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Bruce Levine hosted another weekly chat, and offered up his thoughts on the Chicago Cubs’ roster and future plans, with a special emphasis on how things might shake out in Spring Training. The highlights:

  • Augie Ojeda will get a very real shot to be the primary backup at shortstop, which would send Darwin Barney back to AAA. (ed. that assumes Barney doesn’t impress so much at 2B that the Cubs consider carrying him as the primary starter there. It’s not likely, but it’s possible.)
  • The Cubs may like Prince Fielder in 2012 more than Albert Pujols.
  • Michael Young would be an upgrade at 2B (ed. are you sure?), but the Cubs don’t have the money to take him on. The Cubs would have to move Fukudome just to make it work for 2011, and that’s without considering 2012 an 2013.
  • As for moving Fukudome, the Cubs weren’t able to find a taker – even offering to eat half of his $13.5 million salary – because other teams do not see Fukudome as a starter.
  • Another trade that never was: the Cubs probably talked to the Yankees about Carlos Zambrano, but the Yankees are light in ML-ready pitching, so the Cubs couldn’t find a match (ed. well, like, if the Yankees had ML-ready pitching, they wouldn’t need Zambrano in the first place, so…).
  • Braden Looper will either win a rotation spot or be released. Levine doesn’t see him in the bullpen.
  • Speaking of the rotation, Randy Wells is still discussed as though he’s just another competitor for a back-end rotation spot (ed. which is, sigh, so ridiculous).
  • Totally random, but ever wonder how much the Cubs are paying Mike Quade? It’s a shade under $1 million per year for 2011 and 2012. Remember that when the Cubs talk about their payroll – Lou Piniella was making $4 million.
  • N

    New pitching coach has to be making a lot more than the old pitching coach too.

    • N

      Making a lot *less*, I should say.

  • philoe beddoe

    if you compare all 4 of the Cub outfielders Fukudome is not our biggest problem, his OPS was virtually the same as Colvin, and Sori and higher than Byrds…its just that he makes 14.5 mil..not his fault…he actually could be a good candidate to lead-off. and he is probably best defensive OF….Quade needs to mix, match and platoon…he should platoon Soriano because he can not hit right handed breaking pitch…a Sori/Colvin platoon or a Sori/Fuku platoon could be highly productive…team needs a right handed hitter off bench…

  • Raymond Robert Koenig

    Good post. Quade and Hendry don’t have the balls to platoon Soriano, though. They’d be afraid of the backlash. Trading or releasing Soriano would solve a lot of problems.

    • BT

      How would releasing a guy with an OPS+ of 110 and an almost .500 slugging percentage “solve a lot of problems”?

      • Raymond Robert Koenig

        Simple. Soriano hurts the Cubs offensively and defensively. Let’s try this hypothetical situation. His contract is guaranteed, so the Cubs have to pay him whether he plays for them or they release him. If they release him, they can move everybody’s “favorite” (Colvin) to LF and keep their best OF in RF. It’ll never happen, though.

        • BT

          It will never happen because it’s insane. There is a difference between overpaid and useless. You seem to be confusing the two. There is no logic whatsoever to CUTTING a left fielder who slugged .500 and hit 25 home runs last year, regardless of how bad his defense is.

          • Philoe Beddoe

            Here is why you platoon(Earl Weaver was onto this 30 years ago)..here are splits in OPS last year of returning 4 OF’s

            vs lhp vs. rhp
            FUKUDOME .851 .804
            COLVIN .821 .816
            BYRD .916 .717
            SORIANO .944 .764 (STRIKES OUT 1 EVERY 3.4 TIMES VS. RHP)

            So running out a line-up everyday that contains both Soriano and Byrd against Righties is pretty stupid. If Quade is smart only one would be in the line-up…if Soriano mostly faces lefties(and occasionally faces righties, like say one that does not throw a good slider) he will give you 300-350 really good at bats…same with Byrd..but giving them 550 at bats would be counter-productive..

            • Ace

              I’m on board – against righties, there’s very little reason (outside of placating the well-paid players) that both Colvin and Fukudome shouldn’t both be in the lineup against most right-handers.

              • wax_eagle

                You mean Lefties right Ace?

                From those numbers it looks like its best to Platoon Colvin and Byrd.

                • Ace

                  Edited to fix typo – meant to say “shouldn’t,” not “should.”

  • Raymond Robert Koenig

    Actually, Soriano has never had an OPS of 1.100 and his slugging average last year was below .500 as it was the year before. His skills keep declining and the Cubs are only halfway through his contract. It was a bad signing then and it’s still a bad investment now.

    • BT

      Let’s see….

      -I never claimed he had an OPS of 1.100. Alex Rodriguez has never had an OPS of 1.100. I said he had an OPS+ of 110, which means his offensive production was 10 percent better than the rest of the league.

      -His Slugging average WAS below .500 last year. It was .496. You totally nailed me on my rounding error, and it totally changes my point. Or not.

      -His skills may be declining, and he may be only halfway through his contract. That’s no reason to CUT him. Using that logic, we should probably cut Dempster and Byrd as well?

      -It was a bad signing and it is a bad investment, but the answer in a rational world is to try to get as much value as possible out of it. Not throw it away. If you bought a car and the tires turned out to be faulty, do you abandon the car?

      Being disappointed in Soriano is natural. Cutting a left fielder with above average production and kissing 72 million dollars goodbye because you are disappointed, is insane.

