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john-axford-mustachioThe Chicago Cubs have always been in the market for a late-inning reliever to whom they could offer the opportunity to close, and a new option may have popped up on Monday when certain arbitration-eligible players were non-tendered. That would be mustachioed reliever John Axford.

Not only does Axford check some superficial boxes for the Cubs, Patrick Mooney reports that sources say there is mutual interest between Axford and the Cubs. Mooney’s report includes some quotes from Theo Epstein on the state of the Cubs’ bullpen, and what they’d be looking for in a reliever in free agency. Give it a read.

As for Axford, you probably remember the dominant 2010 and 2011 seasons in Milwaukee, the down year in 2012, and the lost closer’s gig in 2013. He was shipped out to St. Louis at the waiver trade deadline in August, and he pitched very well in limited, low-leverage duty. He made $5 million as a Super Two in 2013, and, because of the rough waters in 2012 and 2013, non-tendered him was a no-brainer.

But, just because the Cardinals wisely determined that he wasn’t worth $6-ish million in arbitration doesn’t mean he’s not worth some kind of contract offer. Depending on what you’re getting …

Why did Axford perform so poorly the last two years (4.67 ERA in 2012, 4.02 ERA in 2013 (4.45 before the August trade))? Well, I could point to the normal “luck” indicators – Axford’s left-on-base percentage was abnormally low in 2012 (i.e., unlucky sequencing), and his BABIP against was abnormally high in 2013. But the real bugaboo for Axford has been the long-ball. In his two dominant years with the Brewers, he simply didn’t give up home runs – just 5 in more than 130 innings in 2010 and 2011. Then, in 2012 his HR/9 rocketed up to 1.30 per 9 (which is enormous), and his HR/FB rate was an absurdly high 19.2%. That latter figure usually regresses back to a more normal rate (average is right around 10%), but Axford’s fell just a couple percent in 2013, to 17.2%. Once again, you’d expect a regression (the good kind) next year.

But what about his stuff? Maybe he’s just way more hittable than he was before? Well, his strikeout rate in 2012 was normal (30%), but fell markedly in 2013 (22.5%). His walk rate also fell in 2013 (9%), and it looks like he was simply in the zone more in 2013 than in the past. His ability to miss bats in the zone fell slightly – combine those things, and you’re going to see the strikeout rate fall.

So does that mean he’s losing “stuff”? Well, hitters definitely feasted on his previously-effective fastball in 2012 (.369 wOBA against fastball) and 2013 (.362), but he didn’t really lose any velocity over that period. His changeup and his slider were just about as effective the last two years as they were before, so it’s hard to say the stuff has left him. Maybe he just needs to work on the pitch mix? Or maybe he was tipping his fastball?

In any case, on the right deal, Axford is an intriguing option. He’ll turn 31 next year, but physically, he’s a good risk. There are reasons to be optimistic about a bounce-back next year, and for a few million bucks, I’d take that chance.

Having fallen out of his closer’s job in Milwaukee, Axford could be keen on landing somewhere that he knows he’ll have a chance to close once again (why wouldn’t he?). On the plus side, that’s one thing the Cubs can offer Axford, given their theoretical opening.

If the Cubs really like Axford, he comes with a huge bonus: three years of control, regardless of the length of contract he signs. In other words, if the Cubs sign him to an inexpensive one-year deal, the Cubs can retain him via arbitration in 2015 and 2016 (with appropriate raises).

Also: mustache. That’s a requirement if you sign in Chicago, John.

  • Reality Check

    John Axford; he looks like a closer from the ’70′s. That rocks!
    But…………if we don’t flip him, unlike Kevin Gregg he serves no purpose. Gregg should of been gone by July 31st. It made NO sense by the FO. Gregg took time away from Strop; who we don;t know if he can close and if Strop had done poorly; would of meant a higher draft pick; which means Gregg indirectly hurt the team. There is no value in having the 4th pick instead of the 2nd. If your gonna lose on purpose; then lose; don’t half-ass it.

    Now that the Yanks lost Robbie Cano, don’t you know; Cubs have NO shot at Tanaka. Yanks have 175M reasons burning a hole in the Steinbrenner pockets plus maybe the Mariners decide to get involved now instead of trading half the farm system for David Price.(not to meantion the angels, rangers, bosox, dodgers).

    I hate the losing on purpose. Especially for a large market; 4th or 5th in revenues and 3rd highest ticket. But……………everyone screams what should they do when they apologize for Thoyer and PK Ricketts. usually it consists of sign pujols or fielder or hamilton (and can now include cano or ellsbury). No; that is not the answer either.

    So what is.

    Let’s look at these players; all 30 or younger; who the cubs had or could of. Remember; all 30 or younger; in their prime; and all better SP or OF than what we have.

    Garza-(cj edwards is the only real value here)
    Cashner (yes-I know; no adam laroche lite with a better glove Rizzo)
    Feldman
    Smardz (assuming traded)

    Cespedes
    Puig
    Darvish
    Ryu
    Anibal Sanchez
    Tanaka (not gonna happen)
    Fister
    Fowler

    yes; there have been options. instead Thoyer spent 80M on this crap: Ejax, ian stewart, baker, fujikawa, hairston and cuban kid concepcion.

    one thing is for sure; past week has been a blast for those of us who claim baseball as their fav sport as I do and next week has alot more fun coming…………..really sucks when your team is no where to be found during it all……….

    Bueller…………..Bueller…………..Thoyer……….Jed………Theo………

    • D-Rock

      I’m not a fan of bashing our FO, but you did make a lot of good points about how the FA money has been spent by Theo & Co. You have to give them credit for the way they have rebuilt the farm system but the FA signings have not been good as you pointed out, they could have gotten one or two quality players with that money instead of spending it on not so valuable pieces the last couple of years. Too many head-scratchers…

      • aaronb

        The problem is that they are insulating themselves from criticism with those signings.

        Scott Baker, Ian Stewart, Fuku, etc don’t pan out…..Oh well those guys were cheap. Yet everyone wants to give them full credit when a Feldman or Schierholtz can pass for a real MLB player for a few months.

