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Today marks the deadline for teams to add in-house players to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from the December 8 Rule Five Draft (December 1 is the deadline to have in-house players off the 40-man roster in advance of the Rule Five Draft), and the Cubs added four prospects: infielders Josh Vitters and Junior Lake, outfielder Matt Szczur, and pitcher Jeff Beliveau. The Cubs also outrighted three players off of the 40-man to open up additional spots: outfielder Lou Montanez, and pitchers Esmailin Caridad and Kyle Smit.

Lake, 21, and Vitters, 22, each played well in the recently-ended Arizona Fall League, and will have a chance to contribute to the Cubs in 2012. Beliveau, 24, also pitched in the AFL, after a stint with Team USA, and will have an excellent chance to make the Cubs’ bullpen out of Spring Training. Szczur, 22, was added to the 40-man because of a contractual quirk in the way the Cubs signed him (to forgo a football career, Szczur technically signed two contracts with the Cubs), which would have made him eligible for the Rule Five Draft, a couple years earlier than he otherwise would have been. It’s possible he could see some big league action in the second half of 2012, but 2013 is more likely (on the early side).

Montanez came to the Cubs on a minor league deal (after spending some time with the Cubs’ B-team squad in Baltimore) at the beginning of the year, and didn’t do much with his opportunities in the bigs this year. Caridad couldn’t overcome arm troubles, and Smit, who came to the Cubs in the Ted Lilly/Ryan Theriot trade last year, didn’t make any noise in the minors, much less the bigs.

The moves leave the Cubs’ 40-man roster at a surprisingly low 34 (and will sink lower after Koyie Hill is non-tendered), which is probably reflective of two things: (1) Cubs’ brass expects a fair bit of roster turnover this Winter, and (2) Cubs’ brass (the new guys) aren’t terribly worried about losing some marginal prospects in the Rule Five Draft.

There is some scuttlebutt in the Cublogoverse about the Cubs leaving utility infielder – and probable 2012 contributor – Ryan Flaherty off the roster. By my calculation, Flaherty is not yet eligible for the Rule Five Draft. Players signed at age 19 or older are not eligible until they’ve been in the organization for at least four years. Flaherty, 25, was signed in August 2008, which means he’s been in the organization only a little over three years, and is thus not eligible for the Rule Five Draft. Maybe I’m missing something, but that’s how I do the math.

UPDATE: I’ve been racking my brain about this, because I want to get the Ryan Flaherty issue right. There are a million secondary sources that lay out the “rules” for the Rule Five Draft, but, for whatever reason, finding those rules is not quite like finding a copy of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (the “Basic Agreement”) or MLB’s Rules. Still, I found what I was looking for, and here’s why Flaherty IS eligible for the Rule Five draft. The rule doesn’t say a player isn’t eligible until four years after he was signed (if signed at age 19 or older), as all the secondhand sources say. The rule says a player is eligible at the fourth Rule Five Draft after he was signed. So, if a kid signed in August 2008, that means he’s eligible at the 2011 draft (that’s the fourth draft after he was signed). Hence, Flaherty is eligible, and the Cubs’ decision to leave him unprotected is quite curious. Boston compensation?

  • die hard

    Rule 5 draft explained By Alan Schwarz
    http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/columnists/askbarule5.html

    ….Players who were 18 or younger on June 5 preceding the signing of their first contract must be protected after four minor league seasons. Players 19 and older must be protected after three seasons……

    so maybe hes part of compensation to Boston?

    • Larry

      But if Flaherty is going to be a part of the compensation package going to Boston, wouldn’t it make more sense to move him now or protect him, that way you don’t have to worry about another team taking him?

      • die hard

        unless word is out from Selig to other teams to back off

      • JulioZuleta

        Just going to let the Bosox claim him? Doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. I’ve never been a big Flaherty fan but seems crazy to risk just losing him for nothing when he at least has some value.

        • BetterNews

          What value? Please.

          • BetterNews

            I think he hit .228/.227 in AAA ball, please!

            • Kyle

              .237, but that was in just 49 games, and he at least showed decent power and discipline there.

              He crushed AA for 90 games before that, so his AA/AAA combined season totals were 280/347/478. Certainly projects to a MLB hitter as an infielder, though maybe not a starter and his defense is suspect.

              • BetterNews

                Whoa cowboy! How many games are we going to have to watch Colvin hit .150 before it sinks in. Some kids just don’t have it. No matter how you like their effort, they are just not going to make it.

            • JulioZuleta

              He has some value, not much, but some. And BetterNews, use the edit comment button to avoid having multiple consecutive posts, you can just add to your previous one.

