Vizcaino Completes Bullpen, Cubs Add Versatility and News from Day Three of Camp

Outside of the signing of Emilio Bonifacio to a minor league contract, the biggest news Saturday to come out of Mesa was Arodys Vizcaino completing a bullpen session.

CubsMesaLogo-pubArodys Vizcaino says he is healthy after being on the shelf recovering from Tommy John surgery the past two years. Vizcaino has a big arm and great stuff with a devastating slider when he’s been healthy. Jason McLeod recently said the team plans on using Vizcaino solely has a reliever at this point. The Cubs are trying to keep him healthy and feel his stuff translate well to the backend of a bullpen.

Vizcaino has plans of breaking camp on the big league roster. The 23-year old right hander completed his first official bullpen of spring Saturday and reportedly it went well. If Vizcaino is anywhere close to the pitcher he was in Atlanta, the backend of the Cubs’ pen will be much improved this season.

And while Vizcaino is focused on being with the Cubs in Pittsburgh on Opening Day, Chris Bosio would not commit to him being with the Chicago Cubs or the Iowa Cubs in April.

Carlos Villanueva, Edwin Jackson, Chris Rusin, Jason Hammel, Dallas Beeler, Alberto Cabrera, Jonathan Sanchez, Tommy Hottovy, Eric Jokisch, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Jose Veras, Carlos Pimentel and Armando Rivero were the other 14 pitchers in camp that threw bullpen sessions on Saturday.

The Cubs agreed to terms with infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio on a minor league contract. The deal was announced Saturday and he will compete for a job on the 25-man roster in camp. According to multiple reports, Bonifacio will be given every opportunity to make the team and if he does the Cubs will pay him $2.5 million this season. The deal includes an incentives package worth $425,000. Bonifacio received $574,000 from the Royals for terminating the $3.5 million contract they agreed to in January to avoid arbitration.

Rick Renteria likes the versatility Bonifacio could provide his team. Bonifacio will see playing time in the infield and outfield during Cactus League games.

Edwin Jackson

Neither Theo Epstein nor Edwin Jackson is happy with the way Jackson pitched last season. During the convention, Jackson said he is focused on putting last season behind him. Jackson reiterated he is committed to putting last season behind him on Friday. Jackson said he “was embarrassed” with the way he pitched and admitted he’s heard all of the criticism.

According to a report from Carrie Muskat, Jackson has not lost any confidence and does not feel like his has to prove anything to his critics.

News, Notes and Rumors

Tsuyoshi Wada cleared up his Visa issues and reported to Mesa. Wada completed his first bullpen session, reportedly around 35 pitches.

The Cubs will monitor Welington Castillo closely this spring with him coming off right knee surgery that ended his 2013 season early.

The Mariners are one of the teams that remain interested in acquiring Jeff Samardzija from the Cubs. Lloyd McClendon had a rough first week as Seattle’s manager. The team lost Hisashi Iwakuma for the start of the season and Taijuan Walker reported to camp with a sore shoulder. The Mariners will limit Walker early in Spring Training. Ken Rosenthal reported Friday that Seattle is “trying to add another starter through trade or free agency.” Rosenthal added the Mariners “have touched base on Ervin Santana and presumably Ubaldo Jimenez as well.” The M’s are “surveying the market and seeking the best opportunity.”

News and Notes from Around the League

PrintThe Orioles have still not announced the deal, but according to multiple reports Suk-Min Yoon has agreed to terms on a three-year contract with the Orioles. Yoon has taken a physical and has a locker at the Orioles’ Spring Training facility. Yoon is trying to stay in the states while he waits for his signing with the Orioles to become official. The guaranteed money on Yoon’s contract is three years and $5.75 million. There is an incentives package based on games started that could run the total value of the contract to $13 million. Yoon received a $675,000 signing bonus and will be paid $750,000 in 2014, $1.75 million in 2015 and $2.4 million in 2016. The Cubs were interested in signing Yoon this winter. And while Baltimore is looking at him as a starter, Buster Olney reported several teams “believe he’s more of a back-end of the rotation or organizational-depth pitcher” while other teams were unsure if he would fit best as a reliever on their roster.

