The Final Cubs Weekend Update of Twenty-Twelve

As the New Year approaches, the next two days figures to be filled with ‘Year in Review’ reports throughout the game and looking back at what went right or wrong over the last 12 months. The Cubs had a rough year, one that most saw coming but there was more than just a few positives for the organization in Twenty-Twelve.

Jeff Samardzija had a good season and was arguably the biggest surprise on a team that had a miserable year at the big league level. Starlin Castro showed improvement as the season wore on and the Cubs appear to have found a first baseman in Anthony Rizzo. Alfonso Soriano put together his best all-around season in a Cubs’ uniform and Carlos Marmol listened to his pitching coach and started throwing his fastball again. With Geovany Soto no longer with the team, Welington Castillo took hold of the catcher’s job and will begin the 2013 campaign as the Cubs’ starting backstop … and Darwin Barney was pure gold at second base.

Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod added talent to the Cubs system and implemented the ‘Cubs Way’ throughout the organization.

Twenty-Twelve was a forgettable and memorable season all wrapped up in one for the Chicago Cubs.

Cubs Convention

The 28th Annual Cubs Convention is in less than three weeks and Wally Hayward joined Bruce Levine and Fred Huebner to discuss the upcoming event during Talkin’ Baseball (ESPN 1000) on Saturday morning.

The Cubs are excited about the venue change from the Chicago Hilton to the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers and it appears the Cubs have changed things up for this year’s gathering. The change in venue gave the Cubs a way to look back at previous conventions to see what worked and what did not. The Cubs are planning more interactive activities for families and kids and it sounds like the players will be more accessible than in recent years.

One of the changes that Wally Hayward discussed is there will be a new, larger opening ceremony. The fans will be closer and the players will be introduced in a runway type setting, instead of above the large crowd on the balcony at the Chicago Hilton. Hayward mentioned current and former players will be in attendance as well as the coaching staff and front office.

Hayward added the players he has spoken to are excited about coming to Chicago for the convention. Current players such as Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Alfonso Soriano, Darwin Barney, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza, James Russell, Tony Campana, Welington Castillo, David DeJesus, Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Kyuji Fujikawa are expected to attend as well as the top 10 prospects in the Cubs’ system … which is a nice and welcomed change from previous years. Over the last six conventions there have been a handful of minor league players in attendance, but not the prospects that are considered to be the ten best in the organization.

The Cubs have a ‘Family Feud’ game planned with the players, Jeopardy, Bingo Night and an Autograph Hunt with the players involved in the game. There will also be a replica of the Cubs’ TV booth set up with video of two games. Fans can call the action, and then post their play-by-play call on YouTube or on Facebook.

It will be a busy weekend, along with the convention (January 18 – January 20), Kerry Wood’s annual charity event is scheduled for Saturday night (January 19) and Kim and David DeJesus’ ‘Strike-A-Pose’ Fashion Show to benefit ALS research is on Thursday night before the convention. ‘Rookie of the Year’ will also be shown on Saturday night at the convention on the big screen.

As for changes this off-season to Wrigley Field, Wally Hayward said the Cubs were not planning on adding a LED board, similar to the one in right field, to left field this off-season. The Cubs are doing smaller projects and upkeep on the park … for the third straight off-season, the Ricketts family is spending around $10 million on necessary maintenance to the 99-year old park. The Cubs are still working on the larger renovation plans.

News and Notes

Final rosters for the upcoming World Baseball Classic should be announced shortly after the New Year. A couple of players from the Cubs’ system are on the preliminary rosters: Sheldon McDonald (Team Canada) and Yao-Lin Wang (Team Chinese Taipei). Kyuji Fujikawa is not expected to participate in the WBC this time around and reportedly both Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro are undecided on whether or not they will play in the tournament.

The Cubs have not been connected to Cubs free agents Dariel Alvarez and Aledmys Diaz yet this off-season but do not be surprised if that changes in the near future. Alvarez and Diaz were both declared free agents earlier this month and are scheduled to work out for scouts on January 5. Due to age and service time, both players are not subject to the international spending cap. Under the new CBA, Cuban players who are at least 23 years old and have played at least three seasons in the Cuban professional league are not subject to the spending restrictions.

