Pitching Staff Remains a Work in Progress and Other Cubs News and Rumors

Baseball’s Winter Meetings have come and gone but the Cubs’ off-season is far from over. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer made three changes to the big league roster over the last week. The Cubs acquired right-handed hitting outfielder Justin Ruggiano from the Marlins for lefty hitting outfielder Brian Bogusevic and picked up and intriguing arm in right hander Liam Hendriks off the waiver wire from the Twins.

The Cubs have not announced the signing of LHP Wesley Wright yet so officially the 40-man roster has 38 players on it but with the addition of Hendriks, the Cubs’ 40-man roster stands at 39 players.

Rick Renteria and his coaching staff are meeting in Mesa this weekend to start preparing for Spring Training. And while the staff is in Arizona, the front office is still working on the roster for next season.

The Cubs have offers on the table to a free agent reliever and a free agent starter.

The pitching staff remains a work in progress. Jed Hoyer thinks there will be a sense of urgency throughout the game leading up to Christmas for free agents to sign a new contract. And one of those free agents could be former Southsider and Padres’ starter Clayton Richard.

Clayton Richard

According to a report from Bruce Levine, the Cubs have discussed former White Sox and Padres’ hurler Clayton Richard. The Padres outrighted Richard off the roster at the end of October. The southpaw refused the assignment and elected for free agency.

Clayton Richard is coming off a bad year. A stomach virus forced him to miss three weeks before a shoulder injury ended his season in June. Richard made just 12 appearances, 11 starts, and finished with a 7.01 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP.

Clayton Richard was very consistent during his time with the Padres. Richard made a career-high 33 starts in 2012 and posted a 14-14 record with a 3.99 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP.

Levine indicated the Cubs have not made Richard an offer and see him as an option for the bullpen.

Junior Lake

Junior Lake has a very important season ahead of him. The Cubs’ front office is planning on Lake receiving a ton of playing time next year. Jed Hoyer addressed Lake’s future after the team acquired Justin Ruggiano on Thursday.

Hoyer said the very talented Lake is “going to get a ton of playing time.” Hoyer added the Cubs have the opportunity to give him playing time and pointed out he is going to get his at bats to continue his development. Lake turns 24 in March and created quite the buzz last season when he put up a .284/.332/.428 slash line in 64 games. Lake hit 16 doubles and six home runs for a .760 OPS with a .377 BABIP. Lake is raw but the talent is there and it is up to Rick Renteria and his staff to aid in his development.

Lake recently left his winter team in the Dominican Republic … and it was at the Cubs’ request.

According to a report from the Tribune, the front office invoked a fatigue clause in Lake’s contract and shut him down for the remainder of the winter. Lake was leading the league in hitting with a .343 average (.343/.386/.457/.843).


Jeff Samardzija

The Braves are reportedly pursuing Jeff Samardzija but it is unclear if the Braves will pay the Cubs’ price to acquire him. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are looking for three top pitching prospects in return for Samardzija and do not appear to be willing to settle just to make a deal.

For those thinking the Cubs’ front office is not looking for a package of top prospects for Samardzija, it appears you would be wrong … at least according to a report from Toronto.

According to Bob Elliott, the Cubs asked Alex Anthopoulos for the Blue Jays’ top prospects RHP Aaron Sanchez, RHP Marcus Stroman and a third player. Anthopoulos did not specify which deal he was referring to but said the acquisition price of the deals he has on the table doesn’t work for the Blue Jays right now. The Blue Jays’ GM added he is continuing the dialogue on the deals he’s talked to other teams about this winter.

The Blue Jays and Braves seem to have the most interest in Jeff Samardzija at this point, but don’t count out the Kansas City Royals or Arizona Diamondbacks.

Mark DeRosa thinks the Cubs “would be wise to hold onto Samardzija” and pointed out that his former teammate is the type of player “you build your team around.”

Brandon Hyde

The Cubs’ new bench coach is in Mesa this weekend with the rest of Rick Renteria’s coaching staff beginning their preparations for Spring Training.

According to the Tribune, Brandon Hyde and Rick Renteria spent a lot of time during the Winter Meetings “scripting Spring Training workouts, evaluating personnel and studying potential lineups.” The report explained Hyde emailed blueprints of the Cubs’ new facility to the coaching staff to get suggestions on how to improve efficiency in practice drills this spring.

