Tag Archive | "Theo & Co."

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Cubs Trade Justin Ruggiano To Mariners

Posted on 17 December 2014 by Lou

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The Chicago Cubs traded reserve outfielder to the Seattle Mariners for reliever Matt Brazis.

Ruggiano played in 81 games for the Cubs in 2014.  He hit .281 with 6 HR’s and 28 RBI’s.  The move clears a spot on the 40-man roster for recently-signed reliever Jason Motte.  Now the Cubs could also go out and sign a veteran right-handed bat like Johnny Gomes to further re-tool the Cubs roster for Joe Madden and the Cubs in 2015.

Brazis is only 25 years old.  Seattle drafted Brazis in the 28th round of the 2012 draft.  In 100 minor league games, Brazis has an 8-6 record with a 2.89 ERA.  He finished the 2014 at the Double-A level — striking out 84 batters with only 18 walks in 72 innings.  He could be a bullpen arm for the future for the Cubs.

Theo & Co. are clearly still exploring various options to make the team better in 2015.  Let’s hope they have a few more moves up their sleeves before camps report in February…

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After Theo & Co. Out-Maneuver Ben Cherington To Get Jon Lester, Red Sox Act Fast To Re-Tool Pitching Staff

Posted on 11 December 2014 by Lou

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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…

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Cubs Get Their Man – Sign Jon Lester to 6 Year, $155 Million Deal

Posted on 10 December 2014 by Lou

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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!!!

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Jeff Samardzija Is On His Way Back To Chicago… on the South Side!

Posted on 09 December 2014 by Lou

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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…

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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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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…

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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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It’s Official — Joe Maddon New Cubs Skipper

Posted on 04 November 2014 by Lou

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It’s official.  The Cubs announced the signing of Joe Maddon as the Cubs 54th Manager on Monday.

Rick Renteria was eternally optimistic – even while going 73-89 in his 1st season as Cubs Manager in 2014.

But from all accounts, Joe Maddon is even more optimistic and positive than “Ricky”.  Maddon is the quirky, smart guy who is both “old-school” and “new-school” — a “sabremetrics guru”  who knows how to relate to any coach or player who joins his team.

Watching the Joe Maddon press conference gave me a perfect glimpse of how great he will be for this team, for this fan base and for this city. Gotta love him — we wish him all the best in 2015 and beyond.

And it’s not surprising to see Theo & Co. even more positive/optimistic than they were just 3 weeks ago at the “2015 On Deck Event” for season ticket holders.  Things were already trending in the right direction with the major league club at the end of the 2014 season.  And the development of most of the Cubs top tier prospects at all levels of the organization was right on target too.  At the On Deck Event, you could see how excited Theo was, even as he tried to temper expectations.

But hopes leaped dramatically with Monday’s Maddon managerial announcement and you can see how much more happy and excited Theo & Co. are as they prepare for one of the biggest winters for the organization in the last 4-5 years.

Go Cubs Go!

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We’re Back! Cubs Ready To Contend In 2015…

Posted on 03 November 2014 by Lou

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Well, here we go again.  It’s been just shy of 2 years — but I’m finally ready to jump back on that “Cubs-writing horse” again.

At least my last post back on December 20th, 2012 –YES 2012! — was pretty much right on.  The Cubs were on the verge of signing Edwin Jackson to a 4-year, $52 million deal.  I was besides myself.  The Cubs had lost 91 games in 2011 and then 101 games in 2012.  Theo & Co. were preaching a good old-fashioned rebuild.  They lost out on the Anibel Sanchez sweepstakes to the more competitive Detroit Tigers.  Fine I get it – you swing and missed on a solid starter.  But did that mean you had to go sign Edwin Jackson to a bad contract?! Hell No!  But they did anyway. And as I predicted, it was a bad move (in 2013, Jackson went 8-18 with a 4.98 ERA and 1.46 WHIP and in 2014, Jackson went 6-15 with a 6.33 ERA and 1.64 WHIP). And that was it – I could not bear to continue to vent about this team any longer.

But 683 days later, I have finally put that all behind me.  Cubby Blue forever, right?  It hasn’t been easy, but I feel like Theo & Co. are back on course.  Theo acknowledged his Jackson-signing-mistake and vowed never to make a rash decision like that, just to make a move that might placate the fan base.

Sure the Cubs lost 96 games in 2013.  But they continued the re-build the right way with key trades to acquire young talent (Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, Neil Ramirez, Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, etc,).  After the 2013 season, , the Cubs swung and missed on the Tanaka sweepstakes, but they learned from their Edwin Jackson mess and stayed true to the re-build.  They didn’t go take their Tanaka money and spent it on one or 2 lower tier players.  They kept it for a rainy day (see “rainy day” signing of Joe Maddon below).

Sure the Cubs lost 89 games in 2014.  But they continued the re-build the right way with key trades to acquire young talent (Addison Russell, Bill McKinney, Jacob Turner, Felix Doubront, etc.).  There was a different vibe in the clubhouse and in Wrigley Field, as Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo returned to All-Star form.  They were as excited as heck when they won, and never sank too low when they lost.  Manager Rick Renteria wasn’t perfect, but he had a great attitude for the task at hand.  And that positive attitude resonated with his players.  And when Tampa Rays manager Joe Maddon opted out of his contract just a little over a week ago, the Cubs had the perfect chance to land a manager who could lead them all the way back to contention.  Sure it may not have been the most popular move in some circles, but Theo had a decision to make for the “organization” not just for “one player” or “one coach” or “one executive” or “one fan” like me.  And if landing one of the best managers in baseball meant you had to fire a respected manager like Renteria, then it had to be done for the good of the organization.

So it all comes full circle from the whole Edwin Jackson signing debacle.

It reminded Theo & Co. that one move was not going to turn the Cubs into perennial World Series front-runners.

It reminded Theo & Co. that they needed to stay true to a well-formulated plan.

It reminded Theo & Co. that not all of their moves were going to be popular with the team or with the fans.  Fans were mad when the Cubs traded away Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Matt Garza, Scott Feldman, Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel (and the list could go on and on).  But look where they are now because Theo & Co. made those unpopular trades.

Some fans are mad that they sought another manager even when Rick Renteria was still under contract.  Some fans are mad that they are paying $25 million over 5 years to Joe Maddon when they think the Cubs should be paying more money to players that actually perform on the field.  But let’s look at that $25 million as 1 year of the Tanaka deal that never happened thereby giving Theo & Co. the financial means necessary to land a manager with the caliber of Maddon without comprising the pool of funds that can still be used to land productive players on the field.

We will have to see how the 2014 off-season moves all shake out, but I have a pretty good feeling that the number of losses in 2015 will be considerably less than the 89 losses in 2014.  And given my perfect prediction on how the whole Edwin Jackson signing would turn out, you can take that to the bank…

Joe_Maddon

 

 

 

 

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