Pitchers and catchers report to Mesa in 27 days and the expectations are already mounting for the 2015 Chicago Cubs, especially after last weekend’s annual convention.
The front office made significant additions and changes to the roster this off-season and brought in Joe Maddon to call the shots. The big league team that won only 73 games a year ago (73-89) is being projected by several outlets to not only reach .500 this season but contend for a spot in the post-season.
David Schoenfield sees a 12-game improvement for the Cubs, one of the five most improved teams from a year ago. Schoenfield doesn’t necessarily expect the Cubs to make the playoffs but with the improvements the team has made on paper “there’s room to improve by 12 wins and get to 85” victories for the season. And Anthony Rizzo could be an MVP candidate at the end of the year.
FanGraphs updated its projections for the season. Instead of a 10-game improvement, FanGraphs’ Steamer Projections have the Cubs at 84 wins (84-78), still third in the NL Central and short of Anthony Rizzo’s guarantee.
Based on the rest of FanGraphs projections for the National League, the Cubs’ 84 wins would be enough for the fifth best record in the Senior Circuit. And the Cubs would square off against the Pirates in the one-game NL Wild Card game.
Obviously the games aren’t played on paper or by a computer, but considering it’s been six years (83-78 in 2009) since the Cubs had a winning record, meaningful games for an entire season would be more than welcome.
Santurce and Mayaguez had Thursday off and resume play on Friday. But Javier Baez was still in the headlines.
Carrie Muskat posted an update on Baez from the convention. The Cubs are impressed with Baez’s work ethic this winter. John Mallee spent five days last month working with Baez and watched a lot of tape according to the report.
Mallee and Baez found problems in his mechanics. Baez was late on fastballs and is working on his timing after making adjustments.
Javier Baez is projected as the Cubs every day second baseman.
Jon Paul Morosi reported Thursday the Cubs have reason to be concerned about Javier Baez. Not only was he 0-for-9 with six strikeouts in the first two playoff game in Puerto Rico, but he also committed three errors in those two games. And his two-strike approach has not changed.
The Cubs have maintained they are not concerned with Baez. Jed Hoyer indicated last weekend he would have to make contact in order to stay in the big leagues.
Cubs to Host 10th Annual Race to Wrigley
The Cubs will host the 10th Annual Race to Wrigley Charity Run presented by ATI Physical Therapy Saturday, April 25, outside Wrigley Field. In recognition of the Race to Wrigley’s 10th anniversary, the Cubs will introduce an additional race, the “Let’s Run Two” 10K.
Registration for the races is open now through Friday, April 24, at 2:00pm CDT. Participants can register at www.racetowrigley.com.
The Race to Wrigley 5K begins at 8:00am and the 10K will start at 8:20am. The course routes will allow race participants to run through the streets of the scenic Lakeview neighborhood before returning to the Friendly Confines.
Proceeds from this year’s race will benefit Cubs Charities, which provides increased access to sports opportunities and targets improvements in health, fitness and education for those at risk. Cubs Charities will once again donate all proceeds from personal fundraising to support critical care needs for pediatric patients in Chicago. The top fundraising team will receive tickets to the April 29 Cubs game against the Pittsburgh Pirates and be recognized during a pregame ceremony on the field. The top overall individual fundraiser will receive an autographed Cubs jersey and be recognized on the field prior to a Cubs home game. Runners who raise more than $1,000 will receive all of the prizes from each fundraising level as well as the opportunity to run a post-race victory lap with their names displayed on the new video board.
ATI Physical Therapy, the Official Physical Therapy Provider of the Chicago Cubs, will provide post-race massages and lead the group in a pre-race stretch.
“The Race to Wrigley 5K has become a tradition in the Lakeview community attracting runners from Chicago and beyond. We are excited to celebrate 10 years of promoting fitness and raising money for deserving causes in our community,” said Cubs Charities Vice President of Development Connie Falcone in a statement. “We especially look forward to growing the race with the introduction of the first ever 10K at Wrigley Field.”
The registration fee for the 5K fun run is $40 and the chip-timed 5K is $45. The chip-timed 10K fee is $55. Packet pick-up will be available at the Cubs Store and a downtown Sports Authority location. Registrants will receive details closer to the event.
All participants will receive a race shirt, refreshments and one beverage (Budweiser, Bud Light or Pepsi product) courtesy of Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi at the post-race celebration, and the opportunity to purchase discounted tickets to the April 29 game at Wrigley Field.
For more information about the race, please visit www.racetowrigley.com.
According to a report from Hardball Talk, Ted Lilly has been charged with felony insurance fraud.
Lilly bought an RV, according to the report, and damaged it before he insured it. And Lilly filed a claim for the accident after he purchased the insurance. If Lilly is convicted, he could face up to five year in prison.
Ted Lilly is a Special Assistant to Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer in the Cubs’ front office.
