Looking Forward, Looking Back and Other Cubs News and Notes

Unless something unforeseen happens, it is safe to say the final two months of the season will be better than last August and September when the team was pretty much unwatchable. The front office did not field a Major League rotation which led to the 18-42 record after the deadline.

The Cubs are not done shaping the roster and there still could be deals done this month. Jed Hoyer said that if things line up right the team will make moves, but deals are hard to do in August and there is some luck involved in the waiver process.

Even if a couple of players are traded and are replaced with players from the system, there are several reasons the final two months of the season are important for the Cubs.

The front office would like to see Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro finish strong. Jed Hoyer said that Starlin Castro is a huge part of their core and a huge part of the team’s future plans but pointed out that they have to get him on track. Hoyer is confident that both Rizzo and Castro can be a huge part of the team moving forward. Hoyer feels both players have time because they are only 23 years old.

Junior Lake is going to see a lot of playing time. Lake figures to see a bulk of his time in the outfield but do not rule out Lake playing more than a few games at third base. Jed Hoyer likes what he has seen from Lake so far but where he will end up playing is hard to project because he is so athletic. Lake’s plate discipline has improved which could lead to him receiving regular at bats moving forward. Hoyer said they like his versatility which would allow the team to use him in multiple ways.

The Cubs have a big decision to make soon with Jeff Samardzija. Jed Hoyer said on Thursday that the team’s priority is to sign Samardzija to an extension in the off-season and they are hopeful they can work out a deal with him. Samardzija will not be shut down early this season. The team and Samardzija need for him to finish strong, reach the 200-inning mark and put the first-half inconsistencies behind him. The team should be better with Samardzija in the rotation for the remainder of the season. And one thing is certain, how Samardzija pitches over the next two months will have a big impact on the organization going forward.

Travis Wood was very, very good over his first 18 starts of the season and had many thinking he was a lock to be added to the core of Samardzija, Rizzo and Castro. Wood has not been as good of late, which was expected, but he needs to find a middle ground over the next two months. Chris Rusin and Jake Arrieta figure to receive an opportunity to prove what they can do at the big league level over the final two months. Will either pitcher take advantage and show they belong in the majors, or will they create more questions for the front office moving forward?

Sixty Days

The non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone, and while the Cubs did not make any deals on July 31, the Cubs appear to have accomplished several of their goals while executing their plan to add inventory to the organization.

The Cubs were successful over the two months leading up to the deadline with adding talent to the system. Jed Hoyer called the 60 days leading up to the final day in July the best 60 day stretch that the team has had since he’s been the General Manager.

On paper, the Cubs added impact talent and inventory to the minor league system. Now they have to develop the players and it will take a few seasons to truly determine how well the Cubs did over the last two months.

First off, the Cubs had a good draft. The selection of Kris Bryant garnered the headlines, and rightfully so, that is a big bat, but Jason McLeod drafted some very good arms and added more pitching to the system. Rob Zastryzny, Trey Masek, Scott Frazier, Sam Wilson and Michael Wagner are off to very good starts to their pro careers with the Hawks. And Tyler Skulina has already earned a promotion to Kane County.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer turned Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger into Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop and international slot money. Carlos Marmol, cash and international slot money were flipped to the Dodgers for Matt Guerrier and Ronald Torreyes was sent to the Astros for international slot money.

The Cubs signed several of the top international talent in this year’s class. The Cubs agreed to terms on contracts with RHP Jefferson Mejia, SS Gleyber Torres, RHP Erling Moreno, OF Eloy Jimenez, C Yohan Matos and RHP Jen-Ho Tseng.

Scott Hairston and a PTBNL were sent to the Nationals for RHP Ivan Pineyro and a PTBNL. Before the big deals involving Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano were made, two of the top prospects in the system were promoted. Javier Baez was bumped up to Double-A Tennessee and Junior Lake received his call-up to the Show.

Matt Garza was traded to the Rangers for Mike Olt, Justin Grimm, C.J. Edwards and at least one PTBNL. If Neil Ramirez is healthy, he is expected to be added to the system in October. If not, the Cubs will receive two more pitchers from Texas’ organization.

The Cubs sent Alfonso Soriano, and a lot of cash, to the Bronx for RHP Corey Black. And they moved RHP Guillermo Moscoso to the Giants for either a PTBNL or cash.

And not only were all of the on field personnel changes made to the big league team and throughout the organization, but the Ricketts family received clearance from the City Council to move forward with the team’s $500 million project to Restore Wrigley Field and develop the area around the park.

