Spring Training is in Full Swing … and Other Cubs News and Notes

Spring Training is nearing the halfway point; the Cubs open the 2012 season three weeks from Thursday against the Nationals at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs made a couple of Spring Training roster moves Tuesday when they assigned Esmailin Caridad and Casey Weathers to minor league camp. The front office also created a spot on the 40-man roster after Casey Weathers was outrighted Sunday to Triple-A Iowa.

Could the spot the Cubs opened up on the 40-man roster be filled by Blake DeWitt?

Here’s the update …

Chattin’ with Bruce Levine
Mr. Talkin’ Baseball held his weekly chat on ESPN Chicago. Here are the highlights:

  • Levine really likes Jeff Samardzija’s chances to make the starting rotation. Samardzija told Levine Tuesday morning that he could throw 80-90 pitches right now if he needed to.
  • There have been a lot of teams interested in Marlon Byrd. The Cubs could receive a good, young prospect in return. But if the Cubs can hold onto Byrd for a little longer until the inevitable injuries pop up, they might receive a little more for him.
  • According to Levine, the Cubs have to be careful not to start Brett Jackson’s Major League clock too soon.
  • Dale Sveum said he will likely not make a decision on his starting rotation until the last week of Spring Training. In the meantime, all of the candidates are building up their innings.
  • Levine thinks 81 wins and a third place finish in the NL Central would be a very good year for this team.
  • The new regime has not given up on Josh Vitters but he needs to mature. Vitters was late to the first meeting between the managers, coaches and players and that was a red flag for the new management.
  • At this point, the smart money is on Joe Mather making the team out of Spring Training. According to Levine, Tony Campana has minor league options left and Mather gives the team flexibility (all three outfield positions, first base and third base).
  • Levine has been told both the PTBNL to the Red Sox and the compensation owed to the Padres for Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod will be nothing of significance, most likely Class-A players.
  • The Cubs refuse to say whether or not they’ve made any progress in signing Matt Garza to a long-term deal.

News and Notes

The Cubs are not concerned about Carlos Marmol … and Dale Sveum threw out the Arizona-breaking ball excuse Tuesday. The Cubs are working on correcting a mechanical issue and want Marmol to focus on his fastball command.

Carlos Marmol looked upset following his outing against the Reds on Monday … nobody is going to fret too much about his mental approach, at least not now according to a report from ESPN Chicago.

Joe Mather looks right at home with the Cubs … and he is pushing Tony Campana for the fifth outfielder’s spot on the Opening Day roster.

Andy Sonnanstine was in the mix for a starting job when camp began and could still end up in the Cubs’ pen according to a report from the Sun-Times.

According to a report from the Tribune, Blake DeWitt is likely to take the open spot on the Cubs’ 40-man roster that was created when Casey Weathers was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa.

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

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  • J Daniel

    If Samardzija is one of the remaining spots, who will fill the last?  And although it would be nice to see BJax right away it might be better to start the season with Byrd and move him when someone else’s need is even greater.  I believe Byrd will have a really good year -the typical contract year.  Just keep adding as many good prospects as possible!

  • Ripsnorter1

    It makes sense to keep DeWitt. DeWitt hits LHP better than RHP (.406 vs LHP last year). He could be your platoon 3B (you know, the platoon system that Sveum doesn’t believe in) with Stewart. Stewart can’t hit RHP–.091 last year–and he needs some type of help. Besides DeWitt can play 2B as well. 

    • Tony_Hall

      You keep taking what Sveum says about platoons and running with it.

      He doesn’t like “strict” platoons.  

      He would rather say these are the 8 starters and here are the bench guys who will get starts every week.  

      But a comment he just made this weekend, was that the lineup will be different many times, as they go with match-ups for that days pitchers. 

      So, you are taking his previous comments about not liking platoons, and not realizing he is going to do what you talk about, but at a higher level.  He’s not going say this guy bats against RH pitchers and this guy bats against LH pitchers, he is going to look at all the numbers against that teams starter and the bullpen and determine who will start that day.

      As far as Dewitt goes, I’m still not sold, but we have 2 more weeks before the final roster is made.

      • Rfrakes

        You see Tony it is about results.  DeWitt this spring has delivered. Who else had third has delivered?

        • Tony_Hall

          Thank-you for helping me see that Dewitt has delivered the first 2 weeks of ST, when pitchers aren’t throwing many curves or sliders and has 11 AB’s.  Big sample size.

          Are you saying Dewitt should be the starter at 3B?  No thanks.  If he makes the team as the 2nd IF, I’m fine with that.

          If you think ST stats are real – 
          Stewart 286/333/357  

  • Tony_Hall

    Sorry to burst the bubble on Campana, but Mather is taking his spot, by out playing him and showing versatility.

