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cleveland indians logoThere can be no doubt that if you’d asked folks a few weeks ago which three impending free agent starting pitchers were virtual locks to reach free agency, 99% of pundits would have said Homer Bailey, James Shields and Justin Masterson. Maybe that would be considered a shot at the small market Reds, Royals, and Indians, but that sure felt like the appropriate set of responses, based not only on the financial realities of the game, but also on various reports about the distances between the pitchers’ desires and the teams’ offers. Other top would-be free agent starters have either already been locked up (Clayton Kershaw, for example), have expressed a strong desire to extend (Jon Lester), or have a team that seems to be moving financial mountains to be in a position to extend (Max Scherzer).

Well, this weekend, word broke that the Reds and Homer Bailey were close on an extension, and all comments from the team and the pitcher since then strongly suggest that the deal is going to happen soon enough.

Is it possible that, among the erstwhile huge class of free agent starters, only Shields and Masterson will actually make it to market? As someone who hopes that the Cubs will put some of their unspent funds into securing a pitcher or two next offseason, I’d certainly like to see at least one other guy gets there. With a bevy of positional prospects potentially set to start contributing as soon as 2015, together with what could be rebounds/improvements from Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, and Welington Castillo, it sure would be nice to have a quality rotation with which to pair the offense.

At least, for now, it sounds like Justin Masterson and the Indians aren’t too close on an extension. They did manage to avoid arbitration for 2014, today, but, according to Jordan Bastian, a long-term deal isn’t the focus for the two sides right now.

“I’m here for this season, man,” Masterson told Bastian. “We’ve got plenty of time to work on [an extension]. It’s just working through it, what the value is, what’s reasonable pay, how things work. It’s a different system, especially when you’ve got to be really smart about how you move your money around and you want to make sure you’re making a good investment. You’ve got to truly believe in the guy. Not that they don’t truly believe in me, but it’s what you’re working through in that process. It’s easy for us when it’s not our money to throw it around and say, ‘Just do this.’ When it’s your own money, you say, ‘ I think we’re going to think about this a little bit more.’ It doesn’t bother me.”

If a long-term deal isn’t reached, Masterson, who turns 29 this year, could position himself for a huge score with another solid season. Quietly, he’s posted 2.1, 4.3, 1.9, and 3.4 WAR seasons with the Indians, and sports a 3.81 FIP for his career. Masterson is an excellent groundball pitcher, and actually saw his strikeout rate spike last year to 24.3% (19.3% career), while keep his walk rate in a passable range (9.5%). If that uptick in strikeouts holds over the course of 2014, the discussion about Masterson as a true front end option could change quickly. (It looks like there wasn’t any flukey velocity changes for Masterson in 2013. Instead, he used his slider quite a bit more, to devastating results. Perhaps the improvement is, indeed, sustainable.)

That is all to say … I’d really like to see Masterson, among others, make it to the free agent market after the season.

  • YourResidentJag

    Jury’s still out with me and Masterson. Too inconsistent. Wanting to see also what years of contract are going to be for top tier FAs, including SP. Seems as though the thinking continues to be that, if you want a top tier FA, teams interested have no problem with jacking up years of contract to unreasonable amounts for most of these guys.

  • baldtaxguy

    “I for the life of me do not understand the hope and promise some Cub fans attach to next year’s free agency class. It’s the same pretzel logic every year…there will be big name free agents that hit the market and our salvation shall be that the Cubs are favorites to land them. Good grief….”

    Just to get this out of the way.

    • Jon

      0 % chance….

  • Elden14

    Who would be our opponents on the FA market to acquire pitchers next season? I think that has just as much importance as the actual FA pitchers available.

    The Cubs seem willing to pay for the right pitcher, but not to obscene levels. Hopefully there won’t be teams as desperate and/or funded as the yankees next year.

    • Jon

      The Dodgers

    • YourResidentJag

      The Dodgers are always there. Thing that has to be remembered. The Cubs may be looking at one of the FAs as the primary TOR starter. Competitors, with other starters already filled around these potential FAs, wouldn’t consider these FAs as primary top of the rotation guys. That could change the Cubs’ mindset if the bidding get outrageous and depending on who’s available.

      • brainiac

        can we all be serious and just admit that the cubs aren’t going to make a concerted effort to sign any top pitcher next offseason either? i know it’s fun to play fantasy baseball but this train ain’t starting. if you don’t see the steam it’s not moving ahead on the tracks.

        theo is waiting out his contract so he can leave. jed should be fired. mcleod will hopefully be the next GM when this nightmare period in cubs history is over.

