Catching Up with Cubs News and Notes Following an Off-Day

Tom Ricketts spoke with Gordon Wittenmyer on Wednesday and “promised no splashy, expensive moves to reverse four consecutive years of losing on the field and at the gate” this off-season. Ricketts told the Sun-Times that the budget he gave Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to work with “isn’t holding back anything” that Epstein and Hoyer are trying to do with the team.

Theo Epstein spoke in detail last Sunday about how the team’s revenues are impacting what can be spent on the big league team right now. Epstein explained that the baseball plan and business plan are in line with one another.

Tom Ricketts confirmed what Epstein said a couple of weeks back that the Cubs’ clubhouse and training facilities at Wrigley are “probably not going to be ready” for Opening Day next season as the team had hoped. Ricketts pointed out that the Cubs are getting better and he feels they are building the organization the right way. But as the Sun-Times reported, a quick fix is not in the cards for the Cubs.

The Roster Shuffle

The Cubs have several new faces on the active roster, which stands at 31 players. Since the Cubs could expand the roster last Sunday eight players have been brought up to the big league club.

Ryan Sweeney and Luis Valbuena were activated from the DL. RHP Alberto Cabrera, RHP Justin Grimm and LHP Brooks Raley were recalled from Triple-A Iowa, along with catcher J.C. Boscan. The Cubs selected the contracts of LHP Zac Rosscup and RHP Chang-Yong Lim from Triple-A Iowa. And for those that missed the news, Chang-Yong Lim’s nickname is “Zero.”

The Cubs could still activate Scott Baker from the 60-day DL but outside of Baker, the Cubs appear to be done with calling players up from the minors.

Starlin Castro

Starlin Castro’s season-long struggles are well documented, but what is not receiving too much press is the fact that he is looking more like Starlin Castro over the past two weeks than at any other point this year. Not only has Starlin Castro played well in the field, he is squaring up the baseball and hitting it with authority.

Starlin Castro is hitting .314/.379/.510 with four doubles, two home runs and a .889 OPS. Castro is 16-for-58 over his last 12 games with four walks, five strikeouts and a .311 BABIP.

The Cubs and Castro need for him to finish the year on a positive note, and if he can keep doing what he has been over the last two weeks, Castro should be happy with the end of his season.

Pedro Strop

Pedro Strop has been very good in a short time in a Cubs’ uniform. Since coming over from Baltimore, along with Jake Arrieta, in the Scott Feldman trade, Strop has pitched in 27 games and allowed only 13 hits in 25 2/3 innings. Strop has struck out 28 batters while walking on nine and five of the six runs he’s allowed came in one outing against the Brewers on July 29 (2.10 ERA, 0.86 WHIP).

Dale Sveum obviously has no idea who will close games for the Cubs’ next season but Sveum said on Wednesday that he may use Strop in save situations over the last 23 games of the season.

Jeff Samardzija

Jesse Rogers posted a report that Jeff Samardzija is not battling enough following his outing on Wednesday against the Marlins. Samardzija struggled with his fastball command again and consistency throwing strikes.

Rogers mentioned an interesting stat about when Samardzija has lost games, he has lost badly.

In games that Samardzija has lost this season, he has allowed 47 earned runs on 79 hits with 10 home runs, 25 walks and 70 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings (6.75 ERA, 1.66 WHIP). In no decisions this year, Samardzija has given up 32 earned runs on 63 hits with 33 walks and 67 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings (4.67 ERA, 1.56 WHIP).

Samardzija has started 29 games this season and in 21 of those starts he has allowed 79 earned runs on 142 hits with 58 walks and 137 strikeouts in 124 1/3 innings (5.71 ERA, 1.61 WHIP). In the other eight starts, Samardzija has allowed 11 earned runs on 42 hits with 11 walks and 53 strikeouts in 64 2/3 innings (1.53 ERA, 0.82 WHIP).

Consistency has eluded Samardzija this year. And he must figure out a way to close the gap in his performances in order for his stuff and make-up to match the results.

News and Notes

When Zac Rosscup made his Major League debut on Tuesday night he became the 84th different player used by the Cubs since Opening Day of 2012.

