Quantcast

The Chicago Cubs continue to surprise (dare I use the “think outside the box” cliche?) this offseason in the players they pursue. It started with Dan Haren, whom no one outside of this place expected the Cubs to pursue, and now it’s a top Japanese reliever.

Kyuji Fujikawa is a free agent after dominating in Japan for a number of years as one of the top relievers in the NPB. He’s been on a tour of the States in the last week, and, according to the Dallas Morning News, one of his stops was Chicago to meet with the Cubs. Among the other teams believed to have interest, and with whom Fujikawa has met or will meet with, are the Diamondbacks, Dodgers (grumble), and Angels, among others.

Fujikawa, 32, throws in the mid-90s and has been putting up stupid good numbers in the NPB for a decade now. Heck, he hasn’t had an ERA over 2.01 since 2004 (when it was, gasp, 2.61). His K-rate is typically in the 12 per 9 range, with a walk rate of about 2.3 per 9. Really the only negative to which you could point is the fact that his innings pitched have declined of late, from 83 in 2007 to 57.2 in 2009 to 51 in 2011 to 47.2 last year.

At first blush, Fujikawa seems like an odd target for a team like the Cubs. Top-line relievers tend to be one of the last pieces you add to a competitive team, not one of the first pieces you add to a rebuilding club. At 32, he’s not likely to be a major component of the next great Cubs team.

On the other hand, the international market remains an area where teams with extra cash can try and find undervalued assets, so perhaps that’s the most appropriate lens through which view the pursuit of a player like Fujikawa. You can bet his agent will be warning him about the possibility of being viewed solely as a flippable piece, though. I could be wrong on this, but I’ve always had the impression, anecdotally, that Japanese players coming over to play in MLB prefer to know where they’re going to be for a set amount of time, and then stay there. In other words, the “opportunity” to be dealt to a contender at the deadline is not likely to appeal to Fujikawa in the same way that it might appeal to some State-side players.

Further, the Cubs might view Fujikawa as a closer in MLB, and, with the suspected departure of Carlos Marmol via trade this offseason, Fujikawa could take over that role in 2013 (building even more value).

  • DarthHater

    Can’t imagine the Cubs really signing this guy unless he ends up being surprisingly cheap, which would be … umm … surprising. However, the fact that they are considering him is further evidence that Marmol’s departure is imminent.

    • JR

      I think Marmol is for sure gone. But this Japanese dude makes no sense. The only thing I can think of is to sign him to help reel in other guys from other there.

  • Tommy

    Dodgers will sign him for $300M.

    • Canadian Cubs Fan

      I hope the Dodgers sign every free agent available, setting a record for highest payroll in MLB history, pay about $100 million in luxury tax…then finish two games under .500.

      I can’t see the Cubs getting this guy either.

  • cubsin

    I wouldn’t be surprised if we sign Fujikawa, I’d be shocked. I expect him to get 3/$30 or better, with a no-trade clause. The Cubs’ closer of the future will probably be Zych, McNutt or Dolis, although Villanueva and Cabrera could wind up in the mix if they fail as starters. It would be very unlike Jed and Theo to pay that much just to win a few more meaningless games in the short term.

  • Barry

    Are we suddenly contenders? This isn’t happening. Period.

    • CubFan Paul

      Theo&Co have $50M-$80M to spend this offseason. They could field a 85 win team IF they wanted to.

      • Jeff

        $50M-$80M???? Come on, Ricketts isn’t going to spend that kind of money. He will keep ticket prices the same and hope you keep coming, but all that money is going toward the purchase price of the ball club. He hopes you continue to pay for a crappy product so that when the Cubs might be competitive (4 to 6 years from now) all those revenues will go into his pocket.

        • Serio

          they might not spend $50M-$80M buuuuuut they have it!

      • terencem

        Florida Marlins fans would like a word with anyone who thinks doubling payroll on free agents will lead to a competitive team.

        • Lou

          And the Toronto Blue Jays would beg to disagree with you. You know the team the Cubs would like to emulate preaching for years about their REBUILD with 100% HOMEGROWN TALENT.

          • Drew7

            The Blue Jays just showed the other, often-overlooked reason for having a good farm system- to use it to trade for ML-talent.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

              Exactly. That’s a large part of the reason I love the depth the Cubs have at several positions. The Cubs’ can’t play all their second and third base prospects in the majors at the same time, but they can flip some of them for other players they need.

              And that process is going to start happening soon.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                I suppose I should qualify that “soon”. I’m talking next year and a half or so soon, not next couple of weeks.

              • Lou

                The Cubs can flip 2 and 3 tier prospects for players but Cubs fans wouldn’t exactly be thrilled if we got them for our players. What does that tell you exactly?

            • MichiganGoat

              Exactly except the Blue Jays really will regret this trade if they don’t winin the next two years, a better deal was what the Dodgers got from the Red Sox but that was more about cutting and absorbing payroll. Hopefully in the next few years a team will be looking to flip a player they can no longer afford… ie Stanton.

            • Lou

              And a guy who goes to injury and a guy who really at this point in his career should be pitching in the NL….and a guy who’s an aging SS with a backloaded contract and….exactly (EXCEPT THAT “the Blue Jays will regret this trade if they don’t win in two years”–with their sustained formula for success and such). From Matt Spiegel of 670theScore”the new market inefficiency is market inefficiency.” Implication, teams in MLB are starting to figure out that the method for success may involve a short window…someone may want to tell Theo this. Nah!

        • Kyle

          The Pittsburgh Pirates would like a word with everyone who thinks just piling on prospects has to pay off eventually.

          There are no guaranteed paths to victory in a competitive league.

