The Cubs have just six games remaining on their schedule and must win four of the final six games in order to avoid the organization’s first 100-loss season since 1966 (59-103). The focus remains on the field, for now, but the Cubs will shift gears not too long after the last out is recorded in Wednesday’s finale against the Astros.
The Cubs’ brass is scheduled to meet the day after the regular season wraps on Wednesday. Dale Sveum, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will discuss the team’s future on October 4 and which players will remain with the organization moving forward. According to a report from Comcast SportsNet, the Cubs have already begun identifying “the keepers, the goners and the guys on the bubble.”
What is decided at that meeting will impact how the Cubs move forward in the off-season. Jed Hoyer said this week that the Cubs will have their sights set on free-agent starting pitching. Hoyer indicated that the Cubs will “have to be aggressive with starting pitching over the winter” and they are looking to bolster their rotation.
The Cubs have the financial flexibility and Hoyer said the Cubs will be active on the free-agent market this winter. The Cubs have been doing a lot of research and evaluating players who are going to be free agents. Hoyer did not indicate how much they will spend this winter but the Cubs “have some money to spend and that is an area they will focus heavily.”
The Cubs announced their Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year on Thursday … with Nick Struck and Logan Watkins taking home the honors for the 2012 season. The Smokies’ teammates (Double-A) will be at Wrigley on Monday and the Cubs’ will recognize their achievements prior to the game.
Logan Watkins put together a .281/.383/.422/.805 line in 133 games with the Smokies, Watkins hit 20 doubles, 11 triples and nine home runs while walking 76 times (97 strikeouts) in 133 games (588 plate appearances). The 23-year old (August 29, 1989), left-handed hitter, right-handed thrower played three different positions for the Smokies this season … second base (95), shortstop (29) and centerfield (17).
Nick Struck was the Cubs’ Minor League Pitcher for June and the CCO’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Struck posted a 14-10 record in 28 games, 26 starts, for Double-A Tennessee with a 3.18 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. The soon-to-be 23-year old (October 7, 1989) right-hander struck out 123 batters with only 44 walks in 155 2/3 innings this season.
Bryan LaHair reportedly turned down $3 million from a Japanese team last off-season for a chance to play in the Major Leagues with the Cubs. After a first half that landed him in the All-Star game, LaHair’s playing time has been reduced to that of a pinch-hitter and spot starter.
According to a report from Comcast SportsNet, Bryan LaHair is not sure what the future holds for him but for now he plans on being back with the Cubs next season. Dale Sveum has stated publically that he is unsure how LaHair fits into the Cubs’ plans moving forward. One of the reasons that Brett Jackson was called up in August is that the Cubs figured they could not get any less production from Jackson than they were already getting from LaHair at that point … plus Jackson’s defense would be a welcome addition.
LaHair told Comcast SportsNet that he considers himself a part of the Cubs’ future and will plan on being back next year until Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer tell him otherwise.
As for playing in Japan next season, LaHair said he would not consider it unless the Cubs’ brass allow him to consider playing in Japan.
According to a report from the Sun-Times, the Cubs are not in a rush to have Matt Garza start a throwing program. Garza has been on the DL since August 7 with a right elbow stress reaction.
The Cubs have received positive reports on Garza but the injury has not fully healed. The Cubs will not know if Garza will be ready to go when Spring Training begins until later in the off-season. Garza is not throwing but has been with the team continuing therapy and exercises under the supervision of the Cubs’ medical staff.
The Coaching Staff
The Cubs’ front office is expected to discuss the future of several of the coaches next week. According to a report from the Sun-Times, the Cubs have not made commitments yet for next year’s coaching staff. Dale Sveum is under contract and will return. The biggest question mark surrounds James Rowson’s future with the organization. James Rowson replaced Rudy Jaramillo in June and has talked publically like he will be back as the team’s hitting coach but the Cubs have not made any decisions at this point.
Who’s on Third?
According to a report from the Sun-Times, the Cubs plan to look at options outside of the organization to fill the void at third base for next season. Ian Stewart is expected to be non-tendered (Stewart has said as much on his twitter account and he does not think he will be back). Luis Valbuena could return if the Cubs cannot find a bona fide starter.
Ian Stewart had surgery on his left wrist in June and has been rehabbing away from the team. The Cubs had their doctors examine Stewart on Tuesday and according to a report from Cubs.com, what was found during the examination could determine whether or not Stewart returns.
The 21-year old right-hander acquired from the Braves in the Paul Maholm-Reed Johnson deal is expected to be ready to compete for a spot in the rotation when Spring Training begins … but don’t look for him to exceed much more than 100 innings next season, if he is ready to go in February.
Dale Sveum said there will be a plan with Vizcaino considering he will be coming back from Tommy John Surgery. Sveum said the Cubs plan on “babying him through everything” and he will be on an innings limit.
Vizcaino has begun a throwing program but he has not thrown off a mound since undergoing Tommy John Surgery (March 20).
The Cubs have liked what they’ve seen from Dave Sappelt and he could fill the Reed Johnson role next season … a versatile outfielder and right-handed bat off the bench.
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