The Cubs have already used 21 different relief pitchers this season … and Justin Grimm and Chang-Yong Lim figure to become numbers 22 and 23 in the very near future.

The Cubs have used 52 different players this season, one short of the franchise record of 53 set last year. The Cubs figure to fly past that mark with Justin Grimm, Chang-Yong Lim and J.C. Boscan on the active roster.

Kyle Hendricks won the Southern League ERA title for this season. Before his promotion to Triple-A Iowa, Hendricks was 10-3 in 21 starts for the Smokies with a 1.85 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP (101 strikeouts, 26 walks and 107 hits allowed in 126 1/3 innings)

Michael Bowden posted a thank you to Cubs’ fans on his Twitter account after he was designated for assignment on Wednesday. Bowden said he was “truly honored to have had the privilege to pitch for you and the city of Chicago.” Bowden indicated he was “thankful” and “content” and said to “take care”. So it appears that Michael Bowden will move to another organization with the opportunity presents itself.

The Cubs have played 48 games this season decided by one run … the Cubs are 19-29 in one-run games this year.

According to a report from Gordon Wittenmyer, Dave Keller does it the right way down on the Cubs’ farm.

Patrick Mooney connected the dots between Giancarlo Stanton and ‘The Cubs Way.’

The Cubs designated Dave Sappelt for assignment on Tuesday to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for LHP Zac Rosscup. Sappelt cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa. Sappelt will remain in the Cubs’ organization because this was the first time in his career that he has been assigned outright to the minor leagues.

Andre Dawson is not opposed to the changes that are around the corner for Wrigley Field. According to a report from Patrick Mooney, Dawson just wants to see the end result.

Wednesday’s attendance at Wrigley for the finale against the Marlins was 20,696 … the lowest single-game attendance at Wrigley since 2002.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

Quote of the Day

"You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him." - Leo Aikman
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  • triple

    I’ve been wanting to post about how Castro has been playing lately over the last couple days, but I didn’t bother because I’d be told that it’s “too small of a sample size” which I’d already know. But yes, I’m very happy to see the way Castro has been hitting. The funny thing is that I do think all those things in his head that were getting in the way are also some of the contributing factor to his recent success. But I’m still holding out to see Castro have some bigger success (and more multi hit games) before I breathe any sort of sigh of relief over his recent play.

    • DWalker

      even just seeing him be castro for this limited time gives a lot of hope they didn’t wreck him.

      now, about rizzo…………….

      • cubtex

        You can see the difference with Castro by just watching his plate appearances. You don’t need computer stats or results to tell that he is getting more locked in and confident at the plate. He actually looks like he will get a hit these days. At some points this year…you could tell he had no chance.

        • TheWrongGuy

          I agree.

  • GaryLeeT

    When are the Cubs scheduled to get their own TV network? I ask, because according to T.R. that’s the kind of revenue stream it’s going to take before payroll will be in line with a major market team.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Gary, they can opt out (and will) of the WGN deal after the 2014 season. The contract with CSN expires after the 2019 season.

  • 07GreyDigger

    I think what Ricketts said and what Theo said about the revenue is a little bit of damage control on both sides. Ricketts said he’s not “holding anything back,” in terms of the FO sticking to their plan. To me this is Ricketts making sure he doesn’t come across as “cheap” to the fans.

    Theo saying that the team’s revenues are affecting what can be spent on the big league team is letting the fans know that they aren’t going to spend wisely and go crazy like the fans want them too.

    I’m glad that they’re on the same page, but I just don’t get sometimes why they just can’t come out and say it. I understand that it affects ticket sales and revenues, but I feel like it’s better than just telling little white lies about your plans.

    Most of us know that they are rebuilding because they have to in order to win long term, but they’re also doing it because of the renovations and debt situation they’re in. They simply don’t have the dollars to win, rebuild the baseball side and renovate the park and facilities. I just wish they’d be a little more transparent for the average fan.

