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judge gavel courtWe’re just a day away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training for the Cubs. For me, then, today marks the final day of “the offseason.” Whether technically accurate or not, I compartmentalize the baseball year into four sections: the season, the postseason, the offseason, and Spring Training. While some offseason-y stuff can and does bleed into Spring Training, you’ll notice that the stories change and the discussions change beginning tomorrow. There will still be rumors, but there’s a much stronger focus on the impending 2014 season. Some day, when the Cubs project to be good in a given year, this will be a much more exciting time of year. For now, it’s merely a turning of the page. But, hey, baseball – that’s still pretty exciting, whatever the projections.

  • The Cubs held organizational meetings yesterday in Arizona, according to Carrie Muskat, which historically involves a variety of conversations about what players will be doing what/where in 2014, both at the big league level and minor league levels. We could, then, start hearing a little bit more about the levels at which certain prospects will start the year in the coming weeks, although minor league rosters are not typically announced until the end of Spring Training.
  • We heard this weekend that Alex Rodriguez decided to voluntarily dismiss his lawsuit against MLB and the MLBPA, ostensibly electing to end the fighting and take his suspension for the 2014 season. Now MLB is reportedly considering doing the same thing with respect to its lawsuit against Biogenesis and Tony Bosch – which you may remember as the leverage MLB used to get Bosch to flip on Rodriguez.
  • Albert Pujols is also ending his lawsuit – the one against Jack Clark for making statements alleging that Pujols used performance enhancing drugs – because he received an apology and a retraction. The lesson here is that you can’t go around making damning factual allegations about people and assuming they won’t hold you to account for those allegations. I tend to think the real winners here are Pujols’ PR reps who effectively squashed these allegations in the womb, and they never really got traction, despite Pujols going against traditional wisdom in these situations. Where you usually see public figures ignore these situations so as not to give the any additional coverage, Pujols came out with both guns blasting in a way that somehow killed the story. People should probably study why it worked.
  • From two lawsuits ending to a lawsuit beginning, a few minor league players are suing MLB for paying unfair wages. Minor league salaries are indeed very, very small (that’s why you can’t hate on a kid for trying to get the biggest signing bonus possible), and if American-born players want to participate in the big leagues some day, this is pretty much the exclusive route to getting there. I didn’t do any labor law work in my lawyering days, but I know enough to know that it’s a tricky, heavily regulated area where there might be some angle here. In other words, this lawsuit could be the start of a very big deal, especially for smaller market teams that would really feel the pinch if minor league salaries had to rise significantly. At the same time, this could be a totally specious suit with no chance of succeeding. I’ll wait to hear from a labor law expert before concluding much of anything.
  • Donnie Murphy tells Carrie Muskat that he sees the projections that have the Cubs as one of the worst teams in baseball, and he says that’s plenty of motivation for the guys who make the roster.
  • Patrick Mooney on Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson, who’ve become largely afterthoughts just a year after they were still a part of the hoped-for future. Their spots on the 40-man roster could work against them, given the increasing crowding. I’m not optimistic for long-term contributions from these guys at this point, but it’s important to note: Jackson still does everything so very well that if he can just improve the contact issues slightly, he can still be a very useful fourth outfielder. And Vitters has hit well enough at AAA – and still has a swing that scouts love – that if he can successfully transition to the outfield, defensively, he’s got starter upside in the bigs (he’s just 24). It’s easy to forget that, and no one is saying it’s likely to happen. But remains a legitimate possibility.
  • Grant Brisbee on every team’s window of contention and the approach they should be taking in the near-term, in visual form. No surprise: the Cubs fall into the “far away from contending, lots of young talent” area. In that respect, 2014 is entirely about seeing development in that young talent, hopefully putting the organization on the verge of a breakout in 2015 (such that spending next offseason makes sense).
  • If you’re just tuning in, there’s a little bit of Twitter drama going around about a picture Suk-Min Yoon tweeted of himself, in which he’s wearing an Orioles hat.
  • Steve Ontiveros’ Mustache

    Brett:

    Muskat is projecting Barney batting 2nd, Rusin in the rotation over Hammel and Valbuena at 3rd instead of Olt. All three of these things hurt my mustache. What do you make of her projections?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I ignore them, because I don’t know when they were written (and Hammel is technically still not a Cub yet). Lineup projections, in particular, this time of year are pretty useless.

