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We are on the eve of Spring camp, with pitchers and catchers officially scheduled to report to Mesa, Arizona by tomorrow. It was a long and exciting offseason, but it will be nice to see some baseball.

  • Blake DeWitt was designated for assignment by the Cubs 11 days ago. The resolution of a designation for assignment must come within 10 days, so I’m expecting to hear something any moment now. DeWitt could have been traded, released, claimed on waivers, or cleared waivers and sent to AAA Iowa. Ten days ago, I would have been shocked to learn that DeWitt cleared waivers, but maybe that was wrong-headed thinking. If a team like the Cubs doesn’t have a spot for DeWitt, what makes us so sure another team wants him for $1.1 million?
  • Paul Sullivan offers a frank, partly-dour, and (sadly) mostly on-point preview of the 2012 season. Hope will never leave us – we’re Cubs fans, after all – but a dispassionate look at the roster reveals a team that is likely to struggle, and a fair bit of that struggle is by design. “Most Cubs fans seemingly have bought into Epstein’s plan and aren’t expecting any miracles this season, almost as if the Cubs are an expansion team,” Sullivan writes. “‘Wait until the year after the year after next year’ might not be the T-shirt-ready slogan the Cubs prefer, but it fits the current roster to a T.” I’m probably more in the “wait until the year after this year” camp, but the point is taken.
  • The Sun-Times previews the Cubs’ Spring Training and somehow manages to work in a Linsanity reference (Bryan LaHair-related). Most notable bit? At present, the projected payroll for the Cubs as of Opening Day? Just $107 million, the lowest its been since 2007.
  • The Cubs are legally the “arch rival” of the Chicago White Sox, but only during interleague play, according to Judge Joseph Gordon of the Appellate Court of Illinois, First Judicial District. Ok, ok, the arch rival designation came in a footnote, and is probably dicta, rather than binding precedent.
  • Blogs With Balls is presenting a talk with the Cubs’ new Assistant to the General Manager, Shiraz Rehman, as well as the head of Bloomberg Sports, Bill Squadron (recall, the Cubs have partnered with Bloomberg Sports to develop an information management system). The event is on Tuesday, February 28 at Hub 51 from 7pm to 9pm, and it’s free to attend. Should be an interesting discussion, and a cool opportunity to chat up Mr. Rehman. Although I can’t make it, I suspect there will be a number of BN’ers in attendance. Here’s where you sign up for your free ticket.
  • USA Today’s fluffy take on the upcoming Cubs season.
  • The Tampa Bay Rays have a new mascot, and it’s a giant cat named “DJ Kitty.” Swoon. I wonder what kind of attire he sleeps in…
  • Another set of MLBullets at BCB, featuring an update on Ryan Braun’s PED suspension appeal.
  • ferrets_bueller

    I read “MLBullets at BCB” as ‘mullets,’ and was like….I thought this was a Cubs blog, not a Cardinals one? Lmao.

    • Andrew

      I just mentally clicked the “like” button for this comment…

  • Hastin

    I agree, I’m soooo ready to see some baseball. Good or bad. It maight not be as bad as we think. (If I keep telling myself that its got to be true. Right?!)

    • BetterNews

      Hastin-I see a .500 Cubs team this year. Would that be good or bad depends on the perspective of the fan.

      • Hastin

        I guess that would be a start, its not a losing season!

        • BetterNews

          That’s absolutely right! I could deal with the team being competitive(.500 ball) the entire season. I however will be disgusted if the Cubs are 15 games under by the break.

          • Hastin

            I know, me too.

            • The Dude Abides

              Be prepared to be disgusted. Without any upgrades and most probable substraction of any quality player Theo can get some young players for is going to be the theme for the year. This is by design and while young teams can sometimes gel and move forward it is usually not substainable for 162 games and unlikely to happen to begin with. This will be brutal and in my opinion anyway, losing less than 90 games will be considered a good year. Let’s just get it started already and see how it plays out.

              • BetterNews

                Don’t know about that. Cubs have a pretty good situation in starting pitching! 1st and 3rd are the big question marks. DeJesus will rebound, but how much? Don’t think you’re giving quite enough credit to this years team.

  • Swaz46

    Another “Cat’s Pajamas” reference? Brett, I think you are the dog’s nightgown.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      HA!

  • OlderStyle

    I liked Sullivan’s take. A realistic assessment is preferred to wild optimism or doom and gloom which is the usual spouting of fans and media. I would prefer the organization tone down the “Anything Can Happen” sloganeering. It’s only a hop, skip and a very short mood swing to “Sh&t Happens”.

    Did Sveum really say “no lollygagging”? If so, that needs to be squelched asap. The last thing he needs is to throw the Chicago media a Major League line tag for the season.

    edit: Bull Durham (haven’t had my coffee, yet.)

