The story out of Kansas City is really troubling on so many levels. I wish other writers would resist the urge to use the tragedy as a spring-board to discuss their favorite pet issue – domestic violence, mental illness, concussion problems in the NFL – and take some time to just think about the victim, and the family. All of those things merit discussion in time. But this isn’t that time, and 10 minutes after the event certainly weren’t the time.

  • The Cubs haven’t yet confirmed the signing, and might not until he’s actually sitting at a press conference (or, perhaps when he takes the mound in April, after a full Spring Training (“Now entering the game for the Cubs … what’s this? A newly-signed righty out of Japan! Confirmed!”)), but last night reports indicated that the Cubs have come to terms with Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa on a two-year, $9.5 million deal, with an option for 2015 (which appears to be either a player option or a team option, depending on how many games Fujikawa finishes). Jon Heyman adds that Fujikawa also can receive up to $2 million per year in incentives, which, again, is almost certainly based on games finished (which is a proxy for “saves,” since teams are not allowed to based contract incentives on production stats like saves, or homers, or RBI – only things like appearances, games played, and awards).
  • The added incentive money makes sense. I was visiting my mom with the Little Girl yesterday when the Fujikawa news broke (and scrambling to leave so I wouldn’t destroy her bedtime), so I didn’t have too much time to digest the contract, itself, and ponder whether it was more or less than I thought it would be. Consider Fujikawa’s history of success and the state of the reliever market, I suppose I would have thought it was a pretty cheap deal – though the uncertainty of a player who hasn’t played in the States obviously factors into the cost. With those incentives added, it shifts a bit closer to the expected range. If Fujikawa becomes the full-time closer, his salary in 2013/2014 could be $6 million (plus he’d already have pocketed a $1 million signing bonus), which would put him in the range of, for example, the deal Jonathan Broxton just signed to close for the Reds. Once again, the likelihood that Carlos Marmol opens 2013 with the Cubs is slim.
  • Jed Hoyer on Junior Lake, who continues to rip up the Dominican Winter League: “Junior is an amazing athlete. He has the ability to move around. When you have a guy who can play short and third and left and center field, I think we’ll use all that athleticism. We don’t know exactly what his final home will be but it’s been nice to get reports from [long time scout and Dominican manager] Dave Jauss from the Dominican Republic talking about [Lake’s] performance and development. I hope he can springboard off a good winter ball and head into Spring Training with some confidence.” This is the second straight season that Lake has dominated a post-season league (last year it was the AFL). He remains an enigma: a physical talent with skills he can’t harness consistently, and enough defensive ability at a variety of positions to maybe be passable, but not enough (yet) to be great at any one spot.
  • John Sickels teases us with the contours of his Cubs’ prospect list, without yet revealing the list. In that post, and then updated in the comments, Sickels says the Cubs have (not yet final) one A prospect, two B+, one B, nine B-, sixteen C+, and thirteen C. For reference, Sickels’ grades generally work like this: Grade A prospect are future stars or superstars (if injury doesn’t derail them), and it’s an extremely rare ranking. Grade B prospects are very good prospects, some of whom will become future stars. Most will at least make the majors in some kind of useful role. Grace C prospects are good prospects, some of whom will become stars, but who are either too young or have too many question marks to receive a higher grade. That the Cubs have thirteen prospects at B- or better is blowing my mind.
  • As we go through the holiday season, thinking about family as much as fandom, this story on the Duncan family – that would be patriarch Dave Duncan, long-time Cardinals’ pitching coach – is worth a read. Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that, whatever our fandom, we’re all people.
  • wayner21

    Who is the A prospect? My guess is Baez. The other B+ prospects – Soler and Almora? Can’t wait to see some of these guys at Kane County this year

    • Brett

      Yeah, I think you’ve got that right – Sickels is higher on Baez than any of the other ranking services.

  • Nate

    Any word on when Lake will possibly, be major league ready?

    • Brett

      It really depends on when he gets a consistent, repeatable approach at the plate, and when he finds a positional home. It’s possible he could be up as a mid-season replacement this year. He’s been on the 40-man for over a year, so the Cubs are going to want to him to get rolling soon.

