The Cubs Have Some Tough Josh Vitters Choices and Other Bullets

josh vittersSo, it turns out that the Washington Nationals gamed the waiver system to get more for David DeJesus than the Cubs got, but that’s going to be an entire discussion for an entire post. I just wanted you to know that I knew.

  • You can read the game recap for last night’s game at if you’re a glutton for punishment. I would, for now, note only the portion about James Russell – who has lately looked like toast – where Dale Sveum says he doesn’t think overwork is part of the problem. I’m not sure any pitcher in baseball has made as many appearances as Russell over the past two seasons, so it’s not like it’s an implausible concern.
  • Javier Baez had another couple hits, including a homer, yesterday for the Smokies. But he struck out twice, so it was actually a terrible game for him, relatively speaking. I kid.
  • Scott Baker completed his latest rehab outing, a four-inning start at Kane County, last night. He gave up one earned run on four hits and two walks while striking out three. His fastball, according to the Sun-Times, topped out at 88 mph. Baker still believes he can show something in September with the Cubs, but, for me, that optimistic light is starting to dim. The Cubs might decide that it can’t hurt to give him a few starts in the bigs, but it’s hard to imagine them seeing enough to know confidently one way or another whether he can contribute in 2014.
  • Jesse Rogers defends Anthony Rizzo’s season vis a vis Starlin Castro’s season.
  • Josh Vitters’ season is probably over, and his manager at Iowa hopes he gets a chance to play somewhere over the offseason to make up for lost at bats (per Tommy Birch). I think the Cubs would want the same thing, though they ran into a problem last year – Vitters was sent to the Venezuelan Winter League to get some at bats, but (at least by outward appearances) his manager didn’t think he was worth playing every day. He got into a couple games before folks decided it just wasn’t working out, and Vitters was sent back home.
  • Vitters, already on the 40-man roster, is going to be a tough nut for the Cubs to crack. What we know at this point is that he can clearly hit at the AAA level to such an extent that there is reason to believe he could be a productive big league hitter. But he couldn’t stay healthy this year, and he still doesn’t really have a position. He also really, really struggled in his one (brief) look in the big leagues last year. That’s just a tough situation. Do the Cubs think he’s worth holding on to the 40-man all offseason? If not, would he clear waivers if outrighted? Would a team consider giving the Cubs a low-level – but intriguing – younger prospect in a swap? Could the Cubs pick up a decent bullpen arm for Vitters?
  • Although he managed just 100 plate appearances on the season, Vitters hit .295/.380/.511, and isn’t yet 24.

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

96 responses to “The Cubs Have Some Tough Josh Vitters Choices and Other Bullets”

  1. Kyle

    He’s a 23-year-old No. 3 pick who has hit well at AAA, shown considerable progress in his plate discipline, and fits a potential roster need for next year (RH corner bench bat).

    Doesn’t seem like that tough of a call to me.

    1. mdavis

      i agree. we get this whole “time is running out” thing with Vitters because he’s been around so long, but he’s still a young cat. Get him some ABs this offseason somewhere and some work in LF. Bring him into camp and let him compete. But we’ll see what happens. Too bad with the injury bug this year.

      1. koyiehillsucks2

        It’s a no brainer. I would rather see vitters play LF next year than see mcdonald or bogusevic. It’s not a tough call at all.

        1. willis

          I think no brainer is the right call here. If healthy give him a run in the bigs on the bench. As has been said, I’d much rather see him than so many of these trash heap types. He can start at 1B, 3B and LF in a pinch and can be a valuable PH.

          1. wvcubsfan

            It’s not so much of a no brainer if the brain trust of the Cubs feel that he’s not ready for the majors. Hence the reason for what you refer to as trash heap players. I’m pretty sure if there had been a better option in the organization that was major league ready none of those players would have been claimed.

    2. Eric

      I think the “tough call” comes from whether or not the FO wants to give up on a piece they didn’t draft in order to get some value in return. I agree with you though, I don’t see why the consensus seems to be that Vitters is getting squeezed. We’ve got bupkis coming into camp next year.

  2. RoughRiider

    Not yet time to let Vitters go. As Brett said, “isn’t yet 24″. I’d give him at least one more season to make or break his career. Yes, he’s worth a 40 man spot. He does need to play winter ball and do well.

  3. Brunsmk

    Agreed. Can fill in at third, first or corner outfield. Right now we mainly have lefties at all those spots.

