It’s time to see if the Cubs are actually hot, or if they’ve just been snacking on lowly competition. The Cubs now start a stretch that includes seven against the Braves, and nine against the Brewers/Giants/Cardinals before the end of August.

  • Contrary to Mike Quade’s suggestion earlier in the week, Andrew Cashner says he has “no doubt” that he’ll pitch in September with the Cubs. “There’s no doubt in mind that I’ll see action,” Cashner said. “This is my sixth or seventh bullpen today. We are going in the right direction, and things are going well.” As I’ve said before, I can see the merit in both approaches with Cashner. If he comes back, he gets to test out the shoulder against live, MLB hitting, something he wouldn’t have done for a year if he waits until 2012 to come back. On the other hand, if he’s going to be a starter next year, why not just let him completely heal, doing a throwing program in the offseason, and then start back up in Spring Training?
  • Mike Quade had a confused reaction when told that Jeff Samardzjia said he was “dying” to be a starting pitcher again. “Oh, really?” Quade said. “We love versatility. All I know is he’s in my bullpen today, and what happens down the road.… He’s a piece of work. Everybody has their own idea. I’m so happy with the progress he’s made and the focus he’s shown… I rest on that right now. I don’t know where this goes [next year].”
  • Bruce Levine had a chat this week, and there are a few interesting things. The most interesting is Levine’s advocacy of trading Darwin Barney in the offseason if it can help the Cubs get pitching. I agree with the sentiment that Barney is not a ML-caliber starter, but I can’t see another team giving up much of value to get him (because, presumably, they’ll see him the same way). He’s a great 24th/25th man, but that’s it.
  • The Cubs spent just $4.727 million on draft bonuses last year, which was one of the lowest totals in baseball (in fact, the Cubs are just 25th in draft spending from 2008 to 2010). Depending on how things shake out, the Cubs could end up spending double that amount this year.
  • Apparently Dave Bush had a clause in his minor league deal that allowed him to opt out if he hadn’t made the Cubs by a certain date. That date has come and gone, and so has Dave Bush. Why do I get the feeling both sides are wiping their brow as they saunter away?
  • The 21-year-old prospect the Cubs received for Kosuke Fukudome is adjusting well to his new team. Abner Abreu is tearing up High A with the Cubs – in nine games, he’s hitting .333/.389/.576 with a homer, a triple, and three doubles. He says the difference isn’t the new team, it’s his approach. “I’m confident now,” Abreu told “I was scared. I’m an aggressive player and I was playing too passive. That wasn’t me. Right now, I think this is the player I am. I’m playing the way I always played before. The difference is that when I came back from the injuries I had lost confidence and I was shy. I was thinking too much, which is why I was struggling. Now, I’m just doing the things the way I’ve always done them. This is the way I have played since I was a kid. Just play the game. I started to do that and stopped worrying about things. That was the main difference. Now I am back and I’m now worrying about anything. When that umpire says play ball I just play the game.”
  • Cubs’ AA catcher Luis Flores, 24, has been suspended 50 games after testing positive for a banned stimulant. A career .645 OPSer, Flores was sporting a .950 OPS at AA Tennessee this year, so, clearly, stimulants work.
  • gblan014

    I like Darwin Barney a lot but if this team is to get better offensively (and defensively, for that matter), the upgrade has to come from somewhere and 1B and 2B are the only 2 positions where a change is likely to happen.

    • skitsketchjeff

      Isn’t that the problem with the Cubs. We are one of the worst teams in the majors two years in a row, and we have only two positions where an “upgrade” is possible. Everything should be on the table. You can’t improve the pitching by committing the 2nd most errors in the majors two years in a row. You can’t improve the offense without speed on the basepaths and hitters with the patience to allow the runners to steal. You can’t improve the pitching without pitchers who know how to throw to contact to limit their walks and pitch counts.

      • Brett

        Another solid comment. Where have you been hiding?

      • pfk

        We have more than 2 positions to upgrade. Throw 3B and Catcher into that mix. Soto is lousy defensively, only hits .240-.250 and it is well known that he doesn’t call a good game. In my mind, Castro is the only one safe.

      • Jim

        “You can’t improve the pitching without pitchers who know how to throw to contact to limit their walks and pitch counts.”

