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Happy Thanksgiving

Posted by timahuwe on November 26, 2015 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (0)

As Cubs fans now, we have plenty to be thankful for. I plan to take most of today off of article writing and rumor following. Though I had time with my family on Sunday, today is about Thanksgiving, in any fashion. Give thanks, and enjoy.

Baseball America Honors Two AZ Fall League Cubs

Posted by timahuwe on November 26, 2015 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Cubs C Willson Contreras and 3B Jeimer Candelario were noted in the Baseball America "Fall League" roundup.  Conteras was named the 5th best prospect, and Candelario was mentioned among those outside the top ten. Congrats to both.

Griggs Suspended 50 Games

Posted by timahuwe on November 26, 2015 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

A 12th Round selection in 2014, Tanner Griggs has been suspended for a banned substance. Griggs hasn't reached short-season ball yet.




Cubs Wander Into Trade for Brothers

Posted by timahuwe on November 25, 2015 at 2:05 PM Comments comments (1)

In 2013, Rex Brothers put up a 1.74 ERA in Colorado. In 2014, he was dreadful, posting a 5.59 ERA. His major league numbrs were good in 2015, sort of. Except for the 8 walks in a bit over nine innings. Over the cramp for 40 Man space, Brothers was designated for assignment. Today, the Cubs sent minor league arm Wander Cabrera to Colorado for Brothers.

If Brothers has anything left, he represents an upgrade in the Cubs bullpen, particularly from the weaker left side.  I'll add info as it arrives.

Shopping For Music... Errrr... Relievers.

Posted by timahuwe on November 25, 2015 at 2:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Imagine you're overseas, and swing by a used record shop, since this is my article. You know the music you like, and find a clerk in the store you can communicate with. What you want is local flavor. You can get the international names back home. So, if you're in Russia, maybe you want some local punk music, like Pussy Riot. Perhaps your travels have you in Brazil, and you've become intrigued by choro music. Or, maybe. you're in Jamaica, and you want some authentic reggae mon. You end up buying 20 CDs, and packing them up and sending them home, to yourself, for $20. You have no idea what you have, but you figure it should be a fun listen eventually. After you get home, you sit down to listen to the CDs, and seven of them are unlistenable. Seven others are fairly good, in parts. And six of them become CDs that are now indispensable. For twenty bucks, you bought six CDs that you now can't imagine life without.

The Cubs recently acquired five relievers, giving up littke in return, and you have two things to remember about the basket of moves. One is that, just before Thanksgiving is a really good time to not be over-burdened with players of very little value on your 40 Man roster. The Cubs were down below 30 a couple weeks ago. Because of that, and because other teams were similarly up against the 40 Man limit, the Cubs were able to get some relievers at used store prices. The other is that relievers are still oftentimes unreliable, at any price.

Since early November, the Cubs have added Ryan Cook (waivers from Boston), Andury Acevedo (free agent), Jack Leathersich (waivers from the Mets), Spencer Patton (trade from Texas for Frandy Delarosa), and Rex Brothers (trade from Colorado for Wander Cabrera). Frandy Delarosa was my 25th-rated Cubs hitting prospect, and Wander Cabrera wasn't on my radar.

The Cubs have added five used relievers for a bit more than pocket change. I wish Delarosa and Cabrera well, and they might be better served in their new systems, where playing time is more available.


Next November, note how many players the Cubs have on their "40". Normally, teams will have somewhere in the mid-30's. When players are added before the Rule 5 deadline, sometimes, deals have to be made. The 40 Man is rather inflexible. The Astros and Twins added seven to their 40. The Giants added eight. When teams in the mid-30's add players aplenty pre-deadline, somebody's gotta go.

With only 30 on the list, and only adding four (this after inking Cook), the Cubs could get plenty of potential quality on the cheap. And they did. With the five, some might be of no further value. Most have options remaining. However, some will be drek, like the seven CDs. You won't be able to tell which, much like the CDs. You can identify quality really well, but sometimes, the production isn't what the packaging represents. However, if two of the five become viable bullpen options, now or in the future, this will have been a good value grab. Like the trip to the used CD store.

Minding the "40" in early-November helps with shopping in later November. Getting a useful reliever on the cheap isn't that much less liekly than getting a reliever for the competitive market rate. And releasing a guy who little is invested in is quite a bit less difficult to stomach than paying full load for a bad reliever.

Or a bad CD.

The Luxury Tax Fund

Posted by timahuwe on November 24, 2015 at 9:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Sometimes, writers get ideas submitted to them. Sometimes, they get included in an article. I didn't get this article submitted to me, but Jeff Paternosto made a very valid quip recently. What is being done with the suddenly large IFA tax?

