Cubs Renew Contracts of 21 Players and Other News Bits

The Cubs announced Monday that they reached agreement on contracts for all of their 21 pre-arbitration eligible players (0-3 men, automatic renewal) for the upcoming season. Five of the 21 players will receive more than the Major League minimum of $490,000 for the 2013 season.

Travis Wood ($537,000), Anthony Rizzo ($498,000), Darwin Barney ($562,000), Welington Castillo ($503,000) and Michael Bowden ($509,500) will be paid more than the big league minimum while Brooks Raley, Chris Rusin, Alberto Cabrera, Rafael Dolis, Trey McNutt, Hector Rondon, Arodys Vizcaino, Robert Whitenack, Junior Lake, Christian Villanueva, Josh Vitters, Logan Watkins, Brett Jackson, Dave Sappelt, Matt Szczur and Steve Clevenger will receive $490,000 if they are in the majors.

Dale Sveum said on Monday that the first round of spring roster cuts will likely be made on Friday. The Cubs spring roster currently stands at 62 players.

Justin Piper

The team announced Monday that they hired Justin Piper as General Manager, Mesa Spring Training Operations. Piper will report to Mark McGuire, executive vice president of Business Operations.

According to the press release, Piper will oversee all business activity at the Cubs new Spring Training Facility, including sales, marking, facility operations and community affairs.

Piper was with the Reno Aces, Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, prior to taking the job with the Cubs.

The Cubs new facility is scheduled to open in November.

CubsSpringTrainingFacility

Brett Jackson

Keith Law broke down Brett Jackson’s new swing. Law is not sure if the change will help Brett Jackson make contact and cut down on the strikeouts.

Keith Law from ESPN.com

“Jackson used to have a very short stride without much of a load, and his hands, which have always been quick, would always seem to start forward from a different position. Now, he’s definitely more consistent, starting from a consistent spot with a slightly deeper load, but his stride is very long, leaving him with a wide base before he even gets his hands started, and producing a swing that looks unnaturally long for him. The stride doesn’t get his weight transfer started early enough, and he tends to roll that front foot over through contact. Everything we liked about Jackson before, from the speed to the athleticism to the bat speed to the arm, is still present, but I wish I could tell you I thought this new swing would solve his contact problems.”

Starlin Castro

The Cubs are being very careful with Starlin Castro. While multiple reports have stated that Castro’s injury would not be keeping him out of games if this was the regular season, the Cubs announced on Monday that Castro will not play in another Cactus League game until the weekend, or possibly Monday.

Dale Sveum reiterated that nothing is wrong with Castro and pointed out that he took full batting practice on Monday. Sveum said with all of the games left on the Cactus League schedule (28 remain on the schedule after Monday) that there is plenty of time for Castro to prepare for Opening Day.

Cubs News Bits

Jeff Samardzija will not make the trip to Surprise on Wednesday to face the Texas Rangers. Samardzija will stay in Mesa instead and make his scheduled start in a minor league game at Fitch Park. Hisanori Takahashi will start Wednesday’s game, in what appears to be a scheduled bullpen day.

According to the Tribune, the Cubs are looking to stretch out Hisanori Takahashi. The veteran lefty has a good shot of making the team out of camp and the team thinks he could be used as a long reliever.

Terry Francona believes Theo Epstein hired the right guy in Dale Sveum.

According to the Sun-Times, keep an eye on Brian Bogusevic. Bogusevic is off to a hot start this spring and is still flying under the radar.

Carlos Villanueva is ready to start according to a report from Carrie Muskat.

FanGraphs asked … Is Jorge Soler baseball’s next big prospect?

Scott Baker threw his third live BP session on Monday. The next step in Baker’s rehab is a simulated game. If all goes well with the simulated game this week, the next step for Baker would be pitching in a Cactus League game. Reports have suggested that Baker could make his Cubs’ debut in mid-April.

