Among the many possibilities for the Chicago Cubs’ 2012 rotation upon breaking camp, something I didn’t really see coming was Randy Wells heading to AAA Iowa to start the year. Yes, he has an option, and it was a theoretical possibility, but the guy had back-to-back very good years as a starter in 2009 and 2010, and then an injury-plagued 2011 at the back of which he came back and pitched well. And, then, in Spring, he looked good.

It matters not. He’s headed to Iowa, per multiple reports. This will be discussed at length soon. For now, the move will allow the Cubs to keep another pitcher in the bullpen (probably an optionless one or Rule 5 pick Lendy Castillo), so it’s not a *horrible* move. Just a surprising one.

In a separate but also important bit (which feels like a footnote now), Steve Clevenger has won the back-up catcher battle, and Welington Castillo will head back to Iowa where he can start every day. I’m going to guess that Clevenger’s lefty bat was the tie-breaker.

UPDATE: By the way, there are other cuts today, which I’ve discussed on the BN Twitter, and will be posting about when they are all revealed. (The only modestly surprising ones so far are Casey Coleman and Scott Maine.)

  • Fishin Phil

    Wow. I really had him figured for long man in the pen until someone’s arm fell off.

  • Eric

    Brett – what’s you gut feeling on the probability Wells gets traded early this season?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Now I have no idea. It’s going to be very hard to get full value for a guy the Cubs didn’t even keep on their big-league roster. It almost makes me think the Cubs really want to keep him, and are expecting another starter to be moved or to be imminently injured.

    • Wilbur

      I would speculate that Wells starts regularly in Iowa and the several times a year a starter is needed in Chicago he gets the call. While starting the year in Iowa he will get a number of starts for the Cubs, could be well over ten over the course of the year.

      I also suspect that the offers for Wells have been underwhelming and that being the case the front office strategy is the Shark may look good now, but let’s give him a couple of months to prove he can do it ever fifth day for six innings. That means Wells is their “proven” insurance policy should the Shark falter.

      On a tangential issue I ask better baseball minds then me, how many innings do you pitch the Shark this season? Is their a limit or just keep going as long as he is effective?.

      Could have this all wrong, but that’s how I read the situation.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        He was all the way up in the 80s last season, so I think you could take Samardzija up to 160/170 without giving it a second thought. From there, yeah, it’s kind of a “see how he’s doing and how he’s feeling” thing.

  • CubFan Paul

    ‘but the guy had back-to-back very good years as a starter in 2009 and 2010’

    Very good is not what I’d use..

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      3+ WAR = very good.

      • Dave

        Can’t JUST look at WAR Brett and you know that. Wells was fine in 2009 and 2010. But he wasn’t “very good.”

        But I do agree, surprising move.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I’m not just looking at WAR – I said all 2010 long that he was being unfairly ripped. I quote WAR in the comments (especially to Paul) to keep it brief, because I’m tired of fighting the same long fight.

          • Dave

            Fair enough. I get what you’re saying. Looking back, probably should have traded him in 2010!

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              Yeah, that would have been quite ideal.

      • CubFan Paul

        He had a era+ of 99 in 2010…

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Not that you haven’t seen this before: http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=4535&position=P

          • CubFan Paul

            No need to be a smartass, I already had that tab open looking for very good! The guy is average At Best, when he’s sober.. He had a good rookie year because he was a rookie, the he was barely average in 2010. I’ve seen all his starts, & my eyes confirms the numbers & my argument.

            I’m glad he’s gone & hopefully he resurfaces elsewhere as 29yr old no upside soft tossing 5th starter

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              The numbers disagree with you. We are at an impasse (as we’ve been before). It’s just one of those things.

              • CubFan Paul

                It’s cool, we good.

              • ferrets_bueller

                …but his FIP wasn’t that good, nor was his ERA+. I will always weight those more than WAR, in combination with what my eyes see. And my eyes, along with those stats, agree with Paul.
                And his ERA- was absolutely dreadful.

