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dale sveum mediaI have to try and pace myself. I’m already ready for the feverish action of the Deadline, but I have to remind myself that the Deadline, strictly-speaking, is still more than a day away. That said, I’ve got some rumors/reports to write-up, so the Bullets are a bit brief today …

  • Dale Sveum admitted yesterday that .500 has become something of a goal for the Cubs this year, even if he’s not thrilled about it. As he told ESPN: “It’s not a goal you want to have in this organization. Those things can hold [you] back too. ‘As long as we get to .500, whoopee.’ You’re still going home like everyone else that’s not in the playoffs.” Whoopee, indeed. I’ve gone back and forth on the value of this team, at this time, finishing around .500 this year. There is something to be said for “looking competitive” by the end of the year and heading into free agency. But, at the same time, money talks (to free agents), and falling out of the top 10 draft choices for 2014 could hurt the Cubs in free agency as much as finishing strong helps them. How? Well, only the first 10 picks in the draft are “protected” – i.e., if you pick in the first 10 spots and sign a free agent who received a qualifying offer, you lose only your second round pick. If you pick 11th? You lose that first round pick – a price likely too steep for the Cubs to be willing to pay it.
  • Setting all of that aside, although the Cubs are playing well right now, I’m not sure I see them playing so far over .500 the rest of the way that they can overcome their current 8-games-below-.500 record.
  • Dale Sveum really wants to see Junior Lake play every day.
  • Jake Arrieta, who starts today for the Cubs in the second half of the doubleheader, sounds very excited to be with the Cubs, and looks forward to this next step in his career. Arrieta, 27, was acquired in the Scott Feldman trade, and was a former big-time prospect with fantastic stuff. More on, and from, Arrieta here.
  • Scott Baker made his debut at Daytona, as he continues to rehab from Tommy John surgery. The results this time out were much better than in Kane County – 3.1 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 1 ER, 2 K – but I’m told that his velocity was still only in the 88mph range.
  • Very sad news out of Arizona yesterday, where former Chicago Cubs pitcher Frank Castillo died in a drowning accident. Castillo, who’d also done some coaching in the Cubs’ minor league system there in Arizona, was just 44. He had some great years with the Cubs in the mid-90s, and I think he was remembered fondly.
  • Neifi

    These updates and your blogathan is going to make work very unproductive the next few days. Appreciate what you are doing good sir!

  • Rich

    I dont think the Cubs will come close to .500 this season…
    the offense is too anemic……and maybe ask after the trade deadline …
    and what offensive player(s) we might lose.

  • X The Cubs Fan

    Over/under: 5 trades today?

    • MichiganGoat

      If you mean total throughout MLB I’d say over for the Cubs – way under

    • LWeb23

      I’ll bite….. I’m going over. And none of which involving the Cubs.

    • Idaho Razorback

      Way under.

  • http://worldseriesdreaming.com Rice Cube

    Toronto didn’t sign their #10 overall pick this year so whoever drops out of top ten will pick no earlier than 12th.

    • Cubbie Blues

      That also means that all of the bottom 10 records this year are still protected.

    • gocatsgo2003

      Anyone know how this works in terms of sacrificing draft picks when signing a free agent who received a qualifying offer? It doesn’t seem quite right to penalize a team for slipping from the 10th pick to the 11th because another team didn’t sign their first round pick the previous year.

      • cubchymyst

        Happened to the Mets this year. They tried to get their #11 pick protected because they finished with the 10th worst record but got bumped due to Appel not signing last year.

        • terencemann

          That sounds right: only the top 10 picks are protected. It’s a hard cut-off regardless of why they are the top 10.

        • gocatsgo2003

          That’s right — my bad. Pre-caffeine jitters I guess.

  • Teddy

    Keep it up and try boot to exhaust everything right away. Almost 32 hours left. Hooray.