  4. Voice of Reason

    Vitters is what he is. His ceiling is a bat off the bench for a good team. He can’t play a lick of defense so if his bat develops he could become a dh.

    You’re right though, let him play with the big club next year. Make spot starts and a stick off the bench and see if it develops into an every day position in the outfield cause he can never play 3b full time.

    1. jkppkj

      This is a certainty based on his limited PAs in the bigs last year?

  5. King Jeff

    Looking at the list, Vitters is nowhere near the end of the 40 man roster. It should be an easy decision to keep him. I’d rather see Vitters in that bench spot next year over guys like Mather or Lillibridge, or one of the AAAA mob currently littering the roster.

  6. cub2014

    Vitters if he was healthy would be a decent trade
    chip as part of an overall package. Certainly a 4th
    outfielder at best. Corner outfielder with minimal
    power not a lot of value there.

  7. Spencer

    Overworked is a severe concern for Russell considering the number of appearance Camp made the last two seasons as well…

  8. cub2014

    If you add 3-4 new players next year get
    back sweeney,valbuena,baker or vizcaino,
    dolis and 3 rookies (rosscup,alcantera,baez)
    next year. you have to clear 9-10 spots on 40
    man roster. Rondon,Jackson,Gillespie,Boscan,
    Rowson,McDonald then who? Bowden,Murphy,
    McNutt,Bogusevic and Vitters?

    Thats why you have to trade Vitters,Raley &

    1. MichiganGoat

      Its impressive that in a few short years we’ve gone from having a thin farm system with very few prospect worth protecting to a system where we actually have to trade good prospects away because we don’t have the roster spots for all of them.

    2. cubzfan

      Yes, and…

      I expect the Cubs can arrange things with Sweeney, Baker, Murphy, Bogusevic, and maybe others to become free agents, wait until after the Rule 5 draft to sign, and then maybe (Murphy/Bogs) even take a split minor league/major league contract to keep them off the 40-man until the season starts. Not a big deal, but might help clear a few spots while the DL isn’t in play.

      Might be good to give Raley an extended look in the pen in September. Rusin has to be nearing his inning limit soon, and Russell needs some rest. If Raley can’t be at least decent in relief right now, I doubt the team would care much about losing him.

    3. Kyle

      Neither Rosscup nor Baez need to be added before the spring, at which point there will inevitably be some 60-man DLers opening up spots.

      Sweeney’s a free agent and I don’t particularly need him back.

      1. Cubswin

        I would rather have Sweeney back than bogey, McDonald, Vitters Murphy Gillespie just to start. Makes too much sense not to bring him back.

    4. mdavis

      Rowson? don’t believe the hitting coach counts on the 40 man roster :)

      1. cub2014

        ya meant ransom and the rookies
        would only be added if they break camp
        but usually a couple do. injuries will
        open spots for baez or alcantera if they
        stay down to start

    5. willis

      Rondon, Jackson, Gillespie, Jackson, McNutt, Ransom, McDonald, Putnam, Watkins, Boscan, Bowden are all easy waives for me. That should open up plenty for 60 day guys, holding onto Sweeney and protecting a few rule 5s while adding a couple FAs/trade pieces.

      1. willis

        Oh, I forgot Sappelt and Neal…they’re terrible. I also don’t think Baker gets a 40 man spot next season. So there’s three more.

  9. cub2014

    I forgot the rule 5 guys need to be included
    who are the main ones?

  10. JUICED1

    is olt on the 40 man? I’m ready to give up on him. Garza trade isn’t looking like theos best work

    1. cub2014

      Garza trade is one of theo’s best. You
      get Edwards,Grimm,Ramirez & a former
      top 20 prospect in all of mlb for 3 months
      of garza. Keep trading with the Rangers

    2. Voice of Reason

      Its ridiculous to make a blanket statement that the Garza trade isn’t theos best work.

      What did you immediately expect from the trade?

    3. arta

      was Olt the main guy?

      1. another JP

        No. In fact, Olt was the last-minute throw in IMO. That trade could have easily been made without him involved and any other top 20 prospect the Rangers substituted in his place as far as our FO was concerned. Texas wanted him gone- just like we’d want someone to take BJax just to clear 40 man roster space.

    4. bobo justis

      The only thing Garza was going to do for the Cubs was worsen their draft position for next year by winning a few games that they otherwise would have lost. What difference does it make if they win 75 games instead of 70?

      Here is your choice.

      Garza for August and September, or

      The guys they got in the trade, plus the 4th pick in the draft versus the 7th pick in the draft.