            • ty

              Can you believe a non-athlete making judgment on Wells by sitting in the stands?

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    I’ve got to think Wells is going to be the topic of a LOT of trade discussions between now and his next start.  His next start may have more scouts than fans.

    • EQ76

      Or they are feeling like they’re about to get the return for Garza they have wanted…then Wells slips right back into the rotation.

    • ty

      Luke–20 scouts watched Wells at Fitch the other day. At least we have to admit with Wells and Coleman in Iowa we are in much better better shape for when that cold climate at Wrigley starts playing havoc with our starters. Last year we had no fillers except for Casey and he is 50 percent improved this year. Sveum has given notice to Wells to grow up as the new sheriff in town does not want to be fishing in the Keys like Quade is today.

  • Cedlandrum

    I disagree about it not being a horrible move. I know it isn’t going to be a great year, but I think you still want to have your best players in the bigs. Is Castillo a better short or long term prospect then Wells? I doubt it. Ditto Casey Coleman. If this is about Wells being able to stay stretched out until they can trade him or someone else, I guess, but it doesn’t make sense to me anyway.

    He won’t benefit from pitching in AAA. A guy like Coleman or Dolis would though.

  • Spencer

    If they are willing to send Wells to AAA you’d have to think the front office is trying to aggressively move him. He’d have decent value as a trade piece.

    From Wells’ standpoint, if I was him, I would be really pissed. He’s struggled, yes, but hasn’t exactly done anything to “pitch himself out” of the rotation. Total bummer for him.

    • Fishin Phil

      I hope he is not pissed. Being 6th man in the rotation could mean starting mid April instead of the first week of the season. “Hey Randy, remember what happened to you after your first start last year? Well, it could happen to someone else this year.”

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      He’s lost velocity and had a terrible year because of it. I think that’s enough to lose a rotation spot.

  • Puma0821

    So does anyone have a list of guys who are confirmed on the Iowa roster? I’m getting excited about the I-Cubs opener a week from today…will definitley be there and friday as well!!!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Minor league rosters will be finalized (most likely) early next week.

    • Puma0821

      OK so maybe unconfirmed, but the lineup should look somthing like this: Campana LF, Sappelt RF, Jackson CF, Rizzo 1B, Vitters 3B, Castillo C, Cardenas 2B, Amezaga SS, SP.
      Also guys like Gonzales, Riedling, Tolbert and Scales in the mix. Whos would be the back up catcher? Brenly? Also, is Marquez Smith still in the system?

      As for the rotation…maybe something like this: Wells, Wood, Rusin, Jackson, ?. Who am I missing? Lopez? Caridad?

      I have no idea who would be in the bullpen. Corpas? Mateo ( if he pitches this yr)? Beliveau? Maine?… I know there’s at least another lefty i’m missing.

      Edit: missed the Coleman news there’s the other starter i suppose.

      • Noah

        I think Blake Lalli would probably be the backup catcher, with Brenly in Tennessee.

        The Campana/Jackson/Sappelt outfield would be an interesting one to watch. They’d be able to cover a ton of ground, but Jackson is the only one with an above average arm.

  • http://www.sportsdanny.com Dan

    I’m not sure why this is a surprise, they weren’t going to release him and unless traded, he wasn’t going to make the roster because they wanted Samardja in the rotation, it actually makes sense. Also, Castillo shouldn’t be the backup catcher, he should be starting so until Soto is traded, you continue to get the guy “plate appearances” in the minors. It’s a “smart” move.

    • Eric

      I’m not convinced Soto should be traded. If he has the bounce back year that people have been predicting that kind of bat is difficult to come by in a catcher. That being said he will get more and more expensive and if someone wants to offer a substantial amount, I’d take it.

  • jimmy

    I might want to make a trip to des moines. The Iowa Cubs could be really good this year. Theres a bunch of big named prospects and a couple of veteran pitchers on their roster.

  • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

    Not a big deal IMO.
    I can only assume his velocity didn’t kick back to pre-2011 level. I really think that’s what killed him in 2011.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Absolutely. I heard it was back in the low 90s at times, but the times I heard about were out of the pen. So, who knows.

  • Spencer

    Casey Coleman got sent down too. Interesting.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yeah, I kind of thought with Wells going down, Coleman would be converted to a short-inning guy in the bigs. I’m thinking it means Camp is getting a job (or De La Cruz, but I’m assuming Camp).

      • Cedlandrum

        Has to be camp. Right?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Marmol, Wood, Russell, Dolis, Castillo, Lopez, Corpas, I suppose is another configuration.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

            That wouldn’t be a bad bullpen, either.

            I think I’d prefer to give Maine a shot instead of Corpas, but Corpas has pitched well and could serve as insurance in the 8th and 9th if Marmol goes all Marmol on us again.

            • SouthernCub

              Perhaps I’m alone in this thought, but I thought Coleman looked down right terrific w/ his new wind-up. Its closed his front shoulder and made his release point more consistent. Steady 93-94 w/ great movement on his 2-seamer

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                With Coleman going back to Iowa, I’m assuming he’s going back into the rotation with the idea of either he or Jay Jackson being the first starter up if one is needed.

        • Spencer

          So its:
          Castillo, Dempster, Garza, Maholm, Samardzija, Volstad, K Wood, Russell, Marmol…who else? I know I’m forgetting people
          Edit: just saw Brett’s post above, nevermind.

  • Kevin

    Could it be because there is risk in Volstad and Samardzija in the back of the lineup? Use Travis Wood as a long man and in case of injury or the two struggle, Wells can fill in and the rotation can continue on without skipping a beat.

    • Cedlandrum

      T Wood was sent down. So it can’t be him

  • Dustin S

    In part Wells was impacted by Travis Wood’s hideous spring. If Wood had been at least a little better they might have leaned more towards keeping him shorter in the pen. With Wood looking not so good, they opted to keep Wells stretched out as basically the #1 Iowa option to go to if needed.

    With Lopez in the mix too as a backup starter I could definitely see Wells getting moved. But I expect them to sit tight for a few weeks and see how Samardzija and the rest of the rotation does once we get to games that count.

  • Leo L

    I know this is easy to say in retrospect and ofcourse i still could be wrong but i think the cubs still view him as a starter. i thought he would be a long man for the cubs with the idea of jumping him back in the rotation. I think there is some concerns with pitchers 3-5. and dont forget the possibilities of injuries and lastly if garza is traded then someone has to fill in that space. I think they would he would have won a spot in hte rotation if it wasnt that they want to see what they have in samardja. i wasnt sure and still not sure what it means if they send him down to the minors but if this means they keep him no matter what ( he cant ask to get relased right?) and keep him as a starter then i think it makes sense. i get the sense he is the 6th starter and i’m pretty sure brett has said it several times-can’t have to many ptichers

  • Ivy Walls

    Regarding Wells, got an email from a friend/contact who has club knowledge and it has been known and even published back a year ago that Wells spends too much time in the bar scene. He is being used as a message to the club that this regime is not going to ignore this unprofessional behavior that distracts from the club reaching the championship.

    Wells is insurance but also has one last shot to truly show maturity and leadership on the IA squad. They hope Rizzo rubs off on him. But look at the IA roster, many marginal and about to be MLB level players. Rizzo (1B), Cardenas (2B) Amezaga (SS), Tolbert/Gonzales (3B), Sappelt, Jackson and Campana (?) in the OF, Castillo catching and a starting pitching corp led by Wells, Parker, Wood, Jackson(?) and DeLa Cruz or Lopez (?)

    These are either former MLB journeymen or aspirants.

    • ferrets_bueller


  • HuskerCub

    Brett, Do you think this move was made in part to send a message to all players in the organization about following the new “Cubs Way”? It sounds like in the past baseball wasn’t always the top priority for Wells.

