Weekend Update … Meetings and Decision Time Ahead for the Cubs

Major League Baseball will be front and center over the next ten days leading up to Thanksgiving with the announcement of the BBWAA awards starting Monday. While the players will not receive any of those awards, the Cubs have another busy week in front of them.

Not only could the 52nd manager of the Cubs be named this week, some think by Friday, Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein will represent their new organization for the first time at the GM Meetings that begin on Monday in Milwaukee. The compensation package for Theo Epstein could be made official this week then there is the reserve list filing deadline on Friday. The Cubs new front office has several decisions to make about their big league roster (as well as all of the minor league rosters) and currently have seven open spots on the 40-man roster.

Here is the update as week four of the Epstein-Hoyer Era figures to be as busy as the first three … Joe Bohringer
Joe Bohringer, the Cubs new Director of Pro Scouting, spent a little time on Talkin’ Baseball (ESPN 1000) with Bruce Levine and Fred Huebner on Saturday morning.

Bohringer explained how the Cubs new scouting department will run. Jason McLeod and Tim Wilken will handle scouting players before they sign professional contracts. Once those High School and College players sign it will be up to Bohringer’s staff to develop them.

Bohringer, who has a degree from MIT, started out as an engineer but quickly found out that did not work for him. He explained that he was always involved in sports and started charting pitches and talking to coaches … and that led him to a job in baseball.

It is important to have a balance between old school scouting and new school sabermetrics. Bohringer described it as a seesaw and one has to be objective. A scout has to trust what his eye and gut tells him about a player until statistical information is available on that player. Bohringer explained that when a player is at the lowest level of the minors you have to trust your gut because that is all you have to go on for those players.

The scouts try to project a future for a player but there is always outside factors that will affect a player. Same as with everyday life … some days are good, some days are bad and there could be events happening to the player off the field that is affecting his performance.

The Cubs goal is to have all of their scouts on the same page, using the same language. For example, if one scout views a player as a 50 (on the 20-80 scouting scale) then the Cubs want to make sure the 50-grade is consistent throughout the organization.

Bohringer said he never met Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer before he interviewed for the job. Bohringer knew both Jerry DiPoto and Josh Byrnes and many thought he would end up on DiPoto’s staff. Epstein and Hoyer made him very comfortable during the interview to the point that Bohringer did not even feel like he was being interviewed … it felt more like a conversation. Bohringer described the interview as a ‘tremendous process.’

Joe Bohringer finished by saying he is looking forward to working to working for the Cubs, in a situation he described as very appealing.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer added a very good piece to the front office puzzle with the hiring of Joe Bohringer.

Yoenis Cespedes
The rumors began flying earlier in the week that the Cubs were one of the many teams interested in signing Yoenis Cespedes. Due to the source of the rumor it was pretty much dismissed at the time.

According to a report from Carrie Muskat, the Cubs will have a private workout for Yoenis Cespedes, who some consider the best player to come out of Cuba in a generation. The mainstream media has connected eleven other big league teams to Cespedes so if the Jed Hoyer is interested he will have a lot of competition.

Yoenis Cespedes (pronounced SES-peh-des) is a 26-year old outfielder and recently set Cuba’s single-season home run record. Cespedes is expected to ask for a contract north of the deal the Reds made with Aroldis Chapman ($30 million).

Please note: This video contains adult language and a full soundtrack

News, Notes and Rumors
Theo Epstein has spoken to Kerry Wood according to the Tribune. Before the end of last season Wood said he would either pitch for the Cubs in 2012 or likely retire … it appears Wood will help anchor the Cubs pen next season. According to Comcast SportsNet, Wood is expected to sign a new deal with the Cubs.

According to a report from Comcast SportsNet, Jed Hoyer is very excited about the upcoming GM Meetings. The Cubs have had a number of conversations about free agents and trade targets. Hoyer is looking forward to talking with other clubs face-to-face about the players on the Cubs’ roster. Hoyer said he’s been trying to make as many phone calls as possible leading up to the meetings.

Brad Snyder signed a minor league deal with the Astros that includes an invite to big league camp. Snyder will compete for a spot in the Astros outfield.

For those following the progress of Junior Lake in the Arizona Fall League … Lake not only stole his league leading 18th base on Saturday (18-for-18 in stolen bases), he also saw his first action in the outfield. Lake started in right field, hit fifth and finished 1-for-4 at the plate with a run scored and a stolen base. The one hit was a bunt single.

