong option for Robin Ventura in the back end of our bullpen.”

Downs adds a veteran presence on the young pitching staff. Downs' deal is worth $3.75 million with a $250K buyout on year two, making it $4 million guaranteed. The 37-year-old Downs posted a 2.49 ERA with 7.7 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and a 64.3 percent ground-ball rate in 43 1/3 innings between the Angels and Braves in 2013.

Additional veteran leadership was made when the team signed Paul Konerko to a one year, farewell tour contract. Konerko will not play much first base after the White Sox signed their big international free agent prize, Jose Abreu, who is expected to play 155 games at first and bat either 3rd or 4th in the order.  Konerko will be a professional, and be an important bench player for the team.

The White Sox were also thin at catcher. So they picked up Adrian Nieto off waivers from the Washington Nationals. Nieto, 24, has played 6 season in the minors, batting .254 with some decent defensive skills. However, he has not played higher than High Class A ball.

The White Sox roster now stands at the limit of 40. It appears the team has set its core group for 2014. The Sox have 17 pitchers on the roster.

The projected starting rotation is: Sale, Danks, Quintana, Rienzo, E. Johnson or Paulino.
The bullpen will include: Belisario, Jones, Lindstrom, Veal, Webb or Leesman. 
The pitching staff is still dominate left handed as a whole, which gives value in future trades.

The White Sox still have trading chips on the roster.
If Davidson is ready to start, then either Jeff Keppinger or Conor Gillaspie is expendable.
In addition, the outfield is crowded as well. Dayan Viciedo or Alejandro De Aza will either be bench platoon players or trade bait, possibly to acquire a veteran catcher.
Also, Alexi Ramirez and Gordon Beckham will be pushed by several rookie infielders this spring, including Carlos Santana, Marcus Semien and Leury Garcia.

December 20, 2013


Another day, another reclamation project.

The Cubs have signed pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada  to a minor league deal with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Wada is viewed by the Cubs as a potential starter, states the Tribune's Paul Sullivan.

Wada, 32, posted a 2.76 ERA with a 60-to-22 K/BB ratio over his final 78 1/3 innings for the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate in 2013 as he worked his way back from 2012 Tommy John surgery. Though he inked a two-year, $8.15 million contract with the O's prior to the 2012 campaign, Wada's injury prevented him from ever pitching in Baltimore.

Wada joins the ranks of failed Asian hurlers, Takahashi, Lim, and Fujikawa, that the Cubs have signed in recent years. The concept of extended rehabilitation for pitchers cut loose by their existing clubs is becoming a failed strategy after Scott Baker took the money last year and contributed a whopping 15 IP.  It looks like a repeat of the plan that the Cubs are trying to stock pile cheap starters in order to flip major league starters at the trade deadline.

December 19, 2013


Major league baseball players are very well compensated for what they do.  The Associated Press reports that the average major league player salary was $3.39 million, an increase of 5.4 percent from the previous season. 

In contrast, civilian compensation is increasing at an annual rate of 1.9 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average U.S. wage in 2012 was $42,498, according to the Social Security Administration.

The Yankees had the highest average for the 15th consecutive season at $8.17 million, breaking the mark of $7.66 million when they won the World Series in 2009. The Los Angeles Dodgers were second at $7.82 million. Houston's average of $549,603 was the smallest since the 1999 Kansas City Royals at $534,460. The Miami Marlins were 29th at $830,069, down from $3.77 million in 2012, when they ranked 10th.  World Series champion Boston was fourth at $5.46 million, just behind Detroit at $5.53 million. St. Louis, which won the NL pennant, was 10th at $3.75 million.
Tampa Bay had the lowest ranking among the 10 playoff teams and was 24th at $2.13 million.

Baseball's collective bargaining agreement requires a team to use revenue-sharing money it receives "in an effort to improve its performance on the field." The Marlins had been required to raise player payroll annually from 2010-12 under an agreement between MLB and the union.
However, the issue is being dealt with under a provision in the collective bargaining agreement that gradually eliminates the 15 teams in the largest markets from receiving revenue sharing, and the Astros are 15th. Under that provision, those clubs forfeited 25 percent of the money this year, half in 2014, 75 percent the following year and all in 2016.

Among regulars at positions, designated hitters took over from first basemen for the highest average at $10.5 million. First basemen were next at $6.5 million, followed by starting pitchers at $6.3 million, second basemen at $5.8 million, outfielders at $5.6 million, third basemen at $5.2 million, shortstops at $4.5 million, catchers at $4.4 million and relief pitchers at $2.2 million.

The lure of being a millionaire playing a child's game is one of the reasons why players continue to cheat. There is life-changing money at stake. Even with strict steroid testing, players continue to try to find a way around the protocols. This goes for minor league players thinking juicing could be their only way to make a big league team, to veterans who fear that they may lose their job or big money free agent contract years if they don't enhance their performance levels.

It is not that the players should not get what teams are willing to pay. According to Forbes Magazine, MLB had record revenues in 2013, with gross revenues exceeding $8 billion for the first time, ever.

While exact figures were not revealed, baseball will end 2013 with revenues between $8-$8.5 billion which is more than a 10 percent increase from last year's $7.5 billion revenue figure. The revenue growth is happening while attendance has been ostensibly flat for the league. The continuing growth  engine for baseball is in television revenue, especially the team's new regional television deals.

December 18, 2013


The Cubs made a consensus positive signing late yesterday.

The Cubs signed reliever Jose Veras for a two year contract. He will be paid  $3.85 million base salary for 2014 with a $150K buyout on the 2015 $5.5 million option, giving him $4MM guaranteed, according to Jon Heyman of  Veras can earn an additional $750K based on games

The 33-year-old Veras posted a 3.02 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 with a 41.8 percent ground-ball rate in 62 2/3 innings between the Astros and Tigers, collecting a career-high 21 saves along the way.

Veras has pitched 8 years in the majors, and the Cubs will be his 8th team.  For his career, he has gone 19-22, 3.84 ERA, 1.310 WHIP,  9.3 K/9, 2.00 K/BB ratio, and 26 saves in 133 GF. His career WAR is only 4.0. Based on his average WAR, the Cubs slightly overpaid for his journeyman services.

But this does speak to the Cubs bullpen issues, much was to the team's own making.

In 2012, the Cubs signed Japanese pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa to a $9.5 million, two year contract with a $5.5 million option, to be the Cubs closer. Fujikawa pitched in 12 games for the Cubs in 2013, going 1-1, 5. 25 ERA, 2 saves in 12 IP, 1.083 WHIP with a negative 0.2 WAR before he got hurt.

