Archive | January, 2009

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Will Peavy Trade Talks Resume Following Sale of Cubs?

Posted on 31 January 2009 by Lou

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Now that Sam Zell and the Cubs organization have selected Tom Ricketts as the winning bidder for the purchase of the Cubs, how will that affect the product on the field? Of course The Ricketts Family still needs to get MLB approval, but assuming that happens, will the Ricketts family do “whatever it takes” to bring a World Series Championship to the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field?

The biggest player question now focuses on San Diego Padres ace Jake Peavy. Padres GM Kevin Towers and Cubs GM Jim Hendry conducted extensive negotiations during the 2008-9 Winter Meetings in December but couldn’t seal the deal. Towers has indicated that Peavy is off the trading block, but given the impending sale of the Padres, they still need to clear salary off the books in order to make any sale more palatable to potential suitors. Moving Peavy at some point this spring or during the 1st half of the 2009 MLB season would accomplish that.

When the Cubs acquired pitcher Garrett Olson from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Felix Pie, many saw that as a sign that the Cubs-Padres talks for Peavy would resume – Towers has mentioned Olson as starting pitcher the Padres would like to have in their rotation. But when the Cubs moved Olson along with Ronny Cedeno to acquire starter/reliever Aaron Heilman, that seemed to quash the Peavy trade rumors once again.

It also raised more questions about Rich Harden’s health. Did the Cubs acquire Heilman, a proven major league pitcher, to off-set the impact of any trip to the disabled list by Harden at the start of the season or at some point during the season? I guess these things will have to play out. Hendry will tell you that it’s always good for a major league team have a deep pitching staff with many different options to turn to as circumstances dictate. But given the Cubs past pitching injury woes with Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, most Cubs fans are always leery of the status of a player’s health when arm troubles appear. Harden has a history of injury, he was held out of starts at the end of the 2008 MLB season to “rest” the arm, and he is not playing in the World Baseball Classic in March because they don’t think he will be fully ready to participate on a regular basis. Do you hear those alarm bells ringing?

It’s great that the Cubs acquired Heilman in order to anticipate an adverse injury situation with Harden, but if that costs the Cubs the ability to land a #1 like Peavy, I seriously question Hendry’s judgment. I’d rather have a starting rotation of Zambrano, Peavy, Dempster, Lilly and than Zambrano, Dempster, Lilly, Marshall and Heilman (assuming Harden can’t go on a regular basis).

In any event, it should be an interesting few months on the north side of Chicago. We’ll keep you abreast of any action as soon as we hear it.

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Cubs Could Keep Making Pitching Moves Before Season Starts

Posted on 30 January 2009 by Lou

The Chicago Cubs have made several moves this off-season to bolster their pitching staff. The Cubs acquired Kevin Gregg who is expected to be the set-up man for closer Carlos Marmol. The Cubs also acquired Garrett Olson from the Orioles, and many believed he was the missing piece to the puzzle that could bring San Diego Padres ace Jake Peavy to the Cubs for the 2009 MLB season. That all changed this week when Cubs GM Jim Hendry traded Olson, along with utility infielder Ronny Cedeno, to the Seattle Mariners for starter/reliever Aaron Heilman. That may have brought the end to the Jake Peavy rumors once again, but it is also rumored that the Padres have always liked Sean Marshall and Kevin Hart – 2 talented, young pitchers who could turn into super stars in their own rights. With those 2 players, plus a few other pieces be enough to bring Peavy to the Cubs. Probably not, but it will be interesting to see how the Cubs new ownership views the Peavy situation.

The Ricketts family are lifelong Cubs fans, and they may be willing to pull out “all the stops” in order to bring a World Series Championship to the North Side of Chicago. The $60 million owed to Peavy over the next 4 years under his current is a drop in the bucket to the Ricketts family, especially if his presence helps bring that elusive championship to Wrigley Field.

