Posted on 19 January 2015 by Lou
Theo & Co. clearly have a vision and they continue to make moves to improve the major league ballclub just about each and every day. Today the Cubs announced a trade with the Houston Astros – CF Dexter Fowler for 3B Luis Valbuena and Pitcher Dan Straily. This adds a proven hitter to the Cubs top of the lineup with Fowler – a career .271 hitter with a great .366 on-base percentage. In 2014, Fowler boasted a phenomenal .375 on base-percentage with 120 hits and 66 walks in just 434 at-bats.
The Cubs ranked 28th in all of baseball in on-base percentage in 2014, so adding more consistent, patient batters was a clear mission for Theo & Co. this off-season. The Cubs previously added reserve infielder Tommy La Stella from the Atlanta Braves (.328 on-base percentage in 2014) and Catcher Miguel Montero (.329 on-base percentage in a down 2014). The addition of Fowler makes the lineup that much better, especially at the top of the order to set the table for the likes of Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Jorge Soler and eventually Kris Bryant.
Current Cubs hitting coach who came from the Astros this winter raved about Fowler’s plate approach: “He understands the strike zone so well, but it doesn’t take the attack out of him. He doesn’t just take pitches to take. He takes them because he recognizes the strike zone.” Gotta love it.
It will be interesting to see what Manager Joe Maddon and the Cubs do with the rest of the lineup. Fowler bumps Arismendy Alcantara out of the CF starting position and pushed him to more of a “super sub” role. Alcantara could even make noise back in the infield with the 3rd base position wide open. Or will we see La Stella share some time at 3rd base with Alcantara or Mike Olt until the arrival of Kris Bryant in late April. This is just the kind of move that Maddon probably loved. Maddon has a knack for moving his players around and getting the most out of his players, so having a “deeper” lineup to play around with in 2015 will sure make things more interesting.
The other interesting news was Max Scherzer going to the Nationals for $210 million over 7 years. Does that mean the Nats will make one of their other “ace” starters available via trade sooner rather than during the course of the season. We’ll write more about that over the next few days as it impacts the Cubs…
Posted on 16 January 2015 by Lou
The Sold Out Cubs Convention kicks off today at the Chicago Sheraton & Towers. Wish I was there to get a glimpse at Manager Joe Maddon and ace Lefty Jon Lester — there will probably be a lot of buzz surrounding the team this weekend.
Here’s a good little schedule of what to expect this – the “Friday Night with Ryan Dempster” would probably be pretty entertaining too. That guys is a riot and now that he’s no longer playing, he can probably be even more candid than he usually is.
Not sure how thrilled I am that Anthony Rizzo predicted that the Cubs would knock off the Cards and Pirates for the NL Central Division title this year. I’m sure Maddon and Theo & Co. are even less thrilled than me. But you gotta like the confidence: “It’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to to play and we’re going to win the NL Central, you can quote me on that. We should be the team, with all due respect to every other team, we’re going to do some things this year. That’s what we’re going to put our sights on and we’re not going to accept anything else.” WOW!
It will be interesting to see if anyone else makes some bold claims like Rizzo during the course of the Cubs convention weekend. We’ll keep you posted and Go Cubs Go!
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 20 December 2012 by Lou
What — the Cubs are close to signing Edwin Jackson to a 4-year, $52 million deal? This does not make any sense at all. What happened to Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer building from within and building for the future. Jackson is 29 years old. He went 10-11 with a 4.03 in a pitcher-friendly Nationals Park pitching against weak NL East opponents like the New York Mets, Florida Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies. He has a career 4.40 ERA with a 70-71 record. His best season came 5 years ago when he went 14-11 with the Tampa Rays and a “sparkling” 4.42 ERA? All these stats warrant a $13 million dollar deal from the Cubs. It’s not like the Cubs are going to be doing anything in 2013 and maybe not even 2014. So way waste $26 million a guy for 2 lost seasons. Especially given all the other cost-cutting moves that the Cubs have made since Theo & Co. took over back in November 2011, this move really doesn’t make any sense at all to me.
