Weekend Update … A Big Week for the Cubs

As anticipated last week was a busy one for the Chicago Cubs … and it could be more of the same over the next five days leading up to the convention. The Cubs are looking to add pitching (starters and relievers) as they try to finalize their roster heading into Spring Training.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer acquired Chris Volstad for Carlos Zambrano and landed Anthony Rizzo and Zach Cates for Andrew Cashner and Kyung-Min Na … to say the Cubs’ new regime has been busy would be an understatement.

Since Epstein and Hoyer took over, the Cubs have added David DeJesus, selected Lendy Castillo in the Rule 5 draft … and for now, lost Ryan Flaherty and Marwin Gonzalez in the Rule 5 Draft. Jeff Bianchi was claimed off waivers and Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes were acquired for Sean Marshall. The Cubs also dealt Tyler Colvin and D.J. LeMahieu for Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers and re-signed Reed Johnson … plus they added Manny Corpas and Andy Sonnanstine on non-guaranteed split contracts.

And that is not counting hiring a new manager and basically a whole new coaching staff plus adding pieces to what was smallest front office in the game.

The Cubs’ front office is continuing to explore options to make the team better for the upcoming season … and beyond.

Between the Caravan, Convention and what Team Epstein might have in the works, there figures to be plenty of news over the next eight days.

Here’s the update …

Matt Garza
The Matt Garza rumors have slowed down of late and the Cubs could have decided to keep him for now. Bruce Levine thinks Garza will be in the Cubs rotation on Opening Day (if so, Garza should be Dale Sveum’s Opening Day starter) because Epstein and Hoyer are not able to get the package they want for Garza.

The Cubs do not have to trade Garza and have not ruled out signing Garza to an extension similar to the one John Danks inked a few weeks back. Garza will still be affordable over the last two years of team control (figures to make between $8-$9 million through arbitration for the upcoming season and $11-$13 million in 2013).

Paul Maholm, Kerry Wood and Pitching
The Cubs are looking to add pitching between now and the start of camp … and it could end up taking until February 18 (report date for pitchers and catchers to report to Fitch Park) to do so.

Bruce Levine mentioned twice during Talkin’ Baseball (ESPN 1000) that he thinks the Cubs could re-sign Kerry Wood this week prior to the convention. Plus he is hearing the Cubs are still “really in” on Paul Maholm (other reports late in the week stated the Cubs are interested in the southpaw as well). Levine said he tried to contact Maholm’s agent and he has yet to return the call, which signals to Levine that something is indeed brewing for Maholm.

The Cubs could also add inventory (starters and relievers) if they find the right return for Matt Garza.

With Andrew Cashner out of the picture, it appears Jeff Samardzija will enter camp in the mix for the backend of the Cubs’ pen and not as a candidate for the starting rotation. Even without Cashner, the Cubs will have plenty of solid options for the bullpen … James Russell, John Gaub, Scott Maine and Jeff Beliveau from the left side and Carlos Marmol, Jeff Samardzija, Chris Carpenter, Rafael Dolis, Manny Corpas, Casey Weathers, Andy Sonnanstine and Lendy Castillo from the right.

As Jed Hoyer stated Friday, the Cubs are looking to have between seven to nine starting pitching options when Spring Training begins … and they are also not done adding options to the bullpen.

Jason McLeod on XM Radio
The Cubs’ Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development spent a little time with Jeff Joyce and Todd Hollandsworth Saturday afternoon on Homeplate (MLB Network Radio/XM Radio).

Jason McLeod discussed the Anthony Rizzo trade and several other topics.

Obviously there is a lot of history with McLeod and Jed Hoyer with Anthony Rizzo. They think Rizzo has a lot of potential … power, quality defense, quality make-up and a middle of the order run producer.

McLeod reiterated what Hoyer said on Friday about them probably rushing Rizzo to the majors last season. Rizzo was mashing in the hitter friendly PCL and Tucson Park and Brad Hawpe was struggling with the Padres. They decided to give him a chance and it was the wrong move. Rizzo started off strong and did well at first. McLeod brought up two at bats in which Rizzo hammered balls that ended up as doubles at PETCO. Not soon after pitchers made adjustments, Rizzo could not and once he started struggling he was not able to recover.

Rizzo has natural leadership according to McLeod. Players gravitate to him. McLeod sang his praises from the great family background to how well he handled adversity with cancer.

Hoyer and McLeod also think a lot of Zach Cates. They drafted him and really think the former Junior College catcher can succeed as a pitcher. Cates has only been pitching for two years and not only throws hard but has a good change-up.

Todd Hollandsworth asked about Brett Jackson and McLeod admitted he has not seen Jackson play in person since his college days. In looking at the scouting reports on Jackson (both the Cubs and Padres’ reports), Jackson has stuff to work on and needs to cut down on the strikeouts. The Cubs are not going to hand him the centerfield job, he’s going to have to earn it … but according to McLeod, Jackson’s future looks very bright.

The Cubs have told a few of the younger players that because they do not have a history with them then they have a great opportunity to prove what they can do this spring.

The Cubs’ new regime had the minor league players sign accountability contracts. They want not only quality players in the system but quality people as well that play the game the right way on a daily basis.

When asked about Bryan LaHair being the Cubs’ starting first baseman on Opening Day, McLeod said, “Sitting here on January 7, Bryan LaHair is our starting first baseman.” McLeod had the opportunity to meet with LaHair during the Winter Meetings and came away impressed. LaHair told them he is looking forward to proving to everyone he can perform in the big leagues.

The new regime has worked very hard to learn the organization but it takes time. Jason McLeod said it would take him to the middle of summer to get a firm grasp on what is in the Cubs’ system.

News, Notes and Rumors
According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs and Marlins had the same trade in place (Carlos Zambrano for Chris Volstad) during the Winter Meetings (December 5).

The Orioles are interested in Alfonso Soriano according to Bruce Levine but the amount of years remaining on his contract could be the hold-up. The money is one thing, especially with what the Cubs are willing to eat to move him, but if Soriano was to struggle his first year then Baltimore would be stuck with him … and in the process Dan Duquette would look bad in one of his first moves as the Orioles’ GM.

