Tagged: Chicago Cubs

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN…..

I was reading up on the MVP races last night after Miguel Cabrera and Andrew McCutchen won the award for their respective leagues.  I felt both players were the right choice.

Then I received a call this morning from my buddy Dave, a Red fan, and was reminded about Josh Donaldson who finished 4th in the AL MVP race.  You see, Josh Donaldson was drafted by the Cubs in 2007 and traded to the A’s in 2008 in a deal that netted Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin for the Cubs.  Just think, Donaldson could have been our future at third base.

In addition to Donaldson, another former Cubs prospect received some attention in the AL Rookie of the Year race.  Chris Archer, originally drafted by the Cleveland Indians, was acquired by the Cubs after the 2008 season in a deal that sent Mark DeRosa to the tribe.  Archer was later dealt to the Rays in a deal that brought Matt Garza to the Cubs.  He finished third in the AL ROY voting this year posting a solid 3.22 ERA in the tough AL EAST.

These are just two examples of players the Cubs traded away while trying to add pitching just a handful of years ago.  Rich Harden, Chad Gaudin and Matt Garza have all moved on from the Cubs now.

Donaldson and Archer have bright futures ahead of them and I wish them the best.  Yet, it still makes me wonder what could have been…………..

RICK RENTERIA, JEFF SAMARDZIJA AND MORE

Two weeks ago I wrote about the new To Do List for the Cubs this off-season. Well, the Cubs have checked off the first item on that list, hire a new manager. I had a feeling it would be Rick Renteria and I was correct (for the first time).  He was not my first choice, but with Theo & Co., I am beginning to see a pattern.  They are wanting coaches that they are already familiar with and have some sort of previous relationship.  From October 2009 to October 2011, Jed Hoyer was the GM of the San Diego Padres.  Renteria was a coach with the Padres during that time.   There’s your connection!  I’m hoping it works out better than Dale Sveum did.

Yesterday, I mentioned that the Cubs could be trading Jeff Samardzija to the Arizona Diamondbacks.  The Cubs still have two years of control on Samardzija’s contract.  He will not be a free agent until 2016 at the earliest and he will turn 29 in January.  He has the potential to bring in a decent haul if traded.  I’m not naive enough to think he would bring as much as the Matt Garza trade did in 2011 for the Rays, but I think it would be close.  I took a quick look at Arizona’s top 20 prospects.  I think the Cubs could land 2-3 of these players in a deal.  I’m not sure which ones it would be and it is too early for me to make a guess.  I plan on keeping an eye on this over the next month and see what happens.

Finally, on January 22, 2011, I wrote a blog and an email to the MLB Network with some ideas for programming.  One of those ideas was to start showing Arizona Fall League games.  I also included the Caribbean League.  Well, lately, the MLB Network has been showing the AFL and I love it!  I have watched it with my 6 year old son and was able to enjoy seeing some of the young names you hear about in baseball today.  Plus, I have seen Albert Almora and Jorge Soler this week as well.  That’s a plus for me.

TRADING SAMARDZIJA?

One of my favorite players on the Cubs is Jeff Samardzija.  I feel like he has the potential to be a really good pitcher.  He will turn 29 in January and hasn’t reached that full potential yet.  Unfortunately, it seems that Theo & Co. are willing to trade the former Notre Dame two sport star.

I read, once again, that Arizona is interested in Samardzija.  I have no clue what the Cubs are asking nor what the D’Backs are even offering.  All I know is I would rather not make this trade.

NOW THE OFF-SEASON BEGINS

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals as champions of their respective leagues.  The World Series was a good one which I felt the umpires did an excellent job.  In the end, the Red Sox were able to win their first World Series at home since 1918.  Congrats to Boston and their fans.

Now, it’s time to begin the off-season and it’s going to be an exciting one.  Some of the big names in free agency are Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-soo Choo and Brian McCann. There are also several names being floated around already in trade rumors.  The Angels’ Mark Trumbo, Dodgers’ Andre Ethier, Rays’ David Price and the Reds’ Brandon Phillips.