  • RD

    I don’t remember what the general take is on this subject and I apologize if it has been discussed recently but are the Cubs thought to be in on Jacoby Ellsbury when he becomes an FA? I imagine he will demand a longer term contract but he is a pretty darn good player and certainly a player the FO is very familiar with…

    • Cyranojoe

      I believe the feeling around here is that he’s not as good as all that. I seem to recall someone pointing out that he really only had one good-to-great year, a few mediocre/average years, and a year or two troubled by injury. Especially given the talent we have coming up in the OF, it might not be a great idea to sign Ellsbury to a long-term contract.

      • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

        Problem is you have to take FA when they are available. He wouldn’t be blocking anyone close. We are still a couple of years out if everything goes well. If we sign him and they are as good as we thought it gives us options. Either we trade him or them in a couple of years for whatever our need may be. I think max deal on him should be in the 4 year range. No reason to not like that if its available.

      • JayPaul

        I can see the Cubs giving out a 4 year deal to an outfielder if deserving this offseason. It would allow them to further promote the stud prospects at their speed and guard against a busted prospect.

        • http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/653cc0c5f0eded621ab13b4f631de7da.png Cizzle

          I’ve been beating this drum and I’m gonna keep on doing it: Sign Cano to a 4 year $110M contract ($27M/year). It’ll outbid the average he’ll get on a 6 or 7 year deal, will be essentially front-weighted (Time value of money & inflation), all for the best player at his position in the majors BY FAR. His contract will be up when he’s 34, so you don’t have to deal with his late-30 years like Hamilton, Pujols, etc.
          I don’t see the Yankees doing much more than a 7 year deal worth $150M ($21M/year), so he’s getting an additional $30M over the first 4 years of the deal, and he can sign one more big contract (buyer beware) before he retires.
          If you value WAR at $5-$6M (and it will only go up), you’re only needing 5 or 6 WAR/year from him for it to be well worth the money.

          • Jed Jam Band

            All indications are that Cano wants many more years than that.

          • On The Farm

            The whole point of FA signing the long contracts is they try to get as many years as possible. What if he gets hurt during his next contract (he is getting older its a factor) is $27 mil/4 better than (for example) $24 mil/6-7? No its not because as his production declines in his mid to late 30s so will his contract and he wont be a 20 million dollar player any more. He is going to sign for more than 4 years, but by all means continue to beat the drum.

  • rhino70

    I think getting to .500 *this* season is a worthwhile goal. It would require the team to play at a .568 (33-25) clip the rest of the season.

    Given the roster turnover, and the loss of veterans Garza and Soriano, .500 would be a huge boost for the morale and direction of the team moving forward.

    After this season, .500 is not acceptable and should be considered an organizational failure.

    • Cubs Fan in STL

      This season, getting to .500 would be a huge boost. Let’s not forget the Cubs started 5-13 and were 13 games under .500 as recently as June 25. If they can bring up some young talent after the trade deadline and September and make a push to get to or above .500, that’d have to be a huge boost going into the offseason. But I agree, the bar should be set much higher than .500 next year.

      • willis

        Going to be tough with this offense. The pitching (as it has been) is going to have to be lights out to play over .500 ball the rest of the way. Unfortunately I think that we’re going to see a big slide coming up here and .500 is dreaming. Just not enough pop in that lineup, and look at the bench…barf.

  • forlines

    Sad to hear about Castillo. Pretty tragic for being relatively young. RIP

    On a brighter note, I’m really excited to find out how Jake does today. I got to see him pitch for the Norfolk Tides and took an immediate liking to him. Glad he came to the Cubbies for sure.

  • curt

    what’s the point of finishing at .500 yr not going anywhere but home and you
    Hurt yr draft either start winning a ton or losing a ton on thd middle is the worst of both worlds.

  • madisoncub

    I’d care more about the team being .500 and being competitive if core pieces (Castro, Rizzo, Samardzija) were the ones really contributing to that cause. I mean if they were having career years and playing well, then yes, I’d prefer reaching that goal. But since no one really has had a breakout season, I suppose ensuring a top 10 draft pick should take priority.

    I think soon rather than later though, like next year I suppose, our priorities will have to change. We do need to start looking competitive.

  • Jose Cardenal

    Brett, Good luck! Hope for some trade activity later tonight to keep you going.

