Posted on 02 March 2011 by Lou
The Cubs finally got their 1st spring win, defeating the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants 3-2 on Tuesday. There were some positives and some negatives as there often are this early in the spring.
Ryan Dempster looked sharp in his 1st spring start. Dempster notched 3 K’s in 3 innings of work. He gave up 1 ER on 2 hits and a walk.
Todd Wellemeyer worked 2 scoreless innings and picked up the win in relief. He gave up 1 hit and notched 2 strikeouts.
Casey Coleman, Jeff Stevens and Esmailin Cardidad tossed scoreless innings to preserve the win.
The Cubs bats were silent against Tim Lincecum – the Giants ace threw 3 perfect innings wityh 2 K’s in his 1st spring start.
However, the top of the Cubs lineup propelled the club to victory in the top of the 6th inning. Kosuke Fukudome and Starlin Castro started the inning off with singles to set the table for the middle of the lineup. Marlon Byrd tied the game at 1 with an RBI single and then Aramis Ramirez had the game-winning hit with a 2-run double to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead.
One more negative – the Cubs committed 3 more errors and now have 9 errors in just 3 games – what the hell is going on with this club?
The pitching by the regulars has been mostly good so far (except for Matt Garza and Kerry Wood), so that is a good sign. But the bats are just not there yet and the fielding has been downright atrocious. This has gotta be very frustrating for Manager Mike Quade…
Posted on 24 February 2011 by Lou
Manager Mike Quade is sure that Aramis Ramirez will bat 4th in the Cubs lineup each and every day. The rest of the lineup is not so clear. “I see him as such a good RBI guy that it makes sense in the four-hole. He’s a guy who, as much as mizing and matching that I do, he doesn’t figure to be one of the guys I’ll mix and match with. Some guys don’t care [where they are in the lineup], and I know he does. He seems like the four-hole to me because I want him driving in runs. But I’m a grownup and I reserve the right to change my mind.”
Quade has indicated that Starlin Castro will likely hit in the 2-spot. Quade has hinted that Castro could some day be a lead-off hitter, but he doesn’t want to put too much pressure on the youngster, especially in his 2nd year which can often lead to a “sophomore slump.” Quade likes Kosuke Fukudome in the lead-off spot for some reason. He likes the fact that Fukudome makes pitchers throw a lot of pitches, but I think he is just way too inconsistent. He may have a good few weeks or so, but then he has the capability of disappearing for weeks at a time.
It should be interesting as spring progresses. Let’s hope someone emerges to claim that 3rd spot in the lineup. Marlon Byrd seems like the best fit because Carlos Pena and Alfonso Soriano strike out way too much there. But if a guy like Blake DeWitt emerges with a good spring, could we see Quade got with Fukudome, DeWitt and Castro in the top 3 spots? We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything concrete out of Mesa…
Posted on 17 February 2011 by Lou
Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals failed to agree on a long-term deal before the start of spring training this week. Pujols gave the Cardinals brass a hard Wednesday deadline, and that came and went without a new agreement for perhaps the best 1st baseman of all time. Pujols said that he does not want any distractions for his team going-forward, so he and his camp will not entertain further discussions with the Cardinals during the course of the season. Those in the know speculate that Pujols wants a deal similar to the deal that Alex Rodriguez signed with the New York Yankees a few years ago – 10-years, $275 million. The Cardinals have all-but-said that they can’t meet that contract, so does it mean that Pujols will become a free agent at the end of the season?
I find it really hard to believe that Pujols will end up leaving St. Louis, but I guess anything is possible. At 31 years old, this is his final hoorah and his 1st time testing the free agent market, so it would not surprise me to see Pujols entertain offers in November. But if the Cardinals get somewhat close to the highest offer that Pujols receives, you would think that the guy decides to play it “safe” and finish his career with the Cardinals.
That being said, the Cubs better make an attempt to lure Pujols to Chicago despite the fact that they continue to try to shed payroll. With the Carlos Silva, Kosuke Fukudome and Aramis Ramirez contracts coming off the books after the season, the Ricketts family will have money to “play with” – about $38 million. They could easily allocate a good chunk of that to Pujols and still have some more money to sign another free agent or two. That all assumes that young stars like Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin and Blake DeWitt continue to develop and mature during the course of the 2011 MLB season.
We’ll be following the whole Pujols story very closely this year and we’ll keep you posted as soon as anything breaks…
Posted on 08 February 2011 by Lou
Where Geovany Soto and Blake DeWitt fit into the Cubs lineup for 2011 makes for some interesting chats.
Soto rebounded from a down 2009 MLB season with a solid 2010 campaign. Soto had a career-best .393 on-base percentage during the season and hit with HR’s and RBI’s. Will we see Soto higher up in the lineup? Probably not. Soto is better suited to be in the 5, 6 or 7 spot where he can drive in runs. He is a patient hitter, so if runners are on base in front of him, he puts pitchers in a tough position. They can walk him and put more runners on base, or they can pitch to him and risk letting him be the hero by driving in runs. Look for Aramis Ramirez to move up to the 3-spot in 2011, with Carlos Pena batting clean-up, Marlon Byrd in the 5-hole and Soto in the 6-hole.
