Worst. Contract. Ever.

Posted by Jumbo on February 21, 2009.
Baseball Prospectus had an article up the other day titled "Free-Agency Mistakes" ($). The article is a run-down of what they consider to be the worst signings of the offseason. The list breaks down into 1, 2, 3, and overall worst contracts. While the Cubs didn't "win" any of these "awards," Jimbo Hendry finds his work in two of the categories and is the only GM to make the list of 7 contracts twice. In the spirit of Todd Hundley, here's the details:

Worst 2 Year Contract:
And the award goes to...the Reds signing of Willy Taveras to a $6.25M deal. Hendry's signing of Aaron Miles to a 2 yr. $4.9M deal comes in 2nd. BP thinks this deal is an overreaction by Hendry to last year's right-handed dominated roster. BP says that Miles is little more than a replacement level player and that the Cubs would have been better off keeping Ronny Cedeno who was much cheaper and who has a much better glove and is still young enough to hold on to some upside. I'm no Ronny C fan, but I'm inclined to agree.

Worst 3 Year Contract:
Not what we want to see here, but BP ranks the Cubs signing of Milton Bradley to a 3 yr. $30M deal as the worst 3 yr. deal, behind only the three-er (new word alert) given to Raul Ibanez by the Phillies (also for $30M). Bit ironic that the Cubs were going to sign one of these two guys, got their second choice, and, as a result, get ranked the 2nd and not 1st worst deal. BP does note that Bradely's deal could turn into a 2 yr. if the Cubs exercise a $2M buyout. But their major beef with the deal is that it adds just as much risk and uncertainty, given Bradley's injury history (not to mention his meltdowns), as it does cost. BP again sees this as an overreaction to all the righties on the '08 roster and says that if all the Cubs wanted to do was get a lefty, it would have been much more cost effective to sign Bobby Abreu at 1 yr. for $5M like the Angels were able to do. Maybe so, but the market was what the market was-the Cubs needed to add a bat like Bradley. We'll see if his performance is able to justify the cost of signing the cheaper and less productive Abreu.

If you're interested-the worst 1 year contracts were Trevor Hoffman's $6M deal with the Brewers and Jason Varitek's $5M BoSox signing. Worst contract of the winter?: AJ Burnett. 5 years, $82.5M for an "occasionally healthy and occasionally valuable" player.



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Hot Corner? Who Will Be the Cubs Backup Third Baseman?

Posted by Jumbo on February 19, 2009.

The most watched position battle throughout spring training in Mesa will be the Cubs closer situation, which will come down to favorite Carlos Marmol or newly acquired Kevin Gregg. Marmol seems to be the lock for the first crack at the job while Gregg seems to have been brought in as a veteran closer that can step in and pick up the slack should Marmol face a rough patch or go down to injury.

The rest of the roster is pretty much locked. You've got a "battle" in CF for AB's between Kosuke Fukudome, Reed Johnson, and likely Joey Gathright (a topic for another day is how this guy is locked in on the roster when he's basically Felix Pie only older, more expensive, and with far less potential). And you've got a bit of mystery at 2B surrounding the AB breakdown between Lil Mikey Fontenot and new guy Aaron Miles.

The bench, too, is just about locked in. The Cubs will carry 12 pitchers again in '09, so that leaves just 5 bench spots. Micah Hoffpauir seems locked to get his shot. Whomever the 2 of Fukudome/Johnson and Fontenot/Miles aren't playing will get 2 more. The backup C, likely Koyie Hill or Paul Bako, has a spot. So that leaves just one open position on the 25 man. Rather than holding another IFer, of which the Cubs really have no legit option (all 5 on the 40 man will make the opening day roster), early word is the Cubs are holding the end of the pine for Joey Gathright. Why I'm not sure. Really, is it great bench management to carry, essentially, 3 CFs? But it appears the Cubs are currently without another option.