    • JasonOfTheBurbs

      He comes off sounding cheap to me.
      Honestly…how many billionaires, or groups of multi-millionaires, would have loved to own the Cubs (or any professional sports team)?
      It drives me nuts for a family to buy a sports team, and then proceed to act strictly like a bottom-line businessman. He could have bought a farm, a company that makes boxes, started a social media network company…whatever. But, no, you chose to buy one of the most passionately-loved sports franchises in the world. Just my opinion, but the owner of that team needs to be there for love of the game/team, and if he didn’t have the means to buy the team and act like that type of owner, he shouldn’t have bought it in the first place.
      Man, oh man…if I only had a couple billion laying around, this never would have happened.
      To clarify, I have no issue with the stockpiling of the farm, but that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) preclude a team from going after some more FA talent. Edwin Jackson was a good move, although results are poor this year obviously….but he has been the only non-trade acquisition that is intended to be more than a 1-year flip.
      No need to go after the Josh Hamiltons or Zach Greinkes of the world…but why not overspend a bit on better backup players and bullpen guys, as an example? Most of these lineups are largely unwatchable, and therefore, not entertaining.

      • mutantbeast

        lets not forget, Mark Cuban wanted to but the Cubs back when they were up for sale. Say what you want about Cuban, no one ever accused him about being cheap or unwilling to spend on the Mavs. Too bad MLB hasn’t seen things in the same light.

        • MarkleMcD

          Actually you would say Cuban is cheap. He has been unwilling to over spend on the Mavs roster, has been reluctant to go over their salary cap and pay the luxury tax, and has even released or not resigned good players because of it (Tyson Chandler anyone?). You’re right that he makes sure the players are taken care of, sorta like the Cubs are trying to do with bringing Wrigley up to the 21st century for the clubhouse and what not. But Cuban does not overspend on the roster.

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

        He does love the team. And right now all the money is going towards inproving facilities in Chicago and abroad, and paying off the monumental debt the team was in. He’s not made of money. He’s spending a ton rigjt now, but not on players. As soon as the facilities are brought into te 21st century and the debts are paid that money will go toward players.

        • JasonOfTheBurbs

          What money has gone to improvements so far? I may have missed something, but I think all the improvements are just recently approved and still to come, correct? So how does that explain the lack of spending the past two seasons? Bottom-line, he bought a sports franchise…if he couldn’t afford to take on the monumental debt, and make investments in mlb-ready talent, he should have let someone’s else father buy the Cubs.

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

            I believe te big expenditure has been the state if the art facility in the Dominican Republic. He has also expanded our front office among oter things. The team had a monumental amiunt of bad debt that is being paid off as well. Once te debt is gone and that will help a bunch. Also a better TV deal. You can’t tell him how to spend his money. He has focused first in projects that will help us be fompetitive in the long-term. That’s the whole olan, to bring an envitonment here we are competitive year in and year out. I’d much rather suffer now and be hood for years to come them to finave a one-shot team them be right back where we were two years later. I commend Ricketts for his plans and spendig and support it about 90%. He hasn’t been a tight wad. If you don’t like the way he chioses to soend his money than buy the team yourself. And who cares if his dad oaid for the team? I wish my dad could have biught me a team. They worked hard and have money to spend. What’s the problem with that? I’m certainly envious as well but it doesn’t mean I think less of him.

    • cubtex

      Whew! Good thing they locked up EJax last year for 52 mil then :)

      • 07GreyDigger

        I know you don’t like the guy, but I just wonder something about the EJax thing. You want them to spend money in order to win. This is a deal where they spent money to improve the team and get more wins. I know they haven’t made more and I know that’s mostly your point, but Ejax was them spending money and you’ve panned the deal at every turn. Especially the cost of it. Which is it? Spend money? Or don’t?

        • cubtex

          Here is the thing Grey. Spend money in the “right” places. To lock up Ejax for 4 years was a total waste of money. To waste money on Gerardo Concepcion, Scott Baker,Ian Stewart, Fujikawa etc. Money could have been better spent elsewhere.

          • TheWrongGuy

            Where do you think they should spend the money this off-season Ray?

          • cubtex

            This team ‘NEEDS” a middle of the order bat in the worst way. That is why I was and still am against that Soriano trade. They have noone who can hit there. Rizzo cannot handle it. Schierholtz is not day in and day out.