As it stands now with Matt Garza and Scott Baker expected to begin the year on DL, Drew Carpenter is the Cubs’ sixth starter according to a report from Comcast SportsNet. Alberto Cabrera will begin the year in Iowa’s rotation along with Brooks Raley and possibly Chris Rusin.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

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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  • Ripsnorter1

    Brett Jackson…

    If only he could make contact! He’s such a good looking player in every aspect of the game, but last year he fanned 217 times. I don’t like Law saying the swing is now longer, as I don’t see how that can help him. If we compare to Rizzo’s development, maybe we can see some hope.

    Rizzo, in 2011, fanned 89x in AAA, and another 46x in MLB. That’s 135 k’s in 566 Plate Appearances. The adjustments he made in 2012 resulted in 52 K’s in AAA and 62 in MLB in 284 MiL PA and 368 ML PA, totalling 114 K’s in 652 PA.

    2011….. 1 K every 4.19 PA

    2012…..1 k every 5.72 PA

    That’s a marked improvement. But he’ll still fan 150 times in 2013.

    Jackson’s 2012 K rate was 158 Ks in 467 MiL PA.
    Jackson’s 2012 k rate was 59 k’s in 142 ML PA.

    That totals out to 1 k every 2.80 PA. And at the ML level, it was 1 k every 2.40 AB. His last month was much worse than his first month in MLB. Jackson went 5 for his last 43 AB, with 1 2B and 22 K.

    He wasn’t even close to Rizzo’s 2011 level.

    I’ll be watching Jackson’s AAA AB’s closely. I’d think his K rate needs to be 25% or less or he’ll never be a regular ML player.

    • Tony_Hall

      We all know that BJAX has to make more contact, but I don’t believe Law said his swing was longer. He said “his stride is very long, leaving him with a wide base before he even gets his hands started, and producing a swing that looks unnaturally long for him.”

      He isn’t saying his swing got longer, just that he believes it looks unnaturally long for him, due to his long wide base.

    • 07GreyDigger

      I wonder with Jackson if we’re looking at a Drew Stubbs type player. Obviously, the sheen has worn off of Stubbs with his trade to the Indians.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Stubbs…never liked him. All of those K’s and not much power. 2011 …hit .243 with 205 k’s. MIRACLE! But he could not do a miracle in 2012. Why does Cleveland want him?

        Brett Jackson has less speed, but more power. And Jackson walks more. I’d rather have Brett Jackson’s future right now.

        • 07GreyDigger

          I’m not a fan of Stubbs either, but he’s the best comparison I could come up with. Maybe Carlos Gomez from the Brewers or who would you say would be a better comparable?

          • Ripsnorter1

            I thought it was a fine comparison, myself. Except Stubbs made more contact earlier in his career than Jackson. But after that 2011 nasty year, followed by 2012 disaster, the sheen, shine, paint, primer, they are all gone. It even scratched the metal as well!

          • Brp921

            Let’s hope Jackson can do the opposite and turn thing around.

    • triple

      Unfortunately he’s not playing more is ST, but he’s gotten off to a decent start that shows hope for his future. Only 3 k’s in 16 PA’s, and all of his 3 hits are for extra bases, and 3 walks taboot! I know that means absolutely nothing, but it’s the kind of start he needs to keep his confidence up. Hopefully it carries into his AAA season.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Hisanori Takahashi will make this team. He’s a good pitcher with good stuff. This will be a good pickup, imo.

    • Tony_Hall

      I agree. He looks to be a good fit for another lefty in the pen. With Baker and Garza starting on the DL, he will make it easily.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Brian Bogusevic….ugh! NO! PLEASE NO! DON’T DO IT, DALE! DON’T KEEP HIM!

    • Tony_Hall

      He has looked good so far, but expect him to be roaming the cornfields of Iowa to start the year.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Here’s BA analysis of the Garza trade
    Note: I liked the trade at the time, only regretting having to give up Archer. But one has to give up quality to get quality. That’s still my opinion.

