Weekend Update … No More Loveable Losers and a Big Week Ahead for the Cubs

The next seven days will be anything but boring for the Chicago Cubs. Not only does the Cubs Caravan and the 28th Annual Cubs Convention take place this week but the deadline to exchange arbitration figures with players is Friday (January 18) and the rosters for the upcoming World Baseball Classic will be announced on Thursday (January 17).

The Cubs have three arbitration eligible players remaining on the list after agreeing to terms on a one-year, $930,000 contract with Luis Valbuena on Thursday. Matt Garza (around $10 million), James Russell (around $1 million) and Jeff Samardzija ($5-$6 million) will receive nice raises through the process.

As for the WBC rosters, reports have suggested Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro could end up participating in the World Baseball Classic. Sheldon McDonald (Team Canada) and Yao-Lin Wang (Team Chinese Taipei) are the only Cubs’ prospects on preliminary rosters.

And, will this be the week that the Cubs finally announce signing Carlos Villanueva?

Theo Epstein

The Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations is in Boston this weekend for his annual charity event, Hot Stove/Cool Music. Theo Epstein told the media he understands the Cubs’ culture a lot better than he did a year ago.

Epstein recognized that the Cubs’ reputation as “loveable losers” helps with attendance at the ballpark but it “makes it difficult to turn things around.” Epstein said he has addressed the “loveable losers” tag with the players and has asked them what they want to stand for moving forward. Epstein said he can guarantee that players do not want to be known as losers.

As has been said before, there is nothing lovable about being losers and it is past time for the organization to shake that moniker.

Alfonso Soriano, Justin Upton and the Outfielders on the Block

There is nothing new to report on the Alfonso Soriano trade rumors. From all indications the Cubs are still listening to offers for Soriano and they are not willing to give him. The Phillies are rumored to have an offer on the table for Soriano but they are waiting to find out where Michael Bourn signs. One of the outfielders connected to Philadelphia this off-season, Michael Cuddyer, is not going anywhere according to Jon Paul Morosi. The Mariners have asked about Cuddyer but was told that the Rockies do not have plans to move him.

Another option for the Phillies, Scott Hairston, has not made a decision on where he will play next season. Hairston is reportedly asking for too much for the Phillies (two years, $8 million) and was reportedly deciding between the Mets and Yankees. Jerry Hairston Jr. joined Bruce Levine and Fred Huebner during Talkin’ Baseball (ESPN 1000) on Saturday morning and he confirmed that his brother has spoken with the Mets, Phillies and Yankees but the former Cubs’ utilityman did not rule out his brother signing with the Cubs. Hairston Jr. brought up the relationship between Scott and Jed Hoyer from their days together in San Diego. Jerry said that Scott will land somewhere.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the Rangers may not be out of the Justin Upton talks. It was reported on Thursday that Texas had moved on but according to Evan Grant, the Rangers could have “all of the leverage in the world.” The Rangers made an offer to Arizona before Seattle got in the mix last week and the deal, built around Mike Olt, would have sent four players from Texas to Arizona … but the Rangers “wouldn’t go there.”

While the Cubs are not in the talks for Justin Upton, plus they are one of four teams on his no-trade list, where Justin Upton ends up could impact the Cubs moving forward.

According to the rumor mill, Mike Olt was one of the players the Cubs would have received for Matt Garza last July. The Rangers finished second in the Matt Garza bidding with the Rays two years ago and figures to be in the mix once Garza proves he is healthy this spring.

Where Justin Upton will be traded appears to be holding up where players like Michael Bourn will sign and Michael Morse will be dealt … and in turn which teams may be interested in trading for Alfonso Soriano.

Alfonso Soriano is expected to attend the Cubs Convention.

Polling the CCO

The CCO’s newest polls focus on the home runs that Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo will hit in 2013 … don’t forget to cast your vote before the polls close.

How many home runs will Starlin Castro hit in 2013?

  • 16 – 20 (59%, 283 Votes)
  • 10 – 15 (25%, 119 Votes)
  • 21 – 25 (13%, 64 Votes)
  • More than 25 (3%, 12 Votes)

Total Voters: 478

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How many home runs will Anthony Rizzo hit in 2013?