I really don’t see the Cubs making any major moves after any of those names as of today.  The Cubs will probably have another season of spending on guys like Edwin Jackson or David DeJesus.  I don’t see Theo & Co. trading the farm away for someone like David Price either.  Instead, I think Rick Renteria will be the next manager and there will be a few minor moves after that, but nothing earth shattering.

There is also the issue of Jeff Samardzija.  Do we sign a contact extension or do we go to arbitration?  Or does he get traded?  This is one player I will be watching closely.

I’m already looking forward to the winter meetings so I can learn what direction the Cubs will be heading this off-season.

RELATIONSHIPS AT WORK

All kinds of rumors involving the Cubs manager search as of late.  I’m pretty confident that Rick Renteria has the best chance at getting the job.  I’m also still hoping that Mike Maddux would be put on the short list, but that is not looking very promising.

Regardless of who becomes our new manager, there are a lot of issues that he will have to address next year.  It seems to me that our chemistry as a team and the relationship between Theo & Co. and several players need to improve.  We don’t have that veteran presence and leadership in the clubhouse and that does hurt.  We have traded away most of our leaders or allowed them to leave via free agency under Theo & Co..

In addition to that, Dale Sveum didn’t have the best relationship with several players including Starlin Castro, who put up the worst numbers of his short career in 2013.  I know what it is like to go to work everyday and have conflict.  I’m sure that’s what was happening for several of the younger players in the Cubs clubhouse.

Where I work, I have a co-worker that is constantly making things difficult for everyone else.  I will call him, BIG JOE.  You never know what kind of mood Big Joe will be in when you go to work each day.  He constantly causes divisiveness between other staff members as well.  I think that may have been one of many problems last year with the Cubs.

Now I know my work is nothing like a big league clubhouse.  But personal relationships and being able to get along with co-workers(teammates) is important.  It makes for a better working environment.  Whoever the Cubs hire for their new manager, I hope he is able to address this issue.

We have several young players that are talented.  Hopefully, our new manager can unite these players into something more than a team.  My hopes would be a family like atmosphere in the clubhouse in 2014.  Something similar to the 1979 Pirates would be great, but we don’t have a 39 year old Willie Stargell to lead the team.

Just my thoughts for today.

2013-2014 TO DO LIST

I do this every year.  I come up with a “TO DO LIST” for the Cubs.  Each year, I am a little ambitious in my list.  This year, will be somewhat similar.  So, let’s do this!

1.  The Cubs need to hire a new manager.  Some of the names that have been floated around are Dave Martinez, Rick Renteria, A.J. Hinch, Mike Maddux and Manny Acta.  I would prefer Mike Maddux, but I have a feeling the Cubs will go with Rick Renteria.  Just think, we could have had Ryne Sandberg a couple of years ago, but Theo & Jed went with Dale Sveum.  We see how that worked out!

2.  The Cubs have a lot of holes on their roster.  Free agency cannot fill all of them realistically.  Yet, there are some potential moves that could happen.
Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-soo Choo are both viable options to sign and become our new leadoff hitter.

3.  As much as I like Welington Castillo the idea of signing Brian McCann is enticing.  His bat in the lineup as a catcher would be an upgrade.  Yet, no matter if the Cubs make a big splash in free agency, we do not have the depth at pitching needed to compete with the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds in the NL Central at this point and time.

4.  Trade options.  Trading for David Price would cost the farm…..literally!  But it is an option.  Heck, trade Starlin Castro and Jorge Soler in a deal for him.  I know it would take more than just those two, but it is a start.  Don’t trade Javier Baez or Albert Almora though.  Those two have too much talent to lose.

5.  Stay patient and wait til our younger players arrive.  Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant all have high ceilings and are not that far off from playing in the big leagues.