          • kranzman54

            Pirates have no payroll! The Cubs have a payroll and to utilize this payroll you don’t just splurge on every player you like. Let’s look at who has actually won instead of everyone who hasn’t…
            Giants: Cain, Bumgarner, Sandavol, Posey All came through their system, their biggest FA signing was Angel Pagan or the risk they took on Vogelsong was their FA “splash”
            Cardinals: Pujols, Freese, and Molina all worked through their system Holliday was a big trade and Berkman was a nice sign but not a monster contract, Carpenter was signed ealier on a middle-tier contract (not Sabathia money)
            The last three years of championship teams have some things in common…
            You do have to spend some money, but it has to be smart. These teams did not have any expiring huge contracts that held them down (with exception of Zito who actually contributed something this year)
            Those FA signing have to be infused with homegrown talent that you are getting at a good price.
            For the Cubs, we do not have all the homegrown talent and there is no player out there with spending Matt Holliday money on right now.

            • Tommy

              Nice post kranzman54.

              This should be required reading.

            • ssckelley

              Nice post but the Cubs are not a small market team. They do not have to rely 100% on the farm system to produce a winner nor can you rely 100% on free agents. To build a playoff team year over year it takes a combination of both. Once the Cubs have a good farm system then you can use it to help fill holes on the team or to trade for what you need at the trade deadline, free agency is then used to fill in any other holes that farm system/trades cannot fill.

              Once this is all said and done the Cubs should be better than the Cardinals.

            • Lou

              And yet Kyle isn’t advocating spending for spending sake. He never has. You may want to re-read his posts. To kranzman “We don’t have all the homegrown talent” They how does Theo justify utilizing Jackson, Castro, Barney, Rizzo, Shark and Castillo over the next two lean years (according to Theo supporters, anyway.) And what about Baez, Soler, Pierce Johnson, the #2 pick in 2013, Almora, and SP we acquired. It looks to me like those first players I’ve mentioned are a core of homegrown talent. What am I missing here? And to ssckelley: “Once you build a farm system, you use it to help fill holes” seems too general of a statement here.

              Theo is building a core for the future (his plan not mine) for the Cubs to fill holes on the MLB roster. Not to trade them away. After all, why would he break the trust of Cubs going through lean seasons, just to trade away players. Certainly, Cubs will want that sort of trade to involve the “impact” player acquisition. But to acquire impact players, the Cubs would significantly diminish their farm system to do so. Why? because to get that impact player how top-tier prospect would it take. Say, for example that GioCarlo Stanton was available next season. Yes, I believe the Cubs could put together a solid trade package. But would they want to based on the philosophy that Theo is using for this team.

              In addition, is Theo doing the right moves to rebuild the farm system? According to the longitudinal studies, I’ve perused the most difficult prospect to develop is SP. And nevertheless, I’ve yet to see Theo amass a collection of SPs. So, while the future of our offense looks solid and the top prospects will fill needed offensive holes, there’s only a couple of SP in our farm system which really excite me.

              • kranzman54

                You make good points here Lou. When I say our homegrown talent isn’t there yet I mean to say they aren’t MLB ready NOT we need to find more prospects. Your point about no SP prospects is pretty true with exception of Maples and Johnson I agree we are lacking. I believe SP will be where Theo will spend in FA to get “known” studs, because like you said SP are hard to develope and it is really difficult to know if a prospect will ever make a major league impact. I don’t think that lack of SP in the minors is a knock on Theo, but showing that he has every intention of spending once all the offensive pieces are ready and in place.

        • ssckelley

          The Yankees and the Red Sox would like a word with anyone that says you cannot win by having a great farm system with a big payroll.

          • Lou

            Actually, as we speak, the top prospects of the Yankees, particularly their SP, has declined in value…so while that may have been true in the 90s..not so sure now.

            • ssckelley

              It is not great right now but it is still decent. The Yankees have done really well using their farm system to trade for what they want, it is how they got Granderson. But they do have a few home grown players like Hughes, Nova, Jeter, and Cano. In the 2006 June draft the Cubs have gotten 4 to the MLB level, the Yankees have gotten 10. The 2005 draft yielded the Cubs 1 to the bigs while the Yankees have had 7.

              • Lou

                But you said it was great in your first post….not you’re devaluing it more so in its current state. Great or not great?

      • BT

        Wait a second. How are the Cubs going to field an 85 win team, even with 80 million to spend? Will that somehow make the list of B level free agents much better? If we give Hamilton 25 million does that somehow make him a 160 game player because we are paying him like one? If we give Grienke 20 million does he somehow become Sabathia because we are paying him like at that level?

        Part of the reason there are no quick fixes this year is because…there are no quick fixes this year. There is no Pujols (hey, speaking of which…) there is no Cliff Lee. There are no players which can turn your franchise around. Which is why it would be asinine to spend 80 million on a bunch of b-listers.

        • Kyle

          I’m really confused by this line of thought.

          We like Castro/Barney/Rizzo, right? We like Soriano and DeJesus, right? We like Garza and Samardzija, right?

          If we fill CF and 3b with league-average players, add two average starters and a put together an average bullpen, how many games might that team win?

          • jt

            I kinda like Castillo also.
            But what you say does ring true!

          • DarthHater

            We like Castro/Barney/Rizzo, right? We like Soriano and DeJesus, right? We like Garza and Samardzija, right?

            If we fill CF and 3b with league-average players, add two average starters and a put together an average bullpen, how many games might that team win?

            Hey, Brett!

            It looks like some hoaxter is posing as Kyle again. The real Kyle surely has more common sense than that.

            • Kyle

              Simple question. Well, medium-complicated question, but I have faith you can work your way through it.

              • DarthHater

                75. Happy now?

                • CubFan Paul

                  75. i’d call that a successfull 2013 (as long as short term assets are flipped for more Top 20 farmhands before the deadline).

                  • DarthHater

                    I don’t disagree. But a couple average starters and an average 3B and CF (Kyle’s parameters) with the additional requirement of flippable short-term assets (your parameter) does not sound to me that different than what the FO appears to be trying to do this offseason.

                • Lou

                  75???? Try more like 65? They don’t even want to sign someone to play CF.

