Tag Archive | "Mike Fontenot"

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Lou Pinella Names Ryan Theriot 2010 Lead-off Man

Posted on 15 March 2010 by Lou

Manager Lou Pinella has named Ryan Theriot his lead-off man for 2010.  Theriot won the job over Kosuke Fukudome.  In 42 games during the 2009 MLB season, Theriot batted .283 in the lead-off spot.  He is a more consistent hitter than Fukudome who hasn’t batted better than .259 in either of his major league seasons (although he did have a .375 on-base percentage in 2009).  Theriot, on the other hand, has batted .266, .307 and .284 in each of his last 3 seasons and he has a career .356 on-base percentage.

Pinella also indicated that Mike Fontenot – Theriot’s college teammate at LSU – has pulled ahead of Jeff Baker for the starting 2nd base job.  Fontenot started the 2009 as the Cubs 2nd baseman, but he failed to deliver during the course of the long MLB schedule.  Fontenot hit only .236 and he split time with trade deadline acquiree Jeff Baker for the duration of the season.  Pinella likes the idea of having 2 lefties in the Cubs lineup – Fukudome in the 2-spot and Fontenot in the 7-spot.

I like the Theriot lead-off slot, but relying upon Fontenot again seems like a disaster waiting to happen.  I hope I’m wrong and I hope the “Pocket-Rocket” can deliver for the Cubs on a consistent basis during the 2010 MLB schedule.

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2nd Base – Baker or Fontenot or a Castro/Theriot SS/2B Combo?

Posted on 09 February 2010 by Lou

The 2nd base job is the only real position up for debate for Manager Lou Pinella and his staff to decide in Spring Training in Mesa, Arizona during the next 2 months.  How will it turn out?

Right now, Pinella and the staff are probably leaning towards some sort of combination of Jeff Baker and Mike Fontenot at 2nd base.  Fontenot showed that he really couldn’t handle the load of being the full-time 2nd baseman in 2009 (.236 batting average in 377 at-bats).  Baker played the 2nd half of the season and performed at a high level for the Cubs (.305 batting average in 203 at-bats).  But Pinella and the Cubs could be a little gun-shy of anointing Baker the everyday player considering how bad Fontenot was exposed as an every day player.  Baker is right-handed and Fontenot is left-handed, so assuming that neither player outshines the other significantly in spring training, the easy solution is to platoon the 2 players.  I have a feeling that’s how things will start in 2010, with Pinella favoring one of the other after a month or 2 of the season.

One alternative could be an entirely different 2nd base/shortstop combination.  If minor league sensation Starlin Castro really shines during Spring Training, and if Pinella and the staff believe that the 20-year old is ready to play in the big leagues, you could see a Ryan Theriot / Castro combination.  Theriot can play 2nd base and Castro is a solid shortstop, so it would be an interesting move for the Cubs to make coming out of Spring Training.  My bet is that the Cubs continue to let Castro develop in the minor leagues for one more season.  As the season progresses, if Castro continues to excel at Double-A and Triple-A, you could see the Cubs bring him up mid-season or in September once major league rosters expand. Castro is clearly the shortstop of the future, so fans at Wrigley Field are chomping at the bit to get a glimpse of the youngster in the very near future.

Stay tuned – this should be a really fun position to watch, especially if Castro really shines in Spring Training.  That could make things really tough on GM Jim Henry and Pinella…

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Jeff Baker Looking Forward to 2nd Base Battle with Mike Fontenot

Posted on 24 January 2010 by Lou

Jeff Baker is looking forward to having a legitimate shot at winning the starting 2nd base job for the Chicago Cubs during the 2010 MLB schedule.  The Cubs acquired Baker from the Colorado Rockies in early July 2009 and he performed well for the Cubs in the 2nd half of the season.  In August, Baker excelled with a .359 batting average in 64 at-bats.  He followed that up with a .295 batting average in September.  Overall, Baker played in 69 games for the Cubs, hitting .305 in 203 at-bats.  Baker had a .362 on-base percentage with 4 HR’s, 15 doubles and 21 RBI’s.

Contrast that with Mike Fontenot who had a horrible year in 2009 – .236 batting average, .301 on-base percentage, 9 HR’s, 43 RBI’s in 377 at-bats in 135 games – and you could see a hard-fought battle in Spring Training next month.  Fontenot had hit .305 with a .395 on-base percentage in 2008 and he had earned the starting 2nd base job to start off the season.