Dariel Alvarez, the 24-year old outfielder, can play all three outfield positions and has impressed scouts with his above-average arm. Aledmys Diaz turns 23 on January 8 and will not sign before then. Diaz plays shortstop and is considered closer to big league ready than Alvarez. Diaz reportedly hits for power and average.

The Nationals are targeting lefty reliever J.P. Howell according to a report from Hardball Talk. The report, citing MASNSports.com as it’s source, indicated that Howell remains the Nationals top choice after losing out on Tom Gorzelanny, Sean Burnett and Mike Gonzalez. The Cubs have been linked to Howell in recent weeks.

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  • Tony Spumoni

    Nice update – thanks Neil.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Bruce Levine and his sidekick, on Talking Baseball yesterday, projected 14 wins for Samardzija “if he gets any help from his teammates.” Levine said Samardzija pitched much better than his 9-13 record. The offense and the bullpen let him down several times.

    They also projected 12 wins from Garza, and 11 from Jackson.

    Where I disagree with them is that they projected only 9 wins from this group of four starters: Wood, Villanueva, Feldman and Baker. If that happens, then the Cubs will lose another 101 games. I just don’t see that.

    • Brp921

      I will go out on a limb and predict at least two of the three, if not all of them, will surpass those predictions, if they stay healthy all year.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Samardzija, if he is as good as last year, could win 15 games with our improved bullpen.

        Garza…how healthy is he? He’s a 10 win guy if healthy.

        Jackson…10 wins. Maybe 11.

        Baker…he could win 10 IF HEALTHY.

        Then Feldman, Villanueva, Wood, together could win 10.

        This makes for a competitive rotation.

        • Brp921

          I agree that Garza might only be a ten win guy on next years Cub team, especially with Soriano probably being gone, but on a team with a decent offense he could easily win fifteen or more. Wouldn’t you agree?

          • Ripsnorter1

            He won 15 games once. He could do it again–even with the Cubs.

    • gocubs

      Who cares about SP wins? Meaningless, antiquated way of evaluating pitchers.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Think of it this way…if your SP earns a win, you didn’t lose the game.

        Do you think our bullpen will win 50 games?

        No, I don’t either. So if our starter doesn’t win the game, it is unlikely the Cubs will be competitive.

    • mutantbeast

      Baker is a better pitcher than hes getting credit for. Was a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy for an AL contender. I can see Baker being similar to Maholm last year.

  • Ripsnorter1

    J. P. Howell is a tough LOOGY vs. LH batters. They slugged .306, OBP .306 and they hit a mere .200 off of him in 2012.

    • Tony_Hall

      I think Wood is going to be strongly considered for the bullpen, but they already have another lefty in the pen, Takahashi. And before you throw out his 2012 stats, they were bad. But his underlying numbers were the same as 2010 and 2011, when he was effective. Plus he increased his k rate and lowered his walk rate. Even pitchers can have years where they were unlucky, just like hitters.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Takahashi, at age 37…his stats look like John Grabow’s.
        13 taters given up in 74 IP. WOW! Travis Wood is more effective in keeping the ball in the park.

        Question: was John Grabow unlucky his last year with the Cubs, or was he just bad? LOL

        We shall see who wins a job in ST. Right now, I’m not holding out much hope for Mr. Takahashi.

        • Tony_Hall

          Grabow was bad….always. Never like him.

          Takahashi’s stats aren’t that bad and he can easily be a 6th/7th inning lefty. His underlying numbers were good even last year.

          xFIP 2012 – 3.93
          xFIP 2011 – 3.94

          2012 K/rate – 9.3/9
          2012 BB/rate – 2.5/9

          Bill James projection
          3.38 ERA
          8.2/2.8 K/BB ratio

          He gets lefties out, the main focus of a 2nd lefty in a pen.

