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daniel bard red soxI hope everyone stayed safe from yesterday’s tornado outbreak, and our thoughts are with folks downstate.

  • Late in the year, the Cubs took a no-risk flyer on former Red Sox pitcher Daniel Bard. You may remember him as the dominant reliever or the washed out starter, but the Cubs hoped they could get him back into form on the cheap. The only risk was the tender deadline for arbitration-eligible players (December 2). In other words, the Cubs had to figure out by December 2 whether he was worth tendering a contract that could pay him around $2 million for the 2014 season through arbitration. The early returns in winter ball are not encouraging. Bard has faced 13 batters over three appearances, and he’s retired one of them. The others? Nine walks and three HBP. That is not a typo. He’s also thrown four wild pitches.
  • The Cubs’ decision on a tender to Bard would now seem an easy one – a $2 million gamble is too steep, considering the budget. So, unless Bard accepts less now for a deal, you cut him loose, and you’ve got a couple weeks to make that decision. But that might not be the deadline that matters. Teams have to file their reserve lists for the purposes of the Rule 5 Draft by this Wednesday. That means the players in the Cubs’ system that they want to protect for the Rule 5 Draft have to be rostered by Wednesday. And if there’s a roster crunch (the Cubs are at 37 right now), the Cubs may need to deroster Bard now. At that point, he’d be a free agent.
  • Carrie Muskat notes that Luis Valbuena has been playing a lot of second base down in Venezuela this Winter. Meaningful? Not necessarily. Remember: these are legitimately competitive leagues, rather than mere tools for MLB teams. Valbuena could simply be playing at second because that’s where the team needs him.
  • The Cubs will not have the top farm system according to Baseball Prospectus when those rankings come out, apparently. Jason Parks, writing the Twins’ list, which came out today, notes that they have the top prospect (Byron Buxton) in the top system in the game. So it’ll likely be Twins, Cubs.
  • The slowest strikeout pitches of 2013. The Cubs do not make an appearance on the good or bad side, but it’s fun to watch the yackers.
  • Kyle

    I’m trying to think of who else might be in front of Cubs. Astros probably have a solid case. Pirates are at least in the realm of argument. I can’t see the Cubs slipping past fourth, though.

    • X The Cubs Fan

      Pirates farm has a lot of good prospects but we possibly have 5 top 35 prospects and maybe a Arismendy Alcantra, Pierce Johnson or Daniel Vogelbach slide in as well.

    • Mick

      After the Rays trade Price, they’ll re-take that top spot.

      • Kyle

        I can’t imagine so. The Rays are pretty far down, and one trade isn’t going to change that.

  • Eric

    Well at least the Bard decision won’t be a tough one. Hard to argue for keeping him around. Maybe he signs a minor league deal.

  • CubChymyst

    Villanueva strike of Werth was one of the best I saw all year. It was thrown at 57 mph, and if it that pitch would of struck him out he’d be top on the killing them softly list.

    • CubChymyst

      Just realized that those were for swinging strikes. Werth was frozen and didn’t swing so the pitch wouldn’t of qualified for the list.

      • ari gold

        It was still a thing of beauty

  • Jono

    1- Maybe the significant of Valbuena playing 2b in the winter is that it gives him an easier transition if the Cubs make him move to the right side. The more practice the better, right? Not that it’ll affect the team’s decision, just that he might player a little better due to the experience

    2- Is the Cubs #2 ranking more to do with Bryant’s awesome year / Baez’s moving up the system / Edwards’ “break out”, or how other teams probably called up some other their high ranking prospects while the Cubs didn’t? I’m sure it’s a little bit of both, but there’s always one factor that’s stronger than the other (to paraphrase Kill Bill)

    • ssckelley

      I hope the significants of Valbuena playing 2nd base means he will finally be in the role he should have been in all along and that is a backup infielder. I will be disappointed if he break spring training as the Cubs starting 2nd, 3rd, or anything.

      • Jono

        With Baez, Bryant and Alcantara working their way up, I really don’t mind Valbuena

      • terencemann

        Keep in mind he was a second baseman before the Cubs claimed him and moved him to third. He also played short in the minors for Iowa. This could be more about the winter league team needing a player to slot in at second than about his future position with the Cubs.

        • ssckelley

          I know this, Valbuena makes a good bench player as he can play 3 infield positions and is serviceable in the outfield.

  • ssckelley

    I look forward to the day when a $2 million salary is not considered a gamble. To me that roster spot is more valuable than the 2 million. I am glad they found out about Bard before it was to late but that budget comment struck me funny.

    • Bwa

      $2 million will always be enough money to be considered a gamble on a guy like bard.

