Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

Let me tell you how excited I am that Winter is apparently hitting Chicago with its full force just in time for the Cubs Convention (about which, more later today). I guess if it’s going to be snowing at Wrigley in April, it’s gotta start at some point.

  • You can get a better sense about how excited to be about an international signing when you find out how much the Cubs paid to get the kid. In the case of the two Cuban prospects the Cubs signed a couple weeks ago, you can be modestly excited. Outfielder Yasiel Balaguert, 19, got $400,000, and righty pitcher Carlos Martinez, 20, got $250,000. Were Balaguert a draft pick, his bonus would be about what the slot recommendation is for a late second/early third round pick. Martinez’s is around late third round money. Thus, the original sense seems accurate: neither is a superstar prospect, but both are legitimate players to watch in the coming years.
  • WGN has announced the Spring games it will cover this year: 3/10 at Milwaukee, 3/11 at Los Angeles (NL), 3/24 vs. San Diego, and 3/25 at Cleveland.

  • More evidence that Matt Garza’s increased use of off-speed stuff (at the insistance of maligned and departed pitching coach Mark Riggins) is the reason for his career year in 2011. In short: he started striking out dudes like crazy when he used his fastball to setup an out-pitch. What that means is Garza is not necessarily a lock to regress next year. Indeed, he may well have developed into a legitimate ace.
  • “Camp Colvin,” the Cubs’ optional offseason strength and conditioning program started by the now-departed outfielder has been renamed “Camp Bussy” after strength coach Tim Buss (clearly the Cubs didn’t think that one through…). We’re not yet sure who all attended, but one attendee was Tony Campana, who added 10 pounds of muscle in the process. That can’t hurt, as Campana says he’s gotten even faster, but how about working on some bunting and plate discipline?
  • Both Randy Wells and Darwin Barney, at a stop on the Cubs Caravan yesterday, said they are looking forward to Spring Training so that they can show what they can do and win a spot in the rotation and at second base, respectively. Say what you will about the merits of either player, but you’ve got to love that attitude coming from guys who were starters last year. (Despite what you may think, I like Darwin Barney a lot. I love the way he plays the game, and nothing would please me more than to see him take the unusual step of hitting better in the bigs than he did in the minors.)

  • James Russell finds himself the primary late-inning lefty in the pen after Sean Marshall was traded, and he’s hoping to grab hold of the opportunity (if Russell pitches in the pen as well as he did last year, that’s just fine with me – he was excellent in relief). “Did not see that one coming,” Russell said. “I guess you have to get there somehow. Why not sooner rather than later? …. I want to be that guy they hand the ball to and feel comfortable doing it.”
  • Austin Bibens-Dirkx has signed with the Nationals after a few years with the Cubs. Once a top prospect, the Cubs picked Bibens-Dirkx up as a minor league free agent before the 2009 season. He pitched adequately in the minors at times, but never really showed big league stuff. And, so, now he moves on.
  • It’s no Epstein in a Starbucks, but Kerry Wood is interviewed in a barber shop. Some funny, non-baseball stories in there.
  • Jed, Dale and Jason read ‘My Pet Goat.’

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