Happy New Year!
If all goes as planned in Spring Training, Jason Hammel should begin the season as the third starter in Joe Maddon’s rotation. The front office made a second tour for Hammel a priority when the off-season began and he’s back in the fold for the Cubs for at least two more years.
Jason Hammel worked extremely well with Chris Bosio in his three months with the team last year. Hammel was 8-5 in 17 starts with a 2.98 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 3.19 FIP. Hammel gave up 88 hits, 10 home runs, with 23 walks and 104 strikeouts in 108 2/3 innings. Teams batted .222 with a .625 OPS and a .274 BABIP against Hammel during his stint with the Cubs.
The 2014 season did not finish the way it started for Hammel as he struggled after the July 4 trade to Oakland. Hammel was 2-6 in 13 games, 12 starts, in an A’s jersey with a 4.26 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 5.10 FIP. Hammel gave up 34 runs, 32 earned, on 66 hits, 13 home runs, with 54 strikeouts and 21 walks. Teams batted .254 against him with a .762 OPS and a .273 BABIP.
FanGraphs indicated Hammel’s success last season with the Cubs came from him using his slider “more than he ever had in his career.” Hammel went to his slider “nearly one out of every three pitches he threw, making him the fourth-most slider-dependent qualified hurler in baseball.”
According to FanGraphs, Hammel basically quit throwing his changeup and curveball and “doubled his sinker usage against both left- and right-handed hitters.” Hammel recorded a lot of swings and misses with the pitch and saw a 19.3 percent whiff rate during his time with the Cubs.
After he was dealt to Oakland, the velocity on his slider dropped more than two and a half mph. Hammel was throwing it in the mid-80s with the Cubs. Hammel reportedly had issues with his mechanics following the trade, but there was no other reason for the drop in velocity on his slider. Hammel’s fastball velocity was consistent throughout the year according to FanGraphs, so he was not dealing with arm fatigue.
Chris Bosio worked with Hammel last spring and found a training regimen that was able to get him back on track after dealing with injuries for two years in Baltimore. A similar program this year might pay dividends for Hammel and the Cubs throughout the season. As FanGraphs pointed out Hammel completed 176 1/3 innings last year between the Cubs and A’s, his highest innings total since 2010 (177 2/3 innings), six innings more than he completed in 2011 with the Rockies (170 1/3 innings).
The Rays fueled the-Ben-Zobrist-is-going-to-be-traded this off-season rumors Tuesday when Asdrubal Cabrera agreed to terms on a one-year contract worth around $8 million. Matt Silverman could keep Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar as Ken Rosenthal pointed out, but both players were believed to be available before Tampa Bay added Cabrera to the roster.
Rosenthal labeled Zobrist as “the biggest impact position player remaining in trade or free agency” and a case could be made that all 29 teams would benefit from having Ben Zobrist on its roster.
The Nationals would become an instant favorite to win The Series with Zobrist at second base and he would be a perfect fit with the Yankees according to Joel Sherman. It’s unlikely the Rays would deal Zobrist within the division. And New York might not have the prospects Tampa would want in return.
As Jon Heyman reported, Ben Zobrist “seems very likely to go somewhere. Since he plays just about everywhere, could go anywhere.”
The Padres made another trade Tuesday and sent OF Seth Smith to the Mariners for RHP Brandon Maurer. San Diego has one more outfielder A.J. Preller is looking to move and it should not be long, based on recent history, before Carlos Quentin is traded to an American League team.
Reports suggested Seth Smith might be of interest to the Cubs since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are looking for left handed bats in the outfield.
Smith will likely be the left-handed platoon partner for Justin Ruggiano for Seattle next season.
According to Dayn Perry, A.J. Preller is averaging a trade every 43.7 hours since Dec. 18.
News, Notes and Rumors
John Mallee tweeted Tuesday he cannot wait to get to work with the Cubs and that he’s “looking forward to the challenge.”
Javier Baez did not play Tuesday night for Santurce in their 4-1 victory over San Juan.
The Braves have an interesting plan for B.J. Upton if he doesn’t hit next season. Atlanta is hoping the third season is the charm because the first two for Upton in a Braves’ uniform were not been very good. The Cubs and Braves talked about swapping Upton for Edwin Jackson last season, but it does not appear the two teams have rekindled those discussions this winter.
According to a Padres’ official Ken Rosenthal spoke with, Wil Myers will not be used in a package to land Cole Hamels from the Phillies. But the same official told Rosenthal to “never say never.”
The Orioles are interested in two free agent outfielders, Colby Rasmus and Norichika Aoki. Baltimore is hoping Rasmus would sign a contract similar to the one-year, $8 million deal Nelson Cruz did last winter. And Aoki, who is believed to be looking for at least a three-year contract, could be the fallback for the Orioles if Rasmus does not take Dan Duquette’s offer. Aoki is also on the Reds radar.
Jacob Nix was one of 15-draft eligible pitchers Southern California area scouts were on hand to see at Dave Coggin’s Performance Fitness for Athletes training center. It was only the second time in seven months Nix had thrown off a mound after agreeing to terms with the Astros following last June’s Draft. According to a report from Baseball America, Nix looked good throwing fastballs and changeups. Nix hasn’t decided where he will pitch this spring.
Kiley McDaniel examined when scouting shortstops gets too subjective.
And last, but not least, Buster Olney posted a list of players and managers that he thinks 2015 will serve as a crossroad in their careers. Dee Gordon (Marlins, 2B), Terry Collins (Mets, Manager), Pedro Alvarez (Pirates, 3B) and Billy Hamilton (Reds, OF) were among those mentioned by Olney.
This Day In Cubstory
2008 – Cubs traded Mark DeRosa to the Indians for Chris Archer, John Gaub and Jeff Stevens
2008 – Cubs signed free agent Aaron Miles
2004 – Cubs re-signed free agent Todd Hollandsworth
1961 – Rick Aguilera, born
1961 – Steve Engel, born
1955 – Jim Tracy, born
1919 – Loyd Christopher, born
1879 – Fred Beebe, born
1857 – King Kelly, born