  • King Jeff

    What the heck does a cat have to do with the Rays? I am not sure what they were thinking when they made that decision. They must really not want to keep a team in Tampa.

    • Frank

      Maybe they think they’re the cat’s pajamas.

  • Andrewmoore4isu

    I read something interesting kind of yesterday. Cubs are 1 of 9 teams in 5 years that have $0 committed

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Heck, after this year, not counting arb guys, the Cubs will have only, what, $30 million committed to Soriano and Marmol? Another $5 million to DeJesus, and then the arb guys. Whew.

      • Andrewmoore4isu

        Kind of crazy to think about 30 mill committed next seasons. Lots of
        Room to make something happen for theo

        • Richard Nose

          Like sign Robi Cano to a 12 year deal? Sori part deux? I’d be a fan of it.

      • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

        and the Cubs could realistically have neither of those on the Opening Day roster for 2013.

    • BetterNews

      What happens if the Cubs sign Soler to a 30 mil contract?

      • CubFan Paul

        i would add the Soler signing bonus to the sun-times number of $107M then.

        with Concepcion’s $7M Bonus the 2012 payroll is actually $114.1075ishMillion. A big Soler bonus would put us at our projected/planned payroll of $130M-$135M

        • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

          Is the payroll figures for all major league contracts or just the guys on the 25 man?

          • CubFan Paul

            not sure. but i add the signing bonuses if its “cash out of pocket this year/budget” (i.e. Pena’s deferred $5M & BigZ’s $15.345M). Concepcion’s bonus ($7M) may be spread out over 3 or 4 years and if so, that $114Mish goes down (in my books)

            • CubFan Paul

              & this is why we’re probably stuck with Soriano for all of 2012 (until the 2013 budget starts). The Cubs probably can’t “afford” to trade or release Soriano until Dempster & Zambrano are off the books completely ($29M) because the check they would have to send with Soriano ($54M) throws the budget/payroll out of whack for 2012

        • Deer

          Concepcion’s $7M is a bonus payable this year? I thought that was the entire contract value over several years with a portion of that as a bonus, no?

          • CubFan Paul

            a signing bonus is just that, a signing bonus, not the salary payable over the years ..his $7M bonus may be split up over years to pay it to him (i.e. over 5yrs pays $1.4M annually) but that is separate from his minor league salary ($480K ?)

            • Deer

              so they gave a $7M bonus to a no-strikout LH who will start in A ball? Brett, u think it’s accurate the next best offer was $2.5M as Goldstein or whoever reported in your article a while back?

              • CubFan Paul

                new CBA looming. from Brett the day concepcion signed:

                “Unreported at this point is whether that $7 million “contract” is simply the signing bonus, or if Concepcion is getting some kind of actual, structured contract. I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough”

                i bet it was a Bonus because of the International free agent frenzy before the new rules take affect

              • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

                Not a chance the next highest offer was only $2.5 million. That’s about the amount that Concepcion would have gotten as a signing bonus in the 2011 draft (had he been in it). Just the unrestrained free market component of the international free agent market would have added a premium to that.

                • Deer

                  So Concepcion would have been a top-10 pick?

                  • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

                    He’d have been paid like one. It is true that his ceiling is likely a back of the rotation starter, but his basement is also a back of the rotation starter. He is very polished for his age, and while his upside is not as exciting as, say, Dillon Maples, he is much more likely to pitch in the majors. That lowered risk would make him an attractive pick.

                    I think he’d have gone somewhere after #20 in last years draft, but that he would have gotten an over slot bonus somewhere in the $2+ million range.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                No, I don’t. I think the Cubs probably beat the next best offer, but not by $4.5 million.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            That is most likely the case (what you thought).

  • Ivy Walls

    So many missing the big boat: Ricketts said.

    “But the kind of behavior like we saw last year, we’re just happy to have that behind us.”

    When you are bringing in young or new employees (err players) you better have the right behavior. …

    “With respect to this season, obviously there’s going to have to be some young guys that step up to get to the level we want to be at this year.”

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I didn’t miss it.

  • scottie

    2 things..

    i love when u go all lawerly so early in the morning (im a paralegal)

    and about DJ KItty.. im trying to get “cats pajamas” to fly at work.. and no one is interested LOL

  • mysterious4th

    DJ Kitty-cat’s pajamas- lovely Brett!

  • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

    Is it bad that when I saw that picture I thought early 90′s based on the monitor, then realized I had that monitor up until a couple months ago and only replaced it because someone gave me a 20″ LCD for christmas?