Upon running into his question, I requsted permission to use it in an article. As he has no idea who I am, he said I could. It's a really fascinating idea.

First, a bit of backstory. When the current Collective Bargaining Agreement went into play, two new types of fines were intorduced. The Cubs have (willingly) paid both of them. The first is for overshooting on a draft class signing limit. For instance, when the Cubs overspent in the 2013 draft class (Kris Bryant being the first of those choices), they paid a 5% fine on anything over their slotted amount. As I remember, they were about $40,000 over. Five percent is $2,000. Basically, a pittance. I'm not sure if the league thought teams would reach that threshold or not, but it's routinely done.

The second fine/tax is the one we're talking about today. When the Cubs 2015 international class went over their limit, every dollar over was fined another dollar. So, if the Cubs went over an extra $1 million that year, the league would get $1 mllion. I really doubt the league thought teams would break that  chandelier with such wanton joy. The Blue Jays, Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Rangers, and now especially, the Dodgers have gone "into the bonus", some teams multiple times.

Yesterday, the Dodgers ran further over their limit. They signed two prospect from Cuba on Monday. Yusniel Diaz (OF) signed for $15.5 million. Infielder Omar Estevez inked a pact for $6 million. I really don't think the league saw a team going over by nearly $22 million in a day in November. What this means, of course, is the Dodgers will pay the league $21.5 million as a punishment for signing the two.

It sound more like a cost of doing business than a deterrent. However, the league will soon have the money. And no expressed place to send it.

While some of the other money gets distributed amongst teams that aren't scofflaws, this has no specific destination. At some point, this money could become rather valid, as if twenty mil isn't already.

What should MLB do with, say, sixty million dollars?

That's a very good question. I don't think they league 'owes' anybody. Charities are nice, and I wouldn't object if some of it goes to fund RBI programs, feeding the money back into the feeders program.

I think a really interesting and comprehensive study could be organized to study pitching injuries with some of the money.

One idea that wouldn't be looked into very hard would be to finance a scholarship for... pretty much anything. A scholarship for each D1 school with a baseball program, courtesy of the Los Angeles Dodgers. A scholarship for students in a field that makes sense to baseball. Perhaps a couple scholarships at schools in the area of the infraction for minority business majors. (UCLA, DePaul/Illinois, NYU, Boston University., for example.)

I'm completely open to any other ideas.

I hope the Cubs get to throw more on the pile, as they've been linked to lefty pitcher Adrian Morejon.

Great question, Jeff, and thanks for challenging me to think.

Cubs Sign Minor Minor League Player

Posted by timahuwe on November 24, 2015 at 1:20 AM Comments comments (0)

The Cubs recently signed pitcher minor league pitcher Drew Rucinski.

Apparently, he pitched for a couple of years in Rockford.  Woot.

This is one of those low-risk signings thaty rarely come to anything, especially since his numbers in the Pacific Coast League last season look awfully inflated. He looks like an option as a potential starter in Iowa next year. If enough options are similarly aligned, he can pitch from the pen in Des Moines, or get released.

It does sound like the Cubs may have some news on Tuesday, as.....




This obviously doesn't specify the Cubs. However, there may be news on Tuesday.

Getting Creative

Posted by timahuwe on November 23, 2015 at 8:30 AM Comments comments (0)

The Cubs buzzword of the off-season seems to be 'getting creative'. Whether it be predictive, co-incidental, or a verbal one-off, it sounds that, just perhaps, free agent spending by the Cubs this off-season might be less than expected. Oddly (?), the term grew into use at about the time you might think Theo Epstein talked to Tom Ricketts about the 2016 budget. It's possible that the spending rug might be shorter this winter than expected. What might be some results from a lower spending target for the 2016 season?

The first thing that might come to mind is big-money free agents. David Price, Zack Greinke, and Jason Heyward look to be the three biggest options. Maybe the Cubs will only sign two of them. Or, gasp, only one. Maybe none. What I'm reasonably certain of is that Epstein received a number from Ricketts, and I think it was lower than expected. What that number is, I'm not sure. Unless you were in on the conversation, you probably don't know the specifics, either. For a ballpark, I'll throw out $120 million as a hunch, with a possible bump to $130 or so if the season is progressing well in July.

That number may well be high.

