Cubs Bullpen Shuffle Continues and Other News and Notes

The Cubs continued tinkering with the bullpen on Thursday with the addition of Zach Putnam from Triple-A Iowa. In the last 10 days, the Cubs have moved Carlos Villanueva to the pen, claimed reliever Eduardo Sanchez off waivers from the Cardinals, designated Michael Bowden for assignment, placed Shawn Camp on the DL, recalled Rafael Dolis, claimed Alex Burnett off waivers from the Orioles, lost Kyuji Fujikawa for the season, optioned Alex Burnett to Triple-A Iowa and selected the contract of Zach Putnam from Triple-A Iowa. And in the process, the pen has performed much better during the last week. The Cubs’ pen has allowed three runs over the last 23 innings while holding opponents to a .147 batting average prior to Thursday’s finale with the White Sox.

After being designated for assignment on May 21, Michael Bowden passed through waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday. The Cubs announced Thursday that Bowden accepted the assignment and will stay in the organization.

Carlos Marmol

Carlos Marmol’s goal is to close games for the Cubs again, but his manager does not appear to be open to that idea. Dale Sveum was asked about the possibility of Carlos Marmol returning to his closer role prior to Thursday’s game with the Sox, Sveum’s response, “I hope not.”

Marmol has pitched a lot better of late and with all of the injuries and changes in the pen, he will pitch later in games than originally planned when he lost his job as the Cubs’ closer.

Kevin Gregg has done a very good job closing games and Sveum explained that his comment about Marmol had more to do with the way Gregg has pitched than with Marmol. Sveum was asked about what he would do for a closer in the event Gregg is traded away prior to the deadline. Sveum said they would cross that bridge then.

Carlos Marmol has a short amount of time to build value as he wraps up the three-year contract he signed with the Cubs prior to the 2010 season and enters free agency. Marmol told Comcast SportsNet that he would like to stay with the Cubs past this season.

The First-Year Player Draft

The draft is less than a week away (Thursday, June 6) and Keith Law released his second mock draft on Thursday. Law thinks the Astros will pass on Mark Appel again and select third baseman Colin Moran with the first pick in the draft. Law is hearing Houston is leaning toward the decision to draft Moran and pass on both Appel and Jonathan Gray. Law pointed out the decision to take Moran could have to do with money more than anything. The Astros might be able to ink Moran for less than slot ($7.79 million) and use the money for later picks in the draft.

If Houston passes on both pitchers, the Cubs will have their pick of either Appel or Gray. Law thinks the Cubs will take Mark Appel but he has heard that Theo Epstein loves Jonathan Gray.

Law thinks Kris Bryant will drop to the Padres with the third pick and Gray will slip to the Indians with the fifth pick.

Click Here for Keith Law’s MLB Mock Draft 2.0

According to Comcast SportsNet, look for the Cubs to load up on power arms in next week’s draft.

Scott Baker

According to a report from Comcast SportsNet, Scott Baker is playing long toss in Arizona but is not expected back before August at the earliest. Baker has not thrown off a mound since his one appearance in a Cactus League game back in March.

News and Notes

The Cubs may be reluctant to trade Scott Feldman according to Bruce Levine but his stock continues to rise and he could bring back a “top young player” in a deal prior to the deadline.

The I-Cubs placed RHP Barret Loux on the 7-day DL with a right ankle sprain on Thursday.

The Cubs made a statement with the three wins against the White Sox according to Bruce Levine … and Jon Greenberg questioned if the Cubs are as bad as most think they are.

Comcast SportsNet broke down the 25 most influential figures in Chicago Baseball.

And last, but not least, the quote of the day from Alfonso Soriano on the Cubs winning the Crosstown Cup for the first time. “It’s good that we won, but that trophy means nothing. That’s not the trophy that I want.”

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

Quote of the Day

"Our lives improve only when we take chances and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves." - W Anderson.
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  • John_CC

    How do you not love Sveum’s response to Marmol possibly closing again? I love it!

    O, and thanks for the note on Bowden passing waivers…wow this was a huge issue last week. The Cubs were certain to lose the great reliever and still have Camp to worry about! Who woulda thunk?