      Doesn’t this seem like an easy choice?

  11. Mush

    With the 60 day guys included, I see as many as 19 guys I would consider dropping off 40 man roster.

    1. MichiganGoat

      I’d like to see your list

      1. mdavis

        the guys im seeing right now that will be off:

        -Baker (minor league deal?)
        -Gregg (magic is gone, we have Strop)
        -Guerrier (injury, minor league deal type)
        -Putnam (injury, minor league deal type)
        -Boscan (just C depth)
        -Murphy (minor league deal type)
        -Ransom (same)
        -Gillespie (kinda bad at baseball)
        -McDonald (minor league deal type if they really want him back)
        -Neal (meh)
        -Sappelt (i think the writing is on the wall here)
        -Sweeney (I’d prefer him back over Bogusevic. More of a track record of success. but wouldnt need to be added until later if we waited to sign him)
        -Bogusevic (good showing so far, so either way)

        1. mdavis

          and thats before getting to the Rondon, McNutt, BJax, sceanorios

          1. When the Music's Over

            Yep, lots and lots of fat to trim. Outside of McNut and Rondon, not one of those guys gives me any serious pause. Sad it’s come to that with BJax. The following can also be added to your list and I really wouldn’t care much:

            Michael Bowden
            Eduardo Sanchez
            Rafael Dolis (sad, but I really wouldn’t care much at this point)

            Also, will Kyuji Fujikawa even make it back next year? Could he be cut if the Cubs were in a serious squeeze?

            1. King Jeff

              I think Fuji is on a two year deal and signed through next year with a team option for 2015, so he’ll be back.

              1. mdavis

                yeah agreed, i still think they would maybe pause, give Jackson one more year. Battled the injuries all year, new swing blah blah, but i wouldnt be surprised if they traded/cut him either. agree those 3 pitchers could be on the outs as well.

        2. cub2014

          Of your 13 5, dont count against 40 man.
          On the DL. I see Alcantera,Rosscup,Ha and
          Panagia are rule 5 so they will go on plus hopefully
          3-4 new guys and Valbuena,Dolis so there is 10. So
          its touch and go to keep Vitters, but by spring I
          would want sweeney over Vitters.

          1. cub2014

            could be a couple additional rule 5 guys
            and Fujjikawa so Vitters is in the mix. I think
            some of these guys will be traded though.

            1. cub2014

              and sappelt

          2. Good Captain

            I don’t think Panigua would entice anyone other than the Astros to draft him Rule 5. The DBack’s experience w/ drafting Peralta would almost certainly reoccur w/ Panigua. He just isn’t remotely close yet to the Big time.

            1. willis

              Right, completely agree. A couple months ago I thought maybe protect him, but I just don’t see any team claiming him and wasting a roster spot like that. Saying that, the cubs wasted a roster spot last year on Castillo and this year on Rondon, so who the hell knows. But still, I just don’t see it.

      2. Mush


        Fuji 60 day
        Sweeney or Bogi
        Navarro (I hope not)

        1. cub2014

          i hope navarro,gregg & sweeney come back.
          Sanchez,mcnutt maybe. Raley will be on the 40
          unless they trade him.

          1. cms0101

            I hope Gregg doesn’t come back. This is Sean Camp 2.0. Camp was good early last season, then stunk in the second half. Gregg has pretty much done the same. Hopefully they don’t give him any kind of return offer and just give Strop a chance to be the closer. I don’t disagree with any of the names on here, but I do slightly think Vitters and Jackson will keep their 40-man slots until they are traded. Raley I could take or leave. He’s a depth arm. Given Murphy’s amazing audition, I could see him taking Ransom’s bench spot. He’s younger and more versatile.

            1. cub2014

              I think gregg is 25-29 in saves (he had that bad
              stretch in july) but he has had 4 straight scoreless
              appearances. He isnt the best but Strop hasnt
              looked good as a closer. I would bring him back
              on the cheap if they can. Wny not.

  12. Since 58

    Looks like the consensus keeps Josh around. Agreed. Especially given the Stewart,Ransom, Valbuena, and Murphy experience. Did I forget anyone? However, I would prefer him taking several hundred grounders a day this winter to some South American ABs. Aramis improved defensively. Why can’t Josh? If the clock is running on anyone, it’s Bjax.

  13. JeffR

    Is Brett Jackson a goner?

    1. koyiehillsucks2

      has to be. He is playing horrible at AA, still striking out a lot.

