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piano-lessons-flyerYou know the setup: formerly good Red Sox or Padres player is made available, and everyone wonders, “Will the Cubs take a chance, given the front office connection?”

Today’s iteration involves pitcher Daniel Bard, a formerly awesome reliever with the Red Sox, who has fallen on hard times ever since the Red Sox sought to convert him into a starter in 2012 (apparently at Bard’s request). Since then, Bard has completely lost the strike zone, even after returning to the bullpen. He was walking a guy per inning in 2012, and, over various minor league stops this year, is walking 15.8 per 9 (not a typo).

The ability was certainly there at one time, though. Between 2009 and 2011, Bard posted a 2.88 ERA over 197 innings in the bullpen, striking out 9.7 per 9, and walking 3.5. He throws a good mix of pitches, and has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s. Moreover, Bard is still just 28. There are positive signals here, assuming you can look past the disastrous last couple of years.

The Red Sox, for their part, couldn’t look past those two years, and, needing a 40-man spot, decided yesterday to designate Bard for assignment. Presumably, he will head to waivers, and the Red Sox may hope he clears so that they can outright him to the minors (they weren’t likely to tender him a contract after the season anyway, as Bard would be heading to his third arbitration year (of four arb years) in 2014 after making $1.86 million this year). Alternatively, Bard could be traded or released. A trade involving a minor return is possible, though it seems like waivers are the most likely step at this point.

If Bard is indeed waived, would you want the Cubs to take a flyer on him?

The primary deciding factors on grabbing someone like Bard off of waivers at this point in the season is whether you believe he’s worth a 40-man roster spot all Winter, and whether you believe he’ll be worth what he’ll earn in arbitration next year.

To me, the answer to both questions is “probably not,” with the second question skewing close to “definitely not.”

For all of the positive signals on Bard, unless the Cubs know something about his struggles this year that other teams don’t, we’re still talking about a guy who hasn’t been able to find the strike zone for two years. He’s young enough and talented enough to work it out, but paying him big league money on that hope is probably not the best use of the Cubs’ apparently limited funds right now.

That doesn’t mean the Cubs might not try to grab him now, though, and then pull off some roster maneuvering of their own.

Indeed, the Cubs could try to grab him now, and then themselves waive him at a more advantageous time this Winter (perhaps soon before the Rule 5 Draft, when teams often find it difficult to open up a spot to just hang onto a guy). If he clears, the Cubs could try and outright him off of the 40-man roster (subject to various rules about Bard’s right to elect free agency as a player with at least three years’ service time (though, at that point, he’d be a near lock to receive only a minor league contract anyway, so he might not elect free agency)). At the end of the process, if everything worked out all right and Bard decided to stick with the Cubs, they could have a nice lottery ticket who isn’t making big league bucks and isn’t taking up a 40-man roster spot.

Short of that kind of process, however, I’m not sure I see Bard as being worth using up a 40-man spot all Winter and being tendered a contract for next season (which could be worth $1.5 to $2 million). Instead, I could see Bard being passed on by all teams at the big league level this year, and then searching for his best option as a minor league deal/Spring Training invite guy in 2014. If that happens, I don’t see why the Cubs wouldn’t give him a look.

(And, what do you know: after I finished writing this piece, I now see that Chris Cotillo reports that the Cubs have had internal conversations about Bard. Unsurprising, given the Boston connection and the relatively low threshold for internal conversations. But, as explained above, it could make sense with the right maneuvering.)

  • Carter

    It makes sense for me. If he could turn it around this COULD be a huge steal.

  • Oswego Chris

    Costillo makes it sound like he will get claimed

  • jaslhill

    No. I think it’s a pretty easy answer. Not worth the money or the roster spot. And, even if they picked him up and he was good next year, from what we know about relievers that would be no indication he would be that good in ’15, which is – hopefully – a competitive year. In my opinion, he’s not worth the hassle.

  • Matty V

    I’d go for the scenario of grabbing him and now and move him off the 40-man this winter. If they can work with him in the offseason and try to get him turned around then invite him to Spring Training, he might turn out to be another quality arm in the system. Assuming he doesn’t keep us from making other moves with the 40-man roster, I don’t see the downside.

  • Steve Ontiveros’ Mustache

    Perspective is an interesting thing. It’s likely that Vitters’ and Jackson’s 40-man roster spots are in real jeopardy over the off season, yet the Cubs are thinking about taking a flyer on Bard. The irony is that if other teams were DFA’ing players similar to Vitters and Jackson, the Cubs would seriously consider taking a flyer on them. It appears someone else’s junk is more interesting than your own.

    *To be clear, I am not suggesting that Bard is better, worse or equal to Jackson or Vitters. I’m just commenting on the oddities of perspective when dealing with the fringy prospects.

    • Matty V

      You’re right, there is some irony in that. It’s probably easier to sour on your own guys that have disappointed you. You feel like you’ve tried to make it work and at some point you’re ready to move on. On the flip side, you haven’t had the chance to work with someone else’s guy and the possibility that you can help him realize his potential is very enticing.

      • HCS

        That sounds like every woman I have ever dated.