    • Tony_Hall

      Amazing how they added Burnett and Sanchez, cleared Bowden through waivers, promoted Putnam who has been pitching great the last few weeks and in the process had the bullpen be really good.

      • Ray Ray

        Genius!

    • Sonate

      Agree with Sveum’s take on Marmol. I don’t believe he has the mental make-up to be a closer. With the exception of 2010, he has always fared better as a set-up man. After a while it ceases to be a coincidence. It’s similar to Latroy Hawkins, who seems always to pitch better in a set-up role than as a closer.

  • triple

    That was some poor roster management getting Bowden passed through waivers and back in AAA. How come nobody wanted him?

    It is unfortunate that Camp didn’t disclose his injury before then, but at some point Bowden probably would have had to pass through waivers anyway.

    And the Cubs better be very reluctant to trade Feldman. Make a team make an offer you can’t refuse Jed.

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

      I agree, he should snag a top 5 prospect ot sign him up long term. And what to do with Wood? Has value to us or as a chip. At his age I would imagine he’d be in the plans.

      • Ray Ray

        Top 5 prospect? I love your enthusiasm Boardrider…..but cmon.

      • DWalker

        Honestly, I don’t know what to make of the pitching situation, in a basicly good way.
        Samardzija -will be locked up
        Jackson- Locked up for 4 years and currently untradable
        Wood – Still has years of control
        Garza?
        Feldman?
        Draft?
        Thing is, no matter how I looked at this, I can’t see locking up all 5 slots right now . Had they not signed Jackson to 4 years, they would have had more options here, but they did and now they have a problem. Baker is rehabbing and will need a slot. Prospect wise, theres a very slight possibilty we could see top guys from our system now vying for a slot next year, and more possibly within two years. If they draft Appel, they wil certainly need a slot. Gray, they probably have a year. So, I just can’t see locking down all 5 slots for the next three years. I don’t see wood going anywhere at the deadline this year, He still has years of control and is cheap and seems to have figured things out. Also, putting him on the market at the deadline dilutes the trading field a bit as well for other fish, namely Garza and Feldman. One or the other has to be traded. I like Garza, hes a fun guy and has borderline ace status. but, he is getting the injury prone label and SHOULD be a major trade return if he is healthy. Feldman probably won’t bring as much back, but he’s also not Garza, for good or ill. I think one will get a contract, one won’t, or both get traded. I don’t know which the FO favors, but it may come down to what is offered at the deadline as to which one goes.

        • Ray Ray

          The EJAX signing was a bad signing. The thing about Shark and Garza is that they are basically the same age. We don’t know about Shark. He has never thrown 200 innings in a season. Garza has. I would lock up Garza. Shark is thinking he is a top of the rotation guy and wants to be paid like one. Is he one? Maybe but maybe not. We know that Garza is. None of his injuries have been serious. Lat strain, Stress re-action. Unless a team blows you away(like what the Blue Jays offered for RJ Dickey) I would lock him up.

          • 07GreyDigger

            EJAX signing isn’t bad yet. It’s year one! Signing an injury prone starter who can’t throw to first is riskier than a guy who had a proven track record like EJAX.

          • Ray Ray

            So you are saying that you would rather have EJAX for the next 4 years than Garza? Are you kidding me?

          • DWalker

            its bad, if nothing else at all, that he was signed for 4 years and he isn’t a top of the rotation guy.

          • Ray Ray

            EJAX is someone who has a proven track record of being a back end starter. Never has been a big game pitcher(ask Ozzie about that) Career 4.47 ERA 1321IP 1388 Hits 1.443 WHIP. He is proven alright.

          • 07GreyDigger

            I guess my thing with EJAX (and any free agent signing) is that you can call it a bad signing two months in to four years. We don’t know what we’re going to get at the end of year four and I’m betting that it isn’t what we got so far.

            The Cubs didn’t sign EJAX to be a #1,2 or even the #3, they signed him to be a back of the rotation starter and paid him that way. His purpose was to be a guy who can give you innings and steady your rotation.

            Not every free agent you sign is your big ticket big money guy.

          • 07GreyDigger

            I meant to say can’t up there.

          • Ray Ray

            So 4 years at 52 mil is what a back end starter gets paid? So our 1,2,3 starters are going to break the back.