Ryan Dempster spent a little time Saturday morning on Talkin’ Baseball (ESPN 1000). Dempster has been out in Arizona working out and said there are a lot of guys out there participating in hitting clinics. Dempster also added Dale Sveum and his staff has been working hard preparing for Spring Training. Dempster is happy for Carlos Zambrano getting a clean slate and pointed out that no matter how good things were going for Z, people were always waiting and ready for him to blow.

According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs will be in the middle of the bidding for both Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler. The Cuban outfielders are expected to receive residency in the Dominican Republic soon, which is the first step in the process for both players to become eligible for Major League teams to sign them. Levine indicated Cespedes and Soler could officially hit the market a week to ten days. Cespedes is still expected to sign a deal in the $50-60 million range while Soler could ink a contract worth between $20-$30 million.

Cooperstown
The Class of 2012 Hall of Fame announcement will be made Monday at 2:00pm CT. Who will be enshrined along with Ron Santo on July 22, 2012? Chris Jaffe published his annual report on which players have the best shot at being elected into the Hall by the BBWAA … and bases on Jaffe’s research, Barry Larkin will be enshrined along with Santo this July.

2011ConventionCalendar.jpgThe 27th Annual Cubs Convention kicks off in five days … and speaking of the convention, the photo promotion to the left is another reminder of how much things can change in one short year.

Wally Hayward stated Saturday morning on Talkin’ Baseball (ESPN 1000) that the Cubs tried to change things up a little bit for the upcoming convention. “The Cubs Way“, “Sustained Success” and “Play Hard, 90 Feet at a Time” could be the themes for next weekend’s convention.

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

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO

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  • Dorasaga

    Dempster: “no matter how good things were going for Z, people were always waiting and ready for him to blow.”

    We can interpret this in various ways, but to say the least, Demp didn’t need to defend Z.

    I’m also curious how Thoyer* & Co. will face against criticism next week @CubsCon. Remember one seasonal ticket holder here joined a round-table discussion with President Craney* and owner Tom Ricketts. He questioned, and Crane Kenney responded: If you know so much, why don’t you work in a baseball like us?

    I guess that explains the miserable mentality of that high management; they refused to address the fans concern; they would not admit what failed.

    *Somebody else made those up; not me. This kind of anamorphic hybrid-nick actually rings.

    Neil, I hope to see you cover the Cubs Con. this year. Let’s see how many PR will pump into telling us how great in shape is this updated, 2.0-Cubs team, or not.

    • Calicub

      i read dempsters comments like that at first but on second glance i think he was more saying that even when Z was at his best the people around him were ready for him to implode; signifying to me jut how fragile his mental state really is/was.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Dorasaga I will be covering the convention this year.

  • Clark_N_Addison

    The Chicago Tribune is running a poll, asking should the Cubs build with youth and win for the future or should they sign veteran free agents and try to win this year. The poll results so far are:

    92% – Youth and build for the future (Build a sturdy foundation)
     8% – Sign veterans and try to win this year.

    That is awesome to see and should make for a great time at the convention next weekend.

    I always have had tremendous faith in Cub fans. These results just make it stronger.

    • GaryLeeT

      After the last 2 years, I am surprised it’s not 100% of Cub fans wanting something different. What do you think that poll would have looked like 3 years ago? A youth movement is something different, but that alone will not produce a winner in the near or distant future. No great team gets all it’s players from within the organization. I think most would agree that it takes a combination of both youth and some 30 plus year old proven winners to succeed. Imagine how different the Cub’s fortunes might have been if long term contracts were given to pitchers like Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, or Sabathia instead of Zambrano and Dempster. Or a Josh Hamilton type instead of Soriano. Again, it’s not what Hendry did, but with whom he did it with, that was the disaster.

      • Clark_N_Addison

        Great points Gary.

        I think eventually that’s the direction the Cubs will take, just not this year.

        Bringing up the Rizzo’s and Brett Jackson’s when they’re ready and putting them alongside Castro is a great start. If Trey McNutt and Carpenter eventually prove they belong, the Cubs will be a great nucleus to build around.

        See what you have and THEN build around it. Next off season will have way better pitching FA’s than were around this off season. Z’s and Dempster’s contracts will be off the books as well.

        For sustained success, the Cubs need to build a consistent pipeline of prospects coming up each year. If not to fill holes on the Cubs roster, then to have them available to trade for a player that will.

        It was at it’s worst last season after Wells and Cashner got hurt that the Cubs couldn’t go within their own system to bring up pitchers that could take over till they were healthy again. Bringing in Doug Davis and Rodrigo Lopez is about as bad as it gets. I hope the Cubs never find themselves in that position again.

      • daverj

        I agree to some extent, but part of the problem of why the Cubs were stuck with Soriano and Zambrano instead of Halladay and Hamilton was the horrific state of the minor league system.  Halladay signed with the Phils in connection with a trade and Hamilton was acquired by the Rangers in a trade.  Since the Cubs didn’t have quality minor league talent, they couldn’t acquire those pieces.  Sabathia’s new contract may still turn out to be a bad deal and significant overpay by the Yankees.  Lee may have signed with the Phillies for reasons other than just dollars (they were World Series contenders and he had enjoyed living in Philly previously).  I think Epstein is trying to build a minor league system to acquire (and extend) the right guys.  To me, Fielder (at the term and dollars he’s seeking), Yu Darvish and E Jackson seem to me more of the disaster type signings like Soriano and Zambrano.

  • Tony_Hall

    If you walked away early last year, and said I’m done with the Cubs, I can’t take JH anymore, etc, etc….and said to someone, let me know when it is worth following this team again.

    Well it’s time.  We have a real front office, and not one of the smallest ones in MLB anymore.  They are blowing this team up, like you have wanted for so long.  

    No more duct tape holding the band-aides on.  No more signing guys who had one exceptional year, that stands out on the back of their baseball card, to contracts that expect them to continue that one year.  