And last but not least … during the ‘Should He Stay or Should He Go‘ segment Saturday morning (Talkin’ Baseball, ESPN 1000), Bruce Levine asked Fred Huebner if the Cubs should trade Geovany Soto if Jed Hoyer could acquire pitching in return. Levine added a wrinkle to the question. If Hoyer was to trade Soto would it be the right move to sign Jason Varitek to replace Koyie Hill as the back-up catcher? Varitek could then serve as a mentor to either Welington Castillo or Steve Clevenger.

What are the your thoughts? Should the Cubs trade Soto? Should the Cubs give Castillo or Clevenger a shot as the starting catcher? Should the Cubs sign Varitek to be the backup?

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

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO


  • Ripsnorter1

    I’d not trade Soto if he doesn’t bring back a #3 starting pitcher. 

    I’d platoon Soto and Clevinger. Here’s why:
    Soto vs. RHP in  2011
    357 PA…..207 BA…..277 OBP….365 slugging (AWFUL)…29 BB…102 K
    Soto vs LHP in 2011
    117 AB….296 BA….410 OBP….561 slugging (outstanding)…7 HR…15 RBI..16 BB….22 k

    You can see he is a platoon player, and an outstanding hitter vs. LHP.

    Clevinger bats Left. 
    He’s a lifetime .304 hitter in AA.He’s a lifetime .304 hitter in AAA.
    He’s not a power threat. Last year he had 8 taters–the most ever. Before that he had 5 as a career high.

    Varitek is old and can’t hit a lick.2011 was a resurgence year for him. Expect less in 2012. Why do the Koyie Hill thing again with an aging vet that can’t hit, can’t run, and costs more than Koyie Hill?

    Varitek in 2011 vs. RHP
    .200 BA  9 HR…150 AB…13 BB…50 k….
    Veritek in 2011 vs LHP
    .264 …8 BB…17 k..72 AB

    He’s another Soto. So then you’d have no one who could hit RHP……
    And if you like his HR totals, remember he hits in Fenway….Green Monster…Home Slugging 2010 .567….Away slugging 2010 .365…..
    Home slugging 2011  .420…away slugging 2011 .427
    Home slugging 2009 .475 …away 2009 .310
    career: home …455 ….career away .418

    And if someone should say, “He works well with pitchers.” Remember: he’d be new to this league, and he doesn’t know our staff at all. So he’d be of little advantage over Clevinger.

    NO. Not for me.

    • Tony_Hall

      Great breakdown. 

      But for my $4-$5M, I don’t want to pay a Catcher of Soto’s stature if he played all the time, let alone just against lefties.

      Trade Soto, use Clevinger and Castillo, and sign Varitek to be a coach if he’s so valuable to help the young guys.  Then, if you need to, you could give Varitek a contract during the season.  Now, I know Varitek is going to hold out to get a contract to play, but you get my idea.

      Never been a fan of Soto, or paying, all but the elite catchers.  Let Clevenger and Castillo play, and let their playing time be based on their actual production in games, not a pre-conceived notion, of how they will perform.  You get the L/R platoon as well.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Okay, I could go with the Castillo/Clevinger platoon, but I won’t give Soto away for a handful of garbage ala Jim Qlueless.

        A ML catcher is not cheap.
        Varitek made $2 million in 2011.
        Soto made $3 million.
        Koyie Hill made $1 million.

        2012??????

        Castillo…yeah, I think I could live with him, but not altogether sure.
        For one thing, he doesn’t hit much for average.Career AAA: .270
        Career AA: .257

        On the other hand, when I compare his MiL stats to Soto’s MiL stats, they are comparable. That means you can expect Castillo to the the offensive twin of Soto–perhaps without the big first year since the Cubs won’t have supporting bats in the lineup with him. AND–AND–note this: I do not have the MiL splits for any player, so I don’t know how they fare vs LHP or vs RHP. Perhaps Castillo has had more AB vs LHP and inflated that .270 BA beyond reason.

        Have you noticed that once a player leaves AA Tennessee, they always hit more at the AAA Iowa? That league inflates offensive stats, imo. 
        Power has been variable:AAA: .565
        AA:  .397  And what about defense on either Clevinger and Castillo?

        Castillo is a career .984 fielder with CS% of 37% (29% in 2011).
        Clevinger: career 28%, last year at AAA, 11%. .994 career, which exceeds
        Castillo, but not his CS%. 