So what this leaves is what I'm finding to be the most interesting, and most concerning, hole on the Cubs roster: a backup 3B. With all-everything super-sub Mark DeRosa gone to the Injuns, the Cubs have no legitimate backup at the hot corner.(Quick sidebar on DeRosa-dude played SIX!!!! positions last year. Take out P and C, and the only spot DeRo didn't take the field was CF. All this and being the heart, soul, and MVP of the team the last 2 years. Just amazing. No way he will not be missed this year).

Aramis Ramirez isn't getting any younger, he'll be 31 in '09. The guy's going to need a blow this year. The current plan has Mike Fontenot taking 3B to spell ARam while Miles holds down 2B. But, here's how confident the club is with this arrangement: Jake Fox is taking grounders at 3B. THAT Jake Fox. The Catcher. The Jake Fox who has 4 games played at 3B in his 521 pro games. He's plan "B" at 3B. And should ARam go down to injury? He's the backup 3B. How's that grab ya?

As a result, word is the Cubs are considering adding another IFer during the spring that could provide a more reliable and less scary-as-eff option at third. With camps now well underway, the free agent pool is really more of a scrap heap, save for Manny "I hit 400 ft. bombs using only my wrists in the playoffs against the Cubs" Ramirez. Add in that the Cubs really don't have much cake left to spend and the options are going to be slim. I'll assume, however, that the Cubs can find a way to squeeze another $1M 1 year deal or so out of the budget. Let's take a look-see at what I consider to be the best of a rag tag bunch, in order of who I'd like to see the Cubs obtain:

FREE AGENTS:

Joe Crede: The Bad-Because there's only bad. Dude wants $7M. No way he'll get it, but no way he'll sign for $1M either. He's not a great player, but he's better than the rest of these jamokes.

Mark Grudzielanek: The Good-Gruds can still play. In 360 ABs last year with KC he put up a .299 BA and a 11.6 VORP. He's a former Cub and a guy who could be a poor man's DeRo in the locker room. The Bad-He's not really a 3B, having played only 31 games there across his 1765 MLB game career. He'll be 39 this year. Also, Gruds pulled down $4.5M in '08 and would have to take a significant paycut for the Cubs to afford him. That said, after getting his ass kicked in KC the last few years, maybe the chance to win something would let him take a small deal.

Nomar Garciaparra: The Good-He's able to play a decent 3B. He's got some game left, PECOTA seeing an 8.2 VORP out of him in '09. Although briefly, Nomah's a former Cub. The Bad-Guy gets hurt more than Mark Prior (OK, nobody gets hurt more than Prior, but he's a close 2nd). Battling injuries, again, in '08, Nomar only logged 181 ABs. He made $8.5M last year-no way he takes such a huge paycut just to be a backup 3B.

A Bonus Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda...
Eric Hinske: The Good-resurrected his career last year in Tampa, putting up a 14.1 VORP in 432 PAs with 20 HRs. Only 31. Plays a decent 3B and can play all 4 corners. Lefty. Cheap. The Bad-he just signed with Pittsburgh at the end of January on a 1 yr. $1.5M deal. Granted, he'll get many more ABs in PIT, but the Cubs may have missed the boat on this one. I would feel a lot better about our glaring 3B sinkhole if Hinske were in Cubbie pinstripes right now.

Yeah, so that's about it as far as the remaining free agents go. Not really a truly decent option in the bunch. I'd be up for giving Gruds a chance, but he wouldn't be any better than a full time Mikey Fontenot at 3B, Miles at 2B combo.

Let's look at who might be a cheap option available in trade.

TRADE BAIT?:

Andy Marte:
The Good-Just DFAd by the Tribe today, the Indians have 10 days to trade or release Marte. Marte was once the #1 prospect in baseball. Still only 25, I see no reason why the Cubs shouldn't at least attempt to swing a deal on the cheap with CLE and get Marte into the system. He's exactly the kind of low cost/high upside player this organization rarely goes for (save Ryan Dempster). The Bad-Marte is out of options. I'm not sure how, or if, changing teams or getting traded would effect that. Still-even if he is out of options, the Cubs could give him a crack. I'd rather see him than a third CFer in Gathright. The Bad-despite the flickering pedigree, Marte has yet to put together anything resembling a good pro season. He's still young, is far from reliable, and doesn't really fix the problem.

