Friday, March 11, 2005

Called up to the show....

To keep up the excitement for you, my new site at the MVN network has just merged with and the most wonderful, "The Cub Reporter". As far as I understand postings will fall under both sites but that might change. Besides my current partner George at "Behind the Ivy", I will be joined by 4 new writers. Cubs news will be oozing out of your ears. So come by and check out the new digs.

Monday, November 29, 2004

You Want the Truth, You Can't Handle the Truth

As I mentioned, I'm now writing at the MVN network, so stop on by. Here's a link to my latest article.

Friday, November 19, 2004


Well not yet, but it could happen. Ha...that just's mean, I know. Sorry but I needed an attention-grabber, cause I've got big news baby and I mean BABIES!!!

The AngelFan Wife and me are going to be the proud parents of twins...and we're not talking the Minnesota variety. We found out about 2 weeks ago and besides being overwhelmed, I'm actually beyond thrilled. Heck, they could be batterymates...the first ever brother to pitch to his own brother. Of course we don't know the sex yet as they aren't due until May(and if you're listening kids, try to escape the womb sometime in mid-May so Daddy can still catch the Cubs on their West Coast trip to San Diego and Los Angeles). And don't get me wrong, if they're girls I'll be just as thrilled as long as their happy and healthy, but if one turns out to be a boy who happens to be a power hitting lefty then so be it.

We're open for name suggestions and dressing them is going to be fun (okay who gets the Cubs socks, who get the Angels socks?) My first thought was to name them "2002" and "1908" but then one would always have an inferiority complex. As we figure it, one can be an Angel fan, one can be a Cubs fan and they BOTH can be White Sox haters.

And the news doesn't end there people. Apparently some folks have been reading this blog and liked it enough to ask me to come aboard the MVN network. Since I'm greedy for readership and liked the work that was going on over there, I agreed. So Transplanted Cubs Fan will be no longer as I'll be writing under the "Behind the Ivy" moniker along with fellow blogger George Kyroudis.

For the time being, I'll be posting links to my stuff over there, but eventually this will all disappear. Thanks to all that stopped by and PLEASE come on by to "Behind the Ivy" and bring your friends along with. I'd love to make it something special over there. I've already starting posting and here are links to my first 2 posts:

Movin' On Up
Lies, Damned Lies

Hope to see you over there and thanks again to all those who stopped by.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Cubs Off-Season Guide Part VI of VI

The last installment of my Cubs Off-Season Guide, just a basic summary. I was going to do a bit on the minor league system and Dusty but I'll save it for another time. Arbitration salaries are AN ABSOLUTE GUESS!!!

Committed & Arbitration Eligible Contracts
C - Michael Barrett - Arbitration eligible: $2.5 million
1B - Derek Lee - $7 million
3B - Aramis Ramirez - Arbitration eligible: $8 million
2B/SS - Neifi Perez - $ 1 million, $1.5 in potential incentives
CF - Corey Patterson - Arbitration eligible: $3 million
RF - Sammy Sosa - $17 million
SP - Kerry Wood - $8.5 million, $1 million of his bonus
SP - Mark Prior - $2.5 million, can opt out for arbitration, but can't see him getting much more.
SP - Carlos Zambrano - Arbitration eligible: $3 million
SP - Greg Maddux - $9 million
RP LaTroy Hawkins - $3.5 million
RP Ryan Dempster - $2 million
RP Mike Remlinger - $3.8 million
RP Joe Borowski - $2.3 million
RP Kyle Farnsworth- Arbitration eligible: $1.75 million

$75.85 million estimate for 15 players

Last years Cubs budget was $91 million and AT MOST that will go up to $95 million. That my loyal readers is ONLY $20 million to fill 10 spots. YIKES!!!!

