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Tag:Geovany Soto
Posted on: February 29, 2012 8:48 pm
 

Mariners' Gutierrez to start season on DL

Franklin GutierrezBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez will once again miss opening day, and he could miss all of April after the team announced he suffered a partially torn pectoral muscle.

The good news is he isn't expected to need surgery. He will need at least four weeks before he is able to participate in any baseball activities.

"At this point, we don't know," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik told Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. "Every body responds to things differently. We do't know wwhat he'll be able to do and at this point, we'll probably just ease him into things gradually."

Last season Gutierrez didn't play until May after being diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome during spring training.

Chone Figgins played center field in Wednesday's intrasquad game. Michael Suanders and Casper Wells, along with Figgins, are candidates to replace Gutierrez while he's gone.

Gutierrez played in just 92 games last season, hitting .224/.261/.273 with one home run.

He left Tuesday's workout with the pectoral injury and had an MRI the same day. He flew back to Seattle on Wednesday to see the team's doctor.

In other injury news from Wednesday:

• Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett was scheduled to return to Pittsburgh on Wednesday to have his right eye examined by team doctors after his bunt attempt hit him in the face.

According to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Burnett joked, "Where did the bone go?" after the ball hit him in the face.

Burnett wasn't scheduled to throw on Wednesday.
 
• Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson threw his first bullpen session since suffering a concussion on Feb. 20. Hanson threw 30-pitches and told rpeorters he felt good.

"I think I threw a little better than I had expected," Hanson said (via MLB.com). "I've had some time to think about some mechanical stuff. I was surprised by how well I threw."

Hanson may throw live batting practice on Friday, but he still has to pass one more part of the concussion impact test.

•The Angels' Kendrys Morales is making progress from his 2010 ankle injury, hitting from both sides of the plate, something he didn't do last spring. He also added S-turns in his running -- another thing he never did last season.

"He's in a different position now because he's had nothing but a progression to the point where you can see that he'll progress to playing games in a couple of weeks," manager Mike Scioscia told reporters, including Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register.

• Keeping with the theme of Angels displaced by Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo was cleared by doctors on Wednesday to return to the field.

Trumbo, who had a stress fracture in his right foot, is attempting to make the move to third base. [Orange County Register]

• Cubs catcher Geovany Soto will miss the start of the Cactus League with a sore groin, but told reporters it wasn't a big deal.

"It's spring training, and there's no hurry to get out there," Soto told reporters, including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. "I want to be there as much as I can, just to play. I've had four months off and you train hard all offseason, so you want to get every game possible to get ready for the season."

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.

Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:02 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 7:57 pm
 

Spring primer: Chicago Cubs



By Matt Snyder


After watching the Cubs go from a 97-win club to a 71-win version in just four seasons, owner Tom Ricketts took serious action in 2011. He fired general manager Jim Hendry and landed his version of a big fish, in former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. Epstein took over as club president then added Jed Hoyer as general manager and Jason McLeod as senior vice president of scouting and player development, among other front office pieces. The new management group then hired Dale Sveum as the big-league manager and started to clean house. It's going to be a long process, but said process has begun in earnest.

Scott Miller's camp report: Cubs Giddy With Optimism | Likes, Dislikes

Major additions: OF David DeJesus, 1B Anthony Rizzo, 3B Ian Stewart, LHP Paul Maholm, RHP Chris Volstad, LHP Travis Wood
Major departures: RHP Carlos Zambrano, OF Tyler Colvin, RHP Andrew Cashner, 3B Aramis Ramirez, 1B Carlos Pena, LHP Sean Marshall, LHP John Grabow

Probable lineup
1. David DeJesus, RF
2. Starlin Castro, SS
3. Marlon Byrd, CF
4. Bryan LaHair, 1B
5. Alfonso Soriano, LF
6. Ian Stewart, 3B
7. Geovany Soto, C
8. Darwin Barney, 2B

Probable rotation
1. Matt Garza
2. Ryan Dempster
3. Paul Maholm
4. Randy Wells
5. Travis Wood

Chris Volstad will also be in the mix, but I gave Wood the nod because he's left-handed.

