November 30, 2015


The early market for starting pitching seems to be soft at the upper tier. reports  that Johnny Cueto turned down a six-year, $120 million offer from the Diamondbacks. On an average annual value basis, that would come in $2 million per year under what  Jordan Zimmerman will allegedly sign with the Tigers, at 5 years/$110 million.

With J.A. Happ leading the second tier starters at 3 years/$36 million, there is caution so far in free agency. It may pick up in two weeks at the Winter Meetings.

With pitchers who declined a qualifying offer of $15.6 million, the club that signs them loses a first round draft selection. Pitchers like Jeff Samardzija may believe they they are worth $16 million plus per season, but other teams may balk at the double cost.

Zimmerman's annual cost is $22 million.
Cueto turned down $20 million.
These two are in the top tier four with Price and Greinke.
We expect the top market to round out at $22-25 million per year.

Happ is a second tier starter at an annual cost of $13 million. He did not have a qualifying offer tag.
This means the second tier market will probably shake out to $12-18 million per year.

November 27, 2015


In the realistic post-season crystal ball of the Cubs off-season, there are several hard truths:

One, the Cubs baseball front office has less to spend than most people realize. I estimate that from press reports and current contract obligations, the Cubs can only spend around $25 million on new players. The acquisition of three AAA relievers prior to the 40 man deadline does not mean that the Cubs bullpen and pitching issues have been resolved for 2016.

Two, with a tight payroll cap, the Cubs are extremely unlikely to find a good CF/lead off hitter on the open market. The internal solution of either Albert Almora or Billy McKinney are years off in the future. The most likely scenario now is that the Cubs will have to move veteran salary off the books in order to free up cash to sign free agents to fill more urgent needs.

Three, as the post-season clearly showed, pitching is a priority for the Cubs to compete in 2016. The Cubs need to find two good starting pitchers to compliment Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta.

On the free agent pitching front, the Cubs cannot and will not throw hundreds of millions of dollars on Price, Zimmerman, Greinke or Cueto. In fact, more teams are going to stray away from the top tier guys to bid up second tier veteran arms. The Cubs really cannot afford a bidding war in this market.

The Cubs offer a young club with upswing potential and playoff experience is a benefit to some free agents looking for a good landing spot.

In culling the lists, I believe the two best fits of free agent pitchers for the Cubs this off-season are J.A. Happ and Mike Leake. Their acquisition basically eats up the payroll budget as it current stands without other roster moves.

Happ, 33, was traded at the deadline to the Pirates. He helped stabilize their rotation. He went 11-8 in 32 starts with a 3.41 ERA and 3.0 WAR. He made $6.7 million last season. He is projected to sign for either 2 years/$20 million or 3 years/$30 million.

Leake, 28, was traded by the Reds to the Giants at the deadline. He struggled a little in San Francisco. In 30 starts, he compiled a 11-10 record, 3.70 ERA and 2.9 WAR. He made $9.775 million last season. He is projected to sign for 5 years/$80 million.

Happ and Leake would offer a consistent #3 and #4 starters for a rotation that would consist of LHP Lester, RHP Arrieta, LHP Happ, RHP Leake and RHP Hendricks.

UPDATE: Happ signed a three-year deal valued at $36 million to return to Toronto, where he pitched for two-plus seasons from 2012-14. While far from a model of consistency throughout his nine-year Major League career, Happ boosted his stock with a strong finish to his 2015 campaign. After being traded from Seattle to Pittsburgh in July, Happ went 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA over his final 11 starts. He signed for about $2 million/ per season more than projected but he appears to take the place of Price in the rotation.

November 25, 2015


One method of constructing a line up card is to have the next batter "cover" or protect the preceding hitter.

For example, a typical good lead-off batter would be covered by a #2 batter who can take pitches, draw walks, bunt, hit or run or move runners by hitting the opposite way. At the same time, the pitcher has to be wary of putting the #2 hitter on base knowing that the team's best hitter will be up next.

The Cubs currently have no established, traditional lead-off hitter.

