theo epstein and jed hoyerI am in Mesa, gearing up to drink in Cubs Park. I’m looking forward to today’s game, but, probably more so, I’m looking forward to seeing the park that everyone is raving about. Hopefully I’ll get some good pictures and videos. If you’re going to be around, I’ll be doing the lawn thing today, so look for me milling around the outfield in my blue BN shirt and blue/yellow shoes and say hi if you see me. For the most part, I’ll try to settle into my trust right field corner seat (I figure if the park is approximating Wrigley, I’ll give today a shot at approximating my Wrigley experience … but with sun).

  • MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes takes a look at the Cubs’ offseason, and it’s just about what you’d expect: decent low-risk, low-cost moves, but not enough to put them into contention this year. Dierkes also focuses on the what-might-have-been, including the failed pursuits of Joe Girardi and Masahiro Tanaka. Thing is, though, even with those two in tow, this doesn’t strike me as a playoff-caliber roster. Once Castro and Rizzo (and arguably Samardzija) failed to take big steps forward, once the top prospects showed they could really be the kind of impact talents you don’t want to block, and once the Wrigley renovation was pushed back by another year, it became understandable to punt on 2014.
  • Dierkes seems to see 2014 as the last year the Cubs can reasonably punt, however, something with which I would agree. While I understand that you can’t put an artificial timeline on things, the downside risk of two more punted years strikes me as significant. Yes, the fans (and their revenue) will come back when the team is good, but I worry about what happens to the front office long-term if a competitive (.500 on paper in the Spring) team doesn’t materialize by 2015. I don’t want to see the band broken up.


  • Speaking of the Cubs’ offseason, one of the bigger moves was the one-year, flip-suggesting deal for starting pitcher Jason Hammel, who made his Spring debut yesterday. Hammel knows the media will be talking about the possibility of a flip all year (well, through July, at least), but he tells CSN that he’s not planning on discussing it beyond saying that he’s here to help the Cubs win. In the same piece, pitching coach Chris Bosio says you never know when things will turn, and the “flip” guys will become the “extend” guys. But Bosio notes that the team has done a good job of getting flip candidates off to a good start to give the organization options.
  • FanGraphs has a story on how the Cubs wouldn’t have Javier Baez if Jason McLeod had been in charge of the Cubs’ draft back in 2011.
  • Bill Buckner is retiring as the Boise Hawks’ hitting coach. The Cubs entrusted some of their top prospects to Buckner’s hitting care over the past two years at short-season Low-A, so it’s a bit of a bummer that he’s hanging ’em up. Boise Hawks Radio reports that Jesus Feliciano will replace Buckner. Feliciano, 34, just ended his professional baseball career in 2013, as a long-time minor leaguer (who got a taste with the Mets in 2010), who played in Mexico last year. The Hawks also added 29-year-old Guillermo Martinez as a bench coach.


  • Kyuji Fujikawa has thrown off of the mound for the third time, and Carrie Muskat reports that Chris Bosio says there are a lot of good signs. Bosio added that there are some pitches that already feel better now for Fujikawa than they did before his injury. It’s so easy to forget that, when healthy, Fujikawa is probably a very good reliever. Having him back sooner than the originally-projected June timetable would be fantastic.
  • More on that new field data system from BP’s Ben Lindbergh.
  • Also from BP, Harry Pavlidis and Dan Brooks dig into pitch framing and make some holy-shit conclusions about the value of really good framers. This is going to be (well, it already is, but even more so) a burgeoning area of discussion when trying to value catchers. Glad to hear the Cubs continue working with Welington Castillo on pitch-framing. If he becomes above-average at that skill, combined with an above-average bat for a catcher and otherwise above-average defensive skills, and you’ve suddenly got one of the most valuable players in baseball … he just won’t look like it. Heck, maybe that’s a good reason to try and extend him now.
  • Pete Abraham hears that the Cubs have hired a full-time Clark the Cub for 2014, and it’s the guy who used to be the Pirate Parrot. Hopefully there isn’t a compensation battle looming.


  • I made a funny on Twitter:


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