Waivers, Waivers and More Waivers

By now the Cubs have already placed several players on revocable Major League waivers, and at some point a majority of the roster will be placed on waivers in the coming days. But there are only a couple of players the Cubs figure to trade this month. The Cubs could not deal Kevin Gregg before the deadline but he figures to be traded soon. Gregg does not fit in the team’s plans moving forward, plus the front office will need to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Chang-Yong Lim. Lim has been working his way up the minor league system and expects to be added to the roster in August, or at least by September when the roster expands.

Dioner Navarro could also be moved, but that is unlikely at this point. The Cubs have only two catchers on their 40-man roster and J.C. Boscan is the only catcher in the system with Major League experience.

The Cubs could trade Matt Guerrier and turn him into a player to be named later.

There are two other position players that could also be dealt this month that could help teams down the stretch. Cody Ransom has put together a good year and could provide a team with a right-handed utility infielder and Julio Borbon could give a team a little speed on their bench that can play all three outfield spots.

Nate Schierholtz and David DeJesus will likely remain with the team for the remainder of the season. It’s unlikely that both players would clear waivers, plus the Cubs have control over both outfielders for next season. The Cubs will likely use the trade assignment waivers as a way to gauge interest on both players for possible deals in the off-season.

Trade Assignment Waivers

Trade assignment waivers are utilized in August between August 1 and the end of the season. A player may not be traded without first clearing trade assignment Major League waivers. If the player is not claimed within 47 hours (changed from strictly business hours under the new CBA), he may be traded to any team. If the player is claimed by another team, the claim can be revoked, and the player can be pulled back. If the player is pulled back, the player cannot be placed back on trade assignment waivers within the same waiver period.

If a player is claimed, the two teams have 48 ½ hours to work out a trade or the two teams can agree that the claiming team will take the player and his remaining contract. The claiming team would pay a $20,000 fee to just take the player and the contract. If more than one team claims the same player, the team with the lowest winning percentage has priority … and NL teams have priority on NL players and AL teams have priority on AL players.

A player can only be traded for another player that has cleared waivers or a player that is not on a 40-man roster. That is why in August a lot of trades involve players to be named later.

Jeff Samardzija

Jed Hoyer discussed Jeff Samardzija’s future during an interview on ESPN 1000. Hoyer said the team’s priority in the off-season is signing Samardzija to an extension and they are hopeful they can get a long-term deal worked out. Hoyer would not rule out trading Samardzija if they cannot sign him to an extension.

Jon Heyman reported on Wednesday that if the Cubs are unable to sign Samardzija to a long-term extension this winter then he will be traded. The Cubs have tried twice to ink him to a long-term contract and came close last winter. Heyman reported the Cubs and Samardzija were so far apart from their last offer (believed to be five years and $28.5 million) that the front office felt they had to listen to see what he could bring back in trade.

Jed Hoyer said they were never close to dealing Samardzija before the deadline.

2014 and Beyond

Jed Hoyer addressed the team’s future and pointed out there is a lot more talent in the system than there was 12 months ago. As for next season, Hoyer said there would not be a lot of “young guys” breaking camp with the big league team next spring. Hoyer indicated that “some of those guys will still be developing, but they’re getting toward that stage where they’re in the conversation for our future.”

News and Notes

Jed Hoyer addressed the call-up question about Javier Baez and Mike Olt during an interview on Waddle and Silvy (ESPN 1000) on Thursday afternoon. Hoyer said Javier Baez will not be called up this season but would not rule out Mike Olt being called up this year.

David DeJesus is hoping the Cubs pick-up the $6.5 million option for next season. DeJesus likes the direction the team is going in and feels he can help the young guys that will soon be on the roster.

The Tribune confirmed that teams were interested in Carlos Villanueva leading up to the deadline. And Bruce Miles reported there was serious interest in Villanueva and Kevin Gregg.

Jed Hoyer is not happy with the offense or the bullpen. The offense doesn’t get on base enough and struggles situationally.

The theme throughout the league following the deadline was that all teams value their prospects more than ever before and the changes to the CBA limit what teams are willing to give up in trades.

John Sickels reviewed his Cubs’ pre-season prospect list.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

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  • Ripsnorter1

    Kevin Gregg might be the most successful and most unwanted closer in baseball.

    He could accumulate 30+ saves this year, and I can’t wait to deal him away.
    He currently has 22 saves, and his WHIP is right at his career mark: 1.379.
    But the last two years his WHIP has been 1.642 (2011) and 1.695 (2012). I can’t
    escape the feeling that the worst is yet to come.

