Playing .500 Ball Not Acceptable for the Cubs

The first day of the Cubs Caravan is in the books and both Theo Epstein and Dale Sveum took time to speak with the media on Wednesday.

The Cubs’ manager addressed the 101-loss season and said being a .500 team is not acceptable. Sveum expects the Cubs to “compete with a revamped rotation, a new set-up man and another year of growth from the kids” according to the Tribune. If the Cubs were to post a .500 record during the upcoming season that would be a 20-game improvement. Sveum does not think being a .500 team is good enough, “getting into the playoffs is what’s satisfactory.”

Theo Epstein addressed the playoffs question and said, “the 2013 season can be considered a failure if the Cubs don’t make the playoffs.” Epstein explained that with that said “we’re obviously building for something greater, which is a time when we can expect to be in the postseason every year.” Epstein went on to say that “behind the scenes, regardless of the results, there’s progress being made.”

Rosters for the upcoming World Baseball Classic will be released on Thursday. Anthony Rizzo is excited about playing for Team Italy and according to a report from Cubs.com, Starlin Castro will play for Team Dominican Republic. The Sun-Times reported Monday that Castro would not play in the WBC this time around.

Matt Garza and Scott Baker

Theo Epstein addressed the status of two of his starting pitchers on Wednesday and said both guys are on track to be ready to start the year. Dale Sveum did not sound as optimistic. According to the Tribune, Sveum indicated his team has “an above average chance” to be 100 percent healthy by May 1. The Tribune reported that if Garza and/or Baker are not ready to start the season in the rotation then Travis Wood or Carlos Villanueva would be able to fill in.

The Cubs like the depth they created in the rotation this off-season and Epstein thinks the depth gives them the flexibility if everyone is not ready to begin the season on the active roster. Epstein said that Baker is on track to be up to 75 pitches by the end of March but if he needs an extra start or a rehab start in the minors then they have enough depth to not skip a beat.

Epstein reiterated on Wednesday that they expect Matt Garza not to have any restrictions when Spring Training begins and for him to be ready to go when the season starts.

According to the Tribune, Dale Sveum said Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza and Edwin Jackson will lead his rotation with Scott Baker and Scott Feldman filling in the last two spots … if Baker is ready to go. Epstein mentioned the possibility of the Cubs using a piggyback for Baker when the season begins in order to have him in the rotation on April 1. Piggyback pitchers are pretty common in the lower levels of the minor leagues.

The Sun-Times reported Wednesday night that Theo Epstein “left open at least the glint of possibility” that Matt Garza could remain with the Cubs throughout the season.

Jeff Samardzija

According to a report from ESPN Chicago, the Cubs are working on a one-year contract to avoid arbitration with Jeff Samardzija. The Cubs were discussing a long-term extension with Samardzija in early December but have decided to wait before extending his current contract. The Cubs have three years, including the 2013 season, of control left on Jeff Samardzija.

Carrie Muskat reported that Jeff Samardzija is likely to get the Opening Day assignment.

Carlos Villanueva

The Cubs have not made the signing of Carlos Villanueva official yet after agreeing to a two-year, $10 million deal with the right hander on December 20. According to Carrie Muskat, Villanueva is expected to attend this weekend’s Cubs Convention and the announcement has been delayed because the team needs to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

News, Notes and Rumors

According to a report from the Tribune, Dale Sveum plans to use Kyuji Fujikawa in the eighth inning to setup Carlos Marmol with James Russell and Shawn Camp mixing and matching in the sixth and seventh innings … the remaining four spots in the pen is to be determined.

Scott Hairston is on the Cubs’ radar, along with the Phillies, Braves and Mets but New York’s second team reportedly low-balled Hairston and offered him a one-year, $2 million deal and not the two-year, $8 million contract reports have indicated he is looking to sign.

The Rays are definitely in the mix to sign Kyle Farnsworth according to a report from the Tampa Bay Times. Farnsworth is reportedly deciding between three teams … with one of them apparently being the Rays.

Multiple reports Wednesday indicated what the CCO reported last week that the Cubs will unveil renovation plans for Wrigley Field during the Saturday session “Renew Wrigley Field” at the Cubs Convention. According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs continue to explore options to add a giant electronic scoreboard that would be placed in the outfield or on a rooftop across from Wrigley. Wrigleyville residents and the city would have to approve a “jumbotron” due to the added noise and light the structure would produce.

The Nationals traded Michael Morse to the Mariners on Wednesday as part of a three-team deal with the Oakland A’s. The Nationals received minor league right handers A.J. Cole, Blake Treinen and a PTBNL from the A’s. Seattle sent John Jaso to Oakland and the A’s DFA’d George Kottaras to make room on the 40-man roster for Jaso. The Nationals re-acquired A.J. Cole after sending him to Oakland in the Gio Gonzalez deal last winter. With Morse off the block and on the way back to Seattle, the M’s could be out of the discussion to sign Michael Bourn.

