It’s Decision Time for the Chicago Cubs

According to multiple reports, Dale Sveum and his coaching staff will meet following Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians to discuss the Opening Day roster. Sveum said Tuesday that 95 percent of the decisions will be made Wednesday night with announcements expected Thursday.

The Cubs’ skipper reiterated Tuesday that the guys need to know where they are beginning the season. Plus, Sveum would like to have the last five days after the announcements to use the players in the roles they are going to be in when the season begins.

The back-up catcher’s position and the spots in the pen behind Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood, James Russell, Shawn Camp and Rafael Dolis appear to be still up in the air … and the announcement on the two or three openings in the pen might not be made Thursday

And, of course, a few more decisions might have to be made if the Cubs are able to trade Marlon Byrd

Marlon Byrd
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have reportedly been listening to trade offers for Marlon Byrd since they took over baseball operations. According to a report from the Sun-Times, Marlon Byrd’s name is making the rounds in the final week of Spring Training … and the Braves and Nationals are both still interested.

According to the Sun-Times, the Cubs are trying to bolster their thin bullpen while the Nationals and Braves are trying to shore up their outfield. The Sun-Times reported that the Cubs offered Byrd to Washington for pitching.

If the Cubs trade Marlon Byrd, that does not necessarily mean Brett Jackson would begin the year with the big league team. The Cubs could decide to start the season with a Joe Mather, Reed Johnson and Tony Campana mix in center which would allow Brett Jackson to gain more experience at the Triple-A level.

While the report from the Sun-Times about Brett Jackson possibly beginning the year with the I-Cubs, even if Marlon Byrd is traded, will likely enrage a portion of the fan base, please keep in mind Dale Sveum was really impressed by Brett Jackson.

Dale Sveum on Brett Jackson from the Sun-Times:

“Brett Jackson is ready to play here for sure. It was one of the harder things I’ve had to do so far managing,” he said of sending Jackson out. “It is a very difficult thing to tell somebody to go down to the minor leagues and put pressure on us to get you back here. … He brings so much to the table. This’ll be my ninth year coaching in the big leagues, and he’s the best young player I’ve seen in a major-league camp, and I’ve gotten to see some good young ones. He’s the full package.”

Opening Day Roster
The Cubs still have 40 players in camp and it appears players such as Matt Tolbert, Edgar Gonzalez, Blake Lalli, Blake Parker , Tony Campana and Alfredo Amezaga are longshots, at best, to make the roster. Manny Corpas is still in the mix for the pen, but he appears to be on the outside looking in as well.

Joe Mather, Blake DeWitt and Shawn Camp are reportedly on the verge of making the Cubs’ Opening Day roster. If all three start the season on the active 25-man roster, the Cubs will have to create two spots on the 40-man roster, which currently stands at 39 players.

For those that thought Casey Coleman would be starting the season in Iowa’s rotation, not so fast. Casey Coleman is still in the mix for the long man role out of the pen, along with Randy Wells and Rodrigo Lopez. Lopez is in camp on a non-roster invitation and in order for Lopez to make the team the Cubs would have to create another spot on the 40-man roster. Lopez signed a minor league deal, which gives the Cubs options.

Unless Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer can pull off a trade or two, the Cubs appear to have only three spots left to be announced … the back-up catcher (Welington Castillo or Steve Clevenger), a long reliever (Randy Wells, Casey Coleman, Rodrigo Lopez) and a middle reliever (Frankie De La Cruz, Lendy Castillo, Manny Corpas, Scott Maine).

Position Players: Bryan LaHair, Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, Ian Stewart, Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, David DeJesus, Geovany Soto, Jeff Baker, Reed Johnson, Blake DeWitt and Joe Mather (one open position)

Pitchers: Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Paul Maholm, Chris Volstad, Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood, Rafael Dolis, James Russell and Shawn Camp (two open spots in the bullpen, three if Camp does not make the team).

News, Notes and Rumors
According to a report from Cubs.com, Marcos Mateo is continuing to rehab from right elbow soreness but he will not be ready for Opening Day.