                  • DarthHater

                    I was trying to respond to Kyle’s question, not predicting who they will actually sign.

                • Kyle

                  OK. So we stipulated that the bullpen, CF, 3b and two unknown rotation spots are average.

                  Assign a win total above or below average to the following groups of players that gets us to -6:

                  Castro/Rizzo/Barney/Castillo
                  Soriano/DeJesus
                  Garza/Samardzija/Baker

                  • Myles

                    I did a thing.

                    Let’s assume a team starts with 49 wins. That’s a theoretical floor for a major league team.

                    Pitching WAR for next year:
                    Matt Garza – 1.5 (1.0 last year)
                    Shark – 2 (1.6 last year)
                    Scott Baker – 1.5 (0 last year)
                    Travis Wood – 1 (0.6 last year)
                    Brandon McCarthy – 2 (2 last year)

                    3 bullpen spots at 1 WAR each
                    4 bullpen spots at .5 WAR each

                    -2 wins of WAR decay (we will field sub-replacement players due to injury and the lack of replacement-level players on our team. this happens to every team. also a buffer for underperformance)

                    11.5 pitching WAR

                    Batting:
                    Welington Castillo – 2 (1.2 last year)
                    Anthony Rizzo – 4 (2.2 last year)
                    Darwin Barney – 2.5 (4.6 last year, but Bref vastly overstates it’s defense. He was 1.3 oWAR and maybe that good defensively)
                    Starlin Castro – 4 (3.5 last year)
                    Replacement 3B – 3 (by the way, this guy doesn’t exist)
                    Alfonso Soriano – 2 (1.6 last year)
                    Average CF – 3 (this guy probably exists)
                    David DeJesus – 2 (1.6 last year)

                    Bench – 2 WAR total (last year our bench contributed a solid 0 WAR or something like that)

                    WAR decay – 2 (same reason)

                    Batting WAR: 22.5

                    22.5+11.5+49 = 83 wins

                    That’s if we keep Garza, sign McCarthy, a 3B that doesn’t exist for 3 WAR, a 3 WAR CF, 4 or 5 bullpen guys, and everyone on our team takes a step forward, and no one gets hurt.

                    It’s that easy!

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                      I love these exercises, and I agree with your conclusion, but I suspect you’re going to get dinged by some for using bWAR and not fWAR or a combination of the two.

                    • David

                      You’re underselling that starting rotation on the WAR. Like Brett says, use fWAR.

                    • Jade

                      or perhaps we could start with 61 wins from last year and tell us where you add 20+ wins
                      Of course some of those wins involved players like Maholm & Dempster but lets call 1/2 year of Dempster and Garza one year of Garza and and call Scott Baker, Maholm. The Cubs still look like a 60-65 win team right now as it stands. If the Cubs add a couple of 2 win starters and maybe find trade for a decent 3B and another outfielder… Maybe a 70 win team? Assuming no one big gets hurt and we don’t trade Garza early.

                    • Kyle

                      Baseball-Reference WAR is scaled to a .320 replacement level, or 52 wins for a full season.

                      So you’ve actually fielded an 86-win team. Congratulations, with just a little luck or a deadline deal, you’ve got a playoff team!

                    • Myles

                      I would use fWAR gladly…if fangraphs didn’t have one of the less friendly UIs ever invented.

                      Give me a few minutes and I’ll see what i can turn up.

                      Also, Kyle, you forgot the part where I added literally 8 or 9 players to our major league roster (including one guy who is fictional). This is coming from a guy who actually agrees with you.

                    • David

                      I see the Youk being that 3B

                    • Dr. Percival Cox

                      This is one of the best things that’s appeared in BN in months. For me, the key is, “everyone on our team takes a step forward.” That’s a huge assumption on a young team.

                      We can almost guarantee that one of Shark, Rizzo, or Castro regresses a bit next season, which further complicates the math.

        • CubFan Paul

          “Part of the reason there are no quick fixes this year is because…there are no quick fixes this year”

          what part of fielding a competitive team after a 100 loss season is a quick fix? wow people.

  • anotherjp

    The Cubs wouldn’t go after this guy unless they were to dump Marmol and go after free agents like Anibel Sanchez and Josh Hamilton. They need another starter or two, a third baseman, and center fielder before they can even begin to contemplate a closer like Fujikawa.

  • Stinky Pete

    I see it as a ploy to drive up the price. Offer 3/30. Make LA bury themselves deeper. If no one else bites at that price, they do have a flippable asset. Win win. Unless he sucks. Then they’re just out money which doesn’t seem to be a problem with all the money coming off the books.

  • daveyrosello

    Bad idea. Japanese relievers have not been able to be successful in the US for extended time periods, they tend to crap out pretty early in MLB. Since this guy looks like he’ll want a 3-4 yr deal, especially given his age, the Cubs should take a big old pass. Let the Dodgers sign him.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      “The Wall” seems to be a fairly real phenomenon for most Japanese pitchers, regardless of role. They often have one or two nice years, and then fall off a cliff, for whatever reason. That said, I don’t think the Cubs would be wanting to keep Fujikawa for more than a year or two anyway.

      • jt

        Hideki Okajima
        yr…era….IP…..WhIP
        07..2.22..69….0.971
        08..2.61..62….1.161
        09..3.39..61….1.262
        10..4.50…46….1.717
        He fell off in 2010 at age 35 but was used in a limited role the 2nd half of the yr and became useful with19.6 IP for an ERA of 2.75

  • Caleb

    Scott baker. Sometimes old guys dominate?

  • cheryl

    I’m not so sure that they aren’t extremely interested. Actually if he were to be here for three or four years that will allow the Cubs to develop their pitching more through the draft, etc. This may also indicate the Cubs will go for a pitcher in next year’s draft in both the first and second rounds. They’ll still try to pick up a pitcher or two by trade or free agency but with Marmol’s imminent departure it makes some sense.