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Carlos Marmol
Set-up: Kerry Wood, Jeff Samardzija

Important bench players

IF Jeff Baker, C Welington Castillo, OF Tony Campana, OF Reed Johnson

Prospects to watch
There are two here in particular that could make an impact in 2012: OF Brett Jackson and 1B Anthony Rizzo. It's entirely possible both are in the lineup come August. With Rizzo, it's a matter of whether or not LaHair can hit in the majors long-term -- as he could merely be one of those so-called Quadruple-A players. If that is the case and Rizzo is hitting well in Triple-A, the Cubs might well decide to turn to Rizzo. With Jackson, he's blocked all over the outfield, however, center field could easily be cleared in July. If the Cubs fall out of contention prior to the trade deadline -- and let's face it, that's a pretty good bet -- Byrd is a great trade candidate (sorry, I don't think the Cubs can deal Soriano just yet due to his contract). Byrd is in the final year of his contract and can play all three outfield positions, so surely some contender would cough up one mid-tier prospect for him. If that happens, the logical step for the Cubs would be to see how Jackson fared in center field for the final two months to determine if he can stay there or if he needs to be moved to a corner.

Fantasy sleeper: Bryan LaHair
"Usually, when a player in his late 20s puts up eye-popping numbers at Triple-A like a .331 batting average, 38 homers and 1.070 OPS, he's dismissed right away as a Quadruple-A player, but apparently the Cubs' front office thinks LaHair is different -- and not just because of his impressive 59 at-bat stint in the majors last year. The experiment could still be a failure of Kila Ka'aihue proportions, which is why you shouldn't bother with LaHair in mixed leagues, but late in NL-only formats, why not?" - Scott White [Full Cubs team fantasy preview]

Fantasy bust: Carlos Marmol
"If blown saves were Marmol's only problem, it'd be one thing, but the bottom line is he's not the efficient out-getter that Epstein and Hoyer would like their closer to be. His walk rate is as bad as it gets, and as a result, he's always pitching out of jams. Sure, his high strikeout rate helps compensate for it, but if he produces anything short of a best-in-the-league-type hit rate, his WHIP is in the danger zone." - Scott White [Full Cubs team fantasy preview]

Optimistic outlook
The deep pitching staff throws well and pays immediate dividends, as the bullpen improves with much better rest. Plus, behind the changes in right field and third base, the defense is also improved. Even Marmol's control issues drastically dwindle. LaHair and Stewart prove they can hit major-league pitching throughout the season and DeJesus turns out a perfect leadoff man for the suddenly balanced offense. And the Cubs find themselves right in the thick of the NL Central race with the Cardinals, Reds and Brewers until the end of the season, possibly even finishing somewhere in the top three.

Pessimistic outlook
By the end of July, Garza, Dempster and Byrd are all traded as the Cubs have no shot of making the playoffs. The Cubs try to avoid the cellar in a battle with the Astros, but continue the rebuilding effort and look forward to hitting the 2013 free agency class full-steam (less than $40 million is committed to 2013 payroll so far). Really, this is more realistic than pessimistic, because as much as the Cubs' coaches, players and front office say they're trying to win this year, it's obvious this is a two-year plan at the absolute minimum.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: December 29, 2011 12:27 pm
Edited on: December 29, 2011 12:28 pm
 

Under new Cubs regime, patience is the word



By Matt Snyder


Back when the Cubs first hired Theo Epstein to be the club president, I wrote that we shouldn't expect to see a short-term fix to a currently badly flawed team and organization. "The band-aid-on-a-broken-leg approach got Jim Hendry fired, so there's no way [Cubs chairman] Tom Ricketts would hire Epstein to do the same thing," I wrote.

It's now a few months later and we've seen a bevy of moves by Epstein, but none of them are big names. David DeJesus, Ian Stewart, Travis Wood, Andy Sonnanstine and Manny Corpas will hardly be mistaken for Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols, Jonathan Papelbon and C.J. Wilson anytime soon.

In that same article I referenced above, I wrote that Epstein had three possible routes to take in building the Cubs. I incorrectly guessed he'd try to win now while also building the foundation. Instead, Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have elected to take the long, slow rebuild route. It would appear any veteran with trade value is going to be dealt (Matt Garza and Marlon Byrd likely the next two, while one would expect the likes of Carlos Marmol, Geovany Soto and Ryan Dempster to be available by the trade deadline in July) as Sean Marshall already has been.