So the signing of Veras to be the closer signals that Fujikawa's injury is more severe and that he is no longer in the Cubs closer plans. It also shows that the pattern of signing pitchers, some with existing arm issues, continues to haunt the Cubs.

Just recently we had the Cubs 2014 bullpen as:

Closer: Fujikawa, coming off his own lost season due to injury.
Set-Up: Strop, who some believe could be the heir apparent closer.
8th: Vizcaino, if he is truly healthy.
LHP: Russell, who was overworked last season
LHP: Wright, who is a true LOOGY.
RHP: Parker, who fell into a long reliever by default last season.
Long/Spot Starter: Villaneuva, who could get a shot at the 5th starter role this spring.

Now, if we use just healthy players, and the fact it looks like Villaneuva will get a chance to be the 5th starter because of the Cub inactivity on that front and the persistent rumors that Samardzija will be traded, the 2014 bullpen will probably look close to this:

Closer: Veras
Set-Up: Strop
8th: Parker
LHP: Russell, unless he is traded in a package deal
LHP: Wright
RHP: Cabrera
Long/Spot Starter: Raley or Grimm

Starters if Samardzija is traded would be E. Jackson, T. Wood, Arrieta, Rusin, and Villaneuva.



Whether the deals work out or not, the White Sox can't be accused of not identifying their team needs then going out and doing something about them.

Last season, pitching was the team's strength with a fine, young (abet left handed) starting rotation. The offense and defense was poor last season. Many veterans had down years, including Dunn, Konerko, Beckham and Ramirez.

So the front office decided it needed to revamp the offense, get younger and faster. They identified two critical areas to upgrade: center field and third base. CF was manned by De Aza, who had above average power numbers for the position, but had defensive coverage issues. Third base was a sink hole of badness for several years. The platoon of Gillaspie and Keppinger did not set the world on fire.

So Rick Hahn and the pro scouts identified two young players who are major league ready to fix some needs. Adam Eaton is now the club's center fielder and lead off hitter. Matt Davidson is the heir apparent at third base. He may start the season in AAA.

The White Sox traded from strength to acquire players under several years of affordable team control. They gave up their closer, Addison Reed, and their #4 starter, H. Santiago to getting two starting position players. There are some general managers who believe starting position players are more valuable than pitchers because fielders play in more five times games per season.

So the revamped line up will probably be:

1. Eaton, cf
2. Ramirez ss
3. A. Garcia, rf
4. Abreu, 1b
5. Dunn/Konerko dh
6. Viciedo/De Aza lf
7. Gillaspie/ Keppinger 3b
8. Beckham/L. Garcia 2b
9. Phegley/ Flowers c

There appears to be in full transition mode with four to five  positions that may go pure platoon.

Some question why the White Sox re-signed Konerko. But looking at the projected line-up, you can see why Konerko adds a leadership and player-coach to Robin Ventura's staff when the team will have three or four rookies on the squad. It is also possible that Ventura, in his last contract year, may want to return to the front office -  - - which could pave the way for Konerko to manage in 2015.

December 17, 2013


We have made the comparison of Jeff Samardzija to Galvin Floyd.

In seven seasons with the White Sox, Gavin Floyd was either underrated or overrated, depending on who you asked. Now, those debates -- and Floyd -- are off to Atlanta, with the soon-to-be 31-year-old signing a one-year deal with the Braves for approximately $4 million plus incentives.

It pays to be a consistent major league pitcher. Floyd was never flashy or a flash-in-the pan. He fits into the #3-#4 arm in a rotation.

The right-hander flashed no-hit potential on a few occasions, and would go months looking unhittable. Those stretches went hand-in-hand with Floyd having good command on his fastball and snapping off his devastating 12-6 curveball to rack up strikeouts.

But on a game-by-game basis, consistency and control eluded Floyd throughout his career with the White Sox. It's why, on a season-by-season basis, Floyd actually was fairly consistent: after posting a 3.84 ERA in 2008, Floyd never had an ERA lower than 4.06 or higher than 4.37 from 2009-2012.

"You can see him throw seven, eight innings of no-hit caliber ball, and then there will be some shorter outings where he gets blown up a little bit," general manager Rick Hahn said before last season. "When you have that kind of stuff, when you have the ability to throw that length of shutout and quality outings, we know that's in there."

Floyd underwent Tommy John surgery in early May of last season, ending any chance of a big season in the final year of his contract with the White Sox. A 14-to-19-month timetable was given for his recovery, though Floyd expects to pitch in the majors by May of 2014, according to

Floyd's career numbers are similar to Samardzija's.  However, Samardzija has been pitching in the #1 rotation slot by necessity, so some people get confused that he is an "ace" starter. With the rumor that Samardzija was going to sign a $55 million extension with the Cubs (which failed to disclose number of years), begs the question whether Samardzija is worth three times more than Floyd. Apparently not, since the Braves, who had interest in Samardzija, did not facilitate a trade with the Cubs at the Winter Meetings.

December 16, 2013


Kenny Williams used to be called a gambler when he was the White Sox GM. His replacement, Rick Hahn, is also not afraid to pull the trigger on a trade that may raise some eyebrows.

The White traded closer Addison Reed to the  Diamondbacks  in exchange for 22-year-old  third baseman Matt Davidson.

Reed, 24, has saved 69 games for the White Sox over the past two seasons, posting a 4.20 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 126 1/3 innings in that time.  The Diamondbacks will control Reed through the 2017 season and he is not arbitration eligible until next offseason, making him a highly affordable piece to add to the back-end of their bullpen. Reed will be the Arizona closer, displacing J.J. Putz and Brad Ziegler for that role.

Davidson, who was ranked the Diamondbacks #2 prospect, made his big league debut in 2013, slashing .237/.333/.434 with three homers in 87 plate appearances. The 2009 supplemental-rounder entered the 2013 campaign ranked as Baseball America's No. 88 overall prospect and's No. 77 overall prospect. Davidson delivered on that praise by slashing .280/.350/.481 with 17 homers in 500 plate appearances prior to his promotion to the big leagues. He is controllable through the 2019 season and can't reach arbitration eligibility until at least the 2016-17 offseason.

The White Sox have had a hole at third base for a long time. Whether Davidson will win the job in spring training, or whether the team will push through another year of a Conor Gillaspie/Jeff Keppinger platoon will be a short term issue. Hahn is now banking on Davidson to be the long term solution for third base.

It is strange to trade the team's established closer for a nearly major league ready prospect with less than 100 major league at-bats. But filling a third base hole has created another issue for the White Sox: closer. The team will have to sign another bullpen arm or by default give the role to Nate Jones, who has yet to post a save in his major league career.