The Cubs were connected to Cuban infielder Aledmys Diaz last off-season and he held a showcase at the Padres facility in Peoria, Ariz. last Thursday. Around 50 scouts attended his workout according to Jesse Sanchez. Diaz took batting practice against former Cubs’ reliever Michael Wuertz and took infield at both shortstop and second base. Reports have not surfaced if the Cubs had scouts on hand to watch him Thursday. The San Diego Union Tribune reported over a dozen teams attended his workout Thursday. Diaz is receiving a lot of interest and could be looking a contract in the $20-$30 million range. Chris Cotillo reported Diaz “will start fielding offers on Feb. 18 with hopes of deciding on a team by Feb. 21 or Feb. 22.” The Yankees were among the teams on hand to watch Diaz. Jon Paul Morosi reported the Cardinals, Blue Jays, Mariners, Padres and Giants also attended Diaz’s workout. Jesse Sanchez reported scouts are “still curious how Diaz will fare against tough breaking balls.”

Odrisamer Despaigne participated in the same showcase with Aledmys Diaz last Thursday at the Padres and Mariners Spring Training facility in Peoria. Despaigne is a free agent and is also drawing a lot of attention. The Cuban RHP touched 94 mph with his fastball according to Jesse Sanchez. Like Diaz, the Cubs have not been connected to Despaigne yet. According to a report from Jesse Sanchez, Despaigne had another showcase Saturday in Port Charlotte, Florida. Despaigne is hoping to sign soon so he can be in camp by March.

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  • Richard Hood

    I am all in at Despaigne at this point. But he going to end up somewhere else. For some reason the Cubs are picking and choosing who they go full bore with on International FA’s instead of using the big tent concept. Lets hope I am wrong and we get at least one of these guys.

    • Tony_Hall

      I think they have scouted and the information needed to make a decision of who they want to go after. They are just not going to go after every Cuban player coming over here, just to do it. But even after deciding to after an IFA, as we have seen, competition is great for these players.

      • Richard Hood

        I agree that they do at least the ground work on most of these IFA’s but it seems that the Cubs are too choosey on which ones they really pursue. This is one of the avenues that they could have really increased the talent base on the big club quickly and did not judge the market or the player right.

        • Tony_Hall

          And that right there is how they are deciding who to go after and who not to go after. It was never about quickly adding talent to the major league roster.

  • Tony_Hall

    it will be interesting to see how they handle Vizcaino to start the year. I see him going to AAA to start the year, but they may prefer to keep him where they can watch him closer and have in the bullpen at Wrigley.

  • Tony_Hall

    The fantasy baseball league is full at 20 teams. We are waiting on one player to accept his invitation, then we will work on setting up the league by doing polls on the fantasy website. If he doesn’t accept the invitation by tomorrow I will go to the next person on the waiting list.

    I posted one poll to try and get everyone to vote and I asked how many wins will the Cubs have in 2014. If you are in the league and haven’t voted, please do so.

    10 votes so far
    62 or less – ZERO votes
    63-68 – 2 votes
    69-74 – 4 votes
    75-80 – 4 votes
    81+ – ZERO votes

    I voted for 63-68. I see another sell off of short term assets this year and the bringing up of Baez, Alcantara and hopefully Bryant among others. I also see quite a few arms getting starts this year, especially in the second half (Hendricks and Ramirez specifically). All in all, I expect this to be a season of change as we will finally be seeing players on the team who are not to flip but to build around. I see them going 68-94 this year and if things go well and the young players come up and have good first season, that we will see 70 wins this year.

    • Richard Hood

      I am thinking that with positive growth from Rizzo and Castro. A strong first half from Shark and Wood settling in close to what he did last year (I still think he is due for some regression). We might be looking at about 45 wins in the first half depending on some luck.

      The Cubs play 93 games by end of July and could very well be close to .500 by the All Star break when we might see an influx of Baez, Olt, Hendricks and others.

      I know the Cubs are severely lacking in productive Of’ers but if Lake can stay right at where he was last year with a an almost .750 OPS while cutting down on his K rate we might have one of the pieces we need.

    • Eugene Debs

      I voted 69 – 74 because I’m a sucker.