I guess he has started at least 31 games in every season since 2007, so he is durable. And I guess this gives them some flexibility to move a Matt Garza at the trading deadline next season to bring back some more pitching prospects, but Cubs brass is really going to have to work to convince me that this was the right move for the Cubs to make at this juncture…
Posted on 10 December 2012 by Lou
The Cubs opted to re-sign 3B Ian Stewart to a 1-year deal this weekend. Stewart will have a base salary of $2 million and there are incentives in the deal that could net Stewart an additional $500,000. With the free agent market thin at the third base position, and with the lackluster performance from young prospect Josh Vitters in 2012 (.121 batting average in 99 at-bats in 36 games), the Cubs were kind of “forced” to re-sign Stewart despite his paltry 2012 numbers. Stewart racked up only 202 at-bats in 55 games in 2012 due to a wrist injury. He had a surgery on the wrist to fix the nagging problem and is on track to be ready for Spring Training 2013. Let’s hope so. He hit just .201 with 5 HR’s, 17 RBI’s and a pathetic .292 on-base percentage. Looks like GM Jed Hoyer and President Theo Epstein are still looking for their 3rd baseman of the future in the coming seasons…
Posted on 09 December 2012 by Lou
The Cubs and right-handed reliever Kyuji Fujikawa officially agreed to a 3-year, $9.5 million deal on Friday. Fujikawa is 32 years old and will likely serve as a set-up man to current Cubs closer Carlos Marmol. GM Jed Hoyer and President Theo Epstein are confident that a more consistent back-end of the rotation will lead to more W’s in 2013. With Marmol, Fujikawa, James Russell and Shawn Camp ready to shoulder a good chunk of the load, that should allow Manager Dale Sveum a few more options during the long season and hopefully keep guys more fresh as the season wears on. It could also give Epstein and Hoyer some flexibility to move Marmol (who is owed $9.8 million in 2013) at some point in order to bring back a few young arms and help deepen the Cubs pitching potential in the minor leagues.
The Cubs signed Fujikawa to a “team-friendly contract” of 2 years and $9.5 million. He gets a $1 million signing bonus plus salaries of $4 million in each of 2013 and 2014. The Cubs can buy him out for $500,000 at the end of 2014 if Fujikawa does not meet a “games-finished” option that vests if he meets a certain level. The dollar value for the 2015 vesting option is either $5.5 million or $6 million.
Hoyer had this to say about the addition – “Our goal is to have the best bullpen possible. Kyuji certainly adds to that. He’s had a great career. If you look at his career, he was a dominant setup guy first and a dominant closer. We know he can do both roles. We look at it as adding a great arm, and we don’t worry about the role.”
Little by little the Cubs are piecing together their 2013 roster. While they are not going to make any splashy moves this off-season, at least it seems like they have a plan to address a few of the areas that really hurt the club in 2012. That could mean a team that is more competitive in 2013 – http://www.ticketchest.com/sports/MLB_Tickets/Chicago_Cubs/ – let’s hope…
Posted on 01 December 2012 by Lou
The Cubs are in hot pursuit of Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa. Fujikawa, 32, has pitched in 12 seasons for the Hanshin Tigers. He has racked up 220 saves during that time with a 1.77 ERA. The deal is supposedly for 2 years and $9.5 million. The Cubs have not confirmed the deal although it is believed that the only remaining hurdle is a Fujikawa physical.
While some scouts believe that Fujikawa can close in the big leagues, other scouts seem to think that he is better suited as a setup man for a more-established closer (especially since he has not pitched70 innings in any season since 2007). We’re not sure if Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein will continue to shop current closer Carlos Marmol once the deal is announced, but it could give the Cubs some flexibility now or before the 2013 trading deadline.
We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything concrete.
Posted on 13 November 2012 by Lou
The Cubs and Scott Baker have agreed on a 1-year deal for the 2013 MLB season. Baker missed the entire 2012 season once he had Tommy John surgery in April. He is expected to be able to be in the Cubs starting rotation coming out of spring training. In 2011, Baker appeared in 23 games, even posting a solid 2.86 ERA through the first 3 months of the season. But an elbow strain sidelined him for much of the rest of the campaign and although he did pitch at the end of the season, he never was the same. The elbow soreness lingered all throughout the winter, so he opted for the surgery in April 2012.
