Archive | Chicago Cubs Management

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Cubs Sign Jason Hammel to a 2 Year, $18 million Deal – Let the Games Begin…

Posted on 08 December 2014 by Lou

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Finally.  The Chicago Cubs signed former Cub Jason Hammel to a 2-year, $18 million deal today.  The Cubs have a club option for a 3rd year or there is a $2 million buyout if the sides decide to part ways before the 2017 MLB season.

Hammel performed well for the Cubs in 2014, going 8-5 with a sparkling 2.98 ERA during the 1st three months of the season.  But the Cubs traded Hammel and Jeff Samardzija to the Oakland A’s on July 4th in exchange for shortstop Addison Russell and outfielder Bill McKinney.  Russell is one of the Cubs top prospects behind 3rd baseman Kris Bryant and McKinney has the makings of becoming a star outfielder with a great knack for getting on base.

Hammel struggled with the A’s, going 2-6 with a 4.26 ERA during the 2nd half of the season.  But the Cubs are confident that he can return to form back in his comfortable Chicago surroundings and with pitching coach Chris Bosio who was credited with helping Hammel regain his form.  Hammel has also pitched for current Cubs manager Joe Maddon when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays and he was Jon Lester’s teammate with the A’s during the dramatic 2nd half of the 2014 season.  Hammel is hoping that Lester becomes his teammate again if he decides to sign a big free-agent deal with the Northsiders.

Speaking of Lester, multiple reports indicated that he will make a decision sometime during the next 24 hours.  I really hope so — this has dragged on way longer than I thought, with the emergence of the Los Angeles Dodgers into the mix likely driving up the price way past the $150 million I thought would be a fair price for Lester’s services.  I still feel like Lester will choose either the Red Sox or Cubs, but if the Dodgers throw in a 7th year, passing up $170+ million will be hard for Lester to do, even if it means going to a “less comfortable” situation.

Stay tuned — we’ll keep you posted as soon as anything breaks…

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The Moment We’ve All Been Waiting For – Cubs Sign… Dave Martinez?!

Posted on 04 December 2014 by Lou

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It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for since the Chicago Cubs hired Joe Maddon as its manager a few short weeks ago.  I know we’ve all been waiting patiently for this big announcement, but it was definitely worth the wait.  Joe Maddon and the Cubs officially hired Dave Martinez as the Cubs new bench coach.  What?  Were you expecting to hear something else?

Martinez served as Maddon’s bench coach with the Tampa Bay Rays since 2008.  Martinez bumped current bench coach Brandon Hyde over to a new role as Cubs first base coach.  Martinez was under contract with the Rays for 1 more season, but he chose to resign when the Rays passed him over for the Rays managerial position after Maddon left.  It’s unclear if the Cubs received permission from the Rays to speak with Martinez or if any compensation will go the Rays’s way with the hiring.  Seeing as the Rays passed him over and it is not a guarantee that the new Rays’ manager would keep Martinez as his bench coach, it only seems fair that the Rays would let Martinez talk to anyone about a new job, even the hated Cubs.

The Cubs drafted Martinez in the 3rd round of the 1983 draft.  Martinez had a 16-year major league career and is familiar with the rigors of playing at Wrigley Field.

Good news, right?

Oh yeah, still no word on that other guy being bantered about all over the internet this week.  Although now it seems like 2 more teams are officially in the mix for Jon Lester’s services — the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Stay tuned…

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Cubs Expected To Tender Contract To Travis Wood

Posted on 02 December 2014 by Lou

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The Chicago Cubs are expected to tender a contract to starting pitcher Travis Wood before tonight’s deadline.  Although Wood had a rough 2014 (8-13 record with a 5.03 ERA), the Cubs will hope that he can return to his 2013 form when he was named a National League All-Star.

The Cubs have 9 other arbitration-eligible players for whom they need to make decisions.  The list includes pitchers Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop, Wesley Wright and Felix Doubront; Catchers Wellington Castillo and John Baker; Outfielders Justin Ruggiano and Chris Coghlan; and infielder Luis Valbuena.

Once we get the final word tonight, we will give you all the details tomorrow.  Contracts with these 10 players can be negotiated at any time through spring training — typically the team agrees to one-year deals with the players to whom they tender contracts.

Still no word on Jon Lester either.  The winter meetings kick off in San Diego next week, so I would think we’ll have an answer at some point by the end of next week, if not sooner.

Go Cubs Go!!!