  • Cheese Chad

    Too bad about frank Castillo. In regards to .500, it sounds like nobody wants to get there. Isn’t it in our best interest to trade guys like schierhotz or dejesus to avoid being competitive the rest of the year. Even Gregg and Russell. We can be competitive next year if shark rizzo Castro and lake all take that step forward and olt plays like a typical rookie.

  • Jp3

    Boy sveum did sound pretty excited to get to .500. He’s probably having a convo pretty soon with Don Jedleone about “never tell anyone outside of the family” what he thinks about their business plan.

  • ssckelley

    Personally I would love to see the Cubs reach .500 I cannot ever root for the Cubs to lose no matter what the circumstances. But having said that I would regret it next June if the Cubs finish .500.

    I look forward to a time when I do not have to debate such issues.

    • Cyranojoe

      Games like last night’s are actually ideal in this kind of season, IMO. Our core pieces performed well (well, Shark did), and then we lose thanks to a fluke half-inning. In a season like this, I root for the Cubs to perform well, but not necessarily to win. Of course, that’s a general feeling — every time I watch a game, I catch myself rooting for the win, and then struggle with the question of what is it I really want! :P

  • jpeck

    Excuse my ignorance on the issue, but how often / what are the odds of losing a draft pick because of a free agent. Did any lose one last draft?

    • Cubbie Blues

      The odd go up tremendously if they sign a FA who has received a qualifying offer.

      If a FA receives a qualifying offer then the team that signs him loses their 1st round pick, unless they are picking in the top 10 picks of the upcoming draft. At that point they would lose their 2nd round pick. The team who made the qualifying offer then gets compensated for losing the FA by getting a sandwich pick between the 1st and 2nd round.

      • jpeck

        OK. Thanks. that is why this site is the best around.

        • Cubbie Blues

          Glad to help.

  • Steve L

    Is it possible that this somewhat hot streak could make theo and co. More motivated to trade guys like ahierholtz and russell in order to make sure we finish in the bottom 10 and get draft pick protection? Just a thought.

  • cubzfan23

    I for one think the Cubs could finish @ or above .500. Ialso look at it if they just play even the rest of the way than their moving in the right direction. Imagine the what ifs though if this team could hit with RISP. Wow!

    I for one am happy with the improvements not to mention we have a very young core. Look out NL in the very near future. Nice to have Theo and company.

  • 5412

    Hi,

    Hell yes .500 should be a goal. Look at it as data points on a graph. Take a look at the Cubs when Durocher took over. He pronounced,”This is not an 8th place team”. He was right and they finished tenth the following year. Then plot the progress up to 1969.

    Going from 103 losses to 95 losses makes for a pretty flat trend line. If we go from 103 to 81, that is a 22 game improvement and one to get excited about if it was not accomplished by spending money on a bunch of veterans on the down side of their career.

    If you are accomplishing it with youngsters who are beginning to bloom you have something to get excited about.

    Regards,
    5412

  • kenster

    Sad about Castillo. Thats already 3 guys from the 97 pitching staff thats passed away including Kevin Foster and Geremi Gonzalez

    • TonyP

      Beck from 98 also….

  • ncsujuri

    I think I’d much prefer the protected pick v. the .500 record, but I can see the argument for building some organizational momentum. We are currently in a 10th worst tie w/ the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim just South of San Francisco and North of San Diego or whatever they are called now…

    • Ivy Walls

      they are the urban sprawl team….BTW, ten teams make the playoffs; ten teams get a protected draft choice for Rule 4 Qualified FA’s and ten teams get screwed in what is MLB no-man’s land, try to improve by paying market value and lose a draft choice, or sit pat and hope, hope, hope.

      My guess is that human nature as it is we will be seeing teams using/manipulating September call ups to dive to the 10th position.

      • Cubbie Blues

        You forgot about the competitive balance picks.

        • TheDondino

          Competitive balance picks are after the first 30 if I’m not mistaken, won’t have any bearing on the top 10 protected. Also, all top 10 picks were signed this year so we won’t have a Mets situation this year, #10 but Pittsburgh got the extra top 10 pick for failing to sign Appel last year, pushing the Mets pick to #11. We finish 21st or worse, we’ll get a protected pick.

