Archive | December, 2009

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Cubs Still Trying to Deal Milton Bradley

Posted on 08 December 2009 by Lou

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Day 1 has come and gone in MLB’s Winter Meetings and Milton Bradley is still a Cub.  GM Jim Hendry has had several discussions with teams regarding moving Bradley, but that is all it has been thus far.  Once some of the other signings/trades take place, then teams might be ready to move on with an acquisition of Bradley.

Two possible scenarios include a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays for outfielder Pat Burrell.  Burrell did not play well in his only year in Tampa and he is owed around $9 million in 2010.  That means the Cubs will likely have to eat a good chunk of the remaining $11 million owed to Bradley in 2011.

The other scenario involves the New York Mets.  The Mets are looking to move 2nd baseman Luis Castillo who is owed $12 million over the next 2 seasons.  It’s unclear if the Mets would want the Cubs to pick up some of Bradley’s salary in that trade.

We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything.  It is truly unlikely that the Cubs bring Bradley back, so expect a trade to happen within the next couple of weeks.  Even if the Cubs have to eat some of Bradley’s salary to get the deal done, it will be a good move in the long run for the frustrating Cubs.

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Cubs Promote Ryne Sandberg to Triple A Iowa Manager

Posted on 07 December 2009 by Lou

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Good things come to those who wait – Chicago Cubs promoted Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg to the Manager of the club’s Triple A Iowa ball club.  The 2nd base Cubs legend replaced Bobby Dickerson at the helm – Dickerson took a position within the Baltimore Orioles organization to run their Latin American scouting.

Sandberg has been a manager in the Cubs minor league organization for the past 3 seasons, but he has made it clear that he has aspirations to be a Major League Manager some day.  Sandberg guided the Class A Peoria Chiefs to a tie for 1st place in 2007 and he also led the Double A Tennessee squad to the playoffs in 2009.  Tennessee lost the league championship 3 games to 1.

Dickerson led the Iowa club to a .500 record at 72-72.  The team finished in 3rd place in the Northern Division.

With Lou Pinella’s contract expiring after 2010, it makes you wonder if this could be one final piece to the managing puzzle for Sandberg before he gets promoted to captain the major league team at Wrigley Field in 2011.  Pinella never really showed his “wild side” in 2009, as his ball club played like crap for most of the season.  Has Pinella lost his drive?  Is it time to make a change and bring in some younger, fiery blood like Sandberg?  While I like Pinella and think he has done a great job with a so-so squad, I would not be opposed to a change.  Let the Ricketts Family get 1 year under their belt in 2010, and then they will need to decide what they want to do with their GM (Jim Hendry) and Manager (Pinella).  Hendry has mortgaged the team for years to come as we have discussed so often and left the team with little flexibility to try to add good talent without subtracting first.  When teams know that your hands are tied, it’s hard to do anything productive.  How cool would it be if the Ricketts Family opted to go with a new GM and Manager in 2011 and then the team ended up winning the whole damn thing that October.  Wishful thinking, huh?!

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Ticket Prices to Remain “Essentially the Same” in 2010 at Wrigley Field

Posted on 06 December 2009 by Lou

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Chicago Cubs ticket prices will remain “Essentially the Same” in 2010 at Wrigley Field.

Given the economic climate, Cubs President Crane Kenney stated: “This isn’t the year to go crazy on ticket price increases.”

Thanks Crane – you care so much about the typical Cubs fan…

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Moving Bradley Key to Successful Off-Season for Cubs, GM Jim Hendry

Posted on 05 December 2009 by Lou

CHICAGO CUBS JIM HENDRY LOU PINELLA

It boils down to this – if the Cubs can find a taker for disgruntled, troublemaker Milton Bradley, then the Cubs and GM Jim Hendry could have a successful and productive off-season leading up to the 2010 MLB schedule.  Hendry has already made moves – dealing the likes of Aaron Heilman to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Aaron Miles and Jake Fox to the Oakland A’s for prospects and to clear some salary cap space to sign new deals for arbitration-eligible players like Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall, Ryan Theriot, Jeff Baker and Mike Fontenot.

If Hendry can somehow find a team willing to take Bradley (full-well knowing that the Cubs will still have to pay a pretty chunk of the $21 million owed to him over the next 2 seasons), it will be a step in the right direction for Hendry.  Hendry has had a series of bad years at the helm and with a new owner in place, Hendry needs to prove his worth to the Ricketts family.  That will be easier said than done as Hendry’s bad moves have left the Cubs brass with little flexibility.

Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella plan to move Kosuke Fukudome back to his more comfortable right field position.  Then Hendry can concentrate on finding a center fielder and 2nd baseman for the 2010 Cubs.  Even though the Cubs did not offer arbitration to Reed Johnson, they have not closed off talks with his handlers.  So Johnson could be back to patrol center field at Wrigley Field next season.

Jeff Baker and Mike Fontenot are in the running for the starting 2nd base job, so it is unlikely that Hendry will pursure any options outside the organization for that position.

The Cubs could also be in the market for a veteran right-handed reliever to complement John Garbow in the pen.  While the Cubs have a lot of up-and-coming young stars in the bullpen – Angel Guzman, Esmailin Caridad, Jeff Stevens and Justin Berg – Hendry and Pinella would love to see a little more experience back there in front of closer Marmol.

We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything good – Winter Meetings start next week in Indy…

CHICAGO CUBS JIM HENDRY LOU PINELLA2

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Cubs Move Aaron Miles & Jake Fox, Acquire Reliever Jeff Gray

Posted on 04 December 2009 by Lou

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The Chicago Cubs made a trade right before the Winter Meetings – moving Jake Fox and Aaron Miles for Jeff Gray.  Sometimes I really don’t think GM Jim Hendry has a clue as to what he is doing.

My biggest complaint is moving Fox.  At 27, Fox could be coming into his prime.  I know that finding a position for Fox is the issue – the Cubs are set in left field with Alfonso Soriano, 3rd base with Aramis Ramirez and 1st base with Derrek Lee.  But injuries are always a concern with older players like Soriano, Lee and Ramirez (see how many games they missed last year) and Fox filled the void very well.  He played in 82 games (216 at-bats) and batted .259 with 11 HR’s and 44 RBI’s.  Compare that to Soriano (117 games, 477 at-bats, 20 HR’s and 55 RBI’s) and Bradley (124 games, 393 at-bats, 12 HR’s and 40 RBI’s) – the Cubs regular corner outfielders – and you can really see how productive Fox was in a reserve role.  Sometimes you just have to admit you made bad moves – if Soriano and Bradley aren’t living up to their expectations, then you have to suck it up and move on even if you owe them a lot of money.

Because of his mistakes, Hendry now has moving Bradley at the top of his list (even if it means that the Cubs have to eat some of his salary for the next 2 years) and is forced to deal younger players like Fox in order to free up some salary cap room because of the bad moves that he made.  What a big mess.

As for Aaron Miles, it’s great that we can save the $1.7 million owed to him for 2010.  Miles will be 33 this month and he was a complete bust for the Cubs in 2009 – .185 batting average and .224 on-base percentage in just 157 at-bats.

Jeff Gray made 24 appearances for the Oakland A’s in 2009.  He was 0-1 with a 3.76 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP.  In 26 1/3 innings pitched, he walked only 4 batters while striking out 19.  Gray did not allow an earned run in 15 of his 1st 19 outings and the Cubs like the upside potential with Gray.  Hendry had this to say about Gray: “He’s a power arm type of guy who gets it up to 95, 97 on a regular basis.  We felt he could come in and compete for a job in the bullpen… We’ll put him in the mix with a lot of young people… His arm strength is very good.  He’s not old by any means as far as bullpen guys.  He’s got the stuff to be able to pitch in any area of the bullpen, if he’s able to harness it a little bit better.  He throws very hard and throws strikes.”

The Cubs also got highly regarded prospect Matt Spencer and Ronny Morla in the deal.  Spencer split time in the Class A and Double A levels in 2009 – .289 batting average with 19 HR’s and 91 RBI’s.  He is only 23 years old.  Morla had a 4.86 ERA in 17 games for Class A Vancouver.

I’m definitely disappointed with the departure of Fox.  I like Fox and think he has a lot of upside with very little salary commitment.  But I guess Hendry thought it was the right time to move him with his options being almost all done.  We’ll see how the move pays off – it would be great if Gray made the club in 2010, but with an already young, deep talented bullpen, that seems unlikely…

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Andre Dawson Hoping to Enter Hall of Fame in 2010

Posted on 03 December 2009 by Lou

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Andre Dawson is hoping that the 9th time’s the charm.  With current Hall of Famers like Ryne Sandberg and Tony Perez endorsing the “Hawk”, one would think that it’s only a matter of time for Dawson to get the call.  Dawson received 67% of the votes in 2009 (361 votes), but finished 3rd in the voting behind inductees Rickey Henderson (94.8% of the vote) and Jim Rice (76.4% of the vote).  A player needs to receive at least 75% of the vote in order to gain access to the Hall.