The reaction to today's Tribune article was another grimace from Cub fans.

The Chicago Cubs are one of several teams interested in signing free agent left-hander Jonathan Sanchez.

The Cubs envision Sanchez as a reliever, according to a source. Several other teams interested in Sanchez prefer to employ him as a starter -- a role that Sanchez has performed for most of his career.
Sanchez has limited left-handed batters to a .218 batting average.

Sanchez, 31, threw a no-hitter in 2009 and won 13 games for the Giants in 2010 but has been hampered by control problems. Sanchez has pitched for the Rockies, Royals and Pirates.
After going 0-3 with an 11.85 ERA in five starts for the Pirates, Sanchez was released and signed with the Dodgers.

Sanchez was 7-3 with a 5.13 ERA in 14 starts for Triple-A Albuquerque, where his fastball was clocked at 95 mph, according to a National League scout.

The problem with this is not the report itself, but what the Cubs are reportedly trying to do. It is another example of the Cubs sifting through other team's trash to find a diamond in the crud. Sanchez has not pitched well in four seasons. What makes the Cubs the magical pitching turnaround machine?  I'm sorry: Chris Bosio is no Dave Duncan. Sanchez failed with the Pirates, and spend last year in AAA with a 5.13 ERA! That's really bad against inferior hitting prospects.  

It is yet another example that the Cubs have no intention of fielding a full, competent major league roster in 2014 if the big off-season target is Jonathan Sanchez. 

December 15, 2013


This is no time for ease and comfort. It is the time to dare and endure.
Winston Churchill
From a fan's perspective, each season is a war.

Their army is their team. Their foe is their game opponents. Each series is a battle.
Win each series, you will the battle in the standings. 

Whether your team is equipped for battle like a superpower like the U.S., Britain or China or like Albania depends upon one's opening day roster. But before any war, there is preparation. Training. Developing. Drafting. Preparation. Strategy. A Plan.

The days of soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder to walk across the battle field to be cut down by their opponent ended in the Revolutionary War with American Indian guerrilla warfare tactics and Pickett's Charge in the Civil War. But the Cubs appear to continue this tradition.

There is a growing unease within the ranks of Cubs fans over the state of the club. Cub fans have been taking fire from rival fans in St. Louis, Milwaukee and Cincinnati over the last few years. It is hard to defend a bad team. 

Most military strategists will say that it is either to defend the high ground than climb up the hill to take the high ground. The same is true in the standings. It is much harder to dig out of the hole of last place to fight your way back to the top of the standings than to keep the top of the hill. 

The fans are like the fife and drum corps - - - they have no weapons in which to fight - - - but are front and center in the battles. They get a lot of flack from both sides.

The fan unease is coming to the surface as the Cubs do little change the major league roster into a reasonable fighting machine. Fans look at the 5 year tenure of new owner Ricketts as being a descending spiral of doubt. Fans now look at the 3rd year of the new front office as being narrow minded, arrogant and risky. The team is not spending money at the major league level to improve talent. It is filling roster holes with leftovers from other team's AAAA journeymen stock pile (one cannot argue that Kottaras, Ruggiano or Wesley is a significant upgrade over anyone on last year's team.)

The idea that one day the baseball and business sides of the operation will converge into a glorious championship season is an illusion. You can package dog waste in a pretty box with a ribbon and call it Hope. The business side won't receive any jolt in revenue until a new broadcast deal is struck in 2019-2020. But that assumes that the billion dollar cable network deals will still be viable in 6 years with the ever changing landscape of entertainment media. The baseball side won't sign big money free agents because the front office is banking that all their top prospects will make a huge impact when they reach the majors. Prospects are the most unpredictable aspect of a baseball operation, but the front office tells fans that this plan is golden - - - the secret weapon of success. A strategy that no other major market team has ever done. Is this really thinking outside a pine box?

The Cubs have been hard to watch the last two seasons. Fans have begun to lose interest in their team. The club has been aggressively marketing all things Cubs except for a quality product on the field. Frustrated fans are to the point of asking why their team is not doing enough to reverse the horrible record on the field. Answers such as "be patient," "it's a process," "be loyal," "we have a plan," and "you'd be on the ground floor to something great" have nothing to do with fielding a competitive ball team in 2014. Fans are coming to the realization that the future is now when they are paying premium prices for a bad minor league product. 

Fans look back at the last three seasons as totally lost opportunities. The team traded away a dozen or so veteran players for two dozen minor league prospects. The turnover has left deep holes in the major league roster filled with journeymen players. It is like a farmer who tills in his field before harvest, then hopes that any random soldier stalks of corn will repopulate all the fields by the next season.

If the Cubs just tried to fix one or two positions each off season, the team could have a competitive roster for 2014. Instead, the holes at 3B, LF, CF, 2B continued to be filled with utility players. The Cubs have turned over their starting rotation and bullpen, but have kept very little major league talent in the process. If a team is unwilling to spend money on free agents to fill needs, then the team will be fighting an uphill battle with very little ammo. Hence, the 2012 and 2013 disasters.

And when the team did make a "core" acquisition, the front office signed SP Edwin Jackson to a long term deal.

Even the world's greatest armies have collapsed when their subjects lost trust in their general's leadership. The Union Army was in disarray and defeatist until President Lincoln installed General Grant in command. It is getting to the point of judgment on the Cubs new front office. 

If the Cubs don't care to wage a good fight in the NL Central, they should be aware of the storm clouds of a civil war within its own rank and file fan base if things don't change quickly.

December 14, 2013


At the Winter Meetings, the Cubs indicated that the bullpen will be improved with small moves.

The Cubs picked up LHP Wesley Wright who will be in the bullpen. Theo Epstein believes that Arodys Vizcaino, who the Cubs acquired in 2012 but has not pitched for 2 years due to set-backs from Tommy John surgery, will also be in the bullpen. Epstein said that Vizcaino is healthy now -- and he was throwing 98 mph in the Dominican instructional league.

Vizcaino was a starting pitcher for the Braves. By putting him in the bullpen can be a signal that the club is going to take it easy on his pitching arm to build up innings, or the acknowledgement that he is a failed starter at this point in his career.

The bullpen begins to shape up like this"

Closer: Fujikawa, coming off his own lost season due to injury.
Set-Up: Strop, who some believe could be the heir apparent closer.
8th: Vizcaino, if he is truly healthy.
LHP: Russell, who was overworked last season
LHP: Wright, who is a true LOOGY.
RHP: Parker, who fell into a long reliever by default last season.
Long/Spot Starter: Villaneuva, who could get a shot at the 5th starter role this spring.