  • Dustin

    I say sign him,only if we can resign Fukudome lol total joke!!

  • Believe in 2015

    Dodgers will pay him an insane amount of money. Marmol is a definetly going to be traded though. Could Detroit be a good fit for him?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Detroit, given their escalating financial commitments, would seem a good place to send Marmol while eating a chunk of salary for a nice prospect (or Porcello). But the question with them is whether they actually want Marmol, what with his inconsistencies. After Valverde imploded, they may be extra sensitive.

      • terencem

        The perception I’ve read (and recently heard on the daily BP podcast) about Detroit is that they are not going to invest a lot of money in a true closer this off-season.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Yeah, that’s kinda what I was angling at.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          they are not going to invest a lot of money in a true closer this off-season.

          Given that there about 4 of these beasts in existence and none of them are available!

          One “positive” that I saw in the radio broadcasts of this years post-season was the announcers beginning to discuss that closers might be overrated or somewhat mythical. Valverde was a big reason: he was so “good” in 2011 but so “inconsistent” in 2012. Some of the announcers were talking about “going with the hot hand” but others were saying “go with the best matchup.”

          Hopefully it’s beginning to dawn on people that saving the game and The Save are not synonymous!

  • CubFan Paul

    Mike Moustakas is available…

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Yes, but Moustakas’ price supposedly is good young pitching.

      • ferrets_bueller

        They can take whatever minor league pitching they want from us, if we get Moose back. Granted, our pitching isn’t very good….but Moose is arguably the best defender at 3B in baseball right now, and that offensive potential…yikes.

        • Dr. Percival Cox

          I don’t see how we can possibly put together the best young pitching package for him unless we include Samardzija, which would be an absolute non-starter for me.

    • CubFan Paul

      A healthy Garza & $5M gets it done.

      • Jeremy

        No it doesn’t. Royals want young pitchers with team control, Garza doesn’t have that.

        Moustakas for Trevor Bauer actually makes a ton of sense sadly.

        I really want us to land Trevor Bauer but I doubt we do.

        • CubFan Paul

          Yes it does. Garza can still net them young pitching at the trade deadline or at years end via supplemental picks. Or they could extend him & have the veteran top of the rotation pitcher they’ve been seeking to anchor their young staff.

          • Jeremy

            Are we referring to the same post?

            Were talking about a player in Garza who just finished the year hurt and has one year of team control for a 24 year old 3B with a couple more years of team control and that has power and defense.

            Garza and 5 million makes zero sense for the Royals. They want young pitching with team control, not players like Garza who will be well out of their price range for an extension. So no Garza and 5 million will not get it done for Moustakas.

  • http://bleachernation.com lou brock lives

    The reason Garza will be traded by current FO is twofold. They have come to realize a NL starting pitcher needs to be able to field his position/especially bunts & must be able to bunt & hit with a little authority. They also do not like his little league antics in the dugout & in the clubhouse.
    Garza will be traded by end of spring training if he has shown he is healthy & most likely to an AL team for young, starting pitching.

    • Stevie B

      Lou sounds very confident folks.

      I hope he is right….

    • DocPeterWimsey

      They have come to realize a NL starting pitcher needs to be able to field his position/especially bunts & must be able to bunt & hit with a little authority.

      The current FO is very stats savvy. As such, they will know that no correlation exists between how good starting is at bunting and how often his team win the games that he starts. Now, a correlation exists between pure numbers of sacrifice bunt attempts (but not frequency of success!) by pitching staffs and total runs scored: but that is because teams with good OBP from their #7 and #8 hitters both: a) tend to score more runs than other teams and b) create a lot of sacrifice opportunities. If your pitchers are bunting a lot, then (succeed or fail) your team is probably scoring a lot.

      Now, a truly good hitting pitcher (which is a real rarity) obviously adds some value. However, it cannot keep them in a starting role: guys like Owing and Zambrano lose starting jobs because of pitching despite their hitting.

      • Dr. Percival Cox

        I would be interested in knowing how many runs a year Garza’s tendency to turn sacrifice bunts into doubles costs us. It probably isn’t very high, but knowing the exact number would be nice for these conversations.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          I would be interested in knowing how many runs a year Garza’s tendency to turn sacrifice bunts into doubles costs us.

          FanGraphs puts Garza down at -5 fielding runs saved in 2012. It was -3 in 2011, and he’s constantly in these sorts of very low negative numbers. However, that’s not just throwing: it also reflects fielding range (Garza is not great at getting to balls or getting to first base) and catching the balls hit to him (he seems to be OK at that). Moreover, it’s all throwing: bunts, but also just the lazy comebackers.

          With pitchers in particular, the fielding value above “replacement” is the fielding above average: nobody gets a pitching start or gets called up to MLB because of their glove. You certainly do not replace a pitcher late in a game because you are worried that he won’t field a ball: you do it because you are worried that he’ll give up batted balls that nobody can field.

          Would it be nice if Garza could field better? Sure. However, what is much more important is a lot of grounders (and he’s been pretty good in that the last couple of years), lots of K’s and minimum BBs. Do that, and he can be a statue after he throws and still contribute majorly to wins.

  • cubzforlife

    Just curious Lou, how do you know the FO feels this way?

  • Frank

    If theyre willing to enter a bidding war with the Angels and Dodgers among others for a 32 year old reliever who’s never pitched in the big leagues, they better be willing to go after some other win-now type players.

  • nkniacc13

    the difference is that they could promise the closing job

  • cheryl

    There may be another factor involved, They’ve lost out on two players that tney bid on. Neither Theo or Richters want that to continue. They have to make themselves more visible in terms of the free agents they want.This would certainly send a signal to potential free agents.

  • DocPeterWimsey

    They’ve lost out on two players that tney bid on. Neither Theo or Richters want that to continue.

    Hopefully, that will not be a consideration. One of the things that Theo noted about his last few years in Boston is that they were doing things too often for the sake of doing things in general rather than addressing specific needs.

