Archive | January, 2011

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Cubs, Geovany Soto Agree Upon 1-Year Deal — Wrigley Field 1/17/11

Posted on 17 January 2011 by Lou

The Cubs and Geovany Soto avoided salary arbitration as the big catcher signed a 1-year, $3 million deal.  Soto turns 28 later this month and had a nice “bounce-back” year in 2010 with a .280 batting average and .393 on-base percentage (62 walks and only 82 K’s), 17 home runs and 53 RBI’s in 105 games.  His season was cut short when he had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in September.  Soto is expected to be fully healthy for 2011 Spring Training in February.

Soto was the National League Rookie of the Year back in 2008 when the Cubs had the most prolific offense in the NL.  That year, Soto hit .285 with 23 dingers and 86 RBI’s.  But injuries hampered Soto in 2009 as he struggled with a .218 batting average.  He played in just 103 games in 2009 and had a career-low .321 on-base percentage. Let’s hope the positive trend continues for Soto in 2011.  The Cubs need the catcher to be a consistent offensive threat in the middle of the lineup to provide a little extra protection for Aramis Ramirez, Marlon Byrd, Carlos Pena and Tyler Colvin.

The Cubs now have just 3 other players who are arbitration-eligible — Sean Marshall, Carlos Marmol and Matt Garza.  It looks like the Cubs have traded Tom Gorzelanny to the Washington Nationals, so they will not have to come to terms with the lefty before the deadline.  More on the Gorzelanny trade as details are confirmed.

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James Russell, Andrew Cashner to be in Mix for Starting Rotation Spot — Wrigley Field 1/15/11

Posted on 15 January 2011 by Lou

Manager Mike Quade and the Cubs have confirmed that both Andrew Cashner and James Russell will be given a chance to compete for a 2011 starting spot in the rotation this spring.

James Russell started for the Cubs in the minor leagues in 2007 and 2008.  In 2009, the Cubs converted Russell to a reliever and he made 57 appearances for the Cubs out of the bullpen in 2010.  Russell finished the season with an ERA just under 5.00.  The advantage for Russell is that the Cubs starting rotation is right-handed heavy and the bullpen could be left-handed heavy if John Grabow proves to be healthy.  Sean Marshall is a lock in the bullpen and Scott Maine could serve as a 3rd lefty in 2011.  It’s unclear if the Cubs would go with 4 lefties out of the ‘pen.

Andrew Cashner started exclusively in the minor leagues for the Cubs.  He got the call up to the big leagues in 2010 and he made all of his 53 appearances in relief.  Although he posted an overall ERA of 4.80, he did finish strong with a 1.40 ERA during his final 18 games in 2010.  Cashner said that better control of his fastball down the stretch allowed him to be more effective at the end of the season.

The Cubs are locked into at least 3 starters — Matt Garza, Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster.  Randy Wells and Carlos Silva appear to be locks too, but who knows, the Cubs may be willing to part with Silva and eat some of his salary in order to let a guy like Tom Gorzelanny, Jeff Samardzija (who doesn’t have any options left), Cashner or Russell to get some more experience as a starter.  We’ll keep you posted as soon as anything else develops…

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Cubs Convention Kicks off Tonight at 5PM — Wrigley Field 1/14/11

Posted on 14 January 2011 by Lou

The Cubs Convention kicks off tonight at 5PM at the Hilton Chicago on Michigan Avenue.  There are plenty of great activities and events planned, and you’ll get to see some great current and former Cubs players in attendance.  It has been confirmed that both new acquisitions from the Tampa Bay Rays – 1st Baseman Carlos Pena and Pitcher Matt Garza — will be in attendance.  Yippee!

Enjoy yourself this weekend — it is going to be a blast.  What a weekend of Chicago Sports events — the Cubs Convention; the Bulls hosting Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat at the United Center on Saturday night; the Bears hosting the Seahawks in the NFC Divisional Playoff Round on Sunday afternoon; and the the Blackhawks hosting the division-rival Nashville Predators at the United Center on Sunday night.  WOW!

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Cubs Sign Former Outfielder Reed Johnson to Minor League Deal — Wrigley Field 1/13/11

Posted on 13 January 2011 by Lou

The Chicago Cubs have signed Reed Johnson to a minor league contract – he will be a 2011 Spring Training Invitee.  Johnson played in 102 for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010.  Johnson had a .262 batting average with 2 home runs.  Johnson played a pivotal role in the Cubs winning the NL Central Division in both 2007 and 2008.  It is uncertain if Johnson will be healthy and productive enough to secure an opening day roster position.  But Johnson certainly has a great attitude and is always a productive veteran to have in the clubhouse.  We’ll keep you posted with any updates on Johnson’s health and his chances of making the team at the end of March…

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Cubs Sign Koyie Hill to 1-Year Deal — Wrigley Field 1/12/11

Posted on 12 January 2011 by Lou

The Chicago Cubs and Catcher Koyie Hill have agreed upon a 1-year, $875,000 deal for the 2011 MLB schedule.  The 2 sides avoid salary arbitration with the announcement of the deal.  You gotta love Hills sentiments about having the negotiations over — “In the bottom of my heart, I would probably scrape every penny I have to pay for a chance to do this.  Contract negotiations is something that’s part of the game, but I’m happy it’s over, I’m happy I’m a Cub and I’m happy the Cubs organization thinks enough of me to want to have me back.”  Nice — can we get more guys like this please?!

