Catching Up with the Cubs on the Last Weekend of the Regular Season

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.”

Nick Struck and Logan Watkins
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).

Logan Watkins’ Page on Baseball-Reference

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.

Nick Struck’s Page on Baseball-Reference

Bryan LaHair
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.

Matt Garza
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.

Arodys Vizcaino
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).

Dave Sappelt
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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Quote of the Day

"Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time." - Betsy Smith

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  • brent carmona

    Looking forward to many of these and ‘more news and notes’ this offseason. Great coverage of the cubs brought me here keep up the good work Neil.

  • Agustinrexach

    Great stuff!

  • Tony_Hall

    It will be interesting to see the moves this off-season, after a full season of evaluations by the new FO. I am sure they made some moves last year, based on reports and recommendations by their staff that they would like to have back.

    Of course this is not different than the other 29 teams, as all teams every year make many decisions, and no team makes 100% correct. As Theo has stated and was quoted in ST “If you have the best evaluators, the best systems, the best people, the best decision-making process, the best you can hope to do is shift your odds for any given transaction from maybe 50/50 to like 53/47.”

  • Bryan

    Obvious to all, the Cubs FO tanked the 2012 season, in turn having the fans take the brunt by paying outrageous ticket prices not reflective of the on-field product. So the fan base gives the Theo regime a one-year honeymoon reprieve…I don’t believe they’ll be so fortunate for next season.
    I personally disagree with those couple posters here who encourage those with negative views to “leave”. This loyal fan base has been listening to this same franchise rhetoric for decades…Dallas Green, Frey, MacPhail, Hendry, Baker, Pinella and the list goes on…and none could establish a master game plan for sustainable success. A couple encouraging seasons here and there, but in the total “body of work” this organization has never “gotten it right”. The fan base has a right to expect better.

    • Tony_Hall

      If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what.you have always got.

      Since no one before has had a rebuilding plan for sustained success like Theo has, I would think you would support this path more.

      • Bryan

        Tony, first, I appreciate you reply comment. But as I recall guys like Dallas Green had a similar strategy…build through an effective, developed farm system. What Theo is doing isn’t novel…he’s trimming all the bad contracts he inherited, and hoping that some moves pay off. Yes, he’s better than Hendry in the current strategic plan, but there isn’t a reason why you can’t rebuild, yet be somewhat competitive in the process. If the fan base is to embrace and “support” the path being taken, then wouldn’t it be additionally wonderful if Theo, Tom and team would convey to the fan base that while we appreciate the patience down the current path that we (as an organization) are taking, that we are going to scale back the prices to attend a game, so that the fan financial investment reflects the field product. We know that won’t happen. At the end of the day we’re all die-hard Cub fans….but sorry, the jury is still out (as it should be in his first year tenure) on the Theo master plan, and the ability to execute against it. Please respect that some of us just might not share your level of optimism, which is ok.

        • brent carmona

          Are you not glad we have a master plan in effect though? I mean before theo you’d agree that green is the only other guy that had a real plan yes? I’d take a bad season like this for the better of the future no doubt.

          Why be somewhat competitive and finish with a higher draft pick but miss the playoffs anyways? Like aaron said, better to get a high draft pick if you aren’t going to make the playoffs.

          The only good things you have to say of theo are trimming bad conttacts and has a better plan then hendry. I hope that’s not all you think he’s doing.

          I think the front office will make the cubs a little more competitive next season. They were trying to sell high ticket prices this year based off of all the hoopla last offseason, but as you know attendance will suffer next year if they have a year like this years. I could’ve sworn I read somewhere that they are lowering ticket prices next year, can’t remember where though. So I hope you can accept one miserable year for the future, but if we tank next year w same ticket prices then somethings wrong for sure

        • Tony_Hall

          Couple of points. What other option do I have but to be optimistic that the plan Theo is following will lead the Cubs to a World Series Championship? Seriously, it does no good to be so negative and get your blood pressure worked up over this team losing games. This team was never intended to be anything more than a low 70’s win team at best. I fully believe that if they had kept the rotation intact and not traded Dempster and Maholm, shut down Garza and Samardzija, that we would have close to 70 wins.

          Theo can’t be doing exactly what Dallas Green did AND people be able to say no one has ever done this to a major market team. It has to be one or the other.

          Theo’s master plan is to build from the foundation up. When looking at this season, can anyone say that we don’t have a great foundation at Boise and Peoria (and AZ rookie league). That is the foundation, that will start moving into AA next year and work it’s way up to AAA and the majors over the next year.

