arodys vizcaino cubsWhen the Chicago Cubs of late make a trade, one of the most enjoyable aspects is getting to know the new player or players by way of seeing how they look in a Cubs uniform. Sometimes that’s been actually watching them in big league games, and sometimes it’s simply been following their performances in the minor leagues post-trade. Either way, it’s the first chance fans get to feel like they know a player, and, naturally, can start dreaming on what the player might mean for the future of the big league club.

We still don’t know much of anything about Arodys Vizcaino. That’s because, when the Cubs acquired the hard-throwing righty in mid-2012, he was already recovering from Tommy John surgery. And then, early in 2013, he suffered a setback in that recovery, which ultimately led to additional elbow surgery. Cubs fans didn’t even get a handful of minor league stats into which to put way too much stock.

It’s been so long that Vizcaino’s been with the Cubs and unable to pitch competitively, that it’s weird to think about finally getting our first look at him soon – even if just in Spring Training. The idea that he could be pitching with the big league team in April is exceedingly hard to wrap my head around, because it’s been so easy to let him fall from your mind when thinking about the Cubs’ future arms. But it could happen:

That is all fantastic. I can’t wait to see what he looks like this Spring.

When it comes to what level at which he’ll start the regular season, however, he’s got a few things working against him if he’s to be on the big league roster in the first half of the season: (1) the lengthy time off suggests he could use some time getting back into the swing of competitive ball without the pressure of the bigs (and in a place where it’s easier to manage a guy’s appearances); (2) the extreme depth in possible bullpen options right now (Vizcaino isn’t the only quality young arm the Cubs might want to get an extended look at); and (3) the ever-present reality of service time considerations.

On that last one, Vizcaino’s an interesting case: because he’s been on the disabled list for the past two years, but was already on the 40-man roster, he’s accumulated more than two years of service time, despite pitching only a tiny bit in the bigs in 2011. (Players on the 40-man roster accumulate big league service time when on the 60-day disabled list. This prevents shenanigans.) If Vizcaino pitches in the big leagues for all of 2013, or even most of it, he’ll clear three years of service time, and will qualify for arbitration in 2015 (and free agency after 2017, at just 27).

If the Cubs want to forestall arbitration, or, more importantly, secure an extra year of control, they have an incentive to keep Vizcaino in the minors until at least the second half of the year. That said, because of the projected bullpen depth in the first half of the season, at least, and because of the possible desire to ease Vizcaino back into competitive ball, there are perfectly reasonable excuses to keep Vizcaino down for a half season that have nothing to do with service time. It all kind of coalesces into a gelatin of reasons to start Vizcaino down in Iowa’s bullpen in April (or a lower level in the minors, if desirable for weather reasons).

Of course, if Vizcaino looks lights out in Spring Training and is fully healthy, the decision might be slightly more difficult. Still, all things considered, I’m thinking that Iowa is an appropriate first step back for him.

  • dw8

    As Vizcaino seems like a pitcher that may have only so many bullets, I’m of the opinion that the service time/arbitration concern should be a secondary concern to getting some big league value out of him.

    • mike

      Yep. I agree.

      • http://BleacherNation blewett

        I disagree. He’s only 23 and has a ton of upside. We aren’t going anywhere in 2014 anyway. Keep him down half a year and gain the extra year of control when it matters.

        • BWA

          I think it all depends on how ready he proves himself. If he is dominating in AAA, you gotta get him as much big league experience as possible so he can be better for us when it matters.

  • DarthHater

    “It all kind of coalesces into a gelatin of reasons…”

    Do they give Peabody awards for sports writing? Cuz, I’m just sayin’.

    • beerhelps

      That Brett uses his tongue perttier than a $20 whore!

    • Brett

      Heh. I swear I don’t try to say things like that – it just comes out.

  • Edwin

    I’d settle for getting a picture of Vizcaino actually wearing a Cubs jersey.

    • DarthHater


  • Smitty


    Would you say that Vizcaino will most definitely be a bullpen arm going forward with no chance of going into the rotation, while Grimm will be used that way with the chance of being moved back into a starter later?

    • Brett

      I would say that, yes, it’s far more likely Grimm still has a chance of being a starter long-term. Vizcaino is probably going to settle into being a reliever and just stay there.

      • Mike Taylor

        I can’t shake the FO stating last year that “Vizcaino will be a starter; his value is that he’s a starter.” It seemed oddly like foreshadowing, with “coded” undertones for other offices.

        I have a feeling he’ll be up mid-season after Hammel and McDonald (Samardzija, too, let’s not kid ourselves) are gone to start gaining value. If he does well, he’ll be a high-value trade chip for 2015. That’s a better scenario than settling on a cost-controlled bullpen role.

