matt garza cubsIt is Martin Luther King Day, which means different things to different people. Why not take the opportunity to do something you’ve probably done before, but haven’t done in a long time: read MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream Speech.

  • Both the Cubs and Matt Garza recognize that right now isn’t the time to discuss an extension. After avoiding arbitration late last week on a one-year, $10.25 million deal for 2013, it was only natural that each side would be asked about the possibility of an extension, but each side tells the same story. “Right now I just want to pitch,” Garza told ESPN. “I’m happy that this year is settled. [Long-term discussions are] always open but to even think about that I need to pitch.” And GM Jed Hoyer said something similar: “It’s not the right time right now. He hasn’t pitched since July. Feels great, feels healthy. I don’t think right now is the time to enter those discussions.” Kind of sounds like they’ve had conversations, eh? Clearly, they’re on the same page, and that, alone, suggests that each side really is open to the possibility of a long-term extension once Garza shows he’s healthy. Of course, the Cubs aren’t going to take any option off the table – Garza pitching healthily in the Spring is just as likely to lead to a trade as it is to lead to an extension (or neither).
  • Jon Greenberg dumps a bucket of cold water on any inflated expectations the Convention might have engendered. While I wouldn’t use quite the same stabbing motion, I do think it’s fair to reiterate that the 2013 Cubs team doesn’t look too much better on paper than the iteration that broke camp last year. A lightning in a bottle season is always possible, but the focus remains the long term. (Incidentally, I met Jon this weekend. He is very much in person the guy he is in print, and I liked him. We may not always agree on things, but he’s a sharp dude.)
  • Indeed, as Theo Epstein, himself, said this weekend: “We’re realistic enough to know, on paper, we’re not the favorites to make the playoffs.” The point is not to bum you out or make you unenthused about the 2013 season. The point is to keep expectations in a reasonable range, and to, perhaps, redirect your focus on “progress.”
  • Relatedly, Patrick Mooney takes a high-level view of the “when” question, in terms of the Cubs’ future competitiveness. Ownership and the front office seem very aligned: they aren’t going to put an artificial timetable on it, because there are no shortcuts.
  • Bradley Woodrum writes a fantastic piece on stolen base efficiency in the post-Steroid Era. The short version is that teams should be attempting more steals, but the long version is well worth a read.
  • Ian Stewart, who is, together with Dave Sappelt, the most prolific tweeter on the Cubs, enjoys the back and forth he gets from/with fans on Twitter. Just remember that when you tweet at him, he’s actually a real, live person.
  • I’ll have more Convention items later today, in case you were wondering.
  • Tim

    Oh Manti

  • AP

    I think it could be mentioned that the team that broke camp in Arizona last year isn’t the team that lost 101 games last year. Granted it was still on track to lose 90, but the product wasn’t as awful before the trade deadline as it was after the deadline and I think the club has traded off most of the pieces it felt like it needed to trade off. They could still move Soriano, DeJesus, and Garza, but I think they’re just as likely to hang on to them for 2014 as they are to get rid of them. They may just decide that Soriano has more value to them as a middle of the order bat while they try to field a decent team than he does anywhere else. DeJesus is on a very team friendly deal and serves as a good example in the clubhouse for the younger guys. Garza is still young enough to be a big piece of the rotation when the Cubs are ready to compete. I get so tired of the media using the “Cubs fans are just crazy people who don’t understand just how bad their team really is” just so they can write a snarky piece. The team isn’t very good, but they won’t break camp as a 101 loss team just like they didn’t break camp as a 101 loss team last year.

    • Brett

      This is all fair, but it is worth emphasizing: it’s easy to say this club is improved from September, but that’s not the issue. The question is whether it is improved from the team that struggled in April and May last year, forcing a sell-off. I don’t know that it is much better.

      • MightyBear

        It’s hard to say. We all thought the bullpen would be a strength last year with Marmol and Wood. Marmol struggled early and Wood retired because he didn’t have it. If this year Marmol pitches like he did at the end of last year and Fujikawa pitches like we think he can and Camp and Russell pitch like they did last year, the bullpen will be a strength. I do think we are in a better position pitching wise because of the depth. If Feldman turns out to be this year’s Volstad, we don’t have to keep trotting him out there because we have no one else. Also, I think a year of Rizzo will help the offense and Castro and Castillo being older will help but we’ll see. This team could be very good this year or it could be as bad as last year’s team. Personally I think they will be better because of the pitching. I think Scott Baker and Samardjia could both be 1’s and Garza could be a 2 with Feldman and Jackson beng 3’s. That’s an awesome pitching staff. Last year Dempster was a 1, Maholm was a 2 and Samardjia was a 4 and then you fell off a cliff. Garza got hurt so that didn’t help but there was no depth to take up for that. Personally, I think this team is a lot better than last year’s and I think the boys in the FO know it.