      1. willis

        I think so. He’s just been Olt like awful this year and I think they could get him through off the 40 man. And if not, does it really matter?

  14. cub2014

    Jeff R. He Gone! Sorry couldnt resist.
    Then again will anybody claim him

  15. North Side Irish

    Video of the Baez homer…nice to seem him show off the opposite field power… (@MiLB) tweeted at 11:59 PM on Fri, Aug 23, 2013:
    Now on MiLB.TV: #Cubs top prospect @javy23baez homers again for @smokiesbaseball.

  16. jt

    40 man roster + 8 on 60 day DL;
    baker, bowden, gregg, guerrier, mcnutt, putnam, raley, rondon, sanchez, boscan, watkins, gillespie, mcdonald, sappelt, ransom, neal.
    17: one of sweeney/bogusevik.
    Conditonal on whether they think Vitters is will to put in the work to get healthy and get better, the above 16 would seem to me to be of less value than Vitters.
    18: When does Fujikawa return? If it isn’t until late August then include him

  17. Terencemann

    When I look at teams like the Cards and A’s who have given some of their fringe guys plenty of time to develop, I feel bad for Vitters who is only in this situation because the Cubs didn’t have anybody else to turn to last season. There’s no rule that a prospect has to have some success at the MLB level at 22/23 in order o be a player of value to the team.

    1. Mush

      Unfortunately, he may be a guy without a position that is a 4A type hitter.

    2. another JP

      I’d look to trade Vitters. The guy has potential but doesn’t seem to possess the determination to improve his game… with six years in the organization he still doesn’t have a set position on defense and failed miserably in his cup of coffee last year. Now he’s been hurt. Cubs have too many other options than him at this time, so unload him for some rookie pitcher like Leal that has some upside.

  18. Bilbo161

    Any chance some of the PTBNLs we are waiting on need a 40 man spot?

  19. Mush

    If they can teach Rondon a change up, he can become a starter. I like his arm.

    1. another JP

      For now I can picture Rondon joining Lendy Castillo and Dolis as being guys who’ll forever be churning in our minor leagues- looking for that brief call-up to Chicago. All have good arms and lousy results.

      1. willis

        Yep. Rondon is meat. A semi live arm that gets hit hard.

  20. MichiganGoat

    Okay so Russell played in 77 games last year (Camp was tied for 1st with 80) and this year he has 65 games (second place behind the leader with 66). So I that makes a two year total of 142 games and I believe he leads the league in games played over the last two years. So yeah he needs to be rested and this is one place where I’m very hard on Sveum. For two years in a row he’s overworked specific bullpen arms.

    1. another JP

      Sveum proving once again his mastery of managing the bullpen… not.

      1. willis

        And if he says that overuse/work is not a problem, that means it’s a huge problem. He’s proven regarding handling his pitchers that he is pretty clueless, so take the 180 of his arguments and you’ll be right more times than not.

        1. Hansman1982

          To be fair, Russell has been the best guy in the pen for the last two years.

          1. willis

            Up until about 6 weeks ago, maybe. But since he’s been slaughtered. And as good as he has been the last couple of years out of the pen, being hit like he has…something has to be wrong physically.

            1. Hansman1982

              Ya, I’d like to see Russell shut down for the rest of the year, maybe a DL stint to rest his arm for next year. Frankly, at this point I’d set the starters at a 90 pitch limit and sit Russell.

              1. willis

                Well, it’s August 24, I think by the time the call ups happen that may just be the plan (at least it’s very feasible). I’m all in for that idea.

          2. Hansman1982

            And, while he has the most appearances, he is 45th in innings pitched. I believe the last few games have been more of the “regression to the mean” than overuse.

            Camp was a case where he was an older player with a career year. Before 2012 everyone was bellyaching about how much of a scrub he was now its that Dale ruined a great arm.

    2. cubchymyst

      Hopefully once there are more options in the bullpen this kind of overuse ends.

      1. Hansman1982

        Dale has done a good job limiting Russell’s innings over the past month.

        1. cubchymyst

          Innings yes, but he has stilled appeared in a lot of games. So he is warming up his arm in the bullpen often and he is likely throwing max effort every time he appears. A second lefty in the pen would help the situation.

  21. Steve

    One of Cubs biggest needs in the off season is to sign at least one free agent who can drive in at least 95-100 runs. Game after game the Cubs leave far too many runners on base.

  22. SirCub

    Russell has appeared in 142 games over the past 2 years, most of any reliever in the league.