Rizzo could be a #2 hitter since he meets most of the requirements of coverage. But he is a double play ground ball hitter, too. He would good better pitches to hit if the #3 hitter was Bryant, who has shown good plate discipline and power. If he can cut down on strike outs and play like his post-season form, Soler would be a good cover at #4 for Bryant. It gets harder to cover Soler because the #5 hitter should be able to drive in runners with gap power. Will Russell grow into this role (which would be a major promotion from batting mostly #9) or is it Castro's position to lose? Depending on where Schwarber will play full time, he makes the most sense at #5. That could push Castro to #6 and Russell to #7 and the catcher hitting ahead of the pitcher.

It gives a balance hitting line up: ?, lefty, righty, righty, lefty, righty, righty, lefty/righty, pitcher.

The idea of two right handers batting in a row is to help the second batter see how the pitcher is setting up right handed hitters. Pitchers throw differently to lefties than righties. This can help in game adjustments.

But most managers like the idea of flipping the batters box: R, L, R, L, R, L. But none of this really works unless each hitter knows his role and can understand the situation when he enters the batter's box.

That is why I am a proponent of a set line up card. The players, who are creatures of habit, can settle in to a clear routine. But Maddon, like most managers, likes to change things up based on stat analysis and gut feelings.

November 23, 2015


Kris Bryant won the NL Rookie of the Year award.

Joe Maddon won the NL Manager of the Year award.

Who was more valuable to the Cubs 2015 season?

Bryant had a stellar 5.9 WAR. I previously calculated that Maddon's managerial WAR was 7.0. Bryant's WAR could have increased by .40 WAR if he was not held back at the beginning of the season. This is a bar debate with no correct answer.

How does Bryant compare to other Cubs ROY?

In 1961, Billy Williams won with a 1.2 WAR. His Hall of Fame career of 16 full seasons yielded a 63.5 WAR.  This is the gold standard for Cub ROY winners.

In 1962, Ken Hubbs won the award with a replacement level zero WAR. This must have been a down year in the NL, because Hubbs led the league in strike outs. He must have been an exceptional defender. Tragically, he was killed in an accident and he only played 2 full seasons in the majors (with accrued 1.1 WAR).

In 1989, Jerome Walton won with a 1.9 WAR. He was one of the those "five tool" players that GMs at the time started to fawn over. Over Walton's 10 year ML career, he amassed only a 3.7 WAR.

In 1998, Kerry Wood won the award with a 3.9 WAR. The next year he was injured (an omen for his career), but in 14 seasons he did end with a 26.7 WAR.

In 2008, Geo Soto won the rookie award with a 3.3 WAR, which was unique because there were few  power hitting catchers in the league. After 8 seasons, Soto has a 11.4 WAR. He is still an active major leaguer.

Bryant's rookie season (measured by WAR) was 4.9 times better than Williams' rookie year. Bryant's single season WAR is 9.2 percent of Williams' career WAR. Clearly, Bryant is the "best" Cub rookie of the year winner.

But as the list foretells, a ROY plaque does not mean a long or stellar career.

If you use 2.0 WAR as being a "starter" level, only Williams meets that standard. Wood is at 1.9 and Soto is at 1.425. That means one in five ROY winners have very good major league careers.

Bryant and the Cubs should be proud of the ROY achievement, but it does not mean Bryant will be guaranteed a Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown.

November 21, 2015


There seems to be a new approach to the Cubs as the team tries to rebuild its major league bullpen.

The Cubs have acquired righty Spencer Patton from the Rangers in exchange for infielder Frandy De La Rosa.  The team previously claimed injured pitcher Jack Leathersich on waivers and signed  minor league free agent righty Audury Acevedo to a major league deal.  

These transactions show a clear pattern: assemble a number cheap AAA arms and sees what pans out in spring training.

Leathersich will not be an option for a long time. Another Cub rehab project, Leathersich, 25,  had Tommy John surgery in July. He was a first round selection of the Mets. In 5 minor league seasons, he is 9-9, 3.55 ERA with 7 saves. He has thrown only 11.3 major league innings. He has middle reliever status.

Patton, 27, has a 15-14, 3.49 ERA in 5 minor league seasons. He only has less than 34 innings of major league experience.

The 25-year-old Acevedo sped up the ladder in the Yankees organization last year after starting the season at High-A. He ultimately reached the Triple-A level in time to make ten late-season appearances.