        • Kramden

          Anybody ever considered that maybe Epstein & Hoyer are good at building farm systems, but maybe not so good at building a major league roster?

          As far as the successful free agents they’ve signed, I’d say they’re 50/50… Meaning for each one they hit on, they also miss on one…. Which is basically treading water.

          I’m not sure what the answer is for 2014 or maybe even 2015, but if they’re as good at building a farm system as they seem to be, I’d have to conclude that at some point it’ll translate to the major league team.

          • Brains

            hoyer doesn’t build the minors, he’s responsible for all of our terrible trades and lack of signings. but point taken.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            “As far as the successful free agents they’ve signed, I’d say they’re 50/50… Meaning for each one they hit on, they also miss on one…. Which is basically treading water.”

            If you’re talking about the low-cost, bounce-back types, I’d say a 50% hit rate is fantastic. Those guys don’t exactly come with a great chance of success.

      • Jeff

        Everybody talks about how we should give them credit for rebuilding the farm system, well, we had the 2nd and 6th pick, kind of hard to mess it up when the pics are that low, plus Baez is a Hendry product.

        Problem is, just like any other prospect, the big four are great on paper but until they make it to the big leagues and put up All Star numbers, it’s all semantics regarding how well the farm system is doing.

        Unfortunately, the way they have run the Cubs, the only option now is to tear it to shreds as we now have little options at hand.

        So Theo took over in 2012, we have squandered 2012, 2013, 2014 is out the window and 2015 will be out the window too. We might have all of the big four playing by 2016, it will take another 2 to 3 years for these youngsters to mature to where they could compete for a division.

        So we will be sub-par for the next five years….that’s the reality….PERIOD!

        • TK

          Hey miss debby downer, the sky aint falling.

          2015 SP (ranging from possible to likely)
          Shark, Tanaka, Wood, Vizcaino, Arrieta, Hendricks, Edwards

          2015 position players
          Castro (expecting a turnaround)
          Rizzo
          Baez
          Bryant
          Alcantera
          Lake
          Castillo

          Plus any FA that might help.

          Oh no! What ever shall we do?!?!?

      • TK

        Its moronic to suggest they should go sign a Pujols or someone like him just for the sake of appearance, which is basically whats being done here. Besides, see how those moves work for other teams. Any fool can open his eyes and look at the successful teams in MLB and have the ability to put 2 with 2 to see that the way to be a good MLB team, consistently, is the way teams like the Rays and Cards do it. Thats what the Cubs are moving towards. And it makes absolutely zero sense to throw away $20m + (or any significant amount) on one player at this point. See how thats working for the Yanks these days. The current FA signings are not meant to make us competitive. They are meant to serve the purpose of (hopefully) having career years and being trading for players that will be better than them in the future. If you are too freaking dense to get this concept, theres no helping you. If you just want a team that “spends like a big market team” then you need to move to NY or LA and get the fun off Cubs web sites.

    • Moises Canchola

      Thats the thing is it Theo or Jed making the moves or is Ricketts playing a pivotal role? Because I def think he is. He says he is a Cubs fan at heart but I think he is full of Sh*# cuz we all know the Cubs were looking at Cespedes, Ryu, Darvish but I bet dollars to donuts that Ricketts told Theo that getting those players werent in the budget and to get affordable garbage instead, some did pan out but most didnt. As far as EJax i can only assume they were given a bit of money and they went crazy. Now if they are serious about winning then they need to get Tanaka for sure. He is still young in his prime so even if he signs a 100mil+ for 7 or so years that puts him at 32 when that contract is up, so there is no reason not to get him. He will still be in his prime when Baez, Bryant, Soler and Almora are ready to come up

  • TinLV

    This is so funny. I came to the site specifically to bring up the question of whether anyone thought the Cubs might be interested in Axford.. and he was the headline. I can’t really see a downside to him as a Cub at the right price…he always seemed to kill the Cubs when pitching against them.. they would have control of him for 3 years… yeah… I think I’d rather see him on the team than pitching against them and our bullpen needs all the help it can get.

  • arta

    move on.

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

    Jona Keri: http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/post/_/id/84943/why-robinson-canos-gigantic-deal-is-smart-for-the-mariners-and-what-it-means-for-the-yankees

    “Rebuilding exclusively through the farm system is a lovely idea. There’s some virtue in signing players to value deals. But the Mariners have been a lousy team for a while, and like 29 other franchises, their goal is to win the World Series, not the dollars-per-WAR championship. Signing the best player on this year’s free-agent market is a pretty good way to start working toward that goal.”

    $/WAR champions = Cubs

    Another potential insight…Nintendo of America looking to build the franchise up so as to sell it to the next gullible Billionaire looking for a vanity buy? See if they add Choo + Price + 1/2 other FAs…and if they succeed in buying a championship, they will find a buyer. Their owner died in Sept 2013. Teams do tend to flip quickly after a long-time owner passes.

    Seems the Cubbies pulled that trick on Ricketts & Co….because if he had a overriding plan when he bought it, Tom would have had the people in place to do it. Not wait until Theo left Bo Sox in Oct 2011, a good spell after the Ricketts took the reins of control.

    • Mike F

      I agree except there are only 28 other teams working with an over-riding goal to be world champions. One stands alone in postponement until the sun moon and stars align with their supposed roof top enemies……

    • aaronb

      Great post!

      I still think that 2006 was really a watershed year in Cubs history. The Trib had traditionally been cheap owners (not Ricketts bad though). And that fall the fans started to vote with their feet.

      I firmly believe the empty seats forced ownership to finally act like they cared about more than a bottom line…Hopefully we see fans vote with their feet again in the near future.

      • MichiganGoat

        Really? 2006 was not because ownership “cared about more than a bottom line” it was all about inflating value to make more money when the Tribune (Zell) sold the Cubs. The ONLY thing they cared about was the bottom line when they sold the team. They only wanted to win to raise the price of the sell. The “watershed” was emptied to make the team look better for a couple year so they could sell the team, run away with the cash, and leave the new owner with a giant mess. Tribune didn’t care about the fans they cared about creating a huge payday. If the Mariners are looking to sell in the next couple years this overspending makes more sense and if the Mariners don’t win a WS in the next three years the team will be in a giant mess.