  • Luis Salazar

    That Valvuena has been playing “a lot of” 2B is sort of an overstatement, as he’s played only four games. However, yes, they have all been at 2B. He has gotten to a good start with a .316/.350/.368 slash line.
    You are right that his playing 2B appears unrelated to any of the FO’s plans, and has more to do with his team (Cardenales de Lara) trying to win some games. The Cardenales are currently 11-20 and in last place in the league.
    The 3B for those four games has been journeyman Joe Thurston http://goo.gl/OUX16s, who has been batting well from the leadoff spot .305/.385/.463.

    Other interesting Cub-related slash lines from the LVBP
    Dave Sappelt 1 for 7 in two games before injuring himself and leaving his team.
    Wilson Contreras .400/.455/.400 in 5 games
    /
    Ronnie Cedeño .343/.425/.429 in 10 games
    Henry Blanco .038/.242./.077 in 13 games

  • Dan

    Parks said on the BP podcast that the Cubs will be the 2nd ranked team. Interestingly, he talked about their lack of depth. I was always under the impression that the Cubs had a deep system.

    • ssckelley

      You sure he did not mean pitching depth? The Cubs have great depth at all the positions with the exception of catcher, but the pitching depth is questionable.

      • josh ruiter

        Pitching depth is actually very strong, what it lacks is elite level talent. Our best prospect has a legit shot at being a bullpen arm, however, admittedly also has a shot to be a lights out ace.

        • ssckelley

          So it sounds like you are agreeing with me? Our top pitching prospects is the one you described and a pitcher coming off TJ surgery who is one more set back away from possibly being out of baseball.

        • Kyle

          I don’t think our pitching depth could be remotely described as “very strong.”

          They did a nice job of graduating it from “total black hole of despair and misery” to “bad” this year, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

      • Dan

        He said that the Twins had the best of both worlds having both depth and top line talent, which is why they are #1. The Cubs have the elite talent and not the depth and the Astros depth and not enough elite talent. I don’t necessarily agree, but that’s what was said.

  • jim

    Im all for this rebuilding plan but im tired of seeing a pathetic team on the field. The cubs need veteran players, they dont need veteran backups. Look at all the teams that played in the playoffs the cardinals and the Bosox especially. They have a good combination of youth and age. You can use the abilities of the youth but if they all grow together they will never get the guidance from older players that have been in the league, which i personally think is a very iportant part of having prospects. I would really like to see the cubs add a position player or two that WILL start and SHOULD start that can help the young guys coming. Im frankly tired of seeing nothing done. At this rate I’m almost starting to think the ricketts family cares more about maximizing their profit and will refuse to put a competetive team on the field. I want to see more done for the big league team. I am also a fan of Shark, and i completely agree with his view. He’s not committing long term until he sees the cubs do something that is interesting enough to see a winning season in the future. Because we have great position player prospects but we need pitching prospects and if we have to wait on pitching prospects it will be well over 2 years for us to wait. Does anyone feel the same way?

    • Norm

      Is this your first time reading the blog?

    • ssckelley

      Nice rant, but what do you think are the fixes?

    • Chad

      I just find it odd that people say Ricketts is more concerned about profit than winning. Does everyone think that if the cubs win more profits will go down? Yes there will be added cost in payroll but I would guess the return is far better than that investment. Not only in attendance by memorabilia/fan item sales alone. The issue becomes, which are the players you want for a long period of time, and when is the right time? Is it this year? So far we know of exactly 0 young players that will make Chicago this year, but maybe 1 or 2 late in the season. Not sure a big FA will help them while they’re still in Iowa or TN. Maybe next year? Also, we have no real idea what the cubs are planning on doing this off-season. We think we do, but we might not. Also, when the signs finally go up, payroll can go up. These things have not happened yet though.

      • Brains

        the main criticism is that this has been an unbalanced and unhealthy approach that is actually sabotaging the up and coming minor leaguers. you have to hire the players who are available and who will be available. if there’s no “core” for rookies to join, they’ll flounder much as castro and rizzo have. basically, the creation of instability is going to breed more instability. you can’t defer trying, and purposefully losing is not a foundation for a winning strategy.

        • Norm

          unhealthy per….you.

          • YourResidentJag

            And to a degree….me. ;)

          • Kyle

            And according to attendance figures. And to MLB records. And according to media rights evaluations.

            According to pretty much every metric available outside of farm system rankings, afaict.

            • Norm

              You guys are too much.
              So not only are they building the team wrong, but it’s also unhealthy and SABOTAGING(!!) the young minor leaguers.

              Man it’s going to be a long year listening to how Javier Baez is being sabotaged.

              • SH

                Longer year: conversation, or people complaining about conversations they don’t agree with? Recently feeling like the latter.