      • AP

        Good point. I just think they had pieces last year that they were more than happy to sell off, Dempster was an aging veteran in the last year of his deal, Reed was an aging veteran who wasn’t going to be part of the future, and Maholm was a younger bounce back guy that could net a good return. Granted they have some bounce back guys like Maholm, but they have a lot more of them. Instead of just Maholm, they have Baker, Feldman, and Villanueva. So they could still sell off some of their pieces and have a sturdier rotation than they had last year. It all really hinges on Garza, I think. If they trade him then we’re looking at a lot more losing. If they keep him, I think we’re in the 75 win range which isn’t great but could leave enough pieces in place to springboard into 2014. Whereas they’ve spent this offseason basically bringing the team from September up to that 75 win plateau. This while still trading some combination of Feldman, Baker, and Villaneuva. In short, I think they’ve positioned themselves to do some selling this year without absolutely shredding the product on the field (context alert – 70-75 wins is still bad, but it isn’t ’62 Mets), whereas last year they didn’t have the back up pieces in place for when they started selling. All this is a long winded way of saying, I don’t like having cold water dumped on me when I’m already standing out in the cold without a coat on.

        • http://yahoo Roy

          Our pitching was a long way from great last season. But there were way more games that Cub team lost because of missed opportunity’s at the plate. I’m a big believer good pitching stops good hitting everytime. But in our case last season Bad pitching stopped bad hitting. We need production out of more than just LF and SS and 1st base in April, May and June. That team lost 8 games in each of those 3 months because they had almost 0 timely hitting. Our timely hits didn’t come until Rizzo arrived in Mid July. The pitching was then destroyed by injury and the trading deadline. We just need for some of the injury bug to soar off to another city. With a little luck this team can play 500 ball most of the season. It won’t hold water in the heat of the stretch against the big guns. But you never know when Moneyball could strike. I would really like to see one of our kids in the minors come to ST and play there way into a roster spot. Fill a hole we didn’t expect. There is a ton of young talented players in our system. I believe were headed the right direction. Cant wait but willing to watch. 2015 will be exciting in the Windy

      • cjdubbya

        Well, is it safe to say that CF is going to be better than Marlon Byrd was to start 2012? Wasn’t he .070 when he got traded? The Schierholtz/Sappelt platoon, how does that compare to DeJesus? Not as high OBP but maybe more slugging?

        Valbuena’s been tearing it up during winter ball, and if Stewart’s wrist deal is healed maybe he’s better, and the team gets more production at 3B. Chris Volstad has been mega upgraded in the rotation, and the relief corps looks stronger (to me) at the outset of 2013. If anything, I’d venture a wager that there aren’t nearly as many walks surrendered, and the team defense should provide better run prevention throughout the lineup. It’s not a world-beater out there for Chicago, but I think they’re going to be better.

      • terencemann

        It sounds like Brett’s point, and I get it, is that we also thought the 2012 Cubs looked like a 70-75 win team on paper before the season (I think I was guessing around 72 wins) but they got off to a much worse start than was predicted. In hindsight, we can say this team looks better but there are no guarantees that we don’t get a worst case scenario like last season.

        You have to keep in mind that the Cubs were on pace for 100 losses going into July last season. It was only thanks to that remarkable July that they briefly got their head above water.

      • Twinkletoez

        2013 opening day roster looks much better then the 2012 version. We have to remember how bad of an April and May, Garza, Maholm, Volstad, and somewhat Samardzija had.

        Dempster – pitched lights out to start the season, hope Jackson can be close.
        Garza – had a 6.86ERA for the month of May. Didn’t get his 3rd win till June 18th was shut down a month later. A healthy Garza performs much better in 2013
        Samardzija – had a 5.05ERA at the end of June then turned it on the 2nd half. 2013 should be an upgrade over the start of 2012
        Maholm – had a 5.38ERA as of June 23rd didn’t pitch consistently good till after that and then he was great. Feldman / Baker are an upgrade.
        Volstad – was absolutely brutal 0-7 with 7.94ERA till he was sent down. The other off Feldman / Baker or Wood / Villanueva is a huge upgrade over Volstad.