        • Oswego Chris

          Right on with the Zell stuff Goat, people need to research a bit…the Tribune really hadn’t been “cheap” since the early 90s and the damage Zell inflicted could probably fill a book…

          I still don’t think most people realize, what the Ricketts family bought…it wasn’t a sinking ship, it was already buried at the bottom of the ocean.

          • YourResidentJag

            This I disagree with. They were cheap in the 1990s.

          • MichiganGoat

            Yeah I’m real sick of how everyone has reimagined history so it supports thier hatred. Everyone should buy your book so they are so unaware of what the Tribune did to the Cubs. They barely touched a crumbling stadium, refused to invest in the FO, scouting, are thought the word “sustainability” was made up gibberish.

            • Brains

              no one hates, they just think the argument that building a minor league system needs to come *instead* of building a mlb system is a sham.

          • Crazyhorse

            The Cubs ( SAM Zell and Tribune Company ) two different set of ideas. Two different approaches in managing the Cubs . Sam okayed big contracts to capitalize selling the Cubs, Tribune authorize certain spending controls to maintain the Cubs .Either way The Cubs had some of it most productive seasons under the two sets of ideas.

            Rickets bought the team and it has since floundered, Theo was brought in to hopefully rebuild the Cubs organization in his specialty the farm system . I doubt that meant a total rebuild with little resources going towards the 25 man roster (which is reality) thus producing an embarrassment to fans.

            Think that a fair assessment.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              “Either way The Cubs had some of it most productive seasons under the two sets of ideas.”

              This is the part that people seem to ignore: the crash was coming either way. To paper over the huge contracts that drove the winning in 2007 and 2008, there would have to have been more spending – and then more spending – and then more spending. The Cubs were never going to have a $200 million payroll, so the reckoning was coming either way.

              With this front office a the helm, at least the reckoning was efficiently used to simultaneously build up young talent.

              • Crazyhorse

                I agree , The Cubs under Sam Zell gave bad contracts that the payroll was not sustainable and the players under those contracts did not fulfill . The Cubs began to chase bad money.
                There comes a time when a person has to stop chasing bad money and this is why they hired Theo. Theo has done a Brilliant job in reorganizing the farm system. but a bad job in the 25 man roster.

              • aaronb

                Could we not have built a farm system WHILE having bridge players to keep the team competitive all this time?

                That seems to be where the disagreements seem to stem.

                • DocPeterWimsey

                  If so, then the disagreement is based on a false premise. The key word is “keep.” The 2011 Cubs were not a competitive team, and they were many players away from being that team. They were not a competitive team in 2010, either. Instead, they were a rapidly declining team that was built to win in 2007-2009. The “bridges” to competition already had burned over the prior two seasons.

                  Instead, the disagreement should be between building the farm system while letting the team become awful, or building the farm system while having the bridge players to keep the team *mediocre.* Mediocrity would have been less painful to watch: but it would have meant watching other teams in October, and probably not having as strong a farm system as the Cubs currently have.

                  • aaronb

                    Now we have to hope enough things break right for us to just get BACK to being mediocre. Unless we buy into the theory that we are going to go from 100 losses to 100 wins because prospects all show up and play at an all star level.

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      No, there are two other assumptions. One, they trade other prospects for key pieces, and two, useful free agents appear. Unfortunately, Theo et al. (and several other FOs) probably are wrong about the latter: due to a couple of factors, the pool of good FAs has been very small in recent years, and it’s going to continue to be small for a while.

                • Crazyhorse

                  Yes , This is the Crux of the situation The we Believe in Theo group thinks that punting 3-6 years is okay and any bad move made within his presidency of baseball operations is almost always tied to Hendry and as the years progress this becomes less of a reality. Which is an obstacle that this front office can not overcome. Either due to direct failure or misguided goals the 25 man roster only has one person to blame and that is Theo.

                  The difference is winning. the reality is the Cubs are losing and people are pissed.

                  • aaronb

                    We simply payed the penalty to sign those guys over our bonus pool. Why couldn’t we have done that regardless of our pool?

                    It just would have cost more. We could have done the same thing in 2012. We just chose not to.

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                  The answer is: not as effectively. A competitive team (but not sustainably playoff-calibre) doesn’t trade off pieces at the deadline and it doesn’t draft high.

                  • aaronb

                    What players have we traded for at the deadline that are difference makers? How have the Rays or Cardinals built systems without July tradeoffs?

                    Is the only avenue to get a Stroup or Arrieta level talent by tanking a season?

                    • MichiganGoat

                      Alright Arron I get it, no matter what evidence or logic you are presented you will be angry and hate how things have gone since 2008. Sounds great carry on, you have many people that will join you in this version of reality.

                    • bt

                      Exactly aaron. Its not like the Rays had to spend 3 years in last place in order to build up a base they could build on.

                      They spent 10.

                    • MichiganGoat

                      I do love alternate histories… BIZARRO. I know let’s ignore all facts and create the perfect history that aligns with our arguments that way WE ALWAYS WIN

                  • Rebuilding

                    You can say with certainty we wouldn’t have Bryant, Almora, CJ Edwards, Mike Olt, Justin Grimm, Neil Ramirez, Arodys Vizcaino, Eloy Jimenez, Gleyber Torres, Corey Black for starters

                    • Rebuilding

                      We also prob wouldn’t have Travis Wood or Anthony Rizzo (I assume we would have Pujols and his contract at first)

                    • aaronb

                      Jimenez and Torres could still be here. Other than Bryant there is a good chance that none of those guys amount to much.

                      We could also have ended up with a Wacha instead of an Almora.

                      What happens IF we start to win? Are we going to start to worry that we aren’t getting high enough draft picks?

                    • Rebuilding

                      I would imagine that we also would have traded Baez for pitching at the deadline and prob wouldn’t have signed Soler in order to put that money towards the bullpen or a 3b

                    • aaronb

                      Maybe we have Puig, Darvish and Ryu instead of those guys?