Dawson is the top-returning vote-getter in 2010, just ahead of Bert Blyleven (62.7%) and Lee Smith (44.5%).  Newcomers that could play a role in whether or not Dawson gets in include 2nd baseman Roberto Alomar, shortstop Barry Larkin and DH Edgar Martinez.  But none of the them have the numbers that Dawson put up during his 21 MLB seasons – .279 career batting average with 438 HR’s, 1,591 RBI’s and 314 stolen bases.  Dawson was named the NL Rookie of the Year Award winner in 1977 with the Montreal Expos.  Dawson won the MVP Award in 1987 with the Chicago Cubs – that year he hit 49 HR’s and drove in 137 runs – both tops in the NL.  Dawson is one of only 6 players to have hit 300 HR’s and stolen 300 bases.  And he is the only eligible player who has more than 1,000 career extra base hits who is not a member of the Hall of Fame.

While it seems clear to me that the Hawk should be inducted, Dawson is still not counting his eggs before they hatch: “Now there’s no one for me to hurdle.  Everyone’s behind me.  I think (2010) poses the biggest window for me.  I kind of, for a change, look forward to it.  I can’t say that’s always been the case in the past, because the writers make sure they don’t put in more than one or two in a particular year.”

Talk about a travesty of justice.  If the Baseball Writers of America do not vote the Hawk in this time around, we really need to assess the voting credentials of these guys.  It’s a shame that Dawson is not in the Hall of Fame, so let’s keep out fingers crossed on January 8, 2010 when the results are announced.

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Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts Meets with Florida Governor Charlie Crist

Posted on 02 December 2009 by Lou

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Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts met with Florida Governor Charlie Crist this week to discuss the Cubs future spring training site.  The Cubs currently train in Mesa, Arizona, but are exploring the opportunity to relocate such facilities to the east coast in Collier County, Florida.  Three Florida businessmen presented a plan to Ricketts and Dale Brill – the head of Florida’s office of tourism, trade and economic development.  The group proposed building a brand new $100 million training facility for the Cubs near Naples in Collier County.  The Cubs would also move their Class Daytona minor league team to the new location.  The new location would also serve as the headquarters for the team’s entire minor league operations.  The group also proposed the development of a year-round “Wrigley Village” that would serve as a tourist “trap” all season long.

One of the businessmen – Craig Bouchard – had this to say about the economic jolt that a Chicago Cubs arrival would have on the entire state of Florida: “With the governor, we discussed the merits of having $50 million of incremental revenue flow into Collier County annually and the additional boost the Cubs would generate to other towns in Florida which host Major League teams.  Because the Cubs are the No. 1 draw of all Major League teams in the spring, attracting the Cubs would provide a boost to the economies of several counties in the state.”  Florida has lost the likes of several MLB teams the last few years – the Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds – so bringing in the Cubs would be a huge coup for the state.

While Ricketts has publicly said that the goal is to get “the best facility”, one would have to think that if the state of Florida offers incentives and tax breaks for the Cubs to re-locate to Naples, he would jump at that opportunity.  Arizona is still in the hunt too, so we’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear any further developments…

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Cubs Don’t Offer Arbitration to Rich Harden, Kevin Gregg, Reed Johnson & Chad Fox

Posted on 01 December 2009 by Lou

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The Chicago Cubs decided not to offer arbitration to Rich Harden, Kevin Gregg, Reed Johnson & Chad Fox before today’s deadline.  The move is not surprising for Harden, Gregg and Fox, but I thought that the Cubs might offer arbitration to Johnson.  Looks like the Cubs are really going to try to land a center fielder this off-season so that they can move Kosuke Fukudome back to his regular (and more comfortable) right field position.

While Rich Harden made 26 starts for the Cubs in 2009, his history of arm trouble and his high pitch counts made the starter expendable.  The Cubs already have Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly and Randy Wells penciled in as 2010 starters and they will pick a 5th starter from within – either Tom Gorzelanny, Jeff Samardzija, Sean Marshall or others.

Kevin Gregg lost his closer’s role to Carlos Marmol in the middle of August and the Cubs do not have confidence that Gregg can even be an effective middle reliever, especially given the salary that he would command in arbitration.

The Cubs still have to work out new deals with other arbitration-eligible players – Marmol, Ryan Theriot, Marshall, Jeff Baker and Mike Fontenot.  So it is a good move to shed some salary – roughly $15 million or more that would have gone to these 4 players.  Tom Ricketts – the new Cubs Chairman – has indicated that the $134 payroll in 2009 will go up slightly for the 2010 MLB season…

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