    • Rich

      I think that Lake is one those guys that as he matures and develops focus will blossom. I personally like him at 3rd and think depending on when he gets his approach right he could be on a fast track this year. Man the kid can play.

      • Nate

        So are we looking at him starting the year Double-A Tennesse then maybe at the all star break heading up to Iowa? Possibly with a cup of coffee in September? If so, then I can see him as the 2014 Opening Day 3B until Baez is 100% ready

  • Eric

    Brett he has 8 prospects B- or better. Maybe you were tired or he has been changing/editing it through the morning.
    One Grade B+. This is a borderline grade and may get bumped up to A-.
    Two Grade B
    Five Grade B-

    • Brett

      Scroll down into the comments:

      “Here is the grade breakdown. This isn’t final yet, may be some adjustments in the B-/C+ range.

      One Grade A
      Two Grade B+
      One Grade B
      Nine Grade B-
      16 Grade C+
      13 Grade C”

      • Kyle

        Let’s see We had 7 B’s last year and graduated Rizzo.

        Baez, Vogelbach, Szczur and Maples should maintain their B status, though I could see Szczur getting dinged to a C+.

        Almora, Viczaino and Soler were added and should be B’s. Wouldn’t be stunned to see Villanueva as a B either. I guess maybe Johnson could be a B as well?

        Lake probably moved up to a B. Vitters might have. Marco Hernandez definitely should have.

    • Jimmy james

      You have to look in the comments

  • Bill

    Good to read some positives about Lake, hope he keeps it up. Much more encouraged by what Jed said than what we were reading about him from the AA reports.

  • Frank

    While I Was questioning the Cubs in their current state entering any type of bidding war for a 32 year old closer with no big league track record, it’s hard not to like the contract.

    The question is, is it a sign that they plan on some attempt at competing in 2013, or is he basically a scratch off lotto card that they hope to redeem for the best prospect(s) possible this time next year?

    Theo’s plan seems to be the build as much as he can from within and low risk acquisitions and then supplement that with free agents when it starts to take shape. This is certainly the right way to go; it’s just too bad that the Cubs took so long to figure that out.

    • Brett

      I don’t think the move means too much with respect to the expectations for 2013. The Cubs saw a guy they believed could become an undervalued asset – which could mean he helps the Cubs win, or helps the Cubs in trade – and they pounced. Age and position become less important in that kind of a situation.

  • RoughRiider

    Proximity wasn’t really relevant.

    • Brett

      Yeah, yeah, yeah. But hey: Just because he signed in Chicago doesn’t mean proximity wasn’t a consideration. I want to live in Chicago, but I live in Columbus for a variety of reasons. Doesn’t mean, all other things equal, I wouldn’t prefer to be in Chicago.

  • Adventurecizin’ Justin

    My hunches don’t always work out, but I have a good feeling about Junior Lake. I hope Hoyer isn’t just trying to build up his trade value with those comments…rather I hope he views him as a potential contributor in ’13 or ’14.

    • AB

      Yea, I think moving him to RF so he can concentrate more on his bat where he can still use his arm is a great move.

  • Brian Peters

    I love the sentence about the likelihood of Marmol not being with the team alot!!!! If he doesn’t get the point that his train is boarding and picking up steam, he’s dumber than I thought. Pick a team, Carlos, any team. Then run to it. Quickly.

  • Clark Addison

    I wonder if Fukudome had any influence on this signing. Maybe Kosuke told Fuji that Chicago is a good place to play and live, and that the Cubs treated him well..

  • Mike Taylor (no relation)

    It seems like the natural thing to do would be to march Lake out there somewhere in 2014 if he continues to post numbers like the season he had in AA last year. I can live with a .279/.341/.432 line at any position he’d play, but the 0.33 BB/K% has to continue to increase (0.12 at Peoria, 0.22 in Tennessee both in 2011 and 0.33 in a full season at Tennessee in 2012).

