MLB Replay, Posting Tanaka and Cubs News and Notes

The GM and Owners Meetings took place in Orlando this past week. Teams began talking with one another about potential trades and setting up what could be a very interesting Winter Meetings when the baseball world meets again in Orlando on Dec. 9. While the focus is usually on possible player movement and the countless rumors that surface during the meetings, there was other news to come out of those meetings that could impact the game moving forward.

Baseball’s Replay System

Major League Baseball tested the proposed replay system during the Arizona Fall League. MLB announced small tweaks to what was used in the AFL and last week baseball took another step toward an expanded replay system being used next season.

The expanded replay system would give managers up to two unsuccessful challenges per game and at any point during the game, just not later innings. Managers would retain the right to challenge again with each successful challenge. The new replay system would allow managers to challenge more than just home runs but would not allow them to challenge calls on balls and strikes.

Owners unanimously approved the funding for the system on Thursday and it needs approval from the MLB Players Association and the World Umpires Association before moving forward. Both unions are expected to approve the expanded replay system. The owners would have to vote one more time in January during the Owners Meetings in Phoenix to implement the system. And a good part of the funding for the expanded replay system should be provided by commercial sponsorships that take place during the breaks to review the calls.

Once approved, MLB’s replay system would be run from MLB Advanced Media’s replay operations center in New York.

Here are a few of the details of the expanded replay system posted by the New York Post:

  • Managers will be given either one or two challenges per game. If a challenge results in the manager being proven right, then the manager keeps his challenge; if the original call is upheld, then the manager loses his challenge. The challenges will cover calls ranging from fair/foul to safe/out on the bases to whether a trapped ball has been caught or not by an outfielder.
  • When a manager wants to challenge a call, he will alert an umpire, at which point the play will be reviewed by officials — likely active or former umpires — in the MLB Advanced Media headquarters in Manhattan. During the review process, the on-field crew chief promptly will be equipped with a headset so he can communicate directly with the Manhattan-based official.
  • If a manager has exhausted his challenges and an umpire makes an egregiously bad call, the umpires can decide unilaterally to scrutinize and overturn it.
  • The plays under review could be made available to fans on ballparks’ large video boards as the actual process is occurring.

Masahiro Tanaka and the Posting Rules

The Cubs may or may not have a chance to place a bid for Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka this off-season. Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball have not agreed to a new posting system and the proposed revisions to the posting system were voted down by the owners last week in Orlando. MLB owners voted 26-4 that changes must be made to the posting system that was implemented in 1998 that is seen to benefit big market teams.

According to a report from the Boston Globe, “small-market teams feel they’re at a disadvantage because they do not have the upfront cash to bid against the large-market teams.” The Pirates’ Frank Coonelly and the Yankees’ Randy Levine “got into a war of words” when Coonelly “suggested that the posting fee be counted against the luxury tax.”

The Globe reported, “MLB proposed to Japanese officials that the team with the highest posting bid actually pay out the average off the top two offers, something that would provide some relief to the winning bidder. But when NPB didn’t act swiftly, Rob Manfred pulled the proposal and the posting system is now in limbo.”

Most feel MLB and NPB will work out the issues with the posting system, but some are wondering if it will be in time for Masahiro Tanaka to be posted.

The Cubs are among a long list of teams that are believed to be interested in placing a bid on Tanaka. The Yankees have made him a priority and are seen as the frontrunners to outbid the other 29 teams for the right to negotiate a contract with him. The Angels, Dodgers, Giants, and possibly the Red Sox are also thought to be interested in Tanaka.

As for Masahiro Tanaka, his workload during the post-season remains a concern for many of the interested teams. Questions have popped up as to why a team would want to pay a record posting fee and take on a possible injury risk.

Cubs News

Arizona Fall League

The 2013 Arizona Fall League wrapped on Saturday with Mesa losing to Surprise 2-0 in the Championship Game. Eight Cubs’ prospects suited up for the Mesa Solar Sox and had a good short-fall season. All of the players seemed to have a positive experience in the AFL and the front office was able to accomplish their goal of getting several players valuable developmental time they missed during the course of the regular season.

Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora made the headlines and here is how each of the Cubs’ prospects ended up performing in the Arizona Fall League.

