Tag:Ryan Dempster
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.

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Posted on: February 22, 2012 9:59 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 10:06 pm
 

New Cubs manager Sveum puts together bunt tourney

By Matt Snyder

As the Cubs franchise strives to do a complete makeover, fundamentals have been reemphasized in camp this season. More attention is reportedly being paid to baserunning and pitchers' fielding, for example. Also: Bunting.

And in the spirit of the upcoming March Madness -- watch the NCAA basketball tournament on CBS! -- new manager Dale Sveum has devised a 64-man bunting tournament that will begin Thursday. With there only being 62 players in camp, Sveum threw himself in the bracket along with strength coach Tim Buss (via Chicago Tribune). Tribune beat writer Paul Sullivan has posted a picture of the entire bracket on his Facebook page.

Sveum made setup man Kerry Wood a No. 2 seed -- and if that's an accurate ranking, it's a good thing the Cubs are refocusing on bunting considering Wood hasn't had a big-league plate appearance since 2007 -- and put himself against Wood in Round 1 as a 15.

Sullivan reports the players' consensus is that starting pitchers Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells are the favorites, though speedy outfielder Tony Campana named himself the man to beat.

Having seen many Cubs games the past several seasons, I'd be shocked if anyone beats Dempster -- not that the winner really matters. And my reaction to seeing Alfonso Soriano as a 15-seed? How are there at least four worse bunters in camp?

Two things here do matter, though:

1. The focus on fundamentals.
2. Having fun. It's a long spring training and exercises like these help bring the team together. If you scoff at that notion, note that Joe Girardi had the 2009 Yankees compete in a billiards tournament in spring training as a team-building exercise. Obviously these Cubs don't have the same level of talent as the eventual '09 World Series champions, but the point remains that Sveum has his head in the right place.

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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."

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Posted on: December 21, 2011 12:35 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 6:13 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Texas Rangers

Mark Teixeira

By C. Trent Rosecrans


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/past entries of this feature, click here.

The Rangers are in an interesting position in the franchise's history -- no longer a middle-of-the-road team, the Rangers have turned themselves into one of the game's biggest players. The team has reached the last two World Series with a mixture of homegrown players (Ian Kinsler, C.J. Wilson, Alexi Ogando), savvy trades (sending Mark Teixeira to Atlanta for a haul that included Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz, plus the deal with the Reds getting Josh Hamilton) and big-ticket free-agents (Adrian Beltre). It's tough to argue with the results, as the Rangers have positioned themselves into becoming one of the top teams in baseball and don't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Lineup

1. Ian Kinsler, SS
2. Craig Gentry, CF
3. Mark Teixeira, 3B
4. Carlos Pena, 1B
5. Travis Hafner, DH
6. Edwin Encarnacion, 2B
7. Laynce Nix, RF
8. John Mayberry, LF
9. Taylor Teagarden, C

Starting Rotation

1. C.J. Wilson
2. John Danks
3. Derek Holland
4. Colby Lewis
5. Ryan Dempster

Bullpen

Closer - Joaquin Benoit
Set up - Darren Oliver, Nick Masset, Scott Feldman, Jesse Chavez, Yoshinori Tateyama
Long - Tommy Hunter

Notable Bench Players

Ivan Rodriguez will be in discussion for the Hall of Fame when his career ends, but he's now a backup catcher and could be a good one. You have a pair of first baseen in Justin Smoak and Mitch Moreland who aren't going to strike fear into too many pitchers, as well as two outfielders probably better defensively or as pinch runners in Jason Bourgeois and Scott Podsednik.

What's Good?

The rotation is deep -- in addition to the five listed, you could also throw in R.A. Dickey, Aaron Harang and Edinson Volquez. And while there's no real shut-down closer, there are some very good bullpen arms, and the list above doesn't include Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Danny Herrera.

What's Not?

