Villanueva Back to the Rotation and Other Cubs News and Rumors

The Cubs have apparently moved up their timeframe on Carlos Villanueva returning to the starting rotation. Prior to Thursday’s game in Oakland, the team announced Villanueva would start the finale against the Pirates at Wrigley on Sunday.

Dale Sveum piggybacked Chris Rusin with Villanueva in the opener on Tuesday night against the A’s after Rusin was recalled to fill in for Scott Feldman on short rest. The team announced that Villanueva would be stretched out for at least one other long relief appearance in order to increase his pitch count before he would rejoin the rotation full-time. Villanueva threw only 44 pitches while allowing two unearned runs on two hits with one walk and one strikeout in 2 2/3 innings. The nearly three-inning outing on Tuesday was the longest for Villanueva since he pitched two innings against the Pirates on June 7. Villanueva’s last start came on May 14 against the Rockies. Villanueva made it through the fifth after allowing a season-worst seven runs on 12 hits.

As a starter this season, Villanueva is 1-3 in eight games with a 3.93 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP.

Sveum said Thursday that Sunday would likely be a bullpen day with everyone available, depending how the relievers are used the three games leading up to Sunday. Villanueva should be limited to 60-70 pitches.

With the Cubs playing a make-up game against the White Sox on the South Side on Monday, the Cubs do not have another off-day before the break (July 15). The Cubs could decide to call-up Brooks Raley to give depth to the pen and possibly use him to follow Villanueva on Sunday. The Sun-Times mentioned the possibility of calling up a fresh-arm from the minors.

Of course, the plans could be altered again if the front office trades Matt Garza before Sunday. Garza’s next start is scheduled for Monday at The Cell.

Eloy Jimenez and the International Plan

Despite a report from ESPN Deportes, the Cubs have agreed to terms on a contract with the top international prospect, Dominican outfielder Eloy Jimenez. The Cubs reportedly have agreed to terms on a $2.8 million signing bonus that includes a $250,000 college scholarship. The scholarship does not count against the bonus pool money.

The Cubs are not done on the international market and have figured out a loop hole in the system that should benefit the organization in the long term by the front office being able to add inventory to the organization.

If the numbers are correct, the Cubs have signed Eloy Jimenez ($2.8 million), Gleyber Torres ($1.7 million), Jefferson Mejia ($850,000), Erling Moreno ($800,000) and Yohan Matos ($270,000). The Cubs have committed $6,420,000 to the five players and have exceeded their International signing bonus pool of $5,520,300.

The Cubs appear to be willing to take the max penalty under the new rules and spend heavily on this year’s class, which their scouts think is much deeper than players expected to be available on J2 next year. By going 15 percent or more over the pool, the team has to pay a 100 percent tax on the overage and the team would not be allowed to sign a player in next year’s class for over $250,000. The Cubs will still receive the slot money but they cannot sign any of the players looking for a signing bonus in excess of $250,000. The Cubs could also trade their slot money, just like the Astros did to acquire Ronald Torreyes. The Cubs could end up using the slot money next season to make improvements to the system.

According to a report from Phil Rogers, the Cubs have their eye on two “intriguing players” from the Dominican Republic. Rogers reported the Cubs are looking infielder Luis Encarnacion and outfielder Leonardo Molina. Both players are only 15 years old and the Cubs cannot sign them until their 16th birthday. Molina turns 16 on August 1 and Encarnacion hits 16 eight days later (August 9).

When the signing of catcher Yohan Matos surfaced on Wednesday, his first name was reported as Johan not Yohan. According to the transactions page on Cubs.com, the Cubs signed catcher Yohan Matos on J2. Matos is 6-foot-0, 175 pounds and the right-handed catcher is from the Dominican Republic.

Kevin Gregg

According to multiple reports, Kevin Gregg’s stock is very high right now and his days in a Cubs’ uniform could be numbered. Kevin Gregg was garnering a lot of attention prior to the White Sox’s Jesse Crain landing on the disabled list Wednesday afternoon. Gregg is anticipating things heating up after the All-Star break but a move could happen before then.

The Rockies, Braves and Red Sox are interested in Gregg according to multiple reports and Jim Bowden thinks the Dodgers could be looking at acquiring the reliever they let go of in the spring.

The Cubs are looking to turn Gregg into a long term asset … and the front office should look to move him as soon as possible to maximize the return. Blake Parker appears to be in line to pitch the ninth inning once Gregg is traded.

James Russell

According to a report from the Sun-Times, James Russell’s recent struggles might be due to a left ankle injury. James Russell hurt his ankle two weeks ago and while he is not using the injury as an excuse, it could have led him to slightly altering his mechanics.