Now, it's awfully tough to tell a fanbase that has never seen a World Series championship (I mean, there can't possibly be a 110-year-old Cubs fan that remembers when he was seven, right?) to be patient, but that's how it has to be. The franchise needed a complete overhaul, and the process has begun. Give Ricketts credit for hiring a guy and giving him enough leeway to take as long as he needs to rebuild the organization. In return, the fans need to be patient and keep their eyes on the prize. Ricketts, Epstein and Hoyer are trying to slowly build one of the best farm systems in the majors while also being able to put together a massive payroll that dwarfs those of the competitors in the NL Central.

Cubs offseason
One would expect most fans to be open-minded about the situation. Thankfully, I couldn't find any "fire Theo Epstein" boards on the Internet (at least not from his Cubs perch) just yet. Our @EyeOnBaseball Twitter account did receive a deluge of messages from a disgruntled fan last week, though. The fan wanted Epstein fired immediately because he didn't sign Pujols and Mark Buehrle while also keeping Aramis Ramirez. I'm betting this kind of short-sighted sentiment is in the minority, but let's be realistic here. The Cubs were 71-91 last season. They have a mediocre farm system. Any attempt to make a quick fix would handcuff the franchise.

Let's keep all of this in mind when the 2012 Cubs suck. Any they will. They are going to be really bad. Any veteran performing well will probably be flipped to a contender in July (picture the Astros last season trading Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn while also shopping Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers). The fans who abandon the Cubs after a bad 2012 season aren't the real ones. The fans calling for the heads of Ricketts, Epstein and Hoyer aren't the ones with foresight. No, the real fans are the ones who will realize it's a rebuilding process and that the new braintrust is building the foundation through all these trades and can expect a top five overall draft pick in 2013. Also realize the Cubs, who can likely afford a player payroll of $150 million, only have $33.05 million committed in salaries in 2013 (Cot's Contracts).

Remember, this is a process. It's one that will likely transform the Cubs into a major player in the National League landscape -- possibly by as early as 2013. You don't change a century-plus loser into a winner by spending money like Montgomery Brewster (who, funnily enough, wore a Cubs jersey) just to fill two or three of dozens of holes. For now, the Cubs are a sleeping giant. In a few years, they might just be the Evil Empire of the NL Central.

As for the fans, listen to Axl Rose: "All (you) need, is just a little patience."

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: November 27, 2011 11:28 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 12:28 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs



By Matt Snyder


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule of this feature, click here.

When we discuss the Chicago Cubs, no baseball fan is lacking an opinion -- specifically, everyone seems to have some pet theory as to why the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. I've long argued with the people who believe the streak has something to do with a stupid "curse" or somehow now has something to do with playing so many more day games than everyone else. No, the real problem is they've never put a top-to-bottom management system in place that has done the job consistently for more than a small handful of seasons. It's possible current Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has done so with Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, et al (in fact, I'd argue it's likely), but that's a different discussion for a different forum.

For now, we're left looking at one of the worst Homegrown Teams in our series.

Lineup

1. Kosuke Fukudome, RF
2. Darwin Barney, 2B
3. Starlin Castro, SS
4. Tyler Colvin, LF
5. Casey McGehee, 3B
6. Eric Hinske, 1B
7. Geovany Soto, C
8. Sam Fuld, CF

Starting Rotation

1. Ricky Nolasco
2. Kyle Lohse
3. Andrew Cashner*
4. Carlos Zambrano
5. Randy Wells
* - if Cashner fell injured like he did in the real 2011 season, the options would be: Jon Garland, Dontrelle Willis and Casey Coleman.

Bullpen

Closer - Kyle Farnsworth
Set up - Kerry Wood, Sean Marshall, Carlos Marmol, Al Alburquerque, Juan Cruz, Michael Wuertz
Long - Jeff Samardzija, Rich Hill, Sergio Mitre

Notable Bench Players

Robinson Chirinos, Ryan Theriot, Ronny Cedeno, Brandon Guyer, Corey Patterson, Felix Pie, Tony Campana, Lou Montanez. In fact, feel free to grab any of these guys, plug them in the lineup and play around with it. There's really no wrong answer, because it's one marquee player (and he's only 21) amidst a heap of mediocrity at this point. Maybe Guyer proves a good player, McGehee bounces back and/or Colvin becomes a good everyday player, but we have to go on what we've seen up to this point.

