Monthly archives: March 2006
Cubs Acquire Bynum
According to the Dallas Morning News, the Cubs got involved in a three-team deal with the A's and Rangers, which amounted to them acquiring Freddie Bynum for John Koronka (who will slide into the Rangers' fifth rotation slot. Yikes!), and either a PTBNL or cash.
Without further guidance, I'd guess that Bynum will join the 25-man roster at the expense of Ryan Theriot, which is really no expense at all. What Bynum brings is positional flexibility, a hint of discipline, and speed, which falls nicely in line with what the club's emphasis all offseason, whether you buy into it or not. He certainly has more utility than Theriot, and with the price being Koronka and a bag of balls, it's a solid pickup.
UPDATE: Bynum's officially on the team, and indeed, he's taken the Koronka/Theriot Memorial Roster spot.
Wherein I Expound Further Upon Cub Pitching
The fine blog, Beyond the Boxscore, has been running a series of team previews of late, and they thought it would be a good idea to have me write the section dealing with the Cub pitching staff. Click here to decide for yourself if it was.
Insert Your Favorite Post-WWII Recovery Effort Reference Here
I'll admit, this whole thing has me torn. I like Marshall quite a lot, and I'd even say he's probably the best solution at the moment for that fifth spot in the rotation, if not the fourth. Yet, I have a little trepidation about how little experience he's had above A-ball, the worry being that, it being Spring, the good that we've seen is something of a mirage and that, once exposed to the reality of Major League competition, Marshall could wilt and perhaps even do serious damage to his development, especially from a psychological standpoint.
I don't know how much of that concern is reality-based and how much is pre-season cold feet, but it certainly makes one wonder how much the potential insertion of Marshall into Jerome Williams' presumed rotation slot is based on Management's need to shore up their case for contract extensions. Much as I like Marshall (and the more I think about it, he reminds me of a left-handed Jon Lieber), his long term prospects are likely best served by at least a half-season of work in West-Tenn, if not considerably more.
Yet, here we are at the season's start, and like it or not, the team is going to use him. We can speculate all we like about how this will affect young Sean, but we won't know until it happens, and happen it will. So, keep your fingers crossed, and hope for the best, because more than this year is riding on the result.
So Long, Mr. Goodbody
Marquis Grissom has called it quits. While a great nickname has died, I'm willing to sacrifice it for the good of the team.
(Thanks to Tom K for the tip in the previous thread)
At least partially. The Cubs traded Todd Wellemeyer to the Marlins today for two minor league pitchers, righty Lincoln Holdzkom and lefty Zach McCormack. I tried to find some numbers on these guys, but for some reason I couldn't get anything beyond what was in the cubs.com piece, which basically told me they were both 24, both spent time in A-ball (making them, perhaps, a bit old for the leagues), both are relievers, and both have pretty high strikeout rates. In other words, a live arm from the 40-man for a couple live arms off the 40-man. Fair enough.
Not only does this help clear up the bullpen situation, it also might resolve a possible overall roster crunch, depending on whether or not Marquis Grissom or Michael Restovich break camp with the team. If they don't, then all's good for Opening Day, when Wade Miller will take the spot on the roster vacated by Wellemeyer. If one or both of them come north, then some other shenanigans will be necessary. Stay tuned.
Bud Would Be Proud
I realize it was an exhibition game, that the purpose is more to prepare than compete, and that it's no rarity to see Spring contests end in ties, but that doesn't make me any less likely to feel a vague sense of dissatisfaction after yesterday's Cubs/White Sox tilt was called after nine due to the South Siders' supposed lack of pitching.
I think my feelings of perturbation comes primarily from the fact that the Sox only used three mound-men, and I have a hard time believing that they didn't come with at least one more hurler prepared to take the ball. Otherwise, they were counting on either Mark Buehrle going seven with Cliff Politte and Neal Cotts each making it through one frame apiece, or Politte and Cotts being able to absorb any extra outs if anyone needed to leave early due to injury or overwork, and while I appreciate a certain degree of confidence, that's just stupid.
Again, I know it's just Spring, and that it's merely an opportunity to sort out your roster and allow your players to get ready for the long season ahead, but I suppose all I want in this situation is a reason for the actions taken that makes sense, and that's not what I got.