    We are rebuilding, something 92% of the people polled on the Trib are in favor of (Great post Clark_N_Addison), which tells me that most of the fans were tired of buying up aging vets that mostly fail, only to have a farm system that can’t seem to produce the players ourselves.

    Now the best part of this process, that so many people don’t get when they compare this style to the Rays, Twins, A’s, Pirates, etc.

    When we have great players, the difference makers you want to keep long term and build around, we can keep them, as we will have the resources to pay them the market value contracts.  

    This is a huge difference.  

    Imagine any of those teams, IF, they could have kept their best players.  Some of those teams have been competitive without keeping their best players.  They could have some stacked lineups and rotations by now.

    So if you have been waiting for a reason for optimism on your Cubs, it’s here.  Now I’m not going to tell you this is the year they will finally win a World Series, no one can truly predict that (who would have picked the Cardinals after Wainwright went down) but this is the beginning of a journey, that I believe will bring a World Series Championship to the Chicago Cubs.

    Enjoy the journey, it’s more fun that way.

    • Schwimmer

      I agree and feel as you do, Tony.

      I’d love to  hear your opinion on RIZZO.  While his minor league performance was great — in about 150 ABs he batted .141.

      I heard Jed say that he should not have brought RIZZO up so soon.

      But the fact remains that 150 ABs is a pretty good sampling.  And, he couldn’t hit and struck out a lot.  That concerns me.

      So…my question to you (and others on this blog) is:

      1.  Is it a big “tell” that he was very unable to translate his great hitting in TRIPLE A to the MLB?

      2.  Or, is it entirely fair to say that his poor performance in his MLB stint meant nothing…other than he was not ready and needs to further develop in the Minors?

      I wonder if there other examples of new players that hit very poorly their 1st try only to come back as big offensive stars?

      Most of the time…when they come up with talent…they hit well “right from the beginning.”

      What do you think about RIZZO’s failure in his 1st 150 ABs?

      • Tony_Hall

        There are examples of players succeeding and failing right away.  For everyone you bring up one way, you can bring up one another way.

        Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod have both said they made a mistake bringing him up so early.  He was hitting so well at AAA and Brad Hawpe was struggling for the Padres.  It was his 21 year old year, plus he lost a full season, and he wasn’t able to make the adjustments, after teams adjusted. 

        Now, long term, this could be a benefit, as he has spent this off-season, realizing he’s not ready and needs to keep working and adjusting.  The bad part is, they used an option year and started his clock.  He has 2 option years left, and if Lahair hits, I could see them keeping him at AAA all year, to “buy back” that year.  

        Not all players that can hit, do it right away.  Unfortunately all players are individuals and progress or regress at their own rate.  I would say more struggle early, then excel, we just hear about the ones who hit out of the gates more.  ARoid is one who went back to the minors a couple of times before sticking, like most players do when they are prospect and not super stars already.

        I believe Rizzo will have a major league career that could be as a decent 1B, but no All-Star and have a shorter career, or he could turn into a stud 1B, with a long career.  Most likely, somewhere in the middle, but, that will be the fun part, watching players develop and prosper, and hopefully be a part of the Cubs winning the World Series.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3JKQGSH67PHSCQL7OCOLRJHIGY TomO

        I give you Mike Schmidt.  In 1972 he hit .206 in 34 at-bats.  Yeah, not the sample size you were looking for. 

        In his first “full” season, 1973, he hit .196 in 367 at-bats over 132 games.  

        20+ years later he’s voted into the HOF.  I’m sure there are others who posted less than ideal averages/seasons as a rookie and bounced back to have solid careers.

        Baseball pundits always talk about offensive players having career years when the players hits ages 27, 28, 29. You have to figure those are the main years in which the hitter finally has a full understanding of what it takes for them to succeed at the plate AND they are still in their physical prime. Sometimes it takes a while for everything to click.

        Obviously, Rizzo’s still figuring things out, just as Mike Schmidt did. Hopefully he figures it out!

        • Schwimmer

          Great example.  Thank you.  I can only hope that RIZZO is 1/2 as good as SCHMIDT! :)

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3JKQGSH67PHSCQL7OCOLRJHIGY TomO

            Oh!  I found another!
            Reggie Jackson: 118 at-bats, 1 HR, 10 BB, 46 K, and batted .178

        • GaryLeeT

          9 times out of 10, real stars look like more like Castro, than they do Scmidt when they break into the big leagues. But there is that 10% chance Rizzo will make it. Especially if he can cut down on that long Hee Seop Choi swing of his, and make it more compact.

          • Tony_Hall

            Gary – Thought I would take a look at this idea, that 9 out of 10 real stars look like Castro versus Schmidt.

            1st year  for each player, from the 2011 NL All Star team starting lineup

            Weeks 12 AB’s 167/286/250*
            Beltran 58 AB’s 276/317/466
            Kemp 154 AB’s 253/289/448
            Fielder 59 AB’s 288/306/458
            McCann 180 AB’s 278/349/400
            Berkman 106 AB’s 237/321/387
            Holliday 400 AB’s 290/349/488
            Tulowitzki 96 AB’s 240/318/292
            Rolen 130 AB’s 254/322/400

            Weeks 1st season was 2003, at age 20, spent his age 21 season back in the minors and came back up the next year 360 AB’s 239/333/384

            So the 9 out of 10 is a little high, in this small sample size.

            Averages over Castros 300
            None

            OBP over Castros 347 
            McCann 349
            Holliday 349

            SLG over Castros 408
            Beltran 466 (0 HR’s)
            Kemp 448
            Fielder 458
            Holliday 488

            So all in all, I would say most players struggle upon their 1st MLB experience and Castro is looking more an more like a real stud, when you factor in his age as well.

          • GaryLeeT

            More to my point is that very few players with numbers as poor as Rizzo’s make it big. Especially with that high of a K rate.

