Avoiding Arbitration, a Minor League Signing … and Other Cubs News and Notes

The Cubs crossed another task from their off-season to-do list Friday when they agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Matt Garza. The Cubs and Garza avoided arbitration just before his scheduled hearing in St. Petersburg. Garza had filed a $12.5 million salary arbitration number and the Cubs offered $7.95 million.

The two sides met just below the midway point and Garza inked a $9.5 million deal for the upcoming season that includes a $150,000 incentive package based on innings pitched. Garza receives $50,000 for reaching the 210-inning plateau and another $100,000 if he totals 220 innings in 2012.

With Garza under contract, the Cubs have signed all of their arbitration eligible players.

Lost in the news when the signing of Gerardo Concepcion was announced Thursday night was the Cubs inked lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith to a minor league deal. The Cubs have not announced the contract and whether or not the deal includes a non-roster invitation to Spring Training.

The Cubs did invite another pitcher to big league camp. According to Bruce Levine, Esmailin Caridad will be in camp on a non-roster invite. With the addition of Caridad, the Cubs NRI list currently has 22 players on it.

Here’s the update …

Gerardo Concepcion
The Cubs have not announced the signing of Gerardo Concepcion but the deal is expected to be worth as much as $8 million. The contract reportedly includes $7 million in guaranteed money and with incentives it could max out around the $8 million range.

There are also reports that the contract Concepcion signed is a Major League deal. If the reports are accurate, the Cubs will have to make another roster move to open a spot for him on the 40-man roster.

Ryan Rowland-Smith
According to multiple reports, the Cubs signed 29-year old southpaw Ryan Rowland-Smith to a minor league contract. Smith posted solid numbers in 2008 and 2009 with the Mariners before struggling to a 1-10 record in 2010 (6.75 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP in 27 games, 20 starts).

Rowland-Smith spent last season in the Astros’ minor league system.

After a brief two games in Rookie ball, Rowland-Smith posted a 2-10 record in 22 games, 19 starts, at the Triple-A level with a 6.19 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP.

Ryan Rowland-Smith’s Page on Baseball-Reference

Jorge Soler
Baseball America ran scouting reports for several of the Cuban players garnering attention this off-season … among those players was Jorge Soler.

The Cubs have been linked to Jorge Soler all winter. Many feel the Cubs will be in the middle of the bidding for Soler once he can begin negotiating with teams. Unlike Yoenis Cespedes, Soler has not established residency in the Dominican Republic … which is the first step in him becoming eligible to sign with a big league team.

Soler, 19 years old, will need a couple of years in the minors before he is ready for a shot in the majors. Soler has a very high ceiling with the offensive and defensive potential to be a productive right fielder at the Major League level.

Soler is listed at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds and according to Baseball America, he stands out for his thick, physical build and strength. Soler has great power, bat speed, the ability to hit balls to all fields and a 25 home run potential. Soler is athletic for his size with a 60-yard dash time that grades out as above average speed … and his above-average arm can handle right field.

According to Baseball America, “while scouts like his power and some like his swing, he bars his front arm and the stiffness in his stroke is a concern for some scouts.” There is concern about his ability to hit breaking pitches but he has good pitch recognition and more on-base potential than Yoenis Cespedes.

Jorge Soler is represented by Bart Hernandez and turns 20 on February 25.

Geovany Soto
Geovany Soto joined Casey Stern and Todd Hollandsworth during Inside Pitch (MLB Network Radio/XM Radio) on Thursday afternoon and discussed his thoughts on the changes with the Cubs.

Geovany Soto sounded happy about the changes that have taken place with the Cubs this off-season. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have come in with a great attitude and a new vibe. Soto thinks the Cubs are going to be just fine moving forward under the new leadership. Soto explained that Epstein and Hoyer are doing a great job tweaking the roster.

As for the Cubs’ new skipper, Soto had a chance to talk to Dale Sveum during the convention and described his new manager as “a Baseball Bible”. According to Soto, Sveum knows everything about the game and is real old school.

Soto is looking forward to having more of a leadership role on the team. He discussed the importance of the team being able to play the game the right way and manufacture runs. He added in order for them to win games they are going to have to do all of the little things it takes to score runs because they probably are not going to him many home runs.

Carlos Zambrano was briefly discussed. Soto gave a simple answer and said, “I feel both parties needed a change.”

