It’s been quite the off-season already for the team that finished with a 73-89 record but went 28-27 over the last two months of the season with Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro missing significant time.
The front office brought in Joe Maddon to call the shots, made changes to the coaching staff that would seem to benefit the development of the young players on the roster and made three additions to the roster last week in Jon Lester, Jason Hammel and Miguel Montero.
Dave Cameron ran the numbers and as the Cubs are currently built, FanGraphs has the Cubs “as roughly an 84-win team, five wins better than their BaseRuns mark from last year.” And the Cubs won’t be trading away Jon Lester or Jason Hammel or 40 percent of the rotation at the deadline next season.
The front office is not done with the roster and Dave Cameron pointed out the Cubs are not a great team yet, “but we’re in an era where we don’t really have great teams anymore; we just have a lot of pretty good ones. And right now, the Cubs look pretty close to being a pretty good team.”
A report surfaced last weekend that Starlin Castro was involved in a shooting in the Dominican Republic. Due to the mainstream media not picking up on the resolution to the story and only focusing on the headline, several questions popped up during the Winter Meetings about Castro’s status and his involvement in the incident.
To Gordon Wittenmyer and Carrie Muskat’s credit, the two beat writers reached out to Castro’s agent, Paul Kinzer after the initial report from the Dominican hit the wire.
Kinzer said Castro and his family were okay and Castro was not involved in the shooting. He and his family attended a concert where there was a shooting.
Jon Lester to Cubs Set a Record
The Cubs were not the only beneficiaries of landing Jon Lester during the Winter Meetings. Not only did Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer tell the rest of the baseball world that the Cubs are serious about being contenders moving forward by signing Jon Lester to a six-year contract, but the anticipation leading up to the announcement led to the highest ratings for the MLB Network.
According to a report from Maury Brown, the Network’s “primetime coverage set a Winter Meetings record with 179,000 viewers, up 48 percent from the prior record.”
A $9 Billion, That’s Billion with a ‘B’, Business
If anyone is wondering how teams are paying the enormous salaries, well …
According to a report from CBS Sports, Major League Baseball “will see approximately $9 billion in gross revenues for the 2014 calendar year, a new record.”
If the final total surpasses the $9 billion mark, it would be a 13 percent increase from the $8 billion in revenues from 2013.
TV contracts, both nationally and at the local levels, coupled with the popularity of MLBAM (Major League Baseball Advanced Media), “MLB just keeps thriving because of its comparatively diverse revenue streams.”
The Cubs made a safe pick in the minor league phase (Triple-A) of the Rule 5 Draft and selected OF Ariel Ovando from the Houston Astros. Ovando is only 21 years old and did not hit in the Astros system after receiving a $2.6 million bonus when he signed as an International free agent in 2010. The Rule 5 selection cost the Cubs $12,000.
Ariel Ovando is a big lefty (6-foot-4, 226 pounds) the Cubs will convert to a pitcher. And Jason McLeod addressed the selection and the team’s plans for Ovando.
“He was a big international money guy. As a position player, he struggled to hit somewhat over the years. Our scouts really like the arm strength. He knows that’s the reason we took him … to convert him and try it out. So it’s a low-risk, potential high-upside understanding that it’s a project. Or international staff that had seen him were a split camp when he signed. Some of our guys liked him more as a pitching prospect, so that’s already been our history with him.”
News, Notes and Rumors
For those that would like to see the importance of pitching framing … here’s a report from FanGraphs with video of Miguel Montero and Welington Castillo. Miguel Montero: The Next Piece of the Cubs Puzzle
Korean SS Jung-Ho Kang will be posted on Monday. Ken Rosenthal spoke with Kang’s agent, Alan Nero. The Cubs scouted Kang but their interest in him is unknown at this point.
Theo Epstein said at beginning of the Winter Meetings that several teams talked to the Cubs about buying the eighth pick in the Rule 5 Draft. The Cubs did not plan to take a player and worked out a deal with the Angels. The Cubs selected INF Taylor Featherston from the Rockies in the pre-arranged deal that netted the Cubs around $100,000.
According to Patrick Mooney, the Cubs would like to add an outfielder this winter, but the team is not going to trade for Justin Upton. The front office is not going to pay what it would take to acquire Upton from the Braves.
Javier Baez did not play Saturday night. He had the day off.
Trying to reverse fortune, Cubs spend one according to Tyler Kepner.
Needs to Know about Jon Lester … Lester was the Red Sox Opening Day starter for four straight years, a three-time All-Star and finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting twice. And he has thrown a no-hitter. The Sun-Times posted nine stats to know about Jon Lester.
According to Shi Davidi, the Blue Jays signed INF Jake Fox to a minor league contract that includes non-roster invites to Spring Training.
LHP Brooks Raley signed with the Lotte Giants in the KBO (Korean Baseball League), a one-year contract for $500,000 ($450,000 salary, $50,000 signing bonus).
The Cardinals told Bob Nightengale they are not in on Max Scherzer. He is too expensive for the Cardinals.
Bruce Levine shot down the Cubs interest in Ben Revere during his show Saturday morning on 670 The Score (Inside the Clubhouse).
This Day in Cubstory
2004 – Cubs signed free agents Jimmy Anderson, Jose Mercedes, Calvin Murray and Danny Klassen
2001 – Cubs signed free agent Will Cunnane
2000 – Cubs signed free agent Tom ‘Flash’ Gordon
1998 – Cubs acquired Jon Lieber from the Pirates for Brant Brown
1993 – Cubs signed free agents Todd Haney, Mark Parent and Mike Maksudian
1991 – Cubs signed free agent Scott May
1990 – Cubs acquired Jose Vizcaino from the Dodgers for Greg Smith
1989 – Donn Roach, born
1988 – Cubs signed free agent Domingo Ramos
1987 – Cubs signed free agent Vance Law
1984 – Cubs signed free agent Rick Sutcliffe
1981 – Angel Guzman, born
1978 – Cubs acquired Sam Mejias from the Expos for Rodney Scott and Jerry White
1975 – Rodrigo Lopez, born
1963 – Reds purchased Steve Boros from the Cubs
1955 – Cubs released Walker Cooper
1949 – Cubs traded Gene Mauch to the Braves for Bill Voiselle
1948 – Cubs traded Eddie Waitkus and Hank Borowy to the Phillies for Monk Dubiel and Dutch Leonard
1949 – Bill Buckner, born
1929 – Pete Whisenant, born
1925 – Sam Jones, born
1916 – Cubs traded Joe Kelly and cash to the Braves for Fred Mitchell and a PTBNL. Boston sent Earl Blackburn to the Cubs in Jan. 1917 to compete the trade.
1905 – Bob Weiland, born
1900 – Harry Wilke, born
1889 – Lefty Tyler, born