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There was a time when the prospect of facing the Astros meant a reprieve from a nightmarish stretch. Now? I’m just afraid the Cubs will get swept by the Astros, too.

  • The Cubs are readying for the arrival of Anthony Rizzo, which could come as soon as a few weeks when the Cubs head to an AL park for interleague play. “That’s definitely going to be talked about,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Sunday. “He’s done everything he can down there but once again, when you bring somebody up like that, he has to play every day. That’s the million dollar question. How do we get that playing time …. It’s definitely something we’ll talk about and probably around the beginning of June and Interleague play when you need a DH.” The Cubs’ first such game is June 8 in Minnesota, so they could call Rizzo up for that series.
  • Here’s the rub: if the Cubs want to prevent Rizzo from gaining enough service time this year to allow him to reach free agency after 2017 (rather than 2018), they’d likely have to send him back down after interleague play concluded for another couple weeks. If he’s killing the ball, is that realistic? You’d hope so, because keeping Rizzo up and forgoing that extra year of control in exchange for a couple extra weeks of play (in a likely lost season) would be incredibly short-sighted. (For more details on the “extra year of control” issue, see this post from back in February which projected this very issue arising.)
  • If Rizzo comes up during that stretch, and assuming everyone is healthy and present, he’d likely play first base with Alfonso Soriano staying in left and Bryan LaHair at DH … unless the Cubs are finally ready to give up the ghost by then, and put LaHair in left field. We all know that the optimal future setup has Soriano traded, LaHair in left, and Rizzo at first. But the Cubs have been massively secretive about any efforts to get LaHair some work in the outfield – probably because they don’t want to lose leverage in trade discussions about Soriano (if the Cubs tell the world that they’re planning to move LaHair to the outfield no matter what, and teams know Rizzo is coming up soon, the Cubs’ already-thin platform for trading Soriano evaporates completely). So, for anyone who points to Rizzo and asks Theo what he’s waiting for, you can slap your forehead and offer two obvious things: (1) an extra year of control; and (2) last ditch hopes that Soriano can be dealt, rather than released, with a few million bucks saved.
  • Both Carlos Marmol and Steve Clevenger are expected to start minor league rehab assignments this week, but neither is expected back until after this weekend. (The next homestand starts May 28, so that’d be your best guess.)
  • How nasty was Kerry Wood’s final pitch? It moved so much that that’s how Welington Castillo sprained his MCL. We’ll have to remember that when, years from now, we re-tell the Kerry Wood Story.
  • Bruce Levine notes just how close yesterday’s White Sox starter Jake Peavy was to becoming a Cub. In short? It was going to happen, but for the TribCo’s bankruptcy.
  • The MLBullets at BCB feature Lance Berkman pondering retirement, depending on what his latest knee injury is all about. But don’t get all excited about the injury hurting the Cardinals long-term. They’ve got a readymade replacement in good prospect Matt Adams (he’s their Anthony Rizzo at first base), and a retired Berkman after the season just opens up money the Cards can use elsewhere.
  • Remember to keep it relatively clean in the comments (an occasional, warranted f-bomb will slide by, but not if it becomes excessive), and free from attacks on other folks. That means, even if someone is needling you, be the bigger person, and don’t call ‘em a name. We’re all big boys and girls here, so let’s act like it. Repeat offenders will be dealt with, but I don’t want to have to be a babysitter, mmkay?
  • HoustonTransplant

    “There was a time when the prospect of facing the Astros meant a reprieve from a nightmarish stretch. Now? I’m just afraid the Cubs will get swept by the Astros, too.”

    How ’bout it?! I’ll be at at least 2 of the games this series. I’m excited about the pitching match-up tonight. Should be a really good game. Norris has been excellent this month. Let’s hope Garza can be flat out dominant!

  • Brian

    The hard thing to take from the Cubs now, is how easy it is for this team to lose 5+ in a row, but nothing showing that they can win more than a couple in a row. No need to waste an extra year with Rizzo at this point.

  • John Cusimano

    Brett

    I did not have high expectations on Cubs this year just wanted the team to be competitive. But it just irks me that they got swept by the White Sox.