      I’d project Valbuena at 3B right now over Olt, for the record. Until we see something different, that is.

      • Steve Ontiveros’ Mustache

        Makes sense. I will say that Muskat mentions Hammel in the same piece, FWIW. So perhaps it was made with Hammel in mind.

        • CubsFaninMS

          You hear comments both ways on Olt, some saying “They shouldn’t just give him third!” and some saying “I’m excited about Olt at third!”. If Olt stinks it up like he did the majority of last season, I believe we can say with relative confidence that he will start in the minor leagues. That being said, where does Villanueva play? He’s clearly ready for a AAA assignment. And if you send Olt to AA, where does Candelario play? Brett may know of another option, but Olt’s spring training (IMO) will be critical to his success with the Cubs. Would they designate him for assignment if he flops? I’m with the crowd that has a great deal of carefully-measured hope that Olt will be our starting third baseman. If he immediately performs, we have a Barney/Valbuena dilemma, which I think is easier solved. Obviously Olt is an elevated risk and it will be interesting to see how the situation pans out.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            Candelario won’t be at AA any time too soon – he was at Low-A last year – but Olt wouldn’t head down to AA anyway. If he doesn’t make the big league team, and is kept in the org, it’ll just be a big ole dosey doe at AAA between third base, first base, and DH for Olt, I’d think.

            • CubsFaninMS

              You’re right. For some reason I was assuming Candelario was in Daytona all of last year,

    • TommyK

      If Darwin Barney, maybe the worst hitter among starting MLB non-pitchers, is our Number 2 hitter, you can’t do anything but laugh. The fact that is even a possibility tells you everything you need to know about the 2014 Cubs.

    • Brocktoon

      If I knew as little about my line of work as Muskat does here id be homeless

  • Edwin

    “In that respect, 2014 is entirely about seeing development in that young talent, hopefully putting the organization on the verge of a breakout in 2015 (such that spending next offseason makes sense).”

    I feel like this exact same sentance was written last year.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      If not the sentence, certainly the sentiment.

      • Edwin

        I look forward to the “In that respect, 201X is entirely about winning a world series. Again.”

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Ha. Yes. That.

        • brainiac

          rumor is that our next GM, after theo leaves for the yankees, will be jim hendry

        • Brocktoon

          202X

    • Kyle

      And I suspect it will be written next year.

  • mdavis

    maybe i’m dumb, but i’m not ready to cut bait with BJax and Vitters just yet. Lets see how they play, and I still feel Jackson has the tools to be a solid 4th outfielder that gets 300ABs a year. we’ll see.

    • Blackhawks1963

      Jackson has spent three years at Triple A, was demoted to Double A and strikes out 30% of his at bats. He’s non-major league material.

  • TommyK

    If next year we are talking about Baez and Bryant like we are talking about Vitters and Jackson now, I’m out. My self loathing only goes so far.

    • TonyP

      This has been my fear all along. If all the prospects bust or become meh MLB players, we are trash for a decade.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        The general tactics that Epstein & Hoyer are pursuing doesn’t depend on particular individuals. They are almost certainly assuming that half of the Big Four won’t amount to much: because that is pretty probable.

        Remember, these guys are pursuing something akin to r-selection: they are trying to get as many good prospects as they can, knowing that about 20% of Top 100 Prospects (and 50% of Top 20 Prospects) go on to become good players. They splurged on IFA’s last summer for that reason, too. My guess is that they’ll go well over the limits the next time they are allowed to do so (2015?), too.

        They did this at Boston, too: the Sox are getting another wave of guys that this bunch acquired. Get 4 big prospects, and you’ll get 1-2 good MLB players. Rinse and repeat.

