stoveHeading into the weekend …

  • I don’t want to it to become a running joke in the sense that I’m not looking to make fun of Jon Heyman, but … it’s kind of becoming a running joke: got a big-time free agent? Connect him to the Cubs via Heyman. This time it’s Jacoby Ellsbury, and Heyman says the Cubs are a candidate to sign him (together with the Mariners, Cardinals, Reds, Astros, and Dodgers (huh?)). The article, you’ll note, isn’t a specific Ellsbury rumor piece, so it’s not as if Heyman was trolling for clicks. On the other hand, Heyman was likely just listing off some possibilities from the hip.
  • Patrick Mooney is sticking to his belief that the Cubs will try to add one – and only one – impact piece this offseason. Ellsbury, among others, is mentioned as a possibility.
  • The Indians are reportedly trying to figure out what they’re going to do about the surprisingly resurgent Ubaldo Jimenez. Paul Hoynes says there’s no chance they offer him a multiyear deal, what with how much Tim Lincecum got, and he says there’s a chance they might not even make him a qualifying offer. Given that Lincecum deal (two years, $35 million and a no-trade clause), I can’t fathom the Indians not giving Jimenez a qualifying offer (about $14 million for one year), and I can’t fathom Jimenez declining. Indeed, if salaries are about to blow up as much as it seems like they might, I’m expecting far more fringy types to get qualifying offers than in the past. Jimenez turns 30 next year, and reinvented himself in 2013 after a drop in velocity forced him to make some changes. He looked like he was absolutely done in 2011 and 2012, but there are reasons to believe that the 2013 uptick wasn’t just a fluke. He might be a name worth considering when free agency rolls around, depending on how his situation with the Indians plays out.
  • The Red Sox traded for outfielder Alex Castellanos, the Dodgers discard I recently suggested the Cubs might take a look at. Since it was an actual trade, it’s possible Castellanos never made it to waivers and the Cubs never had a chance to get him (absent beating the Red Sox’s offer). In any case, a smart organization wanted him, so I feel relatively justified in my hunch-work.
  • Tim Dierkes predicts a six-year, $100 million contract for outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. Who’s still in at that price? I would have balked a couple weeks ago, but now I wonder if that’s simply the new, and increasing normal.
  • Another Korean pitcher could be hitting the market soon (via the posting process): Seung-Hwan Oh, a dominant reliever. The Cubs have already been attached to Korean Suk-Min Yoon, and I’m sure they’ll consider just about anyone. The interesting thing on lower-impact players like Oh who go through the posting process: although it seems odd to have to pay a posting price, the contract then tends to be lower than it would be on an open market, since yours is the only team that can negotiate with the player. Yoon, unlike Oh, is a true free agent.
  • cubzforlife

    Please don’t forget this is year 100 for Wrigley and Mr Ricketts will demand a decent team. It’s still entertainment and The Cubs need to be entertaining. Maybe clown nose tuesdays?

    • Voice of reason

      Ricketts will demand a decent team?

      What does that mean?

      He is going to pound his fist on his desk in frontof Theo and Jed and demand the team be decent? What is decent? Is rickets going to force Theo and Jed to stray from the plan because the ball park is turning 100? Shouldn’t he always demand a decent team?

  • The Dude

    What’s with all the competitive window talk? We’ve stacked the minors now let’s go compete, forever. Ellsbury will be expensive but I’d be happy with that signing. His biggest asset isn’t his speed, it’s that he’s a very good, very well-rounded ball player. Sign him and bat him first until his speed declines and then bat him second for the remainder of his contract. I could easily see him having similar numbers to Beltran throughout his 30’s… I just wouldn’t go longer than 5 years.

    I’m not gonna go into a specific wish list of players but with Ellsbury and a couple other moves this offseason, the team can start competing. Might not make the playoffs next year but if I’m the GM, fielding a competitive team is the next phase of the rebuild. No windows, just a solid approach of trying to always be competitive and the window never closes.

    • Professor Snarks

      When your plan to rebuild the team is entirely based on improving your farm system, knowing when your competitive window opens (the point at which your top prospects will be productive major leaguers ) is very real, and important. thing. It looks like Theo agrees with that sentiment. He has stated that it makes no difference if you win 70 or 80 games. Most people read that as get the better draft pick. Which would explain much of what has been done the last few years.
      If the Cubs see themselves taking the next step towards relevance, then signing an Elsbury and/or Tanaka would make sense. It would increase their chances to compete earlier.