    Now, the Cubs might have missed out on signing two guys: but 28 other teams also did. It’s not just the Dodgers, the 2nd team (I’m not certain who the 2nd “miss” is) and the Cubs, after all. At any rate, this is not a player who will greatly help the Cubs: worry about the bullpen after you’ve got decent hitters at 3rd and all three outfield spots, and at least one more “plus” starter.

  • cheryl

    The second one was the pitcher who went to Texas.I agree with you that apriority dhould be starting pitching but its easier to say that they were doing things to do them rather than fulfill specific needs than to back away from a player they are interested in. The problem is they will need a closer.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      The second one was the pitcher who went to Texas.

      Wait, what did I miss? All the Rangers stuff I’ve read has been about Hamilton & Young lately.

      • cheryl

        Think back befoe Hamilton & Young, Doc.W ho was the young pitcher Texas broke the bank for?

        • cheryl

          Wasn’t his name Yu Darvish?

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Oh, him! That was last year. And it was the Jays, not the Cubs, who were the big “disappointed” losers. For some reason, a lot of people thought that Toronto was “all in” on Darvish, but if rumor is correct, they (and everyone else) were completely blown out of the water by the Ranger’s posting bid.

            Nats fans were disappointed that they didn’t win the bid, too, or at least they were at that time. It was felt that adding him to Strasburg & Zimmerman would put the Nats over the top. I think that a few other fan-bases got their hopes up on Darvish.

            So, the Cubs (almost certainly) join a long list of teams who (probably) bid on both pitchers unsuccessfully. Given that several teams are bidding on Japanese and Korean players of any worth, such a pattern is going to continue for most teams: it’s impossible for it not to happen.

  • http://bleachernation.com lou brock lives

    I did not say the pitcher needed to be a good hitter. Just that he be able to handle the bat with a ” little authority.” That means move an occasional runner over with the bunt & not be an automatic strikeout otherwise. I did not say they had to hit with the ability of a Zambrano. But certainly somewhere in between Garza & Zambrano – maybe T. Wood or Jeff Samardzija – like who you saw stay in games a little longer than some might expect because of their ability to hit better than the average pitcher. They also give you a possible extra bat in an extended inning game when your bench is totally depleted.
    Now I do not have a inside source for this info as it regards the FO & its desired wishes but I am getting an impression from our new FO people & the fact they are looking for complete ball players – & athletes. I also know from a connected inside source that Mr. Garza’s antics are frowned upon by more than a few FO people.

  • DocPeterWimsey

    its desired wishes but I am getting an impression from our new FO people & the fact they are looking for complete ball players – & athletes

    That is the case for position players, although take that with a grain of salt: one of the chief tools they value is batting eye, and that is unassociated with athleticism. However, they do like guys who can learn to become good fielders. A good athlete won’t learn the strike zone, but he can learn to become a credible fielder.

    Pitchers are a different beast altogether. For all intents and purposes, they are playing a different game from position players. Athleticism is nice, but completely unnecessary: good movement and good location far and away trump anything else. Those two alone are the gourmet cake and gourmet frosting: all of the rest is the decoration. A lot of really good pitchers have been really bad athletes: but the vast majority of great athletes couldn’t successfully pitch in A ball, never mind MLB.

    And as for “antics,” Theo & Jed did not care what happened in the Sox locker room (which basically was like an R-rated version Animal House) just as long as the players in question performed.

    • jt

      It would seem that a pitcher’s “athleticism” depends upon the ability to reproduce motion without change from effort to effort much like a golfer.
      A batter, on the other hand, must adjust his motion in an instant dependent upon conditions; the pitched ball.

  • Fastball

    I don’t think we are taking our off of starting pitching. This Japanese guy is on the market right now so he becomes Mr. Right Now for a week. I just don’t know that Theo is going to be aggressive enough to sign him. I mean they have missed the mark by quite a bit of money each time they have gone down this path. I hope he does get the guy signed up. We need BP pitching just as much as starters. Our BP was the worst in baseball or 2nd worst. We don’t have any young pitching that can throw strikes and get people out. We had Camp a 80mph fast ball and Russell an 85mph fastball. Dolis thinks ball are strikes an vice versa. Maybe they all do for that matter. Something got lost in the translation maybe. Our pitching just plain sucks so I support any guy who knows how to pitch. We don’t have any of those guys right now. Our guys fall into two buckets. Those who can’t throw hard enough to break a window and those who do but couldn’t hit a window if they had too.

    • Jade

      I don’t know if “missed the mark” is how best to describe the Cubs not overpaying for Ryu. Same thing with Darvish, he had a nice year but Japanese imports do seem to flame out, so 100 plus million for a long contract on a guy that is no sure thing to be anything more than a MOR guy or worse in 3 years…
      I would say the Cubs bid what they feel makes sense, dollar and contract wise.

  • F.Logan

    How do you lose 101 Games and then Raise Ticket Prices……………Ricketts has lost his mind………….They don’t care about winning,they care about lining there pockets

  • dbeider

    And which prices did they raise? Certainly not the tickets that go on sale each year. My tickets also didn’t increase, so other than perhaps more diversity in game classifications from lower to premium, not sure whose tickets you have that we’re raised or how this regime could be classified how you are classifying them. I’m just tired of the blinders people wear seemingly in order to complain.

