Weekend Update … It’s Just the Beginning of the Cubs Off-Season

With free agency underway and the General Managers meetings in California during the coming week (November 6-9, Palm Springs), there figures to be a lot of news and even more rumors throughout the game over the next seven days. While activity might be at a minimum, the GM Meetings have historically set the tone for future trades.

The Cubs are looking to add at least two starting pitchers, an outfielder and possibly a third baseman and backup catcher. It also appears that the Cubs are trying to move Carlos Marmol and his $9.8 million salary for next season. Several teams are rumored to be interested in Marmol.

The AFL Rising Stars Game took place on Saturday night. The Cubs lone representative, Tony Zych, picked up the win. Zych allowed a run and an inherited run to score on three hits with a strikeout and no walks in two-thirds of an inning. Zych threw the ball well (23 pitches, 17 for strikes) and it was a bunt single by Billy Hamilton and a throwing error by Jonathan Singleton that led to the two runs scored while Zych was on the hill. The East squad beat the West squad 9-4.

Marmol, Haren and More Cubs Rumors
The majority of Saturday morning was spent trying to figure out what exactly happened between the Cubs and Angels that forced the Cubs to pull the deal off the table. Bruce Levine indicated that the main reason for the trade being called off was the money that would have been exchanged in the deal. It appears that Carlos Marmol jumped the gun on Friday night and misunderstood the conversation that took place with the front office. According to Levine when Marmol was asked if he would waive his limited no-trade clause to go to the Angels (Angels are one of the teams on his no-trade list) that Marmol took it that the trade was done. The two teams had not worked out the financial end at the time the trade was leaked. Parameters of a deal were in place but not finalized.

The Cubs are still interested in Dan Haren and would like to sign him according to Levine. Dan Haren and his wife warmed up to the idea of spending a year in Chicago after it appeared that Haren would be traded to the Cubs on Friday.

As for Marmol, several teams are interested in trading for the Cubs’ closer. One of those teams is the Yankees according to Bruce Levine. The Yankees are looking for bullpen help and their pitching coach, as well as Jim Hendry, is very familiar with Carlos Marmol. Brian Cashman figures to approach Larry Rothschild and Hendry on how they think Marmol would perform in the New York market.

Bruce Levine thinks there is a 10 percent chance of Ryan Dempster returning to the Cubs. Levine reported during his show on Saturday morning that a member of the Cubs’ front office bumped into Dempster and asked if he would be interested in returning. According to Levine, Jed Hoyer did not speak with Dempster or Dempster’s agent. Levine said the reports of Dempster and the Cubs having a conversation were false.

Casey McGehee could be an option at third base for the Cubs according to Levine. McGehee is the type of stop-gap player the Cubs could sign to play third next season, depending on what they decide to do with Ian Stewart. Stewart is arbitration eligible and has said he’s not sure how he figures into the Cubs’ pans. Stewart could be non-tendered and re-signed at a lower cost or the Cubs could move on and sign another player or give Luis Valbuena another shot at the hot corner for next season. The Cubs see Valbuena as more of a utility infielder than a starter.

Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod recently said how much they like the depth at third base in the system when they spoke with season ticket holders last week. The Cubs’ brass mentioned players such as Josh Vitters, Junior Lake, Christian Villanueva, Jeimer Candelario and Javier Baez as possible options for the big league club at third down the road.

News and Notes
According to Bruce Levine, both Dan Plesac and Eric Karros will receive interviews this week for the vacated spot in the Cubs’ booth. Plesac will be in Chicago to talk with WGN, Comcast SportsNet and the team and Karros is expected to be in after Plesac.

The Cubs finally posted that Matt Garza, Ian Stewart and Arodys Vizcaino were activated from the 60-day DL. The Cubs 40-man roster officially stands at 36 players.

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  • Tony_Hall

    I know this is Phil Rogers who said this, but it is actually true.

    “MLB’s new TV contracts don’t kick in for another year but could fuel bidding on a subpar group of free agents. Teams are expected to receive at least an additional $25 million per team from the central fund in 2014. …”

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/sc-spt-1104-whispers-rogers-baseball–20121104,0,5774884.story

    Gordon Whittenmeyer also discusses in alittle more detail, the changing financial landscape.

    http://www.suntimes.com/sports/16136172-419/cubs-awaiting-arrival-of-big-bucks-from-tv-deals.html

    Expect to see the FA contracts to be higher this year in comparison to what we would think these players would receive. The FA class is not that strong and teams have money and now have more money coming from their national TV deal after 1 more season.

