Weekend Update … One Week Until Cubs Spring Training Begins

Pitchers and catchers report to Fitch Park in seven days …

It is Super Bowl Sunday. After the NFL’s biggest game a majority of the focus will turn to Major League Baseball. Pitchers and catchers report in one week, position players on February 18 with the first full squad workout scheduled for February 19 … the first pitch of the Cubs’ Cactus League schedule is three weeks from Sunday. Chicago Cubs baseball is just around the corner.

The trucks were loaded on Friday and departed for Arizona. While the official reporting days are at least a week away, many of the players are already in Mesa preparing for Spring Training

The Cubs and Carlos Marmol are working on a multi-year contract … but now there is a deadline. According to a report from Bruce Levine, Marmol’s arbitration hearing is set for February 15. Both sides are expecting to avoid arbitration by either agreeing to a one-year deal or a long-term contract.

Talkin’ Baseball (ESPN 1000) began its 20th season on Saturday morning. The 20th anniversary show featured an impressive lineup that included Ryan Dempster, Ryan Theriot and Lou Piniella.

On the final Sunday without Cubs’ baseball until at least October, here’s the update …

Carlos Marmol
The Cubs and Carlos Marmol are working on a long-term deal. While the two sides might not be as close as first reported on a long-term contract, Marmol’s agent (Barry Praver) and the Cubs feel a contract will be worked out (either a one-year or a three-year deal) before February 15.

Jim Hendry prefers to avoid arbitration and the Cubs have gone to arbitration only once since Mark Grace in 1993 … Ryan Theriot last year. The Cubs came very close to going into the room with Carlos Zambrano back in 2007, but the two sides agreed to a deal just moments before the hearing was scheduled to begin. Zambrano and Marmol share the same agent.

According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs could be working on a three-year contract with Marmol in the $23-$25 million range. The Cubs will have a one-year deal or a three-year contract in place with Carlos Marmol by next weekend … and at the very least, avoid the arbitration hearing with their closer.

Talkin’ Baseball
The celebration/roast of Bruce Levine’s 20th season of Talkin’ Baseball on ESPN 1000 began Saturday morning. An impressive list of guests kicked off the 20th year of the show … Jim Leyland, Ryan Theriot, Bobby Cox, Lou Piniella, Ryan Dempster, Jerry Reinsdorf, Ozzie Guillen, Bud Selig and Bert Blyleven. For those interested in hearing a very good show about baseball, click here to go to ESPN Chicago’s Talkin’ Baseball Podcast page

With the exception of an update on Carlos Marmol, Bruce Levine and Fred Huebner let their guests do the talkin’.

Ryan Theriot
The former Cubs’ infielder said it was an honor to be a part of the show; then had to explain his comments about being on the right side of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.

Theriot reiterated more of the same that he told Dave Kaplan (WGN Radio) just after the Cubs Convention.

Theriot compared the scene of when he was asked about the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry to that of a kid being sat in front of his mom and dad and being asked which one he loved most. Theriot said he’s super-excited to be a Cardinal but he never wanted to leave the Cubs. He considers Chicago his second home and would have loved to play his entire career with the Cubs.

Levine asked Theriot if he thinks taking the Cubs to arbitration last year had anything to do with him being traded. Theriot admitted he thinks about the arbitration hearing a lot but does not think he had to do with him no longer being a Cub. He said he knew his role would be changing and did not what his role would have been with Starlin Castro coming up. Theriot thinks Castro is going to be a superstar.

The Cubs’ former shortstop would like to receive a similar welcome from the Wrigley crowd to the one Mark DeRosa received in 2009. Theriot loved his time in Chicago and at Wrigley and is hoping the fans realize he gave it his all during his time in a Cubs’ unioform.

Theriot explained that the fans in Chicago get and understand baseball and hopefully that will lead to a warm welcome when he returns to Wrigley.

Theriot has a lot of respect for his former teammates and he feels there is general respect between him and his old team.

After Theriot left the conversation, Levine said everything changed between him and the Cubs when he took them to arbitration last year.