Baker had this to say about the signing: “I truly believe if you put the work in and prepare yourself for every start, that’s the best you can do. Once you go out there and you are fully prepared then it’s about executing pitches…. I’m excited working with the coaching staff and medical staff. It’s a big season for me and the organization. I look forward to giving the team a chance to win.”
President of Baseball Ops Theo Epstein talked about the risk of signing a player coming off of Tommy John surgery: “I think we are very comfortable placing our bet on Scott Baker… Obviously there are no certainties on rehabs, but we spent quite a bit of time on the medical and on the rehab, and it was described by our staff as an ideal Tommy John rehab so far. Knock on wood. Everything has one perfectly so far, and he has really attacked it in an ideal manner.”
Go Cubs Go – Now it looks like we have our 4th starter. I still hope the Theo & Co. add 2 more starters just in case there are a few setbacks with Baker. Guess we’ll have to see what happens along the way, but I like the Baker move…
Posted on 06 November 2012 by Lou
For the 2nd time in 5 months, a Cubs trade fell apart right at the last minute and left a yearning Cubs fan base begging for answers. It was reported that the Cubs had dealt Carlos Marmol to the Anaheim Angels for starter Dan Haren early Friday evening by a reporter from the Chicago Sun Times and Bruce Levine of Chicago’s ESPN Radio 1000 (a similar non-trade occurred back in early July when it was erroneously reported that the Cubs had traded Ryan Dempster to the Atlanta Braves for coveted young starter Randall Delgado). But within an hour or so of those reports, the deal fell apart. The Angels declined to pick up Haren’s team option for $15.5 million for the 2013 MLB season and essentially bought him out for $3.5 million thereby making him a free agent. The Cubs are believed to have obtained Marmol’s consent to the trade (he had a full no trade clause), but it is still unclear if the Cubs did not relay that message quickly enough for them to exercise Haren’s option before the Friday night deadline or if there were other issues consummating the trade.
Knowing how thorough Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer are, maybe they had concerns with Haren’s lingering back issues during the 2012 campaign. Haren (32 years old) landed on the DL for the 1st time in his career and appeared in only 30 games tossing less than 200 innings for the 1st time in his career. Maybe that gave the Cubs pause, especially since they were fully expected to use Haren as a 3-month “rental” in order to deal him prior to the July 2013 trading deadline for prospects.
Or maybe Marmol never really consented to the deal.
Or maybe there was still a hang-up between the Cubs and Angels on money to be paid by either side. Did the Cubs want the Angels to pay a portion of Haren’s salary since Marmol was only slated to earn $9 million during the 2013 season.
Maybe we’ll never know. In any event, the Cubs still have Marmol for one more season and will likely deal him this off-season or in the first few months of the season to a team that is struggling with closer/back of the end bullpen issues. We’ll keep you posted as soon as anything develops…
Posted on 28 May 2012 by Lou
On a hot and humid day at Wrigley Field, the Cubs ended their 12-game skid with a 11-7 slugfest over the San Diego Padres on Memorial Day. Powered by a 14-hit attack including 4 homers, the Cubs finally picked up a win for the 1st time in exactky 2 weeks – the Cubs last won against the Cardinals in St. Louis on May 14th.
Randy Wells picked up the win going 1 2/3 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits. He picked up after Travis Wood labored through his 5 innings – 6 ER on 7 hits and 3 walks. Wood surrendered 4 homers in the hitter-friendly day at the Friendly Confines.
Darwin Barney, Ian Stewart, Alfonso Soriano and Starlin Castro each hit home runs in the slugfest. Bryan LaHair had 3 hits, 1 RBI and 3 rns scored. Soriano also had 3 hits and 3 RBI’s. David DeJesus, Castro and Stewart added 3 hits apiece.
The Cubs just missed setting the franchise record for most consecutive losses – which was 14.
Let’s hope the Cubs can make it a winning streak when the 2 teams square off again at Wrigley on Tuesday afternoon with Jeff Samardzija going for the Cubs.
Before the game, President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer spoke to the media about the state of the Cubs. It was not all positive – obviously – but the duo feel that they have the organization going in the right direction…