          • Ripsnorter1

            You could be right. His WHIP isn’t that bad.

          • mutantbeast

            Takahasi can be a LOOGY, nothing else please. Hes worse than Russell at getting righties out.

  • Ripsnorter1

    When asked who he thought would lead the Cubs in Home Runs in 2013, either Rizzo or Soriano, Levine responded “neither. Starlin Castro will hit 26.”

    • Tony_Hall

      Not following that logic, as he would have 26 runs from just 26 AB’s.

      If you are insinuating that he will try to hit HR’s that will take away from the rest of his hitting, I get it.

      But I think the point is that Castro is going to be a decent HR hitter, but since he is more of a line drive hitter, I don’t see it detracting from his game. The increase in power is going to happen, and I believe that he will have an increase in HR’s like this, I’m just not sure it will be 2013.

      And since when have you been against power???

      • Ripsnorter1

        You are not following me. Think this way:

        Castro leads the team with 26 HRs.
        Rizzo hits a mere 17. Soriano is traded. All this makes for a lousy offensive year.

        This sounds better to me:
        Soriano hits 30 HRs.
        Rizzo mashes 35 HRs.
        Castro hits 26 HRs.

        See how I am thinking?

        • Tony_Hall

          Sorry, I misread it.

          I don’t expect Soriano to hit more than 26 HR’s this year.

          Bill James projection for him is 27 HR’s. I believe that is assuming a full season. One year older, I expect more down time for him this year, even a DL stint.

          I also don’t think he will be around all year, I actually don’t think he will be around at all.

          Rizzo – It wouldn’t surprise me if he doesn’t hit less HR’s in his 1st full season than we think. Less than 26 would be lower than I was thinking, that is for sure.

          • Ripsnorter1

            I could agree with Mr. Bill James about 27 taters. I could agree with you about the DL, too. I hope not, but that might just be Blue Hope.

          • Tony_Hall

            We call it kool-aid around here…

          • Ripsnorter1

            YOU…YOU…YOU ACCUSING ME OF DRINKING THE KOOL-AID???

            LOL

          • Tony_Hall

            LOL….yep had to throw it out there, don’t get many opportunities to do it…

      • mutantbeast

        I can see Castro as a 15-20 Hr guy this year, but anything beyond 25 would be a reach, especially considering he has a weak lineup around him. I can see Castro, Rizzo and Soriano as 20HR plus types, possably Castillo, b ut no one else.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Team Theo needs to get us a couple of power bats.

    • SuzyS

      Rip, Where, pray tell, do you think we might find those bats?

    • Tony_Hall

      Who would you suggest?

      They are looking to have an above average defense, and currently the power is going to have to come from Rizzo, Soriano and Castro and hope for a come back year from Stewart.

      If that happens, we have 4 of the 8 starting positions with 20+ HR’s. Castillo is likely to be 15-20 range and in RF, Schierholtz/Sappelt I would put in the that same 15-20 range. That leaves Barney and Dejesus each with 5-10. That is 6 out of 8 lineup slots with 15+ HR power.

      Of course this is all “Blue Hope”

      • SuzyS

        Tony, The reason I asked Rip where he thought we might get the power bats from…is because I don’t really see any out there that really fit in the current scheme of things.

        IF, IF, IF…Stewart’s wrist injury was the cause of his anemic hitting…and IF,IF, IF he’s healed.
        Stewart might supply 20 HRs. BUT, a wrist injury is tricky…DLee was never the same after his wrist injury. So we can’t really count on Stewart.

        If we’re extremely lucky, Brett Jackson might come up the second half and supply some power…but Jackson and Vitters are extremely huge question marks. In Vitters case, I’m thinking we might not see him at Wrigley again as others will pass him by for a shot at third…Unless he puts it together in really quick fashion.

        I see both Soriano and Marmol on the trade market…The best hope for a power bat may come in the form of a trade return….but then, our need for pitching supercedes our need for a power bat. Basically, 2013 looks to be a season of power outages.