        We have plenty of bullpen guys ready to beak out (Rivero, Hatley, Zych, Zystryzny, etc.) and it would be safe to assume that the money we’re “saving” for the 2015 free agent market will be to acquire a high-priced starter.

        • okiecubhawk

          Why would he be a trade chip? Given his age wouldn’t he be a perfect fit for the plan if he proves to be a dominant starter?

    • rcleven

      This quote is from Jason himself. Got to take the man at his word.

      JM: I think the biggest thing is just to get him innings under his belt. I think his role probably best suits in the backend of a bullpen just with that big time fastball and slider coming off of it. I think most importantly is just get him on the mound, get him to face some hitters, make sure he is healthy and the rest will determine itself.

      I take it as bullpen at AAA.

  • Luke

    Actually, I’d start him in Daytona simply for weather reasons.

    The last thing I want to do to an oft-repaired arm is expose it to cold weather right away. I’d start him in nice, sunny Florida until late April or early May, then kick him up to Iowa, and evaluate him for a call-up to Chicago from there.

    • Brett

      Fair point; I was just using Iowa as a proxy for “minor leagues”, but I’ll amend.

  • Spoda17

    I agree he may be a bullpen guy long term, but for some reason I’m thinking when they got him in the trade, he was viewed as a starter long term… what that the original plan? or am I nuts? or both…

    • Diggs

      Some people were hoping he’d be a starter when the Cubs acquired him, but some said dominant reliever was the best-case scenario. (Which for Paul Maholm, is still pretty good.) But once he had another surgery last year, most people started saying he’d stick to the bullpen. At least for now.

  • Jon

    “Clock games”, especially in this case, are silly

    • JadeBos

      But it isn’t a straight clock game in this case, but moreover you don’t want to rush a guy in cold weather on the big stage when you already might have some roster crunch. Besides its not like we need him right away. And would you rather have a lights out guy 14-17 or half of 14 -18?
      Its just a bonus of being cautious.

  • ChiMike702

    Small typo, you said “If Vizcaino pitches in the big leagues for all of 2013…”

    I can’t wait to see this guy in action finally!

  • Ivy Eater

    Never been to a game in Iowa, but it seems like this would be a pretty good year to make it there (in the first half for sure).

    • CubFan Paul

      I expect a lot of scouts there too, looking at Baez before the deadline.

      The hotstove is going to be fun.

      • Jon

        Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, and Manny Machado. Those are the 3 big leaguesers I would trade Baez for at this point. They can look, but that’s about it.

        • Xruben31

          McCutchen? Trout and Jose Fernandez that’s about it…

      • ClevelandCubsFan

        No way the Cubs trade Baez before 2015. The Cubs are going to trade prospects for legitimate MLB pieces when they’re looking at the playoffs, IMO. The Cubs won’t be competing in 2014 so they won’t be in MLB aquisition mode. PLUS they want to know for sure what they’ve got. Mid-2015, if Baez has established himself has a real MLB player, he’ll be worth a ton. So unless someone’s willing to part with at least 2 actual MLB players under team control for several years (not likely) I don’t see the Cubs moving Baez for about 17 months.

        • CubFan Paul

          “No way the Cubs trade Baez before 2015”

          No way?

          …I didn’t say anything about legitimate MLB pieces either.

    • woody

      Let’s face it having Rizzo and Castro as the faces of the franchise has failed up to this point. Chances are Baez and Bryant will be billed as the young guns and will quickly surplant Rizzo and Castro as the faces of the franchise. Guys like that not only win games, but they sell tickets which is something Ricketts needs. Both Baez and Bryant have the potential to stand among the Giancarlo Stanton’s of the baseball world.

      • Bret Epic

        I wouldn’t say they have failed necessarily. You have to remember that Castro isn’t even 24 yet and Rizzo played his first full season last year, one that many would consider to have been a successful year. Decent OBP, great defense and decent overall power. Castro had a bad season, but his potential is that of an All-Star, which we have personally witnessed. If Castro bounces back and Rizzo ends up adding a few more singles, they’ll likely proceed to become players we can happily call part of our “core.” Full seasons with performances like his 2012 year for Rizzo and Castro consistently putting up numbers similar to his 2011 season is within the realm of possibility. I’m optimistic that one, if not both will bounce back this year.

      • okiecubhawk

        After on full season for Rizzo he’s a failure. Right.