Besides Kinsler and Teixeira, the lineup is suspect. And the defense is worse. The outfield is kind of a hodgepodge, while the infield is a disaster with only Carlos Pena playing in his usual position. While Teixeira hasn't played third base since his rookie year in 2003, Kinsler has never played shortstop, nor has Encarnacion ever played second base -- but there just wasn't a whole lot of options. The outfield doesn't have the likes of Hamilton or Nelson Cruz to help out, either.

Comparison to real 2011

Would this team wind up in World Series? Not bloody likely. The pitching is fine and even maybe an slight upgrade to the team that won the American League pennant again in 2011, but that lineup is demonstratively worse. The Rangers were third in baseball in runs and second in OPS, and without Hamilton, Cruz, Mike Napoli, Michael Young and Beltre, this squad isn't going to do anything close to that. Teixeira is a good player -- and Pena could put up big homer numbers in that ballpark -- but those losses from the real squad are just too much to overcome. This team is maybe a .500 squad, at best, and that's only because of the depth in the pitching staff.

Next: St. Louis Cardinals

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Posted on: October 29, 2011 1:56 pm
 

Dempster picks up player option, stays with Cubs

DempsterBy Evan Brunell

Ryan Dempster has officially exercised his player option to stay with the Cubs, CSN Chicago reports.

New GM Theo Epstein will have to allocate $14 million to Dempster, which is way above market value and better than he could have done in the market. The 34-year-old finished 2011 with a 4.80 ERA in 34 starts, way over his 3.85 ERA from a season ago, but the righty did finish with at least 200 innings pitched for the fourth straight season.

Dempster figures to pair with Matt Garza at the top of the rotation in Chicago next year, but who fills out the rotation behind the two is anyone's guess.

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Posted on: October 24, 2011 9:25 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 11:00 pm
 

Derek Holland does Will Ferrell doing Harry Caray

By C. Trent Rosecrans

So much for reverence… in the World Series we now get bad impressions of Will Ferrell as Harry Caray from Rangers pitcher Derek Holland. But hey, anything that keeps Tim McCarver from talking can't be all bad.

Still, it was pretty not good -- even though he appears to be getting a lot of mileage out of it. Holland was the in-game guest of McCarver and Joe Buck, as the two regurgitated a tidbit they'd read in a tweet or blog post in the last 12 hours in some sort of Chirs Farley Show interview stylings.

Here's Holland channelling Ferrell:

Holland was 11 when Caray died, but does have a dog named "Wrigley" so perhaps he has actually heard Caray call a game. He also closed out his inning of national television doing a bad impression of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Even if his Caray and Schwarzenegger skills are a little subpar, his Ron Washington is pretty entertaining. Check it out:

The one thing Holland has done has solidified his future as a go-to guy for broadcasts -- and the next postseason without the Rangers, expect to see him employed, even with the creeper mustache. But hey, the mustache is still better than A.J. Pierzynski's highlights. That said, Rich Little's job is safe.

For the record, here's the real Caray:

 
And here's what Holland -- and Ryan Dempster (video), Johnny Bench and tons of others do -- is actually imitating:

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: October 21, 2011 1:43 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2011 7:03 pm
 

Free-agent position rankings: Sabathia heads SP



By Evan Brunell


As you're going to quickly realize after going through the position-by-position rankings of free agents, the market is rather poor this year. There are a couple of intriguing options at any spot, but the overall quality and depth is severely lacking. That could lead to a healthy trade market. But these players have to sign somewhere. Let's take a look at the top 20 starting pitchers and what to expect in the market...