          • 07GreyDigger

            Pretty much. Free agent pitching is out of control expensive. Look at some numbers:
            Greinke – 6/147
            Sabathia – 5/122

            Wilson – 5/82
            That’s totally why the FO wants to build SP from within.

          • Ray Ray

            those are top of the rotation starters you are mentioning. Agreed that FA pitching is out of control but there was no need to tie up a pitcher like Jackson for 4 years. He is a 4/5. You lock up top of the rotation guys…..not 4/5 guys.

          • 07GreyDigger

            I think the thought process behind EJAX was his age. At 29, locking up a guy for four years who is young and has been a proven player was a good value as opposed to signing a guy like Lohse who will only get worse in his 3 year deal due to age decline.

            I don’t think anyone could have predicted he’d have a two rocky months. Could you?

          • Tony_Hall

            I know you don’t like Jackson, but his XFIP and FIP are much better than his ERA.

            Plus you don’t like his contract, but the structure was what was good. They raised the signing bonus to get him, but moving forward he is owed 3 years @$11M a year. Very much in line for a free agent SP for the backend of the rotation. This makes him tradeable at some point.

          • Ray Ray

            Isn’t it the same thing paying him up front for a signing bonus as it would be to eat part of his contract at the end? 52 mil for 4 is still 52 mil.

          • triple

            I think what Tony is saying is that the remaining 3yr/$33mil allows for him to be traded especially if some things click for him and he starts looking like a middle of rotation replacement for a team that’s in the playoff hunt and suffering injuries. If his contract was back loaded, then that would be a much tougher sell. But from looks of baseballreference, it looks more like he’s owed 3yr/$39mil… so I don’t know anymore?

          • Tony_Hall

            More accurate info is always on the CCO.

            https://docs.google.com/document/d/1nkDWpDW0zkWq2pdfkSxWn9JjbgU26V4Lha6DfMbMXb4/edit

            4 years @ $11M = $44M
            Signing bonus $8M = $52M

            The signing bonus is what got him signed but is included in 2013′s payroll.

          • triple

            I knew there would be a logical explanation for this… thanks Tony!

          • Tony_Hall

            Baseball reference and some other outlets, pro-rate the signing bonus as that is how it affects the payroll number for the official number for things like taxes on high payrolls.

            Neil uses the better system, using actual payroll expenditures for the year, which from a business perspective, is cash flow basis.

          • Tony_Hall

            Think of how JH would have done it.

            4 years $52M

            2013 – $5M
            2014 – $12M
            2015 – $15M
            2016 – $20M

            Would you like to have Jackson with 3 years and $47M left on his contract after this year.

        • triple

          I think they should lock up whatever they can for their starting rotation. Obviously no need to rush with Wood. If they can get a king’s ransom for Feldman, then take it! But if not, maybe try to sign him to a 3yr/$25mil type deal, or make qualifying one year offer IF he actually has a strong consistent season. Then if another GM wants him more, we’ll get a good draft pick for compensation. And obviously, if he can had for a contract like that and pitches well, he remains a great trading chip if we do prove to in fact have too much starting pitching down the road.

          The thing is you can never have too many starters. Some will get injured, so if Garza, Shark, Jackson, Feldman, and Wood (some time in the future) end up being locked in, then there is no rush to get Appel, Gray, or any other SP prospect to the big leagues. After all, you need to ease those arms into a big league starter’s role, and that does take a couple years.

      • Ray Ray

        Other teams see this as well Boardrider. His stock has definately increased but he is only signed for this year. Maybe if they package a DeJesus with him to increase the return. (The advanced metrics
        indicate a bit of luck, as Feldman also has a 3.92 FIP, 3.78 xFIP and a
        .254 BABIP.) I

        • Ripsnorter1

          Now you are speaking reality.

          In time he will come back down to earth. His career OPS vs. LHP is .818 on the road, .802 at home.

      • 07GreyDigger

        They’ll probably get for Feldman what they got for Maholm or even less. The whole “control” time is making teams less likely to give up young talent for rentals these days.

  • J Daniel

    I know the Cubs are still players away but at some point they need to start keeping a few of the guys signed, especially starting pitching. I guess it depends on how far away and what impact guys like Almora, Soler, and Baez will be. Also, if Appel is the guy how quickly and what impact will he have? Should arrive quickly I would think or it would be a bust pick.