But enough kvetching about piddly, meaningless, points of honor. Here's some stuff I saw.
Can I just say how much I enjoy doing this again? I've had an incredibly difficult time writing this offseason - don't ask why, I just don't know - so knowing that soon I'll get to watch a bunch of meaningful ballgames, and in turn, write about those contests, tickles me no end. Six days left. Let the countdown begin!
Weekend Quick Hits
We're just a week away from starting this thing, and I can hardly wait. Sitting here speculating and gnashing my teeth is only giving me an ulcer and a potential heap of dental bills. I actually got to see some ball this weekend, along with many of you, and while I'm short on time today, I've got a couple quick points.
News to Me
Okay, I admit I've been
Still, I was surprised to find on perusing the papers this morning this little throw away in the Trib:
If Jae Kuk Ryu makes the team as a long man in the bullpen, that leaves Rich Hill, Sean Marshall and Angel Guzman to compete for the fifth-starter's spot.
The competition for the starter's spot I'd seen, but this was the first I'd noticed that Ryu was up for a relief job. I don't know if it was mentioned before and I just missed it (A and/or C), or whether I was so preoccupied with foaming at the mouth and lambasting potential trade scenarios (B, with a soupçon of C) that I overlooked it.
Whatever the reason behind my ignorance of the matter, I'll admit I kinda like the idea, although I'm not clear if Ryu is being thought of as an 11th or 12th man. There could be some serious ramifications for players like Michael Wuertz, or for some of the positional fellas vying for a spot on the bench, depending on which it is.
However, potential implications for other players aside, teams have had success bringing along young pitchers by putting them in a swing man role with the big club before tossing them full time into the lion's den of starting in the Majors, and something tells me this would be a good way to work Ryu into the mix, particularly in light of his past maturity issues. Plus, his K-rate, K/BB, and HR-rate are solid enough that he should fare well when not starting. I'm curious to see how this turns out, and whatever comes down, I'll try to save my lathering up for more important things.
I'll Take Door Number Three, Monty
From the Washington Post (emphasis mine):
The Orioles remain in contact with the Chicago Cubs, who are pushing for a swap of outfielder Luis Matos for Chicago infielder Todd Walker, according to a baseball source. The source said the Cubs are more eager for such a trade, but the Orioles haven't dismissed it.
If I listed all the reasons why this is wrong I'd end up with my fingers and brain bleeding so profusely they'd have to put me in a giant, plastic bubble equipped with its own recirculating, transfusionary sump pump. That sounds unpleasant, so I'll simply say, again, that this potential deal is, on every conceivable level, a bad one.
Let's add the info from The Boston Globe to the mix (again, emphasis mine):
This presumes the Sox will deal Tony Graffanino, who is expected to bring a decent prospect, probably someone who ranks in the No. 6 to No. 10 range on another club's prospect depth chart. Logical suitors: Mets, Marlins, Cubs, and Orioles.
As an exercise in, I don't know, anger inflammation, here's a couple lists of the Cubs' 6th-10th place prospects.
Admittedly, when folks in the press are talking about prospect rankings they're almost certainly referring to BA, but I wanted to throw Sickels in there just for spice. Obviously, Nolasco's already gone in the Juan Pierre trade, but I don't have my BA prospect book with me, so I can't fill in the gap.
In any case, I'm not much of a prospect maven, so I'll hold off on giving opinions on the involvement of individual players in these deals and simply make mention of the fact that, what is essentially happening if both of these trades go down is that the Cubs are giving Todd Walker and one of their better prospects for a fourth outfielder and an infield backup. Am I alone in finding the overall price steep?
We've only got two more weeks left of exhibition games, so it seems like a good time to run through who's been doing what out in Arizona. This stuff may not mean a lot, but at least it's distracting.
Looks like Aramis is ready to go, and since he's simply picked up where he left off after returning from his finger issues, I think it's safe to put any concerns about lingering problems stemming from the infection to rest. Now, if he can just keep his legs.....
It's nice to see Murton getting it done early, if only to give him something of a cushion if he slips a bit upon traveling to cooler climes. Of course, drawing any conclusions this early is folly, as Jacque Jones' obviously made-up line proves with ease.