          • GaryLeeT

            I said they look more like Castro, not exactly like him. As in hitting  above .240 verses hitting around .140, and striking out once every 3 ABs

          • Tony_Hall

            Castro looked like a very confident hitter from day 1.  Most 240 hitters do not.  

            9 out of 10 was a high assumption.  More top  players struggle on their first trip to the majors than hit well, and near their normal numbers as their career progresses.  Rizzo was awful in his cup of coffee, let’s hope, for our sake, that he just wasn’t ready.

          • GaryLeeT

            Obviuosly, we have 2 differnt definitions of “struggling” But I contend, hitting .240 in their first year is not struggling.

          • Tony_Hall

            We will have to disagree, if you think 240 is “not struggling” for sure.

          • GaryLeeT

            No, not for a rookie.

      • Clark_N_Addison

        I wouldn’t worry about the way Rizzo hit in a small sample size. On the flip side, I’ll give you an example of a current pitching prospect.

        If Detroit felt that way about Jacob Turner’s stint in the majors last season, they would trade him for anything THEY can get.

        In 3 starts for the Tigers last season, Turner had:
        – an 0-1 record
        – 17 hits in 12.2 innings
        – an 8.53 ERA
        – an ERA+ of 49
        – a WHIP of 1.658

        There’s more, but I think I’ve made my point. No one is going to look at Turner as a bust, just because of a small sample size. They should also give Rizzo that same benefit of the doubt. 150 AB’s IMO really isn’t a good indicator for a young hitter trying to adjust to the Major Leagues.

        As cavernous as Petco is, it’s even worse for hitters at night. Rizzo was brought up before he was ready and overcompensated his swing due to power expectations (once again, at Petco) and ran into a hitting slump.

        I think some more time at AAA will only help Rizzo get his stroke back. The Cubs have LaHair to cover first base until Rizzo is ready.

      • daverj

        Jim Thome and ARam were both pretty awful their first couple seasons when called up to the majors.  Gil Hodges hit about .150 his first partial season.  At age 22, Gary Sheffield hit .194 with 2 HR in 175 AB’s … the next season he hit .330 with 33 HR.

        I’m not saying that Rizzo will be anywhere near as good as those guys … just saying that his first (partial) season doesn’t mean much in terms of projecting his future performance.

      • Dorasaga

        Actually, Rizzo had 150 PA, not AB. I think Jim Thome is another example, as I responded below to Anthony…

        235 PA, 3 HR, .228/.285/.330*

        http://chicagocubsonline.com/archives/2012/01/cubsnewsrumors_51.php#comment-405660146

        *rookie year:
        104 PA, .255/.298/.367
        At age 21 next year:
        131PA, .205/.275/.299

    • Scott McMeekan

      Tony, well said as usual.  I was pretty fired up last night after reading Aaron’s post and others, but I refrained from posting because A) I don’t have the time or ability to refute Aaron’s voluminous posts, and B) it wouldn’t do any good anyway.  I swear it’s like watching my kids go at it when they were 8 and 10.  

      I love the back and forth and varied opinions of the CCO, it’s what makes it the best blog out there.  But there are a few here who just continually think they are as good as any GM or Player Development exec that’s in the game, and that’s laughable to me.  To think that *Thoyer and company hasn’t done their due diligence and yet STILL believes that Rizzo was worth pursuing is a joke.  That they have some sort of man-crush on him and just throw all their accumulated baseball sense out the window…well, it’s just ignorant to believe that.  

      To those of you who are ridiculing those of us here who are actually excited about the new direction and vision for the team, and who want to believe that it’s going to work, well that’s fine.  Sports has always been about fans who love their teams and no more so than with the Cubs.  In the past we’ve been laughed at for ‘drinking the Cubbie cool-aid’ and at times that was valid.  But as Tony and others have said repeatedly the past few weeks, WE HAVEN’T EVEN STARTED SPRING TRAINING YET, MUCH LESS PLAY OUR FIRST MONTH OF GAMES.  Sheesh guys.  Give it just a *bit* of time here.

      I wish I could make the convention next weekend, but I’m looking forward to Neil’s coverage as always.  

      Have a restful Sunday everyone!

      • daverj

        Very well said!

        • Aaron

          Yeah…very smart post isn’t it daverj? It’s pretty smart to have blind faith and not question anything…..if you lack critical thinking skills then I guess you’re the type—so is Scott—that would jump off a bridge because everyone else was doing it.

          Cubtex (while we don’t agree on everything), Paul, Agustin, Rip and others at least have a debate while you, Scott, Gramps, and a few others want to shut it down.

          Not everyone has to be agreeable on this site…we don’t have to be “yes men”…after all, isn’t that how the Cubs got into this mess in the first place?…because Hendry hired a bunch of people that wouldn’t think critically?

          Ironically, even Epstein wouldn’t agree with how you guys are acting….he wouldn’t want everyone to have a boner for every move he made. He even said that’s what made them so great in Boston….that they didn’t agree with each other on everything…and he even said when he was introduced with the Cubs that he would have to make difficult decisions and he knew fans would be upset with some of the moves but he would try to make them in the best interests and would tend to err on the long-term vs short-term…

          …So when he makes moves that aren’t in keeping with his stated goals…what’s wrong with calling him out?

          • paulcatanese

            Agree Aaron, in that sense I miss Q.

          • Scott McMeekan

            Ah Aaron, you crack me up.  A boner for every move he’s made?  Ha.  Bud, I have critical thinking skills, I use them every day…no reason for me to have to defend myself to you.  You’re classically over-reacting, which is exactly what I was referring to in my post.  I was *not* saying we have to be agreeable, I even said that exact thing in the post. You and and especially 1967 just drive me up the wall because you SO melodramatic about everything.  What I was reacting to was not you calling Epstein out on supposedly not making moves that are in keeping with his stated goals.  I was reacting to was your 1,500 word manifesto about how Rizzo is virtually assured to be a bust because of his swing and bat speed.  

