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lukewarm stoveSunday afternoon Lukewarm Stove? It must be December …

  • With Phil Hughes going to the Twins, I thought it might be interesting to take a quick look a few other lower-tier, inexpensive, back-of-the-rotation value signings the Cubs could pursue instead. With both the posting system and the realism of the Cubs’ Masahiro Tanaka pursuit up in the air, and the possibility that the Cubs will spend big-ish dollars on an Ubaldo Jimenez type (or maybe even a Scott Kazmir type) looking slim, a lower-tier arm might be all that the Cubs bring in this offseason. If Jeff Samardzija isn’t traded, there’s really only one rotation spot available anyway (Samardzija/Wood/Jackson/Arrieta, with Chris Rusin and Carlos Villanueva among the in-house options for that 5th spot). Still, grabbing a guy like the three discussed here can be a cheap way to accumulate the depth necessary to make it through a 162-game season. And, who knows? Maybe you stumble into a flippable asset or a longer-term piece?
  • The first possibility is directly tied to the Hughes signing, since he was a Twins free agent. Does Hughes (and Ricky Nolasco) inking with the Twins mean that mean Mike Pelfrey will be turned loose to the open market? On a similar tier as Hughes – i.e., dreaming on some peripherals and youth – Pelfrey could be an intriguing buy-low, back-of-the-rotation option for the Cubs. While I don’t find him nearly as intriguing as Hughes, Pelfrey wouldn’t be nearly as expensive. His first year back from 2012 Tommy John surgery, Pelfrey put up a 5.19 ERA over 152.2 innings for the Twins. That ERA was undoubtedly inflated by a .337 BABIP and a 67.2% LOB percentage, both worse than his career marks. Pelfrey also didn’t get as many groundballs last year as he usually does (he’s not a strikeout guy, having K’d only 13.2% of the batters he’s faced in his career). His K rate was up slightly last year, and he continued doing the low-walk, low-homer thing he’s always done. That’s why his FIP was a more attractive 3.99. The biggest thing to like is that his velocity – sitting in the low-90s – was pretty much right where it’s always been. Pelfrey turns 30 in January, and, for you oh-God-no-not-another-Tommy-John-guy worriers out there, Pelfrey has already fully recovered from the surgery, and should stand to see an additional uptick next year (guys tend to be most successful two years post-surgery, rather than just one-year post-surgery).
  • The next possibility comes courtesy of a Dave Cameron chat suggestion: Roberto Hernandez (the Fausto Carmona one, not the old and retired one) as an under-the-radar move for the Cubs. I’ve got a pretty mixed, mostly weak, reaction here. There are some positive signals there, like his increased K rate (17.6%) and reduced BB rate (5.9%) last year. He got a ton of groundballs, and generally pitched well enough to be a satisfactory fifth starter in most rotations … except for the home runs. Almost 21%(!!!) of the flyballs he gave up last year left the ballpark. He gave up a ridiculous 1.43 HR/9, which was much higher than his career mark (which, at 0.94 per 9, is already fairly high). Some of that is due to his own mistakes, but usually you see positive regression in a situation like that. If he comes for a song, sure, sign him. He’s 33, and has the potential to develop some flip value by the deadline. But, make no mistake – that’s all he would be.
  • A final lower-tier, back-end option for the Cubs could be someone like Kevin Slowey. Not yet 30, Slowey has had a rough go of it the last few years, after a quality season in Minnesota back in 2010. In 2011, Slowey didn’t win a job in the Twins’ rotation, and bounced back and forth between the bullpen and AAA, before being traded to the Rockies in December. A month later, the Rockies flipped him to the Indians (for current Cubs minor league free agent reliever Zach Putnam). He didn’t pitch in the bigs for the Indians, and signed on with the Marlins for 2013. He actually pitched fairly well in his time in Miami, posting a 3.81 FIP and a 4.22 K/BB over 92 innings. The primary bugaboo with Slowey is the forearm flexor strain that ended his 2013 season (that’s why he got only 92 innings). While he was checked out at the time of the injury (mid-2013) and apparently didn’t need surgery, forearm issues are sometimes actually elbow issues (or lead to them), and an elbow issue that pops up in March could cost Slowey all of 2014. Slowey has always been a guy who works in the zone (career BB rate is just 3.8%), but gives up a lot of hits and a lot of homers. When healthy (and in the bigs), he’s been worth about 2.0 WAR per year, which you’d gladly take from a dirt cheap fifth starter. The question is whether he’s still that guy, having not had a full, healthy season in the big leagues since 2010. Slowey may wind up having to settle for a minor league deal, and, if he does, I hope it’s with the Cubs. If nothing else, he be great depth at AAA.
  • http://www.shadowsofwrigley.com TC

    Hey Brett, there was a report in the San Diego union-tribune that the Padres were looking o move a surplus of SPs for a LH bat. Do you think the Cubs could get Robbie Erlin or Burch Smith for a guy like Schierholtz?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’ll be writing about that soon, but I believe they’re looking for a lefty bat AND a lefty reliever (Russell). So there really might be a match there.

