Cubs Exploring Ways to Fill Holes … and Other News, Notes and Rumors

The Owners Meetings are underway in Chicago and instead of the focus around the game being on awards week, all of baseball has turned its attention to the reported deal between the Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays. Once the proposed trade is finalized, it will change the course of the off-season throughout baseball. The meetings, which conclude on Thursday, were expected to include discussions about expanding the use of instant replay.

The Cubs’ focus remains on adding pitching but they are also looking for a third baseman, bullpen arms, an outfielder and possibly a veteran backup catcher. The Cubs also have roster decisions to make prior to Tuesday’s deadline (November 20) to file reserve lists in order to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft.

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

  • There is a possibility that the Cubs could begin the season with a Tony Campana-Dave Sappelt platoon in centerfield.
  • Levine alluded to fact the Cubs still shopping Carlos Marmol. When asked what the Cubs would expect in return for Marmol, Levine mentioned the aborted Dan Haren trade as the type of value. The Cubs are looking for a good-hitting third baseman.
  • The Cubs feel they have their first baseman, second baseman and shortstop of the future on the team.
  • According to Levine, the Cubs are not sure if the team’s future third baseman is in the organization. Levine mentioned the possibility of adding a third baseman like Lonnie Chisenhall or Nick Castellanos to fill the position.
  • The Cubs have been very vague about Ian Stewart and Levine does not think that is the direction they would like to go.
  • The Cubs would listen to a deal for Darwin Barney but Levine is not sure if they want to trade him. The Cubs “have a newfound appreciation for Barney after watching him play a whole season” and they really like his leadership ability.
  • The Cubs and the White Sox are both interested in Brandon McCarthy. McCarthy’s agent told Levine that his client would love a chance to play in Chicago again.
  • Jason McLeod told Levine last week that Javier Baez is going back to short after playing third in the AFL. Baez is expected to be 100 percent when Spring Training begins.
  • Levine said the Indians like some of the Cubs’ young players and it would probably take Josh Vitters and another young player for the Cubs to acquire Lonnie Chisenhall.
  • Starlin Castro is going to stay at shortstop until someone in the organization shows they can play short better than Castro.
  • Levine asked a Cubs official about the team’s interest in Francisco Liriano and if they offered him a contract. Jim Bowden reported last week that Liriano had a deal on the table from the Cubs. Levine said he heard it could be a two-year contract but he was not able to confirm the Cubs interest or if there is a deal on the table.
  • Interest in Trey McNutt is way down compared to a couple of years ago.
  • Levine has heard the Cubs are going to add another LED board to Wrigley Field. This one would be in left field. Levine was not able to confirm if they are planning on adding another board. A lot of the upgrades the Cubs have planned for Wrigley Field are being held up due to the Mayor’s refusal to talk to them at this point.

Brandon McCarthy
The Cubs are interested in signing free agent Brandon McCarthy … but so are several other teams. Bruce Levine reported over the weekend that McCarthy had been medically cleared to pitch and Susan Slusser confirmed the report on Wednesday.

Brandon McCarthy has been medically cleared to pitch two and a half months after undergoing life-saving emergency brain surgery. According to Slusser, McCarthy underwent 20 hours of testing by Dr. Michael Collins. The testing was scheduled for three days in Pittsburgh and McCarthy did so well that the third day was not required.

The next step for McCarthy is a two-week workout program to ease him back into baseball activities. Once McCarthy completes the two week plan given to him by Dr. Collins then he can resume his normal off-season activities.

According to the report from the San Francisco Chronicle, McCarthy’s exam included tests for eye movements and head movements while watching moving objects. McCarthy was also given cognitive tests, exertion tests and balance tests.

The A’s would like to re-sign McCarthy but they feel he will receive bigger offers from other teams that they will not be able to match.

Minor League News
According to a report from Baseball America, the Cubs re-signed Blake Parker to a minor league contract and released first baseman/outfielder Rebel Ridling. Ridling hit a combined .215/.287/.354 in 131 games for the D-Cubs and Smokies last season. Ridling hit 23 double and 13 home runs with most of the damage being done with Daytona. Ridling set career marks with Double-A Tennessee in 2011. Ridling hit 23 doubles and smacked 20 homers while posting a .309/.372/.515 line.

According to a report out of Venezuela, the Cubs signed catcher J.C. Boscan to a minor league contract. The 32-year old backstop has spent the last 14 years in the Braves system after signing as a free agent in 1996. In 70 games last season at the Triple-A level, Boscan hit .189/.264/.284/.548 with 12 doubles and three home runs. Boscon has played a total of 11 games at the big league level over the last three seasons.

Several former Cubs’ farmhands have signed minor league contracts with new organizations. Brad Snyder (Diamondbacks), Marquez Smith (Reds), Juan Apodaca (Rangers), Neal Cotts (Rangers), Scott Olsen (Rangers), James Adduci (Rangers), Blake Lalli (Brewers) and Justin Germano (Blue Jays).