        • DarthHater

          If they were pursuing r-selection, they would have signed Arruebarruena. :-P

        • TonyP

          I understand what they are you doing. Get 4 big prospects and HOPEFULLY you’ll get 1-2 good MLB players. It’s not guaranteed that any of our top 100 prospects turn into cores pieces, which is my fear since the start of the rebuild. I have hope that this upcoming first wave produces a core piece or two but you never know….. And if not the run of sustained success gets pushed back a season or two. I hate going into seasons with no hope of playing meaningful games in September. 3 tanked seasons is 3 more than I would like. ( 30 years of disappointment and heartache is probably causing my skepticism)

          • Bill

            Correct. “Good” is a subjective term. Even if 1-2 of the big 4 are core players this doesn’t mean they’ll be competitive. Rizzo is a core player and he was a 2.6 WAR last year. They need a couple of impact players out of those big 4 prospects. Guys who will produce a WAR of 4+. If a couple of these players don’t turn out to be 4+ WAR type players this is going to be a long rebuild.

            This is a really bad major league product right now and they need an infusion of some very talented baseball players. Otherwise we can write off the next few seasons as throwaways.

  • nate1m

    I hate the Cardinals and Red Sox just a little bit more now

  • FortyFour

    Vitters and Jackson are two reasons the rebuild is not further along. They may just not have been what they were projected to be or maybe they suffered from over-exposure to the old Cubs way of failing to manage young talent well (think Pie & Patterson). Either way, not having them where Junior Lake has climbed is disappointing, though Vitters seems to be closer than Jackson at this point. The Cubs’ desire to develop their own talent requires good players AND good coaching/management. I am convinced this front office will draft well but I would like to see the young players brought along the right way, like the Braves and Cardinals organizations seem to achieve with their young talent.

    • Blackhawks1963

      The Jim Hendry administration screwed up on Vitters and Jackson. If not for being 1st round picks originally NOBODY would be talking about either. They are younger versions of Donnie Murphy. Truth hurts. Theo and Jed have moved on. I suggest certain Cub fans do the same.

      • Norm

        I disagree. If Vitters were a 15th round pick, the talk would be about how he deserves a shot based on his 552 PA’s in AAA with a line of 302/361/513, 873 OPS, 22 HR’s.

  • Kyle

    The fact that Vitters and Jackson get lumped together is maddening.

    Vitters has more in common with Albert Almora (good year last year outside of injuries that kept him from getting the promotion we were all hoping for) and Anthony Rizzo (hit well at AAA, small-sample struggles in first taste of majors) than he does Brett Jackson.

    Vitters should be at a minimum the 5th outfielder and I’d be happier with him starting in LF than Junior Lake.

    • JCubs79

      I agree Kyle. His bat should provide value in LF for the time being as well if he makes the team out of camp. He’s hit at every level so I believe there is plenty of room for optimism this ST. The fact that he get’s thrown in with Jackson is really annoying. Jackson just sucks.

      • Eternal Pessimist

        I agree, except for the part about vitters over lake in LF. Lake has shown enough at a higher level now, and still has the tools (speed, powerful swing, strong arm) to have a better MLB projection IMO.

        • Noah_I

          I think Lake is going to disappoint a lot of people by the end of 2014. I just don’t see how he maintains the BABIP necessary to put up the types of numbers he did in 2013 over a full season. If his BABIP even falls to .330, he’s a replacement level player.

          • CubFan Paul

            “I just don’t see how he maintains the BABIP necessary to put up the types of numbers he did in 2013 over a full season”

            I can see it. He’s young and can develop and not stay the same player

            • Kyle

              He’s really not that young. He’ll be 24 on opening day. There’s usually not a whole lot of development left at that point.

              • CubFan Paul

                Develop as in, slug, and learn to adjust on a day to day basis.

                A .750 OPS isn’t out of the question.

            • Eternal Pessimist

              He has always had a high BABIP, granted 2013 was a more extreme year, so I would expect some regression there, but I also think he could improve his FB rate and improve his HR rate to maintain his OPS. That would make a helluva CF.