The 10 spots are:
Backup C
Starting LF
Starting SS
Starting 2B
5th Starter
2 Relief Pitchers
2 Utility OF's
Utility IF

UNLESS the Cubs trade Sammy and save at least $10 million in the deal, I'll be very surpised if the Cubs make any significant off-season signings. Or to say the least Carlos Beltran is going to be tough to get unless we're planning an infield combo of Neifi & Jose Macias. Here is MY PLAN:

C - Bako or Todd Pratt ($850,000)
RF- J.D. Drew ($12 million)
SS - Garciaparra - ($8 million)
2B - Todd Walker - ($2.5 million)
5th starter - Sergio Mitre ($350,000)
RP - 2 out of Wuertz, Leicester, Will Ohman & Wellemeyer ($650,000)
OF - Hollandsworth ($1.5 million)
OF - Dubois ($350,000)
IF - Pokey Reese ($1 million)

Grand total: $27.2 million

Okay I'm over by a bit, but if the Sosa trade happens which looks to be more realistic every day and we end up with Cliff Floyd or even better Aubrey Huff from Tampa and save $7 to $10 million, it's a possibility. And if anything I'm at least close, not to mention who knows about my arbitration figures. Hendry and McPhail have never gone to arbitration with a player and they SHOULD sign Aramis and Zambrano to long-term deals and save some money there. I'm sure Mitre isn't everyone's favorite option as a 5th starter but he's cheap and pitched exceptionally at AAA Iowa(6-3 3.03 ERA), I think he deserves another chance and it's possible one of our minor league studs (Bobby Brownlie or Reynel Pinto) could be ready by mid-year if he falters again. Ryan Dempster may be the plan already that Hendry just hasn't shared with the rest of the world.

That also means no big money for a closer but none that are available are worth it. Don't ask me what to do..maybe Borowski comes back to form , otherwise try Dempster or Farnsworth.

There's also the trade front, I think they could trade Farnsworth for a legitimate lefty specialist or LOOGIE if you prefer. Next year's potential lineup:

2B - Walker
SS - Garciaparra
3B - Ramirez
RF - Drew
1B - Derek Lee
LF - Aubrey Huff
CF - Corey Patterson
C - Michael Barrett

Starting Pitching staff
Kerry Wood
Mark Prior
Carlos Zambrano
Greg Maddux
Sergio Mitre

Relief Corps
Mike Remlinger
Kyle Farnsworth (Trade him for Mike Gonzalez or B.J. Ryan if they'd take it)
LaTroy Hawkins
Joe Borowski
Ryan Dempster
Jon Leicester
Todd Wellemeyer or Mike Wuertz

Paul Bako
Neifi Perez
Pokey Reese
Jason Dubois
Todd Hollandsworth
David Kelton (instead of Wellemeyer or Wuertz)

Pretty good lineup in my opinion and a killer staff. Now although we didn't make the playoffs last year, the 2 biggest words I can pass along to everyone is "DON'T PANIC". This Cubs team record by the Pythagorean formula was a 94 win team, not an 89 win team that we ended up. Injuries, tough losses and most importantly 1 run losses contributed to a record that was poorer than it should have been. The history of baseball says that will correct itself next year. A major overhaul is NOT needed, just a few improvements. So don't go too nutty Hendry and start brining in the Tony Womack's of the world, stay the course, power pitching, let your minors develop, make big trades when they make sense and this Cub team will win the division next year.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Cubs Off-Season Guide Part V of VI

I'm just finishing up this off-season guide before I announce the big move. Today we talk about the bench, this will be much like the bullpen format.

Committed contracts
Neifi Perez - $1 million with another $1.5 million in potential incentives

Arbitration Eligible
Jose Macias

Depending if they go 7 deep or 6 deep with the bullpen will depend if we go 4 deep or 5 deep on the bullpen. If it was my bench I'd go with:

Backup Catcher -
2 utility infielders
2 utility outfielders

On top of that, one of the above should be able to steal you a base at any time (think Dave Roberts), two of them need to be able to hit left-handed, and at least one of your infielders is on the team cause of his defense.