              • Brains

                all they have to do is behave like a mid-market team and almost everything we say will be null!

      • ssckelley

        Good comment, if Ricketts just cared about profits then they would be signing quick fixes. Signing free agents sells tickets and some Cub fans are gullible when they see the team signing washed up veterans.

        • SH

          But signing free agents…costs money. We’re all doing back of the envelope math here, but it seems pretty obvious that deep rebuild + owner money reasons (“debt servicing,” renovations, etc.) are coinciding nicely for this to serve the investor’s ROI. I mean, he’s a businessman — he’s not overlooking moneymaking opportunities because he believes in a rebuild.

          • Jono

            exactly. It’s about long term success (aka, profits for the owner and wins for fans) or short term fun with shinny new toys. Fans’ interests in winning lines up with the owner’s interest in profit. And that’s long term. Sometimes it’s hard to look past the short excitement of a few extra wins and a big name player

            • SH

              I don’t know if I agree on “exactly”…paying off debt with excess revenue from an overly harsh rebuild isn’t pleasing to me. He could flip this team today and make a profit. That the profit he’d there make isn’t going toward the debt, but rather baseball money, is a bit of a bummer to me as a fan of Cubs baseball rather than our group of owners as businesspeople.

              This discussion has been had before, however, and is probably best left there. MichiganGoat has been having heart palpitations lately and I’d hate to exacerbate the problem.

              • Jono

                the exactly part is that the owner’s wallet’s interest lines up with our interest as fans to see long term success. Sure, it would be nice if there were a couple more free agents to bridge the gap between the destruction and first wave of impact prospects. But that’s easier said than done. I really don’t think the market allowed them to do that as well as people think

                • Brains

                  i would counter that it’s easier done than said, in this case

          • ssckelley

            Of course signing free agents cost money. But what is costing the team even more money are unsold tickets. This is why I believe Ricketts is in for the long term success of the Cubs, the easy/quick fix is signing free agents. Cub fans tend to get all excited when they see the FO signing veterans, if they did this I am sure tickets would get sold.

            I have done the math many times, the attendance is on a downward trend as it should since the Cubs have not been winning, it was down to 2.6 million last seasn. When the Cubs are contending the attendance is easily over 3 million. That is 400K in unsold ticket and at an average sell price of $55 each that is $22 million lost just in ticket revenue per season.

        • terencemann

          You can just look at what the Cubs were doing before the Ricketts bought the team: signing recognizable names to keep attendance and revenue up to make the major league team appear more valuable than it was.

          • Edwin

            After signing those recognizable names, they made the playoffs twice in a row.

            Interesting thought, if the Cubs don’t sign Soriano, Lilly, and others, and don’t make the playoffs in 2007 and 2008, does Brett ever become interested enough in the Cubs to launch his own blog? Did the Cubs signing Soriano ultimately lead the the creation of Bleacher Nation? Or was Bleach Nation destined to be regardless?

    • Indy57

      Think about baseball like any other business. Every business has a product or service. In baseball, the product is the team at the major league level. Think of the minor leagues as R&D. So, in this company scenario, the team is investing millions in infrastructure, engineers (scouts, coaches, etc.) to develop the new product. The leader of the company knows that R&D will take 3-5 years to get the new product to market. In the time being, the current product is not good. Some elements of it are (think baseball in the sunshine at Wrigley) but the real product is not. Your choice is to then distribute a product for someone else. In order to do that, you must make a long-term commitment (say 5 years of guaranteed sales).

      As a leader, do you make this long term commitment that could affect the money you have available later to fully commercialize the new product, or do you save you cash, get the infrastructure ready and then maximize the roll-out of the new product? You save cash to make sure that anything that can be added to the new product in terms of services or other complimentary products can be part of the options you may need. You have the cash available to make adjustment when the market forces respond to your new offering.

      It’s always funny to read people who say that the Ricketts are taking all the profit and not spending on the team. Smart business people buy a property and then make the improvement in order to build their equity. Smart business people do not buy a property and let it run down. There is no profit in that. Please stop with these asinine ideas that the Ricketts are simply soaking the Cubs in blind pursuit of profit. There is a time to spend and a time to build. There is a good product coming. However, when it gets here, it may need some additions or improvements. We just don’t know where. Let’s spend when we know where the holes are in the new product.

      • SH

        This is a delightfully conclusory read.

      • Kyle

        Baseball teams are not traditional product-oriented businesses. Analogies are comforting, but they don’t really work.

        A company with an R&D department have no real cap on long-term profits. They can afford to put off years and years and even decades of profit if need be in order to reach the exponential growth at the end. There is only one dollar available per year, and 30 baseball teams are fighting for it, and only one can get it. You can’t get five dollars in a year later for forgoing fighting for the one dollar now. The analogy breaks down.