    What is your belief in how long Cubs can be seriously contending for the division.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It’s absolutely conceivable that the Cubs could be competitive in the division next year.

      • ColoCubFan

        Honestly??? I see way too many holes to figure next year is much more than step #2 in the master plan.

        I’m figuring 2014 or 15, in which case losing a year of control of Rizzo would be such a waste, I can’t even think of a comparison. Oh yeah, an 8 yr. contract for Soriano.

        • rcleven

          Got to agree CCF. 2015 is only being realistic and maybe optimistic. The kids in last years draft won’t be MLB ready till 2015-2016 if they develop at all.
          I see both sides of the question do you bring Rizzo now or not question.
          Rizzo will not put the Cubs in contention this year or next. We have waited this long another month of waiting is not going to effect the Cubs standings this year.

          • TWC

            Are you suggesting that the only way that the Cubs will improve to be competitive within the division is by developing the players they drafted last year into MLB regulars?

            That’s daft, man.

            • rcleven

              Not at all. There is no reason to believe even last years draft will develop into MLB talent. Just a better talent pool than other years. The roster in current form is weak and thin. Trading current players(Demp /Garza) for near MLB talent or buying talent is probably the fastest turn around.

              See Doc’s comments below. Outside of Rizzo and maybe Jackson , Lake There is no thump in the system. Pitching may win ball games but if you don’t score runs you won’t win.

              • TWC

                “There is no reason to believe even last years draft will develop into MLB talent. … Trading current players(Demp /Garza) for near MLB talent or buying talent is probably the fastest turn around.”

                Agreed.  By why then suggest that 2015 is the earliest the team will be competitive?

                “Outside of Rizzo and maybe Jackson , Lake There is no thump in the system.”

                For the most part, I agree.  But if you don’t have any “thump” in the system, then you go out and buy it.

                • calicubsfan007

                  The Cubs are guilty of being unbalanced for the past few years in terms of throwing money and prospects at free agents and trades. The Cubs need to build a solid nucleus first, then they can be active members in buying guys. To put this in a medical sense, one wouldn’t put a band aid over an amputation. Rather, one would treat the wound properly and in way that benefits the present and (more importantly) the future.

                • rcleven

                  I just see too many holes that need filling. Rome can’t built in a day attitude. Weak free agent market next year. Talent development takes years. Hoping some one steps up scares the heck out of me.

                  With MLB attitude of all teams welcome in the playoff run Cubs could just make that run sooner. That does not make them a good team. To be able to compete with the powerhouses in the NL and AL will. That will take time to accomplish.

                  • TWC

                    “To be able to compete with the powerhouses in the NL and AL will. That will take time to accomplish.”

                    Absolutely.  But there is a big difference between being competitive within the division and being an elite MLB team.  The (spits on the ground) World Series champion Cardinals were certainly not an elite team.

                    • rcleven

                      Setting your self up to win the NL central is setting the bar way too low. It’s all about playing with bigger kids.

                    • TWC

                      Nonsense.  The goal is to win the World Series.  The bar should be set at winning the division.  Every year.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            I didn’t say the Cubs WOULD be competitive in 2013. I said it’s absolutely conceivable – and, with the right moves in the offseason and clear emergence of certain young players as credible starters, of course it’s *conceivable.*

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

              I agree.  I think, at worst, the Cubs are competing for a wild card next season.

              • Cubs Dude

                I hope your right! I think it will depend on what they do with Garza and if they make a play for Hamels.

  • Mike

    “He’s done everything he can down there but once again, when you bring somebody up like that, he has to play every day.”

    Praise Jesus, a managerial staff that understands this.

    • ColoCubFan

      No joke! I was screaming at the radio the past couple of years regarding the use of young players brought up.
      When Lou was here, they just as well of had a private jet fueled and ready to return or pick up whatever minor leaguer they wanted to use that day.
      I wonder how many years of control we lost on guys just to bring them up for two weeks to let them sit the bench.

    • Drew7

      Like Cardenas…oh wait…

      • hansman1982

        far cry from Rizzo to Cardenas

  • FromFenwayPahk

    ” (in a likely lost season) ” –Brett
    +
    “Every season’s sacred.” -Theo
    Equals

    Cubnitive dissonance

    • necusfan

      Ha!