      Whether or not you like this rebuild method is up to you, but Theo and Co. are doing what they said they would do. We’ll see if it works.

      • Funn Dave

        It’s good to know when your competitive window “starts,” because that’s when you start getting aggressive in pursuing the free agents and trades you need. But if you just turn your nose to free agents that want long term deals, who tend to be established (read old) players by the time they get to that point, then you may very well never get to the point where your competitive “window” is open and you can finally open up your wallet for real. No rebuild, including this one, is built entirely on “improving your farm system.” It’s unrealistic to expect that you can wait til the point where you’re verging on contention (although one could argue that we may be getting there late next year), and then say, “hey look, we’ve got a super low payroll, and now we can start signing a bunch of FA’s!” That’s a huge gamble with a low likelihood of paying off without some help to the MLB team.

        But why does the competitive window have to close? It isn’t that cold out yet.

      • The Dude

        My problem with a competitive window, is that I interpret it meaning there’s a beginning and an end. With that mindset, we’ll end up right back where we started when Theo was hired.

        The fat has been trimmed, so let’s start competing again. Hopefully, this time without the mindset of having this window of opportunity.

        • Professor Snarks

          This is what Theo has said his end game is. To have a competitive team for a long period of time. IF we get 10-12 years of constant playoff quality teams, our chances for a World Series winner increases. If this plan succeeds, great. I’ll live with a few years to rebuild again. Most organizations have a few down years. Let’s get a few championships, then worry about the next phase.

        • The Dude

          “Let’s get a few championships, then worry about the next phase.” – Wouldn’t that be nice!

          I’m confident they’ll be competitive sooner rather than later (could be next year with the right additions), but I worry about them going for broke when they do see an opportunity to win it all. The foundation is there, all they have to do now is run the organization like they’ll be there until they retire and we’ll win a few along the way.

          Competitive windows are created because GM’s have egos, contract lengths, and give into public pressure. Keep it a work in progress and we’ll be fine.

  • Matt

    The next person who references ” the plan” should have to, in detail, explain what the “plan” is. Furthermore , they should have to explain/predict how the “plan” would deal with certain changes in circumstances. What are the guiding principles. When has flipping served its purpose? Who is part of the core? When will the payroll break 100 mil again? If you honestly believe there is some “plan” being rigidly adhered to, you’re nuts. I don’t think Theo/Jed are doing a bad job but this Svengali effect they have on people is a bit scary. This rebuilt farm system? The Cubs have picked in the top 10 four years running and soon to be 5. They’ve definitely made some good rental trades; I’ll give them that. I’d be very alarmed if the farm system weren’t kick ass after the events of the last few yrs.

    • The Dude

      They have an impressive collection of talented players in the minor leagues, when compared to two years ago. How would you describe rebuilt?

      • Matt

        I agree, the farm system is outstanding. But, if you suck several yrs in a row -leading to high draft picks- and sell off all your vets with any vlaue, you’re farm system better be damn good. Otherwise, the “plan” is failing in a big way.

        • Professor Snarks

          Matt, you asked for a definition of their plan, but you obviously know it, but I’ll give you my interpretation of the plan.

          The PLAN:
          -Suck as much as you can, as long as you can, to get top draft choices so your farm system is good.
          -Trade away as many players as possible, increasing your chances of sucking, to get players that make your farm system look good.
          -Pray to the baseball gods that enough of your prospects succeed at the same time so team no longer sucks.
          -in the unlikely event point number three becomes reality, you then sign free agents and trade excess prospects to fill holes.

          • Voice of Reason

            That is totally the plan.

            Why do others not get this?

          • Brett

            Take away the pejorative framing, and, yes, that is a simplistic description of major components of The Plan.

            • farmerjon

              Whew!!! $6 word first thing Saturday morning, THIS is one of the many reasons I love this site…off to my
              M-W’s app, pejorative ; )

              • Brett

                Heh. I think I got that one from The Simpsons many years ago.

              • Professor Snarks

                “pe·jor·a·tive (p-jôr-tv, -jr-, pj-rtv, pj-)
                1. Tending to make or become worse.
                2. Disparaging; belittling.”