    To Frank:
    And any team can compete when there’s good chemistry, some luck, and a couple players having a breakout year. Just look at the A’s last year. They acquired Yoenis Cèspedes (a big salary gamble considering their franchise), and made some trades, but ended up in the playoffs anyway.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      They acquired Yoenis Cèspedes (a big salary gamble considering their franchise), and made some trades, but ended up in the playoffs anyway.

      The A’s made the playoffs because of very solid starting pitching, much of which came from their farm system very recently. Due to McCarthy’s injury, they actually had three rookies start in the playoffs, which was a first. Team chemistry was just as relevant as team alchemy.

      Cespedes did play well (and that was a huge gamble for them). However, Cespedes was the difference between the A’s winning the ALW versus just being the WC, not the difference between making or missing post-season! (The bigger “hits” were losing McCarthy and Colon: but that was bad luck, not good.) At any rate, the A’s certainly were not a Cespedes away from being the Cubs.

      The main point is that the A’s 2012 success had less to do with last winter than people think. It also had a little less to do with luck than people think: yes, the A’s did sport a very lucky W-L record in 1-run games and they will not repeat next year, but a normal 0.500 record in 1-run games does not turn them into, say, the Cubs.

  • Nick Nesler

    Brett, I saw reports of Derosa being in the mix for Brenly’s position. Have you heard anything about this or have any thoughts? I saw him on the MLB network the other day and he was ok but that Jersey accent could get a little old.

  • bluekoolaidaholic

    Thanks for the link to the Duncan story Brett.
    My thoughts and prayers go out to them.

  • Spoda17

    I understand the trade chips, and I think it is a good strategy. I guess I am somewhat confused on the team we are going to field in 2013, at least in the first half. And I guess if I am a middle of the road [veteran] maybe I choose the Cubs on purpose knowing I am going to get flipped to a playoff team at the deadline.

    I guess being “competitive” and flipping a guy or two is part of the plan, I get that part, but that seems like a big gamble for us. If we lose and get a top five pick, or if we win some and can’t really flip these guys for anything worth it and then have a 10-15 top pick in 2014… uhg… is losing the draft pick worth it? or, even more confusing, is banking on a 1-5 five pick in 2014 an even bigger gamble… it’s only 11:00 am, but I think I need to start drinking already…

    I still feel [for 2013 anyway] that losing 90 games is really no different than losing 100 games…

  • MichiganGoat

    Has anyone checked is Kyuji Japanese for Scott?

    • justinjabs

      Goat wins today’s prize.

  • Fastball

    They don’t even let DeRosa talk on MLB.TVNetwork. I watched a show the other day and they included him once about every 5 minutes. He sat there looking stupid. When he did talk it was for about 10 seconds and he was done. I vote no on him. He doesn’t seem to be cut out for television.

  • Fastball

    I agree with Brett on the media jumping all over the KC tragedy and turning into something else. That really pisses me off. This was a tragic tragic thing. That poor little girl who is 3 years old has to live with this for the rest of her life. Obviously something went very wrong and just because you are in the media doesn’t give one the right to go off on a wild tangent like the KC writer did. Many people witnessed this tragedy unfold right in front of them. It’s terrible and for them how in the hell do they deal with what they witnessed. Something went terribly wrong and set off a chain of reactions that caused an escalation of emotions that couldn’t be stopped. I don’t know if NFL concussions had anything to do with it. But bringing that up was just stupid. I feel sorry for everyone and that two lives were lost.

  • Fastball

    For our sake I hope we have that many players rated that high. I am not sure I believe that we do. But the positive publicity is great. I guess these talent evaluation experts can have their opinions. It comes down to what the GM’s and Scouts think about players. The media experts opinions don’t mean much to me. They can spot the obvious and that’s great.

  • Fastball

    Based on the rating criteria that Brett described in his write up. Szcur is not a B. He is way over rated if were a calling him a B. He has no bat. Can’t hit near enough. I’m sorry I can’t buy that one. He is fast and can catch fly balls. He is Tony Campana in a different body.