    I fully understand the system still needs more better players and possible high end players. Guess it depends on what the return is? The return from last years sell off doesn’t look to exciting at this point.

    What could a guy like Castro bring back? How about Barney? Maybe these two would help bring back higher end prospects that would speed the rebuild up?

    • Ripsnorter1

      Some speculate that Appel could be a starter in MLB as soon as next April. Of course, the proof is in the pudding.

    • 07GreyDigger

      Castro would bring more than Barney. I think at this point, you get almost nothing for Barney. Barney is a major league utility player who happened to win a Gold Glove.

  • Shawon O’Meter

    I have to eat some crow. I was definitely critical that designating Bowden was a very poor decision. Looks like no other GMs in baseball agreed with me. I guess that’s probably why I run a business and not a ball club. I was flat wrong.

    • John_CC

      You are a good man (or woman) Shawon O’Meter. Is that Irish?

      • Shawon O’Meter

        No it’s shortstop although I am a proud Irishman.

        • triple

          I’m sure there are many readers here who appreciate your candor in this situation. I am one of them. It’s just funny sometimes how people feel so strongly about an opinion, and then when they realize they are wrong, there’s just crickets out there in cyberspace.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Let’s look at the Bottom Ten bullpens in MLB:

    But wait…how do we measure it? ERA? OPS? WHIP? BAA? How about Caught Stealing? LOL Any stat that doesn’t take balks into account is inaccurate. After all, Shawn Camp is leading MLB relievers in balks. Can’t measure a bullpen accurately without figuring in errors made by the team and the pitcher, too.

    Let’s just look at OPS. That takes into account runners the pitcher puts on, and how hard the ball is hit as well. Here’s the stats and the respective bullpen’s motto:

    #30 Astros .818 …”Making every hitter an All-Star.”

    #29 Phils…800…”Spreading brotherly love across MLB.”

    #28 Cards…748…”Winning despite the bullpen.”

    #27 Blue Jays…746….”Gasoline Alley.”

    #26 Mets…744….”Give us your tired arms….”

    #25 Red Sox…735…”Too many baked beans…”

    #24 Dodgers…726…”Dodging Line Drives”

    #23 Cubs….721…”I hope not.”

    #22 Indians…716 “Getting Scalped Every Night.”

    #21 Miami…707 “Not as bad as the rest of our team.”

    #20 Nats….706..”Obamacare for our Team”

    Now let’s look at Bowden:

    2013 OPS…596

    Last 365 days OPS…560

    Last 28 days OPS…533

    I would have thought that one of the bottom ten teams, Cubs excluded, would have picked him up.

    • John_CC

      Yet, you were wrong…and loudly wrong…and still can’t admit it.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Oh, I admit that both Neil and Tony and I were wrong in saying that Bowden would be picked up. I freely admit that. Yessiree.

        I was wrong in thinking that Bowden would be picked off the waiver wire. I was wrong.

        I was wrong in thinking that some team would pick Bowden up off of waivers.

        I was wrong.

        • John_CC

          Nice edit.

          • SomeGuy27

            I can’t believe I’m defending Rip here, but I too thought there was no way he makes it through waivers. I pointed out last week that since the All-Star break he has been a better than league average performer in all the key categories. The only thing I can think of as to why he went unclaimed is due to how the Red Sox and now Cubs have handled him. When he’s been left alone he has quietly preformed. When jerked back and forth, he’s been inconsistent. He’s not alone in that type of career trajectory-a lot of guys go through it, but he was a high draft pick which I think makes it more noticeable in the eye of other GM’s.

          • Tony_Hall

            Don’t you love how he edits his post after he finds out his point was wrong.

          • John_CC

            It was actually a snarky comment about how you and Neil were also wrong.

          • Tony_Hall

            Wouldn’t surprise me at all.

  • Ray Ray

    I really think James Russell should be moved at the trade deadline. His trade value probably won’t ever get much higher. Try and get the most out of him now. I don’t think anyone will look back 3 years from now and regret not having him anymore.

    • John_CC

      I agree, Russell’s value is high. A shutdown lefty in the pen is a commodity that many teams will be looking for.