Acevedo, a converted infielder, worked to a composite 2.59 ERA with 7.5 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 over 59 total frames. He seemed to have limited the severe control issues he showed in his first couple of seasons after moving to the mound, but he did allow nine free passes in his 10 2/3 frames at the highest level of the minors.

These three Cubs signings represent another example of teams recently handing 40-man spots to minor league free agents. Usually, minor league free agents average 27 years of age which is still younger than an average veteran journeyman looking to latch on to a team in the off-season. Many teams may sign these minor leaguers to major league minimum deals because they are cheaper than veterans. Also, the minor leaguers may have more perceived upside than a journeyman.

November 20, 2015


The Cubs have had only five Cy Young Award winners.

1992: Greg Maddux
1984: Rick Sutcliffe
1979: Bruce Sutter
1971: Ferguson Jenkins

2015: Jake Arrieta

Both Maddux and Jenkins lead their league in wins, and Sutter led in saves.

In their Cy Young years:

Maddux: 20-11, 2.18 ERA, 1.011 WHIP, 9.2 WAR
Sutcliffe: 20-6, 3.64 ERA, 1.304 WHIP, 3.9 WAR (he was 16-1, 2.69 ERA with the Cubs)
Sutter: 6-6, 2.22 ERA, 0.977 WHIP, 37 saves, 4.9 WAR
Jenkins: 24-13, 2.77 ERA, 1.049 WHIP,  10.4 WAR
Arrieta: 22-6, 1.77 ERA, 0.865 WHIP, 6.9 WAR

To say Arrieta joins elite company would be an understatement.

With 8.0 WAR being classified as "MVP" candidate, Maddux and Jenkins Cy Young WARs were epic. Arrieta did not best them in WAR, but he crushed it on ERA and WHIP.


The Atlanta Braves is one of the best run MLB franchises. It is a subsidiary of Liberty Media, a massive communication conglomerate. It has the financial resources to be competitive year in and year out, even though the team got a suburban county to fund a brand new stadium for the team.

Braves Chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk who, gave an interview to the Atlanta Business Chronicle He had a lot to say, and for context one should read it all, but this answer, in response to a question about whether Braves’ profits are reinvested in the club or, rather, sent back up to corporate parent Liberty Media, was quite a head-turner:
Basically, all of the money at the Braves. We’ve never really lost money with the Braves. Baseball is not a widely profitable business. If you took all of the free-cash flow of all of the 30 teams, it’s pretty much zero. That’s sort of a fairly well known fact. If you actually, do have free cash flow, you’re among a minority. We have always managed the team to at least break even on free cash flow or make a little. Sometimes we’ve made more than a little. But, that puts in a minority in this business.
There are a lot of ways to measure the financial health of a baseball team and cash profit is only one of them. Indeed, it may be the least significant part of the financial picture for a team. The real game is the appreciation of franchise value, and the Braves have certainly appreciated for Liberty media. When they purchased the team in 2007 the franchise was worth $450 million. This year Forbes valued the club at $1.15 billion. And that’s despite the fact that the Braves have one of the worst local TV deals of any club. Of course, based on what McGuirk is saying, the Braves are pursuing both tracks: watching the franchise value appreciate and doing its best to break even on cash flow “or make a little.” The best of both worlds if you’re an executive in charge of a division of a large corporation.

Since baseball is a private enterprise, their "books" are not open to public inspection or audit. But realize that baseball teams have several legal accounting tricks to minimize profits (and therefore reduce taxes) as do any other major corporation. But baseball has the Veeck rule, which allows a team to both deduct the salaries of players and depreciate their contracts as a declining asset. This is a double deduction accounting method which reduces "profits" on paper.

In addition, baseball is just starting to reap the benefits of new revenue sources like the MLB Network and streaming game services.

Owners would not pay billions of dollars to lose money operating a franchise. So take any mention that baseball owners are break even propositions with a grain of salt.

November 18, 2015


On average, Cub ticket prices for 2016 will go up approximately 10 percent.

The number of marquee games also has been increased from nine to 14 in the bowl and the bleachers, while one section of outfield terrace reserve has been reclassified to corner box reserve, with a 38 percent increase.