One of the fun things about Barrett and Blanco being off at the WBC for most of the Spring has been the opportunity to get a couple other guys some time in camp, and both Soto and Fox have responded nicely. Of the two of them, I think Fox has the better chance to eventually be something useful, so hopefully this will serve as a catalyst for greater things.
On the pitching side, I know we're dealing with even smaller sample sizes, but the expensive newbies, Mssrs. Eyre and Howry, are looking pretty good. Eyre in particular is impressing with 6 strikeouts and only 3 hits allowed. Also, while I doubt he'll get the job, Sean Marshall is making it difficult for the Cubs to write him off in the hunt for Mark Prior's early season proxy. In other news, Zambrano's still pretty good, and Greg Maddux ain't so bad himself.
The race for second base looks pretty tight, but my gut is if both Walker and Hairston are hitting decently and their batting average is within about 15 points of each other, Hairston will get the job. Again, it's not what I want, it's just what I think will happen.
The issue that will keep Restovich from breaking with the team (beyond, perhaps, his lack of a good body and clean living) is his strikeouts. In those 27 at bats he's struck out 9 times, which works out to be nearly 167 Ks over the course of 500 at bats. I just don't see the club looking past that issue and seeing the potential positives, so he'll start in Iowa.
I struggled with where to put Pie, or whether I should include him at all. His average isn't horrible, but his OBP is, yet when he's hitting the ball his power and speed have combined to give him three triples thus far. Still, despite the horrible on-base work, an ISO of .304 is pretty darn impressive, so here he stays.
Brandon Sing can hit the ball very, very hard.
There's not much to see here, since I'm trying to show what's going on that's demonstratively good or bad and most Cub hurlers are either on one of the two extremes or squarely mediocre. The thing of note here is that Ryu's doing quite nicely, and as a result, is one of the guys being looked at for duty come mid-April.
The only thing likely saving Cedeno from a pine-bejeweled fate is the craptacular performance the Human Exclamation Point is turning in. Of course, Cedeno needs to use the Spring to prove himself, while Neifi! is merely using this time to get his timing together. In other words, Spring Training means both everything and nothing, depending on who's being measured, and if that doesn't make your head spin and stomach churn you're made of tougher stuff than me.
Say, how's that trade for a leadoff guy working out? Again, for Juan it's only Spring, but if nothing else the above line further illustrates how badly he needs to hit over .300 to be of use at the top of the order. I think he can, and I even believe he will, but it still gives me the yips.
You may have noticed that rumors are starting to surface about the Cubs looking to acquire another starter now that Prior may be out for an extended period. However, while I have no doubt the club is trying to play the market, my guess would be that only some of the desire to deal comes from the injury to The Franchise.
One look at the work turned in thus far by nominal starters Jerome Williams and Glendon Rusch makes me think Jim Hendry would be on his phone whether Prior was hurt or not. There's not a thing encouraging about any of it, especially from Williams, so one has to believe, Spring or not, that this early lack of effectiveness is a factor.
I normally wouldn't have even mentioned Guzman's two innings, but since his start today might go a long way toward earning him a mid-April call-up, I thought it merited some notice. That and the fact that Rich Hill has done nothing to make himself useful as either a pitcher or trade-bait.
I have no idea how a pitcher gives up nearly two hits per inning, while striking out 3 per 9, and only comes out of it with a 7.00 ERA. Yet, there's Todd Wellemeyer doing it just the same, while Wuertz, who hasn't been much worse, has an ERA that can best be described as cata-freakin-clysmic.
Wellemeyer hasn't given up a dinger, so that's part of the formula (although Wuertz has only coughed up one himself), but beyond that I haven't a clue, unless other pitchers are coming in to consistently save his bacon.
Now if only someone would do the same for the Cubs as a whole.
Not So Bad....Yet
The Tribune says Mark Prior has been preliminarily diagnosed with a shoulder strain, which is about as innocuous as one could hope for at this point.
The MRI has yet to be performed, so don't come in off the ledge yet. You've got more chances to accidentally trip and fall if you're constantly shuttling in and out. It'd be a shame to jump before it was absolutely necessary, and unintentionally at that.
Maybe get a buddy to grab you some coffee and one of those foam seat pads so you can at least be comfortable during the wait. Oh, and don't forget to wear your jacket. It might be a while, and it's cold out there!