Sabathia1. C.C. Sabathia: Sabathia may not fetch what Cliff Lee did a year ago, but there's no arguing against the lefty here as one of the best pitchers in the game. Despite his weight, Sabathia has been extraordinarily durable and there are zero questions surrounding his ability to pitch in a big-league game. He has yet to have a transcendent season as a Yankee, but is always right there in the discussion for Cy Young votes. It's hard to imagine Sabathia not doing better than four years and $92 million, which is what is remaining on his deal.
Potential teams: Yankees, Angels, Rangers, Red Sox

Wainwright2. Adam Wainwright: It's difficult to imagine the Cardinals declining their 2012 and 2013 options on Wainwright, but if they do, he'll get a pretty good deal in free agency. Waino may be coming off Tommy John surgery, but the right-hander was one of the best pitchers in the game before injury and all indications have Wainwright's rehab being completely normal. If he hit the market, he would do rather well for himself, even beyond the $21 million due him in the options. That, or he would get a pricey one-year deal to re-establish his value. If Waino hits the market, teams will be throwing themselves after him.
Potential teams: Cardinals, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Angels, Nationals

Wilson3. C.J. Wilson: Wilson has the numbers for a significant salary after posting a 2.94 ERA on the season in 223 1/3 innings pitched, but many around the game view him as more of a mid-rotation starter, which could depress his value.  While Wilson will never be an ace, those that are calling him a No. 3/4 long-term seem to be going overboard a bit. Over the last two years, Wilson has proven he should be considered a No. 2/3 team and this is someone who figures to see his market heat up once push comes to shove. Wilson has long been linked to one of the Los Angeles' teams given that's where he grew up, but he'll be looking for as much money as he can get.
Potential teams: Rangers, Angels, Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Royals, Blue Jays, Nationals, Marlins

Kuroda4. Hiroki Kuroda: Kuroda is a fantastic pitcher, but also extremely loyal. He truly bleeds Dodger blue and many reports have him uninterested in pitching for any other MLB team. In fact, he is considering a return to Japan should the Dodgers not be interested, but they would be crazy to let Kuroda go. He's willing to work on a short-term contract and can be an important front-line starter as the Dodgers limp along in an uncertain financial future. Los Angeles could potentially see both Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp depart as free agents after 2012, so the Dodgers will be motivated to get as strong a team together as they can for 2012.
Potential teams: Dodgers, Japan

Buerhle5. Mark Buehrle: The left-hander has sort of flown under the radar when it comes to free agency, but Buerhle could be in line for a big payday if he doesn't restrict himself. Buerhle has long thought to be only interested in playing for the White Sox or his hometown Cardinals. However, Chicago seems to want to "play the kids," and might prefer the compensation picks that would come with Buerhle. If the Cardinals extend Albert Pujols, they won't have the money for Buerhle, so he may have to look elsewhere for a job. He won't have difficulty finding one, topping 200 innings a season for the 11th straight season, starting as a rookie.
Potential teams: White Sox, Cardinals, Red Sox, Yankees, Angels, Dodgers, Marlins, Rangers

Jackson6. Edwin Jackson: Jackson has been around the block, already pitching for his sixth team despite being 28 years old. He'll be looking for security and money in what will be the richest contract he'll ever get, which could open up some players beyond the top teams. Jackson is a No. 4 starter who tantalizes with No. 3 potential, which will be enough to get teams to open up their checkbooks once the bigger names on the market are gone. Jackson may not be a sexy pitcher, but plenty of teams recognize the fact that without depth in the rotation, there's nothing.
Potential teams: Cardinals, Angels, Dodgers, Marlins, Royals, Twins, Rangers, Cubs, Nationals, Rockies

Oswalt7. Roy Oswalt: Oswalt has threatened retirement and his back problems plagued his season in Philadelphia, so it would be a surprise to see his $16 million option exercised by the Phillies. Oswalt is certainly entering the phase in his career where he's going to be working on short-term injuries, especially with his back problems. It's difficult to imagine the righty deciding to hang up his cleats just yet, so should resurface somewhere on a one- or two-year deal. The Rangers, who figure to lose Wilson, could have interest in Oswalt to bring him back to Texas and have him mentor its young players.
Potential teams: Astros, Rangers, Phillies, Cardinals, Detroit, Angels, Dodgers