    • GaryLeeT

      I rooted for Tony as well, but Mather is clearly the better all around player. When I first saw Mather’s name I thought he was coming out of the Cubs’ system, but see that he is a NRI. Looking at his physical make-up, and coming from the Braves system, I was surprised that he had not made it as a full time MLB player.

    • paulcatanese

      As you know Tony, I am a huge Campana fan. I mentioned yesterday about him and LaHair,and both are not getting it done so far.
      The”Beaver” is and deserves the chance at this point over Tony, and the same for Rizzo over LaHair.
      What is confusing is the Jackson senerio, the Cubs have said there are several teams interested in Byrd, but want to hold on to him, forseeing him playing well and getting more for him.
      As they have traded some good and some bad, I can’t agree holding on to Byrd and not putting BJax in his spot, as Sveum has said he is ready.
      This roster is driving me up a wall.

  • Jashawx

    Mather @ 3rd base would b horrific, look at his numbers there as a minor leaguer..896 fielding %. He was drafted as a 3rd basmen but he has shown he has no skill at the position in 11 minor league seasons. Also, he has shown average base running ability. This seems like a bad move at least Campana brings 1 unique ++++++++ skill. Mather shows none.

    • Aorcappy

      If campy can’t get on base his ” one unique +++++++++ skill” means nothing. Mather has hit the ball well this spring and has versatility. The cubs aren’t asking him to start at 3rd but the fact he can play there in a pinch makes him more valuable.

      • John_CC

         And if they bring Baker and DeWitt that would put Mather as the 4th string 3B, or essentially not expected to ever play there.

    • roguesqr09

      I don’t see them putting him at 3rd unless in an emergency. More likely the 5th outfielder. The 3rd base stats you mention remind me of someone else the Cubs traded for, he was a 3rd baseman at the time, and I believe terrible at it, so they put him somewhere else….was it 2nd? Oh, what was his name……

  • cubtex

    It baffles me to have a report come out that Sonnanstine could still end up in the Cubs pen? Do the math. Where is there room for him? I thought it was idiotic to waste a spot on the 40 man roster when they signed him and Corpas and to think he is still in the mix for a bullpen spot is ridiculous. Remember, Lendy Castillo has to be in the pen if they want to keep him(and I think they do) IMO they also need to keep an extra lefty this year since Marshall was traded.

  • http://twitter.com/Rondo_2 Matt Hirschi

    Neil,  Any word on what players will be making the trip to Vegas to play the Rangers this weekend?

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      I have not heard/read yet.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    This will get everyone going … not the intent.

    Sveum says Brett Jackson is essentially ready to play in the big leagues, but admits there isn’t room on Cubs roster as constructed now.

    • woody34

      Meaning a trade of Byrd or Soriano must come first.

    • paulcatanese

      I agree Neil, and thats what is driving me nuts, the roster as it is now. If things go the way the plan is, their should be many changes before coming north.

    • Zonk

      It’s the right call for the future.  By waiting until June, the Cubs will push back B-Jax’s free agency by 1 year, saving a pile of money.  In the meantime, they can use that time to see what market develops for Marlon Byrd.

      Besides, I would like B-Jax to work on cutting the Ks a bit before we annoint him the starter

      • cubtex

        Exactly right. This is a management decision. Has nothing to do with what Sveum says or wants.

    • Aaron

       Ideally, it’d be Byrd traded, because he’d bring the most in return, whereas Soriano would just be salary relief.

      I hope that’s the route they choose, but Hoyer has already come out and said that Soriano and Byrd are going nowhere before Opening Day…so while he didn’t mention anything after that, usually teams don’t start making moves until the middle of June or close to the trade deadline. That means that all the prospects are stuck in a holding pattern until then, which is NOT an ideal situation. I also don’t believe in the arbitration “clocks” that are bantered about. While you save money for one year, and delay their arbitration from reaching “Super Two” status, if they’re good enough to make a difference on your team, then why are you holding them up? Plus, if you play it right like the Rays have done brilliantly with their young players, then you sign them to extensions early, and you end up paying them less than you would have if you had gone with a veteran stop-gap (such as DeJesus…or Byrd).

      I just hope the Cubs brass learns to cut ties with veterans better than the previous regime, because that will prove to be the downfall if they miss the playoffs yet again, as it has a compounding effect over time (ie.-prospects don’t get experience and a fair look, etc., then veterans are signed because the young guys are an unknown commodity)

      The way to do things is PRECISELY what I suggested last year, where you buy low on guys like Melky Cabrera, Franceour, Milledge, Josh Fields, etc., then sell high on them if they regain their form near the All-Star break for more prospects, or you hang onto them, and extend them for another year or two based on what your prospects are doing.