Overall, the Cubs are tweaking not rebuilding their bullpen. There is no track record to see if Fujikawa will be any better than Kevin Gregg, or Vizcaino will be better than Hector Rondon.

December 13, 2013


The Cubs made another move today, oh boy.

The Cubs have claimed right-hander Liam Hendriks off waivers from the Twins, reports La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Hendriks had been designated for assignment last week to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Phil Hughes.

Oh boy.
What a find.

Hendriks, 24,  has had brief appearances for the Twins since 2011:

30 GP, 28 starts
Career stats: 2-13, 6.06 ERA, 1.590 WHIP, and NEGATIVE 3.8 WAR!

Hendriks is Australian, so that may be why his numbers are upside down.

How he fits into the Cubs pitching staff is unclear.


Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun Times had a column today in which Theo Epstein made several comments which should make even the most die-hard fans who have bought into the full rebuild plan to pause for a moment.

Even though the Cubs have added elite hitting prospects in their farm system, which is the cornerstone of the team's current marketing plan for this third-year ­rebuilding process, Wittenmyer writes that not even a baseball operations department firmly committed to its player-development plan will try to sell the idea that those top prospects will be the championship solution on the North Side when they arrive.

Team president Theo Epstein talked this week about the two “currencies” in baseball needed for lengthy championship windows: deep enough reserves of young major-league (or close) talent to make impact trades and/or “massive amounts of payroll flexibility.”

As the article states, the Cubs have neither at this point, despite the promise of prospects Javy Baez, Kris Bryant and Albert Almora.

“We have to guard against this perception that we believe that once our most talented prospects come up to the big leagues all of our problems are solved, because that’s not the way it works in baseball,said Epstein, who highlighted the tough transition for most young players even when they get to the big leagues.

Wittenmyer raises the question of when the talented prospects arrive at Wrigley Field, but the business side hasn’t stepped up with that “massive” flexibility?

“Let’s not think we reached the finish line just because we get a few prospects to the big leagues,” ­Epstein said. “It’s going to be a heck of a lot more interesting when it happens, but it doesn’t necessarily mean right away that all our players in their early 20s are going to be the cornerstones of a World Series club.”

 >>>>> From my reading between the lines, the backtracking has begun on the baseball side of the Cubs. We have been sold that the future of Cubs success is in developing major league talent; to have a pipeline of good players being promoted year after year. The front office has been sold as the young guard who can make that happen. But all prospects are risky propositions. Very few make an impact in the majors. But Epstein's current statements now throw in a future excuse if the Cubs touted prospects do not pan out - - - the business side of the Cubs operation needs to open the bank like the Yankees, Red Sox and Mariners to sign high priced free agents in order to get a World Series club.


Theo Epstein tells reporters that the Cubs have made "lots of offers" to players and teams. That may just be smoke, or if given the lack of major movement this off season, not really good offers.

The Toronto Sun reported that the Cubs are asking for Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and a third prospect from the Blue Jays for Jeff Samardzija. Blue Jays GM  Anthopoulos has said that he was constantly being asked about Stroman and Sanchez, the Jays' top two pitching prospects, in possible deals.

If this is the type of value the Cubs want for Samardzija, then the Shark will be with the Cubs on Opening Day. To most other clubs, Samardzija is a #3 starter. The Cubs are trying to get Kershaw-Verlander value for him. As stated in an earlier post, as a matter of similar career statistics, would the Blue Jays trade their #1, #2 and another prospect for pitcher Galvin Floyd, formerly of the White Sox? 

And considering what the Tigers received for Doug Fister, the Cubs are overreaching in the current trade market. 

So the Cubs can be making a lot of telephone calls to other teams, but it appears it will not be productive.


The Cubs came to the Winter Meetings in the role as bystander.

As Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun Times reported, the Cubs baseball brass does not like this role.

“We don’t like having days like [Tuesday], where there are big trades and free-agent signings and we’re sitting it out,” team president Theo Epstein said. “You think we want to be there sitting it out? No. But there will be a day real soon when we’re right in the middle of that because we have more financial flexibility, because we have lots of talented young players — assets that everyone wants around the game — and we’re going to be the ones dictating all those big moves.”

Wittenmyer realizes that “real soon” is a relative term,. It will not be happening this off season, even with tens of millions in increased revenues per team coming into the game from national revenue sources. 

“You hope to at least have things teed up,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “With the way things are moving quicker, we’ll try hard to get stuff done, and I hope that’s the way it works out.”

“Our business plan and our baseball plans are actually pretty synced up in terms of the timing,” Epstein repeated from last week's comments, “and so I hope that both sides of the organization continue with their plan and execute at a high level so there’s more resources and there’s more flexibility and we have more mature, talented players in the organization.” 

The actual timing when the Cubs will be in position to make bold moves like the Yankees, Dodgers or Mariners?  “All those things are coming up,” he said. “We can’t speed it up. We can’t make time go faster, but I really feel like we’re going in the right direction.”

The continued vagueness in answering the question of WHEN the Cubs will be in position to make big moves can only mean two things: a) Epstein does not know; or b) he does know but does not want to tell the public for fear of a backlash.

But it does not take a lot of research to determine that the baseball clubs that can make a big impact in the off season are those clubs that have new billion dollar local broadcast deals. The Cubs will not be in a position to make any sort of splash with a Cubs Channel until 2019. If management would tell the fan base that The Wait is going to be at least five more years, a large percentage of season ticket holders would drop out because they would not want to spend tens of thousands of dollars for five more years for a AAA product on the field.

The Cubs baseball people also bristle at the reports that the Cubs do not have the financial strength to compete with international free agent players like Japan's Tanaka, if he gets posted by his team. However, there are signs that the Cubs are in real need of a revenue boost. That's all that Ricketts talks about: adding new revenue streams. The Cubs have also cut back on their major league payroll for the last four years. The Cubs have a huge debt service as a result of the Ricketts purchase of the team. Epstein admitted last week that the Cubs were heavily reliant on ticket sales. Attendance has been falling for the past three seasons. The Ricketts have a grand real estate development project which will cost millions to borrow and build. Based on all these factors, money is tight with the Cubs. The team asked for season ticket deposits early, and started new ticket package sales in December. This is all to increase off season cash flow. And most interestingly, the Cubs will not start any approved construction projects until the rooftop owners agree not to sue. Construction costs are bound to rise over time, so why put off non-controversial rehabilitation of Wrigley Field? One answer would be to conserve cash and improve the balance sheet.

