The Friendly Linkfines 1/27/10

Posted by Matt Clapp | 1/27/2010 03:00:00 PM

Lots of Cubs news today following the signings of Xavier Nady and Chad Tracy(still plan on writing my own reaction to these), the Hall of Fame announcing that Andre Dawson will be inducted into Cooperstown as a Montreal Expo, the Cubs saying they are committed to keeping Spring Training in Mesa, and more...

Cubs Sign Their X-Factor, Xavier Nady (The Cub Reporter)

Cubs Sign Cub-Killer Chad Tracy To Minor League Deal; Sean Marshall Signs To Avoid Arbitration (Bleed Cubbie Blue)

The Hall Of Fame Chooses To Make 3 Fans Happy Instead Of Millions (Cubbie Doctor's Examiner)

Cubs Confirm Commitment To Remaining In Mesa (Chicago Breaking Sports)

And The Fourth Outfielder Is... Kosuke Fukudome? (Hire Jim Essian)

Q&A About Cubs Prospects With AOL Fanhouse's Frankie Piliere (Wrigley Bound)

Cubs Will Scout Pitcher Noah Lowry (Bleacher Nation)

Reliever Joe Nelson Interested In Joining Cubs (Chicago Breaking Sports)

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Interesting news out of St. Louis today. Former Cubs left-hander Rich Hill just signed a minor league contract with the Cardinals. The 29-year-old Hill was very good for the Cubs in 2007, going 11-8 with a 3.92 ERA, before more or less turning into Rick Ankiel on the mound in 2008. Hill then signed with the Baltimore Orioles before the 2009 season, and went 3-3 with a sexy ERA of 7.80.

Cardinals pitching Dave Duncan of course had to deal with Ankiel in St. Louis, and couldn't get the former phenom to get it back together on the mound. That's because there's really not much you can do for an absolute headcase like Ankiel was, and Hill is. Hill continuously uses "injuries" to blame for his control problems, even after he went on about how healthy he felt following a couple nice starts for the Orioles last year. Then he's nowhere close to the strike zone again, and all of a sudden the "injuries" comeback.

Dave Duncan's an absolutely sensational pitching coach, maybe the best in the business. It seems year after year, he turns a mediocre veteran pitcher into an All-Star candidate. So it's understandable why the Cardinals think Duncan can get Hill back to his 2007 form after all of the less talented arms the pitching coach has gotten the most out of. However, like Ankiel, I don't think there's anything Duncan's going to be able to do to fix Hill's problems, unless Duncan has a doctorate in psychology.

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Cubs Interested In Chan Ho Park

Posted by Matt Clapp | 1/25/2010 08:30:00 PM |

The Cubs apparently are looking at Chan Ho Park to fill their need for a late-inning reliever.

According to Jon Heyman, the Cubs are interested in free agent pitcher Chan Ho Park:

#cubs, #rays among teams eyeing chan ho park, who was terrific in world series last year and will be missed in philly.
Jon Heyman's Twitter

As Rotoworld points out, Park turned down a 1-year, $3 million offer from the Phillies in December, and is looking for more years and more money. The former All-Star as a starting pitcher will be 37 in June, and is only useful as a reliever these days(2.52 ERA in 38 relief appearances for the Phillies in 2009; 7.29 ERA in seven starts). I'd be quite hesitant to meet his demands, but knowing how Jim Hendry throws around money to free agent veteran relievers, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Park ends up being the late-inning reliever the Cubs are known to want.

If the Cubs are going to spend over $3 million on a single free agent player, I really wish that would be for second baseman Orlando Hudson instead, but it appears their money's going to be given to a relief pitcher like Park, and a player to fill their need/want for a fourth outfielder such as Xavier Nady.

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The Friendly Linkfines 1/25/10

Posted by Matt Clapp | 1/25/2010 02:10:00 PM

Baseball Prospectus' Top 11 Cubs Prospects (Baseball Prospectus)

Matt Swain Of Wrigley Bound Analyzes That Prospect List (Wrigley Bound)

Cubs Rumor Roundup: Nady And Kennedy (The Cub Reporter)

Cubs Still Looking To Add (Cubbies Crib)

Mystery Date: Who Will Get To Be The Cubs' 4th Outfielder? (A League Of Her Own)

The Cubs Will Scout Oscar Villarreal (Bleacher Nation)

Should The Cubs Extend Derrek Lee? (Wrigleyville23)

10 Lessons The Ricketts Can Learn From The Wirtz & McCaskey Families (Cubbie Doctor's Examiner)

Grading The Cubs Offseason... So Far (WaxPaperBeerCup)

What About Eric Byrnes? (GoatRiders Of The Apocalypse)

Pujols, McGwire, LaRussa Redefine "Mistake" (Zoner Sports)

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The Friendly Linkfines 1/22/10