My Kingdom for a Kettle!
Talks between the Orioles and Chicago Cubs about the long-discussed Luis Matos-for-Todd Walker swap have intensified the past couple of days, according to industry sources. The holdup appears to be the Orioles' unwillingness to pick up the entire $2.5 million contract for the Cubs second baseman, who makes about $900,000 more than Matos.
So, not only are the Cubs looking to trade Walker's solid infield bat for an outfield defensive replacement who, if he stayed in Baltimore, would almost certainly lose his job as a starter to Corey Patterson, it's possible they may have to pay for the privilege.
I wish there was some early warning system in place for this sort of confluence of horrifically sickening events. I could at least keep a bucket near my desk.
Here We Go Again
It's impossible to know for sure if it really is the first time this spring he's felt the pain, as Jim Hendry reportedly says it is, but for those who have felt that something's been fishy all along, one can't help but feel a little vindication mixed with a heaping helping of despair, now that Mark Prior is seeing Dr. Lewis Yocum about his right shoulder tomorrow.
Of course, if that wasn't enough, it appears that Derrek Lee is getting his shoulder checked out by Yocum too, after bruising it while diving for a foul ball during Sunday's WBC game against Japan. Who knows if it's really something to be worried about, but I'm well beyond the point of logic or emotional restraint winning out over abject panic and anguish.
Suffice to say, this is a dark day in the story of the 2006 season, and while there may still be light heading our way, get ready for a long wait to catch sight of it.
That's My Carlos
Nice work from Big Z last night against a pretty decent lineup from Puerto Rico, going 4 innings and only giving up 2 hits (both singles) and 2 walks, while getting 5 strikeouts. Both hits were the only squarely hit balls Zambrano gave up, and both were smacked by Ivan Rodriguez, who just looked like he had Carlos all figured out.
No one else did, though, as Z recovered nicely from his sub-par, jacked-up outing last week against the Dominicans. He was a bit shaky in the first, having some trouble finding his arm-slot, and thus, finding the plate, but he settled in nicely for his last three frames. However, even when he was struggling a bit early on, he was mostly missing down and to the outside or inside, rather than missing up or over the plate.
If there was a downside to the outing, is was that it took 71 pitches for him to make it through those four innings, mostly due to his first frame struggles (I think he'd thrown 25 after one, but don't quote me on it). That still looks to be a huge issue for Z and the rest of the Cubs' big arms - economy - and until he learns to tighten up his starts, Carlos will risk coming up short of his potential.
Short on time. That's my theme for the next few weeks, so I'll break out some quick projectile points.
Since I can't seem to force myself to write about a position battle for second that I simply can't get a feel for, or work up the wherewithal to talk about This Week In Mysterious Non-Injury Injury Monitoring, I'm just going to dash off a few random thoughts.
Big Z's Unpleasant Adventure
Carlos Zambrano had a rough day at the WB"C" yesterday, walking three, striking out two, and giving up three hits - one a homer to Adrian Beltre - and four runs against the Dominican Republic.
I got a chance to look at his outing when I got home, and what you had was a prototypical, super-hyped Z performance. He was overthrowing like crazy, all while using nearly every pitch and every arm slot he could find - I think he even borrowed some from his teammates - and as a result, he had no idea where any ball was going, and never really looked comfortable.
The home run he gave up was on a slider, and while it wasn't a "hit me" pitch, it wasn't a good one, either, meandering to the plate, a little high on a little too much of the dish, showing itself for what it was too early along its path, and rolling at the end rather than breaking.
It wasn't a real hanger, it just wasn't sharp or located well, and unfortunately for Z, when you toss something like that up on the inner half to a hitter like Beltre, you're going to wind up being responsible for a souvenir more often than not.
The outing wasn't something to be concerned about as a Cub fan - beyond the usual worries about Carlos being able to stay calm in this sort of situation - just a bad trip to the hill in March. Schedule permitting, I'll talk about Mr. Lee's day later.
Sunday afternoon treated me to the Cactus League game between the Cubs and the Giants, so as a way of giving back to the universe, I thought I'd go ahead and fire a few shots in the air.
