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With the flurry of roster moves going down all at once last night, I wanted to take some time to digest before I offered my thoughts on the specific moves. Here are those thoughts …

  • I feel like I wasn’t as surprised by Bryan LaHair’s DFA as some other folks were. I suppose I just never saw him actually breaking 2013 with the Cubs, and departing this way, as opposed to a trade, was one of the most likely outcomes. LaHair’s story is a great one, and I’ll always remember his first two months in 2012 (who’s a better hitter: Matt Kemp or Bryan LaHair?). But he didn’t suddenly “get bad” in the second half because he wasn’t being played – he wasn’t being played because pitchers had adjusted, and he couldn’t adjust back. As was always the case with LaHair: there tends to be a reason that players don’t suddenly break through in the bigs at age 29.
  • As for why the Cubs DFA’d LaHair rather than keep him as a bench bat, I can only conclude that the Cubs are doing LaHair a solid. They’ve said they’re working to get him an opportunity in Japan. Because he would have been an adequate (cheap) bench bat in 2013 for the Cubs, or a handful of other teams, I believe the move is about getting LaHair PAAAAID while he’s still sort of in his prime. If the Cubs didn’t hook him up with an opportunity in Japan right now, he could languish on a big league bench for a couple more years, making the minimum, before being released when he was set to make some real money in arbitration. This way, he makes 10 times that amount in a few years in Japan, where he’ll probably rake. Go get yours, Bryan. Good luck to you, and thanks for the fun.
  • The Cubs, since they still control LaHair’s rights (remember, a DFA means only that the Cubs have 10 days to waive, release, or trade LaHair), they might even get some cash out of the deal. (And, as I type this, podcast-made Sahadev Sharma reports that he hears LaHair is going to the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, and the Cubs are getting almost $1 million in the deal.)
  • That the Cubs chose not to protect Nick Struck tells us something, but we probably won’t know exactly what. Does it tell us that the front office does not value Struck as a future big leaguer? Does it tell us that the front office does not believe Struck will be selected in the Rule 5 Draft? Does it tell us that the front office does not think Struck can last a season in the bigs right now? Does it tell us that the front office simply values everyone else currently on the 40-man more than Struck? Or is it some combination of those things? (It usually is.)
  • Sure, it’s curious that guys like Casey Coleman, Steve Clevenger, and Ian Stewart stuck on the roster yesterday while Struck goes unprotected. But Coleman could still prove a viable reliever in the bigs (and he does have “swing” ability, even if he hasn’t been great at it yet). And Clevenger could just be a later developing bat, as is the case with many catchers. And, given the dearth on the third base market, Stewart may yet prove the Cubs’ best third base option for 2013.
  • On that latter one, I’d like to pause for another point: *clearly* the Cubs are considering tendering Stewart a contract at this point. I never would have believed it two months ago, but why else would the Cubs keep him on the roster at this point unless they are seriously considering the possibility of tendering him a contract (which could net him $2.5 million for 2013), rather than DFA’ing him and trying to sign him for a lesser deal? That tells me they tentatively like the early returns from his rehab, and believe he has a chance at being a valuable asset at that $2.5 million price tag. I’m not necessarily optimistic, but I’ll say this: Stewart is a good defensive third baseman with huge power potential and talent at the dish that may have simply been obscured for several years by a latent wrist injury that was only just fixed this year. May have been. Is it worth $2.5 million and a roster spot to find out? Maybe it is.
  • That the Cubs chose to protect Rob Whitenack is a really nice sign for his recovery from Tommy John surgery in mid-2011. His numbers in 2012 weren’t great (which is frequently the case in a pitcher’s first year back from the surgery (Scott Baker and Arodys Vizcaino warning)), but obviously he must have looked good. Good enough, that is, that the Cubs felt another team might take a chance on stashing him, AND good enough that the Cubs felt like it was worth keeping him on the 40-man at a time when he probably won’t be ready to contribute at the big league level for another year. It was just a brief flash (11 starts and 60.2 innings), but if he’s really the guy he was in early 2011, he could really be something special. I remember that year scouts were saying his elevated game was the legit product of a few MPH added to his fastball, and a sharper breaking ball – sometimes players do develop like that from one year to the next. Let’s hope the TJS didn’t take all of that away.
  • Christian Villanueva being protected may have been the closest call, since he hasn’t yet played above High-A. But the Cubs think highly of him, and clearly believe he’ll be ready to contribute in the bigs by 2014. He could even be starting at third base that year for the Cubs, depending on how his 2013 season goes, which will start at AA.
  • Logan Watkins and Trey McNutt were obvious protects, as I’d said all week. McNutt would have been very easy for a team to stash in the bullpen, and Watkins’ upside is, at worst, a nice, versatile bench player. Each could contribute in 2013, if things break right.
  • Carlos Gutierrez was waived just a month after the Cubs picked him up off of waivers from the Twins. I still like him as a possible future bullpen contributor, and, if you’re going to waive him to clear up a 40-man spot, this week was the time to do it (as other teams scramble to try and open up spots of their own).
  • Remember: yesterday’s deadline was *only* about clearing enough room for, and then adding, prospects in advance of the Rule 5 Draft. With the 40-man now at 40, the Cubs will have to make additional moves if they want to sign a free agent or take a player in the Rule 5 Draft. In other words, expect some additional movement, and don’t assume that, just because a guy is still on the 40-man today, he’ll be on there tomorrow.
  • Here’s the official press release on the moves, if you’d like to see each move in the kindest possible light.
  • Stinky Pete