        And you do realize that Clevinger and Castillo were platooning in AAA Iowa?

        AND Jim Qlueless would then ask, “But who would catch at AAA?”  LOL

        • Tony_Hall

          I can’t imagine any situation where Hill is still around.  JH should have been fired just for Hill…$1M…

          Iowa tried to simulate Wrigley during the summer.  They have built in huge fans blowing straight out to center…

          Catchers need to be developed internally, so that they have “The Cubs Way” built in when they get to Chicago.  In a perfect world you would keep a catcher for around 3-4 years in Chicago.  1-2 as the back-up and 1-2 as the starter.  If the system can keep producing a major league ready back-up every 1-2 years, we would always have a 2 catchers, experienced in our way of doing things, who you would then trade off in their arb years 1 or 2, for more prospects.  This system would keep your catchers position extremely cheap at the major league level, and would help to stock your minor league system.  I have talked about this many times in the past, as the way to handle the catcher position, and unless a Yadier Molina or a Joe Mauer were to come through our system would I go off of this path.  

          My main reason for all of this, is I value the defensive end of the job more than the offensive end.  I wouldn’t ignore offense, as you wouldn’t make it through the minor league system, if you didn’t have enough offense.  The handling of pitchers is so important, that you need to be able to show up at Clark and Addison and not skip a beat.  Our past regime, wouldn’t even play  our young catchers when they called them up, because they had no system in place for how to catch for the Cubs, and they couldn’t step right in, without making mistakes.

          • Dorasaga

            How to rate the defense of a catcher has been debated by fans alike for more than thirty years now (if we start with Bill James as rigorously), and the debate drained the sabermetric minds.

            Who knows, maybe we should sign Varitek for 1-2 M. I must say, though, I watched tons of Redsox games between 2007-2008, and Varitek simply outwitted any opponent hitter. But I watched him this year, and I thought, “that can’t be right.” He might be old and out of touch now.

            So if I’m the front office evaluator, then I want to contain risk, and I thought, “well, we can’t objectively place Varitek on the right side of the weight, and Theo tried that and resigned him two years ago, but was fruitless, so….” What can I say on my report?

            Let’s forget about a washed-up player who can’t hit consistently. Play more of the Castillo/Clevinger platoon. Let them compete each other. It’s the job of a coach to teach them the “D,” but it’s innate if he’s a leader or not. And I don’t think Epstein, if truly a “builder” by his own word, would want another fruitless year of Varitek.

          • Dorasaga

            Apparently, that means a nod to trade Soto, but under one circumstance: Wait until July. The contenders will rise and bid for his service. Right now, all cards are out. Every team finds ample time to deal new.

          • Tony_Hall

            They may need to wait until July to get his value up to a decent level.  It’s not about saying we have to trade a guy now, it’s about deciding a guy is or isn’t part of the future, then having the patience to trade him, when his value his higher.  A hard thing to do, as that means his performance will be good, and most fans will not like the move.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            Seems to me like Soto’s value is usually at it’s highest during the offseason.  The hype/hope for him is always bigger than the result.  Put the word out that he’s tearing the cover off the ball in workouts and lost 15 pounds and see if interest doesn’t peak…

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            I think this is a freakin’ genius plan!  Nice Tony…

            Do you know how to get a message to Theo?  

          • Tony_Hall

            Already done :)

  • Tony_Hall

    I am looking forward to this week and seeing the first real roster moves.  

    Woody will be back, I am sure on not a big money deal (I would assume similar to last year).  I am sure the Red Sox guys remember 2010 when he was with the Yankees, and he will need to perform well, or this will be his last year.

    I liked seeing Junior Lake in RF, after seeing some of his infield performances, it looks like a good place for him to spend some time.  He might have a “Vlad” type arm from the RF corner.

    • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

      How far away is Lake from playing for the Cubs?

      • Tony_Hall

        Tom or Aaron would be the best to answer that question, but from what I’ve seen and heard, it looks like another year or 2.  But he is the type of player that many teams bring up, as soon as their offense would help the team, and let them work on finding a position and defense at the major league level.  

      • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

        If Lake is still in the organization, I would think he’s a
        couple of years away. He is only 21 (22 in March) and has pretty much outgrown shortstop. Lake has the best arm in the system (graded as 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale) and could be a very good outfielder. As he continues to develop hopefully his power and patience will as well. As mentioned before, Lake has a
        big swing with a lot of holes and has been compared to Alfonso Soriano. Lake struggles with pitch recognition and chases often. Lake walked only 19 times with 109 strikeouts last year in 116 games between Daytona and Tennessee. Lake made positive steps forward last season compared to 2010. Again, if he’s still in the organization I think they will move him to the outfield, same as Josh Vitters.

      • paulcatanese

        About as far as Lake Michigan is large. After seeing him several times he is definatly in the same category as Soriono and even K. Hill as a hitter. I agree with Tony ahd Neil he would be best in the outfield if he is ever going to advance to higher places in the system. There is no question with his arm, its one of the best, and I think he would progress defensivly very quickly in the outfield,especially as a corner spot.

      • Tom U

        I’m sorry I’m a little late, but I echo what Neil and many others have said, that he is a couple years away.

        First a position will need to be settled on. The organization has several better defensive shortstops in Marwin Gonzalez, Wes Darvill, Marco Hernandez, and Carlos Penalver. Also the jury is out on players like Logan Watkins and Danny Lockhart. I don’t agree on a move to third, where his problems defensively will be magnified. I feel the organization lost a huge opportunity over the last season and in the AFL to see whether he can handle the outfield. While he has the skill set to be good in the outfield, so did Soriano. If Lake shows the same defensive attitude as Soriano, then he is big enough to play first.

        Offensively, Lake can be as good or better than Soriano, but has a lot to improve on. Lake has been slow to adjust going from level to level, and up to this point, his coaches have let him stick with his approach. However, I’d like to see how he responds to someone like Von Joshua, Iowa’s hitting coach. Joshua has been on a big league staff, and will know what will and will not work at that level. While Tennessee hitting coach Mariano Duncan’s success is well documented, he did have the reputation as a slasher.

        • cubtex

          Hold on there Tom!!! Can be as good or better than Soriano offensively?? Let’s not put the cart ahead of the horse here. Have you seen Soriano’s offensive numbers from 2002 to 2006. I know it is easy to forget what he once was since he is on the downside of his career….but Soriano was a “special” offensive player that doesn’t have many peers if any. He had over 200 hits in a season with huge power numbers. I don’t believe Lake has ever hit more than 15 HR’s in the minors. Lake has a lot of talent but to say he can be as good or better than Soriano is way way too premature.

          • Tom U

            Perhaps, but he is only 21. He has time to grow and, I believe, hit for more power.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Cubbie Blue MiL googles…..  LOL

  • Tony_Hall

    Here is an article about a good charity event held by Buster Olney, that had Theo,  Cashman and others attend and do a open Q&A.

    http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/7228317/ex-gm-theo-epstein-says-boston-red-sox-drinking-widespread

  • kevb197731

    I like Geo, but if the Cubs could turn him and a couple more players maybe in three team trade with the Braves for Jair Jurrgens or Gio Gonzalez from Oakland why not. They say Castillo has the offensive tools right to be the everyday catcher, give him a chance.

    • cubtex

      The Cubs need starting pitching first and foremost!

    • daverj

      Geo won’t bring one of those guys back a deal.  He doesn’t have much trade value right now.  Maybe you can get an average 4th starter type for him.  I’d rather keep him.

      I think the Cubs will keep Geo at least until July and possibly longer.  He has a chance to be a Type A free agent after the 2013 season and return a couple draft picks.  Given that the next two seasons will be rebuilding years, if Geo won’t bring much in trade, then it may be better to hold on to him.

  • Spoda17

    I really don’t see any scenario of trading Geo and not getting a #3 or #4 starter.  Whether we need position players or not, it doesn’t matter because our pitching is so bad, even if we bring in Prince, we still will lose 8-7…

    We have enough average to above average players to fill out the roster and put a “competitive” team on the field from a position player perspective.

    So… pitching, pitching, pitching…

  • Chuck

    With the hot stove league about to heat up and the GM meetings about to begin, next Sunday’s blog will be interesting reading.    For me the season begins now with the GM meetings,  I am ready.  I have my Old Style in one hand and a bowlful of chicken wings next to me.  I am BoSox ready, oops  I mean Cubs ready.