  • Tony_Hall

    It is the recurring theme this morning on the FA market and the money teams have to spend. It is all about supply and demand. The supply is weak, and the demand is high, that will create high prices every time.

    Dave Schoenfield has some crazy ideas on where players may sign…none with the Cubs, but it is always fun reading crazy ideas.

    “Keith Law unveiled his list of the top 50 free agents and, as you can see, it filters out pretty quickly. Truth is teams are doing a good job these days of locking up their young stars to long-term contracts, so you just don’t see the number of premium free agents like you once did. Next year’s potential free-agent class looks even thinner than this year’s, so considering national TV revenue more than doubles to $50 million per team starting in 2014, I expect this year’s crop of free agents to receive some generous deals that will surprise us in their outlays. As the saying goes, it only takes one.”

    http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/30646/five-crazy-free-agent-ideas

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Raymond-Robert-Koenig/1295439291 Raymond Robert Koenig

    The Cubs should see if they can get Hendry to trade for Garza again. How about for 3 or 4 of the Yankees top prospects?

    • Tony_Hall

      I really don’t see a team trading for Garza until he shows he can pitch again. I expect there to be a market near the end of ST, if he is showing he is healthy, as he has more value to a team if he is on the roster on Opening Day. Otherwise, the market will develop in June and July leading up to the trade deadline.

      As far as the Yankees, not sure they are a match for a return anymore as Banuelos and Betances were the best names for return. Betances has over a 6 ERA this year and Banuelos is having TJ surgery. I don’t see them having the pitching to send back in return for Garza. I see the connection with the Yankees, just not sure we can get enough back.

      • SuzyS

        Tony, From my standpoint…I have an uneasy feeling about Garza and his ability to remain healthy. His injury to his arm was a weird one…and sounds like he might be susceptible to having the same thing happen again…I’m not sure how you prevent such an injury….Can anyone else shed some light on this?

        If, as a fan, I have concerns about this…it makes sense that teams (trading partners) would in fact have more concerns than I.

        I guess in regards to Garza…it’s Missouri’s state motto….”Show Me”.

    • Aaron

      Bazinga again….everyone’s on a roll with the zingers…ha ha….and so true.

      Here’s what Hendry would offer:
      Gardner
      Banuelos
      Betances
      Cano

      ….then he’d demand an exclusive negotiating window in order to extend Garza, at which point he’d offer him an 8 year, $136 million deal with no-trade rights…LOL

  • Brp921

    The three free agents that I would love to see the Cubs sign are B J Upton, Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson. This contradicts some of my comments in the past. I’ve been a proponent of rebuilding the team from the bottom up and only adding (overpaying) top shelf free agents when you feel one or two of them can put you over the top, since way before the new regime took over. I still believe in that theory. However, with the money the Cubs have available this year, I think they could not only afford the dollars it would take to sign these guys, but also do it without taking away from the total rebuild or blocking future prospects. My idea would be to offer the two pitchers two or three year contracts at a little more than market value and sign Upton to a longer term contract (4 or 5 years). By the time our young outfielders are ready for the big league Soriano’s contract will be up so Upton will not block them. I think Upton could be an integral part of the “New Cubs”. He adds speed, defense and power, and is young enough to keep producing for the next five years. We would still need to keep building the stock of pitchers because our system probably will not produce a complete pitching staff for a few more years. This scenario, in my opinion, fits in to Theo’s plan of improving the present without taking away from the future and could even make the Cubs the front runner to win the central division. The Cardinals have proven that you can win a world series by getting hot at the right time and the Giants have showed once again that good pitching and good defense dominates good hitting in the post season. I know it’s easier said than done, but I think this front office (love them or hate them) are good enough negotiaters with enough money to get the job done.