      • Raymond Robert Koenig

        Sorry. When I make a bad investment I’m not afraid to admit it and I rid myself of it. Hendry should do the same. Admit the Soriano signing was a mistake and try to amend that.

        • wax_eagle

          The problem is the investment still has value and releasing him outright is like flushing the stock certificate down the toilet instead of selling it.

          Yes Sori was a bad investment, it was a time when a lot of guys got handed $100+ million contracts that haven’t payed off (see Wells, Vernon and Rios, Alex). However, just because Sori isn’t worth his contract doesn’t mean that he isn’t a serviceable baseball player. The Cubs have 4 decent outfielders, they have a lineup with not much pop. Sori is a decent outfielder with some Pop. Corner outfield defense isn’t as important as the power that he can provide (see Ramirez, Manny).

          If the Cubs could get a return, even a minimal one on Soriano’s contract then they would have done it by now, but they don’t need the roster spot badly enough to eat the rest of his contract. He was worth 2.9 WAR last year, and will probably be worth about 2 WAR this year. While that doesn’t cover his contract value its still better than calling someone up from AAA to take his place. No he probably won’t ever be a 5+ WAR player again, but if he can make 2-3 WAR then he will be better than what we would find in the bargain bin. (All Numbers Fangraphs War. FYI BR WAR was 1.7 last year, not quite as good).

          • Raymond Robert Koenig

            I stand by my opinion. If Hendry released Soriano outright, with what they’d have left in the organization, they’d be a better team in 2011 and beyond.

            • wax_eagle

              So paying someone nearly 20million a year to not play baseball, or even to play for a rival team is better than getting 1-2 WAR out of him? Who is going to play left field and give us 2+ WAR? You would basically be playing that left fielder 20million plus his salary to produce maybe 3-4 WAR. The math doesn’t add up.

            • Ace

              Can you find a better bench player available than Soriano? If not, then you don’t actually think releasing Soriano makes the Cubs better – you’re just afraid Quade won’t have the balls to use him properly.

              To be clear, I don’t think Soriano is a bench player – I’m just making the point.

              • Raymond Robert Koenig

                I don’t think Soriano is a bench player either. But if Quade platooned him or benched him, it would become a disruptive situation. The Cubs are stuck with him for the forseeable future.

                • BT

                  And if it gets to the point where Soriano is actually HURTING the team, rather than “not helping enough to cover his salary”, I will agree with you, and give my full blessing to cutting him. But for right now he is at least passable as a starting left fielder. Cutting him makes no logical, financial or tactical sense.

      • CubSouth

        I totally agree with BT and I really don’t understand why we are all hating on Soriano? I cringe, like most fans, when a fly ball goes his way, but he has been productive with the bat. The contract (as people say), is what it is, all we can hope for now is that Quade gets the best production out of Soriano that he can. I’m curious though, if Pena has a great year at first, where do we go from here? If Fielder, Pujols and Pena are all available FA’s, who do you sign? Pujols’ OPS, Homeruns and BA have all declined over the last 3 yrs while his K’s have gone up. Just because he may be available doesn’t mean he is the best out there. Just wanted to throw that question out there.

        • Jeff

          Soriano makes too much money, we all know that, there is no point in bringing it up in conversation unless it’s about being able to trade him or not. What he’s paid has no impact on how he’s going to produce. Soriano’s average season with the Cubs looks like this: .271 avg. 27hr, 70rbi, and a 109ops+, with his WAR somewhere around 2. Those are not the numbers of someone who you cut out right. The perception is that he’s terrible because he’s paid to produce like Pujols or ARod and doesn’t, that’s Jim Hendry’s fault, everyone else in baseball saw this coming. We are stuck with him, but that’s not really so bad in my opinion. 27 homers would have been tied for 15th in the national league last year. Besides, his numbers actually got better last year, so he’s not in as much decline as some are making it out to be.

        • wax_eagle

          Prince is the youngest, but also probably the one to fall off the quickest with age. If you can get him for a reasonable deal he may be the best option. Its not worth overpaying for either Fielder or Pujols. If they price themselves out of the market then a one year contract for DLee or a 2-3 year deal with Pena-if he is awesome this year-would be better then tying yourself down with the likes of Fielder or Pujols for the next 10 years.

          • EQ

            I’m positive that Pujols will stay in St. Louis.. and that would be great for us.. the Cards would have almost 50 mil tied into 2 players (Holliday & Albert) and the end of that contract Poo-holes will be declining big time. That’s only good new for the Cubs.. with the money coming off the books the next 3 years, I’d rather see the Cubs invest into pitching and be smart with their money… No more Soriono-esque contracts.. for the 30 mil Pujols requres, they could get 2 front line starting pitchers for half the years.. I’d rather have a Phillies type of rotation in the future than all the money tied into a few players ending and exiting their prime.

  • wax_eagle

    Ace,

    Not sure where to ask this, so here will have to do. Any word on the Marmol situation? Are they still trying to get a 2-3 year deal done or will this thing end up before the arbiters?

    • Ace

      The thinking is – and no one but the Cubs and Marmol know for sure at this point – the deal is done, and it is simply pending a physical, which Marmol will take when he reports to camp on Sunday. His arbitration hearing is scheduled for the 15th (that’s not that far away), but there has been no indication that they will actually need to arbitrate. That, to me, is a pretty clear suggestion that the deal is done. Still no news on how long or how much money, but that should come out this weekend or early next week.

      • wax_eagle

        Thanks Ace, that makes sense. I was mostly wondering how soon the hearing was. I assumed it would be avoided, but I knew it had to be coming up quick.

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