              • BetterNews

                I’ll comment the way I like too. But thanks for the advice(LOL)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      The rules have been changed since then, by the way (among other changes, it’s now five and four years (but it’s not exactly “five years” and “four years”), respectively). That’s a good example of why these secondary Internet sources need some cleaning up.

  • Cheryl

    So the roster changes have already begun. Should be interesting. Looks like LaHair and Szczcur and Believue will have a chance to make the club. Any idea who will end up with Boston via compensation?

    • die hard

      wouldnt mind if LaHair let go…he could replace Ortiz…also see above on Flaherty

  • Spencer

    Didn’t they teach you never to cite secondary sources, Brett? :)

  • Kyle

    I’m on board with those who are a bit confused by the roster moves, but I trust Epstein enough to not worry too much about it.

    By my count, that puts them at 34 for the 40-man roster. Take out one for the wildly obvious Koyie Hill non-tender, and add that back when Kerry Wood re-signs. Sounds like they are leaving room for an eventful offseason.

  • Jeff

    It is also not out of the ordinary for teams to make under the table deals before the rule 5 draft.  It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for the Cubs to be drafting someone for the Red Sox, so they leave open a couple of roster spots.  I do find it kind of curious that they would pick draft time to resume compensation talks.

  • njriv

    I know this is kind of looking at things to much down the road, but shouldn’t the cubs keep LaHair? I mean I think he’ll fit a big role and get enough playing time as a LF/DH in 2013 when inter-league play is expanded through out the year?

    • Kyle

      There’s really no reason to be counting on LaHair for anything significant in 2012, let alone 2013. The nicest thing the Cubs could do for him and for themselves is to arrange for him to get double or triple the MLB minimum over in Japan for a few years.

      LaHair is the latest in a long, long line of bad players who can slug a little bit to benefit from the PCL’s hitter-friendly parks and fool people into thinking they might be useful in the majors. Before that, it was Micah Hoffpauir. Before him, it was Julio Zuleta. And there will be more in the future. I really hope the new regime is smart enough not to be fooled by it.

      If you really wanted someone who can’t really do anything at the MLB level except be a pinch-hitter with some pop against right-handers, then it wouldn’t kill us to keep him on the roster, but he’s really nothing to be making plans around.

      • njriv

        I know what your saying about comparing him to Hoff, I did the same myself before I saw LaHair play. But how can you come to that conclusion have after what you saw from him at the end of last season? He did a good job in the short time after got called up.

        • Kyle

          BA, OBP, SLG.
          .294 .342 .544
          .288 .377 .508
          .342 .400 .534

          The above are three cup-of-coffee seasons of roughly a month in the majors, all coming in a player’s Cubs debut.

          Without looking it up, can you tell me which one is Hoffpauir, which one is Zuleta, and which one is LaHair?

          • Jeff

            .208   .283    .229

            .260  .367     .413

            .191    .258    .303

            Without looking, can you tell me who these remarkable lines belong to, and how you can tell that they aren’t going to amount to much.  It’s Jose Bautista, Kevin Youkilis, and Dustin Pedroia in their debut seasons.   You can make stats say pretty much anything you want.  I have watched LaHair, Hoffpauir, and Zuleta, both with the Cubs, and during their minor league careers.  You can’t tell much by cup of coffee stats, but if you actually watch the games, and their at bats, you can tell what kind of hitters they are.  LaHair has a completely different approach than the other two.  All I’m saying is that it hurts nothing to use LaHair as a fourth outfielder/ backup first baseman next year.  They won’t get much, if anything if they trade/release him, why not see how he can play over the course of the year.  No one is saying he has to be the starting first baseman or left fielder heading into spring training.

            • Kyle

              At what age were those stats put up?

              No, you can’t make stats say whatever you want. You can only make them say what happened.

              Yes, the cup of coffee stats are not conclusive to proving that all three are similar players. But Zuleta, Hoffpauir and LaHair also had similar AAA stats in full seasons (in fact, Zuleta’s were a bit better), and all were too old and repeating the same league when they did it. It’s a common, well-known phenomenon in baseball.

              Of course stats don’t tell the whole story, but in this case they are all LaHair has. The case made my most Cubs fans calling for him to play is that he had impressive AAA stats in the PCL at an advanced age for the league, and he had a good September with the Cubs. So I think it is compelling to point out all the other recent failures who had the same profile.

              Now if, as you say, you are arguing for LaHair not based on his stats but based on a scouting profile from seeing him play, then more power to you. I won’t place a lot of weight on amateur scouting, but I respect your right to your opinion on it.