According to Bruce Levine, a number of teams have asked the Cubs about the availability of Randy Wells.

According to Bruce Levine, Steve Clevenger is likely going to be the backup to Geovany Soto.

Kerry Wood is still on track to return to Cactus League action on Saturday against Albert Pujols and the Angels. Wood has not pitched in a Cactus League game since March 18 but did some light throwing Monday and is scheduled for a bullpen session Thursday.

Well, there’s the update … only eight days until Opening Day

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Quote of the Day

"It's not that some people have willpower and some don't. It's that some people are ready to change and others are not." - James Gordon
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  • gary3411

    I wonder if Sveum actually meant what he said about Jackson being the best young player he has seen. Interesting. 

    • RickinMSP

      Agreed.  That list would include Braun and Fielder.

    • Ripsnorter1

      HYPERBOLE!

      IF Sveum is speaking only of position players, whom has he seen that he would consider Brett Jackson to be superior?

      Brewers coach from 2006 to 2011.
      2006 Prince Fielder’s first full year
      2007 Ryan Braun’s first year

      That ought to tell you: hyperbole.

      • Tony_Hall

        I get the feeling he was talking all-around player.  

        Braun and Fielder are not exactly Gold Glove candidates, nor do they run like BJAX.  

        No one thinks he is in their league as a hitter, obviously.

  • Ripsnorter1

    I am very interested in these final roster moves.

    I am not excited about Shawn Camp making our bullpen. He’s 37. He’s awful. 
    It would be pure hypocrisy to say “we are trying to accumulate starting pitching” and then dump Wells, who is a better starter and a better pitcher than Volstad. And Samardzija may not have the control to stay in the rotation. His last start wasn’t good at all. Then there’s always the possibility of injuries. And don’t forget Casey Coleman, All-Star Maker. Last year his WHIP was 1.755. The league hit .300 off of him, with a OBP of .388. They slugged .476 off of him, and had an OPS of .864. That’s All-Star territory for everyone hitting against him. 

    If we look at Casey Coleman’s splits, we see that LH hitters LOVED him! .964 OPS! (Compare Volstad’s .909 vs LH hitters. He’s awful, too). 

    If you want Coleman in the pen, well, he wasn’t very effective for the Cubs there. The league hit .400 off of him, had a slugging of 1.000 and OPS of 1.500. INCREDIBLE NUMBERS!

    • Scott

      I’m not going to argue that Coleman has bad numbers, he does.  However, to quote his numbers as a reliever is going just a bit far.  He faced 7 guys over 1.1 innings (2 games) as a reliever.  It’s a bit of a small sample size to really judge someone.

    • Tony_Hall

      If every time someone failed, they were ruled out of doing that in that future, there wouldn’t be many players in MLB or in anything else we all do in life.

      Players do get better.  They do work to improve, and most importantly, players mental games get better with experience, and as we all know, 90% of this game is 50% mental…

      I’m not saying I disagree with you on Coleman making this team out of the bullpen (I do agree with you, Iowa is for him), but most MLB player have had bad years at the beginning of their careers, yet still went on to productive careers.

      Shawn Camp tells you what they think of their other options being ready to go to start the year, and they feel those options would be better off starting the year in the minors.  

    • wrigleylover

      Since the beginning of last September and this spring training Volstad has pitched the best. If he is really “fixed” we won’t have to worry about his LH hitter splits. I would still have Samardzija in the pen (closer?) and Wells as the #5.

      • Ripsnorter1

        I agree: Wells to start. Samardzija to the pen. He made need to close sometime this year. There is talk that Marmol is burned up due to overuse. And Volstad…. I have to say, I don’t believe he is fixed. But it appears we are going to find out. 

        Remember the old axiom: do not judge players by ST or by September performances. 

  • cubtex

    With the lack of arms in the minor leagues….it would a crime if they took a 37 year old has been in the bullpen instead of keeping Lendy Castillo. Sure Castillo is raw….but they need to stockpile young arms like this. What is the point in keeping a 37 year old bullpen arm on this team ahead of Castillo???? Makes no sense to me.