What's Good?

The bullpen is really strong. It's well-rounded with righties and lefties, depth, power pitchers and specialists. Of course, there could be an issue with the lack of a reliable closer when it comes to either Farnsworth or Marmol, but a new-age manager might just abandon that idea and use whoever makes the most sense in the ninth.

What's Not?

The starting rotation doesn't have a true ace (or No. 2, for that matter). The infield defense sorely lacks range and the outfield isn't great either. The team speed is minimal, there isn't a good option at leadoff (or in the two-hole, or cleanup, or fifth ... you get the point) and who is the best power hitter? Colvin? Soto? Basically, everything other than the bullpen and Starlin Castro is lackluster.

Comparison to real 2011

You have to give former general manager Jim Hendry credit for scraping together a team good enough to win three division titles in six years, considering this bunch. Then again, he was in charge as the organization was assembling nothing more than a mediocre foundation (Baseball Prospectus now says the minor-league system is "not bad" but is more "depth than starpower."). Let's leave out the excuses, because there are far more bad picks (Montanez at third overall as a shortstop, for example) than there are instances of bad luck (Mark Prior, for example).

The amazing thing is that the 2011 Cubs were 71-91 and I actually think that team was better than this Homegrown unit. When we do the Homegrown rankings in mid-December, expect to see the Cubs toward the bottom. That probably changes in five years, but we're doing this exercise in the present. And this team would probably win somewhere in the ballpark of 65 games. Maybe fewer.

Up Next: Seattle Mariners

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 14, 2011 7:05 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2011 7:07 pm
 

Rookie award may not predict future success

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Rookie of the Year awards are unique among baseball awards in that they are somewhat less about an individual year's performance as much as they are for the hope of better things to come. A Rookie of the Year win is a footnote on any Hall of Fame argument, not a bullet point. Meanwhile, any Hall of Fame argument will start with MVP wins for position players and Cy Young trophies for starting pitchers. If you have those, you have an argument, and if you won Rookie of the Year, that's nice.

Rookie of the Year
Miller
The Rookie of the Year award voting went exactly as Scott Miller predicted.
Read>>
Related links

No, Rookie of the Year is something to dream on -- there's the potential and what a player could become based upon a solid rookie year.

Jeremy Hellickson and Craig Kimbrel may end up being the best players of the 2010 rookie class, but it wouldn't be a real shock if they don't.

With that in mind, I wanted to look back on the past Rookie of the Year winners and what players had the best careers after winning the award and which ones peaked in their first year. Because this particular argument needs time for perspective, I've broken up the last 20 years in five-year increments. Below are the winners of the awards each year for both leagues, as well as their Wins Above Replacement (from Baseball-Reference.com) for both their rookie year and their career, as well as a decision on the best player in retrospect, the worst and the best duo from one year.

 

2006-2010 Rookie of the Year
Year AL ROY ROY WAR Career WAR NL ROY ROY WAR Career WAR
2010 Neftali Feliz 2.3 5.0 Buster Posey 3.1 4.4
2009 Andrew Bailey  3.9 7.2  Chris Coghlan 2.1 2.8
2008 Evan Longoria  3.8 24.1 Geovany Soto 4.1 10.1
2007 Dustin Pedroia  4.3 24.3 Ryan Braun  1.5 21.8
2006 Justin Verlander  3.7 27.2 Hanley Ramirez  5.2 29.3

Best: This is where we need perspective -- and time. Right now it looks like you could go with any of six candidates -- Justin Verlander (AL 2006), Hanley Ramirez (NL 2006), Dustin Pedroia (AL 2007), Ryan Braun (NL 2007), Evan Longoria (AL 2008) and Buster Posey (NL 2010). In 10 years this may be easier to pick, but right now it's just way too close to call. Of the group, Ramirez has the highest career WAR.