And last, but not least, Jim Bowden brought up the Alfonso Soriano to the Phillies rumor again during his show (Inside Pitch) Wednesday afternoon on MLB Network Radio. Bowden said that if Darin Ruf has a bad Spring Training then Alfonso Soriano will be with the Phillies on Opening Day. The money owed to Soriano is a major issue and holding up the deal according to Bowden. If the Cubs are going to pay $20 million of the $36 million owed to Soriano then they want a good prospect in return but Ruben Amaro Jr. is trying to hold onto his prospects. Bowden thinks that Soriano will be traded by Opening Day.

The Cubs Caravan concludes on Thursday and the 28th Annual Cubs Convention kicks off on Friday afternoon …

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Quote of the Day

"Baseball, just a game as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes." - Ernie Harwell
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  • SuzyS

    OK guys (and gals), I’ve been thinking about this for awhile….What would you consider to be a successful 2013 season for our Cubs??? Not necessarily wins and losses…or making the playoffs…but true success in the development of the team.
    -IE….Solving the hole at 3rd base in the form of an Ian Stewart defense with an Aramis Ramirez offense.

    Seeing B. Jackson and J. Vitters turn in credible seasons of development where they become servicable if not tradeable players.

    – Identifying and positioning ourselves to find a true Ace of the Rotation for 2014.

    – Finding/developing an OF capable of Sori’s 30HR/100 RBI season (with good defense!)

    -Shark continues to develop in a positive fashion while Jackson finally puts things together.

    – Vizcaino regains his health…and begins to realize his potential value as a top pitching prospect…and keeps healthy…avoiding the Mark Prior/Angel Guzman/Kerry Wood syndrome.

    – Rizzo/Castro/Barney/Castillo progress and get better as opposed to backsliding.

    – Having a good to great draft…In my mind…this does NOT include Mark Appel.

    – Our key prospects progress and develop in a timely manner…moving up a level or 2 putting them much closer to contibuting at a MLB level.

    -All the while…not winning too many games at the MLB level so that we can still get a high draft position in next year’s draft.

    – Get equitable value in any and all trades.

    If we’re NOT going to win the WS in 2013…the above listed desires would add up to a successful season….
    I realize that all these things are not going to collectively happen at the same time…they are ideals…and dreams.

    What are your thoughts on what would be a SUCCESSFUL 2013 season for the Cubs????

    -

    • Aaron

      Glad you asked….a successful season would look like this:

      1) Trading Soriano for a decent prospect(s)

      2) Trading Marmol for a decent prospect(s)

      3) Trading Camp, Baker, DeJesus, and any other veterans on 1 year deals (or that have 1 year left of original deal)

      4) Having Baez, Soler, Almora, P. Johnson, Underwood, etc. all take a significant step forward

      5) Having B Jackson and Vitters rebuild their value so they can either step in, or can be traded.

      6) Making the playoffs, OR finishing at the bottom while the previous 5 points are accomplished. What this ensures is another top pick, and a large pool of bonus money.

      I’m convinced that the Cubs can compete in 2014.

      The thing with Team Theo that you have to keep in mind is they are the polar opposite of the Hendry regime. They will promote players in their early 20’s, even if they’re not 100% ready. They allow them to fail, then send them back the following year to AAA if they struggle to work on things they learned at the MLB level. Hendry would almost always wait until that player was in his late 20’s to finally bring him up, and that’s the damn truth. Castro is about the only example you can give of him bringing up another player, and the only reason for that was to save his job. If you look at Theo and Jed’s history both together in Boston and Jed in San Diego, you’d see that they’re not shy to promote guys up several levels when they’re not ready. It seemed like they weren’t afraid to do so, because they wanted the most “peak” years out of that player as possible, whereas Hendry would get years 27, 28, 29, and 30, and to a lesser extent, 31 and 32, before the player declined. The problem with that strategy is that a player will typically take 2 years to even reach his peak, meaning that all of a sudden, you’re looking at just 3 years of “peak time”. Team Theo, on the other hand, if they promote that player by the time they’re 22-24 yrs old, will have upwards of 6-8 years of peak time.

      So, I’m confident in their strategy…as long as they stick with it.

      • Tom U

        …as long as they stick with it … is the key phrase.

        Plenty of the Cubs previous GM’s ( Green, Frey, Lynch, McPhail, Hendry) have had a strategy, only to abandon it and “go for broke” when the team contended. This cost the franchise players like Joe Carter, Rafael Palmiero, Jamie Moyer, Greg Maddox, Kyle Lohse, Jon Garland, Dontrelle Willis, and Josh Donaldson to name a few.

        Let’s hope they break the cycle.