      • ncsujuri

        5 teams currently battling it out 7-10…time to root for long winning streaks by the Padres, Mets & blue Jays!!!

      • Kyle

        I think you are overestimating the importance of those protected picks. Most teams won’t be targeting those free agents anyway.

  • Eric

    Frank Castillo, Gearmi Gonzalez, Kevin Foster….man we have lost some former Cubs way too soon.

    • jj

      All part of the Cubs rotation in 1997, just 16 years ago, when all 3 were in their 20s.

  • Ivy Walls

    What is great about baseball is it is all about the math. Because there are 162 games in the regular season and then a possible 20 game playoff run and therefore it provides a good sample size. Cubs are are now 48-56 (104) or 58 games remaining, to get to 81 wins (or 81 losses), that means 33 losses or 25 losses, meaning Cubs would have to play .569 here on out. They are playing .500 since a 5-13 start or 6-14 (the first 20 games) so the probability is highly unlikely unless Cubs suddenly call up Roy Hobbs with his magic bat.

    BTW the 20th and 21st team had 75 and 74 wins (Seattle and Mets respectively) which is .463 and .457 winning percentage Cubs are at .462 right now and at the cusp of the protected draft choice for signing Qualified Rule 4 Free Agents.

    • Ivy Walls

      Note or addition the 20th team in 2012 was Seattle and 21st were the NY Mets, and both believed they were going to be contenders this year.

    • mudge

      Do you think that is motivation to trade Schierholtz?

      • Ivy Walls

        Not primary but he is worth 2 WAR, or essentially 1 over replacement value through the rest of the year.

        Schierholtz is a rebuilding GM’s wonderboy, signed as a journeyman with still arb years left, he hit his peak at 29 years old, and now sell him for greater value, it is buy low and sell high….

        Cubs have DeJesus to play RF here on out. They will have Bogusevic to play CF tomorrow and Sweeney to play CF after September. Schierholtz was excess inventory.

        My real guess is that the Cubs will be seeking to sign Ellsbury over the winter to a 4 year FA contract, have Lake/Sweeney in LF, Ellsbury in CF and DeJesus in RF through July. By then they hope Soler will be coming up to RF and Almora or Bryant or Olt to for LF if Lake is a super utility player. BJax is not in the plans.

        • YourResidentJag

          Except I don’t see Ellsbury getting a 4 yr deal. I see him getting more and the Cubs backing off because his price is too high.

        • MichaelD

          Almora is not going to be up by July next year, and though there is some small probability of it happening, I don’t think you can make a plan based on Soler or Bryant being up next year either. If Olt comes up, he will be at 3B; too much of his value is tied to defense.

          • Cubbie Blues

            Soler will probably get a cub of coffee next year, but that is it.

            • DarthHater

              TMZ reports shocking revelations today that the Chicago Cubs have been using the skulls of juvenile bears as coffee mugs in their clubhouse.

  • Justin

    Picking between 11-20 really sucks. Team who want to be competitive and continue to build their farm system are really stuck in a tough spot. I freaking hate that rule. But yeah if guys like Castro and Rizzo start mashing and that’s why the Cubs make it to a middle of the road team I am good with it. But if the Cubs make it to .500 because of some of the re-tread guys are playing well I would rather have the pick. Stupid rule…

    • ncsujuri

      I don’t think Kyle Lohse is a big fan of that rule either…

    • MichaelD

      Yet again MLB shoots itself in the foot through their rules. It stinks for us if it hurts the Cubs but it is really bad for the league as a whole too.
      If you want to increase competitive balance, the teams you want signing free agents are the ones that finished 11-20, and in particular the 11-15 teams. The teams that finish in the bottom 8 or so are rebuilding and you do not want the top 10 teams to get even better. The league should want the free agents to go to the middle group. Those are the ones they just put in rules to punish for signing free agents.