You have a big market team acting like a small market club during its rebuilding process. It is frustrating to the baseball executives to sit on the sidelines. It is also frustrating for the fan base to wait for solid answers and improvement of their team.

December 12, 2013


Boredom set in. To relieve it, the Cubs made a trade. A trade that is like substituting one brand of pasta for another - - - you still get wet noodles in the end.

The Cubs received Marlin OF Justin Ruggiano in exchange for outfielder Brian Bogusevic.

Ruggiano, 31, did not repeat his breakout 2012 campaign ( he hit.313/.374/.535 with 13 homers and 14 steals in 91 games) in 2013 (222/.298/.396 with career bests in homers (18) and stolen bases (15) in a career-high 472 plate appearances.)
Bogusevic, 29, batted above his mean in 2013 with  .273/.323/.462 with 6 HR, 16 RBI in 155 PAs for the Cubs. He is a career .236/.313/.370 hitter in 773 trips to the plate.

Both players can play all outfield positions, but Bogusevic is a better overall defender.  Ruggiano has more power than Bogusevic.  Bogusevic is not yet arbitration eligible, while Ruggiano is projected to earn $1.8MM this season.

This is a classic change of scenery trade of bench players who may be able to platoon with their new club. Ruggiano gives the Cubs another right handed OF bat to join Junior Lake. This is not an impact trade for either club. It is a weak press release to the fan base that their team is still trying to improve for next season.


The Rule 5 draft has been completed:

Major League Phase
HOU: Patrick Schuster, LHP, Reno (ARI) -- Sent to SD to complete trade for Anthony Bass
CWS: Adrian Nieto, C, Syracuse (WAS)
PHI: Kevin Munson, RHP, Reno (ARI)
COL: Thomas Kahnle, RHP, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (NYY)
TOR: Brian Moran, LHP, Tacoma (SEA) -- Traded to LAA for $244,000 of international cap space
NYM: Seth Rosin, RHP, Lehigh Valley (PHI) -- Traded to LAD for cash
MIL: Wei-Chung Wang, LHP, Indianapolis (PIT)
ARI: Marcos Mateo, RHP, Iowa (CHC)
BAL: Michael Almanzar, 3B, Pawtucket (BOS)

Triple-A Phase
HOU: Ravel Santana, OF, Trenton (NYY)
FLA: Justin Bour, 1B, Tennessee (CHC)
CWS: Evan Crawford, LHP, New Hampshire (TOR)
CHC: Charles Cutler, C, Altoona (PIT)
MIN: Kevin Thomas, RHP, Springfield (STL)
TOR: Roberto Espinosa, RHP, Altoona (PIT)
NYM: Jonathan Velasquez, RHP, New Britain (MIN)
MIL: Kevin Mattison, OF, Jacksonville (MIA)
SD: Jacob Lemmerman, SS, Springfield (STL)
LAA: Jose Valdivia, RHP, Jackson (SEA)
ARI: Michael Lee, RHP, Mississippi (ATL)
BAL: Julio Borbon, OF, Tennessee (CHC)
WAS: Theodis Bowe, OF, Pensacola (CIN)
CIN: Michael O'Brien, RHP, Trenton (NYY)
TEX: Russell Wilson, 2B, Tulsa (COL)
TB: Enderson Franco, RHP, Corpus Christi (HOU)
PIT: Tyler Sample, RHP, Northwest Arkansas (KC)
OAK: Tim Atherton, RHP, New Britain (MIN)
BOS: Jonathan Roof, SS, Reading (PHI)
STL: Gregory Miclat, SS, Frisco (TEX)
HOU: Carlos Vazquez, LHP, Binghamton (NYM)
MIA: Brady Shoemaker, OF, Birmingham (CWS)
CWS: Omar Narvaez, C, Montgomery (TB)
MIN: James Fuller, LHP, Binghamton (NYM)
TOR: Richard Bleier, LHP, Frisco (TEX)
MIL: Vincent Catricala, 3B, Midland (OAK)
SD: Adolfo Reina, C, Erie (DET)
ARI: Hector Hernandez, LHP, Springfield (STL)
WAS: Martires Arias, RHP, Binghamton (NYM)
PIT: A.J. Morris, RHP, Tennessee (CHC)
STL: Jesus Ustariz, 3B, Erie (DET)
MIA: Tony Thompson, 3B, Midland (OAK)
TOR: Scott Shuman, RHP, Richmond (SF)
PIT: Felipe Gonzalez, RHP, Trenton (NYY)

Double-A Phase

HOU: Blaine Sims, LHP, Lynchburg (ATL)
MIA: Kelvin Castro, RHP, Charleston (NYY)

Of note, both Chicago teams selected catchers. Nieto has played 6 seasons in the Nationals system, but has only progressed to High A ball. He has a career minor league average of .254. Catching is a need for the White Sox, but this may be a reach to keep him. The White Sox also added another catcher in the AAA phase of the draft.

The Cubs took a AAA catcher in Cutler, who has played 6 seasons in the Cardinals and Pirates organization. He has made it only to Class AA, with a career batting average of .303 and good defensive skills. The Cubs entire system is thin on catching so this move fills an organizational need.

The Cubs lost two players in the selection process. Mateo had 44 games played with the Cubs over two seasons, but battled injuries the last two years. However Mateo has had a huge comeback winter ball season, according to Baseball America:

Cubs righthanded reliever Marcos Mateo is emerging as maybe the most fascinating name because of what he’s doing in the Dominican League this offseason. Mateo, who ranked three different times among the Cubs’ top 30 prospects, pitched reasonably well in the big leagues with Chicago in 2011. He then missed all of 2012 and a significant part of 2013 recovering from an elbow injury.
Mateo, now 29, has been absolutely electric in the Dominican Republic, featuring a high-90s fastball and a filthy slider that sits in the upper 80s. He’s got results to back up the stuff, having gone 3-0, 0.98 for Estrellas de Oriente, with 22 strikeouts, seven walks and 11 hits allowed in 19 innings. In his last six appearances as teams finalize their Rule 5 pref lists, Mateo has struck out 12, walked none, allowed five hits and no runs in six innings over six appearances.

Bour was a Cub first base prospect who has hit 74 HR 386 RBI .273 BA in 5 seasons in the minors (A and AA). Clearly, his path was blocked by Rizzo's long term deal. This does not seem to be much of a reach for the Marlins to promote him to AAA.

The Cubs also lost OF Julio Borbon, who was a dud during his tenure with the Cubs. The Cubs also lost AA pitcher A.J. Morris to Pittsburgh in the AAA draft.  Morris, 27, went 4-2, 4.75 ERA last season in the minors.


