Posted tagged ‘Chicago Cubs’

Divisional Preview: NL Central

March 19, 2011

Last year the turnaround Reds took the division after pulling away from the St. Louis Cardinals in September, the Pirates and Astros took up the rear, and the Cubs stunk as usual. There were a few minor moves in the division, but nothing too drastic to really up the division.

1) Cincinnati Reds (86-76)

Looking to improve upon a 90+ win season and their first playoff appearance in some time, the Reds return just about all their everyday players and the same rotation. Defense should be a strong point with Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce in the outfield, while Scott Rolen, Brandon Phillips, and Joey Votto roam the infield. Joey Votto, the MVP of 2010, should lead the offensive attack, which also features Scott Rolen, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce. They  may not be the Big Red Machine, but the Reds should put some runs on the board.

The Reds will turn to a young, talented staff which could be good or bad. Players like Johnny Cueto and Edison Volquez have all the potential in the world, but have yet to harness it all. If they can turn it on, the Reds will runaway with the division. If not, they’ll be fighting all year with mediocre pitching. One good thing is the depth. Between Homer Bailey, Travis Wood, and Mike Leake fighting for the last couple spots, there won’t be any problems in-season when injuries arise.

Cincinnati is a young team with lots of potential. Whether or not that potential is tapped at once or not can go a long way for the Reds.

Players to watch: Joey Votto, Aroldis Chapman

2) Milwaukee Brewers (84-78)

After trading for Zack Greinke, the Brewers have become a sexy pick to win the NL Central. But I would hold my horses. Yes, their rotation has an incredible trio of Zack Greinke, Yovanni Gallardo, and Shaun Marcum. But that’s it. They have no depth. Randy Wolf is okay, but Chris Narveson is currently their fifth option. Besides, Greinke could miss the first month of the season, and in what seems to be a tight race, missing him for a month and replacing him with a scrub could cost the Brewers a few games.

But if the pitching holds up, this team could be dangerous. Despite the presence of Yuniesky Betancourt, the Brewers have a tantalizing lineup. Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, Case McGehee. That IS a formidable heart of the order. The team will score runs, and if they can limit runs, this team will be good.

Players to watch: Rickie Weeks, Yovanni Gallardo

3) St. Louis Cardinals (82-80)

At first I was intending to pick St. Louis to finish on top, but losing Adam Wainwright is huge. That dropped them to third place in my book. I still think the rotation will be alright with a healthy Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia, but losing a Cy Young candidate pitcher hurts.

The reason I still believe St. Louis will put up a good fight is the offense. For one, they still have Albert Pujols. As long as you have Albert Pujols and some okay players, you’re going to contend. Albert Pujols is out of this world good, but you already know that. However, they don’t  have all scrubs surrounding him. The lineup still boasts Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus. Yadier Molina remains one of the best catchers in baseball and I am a big supporter in David Freese, so long as his ankle is healthy. The everyday players will keep them competitive, but in the end, their loss of Wainwright will derail their playoff run.

Players to watch: Colby Rasmus, Jaime Garcia

4) Chicago Cubs (78-84)

Ah, the poor old Cubs. Over 100 straight years and counting of not winning a championship. 2011 will be no different. While I do think they will lose this season, I think the Cubs will be better than most people realize. They actually have a decent staff with a real good bullpen. They lack a true ace, but between Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Matt Garza, and Randy Wells, the Cubs do have an above average rotation that can eat innings and keep the team in most games. From there, the bullpen has the lights out Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood, and prospect Andrew Cashner. The Cubs could be dominant in close games because of the pen, and if they play in a lot of those close games, they could be 2011’s surprise team.

The reason I don’t think that will be the case if the offense. They are old. Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Pena, Fukudome. They were once good and still are okay, but to rely on those players for 162 games is not good enough. Starlin Castro can be a star and Soto is a good offensive catcher. But as a whole this is an old, unreliable offense that won’t help win games.

Players to watch: Starlin Castro, Carlos Marmol

5) Pittsburgh Pirates (70-92)

Yes, yes, the team everybody always picks to finish last, I have coming in FIFTH. AN UPSET, I KNOW!

