Tag Archive | "Jeff Baker"

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Who Will Bat Leadoff for the Cubs During 2010 MLB Schedule?

Posted on 18 January 2010 by Lou

Who will bat leadoff for the Chicago Cubs during the 2010 MLB schedule – that is one of the many questions on Manager Lou Pinella’s mind heading into the 2010 campaign.  The 2 front-runners are shortstop Ryan Theriot and right fielder Kosuke Fukudome.  The 2 put up fairly similar numbers in 2009 when batting leadoff.

Theriot hit .283 with 18 walks and 49 hits, good for a .354 on-base percentage.

Fukudome hit .269 with 30 walks and 35 hits, good for a .404 on-base percentage.

Theriot was the only Cubs player to record double digits in stolen bases with 21.

The days of Alfonso Soriano are likely over.  Soriano hit .241 with a paltry .303 on-base percentage as his numbers continue to decline as his age increases.  Dealing with various injuries all season long, he is no longer a threat to steal bases (9 stolen bases in 2009) and he strikes out way too much (118 K’s with only 40 walks in 477 at-bats). Ouch – that is just bad.

I like Theriot in the lead-off spot.  He seems to be a more consistent hitter than Fukudome and less likely to go into long hitting droughts.  If your leadoff hitter gets into funk, it can set the tone for the whole lineup.  With Theriot leading off and Fukudome hitting second, Fukudome can bunt when he is struggling and even if he goes into one of his slumps, you would still have Theriot on base with sluggers Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez coming to bat (assuming Fukudome doesn’t hit into a double play).

Pinella projects his 2010 starting batting order as follows – Theriot, Fukudome, Lee, Ramirez, Marlon Byrd, Soriano, Geovany Soto and your 2nd baseman (either Jeff Baker or Mike Fontenot).

Good luck Cubs fans – it could be another long season for Cubs fans at Wrigley Field if Soto and Soriano don’t find their swings quickly in 2010…

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Cubs Sign Center Fielder Marlon Byrd

Posted on 31 December 2009 by Lou

chicago cubs marlon byrd texas rangers2

The Chicago Cubs signed Marlon Byrd to a 3-year deal worth $15 million.  Byrd will play center field at Wrigley Field for the Cubs in 2010 and will likely bat lead-off.  Byrd will make $3 million in 2010, $5.5 million in 2011 and $6.5 million in 2012.  Byrd had a phenomenal year for the Texas Rangers in 2009 – his 20 HR’s, 89 RBI’s and .479 slugging percentage were all career highs.  Byrd is a career .279 hitter with a career .340 on-base percentage.  The Cubs hired the Rangers’ hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo this off-season, so he will continue to work with Byrd as a Cub for the next 3 years.

Byrd is excited about the prospects of playing everyday in Chicago: “When I knew I had the opportunity to become a Cub, I was really hoping this would be my landing ground.”

GM Jim Hendry had this to say about Byrd: “We knew he was a good guy.  He plays very hard and fans are going to like that.  He comes to play every day, doesn’t want days off and gives you 110%.  When Rudy told us about the other things he brought to the table, it enhances his reputation even further.”  Sense any little digs at Hendry’s big free agent signing last year – Milton Bradley?

I love this deal and I hate it at the same time.

It always seems like the Cubs sign these 32-34 year olds coming off their career years.  Then when they get to Chicago, they’ve lost a step or 2 and play mediocre ball for the last 3 years of their baseball careers.

Then again, Byrd played 146 games last year and is durable.  Having Byrd as your lead-off hitter would enable Ryan Theriot to hit 2nd in the lineup.  Or you could flip-flop the 2.  Then you follow that up with Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, Geovany Soto and Jeff Baker/Mike Fontenot, and you have a decent lineup.  Assuming a healthy Ramirez and a Soriano and Soto who were not as bad as they were in 2009, and things can only get better.

Guess we’ll have to wait and see.  Happy New Years!