    • OlderStyle

      I believe the Theo quote was “every win is sacred”, but your point remains.

      Some posters have pointed out that naming LaHair the starting 1B was a sign of punting the season. Remember, Theo calls this current phenomenon “building”.

      I will continue to wait for the turnaround with the weary and worn patience that only a Cubs fan can muster.

      • FromFenwayPahk

        You are right, OlderStyle. And he has said “sacred” in several interviews. So the quote below isn’t the definitive one. The word “sacred” appears to have been imbeded in one of his talking points early on, and I believe him.

        “Every opportunity to win is sacred,” Epstein said. “It’s sacred to us inside the organization and it should be sacred to the fans as well. They deserve our best efforts to do what we can to improve the club, and put the club in position to succeed in any given season.”

        http://espn.go.com/chicago/mlb/story/_/id/7147573/chicago-cubs-introduce-theo-epstein-president-baseball-operations

        I just didn’t experience the…feelings that arise during cognitive dissonance.. from being a Cubs fan until the White Sox series. I don’t like it. I can’t help it, and I can’t help trying to help it.

        And 7 or 8 games this early in the season isn’t too many to overcome. But I am a process guy. I need to see how. Right now, with this team, it is hard to see how.

        But, I am looking…

        • hansman1982

          I think the 15 game stretch right before this recent 2-8 streak is what Theo had in mind with this team, solid starting pitching, decent-enough hitting and a bullpen that doesn’t completely stink up the joint. Had Soriano, Wood and Marmol just returned to their 2011 ways and we didn’t have a cold spell with Geo, Stewart AND Byrd to start the season we could easily be a .500 team, but as it happened we had literally everything go against us this year and this team is not good enough to overcome that.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Keep in mind that Theo has been open to rebuilding in the past.  He created a small stir after ’05 by saying that the Sox were going to stand-back for a year after 3 straight post-seasons.  He let a couple of stars from the ’04 team go and brought in relatively cheap veteran free agents for a year or two to mind shop while Pedroia, Elsbury, Lester, Buchholz, Papelbon, etc., were waiting in the wings.  Things went a little quicker than expected – Peddy & Paps seized their roles in ’06 and the others in ’07 – and Theo was able to get a powerhouse back on the field by ’07.

          Here, Theo is not building with a veteran playoff team standing by and he’s not got a farm system with any Pedroia’s, Elsbury’s, etc.  That’s why the “opportunity to win” line is so key to what Theo said: ’12 was not an opportunity to win.

  • Ian Afterbirth

    If Bob Brenly can say “pissed off” on air with impunity then you have expect our gatekeepers to allow a few f-bombs to get by.

    Did anyone catch his new baseball stat inspired by Pierzynski (ah fuck, now I have to google his name to make sure of the spelling – good thing I did)?

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  • TrueblueCubbie

    It is very depressing when I don’t look forward to another Cubs game. I knew I would hit this point sometime during the season, I was just hoping it wouldn’t be so soon.

  • rhino70

    As I read this posting and other articles around the web, I wonder if the extra year of control REALLY matters?

    I understand the premise, but If Rizzo becomes the stud we all hope he will be, wouldn’t the Cubs be wise to buy out any arbitration years by offering him a contract that extends past the point that he would become a free agent? If he is just a serviceable ML first baseman, what difference does that extra year really make? If he busts, he won’t be around to see that extra year anyway.

    • hansman1982

      yes, because you can then get an extra year in that extension or have an additional year to wait to offer that extension. Additionally, arb year salaries are always less than market value and when you are talking a couple million that is no chump change. An extra month (or three) in AAA will not harm him especially when you have a logjam in the majors and someone you don’t want to sit will have to sit.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      If he is a stud, the extra year of control will save the Cubs money through his prime years. That’s why it matters. You’re right that, under a number of other scenarios, it doesn’t matter. But if he’s a great player, the number of years under control (and his corresponding age (say, 29 in his last year instead of 28)) will impact all negotiations of an extension. It will save the Cubs money.

      It’s good of you to question, though. Never good to just go along with what everyone is saying.

      • rhino70

        Thanks for the response. I’m trying to get my head around new ways of thinking about baseball. I’ve been a Cub fan since I was a kid (I’m in my late 40’s). All these “new” ways of looking at the game have really sparked my interest.