Ronnie Belliard:
The Good-he's cheap, signed for '09 at $1.9M and that's it. He's looking like he may be the opening day 2B for WAS, but when things go south for them, and oh will they go south, he'll likely be moved to make way for some younger players. BP's tossing him a decent 12.5 VORP. The Bad-Dude's a fat ass. Lazy. Fat. Not a good combo for a pro ath-uh-leet.

So there you have it. After a day's worth of "the Cubs will be adding an IFer" articles from the usual mouthpieces, there's what we're looking at. I'm sure some things will shake out during camps that may loosen up a potential 3Ber, but for now, it's slim pickins. If something new comes up, you can be sure TD will be here to blather on about it. So get excited for that!




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11th Annual Toast to Harry

Posted by Arthur on February 19, 2009.

Today is the 11th Annual Toast to Harry Caray. At 7pm (CST) a toast will be made in his honor at all Harry Caray restaurants and other local establishments in your area . I heard this morning that the HC in Chicago has 101 gallons of beer in a glass that will be used. I dont know about you but doesnt sound like enough. They will also be selling $1.01 glasses of Bud in honor of HC and the Cubs last world series wint.

What does HC mean to me? A good deal. He is no god...I mean if he and Ditka were in a car wreck I am sure only Ditka would survive. However, HC is a visionary. He had the foresight to know that if he wore some great glasses, got drunk on TV and created a great slogan that he would forever live in our hearts. I mean without him Will Ferrell may never have had a career.

Harry...tonight I toast you. The original Bud Man!

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The 'Pen, Part III

Posted by Lionel on February 17, 2009.



The Cubs have 39 guys on their 40 man roster, so the NRI's (non roster invitees) have at least a small chance of being added and making the squad. And the way I see it, some of these guys would actually be better in the 'pen than some ofn the 40 man roster. So, that's how I wrote it up; I ignored the extra burden of being added to the 40 man roster, and instead focused on their chances of being in the 'pen in determining the odds.

Jason Waddell-This is a bit of a noodle-scratcher. If you had a 3.67, 1.84, 3.38 season ERA over the past three years, respectively, and you played for an organization (the Giants) that finished 3rd, 5th, 4th in the past three years, you'd think you'd get a sniff at the Bigs. But that wasn't the case for Waddell. All I can say is that he must be a guy whose stats don't show what the scouts see. Waddell struck out 70 in 64 innings pitched last year, holding opposing hitters to a .209 BAA. He was solid in winter ball as well, going 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in 10 relief appearances. If the Cubs need another leftie, I wouldn't be surprised to see this 27 year old get the call. Odds: 30 to 1

Esmailin Caridad-Caridad started the '08 campaign in Daytona. He was 6-4 with an ERA near 4 and a half. But after his promotion to Tennessee, he took off. He started 14 games for the Smokies with a 7-3 record and a 3.16 ERA. He was one of the Cubs representatives in the Arizona Fall League, where he pitched exclusively out of the 'pen. He amassed a 3.94 ERA and struck out 17 in 16 innings. He was one of the Cubs better pitchers in '08, but being righthanded, he would need a slew of injuries to see the ivy (other than the Iowa game at Wrigley). Odds: 40 to 1

J.R. Mathes-Mathes is 27 years old and has spent the last two seasons in AAA. While he is no longer considered a prospect, he had a solid season last year. He went 9-5 with a 4.29 ERA and was named to the PCL All Star team. He spent his winter in Venezuela, starting 5 of the 9 games he pitched a compiling a 3.86 ERA. And while Winter ball is usually hitter friendly, his .354 BAA stands out against him. The lefthander could be a long reliever if the Cubs get desparate, but he's probably headed for a 6 year free agency this November. Odds: 45 to 1

Rocky Roquet-Roquet had a solid '08 campaign, until the Arizona Fall League. He started the year in Daytona. After 7 appearances with a 1.74 ERA, he was promoted to Tennessee. He made 39 relief appearances there with a 3.70 ERA and averaged more than a K per inning. But when he went to the AFL, he gaves up 9 earned runs in 13 and 2/3. He actually allowed another 9 unearned runs cross the plate, but the AFL is also a hitter's league. If he was lefthanded, he would be closer to the Bigs. Odds: 45 to 1