Soto is looking forward to working with Travis Wood and admitted he has a lot of work to do when camp begins. Soto has to learn all of the different pitchers brought in this winter and will try to catch more innings with the guys he doesn’t know in Spring Training.

Matt Garza appears to be staying with the Cubs, at least for now, and Soto is very happy Garza is still a Cub. Garza has a great attitude and knows how to pitch. Soto feels once he puts it all together, Garza will be an ace.

Soto was not happy with his performance last year. He admitted he did not use the entire field like he has to in order to be successful. Soto explained he became way too pull happy and must hit the ball where it is pitched.

Geovany Soto thinks the first weeks of Spring Training, between camp and the games, can set a tone for the entire season. Soto is looking forward to having a fresh start and seeing what type of team the Cubs will have during the upcoming season.

News and Notes
According to a report from the Sun-Times, Mike Quade took issue with Dale Sveum’s comments about the Cubs’ effort (or lack of it) last season.

Mike Quade has some advice for Robin Ventura on how to deal with the Chicago media.

The Red Sox hired former Cubs’ scout Gary Hughes. Hughes will serve as a Special Assistant to GM Ben Cherington. Hughes is widely regarded as one of the best scouts in the game. Jim Hendry and Gary Hughes go way back but find themselves in the middle of what ESPN calls the best rivalry in all of sports.

The Cubs were one of the teams rumored to be interested in signing reliever Todd Coffey … but the veteran right-hander agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The one-year deal with an option was announced Friday.

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

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  • Tony_Hall

    Garza taken care of for now, Concepcion is signed, and hopefully Soler will be next.  

    It’s also good to hear Soto say he needs to take on more of a leadership role…he is the catcher, that is his job.

    D – If you are reading today, from 3 days ago - 
    http://chicagocubsonline.com/archives/2012/02/cubsnewsrumors_62.php#comment-426249332

  • Tony_Hall

    Q was in over his head, and believes that they played hard last year, you know except for the kid Castro who had to be punished for his lackluster play and effort.  

    FYI – Robin Ventura – let Q’s calls go to VM…
    —–
    “It’s a grind and it consumes you,’’ Quade said. “As prepared as I was, it still surprised me how much time [the job] consumed, not just time with people but stuff you mull over — whether it’s criticism or obligations with this beat writer or that beat writer or TV station, charity events … it’s on your mind a lot.”   
    ——–
    Just think of how bad Q would have been if he had been “unprepared”

    From the article Neil posted
    ———
    Quade, who is fishing on a daily basis in Florida while waiting for a major-league job opportunity to surface, didn’t like hearing that.“It’s a beautiful day fishing in the sunshine — I appreciate you [messing] up my day,’’ Quade said, laughing. “Maybe I’m being an ­idiot, but I thought we gave a pretty damn good effort every night. I don’t know, maybe that was[Sveum’s] philosophy or a backhanded shot. I didn’t hear that.’’Quade had to take rookie Starlin Castro aside for lapses in concentration. Aside from that, he was pleased overall with effort.  
    ——–
    Keep fishing Q..I don’t imagine many major league teams will be calling anytime soon, as you said it yourself, maybe your an idiot And I hope that is last time I ever talk about Q.

    • Cory

      He really is such an idiot

    • paulcatanese

      Next to chickens, fish are the dumbest creatures in the world,
      but I bet they know who is on the other end of the line and Q is still waiting to catch one.

      You have to be able to outsmart the fish, not gonna happen Q.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Just like my high school coach used to say: “He hasn’t got the brains that God gave to a chicken.”

  • Tony_Hall

    For any of those on here, with the 100 loss predictions and believes them, here is an article that discusses the possibilities and the odds that teams hit 100 losses this season.

    http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/20511/will-2012-see-too-many-100-loss-teams 

    Astros 53%
    Mariners 24%
    A’s 20%
    Mets 20%
    Royals 14%
    Twins 12%
    Padres 10%
    Pirates 10%

    Still no Cubs listed, yet 4 teams from the NL, one in our division.

    • GaryLeeT

       Having 2 of the 8 worst teams in baseball in thier own division is exactly the reason the Cubs are not shown on the short list.  If the Cubs trade Garza, and Soriano (I know, but he did have 88 RBIs last year), they will lose 94 games, even with all those forfeits from the Astros.

      • Tony_Hall

        When people have been making 100 loss predictions, were the Astros and Pirates, not in their division?

        Soriano’s WAR was 1.3 last year and 1.6 the year before.  WAR is based on replacement level player, or in other words, what a AAA player can produce. I don’t see that as a huge loss, if he is traded. 

