The Cubs Convention is over, and the brain trust of the Chicago Cubs is back to work. Earlier this morning the Cubs acquired Dexter Fowler from the Houston Astros for RHP Dan Straily, and bat flipping third baseman Luis Valbuena. It’s the latest in a string of moves this off-season that signal the Cubs are no longer the doormat of Major League baseball, and have turned the corner in their building process.
Dan Straily was acquired from Oakland last year in the Jeff Samardzija deal, and Luis Valbuena was a waiver wire pickup. Theo and Jed were able to turn that into Dexter Fowler, who will be the everyday centerfielder for the Chicago Cubs, he might play some left field as well. Fowler is the prototypical lead-off man, the kind that Joe Maddon loves, and that the Cubs have been without for so very long. Fowler is an on base machine, .366 OBP for his career, and finished 2014 at a .375 clip. You know what you are going to get with Fowler, he puts the bat on the ball, and isn’t afraid to take a walk, 60+ walks is the norm for Fowler. This move opens up a number of possibilities for the Cubs heading into 2015.
TIME FOR KRIS BRYANT!!! Well, not exactly. I know Cubs fans all over want to see Kris Bryant at third base opening night, I do too, but let’s be realistic. The Cubs have always pushed the service time issues with their prospects, and I doubt that the Cubs will fold now. However, if Bryant forces the Cubs hand with a solid Spring Training then he might end up starting the season on the Northside. Let’s just say that he doesn’t, and starts the season in Iowa, Bryant will be on the bleachers schedule, not ready for opening day, but spectacular when opened/called up. My best guess is that Mike Olt will be given every opportunity to start the season at third base. Olt is healthy, and has shown the ability to beat the crap out of the baseball, and play a better than average third base, so he’s the first choice. I could also see Arismendy Alcantara moving back to second base with newcomer Tommy La Stella, and Javier Baez moving to third. The important point here is that the Cubs have seemingly endless options with their every day lineup, something Joe Maddon is a wizard with, and I’m excited to see what he will do.
Pitchers, and catchers report in less than a month, and the hype machine is already in overdrive.
Blog posts are missing, it’s a vast wasteland here, and for the most part on twitter, there is a reason for this, my spine! Not in a figurative sense, in a literal one, for the third time in the last four years, I have spent November through, well, today, recovering from back surgery. It’s been an exciting off-season for the Cubs, one which we as Cubs fans have not seen for many years, seems like forever. The Cubs are getting better, and so am I, which means more interaction with you guys, and girls on Twitter, and more blog posts! Looking forward to getting back at it, but wanted to share how things were going, as a number of you ask, and I appreciate that to no end.
For the most part I’m doing very well. I had a bout with numbness, and tingling in my legs but that has gone away for the most part. The pre-surgical pain is gone, haven’t felt it at all, now I’m just dealing with post-op junk, but it’s not too bad. I’ve walked about 80 miles since my surgery, would have been more if not for that numbness, but it’s still a great number. My next follow up appointment is on January 26th, another x-ray, and some questions, but hopefully, progress. I hope everyone out there had a wonderful Holiday season, time to get back at it. If you have any questions in regards to my procedure, the prep, the recovery, etc, just ask! Thanks again for all the support!
Time to get excited, or super bummed out. Per a Ken Rosenthal report this afternoon, Lester will decide between the Cubs…. and the Giants. You know, the Giants, the team that wins all the freaking time. Of course, this means that the Dodgers, and Red Sox are now out, Rosenthal does say “unless” something changes, and Lester’s agent said that Rosenthal’s report is untrue (as they always do $$$$). Stay tuned…
The winter meetings are underway in San Diego, and the Cubs have made their first mid range addition to their pitching staff, and old friend, Jason Hammel. David Kaplan, and Chris Cotillo are both reporting that Hammel’s deal is two years in length, for a total of $18 million, the deal also includes an option for a third year.
That is a tremendous deal for the Cubs, Hammel must have really liked it here, because that’s less than I thought he would get. As is everything this off-season, there are ties to Jon Lester here as well, Hammel pitched with Lester in Oakland to close out last year, the dominoes will start falling rapidly once Lester is signed, and that could be coming soon.
This is a HUGE step for the Cubs organ-I-zation, Joe Maddon is set to become the next manager on the North Side, seriously, say that out loud. The Cubs announced that there will be an introductory press conference on Monday afternoon at 2PM, not sure if that is Eastern or Central yet. The presser will take place at the Cubby Bear due to the ongoing construction at Wrigley Field. I’m not saying that hiring Joe Maddon will guarantee winning, but I am saying that hiring him puts the Cubs in the best possible position to win, a lot, and for a long time, it’s the perfect hire. The 2015 off season promised to be a landscape changing one, and it has already delivered, PUMPED!