      • Richard Hood

        That is about where I am at. You throw in the luck factor and bounce backs into the mix and we might be closer to 80 than 75. But then again I am always optimistic in February call me in April when I see what the opening roster looks like and it might be higher and lower.

        • TheWrongGuy

          I am already on record here at CCO as saying a 10 game improvement from last season is not out of the question. Going from 66 wins to 76 wins is not out of the question. An improved bullpen, improvement from Castro and Rizzo will improve wins at least by 10 games. The improved bullpen alone adds 10 wins in my book.

    • SuzyS

      While I’m not a fantasy player…nor likely to ever be due to time constraints…I do tend to agree with your assessment of this upcoming season.

  • The Dude Abides

    “still curious how Diaz will fare against tough breaking balls.” –
    I’m also “curious how are top 10 prospects will fare against tough breaking balls.” And for that matter Rizzo, Castro, Lake, Castillo,….

    • Tony_Hall

      No one hits tough breaking balls very well, it is all about laying off them or fouling them off. But many players still have very good careers (even borderline HOF careers) never being able to handle an 0-2 slider.

      • Richard Hood

        My father use to say if God had wanted you to swing at an inside breaking pitch he would have put your eye balls at your knee caps. So from a young age

        I was told do not swing at the hard breaking stuff inside.

  • paulcatanese

    Vizcaino and where he play this year is still up in the air according to Chris Bosio who wouldn’t commit. Well as soon as Bosio gets the word from Theo, then he will know as well as Vizcaino.
    Gotta love these guys who think they make the decisions when all they can do is give input and go from there as to what will be done.
    Rick Renteria is another, lets face it, he is managing the Cubs for two reasons, 1.He’s a nice guy, and 2. He can speak another language.
    Anyone who thinks either is pulling the strings are delusional , its Theo and Hoyer, no one else.
    And I don’t mind that.sut dislike all the accolades on decisions that are supposed to be comong from them, instead of who.s really makingthem.

    • Tony_Hall

      Decisions are discussed as a group, but of course ultimately Theo is in charge. They have mentioned many times how they don’t all agree all the time.

      • paulcatanese

        Which brings me to the Theo haters and lovers.
        I cannot say hate or love the guy. I put all three of them in the same group. Mr. Ricketts, Mr. Hoyer and Mr. Epstein.
        One is young enough to be my son, and the other two grand kids.
        All three do things I like and a lot that I dis-like.
        Getting it all on the like side for me will never happen, it’s just the nature of the beast so to say.
        If they do something great, I think they could have done a little more, and the reverse with something I dis-like, they could have done it another way, my way.
        Ain’t gonna happen I know.
        But one thing for sure that I will never understand is the completion of the renovation with the park.
        Chicago is the one city in America if you want something done, there is a way to get it done, may not be legal all of the time, but it gets done, history of the city bears that out.
        These young whippersnappers need to find that way.
        That’s the advantage of being a fan, with none of my money invested and be able to sit back and make cracks.
        And agree that Theo is in charge, but is he? Or maybe there is confusion with the group tying to figure that out.
        Things have a way of being dis-combobulated when you have a number of chiefs.
        I believe that if one person were in charge it would have been done, a
        competitive team on the field now, today, and the minor league system as it is today. Interference fro multiple source’s always create problems, we as fans just don’t see it out here.

        • Richard Hood

          I think the buck stops with Theo whether he is actually “in charge” or not. This rebuild in most regards is all about Epstein being able to say “I did it my way” to the bosses in Boston. He is using up all the collateral he has from his 2 world series titles with the Sox.

          • SuzyS

            He also does not have the same type of Budget he had in Boston to truly say “He did it his way”.
            Nor is he likely to get that budget until the Wrigley rebuild is well underway with new media contracts.
            Back when Ricketts first bought the Cubs and the payroll was @ $140 mil., Ricketts called the payroll “unsustainable” and that the Cubs growth would come from the minor leagues.
            The rules and $$$ have changed since then…and $140 mil. payroll is no longer an unrealistic payroll for a competitive, major market team.
            For the Cubs to get there…and Theo being able to say he “did it his way”…the Cubs will have to open the purse strings, (as promised),
            when we are getting close.