Look, the pitching is shit. I am a James McDonald believer, but he is a #3 starter, tops. Besides him they have guys like Ross Ohlendorf, Brad Lincoln, Scott Olsen, etc. Yeah, it’s not good. The Pirates will be giving up a lot of runs and will be losing a lot of games as a result.

The one redeeming quality in my mind is their young talent on the offensive side of the ball. Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and Andrew McCutchen. Andrew McCutchen is a stud and one of my big breakout candidates for 2011. He can hit, field, and run. Once the talent around him starts to develop, the Pirates will slowly start to creep back up to .500 baseball. Pedro Alvarez is another breakout candidate. He may never be good with the leather, but he can hit. Once the bat fully comes around, he will be one of the premiere power hits in the NL. To compliment these two in 2011 are Tabata and Walker. Both aren’t great hitters, but they are above average and help Pittsburgh be a middle of the road offensive team in 2011.

Things are still bleak in Pittsburgh, but the sun is starting rise.

Players to watch: Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez

6) Houston Astros (64-98)

The Astros suck. Plain and simple. Their rotation will be okay, maybe. The “stud” pitcher is Bret Myers. Granted, his 2010 was awesome. He also won’t be likely to repeat it. JA Happ and Wandy Rodriguez are okay. But after them? They’ll be giving 60+ starts to the likes of Nelson Figueroa, Bud Norris, and Ryan Rowland-Smith. Ouch. The pen isn’t any better.

The lineup does have Hunter Pence, a nice, young outfielder, and Brett Wallace could potentially emerge as a pretty good hitter at first. Michael Bourn has also been a total 8 WAR player the best couple seasons. That’s all nice and well. But you wanna hear the names of the other starts? Yes? Okay:

Humberto Quintero, Bill Hall, Clint Barmes, Chris Johnson, and one Brian Bogusevic. Yeah. Crap. And Carlos Lee may play first base instead of Brett Wallace.

The Astros are bad and will finish in last place. Yes, even behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Players to watch: Brett Wallace, Hunter Pence

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Nationals acquire Tom Gorzellany

January 17, 2011

From the Chicago Cubs for two pitching prospects and outfield prospect Michael Burgress.

 

Color me unimpressed. Yes, Burgess lost his organizational top 10 prospect status. But he has still has high potential and real talent. Scouts love his tools and rave about his defense. So even if there is concern about declining power and high K rates, it’s all good if he can be a plus fielder and average at the plate. Whether or not it’s a good deal will hinge around the other prospects, but for a guy like Gorzellany, Burgess seems like a high price to pay.

Not to pile on the guy, but Gorzellany isn’t special. He is 28 and by the time he is a FA in three seasons, he will be 31. So he’s not a young kid. His career K/9 is under 7, his career BB/9 is over 4, and his career HR/9 is just under 1. He is not special and has not shown the ability to be a good or great pitcher. Granted, his FIP over the past 180 innings or so is around 3.9. But he is not good at any of the things a pitcher can control- walks, K’s, and HR allowed. His GB% is below average. So why trade for him? Because he’s cheap and under team control? If so, that’s a bad reason, when the price you’re also paying is a prospect like Michael Burgress and two other potentially good prospects.

UPDATE: Another prospect is AJ Morris. He is 24 and hasn’t pitched above A level. So he isn’t a top prospect because of his age. BUT he has posted good numbers and BA says he has the best slider in their system. What was Washington’s motive in this deal? I don’t see it.

Tampa Bay Rays reportedly trade Matt Garza to Chicago Cubs

January 7, 2011

That is the breaking news this morning/afternoon. Along with Matt Garza, the Rays will be sending a minor league pitcher and out fielder. In return, the Rays will receive Cubs top prospect Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Brandon Guyer, Robinson Chirinos, and Sam Fulds. This might not be the biggest blockbuster, but it’s a big time deal. And I like how Tampa makes out.

Personally, I think Matt Garza is overrated at the moment. He is a nice pitcher, but I believe his annual high 3 ERA overrates him, and as a result the MSM talks him up like he is a top of the rotation pitcher. Right now, he is not that good. His BB/9 is okay, as he tends to sit around 3 walks per nine. But his HR/9 is not that good. He gives up lots of fly balls and lots of home runs. He will be headed to Chicago and their infamous wind, where the ball can fly out of the park. Moreover, the division he will pitch in is home to other notorious bandboxes in Cincinnati, Houston, and Milwaukee. The only saving grace is the weaker lineups of the NL and NL Central specifically compared to the AL East.