The Cubs won 5-1, but Cactus League doesn't matter, and it was just fun to see some baseball and some sunshine - particularly with the mild snowstorm that started up mid-afternoon - although in the end, like any good thing, it just left me wanting more.
The Tribune reports that Kerry Wood will be having knee surgery Tuesday.
Kerry Wood will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Tuesday to repair damage to a torn medial meniscus, the Cubs announced Friday.
Two things: First, I'm glad the Cubs are being proactive here, unlike last season with Wood's shoulder. It's the right thing to do. Second...I haven't got a second. I'm freakin' speechless.
There was baseball all over the place yesterday, so it seems like a perfect opportunity to clean my metaphorical firearm and let a few bullets fly.
I know nothing about papers outside of Chicago, so does anyone know if the Boston Herald sports department is the baseball equivalent of Us Weekly? I ask because I see little difference between this quote from the front of today's version of the Us website...
As they prepare for a baby in France, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie raise questions by donning gold bands.
...and this one from an article in today's BH...
Chicago Cubs scout Ken Kravec was spotted observing yesterday's workout, which may be an indication that the National League club is still interested in acquiring infielder Tony Graffanino....
The ellipses are all theirs, by the way. Doesn't it make the item just feel juicier?
I'm not really going anywhere with this - clearly, Graffanino's been on the Cubs' radar all offseason in the event they trade Todd Walker, which would probably set up a really weird non-platoon platoon with Jerry Hairston, since 34 year-olds who've never had 400 at bats in a season don't make good candidates to hold up under a full season of play - I just find the gossipy quality in that blurb fascinating.
I Trust It Like The Ground
About four or five times yesterday, I started and stopped writing about this Sun-Times piece that makes mention of the interest Scott Williams has been generating during the Cubs' various trade talks this winter. I eventually decided it wasn't worth my energy. It was one report in one paper, and truth be told, it wasn't really saying much of anything.
Then came this morning's article in the same rag, and this time around, instead of being a snippet buried in a larger piece, it was the entire gist of the thing, right down to the quotes from Williamson saying he understood he could be trade bait, and that it would be nice to get a shot at closing games again anyway.
Here's the thing: I don't have an issue with Williamson being dealt if it helps the team as whole - even though if I were handicapping dominance and value in the Cubs' relief corps, he'd be my favorite to take both crowns. What gets me is the logic being used to justify it. Here's a sampling, first from yesterday:
Some scouts view Williamson as a possible eighth- or ninth-inning reliever. With the Cubs signing Bob Howry and Scott Eyre to handle setup roles for closer Ryan Dempster, where Williamson figures into the equation is undetermined.
And here's some of what appears today.
So, let me get this straight. A team that is stockpiling starting pitchers to provide depth as others recover from injuries, while also providing someone to turn to in case of catastrophe - a strategy which makes perfect sense considering past circumstances, even though there's a good possibility it could result in roster overload down the line - this same team might be so concerned with what to do with the likes of Wuertz and Wellemeyer or when in a game a good reliever pitches that they could ship Williamson off to other climes.
In other words, there's no displacing Eyre or Howry from their financially prescribed "setup" duties, and if fully healthy, Williamson is just too good to be used in anything but the eighth or ninth inning. This is, to put it bluntly, a load of crap. If you "can't have too much pitching," as we've heard so often in this and other years, then the old saw applies equally to rotation and bullpen, and any thoughts that fly in the face of that are disingenuous at worst, and ideologically inconsistent at best.
Now, I also realize that the Cubs themselves haven't made these statements, and that there's a decent chance that Mike Kiley is simply seeing what he perceives as an overflow of talent that should be rearranged and pursuing it as a story in an otherwise boring Spring. However, I think we've all seen the Cubs and other organizations use the media to float these types of ideas enough times to be at least reasonably suspicious of the origin.
In the end, I'll concede that any deal that involves Williamson and helps the Cubs get better is a positive on its own, but what this issue really comes down to for me is this: if talks about acquiring Williamson are being initiated by other teams with an interest in his talents and a will to pay for them, then bully for Jimmy. Talk and deal away. But if the Cubs are shopping him because they lack the imagination to use all the talent their bullpen possesses, then that's a deeper philosophical issue that, while it could reap benefits in the short term, bodes extremely ill going forward.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com