Lou Piniella
The Cubs former skipper joined Bruce Levine and Fred Huebner on Saturday morning. Lou Piniella was extremely complimentary of Levine and said (more than once) that Levine helped make his four years in Chicago more enjoyable.

Levine really liked his time with Lou and praised him for always being honest with the media.

Piniella sounded excited about his new position with the San Francisco Giants. Lou will not have to travel and is looking forward to working with Brian Sabean, who he’s had a good relationship with for many years.

The Cubs will always have a special place in Lou’s heart. Piniella spoke highly of the Ricketts family, Jim Hendry and Mike Quade. He is sure the Cubs will prosper under the new ownership.

It was a very difficult year for Piniella. Between the death of his uncle and his mother being very ill, it took its toll. Piniella revealed that his mother has been in the hospital for the last 12 days.

Piniella admitted he was gone a lot from the team before he stepped down. He feels the players realized it and noticed he was not giving it his all. Piniella is hoping Quade and the players have a very good season.

Lou will be covering the American League for the Giants during Spring Training and as well once the season starts. Piniella said six or seven teams offered him a job, plus a job on television, but he feels his new job with the Giants is the best situation for him. He will not have to travel and he will be able to go home every night.

Lou Piniella feels good about what he accomplished with the Cubs. In two years the Cubs went from a 96-loss team (2006) to a 97-win team (2008). Despite the success, Piniella admitted the big disappointment was not getting where they wanted to in the post-season.

Piniella pointed out that he worked for five different owners over his last five years as a manager. He truly feels the Ricketts’ heart is in the right place and he knows they will bring a championship to the City of Chicago.

Ryan Dempster
Ryan Dempster was glad to be able to join Bruce Levine on his 20th anniversary show.

Dempster has been in Arizona quite a bit this off-season. In fact, a bunch of veterans as well as young players trying to make the team have been in Mesa. Dempster said around 25 guys had a nice hike at 5:45am in the other morning.

Ryan Dempster thinks Jim Hendry had a good off-season. Kerry Wood played a substantial role in Hendry’s winter and Dempster was impressed Wood took a lot less money to return to the Cubs. Dempster likes the addition of Carlos Pena. He pointed out that Hendry added great guys to the clubhouse with Pena, Wood and Matt Garza … plus the non-roster guys. Dempster was quick to say that not only are they good guys but they are good players as well.

Dempster indicated the Cubs have to stay healthy and get after it from day one.

Andrew Cashner has a great arm and great stuff according to Dempster. Cashner is a big strong kid but will have to make sure he is prepared for the amount of innings a starter logs. Dempster was complimentary of Cashner and what he could bring to the rotation.

Cashner is just one of the pitchers in the mix for the last two spots in the rotation. Dempster thinks the competition will be fun; he pointed out that competition always brings out the best.

Levine asked Dempster about being the Cubs Opening Say starter. Dempster quickly said how doesn’t want to be the starter on Opening Day. Dempster said he’s always strived to be the best he could be no matter what team or situation he’s in. The Cubs have three guys that could pitch on Opening Day. Dempster liked what Mike Quade said during the convention that whoever is pitching that day is his ace.

Being the teammate that he is, Dempster said he would start the fifth game if that is what the Cubs want.

Ryan Dempster was extremely complimentary toward Levine and thanked him for all he’s done for the Dempster Family Foundation.

Miscellanous Cubs Notes
Cubs’ new pitching coach, Mark Riggins uses a tough love approach with his pitchers and puts a lot of responsibility on the catchers according to a report from the Chicago Tribune.

Former Cub, Jim Edmonds is returning to St. Louis. A big part of the Cubs’ 2008 Central Division Championship team signed a minor league deal with the Cardinals on Friday. Edmonds will compete for a bench spot on the big league roster. Edmonds must have worked out his differences with Tony LaRussa.

Tyler Colvin and John Grabow have a lot to prove this spring according to a report from the Tribune. Grabow will be paid $4.8 million in the upcoming season after inking a $7.5 million deal last winter. Grabow is entering his walk year.

Len Kasper thinks there is reason for optimism this season … but a lot of things have to go right that didn’t last year. Kasper said it will be an interesting season for the Cubs. He likes the off-season moves and if things go right, they can compete in the division.