    Looking at his splits for 2013…
    July…0-2….5.79 ERA….9 saves….2.143 WHIP….he’s been awful….13 BB….8 K….2 HR in 14 IP.

    His first 3 months as a Cub featured monthly WHIPs of 0.980 and 1.000 and 1.000: Excellent.

    Will it be Dr. Jeckyl or Mr. Hyde for the remaining 60 days?

  • Tony_Hall

    I said a little while ago that the worst was over and Neils recap of looking forward says the same thing.

    Look at what 22 year old Puig has done for the Dodgers. They have been nearly unbeatable since he has been called up.

    On June 2nd they were 23-32 and last place in the West.

    Since, 30-15 and now in 1st place at 53-47.

    • Ripsnorter1

      It just shows you what one bat can do…..

      Look at Jr. Lake. His bat has helped awaken the Cubs.

      • 07GreyDigger

        I think Almora is a better defensive CF now than Lake, so wouldn’t Lake move over to LF?

      • Tony_Hall

        He will play OF if he ends up starting or he will be a super utility guy.

        Yep just one bat that homers every 8 AB’s and hit 450…that’s all.

        Zero chance Lake takes 1b from Rizzo. Rizzo is not as bad as you point out.

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

          Rizzo is havjng a pretty dang good season for a 2nd year player. The way he is progressing him batting .280, 30 HR, 110 RBI is not only possible but likely. He has been streaky but at his stage that is normal. The key is that he makes adjustments and gets out of slumps. Not too mention he plays gold-glove caliber 1st base. No reason to think he’s not an all-star in the future.

          • cubtex

            Let’s get him to .270 25 and 85 first. One step at a time.

          • Ripsnorter1

            How about .245, 20 HR and 60 RBI first. LOL

          • 07GreyDigger

            At .245, 17 HR and 62 RBI, he’s almost there already Rip :)

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

            I was talking next year. He’ll get 2 of thoae 3 thia year. May hit all 3. He’s progressing nicely.

          • cubtex

            I know….I was talking next year as well :)) He would have to have an epic 2 months if you think he can get that average to .280 this year. As I said, let’s get him to .265 or .270 next year with 25 HR and 85 RBI first.

          • cubtex

            Remember Boardrider. He hit 2 HR for the entire month of May. 2 in June and 3 in July. He already has 2 in August so hopefully he can hit at least 5 or so this month.Then he should get to 25.

          • J Daniel

            Sound like DLee

          • paCubsFan

            I was going to say exactly that. DLee’s stats his first few years are similar to what Rizzo is going through now. Riz may yet become a .300 30HR guy.

          • J Daniel

            That would make him an all star … Good stuff.

          • Brp921

            Let’s hope, he’s looked real good at times.

      • cubtex

        Shows you what money can buy. Dodgers spent very wisely on international. Ryu and Puig. Imagine if the Cubs signed those 2? They would be able to compete as soon as next year.

        • daverj

          This is a very good point. Epstein/Hoyer missed out on these two relatively reasonably priced international options last year. The Cubs could have afforded both.

          In fact, I think (though I could be wrong) Puig signed for about the same amount as Soler. Of course, the long term story of Puig and Soler isn’t over yet so Soler may yet prove to be the better player (though it doesn’t look that way so far)

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

          Any 1B with 25 knocks and 90 RBI has had a pretty dang good season. In his 2nd year? Awesome season. And Rizzo draws walks, I don’t have his OBP in front of me but he’s a guy that shouldn’t be judged too harshly on batting average. His job is to drive in runs whih he does. If we ha betwr hitters at the top of the order he would easily have 100 RBI. I’m not saying he’s the long term 3 hole, probably better suited for the 5 spot. But he’s an extrememy promising player. His ability to work out of slumps and make adjustments is what impresses me the most about him. I would dare to say he will have at least one 40 HR season in his career.Rip is very hard on him and I don’t get it. I suspect Rip resents him because he’d rather have Cashner. But Fats can’t help who he was traded for. On his own merits he’s had a solid season, more than solid for a 2nd year player, and his future is very bright at the plate. All that and he’s destined to win a bunch of gold gloves. He’s a apectacular fielder, which any “core,” player will need to have in his favor. A premium on defense is a nice debiation from the past and less maddening for the future. For years the bad defense was painful to watch. Our corr players in te field will help our pitching overperform and boost their confidence.

          • John_CC

            His OBP is .340, OPS .797, which isn’t bad.

            His struggles vs. LHP needs to improve. vs. RHP his OBP is .358, SLG. 488 for a nice OPS of .846.

            I know, that is a platoon split, but I believe he can and will improve in all aspects of his game. He has a bright future.