Mike Stanton-Stanton appeared in 69 games, with an ERA near 6. On top of that, those were 2007 numbers. See, on the close of Spring Training last year, the Reds cut Stanton. So, the lefthander sat out last year. Maybe the opportunity to stick to the Reds will make him determined, but a 41 year old who didn't pitch last year and was pretty bad the year before isn't likely to be in Lou's plan. But he is lefthanded. Odds: 50 to 1

Matt Smith-Smith is only 29 years old, but seems to have already established himself as a journeyman. The Cubs will be his third organization in the last 4 years. He was lights out in '06, throwing 20 and 2/3 while allowing only 2 earnies. But in '07, the leftie reversed course, giving up 5 runs in 4 innings of work. He didn't crack the roster in '08. Even if he gets back to '06 form, he hasn't shown any ability to stay healthy. He was limited to 21 innings in '07 between AAA and the Bigs, followed by 15 and 2/3 last year, all in rookie or A ball. Of all the non-farm system guys, he is probably the most worth the risk. Odds: 50 to 1

Bill White-The 4th Bill White in baseball history would rather me show his AAA numbers from '08 than his MLB numbers. In 50 games, he had 3.54 ERA and only allowed 4 HR's, while striking out over a batter per inning. But the September callup for the Rangers gave up 9 earned runs in just 4 innings of work, walking 11 and K'ing only 1. He is lefthanded, but with 4 guys ahead of him (based on stats and experience), the 30 year old isn't likely going to be wearing the blue pinstripes. Odds: 60 to 1

Andrew Cashner-The 6-6 righthander was the Cubs first round pick last June. Given that he had pitched exclusively out of the 'pen at TCU, most fans thought that was his future, and some even thought he would be called up last September. But JH said they were going to stretch him out as a starter and 6 of his 8 professional appearances have been starts. 23 walks in 20 innings among his three stops say he has some control issues to work out. If his future is in the rotation, the Cubs will take it slow. His invite was simply to showcase one of the Cubs better prospects. Odds: 60 to 1

Chad Fox-Fox is back for Round II. An NRI in '07, Fox made three appearances in May last year before hurting his elbow once again. Fox is 38 years old and righthanded. Maybe he pitched well enough last year to warrant a callup, but he's now pitched in 3 games in the last 3 years. This has to be Fox's swan song and it may be heard only in Iowa. Odds: 75 to 1

Ed Campusano-Campusano split time between Daytona and Tennessee last year. The 26 year old lefthander thew in 43 games with a combined ERA of 4.98. 34 walks in those 43 appearances didn't help. If he wasn't lefthanded, he probably wouldn't have a big league camp invite. Campusano is a longshot, period. Odds: 100 to 1

Ken Kadokura-I don't understand this. Kadokura is essentially being brought in to help Fukudome feel more comfortable. For what, a month? So Fukudome can feel comfortable until he gets in games that count? Kadokura is a 35 year old righthander with no MLB experience. He pitched in 11 games for the Komiuri Giants last year with a respectable 3.55 ERA and 16 K's in 12 and 2/3 innings. But that is in Japan and in limited action. Odds: 100 to 1


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The 'Pen, Part II


Why am I so confident that the 7 of the 8 guys listed in The Pen, Part I will make up the Cubs bullpen? Well, beyond talent, it's a matter of money. The Cubs 'pen and 5th starter account for around $16 million dollars. With that in mind, the Cubs would either have to send down a player making more than a million dollars to play AAA or release a guy and eat in excess of a million dollars to do so. With that in mind, I give you the contenders (i.e. Guys on the 40 man roster):


Jeff Stevens-Stevens was the "centerpiece" in the Mark DeRosa trade. Ironically, the Indians had acquired him from the Reds in the Brandon Phillips trade. Stevens made 36 appearances in relief between AA and AAA, compiling nearly 60 innings of work. That includes 81 strikeouts, a 3.28 ERA, and a 1.13 WHIP. The 25 year old righthander seems like a legitimate reliever prospect, and has the potential to be the first callup of the year. Odds: 10 to 1