Granted, he is just 27. I don’t think he’s been great, but I do think he is a solid, good #3ish pitcher. His FIP has been in the low 4’s the past three seasons, and he is good for 30 starts and 200 innings a year. That consistency and dependability merits some value. But he isn’t an ace pitcher- yet. I don’t think he will achieve that status with his HR tendency, but he can emerge as an All-Star caliber pitcher for a few seasons if everything goes right. So the Cubs still are getting a good pitcher. It’s just a matter of if they paid the right price.

Garza will be under team control for three more seasons. But he was paid over $3mil last season, so the 40/60/80 won’t quite work, because he was a Super 2. So I will use a 60/80/100 scale. I have him pegged at 2 WAR or a total of 6 WAR over the next three seasons. Why 2 WAR and not 2.5 or a favorable 3? Well, looking at park factors from the past three seasons, Wrigley is prone to more walks, more runs, and more homers. Garza already had an average walk rate in the Trop and a bad HR in the trop. Going to Wrigley won’t help things unless his skill in those areas improves on its own. So I have his value in 2011 at $9mil, 10$mil in 2012, and $11mil in 2013 for a total of $30. Using the 60/80/10 scale he should be paid and will probably be paid around $24mil for $30mil worth of value. So yeah, the Cubs get a good net value there. BUT, there is something to consider…

…the prospects they are giving up.

Chris Archer is the Cubs number prospect according to BA. He has put up some real good numbers in the minors so far, outside a bad walk rate, and figures to be a pretty good closer or reliever in the future. The Rays will also be getting Hak-Ju Lee, the Cubs #4 rated prospect. He is a twenty year old prospect with speed and lots and lots of potential. After trading Jason Bartlett, it appears that Tampa just got their shortstop of the future. Brandon Guyer is a defense guy. He was the Cubs #10 rated prospect, and his offense is okay. But he was the Cubs best defensive outfielder in the minors. We know Tampa loves defense. Depending on his upcoming season, Guyer could make BJ Upton even more expendable. Robinson Chirinos is a player I like. He has an AMAZING walk rate and owned the upper minors last season. Yes, he is 27. Very old for the minors and that is why he is not ranked as a top Cubs prospect. But he was converted to catcher just two years ago. Yet he is already the Cubs best defensive catcher in the minors. If he can provide sound defense and get on base, he could very be the Rays starting catcher at some point this season and contribute. They also get Sam Fulds but who cares?

So, for three years of an okay pitcher (who they won’t miss- David Price, James Shields, and Jeremy Hellickson are better for sure. Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis are good as well and Matt Moore is still in the minors…) the Rays get a team’s #1 prospect and possible future closer, future shortstop, future outfielder, and future/current catcher. That’s a good pitching prospect, two up the middle position players, and another good prospect. I am not going to call this a heist, especially since we don’t know the PTBNL, but I like this deal for Tampa- a lot. They can sell an over-hyped Garza for a lot of prospects who they can use to cover the value Garza provides and then some. I mean, lets call Chris Archer a top 50 or so pitching prospect. That’s $15mil of value right there. Garza only provides $5mil, remember? Then you have to factor in the other prospects…

However, this trade doesn’t totally stink for Chicago. They already have a dominant closer in Carlos Marmol. Lee is blocked at short because of Starlin Castro, so Lee is not as valuable to Chicago as he is to Tampa. But still, you’d think they would have drawn the line somewhere.

 

UPDATE: Fernando Perez is the outfielder going to Chicago. This doesn’t change my opinion much. A couple years ago I thought he might have been a decent player, but that ship has sailed.

Busy day in Chicago; Cubs sign Carlos Pena and White Sox sign Paul Konerko

December 8, 2010

The North side and South side both signed first basemen last night. Carlos Pena is going to the Cubs at 1/$10mil and Konerko is re-upping with the White Sox at 3/$37.5mil.