          • Richard Hood

            If that was true then why did he admit to holding on to most of his operational budget this offseason? Theo wants to put his stamp on the Cubs and that is fine but I have never heard him once claim poor. He has claimed a lack of options that he thinks fits but as far as strait money the claim has always been the money is there for the right guy.

          • SuzyS

            I believe it is true…within it’s limits. Yes, there is money to a point for the right fit…(see Tanaka).
            But I also think there are budgetary constraints in Chicago…due to the rooftops/Wrigley rebuild/debt servicing that is not a consideration in Boston. Fenway is already rebuilt and the Red Sox already have a good media deal with the Nesn network.
            The Cubs have all of that in front of them…plus the Wrigley rebuild will be solely on their dime…as opposed to any taxpayer involvement (as the Cubs originally had hoped).
            As you have stated, TOR pitching will probably come via trade of some of our top prospects.
            If you read most of my posts,
            I am not against our current management structure…just disagree from Theo’s stated philosophy re 1rst round draft picks and pitching.

          • paulcatanese

            About the Red Sox, just got off the phone with my buddy and as I had mentioned a while back is a relative of Smoky Joe Wood.
            Funny thing, all of his younger relatives are in the same camp as the age Cub fans, and he can’t stand it either (me, not you).

          • Tony_Hall

            Maybe so, but you can’t take the rings away.

        • Tony_Hall

          Theo is not in charge of the renovation of Wrigley. He is in charge of baseball operations and there is no one who works for him that don’t know that and accept it.
          I have been reading that a deal is close with the rooftops and that it is coming down to Ricketts buying the one rooftop on the Waveland side that is holding everything up.

          • SuzyS

            If they can’t agree on a deal to put a sign in Wrigley…I can just imagine the problems of agreeing on a price for one of the buildings. That’s not a negotiation that would lead to serenity,,,imo:-).

          • Tony_Hall

            Cash talks and rooftops are just not a sustainable business. I would assume most rooftop owner realize that when their deal does run out, that their business is likely over.

          • SuzyS

            Yes, but my understanding is that the one owner holding everything up is not very reasonable.

          • Tony_Hall

            As Paul said, there are ways to get things done in Chicago, even with the unreasonable.

          • SuzyS

            Yes, especially with city hall on the Cubs side…in this instance.

          • paulcatanese

            There you go, that old make them an offer they can’t refuse:)

    • Richard Hood

      When it comes to long term health of an asset like Vizcaino it really should be on Theo and Hoyer. Bosio will have a strong say so will the medical staff but the final decision should be from the top because those 2 are the ones that are going to be held responsible if he breaks down.

      • paulcatanese

        Agree Richard, and it points out my years of thinking it was the manger or pitching coach on the field.
        This was brought on by the lack of a blog and all of the things as a fan were allowed to see.

      • mutantbeast

        My guess is Viz will not pitch back-to-back games for a while and likely not pitch more than about 50-60 innings at the big league level, and then only if he starts with the big club. Id ilke to see him healthy, since Viz is the primary return for trading Maholm and Johnson.

    • Eugene Debs

      I think that’s a simplistic analysis of a much more complex relationship between on-field management and front office management.

  • SuzyS

    In my mind, the Cubs must be planning on trading for or signing their Ace pitching when the time is right.
    Once again, Theo is stating they may not take a pitcher in the first round this year….It might really be because there are 3 other clubs in front of them in the draft, with 3 pitchers ranked as the top prospects in this years draft…However, I disagree with Theo’s basic premise that he stated last year that he doesn’t like to take pitchers in the first round because of their attrition rate. Unless you can outspend the Yankee’s/Dodgers or have a huge talent base to trade with…there is no other way to acquire “Ace” pitching.

    • Eugene Debs

      If Appel had been available last year, Jedi Hoyerstein would have backed off that statement…..

      • SuzyS

        Maybe so…but we’ll never know for sure.

        While I like Bryant, I was one of the few that was disappointed they didn’t take Gray last year.