    Matt Garza has been involved in his share of high-profile moves. Since being drafted 25th overall by the Twins out of Fresno State in 2005, Garza has switched organizations in two marquee deals, and he once again finds himself as a trade candidate. He’s been with the Cubs for a little more than two calendar years, but it seems like longer given the amount of trade rumors which constantly contain his name.

    On January 8, 2011, the Rays traded Garza to the Cubs along with Fernando Perez andZach Rosscup in exchange for prospects Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinosand Brandon Guyer as well as outfielder Sam Fuld. Let’s go player-by-player to see how it’s all turned out…

    The Major League Side

    Matt Garza: Garza immediately became one of the Cubs’ best pitchers following the trade, and he showed it off with arguably the best season of his career. In 2011, Garza tallied 198 innings and established career-bests in ERA (3.32), K/9 (8.95) and HR/9 (0.64). He continued to display strong command and took a step toward establishing himself as an ace-caliber pitcher. Fangraphs pegged his value at a lofty 4.9 wins above replacement. His 2012 effort was derailed by a stress reaction in his pitching elbow after just 103 2/3 innings, however, which is likely the main reason that he wasn’t traded at the deadline last July. While his elbow appears to be healed, Garza recently suffered a lat strain while facing live hitters and now stands to miss the first month of the 2013 season. Needless to say, that jeopardizes his No. 9 ranking on Tim Dierkes’ free agent power rankings, but if he returns healthy and pitches well he’s a midseason trade candidate.

    Sam Fuld: Fuld’s time in Tampa Bay got off to an incredible start, hitting .289/.358/.433 in the month of April. His defensive play, clutch hitting and surprising production spawned the Twitter hashtag “#LegendOfSamFuld,” and the 29-year-old developed a cult following. He hit just .218/.292/.327 the rest of the way, however, and didn’t improve in 107 plate appearances last season. He’s competing for a roster spot with Tampa Bay once again this Spring.

    The Minor League Side

    Chris Archer: Archer came to the Rays as an erratic 22-year-old with an electric fastball. He still battles command issues, but he’s progressed enough to rank as the game’s No. 36 prospect according to Baseball America and No. 46 according to MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo. BA writes that his fastball sits 92-96 mph and is one of two “well above-average” pitches, the other being a devastating hard slider with “hard, cutting tilt and impressive depth.” Mayo prefers Archer’s fastball but echoes that both pitches can be plus at the MLB level. The two outlets agree that Archer’s change-up development will be what determines if he’s able to pan out as a top- or middle-of-the-rotation starter. Archer did make his MLB debut in 2012, firing 29 1/3 innings and whiffing 36 batters.

    Hak-Ju Lee: Lee is ranked 90th in the game by BA and 56th by Mayo, good for fourth and fifth in the Rays’ system, respectively. Mayo writes that defensively, the Korean-born shortstop is more than MLB-ready right now, but he needs more time to develop his line-drive swing. His plus speed is an asset which both Mayo and BA agree upon. Both think he’ll be a legitimate base-stealing threat, even if his lack of home-run power limits his overall upside a bit. Lee offers an opposite-field approach at the plate but needs to develop a more patient approach. He stole 37 bases in 46 tries as part of a .261/.336/.360 season at Double-A in 2012.

    Robinson Chirinos: A catcher by trade, Chirinos came to the Rays having ranked as the Cubs’ No. 10 prospect according to BA. He regressed in 2011, however, hitting just .259/.343/.376 in 319 plate appearances — a vast departure from 2010’s .326/.416/.583 line. Chirinos had a chance to make the Rays last Spring, but suffered a concussion that prevented him from playing a single game in the minors or Majors. He’s with the team again in Spring Training this season, but his stock has obviously fallen.