    • SuzyS

      Indications seem to be that this class of FA may be grossly overpaid after all is said and done.
      Although we have the city of Chicago in our favor…we still have a 100 loss team….and any TOP FA signing here will probably want some sort of guarantee that they’re not going to be flipped at the trade deadline for more prospects.
      So it is going to be really interesting to see how the Cubs walk the fine line between attracting FA that really want to be here as opposed to reclamation projects.

      • Brp921

        Good point Suzy. We don’t know the specifics on who the FO will be targeting but it will be interesting to see how it unfolds. We should get a better idea of how creative they can be this offseason than last. I sure wouldn’t want to see any no trade clauses in the contracts but maybe there could be other incentives built in, such as bonuses paid if traded, or just more money for a player to assume that risk. In any case I hope they do go for the guys I mentioned or a scenario somewhat close to it. I feel like there is an opportunity this year for the Cubs to win the division and roll the dice in the playoffs without slowing down the rebuild.

    • Aaron

      I agree with you on just about everything you said…..Though I will say that one thing you mentioned at the end is a bit perplexing about “pitching and defense” won it for the Giants. Do you recall Sandoval’s 3 home runs? Posey’s clutch hitting…..etc.

      It’s absolutely true that the Giants don’t make the playoffs without a strong rotation featuring the likes of:

      Cain
      Vogelson
      Bumgarner
      a re-energized Zito
      …and in the playoffs, they wouldn’t have made it without Lincecum as the long-man in the pen

      But consider the fact that from 1-5, the Tigers actually had even better pitching than the Giants…same could be said of the Tigers with the likes of:

      Verlander
      Fister
      Scherzer
      Smyly
      A. Sanchez

      But the Tigers wouldn’t have even made the playoffs without their offense pulling through down the stretch with guys like Jackson, Fielder, Cabrera, and Delmon Young coming up big for them.

      The Yankees, Tigers, A’s, Rangers, O’s, Cardinals, Braves, Reds, Giants, and Nationals all were powered to the playoffs by their offenses. Yes, they all had multiple guys with ERA’s under 4 in their rotations, but it was their offenses that truly set them apart.

      Despite their woes in the rotation, and early in the season with the pen, I still believe if the Cubs had even an MLB average offense, they would’ve made the playoffs last year….Think about that for a second…..The Cubs had 41 losses this year that were by 2 runs or less (a majority were by 1 run, just FYI). Let’s just say they won 60% of those games even…that’d make it 86 wins on the season. The Cardinals got in with an 88-74 record. The Cubs lost 2 games to the Cardinals by 1 run…they win those 2, and they’re tied with the Cardinals and Dodgers with 86 wins.

      All the Cubs really need is some offensive production from CF or RF and 3B, plus 2 starting pitchers to compliment Garza and Samardzija, and they make the playoffs.

      With over $40+million to spend this offseason, I find it extremely hard to believe they wouldn’t make the playoffs if they added Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson, and BJ Upton…..even if they didn’t add a 3B.

      I’ve been advocating for a rebuild of this team ever since I started posting on this site. But you don’t have to lose in order to rebuild. All you have to do is make sure the FA you add do not block any of your high end prospects that are sure-things.

      In CF, there’s nobody even close to a sure thing right now. The Cubs also have only Soler that’s close to a sure-thing for corner OF. As for 3B, there’s nobody that’s a sure-thing other than Baez, who isn’t even a sure-thing because he’s a SS right now that masquerades as a 3B in the fall league. Starting pitching-wise, the closest guys they have are 3 years or more away….so that’s another area you’d want to invest in this offseason.

      If they don’t make a play for guys like Upton, D. Young, Sanchez, E Jackson, Liriano, Haren (who just became a FA), Braden, Baker, Feldman, McCarthy, etc., then this regime has no idea what they’re doing…or, worse, they KNOW what they are doing, but purposely tanking the season to get a high draft choice. (which I’d be fine with if they made an attempt to improve the club, but the team sucked early on, so they just re-tooled, and took the losses later on with the future in mind).

      • Brp921

        I’ll have to admit I only halfway followed the playoffs watching them here and there and some highlights, Araron. I guess i could have found some better examples, my point was that down through the years pitching and defense have won championships more often than not. As far as free agent pitchers, everyone pretty well agrees they need two more starters, so in the long run how much more would they have to spend on an annual basis between a couple of reclamation projects and Sanchez and Jackson? Would The Rickets be willing to invest the difference to put a legitimate playoff team on the field compared to a team that has a chance if everthing goes right. As I said, this off season will be very telling as to the direction this team is heading.