Using the 120, we can quickly knock off 11 for Edwin Jackson. Jon Lester will cast 15 again, and Jake Arrieta might make 10 this time around.  The Cubs could be at $36 million through two roster spots before free agents are added. Depending on 'the number' they might need to get creative.  Jason Hammel will get paid regardless. Some of the kids are reaching arbitration. It gets expensive to be good.

"So, what's your point?"

How much do you expect to pay for the last hitter on the bench? Last year's fire extinguisher was Jonathan Herrera. Experienced and versatile, he signed for $900,000, almost twice league minimum. For that, the Cubs received offense and defense slightly below replacement level. He playe in 73 games.

"Well, I'd like something better than Herrera."

Are you willing to pay more for that quality?

"Only if he's significantly better."

Which you won't know until after the year. Experience and versatility are qualities that increase a player's reputation, and salary. The same applies with expected quality. If the Cubs want a quality 25th player, they'll likely have to pay the going rate for a good player. How about the bullpen? What is your expectation for the last reliever?

"He should be a quality option. Preferably a lefty."

So you want him to cost $2 million? To be the last guy on the bench?

"No. About $1.2 million. But I want his WHIP to be better than league average."

Why would a good reliever trample on his earnigs, just to never get used?

"Because, well, that's what I want."

It isn't happening. Run the numbers. What will the Cubs be paying if every player is condsidered above average?

"The Cubs are a big market team. It shouldn't matter."

Do you know the team's budget? Does it even make sense for a player to take a low-ball offer, just to be not able to play.

"How do you recommend we add some inexpensive hitters?"

Dan Vogelbach is inexpensive.

"He can't field."

Christian Villanueva is a good glove man.

"I'm not sure he can hit."

If you want a guarantee, you picked the wrong game.

"So we should hae a crappy bench player?"

Many teams have below replacement-level players. 

"But the Cubs are a competitive, big-market club."

Who might be a bit short on low-cost players.

"So what do you recoomend the Cubs do?"

What I think they should do doesn't matter. However, there's a solid way to add a league-minimum reserve.

"Do I even want to know?"

Probably not, but you probably already do. Most Rule 5 players are minimum wage.

"Do you want Davd Patton or Lendy Castillo, then? For a competitive team?"

If the team improves over last season, they might have more one-sided games, hence more eighth inning blow-outs. And why do you never flash back to Odubel Herrera? All five Rule 5'd hitters last year survived the season, four played in over 100 games, and three logged over 400 at bats. But you'll always go back to Patton and Castillo.

"But Cubs fans deserve better."

Than Delino Deshields as the last player on their bench? That's rich. But I'll say one thing about it.

"What's that?"

It's really creative to trust siphoning quality from another roster.



Riding The Momentum

Posted by timahuwe on November 21, 2015 at 4:30 AM Comments comments (0)

I was going to write an article this morning about potential Rule 5 pick-ups for December 10th. However, I've decided to talk about something a bit more timely. And, yes, it's timely because most of the writers on the topic figure to be off until Monday. The biggest 'snub' by the Cubs was probably Corey Black. A large part of his not being selected (the official term for being added to the 40 in this instance) is probably that the Cubs are run by a bunch of momentum players.

"What is a momentum player?"

I'll give you an example. Imagine your job is to recommend which of two players the Cubs should draft, for over the long haul, of 3-10 seasons. Imagine, also, that the team's computers have reduced a player's current skill level to two digits, from 01-99. As you are a very wise and astute observer, you've been asked by the front office to look into which of these two guys the team should invest in.

Player A: WEEK 1, 93; WEEK 2, 93; WEEK 3, 92; WEEK 4, 93; WEEK 5, 92; WEEK 6, 91; WEEK 7, 91; WEEK 8, 90.

Player B: WEEK 1, 83; WEEK 2, 83; WEEK 3, 84; WEEK 4, 84; WEEK 6, 85, WEEK 7, 87; WEEK 8, 88; WEEK 9, 89.

In every week, Player A was better than Player B. However, Player A appears to have potentially plateaued, or even started to get a bit worse. Player B, on the other hand, has expanded on a solid base, and may be better than Player A in a week or two. From a strictly analytical point of view, either player could be preferred. However, as a pack of momentum players, the Cubs front office might go toward Player B. As the goal is to have players in a few years that will be the better players, the helium of Player B might sway the decision.


As the deadline approached, the Cubs were at 30 on the roster. That is borderline ridiculously low. They added three pitchers, all hard throwers, under different circumstances. At least two of the three were momentum plays. Andury Acevedo had his best minor league season last year. He throws in the upper 90's, and likely had a bit of a try-out, and looked good in it. That is helium. That is momentum.