            Since Soriano was traded….you can see the impact it had on this lineup. Get a Corey Hart on a 1 year deal or take a chance on the PED user Nelson Cruz on a 1 or 2 year deal. They need at least 2 run producers for next year. I would also spend some money to fix the bullpen. I agree with not going after an Ellsbury or Choo at this point in the rebuild but they should try and Fix the offense and bulpen.

          • TheWrongGuy

            I agree with the need for a middle of the order bat. It is very super obvious this line-up is running on “three flat tires”, ie a number 3,4, and 5 hitters.
            As for Soriano I am for him and against him leaving. The reason for him staying is well he hit well in the number 4 slot for us. The reason for him leaving I believe is why the FO had some stalls in signing Castro last season. We all know Castro and Sori were good friends and Sori was his mentor as well as Lakes mentor during the off-season. I believe they didn’t certain things about about Sori and his contract be an issue in re-signing these guys or follow Sori’s bad habits as I don’t think he completely was in Theo’s plans other than what happened which was to be traded away to the Yanks.
            I agree with taking a chance on Cruz. I am not totally sold on Hart but if so on Hart only at the right price and if we can’t get a Sweeney or Bogusevic back on some nice contracts. We shall see but they need to re-sign Navarro 1st.

          • cubtex

            The problem is that Sweeney,Bogi and Lake are not middle of the order bats. If Olt is the starting 3rd baseman there is NO WAY he should bat there after his struggles this year. As I said about Sori, if you pick up a short term replacement for next year who can hit 4th…Fine. I will retract my statement…but IF they don’t like many are saying….it will be a nightmare next year again.

          • TheWrongGuy

            I will be a nightmare season again, next year, but I think they may win a few more games than this year or 2012. As I don’t think there will as big of a fire sale as the past few years. Also forgot to mention this before but they are paying Sori for a good portion of next years contract. Also paying over for taxes on this years international signings. So if you add those 2 extra pay-outs up it equals paying for 2-3 players not on this team for the rest of this year and next. Also paying for repairs, New ST facilities, finishing costs for DO training facility, and then add in the debt owed for buying the franchise. This all leaves the FO with very little move to bargain with many FA’s on the market.

          • cubtex

            Let me ask you this…How can you say they may win a few more games next year looking at the current state of the Cubs? Seriously? Will the starting pitching be better? No Garza and No TOR starters? Nope. Will the offense be better with No middle of the order bats? Nope. If you are counting on a starting rotation of Shark,Wood,Arrieta,EJax and Rusin/Grimm or whoever….that is a step backwards from last year. Who will hit leadoff? Who will drive in any runs? Who can steal a base? This team on paper will be worse than this years opening day roster as the team currently stands.

          • TheWrongGuy

            True in all regards. But I am looking at 1 thing, when I posted that. Look at our record last year and this year after the trades. super BAD. If there are no fire sales or less trades and the team can play more together and become more of a team vice thinking they are going to lose XXXX player because the FO will trade him. Just my opinion.

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

            Rizzo will be better. Castro will be better. Sweeey will hopefully stay healthy. Full year of Strop and hopefully a more consistent Arietta. Pitching throughout should be better. Castillo should be better. Olt could be better. There are lots of was they win more next year.

          • cubtex

            as the team stands right now…they will lose 90 plus games again.

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

            Castro and Rizzo both being better, along with improved pitching, a healthy Sweeney and probably an wven better Schierholtz, I think we’ll be better. Low 80’s for losses. Maybe even push .500

          • cubtex

            Who drives in runs next year? Who is the ace? You don’t have Garza and Soriano and you haven’t replaced them with equal or better value. I know you are the eternal optimist but you cannot have all these question marks and hit on them. If Arrieta? Look at his record in the mlb. IF Rusin? IF Sweeney? You know what I am saying? Unless they add a top of rotation starter(highly highly unlikely) and a middle of the order bat(again, highly unlikely)on paper this team is worse than last year on opening day.

          • SuzyS

            The Cubs will make a strong run at Tanaka for the TOR spot…watch.

          • John_CC

            Do you honestly think that Nelson Cruz would not be as risky or more so than Jackson was last year? I certainly do not. Jackson has had a reputation as a solid #4 inning eating pitcher with the stuff to be a #3 SP. And he is young enough to think/hope that he does still improve. Obviously it did ‘t happen this year, but hindsight is 20/20 right.