  • YourResidentJag

    Add to that list Chad Gaudin.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      The list could be considerably longer – this was just a smattering of some of the more intriguing options.

  • LER

    Pelfrey has a two-year offer from the Twins still standing.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      At last check, the pendency of that offer was in question post-Hughes. That’s why I phrased things the way I did, because it’s unclear whether they’ll try to bring him back now. http://www.startribune.com/sports/twins/233955521.html

  • http://mccarronlegal.com jmc

    okay so this is a bleed out from the other thread but is it the consensus that the Cubs will not compete until 2017? if so why are we talking about minor leagues contracts?

    • Kyle

      I don’t think you can try to project baseball teams that far forward.

      But 2014-2016 looks pretty icky. This is a killer stat:

      2013 total bWAR from players 25 and under
      Reds 13.3
      Cardinals 11.0
      Pirates 7.2
      Brewers 6.3
      Cubs 2.1

      We can go on and on about our farm system, but it’s the players already in the majors that will be in their primes in that window of 2014-2016, and we’re desperately behind in that category. And two of the teams in front of us have comparable farm systems.

      A *lot* of things are going to have go go right for the Cubs in the next few years for us to have a chance of achieving that “sustained success” everyone keeps talking about. We’re not on pace for it right now.

      • YourResidentJag

        And we’ve entered a time warp—1990s Cubs anyone.

      • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

        Historically, if you are going to do the total build it from scratch, it takes 5-7 years before you knock on that heaven’s door called winning. Cubs, being the Cubs, I don’t think they break that record time.

        With modest resources applied, it could look a bit different. But the complexity of Ricketts financing probably makes this unlikely. As private investments were involved, and the renovation package obviously took on MORE financing, don’t expect a payroll above 90M. (And of course: they could be sandbagging it. Squirreling away those dollars for the big splash in Tanaka…that.seems reckless given what happens if you are wrong on that ONE arm.)

      • Professor Snarks

        2016 could be a decent offense. It’ll be Baez and Bryant’s 3rd year, Soler or Almora’s 2nd year. Rizzo and Castro in their primes. Now all they need is the 4th pick in 2014 and the 1st pick in 2015 to be major league ready TOR pitchers.

        (I will admit, there are a lot of if’s there).

        • Kyle

          Well, yeah. If every single one of our top prospects hits their ceilings without any setbacks, including the ones we haven’t drafted yet, then things look better.

          That’s unlikely.

          • Professor Snarks

            Trust me Kyle, I’m with you. If we stay the prospect/young guy route, 2016 could be fun, but it would take, as you have stated, a *lot* for that team to really compete. The only way I see them competing earlier is by trading most of their top level prospects for experienced top level major league guys.
            I’m not on the optimistic side of the timeline. I’m just saying a lot can happen between now and 2016.

      • Jason P

        But there’s a lot that went wrong this year to make that number as low as it is. Castro will likely rebound, even if not to where he was in 2011.

        Another important point to make is that if you expand that list to “26 and under” you can add 8.8 bWAR for Castillo and Wood.

  • http://mccarronlegal.com jmc

    so from a marketing standpoint how do the Cubs sell two million tickets and television viewers to watch their product for the next 3-4 years?

    • Kyle

      Sucking up to season ticket holders, selling the farm system, spinning constantly. They’re already doing these things.

  • YourResidentJag

    Mauricio Rubio Jr. ‏@MRubio52 1h
    Welp, there goes that idea. RT @mlbtraderumors: Red Sox To Tender Contract To Andrew Bailey http://dlvr.it/4QhXwL #mlb

  • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

    I think we will wait on FA agent pitching…those types should be available even going into February. I guess if they could get a guy for under 3-4 mil you say why not, or a prove-it spring training go (Kevin Gregg got cut last year from Dodgers). If we are satisfied and have Samardzija et. al. you also have Kyle Hendricks that has yet to fail in the minors at AAA. Sure he can come up after 5-10 starts in AAA. Might as well see what we got…he’s only 24 in a few days.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=hendri001kyl

  • http://mccarronlegal.com jmc

    I don’t know Kyle. You can fool some of the people some of the time

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      Minor league pitcher of the year. Surely you jest.

  • Spoda17

    I wouldn’t go after any of these guys… I would bring up Hendricks and let him learn under Bosio… back the to original notion, who cares if you are .500…

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      You – and many others – are assuming that Hendricks doesn’t need any time at AAA. I’m not sure why that’s a fair assumption just yet, Bosio’s singular comment notwithstanding. Besides, you don’t plan a roster like that. A smart team picks up a couple guys like the ones discussed above, and uses them for depth or trades midseason.

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      Bosio made comments to that effect a couple of days ago. Gave Wacha as an example. I’m sure they will take a good look at Hendricks in spring training. Everybody is falling in love with power arms, but this guy just keeps getting batters out.