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Cubs Have Offered Jon Lester a 6-Year Deal Worth At Least $135 Million

Posted on 26 November 2014 by Lou

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Finally we have a leak – can’t believe it took this long.

Several news reports have the Cubs offering Jon Lester a 6-year deal worth at least $135 million.  That’s more than the Red Sox have supposedly offered (somewhere between $110-120 million for 6 years too), but it doesn’t mean this race is over.  Not by any means.

Lester met with the Atlanta Braves late last week.  Lester is also meeting with St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants at some point next week.  And who knows if the New York Yankees will end up getting into the mix at some point too.

Lester’s agents have clearly done a phenomenal job drumming up business for their prime client, not rushing into any quick deals and trying to leak reports of future meetings to drag this on as long as possible.  That means teams bidding against themselves potentially as the Red Sox and Cubs – the 2 front runners – try to land their prized left ace.

I still think the Red Sox nip the Cubs with a $130-140 million deal, but if the Cubs are truly willing to lay it all on the line, especially after missing out on Catcher Russell Martin, it would not surprise me if the Theo & Co. make a crazy offer just to land their man.

Stay tuned – hopefully we’ll have an answer by the 1st week or 2 of December…

Theo_Epstein

 

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Will Cubs, Maddon Hire Dave Martinez as Next Bench Coach?

Posted on 26 November 2014 by Lou

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Dave Martinez resigned as the Tampa Bay Rays bench coach after he was passed over for the managerial position this past week. Will he join the Cubs staff next?

There is only one opening left on the staff and Brandon Hyde is currently under contract as the Cubs bench coach.  Martinez has served Maddon well as his bench coach in Tampa for the past 7 years and the 2 have a great working relationship.

Maybe the teams finds a different role for Hyde to allow Maddon to bring in Martinez as his bench coach?  Makes sense to me, especially with the recent hiring of Henry Blanco as the new “Quality Assurance Coach”.  Both Blanco and Martinez have played as Cubs at Wrigley Field, so they know what it’s like and can impart their vast knowledge on the plethora of young stars getting ready to make their mark on the north side very soon.

Stay tuned — The Rays have already filed a “tampering grievance” with Major League Baseball over whether or not the Cubs “induced” Maddon to opt-out of his contract in order to take the Cubs job.  If Maddon and the Cubs end up hiring Martinez as the new bench coach for the Cubs, I’m sure we will here more of the same…

 

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This Silence is Torture…

Posted on 24 November 2014 by Lou

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While other teams keep getting better, the Cubs still just keep waiting around for something good to happen.

Sure we traded reliever Arodys Vizcaino to acquire Tommy La Stella 8 days ago, but since then, all that’s happened is a non-occurrence — we didn’t get Russell Martin, our #1 free agent target. The Cubs next set their sights on free agent pitcher on Jon Lester and from most accounts, Theo & Co. could swing and miss on that one too.  Lester will likely resign with the team that traded him to the Oakland A’s this past summer – the Boston Red Sox, unless the Cubs blow him out of the water with a contract that he just can’t turn down.  And if that’s what it takes to get him, is it really worth it to overpay a 31-year old starter by $20-30 million just so you can appease your fan base with a move?

The Competition

Speaking of the Red Sox, they announced 2 big free agent signings today (maybe desperate ones at that) to land Pablo Sandoval (5 years, close to $100 million) and Hanley Ramirez (4 years, $88 million, with a 5th vesting year).  The Red Sox hitting was inconsistent and bad in 2014, thus leading to a last place finish, so the Red Sox addressed their hitting needs with 2 big signings.  Maybe they’ll work or maybe they won’t.  But they focused on a need and they did something about it.  Assuming they sign Lester and trade away a few position players for another high level starter, the Red Sox could have the best winter of any team in baseball.  The Cards traded for Jason Hey ward. The Marlins locked up their mega star Giancarlo Stanton with a mega $300+ million deal.  And even the Cubs’ cross-town rivals have quietly added 2 important pieces — lefty Zach Duke to give some stability to bullpen and Adam LaRoche to give some protection for Current Rookie of The Year Jose Abreu.  Everyone seems to be in on the action except for the Cubs.