      But this would equate the disastrous trade of a year ago when the Cubs moved Marshall, their previous left handed bullpen stud. As we all know it was one of the worst trades EVER!

    • triple

      Once again, like i mentioned about Feldman, I don’t think Russell should be traded unless the FO receives an offer they cannot refuse. He has 2 more years of control, and I don’t see that we have a replacement for what he does for the bullpen, like when he was waiting in the wings while we had Marshall being the guy who got us out of jams, and a lefty at that! At the age of 27 and limited innings pitched for his career, he should likely continue to pitch at this level for 3 more years. Might as well try to sign him to a team friendly deal and trade him in a couple more years when his value could possibly be even better, like Marshall’s was.

  • paulcatanese

    Wow Neil, did you stop to take a breath while posting?
    If I wasn’t confused before, I am now:)

  • paulcatanese

    Conversation between Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer;

    Jed, the weather forecast for tomorrow is sunny, patched clouds and wind blowing out to right field at 15MPH, who should we throw for long relief?

    Jed; we really have no one available, but I looked on the computer for someone that throws 90% sliders on the outside corner, that should hold their lefties in check, if they try to pull, the best they can so is ground balls to the second baseman, he just got released from (any team), had surgery last fall.

    Theo; good pick him up, he should bounce back.

    Game over, Cubs win.

    Jed; we have a problem for the next few days, weather report shows wind blowing in at 20MPH what do we do now? There’s a guy over in Florida, throws mostly changeups and gets a great deal of groundballs.

    Theo; great, release the guy we signed yesterday, give him a months salary and tell him we’ll get back to him.

    Sign the new guy for tomorrow, and tell him if he wins, we’ll extend his contract (no trade clause of course) for the minimum salary. Theo; I really like these guys that are injured, we can get them cheap and send them on their way if they don’t turn out.
    Theo; I really like this game “lets play two”.

    • Tony_Hall

      Totally confuse at what you wrote and the point. Especially the “no trade clause of course” as this FO is against these.

      • paulcatanese

        You got it right Tony, no point. It was supposed to be a bit of levity with all that Neil had posted, the no-trade clause was meant to be in all of the contracts that are extended. And the guys in and out fast and furious, and how they must have them pin-pointed on their charts. I’m sure they don’t go after these guys blind. That was what I was trying to convey, and the length of investigation they put into picking someone up. Was actually a compliment.

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

    Baker will not be back until August at the earliest. So any talk of needing to open a spot for him is pure hyperbole at this point .

    We have Johnson and maybe Maples that will be charging towards call ups next year plus all the guys that you are talking about. So in all indication is the Cubs don’t need arms they need TOR arms. There is a
    huge difference.

    In that case if the scouts think they found their top of the rotation guy in either Appel or Gray then take
    them. Lock up Shark, extend Garza if we can not get almost ready TOR type pitchers for him then we have a very solid core to our pitching staff.

    2015

    Shark
    Garza
    Appel/Gray
    Wood
    Jackson

    With Johnson, Wells, Maples, I hope Conway, McNeil sitting at AA or AAA for depth. That is the waves that Team Theo has been talking about and it is very very soon.

    Jackson is a 5 on a playoff team and Wood could be a 3 but I still think he will top out as a very good 4. To me that is a very good rotation for a playoff run and that is not even talking about the return we could get for Feldman and other trade pieces that we have now.

    This is not even talking about what Appel could end up being that Ace we have been looking for. If not we can trade try and pry one away from Tampa or maybe sign Shields who will be a FA after next season.

    • DWalker

      yeah, I forgot baker is a 1 year contract. what a waste.

      • Shawon O’Meter

        It didn’t work out but it was a low risk high upside chance. When we rebuild we are going to have to take some of those. Some will work out and some won’t but that’s okay, we just need some to hit so they can become or be used to get the high upside talent we need. That’s why to me even though it is looking a little rough now the Vizcaino trade was terrific. He’s an electric arm and we never would have gotten him without his injury concerns. If it works he’s a huge asset. If not it cost little in my book. We could have gotten a safer pick and gotten a guaranteed scrappy utility guy or a nice 7th inning prospect but they are taking some shots to try and get that hard to fill top shelf talent while not mortgaging any part ofte future. I like that.