Adam Dunn is the main name we keep hearing in regards to the Cubs' search for a first baseman this offseason, and understandably so: You can mark him down for around 40 homers, 100 RBI, and a .900 OPS right now. Even though his defense is horrible, it would be nice to have that kind of reliability in the middle of the lineup. There's currently not a hitter in the Cubs lineup in which we know what we're getting from them heading into the season. Heck, we have no clue what we're going to get out of Aramis Ramirez at the plate anymore.

But, Dunn could be a bit too pricey(3-year, $40 million range likely), and even if the Cubs feel that they can afford him, they may think his defense is too bad to put on a team that already has a crappy defensive infield. So if not Dunn, then who would the Cubs look to acquire to play first base?

Well, one player that would make sense is Adam LaRoche, who now could be available after the Diamondbacks chose to decline their half of a $7.5 million mutual option with the first baseman. The Diamondbacks could offer LaRoche arbitration, since he would likely reject it and test the free agent waters, which would give the Diamonbacks a sandwich round draft pick when he signs with another team, because he's a Type-B free agent. Get all that?

LaRoche, who will be 31 all of next season, is coming off of a 2010 season where he batted .261, with 25 homers, 100 RBI, and had a .788 OPS. In 2009, he also hit 25 homers and had an .843 OPS between the Braves and Pirates. He has a career OPS of .827, and has had five 20+ homer seasons.

Additionally, although he committed 11 errors in 2010, he's been a solid defensive first baseman over his career. He's without question much better than Dunn is defensively at least, but then again you could say that about pretty much every other starting first baseman in baseball.

LaRoche will likely get a one-year deal in the five-seven million dollar range, so about half of what Dunn is expected to make annually. Therefore, signing LaRoche could give the Cubs the chance to fill other needs, like at second base(Orlando Hudson maybe?), something they may not be able to do if they gave Dunn 12+ million. And a one-year deal would be appealing to a Cubs team that is still trying to figure out their long-term answer at first base, which LaRoche is definitely not. Maybe they have somebody they feel in their farm system could be an option at the position in the future, and signing a player like LaRoche to a one-year deal would give them an extra year to figure that out.

It also keeps alive the chance that they could sign Adrian Gonzalez next offseason, as it's unlikely the Padres' superstar first baseman will sign an extension before then. That's my dream solution anyway. But it's the Cubs we're talking about, so who am I kidding?

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Unless you've been living in a cave since, well, yesterday, you know by now that the Cubs chose(and quite wisely in my opinion) Mike Quade to be their new manager.

Here's some great links about the hiring:

The Cubs' hiring of Mike Quade instead of a fan favorite was the right move (ESPN Chicago)

As expected, Cubs players happy to see Mike Quade named manager (Bleacher Nation)

Cubs pick Quade to be fired after 2012 (Tales From Aisle 424)

Quade impressed Cubs with changes (ESPN Chicago)

They're Quade's Cubbies (Chicago Sun-Times)

Quade a good fit as Cubs manager
(Chicago Tribune)

Open your mind to Quade
(Hire Jim Essian)

Mike Quade: A baseball odyssey (Bleed Cubbie Blue)

Was there really any other choice? (Cubbie Doctor's Examiner)

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Will Carroll is hearing that Mike Quade will be named Cubs manager, and Ryne Sandberg will be named bench coach:

@injuryexpert: Hearing that Mike Quade will be named Cubs manager, with Ryne Sandberg as bench coach. Could happen as soon as next week.
Link(Will Carroll's Twitter)

Carroll also told me...

It's a good source and think a couple people in media are going to back me up soon.
If this news is indeed true, I really like it. Quade's earned the job after going 24-13 with a horrible baseball team. He arranged lineups about as well as you could hope for out of a manager, really taking splits and things like on-base percentage into account. For example, leading off Jeff Baker against lefties was something I wanted all year, yet Lou would never do it. Quade did, and sure enough it worked wonderfully.

He used the bullpen exceptionally well(particularly with rookie Andrew Cashner as the setup man), and the group was arguably better than any other bullpen in baseball under him.

But what was maybe more important than anything is that he had the players' backing. Here's a couple examples of that from a couple of very well-respected veterans:

"He's done a great job, and I hope he's here longer than just this year and managing for us next year,'' Ryan Dempster told the Chicago Sun-Times. "Because he deserves it.''