Posted by Matt Clapp | 1/22/2010 03:03:00 PM

Jeff Baker Wants To Punch Mike Fontenot's Heart (Bleacher Nation)

One Small Step For Cubdom, One Giant Hurdle For Arizona (College Of Idiots)

The 4th Outfielder Conundrum (Thunder Matt's Saloon)

Cubs Not Moving But Having A Lawn Sale Anyway (Tales From Aisle 424)

Ozzie's Sense Of Betrayal Clouded By Facts (Wrigleyville23)

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Latest Talk: Jonny Gomes As The Cubs' 4th Outfielder

Posted by Matt Clapp | 1/21/2010 05:15:00 PM |

Jonny Gomes hit 20 home runs in 281 at bats for the Reds in 2009.

Jermaine Dye, Xavier Nady, Rocco Baldelli, Reed Johnson... these are the names we've heard most about filling the Cubs' need for a fourth outfielder. Well, we can add Jonny Gomes' name to the discussion, and it appears the 29-year-old might even be the most likely candidate to fill the role. He also sounds like he really wants this to happen:

``Absolutely,’’ said Gomes, confirming discussions. ``I’m a big fan of the game, a student of the game, and I follow a lot of history. I’m not only a player but also a client. Obviously, I’m a big fan of the Cubs, and a big fan of the city – it’s probably one of my favorite cities on the tour, as well as my wife’s.’’

``Most guys are [seeking multi-year deals]. I think that’s kind of where I stand out with other free agents,’’ he said. ``With Rocco [Baldelli], Xavier Nady, Reed Johnson and Jermaine Dye, I’m one of the youngest. If I was ever to hold out for a multiyear deal or a while lot of money, it wouldn’t be after a year with [281] at-bats, regardless what the run-production numbers were. I definitely want to be treated fair, but I’m not really looking to break the bank or for a lot of years. I’m looking to help the team get to the playoffs.

``With the guys on the free agent market out there right now, I think I can bring a lot to the Cubs with what I have. I’m comfortable playing left and right, and messing round with some ground balls at first base in spring training.’’

``What the Cubs have to offer, I’m totally OK with,’’ he said. ``They’re asking for a fourth outfielder, and others are looking to start. I’m just looking to get in there. And I think it would be great to get back with Lou. I know how hard he is on young players and expects a lot, but we built a pretty good relationship in Tampa.

``I think it would be a good fit for both sides.’’

Link(Gordon Wittenmyer, Chicago Sun-Times)

Gomes, who has a career line of .241/.330/.471(.801 OPS), hit 20 homers with an .879 OPS in 314 plate appearances for the Cincinnati Reds in 2009. You immediately look to the home/road splits when a player has half their games in Great American Ballpark, but Gomes still hit 9 homers with a .822 OPS on the road.

In his career, he's absolutely mashed lefties, putting up an .885 OPS. Against right-handed pitching, he has a career .758 OPS. So he's always been known as a guy to mainly play against left-handers, but he hit 15 homers and had an .859 OPS in 2009 against right-handers.

For the Cubs, he'd likely start in right field against left-handers, replacing Kosuke Fukudome. He'd also play in left field quite a bit, giving Alfonso Soriano some much needed rest. He mentioned working at first base in Spring Training, but he's never played there in the majors. With Jeff Baker being the only lock to make the roster that could backup Derrek Lee at first base, the Cubs would like this fourth outfielder to be able to play first base as well.

Gomes' defense is nothing to write home about, but he'd bring a powerful bat and outfield depth that the Cubs could really use.

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The Friendly Linkfines 1/21/10

Posted by Matt Clapp | 1/21/2010 04:30:00 PM

It appears Mesa will remain the Cubs' Spring Training home.

Kaplan: Cubs Will Stay In Mesa Pending Vote (CSN Chicago)

Cubs Are Negotiating With Kiko Calero (Bleacher Nation)

Getting To Know Kiko Calero- Just In Case (Cubs f/x)

Bookmark/Subscribe To These Blogs... Big League Stew Blogbook: Chicago Cubs (Big League Stew)

I'm Gonna Need You To Go Ahead And NOT Do This Again... Mmmkay? (A League Of Her Own)

Peavy Wanted To Be A Cub

Slamming Sammy Sosa
(Hire Jim Essian)

Brewers Add Doug Davis, Depth To Rotation
(i94 Sports)

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Don't make much of this, but it's worth taking note of(I guess). Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports says...

The Cubs, Dodgers and Cardinals are among the teams still monitoring the progress of left-hander Mark Mulder, one major league source said.

Mulder hasn’t remained healthy over a full season since 2005. He is 6-10 with a 7.73 ERA in only 23 games since then.
Link(Fox Sports)

All indications have been that he'll be signing with the rival Brewers, where Rick Peterson would be his pitching coach. Peterson was with Mulder in Oakland, when Mulder was one of the best pitchers in baseball.