    • Kyle

      I don’t think of Szczur as a B either, but I doubt he lost a grade level last year.

    • Drew7

      Yeah, those two are the same. Well, except Szczur has more pop, better plate-discipline, and plays better D.

      • Kyle

        I’m going to question the better D, and he’s got a worse hit tool at this point.

  • Fastball

    I for one do not want trade Soriano unless we are getting one hell of a return. That return better hit 30 dingers and 100 RBI’s. Soriano isn’t hurting us one bit. I cannot see sending him somewhere and give up that production for a return like we got when we sent Sosa to the Orioles. Mike Fontenot wasn’t it? Especially when we are going to pay most of his salary. I like him better on our team if we are doing that. Cubs can afford him so why kick him to the curb for something less than a grade A prospect. I keep him if we don’t get anything less. We don’t need anymore average players. We have a farm system full of those types.

  • North Side Irish

    Sickels’ full rankings are posted now…

    Definitely some surprises to me…Vogelbach at #4, Paniagua at #16, Loux at #20

    • Kyle

      Way too low on Panigua for my taste. I don’t mind him taking a strong stance on Vogelbach, though I wouldn’t put him that high.

      Hopefully Logan Watkins in the also-rans can put some perspective on the runaway train that has become his hype machine.

      • cheryl

        The ratings make me think better of how the cubs are doing. The rating of V recognizes his value. Others have questioned whether he has a place with the cubs because of his physical makeup. I’d like to wait and see how he develops next year but that may not be possible if Theo and Company want to go full throttle into acquiring a first-rate pitcher. If Tampa Bay can’t afford Price, as some articles have suggested, I wouldn’t be surprised if some on this list are used to make a pitch for him.

        • cheryl

          P.S.: Anyone know if V is working on his glove skills a lot? Overall he’s impressive but he’d be even more of a cinch to be in the majors at the end of 2014or in 2015 if he became a more well-rounded player.

          • Luke

            Vogelbach is said to take pride in his defense. He doesn’t see himself as just a hitter, but as a complete player. He is said to work extremely hard, not only on his conditioning, but on his footwork around the bag.

            There is no need to rush this guy, but I would not bet against him. Some guys hit so well they force teams to find a way to get them into the lineup, and Vogelbach has a chance (emphasis on chance) to turn into that kind of a guy.

            But there is no point in trying to figure out where he will play until he forces us to. He is still likely to be years away.

            • cheryl

              Thanks Luke. Good to know.

      • Stevie B

        I say if 1-2 of our top 20 end up being above average MLB talent, I’ll be very happy.

    • http://deleted cub2014

      be interesting to see if vogelbach starts working in the outfield this year.

      • Drew7

        How many 5’10”, 250lb OF’ers have you seen at any level?

        • http://deleted cub2014

          6’0 to 6’1 depending on different reports. baseball america scouted him out of
          hs with surprising speed. he stole 3 bases in hs all star tournament. had a 7.28 in the 60yd dash. there have been many short heavy outfielders. some skinny ones too who couldnt hit cutoff, couldnt judge a flyball played lousy defense but were all stars.

          so why wouldnt you see what he can do, you have nothing to loose. if he cant do
          it then you have a 1b/dh trade chip

    • Carew

      If everything works out for Vogelbach, I hope the national league adopts the DH :)

  • DocPeterWimsey

    “Gary Sheffield comps may prove quite valid.” When Sheffield was Baez’s age, he had a cup of coffee in MLB. Sheffield already had shown an excellent batting eye to go with his great contact skills.

    I know that 19 seems young, but if you want to be another Mozart and you are not composing by age 6, then it’s too late already!

    • Brett

      I cringe when I hear that comp. Pretty unfair to Baez.

  • http://deleted cub2014

    is sickels a cubs pundant?

  • Luke

    Glad to see a national writer who likes Amaya as much as I do. I was starting to feel lonely consistently ranking him on par or slightly over Torreyes.

  • Brian Peters

    Will the Cubs EVER confirm Fujiwaka’s signing?? A little gun shy here.

  • Brian Peters