    • Richard Hood

      One thing I will say about Team Theo is they always go with what they see is the surest thing first. From Elsbury through Bryant that has always been their MO.
      They also recognize market deficiencies as good as anyone. Right now that is POWER. The Cubs have either drafted or traded for a lot of power prospects both in hitting and arms. That glut of talent is where your ACE or future Ace is going to come from.
      As the kids make their way through the system and start moving towards the upper minors you will see some of the

      excess traded off for almost ready pitching or established TOR starters.

      • paulcatanese

        That’s a pretty fair assessment of Theo.
        Not only do they seem to go for the surest thing they always keep the cash register in mind. I do not see them overspending, ever.
        Even though they will give a substantial amount in a signing bonus, that seems to be the end of it.
        Yes, I do think they had Tanaka in mind, and did make an effort, but only to the money point they had set up in their mind and not a penny more.
        I think the weakest part of Theo’s resume is evaluation of pitchers.
        The fact that he will bring in a ton of them, none are at the highest dollar, with the exception of EJax, and he knows he overstepped that one.
        And right he has amassed power, but he should be careful in dealing one of those, as they are hard to find also.
        After the extension of Castro and Rizzo, and the addition of EJax, I look for him to be extra heavy in the spendthrift department.
        Guy’s will be dealt before extra money is given out. The Shark will be dealt.

        • Richard Hood

          I agree with all of that until Shark. He could sign an extension but right now he is betting on his future performance where Theo is wanting to pay an extension on past results. So until he shows what he thinks he is worth on the mound there is going to be a gap.

          But do not count out an extension that makes both sides happy before it gets do or die time. That would be why the price for Shark has been HUGE do far. I mean it was reported that the asking price from Atl was Upton or Heyward as a starting point. That is asking a lot for a guy that so far has been a very good 3 type pitcher.

          • paulcatanese

            Agree Richard, I should have stated I would like to see him stay, but feel once Theo has a plan in place, he will follow thru with it, and cannot see him getting burned (in his mind) and if he has to go up and beyond what he thinks is right, I
            think he would deal him.
            I get the feeling that Theo is one stubborn man, not malicious, but just flat stubborn.

          • Richard Hood

            Is it stubbornness or just a high opinion of his self? He seems to set a value on things and knows he is right. All of his action after than seem to go in that direction.

          • paulcatanese

            Right Richard, that’s a thought.
            That didn’t cross my mind, then again, tough for me, cause according to my wife, I also have a high opinion of myself:)

          • Eugene Debs

            BJ Upton, right?

            He’s terrible and way overpaid. I’m surprised the Braved didn’t jump on that.

            Justin Upton? That’s ridiculous to even consider.

          • Richard Hood

            It was Justin Upton which is why the talks died as quickly as they started.

        • SuzyS

          Actually Paul, If EJAX approaches a .500 pitcher this year…his contract is not unreasonable…and possibly tradeable…but EJAX has to pitch to his potential.
          I believe Theo was holding onto all of his chips this season to make a run at Tanaka this year.
          If that didn’t work, I believe Theo will be ready to overpay next offseason for TOR pitching…either in the form of outbidding the field for someone like Scherzer (if he makes it to FA). OR to assume a large SP salary in a trade.

      • mutantbeast

        Its odd. there is a lack of power hitters throughout baseball. 40 HR types seem on the way out. Seems like your likley league leaders are going to be in the high 30s in HRs.

  • Tony_Hall

    Ryan Dempster is not going to pitch this year.

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2014/02/16/ryan-dempster-decides-skip-upcoming-season-for-red-sox/5QiWjxOHnuVRzR6SpTUvTK/story.html

    He doesn’t feel like he can physically or emotionally pitch this year and is walking away from $13M.

    • Richard Hood

      Strange isn’t it. 36 years old and just like that calls it a year and probably a career.

  • Tom U

    How do you follow up the best year of your life? Cubs No. 2 prospect Kris Bryant is giving it a shot.

    http://atmlb.com/1mmwJx5

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

    If Vizcaino is healthy and effective. Combined with Strop. All starters will need to do is get to the 8th inning. With our starters that may be easier said than done but what a fearsome twosome at the back end!

    • mutantbeast

      If Viz is healthy and effective, he might end up your closer by next year.