        • DWalker

          There are two differnces this time. The first is Theo and Jed seem to have the discipline to stick to a plan even if it is unpopular. They also have experiance with why not sticking to the plan can be a disaster. The second is the ownership of the club, and its appearing more and more why Theo did not stick to the plan in Boston. In Chicago, its been decades since the club has had ownership with patience and enthusiasm, but is also willing to listen to their staff. Admit it, for a long time, Cubs ownership never really cared as long as the stands were full. Ricketts so far has taken advice, has enthusiams and patiance, and seems fairly hands off. The fact that he signed on to a total rebuild like this shows to me he can think long term where the club is concerned. To many of the other GM’s couldn’t produce early results and then locked themselves in a spiral trying to keep their job.

        • Aaron

          Green actually was Lucchinno-ed….or Werner-ed…just as Theo was.

          If you look at the 1989 team…that was largely engineered by Dallas Green. In 1984, he recognized they had a shot, so he made some moves, dealing decent talent for sure, but getting young talent like Sutcliffe (who was just 28 yrs old) in return.

          In a way,it was almost like Theo in 2004. He inherited an aging roster, but his grand plan was to create a player development machine much like he came from with the Phillies. However, after the success of 1984, the Tribune disagreed, and it led to significant tensions. Theo had the same plan, but was given more trust considering the championship they won.

          As for Lynch, McPhail, and Hendry, I never once saw that ultimate plan either enacted or communicated, whereas Green and Team Theo specifically mentioned that player development machine and how they would get there. What Hendry stated when he took over was the lack of pitching prospects the Cubs had, and the need to develop their own, but that’s all he mentioned.

          • mutantbeast

            Cubs never should have fired Green and Goldsberry. The Trib ran the team into the ground to cover there newspaper losses.

        • daverj

          Other than Garland, I’m not sure that those franchise players you mentioned were lost because of the “go for broke” mentality. Maybe Carter too, but Sutcliffe was a big piece of ’84 and ’89 so it’s hard to argue with that one.

          As for the others … There are plenty of rumors behind the reasons for the Palmiero deal which have nothing to do with “going for it”. Moyer was available to all teams many times before he turned the corner about 10 years after the Cubs dealt him. And Lohse, Willis and Donaldson were not top prospects when they were dealt. And Maddux (the first time around) was lost to free agency … rumored to be because of Himes’ ego.

          • mutantbeast

            Lohse has only succeeded anywhere hes been with Dave Duncan. Wonder why no one wants to sign him? That’s likely(next to compensation) why.

      • cubs1967

        as much as i would love to smoke the blue hype or drink the cubbie kool-aid this team has no shot to contend in 2014. who will be 3b?
        who will provide power in the OF if Sori-Dejesus and Schierholtz are all gone? If garza is traded who pitches besides smard and ejax? who closes? wayyyyy too many holes on this team and the best FA is R Cano and then the dropoff is huge. Virtually No good SP for next year FA class.
        it’s all about 2016 when soler-baez-vogelbach-almora-lake should be in the majors for 1st year or 2nd year. any shot to contend left when theo did not keep marshall, keep aram and sign cespedes and darvish when the opportunity was easily their’s.
        unless garza brings back a AAA hitter and pitcher and Vizcaino progresses; none of the other trades will help in 2014.
        this is a long rebuild. i don’t agree with it; but i won;t get trapped into thinking any sooner.

        • mutantbeast

          “easily” theres 1967? Cespedes was offered the same $ the As offered him. Darvish didn’t pitch to his contract in Texas last yr, couldn’t win on the road and will have shoulder issues within the next 3-5 years if he insists on throwing 50% breaking pitches(reminds me of Jack McDowell)

          • Cubs4ever

            Darvish didn’t live up to contract???? He pitched last year as a 25 year old. He was 16-9 with a 3.90 era. 191.1 IP 156 hits and 221k’s. He had better numbers on the road. Only 5hr’s allowed on road with a .209 BA. Aside from the bid to acquire him he is signed at 6 years 56 mil. Pretty solid if you ask me!

          • daverj

            You can’t ignore the bid. That needs to be factored into the amount the team is paying per year for Yu’s services.

          • Cubs4ever

            Agreed….but he still had a decent 1st year. What that contract also does is make him attractive to other teams if they decide to trade him down the road. Hell, his contract is less than Edwin Jackson’s!

        • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

          Aram was a cancer. I believe he was addition by subtraction. He can hit but he’s not worth it…

      • BosephHeyden

        Finishing .500. I want to see progress. I’m sick of hearing the same old “We’re going to build from the farm system” statement we’ve been getting. They don’t need to build an entire 40-man roster from prospects. They don’t even need to build a 25 man roster from prospects. Develop what we have, get a few more pieces from trading, and by next year’s off-season, there’s no excuses for not buying and trading for roster pieces to make a perennial challenger. I’m tired of seeing the same song and dance from every Cubs management person over the past 30+ years, which also managed to go back another 70 years that I wasn’t around for.