  • florida Al

    ok fffolks after living here in the tampa area for almost a year now( I lived in the burbs of chitown for my whole life) when I first went to a Rays game and saw dj kitty i thought…”WTF”? I still dont get it..but just to clarify things dj litty was on the video screen only and now they are making it a live? costumed person in a suit thing on the field and i say WTF? i still dont get it..so my point is its not really a new mascot just a new costumed on the field mascot..hope that makes things more clear…ha…..oh it was very foggy here this morning..

  • die hard

    OT-RIP Gary Carter who was a role model and someone who all players should aspire to emulating. If Lin was not Asian, would there be all this hype? Its an interesting form of bigotry as brings out fear that Asians will join African Americans in making the Caucasian player extinct.

  • cajunteacher

    I’m tired of this Lin thing. Die Hard, it’s not just an Asian American thing…it’s the perfect storm of him being Asian American, coming out of Harvard, not heavily recruited out of high school and college, got cut…Just to point out the Asian American thing is just scratching the surface on the whole story.

  • Canadian Cubs Fan

    Will the Cubs be bad this year? Yes, I believe they will. However I believe they’ll play better fundamental baseball with more consistent hustle, which could result in around the same amount of wins as the Quaide-led debacle last year. I will enjoy following this team a lot more, because they are now all moving in the right direction, and anyone that isn’t won’t last long.

  • Fabio Ferreira

    THE YEAR IS NEAR!!!

  • Steve

    This might sound crazy, but I see this years club ending up just about the same as last years, yet I think they’ll look a lot better doing it.
    Does that make sense???

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Not crazy, and it does make sense.

    • BetterNews

      Nah. I think you’ll see a .500 team.

    • Luis Salazar

      It would be cool if the Cubs played like the Rays. Run like crazy, take the extra base, and play hard.

      • DocWimsey

        People hype up the Rays for this, but they actually were no better than the Rangers, Yankees, DBacks, Blue Jays, Mets and Royals in 2011. The standout team in 2011 was the Padres. Yes, the Padres, who scored the 2nd fewest runs in the NL. Why? Because the Pads had the 2nd lowest OBP and the lowest slugging in the NL. It’s possible that team speed prevented the Pads from coming in dead last: but obviously it cannot create a contending offense.

        At any rate, the Rays and Pads do not “run like crazy”: they run *well*. There is a huge difference: it’s not aggressiveness, but a good combination of natural speed and natural baserunning instincts.

        • Luis Salazar

          OK, thanks for clarifying Doc. Just watching Rays games it seemed they were extra aggresive. I must be wrong… At any rate, it would be a pleasant surprise if the Cubs performed better on the base paths and ran “well”.

          • DocWimsey

            You were not “wrong” per se: the Rays were one of the best teams at generating runs on the basepaths last year. However, other teams that were just as good did not get the attention for whatever reasons. For example, how often did we read about the fact that the Yankees or Royals were basically as good as the Rays in that department? (I never did!)

            I think that it is an overall image issue. The Rays do not have as much money as the Sox or Yankees, and thus are perceived to be “scrappier” in all things. However, the Rays were 8th in team OPS and 8th in runs scored: the extra running runs didn’t make up for having a lower OPS than Baltimore had (#7 in both OPS and runs).

            The reason why the Rays won, of course, was that they had the best run-prevention in the AL. After all, it’s about outscoring the other team, not about *how* you outscore the other team!

        • Cubbiecop

          The reason why the Rays are so good is they draft very well. Look at the pitching staff they have! I would take that young, under control (for years) staff over any in baseball right now and that includes the Phillies. I know that Lee and Haliday are amazing pitchers but the Rays have a more solid staff from top to bottom that the Phillies IMO. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have either Lee or Haliday on our staff. But with the Rays staff we would have the financial flexibility to add to the offense and dominate for many many years cost effectively. That would truely be the cats pajamas!!!

          • Toosh

            That first sentence is spot on. Some people think the Rays only have a good system because of high draft picks or more draft picks than other teams. Other people think having the ability to out-spend teams in the draft equals success. The way to build a successful player development system is to draft the right players in any round and then develop them properly.

            • King Jeff

              The funny thing about that is that the Rays whiffed on a high percentage of their top 10 draft picks. It’s as Toosh says, they built their great pitching depth through great drafting in the mid to late rounds. Matt Moore, maybe the highest regarded pitching prospect around, was an 8th round pick. It will be nice when the Cubs system is producing that kind of talent with late round picks.

    • Edwin

      Not crazy, but unlikely. Even with better defense and baserunning, the offense is still going to be brutal. However, if they make improvements in baserunning and defense, it might make the team easier to watch. As easy as it is to watch your team lose lots of games, that is.