Now backup catching duties will probably go back to Paul Bako. I have no real feelings about this, I mean he can't hit, but everyone seems to rave about his defense. So that's fine, neither for or against. Just pray Barrett doesn't go down. I'd like for the team to go after a slightly better hitter, maybe a Todd Pratt. Although if you like rumors we may end up with Piazza and Charles Johnson as our catchers. Wouldn't that be interesting? I'm betting on a Bako return at about $850,000.

Neifi takes one of the IF spots and can probably play 2B as well as SS. The problem with him is other than being one of the worst offensive players in the league, his defense isn't all that great and he steals bases at barely over a .500 success rate. What a waste!

Let's all hope and pray Macias is NOT the other super-utility player, I have nothing to say about him other than he sucks. I presume and hope Dubois is one of the bench guys as well. The dude has raked minor league pitching and it's time to give him a shot at the majors. My other hope is for Todd Hollandsworth to come back, bad shins and all. Here's my expectations for the Cubs bench next year:

Paul Bako
Neifi Perez
Todd Hollandsworth
Jason Dubois
Pokey Reese

This would give us some pop off the bench from both sides (Hollandsworth and Dubois), and a defensive stud/basestealer in Pokey Reese (85% success rate in SB's for his career). If we can't get Reese or get back Hollandsworth a trade for Dave Roberts would be nice as well. Other potential bench options I wouldn't mind,

Miguel Cairo
Gabe Kapler
Mark McLemore (probably retiring)
Ramon Martinez
Jose Hernandez
Craig Counsell

I'll finish my summary off-season guide probably on Tuesday along with the big announcement. Stay tuned!!!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Cubs Off-Season Guide Part IV of VI

The Bullpen's turn and although we all want a major overhaul, you're going to see that it's virtually impossible with our current contracts. I'm going to format this a little different and not really go into each guy and look at the bullpen more as whole unit.

Committed contracts
LaTroy Hawkins - $3.5 million, player option for '06 at 3.5 mil plus playing incentives
Ryan Dempster - $2 million
Mike Remlinger - $3.8 million
Joe Borowski - $2.3 million

Arbitration Eligible
Kyle Farnsworth - 2004 salary was $1.4 million

So depending if you go with a 7 or 6 man bullpen and if they end up offering Farnsworth arbitration, the Cubs need to fill anywhere from 1-3 spots. Now everybody wants us to sign an established closer after the Hawkins debacle. but I'm telling you the cubbard is bare people.

Available FA's are:
Armando Benitez
Troy Percival
Billy Koch (sometimes I make myself laugh)
Robb Nen (assuming he's actually healthy)
Bob Wickman (if we were getting the 2002 version but um no)
Dustin Hermanson (I suppose he quallifies as a closer)

Benitez would be a respectable pickup but we have other roles to fill and I just don't think we have the money. Percival I'm telling you is damaged goods. He's lost a good 4-5 miles off his fastball, his K rate is in a massive decline and he's a flyball pitcher which is something you don't want in Wrigley. Taking a flyer on Nen isn't the worst idea I ever heard but I'm haven't heard anything about him yet this offseason.

I have heard rumors about the following group as possible trades: Eric Gagne, Danny Baez, Danny Kolb & Shawn Chacon.

Who wouldn't want Gagne but the rumor is it would cost us one of our big 3 (Wood, Prior or Zambrano) and well that's a bad idea. Tampa is shopping Baez, no word on if the Cubs are interested, the Kolb rumor I came across at The Cub Reporter that the Cubs discussed it at an organizational meeting and although his K/BB rate is atrocious(1.33 career) as well as his K/9 rate(5.57 career), his extreme groundball nature(3.11 G/F career) could be useful if we put together a bench of good late inning defensive replacements. Shawn Chacon is a nightmare, even outside of Coors field.

