The Cubs’ “Best Decisions” And Other Bullets

theo epstein thinkingI hope everyone had a lovely day yesterday. I’m digging out from wrapping paper, poor dietary choices, and, now, snow. It might take me a few hours to get back in the swing of things …

  • The Chicago Tribune looks at the “best decisions” in 2012 in Chicago sports, and the Cubs’ inclusion is pretty reflective of the year they had: “Kerry Wood made the right call when he retired in May, and went out with a memorable strikeout and a hug from his son while walking off the mound. It was obvious Wood no longer could do the job he was being paid for – setup man for Carlos Marmol – yet his stature in the organization meant releasing him was not an option the Cubs would consider seriously.” That’s probably fair, all things considered, but it got me wondering about the “good decisions” the Cubs made, if we were trying to focus on actual good, productive decisions. Signing Paul Maholm (and subsequently swapping him in a deal that netted Arodys Vizcaino)? Giving Carlos Marmol an early season breather? Working hard on Alfonso Soriano’s outfield defense? Signing Jorge Soler? Dale Sveum’s defensive shifts? The Starlin Castro extension? Any others you think worth pointing out?
  • A profile on Cubs pitching prospect Eric Jokisch, who had one of the most productive years in the Cubs’ system in his time split between High-A and AA. The 23-year-old lefty will probably see some time at AAA next year if the Cubs think he’s ready (and if there’s a spot in the rotation, which, I know, sounds crazy when you’re talking about an organization with “no quality pitching” at the upper levels, but you’re already looking at potentially Alberto Cabrera, Chris Rusin, Nick Struck, Brooks Raley, and Barrett Loux in the Iowa rotation, among many other possibilities).
  • Dallas Mavericks owner – and vogue hoped-for-Cubs-owner back in 2008/2009 – Mark Cuban did an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) on Reddit and was asked about his pursuit of the Chicago Cubs. How close did he actually get to owning the team? Not very: “Not close at all. When I couldn’t get the owner of the Cubs to sit in a room with me that pretty much told me it wasnt going to happen. I never made a final formal bid.” As I am perfectly fine with how things worked out, I say only that it’s an interesting postscript. Bummer for him, though.
  • The MLBullets at BCB look at a variety of things, including a bit on payroll in 2012: “We’ve already seen the final payrolls for 2012, but MLBTR breaks it down by division to see where the most money is being spent. As you may have expected, the AL East leads the pack at almost $130 million per team. The NL East came in second at $111.5 million, but the AL West was close behind at almost $110 million – a figure that could jump next year, depending on whether the Rangers reverse course on their failed bids. The NL West was next, at $98 million, but that will definitely jump next year with the Dodgers eager to sign everyone. The AL Central was second to last at $96 million, and the NL Central rounded things up at just $89 million. The Cubs will start to bring that number up in future years, but the figure underscores the opportunity laying ahead of the Cubs if and when they start to spend big.”
  • Over at the Message Board, folks are starting to discuss a BN get together next year to see the Iowa Cubs. If you want to some input on the date for that game, get over there and offer some thoughts.
  • The CSN Hot Stove crew – featuring Gordon Wittenmyer – discuss the additions of Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva, and what it means for the depth of the 2013 Cubs rotation:

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

97 responses to “The Cubs’ “Best Decisions” And Other Bullets”

  1. hansman1982

    Cashner for Rizzo
    Marshall for Wood, Sappelt and Torreyes

  2. King Jeff

    I agree with Hansman, Cashner for Rizzo is easily the best move. The Sean Marshall trade was from 2011, so it doesn’t qualify, right? Besides, I think the jury is still out on that deal.

  3. Twinkletoez

    I loved Cashner for Rizzo, but my vote has to go to Paul Maholm for Arodys Vizcaino. Took a mid tier FA pitcher that anyone could have had and turned it into a legit top pitching prospect.

