The Cubs Off Season: 130 Days Down, Two to Go

Pitchers and catchers report to Fitch Park in just two days …

Several of the players are already in Mesa preparing for the start of camp. Those that have yet to show up to Fitch Park are in route … and that goes for Jim Hendry and Mike Quade as well.

Hendry and Quade are expected to meet with the media on Sunday, prior to the pitchers and catchers first official workout of the spring on Monday.

The Cubs are reportedly still working on long-term contract with Carlos Marmol as Tuesday’s arbitration hearing looms. The Cubs and Marmol are expected to avoid his arbitration hearing by settling on a one-year contract or agreeing to a multi-year deal before the February 15 deadline.

The Cubs announced their 2011 TV schedule on Thursday … and the Opening Day game against the Pirates (Friday, April 1) will be broadcast on WGN.

Here’s the rest of the update that includes a minor league signing …

Mike Quade
Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald got a chance to talk to Mike Quade before he left for Mesa. Here are a few of the highlights … click here for the entire blog post.

  • Quade is more than ready to get going.
  • Pat Listach (Quade’s bench coach) will plan and run the day-to-day activities in Spring Training.
  • Bruce Miles expects Quade to be more hands on in Spring Training than Lou Piniella was during his tenure.
  • With all of the position-player spots just about set, “there probably won’t be a chance for a kid like Brett Jackson to pull a Tyler Colvin and force his way onto the team in Spring Training.”
  • All of the kids will have a chance to make an impression according to Miles.
  • Quade has not made out lineups yet because a lot can happen in Spring Training. Miles came to the conclusion that means the leadoff spot is still up in the air.
  • As for the fundamentals of the game, Quade told Miles … “My thing is just making sure that this group understands how important it is to us winning ballgames and how vital it is to playing for me and expecting to win. All quality fundamentals do is give you a chance to win championships.” If you don’t have solid fundaments, “you better out-talent the living daylights out of people, and I think it’s just a very rare situation where you’ve got so much talent that you can relax in all of these other areas and still win.”

USA Today’s 100 Names for the 2011 Season
USA Today began releasing names on their annual list of the 100 young players in baseball that every fan should know. The top 50 players have not been revealed yet but two of the young players in the Cubs’ system have already made the list.

The player’s are not necessarily top prospects but “rather ones most likely to make a mark in 2011.”

From USA Today:

63. Brett Jackson – “The Cubs have spent several years searching the trade and free agent markets, looking for impact outfielders. Jackson is about ready to fulfill that wish without a lot of glitz or fanfare. This is the season he’ll get eased into the majors, probably with an in-season call-up or two. It might take more than a couple of cameos for his all-around effectiveness to sink in. Just 22, he can play any of the outfield positions, run well and hit the ball hard to all fields. He’s not spectacular in any of those areas, but has hit .303 while moving through five of the six levels of the farm system in two seasons.”

69. Darwin Barney – “He’s just the kind of overachiever that turns into a Wrigley Field favorite. A slick fielder, Barney, 25, isn’t going to unseat Starlin Castro, who is often spectacular. But he also can play second and third bases. He can take a walk, steal a base and play situational baseball. In other words, he’s just the kind of player who can carve out a long-term niche on a National League bench. Of course, that’s exactly the description Detroit’s Will Rhymes carried around the minors until he got a chance last year and became the Tigers’ starter.”

Click here for link the complete list on USA Today

The CCO will update if more young Cubs make USA Today’s countdown.

Matt Garza
As Spring Training approaches, the addition of Matt Garza to the Cubs’ rotation is making more and more noise in the mainstream media.

Kevin Kennedy and Jim Bowden (XM Radio) really like the addition of Garza to the Cubs’ rotation. Kennedy feels the Cubs will be better than most people think and Bowden thinks Garza will win 18 games for the Cubs this season.

Harold Reynolds talked about the addition of Garza on the Mully and Hanley Show. Reynolds said the former Tampa Bay Ray is “one of the top ten pitchers in baseball.”

From CBS Chicago:

“When you look back at what Tampa has done: making that run to the World Series and then being as competitive as they were in the American League East as quick as they were. It was when they got Matt Garza in that trade from the [Minnesota] Twins, things changed. And he changed that pitching staff.”