Worst: Again, this is still way too early to call, but Chris Coghlan (NL 2009) may take this dubious honor. There's plenty of time for him to turn it around, but he finished 2011 hitting .230 at Triple-A New Orleans.

Best duo: Another toss-up -- 2006 had Ramirez and Verlander, while 2007 featured Pedroia and Braun. Check back in 10 years and this may seem to be an easier choice, but right now it's too close to call.



2001-2005 Rookie of the Year
Year AL ROY ROY WAR Career WAR NL ROY ROY WAR Career WAR
2005 Huston Street 3.2 10.7 Ryan Howard 2.4 23.1
2004 Bobby Crosby 1.4 5.0 Jason Bay  2.2 19.7
2003  Angel Berroa 4.0 3.3 Dontrelle Willis 3.7 13.0
2002 Eric Hinske  4.0 10.3 Jason Jennings 1.7 7.4
2001 Ichiro Suzuki 7.6 54.5 Albert Pujols 6.9 88.7

Best: Albert Pujols (NL 2001). He may be the best player of our generation and best right-handed hitter of all time. With apologies to Ichiro Suzuki (AL 2001) and Ryan Howard (NL 2005), it's Pujols and it's not close.

Worst: Oh, Angel Berroa (AL 2003). Acquired in the deal that sent Johnny Damon and Mark Ellis to Oakland, Berroa last appeared in the big leagues in 2009. The Royals shortstop won the award over Tampa Bay's Rocco Baldelli and Hideki Matsui, earning the scorn of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. 

Best duo: Pujols and Suzuki would be a heck of a Hall of Fame class, not to mention a rookie class. Suzuki won not only the Rookie of the Year in 2001, he also took home the American League MVP.

 

1996-2000 Rookie of the Year
Year AL ROY ROY WAR Career WAR NL ROY ROY WAR Career WAR
2000 Kazuhiro Sasaki 1.5 4.0 Rafael Furcal 3.6 33.1
1999 Carlos Beltran  4.4 60.8 Scott Williamson  2.7 8.2
1998  Ben Grieve 2.5 6.7 Kerry Wood 3.7 24.9
1997 Nomar Garciaparra  5.9 42.5  Scott Rolen 4.5 66.2
1996 Derek Jeter 2.6 70.4  Todd Hollandsworth 1.3 6.5

Best: Scott Rolen (NL 1997) and Carlos Beltran (AL 1999) have had fantastic careers, but Derek Jeter (AL 1996) is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and a baseball icon. Jeter also has the highest career WAR among the group of rookies.

Worst: This one is tough, if you guy by WAR, it's Kazuhiro Sasaki (AL 2000), who had just a 4.0 career WAR. However, Sasaki was 32 when he started in the United States and played just four seasons in the majors. In addition to his Rookie of the Year, he made the All-Star team in 2001 and 2002, recording 129 saves in four seasons. I'm going to take Ben Grieve (AL 1998) slightly over Todd Hollandsworth (NL 1996) based solely on Hollandsworth holding on longer (12 years to nine) and finding his late-career niche as a pinch hitter, while Grieve did appear in the majors after his 30th birthday -- and just 17 after his 29th birthday.

Best duo: How about Rolen and Nomar Garciaparra (AL 1997)? Garciapparra never quite lived up to the rival to Alex Rodriguez and Jeter as the greatest shortstop of his generation, but he was in the conversation for a time there. While each year from 1996-2000 had at least one pretty good pick, 1997 was the only one to produce two players that finished with double-digit career WAR.



1991-1996 Rookie of the Year
Year AL ROY ROY WAR Career WAR NL ROY ROY WAR Career WAR
1995 Marty Cordova 3.0 6.4 Hideo Nomo 4.5 50.6
1994  Bob Hamelin 2.5 2.4 Raul Mondesi  2.2 27.2
1993  Tim Salmon 5.2 37.6  Mike Piazza 7.0 59.1 
1992 Pat Listach  4.5 3.9  Eric Karros 0.3 9.0
1991  Chuck Knoblauch 2.3 41.2 Jeff Bagwell 4.7 79.9

Best: WAR likes Jeff Bagwell (NL 1991), the Hall of Fame will like Mike Piazza (1993). Either way, it's tough to go wrong. Unlike the Hall of Fame voters, I'll take Bagwell over Piazza, but can see both sides of the argument. I"m in the camp that Bagwell is one of the more underrated players of his generation. 