Let’s start with the North side deal because there is almost nothing to talk about. They need a first baseman. Carlos Pena is a first baseman. They signed him. Pena will be 33 years old and with aging is just an above average first baseman. Nothing special. He had an unusually poor 2010, mainly because he hit a ton of grounders. 44.9% of his balls in play were ground balls, well above his career average of 36.9%. So while his insanely low BABIP of .227 suggests bad luck, he also just didn’t swing the bat as well. He still has power- his ISO was above .200 and his HR/FB was above his career norm. He still walks a fair amount. But he didn’t hit enough line drives and power fly balls. If he can get his swing back, he should improve upon his 2010 numbers, but not too drastically. So he should be about a 2 WAR and be worth around $10mil. So it’s a solid deal for the Cubs. They won’t contend in 2011 so you can debate whether it was worth it to spend $10mil on Pena, but it’s “only” $10mil and it’s only one year. The Cubs DO need someone to play the position, so they went out and got a short term fix that won’t constrain them down the road.

The South Side deal is more noteworthy. Konerko will be getting an average salary of $12.5mil per year. Color me unimpressed. Konerko will be 35 next season, 36 in 2012, and 37 in 2013. Yet he will be paid $12.5mil. This seems like an irresponsible waste of money to me. They just signed another 1b/DH type player in Adam Dunn just a few days ago. Konerko was not needed. This also hurts Dunn’s value if they make him DH or play OF, making that deal much more of an overpay as well. But that’s besides the point. Konerko is OLD. Yes, he had a 160 wRC+ last season. But that’s an anomaly. Check out his wRC+’s from 2007-2009: 114, 106, 119. Yeah. But his BABIP was well above his career norms despite a LD% that is in line with his career average. So we should expect less fortune in 2011, which means less times on base, less extra base hits, and less offensive production, which in turn means less value. Being generous, I can start him at 2.5 in 2011. By 2013 he will be a 1.5 WAR player. So I have him being worth $29.5mil over three years. OVERPAY.

So that’s it.

I also really want the Yankees to sign Russell Martin. He would be a good catcher to split time with Jesus Montero on the cheap. Best case scenario he finds himself offensively and returns to being a 4-5 WAR player. Also, signing him would open up the possibility of trading Jesus Montero for Zack Greinke, leaving Martin as the starter until Austin Romine is ready. 1/$4mil with a club option for 2012? Please think about it Cashman.

Hall of Famer Ron Santo dead at age 70

December 4, 2010

Oh yeah, that’s right, the BBWAA never elected Ron Santo in the Hall of Fame while he was alive to enjoy it. Fuck them. That might sound in bad taste, considering the topic of the post, it’s a stain on the BBWAA.

Click here to see an awesome graphic on BtB to see Santo’s awesomeness. He will be missed and hopefully the Veteran’s Committee elects him to the HOF one day.

Derrek Lee to Atlanta for Three Pitching Prospects

August 18, 2010

Numerous sources have reported that Derrek Lee will now be headed to Atlanta for pitching prospects Robinson Lopez, Tyrelle Harris, and Jeffrey Lorick. Derrek Lee is going to be owed 3.4 million from now until the rest of the season. The Cubs will also be sending the Braves some money (the amount has not been confirmed), which im guessing will be enough to cover Lee’s salary for the rest of the season.

First, lets take a look at this trade from the Braves perspective. Ever since Chipper Jones went down with the ACL injury, many have thought that the Braves would make a move to bolster their offense. Getting Martin Prado back might not be enough compensation for the Jones injury, especially since the Phillies have been playing much better, so I think that getting a right handed power bat like Derrek Lee is a good move considering how much Troy Glaus has struggled since early June. Having watched Glaus for the majority of the summer, it looks as if he needs some time off. Whether that may be sitting on the bench or deciding to DL him, I think he needs to rest after playing in 115 of the Braves 119 games this year. Derrek Lee has had some back trouble in the past couple of months so that is one major red flag in this trade. Lee has put up a line of .313/.356/.583 since the all-star break compared to Troy’s hideous line of .196/.291/.304 since the mid-summer classic. Given Lee’s mediocre first half, I can see why the Braves would be optimistic that he will continue his nice second half performance, which will ultimately bring his overall numbers closer to his career averages. Also, this makes the Braves bench that much deeper. Some scouts say that Freddie Freeman still needs some more seasoning in AAA and will be ready by next spring. So rushing him up just to platoon with Glaus probably isn’t going to be the best move. Derrek Lee also has much better range than Troy Glaus so some plays that were difficult for Glaus to make are hopefully routine for Derrek. I like this trade because it gives us a nice power bat in the middle of the lineup, which will leave Troy “The Automatic Out” Glaus sitting on the bench unless Lee is in need of a day off and will push Alex Gonzalez towards the bottom of the lineup.