            Aaron, you may not remember it, but I have consistently defended your ability to analyze things, and have enjoyed nearly all of your posts.  But sometimes *I* feel the need to call people out for just flat out over-reacting.  And that’s *my* right, as long as I do it respectfully and classily, which I try to do out of respect for you, and for Neil.  

            Now, have an adult beverage and forget about boners.

            LOL.

          • daverj

            Well said again Scott.  I’m happy to see that you don’t make it personal or take others’ verbal attacks personally!

          • daverj

            Once again Aaron you are making it personal talking about whether others on the site have critical thinking skills or not.

            Just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean I want to shut you down.  I just explain why I disagree with your opinions and why I think your ideas would be bad for the Cubs.I also don’t think every move has been great … if you read my posts, I was on the fence for the Zambrano move.  Personally, I would have waited until July and taken my chances.

            There is nothing wrong with calling Epstein out or being critical of his moves.  Just like there is nothing wrong with being critical or your, mine or others suggested moves.

      • Gramps

        Thanks Tony and Scott!

      • GaryLeeT

        Thanks for the pep rally Scott, but how boring would it be if we just all sat around here, and agreed with one another about everything that has transpired? We would all look like bobble heads, bobbing our heads up and down. True enough, that no games have been played, so all we can go on is what we see on paper. And brother, it’s not a pleasant read. So far, Castro is the only real hitter on the team, and Garza the only one who is not a number 5 starter (which could change too). I just do not see how they win 60 games this year. Even through rose colored glasses, that’s NOT exciting,

        • Aaron

          That’s the only way Scott ever thinks…he doesn’t want to debate about anything. I swear he’s like the 8 and 10 year olds he mentioned that stomp their feet when they don’t get their way.

          There are some on here like me who actually think critically…speaking of which…when did they stop teaching that in schools? Maybe Scott went to a special school…lol

          • Steve

            What is with the character assault?That special school thing seems a little harsh. Scott said he enjoys the back and forth on this site and never mentioned not debating. He just seemed to disagree with your analysis of the Rizzo trade.

          • John_CC

            Really man, I have to agree with Steve here. You are the first to cry foul when you think someone is getting personal, so why do it yourself?

            Let’s act like adults, assuming we all are.

        • Scott McMeekan

          Gary,

          I really wasn’t trying to say we all need to sing the same tune man.  I though it was pretty clear in my post since I said that verbatim.  Obviously my communication skills aren’t as mad as I thought.

          No problem man.  I appreciate your opinion!

          • GaryLeeT

            Really, I was focusing on your  last line, and felt as though I were being told to be patient. I believe my 45 years of annual devotion, then subsequent heartbreak, has earned me the right to be bitter, and cynical towards the Cubs. When I was in my 20’s the loosing really bothered me, but one of the few good things about getting older, it’s pretty easy to keep it all in perspective these days. After all, It’s just a game.

      • Aaron

        Scott…if you get “fired up” over reading something a blogger says, then you really have a sad sad life

        • Scott McMeekan

          Okay Aaron, I guess I should have read down further before I responded a minute ago.

          You’re ridiculing me, and that’s cool, I can handle it.  But really, you’re sort of being an asshole.  

          And no, I have a very rich and fulfilling life.  

        • Last_ginger

          Youre the one who seems to be fired up sincd youve posted about 4 reactions to scotts post. Grow up pal.

  • Peltzy

    Its funny that 2 out of 3 of the Chicago Cubs in the Cubs Convention ad are gone. (Colvin and Cashner) Keep em” coming Theo.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3JKQGSH67PHSCQL7OCOLRJHIGY TomO

      A year or so ago the was a “Vine Line” issue that featured the future of the Cubs: Castro, Colvin, and Cashner.  Amazing what can happen in a year.

      • Anthony

        so will the top prospects post 2012 full season

  • Chadaudio

    Is it my imagination, or is that Combination and Cashner pictured in the Cubs Convention logo above? Guess they’ll have to tweak that :)

    • Chadaudio

      I mean Colvin and Cashner…

  • cubs1967

    why would cashner being gone effect smardz?
    this year should really be the last year the smardz as SP be tried…..but to not even try??
    sign wood and we have a set-up guy. the quitting……..or rebuilding year for 2012 does not matter what the record will be…….it’s gonna be more than quade’s team so if the “youthful” movement is in place, last time i checked smardz is youthful and should be allowed to become a starter. i’m not convincd he can.  but if he can, that he and garza could be 40% of a rotation when this team actually tries again around 2015

    not letting him try…………is 100% opposite of what the next 3 yrs are gonna be about.

  • Jeff in Az

    Neil,

    its called Kino memorial stadium (not Tucson park) and while the PCL is a hitters league, there is nothing to support the statement that it is a hitters ballpark, only the words of other analysts. Unless someone can provide me with stats supporting this statement, im discarding it has an embelishment. I’ve been having a little disagreement with aaron on this so I want to know how much he paid you to put that statement in your article? Lol.

    No one can explain to me how rizzo hit 20 homeruns in AA Portland? Maybe we should ask buster olney, im sure he has the answer …

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Jeff, those were McLeod’s words … not mine. I purposely did not put the name of the stadium in the article because that is how McLeod referred to the park.

      That is one of the few parks I have not been to in Arizona. As been discussed, seeing in person is better than scouting reports and second hand news any day.

      Let me know which of the ST games you are going to, I will be out for the first four.

      • Jeff in Az

        Thanks for the clarification Neil. I will be out at hohokam on march 4th for the opener. Hope to get a chance to meet you.

  • Anthony

    “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in”

    I was under the impression everyone wanted Rizzo?

    In my book, there are “types” of hitters.

    Especially with LHH(swings), let me simplify as follows:

    Hitter
    Hitter with some power
    Power Hitter

    To me, a hitter is a player who can make consistent hard contact, hit it where its pitched, lots of line drives, some gaps, solid bat control.

    A hitter with power(my favorite type) has the ability to do all that, and has also developed his swing(groove) to “impart backspin” to gain additional distance(carry) using physics.