According to Barry Rozner, Dave Otto is the right guy for Cubs radio.

A Slide Show of a Snow filled Wrigley Field

Boys Of Spring
Tim Sheridan, the Cubs P.A. announcer at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, runs an excellent blog and is a must read during this time of year. Tim provides a great view on the team, plus he provides updates, with photos, on a daily basis.

If you have not visited Boys Of Spring, go check it out and let Tim know the CCO sent you.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO

Well, there’s the update … and I’m sticking to it.

Quote of the Day

"What would you think if I sang out of tune, Would you stand up and walk out on me? Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song, And I'll try not to sing out of key ..."
In memory of Joe Cocker

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  • Tom U

    Tony, I’ve enjoyed my discussion with you, but decided to move it to the next post in order to “give us more room”.

    I agree that player like Kerry Wood or Cliff Lee should be lauded for giving “hometown discounts” or making “lifestyle” choices in their signings. However, they are they acception rather than the rule. Over the last several decades, the landscape of professional sports has been that the athletes try making as much money as they can for as long as they can. It’s not a viewpoint I necessarily agree with, but there it is. I feel that philosophy lets players off the hook for poor personal and financial planning. As far as a player holding a team “hostage”, we’ve all held our breath until we’ve “turned blue”. It doesn’t usually work. Whether the Cardinals and their fans allow it to work against them is up to them.

    • Tony_Hall

      It was getting pretty narrow.

      Take the Cubs players, that we have re-signed to “below market value” contracts and how they have worked out for us.

      DLee – was overpaid and underperforming prior to his contract being done.

      ARam – He’s tough, because he can be worth his contract, unfortunately, his drive his questionable, and he is getting injured more, as he gets older. Close to be worth signing.

      Zambrano – How many would like his contract off the books.

      Dempster – Overall not a bad contract, but still more than he would get on the open market.

      Most of the time, it is best to let a player walk, then pay the price they are asking to receive.

      Take a look at the the Steelers. I know it is a different sport, but they are the best at letting players leave to FA, and stay competitive year after year. I have a buddy who is a Steeler fan, and they almost never make a mistake, when they let a player walk. They keep “differnce makers” and bring in guys that have fallen out of favor with their team, for low money. They know what they want to do, and the type of players they need to fill their holes. That is what I would love to see the Cubs do. Understand what they can fill internally, what type of players they want, and use FA for true difference makers and for guys that are low dollars that fill their holes they can’t fill internally. Not that I want to keep the Garza trade discussion going, but that is the part that is so hard to take, is they have pitching, and can fill their rotation, internally. What they need is a true #1 ace, which Garza is not.

      • Tom U

        This is why I was glad that Neil gave me the opportunity to follow in Brandon’s footsteps in providing information about the minor league system. I believe that an informed fan is a proactive fan. And a proactive fan helps to put pressure on an organization in order produce change and promote the team’s ultimate goal, to win championships. Like in the example you used with the Steelers, it has been shown across all sports that the teams that do the best at recognizing and developing their own players are usually the consistent winners. That’s what I hope to achieve through my reports. Hopefully, I’m able to inform fans of the virutue of building a successful organization, and not having them fall for “band-aids” or “get-rich-quick” schemes that, at times, are used by the Cubs. The Cubs have some of the most loyal fans in sports. Don’t we deserve better?

        • Tony_Hall

          Yes we do!!!

          Cubs have used “band-aids” and “get-rich-quick” schemes for the roster for years. It is time to start developing our own players and spinnig off our depth, to bring in what we can’t develop.

          Only 7 days until pitchers and catchers report…I can’t wait!