Dempster8. Ryan Dempster: Dempster holds a $14 million player option and it's hard to imagine him doing any better on the free-agent market on an annual basis, so you can expect this option to be picked up. If he does choose free agency, he'll command a contract similar to Edwin Jackson. The righty's ERA soared to 4.80 this season, but his peripherals were still strong, so you can bet on a bounceback season. Even though he will turn 35 next May, Dempster has shown to be very durable. There won't be any shortage of suitors for Dempster.
Potential teams: Cubs, Red Sox, Yankees, Angels, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Marlins

Hisashi Iwakuma9. Hisashi Iwakuma: Iwakuma tried to come stateside last season, but when the Athletics won his rights via the posting system, talks fell apart between GM Billy Beane and Iwakuma's agent, Don Nomura. The lefty will be an actual free agent this season, not bound by posting rights, so any team will be able to talk with Iwakuma. That should help his market, and as a left-hander with strong control, would play well in a pitcher's park. Iwakuma will likely fly under the radar as teams like Boston and New York seek more sure things.
Potential teams: Dodgers, Angels, Mariners, Nationals

Bedard10. Erik Bedard: Bedard slogged through yet another injury-plagued season but when he was on the mound, pitched rather well for the Mariners and Red Sox. His market will be depressed by his constant injuries, but at the same time, he's shown that he can still be an important part of the rotation and if he could get a full season's worth of starts for the first and only time since 2006, whatever deal he ends up signing will be a steal. Bedard will likely fall into the hands of a market that couldn't afford to sign any of the better free agents.
Potential teams: Cardinals, Mariners, Orioles, Blue Jays, Royals, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Brewers, Tigers

Vazquez11. Javier Vazquez: Will he retire or won't he? While it sounds like the righty could be departing, the second-half he had was incredible for Florida. It showed that Vazquez may finally return to normal after his second stint in New York went terribly and he looked kaput in the early going down south. If Vazquez does return, he's going to have a very short list of teams he will pitch for, and it may only have the Marlins on it. If he considers other teams, bet on it being in the NL.
Potential teams: Marlins, Nationals

Colon12. Bartolo Colon: Colon had a nice resurgence in New York before tailing off. What he did will easily secure him another go-round with a team, but it's probably not going to be back with New York. Given what his market will be, virtually any team could be in play for Colon. We're entering the part of the starting pitching market in which these pitchers will start seeing their market develop once the top names come off the board. From hereon out, you're more likely to see small-market teams or those with an outside shot at contending come into play for these type of pitchers.
Potential teams: Padres, Orioles, Tigers, Royals, Indians, Angels, Mets, Marlins, Pirates, Diamondbacks, Astros

Capuano13. Chris Capuano: Capuano's market got a bit of an uptick as the season wound to a close given the Red Sox's attempt to acquire him for the final game of the season. Other than coming back as a reliever late in the year for the Brewers last season, Capuano hasn't been heard of since 2007. The 33-year-old showed that he still had plenty left in the tank, and, in fact, had his best season yet according to the advanced pitching metric xFIP. Plenty of NL teams, and even some AL teams, will kick the tires on Cappy.
Potential teams: Mets, Dodgers, Padres, Cubs, Royals, Twins, Red Sox

Chen14. Bruce Chen: Like Capuano, Chen has rebuilt his value the last couple of years. He came off a solid 2010 with the Royals into a free-agent market that had no interest in him, probably because there wasn't any idea if Chen could repeat his season. Well, he did, so he should be looking at a couple two-year offers on his plate this winter, and could attract attention from some wannabe contenders. Chen is still a risk, but there's a lot to like here as a backend starter.
Potential teams: Mets, Dodgers, Pirates, Royals, Diamondbacks, Padres, Marlins, Athletics, Astros