        The benefit of the doubt only lasts another 245 days. If they don’t show any progress this year, and they don’t make wholesale changes with players and coaching (because if they can’t finish .500 this year, the Sveum experiment is a failure), then they’ve settled on their identity: they’re the same old Cubs that are fine making the postseason once or twice every 10 years, but can relax easy knowing flocks of their rich yuppy colleagues will fill up Wrigley regardless of wins and losses because, hey, it’s a destination!

        .500 is acceptable. Over .500 is better than that. Playoffs and this management staff will stay in my favor for years. Anything less, and they just need to change course completely, because we’ve seen this play out enough to know it isn’t going to work.

        • DWalker

          .500 is not acceptable to me. I either hope for the playoffs or bottom sucking, I’d like playoffs. If they can’t make that, then finishing the middle of the pack is a waste of draft potential. Nobody is going to be much more interested in a .500 team than a repeat of last year, so take the draft spot.

          • DWalker

            Forgot to put what I would like to see. I’d like to see prospects movign in every level, especially pitching. I’d like to see a couple of pitchers start to develop into starters we can look forward to seeing. I’d like to see 3rd base and catcher prospects start to solidify. I’d like to see Shark make it through the year without slumping off. I’d like to see Rizzo play every day and Marmol and Soriano both bring back a decent prospect.

    • Ripsnorter1

      There were only 27 players in all of MLB in 2012 with as many as 30 HRs.

      Good teams have at least 2 of these players.

      Orioles

      Detroit

      Texas

      Yanks

      Angels

      Brewers (and Aram added 27).

      PIRATES!!

      Here’s the teams with just one:
      Cubs, Arizona, Reds,Twins, Toronto, White Sox,

      Miami, Padres, Nats, A’s, and Cards.

      Let’s develop some more power.

      • mutantbeast

        Cards and As had several with 20-29, maybe not great power teams, but solid power teams. Largely why the As won was because and there offense developed Riddick, Cespedes, Crisp and Carter into viable offensive players. Cards have Freed, Holliday, Beltran, Craig, all of whom will provide around 25 HR or so. Who was 2nd on the Cubs last year, Castro and Rizzo(14 each, I believe)

  • Tony_Hall

    One point that came out was the rotation and the depth.

    1. Samardzija
    2. Garza
    3. E Jackson
    4. Baker
    5. Feldman

    6/7 Wood/Villanueva

    Now the bullpen is almost set as well.

    1. Marmol
    2. Fujikawa
    3. Russell
    4. Camp
    5. Wood
    6. Villanueva
    7. Bowden
    8. Rondon
    9. Takahashi

    • daverj

      Looks like you have Vizcaino listed twice in the list of starters.

      • Tony_Hall

        Thanks for noticing. It was suppose to be Villanueva. I fixed it.

  • Cubs4ever

    Playing .500 ball is not acceptable? Sveum might be judged on wins and losses this year? Good! The starting 8 will struggle to score runs as currently constructed. No team speed. No power(especially if Soriano is dealt) The only .300 hitter is Castro. Rizzo will more than likely have some sophomore adjustment periods throughout the season. Unless they significantly improve the outfield and 3rd base, this team will struggle to score runs again. Maybe bring in Marc Trestman to improve the offense!

  • mutantbeast

    Might not be acceptable, Theo, but as currently constituted, this team will win 70-75 games at best. You’ve improved the pitching and depth quite nicely this offseason, but your offense stinks. I see a lot of 4-3 and 3-2 games in 2013, with the Cubs coming out on the short end of those sc ores more often than not. To reach .500 youd need career years out of guys whose track record suggests its not going to happen.

  • calicub

    so it now appears that Castro wont be playing in the WBC?

    thats a whole lot of flip flopping…

    • Tony_Hall

      Not so much flip flopping as Castro wanted to play, but the Dominican team is going with Reyes and Erick Aybar for their SS.

      • calicub

        absolutely, i just meant the news reports.

        • Tony_Hall

          Good example of how rumors happen.

          Some people were saying that Castro would be playing, obviously either talked to Castro, who said he wanted to play or had applied to play or people who had seen the options available to the Dominican team.

          Some people were saying that Castro would not be playing, obviously had the connections who knew what was going on with the Dominican team.

          I would love to see the stats on the accuracy of reporters tweets.

  • Cubs4ever

    Carlos Zambrano with a no hitter thru 7 in Venezuelan winter league. Bring him back :)

    • Cubs4ever

      One out double in bottom 8th. No no hitter.

      • Tom U

        Thanks for the update Cubs4ever. Tonight is the night I that work late.

    • calicub

      Someone’ll give him a minor league deal I just pray it’s not the cubs