The Cubs have signed Starlin Castro to a 7 year $60MM extension. Great news, more when we get back from the 2012 UA High School All American game.
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In somewhat of a shocking move today, well depends on who you ask I guess, Oneri Fleita the Cubs VP of Player Personnel (former) has been given his walking papers. Just last September Fleita was given a contract extension by Tom Ricketts, keep in mind this was before Theo Epstein was brought in to take over. Fleita was outstanding when it came to dealing with the Latin American talent, and losing that could hurt, but I’m guessing the decision here might have been mutual. Fleita is going to be a hot commodity on the open market as he had over 15 years experience with the Cubs and a tremendous track record. The reason I say that it could be mutual is I wouldn’t be surprised if Fleita is on to bigger and better things, and he wouldn’t be able to do that unless he was fired because of said contract extension last year.
Up until this year Fleita was the head man overseeing everything having to do with the Cubs farm system. Enter Theo and Jed, they brought in Jason McLeod to assume that role before this season with Fleita acting as second in command. With the recent promotion of Tim Wilken to special assistant, and bringing in Jaron Madison to be the new scouting director, Theo is starting to make his mark on the Cubs organization as a whole and how he wants it run, and who he wants running it. Best of luck to Oneri, we will have more details if and when they emerge.
[UPDATE 1:24 PM] Theo means business today, according to Paul Sullivan, the Cubs have re-assigned Ari Kaplan from Manager of Statistical Analysis to a consulting position. Sullivan continues, letting us know that the Cubs have eliminated Chuck Wasserstrom’s position which was Manager of Baseball Information, Wasserstrom had been around forever, and per Toni Ginetti, the Cubs are looking to find a new position for Scott Nelson who was the director of player operations. The deck has officially been shuffled, we will be back with more.
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That’s right, your favorite Cubs bloggers are currently being featured on the MLB.com blogs home page. Check out the screen grab below to see our name in lights, okay not really, but it is pretty cool.
I don’t think we would be getting this type of recognition if it weren’t for our awesome readers, so thank you for reading, and being awesome.
Wanted to send out a quick post as a thank you to everyone for visiting and commenting on the blog, we were lucky enough to be the 10th most visited blog in July, and we couldn’t have done it with out you, so THANKS! Rather fitting that we came in at #10 considering Ron Santo entered the Hall of Fame this month.
Please continue to stop by and interact with us as we chronicle the ever-changing landscape of Cubs baseball, top to bottom. Especially now that the trade deadline has passed and the Cubs minor league system will be front and center at the Major League level.
Please check out the full list of the latest leaders here, lots of great blogs out there, go check them out.
Thanks again for everything!
I will be joining Patrick Schmidt on his radio show this morning at 8:35 AM CST to talk post deadline Cubs. We will discuss the minor league teams, the trades, and much more I’m sure.
Follow the link below and click listen live!
Thanks in advance for tuning in!
The Cubs found some time to have some fun after being swept by the Cardinals on Sunday as they all dressed up as superheroes, and there are some gems. Have a look below, the idea came from Matt Garza which is not a surprise given the themed trips he was on under Rays skipper Joe Maddon. Brett over at Bleacher Nation has a solid post up detailing the Cubs fun.
Dempster as Captain America
Campana, too easy
Johnson and Baker as Theo and Jed, priceless
Sveum as Hellboy
Ah, little Darwin
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When Theo Epstein came on board this off-season one story he told really stuck with me. It was when Theo was with Boston in 2011, and it was during the 2011 first year player draft. As the rounds flew by, Theo remarked in the war room that the Cubs finally “got it” in regards to the players that they were drafting. On one hand it’s a sobering statement considering I’ve been a fan of a team that was viewed by other teams as basically incompetent when it came to drafting and building a strong farm system. On the other hand it might have been the first time that Theo had the thought of joining the Cubs to see this process through. I didn’t like a lot of what Jim Hendry and company did here in Chicago, but there were some positives, and the 2011 draft class is one of them. That draft class signaled the change in philosophy for the Cubs, and Theo has assumed control and the responsibility of making sure that the organizational depth gets better each year.