        Besides, I don’t think Ricketts is cheap. I think he’s frequently been incompetent.

    • http://vdcinc.biz 70′scub

      Cub front office is avoiding these type of deals……. King Albert, Prince, Hamilton, three dodger out fielders, A-rod, Mark Tex. Without PED “JUICE” these contracts are just a reward for past performance most times a 29 year old will far out preform a 38 year old player. In the end Sori could only play left, could not hit in the cold damp April, could not steal bases. Is 20 million for that type of play good for the Cubs and is ok for as a reward for past great years? Paying for past great play…. maybe an organization can have a few home grown loyal old past the prime talents getting top dollar. I for one would like the Cubs to be in that position 12 years from now.

  • Edwin

    I hope the Cubs bring back Ted Lilly, so that maybe they can get a pitcher on the slowest strikeout list.

    • Luis Salazar

      BTW Ted Lilly will make his first start in the Venezuelan Winter League (VWL) on Wednesday with the Navegantes del Magallanes.

      • Edwin

        That’s the same team that Carlos Zambrano plays for.

        • Luis Salazar

          Zambrano is 0-1 4.98 ERA 19 BB 9 K in 21.2 IP
          He could lose his rotation spot soon.

          • college_of_coaches

            Wow. Luis, thanks for the info on the VWL!

          • Edwin

            He just needs to climb a couple more mountains like a couple years ago. I’ll never stop believing!

          • CubChymyst

            yes the VWL info is much appreciated

  • http://www.bleachernation.com salesguy

    You’ll be even more tired of this approach when you see the pick it costs or the money. Vets were great when all the cost was money, now it’s money, and a pick, and dispite the talent we have in the system, I wouldn’t exactly describe us as extrely deep in prospects. If the cubs want to add a veteran, I’d prefer it come through trade, with years of control rather than FA.

    • ssckelley

      No, it is still money. The draft picks are a minor concern and this years top pick is protected anyway.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com salesguy

        To overlook the importance of a high 2nd round draft pick is foolish, I think Boston would love it if we signed Ellsbury. Draft picks for veterans are not a minor concern for an organization that has been starved for prospects for so long.

        • ssckelley

          I am getting dejavue, didn’t we just debate this?

          Second round picks have very little value, the success rate of players being drafted in that round are very low. When you sign a free agent you are getting an established MLB player. The farm system is not starved for prospect anymore, what the team needs is more talent at the top level and a 2nd round pick will not help the Cubs with that.

  • Isaac

    Say a prayer for everyone around here in Peoria, it’s an absolute warzone everywhere. So many people without homes.

    • ssckelley

      Prayers are with you folks in Peoria, I have seen how damaging a tornado can be here in NE Iowa.

      • Isaac

        Thank you. It’s tremendous. My home was spared but many of my coworkers lost everything. So far no injuries to my friends/family, so that’s really all that matters.

    • beerhelps

      I live in Washington and it is like a war zone through part of the city. Just count my family as very lucky to be alive and to still have my house. Unfortunately can’t say the same for many friends and neighbors.

      • willis

        I had one split my house in two when I was 14. I’ll never forget the sound and the damage it caused, while many other houses in my neighborhood had little damage, ours was damn near destroyed. I got hit with flying glass that night and escaped it with a quick trip for stiches. It’s absolutely wild stuff what a storm like that can do.

        Prayers to you and all the families that were affected yesterday.

        • SH

          That’s some story, man. I imagine that was real tough, cheers to ya and best wishes to those affected.

  • Mick

    Hey Brett (or anyone who can answer this),

    You mentioned a factor for cutting Bard was a way to save money “considering the budget”. I think I missed a write-up regarding the Cubs financial woes, limited budget, over-extended business investments, or something of the sort. Can someone please fill me in about the Cubs budgetary concerns or point me in the direction of the write-up that discusses it?

    Thank you!

  • http://mccarronlegal.com jmc

    sign Tanaka

  • SH

    In MLB news…Ruiz resigned by Phils at 3/$26M with a $4.5M option.

    http://www.crossingbroad.com/2013/11/report-the-phillies-will-re-sign-carlos-ruiz.html

    • SH

      Recent slash lines:

      2011 (age 32): .283/.371/.383
      2012 (age 33): .325/.394/.540
      2013 (age 34): .268/.320/.368

      Other facts:

      Fangraphs likes his defense; he was suspended in November 2012 (effective at start of 2013) for an amphetamine; his nickname is Chooch.

  • willis

    That Bard stuff is so bad it’s comical. We thought Marmol was tough to watch, this guy would drive us to hell and back. Hopefully they do not waste the 2 million on him and can clear his roster spot for a rule 5 addition.

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