  4. Featherstone

    Cashner for Rizzo was the best deal. I think the Marshall trade was good. Think about where we’d be right now if we didn’t trade him. He’d either walk for nothing or we would have to sign him for top reliever dollars. Having Travis Wood for a few more years seems much more productive for us right now.

    1. RoughRiider

      I don’t believe the trade of Marshall does qualify. As King Jeff wrote “I think the jury is still out on that deal.” I agree with him. Marshall is a quality, hard to find left handed reliever who has the potential to be a starter. None of the guys the Cubs got for him have proven anything yet. Marshall would not have walked for “nothing”. Had the cubs not resigned him, which I believe they could have and should have, he would at least have brought a draft pick.

      1. Norm

        Marshall’s production is done with though. He gave you 61 innings of great relief pitching.
        Cubs still have at least 4 more years of Travis Wood, and up to 6 major league seasons of both Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes.
        You really think the 61 innings is better for the Cubs than all the service they’ll get out of Wood/Sappelt/Torreyes?

        1. RoughRiider

          As I said, I believe the Cubs would have and could have resigned him. Probably at a discounted rate. He wanted to be a Cub. So his production was not done unless they didn’t or couldn’t have resigned him. Worst case scenerio was a very high draft pick. During the 2011 Spring training (yes, I know Spring Training) he was the best starter on the team. He was used as a reliever because that was were the Cubs needed him most. Or so they thought. Again, neither of the players acquired in the trade have proven that they will be anywhere near quality major league players. That doesn’t mean they won’t. I hope they all become what we all hope, that they become quality contributers to the effort. I’m just saying the jury is still out on that trade and saying it was a good trade is questionable. Trading quality for quantity is not always the best course of action.

          1. Noah

            Are you saying the Cubs would have made Sean Marshall a qualifying offer? I sincerely doubt that.

            And you can’t judge Marshall’s value based on what he did after signing an extension. At the time of the signing, the Reds got 1 year of Marshall for 5 years of Wood, and 6 + years of Sappelt and Torreyes. Whatever they did in regards to an extension is outside of the value of the trade.

      2. Featherstone

        Tell me how you get a draft pick out of Marshall? You mean to offer him a qualifying offering at 13mil for 1 season? He would snap that up in a heartbeat as he signed for 16.5mil for 3 years with the Reds. No, we turned 1 year of Marshall who was an elite left-hander reliever for 4+ years of Wood (a cost-controlled lefty back end starter) + prospects. If you cant see how 4 more years of Travis Wood alone is better than 1 year of Marshall you clearly can’t see the bigger picture,

        1. cRAaZYHORSE

          At the time, I think fans did not realize that Cubs were going into full rebuild mode and your assessment is correct . When the Cubs traded Marshall was when the Cubs decided to raise the White flag for many years to come.

          1. blublud

            Are you serious. Unless we were coming into last year as one of the top 5 teams in baseball, I still make the Marshall trade. In fact, I would probably take that trade even if we were one of the top 5 teams in baseball. What the Cubs got last year from Wood and Sappelt sparingly, makes me believe we already made the trade even. and we still have 5 yrs of Wood, 6 years of Sappelt and 6+ years of Torreyes left, at a cheap rate none the less. That was a great trade by any stretch. One, that if I was the GM of the Reds, I would never have made.

            1. blublud

              ^meant in response to roughRider^

              1. RoughRiider

                I’m putting this one to bed. The trade does not qualify. It was made in 2011 not a 2012 move.

                1. Featherstone

                  So, your outlandish statements get thoroughly disproven and you decided the trade you were deriding suddenly no longer qualifies under your criteria? Sounds like you are upset that your poorly constructed argument was sunk so you are taking your ball and going home.