            Cruz is over 30, injury prone, and the obvious enormous red flag that he’s been using PEDs. He isn’t worth Schierholtz, who by the way was roundly panned as another bad signing last year.

          • TheWrongGuy

            I agree with all you stated above about Cruz. But with the need for a middle of the order bat, and add all that you posted about Cruz. This will add up to a middle of the order bat at a cheaper contract till maybe the trade deadline or when OUR prospects make it to the majors (Javy/Bryant/Solar/Almora). I like Olt and IF he regains form at the plate he is also in the mix(I say this for Theoardrider).

          • cubtex

            exactly. Cruz and Hart will not be expensive and be on a 1 or 2 year deal. Not even close to compare a signing like that to a 4 year 52 mil a year guy.

          • TheWrongGuy

            But Ray this is how i see the money going this year for players…
            1) Navarro re-sign… our catching at MLB and AAA without him is very bad and the rotation loves throwing to him.
            2) Shark extension get’R DONE! ‘nough said.
            3) T.Wood extension get’R DONE! ‘nough said.
            4) Fill the holes from waivers and FA and re-sign the Arby’s (arbitration eligible players).
            If there is money in the bank for signing Cruz or a Tanaka then great. But I really don’t see it happening. MY OPINION!

          • jtrain23

            I agree with you on the middle of the order bat. I think it will be hard to evaluate a guy like Rizzo until the Cubs have more protection for him. When he goes with the flow and doesn’t try to do too much, he swings the bat much better. However, how can you expect him to NOT try to do too much when he has no other consistent, everyday run producer in the middle of the lineup with him.
            If he gets some protection, it will make him press less and will allow him to see better pitches.

          • TheWrongGuy

            I couldn’t agree more. His big problem is not only that but when he is hitting well and pressing he also expands his strike zone A LOT.

          • cubtex

            He doesn’t get a lot of hits. He is not a consistent hitter. He doesn’t shorten his swing to just get a base hit from time to time. I pointed out the other day that he rarely ever gets multi hit games. I think they shouldn’t even try to hit him in the middle UNTIL he shows consistent success as a 6 or 7 hole hitter first.

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

            Absolutely right. Olt could provide help. Baez may be up in June. Sweeney healthy. Castro playing better. All that should help Rizzo. He’s had way too much expected of him alone this year.

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

            Every free agent deal will be overpriced and many won’t be worth the money. I think Grey has a point that they executed a deal that you have been calling for you just don’t like the choice. But at the time he was the best pitcher on the market and pitching was what we needed the most. So far it hasn’t worked out great but it’s only 1 year into a 4 year deal. If they sign Corey Hart and he comes in and doesn’t live up to the money it will be absolutely no different than EJax. They are very similar talent wise.

            We also signed Schierholtz who performed as well as Corey Hart. Why not give a bit more support to that deal?

          • cubtex

            disagree. EJax was a 52 mil investment. Corey Hart will be a 1 year flyer for 10 mil or less.

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

            That’s the difference between a free agent outfielder and a free agent pitcher. Which backs up your argument, we should invest in an outfielder. The going rate fr pitching is too high.

        • TheWrongGuy

          I feel like the best money for this off-season is spent on re-signing Navarro. If they don’t the catching situation goes from average to very bad FAST. My opinion is he is a MUST SIGN.

          • 07GreyDigger

            I’m on the fence on Navarro. He’s having a very good season, but in his 10 year career, he’s had one other good one. In the others he’s been disappointing. Do you want to sign a guy to a long term deal with that kind of track record?

          • TheWrongGuy

            For a simple answer YES!
            If you look at our other options FA or AAA, it gets very very bad to worse FAST. When the CUBS traded away Clevenger we lost A LOT. Yes he was injured a lot but gave us much flexibility. Now we have J.C. Boscan, Navarro, and Castillo. Who’s ready after that? FA possibilities Salty will be expensive and is injured a lot. McCann would be nice in middle of order but will also cost WAY to much. MY OPINION.