News, Notes and Rumors

The Cubs are believed to still be in the mix for free agent relievers John Axford and Mitchell Boggs.

On the starting pitching front … Jason Hammel and Scott Baker remain possibilities for the Cubs.

Justin Ruggiano is a better fit in the Cubs’ outfield than Brian Bogusevic according to ESPN Chicago. The Cubs project Ruggiano’s power numbers to increase now that he no longer plays his home games in Miami.

Jack McKeon spoke highly of Brandon Hyde and thinks he has what it takes to be a big league manager.

One of the new additions to the Cubs’ minor league system, LHP Tsuyoshi Wada has a pretty cool nickname … Dr. K.

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  • MarkleMcD

    I know there’s a long way to go til pitchers and catchers report, but it’s tough remaining behind the front office right now as they do virtually nothing to improve the chances of being competitive now for the 3rd off season in a row. I’m trying to be positive that they’re following a plan, but signing minor leaguers and guys other teams have released is starting to get old.

    • GaryLeeT

      It’s one thing to pick a good team’s castoffs, but they are picking up the bad team’s unwanted players. And it’s hard to call other teams bad when compared to the Cubs.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Clayton Richards has been dealing with chronic shoulder issues for the past 3 years, at least.
    Shoulder injuries are hard to overcome as they tend to linger. In Richards case, he had surgery
    in 2013, and spent 122 days on the DL, and this was on the same area that he had his initial shoulder surgery in 2011, when it cost him 86 days on the DL. We are talking about a chronic problem here. He hasn’t been healthy for three years.

    In other words, I do not expect him to be signed by the Cubs.

    • TheWrongGuy

      I agree Rip.
      I believe it is a case of the writers getting on the Jed and Theo bandwagon of the signings of former Padre and Red Sox players. Yet Theo said earlier that he has no problems signing players with arm problems (ie TJ surgery guys), but doesn’t like to sign guys with shoulder problems for the same reason you mentioned.

      • Guest

        as well as Hoyerstein’s “injured pitcher” plan.

    • cubtex

      Didn’t I bring up Richards? lol I told you that could be a possibility.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Cubtex,
        Who do you think will have the better 2014 in terms of BA, OBP, Slug, SB?
        Mr. Michael Bourn, or Mr. Ruggiano?

        I have my hopes on Ruggiano.

  • Eugene Debs

    Current roster = 100 losses.

    • CubbyDenCritic

      I said earlier we will be repeating 2012 all over again.

    • Bruce

      and that is the problem with this FO; the major league roster 3 offseasons into it; is worse than the one given to them.

  • Dorasaga

    I don’t want to spend too much time on someone who’s probably too old and broken to pitch for the Cubs in Game 1 in two years–being optimistic–but I’ll say this about “Dr. K” Wada.

    He was the de-facto ace of the Hawks in 2007. The Hawks HAD an ace the year previously, but was that guy was too injury-prone. Anyway, I saw Wada on commercials all over Japan that off-season.

    Now, the manager of the Hawks back then, Sadaharu Oh, who managed Team Samurai to the inaugural champion of the World Baseball Classic, didn’t want Wada to leave. Wada had always expressed his desire to sign with a MLB club since then.

    Somehow, Oh told media that Wada is “not yet” a true ace. He wanted Wada to prove himself really consistent or something, I don’t know, before the southpaw leaves Japan.

    My interpretation is that Oh and the Hawks denied Wada from his request to be posted. That’s concerning to me, because Oh has been known to abuse pitchers. He made them overwork.

    It was common practice to make your ace pitch every six days in Japan, regardless of injury concern, then the manager would motivate the ace pitcher to pitch every three days for the postseason. Look at Tanaka. He even closed the last game in the Japan Series.

    I’m not blaming Oh for being old-school, but it’s concerning to me that Wada had stayed in Japan too long, and pitched too much.

    Samardzija will still be 29 years old going into next season, and less than 9300 pitches in the Big league. That’s also 558 innings pitched for the Show. We add that up to 485 and 1/3 innings pitched in the Minor, the “Shark” is barely over 1000 innings on his mileage.

    Wada, on the other hand, had pitched more than 1500 innings for both NPB (Japan) and the Major league system (down the O’s farm). He’s long past the point of worn down. He did. I haven’t done further researches, but another LHP, Scott Kazmir, came into my mind. He pitched almost a 1000 innings pro, then he broke apart for a while.

