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.

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Quote of the Day

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