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

            I agree. And if Castillo improves we have a nice trade piece in Navarro.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Navarro is in a ‘salary drive.’

            It is amazing how impending FA makes a player pay attention.
            Then, after he signs the big contract….WHAM!…he turns into Adam Dunn…..158 BA…

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

            That is extremely possible Rip. But if he can be gotten on the cheap I’d still bring him back.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Scott Baker to start Sunday for the Cubs
    against the Brewers. Travis Wood has been pushed to Monday at Cincinnati.

    According to Bruce Miles, the Cubs will not necessarily go with a six-man rotation the rest of the way. They will wait to see how Baker responds.

    The writing has been on the wall that this
    could happen. Also keep in mind that Justin Grimm is up and with the team. He will pitch and they will likely use Grimm and Baker as ways to limit Wood and Samardzija’s innings without shutting them down early.

    The Cubs will have to make a 40-man roster
    move before Baker can start Sunday.

    • triple

      I’m glad to hear about pushing Wood back a day to fit in Baker. That should take away Woods last start of the season. And yes, I agree with getting Samardzija one less start too. They both will be hitting 200 IP very soon and there’s absolutely no reason to extend them much further as there is nothing on the line now.

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

        Great to hear about Baker. I knew we would see him at Wrigley.

  • cubtex

    Ricketts promised no splashy or expensive moves…OK…but you have a projected payroll of ?????? for next year? You have saved money with the DeJesus trade, you have saved a little from the Soriano trade. Add some major league players and at least “TRY” to be competitive. There is no reason to have an outfield of Lake,Sweeney/Bogusevic and Schierholtz next year. There is no reason to have a bullpen as poor again as this year. There is no reason to not try and aquire a middle of the order bat like a Corey Hart or even a Nelson Cruz. The fans do not deserve to watch AAAA players “UNTIL” the prospects are ready.

    • 07GreyDigger

      I agree those low cost short team deals are needed to improve the team. But that’s the thing, they have to be short term. You can’t sign Choo or McCann for 5-6 years because you lose a spot for a young guy you want to promote. I know that a lot of prospects don’t work out, but you’ll never know unless you have a spot for them.

      • cubtex

        I agree but you cannot keep a spot open for a prospect hoping he is the “chosen” one to be a starting everyday player for the next 10 years. Who is ready to take an outfield spot in the next year or 2? BJax? Soler? Almora?Szcur? What happens if Olt continues to struggle again next year? Stay with Valbuena for another year? Why? Why should you sacrifice the mlb team for a prospect who might not make it next year?

        • TheWrongGuy

          I agree. And dare say… Why spend mega-millions on the FA market and get in return a performance like 2013 EJAX?

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

            Sweeney, Schierholtz are 2/3rds of a productive outfield. Relief will be better next year with Strop around and others called up for depth. Plus we may get something out if Bard. I don’t mind signing some guys to 1 year deals but not Nelson Cruz.

          • GaryLeeT

            They were actually going for A. Sanchez, but he could not be lured to a perennial loser. The Jackson signing was a “shut the fans up” booby prize.

          • TheWrongGuy

            Jackson was a “shut the fans up” booby prize.

            HAHAHAH! classic I love it!!!!
            +10 ^

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

    If Castro gets back to being Castro that alone will make us a much better team next year.

    Strop with only 9 walks in 25 innings? That looks really goo for him.

    Bowden is a class act.

    • triple

      You are right about Castro! Even if Rizzo hasn’t show steady signs of improvement, you’ve got to believe that he will have a better season next year. And even if he’s not hitting so well, he still has produced alot for the Cubs.

      The bullpen has been much improved since the first half of the season. I don’t know why there’s reason to think that they’ll be as bad as this past season. I would definitely consider resigning Gregg if the price is right. The combination of what he’s done under the tutelage of Bosio and his experience as a closer should not be taken lightly when you consider the inexperience of our other in-house options as a closer. I know people say he’s doing it with smoke and mirrors and everybody was waiting for him to fall apart. He had a bad July, and other than that he has been a solid enough closer for this team.