Colin Faulkner, senior vice president of sales and partnerships, said the team's annual analysis of ticket sales from 2015, along with its renewal numbers, the waiting list for tickets and the huge demand for postseason tickets, led to the team's highest increase since 2010.

"We've clearly seen an increase in demand, so that helped factor into an increase in our prices," Faulkner said. "Our goal is to remain competitive for the long term and provide value to our fans for a competitive baseball team, but also (value) in their tickets."

Faulkner said a team analysis found there was a 20 percent increase in 2015 for tickets on the secondary market over 2014, while postseason tickets were going for three to four times face value.
The first payment deadline of 20 percent is Dec. 2, with the full amount due Jan. 12. Faulkner said the majority of fans have put their postseason ticket refunds for the unplayed playoff games (Game 5 of the NLCS and three World Series games) toward next year's tickets.

In other words, the Cubs are trying to capture some of the "secondary market" value of Cub tickets. This goes back to the philosophy that ownership seethes about: no one but the Cubs should make money off the Cubs. The spike in prices for post season tickets is a natural occurrence and a benefit to season ticket holders who paid for years of dreadful teams. But the Cubs only want the team to profit from its success.

The Cubs had the third-highest average ticket price in the game in 2015, according to Team Marketing Report. They finished sixth in major-league attendance at 2.959 million fans after ranking 11th at 2.562 million in 2014.

The Trib reports  the increases will range from about 7 percent in the upper box midfield/outfield to 14.5 percent in upper infield reserve to more than the 38 percent increase in some of the newly reclassified terrace boxes.

The highest average ticket price, a club infield box, is $105.24 per game, or $118 with the 12 percent amusement tax added. The lowest, upper deck outfield reserve, is $20.37, or about $23 with the amusement tax. Bleacher tickets remain about the same, from $16 to $65 before taxes, though the addition of marquee games will increase the total price.

One section of the terrace reserved outfield, affecting about 900 seats, or about 350 season-ticket holders, will be reclassified.

"Those are going up 43 percent," Faulkner said. "We found the first five or six rows are much different than the seats that could potentially be in Row 28-29 or 30 at the back of those sections."

November 16, 2015


If there was one untouchable player on the White Sox roster it would be starter Chris Sale.

Sale is one of the best pitchers in baseball, probably the best left handed ace in the American League (even though David Price looks to break the bank this off-season).

White Sox GM Hahn has been quoted that no player is untouchable. What would it take to pry Sale from the White Sox. A ton of talent. 

Dave Dombrowski is the new baseball leader for the Red Sox. He has a history of being a shrewd trader. Pundits believe if anyone could get Sale in a deal it would be Dombrowski.

The Red Sox do have many trading chips that the White Sox could use.

CSN speculated:

Hahn likely would begin negotiations by aiming incredibly high and asking for a package revolving around shortstop Xander Bogaerts, 22, who produced a .320/.355/.421 slash line with seven home runs and 81 RBIs in his second full season in 2015.

But Boston also has young catcher Blake Swihart, of whom the White Sox are said to be fond. Not only have the Red Sox sought a front-of-the-rotation pitcher since last offseason, they also have a new head of baseball operations in Dave Dombrowski, who has to turn around a 78-84 club that was 14th in the AL with a 4.31 ERA in 2015.

It would take more than two starting position players to get Sale. It would also probably take one or two top prospects, including a pitcher, to swing a deal. AAA pitcher Brian Johnson, 24, #1 pick in 2012, is a LHP who is trying to avoid off-season surgery. He is the most major league ready pitcher in the Red Sox system.

The fan base backlash over trading Sale is something the attendance weary front office has to take into consideration. Unless is it a lopsided deal, fans will not accept Sale in another uniform.

November 14, 2015


The White Sox have a wealth of pitching. Pundits want to trade Jose Quintana for missing offensive pieces. But does that make sense? No.

Quintana, 26, is signed through 2020 on a team friendly deal: 5 years/$43.5 million.

Quintana had a 4.0 WAR last season, and a career 15.3 WAR. As such, he has outperformed his past contract value.

If the White Sox ever gave him even normal run support, Quintana could have been an easy 18 game winner.