    I hope the Shark will overcome Mother Nature, and be kept healthy. I don’t know about Wada. Fingers crossed.

    • RickinMSP

      Thanks for the info, Dora. I always appreciate your knowledge of the Japanese league.
      Rick

      • Dorasaga

        Thanks for the compliment. I wouldn’t say I own any “knowledge.” I was simply recounting interesting things I picked up at that time.

    • mutantbeast

      Dora, whats Wadas stuff like? Its the hard throwers that tend to develop injuries from overuse, the relative soft-tossers like Maddux, a Glavine or a Jim Kaat also seemed to find ways to stay healthy.

      • Dorasaga

        I’m no expert on stuff. You must ask Aaron. I could barely identify seams and pitch types in 2007. I’m better on these stuffs now, but I’m not trained to do so. I remember Wada being deceptive. He really knew his league. And hitters swung and missed his breakers.

        I don’t know if Wada’s long-time injury and surgery on his pitching arm tendon that off-season have anything with overthrowing breaking balls. Because breaking balls add stress on the pitcher’s wrist or elbow.

        Wada’s surgery (左ひじ遊離軟骨) was on his left elbow.

        • Tony_Hall

          D – Aaron hasn’t posted in a long, long time.

          • Dorasaga

            Yea, I miss him. He’s been around since 2005. Hope he’s fine and will come back before 2015. BTW, Had you have fun today?

          • Tony_Hall

            Just woke up and haven’t been feeling well the last few days. All day high school bowling tournament yesterday, so kind of wiped out.

            A few more weeks of fantasy football and attention will turn to fantasy baseball. And no, I am not going to trade you Mike Trout this year either :)

          • Dorasaga

            Sounds like a fun family day for you.

            As of fantasy stuff… If Halladay could fall off the chart, why wouldn’t Trout? Be ware of what you wish for. >:-D

          • Tony_Hall

            Unfortunately, my son was at a different tournament, we had 3 teams in 2 different locations, and I needed to go in a different direction. I hope that never happens again.

            Halladay = old
            Trout = Young STUD

            I’ll take my chances on Trout for as long as possible.

          • Dorasaga

            Yea, I was just saying, so you wouldn’t be TOO haughty for owning a potential Hall of Famer for the next four years.

            Did your kid drive to tournaments, b.t.w.?

          • Tony_Hall

            No, he doesn’t get his license until May. He got a ride from another person going to the tournament. I on the other hand had to take the bus as it was farther away.

    • paulcatanese

      Very cool report D. Well done, and someone should listen to it.

    • SuzyS

      Excellent points, Dorasaga…Thanks!!!

  • raymondrobertkoenig

    Looks like the Yankees might be interested in Barney.

    • cubtex

      I brought that up when Infante signed with the Royals.
      OK- Here is my trade that makes sense for both teams. Barney does not have much value folks. So this trade proposal will make Tony Hall happy to complete our ALL platoon outfield.

      Darwin Barney to the Yanks for Vernon Wells.
      Yanks have too many outfielders,Wells is expendable and only has 1 year left on his deal at around 2.4mil. Cubs now have a platoon outfield of Ruggiano,Wells and Lake from the right side and Schierholtz and Sweeney from the left.

      • Roe Skidmore

        Wells is expensive, past his prime…plus the Cubs are good with current outfield with BJ and Vitters battling for last outfield spot…which a lefty would probably win.

        • cubtex

          Wells is cheap as hell. 2.4 mil for next year. It is just a 1 year filler…you know….not block anyone and platoon against LHP for a year.

        • cubtex

          Wells would actually be our Alfonso Soriano for 1 year. Can be a middle of the order bat against LHP, is cheap and is a free agent after next season.

      • JasonOfTheBurbs

        did they have an option year on Wells or something? Surprised his contract is so cheap at this point…I remember he signed one of those ridiculous long-term deals that didn’t pan out a while back.

        • cubtex

          Angels are responsible for 18.6 mil of the 21 mil. Yanks are only on the hook for 2.4.

          • JasonOfTheBurbs

            just goes to show how silly these $20m/yr contracts are and how they never pan out if 4 years or more…and now he is someone we think of trading Barney for…lol.