  • brittney

    Maybe they put wells in AAA so he starts everyday in the sense scouts are already looking at him and some small talk about a a possible trade so they need to keep him as a starter in the case the trade comes thru

  • Kyle

    If you take out Castro, Garza and Soto, I’m not convinced that Iowa is going to be worse than the actual Cubs.

    • TWC

      … or particularly distinguishable from them.

  • Kyle

    To elaborate:

    ST results aside, I think it’s very plausible that Wood/Wells are the equivalent of Samrdzija/Volstad long-term.

    Sappelt = Soriano, imo, at this point in their careers.

    Jackson > Byrd

    Rizzo > LaHair

    Cardenas = Barney is very plausible

    Rotting possum carcass found on the bus ride between Arizona and Des Moines > Ian Stewart

    • KidCubbie

      I dont think its very tasefull to be bashing a man that can launch 430′ home runs. Especially from someone that prob can’t hit a ball 2′ off of a T-Ball stand.

    • Noah

      You’re speculating a whole lot about how good a lot of Cub prospects are going to be, or will be this year, based on very, very little evidence.

      • Kyle

        Respectfully disagree. The link between minor league performance, peripherals and future major league performance is well-established.

        • Noah

          That’s true to an extent, but you’re ignoring some major peripheral and/or scouting concerns for the prospects and essentially expecting disaster seasons from all the starters. Minor league equivalent stats are generally pretty awful indicators of expected performance, though.

          Travis Wood looked awful this ST, and that’s not just the stats. The scouts have said he didn’t look quite right. That might be that he’s incorporating the cutter and needs some time to work on that, but with an option left that work should clearly be done in Iowa instead of getting destroyed by MLB pitching.

          If Wells’ veolcity returns, he could be just as good or better than Volstad or Samardzija, but doesn’t have the upside the latter two do. Let’s put it this way: if all the Cubs’ 7 pitchers who received serious starting consideration in ST meet their absolute ceilings in 2012, I’d say the order of quality of performance would be: Garza, Volstad, Samardzija, Dempster, Wood, Maholm, Wells. You know what Wells is and can be. You don’t know what Volstad and Samardzija can be. Considering Wells and Wood had the options left, these were clear choices for me.

          Brett Jackson struck out in 30% of his plate appearances in Triple A. Yes, he has more power and walks more than Byrd. But it’s not clear yet how well that power will translate to the majors, where he could be greatly overmatched at this point. I agree Jackson has the better future, by far. But I don’t think it’s at all clear that he’d put up better numbers than Byrd in 2012.

          I also don’t think anyone can say with any certainty that Dave Sappelt would even put up a better OBP than Alfonso Soriano, and Soriano will certainly put up much more power. Would the defense make up the difference? Probably not.

          Barney and Cardenas are the exact opposite. If Cardenas is the butcher they say he is at 2B, can his bat make up for that?

          I already talked about the irrational Ian Stewart hate among some Cub fans. He’s a lottery ticket. Everyone knows this. Let it play out. If it doesn’t work out, the Cubs really didn’t lose anything.

          • Kyle

            I wasn’t criticizing the choices. Again, note what I said.

            I didn’t say definitively that Wood/Wells are better than Samardzija/Volstad. I said it’s plausible that they have equal years. I think that’s very reasonable.

            The “say with certainty” thing is a bit of a red herring. Nobody can say anything with certainty. But we can project. And I project Sappelt to be very close to Soriano in total value, with Soriano as the better hitter and Sappelt as the better fielder.

            With Barney, we’ve had it out on this site enough times that everyone knows where everyone stands. If Barney can repeat his 2011 offensive numbers, I’ll be very happy with him, but if he hits like his AAA numbers from previous seasons suggest, he’s AAA roster-fill just like Cardenas.

            This wasn’t meant to be a criticism of the Cubs’ choices. Other than the perplexing ability of Mather to work his way onto the roster, I don’t have a problem with any of these decisions.