  • Patrick_Schaefer

    DeWitt, 25, is coming off his first full season in the big leagues. He began the year with the Dodgers and batted .270 with one homer and 30 RBIs in 82 games. The Cubs acquired him at the Trade Deadline for Theriot and Ted Lilly, and in 53 games, he batted .250 with four homers and 22 RBIs.
    Toward the end of the season, DeWitt and Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo started to change the infielder’s approach and eliminate a tap he had used.
    “It takes less timing,” Jaramillo said of the reason for the switch. “There’s so much timing involved with the tap and your hands going back to a starting point, and now he’s taking out the tap and going straight back with his hands.
    “[Changing] takes time because it doesn’t feel powerful when you first make the adjustment. He believes he can hit that way, and he’s shown progress already.”
    DeWitt spent a week in Arizona this offseason with Jaramillo to fine-tune his swing and showed a lot of progress. With the change, DeWitt, a left-handed hitter, should be able to use the left side of the field more.
    Originally a third baseman, DeWitt’s home run career high is nine, set in 2008. Jaramillo sees the potential for more.
    “He’s got power,” Jaramillo said. “He’s capable of hitting 15 [homers].”
    Why eliminate the timing mechanism?
    “It’ll help him be more consistent to get in his hitting position easier and recognize pitches better,” Jaramillo said. “He’s really up for it and really excited and working on it every day at home.”
    http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=chc
    I would be happy with 15 HR out of DeWitt. I think 10 is more likely. It seems they are set on the platoon and unless Barney hits .550 with 10 homeruns in spring traing he will not get a shot to start.

    • The Maven

      Patrick, I agree that DeWitt may be unfairly maligned by some people. It’s not as if DeWitt is 28 to 30 years old and been scuffling to make it to the majors. He’s still young an capable of improving. Like you, I hope he gets a fair shake.

    • Tony_Hall

      I also don’t see whats wrong with a platoon of Baker/Dewitt, with Barney as the utility guy. Play the hot hand. Until we can get someone from within, that has some pop to his bat, that can play 2B, they will cover the position, for very little cost above the minimum salary.

    • Tony_Hall

      As far as Barney is concerned, I like this type of player, who is athletic, and versatile. I think every team needs players like this, who can play 2B/SS/3B and I would bet could play the OF as well. If he can hit enough, and keep his confidence, you just never know what he may be doing for us by mid-season.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Let’s say he hits .280 with 0 HR and an OBP of .310. That’s not really enough. And*and* if you keep three platoon infielders, that really cuts down on the OF and C you can carry. The Cubs will carry 12 pitchers, and that leaves just 5 bench spots total.

        DeWitt/Baker/Barney (3)
        Castro/Pena/Aram (3)
        Soto/Hill or Castillo (2)
        Soriano/Byrd/Funko (3)
        Colvin/Johnson–you watch (2)
        That’s your whole roster. No chance for anybody else.

        • Tony_Hall

          If my utility infielder hits 280 with 0 hrs and 310 obp, and plays good defense all over the field, I wll take it. Not sure what you expect from your utility guy.

          The roster is almost set.

          1. Dewitt 2B
          2. Castro SS
          3. ARam 3B
          4. Pena 1B
          5. Byrd CF
          6.Soriano LF
          7.Colvin RF
          8. Soto C

          Bench
          Catcher – Hill
          IF – Baker
          IF – Barney
          OF – Fukudome
          OF – Johnson R* could be another OF.

          Not sure how having Baker/Barney/Dewitt will cut down on the C or OF on the roster.

          (1) Bench Catchers – Hill
          (2) Bench Outfielders – Fukudome and R Johnson*
          (2) Bench Infielders – Barney and Baker

          This is pretty much the set-up most teams use for a bench. Now if you want to discuss that there is no real big bat on the bench, I totally agree.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Yes, my point is that we do not have a bat on the bench, outside of Colvin/Funko.

            Utility bat I’d prefer: DeRosa. Somebody who can play 3B, 2B, 1B, RF, LF and hit 21 HR.

            Last year we had Colvin. If he starts this year, we have . . . nothing outside of Funko’s limited power. Hill? LOL He shouldn’t make the team, but he will. Johnson’s power is all gone. Lost his bat speed.

          • Tony_Hall

            I would like the Derosa we had before, not sure if the present day Derosa would be that good.

            But that is Baker’s spot, and I love what he can do against lefites, but in a pinch-hitting role, you have to be able to hit both lefties and righties. I would have cut Baker already, but if he is on the roster, I want him starting at 2B against Lefties.