        • YourResidentJag

          Where did I say it was all but certain? If it was up to me, I would have tried my darndest to get Stroman, Jimenez, and Tirado +1 other from the Blue Jays for Shark and possibly Lake already. And then hoped and prayed Tirado and Edwards emerged as our TORs of the future.

          • YourResidentJag

            And by the way, I also believe that this QO nonsense interfered with that, BTW.

          • brainiac

            that was directed more generally, than to you specifically. there’s really to end to this in sight. my new (accurate) rhetorical flourish that i’m going to try out here:

            the plan, explained: “there will be no baseball in chicago until further notice”

            • Patrick W.

              One man’s rhetorical flourish is every other man’s complete nonsense.

              • TWC

                Or beyond the pale, infantile trolling that “is not in the interest of facilitating enjoyable, productive discussion”.

                “Persistent, irritating behavior” it is.

                • brainiac

                  al jourgensen’s hat is mad at me again

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Just like they totally didn’t make an effort to sign Anibal Sanchez last year or Tanaka this year.

          • Jon

            Anibal yes, but Tanaka, by all accounts they were 30 million short w/ no opt out or “no trade” clauses. I don’t know what you can classsify that effort as, but I don’t think strong is one of them. Window shopping?

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              I’ve said all I’ve got to say on Tanaka and the Cubs’ very legitimate, but ill-fated pursuit: http://www.bleachernation.com/2014/01/22/the-tanaka-story-the-cubs-actual-chances-and-the-importance-of-narratives/

              • DarthHater

                No, no, Brett. When you’ve said all you’ve got to say on a subject, you don’t stop. That’s when you start beating the dead horse for another couple months.

                • Jon

                  I was expecting the gif :(

                  • DarthHater

                    Ahhh, but I know what you didn’t expect:

                    • DarthHater

                      [img]http://stream1.gifsoup.com/view/91860/spanish-inquisition-o.gif[/img]

                    • TWC

                      No one *ever* expects them.

                  • DarthHater

                    Amongst our weapons are surprise, fear, market inefficiencies, and an almost fanatical devotion to TJS rebound candidates.

                • hansman

                  Couple months? What kind of Namby Pamby BS is that? You drag it on for years!

                  • DarthHater

                    Nah, you gotta get a fresh dead horse every now and then.

                    • hansman

                      Bah…horse hockey

                    • DarthHater

                      [img]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7351/12624709033_505828ffb0_o.jpg[/img]

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It tends to be the case that there are always plenty of competitors willing to spend in free agency. Very tough to project a year out, too (look at the Cubs as the perfect example – some folks believe they’ll be in a position to spend, while others think that’s crazy).

      • Edwin

        It’s also tough to nail down who will or won’t be available, or who will be worth going after.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Very true – every years, guys rise and guys fall off.

      • When The Musics Over

        There’s also always the team willing to outbid those that won’t be outbid. I’m 100% not knocking the Cubs with Tanaka here. There’s just always seems to be a team out there willing to make the silly offer.

        • Eternal Pessimist

          When the pockets are so much deeper than the Cubs pockets the silly offer just isn’t that silly. I’m sure Tanaka drives way more revenue per dollar spent in NY than in Chicago, so it really isn’t silly for NY to spend what they spent, but would have been silly for Chicago. I think the FO may just have to settle for non-#1’s (unless grown in our farm) and hope for the best.

    • Edwin

      Dodgers, Red Sox, Rangers, Mariners, Mets, Cardinals, Angels, Blue Jays, White Sox, Yankees, Giants.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      “Hopefully there won’t be teams as desperate and/or funded as the yankees next year.”

      Well, there is a very high probability that the Yankees themselves will be in both categories next year!

      One thing that people have to remember where pitchers are concerned is that a new starter replaces your 5th starter. Masterson and Shields would be an upgrade over the 5th starter of every team. The question then becomes limited to: “who can afford him?” (The Yankees themselves have been in on nearly every major FA starter out there: a lot of them simply don’t want to pitch in NYC.)

  • Critterbeard

    Played against him in college when he was at Bethel. He was pretty tough, but we always heard rumors that he was overused and had arm problems. It looks like he has overcome that and stayed relatively healthy the last few years.

  • Brocktoon

    Those quotes from Masterson sound really encouraging about him hitting the market. If the rest play out as expected, he’s gotta be #1 on the market which is less encouraging.

    • Brocktoon

      Seeing as he was a Red Sox product there’s gotta be some interest there, but I thought he same about ellsbury and that seemed more token than anything else

    • Jon

      If Masterson blows up his elbow this year, you better believe the interest will be there.

  • Kyle

    Sounds out of our price range.