      Strop and Parker can continue to flourish in set up roles, and Russell is fine if used in the limited lefty specialist role. This does mean that the Cubs do need another lefty in their bullpen though. Rondon will be in the minors next year, so there is a spot to replace. We’ll see whether Villanueva makes the starting rotation or not, but I think he fits better in the bullpen. So if there are 3 or 4 spots up for grabs, the nice thing is that they aren’t really in need of 7th, 8th and 9th inning guys (if they resign Gregg). Maybe Rosscup can fill one of those slots as a lefty. Then I wouldn’t be opposed to even bringing in another lefty and that would leave 1 or 2 more spots for righties (depending on Villanueva’s placement).

      Will our starting pitching be worse next year? Well we can be certain about 3 of the starters: Wood, Samardzija, and Jackson. I imagine Wood will be about the same; great first half, and slowly fall off in second half. He’s definitely back of the rotation material on a good team. Samardzija can go either way, but with his stuff alone, it’s hard to imagine him regressing. If he gets his head screwed on right, he should improve. Can Jackson pitch worse than last year? I doubt it, but I’ve been a Cubs fan long enough to know that even that is possible. But my optimism tells me he will have a better season next year. Other guys that will be in the running: Villanueva, Rusin, Arrieta. It wouldn’t hurt the FO to go out and find the next Maholm/Feldman to sign a 1 or 2 year deal and hopefully garner some good attention at the trade deadline. But I could be fine with seeing how Rusin and Arreita shake out over a season. You gotta give them the chance at some point. Again, like said before, that leaves Villanueva in the bullpen. And if the Cubs do sign a FA starter, then that puts one of Rusin or Arrieta (maybe Rusin because he’s a lefty) in the bullpen, or back in AAA so he can keep starting and developing. Also, at some point next year, if Kyle Hendricks is having a good season in AAA, I imagine we’d see him after the trade deadline.

      I’m cautiously optimistic about next year’s team as far as the pitching staff goes. I’m also optimistic about Castro, Rizzo, and Lake. I agree with the others who said that Navarro should be resigned. I really wonder if that will happen though? Besides, that possible signing and hopefully getting a cheap resign of Sweeney, I can’t really see the Cubs FO doing much to bring more power and production to Wrigley next year. I’m fine with it, as we may get to see some guys named Javier Baez and Kris Bryant playing at Wrigley by July or August…. Just wait till the year after next year!

      And the last guy that I should mention considering next year’s pitching staff is Arodys Vizcaino. As long as everything goes smoothly in the AZ fall league, I would think that his season will start in the minors, but as long as he stays healthy we will see him in Chicago, but I’m gonna guess that he won’t be starting in the year 2014 as that would be a safe way to proceed with him. After the 2014 season, they can evaluate if it’s safe to try him as a starter, of leave him as a RP/closer, if he’s still got the dominant stuff to do it.

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

        I agree with everything except Vizcaino. I forgot to mention him as helping improve next year. The FO has said he will likely relieve next year then go back to starting. They expect and will give him every opportunity to start. Why would we expect anything less? TJ surgery is common as a head cold among pitchers and they all come back just fine and usually better. If Vizcaino had already been a contributing MLB player he would have been rushed more and we’d have already seen him. Everyone is worried because he hasn’t pitched in almost two years and to a degree I understand. But he’s still a prospect so why would they hurry him back? Let him take absolutely as much time as needed. I think for a prospect a two year timeline is like a 1 or 1 1/2 year timeline for an established big leaguer.
        Vizcaino will be just fine, probably better than before and while he will work out of the bullpen in 2014 he will be our opening day starter in 2015. There, I said it…

        • triple

          The thing with Vizcaino is that his injury history/elbow problems date back to his time with the Yankees. He didn’t have surgery then, but there was already a partial tear, and then he did end up needing TJ, as well as the follow-up arthroscopic surgery.

          As far as his development, he pitched 85 1/3 in 2010, and 114 1/3 in 2011. In both seasons he started 17 games, and in 2011 you can add in 9 relief appearances in the minors, as well as 17 relief appearances in the majors. Now he will have about a year and a half off from the start of the 2012 season surgery until he pitches in the AZ fall league. I’m sure he will see very limited action there, or at least hope so.