        Also, thanks for this site! Since finding it this Spring, I’m here every day reading and learning.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          And a thanks right back to you.

  • http://justinjabs.com/blog Justin Jabs

    Really hope they handle this situation correctly…

    • http://www.justinjabs.com/blog/ justinjabs

      In other news think I got that Gravatar thing working… *test test*

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Indeed.

  • Dick

    Re: Rizzo – Is having an additional year of control before free agency worth the revenue lost by no-shows and lower paid tickets now? With Rizzo, they might actually win some games and have people show up to watch them. I look at the stands in the WGN broadcasts, and see an awful lot of empty seats, even when they are playing the Sox. If they have 10,000 no-shows at ~$30 in concessions per game, that is $300K per game that they are losing. Adding in people who decide not to go the game (at ~$100 per person), it doesn’t take a lot of home dates to exceed Rizzo’s free agency cost if he is as good as he seems to be.

    • bluekoolaidaholic

      Excellent point Dick, I was just wondering the same thing myself.
      If all wins are sacred (which I doubt) and putting butts in the seats isn’t (which I doubt) then it doesn’t seem likely that it is worth it to wait.

    • Jonski

      Thanks for posting what I was thinking at some point the front office is going to have to throw the fan base a bone to keep them coming in to the ball park.At the very least it is a interesting debate on both sides.

  • MichaelD

    I really like the idea of Rizzo coming up for the AL-park games. I’ve been thinking about this idea for weeks. I think they could put LaHair at DH for two games and Soriano at DH for one game to “rest his knees”. That way they could see how LaHair handles left for one game without lowering Soriano’s value any further, as everyone knows Soriano has bad knees.

  • Mrp

    Ok if I’m reading this right, 68 days of service time has already been accrued by Rizzo. Not sure if this changed with the new CBO or not, but it used to be 172 days = 1 year of service time. So by my count (and odds are I’m wrong), the earliest we could call him up would be June 22nd. Interleague play with a DH starts on June 8th. I’d hate to see us bring him up too early just for 6 games where the DH is in play then send him back down again for a couple weeks. Theo and Jed wouldn’t do that, right?

    • MichaelD

      What I think you are missing is that Rizzo could be sent back down after the interleague games. The interleague games present an opportunity to get him in the lineup without taking LaHair and Soriano out of the lineup. To get the service time right, all he needs to do is go back down to Iowa for two weeks after the White Sox series Then in July Theo et al. will need to figure out what the long-term plan is.

      • Mrp

        No, I know he can be sent back down but is that really the best thing for his development? I personally think if he comes up he needs to stay up and for that to happen, I’d rather just wait until the end of June and let him finish out the season in the show. Sorry I didn’t make my point clear enough.

        • rcleven

          Your right Mrp. It will take Rizzo a week or two to adjust to MLB pitching. Not fair to him to be brought up and then sent down.

    • Mrp
      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Maybe, but I think that’s been a popular topic of discussion. I don’t know that he necessarily got any info/ideas here.

        I have an inarticulable sense that, to the extent Kap is aware of BN, he’s not a fan. Not sure why I have that sense, but I do. And I like Kap.

        • Mrp

          I was just kidding around, I know it’s being talked about all over the map. Not sure why he wouldn’t be a fan though. What’s not to like?

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            Yeah, I half figured you were being tongue-in-cheek.

        • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

          Kap was tweeting misinformation about the meaning of UZR last week and was driving me nuts!

  • ISU Birds

    Control Rizzo through 2018…. What if he comes up and hits .192 I’m all for looking to the future but if he doesn’t look like he can be a great player this or next year I don’t think we need to worry about in 6 years. Remember when Castro came up it was like alright here is a guy that is going to need to be around we felt that instantly. Remember when Corey Patterson came up it was a resounding meh. I’m just saying that it is rare that a guy is a meh player for his first 2 years and then becomes a superstar down the road. So I say play Rizzo all that you can the next couple of years and see what you have.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      A resounding “meh” is exactly what Patterson did not inspire.  The old-school crowd thought that he was great 5 tool talent that was paying off in his 2nd full season (he might have made the All Star team without the knee injury) and dismissed his one deficiency (total lack of batting eye) as something he’d acquire with age, just like, um…., that other guy who did.  The new-school crowd dismissed Patterson for his one deficiency and wrote off his great first half to ’03 as luck.  Now, this averaged to a “meh” but there was little apathy involved.