The reason I’m writing about this today, or at least the article that prompted me to put my thoughts out here today, is from Jim Callis of Baseball America. If you don’t read Baseball America, or Jim’s work I highly suggest you do as he is a tremendous prospects resource. Any way, a couple of weeks back he published BA’s top 50 midesason prospects list which featured Javier Baez coming in at 25th overall (2011 1st round draft pick). Jim followed up that list with a new midseason prospect report that includes where some of the 2012 draft picks would be ranked. All any Cubs fan has to do is take a look at this list to see the impact of Theo Epstein so far.
#25 – Javier Baez (2011 – 1st Round Pick) – Hendry
#31-32 – Albert Almora (2012 – 2nd Round Pick) – Theo
#36-37 – Jorge Soler (2012 – FA Signing) – Theo
Just like that the Cubs have three players in the top 40, two of which have yet to pick up a bat in a game as a professional. By the end of the year these players could be higher, and there could be even more players on the list. This list doesn’t include Anthony Rizzo who was called up in late June, but he would have been a top 10, maybe top 5 prospect at this point. Instead he has stabilized a Cubs team that was in a free fall to the tune of a 12-4 record since June 25th.
The one thing that is clearly lacking from an improved Cubs system is not only pitching depth, but impact, power arms. Enter the trade deadline, and Theo’s next test. The Cubs have a countless number of players that can and most likely will be traded by July 31st. With these trades hopefully comes some of that pitching depth that has been absent from the Cubs system forever. The 2012 draft, which we will expand on very soon, brought in a number of quality, yet unproven arms, at least at a professional level. If just a couple of those pitchers take big steps and Theo hits big on the impending trades then we might be talking about a top 10, maybe even top 5 farm system by this time next year.
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Here’s a special treat, especially if you are in Cubs baseball withdrawal over the break. Comcast Sportsnet Chicago will be showing Kerry Wood’s 20 strikeout game in its entirety tonight at 7:00 PM CST, tune in and re-live maybe the best pitched game in MLB history.
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Can’t believe that the Cubs have already played 81 games, seemed like just yesterday the season started. Here is a recap of what transpired over the first three months of the 2012 season, and my thoughts.
Let’s start with the bad -
- When talking about the bad moments of the first half it’s hard to ignore the 12 game losing streak which took place from May 15 thru May 27. Before the streak the Cubs were 15-20, and playing rather well, in fact given how well the Cubs played the majority of their games it wasn’t crazy to think that if the bullpen resembled anything close to Major League caliber that the Cubs would be at .500.
- That leads me to Carlos Marmol. Marmol was a disaster in the first 81 games of the season, although he has been pitching better of late. Marmol was placed on the DL after a May 11th game against the Brewers, at the time he had an ERA of 6.35 and had been removed from the closers role in favor of Rafael Dolis. Marmol had as many blown saves (2) as saves before being DL’d. Since coming off the DL, and being thrown back into the closer role Marmol is 6-for-6 in save opportunities and has lowered his ERA to 4.74, it might have a lot to do with this.
- Chris Volstad has to be mentioned here as well as he had and is having a horrific first half. Volstad finished the first half, which included a trip to Iowa, with an 0-7 record and a 7.94 ERA. Sometimes numbers don’t tell the whole story, in this case I don’t think they tell enough of it. Volstad has completely lost all confidence, he’s pitching as if he expects to lose. I guess that will happen to a guy that hasn’t won a game in a calendar year.
- The record. Coaches, players, fans, and executives alike knew that this season would be a rough one, they didn’t think it would be this rough. I for one have no problems with the 31-50 record because it means nothing, this year was a throw away year, whether the Cubs were 25 under or 15 under, it’s just a necessary season in the process of rebuilding and I’m okay with that.
- Geovany Soto, oh how the mighty have fallen. After alternating good and bad years since his 2008 rookie of the year campaign it seems as though Geo has found some consistency, not in a good way. It looks more and more like Soto was a one hit wonder, as he is in the midst of another wasted season. Soto hit .163 over the first 81 games, with only five home runs. He has been routinely outplayed by Clevenger and Castillo behind the dish. I will even say that Koyie Hill provided more of a spark, that’s how bad Geo’s been.