For Baker, this is a step in the right direction.  Baker also sat 2nd fiddle to Rockies 3rd baseman Garrett Atkins in Colorado.  Although he tried to break through by learning to play 2nd base and the outfield, he never saw enough action in Denver.  Baker is excited about the opportunity that has presented itself with the Cubs and he has a positive attitude about the competition with Fontenot: “The bottom line is it’s about the team winning. Guys who you’re competing with for the same spot, you’re still good friends and the competition doesn’t change anything.  As long as Mike and I have the same mindset that it’s about what’s best for the team and about what’s best for the team that day, I don’t think anything will change.  We’re both professional players and we both want to win.”

Baker also cherishes the idea of earning a starting spot at the major league level: “Coming over here was a fresh start and an opportunity for me.  The one thing I’ve noticed about the Cubs is if you play well, you’ll get the opportunity to play.  I’m going to try to take advantage of it and I’m going to go out there and go 100 percent.  It’s not going to be from a lack of effort or lack of preparation… I always prepare like I’m going to be a starter.  I believe I can play every day in the big leagues and I can be productive and help a team win… The opportunity to start doesn’t come along too often.  I’ve been fighting for one my whole career…it’s something I’m going to try to gran hold of tight and not let go.”

Gotta love his preparation and his attitude.  I’d love to see Baker win the starting job.  I never thought Fontenot was built to be an everyday player and his numbers last year proved that.  Now I don’t know Baker well enough to project whether he will be able to handle the everyday load either, but I hope he beats out Fontenot this spring and at least gets a chance to show his stuff.  Fontenot is solid off the bench and if he can get back in that role where he gets between 250-300 at-bats during the course of a season, I think his production will also improve.  Let’s just hope they both stay healthy and can compete on even ground in Spring Training 2010…

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Cubs Agree to 1-Year Deals with 5 Players; Theriot, Marmol & Marshall Still to Come

Posted on 19 January 2010 by Lou

The Chicago Cubs have agreed to 1-year deals with 5 players – infielders Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker; catcher Koyie Hill; and pitchers Angel Guzman and Tom Gorzelanny.  Each player was in his first year of being arbitration eligible.

Fontenot signed a $1 million deal for 2010.  After a great 2008 in which he hit over .300, Fontenot came back down to earth in 2009, hitting just .236 in 135 games played.

Baker signed a $975,000 deal for 2010.  The Cubs acquired Baker from the Colorado Rockies in July and he hit over .300 in 69 games for the north siders.  Baker and Fontenot will be competing for the starting 2nd baseman job in Spring Training in Mesa, Arizona.  If neither stands out, Manager Lou Pinella could implement a platoon.

Catcher Koyie Hill signed a $700,000 deal to be the Cubs backup catcher behind Geovany Soto in 2010.  While Soto was injured in 2009, Hill made 26 consecutive starts from July 7th through August 5th.  Hill only batted .237 but he handled the pitching staff very well.

The Cubs acquired Tom Gorzelanny from the Pittsburgh Pirates in a deal that also brought over John Grabow.  The Cubs and Gorzelanny agreed upon an $800,000 deal for 2010.  Gorzelanny appeared in 13 games for the Cubs, going 4-2 with a 5.63 ERA.  Gorzelanny actually fared better in relief, holding opponents to just a .192 batting average during those 6 appearances.

Angel Guzman signed an $825,000 deal after arguably his best season as a Cubs reliever.  Guzman appeared in 55 games posting a 2.95 ERA (2.03 ERA at home at Wrigley Field).  He held opponents scoreless in 40 of his 55 appearances, including 34 of his last 42 games.  Assuming Guzman can stay healthy, he will play a pivotal role in the Cubs bullpen during the 2010 MLB schedule.

The final 3 Cubs players who are arbitration eligible will make a huge impact on the success of the 2010 squad.

Carlos Marmol will be the Cubs opening day closer.  Marmol made $575,000 in 2009 and he will become a free agent in 2013.  Marmol took over the closer’s role from Kevin Gregg at the end of the season and provided a stable force at the back end of the ‘pen.  Marmol ended up saving 15 games, while holding 27 games in 79 appearances.  His 65 walks in 74 innings, however, is still a major concern.

Ryan Theriot will be the Cubs opening day shortstop and will likely lead off for the Cubs.  Theriot made $500,000 in 2009.  Theriot hit .284 with a .343 on-base percentage in 154 games for the Cubs.  His games played, at-bats (602), triples (5), home runs (7) and RBI’s (54) were all career highs.

Sean Marshall will either be in the starting rotation on opening day or serve a vital role in the Cubs bullpen as a lefty reliever.  Marshall made $450,000 in 2009 and will be a free agent in 2013.  Marshall can start and come out of the bullpen, so his versatility is invaluable.

GM Hendry still has his work cut out for him.  Let’s hope he can ink smart deals with Marmol, Theriot and Marshall soon.

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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!

chicago cubs marlon byrd texas rangers3

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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

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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…

kevin gregg closer

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