        • woody

          I never said they were failures. You are putting words where they don’t exist. I simply said that Castro and Rizzo were being billed as the faces of the franchise. Their faces were being pasted on all the Cub affiliated sites. But given their 2013 performances it may have been better if management had waited a bit longer. Whether or not Rizzo is ever a big star or not I believe he will be an above average player given his defense and power. When I use the term face of the franchise I am refering to guys that attain elite status. There are seldom more that a handful that reach that level. Leaving the steroid era guys out I think Pujols would be good example. Cabrera and Trout come to mind in the current era. Goldschmitt has that potential along with Harper. Can you tell me with a straight face that Rizzo is in that group. Maybe he will be, but the point was that Baez and Bryant have the potential to be one of those guys. If hindsight has 20/20 vision then it might have been better to have waited to put the burden of hype on their shoulders.

  • MightyBear

    The over/under for win totals came out. The Cubs are at 65.5. I’ll take the over.

    • YourResidentJag

      We’ll you’d hope for slightly higher because it means greater WAR value coming from Castro and Rizzo.

      • Bret Epic

        Seems accurate, though a bit higher wouldn’t surprise me. Our bullpen looks a hell of a lot stronger going into this year, so even if we lose as many games as last year, hopefully there will be less late inning heartbreaks.

  • willis

    I agree 100% start him in the minors and let him ease back in. This is of course if he even gets through Spring Training…which I hesitate to say is going to happen. IF he does, I’d start him in high A or AA for the first few weeks for weather purposes (as Luke said) and just let him get some rhythm/comfort. I just want to see him healthy…just waiting for a God’s wrath on him.

  • Jorbert Solmora

    Hey Brett, is there a podcast in the works?

    • Brett

      Yes – but we’re having trouble getting our schedules to align these days.

  • 1060Ivy

    Somewhat putting a cart before the horse regarding service time and arbitration clock concerns commentary after discussing that Vizcaino hasn’t been healthy enough to find decent photos of him in a Cub uniform.

    Prefer to wait for a complete a healthy and productive spring training before we get concerned about service time, big league timeline or starting him out a cold weather location. Hope to be worried about all these issues eventually but I’ll start a productive spring training.

  • Voice of Reason

    The appropriate plan for vizcaino is keep him healthy.

    He’s Kerry Wood in terms of breaking down.

    There’s a better chance Castro hits .300 next season than vizcaino stays healthy.

  • josh ruiter

    well then I like the odds that Castro returns to all star status…b/c I doubt Vizcaino gets hurt in the pen, taking it slowly….i know knock on wood

  • edgebrookbleacherbum

    If he lights it up during spring training, they need to give this guy a 7th or 8th inning role. I think the Cubs had 15 losses in which they lead after 7 innings. That has to improve.

  • brainiac

    this greenberg guy’s been reading my posts! i am honored.

    • mjhurdle

      he does share your love of contradictory logic.

      “I also think that the lack of talent and the losing has hampered Castro and Rizzo’s development.”
      “Renteria was brought in because he’s great with prospects, always cheerful and he speaks Spanish. That will definitely help Rizzo hit fastballs, right?”

      So if the Cubs had more talent around Rizzo and won more, he would hit fastballs better.
      But having a cheerful manager that is good communicating and relating to young players won’t help Rizzo hit fastballs better.

      Which is it? does having better, positive influences around help a player, or does it just come down to whether they can hit the fastball?

      he has some decent points in the article, but most of them are lost in the overboard use of the “woe is us” style in which he wrote.

      • brainiac

        it’s not contradictory, if anything i’m a baseball classicist that focuses on qualitative play instead of post-play quantification.

        i’d call it more “counterintuitive”, because everyone is on one big bandwagon to sbarro at the mall these days. and like your resident brains, he’s being practical and ironic a lot of the time, not angry.

  • woody

    The cubs had 24 blown saves last year. I read somewhere today that Russell had 8 of those. That kind of blew my mind. I just confirmed it on ESPN website. That means Russell single handedly accounted for one third of the blown saves in 2013.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      True: but Russell also was put in a disproportionate number of the potential blown-save opportunities, as he was the Cubs best reliever for most of the year and thus getting put into high leverage situations.

      The Cubs actually blew 26 saves last year. However, the median blown saves was 18.5, so the Cubs had only 8.5 more than expected. Blown saves were only poorly correlated with how well teams did last year: they explain less than 6% of the variation in winning percentages. Quality Starts explain nearly 17% of the variation. This is only one way to emphasize that you need to worry about the starting rotation much, much more than you need to worry about the bullpen.

      • Professional High A

        I get your point that blown saves don’t closely correlate with winning, but lets be honest about this years roster, they don’t have enough talent to blow that many saves and have a half decent record.

      • Bilbo161

        Doc, Really appreciate your contributions to the discussions on this site.

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