I also like this trade from the Cubs perspective. Since Lee passed through waivers fairly easily, it was obvious that he wasn’t drawing much interest from anyone other than the Braves. It is obvious that the Cubs won’t contend for the playoffs this season and Lee will be a free agent after this season. Cubs made out well by getting some pitching prospects for him while they still could. Tyrelle Harris and Jeffrey Lorick were not ranked particularly high in the Braves system and they project as relievers in the major leagues. Robinson Lopez has the most upside in this trade mostly because he has the ability to be starter and hes just 19 years old. Robinson Lopez has pitched 6+ innings 7 times this year out of 16 games started. Not particularly the most promising numbers, but hes only 19. Cubs fans will have to keep and eye on him and see if he can develop into a back end starter. The Cubs probably weren’t and should not have expected any top 10 prospects in the Braves system.

The Cubs took a step towards rebuilding their team with this trade and the Braves increased their chances of winning the division than with Troy Glaus manning first base. Its a win/win.

Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot to Los Angeles for Blake DeWitt and prospects

July 31, 2010

The LA Dodgers picked up Ted Lilly and infielder Ryan Theriot for Blake DeWitt and prospects.

My feelings are mixed on the trade.

Ted Lilly is an okay pitcher. He will be paid around $4mil the rest of the season, and should provide about $5mil in value during that time. However, he will be a type A free agent, which gives him an extra value of $10mil. So his net value is $11mil. Ryan Theriot is under team control for two more seasons. He too is just an okay player, with a lot of his value tied into defense. So if he is a 2 WAR per year player in 2011 and 2012, that value will be about $17.6mil. In arbitration he will most likely make a total of $11.6mil. So his net value is $6mil and the total value going to LA is $17mil.

The Cubs will receive Blake DeWitt, who will be under team control for four years. I don’t think DeWitt is that good, but he is just 25 and has shown he can play a solid defense and get on base at around or above league average. If he can do that, DeWitt should be about an average player going forward. Starting in 2011, I peg him for a WAR of 1.5, 1.7, 2.0, and 2.0. That would be a value of $31.68. In 2011 he will probably be paid about 450K. Considering DeWitt is similar to Theriot, I will give him a first year arbitration salary similar to Theriot’s. So if DeWitt makes $2.5mil in 2012, that will jump to $4mil in 2013 and $7.2mil in 2014 for a total of $13.2mil. Subtract that from his WAR value and his net value is $18.48mil.

So it looks like the Cubs come out ahead, right? Well I disagree with my numbers. The Cubs do not need a third baseman in DeWitt. I know he has struggled big time, but they still do have Josh Vitters in the minors. Moreover, a few of their top prospects can play third base if needed. Besides, we’re talking about Blake DeWitt. He is not a difference maker on a future Cubs team. For the next two years they could have easily moved Theroit to third and netted two draft picks for Ted Lilly. If given the choice between two high draft picks or Blake DeWitt, give me the picks every time.

So the Dodgers come out good here. I don’t really like Theriot or Lilly and I don’t think either player will help them overcome San Diego. But they will get two draft picks for Lilly and going forward, as I’ve already said, I will take the draft picks over DeWitt.

The prospects LA is giving up are Brett Wallach and Kyle Smit. Smit struggled big time as a starter before converting to relief where he has been pretty good this season. Wallache a high round pick of the Dodgers last season and looks like he could be a good pitcher in the future, but he is just in A ball right now. The Cubs must be confident that those two will be better than whoever they could have gotten in the draft. It makes the trade a little better Chicago and in the end I’d call it an even trade, but I like LA’s return just a little better.