Maholm15. Paul Maholm: The Pirates hold rights to Maholm for one year at $9.75 million, but Pittsburgh is expected to decline. That would be a mistake. While Maholm isn't quite worth that amount of money, it's not all that far off, plus it gives the club a solid lefty for the price of one season under contract. That's a no-brainer, but if he hits the market, might be able to finagle a three-year deal by virtue of being one of the youngest pitchers on the free-agent market.  The lefty has shown flashes of being a very good pitcher -- including this year, and one might even argue that Maholm belongs higher on this list.
Potential teams: Mets, Pirates, Angels, Royals, Nationals, Tigers, Cubs, Cardinals, Angels, Orioles

Harden16. Rich Harden: Harden, predictably, kept on having his injury problems but when he was on the field, actually pitched rather well with command not seen since 2005, when he was one of baseball's blossoming talents. Harden can still throw gas. He may no longer be able to stick as a starter despite teams giving him every chance possible, but he has the potential to impact a game whichever inning he ends up pitching in.
Potential teams: Athletics, Rangers, Cubs, Red Sox, Padres, Dodgers, Mets, Marlins

Harang17. Aaron Harang: Harang pitched rather well for the Padres, but it's pretty easy to figure out why. His home park of Petco Park helped him immensely, so he probably won't find many offers much to his liking out on the market. He may not care, as he's made very clear that he wants to stay in San Diego. Should the Padres decline his $5 million option, he'll return -- just at a lower price.
Potential teams: Padres

Padilla18. Vicente Padilla: The Dodgers seemed to be high on Padilla last year, hoping he could serve as both a starter and reliever. That got cut short when Padilla began the season on the DL recovering from elbow surgery, then needing neck surgery mere weeks after coming off the DL. It appears as if Padilla has found a home in Los Angeles after signing a below-market deal to remain with the club. Likewise, the club also seems to like Padilla, who has struggled for years among allegations he's a heavy drinker and poor clubhouse personality, so a reunion with the cash-strapped Dodgers makes sense. A handful of other teams could be interested, but it's doubtful they will be any more attractive than L.A.
Potential teams: Dodgers, Astros, Giants, Marlins, Athletics

Francis19. Jeff Francis: At this point, Francis is pretty far off the "Jeffrey Franchise" label given to him when coming up with the Rockies. Francis rebuilt his value in Kansas City after missing all of 2009 and making 24 starts with Colorado in 2010. The lefty was able to put together 31 starts, even if he tallied just 183 innings. While he has strong control, his lack of a putaway pitch is his main drawback, and at this point, he's nothing more than a No. 4 starter. He'll find a spot this winter, but won't receive much money.
Potential teams: Royals, Cardinals, Padres, Dodgers, Orioles, White Sox, Mets, Marlins, Pirates, Astros

Garcia20. Freddy Garcia: Garcia once looked like the man whose major-league career was dwindling. But now, after the comeback he's had the last two years -- and especially in New York, where he was a more than able starter for the Yankees -- he's assured himself of at least a few more years' run in baseball. The righty is strictly a back-of-the-rotation starter who could serve as a swingman. His willingness to serve in such a role with the Yankees could have him back as a long reliever.
Potential teams: Really, he could land with any team.

Bonus pick: Yu Darvish: If Darvish gets posted, it will give teams an opportunity to get the best pitcher on the free agent market. The only thing that will hold Darvish back is skepticsm as to how his game translates to America, but he is just 25 and put up video-game numbers in Japan, so even if teams talk Darvish down publicly, there will be no shortage of bids. He will also be attractive to teams who covet draft picks, as he won't cost one to sign. Anyone with funds will make a play, even teams who aren't currently competitive. Given his age, Darvish might even work best on a building club, as he would be able to debut on a team with minimal expectations and get his feet wet.
Potential teams: Blue Jays, Cubs, Mets, Nationals, Rangers, Red Sox, Royals, Yankees

Free-agent position rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | DH | SP | RP

Free-agent overall rankings: Position players | Pitchers

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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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