Basically, the Cubs have a lot of money available to spend.  It’s hard to believe that the Cubs were 3rd in payroll in 2010 at just under $150 million.  Since then the Cubs no longer have to pay the huge contracts for Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, Carlos Silva, Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly and Derrek Lee.  The farm system has been restocked with hitters at every level.  Pitching is still a little bit thin, but it is improving.  I truly believe the Cubs are not that far off from competing.  But it’s going to take some work.  The Cubs have too many holes to fill in free agency this off-season.  I say let the young players earn their way to the big league roster and get their feet wet.  Our infield could have Javier Baez at SS or 3B, Rizzo at 1B, Barney at 2B and Castro at SS or OF.  The outfield could consist of Almora CF, Bryant LF or 3B and Soler in RF.

Whatever decisions are made I’m still a Cubs fan.  First things first though.  Let’s hire a manager.  I want Maddux but am predicting Renteria.

FUTURE AT THIRD BASE

The Chicago Cubs haven’t filled the hot corner since the departure of Aramis Ramirez.  We’ve used a platoon of Luis Valbuena and Cody Ransom this year.  Valbuena is hitting .225 and Ransom .215 as of today.  Last year we used Valbuena, Ian Stewart and Josh Vitters.  Valbuena led those three players with a .219 average for 2012.  So, it’s pretty obvious we haven’t had much production at the hot corner.

However, the future at third is bright…..but who will it be.  Here’s some of our minor league players that could end up being our future at third.  

Josh Vitters will turn 24 later this month.  He was the third overall pick in 2007 out of high school.  He has been plagued with injuries this year and that really has hurt his chances despite hitting .289 in triple A Iowa.  Last year he had a successful year in Iowa batting .304 with 17 HRs before getting called up.  After he was called up, he struggled to hit big league pitching.  He finished with a .121 average in 99 at bats.  His best chance is to get healthy and have a strong spring training in 2014.  Even then I’m not sure if he is our long term answer.

Recently acquired Mike Olt, from the Texas Rangers, is next on the list.  He is exactly one year older than Vitters and will turn 25 on August 27th.  He was drafted in 2010 in the first round by Texas and has some amazing raw power and a good glove at the hot corner.  Unfortunately, he has not hit the ball well in the minors this season despite putting up great numbers in double A in 2012.  Supposedly, he has been battling a problem with his eyes that has contributed to his hitting woes this year.  I’m hoping this is true because he could be our starter at third next year.

Christian Villanueva, 22, is another third baseman that the Cubs acquired from the Texas Rangers last year.  He’s in double A Tennessee this year and has hit 14 homers in 404 at bats with a .260 average.  He shows quite a bit of promise, but is a little farther away than Vitters or Olt.

Next on this list is 20 year old Javier Baez.  He is currently playing shortstop but could projects as a power bat at the hot corner or a corner outfield slot.  He started the year at high A Daytona and earned a promotion to double A Tennessee.  He has unbelievable power and bat speed.  The 2011 first round pick by the Cubs has hit a combined 28 homers this year between Daytona and Tennessee.  He also possess the most speed of any of the players on this list.  One concern is his high strikeout rate.  That’s something he needs to work on.  Also, his glove at SS has been shaky.  He’s committed 38 errors so far this summer and that is another reason he could shift to third.  One thing is for certain though…..it’s his bat and unbelievable power that will get him to majors.

Finally, this year’s second overall pick is the last player on this list.  Kris Bryant, 21, is currently assigned to short season Boise.  He’s batting .292 in 48 at bats with 3 homers as of today.  He’s another power bat that could end up as a corner outfielder or stay put at third.  Either way, there is a lot of promise with Bryant.  Also, he won the Golden Spikes Award this year as the best amateur player in the country.  

So, there it is.  Vitters, Olt, Villanueva, Baez and Bryant.  One of these guys will hopefully be our future at third base and be a long term solution.