Another season is in the books, one that for the most part we would all like to forget, again. Those of us that have bought in to the rebuilding plan that Theo and company have put into place expected this, still, it really isn’t a lot of fun to sit through 95+ losses. The common theme since the beginning of the rebuilding process has been “is Dale Sveum the right man for the job?” Well, everything that the front office has said up until the last month or so has been yes, Sveum is the right guy and he can’t be truly judged on wins and losses given this roster. The tune has changed in the last month, as now I’m thinking that Sveum has a better chance of being unemployed come Monday than he does opening the season with the Cubs in Pittsburgh next April. So, what has changed?
I think above all else Theo and the front office know what guy they want to lead the Cubs as they slowly start to gain traction, and win games on a more regular basis. I don’t think that guy is Dale Sveum, one reason for that I think is the stalled development of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro this year. Not saying that Sveum is completely to blame for this, but he shares the blame as do Rizzo and Castro. Others have questioned his use of the bullpen, again not really sure how clear-cut that argument is given the choices out there. The other reason is that I think the guy the Cubs want running the show is now available, well maybe, hello Joe Girardi.
Via an ESPN article today
“I haven’t really made up my mind,” Girardi said during his nearly 30-minute state-of-the-season news conference before the Yankees’ final game against the Houston Astros.
Girardi, who turns 49 next month, said he’ll make his decision after consulting with his wife and three children, who are 14, 11 and 7.
Of course this doesn’t mean that Girardi has made up his mind yet, but I get a feeling that he is ready to move elsewhere in his managing career. There is a fit in Chicago for Girardi, but Girardi is quick to explain that he has moved on from Chicago with his family and is happy in New York. To me, there is too much smoke here for there not to be a fire, I would not be surprised to see Sveum canned tomorrow, and Girardi introduced shortly thereafter during this off-season as the next Cubs manager. If Girardi decides to stay in New York I still expect the Cubs to part ways with Sveum, I think the organization is taking a chance here, but I also think it is a necessary one to take at this point in the process. Brad Ausmus has been also rumored to be on a short list to take over the Cubs, but that is all speculation at this point as well. A change to Ausmus doesn’t make as much sense here as I don’t think you would really be “upgrading” with that move. Stay tuned tomorrow to see what will happen, I’m sure it will be an interesting day.
September is usually a busy roster month and the Cubs are doing nothing to dispel the notion. Two moves of note today, first, the Cubs purchased the contract of Chang-Yong Lim and DFA’d Michael Bowden. Lim is intriguing, the 37-year-old right-handed pitcher was signed this off-season as he was rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery. All that Lim has done since getting back on the mound is dominate, and has done so while pitching at four different levels this year. His most recent stop was at Triple A Iowa where he had an ERA of 0.79 in eleven appearances.
The second move of the day could end up being a big one. There were whispers that once the Red Sox cut Daniel Bard the Cubs would be front-runners to claim him, and they did. This season has been a disaster for Bard, think Rick Ankiel disaster, as Bard can’t find the plate. Bard tossed 6.1 innings in the minors this year and threw ten wild pitches and walked twenty-three, yes both numbers are correct. The Cubs don’t want that Bard, they want the Bard that was considered to be one of the best bullpen arms in baseball in 2010, and 2011. In 2010 Bard worked 74.2 innings while posting a 1.93 ERA, and in 2011 Bard worked 73 innings with a 3.33 ERA. If Bard can find that magic once again this could be a huge deal for the Cubs as they might have acquired the best set up man in baseball for nothing, well they had to DFA Cole Gillespie to make room, so Bard for Gillespie, I’ll take that chance.
Per Danny Knobler, David DeJesus has been traded to the Nationals for a player to be named later. The Nationals are in town for a four game series, guess David will just walk across the infield and into their dugout, no word yet on the PTBNL. Wishing you the best Dave, and Kim. The Nationals actually claimed DeJesus off of waivers then the two teams came to terms on a deal. The Cubs are going to save roughly $2.5 million in this deal ($1 million in salary, $1.5 million in buyout), and Ryan Sweeney is close to coming off the DL. Brian Bogusevic is coming off the DL today, and he will be taking the roster spot vacated by DeJesus.
A right oblique strain has landed Luis Valbuena on the DL, that’s the bad news, the good news is that the Cubs have called up Logan Watkins. Many fans, including myself have been wanting the Cubs to call up Watkins for his tremendous plate discipline and ability to get on base. Watkins will get the start at second base today for the Cubs, he doesn’t have the range or glove that Barney has but he trumps Barney at the plate, and if he is going to hit eight like Barney did then I will take a .230 average and a .340+ on base percentage. That is something that Barney hasn’t been able to do, I hope Watkins takes this opportunity and runs with it.
Well it’s official, the Alfonso Soriano era in Chicago is now over, and that comes with mixed feelings among Cubs fans. Soriano carried the Cubs in 2007 and 2008, the first two seasons with the club as the Cubs made the playoffs both years only to fizzle out. During these seasons Soriano was beloved, chants of Sor-i-ano could be heard all over the Country as Cubs fans flocked to opposing teams ballparks during the stretch run. I was one of those fans, I still remember going to Cincinnati in September of 2007 to watch Soriano blast home run after home run as the Cubs closed in on a division title. Post 2008 was a different story, the Cubs are 335-418 since winning the division with a 97-64 record in 2008. This is where most of the mixed feelings come from, Soriano was signed to an eight year contract worth $136 million by then general manager Jim Hendry. There was no way that Soriano could live up to that contract, especially given the fact that his legs basically gave out in 2009 which resulted in a .241 average and only twenty home runs. Soriano had somewhat of a resurgence the last two years which won some fans back, but the majority of the fans that will miss him will miss him for his leadership.