          • cubtex

            I think you might be confusing Rip with myself. I will own up to that. I think Rizzo has a long way to go to be what you think he is. He is not even close to an RBI machine. His RISP batting average reflects that. He is a great glove at 1st base and draws walks. I think he can get better but as I have said, lets take it step by step. Don’t put unrealistic expectations on him yet. Let him get to .265 25 and 85 first. That is not too bad if you can have that at 1st for the next several years. An all star? No but serviceable.

      • J Daniel

        I would put him in cf now and leave him be so that he gets used to that. Can move him to lf anytime.

    • daverj

      Puig is looking great, but a lot of the dodgers turnaround is due to the return of hanley Ramirez.

    • Brp921

      I agree that the worst is over, but even with the better starting pitching I don’t think a hundred losses is out of the question with the lack of scoring and the remaining schedule. 90 to 95 losses is what I’m thinking is most likely.

  • 07GreyDigger

    I definitely agree with Neil that the next two months will not be nearly as bad as the end of last year. With a rotation that includes Samardzija, Wood and Edwin Jackson, Cubs will have a much better chance at wins. Guys like Germano and Berken were #4-5 starters on AAA teams and not even close to major league viable.

  • cubtex

    Take a look at these 2 franchises and the turnaround they have made in 1 year! They each added free agents (not huge splashes) and made some trades and more importantly…..Changed managers and the culture of the team in the clubhouse.

    Red Sox
    2012 Record 69-93
    2013 current Record 66-44

    Indians
    2012 Record 68-94
    2013 current Record 60-48

    • J Daniel

      Man you and I have been on the same thought process a lot lately and I agree 100%. IMO I think we will start to see some improvement next year. I feel they already have an idea of what young guys will be up next year and then fill in with a few signings. I feel they wil be much more competitive but will not get past Cards yet.

      • cubtex

        Don’t forget the Bucs. Gerrit Cole for a full year. Jameson Taillon with Locke. They aren’t going anywhere.

        • daverj

          Didn’t they say “They aren’t going anywhere” about the 2003 Cubs with their even more heralded version of Cole, Tallion and Locke (Wood, Prior and Zambrano).

          You might be right about Pitt, but I’m not ready to anoint them a perennial contender yet.

          • cubtex

            You never know about injuries that is why I don’t believe in not wanting to get to playoffs UNTIL you have a “sustained” chance of getting there every year. I keep using the Nationals as an example. They shut down Strassburg last year with the thought they would be right back again this year. No guarantees in baseball!

          • daverj

            Agreed on Strasburg. I think the Nats made a big mistake in shutting him down. He may leave as a free agent before they make it to a World Series … I doubt Stras will give them any hometown discount as a “thank you” for preserving his arm.

            It’s the same reason why I think the Bucs should have dealt some of their prospects to go for it this season. A package of Garza, Schierholtz and Russell would have really helped their chances this year. The Pirates could have topped the Texas package while still holding onto top prospects Cole, Tallion and Polonco. Perhaps building a package around Hansen, Heredia and Glasnow. Who knows if the Bucs will be in this position again anytime soon.

          • cubtex

            I made that comment about the Pirates at the trade deadline. I was shocked they didn’t pick up a bat. I heard a quote that Huntington said he was willing to be stupid….but not insane. They tried to get Giancarlo Stanton. Imagine if they got his bat? I would like to see them make the WS this year. There fanbase deserves it. The only fans who probable deserve it more than them are the Cubs fans :))

          • 07GreyDigger

            The fact Huntington made a push for Stanton says to me that he’s willing to mortgage his future for the right guy. I’m guessing giving up a solid prospect for Nate Schierholtz didn’t make a lot of sense to him and especially for a guy who’s far from proven.

            I kind of like that he didn’t pick up a bat (even though he needed one) because he just didn’t think the market had what he wanted for the price he was willing to pay. I’d rather have a GM like that than one who would give up a premier prospect for a trade deadline bat. (See Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran).

  • Tom U

    Good Morning! Here are some Minor League notes:

    If the VSL Cubs can take care of business with the VSL Phillies tomorrow, they can secure a place in the the league championship against the VSL Mariners. IF Roney Alcala has a chance to be the league’s batting champion, and has an outside chance of winning the triple crown. Alcala leads in hitting and is tied for the lead in RBI. He is three behind in the the HR chase with 3 games left to play.

    Young appears to be the theme for next season. The Cubs have some of the youngest teams at Single-A and Short Season-A ball this year, along with a very young core in rookie ball and the foreign leagues. It has also been reported that the 2014 draft will be high school rich and college poor in prospects.