  • Kris Bryant (3B/DH): .364/.457/.727/1.184 – eight doubles, one triple, six home runs, 17 RBI, 14 walks, three stolen bases and 56 total bases in 20 games
  • Wes Darvill (IF/OF): .171/.237/.286/.523 – one double, one home run, five RBI, three walks and 10 total bases in 11 games
  • Albert Almora (CF/RF/LF): .307/.342/.480/.822 – six doubles, two triples, one home run, 12 RBI, four walks and 36 total bases in 21 games
  • Jorge Soler (RF/DH): .271/.311/.376/.688 – six doubles, one home run, five walks and 32 total bases in 20 games
  • Dallas Beeler: 4-1 in six starts with a 2.49 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP – 13 runs, six earned, on 24 hits with five walks and nine strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings
  • Lendy Castillo: 0-0 in 11 relief appearances with a 1.74 ERA and a 2.03 WHIP – six runs, two earned, on nine hits with 12 walks and seven strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings
  • Matt Loosen: 2-1 in eight games, one start, with a 3.29 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP – seven runs, five earned, on 15 hits with six walks and 14 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings
  • Armando Rivero: 0-1 in 11 relief appearances with a 4.91 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP – seven runs, six earned, on 14 hits with five walks and nine strikeouts in 11 innings
Daniel Bard

Daniel Bard’s struggles have continued this winter. Daniel Bard has appeared in three games, faced 13 batters and recorded only one out. Bard has been charged with eight runs, seven earned, on no hits. Bard has walked nine batters with zero strikeouts and has thrown four wild pitches, three of those were uncorked in his last outing on Saturday.

The Cubs have a decision to make with the right-hander in the coming weeks. The front office could non-tender Daniel Bard prior to the Dec. 2 deadline, and re-sign him to a minor league deal with non-roster invite to Spring Training. Bard is arbitration eligible and would remain under the team’s control for two more seasons. Bard has a big arm and would be a good addition to the Cubs’ pen moving forward if the Cubs can get him back on track.

Derek Johnson

Derek Johnson discussed his first full season as the Cubs Minor League Pitching Coordinator with Baseball America. Johnson feels he learned a lot in his first year adjusting to pro ball from being one of the top, if not the top, pitching coach in college baseball.

Johnson admitted there was things he did not know and learned how go from directing and coaching 15 pitchers to directing the instruction of 100 pitchers in the Cubs’ system. Jason McLeod thought he did a good job and feels Johnson will be even better moving forward because now he knows what to expect.

Pitchers in the Cubs’ system prior to last spring had to adjust to Derek Johnson as well. Johnson has pitchers in the system doing “more drill work than they’d done in the past” and “demanded more energy from his pitchers.”

Johnson is caching less and relishes the opportunity to coach when he can. Johnson likes, and believes, in the program the Cubs have in place. Johnson feels the “layers are being built” in the Cubs’ system but admitted it is going to take time to get the system where he and the front office would like it to be.

Cubs Notes

Ken Davidoff caught up with Theo Epstein during the GM Meetings and spoke with the Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations for a few minutes. Epstein discussed the Red Sox’s World Series Championship, the difference between Boston and Chicago, and building the Cubs’ organization.

Keith Law posted his list of the top 50 free agents. Several players the Cubs have been linked to ended up in Law’s ranking. Jacoby Ellsbury (2), Masahiro Tanaka (3), Shin-Soo Choo (5), Brian McCann (8), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (14), Josh Johnson (27), Phil Hughes (31) and Bronson Arroyo (45), while former Cubs such as Matt Garza (11), Scott Feldman (18), Paul Maholm (32) and Dioner Navarro (47) also cracked Law’s list of the top 50 free agents available this winter.

Ken Davidoff released his annual ranking of the top 10 general managers in baseball last week. Davidoff defines baseball general managers as head of baseball operations. Davidoff ranked the Rays’ Andrew Friedman and Billy Beane of the A’s as the top two “general managers” in the game. Davidoff bumped Theo Epstein up two spots from a year ago due to the improvement made with the Cubs’ system and he feels “the Cubs seem poised to leap to contention – if not in 2014, then the next year – and be perennial contenders when they do so.”

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