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Cubs Tender Contracts to All But Neal Cotts

Posted on 14 December 2009 by Lou

Brewers Cubs Baseball

The Chicago Cubs tendered contracts to all of their arbitration-eligible players except for Neal Cotts.  As we previously reported, the Cubs expect to bring Cotts back anyway as the 2 sides will work out a deal in the interim.

Carlos Marmol and Ryan Theriot were 2 of the players to be tendered contracts and the 2 players who will likely receive the biggest raises.

GM Jim Hendry will continue to negotiate with each player so as to avoid an arbitration hearing with any player.  The Cubs have not been involved in an arbitration hearing since 1993 when they won a case with Mark Grace.  We’ll keep you posted as soon as the Cubs announce any agreed upon contracts.

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Cubs Plan to Offer Contracts to all Arbitration Eligible Players

Posted on 11 December 2009 by Lou

carlos marmol back2

The Chicago Cubs are expected to tender contracts to all but one of their arbitration-eligible players.  The lone exception is Neal Cotts whom they plan on re-signing anyway.  Cotts missed a good chunk of the 2009 MLB schedule following Tommy John surgery on his left throwing elbow at the beginning of July.  He and his family moved to Arizona so that he could begin his rehab work in earnest.

The players that the Cubs will offer contracts to include – - 2nd base men Jeff Baker and Mike Fontenot; shortstop Ryan Theriot; catcher Koyie Hill; and pitchers Carlos Marmol, Angel Guzman, Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Marshall.

The Cubs have not gone to arbitration with a player since they won a case against Mark Grace back in 1993.

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

Posted on 01 December 2009 by Lou

Astros Cubs Baseball

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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Ryan Theriot Possibly Moving to 2nd Base?

Posted on 30 November 2009 by Lou

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With the emergence of top shortstop prospect Starlin Castro, rumors are swirling that Ryan Theriot could move to 2nd base to make room for Castro at shortstop.  Theriot did play 2nd base at the major league during the 2007 MLB season.  Theriot played 37 games at 2nd base that season.

I find it hard to believe that the 19-year old Castro is ready to make the jump to the big leagues already.  Castro split time at Class-A and Double-A in 2009 and also played in the Arizona Fall League this October/November.  Although he has risen through the Cubs minor league ranks very quickly, I think it would be a good idea to keep this guy in the minors for at least another season.

Jeff Baker and Mike Fontenot are both arbitration-eligible and hopefully GM Jim Hendry can figure out a way to keep both players on the roster in 2010.  They can platoon, or one of them can be a consistent bench player, and then we can look to 2011 to bring up the Castro sensation.

On a positive note, at least Theriot seems willing to make the switch to 2nd base if the organization asks him to.  He has already started working on 2nd base drills and seems ready to move over to 2nd base if the Cubs think that Castro is ready to make the jump to the bigs.  We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything further…

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Cubs Trade Aaron Heilman to Arizona Diamondbacks for 2 Prospects

Posted on 19 November 2009 by Lou

The Chicago Cubs traded Aaron Heilman to the Arizona Diamondbacks for 2 prospects today.  The move was done to move an arbitration-eligible player like Heilman – the Cubs still have 7 other players who are arbitration-eligible.  That list includes – Carlos Marmol, Ryan Theriot, Sean Marshall, Jeff Baker, Mike Fontenot, Koyie Hill and Angel Guzman.

Heilman made 70 appearances for the Chicago Cubs during the 2009 MLB schedule – his only season with the Cubs, the team that he rooted for as a kid growing up in Indiana.  Heilman went 4-4 with 1 save and 6 blown saves.  He had a 4.11 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP, striking out 65 while walking 34.

Cubs GM Jim Hendry explained the move this way: “As we move forward in the winter, the way our big league club sets up and the way we have a lot of arb guys, we felt we needed to move some people a little bit before we get to Indianapolis… We feel like we got two solid prospects from the Diamondbacks…  We feel we have some young arms who can take [Heilman's] place in that part of the bullpen.”  Those arms include Guzman, Esmailin Caridad and Justin Berg.