              And yes, many people are calling for him to be the starting 1b going into spring training. I agree, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to let him have a bench spot in 2012. He can be a pinch-hitter who can crush when a right-hander misses a fastball in the zone. Those guys are a dime a dozen, but it’s worth keeping one on the roster, imo.

              • Jeff

                Ok, I don’t want to turn this into a long pointless thing.  I see where you are coming from, and there are a lot of older guys at triple A who put up monster stats, but can’t produce in the majors for whatever reason.  I said nobody is calling for LaHair to start, I should have said that nobody who follows the team closely and rationally is saying to hand him the job.  I just think it is too soon for us to say that LaHair can’t hit at this level.  He has shown promise, but has never been given a full time opportunity.  Jose Bautista was 28 when he put up a slash of .235/.349/.408 and Casey McGehee was 26 before he got his first shot at being a regular.  It’s not commonplace to find a diamond in the rough at this stage, but it can happen.  From what I’ve seen(which might not be worth a whole lot to you), LaHair is a different type of hitter than the other two, even if they have similar stat lines and ages.

                • BetterNews

                  Sorry, LaHair is not a diamond. He just became popular because so many folks were looking for something to believe in.

                • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

                  At this point, I think the more interesting comparisons would be between LaHair and similar lefty bats who could play first and won’t cost a fortune or come with the risk of rapidly declining stats as they age.

                  And I’m thinking of Loney in particular. If I had to pick between the two, I’d sign Loney and let LaHair go.

                  I haven’t had a chance to look over the rest of the players exposed to the Rule 5 draft yet, either. There may be other options that Cubs could snag that could be expected to put up similar numbers to LaHair.

          • BetterNews

            Does anyone care? Good grief!!!

          • art

            is that how Julio ended up here?

      • Jeff

        I think you are getting ahead of yourself.  From what I’ve seen of him, he’s exactly the kind of hitter that Epstein likes.  Even though he strikes out a lot, he takes a lot of pitches.  I see almost no similarities between his plate approach and Julio Zuleta’s or Micah Hoffpauer’s.  There is no point in counting on him, but there is also no harm in keeping a cheap, under control player who has hit the stuffing out of the ball everywhere he’s been since he got a cup of coffee with the Mariners.  I’m not really sure how it would benefit the Cubs to just let him walk away.  He did get some at bats this September, and he looked pretty damn good to me for “someone who can’t really do anything at the MLB level except be a pinch-hitter”.

        • njriv

          I agree Jeff, plus you just never know. He has never really gotten a chance to show what he can do consistently at the major league level.

          • art

            Theo has said that. before this year, how many games has he played up here? i’m not saying he’ll be the answer, i’m saying give him a shot. what have they got to lose?

        • Kyle

          See the above post. He’s not the first bad career minor-leaguer to fool people with a hot month.

          LaHair is a career minor leaguer who had long since had his MLB chances washed out by ineffectiveness. The only reason people are somewhat excited about him now is because he had a big season at AAA in the PCL and a moderately hot September call-up.

          But as I said, that’s pretty much exactly what Julio Zuleta and Micah Hoffpaiur did.
          LaHair is the same thing he was before the 2011 season: a career minor leaguer with a future as AAA roster-fill. He’s just another in the long, long list of guys who are bad defensively, can hit a fastball, but don’t produce enough on offense to earn a corner IF or OF spot in the bigs.

          • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

            In LaHair’s case, I’m not so sure. He showed a marked increase in his power numbers in his last two seasons in the minors that is said to have corresponded with a change in his swing courtesy of Von Joshua at Iowa. And in his September call up, he took more pitches than you’d expect from a career AAA guy.

            I’d be comfortable trying him in a platoon role in the majors. Partner him with someone like Reed Johnson in left or Jeff Baker at first, and he could do fairly well as the lefty half of a classic left / right platoon.

            He may be another Hoffpaur, but I don’t think the jury is in on that yet.

    • die hard

      add LaHair with Barney in deal for Seattle’s Smoak

  • Cheryl

    Let’s not write off LaHair too soon. He can fill a gap at first base until the recent draftees get their feet wet. He may not be the career minor leaguer you think. We won’t know until next year. And what if he is no flash-in-the-pan? If he’s let go to another club and hits the stuffing out of the ball, won’t you be kicking yourself then?

    • Kyle

      I wouldn’t be kicking myself at all, because we have to make decisions based on the information we have at the moment.

      And the information we have now says he’s no different than the dozens of other minor-league veteran sluggers who have failed when given a long-term chance in the majors.

      • art

        the info we (Cubs/Theo) have now is, “let’s take a look”. Theo wants to look at him. the info he has says he hasn’t had a long look in the majors.