                Disparaging? Belittling? Yeah, I can live with that.

                As we stand here today, our playoff hopes are reliant on 4 guys under 22, with a total of 215 at bats in AA. If it works (and I hope it does), I’ll be the first to call The PLAN brilliant.

          • Brains

            This is the plan as far as I’ve seen it the past 6 months or so. However, the unexpected outcome of the plan is that promising players at the MLB level regressed due to a variety of reasons, not the most being uncertainty and lineup weaknesses. Basically, when you sabotage your own team, you sabotage your own team.

            So now we have to rely upon, and eventually demonize a bunch of kids just trying to make it. And fire another manager or two, until Theo leaves for greener pastures at the end of his contract. The whole thing will be a wash and a failed experiment with religious fanatical overtones.

        • Kyle

          Don’t forget the $60-70m or whatever it’s been we’ve committed to international free agent prospects in that time period.

          We’re the LA Dodgers of farm systems.

      • The Dude

        Fair point, and I would add that the CBA changes a couple years ago couldn’t have come at worse time for Theo. I think that forced his hand on the approach he’s taken, and I would argue, even to him, that it’s time to take some calculated risks at the major league level. Shit, even if you don’t get the most value on dollars spent per free agent, there’s still some shrewd moves that can be made this offseason to field a competitive team.

      • Reality Check

        let’s be careful about saying what the farm system was; because starting in 2015 you could have 5 players starting pre-Theo plus another a direct result of the farm pre-Theo.
        Castillo at C, Castro at SS, Baez at 3B, Alcantara at 2b, Lake in LF, all came prior to Theo. 1B Rizzo came from pre-Theo Cashner. True, we hope Almora, Soler, Bryant who came from Theo as does next year’s high pick again start in 2016, but let’s not lose fact of what the 2015 team could look like and where they came from.

        tanking seasons on purpose, having high draft picks, and spending 30M on a what if like Soler compared to a Cespedes, Ryu or Puig the Cubs could of had is not rocket science nor is trading major league talent for prospects.

        I think a large “no dah” the farm system is better is pretty obvious. the real question; which won’t get answered in 2014; is will any of this make the major league team better in 2105 (but really 2016) when this team MUST be playoff bound; year 5 or Theo, year 7 or Ricketts, with 3 tanked seasons and flipped major leaguers.

        I hope it does; cuz 106 yrs is enough; let alone 108 or whatever number will end this.

        go cubs go………….soon we hope.

        • Professor Snarks

          Makes you wonder. if we aren’t playoff contenders in 2016/2017, do we bring Jim Hendry back?

          • Jason Powers

            No, will install new “windows” for the owners and the GM to “opportune” the next moment to look out for…then wait again for the GREAT PUMPKIN!

        • Mike F

          I agree on a lot of what you stay, this whole you have to lose to win is idiotic. Establishing a culture of losing is wrong and guarantees nothing. And that is exactly what is occurring at the major league level with the Cubs.

          I would quibble on Soler, they liked Soler a lot, Cespedes is still likely older than 26, and on the mentioned examples that is in hindsight. The book has yet to written on Soler too.

          But yeah winning is and has taken too much or enough of a backseat.

        • The Dude

          Given the circumstances when Theo was hired, I support they way they’ve gone about their business. Up to this point, I can even accept the losing as a necessary evil, but moving forward I expect to see a competitive major league team.

          • Jason Powers

            I agree. We gave up for 2 seasons. Fine. Be bad to get good theory. You acquired talent that is still 1-2 seasons from debut. So, you fill in the gaps in time by FA acquisitions and trades.

            I expect:
            1 big FA signing
            3-4 lower cost ones
            1 or 2 trades that can put a competing team out there.

            Between the BP MGMT, 2B, CF, Corner OF, and now, SP, you have 12-15 wins to add from slotting personnel, signing, or via trade. 3-5 from Rizzo and Castro improving. That’s 15-20 wins to a 60+ win team. Wow. That’s competing, and with luck, 90 wins. It took 91 wins to make the playoffs. So let’s try that again.