                    • Rebuilding

                      No, Jimenez and Torres wouldn’t still be there. We only got them because we had a huge pool of IFA money because we stink. Nice cherry picking – yes, everyone could say they could have had Wacha instead. The 2014 Cubs also could have Pujols at first, Soriano in left and absolutely no farm system

                    • Rebuilding

                      @aaronb – Sure, we could have gotten Puig, Ryu, Cespedes, Pujols and some more overpriced guys. There are other teams you know. And that would prob have us at $150 million payroll and still not better than the Cardinals with no hope for the future

                    • Crazyhorse

                      I don’t know which players we would have had if the Cubs played better and I don’t know if the Front Office would have made worthwhile acquisitions though the draft, but the reality is the Cubs are an embarrassment . An embarrassment for the last past three years, a span of having the worst three year record in Cub history those are the facts.

                      Paying 13.7 million dollars so Soriano can play for the Yankees was dumb , paying 13 millon a year for E, Jackson dumb, Paying Baker 5 million a waste . paying Stewart to ….. the list goes on and on.

                      The farm is system under Theo has thrived. the 25 man roster sank deeper

                    • MichiganGoat

                      Hell Aaron maybe we have Trout, Pujols, Kershaw, Miggy, McCutchen, and every other star. With a time machine we’d WIN ALL THE WORLD SERIES.

                    • Rebuilding

                      If the haters would just take the blinders off this is the year that the sucking is going to start paying off. We have two absolutely impact bats almost ready at 2b and 3b. True difference makers. An infield of Castillo, Rizzo, Baez, Castro and Bryant is 1st division, young and cost controlled. We need a couple of OFs (easier to add than impact IFs) and two SP and we are competing. We might get one arm this offseason (and if we could get Anderson or trade Shark then 2). We have 2 Top 30-40 prospect OFs. But once Baez and Bryant are up you can figure out how to add there. If Alcantera continues to develop you can move Baez to 3rd and Bryant to RF solving 1 OF.

                      We are only a few moves away now from being a 500 club at the least in 2015

                    • MichiganGoat

                      Well said Rebuilding.

      • YourResidentJag

        Couldn’t disagree more. If the Cubs had practiced the austerity then that they are now, we wouldn’t be waiting for prospects to be part of a core. They should have engaged in a major sell off of players then. They didn’t for purely selfish motivation. To me, there’s post 2007 Jim Hendry who looks a lot different than pre 2007 Jim Hendry.

    • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

      Lol, you people are funny. Look at how much the Dodgers spent. The Mariners will be lucky to be .500 with their currently constructed roster. They signed Cano. That guarantees absolutely nothing. How have those last few mega-deals panned out? How about Pujols? A-Rod? Prince Fielder? There are a lot of teams trying to win. I can’t believe a team signing a top 10 player who is north of 30 to a 10 year, $240 million deal brings out the emotion our team needs to spend like that. That is idiotic. That deal was stupid. It does nothing for the Mariners. If he was a Miggy, they could ride him to the playoffs. I would bet money that will never happen alone, because he is not a franchise changing player. If they get Price, and a power bat then lets talk. The Mariners are probably still the worst team constructed in that division. You guys are funny.

      • EvenBetterNewsV2.0
        • wilbur

          why do so many want the cubs to make dumb freeagent signings? It is like every player that is or ever will be a free agent must be signed by the cubs, because the cubs are a big market team and must spend even if it is just dumb spending spend.

          I don’t get it,

          • bbmoney

            I agree that it would have been dumb for the Cubs, given where they are as a team, to have signed a Cano or Ellsbury type contract this year. But it’s because of where the team is, not because those contracts are crazy money.

            I expect the cubs to sign the occasional contract like this when the team is ready. It’s the new price of elite FA talent. But no point to signing a mega deal now to get them to 75 instead of 70 wins.

      • Jason Powers

        Its more about how far they go to make a run…they didnt just say we need Cano…and they have probably 1-2 more big bullets to shoot. Jonah Keri is not some idiot.. read his article…

        Cubs have 2-3 more seasons to even make a run at anything.

        So patience is your friend.

      • Moises Canchola

        Thats the thing Albert Pujols was Miguel Cabrera a few years ago he hit well played defense was smart on tge base paths and hit for power got that big deal then got hurt. Cabrera has been hurt but if he continues to be hurt and is out for a long period he will be next pujols. The thing is you never know what will happen with injuries but you try to get the best player you can but for the right years. Id rather pay more money for less years then more years with still big money cuz you will get hurt with those contracts

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      “Seems the Cubbies pulled that trick on Ricketts & Co….because if he had a overriding plan when he bought it, Tom would have had the people in place to do it. Not wait until Theo left Bo Sox in Oct 2011, a good spell after the Ricketts took the reins of control.”

      The trick on the Ricketts where their asset appreciated more than 100% within a few years after their purchase? Yes, I’m sure they feel like dopes.

      • sunshine

        First thing to do in the morning is troll your own readers?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          How is that trolling anyone? If someone wants to make the irrational point that the Ricketts were somehow duped into buying an overpriced team, I’m going to point out that irrationality.

      • YourResidentJag

        If you want to listen to Bruce Levine on the Score, he’s on right now. http://betaplayer.radio.com/player/670-the-score

  • Mike F

    By all appearances they clearly intend to be the worst team in baseball. I hope I am wrong. I think there reasoning is Theo wants to completely rebuild from the ground up. In my view that means 2014, 2015 and even to some extend the first half of 16 are really written off. Further they will be trading some of the players now they don’t think fit, there’s no reason not to as they will just ratchet payroll to meet attendance. It is pretty much the picture they present to rooftop owner. Give in and work with us, or we’ll starve you out with shitty teams. Think about it, who hurts worse than rooftop owners as it becomes obvious the team is preparing for a full rebuild and 3 more years with 2 at least of being the worst team in baseball.

    The emphasis on the minors won’t help the roof tops pack butts in the seats. Obviously the Cubs are thinning and prepared to outlast them.

    And it is still early, but I expect the next month to a rude awakening.

    • Crazyhorse

      I think that is a narrow view . Its not about the rooftops if anything the Cubs are using the rooftops as scapegoats in a propaganda issue that is entirely different. ( renovations) from fielding a respectable team.