If the Cubs are confident that he's healthy and could contend for the #5 spot, then sure, I suppose it's possible.

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Today the Cubs signed five players arbitration-eligible players to avoid arbitration:

Mike Fontenot- $1 million
Jeff Baker- $975,000
Angel Guzman-$825,000
Tom Gorzelanny- $800,000
Koyie Hill- $700,000

There are three arbitration-eligible players that want more money than the Cubs offered. Those players are Ryan Theriot, Carlos Marmol, and Sean Marshall. According to Cubs.Com's Carrie Muskat...

Ryan Theriot is asking for $3.4 million; Cubs offered $2.6 million.
Carlos Marmol is asking for $2.5 million; Cubs offered $1.75 million.
Sean Marshall is asking for $1.175 million; Cubs offered $800,000

The only offer from the Cubs that I really think is questionable here is the Marmol one, as I thought he'd get at least $2 million. I would've guessed $800,000-900,000 with Marshall, and thought Theriot's deal would be around $2-2.5 million. Both of those are right in line with what the Cubs thought as well apparently.

As for Theriot, I just don't think a bad defensive shortstop that had just a .712 OPS this season and has clearly lost a step(very noticeable on the basepaths, where he's also an idiot by the way) should be getting over $3 million. But then again, Jerry Hairston just pulled in over $2 million.

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We continue riding the train of news from the Cubs Convention. Somehow this slipped by me yesterday:

"We're going to add a couple more players before spring training starts," Piniella said Saturday between sessions at the Cubs convention. "And I would think - how can I say this - there will be significant, nice players. We're going to add some nice players here. We're not talking just adding players.

"We're talking about getting a good fourth outfielder. We're talking about getting a good late-inning relief pitcher. Nice pieces here."

Link- The Daily Herald

Something tells me that in a few months, Lou might regret calling these new players "significant, nice". That's especially if the fourth outfielder is say, the 33-year-old Eric Byrnes, who had a sub-.700 OPS each of the last two seasons in the few amount of games he didn't miss due to injury. Byrnes, Jermaine Dye, Xavier Nady, Rocco Baldelli, and Reed Johnson are the names being thrown around in the fourth outfielder rumors. All of them are either past their prime or frequently injured. Also, it appears a return of Reed won't be happening by the way Lou's talking.

As for this "good late-inning" relief pitcher, I really don't have a good guess as to who that could be. Nobody on the free agent market really stands out as a very good option. There have been some rumors(again) of the Cubs pursuing San Diego Padres closer Heath Bell, but the Padres would likely want too much in return for the Cubs to give up for a setup man(As we told you earlier today, Carlos Marmol has already been assured of being the Cubs' closer).

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In the 2009 Spring Training, Lou Piniella had Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg battle it out for the Cubs' closer role. Gregg won the job, was terrible when the real season came around(23 saves in 30 attempts), and is currently not even a part of the organization. Marmol finally was inserted into the role in August, and converted all 12 save opportunities as the official closer(overall on the season had 15 saves and 4 blown saves).

Well, Piniella says that Marmol won't have a challenger or the closer job in this year's Spring Training:

Piniella said Marmol will be his man no matter what happens this spring. ""There won't be any closer controversy, no closer decisions," he said.

If Marmol wants to keep the job all year, he'll need to improve on the unbelievably terrible control he had in 2009. He walked a whopping 65 batters in 74 innings. An even crazier statistic is that he hit 12 batters, which was the third-most in the National League. That's incredible when he's not even a starting pitcher. But when you have arguably the nastiest stuff in baseball and batters rarely make contact, you can still have a very good ERA of 3.41 as Marmol did in 2009.

Moving on to some interesting stuff involving a former Cub, Mark DeRosa. Cubs general manager Jim Hendry was torn apart by fans and the media all season after trading DeRosa to the Cleveland Indians in the winter prior to the 2009 season, especially since the trade was made in large part to make room for Milton Bradley. If I need to tell you how that turned out, I have no idea why you're on this site. Anyway, DeRosa was a free agent this offseason and signed with the San Francisco. Since the Cubs don't have an everyday second baseman on the roster, many people wanted them to just bring DeRosa back. Apparently Hendry didn't think DeRosa was capable of being that guy anymore:

As for why the Cubs didn't re-sign DeRosa as a free agent, Hendry said they felt his days as a second baseman were over, pointing out that his new team, San Francisco, is using him in left field.

DeRosa will be 35 before the season starts and has lost the range desired for a starting second baseman. However, I think this is just Hendry finding an excuse that's buyable, but not the real reason DeRosa will be playing home games in San Francisco instead of Chicago in 2010. Bringing DeRosa back just a year later would be Hendry really admitting he screwed up.