          • cubs2003

            I basically agree. I think the FO called it building instead of rebuilding for a reason. They felt they had to start this thing over from scratch. That takes a lot of time. My biggest issue is that none of Castro and, to a lesser extent, Rizzo and Shark made significant improvements this year. Barney needs to be a bench player or traded. This lineup can’t carry his bat. I’m not sure any lineup can, to be honest. I just hope I’m not saying the same thing about Castro this time next year. That would not bode well for the organization. The farm looks good, but there are plenty of farms that looked good that didn’t lead to MLB wins.

    • mjhurdle

      You may not agree with the “plan” as we see it, but i think it is fairly safe to assume that there is some sort of “plan” at work. Most multi-million dollar organizations don’t just play darts with their future.
      I would imagine that there is a plan, and , regardless of whether it is the right plan or not, it is much more complex and intricate then how any of us understand it.

  • Mike F

    Great point, it really isn’t a plan, at the moment it is a philosophy. And of course the philosophy is based ion quantity to overcome the fickle fate of luck and mistakes.

  • TOOT

    I don’t think it’s been noted today that Barney and Rizzo are finalists for Gold Glove awards.

  • TOOT

    Rizzo seems to have the best chance of the award based on what has to be considered now. Would be great to see them both get it though.

  • TOOT
  • Frank44

    I think theo and company have done a great job the first couple of years but it’s time to move forward. No more tanking seasons for high picks. This front office is said to be a great scouting machine. If they are,they can do well drafting lower. This is not the nfl or nba. In most cases your pick doesn’t impact the mlb club right a way. Time to add more core players and try to compete.

  • Svengoolie

    2014 Lineup:
    Ellsbury CF
    Castro SS
    Rizzo IB
    Schierholz RF
    Lake LF
    Bryant 3B
    Castillo C
    ?????? 2B
    Samardzija P

    • another JP

      A more likely 2014 lineup: Lake/Sweeney CF, Castro SS, Rizzo 3B, Schierholtz/Sweeney RF, Bogusevic/Lake LF, Murphy 3B, Castillo C, Barney 2B, Wood P. 2015 Lineup: Lake CF, Castro SS, Baez 2B, Rizzo 1B, Bryant 3B, Sweeney RF, Olt LF, Castillo C, Wood P. 2016 Lineup: Almora CF, Alcantara 2B, Baez SS, Bryant 3B, Rizzo 1B, Soler RF, Lake LF, Castillo C, Price P.

    • Brains

      I think Ellsbury is the worst case scenario contract since he’s bound to slow down soon, and his stats are all based upon his speed. He’s an exciting player when he’s good, but he’s only occasionally good, and he wants a gigantic contract that he’s not even close to worth in his 30s.

    • Voice of Reason

      Why in the world would you want the cubs to sign a guy who is never healthy?

      Ellsbury has averaged 114 games a year over 6 seasons. He has played over 155 games one freaking time.

      I’m not throwing big bucks at that track record.

  • cubs2003

    This is probably insane, but I’d consider Cano. A large market team should be able to absorb one bad contract, which it will obviously be signing. If that one player can help the young players around him settle in better, it might be worth it for a large market rebuilding(or building) team. I’d rather go all in on Cano than sign Ellsbury or Choo.

    • ETS

      While I agree to some degree, I think the cano price tag will just be way too high and we just don’t need middle infield. Too bad there wasn’t an FA somewhere between Cano and ellsbury but an overall pretty weak FA class.

      • http://Bleachernation Glenallen

        I agree. We have several candidates for 2B in the next few years (i really like Alcantara). I think a Cano signing would be identical to the Soriano signing & we would regret it within 1-2 yrs. Soriano was a good player for the cubs but not worth the cash nor the commitment that we offered him.

        • ETS

          I disagree that sori wasn’t worth the cash but I digress.

    • Rizzo1684

      Its not insane but I really think Cano wants to stay in New York so in order for the Cubs or any team to get him it would take a huge over pay. I think him and the yankees settle on a 8 yr 200 million deal.

    • cubs2003

      I was just throwing that out there, but I do think this team really needs a veteran middle of the order hitter to serve as an anchor for some of the younger guys. It’s unfortunate that there just isn’t a lot out there. Cano is the only player that came to mind.

    • Brains

      I don’t think it’s insane at all to want the best player on the market within a 3 year period. It would be insane to give him 10 years 300m, though, which is what he’s currently asking. but 7 years 200m should be considered. He’s just so much better than anyone within spitting distance for years. And he’s a winner who doesn’t get injured.