    A classic power hitter, usually plus strong, many times uses brute strength and an uppercut for distance(Dunn), and over a large sample size, the uppercut plane(path) of that type swing will produce more negative results in a trade-off for HR’s.

    I am not a hitting guru, not even close, but a longtime observer of hitting, and baseball in general.

    Just see Rizzo swing on video, it is classic power, many times the back elbow dropping below the beltline(uppercut).

    What adjustments the Cubs instructors have in mind, who knows, but whether age 22 or age 32, the power is there, and now it all becomes about how frequent it plays.

    Alonso was brought to the Pads as a hitter with some power, and it was a Park factor decision, and Rizzo was then tradeable for the same reason, lots of fly balls versus lots of line drives. Simple!

    If Rizzo hits .240 with 25-30 HR’s in ChiC, isn’t that good enough production from the 1B position?

    When Jim Thome was in the minors early on, he was a tall skinny kid who was a hitter, then a hitter with power initially, then found about 75 pounds of muscle thru his career and still was a hitter with power versus a “power hitter” because the swing mechanics remained consistent, evidenced by many LF/LCF oppo home runs based on imparted backspin, and emphasized by his strength.

    He was fun to watch hit.

    • paulcatanese

      Right on the money”Godfather”. The key as you indicate is squaring up on the ball. With line drive hitters power will come, and just like a golf swing the plane is important and with the wrong plane, bad things happpen.
      Interested as to what you think of the video on Rizzo, I thought his swing was a little long, and maybe too much movement with the hands, easily corrected though.

      • Anthony

        paul, I am not qualified to analyze a swing, but, maybe the Red Sox, and then Padres were caught up in the results so far as to leave “well enough” alone?

        many hitters end up “are what they are” simply because they can’t physically make the changes/adjustments, or the results from the changes are worse.

        a term used loosely when talking about prospects is the word development, and the questions really should be, what are they developing?

        it all goes back to tools

        good vision, fast hands, fast twitch muscles, understanding your swing, building a swing from the ground up, building it in layers, versus being a guess hitter that swings from the heels and occasionally runs into one

        the best hitters eventually come from the crop called “students of hitting”

        you may not recognize them in minor league boxscores because there are no gaudy numbers, but over a period of time, you see consistentcy during this “development” phase

        every organization has them, and most are not talked about in silly top 10 lists, internet rags, etc, they quietly seek perfection to strive for 3/10, but the organizations know who they are because they see them daily between ST and the end of full-season.

        1. you have to physically be able
        2. you need to experiment with cause and effect
        3. you need to interpret
        4. you need to adjust
        5. you need to perfect
        6. you need to repeat

        MLB is made up of more good consistent players than great ones.

        • Dorasaga

          Two fine posts on a good way to look at how “power hitter” develops. I think people forgot how good a “hitter” (in your word, Anthoine) was Jim Thome. He was a good hitter who made contact as well.

          I’m glad you brought up how his frame looked very different. In fact, we can google search images of his rookie year, and even up until 1993, when his power showed, he looked skinnier than what his numbers suggested.

          This is another example for Schwimmer. In Thome’s first two years with Cleveland: 235 PA, 3 HR, .228/.285/.330; who would have thought?

          • Anthony

            lack of patience and a rush to judgement unfortunately is the norm these days, but the decision-makers know better

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Rizzo just announced on Twitter that he will be at the Convention next weekend

    • John_CC

      Great…I sure hope the know-it-all Cubs fanbase implores him to shorten up his swing, if he even can this juncture in his career, or he is bound to rot in the hell of busted prospects.

      • paulcatanese

        No John, he has the makings of a great hitter,I really think the problems he had last year at the big league level was self induced pressure to perform. I would say that’s not uncommon.
        I mentioned his swing as being a little long and busy hands, but I feel he will respond to coaching. I in no way think that he will not make it in the Bigs, looks too natural. I do not think he will be a bust.
        Already people in the press are saying things that Rizzo will shape Theo’s and Hoyer’s legacy. Thats unfair to them and Rizzo, all that does is put more pressure on the kid.
        Really think the first base solution will come from who handles the pressure the best, Rizzo or LaHair, La Hair having the most on his back because of age.

        • John_CC

          Hey Paul, I didn’t mean to be attacking you. Not at all. I know that the analysis and commentary is naturally going to occur. I was just lashing out…I get sick of all the pseudo-pros that act as if they now more, based on reading a couple scouting reports on the innerweb than the men in charge of entire baseball organizations.  I apologize, I hope you didn’t take it that I was talking to you.

          Can’t we all just get along? 

          • paulcatanese

            John, I’m sorry, I in no way took it as an attack and didn’t think it that way at all. And we are getting along. I just feel a little bad that it made you feel that way.

  • Brett

    Rizzo’s AAA manager from last season was on xm mlb radio earlier & Hollandsworth aske some good questions about his 1st hand take on Rizzo’s game. One thing that stuck out to me was that he felt Rizzo is a guy people outside of the org had placed unreal expectations on. He feels Rizzo isn’t going to be a super star. He thinks Rizzo will be a solid run producer…the kind of player every club needs. He also said he is a great leader/clubhouse guy & that he works very hard on improving his game. From everything he said, I think its ridiculous to call him a bust. How many 21yr old kids tear up the big leagues from day one. It also goes to show how rare Castro has been.

    • Aaron

      Brett …good to see you on here. I don’t know if you’re new or not but welcome.

      As for Rizzo, I don’t think anyone on here—myself included—believes he’s a bust already…

      The thing I’ve said numerous times is that he’s “closer to bust than a solid MLB player than most people realize”. A fair amount on here seemed willing to pencil him in the lineup for the next decade….

      His former coach didn’t exactly give him a ringing endorsement in my opinion. When coaches start talking “leadership” …it’s usually code for they think he’ll be a solid yet average player and not a star.

      But you wouldn’t know that by reading comments from some on here that believe he has star written all over him.

      • Tony_Hall

        Aaron – Maybe I missed it, but you keep saying that people on here have stated that they think he will be the 1B for the next decade.  I just don’t recall anyone saying anything like that.