    Brandon Guyer: Guyer entered the 2012 season as the Rays’ No. 11 prospect according to BA, thanks largely to the .312/.384/.521 triple slash line the outfielder posted at Triple-A in 2011. BA praised his combination of speed and power as well as his throwing arm, noting that he profiled nicely in right field but could handle center field as well. Guyer earned a call-up in early May, but disaster struck after just three games; he suffered a labrum tear that would end his season before he was able to back up his minor league promise.

    Fernando Perez: Perez wasn’t thought of as much of a prospect at the time of the trade, and indeed he never cracked the Cubs’ big league roster. After hitting just .238/.312/.337 through 76 games for the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate, he was released. Perez latched on with the Mets, but fared even worse in 40 games for Triple-A Buffalo, hitting .188/.298/.250. He didn’t play in affiliated ball last season.

    Zach Rosscup: Rosscup hasn’t cracked one of BA’s Top 30 prospect lists for either team, nor has he appeared on one of Mayo’s Top 20 lists. Now 24 years old, the southpaw suffered an arm injury midway through a promising 2011 season (2.54 ERA, 9.1 K/9). Upon returning in late 2012, he worked his way to Double-A and showed mixed results. Rosscup whiffed 29 batters in 22 1/3 innings at Double-A but also walked 19 and posted a 4.84 ERA. His 3.87 FIP showed more promise, and he’ll likely open the 2013 season at that level.

    The Rays have made a habit out of competing in one of baseball’s toughest divisions despite having one of baseball’s lowest payrolls, and trades like this are a large factor in that success. Executive VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman dealt from a position of strength to acquire a host of prospects — two of which have developed into Top 100 prospects and two of which had their promising offensive potential limited by unforeseeable injuries. The Garza trade also paved the way for Jeremy Hellickson to join Tampa Bay’s rotation and win 2011 AL Rookie of the Year honors.

    The Cubs, meanwhile, got just the pitcher they were hoping for in Garza, but he too has been slowed by the injury bug. Garza would fit nicely atop Chicago’s rebuilt rotation if he can return quickly, and he could net the team prospects this July if pitching well. Garza could also yield a first-round pick in 2014 if he turns down a qualifying offer, but his recent rash of injuries makes that a dicey proposition, as even the healthy Kyle Lohse has struggled to find a home due to his ties to draft pick compensation.

    It’s too early to say if one side got the better of this trade at this point, as Tampa Bay has yet to receive much value at the Major League level. However, the Rays seem to have positioned themselves for future success by moving a player when his value was near its peak.

    • Tony_Hall

      This is a good overview of the trade.

      But let me ask anyone who wants to reply, 90% of us knew that the Cubs were not going to compete when this trade was made, and wouldn’t for a few years.

      Would you rather have Hak Ju Lee and Chris Archer (Guyer and Chirnos as well) in our prospect rankings or Garza on our DL?

      I like Garza, would like to see them extend him, as it is the only way that I see this deal as being successful. But, you can never have two many natural SS and good young arms with 6 more years of control don’t grow on trees.

      At this point, I don’t believe we can possibly get the same back in return that we gave up for Garza. Archer would most likely be in our rotation as we had a need for SP’s, whereas the Rays have lots of good young, cost controlled depth.

      • Ripsnorter1

        We lost this trade because JHendry got nothing along with Garza. Rosscup? Please, NO! And Perez was a bust from the get-go.

        You have to give up something to get something, and we gave up Archer. All the rest of the pieces are borderline ML players, and I don’t think we’ll miss them.

        Lee still isn’t ready and I don’t like his powerless bat. He offers a glove and nothing else. His speed is less than Campana’s, and his .336 AAA OBP is not better than Campana’s .356.. Your critcisms of Campana would apply to Lee, imo. I won’t cry over his loss.

        Guyer: could be a RF, and play in place of DeJesus, but he does not hit RHP. Platoon guy. No loss here.

        Chirinos: hurt and forgetaboutit.

        Sam Fuld: 4th or 5th OF. No great loss.

        Archer may equal or exceed Garza. I am not crying over the rest of them.