                  1. RoughRiider

                    Which of my statements were outlandish ? Never mind don’t answer that.
                    All I’ve really said was that the trade of Marshall is too early to count as a good trade. I’d be glad to say the supporters of the trade were correct if I had evidence to support it. That evidence isn’t there yet. Underline yet. I’m hoping Wood turns out to be a real find. I liked what Marshall brought to the team and I hated to see him go. The criteria isn’t mine it was the article in the Tribune. “best decisions” in 2012.” I was trying to add a little levity to the conversation not add fuel to the fire.

                  2. Edwin

                    I don’t think RoughRiider’s statements are so outlandish. He’s probably wrong about the Cubs getting a draft pick, but he makes a good point that trading quality for quantitiy isn’t always the best course of action.

                    It’s nice that the Cubs got a young cost controlled player in Wood, but if Wood doesn’t stick in the roation, and there’s a good chance that he doesn’t, then it will not have been a good trade.

                    1. Featherstone

                      Perhaps I was a bit strong on the hyperbole with the term outlandish, but to insist that some sort of draft pick compensation was available in the situation is asinine.

                      I completely agree that trading quality for quantity isn’t always a good idea, but 1 year of Marshall is really all that was at stake. Yes we could have resigned him, perhaps even at a small discount, but to think we would have gotten way below market value for his services is foolish to imply.

                      Marshall is an elite reliever and got paid like one as he deserves. Unfortunately an elite reliever isn’t terribly high on our needs right now in this stage of the rebuilding process, but a cost-controlled back of the rotation starter certainly was.. The prospects also helped build our farm system and Sappelt may even become a servicable major league outfielder.

                    2. baldtaxguy

                      American Heritage Dictionary:
                      out·land·ish (out-lăn’dĭsh)
                      adj.
                      1.Conspicuously unconventional; bizarre. See synonyms at strange.
                      2.Strikingly unfamiliar.
                      3.Located far from civilized areas.
                      4.Archaic. Of foreign origin; not native.

                      I believe RoughRiider’s statements don’t meet any of these definitions of “outlandish,” unless of course he is communciating from an uncivilized area, such as
                      Green Bay.

  5. ibcnu2222 (John)

    Not trading Garza (I think we should extend him.)
    Signing 4 new starting pitchers so we do not have to rely on Volstad, Raley, Rusin, Coleman, etc.
    Trading Soto.
    We are on the right track. We all have waited a long time; a year or two more waiting is fine with me.

    1. baldtaxguy

      “Soto?”

      1. baldtaxguy

        I guess the deal has netted Loux to date, let’s see if there is anything there. But I see your point, addition by subtraction (of Soto).

  6. blublud

    Getting Rizzo for Cashner was clearly the best move. The Marshall trade was very impressive. Sappelt and Wood perfermance so far has made that trade a wash and everything we get from those 2 going foward will give us a nod on that trade. We win that trade, even if we get nothing from Torreyes at all at the Major League Level.

    Maholm’s signing and trade for Vizcaino would rank behind those 2 because we haven’t gotten anything at the ML level from Vicaino yet, where the other 2 trades have at least shown some payback, but it has the potential to exceed the other 2 by a long shot if Vizcaino reaches his potential

  7. 0708champs

    definitely stewart for colvin and lemahieu

    1. RoughRiider

      You’re kidding right? Even Theo and Hoyer would like a do over on that one.

      1. 0708champs

        yeah

    2. baldtaxguy

      So if Stewey plays baseball well in 2013 and hits 30 over the fences and OPS’ over .800, this trade will not count for 2013 best “decisions”, since it happened in 2012? Or the resigning of Stewey in 2013 is the “decision” and that would be a 2013 qualifier? If so, the 2012 trade for Stew will always be deemed to be a poor decision….?

      1. james

        It’s a poor decision with Ian Stewart because he was coming of wrist surgery. The Cubs didn’t have much of a choice bringing him back. What was really out there for thirdbasemen. Now with Ian Stewart having three wrist surgeries I really don’t see him doing much this year at all. Ian Stewart is just filling space until we trade for a third basemen or one of the minor leaguers looks ready.