    • Blackhawks1963

      Please stop. Josh Vitters has never played the outfield. So he’s going to all of a sudden become a big league outfielder? And overcome the fact that he’s never demonstrated a hitting ability that will translate to the big leagues? You make it sound like the organization is inexplicably holding Vitters down out of sick spite or something.

      And if not for being a 1st round pick NOBODY would give him a second mention.

      • Kyle

        The corner outfield is not particularly difficult to learn.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Indeed, before the DH, corner OF (particularly LF) is where they sent DH’s to play if there already was one at 1B.

          As for whether I would prefer Vitters or Lake out there, that is sort of like pondering which mild strain of cold virus I wish to endure. Neither is going to kill me, but I’d be happier to have some other choices on the table!

          (The sad part is, I’m hard pressed to think of who I wish that the Cubs should have out there that could have been sensibly obtained!)

      • Kyle

        I didn’t say that the organization is inexplicably holding anyone back. I said the fans are being dumb by linking two players who shouldn’t be linked.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Linking any expectations/evaluations/projections is dumb. Linking them in discussion, given their dual promotion in 2012, their pre-Theo first round pick/top offensive prospect status, etc., however, is totally understandable.

  • Kyle

    Anyone notice Baseball Propsectus’ Effectively Wild podcast did their Cubs preview?

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22789

    I thought it was very balanced and did a great job laying out the future of the organization, both the strengths and the challenges.

    • CubFanBob

      ya I heard it, It was pretty clear the guy they appointed to talk about the Cubs didnt really know as much as he thought he did about the organization.

  • Dustin S

    I am a little surprised at times at the number of folks penciling in Vitters and even Jackson for helping at the mlb level in 2014. I wouldn’t write off either yet (although Jackson is nearing that category), but Vitters couldn’t stay healthy for 2 weeks straight it seemed last year. I am just a little more optimistic on some other names like Olt or Hendricks.

    Btw some of the side ads on BN ar getting a little iffy for browsing at work…not that they are really bad but adult fantasy girl in a bikini could be misconstrued and a little nsfw.

    • Kyle

      I’m a little bewildered at being concerned at Vitters’ health, so therefore you’re more optimistic about Olt.

    • Eternal Pessimist

      Now you are just showing your bigotry against hot cartoon girls. Can’t we all just get along?

    • D-Rock

      You should be able to control the types of adds you are getting. I was able to update mine on Chrome.

      • CubFan Paul

        How did you do it on Chrome?

        • D-Rock

          There should be a little blue box at the top corner of the ad that says “Ad Choice” and a blue X next to it saying “Don’t show this again”. Click the X and then you should be able to control your preferences. You will have multiple choices after you click the X:

          Help us make ads better and tell us why you closed the ad.
          I don’t like the content of this ad.
          I’ve seen this ad too often.
          This ad is covering my content.

          • CubFan Paul

            I love it when you Blue Steel me.

            • D-Rock

              Wait until you see Magnum…I shouldn’t even be talking about it!

          • noisesquared

            Did not know that – thanks for the info.

          • 1ski

            Thank you sir. worked like a charm, But does this cut into Bretts ad bussiness? I had read on hear, I think Brett himself, say clicking on the ads help the site. I have been clicking on alot for that reason.

            • D-Rock

              Hope not. I still do the Amazon link through the site which Brett gets revenue from.

              • 1ski

                Thanks .love learning new stuff…

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            Very helpful comment, D-Rock. Thanks for helping folks out.

            • 1ski

              Agreed, Im a newbie , so any way i can help the site I will, love the site, you guys have opened my eyes to the minors and all the stats……… my god all the stats!

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                Thanks for the kind words, 1ski – glad you’re enjoying.

    • Coop

      My side ads are for Turbo Tax and Honda dirtbikes. My understanding is that the ad content is based at least to some degree on browsing history… so it makes me laugh every time someone complains about inappropriate content in the ads.

      • CubFan Paul

        “is based at least to some degree on browsing history”

        It’s not.