        • Tony_Hall

          All good points. I don’t believe the Rays would trade us Archer for Garza, let alone Archer and Lee at this point.

          As far as comparing Lee and Campana, I have less need for offense at SS than CF. We are very fortunate to have a SS who hits and plays good defense and to have more behind him as well. But most teams are looking for a good glove at SS that won’t hurt the team too much batting 8th in front of the pitcher.

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

            If we sign Garza to a long-term, team-friendly deal and he stays healthy; or if we flip him for a starting 3rd baseman such as Mike Olt I will say the trade was a push at worst. If Garza doesn’t sign or is traded for non-impact prospects then it was a loss.

            I guess I’m not going out on much of a limb here ;)…

          • Tony_Hall

            Without a doubt the end result is still to be determined. But I like Olt, just not sold that he is a going to be a Top 3B, which I feel is the type of value we would need to get back to make this a good deal.

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

            I agree, I think that Garza (as a potential #1, at least #2 pitcher) should net us a potential all-star 3rd baseman. Anything less would be disappointing.

          • Tony_Hall

            He is not a #1, just like Samardzija is not a #1 just because he is the top of our rotation. Garza is a #2 or a #2/#3 type starter. If I am going into the playoffs wanting to win, I would want him in my 3rd slot with 2 guys ahead of him.

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

            IMO the deal for Chisehall would have been Garza to Cleveland if he had proved healthy this spring. They admit that they had talks about Chisenhall and could return to them. I will bet you that is what they were thinking.

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

            Yes, Chisenhall is the guy I was hoping they’d get. I would accept Olt as well though…

          • 07GreyDigger

            I’m not sure about the Chisenhall rumors as the Indians don’t really have anyone else to play third for them. The Cubs may have asked, but that may be as far as it got.

          • 07GreyDigger

            Considering his injury history now, we’ll be lucky to get a couple of B prospects. Unless a team is really desperate.

          • 07GreyDigger

            I think this is dead on. I think Hendry had to make that trade to help with the sale and I know I was excited at the time. It’s still debatable if Archer is rotation material, so it’s not necessarily a win for the Rays yet.

          • Tony_Hall

            The Rays have won their side, it is to be determined if we win our side. Both teams can benefit in a trade.

          • Ray Ray

            Of course the Rays would not trade Archer for Garza now because Garza is a free agent next year and they cannot afford him. But let me ask you this……Do you think Archer will ever be close to the pitcher Garza is and will continue to be?

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

            I would have to guess, no. Very few pitchers can be expected to be a pitcher the caliber of Garza. Also, you can’t discount the type of person Garza is. A leader, great clubhouse presence and a true competitor. I’d take a healthy Garza, with those attributes, over a guy like Zach Grienke.

          • Tony_Hall

            I agree, but would any team give up the same value as Archer, Lee and company, of course not. We will be lucky to get an Archer back from any team in trading Garza.

            Do I think…yes…do I know…no. But I would take Archer for Garza right now, IF we can’t extend him. The control, the cost and the upside is all in Archers favor.

          • Ray Ray

            No wonder you don’t like this trade. Haha. I think no way Archer has shown he can be more than a back end guy with his command issues. He can’t even beat out Alex Cobb in Tampa now. iMO. Garza is a top of rotation starter and Archer is a backend guy/bullpen piece

          • Tony_Hall

            I never liked the timing of trading prospects for a player who is about to get expensive and likely to be gone before the team was competitive again.

            Archer has swing and miss stuff. 36 k’s in 29.1 innings in the majors…small sample size i know. Now he did walk 13 batters in the same timeframe.

            Garza is a mid rotation guy 2/3 more than I would say he is a top of the rotation guy. Kerhsaw, Verlander, Strasburgh he is not.

            Tampa has lots of good young arms and Alex Cobb has 32 major league starts with a 1.27 WHIP…I’d take that.