      2. cRAaZYHORSE

        IF IF IF and IF for the 2013season, Ian Stewart has had one good season and That was when he was with Colorado.. And in that season he hit 25 Hr , not really a remarkable accomplishment . Since then he has slugged 15 hr 0 HR and last years mighty grand total of staggering 5Hr. (on the bright side it was a 500 percent improvement from the previous year.

  8. EQ76

    my vote – when we brought back Koyie Hill for a few weeks.

    1. blublud

      I was thinking the Bringing in Volstad. But that’s probably a close second.

  9. Carne Harris

    So many good decisions, hard to pick. The Rizzo trade for sure. Also offering arbitration to Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena to get compensation picks. (Seems like a no brainer now but back then there was a pretty healthy debate about whether it was wise to offer it to Pena.) The coaching staff they assembled. Signing Soler. Landing Vizcaino. Having a great draft.

    1. Carne Harris

      Really like what they’re doing this offseason stockpiling pitchers too. That’s gonna turn out to be genius.

  10. Chris84

    Cashner for Rizzo. No argument.

    1. RoughRiider

      No question it looks like the best trade they’ve made to this point. It remains to be seen how Rizzo will do in a full season in the majors and how he will adjust to the way pitchers throw to him next season. He looks like a star in the making at this point.

      1. blublud

        Maybe not a star. First base is loaded in the ML. But consistent production and a couple time All-Star is more what I expect out of him. If Soler, Baez, and Castro all reach the ceilings and Rizzo also reaches his and we keep them all, then he would still only be the 4th best position player on the team in 5 years. Rizzo as your 4th best position player however, is a great problem to have.

        1. RoughRiider

          Sort of like Banks, Williams, Santo & Jenkins.

          1. RoughRiider

            Not suggesting anything there.

          2. arta

            throw in a kid like Almora, maybe Watkins, sign 2 good FA pitchers and we may have something.

  11. mudge

    Putting a better coaching philosophy in place throughout the system.

  12. mudge

    Getting rid of Zambrano.

  13. Rob

    Resigning Wood in the first place was a boneheaded move by Theo. I knew it at the time it happened. I hope there will be an offsetting list of poor choices, which for me would include the Zambrano trade (Carlos had to be dealt, but Volstadt was a bust of epic proportions), bringing Joe Mather aboard (who gave us nothing) and letting the first Dempster trade, the scuttled Marmol trade, and the phantom signing of Sanchez get leaked to the media. The Cubs need to play these things closer to the vest in order to make these deals happen.

    1. mudge

      Those trades still wouldn’t have happened, had they not been leaked to the media. Re-signing Wood was a mistake based on the old “Cubbie sentimentality,” I read that Epstein didn’t want to do it from a baseball standpoint. May it be the last such decision.

      1. Leo L

        Im not sure signign wood was so bad. obvoiusly they were not going to win this last year with or without him. how much money did the cubs lose and how badly did it affect the cubs future? It gave them good PR. people will remember wood fondly esp the way he retired. he will make a good represantative for the cubs and further provide PR. at the end, i think if you ask Epstein, he would say he didnt want to resign wood but glad he did.

    2. EvenBetterNewsV2.0

      Rob, do you really think the Cubs leaked this stuff? He got Wood on a very cheap deal. For what we got him for, I don’t know how it was a miss of epic proportions. If we give out $100 million or even anything close to it, then we can talk about bust. But, when we pay for less than league average for a reliever, not sure how it is a bust of epic proportions. As for the Zambrano deal, if we don’t get Volstad, we just release him and they pick him up. We pay the full contract. Atleast with Volstad, we got a lottery ticket for free (Marlins covered the difference in his salary to Zambrano). It didn’t work out, but it cost us nothing.

    3. David

      The Delgado trade was leaked by the Braves. The Marmol trade didn’t happen because the Cubs backed out, not because it was leaked. The Sanchez “signing” was leaked by Sanchez’s agent as a negotiating ploy.