        • http://www.facebook.com/rich.hood.144 Rich Hood

          One rumor from other places that I keep going on hoping for is a SD trade for either Headley or Gzorky . If that is in the works then a trade of Soriano would not hurt us as much as it looks on paper now.

          It also should be mentioned that there is a lot of rumors that the deal with Phillie is done just waiting on Bourne or so other outfielder to shake out first. From what Bowden said on his radio show on Friday it was 3 different packages based on how much money the Cubs were going to throw in.

          So just conjecture but IF Bowden is correct maybe the other trade is a flip for a serious power guy? You never know, As I have said before lets wait till all the moves are done before we say this team is going to be at this level or that because we do not know what the finished product is yet.

        • Tony_Hall

          Scroll down and you will see where Rip wishes for this:

          Rizzo 35 HRs

          Soriano 30 HRs

          Castro 26 HRs

          and he later calls it “Blue Hope”, which I told him was really kool-aide….in which I called my post all “Blue Hope”.

          I agree that 2013 will not be a powerful year for the Cubs. Any one of the players I listed could do what I listed for HR’s, but to think they all will do it is just not realistic.

        • Ripsnorter1

          Forget Stewart hitting 20 HRs, imo. That injured wrist means….he won’t ever hit 20 HRs again. See DLee and the impact of that broken wrist on his career numbers.

          SO…work a trade for Stanton. Why not? Some can say that we can’t get him, but I am not so sure that we don’t have enough horses to buy him. And we have no proof that Solar is the real deal. He’s a great looking guy, but having a powerfully built body doesn’t mean you can hit the 100 MPH heaters that you’d be seeing.

          BTW…did the Tigers give up too much when they acquired Cabrera? Answer: NO. They STOLE him when they shuffled all of those prospects/suspects to FL for him.

  • woody34

    Marlins listening to offers for Stanton. What kind of package would it take to get him. Package centered around Almora, Baez, or Soler?

    • http://www.facebook.com/rich.hood.144 Rich Hood

      Well 2 of those would be a PTNL so IF there was a deal to be made it would have to be around Baez.

    • John_CC

      You mean Almora, Baez AND Soler? It would have to center around another young, studly MLB player. Who is that on the Cubs?

    • TheWrongGuy

      The Cubs FO/TheoMcHoyer made an offer earlier this off-season when the Marlin’s/Blue Jays big trade happened and Stanton tweeted his unhappiness with his front office.
      Supposedly the deal involved Castro and other prospects. Just for your info.

      That’s my 2 cents.

    • woody34

      If they would make a run at either him maybe with a package around Almora and Soler w/ others or make possibly a Garza package for Upton and go after Ellsbury next offseason – we would have a very competitive lineup with a core of Castro, Rizzo, Ellsbury, and Upton/Stanton.

      • BosephHeyden

        Justin Upton wants nothing to do with the Cubs. They’re on his no-trade list.

        • Aaron

          That’s not necessarily true, as other major market teams are on there as well for him. It’s strictly a negotiating ploy to get more of a bonus/accommodations if he were dealt to one of those teams. Look across the board at recent players with NTC in their contracts, and I’d venture a guess that 90% of those limited NTC signed have major market teams on it

      • Aaron

        Yes, that would make a lot of sense, but it also would make the team older with Ellsbury.

        Here’s the thing…Stanton is 23 next year (same as Castro). Upton will be 25. But, Ellsbury will be 30 next offseason.

        The Cubs really need power in their lineup with Soriano nearing the end, and Rizzo the only other true power source, this team is going nowhere unless they address their power deficits.

        Sure, Baez and Soler would provide that, but they’re at least 2 years away from contributing. By then, they’re pitching should have come a LONG way…hopefully, anyway. If that happens, then it makes a lot of sense to hang onto the position player prospects.

        The ONLY guys in the lineup that can be considered “core” are Castro and Rizzo. Castillo has an outside shot, and next year will go a long way to prove either way. The fact that Team Theo publicly has stated to some degree that Barney is “core” is pure posturing, as they want to improve trade value. That means they must find candidates to fill holes at all 3 OF spots, 3B, and 2B, and that’s not including C where the jury is still out on Castillo.