Dempster isn't alone, as Marlon Byrd feels much the same way.

"The record speaks for itself," said Byrd. "The way we're playing, the way we're executing -- just all around, the moves he's making. He shows he has the qualifications and he can get a team to play for him.''

Byrd also went on to say he'd "definitely" welcome Quade back as the team's manager next season, though he knows it's not his decision to make.

Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano... pretty much every veteran on the team has spoken highly of Quade. When respected major league veterans are raving about how a guy did as manager, their opinions should be considered by upper management. If the Cubs went with Sandberg and the team played terribly after they were backing Quade for the job, that could be a clubhouse disaster.

None of this is to say that Sandberg doesn't deserve the job as well. He's done a terrific job as a minor league manager, and like Quade, has been loved by his players. He's a Hall of Famer and is absolutely adored by Cubs fans. If not for Quade doing an amazing job with the big league club this year, Sandberg surely would've been the choice. Making him the bench coach leaves open the possibility that still happens down the road. Hey, Quade was the Cubs' bench coach before becoming the "interim" manager.

Stay tuned for more on this story.

UPDATE: Carroll is now hearing from another source that the Quade manager/Sandberg bench coach stuff is not true:

@injuryexpert: Just talked to a guy who's VERY wired into Cubs. Says I'm wrong, esp. on timing. We'll see, but he's seldom wrong.

So who knows...

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Carlos Zambrano just had one of the weirdest seasons in baseball history: He pitched horribly in the first half of the season as a starter; absolutely blew up on teammate(at the time) Derrek Lee in the dugout during a game; was suspended for over a month; was moved to the bullpen; sucked in the bullpen; was moved back to the rotation to be a starter; dominated as a starter; finished with an 11-6 record and a 3.33 ERA(his best ERA since 2005).

Now, here we are just one day after the Cubs' season ended, and Zambrano's already having one of the weirdest offseasons in baseball history. According to David Kaplan, Zambrano hit a garbage truck with his car while trying to leave Wrigley Field this morning:

Eyewitnesses tell me that Carlos Zambrano damaged his car hitting a garbage truck in his haste to exit Wrigley Field this morning....

The accident was not serious but his car reportedly sustained some significant damage.
Link(David Kaplan's Twitter)

You can laugh because he's apparently okay, and because you don't care about his car(like he doesn't have 40 anyway). Seriously though, if you didn't already know which major league player was involved in the accident, wouldn't Zambrano be one of your first five guesses?

What a crazy beginning to what is sure to be a crazy offseason for the Cubs.

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The Friendly Linkfines 9/21/10

Posted by Matt Clapp | 9/21/2010 12:11:00 AM | , , ,

Is the Cubs' hot play making Mike Quade a lock for 2011 manager? (Bleacher Nation)

Colvin stabbed; Wrigleyville almost blown up during Quade era
(Tales From Aisle 424)

Greatest road trip ever... Not counting chest impalings (Cubbie Doctor's Examiner)

Orlando Hudson- 2011 Cubs 2nd baseman? (Cubbies Crib)

Series review- Cubs vs. Marlins (Goatriders of the Apocalypse)

Cubs heading in the right direction?

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Tyler Colvin Could Play 1st Base Before Season Ends

Posted by Matt Clapp | 8/19/2010 01:19:00 PM | ,

I just wrote about the possibility of rookie outfielder Tyler Colvin being an option for first base in 2011, but I thought it was something that would be explored in the offseason, not immediately. But when the playoff hopes are long gone, why not give Colvin a chance to get some playing time there this season? It sounds like that could happen.

Cubs television play-by-play announcer, Len Kasper, said during today's Cubs-Padres broadcast that Colvin took some infield practice at first base before the game today, and will continue to do so for the remainder of the season. Kasper even said that it's likely we will see Colvin in a game before the season ends.

So, if you didn't have a reason to watch this horrible team for the remainder of the season(my reason is Starlin Castro right now), well, maybe you do now if Colvin gets a chance to play first base.

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With the trade of Derrek Lee to the Atlanta Braves, the Cubs are left with a huge hole at first base for the future. Micah Hoffpauir, Xavier Nady, and Jeff Baker as the only capable of players to man the position on the team. None of them are starting caliber players on a team that wishes to contend, and certainly none of them are long-term solutions at the position.

