taiwan flagI’m really looking forward to watching the Winter Olympics, which start later this week in Sochi, Russia. If I can convince The Little Girl that the ice skaters are actually Disney princesses, she’ll probably watch with me. Then again, ice skating isn’t all that high on my list of sports to watch. Maybe she’ll buy that Jasmine also likes to snowboard?

  • Another prospect piece from Sahadev Sharma in Vine Line, focusing on potential international impact. I love the mix of prospects discussed, from obvious guys like Jeimer Candelario, to recent big-time signees like Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres, to sleepers like Carlos Penalver and Erick Leal (the 18-year-old lefty the Cubs got in the Tony Campana deal, and who dominated the Arizona Rookie League last year (though it sounds like it’s because of a polished approach and great control, rather than having ideal velocity/stuff)). I am particularly intrigued by Jen-Ho Tseng, the 19-year-old Taiwanese righty the Cubs inked for $1.625 million this year as part of the SIGN ALL THE INTERNATIONAL PROSPECTS strategy. He offers advanced feel and upside, and Sahadev says it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he started the year at Kane County. A 19-year-old starting pitching prospect with polish and a quality fastball on whom to dream? Yes, please.
  • In a chat at FanGraphs, Dan Szymborski offered the ZiPS projection for Jason Hammel with the Cubs: 7-7, 4.01 ERA, 97 ERA+, 1.6 WAR in 134.2 IP. Just about average, which would make his one-year, $6 million contract decent. Hopefully he outperforms that projection, obviously. (Also, Arismendy Alcantara’s projection was the single biggest ZiPS surprise among position players to Szymborski.)

  • Tony Andracki looks at Darwin Barney’s down year, and what he’s doing to try and get back on track in 2014. The Cubs still need to settle up with him in arbitration – he’s asked for $2.8 million, and the Cubs have offered $1.8 million.
  • I guess Alfonso Soriano really isn’t coming back – he’s sold his condo in River North.
  • I really love this piece John Arguello wrote over at Cubs Den about how the Cubs could be surprisingly competitive in 2014, particularly in light of yesterday’s somewhat depressing win curve discussion. John points out that the Cubs need to add just seven wins over the first half next year (compared to last year, where you could argue the Cubs underperformed their expected record) to be 50-45 at the All-Star break, which would completely change the complexion of the entire year. While I doubt that John believes this kind of first half is likely, I think it’s important to allow yourself to contemplate the optimistic side of things every now and again.
  • From the “must be nice” department, ZiPS projects the Washington Nationals rotation for 17(!) WAR. It pretty much loves the rest of the team, too. Interestingly, Washington looked this good on paper going into 2013, as well, and fell quite flat. Can’t predict baseball, man.

  • It appears that Carrie Muskat has arrived in Arizona for Spring Training, because she’s started putting up some pictures on her blog. Baseball is coming …
  • Remember Randy Milligan? Probably not, but it turns out he was pretty darn good and pretty darn unappreciated. He actually once had his salary cut in arbitration a year after posting a .299/.423/.434 line over 103 games at first base (2.3 WAR).
  • Meta: Probably because of Tanakarama, I didn’t notice that venerable Dodgers blog Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness has closed its doors, folding into a new site, Dodgers Digest with a handful of other notable Dodgers writers, and which I imagine will be exceedingly good. Because MSTI was, to my knowledge, one of the few remaining large, independent, single-team fan blogs out there, I’m reminded that this model – the one you’re enjoying here at BN, where one dude runs a site as his full-time job with the help of contributors – is not the easiest thing to pull off in the long-run. Independence (being unaffiliated with a traditional media enterprise or a large blogging network) has its benefits (you know, like, independence), to be sure, but it also has significant hurdles (access can be particularly tricky, as can having to manage all aspects of a site, a server, and a business for 365 days a year). The good news for the nervous among you is that I have a very hard time seeing myself changing things in any fundamental way in the near future – I am still satisfied, challenged, and capable – but it’s interesting to me to observe the baseball media market from a distance. Sometimes change is thrust upon us from the outside, so it’s important to be aware of trends. I guess that’s all I’m saying.

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