  • Cubs Dude

    I find it interesting that no one talks about service time from the players perspective. Sure, holding him in the minors for service time makes sense for the Cubs financially and long term. BUT, they are bending over their best prospect in the process! That money they are saving is directly out of Rizzo’s pockets. He has to know the Cubs offense is terrible and could use him big time. I wonder whats going thru his head? But I get why the Cubs hold him off.. Just a thought. Also, there is no way in hell they bring him for inter league play and then send him down again for a few weeks. Talk about a bad PR move.

    • calicubsfan007

      Agreed. At the earliest, the cubs will call him up after the All Star Break. No point in doing it sooner. It will be an interesting situation once he is called up. What will they do with LaHair? Outfield, trade, third?

      • Cubs Dude

        I think the All Star break makes all kinds of sense too.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I talk about it, but only in a “sorry, Anthony, but the Cubs’ priorities come first for me” kind of way. If service time ends up mattering, it will be because Rizzo has been very good in the bigs. And if Rizzo is very good in the bigs, he’s going to make a whole lot of money either way. I don’t *want* to take money out of his pocket, but I do want the Cubs to be in the best position to have maximum dollars to spend however they like (I know, they have a whole lot of money, too). In other words, where the Cubs’ interests butt up against Rizzo’s, I defer to the Cubs.

      • Cubs Dude

        OK, that makes sense. I just wonder how difficult that is at times. Rizzo has a great attitude and makeup so it is probably easier with him than other cases.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I think most of them get that it’s a business, and this stuff is going to happen. But, you’re right – for some of them, I bet it’s hard.

  • RGLYFLD

    Is it really necessary for anyone to use profane language on this site? Children, mine include, do read this site. Please edit the swearing out.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I think the best policy is to discourage excessive use, but generally police ourselves. I’m happy to have children reading the site (though this is not explicitly a “family friendly site” – I just happen to generally be family friendly), but I can’t be in the business of editing every single comment. I don’t have the time, unless I’m going to cut down my writing in half. That’s not realistic, or good for anyone, really.

      • hansman1982

        ehhh, I am sure some people out there wouldn’t mind you cutting your writing in half…

        HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I hoped someone would walk through that open door.

          • MichiganGoat

            Short yet informative

        • Drew7

          Ba-dum ching!

          Well played

      • calicubsfan007

        I apologized on the Demp page, and I will apologize again. I am sorry for my part in what happened last night/ this morning. I did not intend to set anybody off or anything like that. I was as surprised as everyone else with the response I received. If I did anything that can be construde as having stepped over the line, I apologize for that and it won’t happen again.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Forget about it. We’re good.

          • calicubsfan007

            Thanks (=

      • Mrp

        I thought profanity was only allowed in the game day threads. I mean, I think we all understand how it might happen there. Right? Enter at your own peril. :)

        • calicubsfan007

          Ha, that’s funny. (=

        • TWC

          “I thought profanity was only allowed in the game day threads.”

          Depends on who you ask….

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            Also depends on how judiciously you use it.

            When in doubt, follow my lead…

            • TWC

              I was referring to last week’s “abuse report”.

            • Fishin Phil

              “When in doubt, follow my lead…”

              Last time I did that, I woke up hungover with “I Love Lady Gaga” tatooed on my little puppet butt.

              • TWC

                The video from that night just passed 1 million views on YouTube.

                • Fishin Phil

                  That is mostly from my wife and her divorce attorneys.

  • Crockett

    Was there ever a concrete answer on who the 5 prospects going to San Diego were going to be? Guarantee we were giving up way more than Kenny ended up sending west.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Nope, it was never certain. But, yeah, the rumors had it that the Cubs were going to be giving up a TON.

  • KB

    Typically excellent analysis, Brett.
    You’re uniquely qualified to run a website.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, Kabes. Very kind. You are uniquely qualified to flatter me.

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