  • Fastball

    There has to be some balance in the rebuild of the minor league system and he product on the MLB roster. I understand trading some players on the MLB roster to improve the minor league farm system. In this day and age you simply cannot rely on a farm system to build a MLB roster even if you are looking 2 or 3 years ahead. It would be foolish to view these farm system players as sure things to arrive in the majors. Nobody can predict the outcome of a prospect. All the wonderful stats can’t predict a player doesn’t blow his arm out or have a another type injury that stalls or stops a career. Or that their talent doesn’t take them as far as one could hope. Or they have the mental make up to handle Major League baseball. The odds are stacked against every player no matter their pedigree. That alone makes it impossible to rely on a farm system for everything a ML team needs. Not one farm system in baseball produces at that kind of rate where they can produce a winning ball club yr over yr. Teams need the FA market and trades of prospects to have a winning program. The Cubs are rebuilding the farm system but they are not rebuilding the ML roster with the talent needed to Win yr over yr. The signings last year bared some fruit that is still on the vine. The two signings this off season thus far may impact the ML outcome and they may not. At some point Theo will have to sign FA’s who will have an impact. I believe Cubs fans fall in love with potential players who they feel project to above average. Hopes become inflated only to be deflated and a crash and burn ensues. Is Theo on the right track to rebuilding a terrible farm system. Yes he is. Is he building a major league product for 2013? I don’t think so. His focus is narrowed by his tangent love affair with rebuilding the farm system. I don’t believe his statement that every season is sacred in that putting a team on the field that has a chance to make the playoffs is in his type 5 highest priorities. He may like for that to be the case but in reality it is not. He has been an also ran on the IFA’s that were impactful to the Major Leagues last year. He had the money to spend and has missed drastically short. He either doesn’t understand the market for these players or is just giving it a half assed attempt maybe thinking I can keep these fans interested if we just put in a bid. Falling short doesn’t count as having participated. The Rangers and A’s got players the Cubs could have signed to long term deals and would and would have made a significant impact on the end result. I thought that hiring so many new Front Office staffers would have allowed the Cubs to be competitive in negotiations at all levels in the organization. If we are going to sign players at the low end of the spectrum as a common practice then Tom Ricketts over hired for GM and President of Baseball Operations. There are many capable GM types who could and can do what has been accomplished thus far for far less $$ in salary. Theo comes at a premium. He doesn’t earn all his money on the Major League teams results but it has to be 60 to 70 percent. Otherwise we have a lot of other high priced FO guys who aren’t accountable for delivering at the Minor League level. I would think that with Theo and Jed they should have divided and concurred. Jed lead the Minor Leagues and Theo the Major Leagues or vice versa. Doesn’t matter to me. I expect a much improved ML roster and a .500 season worst case for 2013. If these two don’t accomplish that then they get a failing grade in my book.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      Whoa, I was going to read this, but….paragraphs, maybe?

  • Kyle

    “or perhaps we could start with 61 wins from last year and tell us where you add 20+ wins”

    The point that I’m arguing, which Myles somewhat inadvertently made as well, is that there’s some very, very low-hanging fruit. When discussing how much a team can improve, there’s more to it than just “here’s how bad they were.”

    A team made up entirely of bad players will have a hard time improving quickly.
    A team made up of a mix of good players and horrible players may win the same number of games as the previous team, but can improve much more quickly.

    The 2012 Cubs (much like the 2002 Cubs, incidentally), were a version of the latter.

    First, despite only winning 61 games, pythagorean wins tells us that the Cubs were actually a 65-win team in performance. They had four wins of negative variance, or bad luck.

    Then came the sub-replacement, horrible players. In theory, you should be able to find a replacement-level player for free. Either a veteran FA for the minimum or a waiver-wire pickup. The Cubs fielded nine position players who were at least two runs worse than replacement level by B-R calculations, for a total of 6.1 wins below replacement level.

    It was even worse on the pitching side. We fielded 16 sub-replacement pitchers, for a combined total of 10.3 wins below replacement level.

    The Cubs should literally be able to gain 20 wins and become a .500 team just by having neutral luck and fielding replacement-level players. That’s before they even dip into their considerable resources to actually improve the team.

  • Kyle

    “I love these exercises, and I agree with your conclusion, but I suspect you’re going to get dinged by some for using bWAR and not fWAR or a combination of the two.”

    I’d actually say that bWAR is the right tool for the job here. It’s hard to compare last year vs. this year with fWAR because fWAR’s not descriptive of what happened last year, it’s predictive.

    The main thing you have to understand is that you can’t mix the two, for a variety of reasons. A big one is that they set replacement levels at different places. bWAR is scaled to a 52-win replacement level, fWAR is scaled to a 43-win replacement level, which is part of why a player’s bWAR is usually a lot lower than his fWAR.

  • Kyle

    “Also, Kyle, you forgot the part where I added literally 8 or 9 players to our major league roster (including one guy who is fictional). This is coming from a guy who actually agrees with you.”

    I didn’t forget. That the whole point of the exercise.

    “If the Cubs filled all their holes with average players, what would the result look like?”

    86 wins sounds about right to me.

    • Myles

      Ok, so if we got average players at each of those 9 positions, and we have no injuries, and everyone not only stays at the same level but improves (so another legendary defensive season from Barney, and age-82 Soriano gets better), and we get rid of all of our sub-replacement guys in our minors, we have a chance at getting to the playoffs.

      The chance we sign average players at all of those positions? Around 0%.
      The chance we stay healthy the entire year (considering Dempster/Garza/Shark all missed time last year, as well as our starting 3B/C/CF, and our LF is Soriano)? Around 0%
      The chance everyone stays the same level or improves? I don’t know, maybe 5%. I’ll build in the “get a guy at the deadline for injuries” card.
      The chance we that we get 20 wins back from luck and fielding replacement-level players? Around 0%.

      So, I put our chances at 86 wins at 0%*0%*5%*0% = 0%

      However, that’s not the point I think you should make (and you probably aren’t trying to make it). You’re totally right that the process can be safely accelerated (and indeed, probably only possible) if we bring that total closer to 86 wins this year so we can do the same thing next year. Even if we only sign half of those guys, we could get to like 74 wins. That sucks, but then the next year you only have to make up 12 games (and if you’re smart with contracts, you haven’t hurt yourself).

      • Kyle

        “Ok, so if we got average players at each of those 9 positions, and we have no injuries, and everyone not only stays at the same level but improves (so another legendary defensive season from Barney, and age-82 Soriano gets better), and we get rid of all of our sub-replacement guys in our minors, we have a chance at getting to the playoffs.”