While nothing is definitive, it’s clear the Cubs and Hendry are still willing to tweak the roster that they intend to bring to Spring Training in a few weeks. Stay tuned – while there are sure to be bumps along the way, it should be a fun ride to see how the team gels over the course of spring ball in Arizona in February and March…

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First Look at Cubs Revamped Infield

Posted on 29 January 2009 by Lou

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1st Base – Check – Derrek Lee.

3rd Base – Check – Aramis Ramirez.

Shortstop – Check – Ryan Theriot plus some new options to spell Theriot throughout the long MLB season.

2nd Base – ??? – Pencil in newly-acquired Aaron Miles and Mike Fontenot.

The Cubs are all set with Lee and Ramirez at the corners. With the departure of Mark DeRosa (traded to the Cleveland Indians) and Ronny Cedeno (traded) to the Seattle Mariners, the Cubs will have a whole new look in the middle of the infield. And while Theriot will clearly start and play the majority of the Cubs games at shortstop, instead of Cedeno spelling him from time to time, look for Manager Lou Pinella to throw a Miles/Fontenot middle infield at you every once in a while when a right-hander is on the bump. Pinella has already even hinted at throwing in Micah Hoffpauir at 1st base when a righty is on the hill – giving him 3 left-handed hitters in the lineup in the infield alone.

Pinella is thrilled to have more versatility from the left side of the plate in 2009. With Miles in the infield and Milton Bradley in the outfield, that will give Pinella the flexibility to mix things up more often than he was able to do in 2008.

Lee had a solid statistical year – .291 batting average, 20 home runs and 90 RBI’s – but he hit into too many inopportune double plays and he still hasn’t recovered the same “pop” in his bat that he displayed before his serious wrist injury during the 2006 MLB season (in 2005, Lee hit .335 with 46 home runs and 107 RBI’s). Pinella is hoping that with Hoffpauir on the everyday roster, the Cubs will be able to convince Lee to make more days off to keep him fresher during the long 2009 MLB season.

Ramirez is coming off of an impressive 2008 MLB season in which he hit .289, stroked 27 home runs and drove in 111 runs. He also hit a career-high 44 doubles and will look to anchor the middle of the lineup once again in 2009. There could be a little drop off with no Mark DeRosa behind him in the lineup, but the Cubs hope that Milton Bradley will slide nicely in that slot to keep teams honest and take some heat off Ramirez.

Theriot was Top 10 in batting average in the National League with a .307 average. Theriot had 58 multi-hit games (which ranked him 4th in the NL) and he led the NL with 154 singles. The one negative over the last 2 seasons has been his significant drop in average by the end of the year – he has a career .259 average over the last 30 days of the season. Pinella’s solution – more time off for Theriot during the course of the season – and having Miles in the mix will give Pinella the option to do that on a more regular basis.

Stay tuned for more “first looks” at the 2009 Cubs in upcoming weeks. As Spring Training approaches, it should be fun to talk lineups and the pitching roster as the games start to get played in February and March. Can’t believe we’re just 9 weeks away from opening day 2009 and 10 weeks away from the home opener at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field!

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Cubs GM Jim Hendry Not Done Making Moves – Trades for Aaron Heilman

Posted on 28 January 2009 by Lou

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One thing is certain – Cubs GM Jim Hendry is clearly willing to tweak his Spring Training roster to find the right players that “may” be able to take the Cubs to the next level in the 2009 post-season.

Two things are definitely uncertain – Will it work? Does Hendry have a consistent plan or is he flying off th cuff right now?

The Chicago Cubs traded utility infielder Ronny Cedeno and recently acquired pitcher Garrett Olson to the Seattle Mariners today for reliever Aaron Heilman. The Cubs had just acquired Olson from the Baltimore Orioles a few weeks ago in exchange for Felix Pie, and many thought the move was done in order to re-open discussions with the San Diego Padres for starter Jake Peavy (Padres GM Kevin Towers had indicated that Olson was a player highly touted by his organization). Similarly, the Mariners had just acquired Heilman in a deal that sent J.J. Putz to the New York Mets. Heilman was looking forward to competing for a starting rotation spot with the Mariners this Spring Training, but now his future is up in the air again with the deep Chicago Cubs pitching staff.