Randy Wells-The 26 year old righthander made his MLB debut last year, making 4 appearances without giving up a run or even a hit. Unfortunately, it was for the Blue Jays after being drafted in the Rule V. He essentially made the club as the 25th guy and due to injury. When those injured players returned, he was retuned to the Cubs. His numbers at AAA don't reflect his short term success. His 8 appearances as a reliever amounted to a near 6 ERA. He made 19 starts at Iowa with an 8-3 record and a 3.75 ERA. If the Cubs dig into the minors for help, Wells could be one of the first callups. Odds: 15 to 1

Kevin Hart-The 26 year old's stats have been discussed in detail in the 5th starter post. Hart, stolen from the Orioles (I know, surprising the Cubs made a trade with the Orioles) for Freddie Bynum, is a hard throwing right hander who would just be another arm in the 'pen. As previously stated, he may be the best suited player for the Cubs to move in a trade. Odds: 20 to 1

Angel Guzman-Guzman appears to be a better fit in the bullpen than the rotation. For one, it would reduce the strain on his arm and potentially save him from more injuries. Two, Guzman remains a strikeout pitcher. 30 strikeouts in 26 and 2/3 innings in '08 between the minors and majors. But even then, he still is just another right-handed arm. Odds: 20 to 1

Jose Ascanio-6 appearances, 5 and 2/3 innings, 8 hits, 4 walks, 5 earned runs. That means a 7.94 ERA for 2008. When he wasn't in the Bigs, he pitched 40 times for Iowa. An ERA over 5 was due in large part to the 10 HR's he yielded. The only positive was the 11 saves. The 23 year old is still young, but you have to wonder if the right hander's 2.54 ERA which made him attractive to the Cubs in '07 was a fluke. After all, his career minor league record is 3.84. Odds: 25 to 1

Justin Berg-Berg was added to the 40 man roster this offseason. Why? Well, the Cubs brass must see something that I am missing. The 24 year old right hander started the season in Tennessee, going 0-3, but with a respectable 3.49 ERA. He moved up to Iowa, where he made 27 appearances, 16 starts. But his 5.68 ERA and 1.00 K/walk ratio doesn't seem like the type of numbers that warrant a spot on the 40 man. He spent the winter playing baseball in Venezula, throwing 10 games of relief and amassing a 9.88 ERA. Odds: 75 to 1

Mitch Atkins-Atkins has been a starter for all but 3 appearances in '07 and 2 appearances in '04. So, to move him into the Cubs 'pen would be stupid. As I mentioned before, he sits in a perfect position to slide into the rotation in case of an injury, but doesn't seem like the kind of guy who would pitch in relief. Atkins record must not reflect the scout's view of him, as he still isn't in the Top 10 according to either BA or BP. Odds: 75 to 1

David Patton-Patton was a Rule V addition, after the Cubs paid cash to the Reds who selected him in the draft. The Cubs would have to put him on the 25 man roster to keep him. In 2006, he dominated at A Ball with a 1.95 ERA. He fell off in '07 when he moved to Advanced A Ball and had a 4.52 ERA. But back for his second year in Advanced A Ball in '08, he got back some of his form, yielding 29 runs in over 73 innings (a 3.54 ERA) and striking out 87. Given that he doesn't have any experience above A Ball, he's likely headed back to Colorado before the end of Spring Training. Odds: 80 to 1

Marcos Mateo-Mateo was added to the 40 man this offseason in his first season in the organization after being acquired from the Reds for Buck Coats. He has yet to pitch above Advanced A Ball, so it was a move to protect him for the future than provide immediate help. The 24 year old righthander had a 3.22 ERA between Peoria and Daytona, starting in roughly half of his appearances. He was hit pretty hard in the Dominican Winter Leagues, giving up 12 hits in 6 innings of work. Odds: 85 to 1

The 'Pen, Part III will focus on the non-roster invitees.



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