      The fact that we were after Sanchez for weeks and not a word was heard about it should tell you plenty about how good this front office is at keeping things quiet.

      1. EvenBetterNewsV2.0

        Couldn’t agree more.

      2. DocPeterWimsey

        People also have to get over the “it shouldn’t be reported until it has happened” idea. For good or ill, blogging has changed news from what happened to what is happening. This leads to opportunities (e.g., Sanchez’s agent being able to tell the Tigers “we have an offer for you to beat!”) and mistakes (e.g., someone in the Braves organization telling people that Dempster was coming before Ryan himself had officially OK’ed the deal). And the more individuals involved (as in the Marmol showed), the more probable it is that something will be “leaked.”

        That said, there is zero reason to think that “leaks” are going to affect the outcomes greatly. Dempster’s case might have been an exception – maybe he did get irked to be told that he’d done something that he had not – but it will be an exception, not the rule.

  14. Teddy Ballgame

    Cashner for Rizzo could go down as one of the most lopsided trades (in our favor) in Cubs history, if things continue the way this year went for the two players. End of story, let’s be serious. In my opinion, we need to look at the bigger picture. Every year, there’s gonna be good AND bad moves made. The way our farm system has really turned around, for the better (in a big way), is the most important storyline to me. From a year ago, it’s night and day. You can actually see the direction of the organization, even at the big league level. I still think we’re closer than people think and when we do turn into the continual contender, we’ll all be understanding the “game plan” that the front office has had since Day 1!!!

    1. daveyrosello

      Um, no. You’ve got a LONG way to go before you can call the Rizzo trade “most lopsided in Cubs history.” Just a few starters from recent years would include Sandberg for DeJesus (gotta be #1); Lee for Choi; and Ramirez and Lofton for three busted prospects and Jose Hernandez.

      1. gocatsgo2003

        So you missed the part where he said “could go down as one of the most lopsided trades (in our favor) in Cubs history”?

  15. ruby2626

    Wish I was as sold on the Marshall trade as some of the callers on this show. Wood right now seems destined for long relief and he really hasn’t shown anything close to consistency for me to believe he’ll be even an average major league player. Just saw a headline that Sappelt is tearing it up in the Winter leagues, he certainly played well in Sept but why was he so incredibly average at AAA for most of the season. His righty/lefty splits have always been extremely one sided so he seems to be a perfect plattoon player for DeJesus or that new guy whose name I can’t spell. Funny that it took so long for the Cubs to realize DeJesus is a .150 hitter against lefties, not the first year he’s had huge differences in his splits.

    As for the 3rd guy Torreys. I don’t care that he is very young, he is still 5’7″ with limited power, speed and range. He has utility player max and even that is unlikely. I guess to sum it up not a horrible trade but certainly not a great one either.

    BTW Dempster screwing up the Atlanta trade may end up being the best thing that could have happened. Vizcaino’s upside seems far superior to Delgado’s, time will tell.

    1. RoughRiider

      “Sappelt is tearing it up in the Winter leagues.”
      If I remember correctly so did Hector Villanueva.

      1. Spriggs

        ,,,and Ronny Cedeno.

    2. gocatsgo2003

      1) Technically, Marshall had a 1.7 WAR last year while Wood was at 0.6 and Sappelt was also at 0.6. If that’s the metric you like, we therefore sacrificed about 0.5 WAR on a reliever/closer that was a luxury on a struggling team in exchange for multiple years of control over multiple players. I would take that as a Cubs fan pretty much every day.

      2) Though Torreyes doesn’t have and probably will never develop significant power, he seems to have decent enough speed and range — 13 steals in 17 tries last year and his RF was about 4.10. Those are obviously not outstanding numbers, but surely doesn’t show the limited speed and range you’re describing above. I’m also pretty sure he is/was relatively highly-regarded with the glove per reports after the trade was announced.