  • http://mccarronlegal.com jmc

    anybody remember cognitive dissonance?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      No. Teach us.

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    Royals trying to land Carlos Beltran to play RF. Odds are they cannot afford him. However, Nate Schierholtz would be a nice affordable option in a trade with the Cubs. Luke Hochevar is due about 6 million in arbitration and is no longer a starter , but was lights out in relief last year. Cubs should pursue this guy and make him their closer for 3 years.

  • gray

    Roberto Hernandez is one of my SAN coaches for baseball and is teaching me how to pitch it would be pretty cool if he became a pitching coach in the minors because he is latin

  • gray

    AAU stupid autocorrect

  • http://mccarronlegal.com jmc

    cognitive dissonance equals the Cubs marketing verses their actual product. perceived goals verses actuality

  • http://mccarronlegal.com jmc

    does that help?

  • Bill

    Chris Rusin deserves a chance to be the fifth starter.He did a pretty good job last year and deserves a shot,and if Rusin fails we could always go to Villianuva.It just seems like a waste of money to sign some mediocre veteran when we have guys here who could do the job.

  • http://mccarronlegal.com jmc

    oh well Brett. Wikipedia cognitive dissonance

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I am very familiar with the term. I was being sarcastic, and asking you to explain the term’s relevance here, rather than just dropping it out there like a smart-sounding fart.

      (winky face)

  • http://mccarronlegal.com jmc

    just trying to help out counselor

  • Blackhawks1963

    It is depressing the offseason targets being mentioned. This is dumpster diving taken to a whole new level.

  • http://BN Sacko

    Looking at Twins rejects? Really? Picking up looser’s from looser’s teams…ah hamburger

  • bbfan

    So when talking about possible cub rotation where is scott baker? Has he signed with someone else?

  • http://mccarronlegal.com jmc

    come on Brett we are all Cubs lovers here or we wouldn’t be here except for those guys who are Cardinals trolls.I’m just a small town lawyer Chicago trying to make sense of the Cubs lol

  • http://mccarronlegal.com jmc

    hey I thought sarcasm was forbidden on this site

  • Bret Epic

    Anyone still think Grimm has a chance as a starter or has that ship sailed?

    • Rich H

      Grimm has a chance to be our Smyly this year. Put him in the bullpen after keeping him stretched out this spring. That way his arm is helping us this year, he gets aclamated to the majors and gets a lot of work with Bosio. Come next spring he should either be ready for a rotation spot or be in the conversation for the late innings.

  • jeff1969

    I know this will probably be an unpopular comment, but really almost none of the pitchers on the 40 man roster are here for the longer term. There are the provens like Shark, Wood, Jackson, maybe Russell, Villanueva, Parker, but most are experiments like Arrieta, Strop, Grimm, Lim, Bard, then you have the unprovens like Rusin, Raley, Rosscup, Rondon, Cabrera and the injured like Vizcaino, Fujikawa. Looking at the list, it so unimpressive that its hard to figure out the master plan. I’m thinking there’s some attempted value building going on, a whole lot of finger crossing, prayer saying. As each of the mostly boring free agent signings happen, it makes me nervous that if they do trade Shark, and say a guy like Russell maybe, this could be one of the ugliest staffs the Cubs have had, possibly.

  • Cub Lifer

    This is ridiculous. If Ricketts can support even a modest payroll for a big market team then sell the team. The player targets being thrown around in the rumor mill are of shocking crap. Are we doing after Phil Humber next?!?!

  • Cub Lifer

    This is ridiculous. If Ricketts cannot support even a modest payroll for a big market team then sell the team. The player targetshttp://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/11/al-east-notes-moreland-cano-napoli-sox-orioles.html being thrown around in the rumor mill are of shocking crap. Are we doing after Phil Humber next?!?!

  • Bill

    The Cubs would be smart to pick up extra arms as insurance for the rotation. However, they don’t need to pay $8M a year (see Hughes) for those arms, especially as a number 5 starter/AAA filler.

    • When the Music’s Over

      Why so concerned about an $8M investment for Phil Hughes?

      a) The deal was for $8M a year, which has no impact on this year’s depressed payroll
      b) It’s a 3 year deal, which will have such little impact on the team’s payroll going forward
      c) If he happens to turn a corner, the Cubs can opt to keep him or trade him
      d) It’s not your money

  • Jason P

    Just got my December Vineline, and I found a very interesting quote in there from Alex Suarez (Assistant Director of Player Development and International scouting) on Armando Rivero.

    “At 25, we’re going to put him on a throwing program to stretch him out. We had him in the bullpen this year so we could control his innings, but as we get closer to spring training, we’ll decide what his role will be going forward.”

  • ClevelandCubsFan

    Can we just sign someone, PLEASE? I’m worn out with discussions of hypothetical players’ potential worth. I want to have discussions about real players’ potential worth. Just 1. That will get me through until New Years.

    Thank you.

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