    Any word on who might be available from other teams in Rule V?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Will definitely write something up when it’s closer.

  • GDB

    Any more thoughts on the Loux/Brigham swap – I’m a bit confused by it. Some reports seem to suggest the Rangers made the offer to “sort-out” the Soto/Brigham trade once Brigham picked up an injury. Did the Rangers offer the Cubs a do-over for Brigham getting injured? (which would seem surprisingly generous) Is the implication that Brigham was injured before being traded the first time?

    Otherwise I don’t understand why we didn’t just choose Loux in the first place…

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      More on that in about an hour.

    • Mike

      Nothing to add on the process, but Jim Callis places Loux’s ceiling as a back of the rotation starter, more likely to head to the pen.

    • Blublud

      A few years ago, the Portland trail Blazers traded Martell Webster to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Webster had injuries from playing in Portland that the trail Blazers didn’t report when he was traded. Minnesota filed a complaint with the league and I think they are also sueing the Blazers.

      This could be a similar situation. It would also explain why they rangers added a PTBNL. Cubs may have found out the injuries existed before the trade, went unreported and came back to the Ranger with a treat to file a complaint. The Rangers then agreed to swap the players and add a PTBNL to keep the Cubs from filing the complaint.

      I don’t know that this happened, but I would not be surprised if it was something close to it.

  • ari gold

    In regards to Ian Stewart, $2.5M really isn’t a lot when considering our payroll for next year. The Cubs can easily afford it and it’s similar to the other lottery tickets in the organization. If he starts hitting maybe we can flip him at the trade deadline or we have a legit 3rd baseman going forward. Might as well see how much that wrist injury impacted him.

  • Blublud

    *Threat

  • Spriggs

    I hope Struck doesn’t get selected in the Rule 5. He had a nice year. The walks (12 in 12 innings) and homers (3) he gave up in the Arizona Fall League couldn’t have helped his cause though. He showed little command was hit pretty hard. Despite it being such a small sample, I bet they we paying real close attention.

  • cubsin

    My Nick Struck theory: Every franchise has a few fringy potential fifth starter types around. The Cubs have at least eight (Rusin, Raley, Putnam, Guitierrez, Carreno, Loux, Coleman, Struck). Most Rule 5 picks have more upside than that, even if they are much farther away from realizing it. The Cubs may lose Peralta, Burke or Hatley in the Rule 5 draft, but I’d be very surprised if they lost Struck.

  • MichCubFan

    So when Theo said that he likes to have players play a full year in triple-A, do you think he was talking about all players or just Rizzo, Vitters, and Jackson?

    I hear a lot of people talk about Villanueva coming up in 2014…which would then have to mean that he would get moved up to triple-A sometime this year.

    I have also heard people talk about bringing up Junior Lake, Logan Watkins, and Matt Szczur before their full season in triple-A would take place.

    Thoughts?

    • cRAaZYHORSE

      When Theo speaks the sheep will…… just listen. Theo is laying down the foundation that all prospects will not be rushed into major league service without a full year at triple A ball. Every rule might have an exception but cant argue the call. It is fundamentally sound.

  • #1lahairfan

    Hey Brett,
    If the Cubs added a rule 5 prospect like say Marcus Hately to the 40-man would he count to the rule 5 draft?
    2.Would the Cubs do that if it was possible?

  • ssckelley

    I still do not understand the timing of resigning Shawn Camp. IMO there is more long term value in protecting Struck versus a 36 year old bullpen pitcher. Could this not have waited until Rule V draft is over?

    • TonyP

      The FO doesn’t value Struck as worthy of a roster slot. They might think he is less likely to get taken in the rule 5 draft vs putting him on the 40 man and then haven’t to take him off later, where he would defiantly get taken on waivers.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yeah, I don’t really understand it either, though there must have been a reason (the Cubs aren’t just stupid). The only thing I can come up with is that he and his agent were in contact with other teams, had offers, and pressed the Cubs to make a decision by that day. The Cubs presumably had already decided the four players they wanted to protect, and determined that re-signing Camp wouldn’t impact those decisions.