    Any leads on potential mediocre starters who aren’t good enough to get job promises from good teams but will take one-year deals from us?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Cubs tend to have pretty good luck with those guys, in terms of actual performance. Just sayin’.

      • Orval Overall

        And where has that gotten them?

        • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

          It has gotten them Jake Arrietta, Pedro Strop, and Arodys Vizcaino out of half-seasons of Scott Feldman and Paul Maholm. That’s a huge win

          • Edwin

            They’re nice, but I wouldn’t call them huge wins just yet. Vizcaino still hasn’t pitched a meaningful inning for the Cubs, Strop is a good but not great RP, and Arrietta is a 5th starter/likely bullpen guy.

            They’re gains, but they’re pretty minimal.

            • When The Musics Over

              I think this is the right way to look at it. In the end, it’s likely netted the Cubs three bullpen arms, which is the most fickle position in baseball. Useful? Definitely, especially since it was done only using small monetary investments. A game changing move, or something to brag about? Definitely not.

              Should the keep doing them while in the win later mode? 100%.

          • Orval Overall

            Way to think big.

          • Kyle

            “It has gotten them Jake Arrietta, Pedro Strop, and Arodys Vizcaino out of half-seasons of Scott Feldman and Paul Maholm. That’s a huge win”

            It really isn’t.

            Arrieta is bad and possibly hurt.

            Strop has a history of looking good in flashes then reverting to badness.

            Vizcaino is Jose Guzman.

            • college_of_coaches

              I’d be happy for Jose Guzman! Is it possible you meant Angel Guzman?

              • Kyle

                Indeed.

                And I don’t mean to imply that those trades are bad. They’re fine. They just aren’t “huge wins.”

                • Lukas

                  Would you rather keep the cheap rental players and get nothing when they become free agents? Seems that’s what you are asking for?

                  • Kyle

                    Nope. I was just disputing the idea that they were “huge wins.”

                • Lukas

                  Or would you rather go with the more expensive, but slightly better free agents instead……and get nothing when THEY become free agents?

                  Either way, you seem to want the Cubs to pay for mediocre players, get mediocre production, and not flip them for usable pieces, then repeat that cycle. In other words, you want the cubs to do what they did for the last 60 years.

                  • Kyle

                    Once again, we get a fan with absolutely *no* grasp of Cubs history blandly and blindly spamming a horribly inaccurate narrative to serve the purpose of “Everything now is the opposite of everything then.”

                    • Lukas

                      I’m not that far off.

                    • Kyle

                      Well, for most of the most recent CBA, letting free agents go was considered a major strategy because of the extra draft picks you’d get. In fact, many have claimed the Cubs didn’t let that happen often enough.

                    • Patrick W.

                      Horribly inaccurate narratives are only slightly more annoying than horribly subjective narratives.

            • Lukas

              Those players are hardly the worthless bunch you are trying to make them out to be. And I think you know that.

              • Kyle

                They aren’t worthless, but they are closer to worthless than as good as the average Cubs fan seems to think right now.

                • Lukas

                  If your issue is with the word “hug”e then I think you’re just looking for reasons to argue at this point.

                  Those guys all provide pretty good production for a very small price. Strop and Arrieta easily matched Feldmans production. That trade was most certainly a win.

                  • Kyle

                    Person says X.

                    I say “I don’t think X is true.”

                    You come along and say “You seem to be saying Y, and here’s all the reasons Y is wrong.”

                    Who is just looking for reasons to argue?

                    • Lukas

                      You just said above you disagree that that trade was a “huge win”…..

                      So what was it? A big win? A sort of big win? Either way it’s a win.

                    • Kyle

                      It was a functional trade where I think we accepted inferior value to what we could have gotten in prospects, but served the purpose of getting fungible MLB arms.

                  • Kyle

                    But on the point, I don’t think you can assume that either Arrieta or Strop provide pretty good performance. Both are quite capable of being below-average or even replacement-level.

                    • Lukas

                      Obviously, but that goes for any player in the game.

                    • Kyle

                      Not in the way it does for them.

                    • Dales Fired Ear

                      Even if they are solid pieces you pushing the argument with Kyle is making it seem like he doesn’t like the trades. It’s not that he didn’t necessarily like them, he’s just saying they aren’t Earth shattering moves. Also, it’s not that he wants the FO to keep these mediocre assets and let them go for nothing, he seems to have a problem with them picking those types of players up at all. And in such a small sample you can’t really say that Strop and Arrieta are guaranteed “wins”, we’ll find that out this year. To be fair, the front office hasn’t really done anything that could be called a “huge win” in terms of a franchise altering transaction at the big league level. Just to note I am all on board with “The Plan” and waiting for the prospects and I feel dirty defending Kyle, but what he’s saying isn’t wrong and what you’re saying he’s saying isn’t what he’s saying.