            Fukudome and Barney are the only 2 guys, I want on my bench and I agree, I would rather Bakers and the 5th OF spots went to a bat. Dewitt and Barney could cover 2B.

          • Patrick_Schaefer

            Here’s the best Bench bat I could find that can play multiple positions and could be had extremely cheap. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?id=blaloha01&year=Career&t=b
            He hits RHP really well Plays 1st and 3rd base and isn’t 50 years old!
            He would be a bounce back candidate but Rudy Jaramillo knows him really well he played 8 years for Texas and is still only 30 years old.
            Hank Blalock

          • paulcatanese

            Patrick,good idea.

          • Tony_Hall

            Not a big Blalock, fan, but that is the type of player we may need to find to get some pop off the bench.

            When Brett Jackson takes over CF and assuming Colvin is playing 75-80% of the time, then we would have some bench bats, in Byrd, Soriano, and Fukudome, whichever 2 aren’t starting. Byrd will be and has been a much better 4th OF, then starter, and is the type of player you like as the 4th/5th OF.

            Boy would that be an expensive bench, but a relatively inexpensive starting OF, if Jackson and Colvin are roaming Wrigley.

          • Tony_Hall

            Who would be our best internal option for this type of hitter. It seems like we have always had these AAAA hitters, that couldn’t find a home on the field, but hit good for short period of time.

          • Tony_Hall

            I’m going to answer my question, with 1 player – Marquez Smith. How would he do as one of our bench guys? We don’t need 5 OF, when the 4 can start. But he could actually take over Baker’s spot, as Barney can play 2B/SS.

          • Patrick_Schaefer

            Marquez Smith will get a look in spring training, his high SO % and .358 BABIP in AAA last year make me leary as to how he would fare in the ML.
            Cairo projects his ML numbers to be .263/.325/.438. Also the fact that nobody picked him up in the rule 5 draft suggests to me that scouts know something about him that we don’t know. He did hit 20 HR last year, I think something like 8 of those came in August though and that was in the extremely hitter friendly PCL. Many feel his defense at 3b is solid but he doesn’t have now and won’t in the future have the power you would like in a 3b.

          • Patrick_Schaefer

            Smith may be an upgrade over Baker though, and he can play 2b, although he hasn’t played it a lot.
            I’m not a big fan of Blalock either, the main reason I chose him is that we have Baker as a bench bat who hits LHP well and Blalock has hit RHP well.

          • Patrick_Schaefer

            DeRosa can’t play 2b anymore he doesn’t have anywhere near enough range. He was our starting 2b who could play multiple positions. In 2007 his first year with the Cubs he hit 10 HR in 2008 he hit 21. 8 more HR than he had ever hit before. DeRosa is 35 and washed up.

            RIP Utility players who can hit 21 HR are called starters!

          • Patrick_Schaefer

            Here’s the best Bench bat I could find that can play multiple positions and could be had extremely cheap. http://www.baseball-reference….
            He hits RHP really well Plays 1st and 3rd base and isn’t 50 years old!
            He would be a bounce back candidate but Rudy Jaramillo knows him really well he played 8 years for Texas and is still only 30 years old.
            Hank Blalock

          • paulcatanese

            Don’t want to dispute you Tony, but their going to need a “pocket full of miracles” and as I said yesterday in quoting Yogi “Dejavu,all over again”. ‘m sure you are not happy yet with what the Cubs have,but you will,I will wish them luck and watch every chance we get. Your’e right no big bat on the bench. Boy that is a tough choice or job to improve that roster. I look at it and shake my head.

          • paulcatanese

            This is directed at Tony. The post above was not worded exactly what I wanted . I agree with your post and simply meant that looking at that lineup is enough to make me completely out of my mind and don’t know how the Cubs could ever make a run in 2011. There is so much work to be done to improve what they have.I think you were close to what I said in so many words.

          • Tony_Hall

            I got what you were saying. This is a transition year, whether JH, wants to believe it or not. This team will have a much different look by next year at this time.

