I’m in Texas today, and my niece is, naturally, adorable.

  • Among the many front office changes in the last six months, the Cubs dramatically increased the number of guys they’ve got working with the players on improving their game, include four video guys. “We hired two advanced scouts to be on the road all year and two people in the office to run it,” Jed Hoyer said. “So we’ve really taken a staff of one and turned it into a staff of four.” The Cubs’ overall baseball operations department has increased from about 90 to more than 120. These are wonderful changes about which we hear very little.
  • Jed Hoyer thinks overall team performance in Spring Training isn’t terribly important. “Last year I thought the two teams in the Cactus League that struggled the most were Arizona and Cleveland,” Hoyer said. “Arizona won what 96 games? And you look at how Cleveland got out of the gate they were 30-15 and they really struggled in spring training. So it just doesn’t mean anything. I know that sounds awful. You want to win every game.” There is a slight correlation between Spring performance and season performance, but Jed’s right – it isn’t enough to be worried about.
  • Jed also says (obviously Jed met with the media yesterday) that Jeff Samardzija’s looked great this year. “He’s been unbelievable,” Hoyer said of Samardzija. “He does look like a different guy than when he did even at the beginning of last year, seeing him from the other side. It’s wonderful. He looks like he’s on a mission to be a starter. Clearly he’s grabbed that competition by the throat this Spring.” Obviously Jed isn’t going to confirm a guy’s spot in the rotation, but it’s pretty clear: Samardzija’s in the rotation at this point.
  • Jed isn’t worried about Bryan LaHair’s crappy Spring, and has no intention of pulling the plug on the plan to give LaHair the first base job while letting Anthony Rizzo continue to play at AAA. “The guy had such a great year last year, there’s no reason to think he won’t snap out of it,” Hoyer said of LaHair. “Maybe he’s having the worst two weeks of his year – hopefully he is. It’s not something to worry about.”
  • A longer collection of a great many things Jed said to the media yesterday here.
  • Paul Maholm threw a successful five innings against a Giants minor league team yesterday on the Cubs’ off-day.
  • Carlos Marmol’s MRI turned up nothing, and everyone has safely concluded that his hand issue the other day was just a cramp.
  • Stephen Strasburg will get the Opening Day start for the Nationals against the Cubs, as expected. It’s going to be a long day for Mr. Strasburg. Take that as you will.
  • Forbes has released its annual baseball valuations, which it gleans from a variety of sources (and sometimes the teams dispute the numbers), and the Chicago Cubs ($879 million) come in at number four again this year, behind the Yankees ($1.85 billion), Dodgers ($1.4 billion), and Red Sox ($1.0 billion). I’ll have more thoughts on the Cubs’ financial situation as presented by Forbes later.
  • Ben

    I saw a writeup on this last night. It was interesting to hear Jed say that we probably had the smallest baseball operations dept. in MLB before they came. That is quite an embarrassment for such a big market club with vast resources. I knew they were going to have to renovate but I did not know they would have to basically start from scratch.

    • JR Cubs

      It’s great to hear the Cubs are doing it right now in the operations dept. As time passes it becomes more and more evident that the idiots (Hendry) who ran the show before really messed things up. Just frustrating that it took this long to get the right people in.

  • CubFan Paul

    Samardzija is easily our 2nd best starting pitcher. But he’ll be our 4th starter because of Dempster’s past glory & the need of Maholm, the lefty.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      Would you have said this one month ago?

      • CubFan Paul

        I would have said Samardzija was one of our best 5 starters a month ago ..because I knew of his offseason workout plan he started back in November

        • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

          I know I wouldn’t have and ST performance won’t change my mind. I’ve read that he looks like a new man out there with improved command, but I’m tempering my expectations that he’s better until I see the 5 BB/9 come way down.

          • CubFan Paul

            okay, I’m not. I have faith in the extra 3-4 months of work the kid put in.

  • cubsin

    I’m very enthusiastic about Samardzija moving to the rotation. He has the potential to be a #1 or #2 starter. But you can’t rate him that highly until he shows the ability to pitch deep into his games. If he routinely only goes five or six innings, he’ll be a #3 at best. I’m more concerned about his game management skills than his physical abilities in that regard.

  • Kevin

    What trade value would Samardzija bring?

    • KCubsfan

      Right now not much. Garza is still the biggest trade chip in the Rotation.

      • CubFan Paul

        I think Garza is gone before the deadline if Theo&Co get offered any deal that has at least two young cost-controlled arms in it.

  • JR

    I am perhaps the only Cubs fan not happy to see Samardzija in the rotation. And also perhaps the only Cubs fan who believes it would be entirely unfair, and a mistake, to drop Randy Wells out of the starting rotation.

    Listening to Samardzija’s interview on Sportsnet yesterday morning was a bit much – how he feels he’s earned the right to start by working so hard, developing his pitches, blah, blah, blah. What a sense of entitlement – as if no one else has worked hard in the offseason and developed their pitches. And given his track record when he’s started in the past (always preceded by him talking about how hard he worked, developed his pitches, blah, blah, blah) you’d think the guy would at least develop some fake modesty until he’s actually had some success (1) pitching more than 3 innings; and (2) in real games against real lineups.

    I don’t begrudge Cubs fans their irrational love for Samardzija — though it sometimes borders on a mob mentality if someone dares question whether Samardzija belongs in the starting rotation, let alone may not be destined for the Hall of Fame — but I am very disappointed that the front office seems to have jumped on the bandwagon. Samardzija and Wells have track records in actual, real games and I would have hoped that this new front office — sabermetrics and all that — would be more interested in actual performance as a future indicator of success rather than being influenced by the fact that Samardzija looks more like a dominant pitcher. It took a long time for the former front office to stop making decisions based on his potential, it seems to me the new regime is making the same mistake.

    I think Samardzija could be a great closer, his arrogance would actually help him in that role. And he’s proven himself a good, durable reliever. Randy Wells, in contrast, does not seem like the kind of pitcher who will do well as a reliever. He’s a marathoner, not a strikeout guy. Whatever decision is made, these things tend to work themselves out over the course of the season.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I think there are a lot of folks who question Samardzija in the rotation and Wells out of it (I’m definitely one, at least on the latter part). I just trust that the folks making the decisions have seen a whole lot of him over the past few months, and have a much larger data set from which to mentally pull than we do. Doesn’t mean he’ll work out – it just means they’re taking a calculated risk.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      I think they are going by performance. And scouting.
      The scouting report on Samardzija today is different than it was 12 months ago. “More command” is what I’ve read.
      The performance from last year, particularly in the 2nd half, supports the notion that he has better command today than he had in the past (Under 4 bb/9 in July/Aug/Sept).
      Randy Wells has gotten worse over the last 3 years, Samardzija has shown improvement.
      There is no reason NOT to try him as a starter.

      • Edwin

        Over July, August, and September, Jeff pitched 42 innings, as a reliever. A 40 inning sample size is worthless if you’re trying to make any decisions based on those 40 innings.

        • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

          Of course it’s meaningless, but how are you going to know if the improvements are real/unreal, unless you give him the chance??

    • Edwin

      I agree entirely. Well done.

  • Joshua Edwards

    Based on those valuations, if I owned the Yankees I could sell them tomorrow and then buy the Red Sox AND the Cubs.

    No wonder the Yankees aren’t interested in Soriano :(

    • Brady

      It still amazes me though that for all the money the Yankees have, they still dont dominate as much as they should. I guess they get the safety in knowing they will probably make the playoffs every year regardless if they dont make it to the WS.

  • die hard

    speaking of Phillies needs…LaHair could play 1b and Dewitt 2b for them