          • another JP

            Well FCTommy, the Maholm and Feldman trades might not be a huge win yet but even if Arrieta, Strop, and Vizcaino turn out to be total busts the Cubs made out quite well.

            Maholm provided $4.25M WAR value as the Cubs paid him ~$2.85M, while Feldman was paid ~$3M and provided $6.2M in WAR value… so the Cubs received about $4.6M in excess value in their performances alone on an investment of $4.4M.

            Now Oliver projects the three players we received in return to put up about 5.6 total WAR in the next 5 years, and at an average value per WAR of $7M (if one assumes the current 5% annual increase will continue) that works out to $39.2M of value if the Cubs kept these guys until 2018. Projecting typical annual increases from their current salaries would mean the Cubs would pay out about $22.2M total for them, meaning their performances could equate to another $17M in added value. Not a bad haul for half seasons from two #4 starters and a great reason why Hammel was picked up this off-season.

            • CubFan Paul

              “at an average value per WAR of $7M”

              Take out the wacky overpays by the Giants

            • another JP

              Forgot to mention Strop alone has already provided $4.3M of value to the Cubs since the trade, so you can add that to what the “worthless bunch” has provided thus far.

            • Brocktoon

              5.6 war out of 3 players total over 5 seasons is horrendous.

              I certainly hope we’re not going into 3rd year arb with guys who are averaging 0.4 war/year

              • Patrick W.

                Yes but we now measure things in how long it takes to become a lawyer so your 5 year comment is irrelevant.

                • Brocktoon

                  I just assumed with a normal rate of decline they’d produce negative WAR the last 2 years. I was being charitable

              • another JP

                WAR actually underestimates the value of relievers since those are highly leveraged ABs facing them and are worth approx. 1.8 times a normal plate appearance. It’s difficult to gain much WAR value in limited IP and is why elite relievers are the only ones with 1 WAR or better.

                • bbmoney

                  Where are those numbers coming from? I’m intrigued by this idea, but I’d like to read a little more about it because it doesn’t necessarily make sense to me.

                  • another JP

                    bbmoney— for the WAR value of relievers here’s one Fangraphs article…

                    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/war-and-relievers/

                    Regarding the other valuations you’ll have to reference Oliver’s 5 year projections and the average annual arby increases projected for like contracts… currently Strop makes $1.3M, Arrieta $516K, Viz $491K

                    One can argue about approximations all day long but the point is this- the Cubs have already reaped a substantial return on the Feldman/Maholm deals and will likely get enough production from the players acquired to make these great trades. Do they make the Cubs a contender… no. Are they the incremental moves every team should make to improve their roster and solidify a pitching staff with today’s economics… absolutely.

                    • bbmoney

                      Thanks. I’m intrigued by the whole relievers are undervalued by WAR because they’re highly leveraged idea.

                      It’s different from my usual thought process of all outs are equal (closers are overrated) and all games are equal (regardless of them happening in Sept or April). But I can see a position where that’s not true if relievers are being brought in consistently with runners on base, etc.

                      So I’ll do some reading.

                    • bbmoney

                      That article doesn’t say WAR doesn’t work for relievers though. It says WAR factors in half of that 1.8 leverage you reference into the calculation (or did in 2010) and then explains why they don’t give full credit for leverage. And then it says WAR does work for relievers.

                      Which doesn’t mean he’s necessarily right and you’re not, but it doesn’t support your statement either.

                      And Kyle’s right, it’s really the save that’s overrated, not necessarily the closer as closers are usually quite good. I guess i just don’t like the title.

                    • Brocktoon

                      Securing 0.4 war players is not something any team should be doing. You’re using 7m/war and it doesn’t apply unless you’re talking free agency, not to mention how nonlinear each win is. If 7m/win was truly the standard then every team would be outperforming by win/dollar. A 140m payroll would be worth 65 wins

                  • Kyle

                    “Closers are overrated” is overrated.

                    Saves are overrated, sure. But most closers will be one of your two highest-leverage relievers. Saving one-run games does have quite a bit of value.

      • Kyle

        Yay Maholm Feldman, boo Baker Volstad. Hammel could tip the scales either way.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Volstad doesn’t fit in that group, since he was an upside/keeper play in a trade for an asset for which no one was going to give the Cubs anything worth diddly poop. If you’re going to count a guy like Volstad, you’d have to count Wood.

        • DarthHater

          “Boo creepy foot doctor. Hooray Beer!”