  • Caleb

    Putting those legal research skills to good use. You’ve inspired me.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      You never know where that degree will take you, Caleb.

  • Mike F

    LaHair is ticketed to live the Tom Selleck dream in the land of the rising sun. I know it isn’t always popular, but they have been talking to the agents for two slugging first baseman, let alone probably trades we are unaware of. Pretty impressive, they have been linked to 3 pitchers and the two best hitters on the market as well as Sizemore.

  • ramin

    ken rosenthal said on mlb network that the cubs are one of the three teams heavily pursuing grady sizemore

    • BetterNews

      What’s your point?

    • Jeff

      I also read that he is almost certain to sign back with Cleveland and that a deal could be done pretty soon.

      • JAndersonjr81

        I hope.

      • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

        According to Buster Olney “Deal between the Indians and Grady Sizemore will be done, source says.”

  • Mike F

    I think it’s extremely bright to pursue Sizemore even if they don’t get him. Sizemore gives you defense, some speed and can hit if his knee is sound. He also can play all 3 outfield positions well. It shows they are thinking right, something for all his pitching acumen, and he was outstanding evaluating pitching, Hendry consistently failed to do, identify the right position players. I can see him signing with Cleveland, but it’s still a good sign they are so interested. Same story with MB. He’s a guy that chews up innings and that’s smart. You have to give up Dempster money for 3 or 4 years, big deal, it’s a lot better in my book than giving up 2 or 3 of your best prospects for Danks.

    I think they have done a great job. They picked up 5 games by firing Quade and adding Sveum especially if he adds a real pitching coach. And I think people should heed Wood, they want to win always. I love people who place a premium on winning. I think they can add 5-10 wins now with a couple of outstanding free agent signings and a good trade, maybe two. They are on a clear path in my view to go now from 76 wins to 84-86 which is contention. 71 + no Quade, plus 3 maybe 4 solid moves and they are there. The surprise will be how active they are going to be.

    And the best move the could make is to get rid of Soriano any way possible. The only caveat would be if they could add Sizemore and rotate Sizemore, Byrd and Soriano on the two corners with Jackson.

    • BetterNews

      Mike—You have a vivid imagination!

  • Mike F

    I believe in the old axiom you’re never as good as they say you are when things go well (see Stone 2007 and 2008) and you’re never as bad as you are when things are bad 2011. Quade was an idiot. He’s the worst handler of pitchers to ever don the cubs managerial uniform. The Cubs have some young pitchers and position players, not great, middle of the pack. They don’t have power, so they will have to trade for it or sign it. That said, they are closer to contention or competing than most think. 84-86 games get you there. I’m not saying they will win the WS this year or even under Theo, just that firing Quade and hiring Sveum picked up games. Freeing up both Zambrano and Soriano’s spot wouldn’t hurt. From there, yes they have to get lucky, a guy like Jackson has to come in and give you Coby Rassmussen like defense and hit 260 and 12 – 15 home runs, maybe be a catalyst on the base paths. You have to get lucky somewhere with a pitcher, even if they sign one, maybe a guy like the young boston rh, and they absolutely have to add a bid bat. But it’s not as far as at the start of last season with Quade and Hendry on the ropes.

    You have to go back and look at what Sveum said about Castro, what we know about the back end of the pen. I think when the smoke clears, they will add pieces enough to pick up 12-15 games with a break here or there. And that’s not even considering the two big bats their rumored interested in.

    • Jeff

      “He’s the worst handler of pitchers to ever don the cubs managerial uniform.”

      Dusty Baker would like a word with you.

  • BetterNews

    Brett—-Is there anything we can do to protect Matt Szczur? He is one of our best prospects. I know he plays outfield but he has caught. I was just wondering if he is/could be our future catcher or is he targeted for the outfield.

    Never mind, thats why he was added to the roster.—-OOPS Had a “blonde” moment there.(LOL)

    But could he be a serious catcher for us, putting Soto to the bone yard?(Scrap yard)

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      Szczur will be staying in center field and not returning to catcher. When he is on the diamond, he is often the fastest player on the diamond. The Cubs are not going to waste his speed behind the plate, especially when they are arguably deeper at catcher than at center field.

      In terms of replacing Soto, they already have Welington Castillo basically ready to go. Castillo projects at worst as a major league back up, and according to some could have been a starting catcher in the majors as early as last season. There is also Steve Clevenger, who is as legit a hitter as the Cubs have in the upper minors and who has made great progress with his defense. Deeper in the system, we have the solid defense play of switch hitter Micah Gibbs, the interesting and sometimes promising Sergio Burrell, the newly drafted and very talented Neftali Rosario, and a couple of more guys as well. The Cubs are very deep at catcher at all levels of the minors without needing to move Szczur from his best position.