Collusion?
Ken Rosenthal asked if teams’ statements are crossing the line. Rosenthal brought up the ugly word “collusion” and reported that his sources believe “that recent statements by club officials and other baseball employees violate the collective bargaining agreement.” Rules in the CBA state “team officials cannot communicate through the media the substance of economic terms discussed by players and clubs – the facts of an offer, or whether the club will decline to make an offer.”

Rosenthal cited several examples of teams communicating through the media on what they plan to do or not do with a certain player or players. The players’ union is not planning on filing a grievance at this time but they are monitoring the situation closely.

News, Notes and Rumors
According to a report from Baseball Prospectus, the Cubs might have had a little more interest in Jeremy Hellickson than first reported. The report cites Joel Sherman of the NY Post as its source and indicates the Rays are listening to offers for every starter not named David Price. The talks hit a dead end last week between the Cubs and Rays on Hellickson.

More details have surfaced on why the deal between the Cubs and Arizona State University fell apart. According to a column in the Arizona Republic, the deal started to unravel when Theo Epstein questioned the deal after he took over baseball operations. The Cubs then started asking for changes, including a reduction of years of the agreement from 30 down to 15. ASU’s athletic director Steve Patterson and Crane Kenney did not get along and according to the column spent a majority of one session “arguing over the location of a hot dog stand.”

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Quote of the Day

"Our lives improve only when we take chances and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves." - W Anderson.
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  • Tony_Hall

    Campana and Sappelt platooning in CF.

    Not quite Michael Bourn, but that is what we have right now on the roster, so it is a possibility.

    Would it be good to use them for the first 2-3 months while BJAX plays at Iowa?

    Why not….Campana can’t steal 1st, and Sappelt is never going to be more than a 4th OF anyway….

    Why…Campana might have learned, finally, how to get on base a little more, which would allow his legs to be a huge weapon. Sappelt could develop into a more than a 4th OF and could be a starter the next few years while we wait for the Almora/Soler combo to make its way to Wrigley.

    The real question is how much more production would a Pagan, Swisher, etc be, than Campana/Sappelt? And is that increase (hopefully) worth signing a 3 or even 4 year deal?

  • Tony_Hall

    I can see either McCarthy or Liriano in our rotation

    Garza, Samardzija, McCarthy, Baker, Wood

    or

    Garza, Samardzija, Liriano, Baker, Wood

    Etiher one is better than what we finished with last year, and should at least be on par (if not better) than when we had Dempster and Maholm last year, and had that great summer run before the trade deadline.

    • Dorasaga

      If Baker proves himself healthy, as what Epstein said, one of those 95% who recovered, then he should log 150-170 innings+ and give up runs below National League average (3.9 ERA). That’s a solid #3, whom should be resigned, not traded by August. The Cubs need high-level pitching, and a lot of them. I know you like to see the AA-s promoted, and then come to the Big this year, but we can’t control the future. Most of these pitchers were from the old regime, which made me skeptical of the overall crop to come.

      • Tony_Hall

        Baker will have to sign an extension to not be traded (if healthy). Vizcaino will be ready by mid season and someone will be.traded not named Samardzija, barring injuries that could create an opening.

        • Dorasaga

          I guess that’s true, if you believe an opening for this season is all they need to fit Vizcaino and keep the rotation “growing strong.” But there’s always an issue with long-term durability (able to pitch in Chicago for 3 years, as my latest research shows) when it comes to Cubs pitchers from the farm. Baker will be a “need,” not expendable. If Hoyer trades, then it should be someone else.

          • Tony_Hall

            The ability to pitch 3 straight years in any city is hard to do anymore. Not many pitchers get 33 starts each year anymore and then do it for 3 years straight.

            The best arms in the system (I view Vizcaino as coming from a trade) are at the lower levels. Paniagua (Daytona) P Johnson (Daytona), Maples (Kane), Underwood (Boise). Guys like Cabrera are being sent back to Iowa to see if he can have a Samardzija like conversion back to starter. The next best starters, at the highest level are Rusin, Raley, and Struck. None are likely to be around a long time.

            Because of the time it is going to take to get real top prospect arms to Wrigley, there is a need to keep a guy like Baker if he is healthy. I would keep Garza as well if we aren’t overwelmed with an offer. But both players need to sign extensions first, as we can’t afford to lose either of them for nothing.

          • paulcatanese

            Baez being moved back to shortstop could mean a couple of different things. 1, they may be planning to trade him( which could be a result of his attitude) something I think Epstein may have a problem with. 2, Baez can flat out hit , thats good, however is he the type of hitter that Epstein believes in? It may be another overhaul of his swing, as he is overly aggresive with the bat.
            They(Cubs) look as though they have Castro on the right track
            as far as his approach.
            But with Baez, do they want to go thru that all over again?
            I have never been a fan of Baez, but I will agree strongly that he can hit, and this may be a decision that Epstein has to make regarding the effort in getting Baez on the right track.
            3, that being said, I believe that Baez believes he is a shortstop, period, and carries that feeling when moved anywhere else on the field, that above all may determine his future with the Cubs.