Source- Chicago Breaking Sports

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Your Likely 2010 Cubs Opening Day Lineup

Posted by Matt Clapp | 1/16/2010 02:15:00 PM

Interesting news out of the Cubs Convention today, as manager Lou Piniella said that Marlon Byrd will be batting fifth in the Cubs' lineup, and Alfonso Soriano will be batting sixth(something Lou already said during the winter meetings). So when the Cubs are in Atlanta on April 5th to begin the season against the Braves, this is the lineup you're likely to see:

1. Ryan Theriot, SS.
2. Kosuke Fukudome, RF.
3. Derrek Lee, 1B.
4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B.
5. Marlon Byrd, CF.
6. Alfonso Soriano, LF.
7. Geovany Soto, C.
8. Jeff Baker/Mike Fontenot,2B(likely Fontenot as they'll surely be facing a right-hander such as Derek Lowe or Jair Jurrjens).
9. Carlos Zambrano, P.

Theriot and Fukudome could definitely be flip-flopped, but I just get the feeling Lou will have Theriot in the leadoff spot. Unless Theriot goes back to being the guy that just gets on base rather than trying to be the power hitter he's not, the Cubs are likely better off with Fukudome leading off, as we know he'll at least have a high on-base percentage and see plenty of pitches.

I see the 5-7 spots in the lineup changing in some way by May. I think at least one of Soriano and Soto will likely be outperforming Byrd at the plate by then, if Soriano's knee is okay following surgery. As we showed you yesterday, Soto's working very hard to make sure he doesn't perform as badly as he did in 2009 again, as he's already lost 40 pounds this offseason.

UPDATE: Well just a few hours after posting that lineup, we can already make a change to it. Piniella had this to say at the convention today:

Jeff Baker will bat seventh, unless Mike Fontenot is playing second, with Geovany Soto eighth.
I'm not a fan of this. While I'm not going to predict Soto repeats his 2008 season, I do think he'll be quite a bit better than the 2009 campaign. This might be a way for the Cubs to tell Soto, "Go out and prove to it to us first", but the guy's already lost 40 pounds this offseason and seems incredibly dedicated to turning things around at the plate. Furthermore, he's not going to see as many good pitches to hit batting right in front of the pitcher in the lineup.

And this isn't related to the lineup, but there was some more interesting stuff from the same article as the above excerpt:

Piniella also expects Andres Blanco to be the back-up shortstop, Sam Fuld as the fifth outfielder, and a "significant" free agent signing for the fourth outfielder's spot. The Cubs are talking to Jermaine Dye about a one-year deal, since Soriano is expected to get more time off in 2010, and Kosuke Fukudome won't play against left-handers. Dye is still waiting for a team to offer him a full-time job.
Link(Chicago Breaking Sports)

I don't expect Jermaine Dye to settle for a fourth outfielder role in the National League, but perhaps he really wants to stay in Chicago and the Cubs can convince him he'll get a fair amount of playing time while Soriano and Fukudome get days off. I'm glad it appears Andres Blanco will make the roster, as they could really use a good glove in the middle of the infield.

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As most Cubs fans know, the Cubs Convention is going on this weekend in Chicago(imagine that!). Well, Geovany Soto attended the convention today, but it's unlikely anybody recognized him immediately:

Wow. Maybe we should just start calling him GQ Soto. To go with a hairdo that likely took two hours to put together, the Cubs catcher has lost a whopping 40 pounds this offseason:

After a sophomore slump that many blamed on his weight, Soto lost 40 pounds, spiked up his hair and looked like a totally different person on Friday.

"It's weird, I feel like a 12-year-old," he said. "I have a lot of energy. I'm kind of wired all day. I've got a little one now, and it's helped me at home. I give mama some rest. I'm active the whole day. I used to be a little sluggish- like 'I want to take a nap.' Now I feel great and I just want to put myself in the best position to help the club.

"If I'm agile back there, that will give me the best opportunity to not get hurt. I just want to be there for my teammates."

Cubs Get A Slimmer, Trimmer Soto In 2010- Chicago Breaking Sports

As that excerpt mentions, Soto's weight was what many blamed for his miserable 2009 season after winning the National League Rookie of the Year, being an National League All-Star, and even getting MVP votes in 2008.

Personally, I think it was more than just his weight. Teams began pitching him away more, and he still tried to pull most everything. If you do that, you're going to either swing and miss or pull groundballs weakly. That's why he grounded into 19 double plays in 331 at bats in 2009, compared to just 11 in 494 at bats in 2008.

Still, getting in great shape certainly can't be a bad thing, and you have to love how committed he seems to turning things around. Let's hope he does, because the Cubs absolutely need him to be more like his 2008 self if they wish to be a serious contender in the National League this year.

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