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.
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.
The Cubs officially fired Dale Sveum today as I speculated they would yesterday. Again, this isn’t so much about Sveum and the job he did but the Cubs thinking that the guy they want is becoming available. In a statement the Cubs said they would like to have a new manager in place by the November GM meetings, and have not had discussions with anyone as of yet. More as it comes.
Here is Theo’s full statement:
“Today, we made the very difficult decision to relieve Dale Sveum of his duties as Cubs manager. Dale has been a committed leader for this team the last two seasons, and I want to thank him for all of his dedication and hard work. I have a lot of admiration for Dale personally, and we all learned a lot from the way he has handled the trying circumstances of the last two years, especially the last two weeks, with strength and dignity. In his own authentic and understated way, Dale always put the team first and never complained about the hand he was dealt. He and his staff helped us excel in game planning and defensive positioning, contributed to the emergence of several players, and helped put us in position to make some important trades. I have no doubt that – much like Terry Francona, whom we hired in Boston after his stint with a losing Phillies club – Dale will go on to great success with his next team. We had hoped Dale would grow with our organization to see it through the building phase to a period of sustained excellence; instead, I believe Dale, who felt the weight of losing perhaps more than any of us, will grow because of this experience and find excellence elsewhere. Today’s decision to pursue a new manager was not made because of wins and losses. Our record is a function of our long-term building plan and the moves we have made – some good, a few we would like back – to further this strategy. Jed and I take full responsibility for that. Today’s decision was absolutely not made to provide a scapegoat for our shortcomings or to distract from our biggest issue – a shortage of talent at the major league level. We have been transparent about what we are, and what we are not yet. Today’s decision, which was painful for all of us, was made to move us closer to fulfilling our ultimate long-term vision for the Cubs. Soon, our organization will transition from a phase in which we have been primarily acquiring young talent to a phase in which we will promote many of our best prospects and actually field a very young, very talented club at the major league level. The losing has been hard on all of us, but we now have one of the top farm systems in baseball, some of the very best prospects in the game, and a clear path forward. In order for us to win with this group – and win consistently – we must have the best possible environment for young players to learn, develop and thrive at the major league level. We must have clear and cohesive communication with our players about the most important parts of the game. And – even while the organization takes a patient, long view – we must somehow establish and maintain a galvanized, winning culture around the major league club. I believe a dynamic new voice – and the energy, creativity and freshness that comes with this type of change – provides us with the best opportunity to achieve the major league environment we seek. We will begin our search immediately – a process which will be completed before the GM meetings in early November and perhaps much sooner. There are no absolute criteria, but we will prioritize managerial or other on-field leadership experience and we will prioritize expertise developing young talent. We have not yet contacted any candidates or asked permission to speak with any candidates, but that process will begin tomorrow morning.”
After not getting what he wanted from the Mets (2 years, $8 million) Scott Hairston found a deal he liked on the North Side. Ken Rosenthal was first to report that the Cubs agreed to a two year deal with Hairston, and Bruce Levine later confirmed that the deal could be for two years and six million dollars. It’s a tremendous signing if those numbers hold true as Hairston can play any outfield position and is a nightmare for left handed pitchers, which Cubs teams have struggled with in the past. The Cubs have been in the market for a right handed bat for some time, and this signing quenches that thirst for the Cubs, Hairston will be in the mix with the likes of Schierholtz and possibly Sappelt as situational players, spot starts and coming off the bench so to speak.
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Per a Jon Heyman report the Cubs have signed Dontrelle Willis to a minor league deal. Yes, THAT Dontrelle Willis, per Heyman, Willis will be participating in Minor League camp, but if he is throwing the ball well he will get a shot in the Major League camp. Another no lose situation here for the Cubs, Willis, who is only 31 might have some innings left in that arm, the only issue is finding the plate physically and mentally. Needless to say it’s another intriguing story heading into 2013.
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Had to wait a little longer to post this as I’m sure you all know the recent history of the Cubs acquiring players hasn’t been pretty, as in they never really acquired them in the first place. Per Patrick Mooney of CSN, the Cubs have signed Edwin Jackson to a four year deal worth $52M. Great signing here from the Cubs as they lock up a talented 29 year old arm to not only solidify some depth on the pitching staff, but also stabilize the middle of the rotation. The length of the deal fits the Cubs as it provides instant improvement to the Cubs staff but also allows Jackson to be here when the Cubs are contending as I think there is another level that Jackson hasn’t reached yet. Edwin Jackson has been a bit of a journeyman in his career, funny saying that about a 29 year old, but it’s true. This will be Jackson’s 8th team that he has pitched for in his career, he finally has some stability, and that should only mean good things for the power right hander. The Cubs rotation once bare, now has 7-8 legit starting pitchers, so now is the time for some real competition to see who will crack the 2013 rotation, and also gives Theo and Jed what they were looking for, starting pitching depth, which needs to be around 8-9 deep if you want to be successful.