“This guy is a gamer. Every fifth day just give him the baseball. And he’s not just going to go out there and throw. He’s prepared. He has good stuff. And I think coming from the American League makes him even better. He’s a true No. 1, I think it will really show up this year.”

Minor League Addition
According to a report from Baseball America, the Cubs signed outfield T.J. Baxter. The 25-year old outfielder was the Orioles’ 24th round pick in the 2008 draft.

Baxter (6’1″, 208 lb.) hit .243/.318/.361/.679 in 106 games at the A-ball level last season with 16 doubles, four triples and eight home runs. Baxter played both outfield corner spots (15 in right, 31 in left) and 25 games at first base. Baxter even took the mound for a game.

T.J. Baxter’s Page on Baseball-Reference

Other Tidbits
Bruce Levine previewed the Cubs pitching staff on ESPN Chicago. The Cubs have a lot of pitching depth. Jeff Samardzija will battle for a spot in the pen. Andrew Cashner, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva, James Russell, Casey Coleman, Todd Wellemeyer and Braden Looper will compete for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation.

As for the pen … John Grabow and Scott Maine could be the second and third lefties behind Sean Marshall. Chris Carpenter and Jay Jackson will compete for a spot in the pen.

Bruce Levine also looked at four keys to the Cubs’ success in 2011Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, the bullpen and outfield run production.

Barry Rozner asked Albert Pujols to the Cubs? According to Rozner, crazier things have happened.

Jeff Samardzija is too proud to jump to football. According to a report from ESPN Chicago, Samardzija is happy that he has a defined role going into Spring Training. Samardzija will compete for a spot in the bullpen … not in the starting rotation.

Last but not least … Just a reminder to check Tim Sheridan’s blog, Boys of Spring. Tim does an excellent job and his blog is a must read during this time of year. If you stop by, tell Tim the CCO sent you.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO

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

Quote of the Day

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." - Albert Einstein
  • Tony

    Boy o boy, the mainstream media is gushing over Garza, kind of under the radar. I sure hope they are right. Garza has the stuff, and has had streaks that show it, but he has never been consistent enough to be a #1 stopper. I have had him in Fantasy baseball for the last 2 years. I know the ups and downs with him. By June, I could only use him in 2 start weeks, or a good match-up. I really do hope the move to the NL will bring out the best, and he turns into the #1 starter we paid the Ray to have him.

    • BillyFinT

      Tony, by any chance will you be interested at joining a Keeper’s league that I created since 2008?:

      A bad flu, work, and travel in Asia had taken my time away from commenting about baseball here, but I must say most of the time I so agree with you. And I can smell the Spring!

      • Tony

        The draft is right when my 13U travel teams, moonlight bowl fundraiser is starting and the draft is one the best parts of fantasy.

        I haven’t done a Yahoo league in a few years, can you auto-pilot the draft? I wouldn’t think so with an auction draft?

        How much time is alotted between picks?

        Trying to figure out how long the draft will take, If I can find a way to make the draft work, I will do it.

        • BillyFinT

          Hi there! With the auction draft, yahoo’s system can auto-pilot for you, but in order to pick players you want, and exclude players you do not want, you need to set a “dollar value” for each player of your concern. Yahoo should then draft according to that value.

          Between picks,…It’ll be up to how many managers there are. But each manager has 30 seconds to bring up a player for his round, and 20 seconds to bid again.

          The draft should take a little less than 2 hours, since all of the returning managers have keepers and be able to auction really fast.

          I can also accommodate you by moving the draft to March 12, Saturday night as well, a week earlier than the initial date. Will this help?

  • Tony

    The 4th and 5th spots of the rotation.

    “Andrew Cashner, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva, James Russell, Casey Coleman, Todd Wellemeyer and Braden Looper will compete for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation.”

    There are not enough innings for 7 guys to compete for the last 2 spots in the rotation. Expect to see the guys, that really don’t have a chance and have options (Coleman and Russell), to not get all that much opportunity, before being moved to minor league camp (unless Russell is on the team in the bullpen, for sure). Guys lke Wellemeyer and Looper will be given more innings then they should and it would be soooo Cub like for one of them to break camp in the rotation.