Hill started 60 games for the Cubs in 2010.  Hill had a .214 batting average with1 home run and 17 RBI’s.  Hill’s best season was the year before when he played in 83 games for the Cubs with Geovany Soto sidelined with numerous injuries during the 2009 campaign.  Hill batted .237 with a .312 on-base percentage that year with 2 HR’s and 24 RBI’s.  But he was praised more for handling the pitching staff with ease, even catching 26 straight games from July through August.

Hill is a great addition to have in the Cubs locker room.  This is a great keep for the Cubs and hopefully they can work something out for the next 2-3 years to keep Hill in the mix…

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Fernando Perez & Zachary Rosscup Part of Garza Deal Too — Wrigley Field 1/10/11

Posted on 10 January 2011 by Lou

Outfielder Fernando Perez and Pitcher Zachary Rosscup were also part of the Matt Garza deal.  What can we come to expect from Perez and Rosscup?  Here’s a little insight.

Perez’ best attribute is his speed. In his 1st season in the minor leagues – in the Midwest League back in 2005 – Perez stole 57 bases.  He moved up a level each season and stole 43 bases in 2008 for the Rays’ Triple-A team in Durham, North Carolina.  Perez was called up to the major league team in September and was even added to the Rays’ post-season roster that year (he had 9 at-bats in the World Series that October).  Since then, however, Perez has struggled with injuries.  He missed most of 2009 with a dislocated wrist and he played in only 116 games for Durham in 2010.  He had a .223 batting average in 2010, but he did steal 24 bases in 31 tries.  The Cubs hope that Perez will come into 2011 Spring Training rested and healthy.  He could serve as a 4th or 5th outfielder and be a late-innings option to steal a base when the Cubs are down a run.

Rosscup is only 22 years.  He pitched in the Rookie League in 2009 – 2.68 ERA in 40+ innings pitched.  He did not pitch during the 2010 season until early July because of injuries.  He posted a 3.03 in 9 games in the Gulf Coast League in 2010.  He struck out almost 1 batter per game and pitched well down the stretch in 2010 – he limited players to a .205 batting average against.  Rosscup will likely pitch out of the bullpen for the Cubs in the minor leagues in 2011.

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Cubs Convention Right Around the Corner — Wrigley Field 1/8/11

Posted on 08 January 2011 by Lou

The annual Cubs Convention is right around the corner – next weekend January 14-16 at the Hilton Chicago on Michigan Avenue.  Festivities starts at 5PM on Friday January 14th.  The Cubs anticipate that over 50 current and former Cubs players, coaches and prospects will be present at the 3-day weekend event.

Some of the highlights include:

The Ricketts Family Forum will kick off the activities on Saturday, January 15th.  The Ricketts will be there to talk about the current team and they will be available to talk about the club’s plans for the future.

General Manager Jim Hendry, Special Assistant Greg Maddux, Assistant GM Randy Bush and Manager Mike Quade will be available for comments and questions in a session called “Meet Cubs Baseball Management”.

Quade will return for another session called the “Q Factor”.  Quade and his staff — Mark Riggins, Rudy Jaramillo, Lester Strode, Ivan DeJesus, Bob Dernier and Dave Keller — will discuss how they plan to tackle the 2011 MLB schedule.

And in the “Dominican Way of Life” session, Aramis Ramirez, Starlin Castro, Carlos Pena and Oneri Fleita (the Cubs player development director) will discuss their transition from life in the Dominican Republic to life in the United States.  Fleita will also offer some insight into how the Cubs scout and develop international players for the major leagues.

All in all it should be another great Cubs convention weekend.  Plus, with all proceeds from the convention benefiting Chicago Cubs Charities, what more can you ask for…

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Cubs Acquire Garza, But Give Up Prospects Galore to Make it Happen — Wrigley Field 1/7/11

Posted on 07 January 2011 by Lou

Will this move be a sort of “redemption” for GM Jim Hendry, or will it ultimately cost him his job?  Hendry and the Cubs have 2 years to figure it all out.