So just who did the Cubs get for Heilman:

Lefty Scott Maine – 4-5 with a 2.90 ERA and 7 saves in Double A and Triple A during 2009.

2nd baseman Ryan White – .266 batting average with 6 HR’s, 52 RBI’s and a .371 on-base percentage at the Class A level in 2009.

chicago cubs aaron heilman

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Infield Report Card – Jeff Baker – B+

Posted on 14 November 2009 by Lou

Cubs Giants Baseball

Let’s take a look at our infield – at least this was a little more tolerable than the atrocious Cubs outfield.  The trio of Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot and Aramis Ramirez is solid, but when Ramirez went down for 2 months with a dislocated shoulder, the Cubs offensive weaknesses were clearly exposed.  The 2nd base position was a position in flux – Mike Fontenot showed he probably isn’t an everyday player, while newcomer Jeff Baker showed that he could be a viable option for the future…

Jeff Baker – 2nd Base

2009 Report Card Grade – B+.  Baker was a pleasant surprise for the Cubs in 2009.  In a disappointing season, Baker didn’t let the negative outlook/clubhouse affect his play.  He split time with Mike Fontenot at 2nd base, but came into favor with Manager Lou Pinella as Fontenot struggled through the long MLB season.  Baker performed at a high level both at the plate and in the field, and he also showed his versatility by being able to play 3rd base as well, giving the team an extra weapon to give another infielder a little extra rest from time to time (like Aramis Ramirez).  Baker could be a fixture at the Cubs 2nd base position for years to come.

2009 stats – 69 games; 203 at-bats; .305 batting average; .362 on-base percentage; 4 HR’s, 21 RBI’s; 27 runs scored; 46 K’s; 17 walks.

2008 stats (with Colorado Rockies) – 104 games; 299 at-bats; .268 batting average; .322 on-base percentage; 12 HR’s, 48 RBI’s; 55 runs scored; 85 K’s; 26 walks.

Baker came over from the Rockies in early July 2009 and he put forth a solid effort in a Cubs uniform for the rest of the season.  The entire Cubs offense struggled in 2009 (except for Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot, Aramis Ramirez (when he played), but Baker didn’t seem to let that affect him.  You have to like his good on-base percentage number and the fact the he puts the ball in play.  He averaged just about 3 at-bats a game, however, so we would need to see more from Baker to make sure that he can handle the everyday 2nd base job.  I’m definitely a little gun shy with the Cubs 2nd baseman, especially after Mike Fontenot clearly showed that he couldn’t handle playing everyday after succeeding so well in 2008 in a limited role.

The good thing is that Baker also excelled in the field,  even when he played 3rd base to give the injured Aramis Ramirez an extra day off here and there.  In 49 games at 2nd base – his natural position – Baker recorded a solid .995 fielding percentage, committing just 1 error in 220 total chances.  In 17 games at 3rd base – Baker recorded a respectable .960 fielding percentage, committing 1 error in 25 total chances.

Baker is eligible for arbitration in 2010.  GM Jim Hendry does not like to go to arbitration with his players, so if the Cubs want Baker back, we would likely see some deal signed before the arbitration process kicks in.  Mike Fontenot – the Cubs other in-house option at 2nd base – is also arbitration-eligible.  The Cubs could try to sign both Baker and Fontenot to 1-year deals and then let them battle it out in Spring Training.  That way the Cubs wouldn’t have to commit anything long-term to either player, and if neither player excels in 2010 to warrant a longer-term deal, then the Cubs could look elsewhere for the 2011 MLB season.