    Sometimes it pays to know people in high places. The organization wanted to move struggling OF Kevin Encarnacion down to Boise. However, both Jacob Hannemann and Shawon Dunston Jr. are injured, and David Bote has also been scuffling. Despite batting only .200, Jose Dore was the choice, mainly due to the fact that he was well known to Jed Hoyer from their days with the San Diego Padres.

    Barring injuries, any further promotions within the system will be made by Wednesday. That would give the players about a month of playing time at their new levels.

  • cubtex

    Good stuff Neil. I agree as well, they won’t go 18-42. They are currently 49-59 with 54 games left. My guess is they should go anywhere from 20-34 to 23-31 the rest of the way.So low 90′s in losses.

    • J Daniel

      Which is really remarkable when you look at all the blown saves. Just shore up the pen first, nothing more discouraging or a way to break up any mo Jo by losing games that should have been won.

      • cubtex

        agreed….but I feel that blown stat number can be pretty misleading. Marmol only blew 3 saves. Do you know last night’s game was a blown save? Bowden came in to start the 6th up 1 run and he gave up the lead so that is considered a blown save. I do hope that Theo does not ignore the bullpen this offseason. They need to add some new blood there for next year.

        • J Daniel

          Understood … Pitching priority 1. Enough of bullpen project guys although I know they are hard to build and are ever changing. But in today’s game it has to be a priority.

        • RickinMSP

          Plus teams can still win games in which they’ve blown saves and have multiple blown saves in the same game. Blown saves is not a good stat, but isn’t always what people think it is.

          • cubtex

            yep

    • Ripsnorter1

      If the Cubs play .500 here on out…they win 76 games. And that’s where I thought
      they’d be with this pitching staff. Of course I was counting on Scott Baker to pitch
      better than he has, and Feldman to pitch worse than he did.

      • cubtex

        I think that is a stretch with no Garza and Soriano. Remember they will probably have some September call ups as well.

        • Ripsnorter1

          You could be right. Too many variables to say with certainty.
          But we shall see. Perhaps a lot of those games will be vs. Pittsburgh
          and St. Louis, and that would tend to make you more likely correct than I.

        • Ripsnorter1

          But look at the starting staff these days…

          Jackson has gotten himself turned around. He can go .500.
          Samardzija can go .500.
          Wood can go…500.

          It’s Villaneuva and Rusin that will let us down, if anybody.

          • Brp921

            I agree the pitching is better but you can’t win if you don’t score.

          • Rational Logic

            Yeah, but w/o Gregg our bullpen will be terrible again, plus some of the other bench players will play more to be showcased and call-ups will need time. .500 is a reach, especially considering our schedule.

      • 07GreyDigger

        They switched. Scott Baker has been Volstad.

        • Ripsnorter1

          Nah. Baker hasn’t lost us 22 games in a row.

      • TheWrongGuy

        I have been looking at the pitching staff for next season as well. I don’t feel it’s too far of a stretch to think Theo McHoyer would add possibly 3 starting pitchers to the current pitching staff as weird as that sounds bare with me…

        Shark, Ejax, & TWood with …
        Villanueva/Arrietta/Loux
        Rusin/Raley
        … that’s the starting staff. Now for the pen…
        Gregg (if resigned)
        Strop
        Russel
        Parker
        Sanchez
        Villanueva/Arrietta/Loux/Rusin/Raley

        I like the power of the swing-man/starter. This pitching staff leaves many options for the coaching staff as well as showcasing guys who are average to better than average pitchers and running out of options for the minors. This could also help the players that aren’t going to make our starting staff serve as nice trade pieces at next years deadline. Cabrera or Grimm could be substituted for Loux easily.

        That’s my 2 cents.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Thanks man.

  • The Dude Abides

    Great stuff Neil.
    Good to see an article that covers this much information in one read. One site in particular out there would spread this out over the course of a day or two.
    Always my first read of the day on Cubs baseball.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Thank you very much

  • Tom U

    Dan Vogelbach was just named Cubs’ minor league Player of the Month for July

    • Tom U

      Matt Loosen was named minor league Pitcher of the Month.

    • Ripsnorter1

      Let’s check the stats on Cubs’ Minor league player of the month for July….

      .210 BA….28 BB….12 K….0 HR….2 RBI…
      Just what Team Theo loves!

      NAH!
      It’s really:
      .330 BA…4 HR.,,..,19 RBI….500 Slug…417 OBP
      Yeah. That’s really nice.

      • Tom U

        PSYCH!!!

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