      • BetterNews

        But many are saying Castillo can’t handle the plate or pitchers! Just saying. Clevenger I can’t comment on. Yes, his stats are good, but I have not seen him play as I doubt you have.

        Can’t call Cubs “deep” at catching, sorry

  • BetterNews

    Ryno, take the bench coach job, please!

  • BetterNews

    Good morning!—NO!No! Fielder is not an option! No matter what media rivals say, Fielder is a no, no!

  • Mike Foster

    Brett, nice recap and digging the correct info on Rule 5. I have no idea nor desire to know that much about this game. But I still love it, and want to read the REAL info. I get that hear. Thanks, Mike.

  • AA Correspondent – Brandon

    I know this is a little tardy…but Ryan Flaherty is definately someone who I believe has a solid future coming in MLB. He struggled in AA in 2010….but completed dominated in 2011 at the AA level. He did struggle in AAA, but I am looking for a bounceback season in 2012. I have seen a lot of talent, and when you SEE IT…..you know it is there. I would take him over Vitters any day. Had Flaherty stayed in AA, I promise you that Vitters would have been on the bench. No question about it. Flaherty’s versatility is tremendous, and the kid can hit. I will be shocked if he does not bounce back and if the Cubs let him walk I would be disappointed.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, Brandon. Might Vitters be that good in three years, when he’s Flaherty’s age?

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      I’ve got to disagree with a couple things here. Flaherty had a fantastic season going at AA, but he would not have forced Vitters to the bench. The Smokies were doing a nice job moving Vitters around from first to third, Flaherty in and out of the outfield, and Ridling from first to left. All three of them saw time at multiple positions, and none of them really took at bats from any of the others. I can you make a case that Vitters is the leading reason that Flaherty was moved to left in the first place.

      And as good as Flaherty’s season was, I’m not sure I can say he’s a better player today than Vitters is, and I say that as a major Flaherty backer. He should have been called up instead of LeMahieu when Ramirez went down. Long term, though, Flaherty still looks like a super-sub. I think he’ll have a long and productive career, but I think it’ll be the kind of career that results in 400 or so at bats a season, 80-100 starts at two or three positions, and a lot of coming into the game on double switches.

      Vitters, on the other hand, has the potential to reach a couple of All-Star games. If he can learn to pick his pitch… and he is working on that and showing progress… he could be a pretty reliable and potent bat. I strongly suspect that, once he adjusts, Vitters is going to put up huge numbers in AAA and force his way onto the roster sooner rather than later.

      And that ultimately may be the reason Flaherty was left off the 40 man. Or part of the reason, anyway.

  • RoughRiider

    The only reason I can think of that the Cubs and Sox have decided to wait until after the rule 5 draft is that the Cubs are going to draft someone and send him to Boston. The Cubs are in a much better position to pick someone of significance than Boston.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That’s possible (and would be awesome). But at least one other possible reason is that the teams want to know how their rosters stand by that point before deciding on a player. For example, the Red Sox might want to know who is available to them in the Rule 5 before deciding, for example, that they want Jeff Beliveau or Chris Carpenter (just an example). If they pick up a reliever in the Rule 5, maybe they then instead want Ryan Flaherty (again, totally just an example). The same goes for the Cubs, but in the reverse – the Cubs might be more willing to part with Player X if they were able to pick up Player Y in the Rule 5 Draft.

      This is all just an example of why waiting until after the Rule 5 could matter – not necessarily a reflection of what I think is happening. I think it’s at least as likely that the two sides have stalemated a bit, need some time to focus on other things, and are hoping that rosters will look a bit different in a few weeks, and that will make the decision easier.

      • RoughRiider

        Rosters are set now for the Rule 5. Teams know pretty much now who will be available just not who would be available when the Cubs turn comes up.. I’m not saying a drafted player would be the total compensation ( that WOULD be awesome ) but it could be a part of the deal. I still can’t understand the Cubs leaving Ryan Flaherty of the roster with 6 positions available. It seems to indicate they are planning a deal, or deals, to trade quality for major league ready quantity or picking up some FAs.

  • R.I.P. SANTO

    the player drafted still has to make the major league roster right??

     

    • BetterNews

      Rule 5? See rule 5 draft.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yes.

  • Cheryl

    There are two players that deserve a wait and see look – LaHair who may be a late bloomer (If he makes the grade, then its one less area that Theo needs to worry about in the majors) and Simpson, who will remain in the minors through this coming year and probably the year that follows because of health issues.

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