        Have people been excited about getting such a highly ranked prospect? yes.  

        But what’s wrong with that?

      • Brett

        Thanks Aaron. I’m not new, but I’m too busy to post often. I do try to read everyday however b/c Neil has the best Cubs site out there & the posters are very good. I really enjoy how much info you provide & also the good article links.

        I agree with the fact he could be a guy that never amounts to what many think. That is spot on with what his old mgr was saying. He won’t be a star but he will be a solid middle of the order run producer. He was saying he is a good clubhouse guy b/c he battled & beat cancer, has a great family & he works his tail off. I like the deal from the view of Cashner having nothing but arm problems thus far & Rizzo is young with room to develop.

        It seems like you know about pitching so here is a question for you. With his history, do you think Cashner will ever be a productive starter at this level?

    • EqDoc

      I listened to the interview as well and what really struck my is the manager’s description of Rizzo when he was demoted.  Seems like a smart kid who recognized what he was doing and was able to make changes to improve.  Hopefully he will continue that and have another great year in AAA and then hit the majors with a better perspective and be able to adapt.  All we can do is wait and see…

  • paulcatanese

    With my limited 12 years of coaching, Jr. College and high school, you make some very good points about hitting, that I agree with.
    1 and 2 are a given.
    3. Interpet is the correct term, I would add to that the plan from the instructor and the hitters ability to believe in it. (something many of the Cub hitters did not buy),they were ingrained with what they had. Results spoke for that.
    4.Adjust, very important, then again they must believe in the program.
    5.The need to perfect,automaticly comes with number 6.
    6. The need to repeat, agree totally. The hitters I coached had at least 200-225 swings
    per day, each and every day we were not playing. It was split up between batting tee, soft toss and live arm, with the emphasis on zone hitting.
    I would say the best zone hitter I saw with the Cubs was Pena, he refused to swing at anything he thought was not in his zone. Unfortunatly for him it was not enough as he missed a number of pitches that were in his zone and took a number that looked just outside of his zone. Being so deliberate cost him.
    All of the above that you have mentioned creates a very good zone hitter, they are the ones that succeed.
    Example, Paul Molitor,one of the best. This was a reply to Anthony,it would not post under reply. Sorry Anthony.

    • Anthony

      thanks paul,

      after reading thru this thread, the lineup could include Roy Hobbs and 8 of his clones and there still wouldn’t be satisfaction…………….lol

      There is a place in the game for classic power hitters, always will be because its part of the balance equation

      There will always be table-setters, tweeners, sluggers who K at a high rate, my favorite, hitters with power, etc.

      Me thinks once the taint of the steroid era is eliminated, younger fans will get a better idea of this balance versus small 2nd basemen hitting 30 HR’s “all pumped up”

      How about George Brett as a classic hitter, with power, and trusted his skills so much he rarely struck out, and didn’t walk that much because his contact was usually productive.

      • paulcatanese

        Yes Anthony, I agree as I was before the steroid era, actually before Bayer Asprin, and overlooked George Brett and you are right a classic hitter (Charlie lau style) and liked his swing.
        I mentioned bunting on a post and fiind it unreal to see the lack of it or the ability to do it.
        I would hope with indications of a new style (pre steroids) that it comes back.
        Rizzuto,Maury Wills,Brock,,guys that could turn a game around hitting a ball less than fifteen feet.

  • cubtex

    I just read that now that Cashenr was traded that they will keep Shark in the bullpen and not stretch him out in spring and give him an opportunity to earn a starting spot. I wish they would give him a shot. Didn’t they sign Manny Corpas as a 7th,8th inning guy? With this being a rebuilding year, this would be an excellent time to give Shark another opportunity.

    • Tony_Hall

      Besides for Neil’s note saying “it appears…”  where else did you see this?  A few people have said that today, not sure where else it is coming from.

      • cubtex

        Have seen a couple of tweets today on that today. I am sure alot of that depends if Wood is brought back. I would rather see Shark get a shot instead of Volstad or Sonnanstine

        • Tony_Hall

          I agree.  Every indication has been that he will be given a shot, and I hope he is given a real shot.

          • Anthony

            who mage the decision on SP versus RP? Was it pre-Epstein?

          • Tony_Hall

            Do you really not know?

            JH bounced him back and forth, which many felt is why he struggled.  To me, 2012 is the year that will determine what he is, a reliever or a starter.  I would like to see him given one last chance to start.

          • Anthony

            what I meant was any plans for players changed once Theo arrived, have to wait

    • Ripsnorter1

      The Shark lacks the control to get out of the 4th inning. Shark had a good year in 2011, and I hope he continues to improve an impress, but he has yet to demonstrate that he can pitch 2 innings in under 40 pitches. So he has to stay in the pen until he can prove otherwise……

  • paulcatanese

    One more big, big deal before the Convention?

    • cubtex

      They need to get that outfield situation cleared up. I hope they can move Byrd and if no team ponies up enough cash for Soriano…keep him.

      • paulcatanese

        Agree if they cannot get enough for Soriono, in addition he did have a few runs batted in besides the home runs he hit.
        I admit he is somewhat of a defensive liability:) but right now, if they were to play tommorow, he still has the biggest bat out there.
        What I do when the ball is hit to left, just close my eyes and hope for the best.

    • paulcatanese

      And that one big move may be Wood,just a thought, but if no additional money comes forth from Theo, it may be more than a thought.
      By the way, any info on Howard’s achilles heel?

      • EqDoc

        I would hope they get Wood done before the convention so that he can attend.

        • paulcatanese

          I would think that Wood if not signed with anyone would attend. Didn’t he attend before he signed the last time?

  • Steven Petty

    being a hitting coach in the college ranks, would you like to help my 13 year old lefty out?  give some hints?  evaluate his swing?  he has a dream to be a boston red sox.  who am i to crush that dream.  all help would be appreciated. This is for you paulcantanese.