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According to Jon Heyman the Cubs have agreed to sign pitcher Carlos Villanueva. Villanueva, 29 has spent time as both a reliever and a starting pitcher. Cub fans probably remember him during his stint with the Brewers in which he did most of his work out the pen. Last year with the Blue Jays he made 16 starts and over the last two years he has made 29. He will be looking for the opportunity to win a spot in the rotation and hopefully have a chance to be a starter. No news yet on the terms of the deal. As more becomes known we will let you know.
Deal is confirmed, 2 years $10M for Villanueva, here is more from mlbtraderumors.com
Villanueva, 29, pitched to a 4.16 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 125 1/3 innings spread across 16 starts and 22 relief appearances for the Blue Jays last season. He’s made 29 starts and 42 relief appearances over the last two seasons and has proven capable in both roles. Earlier this offseason we heard Villanueva was reportedly seeking the opportunity to make 30 starts next season, an opportunity the Cubs can provide.
Read more at http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/#em7qv4cy58jEhbbl.99
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Initial reports are that its a 5 year deal worth $75 million. Much more as it comes and once I can get in front of a computer. Great move here if its true, haven’t seen anything official.
[UPDATE] Lot’s of updates rolling in, all of them saying this deal is not official and the Tigers are still very much in the mix here.
[UPDATE #2] Per a number of sources it’s down to the Cubs and Tigers with the Tigers holding the possible advantage after matching the Cubs offer, it’s a waiting game now…..so you’re saying there’s a chance..
[UPDATE #3] Still no movement with Sanchez, and the last word was that a decision will come tonight, so stay tuned. Things might get interesting, and maybe the Tigers aren’t the clear cut favorite anymore.
Your morning update, per Ken Rosenthal the Cubs have upped their offer to 5 years and $77.5 million, the Tigers sit at $75 million still, we will see what happens. After a decision was expected last night it was clear that the Cubs were in the process of trying to negotiate as it was announced that there would be no decision until at least today. Theo and Jed usually get the guy they want, especially one that was already in their system in Boston, see Anthony Rizzo, and Sanchez fits that mold. I’ll keep updating this post today.
[UPDATE #4] Of course right after Rosenthal says that, Jon Heyman says the Cubs are out of the Anibal Sanchez race and it seems likely he takes less money and stays with the Tigers, nothing official yet.
[UPDATE #5] Bob Nightengale, the same guy who “broke” the story of the Cubs signing Sanchez last night has confirmed today that Sanchez has agreed to stay with the Tigers on a 5 year $80M deal, too rich for my blood. If I’m the Cubs I stay in Detroit and try to get Porcello away from the Tigers.
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The Cubs continue to look to the future with keeping an eye on the present as they have acquired two players today that could be part of both. The first news of the day was the Cubs claiming Sandy Rosario off of waivers from the Red Sox. Rosario put up some dominant numbers last year across three minor league levels with the Marlins. In 31.2 innings Rosario had a 1.99 ERA with a 8.2 K/9, and a 1.4 BB/9, pretty impressive. Rosario has been claimed three different times this winter, I’m assuming he will be part of the Cubs 2013 bullpen or at least he will be given every chance to be.
The second news of the day was a tad more interesting. Cubs Den is reporting that the Cubs have agreed to sign Korean pitcher Chang-yong Lim, pending a physical. The Korean reliever is coming off of TJS in July so he might not be ready to pitch this season. Odds are he would be ready to pitch out of the Cubs pen near the end of 2013 but the Cubs might not want to go that route. 2014 would be the expected debut for Lim, it’s an intriguing signing, and another example of the Cubs doing their due diligence everywhere in order to improve.
John over at Cubs Den has some solid info on Lim:
“Lim is a relief pitcher and like Fujikawa sees a potential opening in the back end of the Cubs bullpen, with the team likely to part ways with Marmol between now and next season.
In 2011, Kim pitched 62.1 innings and recorded 32 saves, posting a 2.17 ERA for Yakult of the NPB. He walked 22 batters and struck out 69. For his career he has 128 saves and a 2.08 ERA with 2.6 walks and 8.9 strikeouts per 9 innings.
His nickname is “Mr. Zero”. e has a slight build, 5’11”, 175 lbs but throws hard. He is a sidearm pitcher and according to Wikipedia has the highest k own velocity for a sidearmer, able to hit 99 mph but more regularly sitting at 93-95. He also throws a slider, a forkball, and an occasional slow curve. He’s not a prototypical power closer, but his unorthodox sidearm/fireballing style may be difficult for MLB hitters at first.
At first glance it doesn’t seem to fit with the Cubs plan to build with youth but Lim was sought after by several contenders. The front office has said they want to build value through the closer role and now have signed two top NPB closers who have an excellent chance to outperform their contracts.”
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