The most important job a manager does is make up the daily line up card.

The most important job a general manager has is to provide the field manager with enough pieces in order to make up the daily line up card.

This is how old school, traditionalists have viewed their line ups. If a team can find the right elements to score and manufacture runs, then the team will be viewed as competitive.

Everyone agrees that the lead off hitter is a key element to start the offense. However, the lead off hitter probably only leads off an inning once or twice a game. However, the desired skill set (high OBP, ability to coax walks and good base running) can be applied to any situation throughout the game.

The number two hitter has to be a player who can control his bat and swing consistently to meet the situation. Bat control is the key to executing a hit and run, or punching the ball to the opposite field to advance a runner into scoring position. He should have enough speed to avoid the double play grounder.

The #3 batter is traditionally the team's best overall hitter. The player needs to have good plate discipline to maintain a high average, get into favorable counts, and ability to drive the ball for extra bases.

The clean up hitter has traditionally been the team's best HR hitter. This #4 hitter is supposed to put pressure on the opponent's pitcher so he must throw strikes to the #3 hitter. This protection element, whether true or psychological, is an important part of making an opponent lose focus.

After the clean up hitter, there is less emphasis on skills sets. Some managers and teams just fill out the rest of their lineups with the best remaining hitters six through eight. However, some managers try to think ahead to create a secondary line up within the line up card, by having the #6 the team's second best lead off hitter. By having a second lead off man in the line up, it should lead to more base runners throughout the entire game. The reason to have more base runners is to have more chances to score runs. If the #6 hitter gets on and steals a base, it gives the #7 and #8 hitters better chance to score the runner. If the first lead off man fails, it is possible that the #6 hitter may lead off the second inning. Or if the team goes out 1-2-3, then the #6 hitter could come up in the second with a chance to extend the inning by getting on base or moving a runner along by walking or speed.

The #7 hole is reserved for the best batter left of the two starters. Usually, this batter has something he does well. If he does, then that should be his focus. If the player has low average, but can connect the long ball, he should be let loose to do that. If he is a pure singles hitter, let him spray his dying ducks all over the field. This slot probably has the less pressure on him to perform.

The #8 hitter is the last field starter in the line up. Typically, it is a middle infielder with low average, no power, no RBI production, but has a good glove defensively. Many consider him an automatic out, like the next slot, the pitcher. His job is to stay alive as best as possible; make the opponent pitcher throw more pitches (because pitch counts are a weapon) even with two outs. For many managers believe that it is better to have the last out of the inning be the #9 pitcher than the #8 hitter.

This traditional line up has one theme that many teams have forgotten about in the age of video game statistics: balance. A team with a variety of hitters, with different strengths and weaknesses, can be molded into an effective run producing line up.

December 11, 2013


Every since man moved across the land or sea to encounter other tribes, there has been trade. Trade routes were the building block of our modern civilization. The acquisition, exchange, purchase or theft of valuable things such as gold or spices is the key element in any trading platform.

Baseball is no different.

The basic elements of supply, demand, scarcity, condition and value are all part of the trade equation between general managers.

The Sun Times reports that the trade market for Jeff Samardzija is drying up because the Cubs are asking too high a price for him.

The puzzle pieces fit into fairly uniform patterns.

When trying to move a veteran on a bad or rebuilding team, the GM looks to find a trading partner who is close (in perception or reality) to winning a division or pennant. Teams on the cusp of a championship are more inclined to deal for a veteran commodity in order to win now, rather than wait to develop their own talent to fill a current need. A trade partner tries to exploit that need to win now to get as much in return as possible, such as top prospects. At times, a championship club will overpay, i.e. mortgage their future, and give up top prospects for a veteran.

Then there are middle of the road teams that also have needs to fill, but have development gaps in their system. A middle of the road team may be competitive, but not favored to win their division. They attempt to re-tool their roster to improve spots in order to build a quality roster. In this situation, teams usually find a way to move equal talent for equal talent (usually different position players) in order to improve both teams.

Then there is the classic "change of scenery" trade. Here, teams exchanged their damaged or underperforming players in the hope that a new team and coaching staff could turn around a player's career. The Cubs deal for Ian Stewart for Tyler Colvin is a classic change of scenery move which did not work out well for either club.

There are certain general trading philosophies of teams. Some teams only concentrate on their major league team - - - they want to win year in and year out. The Yankees and Red Sox fit this mold. As a result, they use their minor league prospects as more trade bait than potential major league starters. Then on the opposite end, certain teams live and die on player development like the Rays. They will re-stock their system by trading the players they have developed into quality major leaguers, but who get into expensive arbitration years.

The Cubs need to lock up with a team that wants to win now, and needs a starting pitcher like Samardzija to make that happen. But there are still quality free agents still on the market which will not cost prospects. A Samardzija trade may not happen until the July trade deadline next season.


Baseball has a long history in Japan. Their fans are extremely loud and boisterous at games. Teams take great pride in fielding competitive squads. There is honor bound within the tradition of Japanese baseball.

There are limits on the number of foreign players on any team roster. And there is a bias against foreign players setting Japanese baseball records. The league is smaller than U.S. MLB. The talent level used to be considered much weaker than the United States, but Japan has done very well in the last several World Baseball events to raise some interest.

Since Japan has a long history of professional baseball, Japanese players could not hit the free agent market like American players. Japanese players are tied to their clubs for a maximum of 9 years. In the United States, there are various CBA provisions that allow more player movement, such as minor league free agency, Rule 5 draft, 40 man protective roster, arbitration for eligible players before free agency, etc.

Under the old system, a Japanese team could "post" or offer a U.S. team the opportunity to negotiate a contract with one of their players. The posting fee would be paid to the team holding the player contract (though some reports state there may be a contractual split of the posting fee). Only one team could "win" the posting bid, and thus awarded exclusive negotiating rights to a star player. The team would give up its star players for two reasons: a) money to be financially viable or profitable and b) pressure from the players themselves to allow them to reach the majors and/or be paid highly for their services.

The posting fees have gotten extremely large in recent years, with the Rangers allegedly paying $51.5 million just for the privilege of signing RHP pitcher Darvish for even a greater sum. The concept of $100 million plus outlays of cash for Japanese players, even the very best ones, seemed to be an runaway train for U.S. clubs. Only the big market, big money teams could afford to spend that kind of money on Japanese players. Small market teams were not big players due to financial restraints.