As Dale Sveum said yesterday, Soriano is one of the top five professional players that he has been around in this game. His work ethic, his leadership, his ability to play in a big market and never get too high or low based on his performance are things that will be missed. But today is a big day for the Cubs, they have finally moved out of the Jim Hendry era and seem to be pointed in the right direction. The only player remaining from the 2008 team is Jeff Samardzija, the longest tenured position player is now Starlin Castro, think about that, and I think that’s a good thing. Today, MLB approved a deal that is sending Soriano back to the Yankees and Corey Black will be coming over to the Cubs. Black is a twenty one year-old right handed pitcher with a big arm. Black has routinely hit 100 mph, and sits consistently at 95 mph, that’s an arm that works in the bullpen at the major league level. As you can imagine, a guy with that arm has a lot of walks, a lot of strikeouts, and doesn’t get hit too often. In 131 innings as a pro Black has given up three home runs, three. So best of luck to Soriano in New York, can’t say that I’m sad to see him leave, but I do appreciate how hard he worked on a bad team, bottom line is that he needed to go in order for the Cubs to completely move forward, and they are ready to do that.
What about the money?? Soriano has about $6.5 million remaining on this years $18 million salary, and is owed $18 million again next year. The Yankees will pay $6.8 million of the remaining balance, $1.8 M in 2013 and $5 M in 2014. So the Cubs are still going to eat the majority of the money.
Sounds like the deal is almost official. Numerous reports are now saying that the Cubs have traded Matt Garza to the Rangers for Mike Olt, C.J. Edwards and possibly Justin Grimm. If that is the final package then this is a clear win for the Cubs as the Rangers just gave up a MLB ready pitcher, a youngish one too (Grimm), a high end prospect arm (Edwards), and there number one prospect coming into this year (Olt) for ten starts out of Matt Garza. More to come later..
Sounds like the Cubs are also getting a player to be named in the deal, and the players in that group are quite good. Chris Rusin starts tonight for the Cubs.
The deadline for signing draft picks is this Friday, well the Cubs got their number one priority taken care of today. Per multiple reports from Jim Callis, Peter Gammons, and Paul Sullivan the Cubs have agreed to terms with Kris Bryant for full slot, meaning $6.7M. It seemed like the Cubs would be getting Bryant signed all along, he is a Boras client so I’m not surprised it took this long. The money is a record in the slot era, but again, Bryant got slot so it’s not like the Cubs went over, but some were hoping he would go for under slot. Expect the Cubs to make it official shortly then we get to see where Bryant will start his Cubs career, wouldn’t be shocked to see him start at High A Daytona right off the bat.
There’s hot, and then there is what Alfonso Soriano is doing. Soriano is unconscious at the plate right now, his latest reminder to the rest of baseball that he can play was a two home run performance last night as the Cubs pounded the Angels 7-2 for their fourth straight win. In his last eleven games Soriano is hitting .400 with eight home runs, and seventeen RBI’s, wow. Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, and Darwin Barney also got in on the long ball fun to pace the Cubs attack. On a night where every fly ball was dangerous Travis Wood carved up a dangerous Angels lineup. Wood worked 6.2 innings giving up two runs on four hits while walking two and striking out five to pick up his sixth win of the season. The Cubs are now eight games under .500 and nine games out of a wild card spot, just pointing that out, not insinuating anything, yet.
PICTURE OF THE GAME
Matt Garza was dominant again last night, with every start his value goes up, not just in regards to what the Cubs want for him, but what Garza might be looking for in regards to a contract extension with the Cubs. That’s right, the news before yesterday’s start was that the Cubs have kicked the tires once again on bringing Garza back with a long-term extension.
David Kaplan weighed in on this yesterday:
”Theo [Epstein] and Jed [Hoyer] know that they have a great asset. They will not cave on what they want in return,” said the AL exec. “They will play this thing out until they get what they want. He’s too valuable to not trade. When you are in a rebuild you need to move assets to fuel the plan. Garza should help to do that. I’d be stunned if he is a Cub Aug. 1.”
I agree with the thought process of Kaplan in regards to the extension talk, I think it’s just that, talk. The Cubs aren’t going to let Garza go for less than their asking price unless they absolutely have to.
Gordon Wittenmeyer had more on the Garza extension talk after last nights game:
”Team sources, however, characterize the recent, brief talks as confirmation that the sides aren’t much, if any, closer than they were more than a year ago when they first engaged in talks with little progress.”
Now on to the newest information on Garza…
Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports has information on what teams are interested in Garza. Last nights start was scouted by the Rangers, Indians, Blue Jays, Pirates, and Padres. For the most part it seems as though the Rangers and Indians have strong interest, and the Red Sox, Nationals, and Dodgers are also keeping an eye on Garza. Morosi also touches on what Garza might be looking for in an extension and the numbers would rival what Anibal Sanchez got from the Tigers in the off-season, so a five-year, $80MM deal.
Stay tuned as the trade talk and Garza talk will pick up considerably as we get closer to the deadline and Garza continues to pitch well and prove his health.