      1. RoughRiider

        I’m not really up on “WAR”. Question though. If you had a 25 man baseball team would you be better of to have 25 players with a “WAR’ of 1.7 or fifty players with a “WAR” of 0.6 or 0.5 ?

        1. gocatsgo2003

          If I had only a 25-man roster and one year to worry about, then I take 25 1.7 WAR guys all day long. But the front office has a full complement of minor league teams and a much longer horizon to think about, which is what I think that having more years of control over more players is more valuable than a single player in a luxury position.

  16. Teddy Ballgame

    Couldn’t have said it better myself “David”!!

  17. cRAaZYHORSE

    I guess writing about the CUbs mistakes in 2012would take too long . Rizzo was the best move the Cubs did last year.

  18. Fastball

    I suppose the best trade was getting rid of our PED using no hitting Center Fielder in a trade to the Red Sox was a smart move. He lasted all of a few weeks with them before getting himself suspended. If Theo had a crystal ball he used it on that one.

    1. cRAaZYHORSE

      Please do not confuse trading veterans and eating the contract as a smart move. Its just a move. The Cubs basically gave the redsox all the money owed to Byrd. and in return The Cubs got two players with little or no upside.

  19. Fastball

    Maybe not getting Delgado was a blessing in disguise. He is stinking up the Winter League. I listened to a guy talk about him on MLB radio and he said he might be washed up based on what he as seen of him this winter. Possibly a great no trade.

  20. Fastball

    would you have rather had the piece of Byrd crap on our roster all year. Theo was smart to dump his worthless ass. I was sick of him before Theo got here. So it was a good move IMO and I wasn’t asking for confirmation.

  21. md8232

    Does anyone ever get a good pitcher when trading with the Braves?

    1. RoughRiider

      Yeah.
      The Braves.

    2. Norm

      Cardinals (Wainwright)
      Rangers (N. Feliz, Matt Harrison)

    3. David

      Jason Schmidt

  22. bbrave307

    I think the decision to use Samardzija as a starter was a real good one.

  23. MightyBear

    People may not see it now but the best decision the Cubs made in 2012 was signing Scott Baker.

  24. patrickmcbarnes

    Best decision was not signing dan haren!!

    1. FFP

      The best moves are often the ones we don’t take. Many of those are hard to recognize, much less quantify.

      1. Marc N.

        I thought Garza was one of those non-moves we will grow to love. Few things seem to be more lamented than not being able to land a super amazing group of prospects for him, but this offseason’s trades have shown me how hard teams are pursuing prime pitching and therefore how hard it is to get.

        Plus I like rooting for the underdog and nobody catches more flak for not being a true elite on this roster than Garza (except maybe Castro).

  25. Tommy

    Getting Zambrano out of the clubhouse was an outstanding move at any cost.

  26. droppedsomething

    I re-watched “Moneyball” last night with my family..and it made me wonder what the Cubs’ situation would be today if Billy Beane had accepted the 12.5M offer to be the Red Sox GM after the 2002 season. It isn’t hard to imagine that Beane would have also won at least 2 titles with them. Meanwhile, perhaps nobody would have heard of Theo by this point, much less have him and his buddies attempting to remake history with our beloved Cubbies.

    1. daveyrosello

      People that call the Cubs “Cubbies” really annoy me. Hate that. It’s not a girls softball team.

      1. droppedsomething

        People that complain about the use of the word “Cubbies” really annoy me. As for the crack about not being a girls softball team…well, that’s just too easy to jump on.

  27. Corey

    Vizcaino

    Shark

    Garza

    Jackson

    Villanueva

    Good?

  28. Brent

    Best move was someone teaching Soriano how to play outfield (what’s sad is that isn’t even sarcastic)

  29. Njriv

    Getting rid of the dead weight, Byrd, Soto, Zambrano, etc.

  30. cRAaZYHORSE

    NO bummer for the Cubs. instead we got Ricketts and The snake oil salesman of baseball. but thats long ago and it almost not worth repeating.