    For the record, I would start the year with Wells and Cashner in the rotation. The only reason I would not go with Cashner is if the goal was to control his innings and pitch counts, strictly, during the first 2 months of the season, in order to control his overall workload increase from 2010. But if Silva is able to walk out to the mound, he wil be there instead of Cashner!

  • Tony

    I want Barney on the 25 man roster. What more do you want? Athletic infielder who can play all over. An overachiever. That is what you want in your infield bench guys. We know offensively, he will do better than Augie, or at least the same. Defensively, is not even close. I like players like Barney on my team. I don’t want him as the starter at 2B, unless he wins the job, but this team will be better this year and in the future with Barney playing in 2011, over Augie Ojeda.

  • Tony

    I think Bruce Levine, hit it on the head.

    Cubs keys to success in 2011.

    IF Zambrano has one of his better years.
    IF ARam puts together 2 good halfs.
    IF the bullpen is an asset, versus a liability
    IF the OF can produce some runs.

    All of the other IFs, won’t be as big of deal.

    IF all 4 of those IFs happen, this team will be competitive and in the running.

    But boy, are those 4 of the biggest IFs, facing this team.

    • cubtex

      I really don’t think those IF’S are longshots!
      Aram is in a contract year and should be very motivated to have a good year!
      I think the Cubs bullpen will be stronger than it has in years!!! Marshall,Grabow and Maine should all be solid leftys! I really expect Grabow to have a good year since he is healthy.
      Kerry Wood as the set up man with Marmol closing is solid.
      I would say the outfield producing is the biggest concern…. Will Colvin have a sophomore slump? Will Byrd be consistent all year instead of just the first half?

      • paulcatanese

        I would say they are longshots,with all the Ifs. Aram whether in a contract year or not,motivation and ability at this point in his career is suspect,injury factor with him,declining defense both contribute to the “If” factor. Grabow, a definite If,Is he really healthy? Marshall,agree,Maine I hope so,I like him a lot. Best wishe’s with Wood,I sincerely hope you are right . I agree with your outfield concerns,and one more thing,I hope Jackson is not blocked out of a spot.

        • cubtex

          Agreed Paul! I just wish the Cubs had a base stealing threat in the outfield!!! It will be nice to see some speed in there with Brett Jackson and hopefully Matt Szcur patrolling the outfield in a couple of years!

      • Tony

        And how did that contract work last year for ARam? He could have opted out and been a FA, yet he still had a horrendous 1st half.

        Just because the bullpen will be better than last year, doesn’t make it a positive. I have zero confidence in Grabow, until he shows me he can get guys out, consistently.

        The OF is a Big IF.

        On their own, each one is very possible, all 4, hard to believe all 4 will happen.

        • cubtex

          The difference is that ARAM could pick up his option last year….not the Cubs! This year it is the Cubs who have the option! Much different scenario. If he has a bad year…he won’t get paid!

          • Tony

            ARam was looking at signing his last big contract, IF he had a good year last year. He would have opted out and received a 4,5, or 6 year deal. Take a look at what the contracts were this offseason. He lost out on a lot of money, by having such a bad first half.

            Even with a good year this year, he won’t get even close to the contract next offseason, as he is another year older. If he has a monster year this year, then it won’t matter, but I think we have already seen his best years.

            Just having an ARam that is trying will help this team. But unless he has an above average year, I don’t see the Cubs picking up his option.

          • cubtex

            I don’t think there is any way anyone would have given ARAM at 33 a 5 or 6 year deal last year no matter what kind of year he had! That being said…I hope Vitters tears the cover off the ball so they can let ARAM walk after this year as well! But to expand on my previous post……these are 2 totally different scenarios.He should be much more motivated to have a big year this year!

          • Tony

            If you want me to say that ARam should be more motivated this year, since he doesn’t control next year, over last year, where he controlled a whole 1 year option, fine. But if you don’t think he would have received at least 3-4 years in this offseason you didn’t watch this offseason.

            Also, you are assuming that guys react well to contract years. I just don’t buy into it, as I have been burned by taking these, so called “FA year” players in fantasy baseball, only to wish I hadn’t. Carlos Pena had a contract year, last year as well, how did it work him?