          • cubtex

            that Vernon Wells contract was one of the biggest head scratchers. He made 26 mil in 2011. 26 mil! and then 21 mil for the next 3 years after that. I cannot believe the Angels traded for him after the Blue Jays gave him that crazy contract. Soriano was a huge bargain compared to him.

          • Tony_Hall

            That’s what happens when teams back-load their contracts to fill a current need or extend a current player, that doesn’t have financial flexibility.

      • Tony_Hall

        Um, no thanks. You obvious don’t understand that I don’t want a 35 year old Vernon Wells. I also don’t want to platoon the OF. But it is a reality in today’s baseball, that especially in the OF, it is difficult to find the hitters who can hit both Lefties and Righties enough to not platoon them.

        Glad to know you are trying to come up with ideas to make me happy though, but if we are going to add a RH bat to platoon with Sweeney, I would like Vitters to be given a shot at it.

    • Tom U

      The Cubs could try to fill some needs by targeting a couple of players coming off injuries in LHP Manny Banuelos and C Austin Romaine. They can also look to improve depth at catcher by adding C/3B JR Murphy.

      • cubtex

        I doubt the Yanks would trade Banuelos for Barney. I would do that in a heartbeat if they offered that.

        • Tom U

          Banuelos’ stock has dropped because of injuries, and he is no longer considered one of their top 10 prospects.

          Being ranked from 11-15 in the Yankees’ system is like being ranked 20-30 anywhere else due to their lack of quality. Yankees minor leaguers also carry less trade value than typical prospects because everyone knows that they don’t promote them.

          • cubtex

            I know but I was reading that he is at 92-94 again after surgery. They sent him home this winter to rest and he should be 100% for spring training. If healthy…he still has TOR upside. I don’t think they would trade him for Barney.I hope I am wrong. I would do that trade. Now maybe Betances? His stock has dropped. To me. Barney doesn’t have much value and I would be just happy to trade him for whatever you can get.

          • Tom U

            Shoot for the moon and maybe reach a star.

          • cubtex

            I just hope Theo doesn’t reach for the moon and not take less than the moon and we are stuck with Barney at 2B again. Just get something for him and open up 2B for Alcantara or Baez. Play Roberts there until one of the prospects are ready.

          • Tom U

            Lots of other options, including Murphy, Watkins, Valaika, Walter Ibarra, Jeudy Valdez.

          • cubtex

            Definately. I would actually prefer letting Watkins start the year.

          • Ripsnorter1

            I would not: no power.

            I think he is basically the same player as Darwin Barney, with a lesser glove, don’t you?

          • Bruce

            so Tom U; since you are the minor league guru on here; tell me realistically; if Baez is raking at AAA and improved his D; can he be at Wrigley on July 1st AND if Bryant is raking all season; can he be starting at 3B on September 1st?

          • Dorasaga

            I’m dying to see Watkins in action.

          • SuzyS

            Possibly, No doubt Barney will be transplanted by the time September roles around…with either Baez/Alcantra/Watkins or somesuch getting a shot.
            However, Barney has more value to the Cubs then anyone else…in that he stabilizes the infield defense for Castro and Rizzo…allowing them to concentrate on improving their offensive numbers for the first half of the season.
            I agree that Barney is not the answer at 2nd…just not sure that this is the time…(without major investment) to trade him…especially if we’re not going to get much fore him in return.

          • cubtex

            something is better than nothing. Yanks need a 2B now. They lost out on Infante. Brandon Phillips is too expensive and they already turned down a Gardner for Phillips deal. Cubs have a ton of options at 2B now(especially since they just got TatMan) Open up 2B now. Barney is not part of this teams future.

          • cubtex

            Goes to show you how volatile prospects are. Remember how the Killer B’s were untouchable with the Yankee system? Brackman,Banuelos and Betances. Brackman I believe is out of baseball, Betances has struggled with his command since he is 6’8 and Banuelos had TJ surgery.

          • Tony_Hall

            That’s why you needs waves and waves of pitching, arms break down.

        • mutantbeast

          So would I. Frankly, Id trade Barney Rubble for Romine straight up also. Banuelos was supposed to be a big timer before his injury.

      • SuzyS

        I like Murphy. With the McCann signing, Yanks have five catchers on the 40 man roster.
        Between Romaine and Murphy…whom do you like better, Tom?

        • Tom U

          Murphy, he’s younger and has more long range potential.