The posting system is supposed to change. The significant change is that now a Japanese team will set the posting fee for its players, up to a maximum of $20 million. In the past, MLB teams set the posting fee amount. For secondary players, the posting fee could have been much lower than the Darvish sweepstakes. So a small market team could bid $1 million post fee for a secondary player and win the rights to sign him; but now the Japanese club can set the same player post value much higher. In theory, the Japanese club will set the fee market. So, Japanese teams believe they will receive more overall posting fee revenue as a result of the change.

It puts more team into play for talent. If more than one team bids the new posting fee, all those teams can negotiate with the player. The player is rewarded with actual free market competition for his services, which means a larger contract. It probably will result in more good will for the player's former team if and when he returns to Japan at the end of his career.

So the change in the posting system is supposed to rise all boats in the free agent sea.

Final details are still to be worked out between league officials. But there is one thing that will not change: a Japanese club may decide not to post its star player. This may happen with this year's star player, pitcher Tanaka. His team wanted Darvish posting fee money, but with the cap, it will not receive it. So they can keep Tanaka under contract until he reaches his league free agency term.

December 10, 2013


MLBTR pieces together the parts of a three team trade involving the White Sox.

The White Sox  received CF Adam Eaton from the Diamondbacks. Formerly one of baseball's top prospects, the 25-year-old Eaton missed more than half of the 2013 season after opening the year on the DL with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his left (throwing) elbow. In 380 career MLB plate apparances, Eaton is a .254/.332/.373 hitter with five homers and seven stolen bases. He's batted .365/.441/.522 with eight homers and 38 steals in 602 career appearances at the Triple-A level. Prior to the 2013 season, Baseball America ranked Eaton as Arizona's No. 4 prospect, noting that he'd made enough defensive strides to convince scouts that he is an everyday big league center fielder with double-digit home run pop, plus speed and a strong, accurate throwing arm. He is under team control  through the 2018 season.

The White Sox gave up LH starting pitcher Hector Santiago, who will join the Angels. Santiago, who turns 26 next week, has a career 3.41 ERA with 8.7 K/9, 4.5 BB/9 and a 37.5 percent ground-ball rate in 224 2/3 big league innings. He's not arbitration eligible until next winter and can be controlled through the 2017 campaign

The Diamondbacks will receive outfielder Mark Trumbo and right-hander A.J. Schugel from the Angels. Arizona will be looking for Trumbo's power to outweigh his shaky defense; he's belted 66 home runs over the past two seasons, posting a .250/.305/.471 batting line. While Trumbo's  walk rate climbed to a career-best eight percent in 2013, that's still below the league average, and it came along with a career-worst 27.1 percent strikeout rate. Trumbo hit 34 homers last season. Trumbo projects to earn $4.7MM via arbitration this offseason and can be controlled through the 2016 season.
Schugel dealt with blisters early in the season and saw a foot injury cut his season short in July after he posted a 7.05 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 89 1/3 innings at Triple-A Salt Lake. However, he posted a 2.89 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 140 innings at Double-A when he was healthy in 2012. Baseball America ranked Schugel 12th among Angels prospects prior to 2013, noting that a strong fastball/changeup combo should allow him to become a back-of-the-rotation starter despite a questionable breaking pitch. BA also noted that Schugel is an excellent athlete that fields his position well.

The Angels will also receive LH pitcher Tyler Skaggs.  Skaggs appeared in the Top 15 of BA's Top 100 list prior to the 2012 and 2013 seasons but has struggled in his brief big league experience to date. Still just 22, Skaggs has a 5.43 ERA with 7.5 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 and a 40 percent ground-ball rate in 68 Major League innings. He has a 4.02 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 156 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level -- all of which have come with him being one of the league's youngest pitchers. Skaggs won't be eligible for arbitration until at least 2016 and can be controlled through the 2019 campaign if he's in the Majors from here on out.

Eaton has only played 88 games in two seasons. He has a .254 BA, 5 HR, 27 RBI and 0.7 WAR. In contrast, Santiago has played in 78 games, posted an 8-10 record, 3.41 ERA, 1.358 WHIP and 4.6 WAR. The White Sox are trading a replacement level player with "potential" for a young starting left handed pitcher. I don't it was a very good deal for the White Sox considering their are other center fielders on the market such as Denard Span, 29, who has a career 15.0 WAR over 6 seasons. Span is a more expensive alternative, but he has lead off potential with the ability to steal bases.


The conventional baseball operation has a starting pitching staff dominated by right handers. It may be that there are more right handed people in general. Typically, a staff has four right handers and a lefty in the rotation.

It also may be a factor that there are more right handed batters in the majors. The percentages and conventional wisdom state that right handed pitchers have an advantage over right handed hitters. It seems that the angle of release is hidden a fractional longer in a RHP-RHH battle. This is why managers normally opt for a left handed pinch hitter against a righty (and vice versa).

So the White Sox are quite unique. They have a starting rotation dominated by LHP: Sale, Danks, Quintana and Santiago.  And some people think that is a bad thing.

There are a few points to dispute the notion that the White Sox are too lefty:

1. Good pitchers can pitch well against all hitters.  Sale gets right and left handed batters out. It is the types of pitches, command and the control that is the key to any successful pitcher.

2. Teams are more used to right handed pitchers so a slew of lefties would be different. Players, especially batters, are constantly told that they need to adjust their swings and mechanics during a game, a series, etc. It takes at least one AB to get used to the mechanics of a pitcher, to pick up the ball, mechanics, speed and location. The next AB is used to sync up the pitching style of the hurler to the game situation (is he a first ball strike pitcher; will he throw away or jam you with a runner on, etc.). Those sabermetrics are compiled for all pitchers, but every game unfolds differently.

3. Left handers tend to be less power pitchers than control pitchers. Randy Johnson was a flamethrowing cannnon. At 6'11", he was an intimidating force on the mound. But most left handed pitchers do not have a 100 mph fastball (Chapman is an exception), so they rely more on changing speeds to throw strikes. As many hitting coaches will say, a pitcher who can effectively change speeds plus-minus 10 mph in a sequence with control, is harder to hit than a straight fast ball pitcher. The prime example of this speed control style is future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.

So, as the Winter Meetings start, there will be some words about the "need" the White Sox to trade a left handed starter, probably Santiago, for a third baseman or lead off man. But in reality, the Sox should keep their five best starters, period, regardless of what arm they throw from.

December 8, 2013


The Detroit Tigers trade of Doug Fister to the Nationals has been almost universally panned in the media. However, the Tiger GM puts the move into perspective, as it gave some salary relief, allowed the team to sign closer Joe Nathan, and to open up positions for young pitchers on their staff.