And down on the farm, there don't appear to be any quality solutions either, at least for the 2011 season. So it would appear on the surface that the Cubs would almost certainly address the first base position through the upcoming free agency, or trade this offseason.

But maybe there is indeed an in-house possibility to be the first baseman for 2011, and even longer: Tyler Colvin.

Now, Colvin is an outfielder, and hasn't played first base since high school. However, the left-hander is tall, quick, good with the glove, and just seems like the ideal "type" of player to play the position.

Whatever the case, Colvin is at least fine with giving first base a try if that's what the Cubs want:

"It's been a while since I've done it. Hopefully if they want me to do that, I'll do it. No one has ever said 'Hey, we want you to take ground balls there.' I've got to wait for that first and then we'll see what happens."

Colvin thinks he could handle first, though he didn't sound like he was eager to move there.

"I'm comfortable in the outfield, but if that's what they want me to do, I can't complain," he said. "If it helps out the Chicago Cubs, that's what I'll do."

Link(Chicago Tribune)

If the Cubs really are considering this, they will give Colvin a full Spring Training at first base before they would feel comfortable making him a regular there, and it's quite unlikely that they would go into Spring Training with the assumption that he will be capable of playing the position come Opening Day. Therefore, they would likely have at least a solid veteran( on the club at that point as well, in case the Colvin experiment at first base were to fail.

There's much more to keep in mind with this Colvin-to-first base talk as well. Here's some thoughts that immediately came to mind for me:

1. Even if Colvin shows the ability to play first base in Spring Training, do the Cubs feel comfortable tossing him out there immediately alongside a poor defensive infield surrounding him? It's not easy handling the throws Aramis Ramirez and Starlin Castro(who currently has 18 errors) would fire his way from the left side of the infield. Derrek Lee, a three-time Gold Glove winner, saved the Cubs' infield of many, many errors over the years.

2. Aside from the obvious positives of being able to play multiple positions and giving the manager flexibility, is there really a great reason to change Colvin's primary position from right field to first base? Unless the Cubs feel they can upgrade the offense easier with a new right fielder instead of a new first baseman, it would be an odd decision to go this route, especially with Colvin having zero professional experience at the position.

3. Going along with the thoughts of #2- If the Cubs do this, they better be finding a terrific hitter to play right field. Colvin's impressed this season, his rookie year. In 316 plate appearances so far, he's batting .251, with 18 homers(leads all rookies), a .521 slugging percentage, and an .821 OPS.

But there's question marks as to whether or not Colvin is really is this much of a power hitter, as he never hit for much power in the past(although he did put on approximately 30 pounds of muscle in the offseason, so an improvement in the power department should have been expected). Additionally, he must improve his patience(only 24 walks and a .310 on-base percentage), and the ability to hit, and in many instances simply lay off breaking balls.

Unless the Cubs find a major offensive upgrade at say, second base, they don't want to go into the 2011 with questionable bats at first base and right field, two premier positions to find run producers.

4. Kosuke Fukudome could have an impact on this. The Cubs will likely try hard to unload Fukudome and at least some of the $13.5 million he's owed in 2011, the last year of his contract. If they are unable to do so, he'll be back on the team in 2011, and his primary position is right field. If the Cubs are paying if that much money, there's no way he'll ride the bench all season. So to find a way to get both Fukudome and Colvin in the lineup on a regular basis, moving Colvin to first base makes sense.

We'll surely be hearing much more of this Colvin/first base talk over the next few months, and if the Cubs surprisingly do choose to go that route, it's going to be very interesting to see how Colvin handles the position.

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UPDATE: First baseman Derrek Lee has indeed been dealt to the Atlanta Braves. In return for the two-time All-Star, the Cubs received three pitching prospects: Robinson Lopez, Tyrelle Harris, and Jeffrey Lorick. The Braves also received cash consideratoins in the deal.

As for the prospects headed the Cubs way...

Robinson Lopez(6'2", 190 pounds) is a 19-year-old right-hander that went 3-8, with a 4.37 ERA in Single-A ball for the Braves this season. He started 16 of the 24 games that he pitched in, totaling 92 2/3 innings. He struck out 7o batters, walked 43, and put together a 1.371 WHIP on the season.