          However, Romaine fits better with the Cubs’ plans at the position, as he wouldn’t be a big challenge to Castillo and could hold down the back-up position until someone in the minors steps up.

          • SuzyS

            My worry with Castillo is not his performance…it’s his health…he has a hard time staying off the disabled list.
            That being said, I like Murphy…I don’t mind having someone almost ready with the potential to push Castillo.
            If he becomes extraneous, Catcher is always a position that has maximum trade value.

          • Tom U

            The Cubs feel that Rafael Lopez is almost ready to step up and become a left-handed back-up for Castillo.

            Beyond that, they are really high on two catchers they have drafted in Chadd Krist and Cael Brockmeyer. Although he’s far off, the future at the position is Tyler Alamo. A sleeper would be Will Remillard, who sat out with a back injury after he was drafted this summer.

          • SuzyS

            Thanks for the informed insight ,Tom…I guess the Cubs might not be as focused on new catching blood as I thought they might be.

          • cubtex

            If that does happen the Cubs will have the shortest catching duo in baseball :)

          • Tom U

            Quite possibly so!

        • cubtex

          that’s a good point Suzy. The only other team I know of that has 5 catchers on their 40 man is the Red Sox.

    • CubbyDenCritic

      Of course they are…..they have been over the past week according to my sources…….have you not looked at my earlier posts?

      • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

        And I have posted the same. Let’s not start this today. Thank you.

  • mutantbeast

    Please-stay away from Clayton Richard. He couldnt pitch away from Petco in 2012. White Sux traded him primarily because he stunk, and they had no SP when they traded him. Boggs is the only even remotley interesting arm of the names above. Axford was tipping pitches.

  • Roe Skidmore

    A healthy Scott Baker can help the Cubs, no question about it.

    • SuzyS

      A healthy Scott Baker might not want to sign with the Cubs….But I hope he does.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Is he healthy yet? Last year he was minus 6 mph on his fastball.

  • cubtex

    mlbtraderumors had a story yesterday that Gavin Floyd is close to signing a 1 year deal with an uknown team. I haven’t seen his name associated with the Cubs but that has Theo written all over it. Neil or Tom…have you heard the Cubs being interested in Floyd?

    • SuzyS

      I thought the same thing when I read that yesterday.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      I heard rumblings early in the off-season the Cubs were interested in Floyd, but nothing of late. I am not aware of anything being reported from the mainstream media about the Cubs being in the mix for Floyd.

      • cubtex

        thanks Neil. I would probably prefer Baker over Floyd but Theo did say they have an offer out there for a SP and I imagine it is just a 1 year contract.

        • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

          You’re more than welcome.

  • CubbyDenCritic

    Rumor Mill………..
    I think it is time for all Cubs fans to stop listening the Rumor Mill of who the Cubs might sign……..so far, the Cubs are zero for thirty with all the free agent names out there…………..and the players that were signed by Theo, were never mention by Bruce Levine, Jim Bowden, Jessie Rodgers or Peter Gammons ….
    one more note here…..ESPN Baseball show is saying that the Ricketts might have money problems…….I also heard the same thing from several financial experts earlier………..one of the reasons why the Ricketts do not want to be in a long drawn out legal battle with the Roof Top owners……if that happens, look for the Rickets to put up the Cubs for sale……..right now, the Ricketts would find a buyer for this club…….and once Bud Selig leaves office……..the new owner might be Mark Cuban!

    • RynoTiger

      my rumor mill said the Cubs might sign some players and might not sign others. so my rumor mill has been accurate all off season.
      I wonder who the new GM will be..hmmm….
      Mark Cuban as owner (my original choice when the Cubs were up for sale) would be very interesting.

  • CubbyDenCritic

    I like to ask everyone a question or two or three here…..

    When do you believe the Cubs expect to be an above 500 club?

    When do you honestly believe the Cubs will be a playoff team?

    If the Cubs are still playing below 500 after 2015, will you still trust in Theo & Jed?

    • Tony_Hall

      Crickets

  • Ghostdawg

    I just wanted to say that I really appreciate this site. Always tons of great information. Job well done. Keep it up!

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Thank you very much

  • Steve Baier

    The news on Junior Lake leading his league in hitting is encouraging. I’m pulling for him to have a good spring – he’s one of the few position players currently on the roster who can really create some excitement on the field.

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