Russell told the Sun-Times he thinks it could be tendonitis because he did not twist his ankle. Russell said the ankle is feeling better now.

News, Notes and Rumors

According to Phil Rogers, the Cubs are very interested in RHP Jen-Ho Tseng. The 18-year old pitched for Taiwan in the World Baseball Classic. Rogers reported he would not be surprised to see the Cubs land him.

Two more players made their Cubs’ debut on Thursday afternoon. Matt Guerrier and Pedro Strop became players no. 40 and 41 used by the Cubs this season. The Cubs have now used 23 different pitchers this season and only seven players remain from the 2012 Opening Day roster.

The Cubs have been connected to hard-throwing Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. Major League Baseball has granted Gonzalez his free agency so he can sign with any team once he receives his unblocking license from the U.S. government. As of Thursday, Gonzalez had not been cleared by the OFAC. The Cubs sent a group to Mexico last week to watch Gonzalez and they are expected to be in the mix for him until the end of the bidding process.

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is represented by Jaime Torres and another one of his clients will have his first showcase for big league teams on Tuesday in Barcelona. RHP Odrisamer Despaigne recently defected from Cuba and is in the process of establishing residency in Spain. It could take Despaigne 3-6 weeks before he can petition to be a free agent and he will also need an unblocking license from the OFAC. Despaigne is not expected to draw the same interest as Gonzalez. The Cubs have not been connected to Despaigne yet.

Carlos Marmol cleared waivers and accepted his assignment to Triple-A. The Dodgers feel they can correct Marmol’s mechanics while he is in the minors.

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  • Ripsnorter1

    Russell hurt his ankle the same time that Shawn Camp injured his big toe……lol.

    • Suzy S

      Is that akin to when Sammie sneezed?

  • JasonOfTheBurbs

    Los Cachorros de Chicago va a gobernar el mundo del béisbol!

    • JasonOfTheBurbs

      ¡Salve el poderoso Thoyer, y celebran su grandeza con la canción!

      • JasonOfTheBurbs

        Just getting in the spirit of the Chicago Cubs dominating the international market…

  • Suzy S

    Any news on Scott Baker? Is he throwing yet…or still shut down?

    • JasonOfTheBurbs

      I was wondering the same thing. If we lose Garza via trade soon, we will have another rotation spot to fill. Perhaps Baker will work out like Dempster…take a flyer and get him to resign out of loyalty for us paying him while he nursed back to health. Then we have another asset, and hopefully a productive rotation starter, for next season.

      • Suzy S

        You and I think alike in this regard.
        I’m not sure where Baker’s loyalty lies…the reason we got him was because the Cubs were willing to give him a one year deal…with no options…when everyone else wanted 2 years. Hopefully, he gets healthy and feels he owes the Cubs a season for paying him to rehab.
        That being said, I always liked Baker…he was a gamer with Minnesota and used to give the White Sox headaches all the time.
        If he can get healthy, I think he has some good innings left in him.

  • Tom U

    Boise Hawk notes:

    Jacob Hannemann sat out his second game after playing two but sitting out the two games before that. There is no word about something being wrong, but it is curious as Hannemann is doing well, hitting .280 with a HR and an RBI. It appears the organization may be willing to “jump” Hannemann to Advanced-A Daytona if he is able to stay on the field.

    It looks like Carlos Penalver has all but wrapped up the moniker “best defensive infielder’ in the system. At 19 years old and with plenty of SS prospects ahead of him, there is no need to rush him as they wait for his offense to develop.

    If Yasiel Balaguert can get on a hot streak and raise his average above .280, he may be on a fast plane to Kane County. The Cougars could use his RBI ability.

    With all the infield prospects in the system, try to keep an eye on David Bote and Danny Lockhart. Each are improving on offense and can play 2B, SS, and 3B.

  • John_CC

    I love this super-aggressive approach to the international FA market. The fact that the Cubs are have decided to go all out this year and just pay the penalty is a nice, bold move on their part. It should signal to the fans and everyone else that they are trying to accelerate the building process…Yes, I know these kids are only 16-17 years old, but by basically saying “we don’t care about next year’s class” and by stock pilling as many of the best players this year they are accelerating the process by a year basically. And I also like the fact that they are possibly stocking a coffer with money that can just be used as to trade away next year for players.

    They are flexing their “big market” muscle with this plan, are basically scoffing at the 100% tax because they think these players are worth more and are able to pay it.

    The Cubs’ system is going to be so loaded by next July that I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Cubs on the buying end one year from now.