  • 26 – 30 (47%, 230 Votes)
  • 21 – 25 (29%, 141 Votes)
  • 31 – 35 (17%, 82 Votes)
  • 16 – 20 (4%, 20 Votes)
  • More than 35 (3%, 13 Votes)
  • 10 – 15 (0%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 489

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News, Notes and Rumors

The Cubs reportedly agreed to terms with Carlos Villanueva on December 20 but the Cubs have not made a corresponding roster move to add the right-handed pitcher to the roster. The Cubs’ 40-man currently stands at 40 players. Could rumored talks for Alfonso Soriano and Rick Porcello be holding up the announcement?

Former Cubs’ starter, Rodrigo Lopez, signed a minor league contract with the Phillies that includes a non-roster invite to big league camp. Lopez could make $1 million, plus incentives, if he is added to Philly’s roster. Lopez pitched for the Cubs in 2011, had a cup of coffee with the team last year (four games) but spent a majority of the season with the I-Cubs.

Henry Blanco signed a one-year, $750,000 contract with the Blue Jays.

Chris Jaffe posted a reminder on The Hardball Times of the day that the Rockies scored a run in every inning against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on May 5, 1999 … and the Cubs traded Rick Monday and Mike Garman to the Dodgers for Bill Buckner, Ivan DeJesus and Jeff Albert in 1977.

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Quote of the Day

"There are only two seasons ... winter and baseball." - Bill Veeck

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  • Ripsnorter1

    I wonder if Mike Olt isn’t overrated…..he’s 24…..he was only in AA last year (plus 33 AB at the Show where he hit .152 with 13 K’s)….hit .288 but slugged a very nice .579. But that was at AA, and he fanned 101 times in 421 AB. Remember: that’s AA pitching, not ML pitching.

    Olt has truly elite power potential, healthy plate discipline and solid glove, but is tragically flawed with holes in his swing. Olt has accumulated a half-season above single-A in his Minor League career, and that was last year at Frisco before he was called up to the Rangers. He’ll likely start the season in AAA — if he’s not in another organization — and my sinking feeling is that he’ll struggle mightily in terms of making solid contact. AAA features a bunch of fringy Major League pitching, and they should figure out pretty early on that Olt’s achilles heel is the breaking stuff.

    At least one has to admit: he’s still a suspect.

    • Cubs4ever

      Fan graphs had an article about a month ago that was not too flattering regarding Olt.

    • J Daniel

      At 24, and still at the point of AAA, I would be very cautious.

      • Tony_Hall

        He is blocked by Adrian Beltre…there has been no reason to move him up too fast, and he is not at AAA, he played AA last year and MLB.

        He is coming to ST and going to get time at 1B, and if he hits, he will be on the 25 man roster playing all over.

      • Tony_Hall

        He was drafted out of college, then played short season ball that year (2010)

        2011 (Age 22 Season) Played High A for 69 games after 4 games at rookie league. Looks like he must have gotten hurt and had to do a 4 game rehab at the rookie league in August.

        2012 (Age 23 Season) Played AA for 95 games, then called up to MLB on August 2nd and finished the last 2 months on the bench for a team in the playoff hunt.

        Not sure how he could have moved much faster through the system. Drafted summer of 2010 and on the major league roster 2 years later.

        I would assume he still has some development left and if they don’t need him to start the year (injuries) will go to AAA to get everyday AB’s.

    • Tony_Hall

      Of course he is still a suspect, he was in AA last year and was called up to be on the 25 man roster because he was the Rangers best choice to add while trying to make the playoffs.

      No one knows if he will make it, no one knows if any player will make it. That is why it takes multiple prospects (even elite ones) to trade for established veterans.

      And with him being the talk of so many trade rumors, it is now the time for people to come out with articles saying he won’t make it, isn’t worth it. Negativity gets more hits than a positive article,

      • cc002600

        Here’s what I don’t get abut the Olt rumors.
        If you get him, where does Baez play in a year or 2 when he’s ready ?

        • Tony_Hall

          I would say the earliest we will see Baez is Aug/Sept of 2014. If they traded for Olt and he was looking like a top 10 or 15 (3B) at that point, and Baez is ready, Baez will either play SS, 2B, or OF. I don’t believe they are going to save 3B for Baez today, in hopes that he makes it to the majors and needs to play 3B. If Baez hits, they will find a way to get his bat into the lineup and being as athletic as he is, there are many places they could do that.