  • Redlarczykg

    Shawn Camp’s WHIP went from 1.230 in 2010 to 1.523 in 2011. His SO/BB 2010  46 to 18 in 2010 and a bad 32 to 22 in 2011.  Why waste our time with this old guy.  This is not building toward the future.

    And Byrd.  He hit .198 with runners in scoring position (RISP) in 2011.  Dump him and open up a spot for BJAX. 

    • Aaron

       I agree on Camp….I don’t even know why they signed him…even on a minor league deal, quite frankly. De la Cruz would be a better option than him, and he’s already on the 40-man.

      If you had made the statement about B Jackson last week, I would’ve agreed with you, but now I’m changing my mind….

      If the Cubs trade Byrd, it might be best to have Sappelt and Campana handle CF duties, as they’re already on the 40-man. The reason for that is Sappelt hasn’t been given a full opportunity yet to win a regular job. This would also give the Cubs an opportunity to have Jackson and Rizzo in AAA, learning and developing together. I am starting to think the wise move would be to bring them up together at the same time. In that case…provided LaHair is still producing, and irregardless of Soriano’s production (normally I’d say to do this move only if Soriano is producing at a high level, and you can trade him, but with only 2 yrs left after this season…it doesn’t really matter), you would put LaHair in LF, Rizzo at 1B, and Jackson in CF. And by that time, I’d figure that Soto would likely be traded if Castillo is doing well in AAA.

      And given the fact I think DeJesus will continue his poor play….you’d have a likely lineup of:

      Jackson-CF
      Castro-SS
      Rizzo-1B
      Mather-RF (don’t discount this guy….Hoyer claimed that he could be just like Freese, coming on late)
      LaHair-LF
      Castillo-C
      Stewart-3B
      Barney-2B

      ….at least that’s how I’d have it set-up.

  • Aaron

    Neil,

    All of the info you just presented….especially opening 3 spots (potentially) on the 40-man is why the move to retain DeWitt on the bench is even more perplexing.

    The only guys I could see being removed from the 40-man for performance/injury concern purposed at this point are:
    De la Cruz
    Gaub
    Mateo

    What that means is that someone like a Cardenas will get robbed of a 40-man spot, which is NOT the way to go.

    In fact, if that happens, then the new regime really IS just like the old regime.

    The reason I say that is that is such a Hendry move to DFA a young guy in favor of a veteran (Johnson, Baker, DeWitt), who will likely be with the team for no more than one more year. Am I right?

    Cardenas is the better player of him vs DeWitt. Mather can play everywhere Baker can, PLUS CF…AND he has more power…AND he can actually hit RH pitching.

    Those two moves right there (trading Baker and leaving DeWitt off the roster in favor of Cardenas) wouldn’t require leaving someone off the 40-man.

    Then, if the Cubs trade Byrd, it would open up yet another spot on the 40-man (unless they got a reliever that is MLB-ready for him) with Campana/Sappelt, Johnson, and Mather filling in CF for him.

    That’s also why I believe the pen should be:
    Marmol
    Wood
    Dolis
    Russell
    L. Castillo
    Maine
    Samardzija/Wells (whomever loses the rotation battle)

    The thing you have to do when considering any options is line them up current options vs potential options.

    Is Camp better than L. Castillo? How about Maine? I would say that the answer is NO

    Is Corpas better than L. Castillo? How about Maine? I believe it’s doubtful, though he’s coming on of late

    Is Lopez better than L. Castillo? How about Maine? How about Samardzija/Wells? The answer is an overwhelming NOOOOOOOOO

    That’s also what I do with position players…(players they could potentially replace as a starter in a pinch)

    Is DeWitt better than Barney? Is he better than Baker? Is he better than Cardenas? Is he better than Soriano? Is he better than Stewart? I would have to say no on all counts

    Is Baker better than Barney? Is he better than DeWitt? Is he better than Mather? Is he better than LaHair? Is he better than Soriano? Is he better than Stewart?I would say yes to DeWitt, but no to the rest

    Is Johnson better than Byrd? Is he better than DeJesus? Is he better than Soriano? Is he better than Campana? Is he better than Mather? Is he better than Sappelt? I would say that he’s better than Campana, but not the rest. So then it’d be Sappelt vs Johnson, and Sappelt wins because of speed and potential.