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

      I thought the same thing. They are being the “big-market,” team k. Regards to the international guys they like so much. But they are doing it to stack up the farm system and continue to execute their plan! I love it! This shows what they are willing to do to be good. When guys get to the bigs and we start to compete, imagine what we’ll be able to do. We’ll have som mih ammo and the money to impose out will on the league. It’s an exciting time to be a Cubs fan! I’m so pumped after this week.

    • DWalker

      Not only that, they will probably have one of the top 5 slots next year, which they will probably trade away. Considering they are now linked with two more top 5 players that can’t sign until august due to age, they really are looking at cleaning up. I have to think the top 3 at least, were they in the regular draft, would be the equivelent of potential high school first rounders. Yes, they may never reach the majors but this is still a major influx of potential young developable totally controlled talent. I do think next year is a bit optomisitic, I could see more in the winter. its still going to take time to get prospects to AA and AAA where they have major trade value, and these guys are a minimum couple of years from being a major factor in the farm system. Still though, if you think of this in terms of two to three years of draft picks in one shot you can’t help but be thrilled at the prospect.

  • Tom U

    Kane County notes:

    The promotion of SS Giuseppe Papaccio, along with the looming promotion of 2B Zack Blair, may be a sign that the Cougars are starting to lose some of the good will that they had a the beginning of the year as their season may be spiraling downward. Pitching has been the main culprit but that takes time to develop. So with no immediate help, the eyes turn to the offense. SS Marco Hernandez and 2B Gioskar Amaya have hovered around .250 all season, and the two 2013 draftees my provide more punch.

    The promotion could also provide relief to 19 year old Jeimer Candelario, who has played most of the Cougar’s games at 3B. Amaya has experience at 3B, while Hernandez has also played 2B, but neither has lined up there since the rookie league.

    OF Kevin Encarnacion may be on a quick hook up to Daytona. There are some (including this reporter) that feel he got overlooked in the transition to a new front office, and should be higher up in the system after getting stuck in the DSL for two years.

    Dan Vogelbach hitting .421 over his last ten games may be the tear that the front office has been waiting for. They have been itching to move up first basemen Justin Bour and Dustin Geiger, but had no replacement for Daytona. They now may have one.

    • redlarczykg

      Tom,
      Zack’s DOB shows he will be 24 this December? Won’t his age be a big mark against him? What’s his story?

      • Tom U

        I’ll continue to check on that for you, but I would suspect it would be something similar to Greg Rohan.

        Rohan was older than most players when he was drafted because he got hurt in college and played through his senior year.

        With Blair, along with a few of the other prospects in the system, its easy to see why the front office was okay with trading Ronald Torreyes for International cap money.

  • Ray Ray

    Has anyone else noticed that ever since Garza mentioned on how he prefers Navarro catching him opposed to Castillo…..that after Sveum adamantly denied that he would let Navarro be Garza’s personal catcher….Navarro has caught Garza’s last 4 starts? LOL! At least Sveum is being smart about that. You can’t argue about the results. I think Castillo has improved but he has a long way to go as far as his set up goes and framing pitches. No question Castillo has a gun but he needs to tune up the other aspects behind the plate.

    • DWalker

      Castillo has a ways to go period. Catcher is a systematic issue for this club, I hope they develop an upgrade in the next few years as I doubt they can trade for one.

      • SomeGuy27

        Agree.

        Castillo leads MLB in errors, third in PB, and with his arm only throws out 29% of base runners (I will admit that’s not all on him as I’ve seen drops and some slow deliveries by the pitchers). He also jabs at the ball and does not frame well. Personally, I would hate to pitch to him as he does a lousy job blocking down which destroys any confidence in burying a pitch or throwing a back foot slider.

        Other than that, he’s fine.

      • Suzy S

        DWalker, developing catchers may take awhile…I’m curious, in all the trading they do…why can’t they get a catcher in trade…maybe from high A to AA level?

        • DWalker

          Catchers are tough to develop, and even at the major league level, there are very few catchers that are good both offensivly and behind the plate. Good all around catchers are valuable enough and hard enough to find that they just don’t get traded it seems. Its such a thin position that a potential Molina or Posey is going to be a major trade of ace calibur probably. Scary thing is, offensivly, Castillo is actually fairly middle of the pack. Unfortunatly, he’s also not a defensive catcher so middle of the pack is not good.

          • Suzy S

            Thanks for your take…and I’m basically in agreement with you.

            For me…to build a championship caliber team…I go back to the old axiom…you have to be strong up the middle.

            We’ll see how the Cubs develop that.

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