Worst: Yet again, the award goes to a Royal. Bob Hamelin (AL 1994) had a 2.5 WAR in his rookie year and 2.4 for his career. Pat Listach (AL 1992) also has a lower career WAR (3.9) than single-season WAR for his rookie season (3.9), but the be speckled Hamelin did less in his career than Listach, even if most of Listach's value came from his rookie season.

Best duo: Again it comes down to the 1993 choices (Piazza, Tim Salmon) and 1991 (Bagwell, Chuck Knoblauch), with 1991 taking the crown. Knoblauch and Salmon both had good careers, with Knoblauch winning four rings and Salmon one. Knoblacuh was a four-time All-Star, Salmon never appeared in the game. Knoblauch also won a Gold Glove, despite his woes throwing later in his career. Going by WAR, the 1991 duo beats the 1993 pair, 121.1-96.7.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 13, 2011 10:08 am
Edited on: October 13, 2011 10:14 am
 

Cubs' job attractive, future options plenty



By Matt Snyder


Congratulations, Theo Epstein, on likely landing the new gig of Cubs president, CEO, general manager, czar, savior, curse-breaker and deity. In addition to all those millions of dollars, you now inherit a mess of a franchise. The good news is that statement only exists in the present and very near future. Things can be cleaned up rather quickly. Here's why:

• It's funny to read all over the place about how the Cubs have so many awful contracts and are so much more handcuffed on payroll than Epstein is used to. The fact of the matter is that only Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Marmol are signed past 2012, along with the young players who will still be under team control and don't make much. And then Marmol's contract expires after 2013. Depending on arbitration raises and possible extensions (Matt Garza, maybe?) the Cubs are shedding somewhere in the ballpark of $50 million from their 2011 payroll. Come 2013, as things currently stand, only $28.8 million is committed (to Soriano and Marmol). In 2014, only Soriano's absurd $19 million salary is still on the books, but by 2015, there's nothing left.

• My guess is it's true, for now, that Epstein is likely going to be told to not exceed a figure like $135 million with his payroll and that is a good amount less than the Red Sox's current figure. But here's the mitigating factor: The Cubs are in the NL Central, where they easily have the largest market and revenue stream in the division. In Boston, Epstein was trying to keep up financially with the mighty Yankees. In the Chicago, his biggest competitor in terms of market size is Houston -- which is departing for the AL soon -- and in terms of revenue stream it's St. Louis. The Cubs have the resources to be the "big boy" in the division, which wasn't possible for Epstein in Boston.

• Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has already shown a significant commitment to player development. The Cubs spent a huge amount of money on the 2011 draft and they are building a state of the art academy in the Dominican Republic. They are looking to make major upgrades to Arizona's spring training facility, which would serve as a type of home base for player development. The Cubs also have a great reputation for international scouting. Put simply, Ricketts has noticed the biggest problem for the Cubs has been a system that doesn't regularly churn out its own prospects and he has done everything he can to rectify that issue in the short term.

So, that's why the job was attractive, but there's no doubt there's a lot to be done. This is a team that went 71-91 and has a pretty lackluster level of talent in the upper levels of the minors -- not to mention the aging major-league roster.

As every franchise faces when trying to make a losing team into a winning team, there are three distinct routes that can be taken. Let's take a look at each and get specific.

Cubs/Red Sox drama
Route 1: The Complete Rebuild
Don't pick up the options for Ryan Dempster or Aramis Ramirez. Trade younger veterans of value like Geovany Soto, Sean Marshall and Matt Garza. Do whatever it takes to off-load Alfonso Soriano's contract. Do the same with Carlos Zambrano. Carlos Marmol and Marlon Byrd might land decent returns, so they would also be traded. Don't re-up with any veterans like Kerry Wood. Just completely revamp the entire farm system and build around Starlin Castro and Andrew Cashner. Then tell everyone they need to be patient, as the goal is to grow the system from the foundation and start competing in 2014.