        Garza would cost the team wins, I have no doubt, and I hope they sign him to an extension now that he is taken care of for this year, baring a team overpaying for him.

        I expect this team to be in the 70′s for wins right now and fall short of your 94 loss estimate.

        • GaryLeeT

           So you are going out on a limb, and predicting that the Cubs will win 2+ more games than I predicted? You animal.

          • Tony_Hall

            You are taking the most negative number possible to make the comparison, I’m in the 70′s for wins and you are in the 60′s with I would believe 68 would be your high not midpoint, where I can’t imagine them being below 70, and am thinking 73-75 for an actual number.  The absolute best I can see this team doing is just over 500, with 82-83 wins, and that would be if they beat up on the Astros and Pirates and have a lot go their way.

      • Cory

        Did you roll some dice or what?  How did you come up with 94 losses?

    • cubs1967

      cubs are gonna lose 100 games……..you can book it.  maybe the bucs and astros too, but the bucs beat the cubs like a drum the last few years. this team is far worse at 1b/3b plus still have Sori and Byrd around; plus Z and Cashner have far better stuff than Volstand and T Wood will ever have……..and R Lopez and Sonnastine don’t impress me when injuries occur.  stupid ESPN thinks team Theo can’t put together a 100 loss team………….they can & they did……….just wait till Trevor miller and ryan-rowland smith are pitching.

      ugh……….all crap…….gonna lose more than a Quade managed team,……….it’s sad………….but we have $$200 seats in the bleachers now!!

      • John_CC

        ugh is right.  When you have something new to say, it will be welcomed.  Until then, why keep spouting this same old, tired, rotten line of drivel? 

        Cashner started 1 game. Yes he is better than Wood and Volstad, but was not a factor last year.

        The #4 – 5 SPs for the 2011 Cubs:
        Wells – 23 GS, 4.99
        Coleman – 17 GS, 6.40 ERA
        Chi Chi – 16 GS, 4.40
        Doug Davis 9 GS, 6.50
        Russell – 5 GS, 4.12

        70 Games Started, I’m not gonna do the math, but I’d approximate the ERA over those 70 starts somewhere around 5.00.

        Volstad and Wood are both better than 5.00 ERA pitchers.

      • SuzyS

        cubs1967…I understand your frustration…Last year, I picked the Cubs to win 67 games…and they mildly surprised me by winning 71.
        AND I saw little hope for a turn around with Hendry/Quade at the helm.

        This year, I believe Sveum will be a better manager
        that Quade. Combine that with youthful enthusiasm…and a team-wide need to prove itself &
        I think we’ll finish somewhere in the same neighborhood as last year…WITH HOPE for future improvement.

        I’ll take that any day over the mess we’ve suffered through the last few years.

        • Cory

           Well said Suzy, I agree.

        • GaryLeeT

          Youthful enthusiasm is great fun for fans, but only when it’s coupled with actual talent, can it produce.  With revolving doors at certain positions, as try-outs continue through out the year. Players will receive erratic playing time, and/or will be playing at unfamiliar positions. This year will be pretty messy too.

          • SuzyS

            Agreed….messy but interesting.

    • BosephHeyden

       I still don’t understand why the Cubs front office is going with this “we won’t be competing for another two years” nonsense.  What do they hope to find out in two years?  What happens when, realistically, one of those prospects they’re counting on to be a potential Hall of Fame type player winds up barely breaking .200 in his career?  The Central is completely open.  The starting lineup they have is capable of averaging a .275 batting average and, if they don’t make awful personnel decisions with pitching, they should be able to get at least one 15 game winning and two 10 game winners.

      If they intend on just seeing what they have for the future this year, then they can go for it:  a sub-.500 season season is acceptable so long as it isn’t any more than 9 games under.  If the best they can do this year is 20 games under .500, they need to just go ahead and blow up the entire team, prospects and all, because they’re not going to wind up doing any better in two years time.

      • Anthony

        The 2011 STL team batted .273 to lead the NL, and the NL average was .253 as a whole.

        • Cory

           Anthony is right.  The birds raked last year.  No way this years Cubs come close to that.