Tyrelle Harris(6'4", 234 pounds) was a 19th round selection by the Braves in the 2009 draft. The 23-year-old right-hander came out of the bullpen for all but one game in the Braves system over the last two years, so they clearly viewed him as a reliever. His minor league career totals include a 2.42 ERA, 84 strikeouts in 67 innings pitched(11.3 K/9 IP), a 1.19 WHIP, and no home runs allowed. He was last at Double-A, where he had a 1.46 ERA in 12.1 innings pitched.

Jeffrey Lorick(6'0", 195 pounds) is a 22-year-old left-hander that has pitched very well with two clubs in Single-A this season. Lorick, a 20th round selection by the Braves in 2009, combined to have a 2.24 ERA, with 42 strikeouts, 21 walks, and a 1.223 WHIP in 52.1 innings pitched for the two clubs. He started just seven of 44 games pitched in the minors, so he also figures to be a reliever.

To replace Lee on the roster, the Cubs called up first baseman Micah Hoffpauir from Iowa. He and Xavier Nady will split time at first base for the remainder of the season. Jim Hendry and the Cubs' front office are surely looking at the free agents and potential trade targets already to fix the huge hole at first base this offseason.

Earlier: The Cubs and Braves are reportedly close to a trade that would send first baseman Derrek Lee to Atlanta for prospects, according to various reports.

ESPN.Com's Jerry Crasnick has given us some updates on Twitter in regards to the possible trade:

Braves and Cubs are "way along in the process'' on a Derrek Lee trade, says a baseball source. Deal could go down today or tomorrow.

Lee is apparently willing to sign off on the deal. The big issue now is which players Chicago will receive in return.

I was told Cubs are likely to receive lower-level prospects. Braves aren't going to deal Beachy, Teheran or other higher-level prospects.

Braves consider Lee a strong 2nd half player, and they like the thought of Glaus as a RH bat off bench. Lee also upgrades 1B defense.

Link(Jerry Crasnick's Twitter)

Lee would have to waive his no-trade clause to allow a deal to happen, something he was not willing to do in July when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim tried to acquire him from the Cubs. As Crasnick said, Lee appears willing to do that now for a Braves team that currently is in first place by two and a half games in the National League East.

The two-time All-Star will be a free agent(projected to be a type-B) and 35 years old at season's end, and a Cubs team headed nowhere would like to get something back for Lee now before they presumably let him walk in the offseason. Ideally, the Cubs get quality prospects in return and the Braves eat what remains(approximately $3.4 million) on the $13 million Lee is owed for 2010. While it appears the Braves would be willing to pay for Lee's remaining salary for the season, it does not sound as if the Cubs will get any of the Braves' top-tier prospects in return as Crasnick reported.

Lee is batting .251, with 16 home runs, 56 RBI, and a .751 OPS on the season. It has been a disappointing season for a guy that was one of the best hitters in baseball in 2009(.305 batting average, 35 home runs, 111 RBI, .972 OPS) but he has been much better over the last two months, including a .306 batting average, with four home runs and a 1.075 OPS so far in August. He will definitely upgrade the Braves defensively at first base, and could give an offense that just lost Chipper Jones for the season a nice boost as well.

Trading Lee would end(we would assume) his outstanding career as a Cub, and would officially put the Cubs on search for a replacement at the position. There do not appear to be any quality in-house replacements for Lee at the position, so the Cubs will likely address this through free agency or trade in the offseason.

We will update you on this story as we hear more.

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Could Aramis Ramirez Replace Chipper Jones In Atlanta?

Braves Targeting Aramis Ramirez? (The Cub Reporter)

Cubs Sign Four More Draft Picks At The Deadline
(Bleacher Nation)

Ricketts Family Needs A Loose Cannon (Tales From Aisle 424)

Rookie Of The Year Race... Where Does Starlin Castro Stand?
(GoatRiders Of The Apocalypse)

Jeff Samardzija Is Now 10-2 In Iowa (Bleed Cubbie Blue)

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Random Retro Cubs: Frank Castillo

Posted by Matt Clapp | 7/26/2010 08:40:00 PM | , , ,

Next up in our "Random Retro Cubs" series, we take a look at former Cubs pitcher Frank Castillo...

Years Played: 1991-1998, 2000-2002, 2004-2005.

Teams Played For: Chicago Cubs(91-97), Colorado Rockies(97), Detroit Tigers(98), Toronto Blue Jays(2000), Boston Red Sox(01-02, 04), Florida Marlins(05).