    • paulcatanese

      I would be happy to Steven, but would be difficult without seeing him swing the bat, or his positioning in the batters box.
      A good place to start and you can help with that would be to teach him how to properly bunt the ball.
      That, for some reason seems to be the most lacking in the majors even now.
      By bunting the ball he will train his eye’s to follow the ball all the way in and pick his “zone” (strike zone).
      Put a target down the first base and third base line and when he becomes reasonably proficient at it then you can start having him swing at the ball.
      There is an ad on the internet by “coach Brockoff” former head baseball coach at Tulane University, (my son pitched there) that looks pretty good and they are instructional videos featuring hitting for all ages that you may want to get.
      I have no personal knowledge of the contents but from what I have seen and know about this person, he is very good at what he does.
      Another is anything you can find by Paul Moliter, he is excellent and one of the greatest fundemental hitters ever to play the game.
      Hope this has been some help, good luck and tell him to keep his dream.

    • Aaron

      I was a college pitching coach…not a hitting coach, but I can tell you that some pro friends of mine used to take those small white beans and have someone drop them from a ladder. It helps to train the eye on the black part of the bean so you learn to focus on the seams of the baseball.

      You can learn mechanics of a swing in due time, but if you cannot see the spin or the ball nothing really matters.

      • paulcatanese

        Aaron thats a new one on me. Used ping pong balls, whiffle balls but never beans dropped from a ladder.
        I am not making fun of that at all and will ask the present coach to try it.
        I was trying to give pointers for a 13yr old.
        Next would be the tee and then soft toss before live arm.
        Thats a good tip though, and will give it a try.

        • cubtex

          I like to overhand pitch golf ball size wiffle balls for younger kids. Great for eye contact and bat speed.

          • paulcatanese

            Yeah, that works very well and have used it also.:) I personally have used real golf balls for defense ( for me when I was learning).

          • cubtex

            I have never heard that one :) Fielding real golf balls for defense? Have you ever used a ping pong paddle instead of a glove to field grounders? Great way to teach soft hands to use 2 hands and proper fielding. That was probably the best fielding drill that helped me when I was younger.

          • Aaron

            Another good one is the velcro tennis ball mitts. Remember those? It teaches soft hands as well because if you didn’t it would bounce off. The one drawback with those is if you used them a lot, the velcro would actually peel off

          • paulcatanese

            Aaron all this stuff is bringing back a lot of memories about the way it should be done.

          • Tony_Hall

            Paul – It still is done this way, just more time is spent on hitting,as that is what gives the big contracts and is what gets you on Sportscenter.
              Money and fame drives everything anymore

          • cubtex

            Yep. Those were after my youth but I used them when I coached.

          • paulcatanese

            Yes,golf balls against stairs, stand about 4-5 feet and with legs spread and glove on the ground and bounce the golf ball against the stairs with different angles and speed, really helped.
            Not used a ping pong paddle but somthing similar, a round paddle with elastic on the back that you could slip you’re hand in to field balls, worked. Used it as a coaching tool also.
            Also Eddie Miller (former red ss) taught me to play pepper the same way, very close and glove on the ground. Two hands are the best, it frys me to see these guys catching balls with one hand.

    • Anthony

      Steven, whether right or wrong, I am a huge believer that skill and athleticism starts with genetics, basically a gift given, and is a common starting point in the evolution of a hitter, and all baseball skills.

      There may be 5 tools, but each one has sub-parts to them, and several interact with each other.

      Hitting requires vision, coordination, fast-twitch muscles, a sense of timing, a keen sense of what you’re doing when you’re not seeing it(feel), let alone the mental aspects and the fact you have to be somewhat fearless and confident at the same time.

      If you have that package, then power can be added, more from delivering the sweetspot versus being a huge physical specimen. Having some strength physically is a bonus, hence my previous comments on a different post about building the swing in layers.

      Arm strength is a gift, plain and simple.

      Defensive skills revert back to athleticism, vision, able to read a fly ball and choose the best route, speed can cover mistakes or a deficiency in the vision tool, and lateral movement/footwork also a part of the equation.

      They say you can’t teach plus speed. That is correct, and why many scouts love speed guys who they feel can be taught baseball. More fail than succeed because of a lack of hit tool(missing the gift)

      Solid players usually possess a few of all the attributes, just enough to contribute in some way. Having all of them is a rarity, and the term 5 tool is tossed around so much by experts that you have to question their credibility.

      Two things regarding your request, one for fun, and the other a suggestion.

      One way to find out skill is to have your boy pick his favorite hitter, and ask him to try and emulate his swing. If a kid can copycat, then they have some of those qualities.

      Then, find a former major league hitter who gives instruction and seek him out. They are more credible than anyone.

      I am sure I will get a few opposing views, but tough shirt

      • paulcatanese

        You won’t get an oppo.site opinion from me as I also believe in the Genetic theory. Wish I could get a few things to you and you would know exactly what I was writing about. But seven of us have reached  some great goals, and two of them were girls

        • Dorasaga

          Paul, excuse me, two girls you played baseball with back in the 1960s? Continued to play baseball as a profession (or serious hobby, a part of her career, whatever it became)? If so, I’m impressed.

          • paulcatanese

            What I was reffering to was my daughter that travelled the Far East as a softball fast pitch pitcher, had 4 no hitters in JC incl one against UCLA and had a scholorship offered to Oklahoma State.
            The other was my Grandaugter that played fast pitch in JC and Got a scholorship to a College back east.

            I tried to play ball with the girls in the
            early 60’s but they wouldn’t have me:)

          • paulcatanese

            Also have two present Grandchildren that are excellent athletes,The girl who is 10 is great swimmer and competes regularly and with that a super soccer player. She is 5/7 and very quick.

            The greatest to be athlete may be her older brother 14, 5/10 and can play QB better than his father ever did. Look for big things from him.

            As Anthony said Genetics. The mother of these was also an athelete, swam for the Uof Ha.

          • Dorasaga

            Do you know which institution, team, and even city where she coached or played in Asia? I reckon it’s either China or Japan. They got hell of a good softball there.