  • AdamAE24

    From the time Ricketts got here, based on available players, post for me your starting 8 position players, 5 pitchers and 2 bullpen arms that would bring the Cubs a championship in 2014 and the total cost of those players.

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    You will know for sure when both Castro and Samardzija are traded. Most likely could be even before this season begins in April. This will bring in the TOR pitching they have decided not to draft. In the meantime just sit back and watch the road to nowhere this year.

    • CC

      Free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran has agreed to a three-year, $45 million deal with the New York Yankees, a baseball source confirmed to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick on Friday night.

      • MightyBear

        Yankees 1 year hiatus is over.

        • CC

          So much for Beltran’s reunion with the Royals…

          • DocPeterWimsey

            The media got confused: Beltran signed with sports royalty instead.

            *rimshot*

      • MichiganGoat

        Busy busy day

        • CC

          Napoli also back with Red Sox, hope there’s action left for the winter meetings next week.

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      No point to trade Castro now. If he bounces back he will have trade value. Personally I think he stays as our short stop. Alcantara will more than likely be our future second baseman. Baez has the arm to play third base. Bryant will be an outfielder. The cubs will keep Vogelbach until they are sure that Rizzo lives up to expectations. If by chance Castro or Rizzo should falter then maybe you could see a different lineup. I think you can take this to the bank!

      • Hawkeye

        Honestly, I’m against any trade that makes our current MLB roster worse. The only thing it does is push back the time expectations to finally compete, thus giving the FO more reason to say we’re not ready yet to spend.

        • Jeff

          Well, your not going to like it when they trade Samardzija then, are you?

          I’m not either but they are going to dismantle this club to nothing before it is all over.

          We will have nothing but scrubs (AAAA) and prospects :(

          • Mike F

            Yep doesn’t matter what people like or think, they are going to completely go all the way and totally rebuild the team. The appear to be determined to gain the number 1 pick in the 2015 draft. They intend to go all in on the minors…..

  • belushi08

    Long time reader, first-time poster. First, Brett, thank you for the great job you’ve done with this website. I read it daily and completely enjoy the insight in the articles and the comments from other posters. It’s a great way to try and keep a positive attitude during the rebuild process.

    With the Yankees signing Beltran and Ellsbury and Cano leaving, would they have any interest in Barney and Russell for Gardner? Again, first-time poster here, and have never thought of trade ideas much before, but this just seems like it could work for both teams.

    • aaronb

      Why would the Yankees be interested in that? Barney nor Russell are really even MLB caliber players.

      • belushi08

        I’ll give you that both had rough seasons last season and Barney’s bat is nothing to write home about, but he was a gold glove winning 2nd basemen. With the Yankees lineup, they could probably serve to give up a little bit in offense at 2nd for the defense he could provide. Russell has the potential to put things together again and be a quality bullpen guy, worst case scenario a good situational lefty.

        But it could be a moot point with their signing of Kelly Johnson.

        • aaronb

          Not near enough value for a good player like Gardner though. The Yankees would be better off (and probably get better production) by giving ST NRI’s to John McDonald and Matt Albers and keeping Gardner.

          I was mildly surprised that the Cubs tendered arbitration offers to either guy.

          • belushi08

            But where is Gardner going to play? The Yankees have Ellsbury, Beltran, Soriano, Wells,and Ichiro on top of Gardner. If he gets the majority of the starts that’s a decent amount of money they’re paying for their bench. Although 2 of them will probably be on the DL at any point in time.I’m just having trouble trying to grasp Cashman’s strategy of sign everyone..

        • Voice of Reason

          Please don’t suggest the Yankees should trade for barney to solve the 2b opening they gave. You look like you know absolutely nothing about baseball.

          They would rather play without a second baseman than have barney. He sucks.

          • Brains

            they should totally trade for barney – we’ll take arod in exchange if they pay 98% of his salary.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          It is all about run-differential. Now, if Barney could make up for Jeter’s lack of range, then Barney’s defense could make up for his bat. However, Barney cannot do that: the Yanks (or any other team) get only the runs he creates with his bat minus the runs he prevents with his glove: and that will be a negative number, or at least a lower number than many other good hitting 2Bmen will provide.

      • Jeff

        Beltran to Yankees….I called that earlier today

      • Tony S.

        I’m sure this was supposed to read, “Well hello, and welcome!”

        Barney may be better suited as a glove-first utilityman and Russell maybe a LOOGY (although I thought his splits were pretty solid, haven’t looked), they are both major league ball players.

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    Napoli signs 2 year deal with Bosox according to ESPN scroll. 32 million for the 1B

  • Pat

    I’d like to see them give him a shot assuming its a reasonable contract. Unless he signs with someone else, in which case he is overrated, due for a regression, and I never wanted him anyway.

  • Andy

    I love what the front office is doing and what they are not doing. It is not time to panic. We were not going to win in 2014 with the Reds, Cards, and Pirates that are not just a little bit more talented, but a lot more talented than us. It is better to build from within and add a piece to complete our talent needs.Let the kids develop and get some playing time. make good decisions on these kids and add free agents to complement the young core when we are on the upswing. We are not there yet, but could be in 2015 if everything progresses.

    • spearman

      It’s always next year. Now, it’s always next year before the new year starts. What a shame!

  • http://BN Sacko

    Axfrord, Gregg, Marmoral whats the difference. Wow

    • Spriggs

      “I have always loved Marmoral”

  • daveyrosello

    Axford definitely has some Dick Tidrow in him. You cannot go wrong with more Tidrow.

  • Spriggs

    Hey, how about Austin “Teddy Kennedy” Kearns?

  • Required

    Last year was the Dodgers this year the Yankees! Sign all the players!!!!

  • ClevelandCubsFan

    “As long as you’re making sure you’re paying for talent and not just for a stat that Jerome Holtzman made up.”

    Well said Theo. Well said.