            It’s more of a comment on the interesting state of our organization: We’ve managed to pile up a *ton* of fungible, middle-of-the-roster type of guys.

    • Jonski

      You must be the next sabermatics genius……………you can only read so much in to numbers and to compare are 1,2 prospects to 1aging vet and 1 never will be is just stupid plain stupid!

      • Kyle

        There are only three dots in a set of ellipsis.

        • David

          Kind of a smug little feller, ain’tcha?

        • Jonski

          I could really give 2 shits just to be honest.Go play with your numbers some more and make another stupid post!

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            Let’s try to keep things civil.

        • Frank

          Actually, it’s an ellipsis, not a set of ellipsis.

    • ferrets_bueller

      I love Ian Stewart.

      • Noah

        Yeah, I don’t get the level of hatred for Ian Stewart I’ve seen by some, not just here but also on other sites. I think the odds of Stewart being what many thought he’d be in 2006 and 2007 are out the window, but he could be a .260/.330/.450 guy who provides above average defense at 3B. That’s a player with legitimate value.

        • Kyle

          It’s mostly tongue in cheek at this point. Now that it’s clear they are tanking on the 2012 season, I guess I get why they wanted a long-shot guy with some upside there. The spring was mildly encouraging, despite the fact that his wrist problems linger.

      • KidCubbie

        Here here. I love Stewy too.

    • Andrew

      When the bears were constantly shuffling QBs everyone would say that the backups were better than the starters, then when the backups come in we found out they were wrong. The fact is you have to trust that the people that see these players everyday are a bit better at understanding talent than we are. Aside from Jackson and maybe Rizzo, none of the Iowa players clearly could have beat out their majorleague counterparts in spring if there were a competition.

      • Kyle

        Note that with the exception of the two prospects who are being kept down for service-time issues, I didn’t say better. I said equal. Interchangeable.

      • johnbres2

        Andrew’s comment is the best one I saw in a quick glance today. We have a Front Office that we can trust. I won’t presume to think I know better than they do about personnel decisions.

    • necusfan

      Opossum (Didelphis virginiana). Just sayin’. Unless you’re one of the Hillbilly Bears, in which case I take it back.

      • TWC

        Oh come on.  When dealing with taxonomy, only the scientific name is precise.  Common names are adaptable, interchangeable, and irrelevant.  Opossum = possum = varmint = cute pet.

        • necusfan

          True, but I’ll use any excuse to mention The Hillbilly Bears. I mss those Hana-Barbera cartoons. As soon as I read Kyle’s comment I heard “gonna have posssum fer dinner” in my head.

  • terencem

    If pitching depth is what Hoyer thought the Cubs needed then his mission was accomplished, I guess. Somebody was going to be the odd man out and only time will tell if this is the wise choice. I can relate that it makes a very tough choice to sit the “hot hand’ in this case (“hot hand” might be an overstatement but I think you get where I’m going).

  • Iceman

    They would need to add Dewitt, Mather, Corpas and Lopez to the 40 man roster if they all make the team. That would require 3 guys currently on the 40 man to be put through waivers.

  • Noah

    Will probably be three pitchers who don’t make the team who would be removed. I’d guess Marcos Mateo, whose could miss a bunch of the season with his current arm issues, Case Coleman and Scott Maine.

  • Pingback: The Ninth Cut is the Most Controversial: Wells, Castillo, Coleman, T. Wood, Sappelt, Maine, More | Bleacher Nation | Chicago Cubs News, Rumors, and Commentary()

  • Big Joe

    I don’t understand the discussion concerning Wells’s velocity. He never threw all that hard to begin with. 90-91 mph is where I remember him topping out at. Actually, now that I think about it, a drop from his very average velocity is kind of a big deal. But…I think it falls in line with the idea that an average pitcher just became a below average one. I believe the league, and AAA for that matter, is full of Randy Wells look-a-likes. No huge loss here.

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