CBS Detroit reported that Tiger General Manager Dave Dombrowski knows many people will not like the Fister trade.  Fister filled a key role in the 2013 Detroit Tigers rotation, one of the undisputed best in baseball. Now Fister, who won 14 games and recorded a 3.67 ERA over 208.2 innings.

In return the Tigers acquired starting pitching prospect Robbie Ray, left-handed relief pitcher Ian Krol and utility man Steve Lombardozzi.

“You’re always prepared when you trade the known for the unknown that people in general don’t like those type of moves,” Dombrowski said. “For us, we end up in a position where we get a quality young left-handed pitcher in Robbie Ray but also very close to the major leagues at this point, just sitting on the doorstep ready to step and pitch at the big-league level; a quality young left-handed reliever who’s ready to be one of our lefties in the bullpen right now, projects to be a No. 1 type of lefty; and really one of the best utility players in baseball that can help us at second, short, outfield.”

As solid as Fister pitched for the Tigers, Dombrowski essentially said Detroit could still have a great rotation without him because of the other young pitchers already on the team.

“We feel our starting depth at this time allowed us to make the deal to move Drew Smyly into the rotation,” Dombrowski said. “We think Rick Porcello’s ready to assume more of a role as the No. 4 starter and give us in turn a guy like Robbie Ray who we think has a chance to be a very fine Major League pitcher sitting in Triple-A ready to help out in the near future.”

Smyly’s 2.37 ERA through 63 appearances made him by far one of the most effective relievers for the Tigers in 2013. Porcello, who worked in the No. 5 slot, won 13 games and recorded a 4.32 ERA over 177 innings.

At least Dombrowski thought through a plan before pulling the trigger. Other reports indicate that he did not openly market Fister to other clubs, so there may have been a better deal out there. There is some merit to open a space for a pitcher in one's system who is ready to make the transition to the majors like Smyly. And getting two quality left handed pitchers in a trade for one veteran is usually hailed as a good move. As with all trades, time will tell if it was successful.

December 7, 2013


The reason why the Mariners have suddenly become a big money player in a small market city is that the team just hit the gold mine with a new $2 billion broadcast deal.  As a result, the Mariners have a significant new source of revenue to spend on elite free agents.

The Mariners attendance has dropped from 3.2 million to 1.8 million. The Mariners play on the West Coast. There is little national attention paid to the team. Until, Cano was signed last week.

The Cano signing is all about the new television money.

While other teams are playing catch-up with the Yankees, ironically, the Yankees are paring back on their television network (selling part of the Steinbrenner's stake in the YES Network). The Yankees are also actively reeling in their payroll. In some ways, they are bucking the trend they started years ago.

The big fuel for rebuilding franchises now appears to ride on a new team network deal.

The Cubs are in a cornered position. As being formerly owned by a broadcaster, the Tribune Company negotiated a bad TV deal with itself in order to increase overall profits within the conglomerate. Ricketts did not renegotiate those deals as part of the purchase agreement with the Tribune. So the Cubs are stuck with a cable partnership that runs through 2019 season. That means the Cubs cannot find a television windfall like the Mariners until 2020.

That is a long time to sit and rely upon a lesser than market value local broadcast license fees. But that is the position the Cubs are in today. So, if revenue is not going to dramatically increase, the team has to cut costs. The biggest cost is the major league payroll, which currently stands at approximately $59 million for 2014. Arbitration player contracts will probably boost the payroll to around $75 million. This would continue the payroll decline since Ricketts ownership.

It also parallels the drops in attendance at Wrigley Field. Theo Epstein admitted that the Cubs are highly dependent upon the gate as a revenue source. That is why the Cubs are not going to be a big money free agent player this year, and for the foreseeable future.

The team emphasizes the youth movement, but won't say when the rebuild will be complete. But if the other teams did not dive head first into the free agent pool without a new billion dollar TV deal, then the Cubs will be watching from the sidelines for the next 7 years.

December 6, 2013


The saga of the best free agent this off-season is almost operatic in its current twists and turns.

Robinson Cano dropped his baseball agent for a celebrity-rapper turned agent, Jay-Z.  One would think that a superstar player changes an agent because the new agent will be able to provide better counsel and a bigger contract.

Well, things have not gone well, according to media reports.

The new Cano camp went to the Yankees and demanded a $310 million deal. The Yankees went on their business to spend large dollars on Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and two free agent infielders. Some writers believe that with the three holes in the Yankees starting rotation to fill, including re-signing starter Hiroki Kuroda for more than $15 million/year, the Yankees have no money to sign Cano. The NY free agent budget has already been allocated to fill needs. The Yankees did make an offer, but it was reported to be at least $150 million less than what Cano demands.

So, there was only one mystery team to play off against the Yankees.  It was the Mariners. Apparently, negotiations were getting close, but things soured in a nuclear way, according to today's report at MLBTR:

The Mariners talks with Cano have broken down after Seattle made an offer of nine years and $225MM, two sources told the New York Daily News. The Mariners are no longer in the mix to sign Cano, reports Feinsand. According to the report, Cano and his representatives from CAA and Roc Nation Sports arrived in Seattle with an eight-year, $200MM offer in hand from the Mariners and eventually received assurances that the Mariners would go to nine years and $225MM. However, a late change by agent Jay-Z in which he once again demanded $252MM over 10 years caused Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln to "explode," prompting the meeting to end.

It is never a good idea to tick off the man, the CEO of the team, who has to approve spending more than $200 million.

The Yankees have reported offered a $150-160 million package. Based on Ellsbury's contract of $153 million, Cano's "market" value now in a one bidder (Yankee) market is significantly less than $200 million. The Yankees have held firm and have not bid against themselves. One reason is that ownership is demanding that the team be under the $189 million luxury tax threshold. At this point, Cano has priced himself out of even the Yankees budget.

So where does that leave the best free agent in baseball? On the sidelines, in a weak position, with no real options unless another "mystery" team comes to Jay-Z's rescue at the 11th hour. But that seems to be doubtful, as this off-season has been more about teams making trades than signing high-priced free agent veterans.

UPDATE: The Mariners agreed to kick in a 10th year at $15 million to sign Cano to a 10 year/$240 million deal. It is $70 million less than what Cano initially wanted from the Yanks, but about $90 million more than the Yankees were willing to pay. The Mariners overpaid for Cano, who went to Jay-Z to up his non-baseball endorsement appeal. However, being in Seattle as opposed to New York is a significant marketing down grade. Seattle is not a major national television draw, and West Coast games are not relevant on the East Coast.