      What the Cubs used to do under Hendry is sign veterans right when prospects were about ready to contribute, then they usually played a game of option roulette, trying to fill-in with prospects almost exclusively when veterans went down with injury…and when they didn’t do well in their 10-20 AB’s during that time, they were labeled a bust, and the whole process started all over again.

      You can rebuild a team in very short order if you follow the plan I outlined above….I just hope Hoyer and Epstein do so.

      • SuzyS

         Aaron, Just watching what’s happening in Spring training tells me the Cubs are under a completely different management regime.
         I’m not worried about the team reverting to JH moves or attitudes.
        There will be mistakes made…but I’m pretty sure we
        have an extremely smart front office in place…One that will make more right moves than wrong…
        That, by itself, is a total novelty for this long -time
        Cubs fan.

    • cubs1967

      Huh??…….so the cubs are now the rays??  3M fans and this is what they are worried about??
      After cutting payroll about $38M from when Ricketts took over (back to tightwad PK McCaskey)……we cab’t afford BJax now??
      and like the Bryd market will be hot in June…….please.

      anyone else noticing there really is no intent this year to put a winning baseball team on the field…….really sad after 103 years this is the way to reward fan loyalty.
      just release bryd……..who cares; no one is gonna give anyone close to a top 20 prospect for his salary based on talent.

      • SuzyS

        Cubs 1967 : Why in the world would you release Byrd
        when there is interest in him and his salary….while not atrocious…is still substantial???

        What happens if BJAX does get his shot early…and he blows it…KOing too much?

        I’m Ok with Byrd until June 15th or so. Right now…his value really does not equal his salary…Let’s see if he can get his value up a little before we trade him.

      • Aaron

        No, they are NOT the Rays….I only used that as an example to tie up younger players.

        The thing they shouldn’t be concerned about (which is why I referenced locking up young star…or future star players if that’s the worry) is money.

        If the Cubs could find a way to lock up the following young players (if they prove they can handle MLB), then they’d be well on their way to respectability:
        1B-Rizzo, Vogelbach, Hoilman, Shoulders, etc.
        2B-? (DeVoss, Hernandez, Torreyes etc.)
        3B-Vitters, Baez, etc.

        If all these guys arrive at approximately the same time, and you extend them all early (ie.-like Evan Longoria), then you have potential bargains with less risk than veterans for the same price.

        ON average, if you follow the Longoria path, they’d be due approximately $5-7 million/year. If you have 13 position prospects earning that amount, you’re looking at $65-90 million. As for pitchers, you’re looking at $10-15 million per for your top 3 starters if they’re any good, and anywhere from $1-7 million for your last 2 starters. That’d be a total of anywhere from $32-50 million on your starters. Then, if you factor in relievers, with the average closer earning around $8-10 million nowadays, and 1-2 relievers earning $5 million each, you’re looking at somewhere around $24 million for your pen. Overall, that makes for a total payroll in the $140-160 million range, which is befitting of a major market team.

        But if they don’t start playing this wisely with their young players (such as locking up Castro), then they’ll be playing with fire later on, because that $5-7 million will become $10-12 million early in arbitration . The idea, at least in my mind is to have as many top flight prospects like Rizzo, B Jackson, Vitters, and Szczur all coming into their own at the same time, so you can make something like that happen, then with an improved draft and international free agent signings, you can trade those young stars at their peak value when they reach the expensive range….or, you can just hang onto them, and make a sustained run with a huge payroll.

    • Anthony

      Reading between the lines, it appears that the clock dynamics and potential struggles(K’s) of the player are contributing factors.

      Even though Byrd is pedestrian and on the downside(age), the player heading back to AAA is both business and baseball driven.

      Jackson is probably ready, but there is also a good chance that in between the flashes of brilliance could lie long stretches of swing and miss which could result in a “one step forward-two steps back” trek, which can cause confidence issues.

      In other words, maybe they fear the 2011 Rizzo result?

      If Byrd was traded today and Jackson inserted, and he produced a .220 BA with a 30% K rate, will you still love him or call him a bust?

      He is going to strike out as he has historically from college baseball and into the Pro’s. It is part of his package. The question is……..how much?

      As I have mentioned before, there is a new regime in town. Every player from EXT to AAA is being re-evaluated using the eye test as well as metrics. Fresh reports are being made and players start with a clean slate.

      Starting with the kids, reports are that the entire group will remain in AZ EXT and vie for Boise roster spots. I agree, and once again, have mentioned that they never have experienced the Grind yet even though some want players like Baez and Vogelbach starting for AA TENN in a few weeks? What!

      Aaron, your post below that appears to have a John Hart Indians early 90’s theme is OK, but those key players were already seasoned in high-level minor league baseball and were brought up systematically to MLB, then extended on the cheap.