Blake DeWitt is gearing up for a productive 2010. DeWitt spent the off-season eliminating a tap mechanism from his batting stance. The Cubs hope that the new hitting stance will give DeWitt an extra advantage against pitchers and allow him to be more patient at the plate. Hitting Coach Rudy Jaramillo has already spent time with DeWitt in Arizona, so he should be ahead of the game once camp breaks later this month.
These are all good signs Cubs fans. With expectations so low for this unpredictable ball club, the Cubs could end up surprising some people in 2011…
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.
Posted on 26 November 2010 by Lou
Could Bryan LaHair be the Cubs dark horse option to take over the starting 1st baseman role for the 2011 MLB schedule? LaHair racked up some pretty sweet numbers at Triple-A during the 2010 campaign. He hit .308 with 25 home runs and 81 RBI’s. He also had 30 doubles and he is a left-handed hitter. At 28 years of age, he has bounced around a little bit, but was the Mariners 39th round pick back in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. He signed with the Cubs in December 2009 and just signed another minor league contract to stay with the Cubs through 2011. The Cubs expect LaHair to get plenty of playing time at 1st base this spring and if he continues to rake like he did last year, he could end up on the Cubs major league roster on opening day. It would be a great story and I would love that left-handed power bat in the middle of the Cubs lineup with Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin, Marlon Byrd and Aramis Ramirez…
Posted on 13 November 2010 by Lou
I heard ESPN Radio 1000′s Bruce Levine talking about the Cubs potentially moving Aramis Ramirez this winter for some younger players. Could this really happen?
Gimme a break – this is getting very ugly on the North Side. Bruce Levine who has some great sources inside the Cubs has already said that the Cubs cannot afford the kind of deal (3-years, $40 million) that free agent 1st baseman Adam Dunn will command on the open market this winter. Now, Levine has thrown out the idea that the Cubs could move their biggest run-producer – when healthy – to a team looking for a 3rd baseman (like the Boston Red Sox if they don’t re-sign Adrian Beltre) or potentially a Designated Hitter (like the Boston Red Sox when David Ortiz leaves after the 2011 MLB season). This is truly getting ridiculous.
I know the Cubs want to go young to try and build around Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin, Blake DeWitt and some of the other young pitchers that have had some share of success at the major league level. But to throw the season away before it even starts doesn’t make any sense to me. The NL Central is not the best division, so even with the mediocre team that the Cubs currently have, they could still make a run for the division title if some things fall into place. The Cardinals are 1-Chris Carpenter injury away from being in the middle of the pack. The way Dusty Baker works his starting rotation (see Mark Prior and Kerry Wood with the Cubs), we know that some of the talented, young Reds starters – Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Travis Wood – could quickly end up on the DL or have down seasons because Baker overworked them in 2010. If either the Cards or Reds take a stepback, that opens the door for another team to squeeze to the top. It might not be the Cubs, but it could be.
Sure Ramirez has played in only a total of 206 games during the last 2 seasons combined, but he is still productive when in there. He had 25 HR’s and 83 RBI’s on one of the worst Cubs offensive teams in recent years. Plus, back in 2008 when he played in 149 games, Ramirez smacked 27 HR’s and drove in 111 runs with another 97 runs scored. Even at 33 years of age, the guy can still play and the Cubs will need him to be in the lineup if they expect to compete in 2011. If the Cubs do decide to move Ramirez this off-season, that would mean that the Cubs have officially packed it in for 2011 – that without even throwing a single pitch. And that would be a horrible message for the Ricketts Family to send to the Cubs players and its loyal Cubs fan base…
Posted on 03 November 2010 by Lou
Aramis Ramirez has declined the right in his current contract to file for free agency this off-season. Ramirez will remain on the Cubs in 2011 and he will earn $14.6 million during the course of the MLB schedule. His $14.6 million annual salary is part of the final year of a 5-year, $75 million contract that he signed before the 2007 MLB season. The Cubs have a $15 million team option on Ramirez for the 2012 MLB season, but if they do not exercise that option or agree to an extension with the 3rd baseman, they would owe Ramirez a $2 million buyout.
The Cubs acquired Ramirez from the Pittsburgh Pirates before the 2003 MLB trading deadline. Ramirez has been one of the most productive offensive players for the Cubs since that time. Ramirez’ best year was 2006 when he played in 157 games and hit 38 HR’s with 119 runs and 93 runs scored. He is a career .282 hitter with a .340 on-base percentage, but he has been bothered by injuries each of the last 2 seasons. Ramirez played in only 82 games in 2009 (.317 batting average, 15 HR’s, 65 RBI’s and 46 runs scored) and only 124 games in 2010 (.241 batting average, 25 HR’s, 83 RBI’s and 61 runs scored). He struck out 90 times while walking only 34 times in 465 at-bats, some of the worst stats of his 13-year major league career.