            We saw 7 year contracts to Werth and Crawford
            6 year contracts – Adrian Beltre
            5 year contracts – Cliff Lee
            4 year contracts – VMart and A Dunn
            3 year contracts
            Paul Konerko
            Derek Jeter
            Rafael Soriano
            Juan Uribe
            Joaquin Benoit
            Scott Downs
            Jesse Crain
            Matt Guerrier
            John Buck

            How many 3B on this list? Exactly 3B are hard to find and Aram would have gotten less than Beltre, but would have gotten at least 4 years, and with 1 desperate team, a 5 year deal.

            If he would have done his second half, all year, he would have hit around 35 HR’s, batted 276, he would have teams throwing a large contract.

            Now 1 more year older, and 1 more year of questionable effort, he will be lucky to see a 3 year offer this offseason.

          • cubtex

            Paul- I don’t think there were a lot of options for Beltre. Texas signed him and now they are stuck with an unhappy Michael Young. The only other team that considered Beltre was the Angels. For every Carlos Pena..there are the Adrian Beltre’s,Carl Pavano’s,Jayson Werth’s etc. With Aram’s history of injuries and age….I don’t think he would have gotten more than a 3 year deal. Werth’s contract is stupid and I don’t think you can argue that. Anyway, I hope Aram has a great year and gets a contract from some other team next year. I hope Vitters is the answer and they can start building an infield of the future with Vitters and Castro on the left side.

          • Tony

            I’m Tony, but anyway…

            Adrian Beltre had a standing offer from the A’s for 5 years, around $60+M and if ARam was a FA, he would have been offered somewhere below that from the A’s. The Angels would have also thrown an offer out to ARam. This is, of course, all assuming he had a full good season of baseball, close to his second half, and close to his numbers from 04-08 and had bounced back from his injury filled 2009 season.

            Jayson Werth didn’t have a monster year, but I agree that is an insane, way overmarket contract. And there are more guys who couldn’t handle the pressure of a contract year, or just simply had a bad year.

            I really doubt Vitters will be our starting 3B, next year.

          • Richard Hood

            I agree with Vitters he has a lot of work to do. But if ARAM gets injured or gets traded then we could be talking about seeing Marquez Smith this year at least as a back up.

          • Ripsnorter1

            They hate Marquez Smith, and I don’t know why. But I haven’t seen him in action. Maybe he has a Brad Synder sized hole in his swing, or at least, a Carlos Pena sized hole in his swing (about half the size of Milwaukee). SO–if Aram goes down, I think DeWitt become the man, as 3B is his–are you ready for this?–his natural position.

            Strange, but true . . . . .

          • Richard Hood

            I saw something about Smith needing to lower his strike out percentage. We will see in a couple weeks if he even gets more than a look at Spring Training.
            I am still out a little bit at Dewitt. It has been said that Maddox suggested him. If that is the case I want to know what it is he saw. I like his moves around the bag at second but not enough to be the central part of the trade for a pitcher like Lilly.

          • Tony

            But he will still get paid in 2012, just ask 196 Carlos Pena. A team gave him 10M for 2011. What ARam would lose out on, is a guaranteed, mulit-year contract.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Ah, Mr. .196.

            “But he’s such a good clubhouse guy,” says Jim Clueless.

            Why not save some money and hire an entertainer for the clubhouse?

          • paulcatanese

            Or,pay him in Monopoly money.Nice to see you post Rip, I thought you were on vacation today.

    • paulcatanese

      Tony,you hit the jackpot this morning on all posts,congrats.

  • cubsklm

    Why don’t the Cubs go get Scott Podsednik to lead off? He can play a little LF and CF @ Wrigley. He’s cheap. What has any body heard about where Scotty P may be headed?

    • cubtex

      The Cubs already have a crowded outfield. If they could dump Fukodome….I would definately pick up Pods, but that is not going to happen. The Cubs tried to eat half of Fukodomes contract and still couldn’t trade him.

    • paulcatanese

      No,I don’t think he has a spot yet. At any rate he is just another Reed Johnson. I don’t like the prospect of blocking Brett Jackson any more than he is right now,that move would put more in front of him and deny an opportunity for him to moe up.With the given of JH and Quade to play and sign veterans, the sugestion you present could be a reality.