The Cubs and Rays have agreed upon a trade that will send ace Matt Garza from the Rays to the Cubs.  Garza has emerged as a legitimate major league pitcher and he put an exclamation point on his 2010 numbers with a no-hitter back on July 26th – the 1st in Rays’ history.  During the 2010 MLB schedule, Garza went 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.  He is only 27 years old and he has never had an ERA over 4.00 — that in the power hitting AL East with the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays.  He has started at least 30 games each of the last 3 seasons and he does not free agency for another 3 years — that means a nice competitive salary for a top of the line starter.  He will likely earn a raise from his 2010 $3.35 million salary.

The Cubs did have to give up several top prospects, but as we know with prospects – even can’t miss ones (see Mark Prior) — you just never really know.

Starter Chris Archer was the key to this deal.  He is only 22 years old and he was the Cubs best minor league pitcher in 2010 — 15-3 record with a 2.34 ERA in 28 games at the Single-A and Double-A levels.

Outfielder Brandon Guyer was the Cubs top position player in the minor leagues in 2010.  He had a .344 batting average with 13 HR’s and 58 RBI’s for Double-A Tennessee and is only 24 years old.

Shortstop Hak-Ju Lee had a promising season at Single-A Peoria – .282 batting average with 32 stolen bases.  But let’s face it, Starlin Castro is going to be playing shortstop for the Cubs for years and years to come, so unless Castro was willing to move over to 3rd base to make room for Lee, Lee was going to have to be dealt or switch positions in order to get to the big leagues.

The Rays also got Sam Fuld who is your prototypical reserve outfielder at the major league level.  And Catcher Robinson Chirinos has had success at both the Double-A (.318 batting average, 15 HR’s and 64 RBI’s) and Triple-A (.364 batting average, 3 HR’s and 10 RBI’s) levels in 2010.

Given the salary constraints the Hendry has placed on the Cubs pocketbooks for the foreseeable future (at least 2 more seasons, and even then, the Cubs will still owe Alfonso Soriano 1 more year of salary during the 2013 MLB season), this was a nice little move for the Cubs.  As we know, anything can happen with “top prospects”.  Sure Castro, Colvin and Cashner look like major league fixtures for the foreseeable, but at least for the Cubs, that seems more like the exception to the rule to have a top prospect be successful at the major league level during the Hendry regime.  The Cubs have been better of late making good draft selections and developing those players within the minor league system, so even though they have traded away a few potentially “nice pieces” they should be able to “re-stock” those pieces if they have been doing their job the right way.

The addition of Garza gives the Cubs a nice duo at the type, assuming Carlos Zambrano has his head on straight in 2011.  Ryan Dempster is a nice #3 and if Randy Wells can bounce back from a disappointing sophomore slump, you have a nice 4-man rotation going.  Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny or Andrew Cashner would round out the 5th spot in the rotation.  Assuming Gorzelanny and Cashner are healthy and look good in the spring, that could also give the Cubs a little flexibility in moving a Silva or Zambrano (even if it means eating some of their salary) to replenish the farm system a little.  A deal with the New York Yankees who still don’t know if Andy Pettitte is going to return for 2011 or retire seems like a perfect fit for a move like that.  Only time will tell if this is the move that saves Hendry’s career…

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Cubs Spring Training Tickets Now On Sale — Wrigley Field Mesa, AZ 1/6/11

Posted on 06 January 2011 by Lou

2011 Cubs Spring Training tickets for home games at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, Arizona are now on sale.  Key games of note include – Chicago White Sox on Thursday March 24th at 1:05PM; the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants on Sunday March 20th at 1:05PM; and the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday March 6th at 1:05PM.  The Cubs also play 2 games at Cashman Field in Las Vegas during Spring Training 2011 — v. Cincinnati Reds on Saturday March 12th at 1:05PM and v. Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday March 13th at 1:05PM.  HoHoKam Park has a 13,074 seating capacity which includes approximately 8,000 reserved seats and 2,000 bleachers seats, as well as an outfield lawn section which holds up to 2,575 additional fans.  Get your tickets today before it is too late…

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Lee Smith & Rafael Palmeiro Denied Chance at Hall of Fame — Wrigley Field 1/5/11

Posted on 05 January 2011 by Lou

Former Cubs players — Lee Smith and Rafael Palmeiro — were both denied entrance into the Hall of Fame.  Smith received just 45 percent of the vote while Palmeiro received 11 percent of the vote.  Palmeiro is 1 of only 4 players to have at least 3,000 hits (3,020) and 500 home runs (569), but his legacy is marred by the fact that he tested positive for steroids back in July 2005, just months after he testified that he never used steroids during his professional baseball career in front of a congressional panel in March 2005.   Smith missed out for the 9th time — he was baseball’s saves leader at the time of his retirement with 478 saves and 802 games finished.  Trevor Hoffman (601 saves and 856 games finished) and Mariano Rivera (559 saves and 829 games finished) have each surpassed Smith in those categories.

The 2011 Hall of Fame Class will include just 2 players — Roberto Alomar who garnered 90% of the vote and Bert Blyleven who received 79.7% of the vote…

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