        Marmol – was horrible to start the season till he got “hurt” and came back and was forced to throw his fastball more.
        Wood – his arm was falling off
        Russell – Pitched good hoping for a repeat
        Castillo – Was not ready for the big league team
        Dolis – Was not ready for the big league team

        Soto – had a .161 AVG through May and was SLG 301 – Castillo is an upgrade
        Lahair – Started out great, hope Rizzo can start as hot and he will play better defense.
        Barney – He is what he is, great defense not so good offense – 2013 stays the same
        Stewart – couldn’t hit out of a wet paper bag, successfull surgery or valbuena is an upgrade.
        Castro – had off season legal issues and contract talks. Played much better once his contract was settled. Should have a more productive 2013
        Soriano – Started out slow, didn’t start hitting till he switched to a lighter bat the middle of May. 2013 should start better then 2012 did.
        Bird – whoever ends up in CF will be a huge upgrade
        Dejesus – consistent decent hitter stays the same for 2013


        So I would say hell yes the 2013 opening day roster is “MUCH” better and deeper then the 2012 version when you look at the roster additions and how bad a lot of players started 2012

        • JulioZuleta

          Love the optimism, but you are hand choosing stats of players that struggled at the start of the year and got really hot afterwards. Guys will struggle this year too. Realistically, no one is going to reproduce what Dempster did last year (neither would he if he was still here), Rizzo will be solid, but likely not as smoking hot as LaHair was to start the year, and I would be kind of shocked if Soriano repeats the year he had last year. Still HUGE question marks at C, 3B, and the OF. We aren’t even exactly sure who will be healthy in the starting rotation at he beginning of the year. I hope you’re right, but that post doesn’t exactly paint the whole picture.

          • Twinkletoez

            Yes I was hand picking the stats of the players that got off to a bad start. That was on purpose as I am comparing the start of the 2012 season to what I think the start of the 2013 season will be like.

            I don’t think Soriano will put up the same numbers as he did last year but I think he will improve his April and May numbers greatly.

            The same can be said for almost every player on that list.

            I am not trying to say that every player will put up better numbers for the entire season then they did last year, just simply that I think at almost every single position on the 25 man roster there will be an upgrade over what was produced through April and May of last season.

            I am not saying they are going to be great either, just that they should be flirting with .500 instead of being 18-32 at the end of May

  • Curt

    hey Brett I was wondering during the q&a at the convention did anyone ask questions that put them on the spot bc as I see this team how can we not lose a100 games the hitting is just as bad as last yr , pitching might be some better any thoughts on how we avoid losing s 100 and how do u judge the progress so far.

    • Brett

      The questions were actually incredibly friendly. I was a bit surprised. No one really blasted the management on how they’re going to improve the win total. Maybe it’s because they go preempted by Epstein’s response to a question about “when” the Cubs would be winning, and he went into the usual “doing it the right way” thing.

  • Hawkeyegrad

    I wonder if there is any sense of urgency created by the expiration of the WGN television contract at the end of 2014? WGN’s TV revenue was down 13% last year and a suspect another 90-100 loss season may drive it down even further.

    I know the front office is all about setting a foundation for sustained success. As part of that, there are two big levers they can pull…1) build up the farm system to have home grown players under team control and currency for trades and 2) grow revenue which includes the removal of restrictions at the park and signing new television contracts.

    On the second point I’m sure it will be helpful to show higher ratings during that 2014 season so the front office can demonstrate to a purchaser of the television rights that the revenue will be there (and grow) as the Cubs become competitive year in and year out. I have a feeling upper management is really focused on 2014.

    • Brett

      These are wonderful points (and actually tie in with a long TV piece I’ve been working on for a while now).

      • Hawkeyegrad

        I’m looking forward to reading that article. You do a fantastic job here pulling together pieces like this you can not find anywhere else.

        As an add on to the post above, the Cubs ratings on WGN have decreased from 3.8 in 2010, to 3.2 in 2011, to 2.6 in 2012 so their ratings have actually decreased over 30% in that 3 year period. I’m going to think about how to translate that into projected dollar’s for the Cubs TV rights so I can understand the potential impact ratings has on potential revenues for the Cubs. Does anyone have any ideas?

        • http://Isa Voice of reason

          Well, let’s say you are walking into a business to sell them advertising on cubs games.