    • Mike F

      Frankly while I still like Theo, I think it is a pretty damn dumb statement from saber guy and very insensitive to what was a truly great Chicago sports writer. Then again when you have two seasons and now look poised to tank one in huge way if not more, why would saves matter when Wins no longer do……

      It really bothers me that every once in a while Theo lets go with an arrogant condescending slam at Chicago typical of Eastern Elitist….. He needs to show better sense than to throw something out like that about an icon like Holtzman……

      • hansman

        The save is about as dumb of a stat as w/l

        • Mike F

          for the individual maybe, but it isn’t dumb in finding guys who can hold leads. And as a team standard, wins and loss is the ultimate measure. Individual SP wins and losses no don’t tell the whole story, but W’s as a team indicator are the story and it would be idiotic to contend they don’t. And in this instance S are just one aspect of a guy contributing to a team winning.

          See when some of you get done will all the metrics you don’t like a lousy team, you will right back to non metrics to son your tales.

  • http://www.rotochamp.com RotoChamp

    Trade proposal

    Yanks get Shark and Barney
    Baltimore gets Olt and Gardner (probably need some more pieces)
    Cubs get one of Gausman/Bundy and Gary Sanchez

  • Required

    It’s so sad. When I go to ESPN.com and our top headlines are Feldman signing with Houston and us not getting a Rule 5 draft pick. I don’t think we have a snowballs chance at Tanaka. I don’t agree with overspending for people past their prime, but we as fans can’t she’ll out the money on a AAA team. It’s going to be a very quiet winter for the Cubs I’m afraid. We need an impact bat now to go along with Rizzo and Castro (hoping they have bounce back seasons) Choo needs to be a target. Thoughts my BN friends?

    • Jeff

      There is a zero % chance we get any free agent with an average salary over 5 Million..period.

      They probably has less than 10 Million to spend, probably more like 5M total. He will probably foolishly trade Samardzija for multiple “future assets” probably some who are coming off of Tommy John’s surgery and sign a low priced starter to replace him that we might be able to flip for some B- prospects at the deadline.

      He will do all this to obtain a high draft pick, no Choo, no Tanaka.

      And if his little experiment fails, he leaves in 2016 and he can always throw Ricketts under the bus for not wanting to spend and the players for not all panning out into All Stars like Jacoby Ellsbury.

      • Brains

        i think this is 100% what is happening. but let’s cut theo a break, the ricketts almost certainly lied to him about what would be possible if he took the job. there’s no way that theo wants to have the worst win/loss ratio in the history of baseball, which is what he’s on track for right now.

        • Jeff

          and I’m not really blaming Theo and Jed, they aren’t the wonder twins like they were billed as, but they have been cut off at the knees by an owner who really doesn’t know what the f@ck he’s doing.

          • Brains

            most likely – and yes, they’re built to feed the monster. theo came in to an already amazing boston system and did a good job with it for a while. and he’s good at player development. but these guys aren’t insightful, they dont know what to do in this situation except flounder and then give up and then talk about draft picks. constant deferment. no way he sticks around past his contract.

      • Carew

        Your negativity is just absurd

        • Jeff

          My “negativity” is a reality, take off your blinders and see it for what it is….

          • Carew

            Your reality stinks. Offseason is still young

            • Brains

              odds are you might say that rod carew is too expensive if he was currently a free agent, and since he’s over 23 the cubs would be insane to sign him. to anything more than federal minimum wage. explain to me how that reality is better.

              • Tony S.

                The man’s 68 years old… I mean he could probably still swing a DECENT stick, but then where would we put Barney?

                • aaronb

                  He’s still likely better than 6 of our 8 everyday starters.

                  • Brains

                    frankly if they signed a 68 year old rod carew tomorrow for 10m a year it would still be the best signing of the theo rebuild to this point.

                • Spriggs

                  Well, Dale would lead him off or bat him 2nd about 25% of the time

          • roz

            You’re not stating any reality, you’re just making up stuff about how much the Cubs have to spend.

            • Jeff

              Well, if we go to the meetings next week and spend more than 10M, I will personally come to your house and apologize to you for making stuff up :)

              • roz

                You can do what you want, I would just caution you against stating things as fact when they’re really just your opinion.

                • Mike F

                  If he’s right are you going to apologize to him and let him caution you.

      • Required

        I guess I just can’t understand how we as a big market team have no money. At this point I’d take Soriano back. He swung and misses a lot I know but when he got hot he hit everything and hard. We have in two years have become broke!?

        • Brains

          they have money, the owners just want to profit off of revenues in the short term. they’re not being honest about where the money is going…

          • roz

            Please, continue talking about the financials of an organization in which you have no part and no connection.

            • TOOT

              Hey, that sounds like me!

      • Rebuilding

        Jeff, you’ve posted the same thing 20 times today. We get it. You don’t think we are going to sign any free agents. Your apparent rage isn’t going to change it

        • Jeff

          Yes, rebuilding…20 times today because everyone keeps posting wanting to know when we are going to sign a Choo or Tanaka.

          So am I wrong for pointing out the obvious that it isn’t going to happen. Just because the reality is that my favorite team will suck for the next five years, I should just go quietly in the night?

          The only way change happens is if the consumer raises his voice and says hell no, but if there are plenty of “suckers” out there who will go to Wrigley and give Ricketts money regardless of what he puts out there on the field, should I not be able to complain for the shitty product.

          Are you content to watch this team to fail for the next five years and just take it? Are you saying if I don’t like this shitty team, I should go be a fan of another team?

          I might offer a criticism of the FO and this team and it’s ownership and might disagree with a point of view but I don’t call out another poster for having their ideas.

          • Rebuilding

            Have all of the ideas you want, but at this point you are just saying it over and over and over. No one thinks we are signing Choo on this board. No one. I personally think we will try for Tanaka. You disagree. I get it

            • Brains

              the situation is so bad that cubs fans are turning on each other. in fact, this might be the worst baseball situation ever.

              • Jeff

                It’s all good, I’m curious if Houston fans have a team forum like this and even care that their team is so bad..lol

                They might be filled with optimism this year, they might be all talking about how bad the Cubs will be and now they won’t be the worst team in the league anymore shortly…lol

          • Required

            You know I feel your pain. I’m sick of waiting for 75% of our FO signings to have “bounce back years!” We are where broke people come to collect a paycheck before they medically retire.