        This is the fault with the Cubs organization, their philosophy is to draft and develop strikeout pitchers – the major league staff led in Ks for most of the 2000’s – is it any wonder there are so many arm injuries in this organization?

        • EQ

          and who was one of the only pitchers they’ve had in the last 20 years who wasn’t a strikeout pitcher and dominated??? How about Greg Maddox.. he worked out pretty well.

          • Robbo

            Greg Maddux wasn’t a strikeout pitcher??? 3,300 K’s doesn’t qualify as a strikeout pitcher? He wasn’t a traditional power pitcher but I think he certainly fanned his fair share

    • awesome

      yes and no. the first thing to do is get rid of Soriano, period. after that anything goes. Barney may not be a starter but he’s the least of the problems. if he can’t bring pitching, then why trade him. that would create a problem at 2B. right now he’s the best you have at 2B.

      pitching/defense up the middle win. to me Hendry and Quade are more of a problem than Barney.

  • Fishin Phil

    Deer Luis Flores,

    Have you not heard of the antlers? Try that next time.

  • CubsFanatic

    If hes the deal breaker for a good pitching trade, why not. *Still in hopes we sign Reyes in the off season*.

    • gblan014

      Signing Reyes and moving him to 2B isn’t that bad of an idea, especially if we miss out on Fielder and Pujols. What about LeMahieu and other 2B prospects though? Also, you’d have to be concerned about Reyes’ durability. No one wants the Garciaparra situation again but this time with a huge, never ending Soriano-esque contract.

  • skitsketchjeff

    Regarding fielding trade offers for Barney or any player, I don’t understand the position to “not” field trade offers for any player. If any team with a surplus of pitching, defense or speed, desires one of our players, consider the deal. Barney’s defense in his first year at 2B has not been acceptable, and his OBP is too low given the limited number of other things this offense allows him to do (little evidence of hitting behind a runner, stealing, working long counts). Hendry’s reluctance to ever motivate a single player by suggesting any player could be traded in the right deal or trying to light a fire under the team from time-to-time in the papers is one of the main problems with the Cubs’ culture under Hendry: too many players get way too comfortable. Hendry is a very player-friendly GM. Under him, the Cubs have always partnered with agents to hide the extent of pitcher’s arm injuries in public, given awat no-trade clauses like candy, limited any criticism of veteran players at least until they have become runaway PR problems (Sosa, Bradley, Hawkins), and created an overly cozy, low-expectation environment for average players to while away their post-free agency/post-extension years. I’m not saying the Cubs should swing 180-degrees the other way and becoming openly hostile to its players, but being a bit more public in holding players accountable and witholding “votes of confidence” would be good. Why basically say Barney is our second basemen next year? After all, wasn’t the competition for 2B in Spring Training what got him over the first hump and a decent rookie to begin with. And remember Silva saying in ST that he didn’t feel he should compete for a starting slot in the rotation. Is it any coincidence that happened in the Cubs camp? Where else in the majors would you hear that from an aging, injury-riddled pitcher who posted an 11.12 ERA in the second half of 2010? You have to break some eggs to make an omelete, and think what you will about Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen, but they aren’t afraid to break some eggs and won a World Series in 2005, but the Cubs are trying to reassure non-All-Star players like Barney and Jeff Baker to keep them happy.

    • Brett

      Hendry is definitely one of the most player-friendly GMs in the game. Completely agree with your thoughts on Barney, and I hope, in the stillness of the offseason, everyone can look at the numbers and forget the hype. I like the way Barney plays the game. I don’t like the way he fails to produce as a starter at a position where you can afford to have some offense.

  •!/deathinthePM Shaun

    The Cubs won’t get anything good for Barney or other defensively disabled players (Castro) unless it’s from a lower end AL team. We should just keep him and develop him for an OF position. Let’s face it, we wouldn’t get anyone worth the salary price at this time anyway. Just gotta suck it up and rebuild for next year.

    • Brett

      I would be fine with keeping Barney as a utility player – he’s cheap, plays adequate defense at a variety of positions, and (as much as I hate the term) is a gamer. But in no universe should he be expected to be the starting second baseman next year.