Jack Leathersich was a quality lefty reliever, and Mets fans sound like they wish he hadn't been purged.

He pitched very well until early June. on the second, he pitched an inning-and-a-third, making 27 pitches. His ERA was 0.00 at the time. The next night, he pitched again, going 13 pitches. He, again, gave up no runs. After that point, he pitched 3 1/3 innings, giving up 3 runs. In his first game back in the minors, he made a staggering 57 pitches. And, he was done for the season.

Leathersich had a nice run in the NL, and possibly would have been healthy for the duration, but for the brutal tratment his (possibly already faltering) arm received.

The trade for Spencer Patton was a bit different.

First off, it was different for being a trade. The Rangers were up against the 40 Man limit, and he Cubs weren't. Texas could have designated him for assignment, and traded him 'after', but getting Frandy Delarosa was about as well as they would do. Their new hitting coach Anthony Iapoce likely signed off on Delarosa, and it was done.

Patton was solid in a short stint in 2014, but less so in 2015 in more innings. That isn't riding momentum, but it's realizing Patton might be a perfectly valid stash in Des Moines for the next 24 months. Unless he proves better than that. Or significantly worse. In which case, the team is out a player that is three years into his career, and has never played a game for a full-season squad.


About Corey Black. Upon arriving in the Cubs system, he had his best month in 2013. He made five starts with the Daytona Cubs in the regular season, posting a WHIP of 1.28. The next year in Tennessee, he regressed some. Moved to the pen in his repeat trip to the Southern League, he regressed as a reliever.

The Cubs haven't 'given up' on Black. The Cubs brass are momentum players. Black is giving some signs of having plateaued. Perhaps yes, perhaps no. However, with the Cubs adding three pen options in Acevedo, Leathersich, and Patton, the need for Black to be used in Chicago was reduced.

Black will be Rule 5'd early. He might be the top selection. He might survive the year, and the light might go on. However, the only memorable event from his pitching in Mesa last season was injuring Hunter Pence for a month with a hit-by-pitch.

I wish Black well, if he gets selected. Probably the most likely other name to get chosen would be Felix Pena. Others, including Bijan Rademacher, Josh Conway, and Daury Torrez, have been mentioned as possibles.. I can't figure what other teams want, but I expect Black will be selected.


Also, 36 more players will likely be reserved in the Triple-A phase. The cost ($12,000) and stipulations (basically, none) are less, but teams will sometimes take a shot on a minor league player. The Rangers did so a few years ago to add NFL QB Russell Wilson. Normally, the premise is to add to system-wide depth, not grab a semi-celebrity, but it's up to them.

I'll look at some articles between now and Monday morning, and have a list of some guys the Cubs might be intrigued in. I'd peg the Cubs trying to select a Rule 5 guy at about ten percent on December 10. However, if  the professional scouting department falls in love with a guy another teams leaves available, the Cubs might be more aggressive than you think.

Odubel Herrera is a pretty good CF. Pegging one on the cheap would be a nice way to fill a hole in the everyday lineup.

Cubs Roster Four Players

Posted by timahuwe on November 20, 2015 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (1)

Just before the deadline to add players before the Rule 5 Draft cutoff, the Cubs have added four players to said roster. If you've been paying attention, they are the four you'd expect.

Jeimer Candelario, 3B Candelario had a forgettable 2014, and his 2015 started slowly. However, he took to Double-A pitching, and was very good in Arizona, as well. He represents a 3B in Iowa next season.

Willson Contreras, C. Speaking of having a good campaign in Kodak, Tennessee, Contreras created himself into a force last season. Expected to back-up Kyle Schwarber behind the plate, Contreras forced the issue, and led the league in batting average. Suddenly, he looks a viable replacement for David Ross, and a quality fill-in in Wrigley should injuries strike behind the dish.

Pierce Johnson, P. He was the team's second selection in 2012, and has scuffled a bit with injuries. He did well late in Arizona, and cemented a roster spot in the process. He figures to get most of his innings in Iowa in 2016. 

Dan Vogelbach, 1B. The second rounder in 2011 can hit, and will be the 1B in Iowa, barring a trade. Unless the DH comes to the NL, he might not have much of a future with the Cubs. However, he is wot=rth a roster spot. The DH may arrive, and he has much better than $50,000 in trade value. He takes good at bats, and has shown power, though not as much as preferred.

Some Cubs will be selected in the major league and Triple-A phases of the draft. Oddly, the Cubs may draft one themselves in one or both rounds. We'll just have to see.

Congratulations to the four of you.