        • cubs1967

          Exactly the problem. Cubs need pitching not hitters. Dumpster trade was a joke as villeneuva is not better than Baez or lake or vitters and Marshall trade too as Torrey’s is not better than Barney or devoss or alcantara. Theo is just adding to the minors not really adding talent better than already in place.

    • SuzyS

      Ahh, if only Gary Scott would come back:-).

      Vitter’s slow progression and total exposure last year has really impacted the Cubs in a very real way.
      It would be really nice to see him put it together…but then…even that thought is suspect right now.

      Between Santo to Aram we had a parade of wonders at 3rd…I don’t think Hoyer and company will let that happen here.
      2013 will tell us a ton…If Baez can progress from Daytona upward….3rd might be settled by either sliding Castro/Baez over or trading Castro for a true
      3rd baseman…(Maybe Headley?). Or Vitters comes around & Lake/Rohan/Golden progress enough to be a factor….or not.
      Olt may be suspect…and it seems that Texas has decided to move him…one way or the other. But he’s still young enough that he can put it together.
      BTW…who the heck is Eric Reining?

      • Tony_Hall

        I believe he is a a frequent poster on the forums sections of Baseball Time in Arlington. But can’t find much more on him than that. He is not listed as an author on the site.

        http://www.bbtia.com/

        I think it would be like someone in Texas reposting one of our posts on their website.

        • SuzyS.

          Thanks, Tony.

          It’s always interesting to check into a blog on another team. Fans are fans everywhere.

          • Dorasaga

            Vitters is worth a second look. I wouldn’t give up on him. He showed very good skills at certain areas, just not putting all together right now.

          • Ripsnorter1

            The Cubs’ interest in Olt underlines their loss of faith in Vitters and
            Christian Villanueva

          • Tony_Hall

            I get where someone would think they have lost faith in Vitters, but how do you figure they have lost faith in Villanueva?

            Their interest in Olt is because he is better than both those guys, just like their interest in Castellanos.

          • John_CC

            All it underlines is their interest in becoming a better team.

  • Tom U

    Reports are that catcher Alberto Mineo will be the starter for Team Italy in the WBC.

    • Dorasaga

      Keep posting about the event. Much appreciated, Tom! BTW, did you see my email?

      • Tom U

        Yes I have, please keep in touch!

  • calicub

    According to the poll above 9 voters believe Rizzo will mash 35+ hrs next year. I’m not saying your wrong but for the nine of you, please show your work. (Reasoning)

    I’d love to get me some blue kool aid that strong :)

    • John_CC

      The same 7 that think Castro will hit more the 25 dongs.

      • calicub

        ha! Dongs…

        • John_CC

          What??

          • calicub

            a bit immture i appologize but dong is a synonym for a certain male organ..

          • John_CC

            Thanks, Bevis … I get it! ;)

        • Tom U

          No, he played for Boise last season.

    • Tony_Hall

      Not I (I chose 26-30) but can’t say that it is too far fetched to reach 35 HR’s in a full season for Rizzo.

      • calicub

        yeah that’s where i was as well. I’d love to see it happen, and maybe someday he will. But he only grabbed 15 last year in a little more than 1/2 a season worth of PA’s in the Bigs. You have to imagine the league and a full year @ the ML level will slow him down a little at least at some point. But agian, I’d love to be wrong.

        • Tony_Hall

          He did have 38 total last year. I will be surprised if he reaches 30 this year, but not too much, as I think a full summer at Wrigley could help his HR total out.

          • calicub

            23 in the PCL! If we can say it for Rodrigo Lopez we can say it for Rizzo as well ;)

            Either way it shakes out i think we have a great 1b for years to come, though Castro-to-Barney-to-Rizzo doesn’t quite have the same umph…

          • Tony_Hall

            So true. But that is why I don’t think he reaches 30 this year.

    • Cubs4ever

      Hahaha. It’s like last year when People were predicting LaHair would hit 25 HR’s and drive in 90 runs! That was the most Kool Aid for a career 30 year old minor leaguer in years!!!!

      • BosephHeyden

        That was also based on the assumption he was going to get a shot to play every day versus platooning at first.

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