        That’s a tall order to fill all of that. When Almora, Baez, and Soler could fill 3 of those holes, with Baez potentially filling 3B which has been difficult for them to fill…a 3-for-1 deal doesn’t make a whole lot of sense

    • Tony_Hall

      They aren’t shopping him around, but as any good FO, they will listen to teams if they have an offer. The only way they will trade him, is if it is a massive overpaying and a total no-brainer for them.

    • Aaron

      There’s no way the Cubs can get Stanton without Almora, Baez, AND Soler, as John says. Sorry, but that just isn’t worth it. And I say that knowing what kind of talent Stanton is, but you simply can’t give up 3 guys that are expected to be “cornerstone” type of players, and the fact is, the Marlins would be crazy to do a package that doesn’t include those types of guys.

      The only way the Cubs should do that deal is if they got Fernandez and Yelich in the same deal, and there’s absolutely no way the Marlins would do that. They’ve talked about Soler having the same type of impact bat as Stanton anyway, and we’ve already seen the type of power Baez can generate, along with his overall athleticism…..the Cubs would have to expand the deal with other players like Lake, McNutt, etc. to make it worth the Marlins while as well.

      That might be be enough, or it might not. Who knows what their expectations are. However, what many fans might not realize is that Stanton is 4 years away from being a free agent, leaving the Marlins with absolutely ZERO motivation to deal him, even if it means having a disgruntled player.

      On the other hand, if Stanton mopes around next year and becomes a problem child, it just might make them accept a slightly…very slightly…smaller return. The thing is, the Cubs might be the best positioned team to make any trade for him, and considering they have the 2nd pick, plus the 2nd pick in every subsequent round…they might figure they can restock the system by making a trade like that. But Almora and Soler can’t be traded until next summer, so who really knows

      • J Daniel

        I don’t trade Almora, Baez or Soler. Castro, on the other hand, could be dealt. Not sure if Castro and a couple other prospects would work for Stanton. They can have BJax and Vitters with Castro.

        • cubs1967

          So U trade the all star and keep 3 suspects who have not played above A ball?

          • J Daniel

            Actually, I do. I think you are trading an all star for an all star, but dealing from a position of strength.

            I understand what you are saying as they all may miss, but I doubt it. In fact, I think Almora, Soler, and Baez can be a core along with Rizzo, for a decade. I am usually think along the lines that you are pointing out … suspects until proven and most will remain suspects. But, just a feeling.

        • Aaron

          I’d do that BJax, Vitters, and Castro deal in a heartbeat….if I were the Cubs.

          If I’m the Marlins, I laugh, then hang up promptly thereafter.

          There is no doubt that Castro is one of the best in the game at his position…no question about it.

          However, Castro is not close to the dynamic offensive talent that Stanton is. And while I believe that Castro is actually the superior all-around player (meaning hit tool, speed, defense, and range factor with some emerging power), I just don’t think other teams see it that way.

          But the thing working to the Cubs advantage in that trade (if they’d even be interested to begin with) is that they have several above average to elite talents in the minors right now that can play SS:
          Lake
          Baez
          Alcantara
          Hernandez
          Saunders

          Baez and Alcantara are the only ones in scouting circles considered elite talent, while the others are above average.

          If they’re going to trade anyone of value, and still feel comfortable about their talent at the position going forward, then Castro would be the logical choice to jettison for a player like Stanton. As I mentioned before, they’d have holes at 3B, and all 3 OF positions, so they’d get to hang onto Almora, Soler, and Baez with someone like Shoulders or Vogelbach in line of a potential position change to the OF, giving the Cubs an opportunity to slide Lake, Baez, etc. into 3B or SS.

          But like I said, the chances of a trade like that going down without the inclusion of those guys is highly unlikely

          • Dorasaga

            That’s like saying a fat tuna in your pond is not as worth as a slim bass down South in some river you’ve never been. And I’m not into the business of lofty comparison.