          • BosephHeyden

             See though, they’re CAPABLE of doing it.  Bryan LaHair, when he got playing time, hit .288.  Darwin Barney, for all the heat he got, hit .277.  Realistically, looking at every player on the roster, Soriano and Soto were the two noticeable under performers still with the team, both hitting under .245 and both of those guys are on the hot seat.  The problem was that Mike Quade had no idea how to produce a lineup capable of scoring runs and, whenever he did, he’d quickly switch it back to something that didn’t work.  If the Cubs learn how to hit with runners in scoring position, they can win.  Not saying they’ll compete for the Central, but third place would be very realistic.  All they need to do is optimize their lineup, sit people who don’t produce, and they can do…something.  But losing 90-100 games is completely unacceptable.

          • daverj

            In full time duty, there is no way LaHair touches .288.  If he hits .260-.270 with 15-20 HR, it will be a very successful season for him.

          • Tony_Hall

            I’ll take the over on the HR’s (with at least 500 AB’s).

          • John_CC

             Me too.  Maybe I’m optimistic, but .260 / 15 is a low ball.

          • daverj

            I hope you are right and I am wrong.  Bill Jamesprojects LaHairfor .273 with 13 HR in 300+ ABs.  Rotochamp (which has some sort or computerized projection system) projects him at .258 with 12 Hr in 400+ AB’s.  LaHair.

      • Tony_Hall

        Where did you ever see the front office say “we won’t be competing for another 2 years?”

        As far as what happens when one (1) of those prospects they are counting on ends up not making it, which one (1) are you talking about?  They just like all teams, have many options at all the positions.  Why did they just get Rizzo, when they have Bour, Ridling, Vogelbach, etc who all could make it.  You need lots of players in the minors to produce each major leaguer, most don’t make it, but they are not counting on any one player to make it, to turn this team around.

  • John_CC

    Gosh, I haven’t even though about good ‘ole Q-Ball Qaudsie is a long time! 

    Let’s all just take a minute, together, as one big happy family, and be thankful that we do not have to listen to that self-admitted “maybe I’m an idiot” idiot speak everyday, ever again. 

    Can we all please agree on one thing?  This is a positive!!

  • drodd

    I can’t wait for spring training.

  • Jeff in AZ

    You have had some great posts today Tony and I agree with everything you have said. Good stuff.

    • Tony_Hall

      Thanks Jeff. 

  • SuzyS

    Boseph,
    1rst, a .275 team average is difficult to achieve. Usually a .268 – .270 team average with a GOOD
    pitching staff should be a winner.

    Yup, the NL Central IS wide open. BUT…is winning the Central and bowing out in the first round the goal? We’ve done that. 

    Some….SOME of our prospect/suspects will indeed prove themselves over the next few years. Some will peter out…and some will be traded for better pieces.

    We are STILL working our way out of BAD contracts…
    & lest you forget…Ricketts has approximately a $30 million per year interest nut that the Tribune Co. never had.

    My guess is that the Cubs WILL be big players in the
    FA market once we work out the BAD contracts….
    AND SOME of our prospects prove & establish themselves.

    The first step is to DUMP SALARY and Not commit
    us to any other long term bad deals.

    Step 2 is to build up the minors as much as possible…to either fill the holes left behind OR
    USE as trading chips to upgrade talent across the board.

    Step 3 is to utilize ALL modes of talent acquisition
    (including big money FA) to fill in the holes we can’t
    internally. AND WIN

  • Anthony

    It always happens in baseball.

    There will be a few surprises as far as prospects that make positive
    noise in 2012, players that will make you say “how did I miss that”, and then it forces everyone to take a better look as to what makes a solid major league player.

    Try to refrain from making wish-list future lineups, they never work out as expected, and just because some Rags put out these silly lists, none of these experts ever spent time with the players, have no clue what they are all about, but take the easy road on hype, internet media repetitive cut and paste garbage, scouting opinions based on unqualified people, and a vast array of misinformation.

    You have to see the players, and track the progress.

    I have unique information on some of our prospects, many who do not get any press, and having this from people in baseball, scouts, suits, agents, and college coaches is a nice perk.

    The best advice is to try to get to Mesa for minor league ST, then try to attend games in Boise, Peoria, Daytona, TENN, and Iowa, and watch. You will come away saying “that guy is good, why doesn’t anyone notice”.

    The Club notices, and thats all that matters, not BA, not the other clowns who stare at masonry block walls eating $5 dollars pizzas and drinking cheap beers pretending to be experts.

    Be Patient, and trust your own eyes.

    • paulcatanese

      Anthony, I am patient and trust my own eyes and thats how I ended up with my wife:)******She’s a gem.

      • Anthony

        same here paul……lucky us