      • Ripsnorter1

        With a decent offense, Cubs would have made the playoffs in 2012.

        • SuzyS

          They would need a better bullpen also.

          • DWalker

            how many games did the bullpen blow? Although not as big a factor as the offense, it still was a major contributor to all those one run losses. not to mention the psychological effect it had on the starters where they were going into a game basically thinking they had to win it without any help.

          • Ripsnorter1

            The Cubs had 21 blown saves. That’s good enough to rank #7 for the most blown saves. Milwaukee was the worst with 29.

            BUT..BUT…notice who had more blown saves:
            St. Louis Cardinals….22. And they made the playoffs.

            Who had the least blown saves? Tampa with 8.
            And they did not make the playoffs.

            Still…the Cubs’ pen was bad, and a problem. But blame Theo, because he assembled it.

          • Dorasaga

            One very useful quick-check stat for the bullpen is WPA, which basically counts what situation constitutes what expected result, as compared to the actual outcome. For pitching, that means if the bullpen saves a high-leverage and other problems, such as two out in bottom of 8th, man on first and second, or just blew it.

            The Cubs relievers were dead-last in wpa, which can cost between 5-20 wins, depending on what method you use to establish a reference point:

            http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=rel&lg=all&qual=0&type=3&season=2012&month=0&season1=2012&ind=0&team=0,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0

            The O’s, on contrary, had the best bullpen. That’s a big factor for them: Made it to the ALDS and played five full games against the Yanks, despite an O’s lineup with no plate-discipline and a shaky rotation.

  • paulcatanese

    I can fully understand why Marmol jumped the gun and mis-understood what was going on in the deal.

    After all, how long has it taken him to understand that he needed to throw more fastballs?

    I guess its hard to teach a square rock to roll.

    • Aaron

      Bazinga….LOL…good one Paul, and I fully agree with you.

  • SuzyS

    I have a question for the faithful…Do you think Soriano can repeat his 2012 performance? If so…and he is traded…whom do we get to replace his production?

    If we can’t duplicate his 2012 performance…what do the Cubs do?

    • SuzyS

      Ooops, last sentance should have read…”If he (Soriano) can’t duplicate his 2012 performance….what do the Cubs do?”

    • Aaron

      No, he won’t duplicate it….not a chance at his age. Bill James did phenomenal research on this. He said a hitter starts regressing at age 32, and might have an outlier season or two after that age, but certainly not back-to-back, and the avg/OBP typically is not where it once was. In other words, the power numbers are about the only thing resembling their past. Why? Because the bat speed just isn’t there.

      In order to come close to last year’s number, Soriano would have to go with an even lighter bat than last year, which we all know he resisted in the first place.

      Hopefully what I said makes sense. Do I think it’s plausible that he could have a similar season to last year? Yes, absolutely. Anything is POSSIBLE….But is it likely? Absolutely not, and the reason for that is we have over 130 years of stats to go off, and over 100 years in modern baseball to go off. It just doesn’t happen in a post-steroids era. The human body doesn’t work that way.

      Nowadays, you have guys throwing 95-102 mph, and the guys throwing mid-90’s now is very common….and you’re asking a 37-38 year old guy (if you even believe Soriano’s age) to hit that?!? You can forget it. If he knows a fastball is coming, he can still crush it, because he can start his bat earlier, but part of the reason he looks so awful when guys throw sliders to him is he simply cannot adjust his swing once he already started it, because he is overcompensating for a slower bat.

      Anyway, I know that seems like an extremely long answer to your question, but I wanted to fully explain how he can very well have another season like last year, but it’s highly unlikely.

      I also don’t know what would happen if he doesn’t have a good year. The Cubs would literally have to eat 100% of his salary.

      • Dorasaga

        Great stuff, Aaron. Man cannot defy nature. Sports-excellence requires a young, healthy, while experienced (seasoned/trained) body.

      • Ripsnorter1

        I do not agree with Aaron. What I mean to say is, I think Soriano can still hit 25 HR and still hit .250 and still drive in 90-100 runs for 2013.