With Jeff Samardzija set to reject the qualifying offer, the White Sox rotation is still good but not as great as it was last spring: Sale, Quintana, Rodon, Danks and Erik Johnson (with rookie Frankie Montas or new pick up but often injured Jacob Turner in the mix for the 6th starter spot).

This shows that Quintana is an extremely valuable #2 starter to bridge to Rodon, who may have a sophomore slump as the league adjusts to him, and Danks, who still is on a career downward spiral.

November 12, 2015


As I predicted, the Cubs are not going to be big free agent spenders this off-season.

The Sun-Times reported the "Cubs are still waiting for business president Crane Kenney’s promised wheelbarrow of cash to find its way to baseball president Theo Epstein’s office."

Theo Epstein said he did not expect the kind of spending on free agent pitching national baseball pundits seem to assume the Cubs have planned this winter – no matter how much more the Cubs plan to draw at Wrigley Field next year or make on ballpark/video board sponsorships.

As much as David Price might want to reunite with his old manager, Joe Maddon, in Chicago, his Price tag could put him out of the Cubs’ reach. The article stresses that the Cubs effective payroll was $120 million in 2015, of which $20 million was carry-over from prior years. The whole emphasis on drafting and signing international players for cheap control was the blueprint sold to the fans four years ago. Ownership is not going to open the checkbook when Ricketts is in the costly beginning of massive construction projects to Wrigley Field and surrounding properties.

The article believes that the Cubs 2016 payroll could be at best $130 million, about $10 million more than last season. Considering the amount of empty roster slots in CF, starting pitching, half the bullpen and arbitration players like Arrieta, the unspent $30 million for 2016 would have to be parsed between ten to twelve players.

What the meetings probably don’t signify is any inclination by the Cubs’ brass to attempt to add two high-end free agents.  Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer have recently downplayed that possibility. “If we want to do two things we have to get pretty creative,” Epstein said, referring to managing payroll. “Even if we do one really big thing we have to get creative. We have the ability to add a little bit from where we are right now. I don’t think we have room to do everything that’s been speculated in some areas.”

So Epstein has publicly admitted what we assumed for a year or more. He does not control the Cubs checkbook. As such, he cannot create a complete vision of his Cubs team. As a result, it has to be frustrating to deal with the business side of the organization. And this may be the reason there is no talk for an Epstein contract extension because he may believe this is an unworkable situation.

With his hands tied by the business side, the baseball guys have to be "creative" if they want to sign a big money free agent. That means two things: 1) add more years and greater amount of "dead money" to the end of a deal or 2) create more payroll space by trading away higher priced players. It seems the only true alternative is the trade route.

To open up payroll space, the most likely candidates would be:

Montero, who is owed $28 million for the next two years;
Castro, who is owed $40.43 million over next four years (with $1 million buyout of option);
Soler, who is owed 21.35 million over next five years, but has an opt out after three.

Montero is owed $14 million for 2016; Castro, $7.86 million; and Soler, $3.76 million. 

The Cubs would have to move Montero and Castro to free up enough cash to sign a top tier starter.
the Cubs would have to move Castro and Soler to free up enough cash to sign a second tier starter.

If Schwarber can catch, then Montero is expendable. If the Cubs move Castro, Baez can play second. If the Cubs move Soler, RF becomes another outfield hole to fill in free agency. This also ties the Cubs off-season moves because the current roster does not have the quality depth to take a starter's place for an entire season.

November 10, 2015


It is a tale of two city teams.

The White Sox were a divisional contender on paper during spring training.
The Cubs were still mired in a long rebuilding process. The top prospects were still years away from the talk in spring training.

But the exact opposite happened: the White Sox failed in their fans' expectations while the Cubs surprised their fans with a playoff run, which included beating the rival Cardinals.

Both teams have a lot of work to do this off-season to have a "contender" tag during spring training. The Cubs are desperate for starting pitching while the White Sox are desperate for hitting.

The teams are natural trade partners on a needs basis, but since they share the same territory, they rarely trade. Which is a shame since each team has valuable usable parts for the other. The White Sox declined an option on Alexi Ramirez so the team is in need of a shortstop, which the Cubs have a surplus. The White Sox have a stacked deck of starting pitchers, with two more youngsters working up the high minors. There could be a blockbuster deal if the teams would put their organizational hatred aside.