      • Justin

        Yep, I completely agree. It really hurts what the veteran free agents get paid too. Basically, you take a good portion of the teams out on bidding on guys with qualifying offers on them. By all accounts the Mets wanted Bourn really bad, but giving up the 11th pick and paying a free agent a lot is a huge price. It just doesn’t seem right. I think teams who lose free agents should be awarded a pick depending on how good the player they lose is, but the signing teams shouldn’t lose a pick. If a team like the Brewers lose a stud like Fielder give them a pick in the middle of the first rd. Who cares.. Just don’t F with the signing teams picks.

    • Ivy Walls

      Have to wait to 2016, (CBA) which my guess is that 2017 MLB goes all DH and that they have a scale, lowest 6 all protected Rule 4 Qualified, 7-13 protected first and 2nd round, (lose next highest, teams will be able to trade 2nd round up), 14-20 protected 1st round (lose 2nd round), teams in playoffs, lose 1st round pick.

      That would be fair and generate both competition through out and satisfy the need to protect rebuilding teams (parity) and small market teams. Also bet that they institute an Intl Draft as teams will begin copying Epstein/Hoyer/McLeod model of juicing every other year—

      What if? Cubs are competitive in 2014, and then 2015 go out and spend another $10-$12-$14M on Intl signings, as 2013’s have begun to graduate into the system.

  • http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/653cc0c5f0eded621ab13b4f631de7da.png Cizzle

    I was bored at work yesterday, so I did a quick look at YTD WAR and possible 2014 WAR: (Position-2013 player(s), 2013 YTD WAR, 2013 WAR expected, 2014 Est WAR) – Sorry about the formatting.

    LF- Soriano/Lake: 1.3, 2, 2 (give Lake a full year and 2 WAR is reasonable?)
    CF-DeJesus: 1.6, 2.5, 3 (Full healthy year)
    RF-Schierholtz: 1.8, 3, 3 (Maybe too optimistic, but I expect the same production in 2014)
    3B-Valbuena: 1.2, 2, 2.5 (He’s been steadily improving, a .5 jump is reasonable)
    SS-Castro: (-.2), 0, 3 (I think we all expect at least a 3 WAR from him next year)
    2B-Barney: (-.4), (-1), 7 (Sign Cano to a 4 year $110M deal, +8 wins over Barney)
    1B-Rizzo: 1.8, 3, 4 (Should take a step forward and add a win)
    C- Castillo: 2.6, 4, 4 (Can he duplicate 2013?)
    Bench: Bogi/Sweeney/Navarro, etc.: 1.1, 2, 2 (a 2 WAR bench is common)

    P1- Garza/Feldman: 2.8, 3, 2 (a Villanueva type signing for the #5 starter)
    P2- Samardzija: 1.2, 2, 3 (I expect him to add a win next year)
    P3- Wood: 4.4, 6, 4 (I don’t see Wood as a 6 WAR starter long term)
    P4- Jackson: (-.7), 0, 2 (He’s averaged 2 WAR since 2008, 2013 is an outlier)
    P5- Villanueva: .7, 1.5, 2 (Full year starting will add a half of a win)
    Bullpen: 1, 2, 3 (Marmol & Camp combined for a -1.5 2013 WAR and they’re both gone)

    2013 YTD: 20.2 WAR, add prorated replacement level wins= 49.92 wins, we’ve got 48.
    2013 Estimated: 32 WAR + 46.74 Replacement level = 78.74 (if we don’t sell much else, we’ll be out of the top 10 protected picks unfortunately)
    2014 Estimated: 47.5 + 46.74 = 93.24 (Wild Card?)

    Signing Cano & Castro not sucking adds 11 of the 14.5 wins, but obviously we probably won’t get Cano, even for $27M/year. I guess this was my retort to the idea that we need to get rid of DDJ/Schier/Valbuena/Russell/etc. We may not be “1 player away” from contending, but maybe we are???

    • turn two

      Ahh yes, if baseball was all math it would be so easy to get a championship

      • http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/653cc0c5f0eded621ab13b4f631de7da.png Cizzle

        I’m not saying it’s all math, but math certainly gives you a way to measure your progress and make an educated guess at the future. That’s what Sabermetrics are all about.