    • Ripsnorter1

      You probably haven’t seen Scotty Pods play the field the last couple/three years. He makes–and this is no exaggeration–he makes Alfonso Soriano look like a gold glove. The guy takes awful routes to the ball, he’s very slow to judge where the ball is going, and his arm is weak. Defensively, he’s about as bad as they come in the OF.

      Offensively, he has no power whatsoever, so he makes a poor DH. And of course, in the NL, we have no DH.

      Finally, he called that $1.75 million per year contract “embarrassing.”
      SO his head is bigger than his bat, and that’s not too good. Makes for a BAD CLUBHOUSE GUY. Now if a little counseling from Carlos “Mr. .196” was available, maybe he could work out.

  • Darrenmcculloch

    Andrew Casher is No. 38 on USA Today’s listing of the top 100.

    Here is what they have to say about Cashner.
    “Cashner, 24, was developed as a starter in the minor leagues but when he came to the majors for the first time over the summer, the Cubs decided his nasty slider and high-90s fastball played best in the bullpen setup role. Now, it’s back to the rotation or at least a chance to compete for the fifth spot in Chicago. The fact that Cashner allowed three runs and 14 hits in his final 19 innings last season, striking out 21, gives him and the Cubs a viable option of returning him to the bullpen if he’s not ready to start.”

    • Neil

      Thank you for posting.

  • paulcatanese

    Miles says Brett Jackson would have a hard time cracking the roster like Colvin did. I agree with the present philosophy and mindset on veterans by JH and Quade. What displeases me is that these recently signed vets will have to play their way OFF the roster before any youngsters can arrive. The decline of these guys should only take a month or so but by then it’s too late for a good season by the Cubs. I don’t mean a pennant but a good year. And Quade wants to stress fundamentals this spring. Where have all these guys been all of their career. The Major League level should not be the place to do that.Those were applied their whole career by almost very coach or manager along the way. You can lead a horse to water,but you cant make him drink. To me that remark by Quade is nothing more than trying to please the media and the fans.

    • paulcatanese

      I made the remark about the horse and water,not Quade.

    • JedMosley

      I disagree, fundamentals should always be stressed on every level. I’m sure they were stressed by their other coaches, and they need to continue to be stressed, because it is the little things that wins games, and Quade know that. Cubs fans need to give Quade a chance before making quick judgements on him. Let him have a full season as a manager, which is different than being an interim manager, before we start saying he’s not a man of his word and so on. That’s just my opinion.

      • paulcatanese

        JimmerFever,I don’t believe I had said Quade was not a man of his word. I
        understand what you are saying, just making the comment that these guys
        should know that BEFORE they get there. If you are talking about things like
        bunting,running bases etc. Those are things Quade would have a difficult
        time with that one . Some guys will never know how to bunt. Or you could be
        talking about hitting relay’s,people setting them up( SS or 2nd) letting
        outfielders where to throw and making sure they hit cutoffs(still a at the
        moment thing) What are you saying?Fundamentals can mean a lot of things, but
        the basics should have been ingrained long before they got there.. What I
        meant about Quade and his statement was that takes in a lot of things and I
        would refer to it as a general statement and not specific to the

        • JedMosley

          “To me that remark by Quade is nothing more than trying to please the media and the fans” I felt that meant you said that he only said that because that’s what the fans want to hear, I believe he meant it, that’s all. If a player comes to big league not knowing the basics, such as proper base running, hitting cutoffs, and what to do in certain situations defensively, among the things you mentioned, they shouldn’t be in the big leagues. I think Quade meant they were continue to work on those kinds of things and become the best they can at them.

          • paulcatanese

            No,in a way I see how you interpet it that way though. It is what everyone
            wants to hear,it’s that for him to do that is almost an impossible task.For
            him to say that in the venue that he did is correct and would be admirable
            if he could do it,but he must know that those things are instinct at this
            level,thats why I wrote what I did. And you are correct,if they didn’t kow
            these things by now they should not be there. Amazingly, there are a
            multiple of players that do not know,example a #4 hitter,bunt?I dont think
            so.Hit to the right side w/runner on 2nd,no.We could go on and on but I
            agree to dis-agree. Thanks for the banter,I enjoy the conversation,thats
            what the blog is all about.

  • Patrick_Schaefer

    Excellent job as usual Neil!
    Thank you