        There’s more upside than downside there. Castro and Rizzo are just as likely to break out as Soriano is to decline, and you already discounted Barney’s defense in the original calcualtion. As someone else noted, bWAR probably undersells our pitching potential a bit next season. Samardzija may have only had 1.6 bWAR last year, but he if he keeps striking out more than 1 per inning and keeping his walks under 3 per 9, he’s more likely to be a 4-win pitcher than 2.

        And you don’t have to “get rid of” anyone in the minors. You just have to use the players you have competently (i.e. don’t give Joe Mather a roster spot just because he has a hot three weeks in Arizona). There’s never a good reason to project sub-replacement performances if your front office is remotely competent.

        But essentially, yes. If the Cubs filled all their holes with competent players, they’d be a mid-80s win team.

        “The chance we sign average players at all of those positions? Around 0%.”

        We could balance that out by signing some above-average players, if we wanted. We have the money.

        “The chance we stay healthy the entire year (considering Dempster/Garza/Shark all missed time last year, as well as our starting 3B/C/CF, and our LF is Soriano)? Around 0%”

        Your analysis already discounted in Garza’s injury last year. Of course not everyone will stay healthy. But we had an unusually bad health year last season, so it’s not as if that’s a good baseline either.

        “The chance everyone stays the same level or improves? I don’t know, maybe 5%. I’ll build in the “get a guy at the deadline for injuries” card.”

        I didn’t want to pick your analysis apart player by player, but it includes a regression from Barney, Castillo and Samardzija (based on peripherals), and a slight one from Rizzo, based on playing time. That’s not exactly everyone improving.

        “The chance we that we get 20 wins back from luck and fielding replacement-level players? Around 0%.”

        That one’s actually pretty high. We might even get more if we have some good luck.

        “However, that’s not the point I think you should make (and you probably aren’t trying to make it). You’re totally right that the process can be safely accelerated (and indeed, probably only possible) if we bring that total closer to 86 wins this year so we can do the same thing next year. Even if we only sign half of those guys, we could get to like 74 wins. That sucks, but then the next year you only have to make up 12 games (and if you’re smart with contracts, you haven’t hurt yourself).”

        Or we could sign even better players than merely average and go for 90 wins!

        • Myles

          “There’s more upside than downside there. Castro and Rizzo are just as likely to break out as Soriano is to decline, and you already discounted Barney’s defense in the original calcualtion. As someone else noted, bWAR probably undersells our pitching potential a bit next season. Samardzija may have only had 1.6 bWAR last year, but he if he keeps striking out more than 1 per inning and keeping his walks under 3 per 9, he’s more likely to be a 4-win pitcher than 2.”

          Or Shark can be the guy he was for most of his career: not very good.

          Do you know what our pitching WAR was last year? -0.1. 5.3 of of the 10.2 positive WAR on the team has been traded away, also. We have an injured Scott Baker to show for it.

          “And you don’t have to “get rid of” anyone in the minors. You just have to use the players you have competently (i.e. don’t give Joe Mather a roster spot just because he has a hot three weeks in Arizona). There’s never a good reason to project sub-replacement performances if your front office is remotely competent.”

          So you’re saying our front office is not remotely competent? Because we fielded 16 wins of replacement level value according to you. Better register that domain name soon!

          “But essentially, yes. If the Cubs filled all their holes with competent players, they’d be a mid-80s win team.”
          If any team filled their holes with competent players, they’d be a mid-80s win team or better. This statement literally says nothing, except that our core players actually aren’t that good because most teams would be like 90-win teams or better if they filled all of their holes.

          “Your analysis already discounted in Garza’s injury last year. Of course not everyone will stay healthy. But we had an unusually bad health year last season, so it’s not as if that’s a good baseline either.”

          Garza is still a question mark. We replaced Paul Maholm with a post-TJS guy. We don’t even know who “average P” is, but if he’s Villanueva or McCarthy we can probably expect some rough issues health-wise. We got lucky with Soriano last year, history shows that won’t happen. You say we were health-unlucky last year, but we really weren’t by much and will be built to be susceptible to it again.

          “I didn’t want to pick your analysis apart player by player, but it includes a regression from Barney, Castillo and Samardzija (based on peripherals), and a slight one from Rizzo, based on playing time. That’s not exactly everyone improving.”

          Feel free to provide your own projections for each player, I was extremely rough in doing so.

          “That one’s actually pretty high. We might even get more if we have some good luck.”

          I would like to wager you that we won’t provide a sub-replacement level player at the major league baseball next year. In fact, I’ll spot you 5 WAR on it too. I’m pretty sure I’ll win because no team in history has ever not sported a sub-replacement level player.

          Of course, that’s not the whole story. Some players in the minors may well provide ABOVE replacement-level value:
          Tony Campana, 0.9
          Reed Johnson, 0.8
          Dave Sappelt, 0.6
          Bryan LaHair, 0.1
          Anthony Recker, 0.1
          Jaye Chapman, 0.1

          Weeeeeeee! That’s 2.6 whole wins!

          This also hurts your argument, because those 2.6 wins, in one way or another, actually detract from your 16 wins below replacement. It’s really like 13.4 wins below replacement. Good luck going from 16 wins to 0! (For reference, the Texas Rangers field a total of 7 WBR last year, least in the league by my count).

          “Or we could sign even better players than merely average and go for 90 wins!”
          Pray tell, who are these magic players again?

          • Kyle

            “So you’re saying our front office is not remotely competent? Because we fielded 16 wins of replacement level value according to you. Better register that domain name soon!”

            Let’s just say that’s a whole other argument. Jed Hoyer either did a shockingly incompetent job with the back half of the roster last season, or he was trying to make it as bad as possible.

            “I would like to wager you that we won’t provide a sub-replacement level player at the major league baseball next year. In fact, I’ll spot you 5 WAR on it too. I’m pretty sure I’ll win because no team in history has ever not sported a sub-replacement level player.”