          • Tony_Hall

            Looks like BA agrees, that the foundation is strong. 7 of the Top 20 in the NWL are Cubs and Alomar would have been 2nd, except he didn’t have enough AB’s, which would have made it 8 out of 20.

            http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/league-top-20-prospects/2012/2614106.html

          • Cubtex

            If I am not mistaken…….weren’t these players already in our system before Theo? Maybe one of the players were added by Theo but this is who we had already per-theo

          • John_CC

            Tony didn’t say anything about who, just that the foundation is strong, and then add Soler, Almora, Vizcaino, Rizzo … and it’s getting really strong. The point is that the team plan is now to develop this talent, not trade it away for aged vets or sign aged vets.

          • Tony_Hall

            Good to see you back the last few days, after some time away. I have been posting and “discussing” less this year too, as it just didn’t seem worth it on a daily basis with the team in this state.

            I was talking about a foundation. In 2011 the direction from Tom Ricketts, who hired Theo and knew he was firing JH, was to get the best available players, regardless of signability and cost in the draft. That was the beginning of this rebuilding, whether Theo was hired already or not.

            Also, you can’t give Theo all the blame for the mess of the organization, and none of the credit for doing something with the players that were already here. You can’t have it both ways. Talented players is only part of the equation, developing them into major league players is another and something that the JH years just didn’t do.

        • Tony_Hall

          Also, they have come out and said that ticket prices will be lowered in some areas. Obviously where demand for tickets was lower, they will use the old supply and demand system, to lower prices, just like when demand is off the charts they raise those tickets.

          The jury is still out on Theo’s rebuilding plans after one year…I would sure hope so, it wasn’t a short term plan to buy aging vets and overpay them to win now. The plan is long term. They used this year to evaluate the entire organization, from players to coaches, to FO personal. I feel that if you look at the future of this organization the day before JH was fired to today, it has been completely turned around for the better.

          I also try to be respectful to all on here until they don’t show respect to others. Many times I have come to defend those on here, who I disagree with with, when someone comes on here being disrespectful to them.

  • Cloycub13

    Great work again Neil! Had to be a tough season, but you hung in there and delivered as always. I haven’t posted much, but have read em all!

  • cubtex

    Alfonso Soriano 2012 Stats. .262 31 and 106 RBI. Is there anyone in the Cubs minor leagues who is capable of putting up these numbers?

    He is signed thru 2014 at 18 mil each year. Here is the question. Why would you trade him and pay all his salary(or most of it) with this type of production from a left fielder? Who is he blocking? Dave Sappelt? David DeJesus? Tony Campana? With a 100 loss team like they have now….it makes zero sense to give a player like this away and pay his salary. Now…..if a team is willing to take the contract or majority of it…….that is a different story but to do it now without a viable replacement is idiotic in my mind.

    • roseyc

      I disagree! Several points here. Wouldn’t you say his stats are misleading. He’s a slow starter. He’s a streak hitter and he doesn’t start hitting until the Cubs are way out of it by June. While the Cubs don’t have a viable replacement in their system they could go outside the organization. How can you conceive rebuilding with a 36 year old ballplayer.He needs to be in the AL as a DH. While his defense has improved it is far from acceptable. The Cubs are not going to win the Central next year. If they were one or two players away then you would keep him. Cubtex didn’t you say Z would win 15 to 20 games with the Marlins?

      • cubtex

        The Cubs were out of it in April :) What I am saying is that he is signed. They are on the hook for 36 mil. Why pay all that salary to have a player like Dave Sappelt or that type of caliber play there? The Cubs are not going to win next year so that is exactly why you don’t pay his contract off and deal him for next to nothing. Now…..if it gets to a point that he is blocking Almora,Soler or a top prospect like that…..then it is a different story. As far as Z goes. I said it wouldn’t surprise me if he won 15 games with the Marlins. He still won more games than Volstad though.Haha

        • coachdon

          I agree with cubtex on this one. The money is spent, get something for it. I would like to see a left handed hitter start about 30 games or so in left against the tough right handers though. That would keep the old legs fresher.

        • paulcatanese

          Agree Cubtex, as the saying goes,”A bird in hand is worth two in the bush”.
          Almora and Soler, while talented now for where they are in the system are still 1-2 years away, and could end up not at all with the Cubs.
          Why take away someone who is at least gives
          Cub fans
          some sense of reality?

        • ChadAudio

          I totally agree with Cubtex too.
          It doesn’t make sense to “cut” (eat the majority of his contract), when he seems able to play some and he’s not blocking a prospect.
          Teams obviously aren’t willing to give anything up for him, otherwise he would have been moved already.

        • cc002600

          I’m with you on this one
          Its pointless to trade him for a bag of balls when he isn’t blocking anyone….unless someone takes a big chunk of that dough off your hands, which I highly doubt.