    Does everyone follow my logic? It’s deductive reasoning here, and that’s PRECISELY how roster moves decisions to be made.

    I’m not saying that any of the back-up options are better than the starters (except for the case of Mather over Byrd or DeJesus), but at some point you have to acknowledge your future and where you’re headed. If the younger and cheaper players can do just as well as their more expensive veteran counterparts…and also have the potential to be a regular starter at the MLB level, then you almost have to go that route, don’t you?

    • cubtex

      That is the exact bullpen I believe it should be. Let’s look at the garbage that team Theo picked up this offseason and tell me what the point was.

      Sonnanstine- minor league deal and added to 40 man

      Corpas-minor league deal and added to 40 man. This is actually the only signing that made sense since he is coming off an injury and could be a usefull bullpen arm if he regains his stuff. But…to add him to the 40 man was perplexing.

      Trever Miller- Why? didn’t make sense since we need to see if Scott Maine, Gaub and others are mlb pitchers.

      Lopez- I guess decent insurance to start in AAA

      De La Cruz- Added to 40 man. Hasn’t shown much

      Shawn Camp- 37 year old. What sense does this pickup make?

      • Ripsnorter1

        Just think how exciting this year can be, Cubtex:

        LopezDeLaCruz
        Camp
        Corpas

        All of them qualify for the AARP discount at resturants.

        • cubtex

          too bad Trever Miller was released or it would have been standing room only

          • Ripsnorter1

            Not to worry; Jed said that he isn’t done, yet. 

      • Ripsnorter1

        Don’t forget we lost all of our AAA middle infield help, too, with Gonzalez, LeMahieu, and Flaherty. 

    • Ripsnorter1

      Yeah, I want your bullpen, Aaron. Jed/Theo/Sveum are nuts.

  • paulcatanese

    Decision day for the Cubs. As unorthadox as the signings have been so far this year I cannot imagine what those choice’s will be.
    Team Theo has been as unpredictable as any I have seen. This is not bad, as they should know what they are doing, but they really make me wonder the direction or the time table they are seeking.
    Rebuilding should be just that, and always go with the younger choice rather than the veterans they want to keep.
    Marmol should go,DeWitt should go,Baker should go,Byrd should go,
    Soriono should go,Camp(who dat?) should not be here.Johnson should go. Point is, if they are rebuilding, do it.
    I wouldn’t even begin to predict any wins or losses this year, I have no clue what these guys will do on the field, except either very good or very bad, nothing in the middle.
    Sound confused? I am.

    • Ripsnorter1

      I’m not confused. What I see is incompetence. Again. After Jim Qlueless, we get this slop. 

      Don’t tell me they know how to run a roster. We’ve plenty of evidence already to the contrary.

      DUMB.

      • paulcatanese

        I would say you are right. The other thing, are they hiding DeJesus? Maybe by not playing him a lot, fans won’t know how bad he is or will be.Plus this blind faith they put in DeWitt and Baker is dumbfounding.

      • RynoTiger

        and they’re running the Cubs..I wish I was as dumb as them because I would love to experience that…that’s my new goal..to become dumb 

    • Redlarczykg

      Spring time is the time for prunning dead wood.  Not acquiring more dead wood!  The Cubs have been infested with rotting ball players for over 100 yrs.

      Let the young sprouts grow in the Wrigley sun this summer.  I know you need to be careful about putting out your seedlings too soon, but the only reason BJAX is not implanted in Center Field is “control” – money – free agency, which I believe has become a curse on our National Pass Time.

  • Ripsnorter1
  • Ripsnorter1

    Joel Zumaya–released by the DEtroit Tigers.