      • ClevelandCubsFan

        “There is a zero % chance we get any free agent with an average salary over 5 Million..period.”

        I’d write this off as extreme hyperbole except that you continued to defend it. There is a zero % chance you are right about this.

        “They probably has less than 10 Million to spend, probably more like 5M total.”

        In 2013, the Cubs’ payroll was $107.6m. Right now, they only have commitments for about $50m. Some of that will increase from arbitration. But the short end of it is, they have about $50m to spend to be back at last year’s number. If you think the Cubs are going to spend less than $70m you’re smoking something really good. Please don’t pass it around–not sure I like the side effects.

        “He will probably foolishly trade Samardzija for multiple ‘future assets’ probably some who are coming off of Tommy John’s surgery and sign a low priced starter to replace him that we might be able to flip for some B- prospects at the deadline.”

        This is like having Rocky and Rambo so utterly confused in your head that you imagine John Rambo hunting Apollo Creed in the woods of Philadelphia–except in you’re doing it with FO trade moves. It’s weird…

        “And if his little experiment fails, he leaves in 2016 and he can always throw Ricketts under the bus for not wanting to spend and the players for not all panning out into All Stars like Jacoby Ellsbury.”

        He might do that anyway. But, for what it’s worth, Theo seems too classy to throw anyone under the bus. He’s definitely had some opportunities.

        • aaronb

          Except actual payroll was nowhere near that high. After trades it was closer to 88-90 million.

        • Jeff

          Your wayy off on your math, they have 50M committed right now. 75M after all arbitration players are payed. There is no way they are spending 50M. I’m not getting the sense that they will take payroll anywhere near 90M this year and Who are they going to get to play what spots?

          1B Rizzo..done
          2B Barney, maybe an upgrade
          SS Castro..done
          3rd Olt/Valbunea..done
          C Castillo…done
          RF Scheirholtz..done
          CF Sweeny..done
          LF Lake..done

          What free agent is out there for them to throw money at and where will they play??
          They will add a few pitchers but there is no 10M+ player they will invest money in.

          Tanaka is a pipe dream, there are a dozen teams who will outbid us and he’s not coming to a team whose 5 years away from winning, no way.

          • TOOT

            Don’t make me cry.

            • Jeff

              Sorry TOOT, doesn’t make me very happy, but it’s reality, as much as we don’t like it.

              All this while those damn Yanks drop money like it’s going out of style.

              • aaronb

                Not a fair comp. The Yankees are in a major market and have a huge national fanbase.

                We are like a cheaper version of the San Diego Padres.

                • Jeff

                  Unfortunately, I’ll have to agree with you there aaronB, we have become that lowly..however Chicago is the third largest market behind NY and LA.

                  • aaronb

                    Sad isn’t it?

                    I’m curious what is happening with the extra 25 million dollars a year in the new MLB wide TV deal? Also wonder where the increased money is going to go once we find a new broadcaster to replace the WGN half of the package?

                    Was the Tribune running this organization at a loss all these years when we ran top 5 payrolls? Are Forbes and Bloomberg lying about the Cubs having top 3-5 annual revenues?

                    Something really stinks about this ownership group….Especially considering the fact that Mark Cuban got frozen out of the process.

                • TOOT

                  Yikes! A cheaper version of the Pudres?(Just about to jump off the bridge)

                  • Spriggs

                    Don’t jump… Pudres are for real.

                    • TOOT

                      Alright I won’t jump. Tell me how the Padres are for real.

          • ClevelandCubsFan

            I was using loose numbers. Yeah it’s less than $50M to get back to where they were. I don’t know if the arbitration numbers hit $75, we’ll see. Even then, that would give them $32M.

            You didn’t say the Cubs wouldn’t have anywhere to spend $10m. You said they didn’t have any more than than $10m to spend and probably only had closer to $5m. And the loose numbers I threw out were simply to demonstrate that your statement was too far gone. There’s nothing to suggest that the Cubs don’t have $10m more in the bank, which by your numbers would give them a max payroll of $85–over $22m less than this year’s. I’m not seeing that big a dive.

            Are you forgetting that this is the team that gave Baker $5.5m last year? With some money in the budget left, I fully expect them to take a chance or two like that again if there are no FAs they really want to pursue.

            But we don’t have to go there. When you say “There is a zero % chance we get any free agent with an average salary over 5 Million..period”… you’re basically assuming there are no 1+ WAR guys we’re going to pursue. (And the going rate seems to have crept over $5m/WAR).

            We’ll see, man. It COULD happen the way you suggest. But the certainties are certainly not there.

            • Jeff

              Definitely, we will have to see how it plays out. Thing is, I WANT them to spend the money, I just don’t think they will :(

              I’m with you, I think they should be pushing the payroll back up to the 100M mark. I think we have to be prepared for a few years of lowered payroll and bad team performances.

              Not happy about it, I think they should have added an Ellsbury or Tanaka, but the market is driving their prices through the roof and in the long run, those contracts are probably a bad idea. Still would like some trades or upgrades somewhere.

              • Bret Epic

                I think they’ll continue to invest in future pieces, maybe a few flippable guys and wait to fill the gaps once they find out whether or not the guys they’re looking forward to being in the majors pan out. With the TV deal with WGN ending, the construction hopefully starting, and many of the prospects fans are waiting for, increasing payroll in 2015 and filling gaps just makes the most sense. I think 2015 is where the spending really begins.

          • Brains

            this lineup is built for a 120 loss season. we’re rebuilding nimrod’s tower.

    • http://www.rotochamp.com RotoChamp

      Because Beltran and Ellsbury have been signed, it’s likely that Choo gets 5-6 years, making him pretty useless to Cubs. He would have been fine for a 3-50 deal but that ain’t gonna happen now.

    • http://BN Sacko

      Yea forget about Choo

    • Spriggs

      But don’t forget that we have Darwin Barney as a core player hitting in the 1, 2 or 8 spot. Plus Rusin is likely to start more games next year.

      • Required

        I feel much better about seeing Barney come up to the plate now. I used to dread when he came up with men on base. Actually I could say the same about the whole team. I’m not trying to be negative but until the youngsters come up I have nothing to get remotely excited about.