    • triple

      Thanks for posting that Rip! All of you guys have mentioned lots of good stuff in this thread… I do think the scale tips to the favor of the Rays on this trade, even as it stands now. If Garza gets through this lat and last years elbow problem and can pitch healthy, maybe it tips back to the Cubs favor. I’d be happy with being able to resign him, and especially if we either acquire or develop a real #1 starter in the next couple of years. The prospect of having a real top of the rotation guy followed by Garza, Shark (can’t spell his real name to save my life), and then Jackson can make for a very strong rotation.

      Having said all that, if the right deal came about at the deadline that brought 2-3 arms for the future plus a player who can fill one of our needs now, I’d be very happy with that and also consider it a win for the Cubs. Yeah, guess the jury is still out until we know what Garza’s fate is.

  • Tony_Hall

    The depth of our rotation is going to tested to start the year, and in many ways, it will help. We will get a rotation of Samardzija, EJackson, Feldman, TWood, and Villanueva, with Garza and Baker coming back soon.

    We also know we have Rusin, Raley, Cabrera in AAA and Vizcaino rehabbing and to be a starter…hopefully. We also have heard the name Drew Carpenter as maybe in the “depth” for the starting pitchers this year, to go along with Loux, Struck, and company.

    What I am thinking about is who will be the rotation come August 1st….after we trade off which pitchers.

    What I would like to see is Garza and Baker resigned and Vizcaino to get some starts at the end of the year…even if they piggyback him with another guy, like Cabrera.

    That would give a rotation of this.

    1. Samardzija
    2. Garza
    3. Baker
    4. Jackson
    5. Vizcaino/Cabrera

    We have a need for SP over the next few years, before we should have enough young arms to start replenishing any holes we have in the rotation. But keeping Garza and Baker will fill 2 spot over the next 2-3 years, at which time they can be traded to create room.

    This is what I would like to see, what is anyone else thinking on this snow day?

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

      If Vizcaino can get healthy and return to form he moves probably all the way up that list to #1…

      • Tony_Hall

        But not by Aug 1st.That is what that rotation would need is a real #1 sitting on Top. If Jackson is your #5 and Samardzija, Garza and Baker are your 2-4, I like my chances with that rotation.

  • Ray Ray

    This is why Chris Archer will never be a top of rotation starter. 2011 147 IP 86 walks(yes 86 walks) and 18 Wild pitches. He improved his command so much last year that in 128 IP in AAA he walked 62 with only 12 Wild pitches. No command and he doesn’t go deep in games because of this. He is a 5 inning 6 inning starter and would kill a bullpen.

    • Tony_Hall

      And against major league hitters he did this.

      4 starts – 6, 5.2, 7, and 5 IP

      Pitch counts of 82, 94, 99, 95

      In other words he could have gone longer in all games, but with young pitchers they pulled him at that point.

      29.1 IP
      13 BB
      23 HIts
      WHIP 1.23
      K/9 11.0

      So this 5 or 6 inning pitcher has averaged 5.9 IP in his 4 major league starts where he only averaged 92.5 pitches.

      He may never be an ACE (ok he will never be an ACE), but he still has upside and has swing and miss stuff. I wish he was ours instead of Rusin, Raley, Struck, etc.

      • Ray Ray

        I agree about Raley Struck etc. but he netted Garza. Again. In 29.1 MLB innings 13 walks and 2 wild pitches. No command.

        • Tony_Hall

          He and all his pals netted Garza. I just don’t expect to get much back for Garza, especially compared to what we gave up in terms of prospects. I would rather just extend Garza for 2-3 more years.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Yup. Trade value is getting pretty low due to injuries. Levine keeps saying, “First the elbow, then the shoulder.”

          • Brp921

            That is what is starting to be worriesome about Garza, last year his injury started out to be a mild strain and he wouldn’t be sidelined long and now, all these months later, hes still not healthy. He almost seems to be going down the same path as Mark Prior.

  • John_CC

    I love that Fangraphs report on Soler.