The Cubs have begun to make cuts this week and the team is beginning to take shape. We still have some battles going on for the starting rotation and bullpen along with bench player spots for the hitters. We have two weeks to figure out who’s gonna stay and play and who’s being sent down or released.
This is the week many of us baseball fans have waited for all winter. Pitchers and Catchers Report! I love those words. It let’s me know that baseball is back, spring is close and warm days are soon ahead of us. Baseball is one of my passions and I am a diehard Cubs fan. Each season brings hope. Going into 2003 I did not think the Cubs would make it as far as they did. In 2009 I thought we would go farther than we did. Last year, well, I was disappointed to say the least. Yet, winter is almost over now and that is something to be excited about.
The Cubs reached a three year extension with Carlos Marmol avoiding arbitration. I think the deal is a fair one and both sides should be happy. I know some believe we overpaid Marmol, but I think we may have paid even more in arbitration if he has another great season. I guess we will find out if it was a good deal over the next three years.
I read that C.C. Sabathia may opt out of his contract at the end of this season. That is something that surprises me personally, but being the greedy Cub fan I am, I wouldn’t mind this happening. As I’ve said numerous times over this winter, we have a ton of money coming off the books after 2011. We could go on a big shopping spree and C.C. should be on our shopping list if he does opt out. Other guys I would like to see us sign are Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder or Adrian Gonzalez and Rickie Weeks.
Since I mentioned Albert (again) I am surprised that he and the Cards haven’t reached an agreement yet. If I’m the Cards I offer the 9th and 10th years that Albert wants. I try to make them vesting options if at all possible. Have a minimum games played option or something similar to that.
Even though our minor league system lost several key players in the Matt Garza deal we still have some talent that could reach the majors this season in Jay Jackson, Brett Jackson (no relation to my knowledge), Chris Carpenter and Trey McNutt. So, we still have talent available that can help our team. We also have a few guys that I really like in the lower levels. I think I will write a post on them soon.
Yesterday it was in the 50s where I live. I had the opportunity to take my son, 3, outside and pitch to him for a little bit. He loves to play baseball and that make his daddy happy. We played for only a short time, but it was still great to play a little baseball in February.
Finally, I wish everyone the best this upcoming spring training. It’s a time of hope for every team and their fans!
Going into Spring Training I am confused by the overload of pitchers the Cubs have to choose from. I know that may sound odd to say, but I do have my own biased reason behind these words. We’ve invited several pitchers as non-roster invitees that we are trying to catch “lightning in a bottle” with, but I would rather see us let our younger pitchers compete for a spot on the team’s pitching staff over these guys. Braden Looper, Todd Wellemeyer and Scott Rice are three pitchers that I don’t think will make the team nor should they. Looper and Wellemeyer are veterans trying to land with a team and Rice is a career minor leauger trying to do the same. Rice is a lefty and younger than both Looper and Wellemeyer and is the only one of these guys I would like the Cubs to hold on to. Let him start the year at AA or AAA and see what he can do as a lefty reliever.
We also have Carlos Silva, Randy Wells, Andrew Cashner, Jeff Samardzija, Casey Coleman, James Russell and Thomas Diamond that will be competing for the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation. Obviously, Dempster, Garza and Zambrano will be the top three starters for us. I expect the competition for those two spots in the rotation to be fierce. And any of these guys that doesn’t make the rotation will be competing for a spot in the bullpen as well.
Arms out of the bullpen will be Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol for certain. However, we have several players trying to land a spot in the pen as well such as, Justin Berg, John Gaub, John Grabow, Scott Maine and Jeff Stevens. I think our bullpen may be really young in 2011.
We also have a few of our minor league pitchers that are non-roster invitees this spring as well. This includes Chris Carpenter, Trey McNutt and Jay Jackson. I think Jay Jackson is the closest to being ready for the big leauges of these three. I imagine he will start the season in Iowa though.
I know there is a handful of pitchers that I have not mentioned. But the bottom line, is that we have a lot of guys competing for a limited amount of spots. I know this happens every year, but I wish the Cubs would let the young guys fight it out and not worry about Silva, Looper or Wellemeyer. I believe the talent is there with some of our minor league pitchers is we would just give them the chance to play in the big leagues.
Okay, I know everyone has their own “expert” opinions. Well, I have mine too! Here’s my projected position players, bench players, starting rotation and bullpen for the Cubs in 2011. Feel free to share your ideas and/or thoughts.