Things can’t get too much worse than they were for the Cubs offense in 2009, so let’s hope we see a bit of a resurgence during the 2010 MLB schedule that helps take a little heat off the Cubs starting rotation and bullpen.  Baker seemed to endear himself to Cubs fans at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field during his 2009 stint, so if he is back in 2010, I hope he gets off to a great start in 2010 to keep him in good favor with the north side of Chicago…

chicago cubs jeff baker 2

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Infield Report Card – Mike Fontenot – C

Posted on 13 November 2009 by Lou

Brewers Cubs Baseball

Let’s take a look at our infield – at least this was a little more tolerable than the atrocious Cubs outfield.  The trio of Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot and Aramis Ramirez is solid, but when Ramirez went down for 2 months with a dislocated shoulder, the Cubs offensive weaknesses were clearly exposed.  The 2nd base position was a position in flux – Mike Fontenot showed he probably isn’t an everyday player, while newcomer Jeff Baker showed that he could be a viable option for the future…

Mike Fontenot – 2nd Base

2009 Report Card Grade – C.  This is kind of a tough one.  I really like Mike Fontenot and he tries harder than just about everyone on the team.  That being said, he failed to show that he could handle the everyday 2nd baseman job and it is unclear where Fontenot fits into the Cubs organization in the future.

2009 stats – 135 games; 377 at-bats; .236 batting average; .301 on-base percentage; 9 HR’s, 43 RBI’s; 38 runs scored; 83 K’s; 35 walks.

2008 stats – 119 games; 243 at-bats; .305 batting average; .395 on-base percentage; 9 HR’s, 40 RBI’s; 42 runs scored; 51 K’s; 34 walks.

The entire Cubs offense struggled in 2009 (except for Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot and Aramis Ramirez (when he played), so it’s not surprising that Fontenot struggled as well.  The huge rise in strikeouts and the steady walks rate despite more at-bats, led to the corresponding decrease in Fontenot’s on-base percentage (just .301).  That cannot be the case for a contact hitter like Fontenot.  Sure, he may have been facing more adverse hitting situations without runners on base (unlike in 2008), but you have to rise to the occasion, and Fontenot didn’t respond in 2009.  His hitting weaknesses were exposed as an everyday player and that led to some pretty poor numbers for Fontenot.

On the other hand, Fontenot did not let his offensive woes affect his play on the field, even when he played 3rd base to fill in for the injured Aramis Ramirez.  In 70 games at 2nd base – his natural position – Fontenot recorded a solid .989 fielding percentage, committing just 3 errors in 264 total chances..  In 50 games at 3rd base – Fontenot recorded a respectable .963 fielding percentage, committing just 4 errors in 107 total chances.  Given the fact that the team was in shambles for most of the season, you have to give Fontenot credit for staying focused and playing well in the field.

Fontenot is eligible for arbitration in 2010.  Given his poor showing in 2009, one would think that the Cubs and Fontenot could work out a 1-year deal that is acceptable to both sides.  GM Jim Hendry does not like to go to arbitration with his players, so if the Cubs want Fontenot back, we would likely see some deal signed before the arbitration process kicks in.  Jeff Baker – the Cubs other in-house option at 2nd base – is also arbitration-eligible.  The Cubs could try to sign both Fontenot and Baker to 1-year deals and then let them battle it out in Spring Training.  That way the Cubs wouldn’t have to commit anything long-term to either player, and if neither player excels in 2010 to warrant a longer-term deal, then the Cubs could look elsewhere for the 2011 MLB season.

With a healthy Aramis Ramirez back in the middle of the lineup, I hope there will be a trickle down affect that will help guys like Fontenot, Geovany Soto and Alfonso Soriano play better in 2010.  Things can’t get too much worse than they were for the Cubs offense in 2009, so let’s hope we see a bit of a resurgence during the 2010 MLB schedule that helps take a little heat off the Cubs starting rotation and bullpen.  Fontenot is a fan favorite at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field, so if he is back in 2010, I hope he gets off to a great start in 2010 to keep him in good favor with the north side of Chicago…

chicago cubs mike fontenot1

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