And it seems that the trade market may be more active this year because of the high cost of free agents like Price, Zimmerman, Heyward and Greinke.

Four days before the GM meetings began in South Florida, the Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays had already engineered a six-player trade. Seattle acquired right-hander Nathan Karns, lefty C.J. Riefenhauser and minor-league outfielder Boog Powell, sending first baseman Logan Morrison, infielder/outfielder Brad Miller and right-hander Danny Farquhar to Tampa Bay – all before the free-agent marketplace even opened. None of these players are big names, but they fill existing needs in the teams' depth charts.

November 7, 2015


Cub fans may think the front office has a blank check to spend in 2016 because of the strong finish to the 2015 season.

Think again.

The Cubs know they have two top tier starters in Lester and Arrieta. They have the top 2 rotation slots filled already.

The Cubs need #3 and #4 starters. And the business side will not allow the team to overspend on those two positions.

Besides, the Cubs have a few positional questions (CF, for example), and will have to re-tool half of the bullpen, again.

So those who have their sites on the Cubs landing Price, Zimmerman or Greinke in free agency, forget about it. The Cubs are not going to spend another $150 to $210 million on another arm.

It is more likely the Cubs target pitchers like Mike Leake or Scott Kazmir.

Leake, 27, went 11-10, 3.70 ERA, 1.161 WHIP and 2.9 WAR for two clubs in 2015. He was paid $9.775 million.

Kazmir, 31, went 7-11, 3.10 ERA, 1.208 WHIP, 3.3 WAR in 2015. He was paid $13 million.

One would expect these pitchers to command $12-15 million per season (depending upon discount for number of years of the contract).

Signing both these pitchers would be nice, but would probably eat up the entire off season FA budget. One has to realize that the Cubs do not have a real good lead off/center field option on their current roster. Fowler was the catalyst for the Cubs offense. When he did well, the team did well. I do not see the Cubs trying to move an infielder (Castro or Baez) into center to fill a need in-house. The transition to center field is a tough position to learn on the fly.

At best, the Cubs will sign one second tier starter, use Hendricks at #4 and try to cobble together a fifth starter from the minors during spring training.

November 4, 2015


Every team goes into the Winter Meetings with a plan on how to improve their club.

There are critical needs assessments. There are target players to fill those needs.

In the last week, we have heard from various sources, including NY Post writer Joel Sherman and baseball veteran Peter Gammons, on what the Cubs may be up to this off-season.

From an outsider's perspective, here are the Cubs critical needs:

1. New CF/lead off hitter.  Fowler is a free agent who will be seeking a long term contract.

2. #3 starter. As Gammons said, "an innings eater."

3. #4 starter. The starting pitching was a glaring weakness in the post season run.

4. Middle relievers: Cahill, Richard and Hunter are free agents. Wood may try to earn a starting role. This leaves have the bullpen open.

5. Back up Catcher: If the Cubs really want Schwarber to work on his catching skills (since the outfield has been questionable) he needs to spend the winter in the instructional league. If Schwarber is not going to be a serviceable catcher, then the Cubs will need to find Montero's replacement either inside the organization or outside since Ross only has one year left on his deal.

Surprisingly, Sherman and Gammons indicated that the big target for the Cubs this off season will be Royals LF Alex Gordon. Gordon can opt out of his final year, $12.5 million deal. He says he wants to stay with the Royals, but he should command a long term extension at more than the qualifying offer value of $15.8 million.

Gordon, 32, in 104 GP hit .271, 13 HR, 48 RBI, 2 SB and had a 2.8 WAR. That does not seem to be special production for the alleged "best left fielder in the game." He does not meet the critical needs of the team: center field or lead off.

The writers also agree that in order to upgrade pitching, the Cubs will have to go into the market and find several veteran, quality arms for the #3 and #4 slots. Gammons believes that the Cubs will probably trade both Soler and Castro in order to find pitchers. As discussed in a previous post, Soler's trade value is at its highest level due to his post-season performance. Power around the leagues is in short supply, and Soler appears to be a DH candidate. Castro's value was higher a year and half ago, but with a surplus of middle infielders, he is the likely candidate to be moved to another team.