Starting Lineup Bench players
C-Geovany Soto (R) C-Koyie Hill (S)
1B-Carlos Pena (L) IF-Jeff Baker (R)
2B-Blake DeWitt (L) IF-Darwin Barney (R)
3B-Aramis Ramirez (R) OF-Kosuke Fukudome (L)
SS-Starlin Castro (R)
LF-Alfonso Soriano (R)
CF-Marlon Byrd (R)
RF-Tyler Colvin (L)
Starting Rotation Bullpen
Carlos Zambrano (R) Carlos Marmol (R) Closer
Ryan Dempster (R) Kerry Wood (R) Setup
Tom Gorzelanny (L) Sean Marshall (L) Setup
Randy Wells (R) John Grabow (L)
Carlos Silva (R) Andrew Cashner (R)
Well, I’ve listed only 22 players so there are three slots still open. Here’s a list of players that will be on the verge on making the team in spring training or getting called up early in the season.
Justin Berg (RHP), Casey Coleman (RHP), John Gaub (LHP), Scott Maine (LHP), James Russell (LHP), Jeff Samardzija (RHP), Jeff Stevens (RHP), Wellington Castillo-C, Sam Fuld-OF.
And here’s my sleepers.
Alberto Carbrera (RHP), Rafael Dolis (RHP), Brian Schlitter (RHP), Jay Jackson (RHP), Chris Archer (RHP), Chris Carpenter (RHP), Kyle Smit (RHP), David Cales (RHP), Robinson Chirinos-C, Brett Jackson-OF, Brandon Guyer-OF, Bryan LaHair-1B.
I’ve left some players off the list such as SS Hak-Ju Lee and CI Josh Vitters, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them get called up later in the season as well as several other minor leaguers.
Overall, I believe our future is very bright. We are getting younger and more athletic. We have some really good arms in our system to be excited about and some position players that can flat out hit the ball. 2011 is almost here and things are looking brighter!
I wanted to rank my top 10 Cubs pitching prospects. When I started looking at all of the possibilities I realized that I had to create some parameters to make it easier for me to determine a top 10. So, I decided that the pitchers must be under 25 at the time of this post, have not pitched a single inning in the Majors and preferrably pitched at double A or higher in 2010. I also have given priority to some guys due to the fact that they did pitch at triple A Iowa some last year. That helped me narrow down my list pretty quickly. So, you won’t see guys like Andrew Cashner, Casey Coleman or Jeff Samardzija on this list.
1. Chris Archer RHP. He’s 22 years old and is 6’3″. He was great this season going a combined 15-3 with a 2.34 ERA between Daytona and Tennessee. I look for him to start 2011 in Iowa. If he continues to have success there a midseason call up to the Cubs could happen.
2. Jay Jackson RHP. He’s 23 years old and is 6’1″. He spent 2010 in Iowa and recorded a winning record, 11-8, despite having an ERA of 4.63. I look for him to pitch better than that in 2011 and is another possiblilty to get called up sometime next season.
3. Chris Carpenter RHP. He will be 25 in December this year and is 6’4″. He’s got the body of a major league pitcher. He had an 8-6 record at double A Tennessee this year and made 3 starts at triple A Iowa. He will most likely start the season in Iowa and will be another option for the Cubs to call up just like Jackson and Archer.
4. Hung-Wen Chen RHP. Chen is from Taiwan. He will be 25 next February and is 5’11”. Chen pitched well last sesaon at double A Tennessee but struggled in Iowa. He was strictly a starter in double A, but started and came out of the bullpen with the I-Cubs. With all of the competition at starting pitcher he may be better coming out of the pen if he wants to make it to the majors.
5. David Cales RHP. He is 23 and is 5’11”. Cales is a reliever and has had decent success closing games. He recorded 14 saves with single A Daytona in 2009, 10 saves at double A Tennessee and 3 saves at triple A Iowa in 2010. While he struggled at Iowa he pitched well in the Arizona Fall League just recently. If he can keep the momentum going……who knows!
6. Rafael Dolis RHP. He will be 23 in January and is 6’4″. This young man has a lot of promise. That’s why the Cubs added him to their 40 man roster. He split 2010 between Daytona and Tennessee. His overall numbers were solid and I anticipate him to open 2011 in Tennessee, but he could work his way up to Iowa by midseason and even a late season callup to the Cubs is possible though unlikely. Keep an eye on this young guy.