Finally, after days of speculation it seems as though the Cubs are ready to make the Joe Maddon hire official. In doing so, they have to clear a spot for him, and they did that just now, as Rick Renteria has been fired. Here is a link to the full statement from the Cubs (Renteria let go), tons of solid quotes in there from Theo regarding the process of firing a manager that really didn’t deserve it. Bottom line is that Joe Maddon is better suited to see this ballclub into it’s competitive years, and that’s not a knock on Ricky Renteria, it is what it is. Renteria was given the option to take on another role with the Cubs, but I doubt that he will remain in the organization as, well, you know, awkward. The Maddon news should be official shortly, and I’m beyond pumped as I have wanted Joe Maddon leading this team since Theo, and Jed took over, he seems like the perfect fit for a team that is ready to explode onto the scene, and become relevant once again, or maybe for the first time.
After two seasons the Chicago Cubs are moving on from Kane County, and will begin a player development contract with the South Bend Silver Hawks next season (Low A affiliate). For me this is disappointing only because it was very easy to get to Kane County to see the Cubs prospects play, South Bend is a little further.
On the bright side, the Silver Hawks are still in the Midwest League, so they will travel to Kane County regularly. As pointed out on Twitter, Kane County is in a different division, and South Bend will not travel there in 2015…. Never mind that “bright side” comment.
South Bend would kill to get the Cubs, not saying they did…. (nervous laugh) but they were hard after the Cubs for a very long time, and it now is coming to fruition. The main reason for moves like this are to enhance the player development within the organization, hence “player development contract.” For the two years with Kane County, the Cubs wanted major improvements to the facilities, and while the Cougars announced that they were making upgrades this offseason, it seems as though it wasn’t enough.
I’m sad to say so long to the good people at Kane County, but excited for South Bend Cubs baseball, hope the price of gas goes down next summer…yeeeeeaaah.
The task facing the Daytona Cubs offense was a tall one coming into game one, Matt Boyd had been lights out for Dunedin in 90 innings of work this year. Not tonight. The D-Cubs torched Boyd for seven runs over the first 3.1 innings en route to an 11-1 laugher.
At the Plate:
- Kyle Schwarber was 1-for-5, but it was a big one, a two-0ut grand slam in the fourth inning. He finished with four RBI’s, and one run scored.
- Dan Vogelbach had a huge game, he went 2-for-5 with a double, a home run, two RBI’s, and two runs scored.
- Billy McKinney hasn’t slowed down all year, he went 2-for-4 with a double, and two runs scored in the win.
- Willson Contreras was solid behind the plate, and at the plate, he went 3-for-4 with an RBI, and three runs scored.
- Bijan Rademacher was also productive from the bottom of the order, he went 3-for-3 with three RBI’s.
On the Mound:
- Rob Zastrynzy got the start, and was brilliant in picking up the victory. Zastrynzy worked six innings, giving up one run on five hits, while walking one, and striking out four.
- The D-Cubs pen worked three scoreless innings, but struggled with their command. Starling Peralta worked an inning while walking two, and striking out one. Gerardo Concepcion worked an inning while walking three (See?), and Jose Rosario mopped things up, working an inning while giving up two hits.
Game two is tomorrow night, the D-Cubs have a chance to make quick work of the best of three series.
If I would have told you that the Daytona Cubs would be participating in the FSL Playoffs this year you would have called me crazy, and probably kicked me a couple times. But here we are, after a horrendous start to the season, the D-Cubs torched the FSL North in the second half of the season, going 41-27 thanks to some key additions to their lineup. The two additions I’m thinking of are Kyle Schwarber (2014 1st round pick), and Billy McKinney who was acquired from Oakland in the Samardzija/Hammel deal in July.
Schwarber played in 44 games for Daytona this year, he hit .302 with ten homers, and twenty-eight RBI’s while OPS’ing at a .952 clip. Schwarber also knows how to get on base, he walked twenty-six times against only thirty-eight strikeouts.
McKinney had a similar season with Daytona, minus the power. McKinney played in 51 games with Daytona, he hit .301 with twelve doubles, four triples, one homer, and thirty-six RBI’s. Much like Schwarber, McKinney gets on base with the best of them, he walked twenty-five times against forty-two strikeouts, eerily similar to Schwarber.
Game one is tomorrow night in Daytona, and the Cubs need to take game one before the best of three series shifts to Dunedin. Daytona sends Rob Zastrynzy to the mound in game one, Z was 4-6 with a 4.66 ERA with Daytona this year. A stiff test awaits the D-Cubs lineup as Dunedin will go to Matt Boyd who has been lights out this year, he went 5-3 with a 1.39 ERA this season.
Check back for game updates, recaps, etc. Please don’t rain.
FSL North Championship Series Schedule
Game 1 – Tuesday, September 2, 7:05 p.m. – Radiology Associates Field at Jackie Robinson Ballpark
Game 2 – Wednesday, September 3, 6:30 p.m. – Florida Auto Exchange Stadium
Game 3 – Thursday, September 4, 6:30 p.m. – Florida Auto Exchange Stadium (If Necessary)