    • paulcatanese

      Patrick,solid post. DeWitt does deserve the benefit of age and only one full year to progress as I think he will.As far as the platoon there,I am more a Barney fan than Baker,but how does one get by the way Baker hits lefthanders? The best scenerio would be if DeWitt is allowed to have a chance against leftys and produces,which I believe it has been pointed out that he does hit leftys pretty well. I think Barney will get in there,as you say not with a chance to start but as a bench player and will give his all no matter what.

    • cubtex

      Type your comment here.Great post Patrick! I too feel that DeWitt is being written off by many people on these boards! He will be a very productive player this year IMO.

  • paulcatanese

    Neil,as usual a good post,many interesting things to post about. Since it’s right above I will also say that the “Boys Of Spring” is a great blog and have visited it every time ,so far. Happy to see that Edmonds is still in the game and hope he gets a shot. I didn’t like him at all when the Cubs picked him up,simply because he came from St Louis. But he won me over with his play here and was then sorry to see him go. It would have been nice if the Cubs could have brought him back,he was a pure pressure player.

  • paulcatanese

    Kind of tired reading about “Great clubhouse guys”. Thats all well and good but until it’s transfered down the field it dosen’t mean a thing. Dempster,Wood,Pena and Garza just enough for a game of cards. There have been many teams that did not get along with each other(Tinker,Evers,Chance,the Yankees,Cardinals and many more) It was on the field that they did their talking,object—WIN. I could care less if they get along or not off the field,thats not where the game is played. So now we know that they have a clubhouse that is happy,merry and so on,so what? They need to leave their “choke”collars in the clubhouse and get thru the pressure and win some ballgames. Had to vent here,trying to find an excuse to get to Mesa for a few days.

  • Gary J

    Two quote caught my eye that I agree with from the Tribune article with pitching coach Mark Riggins

    “Some guys use (rubber stretch) bands and some guys have towels, some guys have balance beams to stand on. I’m not really a gimmick guy. They’ve pitched long enough and should know their bodies well enough that gimmicks aren’t really needed at this level.”

    Amen.

    …and….

    “I need a good relationship with the catchers. The catchers are the ones calling the signs and setting up (for location) and hopefully they’re on the same page with the pitcher. The catcher has to know what he’s doing. You have to have the right catcher out there or he will really mess up the pitcher.”

    • jw

      Wish I knew what he thinks of Soto

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Hood/100000706523521 Richard Hood

      Sounds like a guy that had to deal with a young Ivan Rodriguez killing his pitchers by throwing alot of fastballs on stolen base counts.

    • paulcatanese

      I agree with what you say about what Riggins said I only would like to add another thought not to you but what Riggins is saying about having a relationship with the catchers and the right one out there.Isn’t that discussed before the game with the game plan on how to approach the hitters? I would think as the pitching coach he would input in that plan. Certainly I see a lot of catchers looking to the dugout for signs. I cannot believe that the catchers that the Cubs have should be calling their game on their own,their just not that good. Hopefully he hopes their on the same page? I gotta ask who’s the right catcher?,While I do agree what he says regarding the first paragraph regarding the gimmicks,I don’t agree with his second one. If they only have two catchers on the roster he only has a 50-50 chance of the right one out there. I don’t understand the lack of control by Riggins,or is that decision Quades? You always give good replys,would be anxious to read it.

  • The Maven

    Just heard Christina Aguilerra massacre the National Anthem

  • Patrick_Schaefer

    Carlos Pena 2011 Fantasy Baseball Projection
    .243 81 R 36 HR 95 RBI 2 SB
    http://www.baseballprof.com/2011/02/carlos-pena-2011-fantasy-sleeper/

    • Tony_Hall

      I hope that is on the mark. I never thought about the elite LH pitchers he has faced and the list they gave for the NL Cenral, is a nice list of good lefties, but hardly elite. I’m starting to think that Pena’s days off should (of course) always be against LH starters. Then Baker at 1B and Barney at 2B would work. This is of course assuming that someone else doesn’t end up on the roster as a 1B/3B option. That is what is so frustrating about Baker, if he could hit righties (you know like at all), then he would be so valuable, that he can play all over. They need to find the next DeRo.

  • paulcatanese

    thanks Tony, I was afraid I had worded the post wrong.Thanks for your interpetation on what I was trying to say. Paul