            Why should Cubs fans believe that a still very young, but proven shortstop who is a natural hitter and consistently knocked 200 onto all sides of the field, is much lesser than a corner outfielder of similar age (actually, older) but “potentially” better with power? Am I not hearing question marks all over? all other skills?

            Castro might never learn how to get on base without hacking, but I’m not sure why should we praise a Castro-Stanton trade?

          • J Daniel

            Aaron,
            What do you think would be necessary in a deal built around Castro?

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  • Cubs4ever

    I see many people willing to dump Castro for Stanton or all 3 of our top prospects. Castro plays a premium position and is a 200 hit guy. How many shortstops do that. I like Stanton but he is not worth all that. Look at his numbers. Last year was the first year he hit over .262. He has never driven in 90 RBI. He has never had more than 30 2B. He doesn’t play everygame(unlike Castro) He is not Miguel Cabrera. He is a very good young player just like Starlin Castro is. No way do I trade away Castro and prospects for him.

    • John_CC

      The way you word that makes him sound like Soriano. Stanton is 22. Last year, “the first year he hit over .260″ as you say, was his 3rd year in the MLB. At 22. And he hit .290/.360/.970 with 37HR in 123 games. That is huge. Like Castro, he is only getting better.

      I’m not saying I’d trade the farm for him, or even Castro. But it is certainly worth considering. Stanton is real, one season soon he’ll crush 50HR/120 RBI.

      • Cubs4ever

        Castro is 22. Stanton is 23. Castro plays SS. Castro in last 3 years has played in 125, 158 and 162 games. Stanton 100, 150 and 123 games played. How about comparing 2B’s. we won’t even mention triples because it isn’t even close. 2B’s for Castro 31, 36 and 29. Stanton 21,30 and 30. You say I make him sound like Soriano? Soriano is a more consistent power threat. Look at Soriano’s 2B’s last 3 years. 40, 27 and 33. So yes, Soriano has averaged more doubles and RBI than Stanton last 3 years as well. Stanton is a good young player but he is not worthy of trading Starlin Castro for.

        • John_CC

          Look, first off I like Castro and I understand what a talented hitter he is.

          But you unfairly passing off Stanton’s impact. He turned 23 in November, so last season was his third full MLB season at 22. Castro will be 23 in March, so let’s just call them the same age.

          Stanton jumped from a .260/.356/.537 line (.890OPS) with 34HR in 600PA in 2011 to .290/.360/.608 (.968 OPS!) and 37HR in 500 PA!

          Like Castro, he is advancing rapidly. 37HR in 500PA! A .608 SLG% and .968 OPS are elite power hitting numbers.

          Castro’s slash line last year: .283/.323/.430 doesn’t even compare to Stanton’s. I know this is sort of apples to oranges, but I do not understand how you can say Stanton is not “worth” trading Castro for based on doubles.

          • Cubs4ever

            The main argument is Castro plays SS. Look around baseball. How many SS have Castro’s offensive upside at 22? He played 162 games last year and Stanton doesn’t. Stanton hits HR’s but not alot of RBI or doubles and triples. I take Castro everyday and twice on Sunday

  • Dorasaga

    I will like to see Rizzo play. He’s young and a first baseman. Marmol played in 2009, and he came back in good shape while closed effectively, broke the K-9 record until Kimbrel broke it for relievers with 50 IP of any given season.

    I won’t like SP and SS go. They are more prompt to injuries. Castro needs to fine tune his approach, so he’ll stay close to the watchful eyes of Cubbie coaching staff.

    Enjoy the New Year break. We all need one before March, when we start getting heart attacks!

  • mutantbeast

    The more I think about it, I say keep Castro and leave Stanton be. Miami is going to want 4-5 of your top10 prospec ts for him, meaning likely 2-3 of Baez, Soler, Almora, Voglebach, Maples, etc , would be gone. Right now, I say keep the kids. Stantons price might come down this summer.

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