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Tag:Cubs
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 24, 2012 3:46 pm
 

Starlin Castro touches upon allegations

By Matt Snyder

Back in early January, accusations of sexual assault against Cubs All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro emerged. Castro was interviewed by police in mid-January upon his return to America from his home in the Dominican Republic, otherwise there hasn't been much news on the subject.

Friday, in Cubs camp, Castro addressed the situation, sort of.

"I cooperated with the police [by] talking about that," he said (Chicago Sun-Times). "I don't have [anything more] to say about that. I'm ready to play baseball and practice very hard to help this team win this season."

Alfonso Soriano, Castro's closest friend on the Cubs, got his buddy's back.

"I think he didn't make a mistake because he did not do anything wrong, and I believe in him," Soriano said (Chicago Sun-Times). "He's such a great guy, and he thinks everybody can be friends with him. Now he knows when that happened to him he has to be a little more careful."

And Castro agreed: "You've got to be careful, because a lot of bad people in the world." (Chicago Sun-Times)

So it would appear Soriano and Castro are painting the picture that the allegations against Castro were untrue. And it has been about five weeks since the police interviewed Castro for several hours, so it's entirely possible this matter is behind the Cubs' shortstop.

Castro, 21, hit .307/.341/.432 with 10 homers, 66 RBI, 91 runs, 22 stolen bases and an NL-leading 207 hits last season. He made his first All-Star Game.

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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: February 21, 2012 11:46 am
Edited on: February 21, 2012 3:25 pm
 

Red Sox receive RHP Chris Carpenter for Epstein

Chris Carpenter

By C. Trent Rosecrans


In what only seems fitting, the Red Sox and Cubs have agreed upon the compensation for new Chicago president Theo Epstein, but there are still players to be named for both teams to complete the deal, dragging out the case even longer. The two teams have been trying to figure out the compensation for Epstein's move from Boston since the World Series, when Epstein was hired.

The Red Sox will receive right-hander Chris Carpenter (no, not that Chris Carpenter) and a player to be named, while the Cubs will also receive a player to be named. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told reporters the players to be named will be decided by the end of spring training. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said the two players to be named are just a "procedural" thing to satisfy MLB transaction rules.

Carpenter, 26, was ranked the No. 13 prospect in the Cubs' system by Baseball America (and the same publication had the Cubs' system ranked No. 14 overall).

The Cubs drafted him in the third round of the 2008 draft out of Kent State. Last season he pitched in 10 games for the Cubs, putting up a 2.79 ERA in 10 innings, allowing 12 hits, a home run, seven walks and eight  strikeouts. In his first season as a reliever, Carpenter pitched in 32 games between Double-A and Triple-A, going 3-4 with a 5.91 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings. He had a WHIP of 1.617.

"I am relieved that this process is over and particularly pleased that the teams were able to reach agreement on their own without intervention from MLB," Epstein said in a statement from the Cubs. "I truly hope and believe that this resolution will benefit both clubs, as well as Chris, who is an extremely talented reliever joining a great organization at a time when there's some opportunity in the major league bullpen."

While there had been reports that Bud Selig would have to decide the matter, Selig said the two sides worked out the move on their own.

"I am pleased that the Cubs and the Red Sox have resolved this matter," Selig said in a statement realsed by MLB. "It has always been my preference that Clubs resolve matters like this amongst themselves, as they understand their unique circumstances better than anyone else could.  Though the matter required time, both Clubs demonstrated professionalism throughout their discussions, and I appreciate their persistence in finding common ground."

Cherington said he was happy to have the matter decided.

"I think it took this long because it was a unique circumstance," Cherington said, according to the Associated Press. "We talk to teams all the time about trades and it's player for player and it's pretty easy to, easier to, assign value and figure out what's fair, what's not fair. In this case it was just tougher because it involved not just an executive but a friend."

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Posted on: February 21, 2012 11:06 am
Edited on: February 21, 2012 11:18 am
 

Epstein compensation may be announced Tuesday

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Major League Baseball is expected to announce the compensation the Red Sox will receive from the Cubs in return for the hiring of president Theo Epstein on Tuesday, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman reports.

According to Heyman, the compensation was negotiated by both parties with input from MLB. One thing that worked in the Cubs' favor was the fact Epstein only had one year to go on his contract and his relationship with John Henry was seen as deteriorating. The Red Sox are expected to receive a minor-league player or players in compensation for allowing Epstein to go to Chicago, but the perceived value of that player or players is what has been in question since Epstein's hiring in October.

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Posted on: February 19, 2012 1:09 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 1:19 pm
 

Will Cubs extend Garza instead of trading him?