  • gblan014

    Crazy idea : Since Brandon Phillips only has 1 year left on his contract after this (a club option that the Reds will surely pick up), and that the Reds don’t usually have tons of cash to throw at free agents, wouldn’t they be inclined to field offers for him this winter? If the Cubs were to land him, they could see how the kids develop throughout 2012 and then decide if they want to extend Phillips through 2013 and beyond or cut him loose and go with one of the aforementioned kids.

    • Brett

      I doubt it. The Reds have a window for winning right now. They’ll probably be content to let Phillips play next year, and then offer him arbitration after the season if they feel they can’t resign him to a longer deal.

  • dreese

    The Cashner question is very difficult but I think I would sacrifice him being a little rusty on live ML hitting if we let him arm completely heal. When you think about it, whats the hurry? Right now he cannot help us and I would rather have him help us in the future so I am hoping we do not see him towards the end of the season

    • Fishin Phil

      I think I go with dreese on this one.

    • hansman1982

      You could treat his MLB appearances like a bullpen session – have him focus on a couple key areas and shut him down after 15-20 pitches – I certaintly wouldnt want him to start and go 50-60 pitches but if you can continue to work on some things doing a similar program to what you would be doing anyway why not?

      • Brett

        Would be fine with me, but good luck getting Mike “I Only Care About Winning Today’s Game At All Costs” Quade.

    • Brett

      I think the question is, what if his arm is completely healed by September?

      • Toosh

        If his arm is completely healed by September, let him pitch.

      • dreese

        But again what if his arm is 90 percent and Mike “I Only Care About Winning Today’s Game At All Costs” Quade thinks thats good enough

  • Hogie

    What is with the Cubs’ catchers! That’s the fourth or fifth catcher to get caught with some kind of illegal substance in the last couple of years…wow.

    • dreese

      Well Soto was just trying to relax not get beefed up

  • Seth Majewski

    The cubs could and should upgrade SP,1B,2B,RF,LF, and 3b(assuming Ramirez leaves) over the next few years.

  • Ol’CharlieBrown

    “The Cubs have surrendered 90 first-inning runs this season, the most in the big leagues.”

    “Castro’s miscue was the Cubs’ 95th error on the season, most in the National League.”

    Really makes it tough to win ball games when you’re playing catch-up practically every game. I think a team has a different mentality when they are behind in a game as opposed to either being tied or leading in a game. You try a little too much when you’re behind and you try to do more and end up doing less. Aside from that, all the errors we have committed have only crippled us even further. We’re essentially helping other teams to find ways to beat us.

  • fire hendry and quade

    i actually do think this team is only a few pieces away from being a contender the problem is those pieces are huge pieces. first off we need an ace of the staff desperately and as has been discussed here there arent really any free agent aces so im not sure how we go about doing that. also we need a run producing outfielder to replace the worst player in baseball soriano and fielder or pujols at first. i know those are 3 huge pieces but i think thats what we need to contend next year and honestly id be happier with anyone other then soriano playing left field next year. i think soriano honestly cost us 10 games or so a year with his horrible defense horrible situational hitting and his horrible baserunning

  • RY

    darwin barney is next year’s tyler colvin. trade him if we can; his stats seem to have plummeted daily since the break.

    • Brett

      Be on the lookout for the Hot/Not section of the Series Preview today. Barney comes in for… discussion.

  • TSB

    Trade Castro, he’s getting old; why keep a major leaguer talent when you can have some single A prospects? With some of the Cub fans, the other teams’ players always look better, even if they stink just as bad as the Cubs.

    • Brett

      You mean even if they “stinks.”

      But, seriously, Barney – as a starting second baseman – does stink. That’s not animus or coveting theoretical prospects. It’s just a numerical fact.

  • Caleb

    Banned stimulant? What was it? 20 bucks says it was badger milk.

    “A badger can lift 10 times his own weight- can you?”

  • jack

    I feel the problem the cubs have, relates to, not playing the players on a regular bases. Quit shifting the line up and keep Barney. I think that experience is what he needs and who knows, he could turn out to be the best 2nd baseman in baseball history. Of course, the cubs have always traded away the best players, history tells you that.

    • Brett

      “Barney could turn out to be the best 2nd baseman in baseball history.”