Heilman is an Indiana native who grew up a Cubs fan and who now lives in Chicago permanently during the off-season. After being informed of the trade, Heilman was quoted as saying “It’s a dream come true. I always rooted for the Cubs growing up, and now to be a part of that organization, it’s going to be pretty special for me.” The New York Mets drafted Heilman as a first round draft pick in 2001 and pitched for the Mets as a starter from 2003 through 2204. The Mets moved Heilman to the bullpen in 2005 and he has pitched there ever since. His best year as a reliever was 2007 when he made 81 appearances – the 5th most in the NL that year – and amassed a spectacular 3.03 ERA as a set-up man. He issued only 20 walks and gave up only 8 home runs in 86 innings that season. The 2008 MLB campaign, however, was a major disappointment. Heilman still pitched out of the bullpen, but his ERA rose to 5.21 and he issued 46 walks and gave up 10 home runs in 76 innings. Heilman expressed some frustration that the Mets did not want to use him as a starter, and the Mets made the move to trade Heilman as part of the deal that brought Putz to the Big Apple.

Heilman is a power pitcher, and if he can re-master his changeup that was so effective in 2007, the Cubs could use him as their 5th starter in 2009. He will have some competition with Sean Marshall and Jeff Samardzija, but he may have the edge over both players. Marshall is a lefty, and if he stayed in the bullpen, he would be a 2nd lefty for Manager Lou Pinella to call on along with Neal Cotts. Samardzija has only 3 months of major league experience under his belt. The Cubs have indicated that they will likely keep him in the bullpen until he can add another pitch or 2 to his repertoire in order to keep batters off-guard as a starter. Plus, the Cubs have experienced recent success with moving a reliever back into his original starting role – see Ryan Dempster during the 2008 MLB season who was the Cubs most consistent starting pitcher with a 17-6 record, over 200 innings pitched, 2.96 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 187 strikeouts.

Where will this all lead? Right now, it is all just a big mess – in a good way. The Cubs have a ton of pitching talent, and competition during Spring Training should be fierce. If Harden isn’t ready to go right away with his right shoulder issue, or if Harden spends time on the disabled list during the season, the depth will factor in the Cubs favor by being able to move a Marshall or a Heilman out of the bullpen into the starting rotation. Will the Cubs still attempt another shot at landing Peavy from the Padres. They would be foolish not to, but with today’s trade of Olson and Cedeno, it’s unclear who the Cubs will deal in order to make the trade happen this time around.

Stay tuned. If the last month is any indication, we are sure to see a few more moves up Hendry’s sleeve before the 2009 Cubs opening day roster is announced…

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Pitching Depth a Nice Plus for Cubs in 2009

Posted on 27 January 2009 by Lou

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It’s not so dreary in the bullpen at Wrigley Field these days. After suffering so many years with injury after injury to Cubs pitchers (see Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Jon Lieber), I never thought we’d be writing so much about one of the key assets for the current Chicago Cubs roster – the depth of the pitching – both starters and relievers.

Cubs Manager Lou Pinella has indicated that he would like to keep 12 pitchers on his roster during the 2009 MLB season. With 5 starters needed, and Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg locked in at the back end of the games, that leaves numerous candidates fighting for only 5 spots. Sean Marshall has been a key contributor – both as a starter and a reliever – on the big league level in each of the Cubs last 3 seasons. Youngster Jeff Samardzija emerged on the scene during the middle of the 2008 MLB season and showed that he clearly has the stuff to compete at the highest level. While both will be battling for the 5th spot in the starting rotation, one would have to think that each will make the 2009 roster once Spring Training breaks at the beginning of April.