By Matt Snyder


As new Cubs leaders Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer went all Norman Dale on the roster this offseason -- certainly more in the "break 'em down" portion than "build them back up" part -- starting pitcher Matt Garza was involved in myriad trade rumors. The right-hander was connected with the Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Blue Jays and a few other teams in trade rumors, but so far nothing has come to fruition.

Now, with spring training opening and Garza still on the Cubs' roster, multiple Chicago outlets are reporting the Cubs instead intend to build with Garza as one of the foundations of the club, meaning the talk is of a contract extension, not a trade.

Cubs offseason moves
‘‘We’ve said many times he’s the kind of guy we need,’’ Hoyer said (Chicago Sun-Times). ‘‘We need more Matt Garzas, not less. We need a rotation full of those guys, so if we can work something out, that’d be wonderful.’’

After all the moves the Cubs made this offseason, it appeared for a bit they were embarking on a long-term, slow rebuild. If the Cubs do lock up the 28-year-old Garza long-term, though, it would be a clear sign they are looking to win within the next three to four years, instead of a more distant approach.

‘‘I think patience is important, but urgency is important, as well,’’ Epstein said (Chicago Sun-Times). ‘‘The goal of the 2012 Cubs is to win the World Series. And our goal as an organization is to build an organization that competes on an annual basis in the postseason and gives ourselves a chance to win the World Series ... There aren’t going to be any shortcuts. We’re looking at the big picture, and we’re building this thing the right way. But urgency, of course. And the goal is clear.’’

Garza was 10-10 in his first season with the Cubs, but suffered from bad luck in terms of defense, run support and batting average on balls in play. He had a 3.32 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 197 strikeouts in 198 innings. If the Cubs do hold onto Garza -- CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler reports some still believe the Cubs will shop Garza during spring training -- the odds of him being the opening-day starter are pretty good, with Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Paul Maholm and either Travis Wood or Chris Volstad joining him in the rotation.

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Posted on: February 15, 2012 5:16 pm
 

Blue Jays work out Cuban OF Jorge Soler

Alex AnthopoulosBy C. Trent Rosecrans

There had been a general consensus that 19-year-old Cuban Jorge Soler was going to sign with the Cubs -- and even one that suggested he had a deal in place -- but that may not be a done deal just yet. MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez reports Soler worked out for Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos and members of the team's front office at the tema's complex in the Dominican Republic.

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And it's not just the Blue Jays that are interested in Soler, as Sanchez adds the Orioles will visit with Soler on Sunday. CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman reports the Marlins are interested in Soler, while other reports say the Yankees, White Sox and Phillies may also be in the mix.

Unlike recent export Yoenis Cespedes, Soler has yet to establish residency in the Dominican Republic, but has applied. After establishing residency, Soler will need to be declared a free agent by Major League Baseball and be cleared by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assts Control before he can sign a contract. Cespedes was declared a resident of the Dominican Republic on Jan. 24 and 19 days later he was cleared by the OFAC and signed a four-year, $36 million deal with Oakland.

Soler reportedly has above-average power and projects as either a corner outfielder or first baseman. A right-handed thrower and hitter, Soler is 6-foor-3, 205 pounds and there are some reports that have him running above-average times, others have him an average runner at best. In the end, he's 19 and has plenty of growing to do. Unlike Cespedes, whoever signs Soler won't expect him to contribute to the major league team anytime soon, but in the end, he could be even better than the 26-year-old Cespedes.

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Posted on: February 14, 2012 9:37 pm
 

Report: Astros broadcaster to retire after 2012

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Astros radio broadcaster Milo Hamilton will announce his intent to retire following the 2012 season, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports.

The team will have a press conference for Hamilton, 84, on Wednesday.

Hamilton has announced Major League games for 59 years and won the Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award in 1992.

Hamilton's started broadcasting big-league baseball in 1953 with the St. Louis Browns. When the Browns moved to Baltimore, he stayed in St. Louis, where he worked with Harry Caray and Jack Buck in 1954. After just one season with the Cardinals, he caught on with the Cubs, working with Jack Brickhouse and Vince Lloyd. He served three years with the Cubs and after four-years out of baseball, moved to the White Sox in 1961.

Hamilton was the first voice of the Braves, getting the job when the team moved from Milwaukee in 1966. He worked in Atlanta until after the 1975 season, calling Hank Aaron's record-breaking 715th career homer.



From Atlanta, Hamilton had stints with the Pirates and Cubs before joining the Astros in 1985.

Since 2006, he's mostly called only home games for the Astros. He will, however, make the trip to Miami in April to broadcast in the new Marlins ballpark, marking his 60th different ballpark in which he's called a game.

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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