      I appreciate your thoughts, but I just don’t know how to respond to that. I’m trying not to do the sarcastic “and Alfonso Soriano could win three straight MVP awards from 2012 to 2014,” but, yeah. Any player could theoretically become the best – in the same sense that I could be starting for the Cubs next year. It’s technically possible. But it’s unbelievably unlikely based on the knowledge we have to date. The same is true with Barney. The evidence we have to date indicates that he could be a useful bench player for a number of years, but there is *NOTHING* in his history to suggest he can be a solid ML starting second baseman.

    • PFK

      The problem the Cubs have is organizational. If you look at the great teams in history, they have had a GM and manager who are in sync and the relationships are successful and usually last a long time. To wit: Buzzi Bavasi and Walter Alston; Al Campanis and Tommy Lasorda; John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox; Walt Jocketty and Tony Larussa; Brian Cashman and Joe Torre.
      The Cubs just keep changing and changing because they don’t have a President nor a GM who really knows what he is doing. A good GM knows EXACTLY what type of team he wants, how to build it and who can exactly manage that type of team.
      We can talk of trading this player or that player but in my book its all mental masturbation until we get the organization fixed.

  • Kyle N

    OKAY. . .

    Let’s all agree on the following truths:

    Darwin Barney’s numbers through this season as a whole aren’t good. He is either wearing down from his first full season in the majors, pitchers have adjusted to him/he is struggling to adjust to them in the second half, the discussions about potential promoted prospects and playing time concerns are getting to him, or a combination of all of the above.

    Regardless .283/.318/.357 isn’t good enough to play everyday, no matter how you slice it.

    In a stinker of a season, people tend to look for bright spots (almost as a defense mechanism) and like I’ve said before, Barney’s low-maintenance, professional, “nice-guy”, feel-good story can skew people’s opinions. He is indeed overrated because of this.

    However. . .

    Please, please, PLEASE look at the following and let’s talk truth about the second base situation like rational people:

    National League Average On-Base Percentage .319

    Utley, Philadelphia – .368
    Weeks, Milwaukee – .346
    Schumaker, St. Louis – .336
    Walker, Pittsburgh – .335
    Hudson, San Diego – .333
    Phillips, Cincinnati – .333
    Turner, New York – .332
    Sanchez, San Francisco – .332
    Infante, Florida – .324
    Barney, Chicago – .318
    Herrera, Colorado – .315
    Espinosa, Washington .312
    Miles, Los Angeles – .311
    Johnson, Arizona – .291
    Uggla, Atlanta – .289

    Notice how nearly everyone in this group (All of the above can be considered “starters” or “regulars,” as they have 250+ PA) is within .020 percentage points of average.

    National League Average OPS .709

    Utley, Philadelphia – .828
    Weeks, Milwaukee – .825
    Phillips, Cincinnati – .757
    Walker, Pittsburgh – .731
    Sanchez, San Francisco – .730
    Espinosa, Washington – .728
    Uggla, Atlanta – .716
    Johnson, Arizona – .708
    Schumaker, St. Louis – .704
    Turner, New York – .696
    Infante, Florida – .688
    Barney, Chicago – .676
    Miles, Los Angeles – .670
    Hudson, San Diego – .659
    Herrera, Colorado – .611

    Most everyone is within .030 percentage points of average here. Again, all the same players with 250+ PA.

    Chase Utley, Rickie Weeks, and Brandon Phillips are your upper outliers. Those are your truly good NL second-basemen in 2011.

    Note that Utley and Weeks have numbers that don’t reflect a full season of playing due to injuries, SO TAKE THAT INTO CONSIDERATION! Say what you want about Espinosa’s upside and future, but he strikes out a ton and has cooled off considerably as the season has gone on. He’ll have to make adjustments as well, and it may not be a lock for him to improve drastically. It took one of the most unexpected hitting streaks ever to get Uggla’s numbers even close to average in most categories. Say what you want about this being a one-year aberration Brett, but I think his future numbers will be closer to this year than past years.

    So, can someone please tell me WHY the whole second base situation is causing everyone to spaz out? Replace Barney with a number of those players and what do you gain over the course of a whole year? Maybe one win? Two tops? A guy like Phillips will command a hefty price tag as a free agent and in my opinion; it’s just not worth it. A 30-year old with a career .747 OPS (with a 100 OPS+ in his last six Cincinnati years) just isn’t worth $7-10 million a year. The Cubs have about a billion other things to worry about, like, “What the hell are we going to do about our pitching staff? Who is going to start and get the playing time in the outfield? These things will help the Cubs progress into a contender much quicker than “Let’s possibly pay a lot of money to replace a .690 OPS guy with a .725 OPS guy.”