So what should we do? What almost every other team does to find a closer and that is find someone who isn't a closer. 99.9% of all closers did not start their careers as closers. Awhile back I posted these guys at some potential trade options (none of which I know are available):

B.J. Ryan 3.49 K/BB 12.62 K/9
Brendan Donnelly 3.73 K/BB 12.00 K/9
Juan Rincon 3.31 K/BB 11.63 K/9
Mike Gonzalez 9.17 K/BB 11.42 K/9
R. Betancourt 4.22 K/BB 10.26 K/9
A. Otsuka 3.35 K/BB 10.13 K/9
S. Linebrink 3.19 K/BB 8.89 K/9

But anyone who can dominate in the late innings meaning a K/BB rate over 3.00 and a K/9 rate over 9 can probably be a closer. Do we need to go down the list of teams who found closers from within or by taking a chance on someone else's junk.
Okay here we go...

Joe Nathan
Brad Lidge
John Smoltz
Eric Gagne
on and on and on

See where I'm going....anyway I don't know who the closer will be next year but I'm guessing it's not a big name Free Agent.

Our other concern is to fill the hole that Kent Mercker's departure should leave us and that's a legitimate lefty out of the pen. Remlinger does not qualify cause he's actually better against righties than lefties (I wish Baker knew this) and although I'm not sold that a team needs one, having one is something Dusty Baker needs otherwise we'll see more of Remlinger in that siutation. Steve Kline is the best option out there but it looks like the Yankees want him. Our very own Will Ohman might be a good choice as well.

My best guess at next year's bullpen:
Mike Remlinger
LaTroy Hawkins
Joe Borowski
Ryan Dempster
Will Ohman
Kyle Farnsworth
John Leicester, Todd Wellemeyer or Mike Wuertz

Not the overhaul we're hoping for and when I summarize this whole off-seson guide, you'll see we DO NOT have the money to do much here. Farnsworth might get traded but most of his peripherals say he should be a good pitcher and he has been 2 out of the last 4 seasons. As for the closer unless a trade brings us one, I think we have to hope either Borowski finds his 2002-2003 form or Dempster can somehow find the touch(although his atrocious walk rate frightens me terribly and he may actually be our 5th starter).

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Cubs Off-Season Guide Part III of VI

A look at our starting staff, this should be easy as no one is going anywhere but Matt Clement.

Pitcher - Kerry Wood
Contract Status - Signed through 2006 with an option for 2007, no-trade clause. $8.5 million in 2005, $11 million in 2006. Their is a club option at $13.5 million for 2007 or $3 million buyout. If he pitches 400 or more innings in 2005-06 then it basically becomes a player option where he could choose the 2007 option or become a free agent.

A rather inconsistent year for Wood but that's kind of where he has settled at this point in his career. I seemed to catch most of his games last year and he got screwed by his defense more than any other pitcher on the Cubs and it was stuff that wont't show up in his ERA. Things like in San Fran where Ramirez dropped a pop fly and then no one covered 3rd base on a Bonds overshift (and there are more), but I guess that happens to every pitcher.

Just so everyone knows, Wood is not a #1 starter, he is a very, very good #2 or #3 starter on your staff and with Zambrano and Prior, you have the 2000's version of Glavine, Smoltz and Maddux where anyone of them can win a Cy Young from year to year. Wood stills strikes out a ton of guys and walks quite a few as well. And I'm pretty sure he'll put it all together one year and give us one of those monster years we've all been waiting for. Good news is we have enough now at the major league level where we won't depend on him.

Potential Replacements None, if he stays healthy he could contend for a Cy Young (you'll be seeing that again in this post)

Pitcher - Mark Prior
Contract Status - Signed through 2006 but can opt-out for arbitration this year which I assume he'll do. Won't get much of a raise over $2.5 million he was due.