            That’s absolutely true. But the aggregation of that playing time is still likely to be better than 0 WAR next season.

            “This also hurts your argument, because those 2.6 wins, in one way or another, actually detract from your 16 wins below replacement. ”

            Only if you project lower than 2.6 wins for that same playing time next season. Not sure why you’d do that.

            “Pray tell, who are these magic players again?”

            This is the attitude that befuddles me. Are we really so far gone as a fandom that the mere concept of above-average players seems magical?

            • DarthHater

              If Tolstoy and Dostoevsky got into an online argument about baseball, it would probably look something like this. ;-)

              • Myles

                I’ll take that as a compliment…?

                • DarthHater

                  Might as well. :-D

            • cRAaZYHORSE

              Jed and Theo did a Horrible job fielding a major league team that was responsible for a 100 Plus loss season. Those are the facts .

            • Myles

              “That’s absolutely true. But the aggregation of that playing time is still likely to be better than 0 WAR next season.”

              I find that extremely doubtful. Also, if you want to take that argument on, you basically are debiting those 2.6 wins of above-replacement level value, so you are going to only improve by 13.5 wins luck changes notwithstanding.

              “Only if you project lower than 2.6 wins for that same playing time next season. Not sure why you’d do that.”
              I get what you’re saying, but you’re trying to use those 2.6 wins two ways here. Either you get those 2.6 wins and you have to make up 16 wins in not providing sub-replacement level guys (which you’ve agreed is impossible to fully do), or you really only had 13.5 wins in sub-replacement level guys in the first place, which means that getting luck-neutral and washing out those guys only adds 17.5 wins to our total from last year and not 20.

              “This is the attitude that befuddles me. Are we really so far gone as a fandom that the mere concept of above-average players seems magical?”

              This is what similar befuddles me about your stance. We can only sign players that exist, regardless of what resources we have. Who is the 3 WAR 3B that I used? Who is the 3 WAR CF in my calculations?

              The top 3B in this market is Kevin Youkilis (hey, another aging injury concern!). He provided 1.1 WAR last year in half a season. Maybe he gets 3 WAR next year even though he’s 2 years removed from that and turning 34 with injuries two years in a row. Hope you like 3 years at 12 per for that!

              Speaking of injury concerns, the top CF on the market is Josh Hamilton. He provided 3.4 WAR last year, 3.5 the year before that. He’s getting older (age-32 season), he’s another injury (and other) concern. Hope you like 6 and 22 per there!

              Michael Bourn did provide 6.2 WAR last year. He might be a good target, but he’s a total speed guy about to be on the wrong side of 30. That’s 5 years and 15 million per. He also provided 0.9 WAR last year and 2.1 before that, because of injuries (notice a common theme?)

              BJ Upton hasn’t provided a 3 WAR in 5 years. Literally.

              The point is, we aren’t signing every top free agent in baseball, and EVEN IF WE DID, we wouldn’t be a winning team this year. I’m not saying we shouldn’t grab a guy here and there if they make sense long-term and even mid-term, to close that gap. It’s just not happening this year.

  • Kyle

    “I find that extremely doubtful.”

    That’s very odd. Why would you ever project any specific chunk of playing time as below-replacement, unless you really think the front office isn’t very good?

    “Also, if you want to take that argument on, you basically are debiting those 2.6 wins of above-replacement level value, so you are going to only improve by 13.5 wins luck changes notwithstanding.”

    One has nothing to do with the other. The Cubs’ 3b aren’t going to perform worse because their backup CF performs better.

    “I get what you’re saying, but you’re trying to use those 2.6 wins two ways here. Either you get those 2.6 wins and you have to make up 16 wins in not providing sub-replacement level guys (which you’ve agreed is impossible to fully do), or you really only had 13.5 wins in sub-replacement level guys in the first place, which means that getting luck-neutral and washing out those guys only adds 17.5 wins to our total from last year and not 20.”

    Different playing time. The Cubs will have to replace the sub-replacement playing time and the 2.6-win playing time this season. I don’t see what projection from one has to do with projection from the other.

    “This is what similar befuddles me about your stance. We can only sign players that exist, regardless of what resources we have. Who is the 3 WAR 3B that I used? Who is the 3 WAR CF in my calculations?”

    The 3-WAR 3b is going to be hecka hard to find. Our best bet might be Chisenhall, who performed at like a 2.4 pace last season.

    We could make that up by doing better than 2 wins from the SP spot, of which there are still several options available on the market. Or we might have to settle for 84-85 wins on paper going into the season.

    “Speaking of injury concerns, the top CF on the market is Josh Hamilton. He provided 3.4 WAR last year, 3.5 the year before that. He’s getting older (age-32 season), he’s another injury (and other) concern. Hope you like 6 and 22 per there!”

    Definitely do not like that.

    “BJ Upton hasn’t provided a 3 WAR in 5 years. Literally.”

    2.8 is close enough for government work, as my old computer science teacher used to say.

    “The point is, we aren’t signing every top free agent in baseball, and EVEN IF WE DID, we wouldn’t be a winning team this year.”

    We wouldn’t? 82 wins looks easily within the projections even using the discounts you are trying to apply. And the funny thing about baseball is that sometimes 82-win teams on paper become 90-win teams in reality.

  • Pingback: Lukewarm Stove: Guthrie, Fujikawa, “Young Players,” Bowden, Marmol, More | Bleacher Nation | Chicago Cubs News, Rumors, and Commentary()

Bleacher Nation Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Bleacher Nation is a private media site, and it is not affiliated in any way with Major League Baseball or the Chicago Cubs. Neither MLB nor the Chicago Cubs have endorsed, supported, directed, or participated in the creation of the content at this site, or in the creation of the site itself. It's just a media site that happens to cover the Chicago Cubs.

Bleacher Nation is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Google+