    If the Cubs keep Ramirez (isn’t that the question we all want answered?), the solution couldn’t be any easier. Bring in LeMahieu next year to battle Barney in Spring Training for the starting second base job. The loser becomes your guy off the bench. If one starts to seriously struggle, the other one better be damn ready to step in. The Cubs will have Jeff Baker under contract, so he can fill spots at third, second, or first. So there it is. Fix the damn situation internally, because the other second basemen in the National League are mostly average, or even worse. It’s not like the Cubs missed out on “Free Jeff Kent clone day” at the local Dairy Queen, ran home crying to their mommy because they felt left out. No other team in the National League (aside from Philly) would say that their second basemen was a reason (let alone THE reason) they were so good (or so bad) this year.

    If Barney (or DeWitt) get traded for someone who could address a larger need, I’d be all for it.

    Seriously, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.
    I think that wrapped up the loose ends, can we PLEASE stop talking about Darwin Barney now?

    • Brett

      I must be the one taking crazy pills, because I think you just made a big, long argument that the Cubs shouldn’t bother to improve at positions where the starter is among the worst in the league unless the improvement can account for more than a couple wins.

      Do you really want to make that argument?

      • Kyle N


        It’s all about the Benjamins. . .

        Barney’s WAR (according to Baseball Reference) is 0.5,
        Brandon Phillips’ WAR is 2.3. A little over a win and a half difference.

        Phillips is making $11 million this season and is the best second basemen in the NL who has been able to play a full season with no injury. Barney is making $400K.

        Like I said above, we can (and should) see what LaMahieu brings to the table next year when looking to start. We have that commodity in our minor league system. We already have the potential to improve with what we have!

        Now look at our pitching staff. THAT is what needs the most attention first.

        We can’t keep trotting out Randy Wells (-0.5 WAR) and expect to win. We replace him with a guy like CJ Wilson (2.8 WAR) and that is feasibly a three win gain. He makes $7,000,000. Who do we have in the minors right now? Casey Coleman and a whole bunch of unproven, regressing, or reclamation projects. We don’t have that commodity, hence a guy like Wilson making more sense.

        THIS is what I am saying. Not that Barney deserves to start. Not that it’s okay to expect mediocrity at second base. But rather, we have players to try and fix second base for 2012, and it could end up being as good (or better) as the closely bunched .730 OPS second basemen in the NL!

        I would rather see the Cubs use their money to improve on replacing Grabow (-0.5 WAR), and the Ortiz, Doug Davis, Rodrigo Lopez pu pu platter. (combined -1.6 WAR)
        That has the potential for a two or three win swing right there.

        I just stare at our pitching numbers and how much of a suck-fest they are. THAT. . . is the primary reason we are a bad team this year.

        • Brett

          I understand your point, and, when the dollars are laid out in the offseason to be compared, we can discuss the wise allocation.

          But the predecessor point, and I think we just disagree, is that it is *unacceptable* to go into 2012 with the assumption that Darwin Barney as the starting second baseman. I’m not deaf to the financial side of the discussion; but some players fall below, to me, an acceptable threshold of performance, and a replacement must be sought. No one is talking about spending $15 million at second base rather than spending it in the rotation.

          I’m simply saying, the current and prevailing assumption that Barney is “the guy” going into 2012 is utterly unsupportable in the stats. If that means trying out LeMahieu and/or Flaherty, cool. I’m on board with that. I just cannot accept the Cubs going into the season assuming Barney is the guy. Can’t do it.

          • CubFan Paul

            i’l take Phillips’s .757 OPS for $7-$10 next year for sure ..LOL@the long arguement to prove Barney’s suckage

          • Caleb

            Good stuff. I knew I liked this site.

            So basically second basemen are kinda crappy right now, and we have bigger fish to fry than Barney, but he shouldn’t be assumed to have the job next year and at the least should battle it out next year with dj (and a few others of course) to see who’s the best we can field to second base. Got it.

            I vote zambrano. Convince him to not retire (Lolz) and tell him he can audition for second base and bat everyday. Thoughts?