Position: Pitcher(297 Games, 268 Games Started)

Bats/Throws: Right/Right.

Career Line: 82-104, 4.56 ERA, 1.358 WHIP, 95 ERA+, 1101 K, 2 SV, 10 CG, 3 SHO, 1595.1 IP.

Best Cubs Season: 1995- 11-10, 3.21 ERA, 1.229 WHIP, 128 ERA+, 135 K, 8 SV, 2 CG, 2 SHO, 188 IP.

Awards/Leaderboard: 8th In NL In ERA 1995(3.21).

2nd In NL In Shutouts In 1995(2).

1st In NL In Losses In 1996(16).

Fun Facts: Frank Castillo came about as close as you could come to throwing a no-hitter on September 25, 1995 as a Cub. He took a no-hitter into the ninth inning with two outs, but allowed a triple on a line drive that was barely out of the reach of a diving Sammy Sosa.

In 2004, he pitched just one inning for the Boston Red Sox, but since he was indeed a member of the team that would end up winning the World Series that year, he received a World Series ring.

Castillo would go on to pitch in independent league baseball for the York Revolution in 2007 and 2008.

My Take: Frank Castillo went 47-62 in his seven Cubs seasons, but his record should have been a bit better than that. He had an ERA of 4.31 over that span, and was particularly good in 1992 and 1995.

In 1992, Castillo went 10-11, but had an ERA of 3.46, started 33 games, and threw 205.1 innings for the Cubs. In the '95 season, he had a record of 11-10, with a 3.21 ERA over 188 innings pitched.

His biggest moment as a Cub was certainly the aforementioned near no-hitter in September of 1995. Since the last Cubs no-hitter going into that game was from Milt Pappas all the way back in 1972, one more out in that game would've left Castillo as a much more memorable name to Cubs fans.

Link To Frank Castillo's Baseball-Reference Page

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Before today's Cubs-White Sox game at Wrigley Field, Cubs manager Lou Piniella flipped out at the media. Well, he was mainly directing his comments towards Steve Stone, who was not present, but recently criticized Piniella in regards to the manager's use of rookie outfielder Tyler Colvin.

Just watch Sweet Lou go absolutely nuts:

I hope Lou keeps showing some fire like this. I'm ready for an old-fashioned base toss and dirt kick.

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Cubs infielder Jeff Baker is one of the most interesting players in the majors to me. Surely you've never heard anybody else say that.

Why is he? Well, it's just unbelievable to me how he's absolutely sensational against left-handed pitching, and absolutely abysmal against left-handed pitching. If it were reversed and we're talking about a left-handed batter, that would make complete sense to me. However, as a right-handed hitter, you've been seeing mostly right-handed pitching your entire life, so it shouldn't be a major difference at this point.

Yes, I realize a right-handed batter is going to see the ball better out of a left-handed pitcher's hand, and they are more likely to hit a breaking ball moving towards them rather than away from them like a right-handed pitcher's slider would. But his splits are just beyond weird.

Let's take look at Baker's splits against left-handed and right-handed pitching:

Career vs. right-handed pitching

586 PA, .250 AVG, 11 HR, 59 RBI, 40 BB, 159 K, .304 OBP, .391 SLG, .695 OPS.

Career vs. left-handed pitching

343 PA, .295 AVG, 17 HR, 59 RBI, 29 BB, 64 K, .353 OBP, .555 SLG, .908 OPS

2010 vs. right-handed pitching

31 PA, .034 AVG, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 2 BB, 13 K, .097 OBP, .034 SLG, .131 OPS

2010 vs. left-handed pitching

57 PA, .346 AVG, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 4 BB, 6 K, .386 OBP, .615 SLG, 1.001 OPS

So what does that all say? Well for one, it shows how much Baker's former manager, Clint Hurdle, used him incorrectly in Colorado. But the main thing to take away from those numbers is that Jeff Baker needs to stay far away from the lineup against right-handers, and should be starting every game against left-handers. Furthermore, he should be batting in the 2-5 spots in the lineup against left-handers.

Just how good is Baker against southpaws? Well his career .555 slugging percentage against them would've been the 7th best slugging percentage in the National League in 2009 .His .908 OPS(on-base+ slugging percentage) would've been the 12th best OPS in the National League.

Basically Jeff Baker is an All-Star against left-handers, and Aaron Miles against right-handers. Use him correctly, Lou.

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