        • Tony_Hall

          Rip – I actually agree with you on this. I think he can put up close to those numbers, actually using Aaron’s theories. Soriano has had a major change to his swing, going to a lighter bat, that has changed his career path. Without it, he could be already done, but by changing he has had a resurgence.

          Of course the questions was can he duplicate his 2012 numbers of 262 avg 32 HR’s 108 RBI’s

          His decline in 2013 would put him about to 25 HR’s 90 RBIs and a 250 AVG. Which are still decent enough numbers for him, but not duplicating his 2012 season.

          15-20% reduction in his numbers is about right.

        • Brp921

          I agree Rip. I don’t see 30 and 100 but I think he can come close to the numbers you’ve come up with.

      • nick_ss

        Hey Aaron, how have things been? I have a few questions for you? Would you be able to e-mail me, you can get my e-mail from Neil! Thanks man, I appreciate it!

    • Krikas

      I tend to believe that Soriano will produce similar numbers next year, if the Cubs are a similar team as this past season. I don’t think he can produce under pressure at this point in his career, for him it’s more psychological than physical, imo. So, if the pressure is low on a sub par team, he puts up better numbers. If the Cubs are somehow competitive we see his numbers drop.

  • Dorasaga

    Research topic: Lost Without A Throw. I was curious about pitching, since that’s the issue that Team Theo wants to tackle. I looked back 30 years at all pitchers, who at any given three years pitched 600 innings. That’s your typical ace (to be) or healthy working horse.

    I’ll save us the details and go to one of my findings. The Cubs only had Jon Lieber and Rick Suttcliffe within the last 30 years. That means, only an inning-eater (Jon) and an ace twenty years earlier (Suttcliffe) were able to stay either healthy or effective enough to pitch 600 innings in three years, with the Cubs.

    You’ll find a few Jason Marquis-s. Jason pitched 600 for the Cardinals, right before he signed a hefty sum with the Cubs. He then was never good again.

    Conclusion: If you consider all the free agent signings or trades for pitchers that the Cubs tried to gain, the club was MINUS in talent evaluation when it comes to pitching. A competitive team, trying to win as the Cubs were, needs healthy and effective pitching for a good span of years, whether he’s home-grown or loaned.

    Theo and Hoyer still have a lot to do ahead.

    • calicub

      ryan dempster pitched at least 200 innings 4 years in a row 2008-2011

      2008 – 206.2

      2009 – 200.0

      2010 – 215.1

      2011 – 202.1

      • calicub

        Zambrano did it from 03 -07

        • calicub

          steve trachsel did it from 96 – 99

        • Dorasaga

          Yes, I missed on Z, but please read my “Methodology” for this theory below.

      • calicub

        Greg Maddux from 88 to 92 and took a shot at it again from 04 -06 though he fell short in 06

        • Dorasaga

          Thanks for noting. I wasn’t clear of my last writing as an excerpt of my “fun research” for various things, not concerning Cubs alone. The purpose was to group every three years, ’12-’10, ’09-’07, and so on, because the system changed about this time. Around ’06-’04, steroid suddenly became a no-no. Pitcher performance was dreaded in general in ’09-’07. We are in a “New Deadball Era” since 2009.

          This method sliced through some pitcher’s “era,” and Sutcliffe being one of them who came to my mind as soon as I wrote the excerpt above, so was ol’Demp. Dempster was not with the Cubs later in 2012, so his ’12-’10 would not reach 600 IP for the Cubs within a single uniform.

          In case you wonder, I picked three years because as a “sabermetric toy,” we at least want three latest seasons of career data, at least 3000 pitches per season, to reduce noise.

          Anyway, the Hendry regime did a better job within a period of 12 years than his predecessor. It’s noteworthy, though, continuous postseason appearances (success) with one team required having at least one pitcher in ANY GIVEN, single, three-year slice to perform and sustain healthily; e.g. Cubs ’07-’08. That’s my underlining Theory, so I also checked the WAR of leaders from each team within each 3-year slice.

          I hope this makes sense to you.

  • Matt Coutz

    What are the chances of lincecum becoming a cub after next season, I heard there was talk about this, he would be a great addition