          Now fast forward to 2014. I’m sure it will take him some time to build up to a point where he will even be able to make an appearance 2 games in a row. I’m sure there will be lots of cautious decisions made with him. So, let’s say he gets built up to being able to pitch out of the pen on back to back days. Then if he’s effective, he’ll be called up to pitch for the Cubs. That probably won’t be till after the trade deadline. So in ’14, I wouldn’t expect to see him pitch much more than 50-65 innings.

          Now let’s look to ’15. There’s no way they should be trying to stretch him out much further than over 100 IP, as that would already be a big jump and also puts him into territory from previous seasons that led to elbow problems. If he’s doing good and pitching with the big league club, they should use him in the bullpen for the first half, and then start to extend him after the all-star break. After he’s stretched out a little bit, then he could make about a dozen starts over the last 2 months of the season under some strict pitch count and finish with a little over 100 IP.

          Yes it’s a very slow process. The FO is proving to be very patient with this rebuild, so why would they rush such a talented arm as Vizcaino’s? Besides, if everything goes well and he’s healthy by this point, then in 2016, at the age of 25 he actually can be a starter in the top of the rotation, unless he has already proven that he can be lights out as a closer, which wouldn’t be such a terrible result either.

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

            Bang up analysis Trip. Thanks.

            I imagine his rarly health issues relate to that elbow so hopefully this surgery will allow him to be 100% healthy. I forget how young he is. Opening day starter in 2016 at age 25, that’s not too bad.

          • TheWrongGuy

            I still view him as a future closer. But I think they will stretch him out more as a starter. MY OPINION.

          • TheWrongGuy

            Great analysis Trip!!!

          • triple

            Thanks… of course in my whole hypothetical rundown of the next 2-3 years of his career are that there are 2 big ifs: health and effectiveness. Let’s hope it all works out. On another note with his possible 2016 arrival as a starter (or closer) are that other pitchers like Kyle Hendricks should have already gotten his feet wet in the majors, and hopefully be a part of the rotation, and CJ Edwards and Cory Black should be arriving around that same time.

  • John_CC

    Everyone should keep in mind that the best available SP available in free agency is Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. So this is another sealed bid situation. Do think Ricketts et al should come out in the media and say they are expecting to spend a bunch of money on a FA this season, or play the “we’re broke and not changing our plan card?”

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

      That’s a good question John. I don’t know if I’d mess around with all the money this deal will cost. Will he be the next Darvish? Maybe, but probably not. Even if he’s Dice-K it wouldn’t be a great deal for us. Dice-K was a helluva contributor to the 2008 World Series they won but he quickly fell off after that.

      To me stick to the plan. Sign another couple Feldman/Maholm types and see what comes of it. We’ve finally got some good pitchers coming up so unless we can get a David Price top of the rotation stud I stay away from any more big money free agent deals.

      • SuzyS

        Oh, I disagree. Tanaka is exactly the type of move we should make…He’s a possible TOR, age 25…and only costs $$$$ to add to our stable of talent.
        Tanaka is the right age, with the right skill set and a very high ceiling.
        I can see the Cubs going after him in a big way. He fits exactly what the Cubs are trying to do.

      • John_CC

        Sorry I missed this reply yesterday. Tanaka is not Darvish but he has Ace potential, he is probably a really strong #2. He is young too. Look at how much the Cubs were willing to spend on Sanchez last year, this guy is probably better. The Cubs still have to find young TOR pitching which they do not have coming up through the system. Finally Price would cost a pile of prospects and then a pile of cash to extend. Tanaka only a pile of cash.

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

          I’m convinced. Get the guy…

          • John_CC

            There is a good column written about him and the Cubs possible pursuit at the cubsden blog a couple days ago.

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

            Thanks for that John. I think he is getting better and can be a great catcher. I don’t understand why people don’t think we will e better next year. Castillo will be better, Rizzo, Castro, probably Sweeney and Schierholtz too. Add in possible minor leaguers joining at some point like Baez an Amcantra and I think we’re at least 10 games better next year. Out pitching will also be better. We hae young guys and fr the most part young players improve. We’ve seen a lot of potential from Rizzo and Castillo and obviously Castro. A lot to build on. We will be a lot funner to watch next year.

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