  • since52

    Axford-not bad really, especially together with the new lefty. Sounds like his issues were/are mainly pitch selection/location. Bosio will help. I’d slot him as 8th inning guy with occasional ez save. Point of this move is to help starting rotation. We have an assortment of six inning starters. Decent late inning bullpen work will raise their trade value, when obviously the Cubs will be open for business come July.

    Given the cost and length of this FA crop, I don’t blame the FO for passing. I also continue to believe this FO highly overrated. Millions paid for second rate talent, total joke as to field management hires, any competent baseball exec could have rebuilt and drafted the farm system IF in fact that’s the case. (We really don’t know that yet, do we?)

    Axford and Wright if they work out could get the Cubs somewhere near .500 until the truck starts backing up again, that is.

  • Required

    I also realize the winter meetings haven’t started yet nor has the season so I will holds judgement until I throw my remote at the TV. I’m just kind of numb. We were rumored to be in on quite a few FA this year and got sticker shock. Instead we sign Edwin Jackson last year and got buyers remorse. Never will understand that one.

  • Cheese Chad

    Informative article on mlbtraderumors.com about the spending on free agents this year. http://rotoauthority.blogs.com/.a/6a00d834515b9a69e2019b02456eff970c-pi

  • NcMoss

    Not to be a jackass, but you probably want to fix this. “He made $5 million as a Super Two in 2013, and, because of the rough waters in 2012 and 2013, non-tendered him was a no-brainer.”

    • Spriggs

      Thank you for trying to NOT be a jackass. That’s big.

  • Ballgame

    Just like someone mentioned they thought of Axford and that was a headline tonight on BN, so here’s to hoping there’s a headline with Matt Kemp on it tomorrow. I know, it’s a pipe-dream but I hope the Cubs at least explore it. The Dodgers will eat a chunk and all I want to know if what the Dodgers may expect for Kemp.

    Also, earlier tonight I wasn’t ripping Ohio, just suggesting the Cleveland writer needed to get out more. No offense intended Brett. Kemp?

  • Crazyhorse

    My take Axford for a reliever he is very hittable and gives up to many walks when frustrated his fastball loses velocity and becomes a joy to hit. Serviceable setup and long relief can strike out the side or let runners onm and then see them circle the bases with a long fly out to Waveland Avenue or Sheffield Avenue. Best bet . he could be great pitcher in April and May but comes June , july and August his walks and homeruns will hurt the Cubs.

    He is not a terrible signing the Cubs could do worse if he decides to sign but he should use the Cubs only as leverage to sign in a pitcher friendly park.

  • http://bleachernation Ferris

    Itd be dumb not to make the ax an offer

  • Aaron

    The Cubs will need an experienced closer this upcoming season. Unfortunately, it will have to be on the cheap for a player that needs a bounce-back year. Plus with Axford, the Cubs will control him for another 2 years beyond 2014. Looks like a perfect FO “asset” purchase.

  • Moe C

    A lot of fans are trying to be patient and my patience has run out. We def have the money to spend we are in the 50mil range and we should be close to 150mil ppl may think its crazy but the cubs avg a ton of fans maybe not as much as when we were winning but this team has money. We are being fooled into believing that the cubs are broke. A few years ago they were talking about having money once Zambrano, Ramirez, Dempster Lily Garza and all of them come off the books well they are all long gone including Soriano and yet we are still broke yea what a total sham. Ticket prices keep going up payroll keeps going down. Wait til winter meetings ppl say well this is a unique year because all major players will be off the market by winter meetings. I wouldnt be shocked if choo is gone by then. Cubs are gonna be left with Kottaras. Hell see what Jon Lieber is doing maybe he can win us 20 games again

  • Murky Waters

    I’m reading post after post about the Cubs needed to spend money . Spend money on what exactly ? Do you really want The Cubs to pay 160 + for Ellsbury? 240+ for Cano? 100 + for Choo? Because I don’t . Those types of contracts rarely pay off. Hell, we we’re lucky that Sori was (is) still producing at the end of his contract . And we all still were unhappy with it.

    Sure, if we find out that The Cubs weren’t real players in the Tanaka signing, Then have at it . He’s 25 entering his prime and *should * be producing in a year or two. Otherwise , spending money for the sake of spending is how a team gets into trouble . I want a team that can sustain long term success. I’m over having a winning team for 2 years and 5 years of terrible . I want to be the 90′s Braves, The Cardinals or the Yankees .

    Speaking of Yankees . Which Yankees teams had more success ? The one’s that brought up kids from the farm and sprinkled in some Veteran players . Or the one’s that tried to Buy a World Series ?

    • Moe C

      Maybe not those guys but if they get out bid fpr Tanaka(if he posts) then yes that is def a sign the cubs are being cheap. Because thats one player you do go all out on. He is young has a great era and wins so for the cubs to say they didnt purse it or get out bid will be crazy. He fits perfectly

    • Moe C

      The sad part is you will never have another 90s Braves because they produced young arms and traded for young arms and built around prospects. That is hard to replicate sure the Rays are doing it but they trade most of their players away to stay young and braves were able to keep their core pitchers. Most young guys sign 2-3 year deals then after those are up seek 7-10 year deals so unless you spend the money it is impossible to replicate winning on a yearily basis unless you are the yanks or red soxs who might not win the world series every year but at least are in the playoffs year in and year out

  • David

    Glass is half full today… I think if sign a closer, our bullpen will be better than average, perhaps pretty damn good. There always a chance a minor leaguer can have an awesome spring and make the team- Rossup?? (spelling). This would bolster the pen even more. I think the current outfield can be scrappy as hell, Lake to have a great spring, hold down an outfield spot and be a formidable #2 hitter – perhaps the easiest position in the batting order to hit in. I think Wood and Arrietta come up big and have great years. Wood is a crafty veteran that knows how to pitch, Arrietta is still erratic but more dominant than bad. I think cubs find spots that Rusin will be successful. Castillo, Castro and Rizzo are a year older and wiser….

  • http://igs.k12.wi.us/ matthew

    worst record teams first shot with pitcher with initials mt kc and cubs like chambirlan from nyy

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