7. Alberto Cabrera RHP. He’s 22 and is 6’4″. I love guys that have a major league frame! This young man pitched really well at Daytona before getting promoted to Tennessee and struggling. I look for him to rebound at Tennessee and have a strong season for the double A club.
8. Kyle Smit RHP. He’s 23 and is 6’3″. The Cubs got him this summer in a deal with the Dodgers. He was a starter in the minors originally, but was used out of the bullpen in 2010 with a good amount of success. Look for him to start the year at Tennessee.
9. Dae-Eun Rhee RHP. He will be 22 next March and is 6’2″. This South Korean logged over 100 innings at Daytona in 2010 while struggling with a 5-13 record and an ERA of 5.27. He had Tommy John surgery a couple of years ago so I am hoping he puts things together in 2011.
10. Jeffry Antigua LHP. He is 20 and is 6’1″. Finally, a lefty! Antigua is the youngest pitcher on my list and the only lefty. He spent 2010 in Peoria and pitched decently. He throws hard and has a chance to be a good stikeout pitcher. I can see him making it to the big leagues some day as a starter or reliever.
Well, there were a lot of guys I left off my list. I tried to balance my list to guys who we may see on the Cubs in 2011 and others that are still a few years away. Regardless, I suggest you bookmark these guys on www.minorleaguebaseball.com
This offseason is still in it’s beginning stages. The Cubs just completed their organizational meetings and have decided on a course to take. I don’t know what that course is, but I have some suggestions for them if they were to ever listen.
We need a first baseman. One that is a left handed hitter preferrably. I have written about a few options availabe via free agency and Adrian Gonzalez, who we would have to trade for. My conclusion is that it would be best to trade for Gonzalez. Let’s trade some of our young pitchers. Casey Coleman, Jay Jackson, Christopher Carpenter and Chris Archer are four that we could start with. There are others like Jeff Samardzija and Andrew Cashner that could be included. I would want the Cubs to keep one of these two guys. And finally, if it meant we had to trade Hak-Ju Lee I am willing to accept that at this point. We have Castro at shortstop and DeWitt, Barney and Baker can all play second base. I know the long term game plan is to have Lee at short and to move Castro to second, but I would love to derail that plan and add Gonzalez at first. Having Aramis Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez in the heart of the Cubs lineup would be great!
If we were able to get a deal done, then we would have to focus on another long term contract for Gonzalez. At least a five year deal at over twenty million a year. That’s a huge contract, but Gonzalez is only 28 right now.
Aramis Ramirez exercised his player option for next season. The amount is $14.6 million. He will be a free agent in 2012. I don’t have an answer for what the Cubs should do in 2012 yet at third base because of the gaping hole at first base right now.
The Cubs are wanting to add a right handed pitcher to the bullpen and the obvious answer is Kerry Wood. I believe the Cubs can get Kerry at a discounted price. It won’t be a huge discout, but enough to help the Cubs to save a little bit of money.
The Cubs have two huge contracts that are bothering me. Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano. Soriano, who turns 35 in January, is signed through 2014 at $18 million each year. I have read and even thought to myself that the Cubs should trade him for Barry Zito and his bad contract. On second thought, though, I think we should just suck it up and overpay for an under-producing, aging, left fielder.
Carlos Zambrano, who will turn 30 next June, still has a chance to earn his money if he can pitch a full season the way he finished 2010. Personally, I don’t know if he is mentally tough enough to do so. He’s going to make $17.875 million in 2011, $18 million in 2012 with a vesting option of $19.25 million for 2013. So, that’s a lot of money on two players!
We have several players that are arbitration eligible that will receive a payraise in 2011. Carlos Marmol is the biggest name, but Sean Marshall had a great 2010 and has earned a good increase as well. Tom Gorzelanny and Geovany Soto are among others who look to earn more too next season.
The Cubs owe Kosuke Fukudome $13.5 million next year and I want the Cubs to trade him this offseason. If we are unable to, then at least he won’t be here in 2012. We also owe Carlos Silva $11.5 million next year with a mutual option for 2012 worth $12 million.
So, between Soriano, Zambrano, Fukudome and Silva the Cubs over $50 million tied up in 2011. That’s going to make things tough for the Cubs.
If we are to have any success this offseason, it’s going to take a lot of work by Jim Hendry. I’ve lost some faith in Hendry this year, but I am willing to keep supporting him if he can make some good deals. He’s done it before and he can do it again…..I hope.