          • John_CC

            Hard tellin’ not knowin’!

            But a couple things: the reports on Baez are very high. Elite hitting tools, speed, size, great arm, athletic… He is 19 years old!

            So, 1; It is quite premature to start the “planning on trade him” talk…again, he’s 19 and very raw.

            2; if his attitude issue is just being overblown – which some have reported – then I think the Cubs certainly will “go thru” the job of adjusting his approach at the plate. Come on Paul, development is what the good teams do. You can’t just draft 18 year old kids and not expect to have to “fix” them. This kid has the tools to be elite. Even if he does have an attitude, that can’t be “fixed” as well. What 19 year old first round draft pick doesn’t have an ego and competitive nature?

            3; It doesn’t matter what Baez believes he is, again, he is 19 and one year removed from HS. He doesn’t get to pick where he plays, and I’m sure he knows that.

          • paulcatanese

            I agree, I said he can swing the bat, very well. I don’t think he should be traded(personally) only if for some reason he does not fit into the Cubs plans.
            Good hitters are hard to find, but I do think that Baez, (if it were me) knowing that Castro is going to be the SS for a number of years ( unless he self destructs),
            needs to make every effort to becoming a player that can play another position, it can only make him more valuable.
            Unfortunatly its the money he recieved that creates the attitude problem, had he been one of the few that recieved minimal dollars I think he would approach the game differently.
            True,he is very young and should improve whatever his problems are, I just hope sooner than later. Careers are much too short, and no question the Cubs need his bat.

          • Dorasaga

            Difficult, yes. Not impossible It’s not as hard as you might thought:
            http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=600&type=8&season=2012&month=0&season1=2010&ind=0&team=&rost=&age=&filter=&players=

            CC, Felix, Hamels, Kershaw, Verlander, Weaver, and the overwhelming list goes on.

            Other clubs had done it better. The Braves had THREE pitchers who could, diff. sets of them throughout the 80s, 90s, and early of this century. That’s the goal, and whether the Cubs will be able or not depends on how serious they are at addressing this weakness.

            In the past, the Cubs were wrong. They were looking for stuff. Oh, the greatness that led to swing and miss, that led to strikeouts. The Cubs wanted the “easy, apparent” way of command. They weren’t looking for the sustainability, such as an easy windup or the stress-less mechanics or a fit body or the dedication to work on all three throughout the teen or the college fresho’s life.

            The Cubs need a World Series. To get there, they need sustainable pitching. They better start working their ass off to get this right.

  • Aaron

    Neil….regarding your headline….

    “That’s what she said”

    ….just had to throw that in there

    • MikeT_2008

      Well played

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Totally missed it … well done Aaron.

    • SuzyS

      harumpfff…:)

  • John_CC

    Is Lonnie Chisenhall that much better than Vitters?

  • cc002600

    “According to Levine, the Cubs are not sure if the team’s future
    third baseman is in the organization. Levine mentioned the possibility
    of adding a third baseman like Lonnie Chisenhall or Nick Castellanos to fill the position”

    Ok, I am not sure I understand this one

    If true, then where is Baez going to play ?

    • Vivid_Reality

      For another team…

    • DWalker

      Baez just became trade bait. they said they are moving him back to SS which means there is a high likely hood they plan to move him.

      • Tony_Hall

        They are planning to keep at SS for as long as possible. He has more value as a SS, than a 3B.

        Also, I know Levine has never been wrong before, but he may have taken the comment that meant the 2013 3B is not in the organization, and may not have meant the 2015 or beyond 3B.

        • cc002600

          Yea, I thought that too….
          but if they were to trade for Castellanos (which I doubt), that would mean long term.

          Oh well…..who really knows, right ?

          we”ll see

        • paulcatanese

          Had to slip this in here Tony, glass is now half full on Garza, as he is cleared to start throwing.
          Now theres one half full glass and one half empty with Baker still on the edge, but hopefully he will be ok.
          That was good news on Garza.

          • Tony_Hall

            Glad to see your glasses are filling up….Garza will be fine.

  • philpotkid

    Perhaps Crane Kenney has finally found his niche in the Cubs organization. Just add Steve Patterson to the long list of people who can’t get along with Kenney.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    According to his management, Dioner Navarro has signed a contract with
    the Cubs. No word on whether it is a major league or minor league
    contract. Will posts when can confirm.

  • Tin Tin

    I don’t get why some people don’t like Baez…he is very young and everything I have seen is that he is a beast playing baseball.
    Yes he might be cocky and immature but remember baseball writers get bored during the offseason[except for Neil who's always busy] and might put things out of context. Let me put it this way; How humble or uncocky can a 18 year old millionare baseball superstar be? The system provides for the kid to become a Diva…but maybe he is not a Diva….Let the kid become an adult before hanging him. I have seen him play and he is an absolute stud…
    Matt Kemp was like that when younger and I would not mind having him on our team…KIDS just need proper management!