Posted on 13 December 2014 by Lou
As if the week wasn’t busy enough for the Chicago Cubs with the franchise-changing free agent signings of starting pitchers Jon Lester and Jason Hammel and the equally important trade for Catcher Miguel Montero. On Friday, the Chicago Cubs announced a new partial TV deal with ABC7/WLS-TV in Chicago. ABC7 will broadcast 25 games each season for the next 5 years through the 2019 MLB season. ABC7 will pay the Cubs $750,000 per game. There is no online component to the deal, so anyone who doesn’t have Channel 7 won’t be able to see the games that air solely on ABC7 TV. Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney raved about the new relationship with ABC7-TV — “We are excited to have WLS-TV as our new television broadcast partner. WLS-TV has established itself as a trusted voice in Chicago, and we look forward to a new chapter of Cubs baseball airing on the flagship station of the ABC television network.”
Comcast Sportsnet Chicago will broadcast roughly half of all Cubs games this season. A select number of games will be televised on national telecasts like ESPN or FOX. So after the ABC7-TV deal, that still leaves approximately 45 games for which the Cubs do not have a television partner to broadcast the games. Kenney has indicated that the Cubs are in discussions will other potential television partners and that news of another deal could be announced soon.
Things are definitely coming together on the north side. Construction around the ballpark continues to steamroll forward and with the “warmish” weather we’ve been having, hopefully that means the Cubs can get back on target for having the Bleachers open in time for the ESPN Sunday Night Game against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 6th. With Jon Lester taking the ball for the 1st time in a Cubs uniform, we need all the fans there ready to go. Go Cubs Go!!!
Posted on 11 December 2014 by Lou
Theo & Co. clearly got the better of Ben Cherington and the Boston Red Sox when the Chicago Cubs lured Jon Lester to the north side with their 6-Year, $155 million deal.
But the Red Sox acted quickly to re-tool their starting pitching staff that was left with just oft-injured Clay Buchholz, newly acquired Joe Kelly and a number of prospects who made their major league debuts in 2014.
The Red Sox immediately acquired their lefty to replace Lester in Wade Miley from the Arizona Diamondbacks. They had to give up Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster to bring the established Miley (8-12 with a 4.34 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in 2014) to Boston.
Then the Red Sox cleared some room in its outfield for the newly acquired Hanley Ramirez by dealing Yoenes Cespedes to the Detroit Tigers to acquire the 26-year old Rick Porcello. Porcello burst onto the scene as a 20-year old starter back in 2009 for the Detroit Tigers and has really come into his own of late. He went 15-13 in 2014 with a 3.43 ERA and 1.23 WHIP.
Finally the Red Sox signed their former top pitching prospect Justin Masterson to a 1-year, $9.5 million free agent deal. Masterson excelled under current Manager John Farrell’s tutelage as Red Sox pitching coach several years ago and hope he can rebound from a disappointing, injury-laden 2014 MLB season.
Kudos to the Red Sox for having a nice Plan B in place to execute once they knew they were out of the Jon Lester sweepstakes.
The Cubs have stayed the course this off-season after their acquisitions of Jon Lester, Jason Hammel and Miguel Montero. I know people are calling for Theo & Co. to go “all-in” on 2015 after the Lester signing, but I’m all for staying patient and seeing what we have in 2015. Let’s add a veteran bat or 2 and call it a day. Let’s leave room for the young prospects to get some important development time at the major league level during 2015. If Javier Baez improves his plate-discipline, if Jorge Soler doesn’t have any setbacks and if Kris Bryant comes out firing on all cylinders come May 1, then who knows, maybe the Cubs do make a run. But if not, it will still be a productive year. A year to build on and a year to catapult the Cubs into World Series contention in 2016…
Posted on 10 December 2014 by Lou
Finally, late last night the Cubs got the news they wanted. Free agent lefty Jon Lester had decided to go with the Cubs. Theo & Co. set their sights on Lester whom they knew so well from their days in Boston and they did what it took to convince that Lester that is was now his time to help lead a young Cubs squad to the promised land – a World Series Championship. Lester was a “young pup” in the Red Sox organization when new GM Theo Epstein helped the Red Sox break the curse with an improbable 2004 World Series title over the St. Louis Cardinals. And just a few short years later, Lester led the Red Sox to a 2nd World Series title in 2007 with a sweep of the Colorado Rockies in the Fall Classic. And he won a 2nd World Series ring just 2 years ago with the Red Sox. Now it’s his turn to help the Chicago Cubs break their 100+ year curse. How sweet it would be to do it with his friends Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer at the helm.
Sure the $155 million had a lot to do with signing with the Cubs. But Lester is an analytical guy and he wanted to make sure that Theo & Co. had a clear plan for the organization as a whole. It didn’t hurt that the Cubs hired Joe Maddon just 1 month ago. It didn’t hurt that he already knew players within the Cubs organization – he and Ryan Dempster bonded during their short time together in Boston and Dempster just joined the Cubs front office; Jason Hammel just signed a 2-year deal with the Cubs and he and Lester were teammates on the A’s during the 2nd half of 2014; and David Ross (his “personal catcher” with the Red Sox) has had talks with Theo & Co. about joining the Cubs as a backup. Beyond that, the Cubs went out and upgraded their catcher position with a trade for Miguel Montero hours before they learned that Lester had made his decision to come to the north side. It didn’t hurt that Lester knows that Theo & Co. are straight shooters who have won before. And it didn’t hurt that Theo & Co. could also sell Lester on how great Chicago is. They had long ties with the Boston area and it probably wasn’t an easy decision for them to leave 3 years ago. But they did and they have embraced Cubs fans, the city and all it has to offer. And they could make that clear to Lester — personally being able to tell him that sure Chicago was different than Boston, but it was just as good, if not better.