  23. Joe B.

    Is it time we start saking if Rizzo and Castro are tradeable? Really, think it through.

    1. cubchymyst

      Thought about it, and neither should be considered for trade. Trading Castro right now would be trading low, better to let him rebound some next season. Baez will play most of next year in AAA if the front office sticks to is policy of 500 ab. Outside of his number of singles and base running Rizzo is having a fine season.

    2. cubbiehawkeye

      ^ I hope this is sarcasm

    3. Eric

      Couple of points here:

      1. Rizzo is having a really good 1st full year. Look at numbers as they are and stop thinking he should be getting ready to hit his 50th homer by now.

      2. Castro would still be a prospect in most club’s farm systems. Even if the FO wants to let Baez take over and trade Castro, why would they do it after a bad year? Better to wait until he can get his head back on straight.

      Personally, I think Rowson and Deer need to leave Castro alone. I’d wager McKay could straighten him out pretty quick.

  24. Kubphan82

    Try to get him through on waivers, the Cubs will find themselves with enough 4th OF and fringe players. If we get to keep him, then good, if not… No big loss, I would like a trade with him, but it’s often not what we like that happens. Sure he might be productive off of the bench, but even that’s still a huge might. I’d say the Vitters question will last deep into the offseason and would be one of the last 40-man decisions and there’s plenty if time between now and then to get a better grasp on what the FO will do.

  25. Mark S

    Why blame Dale? Maybe he puts in Russel to lose on purpose and get a better draft pick/more IFA $ next year. :)

  26. Jason

    The Cub Reporter writes: David Dejesus goes 1 for 3 with Rays. That is more than he did in his entire career with Washington Nationals.

  27. Eric

    Rule 5 guys:

    Arismendy Alcantara, INF
    Gioskar Amaya, INF
    Frank Batista, RHP
    Dallas Beeler, RHP
    Julio Borbon, OF
    Justin Bour, 1B
    Marcelo Carreno, RHP
    Lendy Castillo, RHP
    Javier Castro, RHP
    Zach Cates, RHP
    Hunter Cervenka, LHP
    Pin-Chieh Chen, OF
    Casey Coleman, RHP
    Gerardo Concepcion, LHP
    Willson Contreras, C
    Wes Darvill, INF
    Antonio Encarnacion, RHP
    Luis Flores, C
    Anthony Giansanti, OF
    Enyel Gonzalez, RHP
    Carlos Gutierrez, RHP
    Jae-Hoon Ha, OF
    Marco Hernandez, INF
    Eric Jokisch, LHP
    Austin Kirk, LHP
    Matt Loosen, RHP
    Jeff Lorick, LHP
    Eric Martinez, RHP
    A. J. Morris, RHP
    Chad Noble, C
    Juan Carlos Paniagua, RHP
    Loiger Padron, RHP
    Amaury Paulino, RHP
    Felix Pena, RHP
    Starling Peralta, RHP
    Dae-Eun Rhee, RHP
    Greg Rohan, INF
    Jose Rosario, RHP
    Zac Rosscup, LHP
    Victor Salazar, RHP
    Brian Schlitter, RHP
    Ryan Searle, RHP
    Elliot Soto, INF,
    Nick Struck, RHP
    Luis Villalba, LHP
    Yao-Lin Wang, RHP
    Oliver Zapata, OF

    I think the names we protect are pretty obvious. Maybe one or two tough calls as the roster starts to crunch.

  28. crockett

    Why is Paniagua already rule 5 eligible?

    1. N.J. Riv


    2. cubchymyst

      AZ Phil has a ? mark next to his name. Depends on if his first contract that was voided counts as his first MiLB year since he did play some. If that contact counts then it has been 4 or 5 years since he signed his first contract. If his contract with the Cubs count as his first (since the other two were voided) then he isn’t eligible.

      1. Eric

        ^ This. And I think he will be ruled eligible.

        1. Crockett

          I thought those years would be deemed nixed. Doesn’t make sense to void the deal and still count those years…doesn’t benefit the player.

  29. nkniacc13

    I think the Cubs will try and keep Rondon. They basically gave him a roster spot all year I think they will want to get him into the minors next year if they want him to work as a starter. Keep in mind that any FA the cubs sign has to have a 40 man spot to put him so Id be surprised if they sign any one till after Rule 5. I could see the Cubs trying to move a couple of their young ?40 man players this offseason to try and clear their log jam

  30. Jason

    Look how long it took Pirates Pedro Alverez to come around. Vitters is still young and has talent.

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