Neal Cotts, Chad Gaudin and Michael Wuertz all played vital roles for the Cubs in 2008, while Angel Guzman, Kevin Hart and Jose Ascansio will all give it their best to show Cubs management that they deserve a shot over one of those guys for the 2009 MLB season. Are any of them a lock – by all means no. Plus when you throw in recent acquisitions – Luis Vizcaino, Garrett Olson, Jeff Stevens and Dave Patton – you truly are going to see a battle during Spring Training in Arizona.

Who will make it to Wrigley Field in 2009?

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Will Cubs Starters Be Able To Get It Done in 2009

Posted on 26 January 2009 by Lou

Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly, Rich Harden, #5 starter… Sounds like a pretty impressive starting 4-5, but with Rich Harden’s re-emerged shoulder issues and continued worries about any lingering issues that Carlos Zambrano may have with his right arm, will the team live up to the hype during the 2009 MLB season. Coming off back-to-back NL Central division titles, AND back-to-back 3-game sweeps in the divisional round of the playoffs where Cubs fans were left asking “Why?”, the Chicago Cubs, and in particular, the starting rotation, has a lot of pressure to excel again in 2009.

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Zambrano Eye Issues Require Corrective Surgery

Posted on 25 January 2009 by Lou

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There’s always something with Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano. This time around – a blurry right eye issue that bothered Big Z throughout the 2008 MLB season. Even with the eye issue, Carlos Zambrano won 14 games, struck out 130 batters and pitched a no hitter. He even hit .337 during the course of the Cubs 2008 MLB season and was on the Cubs best hitting pitchers all season long.

Zambrano has been bothered with eye issues for a while now. He does not like to wear glasses or put contact lenses into his eyes, so he struggled to work through the right eye issue without either. The issue started to get worse during the course of the season, and Zambrano recently met with an eye doctor who will perform LASIK surgery on Big Z at some point before the start of Spring Training.

Given his ability to throw the last few seasons, if corrective eye surgery can make Big Z even more effective, that will be a huge bonus for the Cubs and the starting rotation. Let’s hope the surgery goes smoothly and that Rich Harden’s shoulder woes reported here recently are dealt with in an appropriate manner. Go Cubs!

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Kerry Wood – Class Act Even After Move To Cleveland

Posted on 24 January 2009 by Lou

Kerry Wood was part of the Chicago Cubs organization for 13 years and has become a part of the City of Chicago like no other Cubs player of recent date. He calls Lincoln Park his home, and he will continue to call Chicago his home even after his signing with the Cleveland Indians this off-season. He made one final good-bye gesture to the city and Cubs fans with ads in the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times over the weekend:

“It has been an honor to have been a Chicago Cub for the last 13 years and to have played in the greatest ballpark, Wrigley Field. My deepest thanks to my teammates and the Cubs organization for taking a chance on a kid from Texas and welcoming me into the Cubs family.”

The ads also included pictures from his days as a Chicago Cub – when he signed with the Cubs in July 1995, when he struck out 20 batters in an MLB game in May 1998 and when he was the closer for the Cubs during the 2008 MLB season.

Wood has recently indicated that he would have returned to the Cubs in 2009 under a 1-year contract, but Cubs GM Jim Hendry disputes that contention. Hendry told the media and fans at this past weekend’s Cubs Convention that Wood’s agents were seeking a 3-year deal for the closer. Hendry felt that because of Wood’s injury issues the last 4 MLB seasons – that put Wood on the DL for more than 50% of the team’s games during that span – it would not be fair to the Cubs organization to sign Wood for that period of team.

In any event, it was nice that Wood had nice things to say about the Cubs organization in his ads – despite this latest controversy – and we’re sure we’ll be seeing lots of Kerry Wood and his family in the Chicago area for years to come. Good luck Kerry!