The free agent right-hander has yet to find a team but according to Jon Heyman, James Shields is on the Brewers radar. Milwaukee is also looking for relievers and is considering RHP Rafael Soriano and RHP Francisco Rodriguez.
Take the Diamondbacks off the list of teams that could sign Shields. Dave Stewart told the media Thursday the D-Backs “are out on Shields after the market changed, as expected, after Max Scherzer signed.”
The Marlins are still in on Shields, according to Jim Bowden, and are “closely monitoring the situation.” And the Padres are “on the periphery” with Shields. Ken Rosenthal explained San Diego is unlikely to land him.
There does not appear to be a team that is a clear-cut favorite to sign Shields right now. And Ken Rosenthal examined the James Shields market.
MLB Proposing Shorter Inning Breaks
As Major League Baseball works on the pace of game issues and shortening the length of a game, one proposal made by MLB is to shorten inning breaks according to Jayson Stark.
Under the proposal, “pitchers would be required to finish their warm-up pitches and be ready to make their first pitch of an inning 30 seconds before the end of all between-inning commercial breaks.”
The hitters would also have to be in the box and ready for play to resume. Batters would have to be in the box 20 seconds prior to the game returning from commercial break.
Research has shown, according to Stark’s report, by shortening the inning breaks 10 to 15 minutes would be cut off of each game.
MLB and the MLBPA are discussing several proposals the two sides would like to implement for the 2015 season.
News, Notes and Rumors
Under Armour announced Thursday the 8th Annual Under Armour All-America Baseball Game will be played at Wrigley Field on Aug. 15.
Tickets for the annual Big League Weekend at Cashman Field in Las Vegas go on-sale Monday. The Cubs and Athletics are squaring off for two days in mid-March (March 13-14). This is the 11th spring in a row the Cubs are participating in the two games. And with Kris Bryant being from Las Vegas, he should be on the split-squad roster for the weekend.
According to Carrie Muskat, the Cubs named Ty Nichols the organization’s Scout of the Year.
Cubs see Arismendy Alcantara as Joe Maddon’s type of player according to a report from Comcast SportsNet.
Rays’ GM Matt Silverman spent time Thursday on MLB Network Radio and told Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette the team has not worked out Yoan Moncada. Silverman would not rule out meeting with Moncada. The Rays want to make sure they are exploring all options to improve their organization and Moncada is an intriguing player according to Silverman. However, it’s unlikely the Rays will be able to sign Moncada due to the team’s financial situation. Silverman said they would do their due diligence but he’s not expecting to win the Moncada “auction.”
The Red Sox are one of the many teams interested in Yoan Moncada and Ben Cherington said Thursday that Boston is “aware” of Moncada and “have scouted him.” Cherington would not comment further on the Sox interest in Moncada to Gordon Edes.
According to multiple reports, the Braves signed OF Jonny Gomes to a one-year contract for $4 million that includes a $3 million vesting option for the 2016 season. If the option doesn’t vest, it becomes a club option according to Jon Heyman. David O’Brien reported the Braves were concerned Gomes would sign with the Rangers and apparently he was very close to a deal with Texas.
Tickets are on sale for the South Bend Cubs’ First Pitch Banquet. Jamie Moyer is the main speaker and tickets for the event can be purchased at the Four Winds Field box office or by calling the team at 574-235-9988.
Former Cubs’ catcher and NL Rookie of the Year, Geovany Soto signed a minor league contract with the White Sox. Soto received a non-roster invite to camp and will compete for a job in Spring Training. The White Sox will have former Cubs Jeff Samardzija, Emilio Bonifacio, Zach Putnam, Tony Campana, Jairo Asencio, George Kottaras and Soto on its Spring Training roster. And as Christopher Kamka pointed out, if Soto makes the team he and Samardzija could end up as battery mates for three different teams: Cubs, Athletics and White Sox.
Rob Manfred will take over for Bud Selig with a lot on his plate according to Hardball Talk.
The Brewers are having serious discussions with the Phillies about RHP Jonathan Papelbon according to Jeff Passan.
And last, but not least, Pete Rose will be at the All-Star Game in Cincinnati on July 14. Bud Selig left the decision up the Reds last year if Rose would be part of the festivities. The extent of Rose’s involvement is unknown at this point. As Hardball Talk pointed out, Rose was allowed to attend the World Series in 1999 so he could be introduced as part of the All-Century Team.
This Day In Cubstory
2006 – Cubs signed free agent Wade Miller
2003 – Cubs signed free agent Will Cunnane
1985 – Jeff Samardzija, born
1976 – Cubs acquired Gerry Pirtle from the Yankees for Rick Stelmaszek
1959 – Cubs traded Jim Bolger and John Briggs to the Indians for Earl Averill and Morrie Martin
1940 – Dick Burwell, born
1936 – Don Nottebart, born
1934 – Joey Amalfitano, born
1921 – Cubs released Fred Merkle