      • DocWimsey

        Look at the recent Padre and Mariner teams. They’ve often had great fielding and great baserunning when you look at estimated runs-prevented and runs-created, respectively. Look at last year’s Cardinals: they had bad fielding and bad baserunning. Only the ChiSox generated fewer runs with baserunning than the 2011 Cards: but it was the Cards, not the Pads, playing in October.

      • BetterNews

        Wasn’t the offense brutal last year? Can’t be worse this year and pitching will be much improved.

        • DocWimsey

          The Cubs offense was 8th in the NL in runs scored. They were 8th in team OPS, too, so they basically ranked as predicted. That’s not brutal, that’s just mediocre.

          The offense probably will be worse this year because replacing Pena and ARam with LaHair and Stewart will probably result in 20 fewer HR, and HR are the single biggest correlate of runs-scored. (I expect that HR from the remaining positions to be about the same as last year; however, DeJesus might benefit from Wrigley and improve upon the 13 HR that Cubs RFers hit last year.)

          • BetterNews

            Doc-Where did the Cubs rank with RISP?

            • DocWimsey

              13th, tied with Florida. However, BAwRiSP is does not have any special correlation with run scoring: in fact, the correlation between raw BA and runs actually was slightly higher last year! (Both round r2 to 0.56)

              The real correlate of runs is slugging with runners on base, not just scoring position. That basically is the same set of numbers used in OPS reshuffled +/- sampling error, which is why OPS and runs-scored correlate so beautifully. OPS is not perfect, but it’s a great simple estimator of expected runs scored.

              • BetterNews

                Doc-Bottom line. What’s your take on the team vs. last year? Please don’t hedge, give honest opinion.

              • DocWimsey

                Offensively, I expect fewer runs in 2012 than in 2011. I don’t think that Stewart & LaHair/Rizzo will match ARam’s and Pena’s OPS. Maybe one or the other will match their predecessor, but hoping for both to do so is a lot. I don’t see enough added firepower in the rest of the lineup to make up for that.

                On run-prevention, I expect that the Cubs will allow fewer runs in 2012 than they did in 2011. I expect Dempster to continue to decline, but I would be surprised if Wood and Volsted both flopped. Moreover, I think that the walks will drop a lot and (I think!) the HR will drop some: but probably not enough to make up for lost ARam & Pena HR.

                So, all in all, I expect a small net decrease from last year. I do see less predictability: the “plus/minus” on the expectations of the Wood & Volsted and Stewart & LaHair/Rizzo are much, much higher than they were on their 2011 counterparts. I’m betting on one of each working out well.

                • BetterNews

                  Speaking of Wood, I’ve seen all kinds of rotation orders that don’t even include him. What’s up with that?

                • Andrew

                  One thing overlooked is that a major problem of last year was injuries. Byrd, wells and cashner all going down for large amounts of time definitely hurt our overall net. I actually wouldnt be surprised if for this and other reasons we could score as many if not more runs this year. If any gets hit with injury in the outfield, which is far from unlikely, Jackson can come up and produce as much if not more runs for the team. DeJesus I think will be a big upgrade. Castro will get better. Soto I believe will bounce back. All of these things I think will make up for the loss of Pena and Ramirez on offense. With improved defense, pitching and management, I believe this Cubs team will be net better than last year.

                  • BetterNews

                    Andrew-Not following you buddy. What do injuries to Byrd, Wells and Cashner have to do with Cubs scoring runs? Maybe Byrd, but he was not anything special last year. Please explain.

                • DocWimsey

                  Good call on DeJesus. Cubs RFers were pretty bad last year: 0.262/0.332/0.392. 2011 DeJesus was actually worse: 0.240/0.323/0.376. However, in the two prior years, DeJesus was 0.296/0.356/0.437.

                  So, if DeJesus bounces back to that, then that would make up a bit of either ARam or Pena. That might take us up to expecting the same run differential as last year. (I am not so sanguine about the other things!)

                  • BetterNews

                    Yes. We have three question marks at least. First base, third base and right as you mentioned. If all three come around, look out. If two out of three come around (.500) if one comes around, bad year but good draft pick.

  • rbreeze

    Steve it makes perfect sense.  Better fundamentals should make up for any perceived power losses.  (aka: Ramirez, Pena)

  • Mick

    I don’t see what the issue is with having multiple mascots for one team. BTW, this isn’t a new developement check out the list of MLB team mascots: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Major_League_Baseball_mascots

    I just think its a little sour grapes that TB got to the cat first. Maybe instead of dwelling on the past we can put our heads together and find our own unique mascot. The dog in a nightgown is a good first suggestion. What about some sort of Vine Creature that starts out brown in April and May but then sprouts into a green leafy monster for June and beyond?

  • BetterNews

    Brett-My Wife says that looks like me at the computer(LOL)

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