Mark Prior's September/October numbers:
2-0 2.17 ERA 37.1 IP, 7 BB, 43 K's

Pretty much what we were all hoping for the entire year. Whatever ailed Prior seemed to finally heal in September. The biggest reason for his disappointment last year was his lack of control. His K/BB rates the last 3 years:

2002 - 3.87
2003 - 4.90
2004 - 2.90

And not to mention that lack of control led to quite a few pitches left over the plate and thus a few too many extra base hits. Will Carroll over at and speculated that in September he finally found his release point and it lead to his improved numbers. Something like 1/8th of an inch difference in release point is something like an 8 inch difference in pitch location. His hurt ankle caused him to change his mechanics, which put a slight pain in his elbow and the aforementioned struggles in finding his release point. Let's hope that's the case and not Dusty's insistence on throwing him for 120+ pitches in blowouts.

I'm pretty stoked on another dominating year from Prior next year and he should be our #1 if everything is going right for him.

Potential Replacements None, if he stays healthy he could contend for a Cy Young (you'll be seeing that again in this post)

Pitcher - Carlos Zambrano
Contract Status - Arbitration eligible, at least $2-3 million. Cubs should sign him and buyout his arbitration years once they figure out their free agent situation.

Crazy Z may soon become one of my all-time favorite Cubs. The boy just deals and he plays with emotion. He's toyed with no-hitters already twice and honestly is the most fun thing to watch in a Cubs uniform since Sammy was pounding them out onto Waveland at an alarming rate. My favorite Crazy Z moment was the July 19th game versus the Cardinals. We all remember this right? He plunks Edmonds in the 1st, Edmonds knocks one out and stares at it from home plate and Z lets him know it's not appreciated. Next at-bat he strikes Edmonds out on 3 straight fastballs and then after Rolen hits a 2 run bomb off of him, and figuring he's not going to be around much longer he just drills Edmonds on the next pitch. There's a rivalry for you. Can't wait till they meet up next year.

He finished 5th in the Cy Young (I would have put him 4th) and if he ever figures out how to lower his walks, he'll easily be in Pedro, Big Unit, Schilling territory. Let's hope Baker doesn't pitch him until his arm falls off. Great year and expect A LOT MORE.

Potential Replacements None, if he stays healthy he could contend for a Cy Young. (I'm done writing that for now)

Pitcher - Greg Maddux
Contract Status - $9 million in 2005, $9 million in 2006 if he pitches at least 400 innings in 2004-05. (187 IP to go)

We're paying a little too much for a guy with a 4.02 ERA last year, but as a certain first ballot Hall of Famer he still could rebound for a little better year next year. He did give up an alarming 35 HR's last year (easily a career high), so if the wind blows in on a few of those starts, he's suddenly an All-Star caliber pitcher. I'm glad we have him and when he's on, probably one of the more fun pitchers to watch. He won his 14th Gold Glove this year and if he does one thing before he leaves, I hope he teaches Wood and Zambrano how to get into fielding position after each pitch.

Potential Replacements None, Cy Young days are past but he's one helluva 4th or 5th starter.

Pitcher - None
Contract Status - None

Matt Clement was quite fantastic last year, as in Cy Young contender until August and September hit. Some can be attributed to a neck injury, some of it to he just ran out of gas. The Cubs need to offer him arbitration and get whoever's draft pick he ends up signing with(He's a Type B free agent which means a 1st or 2nd pick but no sandwich pick). I've already heard the Indians and D'Backs are interested (the Rangers should be interested if they have a brain) and there will be more. There's a small chance he'd accept arbitration but I doubt he would turn away the secuirty of a multi-year deal for the potential of a higher one year deal.

Glendon Rusch was also on the fantastic side of things last year and easily our biggest surprise. It was also easily the best year of his career. Since the Cubs need to fill this spot on the cheap with so many other glaring needs & pay raises, Rusch is probably the best option. Although if we somehow swing a Sosa for Randy Johnson trade, then I'm all for it.

Potential Replacements Glendon Rusch, Sergio Mitre, David Wells, Ryan Dempster....other scrubs as long as they are not named Shawn Estes