      • Steve Ontiveros’ Mustache

        True. The notion that someone in your system has not thrived in your system is different than a player who is not yet exposed to your system that could thrive in it. Still, the grass is always greener and the prospect always has more upside on the other side of the street.

  • Jon

    One man’s trash is another man’s trash

  • chrisfchi

    Would be nice if we grabbed him, and could pull what the nats did with DeJesus. I highly doubt that would happen, as seeing his performance has been horrible.

  • Die hard

    Bet Bud Black could bring Bard back

    • Eternal Pessimist

      She sells sea shells by the sea shore

  • Fastball

    No he is washed up.

  • Bob

    Bard will have 40 saves for the Cardinals next year.

  • SenorGato

    There are worse ideas. I’m pretty sure he still throws hard, which the Cubs could hopefully harness and use.

  • jeff1969

    Another vote for Bard not being worth the money or roster spot. Minor league deal yes. I’m wondering why there isn’t much mention of the mental aspect of Bard completely losing his command and the fact that the Red Sox have had him stop pitching now. I don’t think is a case of Theo & crew knowing something about Bard that will fix him. This is Rick Ankiel like. There are stories out there describing his devolution and that it started before his switch to starter, actually the latter portion of the previous season his walk rate shot up quite a bit. It doesn’t show in his season stats, they look improved actually from the season before, but that final month, he started to lose it. It wasn’t starting that wrecked him somehow, it might have made it worse though. I hope a miracle happens for Bard & that he rebounds as a member of the Cubs in the future, but this is a more complicated issue than is being described here.

  • Troy

    No.. Just No. Out of all the crappy pitchers and position players the cubs have frabbed of waivers in hope of “turning it around” have actually tirned it around.. Just One.. ONE. Kevin Gregg and he too is coming back to earth. Lets not go through the cycle of grabbing a pitcher.. Watching him suck at the Majors and stuff him at AAA just to release him in the offseason.

    • Matty V

      So you’re saying Luis Valbuena, Donnie Murphy, Ryan Sweeney and Shawn Camp (last year) weren’t worthy of waiver claims?

      • Troy

        Sweeney wasn’t claimed he signed a Minor League Deal. And I’ll give you Valbuena but Murphy is just riding an insane hot streak and it wont last,

        • Troy

          And now that I look it up Murphy was not a Waiver claim either.

          • Matty V

            My mistake on Sweeney and Murphy. I knew their previous teams had let them go and I assumed the Cubs claimed them instead of just signing them to minor league deals.

        • Matty V

          I guess I just don’t see the downside, provided we don’t have to sacrifice a 40 man spot that should really go to someone else. If he’s horrible, the Cubs can always DFA him as well, with nothing lost other than some salary.

  • Sean T

    couldn’t the cubs just pick Daniel Bard off waivers and try and then pass him through waivers and stash him down in AAA, to help him try and figure things out there?

    • MichiganGoat

      Yes they could claim him, waive him/DFA him, and see if he would accept a minor league deal but he can elect free agency (all this is said in the article above).

    • hansman1982

      You do realize that today is the last game of the AAA season, right? If the Cubs claim him he will be on the big league club for September and bump someone else from the 40-man.

      • Sean T

        Hansman: Yes I do. Just add him to the 40man now, and by the time of the rule 5 draft DFA him and sign him to a minor league contract and hope no one picks him up in the draft. Its at least worth a shot in my opinion. Bard is clearly not worth a 40 man roster spot but they should just strategically DFA him to the point its hard for other teams to add him to the 40 man. I’m not quite sure when we need to finalize our 40 man rosters before the rule 5 draft bc we definitely are going to have some tough decision when it comes to the prospects we want to put on and it will be quite the roster crunch but I think its a least worth a try if there is any feasible way

        • TOOT

          Isn’t that what Brett stated in the article? Just asking.

          • MichiganGoat

            Yes this entire conversation is mentioned in the article

            • Sean T

              My bad… I guess we can’t discuss what Brett mentions in the article… sorry Goat

              • MichiganGoat

                Chill out buddy you weren’t discussing anything you were asking questions that Brett already answered.

                • Sean T

                  I wasn’t trying to get chippy or anything. sorry if I came across that way

                • Moe

                  Sick equals dis-ability and onward.

  • jeff1969

    I think the money will turn a lot of teams off. I know it’s not huge money, but…Some team, including possibly the Cubs, might take a chance, but the way the FO has shed money lately, I don’t think a guy with Bard’s type of mental issues is what they spend on. If he’s floating around in the spring a minor league deal might be the thing. The thing to remember is that Bard’s deal isn’t like Arrieta’s deal, it’s more of a major mental block loss of command, not a harnessing of his past ability or any kind of refinement.

  • Cheryl

    I’ll go against the tide on this one. I’d claim him. He’s a big gamble but they could DFA him later on. They’d have to get some sort of an agreement that he’ll work with the cubs minor league’s top pitching coach on the side to see if he can be turned around. If that’s not doable than I’d pass on him.

    • Cheryl

      P.S.: Even if they had to hang on to him for a while and if the cubs could do the right type of maneuvering he might be worth a shot.

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