Chances this happens:
Decent to good, for at least part of this. Epstein very well may start completely slow and see how things pan out with several different young players. I do think he would keep Garza with Castro and Cashner and then start to pounce on free agents starting next offseason.

Route 2: The Chips to the Center of the Table
Re-up with Dempster and Ramirez. Do what it takes to sign Prince Fielder and C.J. Wilson, including backloading deals to make the budget work. Move Starlin Castro to second base and sign Jose Reyes (again, backloading). Grab someone like Javier Vazquez, Chris Young or Joel Pineiro to fill out the rotation. That means the starting nine would be: Soto, Fielder, Castro, Reyes, Ramirez, Soriano, Byrd and probably Bryan LaHair. The starting rotation could be: Wilson, Garza, Dempster, Vazquez and Randy Wells. That leaves Andrew Cashner -- who is hitting triple digits on the radar gun in the Arizona Fall League -- to be the closer. Marmol can stay in the bullpen and hope to work on his control. Wood, Marshall and Jeff Samardzija would be the setup men.

Chances this happens:
Ridiculously slim. Actually, zero. Epstein isn't a moron and this would be absurd for the long-term health of the franchise, especially considering the team probably still wouldn't be good enough to win even an NLDS, if it made it. There's no depth, either, since the high levels of the minors don't have a lot of help coming. And could Epstein even get all those guys if he tried? Finally, the band-aid-on-a-broken-leg approach got Jim Hendry fired, so there's no way Tom Ricketts would hire Epstein to do the same thing.

Route 3: The Combination
I often chuckle when people think you absolutely have to choose either Route 1 or Route 2. In a small market, yes, you have to completely rebuild and hope all the young players get good at the same time, like the Royals appear to have happening in 2013 or 2014. In a large market, the resources are there to do both. Epstein developed the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon and Dustin Pedroia while also making trades for veterans and signing big-name free agents in Boston. It's a much bigger project this time around, but the goal can be to do something similar in Wrigley. While the farm system is being revamped for the Cubs, an effort can be made to start allowing the aging veterans to leave via free agency while players like Soto, Marshall, Marmol, and Dempster (with him, it's a one-year option and there will be enough money to retain him) can be kept around. Wood can be re-signed for another one-year, $1.5 million contract. And then you can fill holes with younger free agents. C.J. Wilson? Pass on him and keep your eyes on that 2013 pitching free agent class that could contain Matt Cain, John Danks, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Shaun Marcum, Brandon McCarthy, Anibal Sanchez, James Shields and more. A 27-year-old Prince Fielder? Yes, please. The Reyes signing mentioned above, with moving Castro to second? Nope. Not now. Try Andrew Cashner and Jeff Samardzija in the rotation? Yes and maybe. Give LaHair a shot in right field, absolutely. He had a huge 2011 season in both Triple-A and then hit the ball well in his short time in the majors. Do you think about promoting center-field prospect Brett Jackson and trading Byrd midseason? Sure, if the Cubs aren't in the race. The whole point is that, ideally, with this plan, you'd put a team together for 2012 that appears to be average, giving it the chance to overachieve and sneak into the playoffs -- but the eyes are certainly on 2013 being the turnaround year. From there, you strive to compete for the World Series title every ensuing season.

Chances this happens:
I feel like this is the most likely route. The main benefit is you don't completely punt 2012 after getting the fan base excited with the big-name hire. In the complete rebuild model, you're liable to lose 100 games and kill fan morale instead of capitalizing on all the excitement. And in the win now model, there just isn't enough there to bring it all together in one offseason. So here we are. Here, you can have a mildly successful 2012 season while getting the fans excited for a bright future. All the moves above are just examples of what can be done, as the plan can be the same but be done with totally different moves.

But this is all purely speculation -- and fun, as is all hypothetical talk -- as the only person who really knows what is going in on Epstein's head right now is Epstein himself.

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Posted on: June 7, 2011 3:30 pm
Edited on: June 7, 2011 5:00 pm
 

Agents says Ramirez wants to stay in Chicago

Aramis Ramirez

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Aramis Ramirez is still a Cub and he wants to keep it that way.