      But, yeah, I thought it was odd timing as soon as it was announced.

      • Kyle

        The long and short of it is that the Cubs don’t see any value in protecting Nick Struck.

        • CubFan Paul

          That gives me hope that they plan on acquiring better depth (better than struck) for rotation spots 5-10.

  • The Show

    I don’t understand how a Chisenhall deal hasn’t been made yet? It seems like the Indians aren’t asking for much in return, seems like a no-brainier.

  • Lou

    I wonder, if healthy, will the Cubs target Rays pitcher Jeff Niemann maybe in a Marmol trade, and develop him into a trade chip.

  • hardtop

    “Stewart is a good defensive third baseman with huge power potential and talent at the dish that may have simply been obscured for several years by a latent wrist injury that was only just fixed this year. May have been.”

    Brett, I know your offering this as a possibility rather than your opinion, but I still need to respond as follows:

    OH MY FU@$ING GOD!
    this is the same stuff we head last year from the Stewart apologists! the exact same excuses! how many years does this guy get to prove that he sucks?

    There is exactly zero chance this guy is anything other than he appears to be. Unless you are Ian’s Mom, you see him as he is: A mediocre to poor player with a half full tool box whose one good season was clearly an anomaly.

    If they give him a contract I will shit! I’d rather play with 8.

    Suck it up Theo! you f’d up, dont make it worse by being stubborn about it. Cut your losses and take it like a man.

    • Kyle

      *like*

    • DarthHater

      Thank you for making me laugh today. :-)

    • Spencer

      I feel bad for Ian’s mom if she’s reading this.

    • cheryl

      Thanks Hardtop. Someone needed to say that, Theo IMO doesn’t admit mistakes. He seems to favor connections to his past. I can understand it in some ways because he’s familiar with what’s gone before but he needs to put the Boston connections behind him.

      • Boogens

        “He seems to favor connections to his past.” and “…he needs to put the Boston connections behind him.”

        Hey Cheryl, I usually agree with your opinions but I just don’t see the connection you’re making between possibly admitting Ian Stewart is a mistake and putting his Boston connection behind him. Both may be true but how are they connected?

    • CubFan Paul

      It’s not the same stuff we heard about Stewart from last year.

      Stewart is a good defensive third baseman…a latent wrist injury that was only just fixed this year.

      I know hardtop is from Colorado but the Stewart haters ignore the excellent reports from his wrist surgery. He had good years when healthy, got injured, didn’t get it fixed, sat on it for 2yrs and finally got it fixed at one of the best hospitals in the world.

      If Theo&Co don’t tender him a contract someone definitely will. As a cost controlled flippable asset he’s worth the gamble knowing that at least one of Vitters & Lake will be ready late July.

      • Kyle

        Wrist injuries don’t magically go away.

        People are assuming “wrist surgery went well” means “his wrist is exactly like it was four years ago and everything is hunky dory.” It doesn’t work that way.

        He wasn’t *that* good when healthy, and he started to fall apart as a hitter before his wrist injury.

        • CubFan Paul

          I’m not a witch nor did i mention magic. Its called 2012 aka science.

          Stewart’s wrist surgery went more than “well”, it was a success. surgery techniques, procedures, healing times, & rehab/recovery gets better every year exponentially thanks to technology

          and bullshit to Stewart not being *that* good when healthy. his stat sheet doesn’t doesn’t lie or exaggerate. If falling apart as a hitter means having a 10.2% BB & .187 ISO then i’ll take it in another Theo&Co transition year, especially if it’s cost controlled so that it can be traded in July ’12

          • hansman1982

            Yes, I sincerely doubt Valbuena would be a marked improvement (actually, he was be all of .6 wRAA (.6 of a run more over an average player looking at total offensive production) better than Stewart last year (granted in 100 more PA and wRAA is a “counting” stat”)) over Stewart in 2013. I also sincerely doubt that Valbuena and Stewart are blocking the Cubs plans at 3B.

            Stewart is similar to pre-2012 LaHair – he could be that 1 in 10 guy (LaHair would have been a 1 in 100 guy) that finally gets healthy and puts it all together ala Vitters.

            The lack of a better option probably puts Stewart as our opening day starter and I wouldn’t be shocked if Valbuena started at 2B.

  • http://Bleachernation.com Frank

    Thanks hardtop,I couldn’t have said it better myself. What has Stewart done to earn a starting job,let alone 2.5 mil. If he wants a job,sign him to a minor league deal and let him earn it!
    I also thought the signing of camp and Navarro were oddly timed.

  • Bill

    Seriously, Stewart is not good. Please, turn the page, Theo. I’d rather Valbuena be the starting 3B than watching another season of Ian Stewart. Take his money and use it on pitching.

  • Joel

    Any big moves on the horizon?

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