It was a perfect match. The Cubs loved that at 30, Lester just had his best career year — 16-11 overall, 2.45 ERA with a 1.10 WHIP. Even better than that, the Cubs know he can perform in the post-season. In 14 appearances, Lester is 6-4 with a crazy good 2.57 ERA. It gets even better looking at his World Series numbers — 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA.
We will definitely write more about the moves over the next few days. So much to digest, and all signs point to the Cubs remaining active this off-season tweaking the roster here and there leading up to Spring Training. After missing out on Russell Martin, this was huge for the Cubs to get their #1 free agent target. What a day it was – checking twitter every few seconds, debunking false rumors, hoping Lester would pick us… And the he did.
We really wish it was Easter Sunday Night 2015 already — Joe Maddon coming out of the dugout with his 1st regular season Cubs lineup card — Jon Lester standing on the top step of the dugout getting ready to grab the ball for his start in a Cubs uniform at the Friendly Confines — the Cubs beating their hated rival St. Louis Cardinals and the Blue W Flag flying atop the new constructed outfield bleachers… Can’t help imagining that same scene on a cool fall night in late October — Go Cubs Go!!!
Posted on 09 December 2014 by Lou
Jeff Samardzija is on his way back to Chicago! No, not with the Cubs but with the White Sox on the South Side. White Sox GM Rick Hahn pulled off a silent strike – landing Jeff Samardzija to slot in right behind Chris Sale as his 1-A ace to make a terrific 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. With both the Cubs and A’s in 2014, Samardzija went 7-13 with a combined 2.99 ERA.
Hahn also addressed the White Sox poor 2014 bullpen by outbidding everyone else for the services of the Yankees former closer David Robertson. The White Sox sigtned Robertson to a 4-year, $46 million deal to help anchor the back of a bullpen that sported a 4.28 ERA and saved just 36 games during the season. Robertson himself saved 39 games for the Yankees in 2014 and had a respectable 3.08 ERA. The 29-year old has a 2.81 career ERA over 7 seasons.
The White Sox are clearly going for it in 2015, which is a little suprising in the tough AL Central. It is tough to jump over 1 good team in the MLB landscape today, let alone 3 good teams in the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians. By trading for Samardzija, the White Sox basically gave up their top prospect infielder – Marcus Semien – and a good starting pitcher prospect – Chris Bassitt. Semien was close to major league ready and was expected to debut with theSox at some point in 2015. Samardzija has already said he will test the free agent market after the season, so if the White Sox don’t resign him, they would have given up their top prospect for a 1 year rental. And signing a closer to any deal with an average salary over $10 million never seems like a good idea to me. But then again, the White Sox have always been a little unconventional. Attendance on the south side has plummeted to all-time lows over the last 2 horrific seasons (99 losses in 2013 and 89 losses in 2014), so Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf clearly thought it was time to make some bold moves to get back into playoff contention. I definitely would not have made these moves, but when you are also competing with a Cubs organization which by all accounts is on the cusp of a long period of sustained quality play buoyed by the depth of its minor league prospects, Reinsdorf was stuck between a rock and a hard place. And if these moves help the White Sox squeeze in another World Championship Title in 2015 or 2016 before the Cubs run begins, Reinsdrof will be remembered for doing everything he could to help the White Sox win each and every season he held the reins. And I give Reinsdrof and the Sox credit for going out on a limb like this — make something happen instead of waiting for good things to happen.
And I am writing about this in part because it does relate to what the Cubs plan to do this off-season. Theo & Co. have been active in acquiring young talent over the last 3 seasons. But it’s finally time for the Cubs to make some bold moves of their own.
This fall/winter, I finally feel like they are being more proactive in doing everything possible to field a complete team for new Manager Joe Maddon at the major league level. Tommy La Stella has major league experience and can hopefully improve the Cubs on-base percentage during the regular season, even if he doesn’t play everyday. Jason Hammel rebounded nicely under the tutelage of Chris Bosio during the 1st half of 2014 and hopefully he can regain that form with the Cubs in 2015. If the Cubs can somehow outbid everyone else for Jon Lester’s services, they will have the ace they have long coveted. And there are also rumors swirling about the Cubs pursuing catcher Miguel Montero from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Sure Wellington Castillo is a solid backstop, but the Cubs missed out on Russell Martin and clearly think that Montero is an upgrade from Castillo both for his in-game pitch-calling and for his left-handed bat to create a more balanced offensive lineup for Maddon. Theo & Co. are definitely not sitting back this winter and let’s hope they continue to explore options as the winter meetings progress this week. There are no sure things when you sign a free agent or make a trade, but just the same – there are no sure things when you sit back and wait for good things to happen.
Stay tuned on Lester — heated negotiations between multiple teams over the last 24 hours have likely driven the price up more and delayed Lester’s ultimate decision…
Posted on 08 December 2014 by Lou
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…
Posted on 04 December 2014 by Lou
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.
Posted on 02 December 2014 by Lou
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!!!
Posted on 26 November 2014 by Lou
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…
Posted on 26 November 2014 by Lou
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…
Posted on 24 November 2014 by Lou
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?
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.
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?