          The cubs lost over 100 games this year and will lose at least 90 this year.

          What do you think advertisers are saying????

          Yes, revenue is doooooowwwwwwnnnn for advertising!!

  • Roughrider

    I think:
    The starting pitching will be at least as good as it was last year before the sell off.
    The relief pitching will be much better and Marmol will be good from start to finish.
    Castillo is an upgrade fro Soto last year.
    Rizzo will be struggle some but still be a well above average first baseman with and excellant season with the glove.
    Barney will remain an excellent 2nd baseman with the glove and improve slightly with the bat.
    Castro will get better defensively and return to a .300 hitter with a little more pop.
    Ian Stewert will be better with the bat and add a little pop. Either he or Vitters or both will be traded before the season is over.
    Sorriano will regress as a hitter and defensively. He’s on his last legs.
    Dejesus will eventually wind up in right because in June Jackson will be brought up and will be playing center.
    Cubs will end up 10 games under .500.

    • Cedlandrum

      I’m a big fan of Castillo, but we shouldn’t just assume he will be an upgrade over Soto.

      • Norm

        I feel pretty confident in assuming Castillo will be better than .199/.285/.347 that Soto put up.
        And better than how Cubs catches did cumulatively in 2012: .212/.284/.332

        • Seth

          My god that slash line is horrid. I’m assuming the Cub’s were near, if not at, the bottom of catchers in the entire league.

          • John (the other one)

            The slash line is terrible, however, defense should also be factored in–and Soto is far better than Castillo (so far) defensively.

    • Pat

      “The starting pitching will be at least as good as it was last year before the sell off.”

      The rest of the items listed are possible, although it is unlikely all of them happen. But it will be awfully hard for the starting pitching to improve a whole lot from where it was last year in the first half. Dempster and Maholm were putting up great numbers before they got traded.

      • Roughrider

        Agreed Dempster and Maholm were very good, at least as far as ERI. I was considering the staff as a whole 1 – 5.

  • Marc N.

    Matt Garza owes me prospects dammit. So he’s supposed to cost me five top prospects AND a contract extension? Phooey.

  • Roughrider

    I think.

    I miss the edit button.

  • Berselius

    When I was growing up in Virginia, MLK day was Lee-Jackson-King Day. Suffice to say, I’m glad that I no longer live in the state. (Of course, I now live in Texas….)

  • 2much2say

    Trade Castro for Upton and a Prospect Move Barney to SS and Baez at 2nd
    sign Kelly Johnson and play him at 2nd til Baez is ready
    Bourn Dejesus Soriano Rizzo Johnson Stewart Castillo Barney

  • 2much2say

    Meant, Dejesus Stewart Soriano Upton Rizzo Johnson Stewart Barney

  • Marc N.

    Who Is a better bet for a 5 WAR season- Rizzo, Castro, or Samardzija? Can Garza do it again in 2013 or was that a one time thing that Hendry made him use up in a losing season?

  • Frank

    Last year after the Stewart trade,I predicted the cubs would lose over 100 games. This years team is a little harder to read. I like the pitching depth and defense. I don’t see much,if any improvement on offense. My guess with the current roster 65-70 wins.

  • Westbound Willie

    I look at corporate financial statements as part of what I do and when I see five year projections that don’t account for an economic or sector slowdown I assume I’m dealing with either idiots or dishonest people. Projecting every potential player from the 25 man roster to improve is either idiotic or being intellectually dishonest. When projecting players one has to assume at least half the players are likely to under achieve.

    In regard to rizzo actually he put up the same stats as lehair did in about the same amount of abs so even if he doubles his production first base is a push.

  • Kygavin

    Rizzo was better than Lahiar in BA, OBP, SLUG, RBI, had a better BB/K ratio, had a higher oWAR and dWAR and was also 7 years younger

    • Westbound Willie

      Easy there stat point. They were similar. How’s that?

      • Kyle

        They were similar in that they were both 1b who played for the Cubs, sure. But otherwise, no.

        Wait, the guy who claims to look at corporate earnings statements for a living thinks that “well, they are about the same” is an adequate analysis and anything more is just a guy being “stat point”? That’s hilarious.

      • Kygavin

        Similar yes but the age is the big thing. Rizzo SHOULD better his numbers as he gets more familiar with MLB pitching. Will that happen? Who knows but one would hope given his progress so far

  • mudge

    If we knew how the season would play out, it wouldn’t be worth watching.