  • rabbit

    If Masterson doesn’t become available and Shields gets more money elsewhere…where does that leave us…do we shoot for 2016 as a more realistic year for contention?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      There are other ways to improve the team beyond these particular free agent starters. But, as things project right now (a risky game), they’d sure be a huge help.

    • CubFan Paul

      “do we shoot for 2016 as a more realistic year for contention?”

      That was the nugget Theo&Co had Mooney drop on us earlier this offseason.

    • Kyle

      Yes, we do.

  • Fastball

    I would be shocked if Masterson made it to free agency. The Trible can’t afford to lose him and they can certainly find a settlement on money. Our FO needs to be thinking about how they are going to get Major League front line pitching via the trade market rather than hoping for free agency. I know we are obsessed with our prospects but they are developed for a lot of reasons and making trades is a big one. We are flush with third baseman and second baseman. Theo is probably going to have to package an Alcantara and Olt if he comes back great in a deal for a young ML ready top of the rotation pitcher. I am not saying those are the two trade pieces just as an example. I just got if figured this is the only way your going to get a sure thing. You put all your eggs in the Free Agent market your going up against 29 other teams potentially. Our odds aren’t good just like this off season. You wish in one hand and crap in the other, see which one you fill up first. I would rather we don’t have to be in that situation. Make a solid trade for what we need. It has been stated on here by many that we don’t have places for all these guys to play. I think you package up the doughboy down in Daytona to an AL team with a few other top 100’s in our system and make a deal for someone we can control long term.

    • Edwin

      It takes two to tango, though. Who would be out there to trade for?

    • Brocktoon

      Short of a productive major league run, I think olt has minimal trade value

      • brainiac

        yeah garza was a give away, a salary dump much like how the cubs got aramis and kenny from pittsburgh back in the day. there is no baseball in chicago until further notice.

        • Fishin Phil

          ” there is no baseball in chicago until further notice.”

          Well then why don’t you drag your crotchety butt over to the Cardinal board and leave us alone.

          • brainiac

            why don’t you since you seem to be working for them

        • Patrick W.

          You are spending a LOT of time discussing something that isn’t happening, in your view.

        • Brocktoon

          Edwards was the main piece of that trade. Olt was like the 3rd guy

          • CubFan Paul

            Most packages have a main guy, a not so great guy, & a dream prospect

            Main guy: Olt/Grimm

            Not so great guy: Olt/Grimm & Ramirez

            Dream prospect: Edwards

            • Xruben31

              Edwards was really the center piece though.

              • CubFan Paul

                The Cubs didn’t center the Garza trade around a relief pitcher. Grimm has a higher floor and more attainable ceiling than Edwards.

                Edwards will remain the dream prospect until he gains weight (not likely) and his stuff translates at higher levels

                • Xruben31

                  “The Cubs didn’t center the Garza trade around a relief pitcher.”

                  So what is Grimm, to you?

                  • CubFan Paul

                    “So what is Grimm, to you?”

                    a MLB caliber starting pitcher with experience to get better from.

                    He’s only relieving now in camp because of the legitimate options ahead of him on the depth chart. He can help that way in the near-term while polishing his secondaries/repertoire

                    • Xruben31

                      So basically we’re stating opinions, I think Edwards can start in the majors.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “So basically we’re stating opinions”

                      If only you explained yours more thoroughly. I at least tried.

                    • Brocktoon

                      Why is Edwards a reliever?

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      As much as I like Alcantara if he and Olt could bring a young arm to the system I am for it. In that event I would like to see Baez play 2nd and Bryant 3rd in 2015. We could get an experienced leadoff guy in FA easier than a TOR FA.

      • Javier Bryant

        Or draft one named Trea Turner

  • Dales Fired Ear

    If Scherzer makes it through the spring without an extension he has said he won’t negotiate mid-season. Not saying the Cubs would necessarily pony up the cash for him, but I figure Scott Boras has gotta be licking his lips at the bidding war he could set up once free agency starts, especially if Bailey and possibly Masterson also sign extensions.. Just a thought

    • Jon

      We could finishing 2nd in the Scherzer derby and then award ourselves another participation trophy!

      • bbmoney

        I swear you’re Blackhawk, just with a different repetitive posts that you copy and paste with a name change here or there.

        • Dales Fired Ear

          Can we call Theo and get Jon a hug or something? Yeesh

  • MightyBear

    I don’t want the Cubs to get Masterson or Shields. If those are the top FA pitchers next year, I would be more inclined to re-sign the Shark. Trading the Shark and then signing Shields or Masterson would be a step back IMO. Bailey was the one pitcher I thought might be available and if he’s not, then CJ Edwards or Pierce Johnson better make some huge strides this year. Scherzer and Lester aren’t going to be available either.