If the Cubs are looking to go into the free agent pitching market, they will not be targeting the big names. Ironically, the type of innings eater (200 IP) would be a Samardzija, whose 2015 performance may have put him in the second tier of value. He may not accept what the Cubs had offered him prior to the trade to Oakland, but his year with the White Sox really devalued his position in the free agent market.

In the free agent center field market, the crop is very thin (it contains two ex-Cubs):

Rajai Davis (age, 35)
Dexter Fowler (30)
Austin Jackson (29)
Justin Maxwell (32)
Colby Rasmus (29)
Shane Robinson (30)
Denard Span (32)
Drew Stubbs (31)

Span was hurt for most of last season, and Stubbs was terrible. Rasmus has turned into a journeyman who hit 25 HR in Houston this year, but batted only .238. This is why Fowler is the cream of the CF crop this off season.

November 3, 2015


The Chicago Tribune reports today that a dozen Chicago players have filed for free agency.

The White Sox have a  major decision involving Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez; the Sox can either pick up their $10 million option on Ramirez, 34, or give him a $1 million buyout.

Ramirez, an eight-year veteran, repeatedly has said he wants to stay with the Sox. But he struggled at the plate and in the field in the first half before finishing with a career-worst .249 batting average, 10 home runs, 62 RBIs and a .285 on-base percentage.

Top prospect Tim Anderson is considered the shortstop of the future but some believe he needs more minor-league development.

The Cubs and Sox have until Friday night to tender $15.8 million qualifying offers to their free agents, with Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler and Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija the likeliest to receive an offer. Both players are expected to reject such an offer, which would assure their teams of a compensation draft pick should they sign elsewhere.

In addition to Fowler, Cubs relievers Fernando Rodney, Trevor Cahill, Jason Motte and Tommy Hunter, outfielders Chris Denorfia and Austin Jackson and starting pitcher Dan Haren (who announced his retirement last month) filed for free agency.

Sox catcher Geovany Soto, infielder Gordon Beckham and reliever Matt Albers also filed.

In all likelihood, all of these players will not be back with their 2015 clubs. 

November 2, 2015


In recent years, the Blue Jays have made some major deals in order to get out of the cellar of the highly competitive AL East. In doing so, the team traded away many of its young, good prospects (for example to the World Series bound Mets).  But the Jays did reach the promise land, the ALCS this year because of those trades.

And some aggressive general managing by Alex Anthopoulos  who had been the Blue Jays' general manager since 2009. He inherited Vernon Wells and his awful contract, as well as a farm system full of future relievers, and eventually turned it all into Toronto's first playoff appearance since 1993. He wasn't the perfect GM, but he eventually did what had to be done to earn that postseason trip, giving up prospects when the team had a clear shot in the present to do something besides flounder in the middle of the division, as recounted by MLBTR.

MLBTR reports that Anthopoulos' aggressive trade syle  did not sit well with the team's new President, Mark Shapiro. There is a report that Shapiro "scolded" Anthopoulos in their lone meeting before his hiring for trading so many top prospects in 2015.

There is a lot to unpack from that scolding. I agree with MLBTR that the idea of Shapiro berating someone on the right way to build a winner may be tops on that list, as Shapiro ran the Indians as their GM from 2001 through 2010, then became Cleveland's President. But Shapiro's  Indians made the playoffs three times in that entire stretch, and while they never finished in last under those two, they did end the season in fourth on five occasions and third in another five. Shapiro's track record is actually worse than Anthopoulos'.

You can't just prospect hoard in order to win. The Cubs under Jim Hendry did that and failed because their prized prospects were not that good in the end. Instead of trading prospects at their peak potential for other players or other prospects, the Cubs languished in the middle hoping for free agents to make competitive teams.   Anthopoulos recognized as much when the opportunity to add came this summer -- you want to build with prospects, but they exist to fill holes either by themselves or through trades when they cannot. 

Ownership usually demands a "win now" philosophy. Fans cannot tolerate passive front offices not trying hard to improve their clubs. Anthopoulos was an aggressive general manager who made a lot of player moves, churned rosters in order to find the best 25 man roster. He was willing to make mistakes in order complete this vision. 

It appears his days as Toronto's GM are over. However, he will easily find a job in another organization.