Preaching Patience

I understand that there is still plenty of time this winter to get things done.  And I keep reminding myself that ever though the team is improving and should be better under the guidance of Joe Maddon, in all likelihood 2015 really isn’t the year that everything will click.  But I hate sitting back waiting for things to happen like this.  It reminds me of another Chicago sports franchise hoarding their assets telling fans to be patient while it all comes together.  The Chicago Bulls had a healthy MVP Derrick Rose and the “Bench Mob” leading them up against the hated Lebron James and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.  Other teams were courting our bench-mob “assets”, but John Paxson and Gar Forman and Co. kept telling everyone “Sorry — they’re untouchable”.  Well look what happened there – Lebron James single-handedly stopped Rose in that finals. And after 2 Rose knee injuries, the Bulls haven’t been back to the Eastern Conference Finals and all those “assets” are long gone with nothing received in return.  If we can’t seem to lure a free agent here, then maybe Theo & Co. need to get creative.  Sure Starlin Castro is a 3-time all-star, but maybe he could land us a Jordan Zimmerman or Doug Fister in return.  Sure Javier Baez might go on to be a stud, but if he can be part of a package for a high level starter, let’s do it.  If we truly have the deepest farm system in all of baseball, then using 2 or 3 of those chips this off-season to get better in 2015 should not really make that big of a difference in the long run.  I’m not saying that Theo & Co. should just trade away chips on a whim, but if the right deal is there, they shouldn’t be afraid to make a move like that.  I just don’t want to be sitting here in 2016 watching Javier Baez still striking out 200+ times while hitting .225 while his trade value plummets, when we could have used him to acquire a key asset in winter 2014.  Do you?

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Life After Russell Martin – What Happens Next?

Posted on 18 November 2014 by Lou

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Now that Catcher Russell Martin is officially off the table, what does Theo & Co. do next?

The 1st move is trying to land free agent lefty Jon Lester.  Rumors have it that the Cubs brass are meeting with Lester here in Chicago TODAY! Could we hear an announcement at some point in the next 24 hours?

It is going to be hard to pry Lester away from his comfort zone in Boston.  Sure Red Sox owner John Henry “insulted” Lester last off-season with his embarrassing 5-year, $70 million offer, but the Red Sox are sure to put forth a better effort this time around.  Gotta think the Red Sox will come back with a 6-year, $132 million deal ($22 per season). SO, if the Cubs really really WANT Lester, then they are going to have to top that by a bunch.  A couple of more million a year might do the trick, but is it really worth it for the 31-year old lefty.

Theo & Co. always play it close to the vest. His recent comments on signing free agents is indicative of this stance: “Like most teams, we’ll always miss our on more free agents than we’ll sign. That’s just the nature of it. Free agency is not for the faint of heart. You have to go in knowing that you might look silly by pursing the player and not landing him and that’s OK. We’re prepared for that… The key to thriving in free agency is acknowledging all the risks, acknowledging all the variables, staying true to some attachment to value.”

The Cubs “stayed true to value” by not breaking the bank to sign Russell Martin.  And in reality, they didn’t really need Martin at $17 million a year.  Wellington Castillo is serviceable and he is holding down the fort until Kyle Schwarber and/or Mark Zagunis are ready to take over the helm in a year or two or three.

But an elite starting pitcher is a different story. Lester fits the bill even if you have to overpay him a bit. He is durable. He is a solid guy in the clubhouse. He can pitch in the post-season (2 World Series titles with the Red Sox). And even if he tails off at 35 and 36 (the final 2 years of his deal), if you really think you have a chance to win it all in 2016, 2017, etc., than Lester IS a perfect fit.  Give him 2015 to get used to Chicago and the rabid fan base and what it’s like to play at Wrigley — when there isn’t that much pressure.  And than go for broke in 2016 when you sign another top notch elite starter to go 1-2-3 with in the post-season with Lester, Jake Arrieta and Ace #3 to be named later.

Let’s make it happen Theo & Co. Let’s just make it happen…

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Not the Way Theo & Co. Drew It Up…

Posted on 17 November 2014 by Lou

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Theo & Co. and the Cubs thought that maybe they had caught the rest of the league by surprise with a “big trade” late Sunday afternoon.  The Cubs dealt Arodys Vizcaino back to the Atlanta Braves (they had acquired him just a few months after Tommy John surgery during the 2012 trade deadline for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson) for 2nd baseman Tommy La Stella.  I have my issues with this trade for a few reasons (see below), but was glad that they were being proactive before the “big moves” this winter.

I was still licking my chops for the big signings of Russell Martin and Jon Lester sometime this week and maybe even a bigger splash with a blockbuster trade for a Cole Hamels, Giancarlo Stanton or a Jason Heyward.

But then all hell broke loose on Monday.  The Braves announced that they had traded Heyward to our hated rivals — the St. Louis Cardinals.  The Cards had had to give up Shelby Miller for Heyward, but it was still like getting stabbed in the back.