Ramirez's agent, Paul Kinzer, told the Chicago Tribune that his client doesn't want to be traded and is unlikely to OK a trade if the team asked. Ramirez has a full no-trade clause and is also a 10-and-5 player, meaning he must OK any trade because of his 10 years of Major League service time, inclujding the last five with the same team.

"He doesn't event want to take a trade. He took less years and less money to stay in Chicago [in 2006], so that is definitely his first option," Kinzer told the paper.

Ramirez makes $14.6 million this season and the Cubs have a club option for 2012 worth $15 million, one they'll no doubt decline and pay a $2 million buyout.

Ramirez is hitting a solid .288 with a .343 on-base percentage, but his slugging is down to just .394 with two homers in 216 plate appearances. Ramirez has a career slugging percentage of .495, but it has dipped each of the last seven seasons since he slugged a career-best .578 in 2004. Since then his slugging has decreased, sometimes gradually (.568 in 2005) and sometimes drastically, from .516 in in 2009 to .452 last season.

As I was watching the Cubs-Reds for a bit last night, they flashed some of Ramirez's career stats -- in his 14th season -- and ninth in Chicago, Ramirez has accumulated 291 home runs and 1,050 RBIs, all the while hitting .282/.340/.495. Even playing for the Cubs, I'm not so sure Ramirez has ever gotten his due for just how good of a player he's been over the years. He has earned just two All-Star nods.

Perhaps he has been overlooked among National League third basemen because he played in the time of Chipper Jones and Scott Rolen, as well as during the rise of David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman

Ramirez will turn 33 later this month and his power seems to be diminishing. Also, he has been at best an average defender. There's no way he makes $15 million next season and it appears his career is on its downside. Desppite that, there are teams that could use him for even his current skills. That said, it's unlikely to be the Cubs, unless he likes the team so much he'll take a huge paycut to stay in Wrigley.

By the way, Kinzer is also the agent for Geovany Soto, Starlin Castro and John Grabow. Kinzer told the Tribune he doesn't expect the Cubs to jettison Soto or Castro (duh), but it's possible Grabow could be on the market when the trade market begins to heat up. 

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Posted on: May 24, 2011 5:14 pm
Edited on: May 24, 2011 5:26 pm
 

Cubs' injury updates: Soto, Wells, Garza, Cashner

By Matt Snyder

Lots of news came from the Wrigley Field crew early Monday evening, so we'll just wrap it all up right here.

Matt Garza, who was scratched from his scheduled start Sunday night in Boston, has landed on the disabled list. He has a bone bruise in his right (throwing) elbow (Chicago Sun-Times via Twitter). This is a huge blow to the Cubs. Garza has been their best pitcher in 2011, and an especially important cog given that 40 percent of the rotation has been hurt since the first week of the season. He's 2-4 with a 3.72 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings. He's reportedly expected back in early June.

As a corresponding move to the Garza DL-stint, the Cubs have recalled outfielder Lou Montanez from Triple-A Iowa. Montanez, 29, has been tearing up the Pacific Coast League, as he's hitting .369/.429/.573 with 19 extra-base hits and 43 RBI in 42 games. There's a need for an outfielder since Marlon Byrd was hit with a pitch and suffered facial fractures.

Fortunately for the Cubs, the timing of Garza's absence could have been much worse. Randy Wells has been injured since his first start of the season -- a six-inning victory where he only allowed one run on six hits -- but he is ready to rejoin the rotation. He'll get the ball Saturday (Sun Times via Twitter), which would have been Garza's spot had he stayed healthy.

Meanwhile, Wells should have a familiar member of the battery, because Geovany Soto is expected back for the weekend series (CSNChicago.com via Twitter). He had been out the past few weeks with a groin injury. Soto is hitting .226 with three home runs, 12 RBI and 13 runs this season. He's a huge offensive upgrade over Koyie Hill behind the plate and is familiar with most of the Cubs' pitching staff.

Finally, Andrew Cashner dodged a bullet. The young starting pitcher has been on the disabled list since injuring his rotator cuff in his first start of the season. Cashner was working his way back when he suffered a setback last week. There were fears initially that he might have to have season-ending surgery, but the Cubs have now received two doctors' opinions that he doesn't need surgery (CSNChicago.com via Twitter).

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com