    • Edwin

      What if Shark won’t sign an extention?

  • cubfanincardinalland

    Fools gold. Where would Masterson rank in starters? Borderline top 50. And some team will give up a draft choice and $100 million plus for 5 years.
    Shields is probably top 20-25 today. At his age, where is he going to be in 2016? And someone will give him 20 million a year plus for 3 or 4 years.
    Just not the way to build a team.

    • Edwin

      What are you basing your Borderline top 50 on? I’d love to know the 49 you pick above him.

      • cubfanincardinalland

        Espn has him at #51, rotoworld #43. Fangraphs ranks him the highest I have seen on their zips projections at a 3.3 WAR this year, which puts him at #27 on their list. But there are 12 other starters at 3.2 War projection right there with him.
        Right now he is a 3-4 WAR starter, and you can expect that to start declining by a half a point a season once he hits 30, just like most starters on average. Is that a 20 million a year pitcher?

  • BlameHendry

    Not excited over Masterson at all. If he and Shields are the only ones available, I’d rather spend the money elsewhere, and trade prospects for a true ace. I think Max Scherzer is the only one we can cling onto any hope for, and he’s about the only guy I think is worth a massive contract out of the 3.

    • Blackhawks1963

      If Kansas City is out of the race by the end of July then chances are very strong they trade Shields. If he goes to a team like the Red Sox or Yankees or Rangers, then the odds of him ever hitting free agency decrease substantially given the caliber of pitcher he is and the high price it would cost to trade for him in the first place.

      • gocatsgo2003

        I don’t think this is nearly as much of a “sure thing” as you’re selling. The Rangers elected not to re-sign Garza after trading a pretty good haul of prospects (I don’t really count a qualifying offer since there was no indication it would be accepted).

        • Brocktoon

          You can’t give a QO to a player acquired midseason. Shields doesn’t matter though as it’s pretty damn unlikely our FO is interested in a 33 yr old SP

  • Blackhawks1963

    Pitching is going to have to come from within and via trades. The number of true quality pitchers hitting free agency continues to shrink year after year.

    The good news for the Cubs is that we have a nice pipeline of young pitching in the system (Johnson, Edwards, Underwood, Zastrazy, Skulina, others).

    The good news also is that an increasingly deep and talented farm system provides the ammunition to trade for good pitching.

    • YourResidentJag

      That or we can always hope that Shohei Otani reaches his potential, is posted and we get him.

      • SenorGato

        Fujinami > Otani

  • Javier Bryant

    Redsox are looking for a swing starter. Villanueva anyone?

  • Kyle

    http://espn.go.com/espnradio/chicago/play?id=10476439

    In which Epstein admits they planned on dual fronts at first but then gave up on it. So no, this wasn’t the plan all along.

    • When The Musics Over

      It would have been really nice if he had provided a straight answer to the Shark question rather than side-stepping it with a different answer.

    • SenorGato

      *Shocked face*

    • DarthHater

      [img]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7376/10750623675_8cf58a4ed0_o.jpg[/img]

    • CubFan Paul

      So Theo’s 5yr deal will turn into a 10yr deal by default (if he chooses to stay..)

  • ClevelandCubsFan

    I’m getting the sinking but somewhat optimistic feeling that to be competitive in 2015, the Cubs will have to (and will) offer stupid money to pick up a free agent or two. It’s too easy to envision that next year’s FA pitchers will be like Choo and Elsbury and Cano–good players that someone was willing to offer crazy money for. The Cubs are very likely going to have to out crazy someone. Hopefully it’ll be a one year thing. They give crazy money, they become competitive, players are excited (or at least positive) about playing for the Cubs, and the footing is closer to equal.

    The reason this thought bothers me is that we will have to endure endless griping about how we are sandbagged with another albatross contract, that it’s another Carl Crawford for Theo, another Alfonso Soriano for the Cubs.

    So if the Cubs do it, I believe it’ll be strategic and because it’s necessary to get back into things. And it’s looking more and more like they will need to do it.

  • Justin

    So, basically the Cubs are going to have to pay twice for a top pitcher, i.e. Price (in prospects and money). To sit and wait on the Masterson’s of the world is a pretty sucky game plan.. Wasn’t he moved to their bullpen late last yr?

  • SenorGato

    I know we have Mike Olt and all, but the FA to look forward to next year is Pablo Sandoval. Then again there’s probably only a small chance he leaves the Giants.

    • baldtaxguy

      I really can’t see this scenario. And Olt has to prove he can see ball hit ball.

  • http://BleacherNation blewett

    Can’t see us signing Sandoval when we have 3B candidates out the wazoo (Olt, Bryant, Baez, Villanueva).