Now on to the good, yes there has been plenty of that -
- Alfonso Soriano, what a tremendous first half from a player that almost everyone, except Jed and Theo, thought was beyond done. Not only has Soriano provided improved offensive numbers he has been spotless in LF. Think about that for a second, Soriano has not committed an error all season in LF. He has also played an above average defense, getting to balls he could only once dream about getting to. He’s clearly hurt but he has earned a lot of respect back from me after I wrote him off. Soriano finished the first half (again in games, I know the Cubs have 4 games left in the “half”) hitting .269 with 15 home runs and 46 RBI’s.
- Bryan LaHair was another player that was bound and determined to prove himself, but for different reasons. Coming into the season LaHair never had a starting role in the big leagues, an oddity for a 29-year-old with just a handful on major league experience. But he took the opportunity and ran with it in the first month of the season by hitting .390 with five home runs and 14 RBI’s. As expected he cooled off during May and June, but he has been great in July which also coincides with finding out he was elected to his first All-Star game.
- Ryan Dempster entered the 2012 season amid trade rumors, and they just got louder and louder every time he pitched, mostly because he was outstanding. Dempster has been a man on a mission in the first half, he has been slowed by a lat injury but he has pitched at a Cy Young level up until then. If the Cubs bullpen or clutch hitting was consistent at all Dempster might be close to the lead league in wins. He has settled for a 3-3 record with a sparkling 2.11 ERA. I doubt he makes it past July 31st as a Cub, so enjoy it while it lasts.
- Travis Wood who was brought over from Cincinnati in the Sean Marshall deal, didn’t make the team out of Spring Training. He started the year at Triple-A and struggled, leaving some to suggest that Theo got fleeced in the deal. Wood got an opportunity in the rotation at the big league level once is was clear that Chris Volstad was not up to par. Wood has dominated ever since, thus shutting up all those people who questioned his existence on the Cubs roster. Wood made nine starts in the first half and finished with a 3-3 record and a 3.05 ERA. He might be a huge part of the future for this team.
- James Russell and Shawn Camp’s work out of the bullpen cannot go unrecognized. Both guys have been a stabilizing force in the back of the Cubs bullpen all year. Russell sports a 2.27 ERA in 39.2 innings, while Camp has been just as good in his 43 innings, he finished the first half with a 2.93 ERA.
- A late addition to this post has to be Anthony Rizzo. After basically two and three-quarters months of Cubs fans pleading for Rizzo they finally got their wish in late June. Rizzo has not disappointed one bit. Not only is he producing at a high level, and is exciting to watch, he is giving Cubs fans a glimpse of what Theo’s vision might look like down the road. That’s important for Cubs fans to see, to know they are not suffering through maybe the worst season in Franchise history for nothing. In the 8 games that Rizzo has been up with the Cubs he has hit .323 with three home runs and six RBI’s. Not to mention he has had the game winning hit in three of those eight games, and the Cubs are 6-2 since his call up.
The in-between -
- Long time Cub Kerry Wood retired during the first half of the season. It was bittersweet for sure. For a lot of Cubs fans, including myself, Kerry Wood was the face of the franchise growing up, in good times and bad. Kerry worked his tail off to get in shape and put his injuries behind him to have a pretty solid career. He was having a horrible season this year, and it was clear to him and many people surrounding the team that it was time to hang em up. He did the right thing, walked away, and will be apart of this organizations future one way or another.
There were a lot of things in the first half that made us cover our eyes as Cubs fans. But there were also a lot of things that opened them as well, this team competes, rarely gives up and is usually in a lot of games. Right now that doesn’t translate to a lot of wins, but it’s something to hang on to from the first half. This team will look much different in the second half once the trade deadline comes and goes. Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, David DeJesus, Geovany Soto, among others could all be gone. Anthony Rizzo is already here, but he could be joined by Brett Jackson, and Josh Vitters at some point. It’s something to be excited about, we’ve suffered through quite possibly the worst first half in team history, the saving grace is that it shouldn’t be this bad ever again.
Thanks for reading, go Cubs!
After a few weeks on the DL, the Cubs and Stewart have decided to go under the knife to see if they can rectify a problem that has been plaguing Stewart for quite some time now. This could spell the end to Stewart’s Cubs career as he is only signed through the end of this year.
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