        • Coop

          Interesting, then, that I was just looking at Honda dirtbikes, and now the side ad is for Honda dirtbikes. Seems awfully convenient, if it is not based at all on browsing history. I am intrigued by your absolute answer and would like an explanation. Maybe this is from your extensive time watching the ads.

          • CubFan Paul

            The top banner ad is based on my browsing history but the side box & the end of post ads are not. It’s Brett’s Chinese porn (Dominican babes the other day).

            I’ll try Drock’s tip to see if I can get the ads back up to a G rating.

            “Maybe this is from your extensive time watching the ads”

            No need to act like a e-jerk.

            • blublud

              Paul, just because some disagrees with you, doesn’t make them an E-jerk. Also, maybe you should stop acting a an E-jerk before accusing someone else of being an E-jerk.

              • CubFan Paul

                It makes them an e-jerk when they finish their posts with:

                ‘Maybe this is from your extensive time watching the ads’

                • Coop

                  “Kettle, you are black,” said the pot. You are consistently an ass. So get used to being called an ass.

                  • CubFan Paul

                    Coop, your ignoring the fact that you being as ASS first.

                    I was minding my own business and YOU started being an ASS.

                    Grow up. What I do whenever else shouldn’t make you a dickwad that wants to start fights.

                    • blublud

                      Look like Coop responded to someone not named Paul, and then Paul responded to Coop.

                      So you was minding your business, huh.

            • DarthHater

              This seems like a convenient spot to get in a plug for my new iDouche app, which automatically inserts a snarky one-liner at the end of every chat board comment. :-P

              • NorthSideIrish

                [img]http://s2.quickmeme.com/img/d6/d661802c98c134c7f2f7c118aa6d8751ffea8f7f3f74c507eef6d5f4a50d0aba.jpg[/img]

                • DarthHater

                  You might also be interested in my app for fitting images into the available space:

                  [img]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3666/12483585504_cabfb9ca2c_n.jpg[/img]

        • noisesquared

          My ads usually reflect browsing history – today I’m getting Sears appliance ads, as I was looking at new dishwashers yesterday. Normally I get a lot of Norther brewer ads.

        • Coop

          And you can clearly see, if you are reading my post, that I do add the qualifier “based at least to some degree” to indicate that it is not necessarily a 100% truth. I, unlike some folks around here, try not to speak in absolutes, because speaking in absolutes often makes you look like an absolute ass.

          There is plenty of evidence that ad content is influenced by browsing history. It is not to say that the Asian dating sites are an indication of your browsing history, but the implication is still amusing.

          • CubFan Paul

            E-Jerk away.

        • mjhurdle

          Actually, it is based to some degree on your browsing history. It used to be a lot more dependent on history, but with the more modern data gathering (Google pulls keywords out of emails, online stores share their purchase history, etc) it is a hodge-podge of browsing history, online tendencies, and some random mass exposure type ads thrown in.

          • CubFan Paul

            “Actually, it is based to some degree on your browsing history”

            from 11:28 -The top banner ad is based on my browsing history but the side box & the end of post ads are not. It’s Brett’s Chinese porn (Dominican babes the other day).

            I’ll try Drock’s tip to see if I can get the ads back up to a G rating.

      • D-Rock

        Nope, not based on browsing history. I got Asian dating ads and have never once clicked on this.

        • Edwin

          I think some ads are, some aren’t.

          • D-Rock

            Very possible.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          The ads are based on what the ad networks serving the ads think they know about you. Sometimes that’s tied to browsing history, sometimes it’s tied to nothing more than their guess that you’re a guy on a sports website. They try to find the most applicable/appropriate/etc. ad they can find when the page loads. Never take it personally.

  • cavemancubbie

    Why all the love for Vitters? He couldn’t hit a softball in his cup of joe with the Cubs. Let’s see how both Vitters and Jackson perform in Spring Training, then give them love or hate.

    • blublud

      What Vitters have you been watching.

  • Cizzle

    I always thought there was an anti-trust case to be made by the minor league players when they had stricter drug testing than the members of the MLBPA union they were trying to join.

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