    • CubFan Paul

      “3B candidates out the wazoo”

      Olt: maybe
      Bryant: Outfielder
      Baez: second baseman if Olt takes 3B
      Villanueva: Utility/Valbuena-like starter with less OBP

      • Abe Froman

        I don’t think Sandoval is a fit either:
        Most likely – Baez at 3rd, Alcantara at 2nd
        2nd most likely – Bryant at third
        Wildcard – Olt – I also don’t see Villanueva an everyday option.

        • CubFan Paul

          “Most likely – Baez at 3rd, Alcantara at 2nd”

          What year? I think it would take a rash of infield injuries to get a ’14 Alcantara call up. Watkins is the forgotten man here.

          He may be a top prospect but his bat is nowhere near ready

          • ced landrum

            I agree Watkins is forgotten man. He isn’t a star, but I like him a great deal. he can do a bit of everything.

      • brickhouse

        CubFan Paul – I think you are too early in moving Bryant to the OF. I have heard a few members of the front office wanting to keep him at 3b until he proves he can’t play the position. Scouting reports are split on if he can stay or is better off moving to the outfield. Anyway at least they will start playing games soon and players can either earn positions on the field over posters speculating.

        • CubFan Paul

          “I have heard a few members of the front office wanting to keep him at 3b until he proves he can’t play the position”

          They’re placating him til it actually matters. He can learn LF/RF on the fly in the majors.

          • brickhouse

            I think it really matters that he learn to play 3b at AA. Don’t you think it is at least 50/50 if he remains at that position ?

            • CubFan Paul

              “Don’t you think it is at least 50/50 if he remains at that position”

              No, way less than that.

              1) he’s blocked at 3B if Olt is healthy

              2) he won’t have enough time in the minors to be a MLB-caliber plus defending third baseman (he’s not very good there at all (I love the rocket arm he has but he’s too slow&lanky))

              • brickhouse

                You are not realistic with Olt – Even if healthy he has a long way to go to prove he can hit major league pitching.

                Bryant will most likely spend the entire year in the minors playing 3b this year. Scouting reports don’t agree with your slow & lanky as preventing him from staying at 3b.

                • CubFan Paul

                  “he has a long way to go to prove he can hit major league pitching”

                  So does EVERY prospect, no matter what.

                  “Scouting reports don’t agree with your slow & lanky as preventing him from staying at 3b”

                  Those reports aren’t recent then (Daytona/AFL)

      • Jason P

        If Baez can’t play third because Olt’s got it, then that kind of proves blewett’s point that signing Sandoval wouldn’t make sense because we have excess third base candidates.

        • CubFan Paul

          & my point was “what excess?”

          Olt being healthy and playing isn’t excess.

          • Jason P

            Excess means multiple candidates for the same job. Baez and Olt are both candidates for the same job.

            Bryant’s still got a great shot of sticking at third, Villanueva’s got a non-zero shot of becoming a big league starter, and Candelario’s around as well, albeit not for a few years.

            That’s 5 legitimate prospects who can play third. It doesn’t seem wise to allocate the kind of resources it would take to sign Sandoval to to a position that can be filled internally.

            • CubFan Paul

              “That’s 5 legitimate prospects who can play third”

              That’s the opposite of what I said. Whateves.

              • Jason P

                You can say whatever you want for as long as you want, but it doesn’t necessarily make it true.

                • CubFan Paul

                  Same goes for you Jason. Whateves.

                • Jason P

                  “I think his (Bryant’s) glove at third base is pretty good”
                  -John Sickels

                  Future grade of 5 in the field
                  -MLB.com

                  “Bryant’s defence at third base needs more work than his offence, although he should develop into an average third baseman, at worst.”
                  -fangraphs

                  There, I backed up my opinion. Now go find me 3 reports that say he definitely can’t play third. Actually you should be able to find at least 6 if his shots of sticking there are far worse than 50-50 as you indicated above.

                  • CubFan Paul

                    Random quotes without dates could be “dated” as I said above.

                    “Now go find me 3 reports that say he definitely can’t play third”

                    Why? I don’t work for you

                    “you should be able to find at least 6″

                    Why? It’s my opinion, based on ’13 defense and body as stated above.

                    • Jason P

                      I’m not surprised you couldn’t find one.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “I’m not surprised you couldn’t find one.”

                      I didn’t have a reason to look for one or any, as I said above.

                    • Jason P

                      Well that’s fine if you don’t want to put in the effort to support you’re opinion, just know that without stats or the opinion of professional scouts to back you up, your opinion doesn’t really have any credibility.

                  • CubFan Paul

                    “your opinion doesn’t really have any credibility”

                    Only you give a shit.