      • mudge

        Yes, quite myopic to remove the psychological elements from understanding an activity involving human beings.

        • http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/653cc0c5f0eded621ab13b4f631de7da.png Cizzle

          Not sure if that’s snark or not, mudge. I’m not trying to “remove” the psychological elements, I’m trying to put value on players to come up with some prediction (even if it is rudimentary) for the future of the franchise.

    • Ivy Walls

      Cubs are not going to go after Cano (33 yrs old), too $$ and no need at 2B, they have a pipeline of talent there, Alcantara/Baez/Wadkins/Amaya/Candalario or Villaneuva could be moved.

      I think they might go after Ellsbury for 4 years plus an option park him in CF until Almora is ready.

      • http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/653cc0c5f0eded621ab13b4f631de7da.png Cizzle

        Cano’s 30. There *might* be talent at 2b a few years out, but Cano’s an 8 Win player now. Plus it would only be a 4 year deal – ending in when he’s 34.

        Ellsbury is just 1 year younger and has only had 1 4+ WAR season in his career (though he might get there this year). If we’re gonna put $15+ into an outfielder (Ellsbury), I’d rather put $25+ into Cano at a more premium position. Not to mention, if you’re gonna talk about prospect pipeline, the outfield is more stacked than anywhere.

        • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

          Why do you believe Cano is only signing for 4 years?

          I bet he gets at least 6. Maybe 8.

          • http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/653cc0c5f0eded621ab13b4f631de7da.png Cizzle

            I don’t think he’ll get a 6 or 8 year deal at $27M/year – My bet is 7 years at around $20-22/yr ($150ish over 7) . My point was to overpay for the first 4 productive years @ $27/yr ($108 over 4) to get a shorter contract and not be stuck with him in his late 30’s when his value isn’t near $20M. Not sure which he’d prefer (in this scenario he’d have to sign a 3 year deal at $14M/yr at 34 years old for it to wash), but I’d at least make him think about it.

  • FastBall

    My outlook on finishing .500 for the season. Every team needs to have goals for themselves. So this year a .600 record wasn’t going to happen. So being 8 games below water level what are you playing for? You must have a goal as a player and as a team. You can’t say well we sucked all year so who really cares how we finish. This team needs to learn how to win all the time. There are so many hurdles to clear when a team is trying get better. The winning feeling is one that is critical. I would rather see this team finish at .500 because they are improving and changing the culture in clubhouse and on the field. Expectations are X and lets manage to and deliver on expectations. I personally don’t care all that much where the Cubs sit in the draft next year. The FO has been doing great and will continue to do so no matter what there draft slot is. Continuous improvement in all areas is necessary. You can go out and collect all these great players and develop like crazy. You throw them all together on a 25 man roster. So if nobody knows the first thing about winning what do you have? The Blue Jays. You don’t need a team full of superstars to win. The Rays are great examples. They have a winning culture. We don’t have it. We can get it by reaching critical milestones. Maybe all these guys won’t be here next year. One could say it doesn’t matter if they get to .500 this year because half these guys won’t be here next year. Well the other half will!! and it’s critical that they get a taste of what winning is all about and carry it forward into next spring training and next season.

    • turn two

      This

  • figgelbert

    Brett,
    Toronto not sign their first round pick this year, #10.Phillip Bickford
    Does that mean they get pick #11?
    Even thou #10 was protected last year for them which they lost,#11 does not receive protection next year for them correct
    Kinda tough being penalized a protected pick because a kid decides not to sign.
    Also, so if the Cubs fall out of the top 10 they lose an extra spot next year then.
    So finishing in the top 10 seems slightly more important.

  • DrReiCow

    Brett,

    If you have time / are bored during your 36 hour blogathon, would you consider writing a post on interesting 2014 free agents, and their potential fit with the Cubs? It would be a nice followup to your point about us trying to finish in the bottom 10 for FA signing purposes vis-a-vis protected draft picks.

    Moo.

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