  • Rizzo1684

    I don’t think the front office view Lake as anything more then a 4th outfielder/platoon guy. If I had to guess (not what I want to happen) this is our 2014 starting lineup: Castro ss, Sweeney cf, Rizzo 1b, Schierholtz rf, Chris Young Lf, Castillo c, Olt/Murphy 3b, Barney 2b. This will be the 1st half team. Pitching will be Shark, Wood, Kazmir or Jason Vargas (don’t ask me why but they seem like Theo type guys), Jackson, Arrieta. This is just my guess on how it will look, I really hope i’m wrong and the Cubs add a Nelson Cruz or someone that can hit a few hr’s for LF, I like the Chris Young signing and they could use Sweeney as a stud 4th outfielder/platoon, and Lake as their 5th OF. Let Barney keep the job for the 1st half of the season but let him know that Alcantara, Baez, and Villanueva (I really like him) is in the minors. Bryant, Soler, and Almora will not be ready until 2015 IMO. I may be delusional but that team could surprise and be in a wild card race.

    • Mike F

      You may be delusional, that line-up and variants of it, with any pitching injuries are 100 loss plus territory. You have to keep all the pitching healthy and change the offensive dynamic if you want to compete. Counting on Castro and Rizzo to anchor the offense and ignoring this season and excusing their performance away won’t work. It is the definition of insane.

      • Rizzofanclub

        I can’t argue with you bc injuries do happen but a lineup of Castro,Young,Rizzo,Cruz,Schierholtz,Castillo,Olt/Murphy,Barney ( with Baez coming mid-season.) they will have a stronger bullpen and a lot more talent then we are used to seeing. I don’t think that lineup is better than St Louis , Cincy, or Pitt BUT it’s good enough to have a chance. You mentioned the pitching and I can’t disagree but if Edwin bounced back maybe the Cubs would win some games they shouldn’t. This plan does not affect the rebuild but it makes us good enough to sell tickets and probably hover around .500

    • Castro to Barney to Chance

      I realize you’re not claiming *exactly* this, but I want to put to rest the notion that we’re almost a good team as of right now. The worst offensive regular on the Red Sox (again, a very good team, not just a .500 team) provided 2.2 bWAR; taking (notoriously hard to quantify) defense out of the equation, the worst is 2.9 bWAR. Our *best* offensive regular gave us just 2.3 offensive bWAR. It’s also worth noting that no one else really comes close to his total of 5.1 (Schierholtz offered 1.5 offensive bWAR but was a liability on defense…and that 1.5 offensive bWAR was again lower than any Red Sox regular).

      Not exactly a surprise that we’re not Boston, true. But we are so far away from a good team — and no player we have would be starting on a good team, with the exception of Castillo and possibly one of Rizzo or Castro (though most good teams have depth enough to cover for flailing youngsters (see, e.g. Middlebrooks not being a regular this year)) — that we need a whole lot more than a few flailing rookies and a rebound LFer whose last good season was 2011. We need real professional talent; we don’t have it and won’t for a while without serious effort to obtain it.

      • Rizzo1684

        Everything that you are saying is correct and I don’t disagree with you. I guess the way that I look at this off season is the Cubs are not going to be major players with Choo, Ellsbury, Cano, or Tanaka (I have stated all my reasons in previous posts, but for the record would love any of these guys on the Cubs at the right price.) If you take those players and the cost of their salaries out of the equation. There is no reason Cruz is not going to be a 2 War player, maybe Chris Young gets fully healthy and bounces back to that 5.2 or 4.6 guy he was in 2010 and 2011. Maybe he is a 3 War guy which is also fine, Jason Vargas was a 2.7 and 1.8 in the AL the last 2 years maybe he takes a next step forward with the switch to the NL. Maybe Baez is the real deal and comes up and produces. This is a lot of if’s but I hate to break it to you but its all we got.

  • cubmig

    Read all your comments. My only 2¢ only reinforces this: No more losing seasons (as a strategy) for draft picks. Lets do what some posters here say and get the FO to push their scout geniuses to find talent to fill holes so we can start competing to win next year.

    • Rizzo1684

      I agree with you cubmig. I’m ok with no long term deals 5+ years and I’m not against them either but I really hope its a fun year.