                    “if you don’t want to put in the effort to support you’re opinion”

                    Stay on topic next time, instead of e-badgering off topic and i’ll try to find the time

                    • Jason P

                      “Only you give a shit”

                      I couldn’t care less whether or not your opinion has credibility. I thought you might, but apparently not.

                      Nothing I said was off topic. It was completely 100% on topic.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      “It was completely 100% on topic”

                      No, you were just disagreeing on my thoughts on the lack of 3B depth.

                      I don’t care to argue why you see it differently.

                    • Chad

                      I would prefer your opinion have some sort of credibility as well, like in another thread when you mentioned knowing Baez’s spending habits. I would like to know how you know this. You may have an inside scoop on this where I don’t. I’m here to learn about the team as well as give my opinion, but when your opinion is based on nothing and you can’t back up statements it is very hard to believe your opinion is worth anything.

                      Also, even though a statement is not 100% about the first post of a very long thread, that doesn’t make it off-topic. There are many branches to every topic and discussing them is still on topic. Not every topic is singular.

    • SenorGato

      Sandoval is better than all of them but mAaaaaaybe the guy who can play 2B or maybe even SS. Well, Bryant too but no reason he cant play the OF.

  • Blackhawks1963

    The fact of the matter is the Cubs are going to need to build a pitching staff from within or make trades to acquire pitching. TheoJed amply understand this I’m sure. The farm system is getting strong, and that will provide the ammunition to engineer a major trade or two for pitching.

    Hoping that Scherzer, Masterson or Shields remain available and somehow fall into our lap next winter can only be a very secondary strategy.

    This is a BIG year for the forward march of Edwards, Johnson, Blackburn, Underwood and some others. And I really do think that if Baez is the real deal and can demonstrate the ability to be a reliable defensive shortstop then Castro can be actively shopped for pitching next winter.

    I keep looking at St. Louis….all that pitching that is homegrown. That’s where the Cubs need to get. Hell, I’d settle for the Cincinnati model of blending home grown pitching (Bailey, Chapman, Cingrani) with key trade acquisitions (Latos came over from San Diego in a trade that involved high end prospects in Alonso and Grandal).

    • Chad

      What you would settle for (the cincinnati model) is exactly what the cubs want to do. Build up the farm at all positions and supplement through trade and FA.

      As the organization sits at this moment this is exactly what I want to happen (I know it will not but a guy can dream):
      3B: Olt becomes an above average player
      SS: Baez takes over at SS and continues to dominate
      2B; Alcantara makes us say Darwin who?
      1B: Rizzo responds
      LF: Bryant mashes in the OF
      CF: Almora plays great D and good enough offense out of the lead off role
      RF: Soler plays well. period.

      Villanueva becomes the ranging utility infield guy
      Castro can be traded for pitching.

      I would also prefer to see Castro stick at SS, Baez take 2B and either Alcantara transition to CF or be used in a trade, but I do prefer to see Castro be moved because that means more young guys helping out.

      I would love to see the cubs get Scherzer, but we’ll see if that happens. We know Boras loves his guys hitting FA.

    • CubFan Paul

      “I’d settle for the Cincinnati model of blending home grown pitching”

      When was the last time Cincinnati had a “miss” in the 1st round of the Draft?

    • brickhouse

      Every year is a big year in the development of prospects. I think with the rebuild the emphasis is placed on the success / failure of the farm and posters are now paying attention. The minor league system has always been the key to long term organizational success.

  • Blackhawks1963

    Can somebody kindly clue me in on what is going on with Paniagua…again? Visa problems again? Has he fallen off the radar to such a degree that we should forget about him? Very strange story the last two years.

    • ced landrum

      I could be wrong and very well could be, but he isn’t on the 40 man so I’m not sure he has had to report yet. I think guys like Pierce Johnson and Rob Z are reporting Thursday. So maybe that is when Paniagua will report as well.

  • ced landrum

    Is anyone else astounded that Homer Bailey is going to get north of $100 million? I just can’t fathom that contracts have gotten so out of hand that a guy who has been pretty good, but not superb would get that kind of contract. I would put him on level with Anibel Sanchez who got 80 million.

    • Edwin

      League wide revenue has grown, and the money has to go somewhere.

      • CubFan Paul

        “and the money has to go somewhere”

        Tell that to the Cubs

        • ari gold

          Another day, another person bitching about the Cubs spending.

          • CubFan Paul

            Yep. Cubs TV revenue rose $20MM without the business side doing nothing.

            Payroll dropped $25MM.

            Damn Right I’m Bitching.

            “every dollar that comes in the door goes back into the organization”

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