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And The Winner Is… The Ricketts Family

Posted on 23 January 2009 by Lou

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Well we finally have our answer – The Tribune Co. has selected the Ricketts family as the winning bidder to purchase the Chicago Cubs. The $900 million winning bid includes the purchase of the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field and a 25% interest in Comcast SportsNet – the local sports television network in the Midwest.

Tom Ricketts is a member of the Ricketts family which founded TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., an online brokerage house. Tom Ricketts is the CEO of InCapital LLC which is another family enterprise. Ricketts and the Cubs now need to negotiate the final terms of the deal and then obtain approval from 75% of the owners of the other 30 MLB teams. Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney believes that the deal can be consummated prior to Opening Day 2009. Once the deal is completed, Kenney has indicated that the new ownership team would be ready to move ahead with some plans that have been put on hold for the last 2 years pending the sale of the team. Those plans include renovations to Wrigley Field – the installation of new television monitors throughout Wrigley Field and the construction of the “Triangle Building” in the lot space just west of the stadium. Who knows – maybe the new owners will even consider authorizing Cubs GM Jim Hendry to re-open negotiations with the San Diego Padres to complete a trade for their starting pitcher ace Jake Peavy. The 2 teams had made significant progress during baseball’s winter meetings in early December, but the $63 million still owed to Peavy on his current contract was just too much for the Cubs to force on the new buyer of the Cubs at the time. Peavy would certainly help the Cubs in their quest of that elusive World Series title – 100 years and counting – but as usual, the almighty dollar is always the key.

One positive about the selection of the Ricketts family – they are life-long Cubs fans. Kenney indicated that Sam Zell and his team were looking for someone who would continue to implement the long-term strategy started by Kenny and Hendry 6+ years ago. That meant someone who held the Cubs and Wrigley Field as something special and sacred. The Ricketts family fit that mold the best because they indicated that they did not intend to move the team to a Chicago suburb or demolish Wrigley Field to build a new state-of-the-art facility. Ricketts himself summed it up best in a statement released to the media on Thursday night:

“My family and I are Cubs fans. We share the goal of Cubs fans everywhere to win a World Series and build the consistent championship tradition that the fans deserve.”

Thank you Tom – let’s hope your actions back up your words in the near future – Go Cubs!

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Harden Will Not Pitch For Team Canada in World Baseball Classic

Posted on 23 January 2009 by Lou

Following recent reports of more shoulder “issues” for Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Rich Harden, Harden announced that he will not pitch for Team Canada in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. The Canadian Team had included Harden on the preliminary roster, and Harden hoped to pitch in March for his home country, but he recently concluded that he won’t be 100% by the time the World Baseball Classic starts on March 5, 2009. Harden did not pitch in the 2006 World Baseball Classic as he was also dealing with arm issues back then.

Harden made 25 starts in 2008 with the Cubs and the A’s. He was 10-2 with a 2.07 ERA, including a 5-1 record with a 1.77 ERA in 12 starts with the Cubs during the second half of the 2008 MLB season. Harden summed up the situation best: “In my heart I was hoping it would work out, but in my head I had a feeling it wouldn’t. It’s very disappointing not to play for Canada, but my No. 1 priority is the Cubs. I’ve just started to throw, and it is too soon for me.”

Let’s hope Harden’s ongoing off-season regimen works as well as Kerry Wood’s program did before the 2008 MLB season. Harden needs to strengthen the muscle and tissue surrounding the tear in the shoulder in order to be effective in 2009. If he half-asses it or doesn’t build it up enough before he starts throwing, we could be dealing with this shoulder issue all season long. Hopefully Harden and the Cubs trainers have a good game plan in place. Especially with the departure of Jason Marquis (who may not have been the most effective pitcher, but gave you innings each and every year), it will be very frustrating to have to deal with finding 2 consistent starters for the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation during the course of the 2009 MLB campaign. We’ll keep you posted with any update here at MyCubsToday!

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