Then the Toronto Blue Jays announced that they had enticed “our” catcher, Canadian Russell Martin up across the border with the promise of a 5th guaranteed year and a whopping $82 million. Ouch.  Guess that was too rich for our blood.

Now our big trade for uber-on-base guy La Stella isn’t even one of the Top 20 ESPN MLB stories anymore…

That leads me back to my issues with the La Stella trade.  Don’t we have enough middle infielders already — Starlin Castro, Javier Baez, Addison Russell and Arismendy Alcantara?  Why do we need another guy there?  Sure I love his on-base percentage numbers, but his numbers dipped big time after teams had time to really scout him.  In his 1st 46 games in the majors last season, La Stella hit .297 with a .747 OPS.  But check out what happened in his final 47 games of the season — .201 batting average with a .534 OPS.  Not good.

Couple that with giving up one of our “power arms” who really helped solidify our bullpen in 2014, this trade concerns me.  Theo & Co. have raved up Vizcaino and how good he looked in Triple-A in 2014 and how close he was to really contributing at the big league level.  You’re gonna give that up for a utility infielder who isn’t gonna play everyday?  No way.

This wreaks of a trade which leads to another trade.  Maybe Baez or Alcantara or both are going to be moved in order to acquire a Cole Hamels, a Jordan Zimmerman or a Zach Wheeler.  Having La Stella step in as your everyday 2nd baseman is a conservative, stable move, full well knowing that you’ll have Kris Bryant up pretty soon in April to bolster your offense.

Guess we’ll have to be patient and see what happens.  We’ll keep you posted as soon as anything breaks…

 

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So Cool — Massive Video Scoreboard Installation & Bleachers Renovation Underway

Posted on 13 November 2014 by Lou

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Finally – construction has begun in earnest to install a new massive Video Scoreboard in left field for the first time ever at Wrigley Field.  We’ll finally get to see those controversial video replays while STILL AT the Friendly Confines — instead of having to wait to get home to watch Sportscenter later that night.

The Cubs have also demolished the left and right field bleachers.  They will be rebuilt with wider concourses and more amenities for fans.  Check out these amazing photos of what the ballpark currently looks like…

The Ricketts Family has gotta be salivating right now.  Let’s just hope we have a warm winter so this can all get finished before opening day in April 2015 against the hated St. Louis Cardinals…

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Cubs Pitching Plan – Will It Work?

Posted on 12 November 2014 by Lou

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With the GM meetings underway, it will be interesting to see what groundwork has been laid for a potential Cubs pitching move in the coming weeks.

While all the initial hoopla surrounded the Cubs meeting with Russell Martin and his agents for a potential free agent signing, Theo & Co. have been pretty evasive on the Cubs pitching front.

Will they sign Jon Lester or Max Scherzer to a long-term deal?

Will they fore-go the 2 top targets and try to land James Shields with a more team-friendly deal?

Or will the Cubs trade away a prospect or 2 to try to lure Jordan Zimmerman away from the Nationals or Cole Hamels away from the Phillies?

Or will they play it safe and go after one or 2 lower-tier starters to fill the gap for a year or 2.  I could see Jason Hammel back with the Cubs on a 2-year deal or a Brian Anderson sign a 1-year deal in the hopes of resurrecting his career under the guidance of pitching coach Chris Bosio and the Cubs?

There are clearly a lot of options for the Cubs to pursue.  Initially, I would go for Jon Lester.  He’s durable, he can pitch in October and he should be cheaper than Max Scherzer who seems to just want to go to the team that will pay him the most money.  I steer clear of Shields.  I hate to trade away any players right now for a Hamels or Zimmerman.  I like Zimmerman a lot better than Hamels for some reason, but he will be a free agent at the end of 2015. Let’s stay the course and make a move to sign him in free agency next year without having to part with any of our core players.

Let’s keep our young players intact in 2015 to see what new manager Joe Maddon can do with them for a full season.  Too much player development at the major league level still needs to happen with Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, not to mention some of the young pitchers ready to burst onto the scene in 2015 and later.  There will plenty of bumps in the road for some, if not all of them, so there is no need to rush a decision right now, just to appease a fan base.

With a lot of quotes trolling out there, I think my favorite one is from Cubs GM Jed Hoyer: “We’ve obviously spent three years building up our farm system through a lot of painful trades and Drafts. The idea we would so rapidly deplete it to go for it is pretty unlikely.” Amen to that.

Stay tuned Cubs fans, stay tuned…

Joe_Maddon

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