  • carmelo

    Neil—-just to clarify your comment on Bohringer—he and his staff will be in charge of scouting all the players in professional baseball—in order words, writing reports for possible trades on all the players on the other 29 teams.  This is where all the trade information takes place.  Very important stuff.  He will have nothing to do with the developement of our draft pickes—-that falls under player developement department, run by Fleita.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Those are not my comments, that is what he said.

      • carmelo

        Neil—scouting department now under two heads—Wilken for the amateur, Bohringer for the pros—they both report to McCloud.  Before, Wilken had to be in charge of both amateur and pro scouting, now just amateur.  This is a sign of how the front office is changing, and for the better.

  • Tony_Hall

    Pujols – 9 and 210

    http://eye-on-baseball.blogs.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/entry/22297882/33261469

    That is 23.3/year, still pretty good.  If he had been a FA 3-4 years ago, heck even 2 years ago, he would have seen an ARod or even higher contract.  

    • paulcatanese

      Nine years? Tony he will have to hit home runs as the last five years of that contract Pujols will need oxygen on a double, if he can make it that far.
      When are these clubs going to learn?

      • Tony_Hall

        Paul – and this is what he said NO to.  

        How can anyone say no to $210M dollars GUARANTEED!

        He could have gotten injured this year…I just don’t get the mind set of these players and agents.

        • paulcatanese

          Wer’e just in the wrong business, should have studied contracts and recognizing stupid GM’s in college.

        • Ripsnorter1

          You asked, “How can anyone say no to $210 million dollars guaranteed?”

          ANSWER: “UNPRECEDENTED GREED!”

          I say, “Two fools met right there: #1 The Cards and #2 Pujols and his agent.

          It says right here:
          HE AIN’T WORTH IT!
          HE AIN’T WORTH IT!!!
          HE AIN’T WORTH IT!!

          I’ll say this: Pujols will fall off of the face of the earth if he signs a big deal elsewhere. He won’t hit .235 and his HR totals will be more Adam Dudd-like than his usual 35 taters.

  • paulcatanese

    More than 30 million for Yoenis Cespedes, a 26 year old? Reminds me of the movie “The Scout”. How much did they pay him to have him attend a private workout? The money just keeps getting worse, better be using Monolpy dollars.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    From Jon Paul Morosi … Cardinals name Mike Matheny manager.

    • Tony_Hall

      Not totally shocked, as there have been reports that they really liked him.  I thought Oquendo or Francona were more likely, but there must be something about Oquendo they didn’t like.  

      Sandberg nation, can exhale now.

      • paulcatanese

        Or does that mean Francona is still somewhere around in the Cub picture?

        • Ripsnorter1

          I hope not. He lost his clubhouse in the RedSox zoo. He wasn’t in control, and to bring Tito in here with CARLOS HEADCASE ZAMBRANO would be a disaster, don’t you think? I mean, do we really need to think long and hard about it? 

          And of course, this post is not making any attacks against you, Paul. It is an attempt to realistically consider the consequences of such a move than many consider most likely to happen. I’d think it would be a disaster myself.

          • paulcatanese

            No Rip, I realize that, but I dont want him with the Cubs either and feel the same way, Just throwing it out there.

    • Ripsnorter1

      Matheny trained under LaRussa. I don’t know how much he learned, but if he were smart, he’d take every single thing Tony taught him, because he is simply the best manager in MLB in our lifetimes.

  • Last_ginger

    Anyone hearing Reyes to Marlins and possibly Hanley to Cubs?

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      The Reyes to the Marlins signing rumor was shot down … and nothing on Hanley Ramirez to the Cubs. Do you have a source on the Hanley rumor?

      • Last_ginger

        Darien Martin mentioned it on twitter. Just seeing if there was anything legit about it

        • Dorasaga

          Any mention of a big star going to the Marlins cannot be legit. It’s the Marlins, after all.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    From Jim
    Duquette … Not likely that Francona is seriously in Cubs mix for manager. 2%
    chance.

  • paulcatanese

    Just thought I would share a blurb sent to me in 1956, check the Cub’s score.

    • Dorasaga

      You were the second phrase on this. I kind of not surprised that the Cubs were 8-n-half game out in June.

      • paulcatanese

        I may have posted that before,don’t know, but the neiborhood editor got those out every so often, thought maybe some of the guys remembered the high schools in the area. On second thought most of the guys would
        have been much younger than high school age. But yes it was a typical Cub season. But notice the White Sox beat the Red Sox, I found that ironic around this time.