This is a good thing for Cubs fans. Ramirez needs to stay healthy, because when he does, he is one of the best hitters in the game. On the other hand, Ramirez turned 32 years old in June, so he is getting up there where players production starts to decline. The Cubs will be happy to pay him the $14 million this season, but if his offensive numbers continue to decline, look for the Cubs to part ways with Ramirez following the 2011 MLB schedule.
Posted on 15 October 2010 by Lou
We wrote about Adam Dunn coming to the north side this off-season more because of the quotes from Carlos Zambrano indicating that he would love to have Dunn on the Cubs because of his big left-handed bat. While it made a lot of sense from several perspectives, I wasn’t sure how likely it would be given the tenuous financial position that the Cubs are in – they had the highest payroll of any National League team in 2010, but only finished with 75 wins.
Now it looks like Dunn has the Cubs on his radar screen and the Cubs have Dunn high on their wish list. But will it happen. Dunn has averaged 40 HR’s and 100 RBI’s a season for each of the last 7 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals. At 31 years of age (by the start of the 2011 MLB season), those numbers will likely dip a little bit, but Dunn should still be a nice fit for the Cubs after the departure of Derrek Lee. The Cubs need a left-handed bat to take some of the pressure off of Aramis Ramirez, Marlon Byrd, Geovany Soto and Alfonso Soriano in the middle of the lineup. Dunn is also durable – having missed just a total of 26 games during those 7 years. Dunn also has good numbers at Wrigley Field – 25 HR’s in 66 games – tied for the most with Albert Pujols by any active player for the most home runs by an opponent at the Friendly Confines. He has 41 career home runs against the Cubs, 2nd only to Pujols’ 47 for active players. Sure he strikes out a lot – his 199 strikeouts in 2010 was the 2nd most in the major leagues – and his batting average is never great – .267 in 2009was his career-best – but he would be a major upgrade from Lee at 1st base. His .358 career on-base percentage would fit nicely in the Cubs lineup as well. How you would like to a see a projected lineup of – Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin, Aramis Ramirez, Adam Dunn, Marlon Byrd, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, Blake DeWitt? If the Cubs can somehow move Soriano, you c ould see another average-type player in his place on a daily base which would be an upgrade as well.
GM Jim Hendry and Dunn do have some sort of personal relationship from over the years. The Cubs couldn’t sign Dunn back in 2009 (when he signed a 2-year deal with the Nationals), because Derrek Lee was under contract until the end of the 2010 MLB season. Makes sense that Dunn only signed a 2-year stint with the Nats, making look ahead to 2011 when the Cubs would be in the market for a 1st baseman. The Nats never pulled the trigger on a trade to move Dunn this past July before the trading deadline, and their attempts to lure Dunn back at the end of the season went nowhere. Dunn clearly won’t be back in DC – the question is will he end up playing for the Cubs and if so, how long of a deal will he get?
Posted on 08 October 2010 by Lou
Could Adam Dunn end up on the north side playing 1st base for the Cubs at Wrigley Field? One Cubs player – starter Carlos Zambrano – clearly thinks that it could happen. Zambrano had this to say about the Cubs going after Dunn this off-season: “I want that guy. He wants to play for us, not only this year but two years ago. He told me he wants to play at Wrigley Field badly.”
Dunn had another good year for the lowly Nationals in 2010. Dunn hit 38 home runs with 103 RBI’s, while racking up 145 hits in 558 at-bats. He had an outstanding .356 on-base percentage despite striking out 199 times and walking only 77 times. To put it in perspective, in 2010, Aramis Ramirez led the Cubs with 25 HR’s and 83 RBI’s on one of the worst offense in baseball.
Dunn had 2 productive seasons with the Nationals (in 2009, he had a .367 batting average with a .398 on-base percentage; 38 HR’s, 105 RBI’s, 116 walks and 177 strikeouts), but will once again be a free agent this off-season. He turns 31 in November, so you worry about age a little bit, but his drop off from 2009 to 2010 was more in the number of walks/strikeouts and not his offensive output. With the departure of Derrek Lee, Dunn would be a solid addition to the Cubs both defensively and offensively. When Dunn was a free agent back at the start of 2009, the Cubs had long-term deals with Lee at 1st base and Alfonso Soriano in left field and Kosuke Fukudome in right field, so there really wasn’t a position for Dunn with the Cubs. Things have changed since then. Lee is no longer with the ball club. And while there has been some discussion that the Cubs could move Tyler Colvin to 1st base to play everyday, Dunn would make a much better defensive option than Colvin. If the Cubs did bring in Dunn, then they would have to find a position for Tyler Colvin to play everyday. That means finding a team to take on the final year of Fukudome’s contract worth about $12 million. The Cubs would certainly be willing to eat a portion of that in order to make a deal happen. If they could somehow move Fukudome in the off-season and make a play for Dunn, that would be a significant lineup upgrade for the Cubs. You would have 2 lefties in there on a daily basis (Dunn and Colvin) and that would provide great protection for the likes of Aramis Ramirez, Marlon Byrd and Alfonso Soriano in the middle of the lineup. I guess it is a bit of a pipe dream, but you have to consider these types of moves if you want to make a bigger splash during the regular season in the National League in 2011.