          • No Nick Names Allowed

            considering the next 3 years will be tanked; as almora-soler-baez, etc all could take 3 yrs to be ready; at least 2 plus for sure; there is NO point in getting crap back; look at Z; Volstad was 10 times worse.
            and if the cubs wanted to do this the right way; Sori would be part of a playoff contending team so he would have even more value.
            unless someone pony ups a top 10 prospect from a good minor league system……

    • John_CC

      Soriano has had a very impressive season for him, at his age. Come back player of the year, no doubt.

      But even with the stats he put up this year, his oWAR, or the wins above a replacement player based solely on his offense production is 2. Based on this metric – and I am not SABR-head but find the stats very useful in looking at all players on the same plane – he earned the team 2 Wins above the average replacement player … for $19M. The Cubs would very lucky to get a taker that would pay $5M per for his last two seasons.

      • gary3411

        Not to mention his negative defensive WAR. Say what you want about his improved defense, the fact remains and always will remain that he simply doesn’t have any range, plays balls in front of him on the hop, and will make errors. And his arm has faded. He was one of the worst outfielders in the game THIS YEAR, and this might have been his best year out there in a long time.

        Not to mention. The guy’s not going to get better, and it is very very reasonable to expect a decline in every part of his game the next 2 years.

        8mil and a ranked 5-10 prospect. GONE!

        • John_CC

          yep.

  • cc002600

    calling minor league experts,

    any chance Logan Watkins becomes more than just a utility guy somewhere down the road ?

    I love Barney, but Watkins AA numbers were very impressive this year. They reflect the things you crave from a 2B, which is high OBP, speed, good defense, fairly good contact hitter, little bit of power, etc…

    • John_CC

      I’m no expert but I don’t see why he couldn’t win a starting job down the road. He has a great approach at the plate, a little pop in his bat and must run well to put up 11 triples in 130 games. And he was just 22. I’d like to hear more about him too.

    • gary3411

      On a championship team? Probably not unless every other position has no weaknesses. On a team like this with Barney the only other option? I expect him to unseat Barney sooner rather than later. Maybe even some time next season.

    • Tony_Hall

      Watkins looks to be in the mold of Theriot and Barney. Many teams have players like these that give 110% effort and look good. These are the type of players I feel should be used for their 0-3 economical years and for awhile in years 4 or 5 if needed. But trade them for more prospects when they get expensive.

    • Tom U

      cc002600, I feel that Watkins could be a good addition to any roster. The first problem is that he is eligible for the Rule 5 draft, so in order to stay with the Cubs, he’ll have to be on the 40 man roster.

      If the Cubs do that, the next thing Watkins will have to do is show he can make the jump from Double-A. What works in his favor is that he is an excellent defender at all three positions he plays, second, short and centerfield.

      I can definitely see it in the realm of possibility that Watkins becomes a starter in the future.

  • ChadAudio

    I’m curios why Dempster isn’t considered a possibility again for the Cubs this offseason.
    Unless he wants Ace-type money, it seems that he could be motivated to come back to Chicago as a #3.
    I guess, why are we so sure he will be that much more expensive then the other FA options the Cubs are looking at (Shaun Marcom? Edwin Jackson?)?

  • Ripsnorter1

    Dempster: I think they view him as 1) having had a free-agent salary drive in 2012, ie, not repeatable in 2013, and 2) an older pitcher on the down side of his career commanding too much money, (he’ll be 36 in May), and 3) an act they have already had 9 years of, ie, time to move on.

    Look how he has pitched in Texas in a pennant race:
    4.48 ERA in 10 starts….7-2 with that great offense behind him, but a 1.343 WHIP–why, it’s just the same way he pitched in 2011, when he gave up 211 hits in 204 IP, 4.80 ERA, ….. A VERY ORDINARY starter wanting $20 million per year for 3-5 years.

    NOPE.

  • coachdon

    I think if you offered him 7 to 9 million per for 2 years he would take it. And i think it would be a great fit for the Cubs as well.

  • ChadAudio

    Thanks for the reply Rip. I guess my point was, since he wasn’t so great in Texas, why does everyone assume he gets a big contract?

    Look, everyone is going to overpay for starting pitching this offseason, there just aren’t many options (there almost never are)… why do we assume he is going to be so much more expensive then anyone else we reach for? Besides, he has success with the Cubs, and liked it here… he very well may give a discount.

    I know it’s not going to happen, I just don’t totally understand why.

  • ChadAudio

    I tend to agree. I think I’d rather have another round of Dempster then Shaun Marcom.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Maybe you are right. Time will tell.

    He still has stuff. And at that price, he’d be okay.

  • Dorasaga

    Indeed. The worst can happen is he pitched 89-90 and ended up DL for 60 days or more. I think the Cubs will go after a yearly “stopgap”, while developing truly good pitchers in their system. Dempster fits this role.