Tag:Jed Hoyer
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 31, 2011 7:12 pm
 

Padres making moves for 2012

Josh ByrnesBy C. Trent Rosecrans 

While the White Sox have sent some mixed messages this offseason, the Padres have not. New San Diego general manager Josh Byrnes wants his team to score more runs in 2012, and he again made a move to try to do that acquiring outfielder Carlos Quentin from the White Sox in exchange for two minor-league pitchers.

"Ownership let us stretch payroll to make this move," Byrnes said Saturday afternoon on a conference call. "We started a couple of years ago, when (former GM) Jed (Hoyer) put a big focus on building a talent base and acquiring prospects to a point where it's a real strength. (Owner Jeff Morad) told me we had ways to stretch our payroll if we can be a surprise team in 2012 and have a foundation to sustain success at the Major League level."

Byrnes, who took over the team when Hoyer went to the Cubs, has used not only what is arguably the game's deepest farm system, but also some of the current talent to improve the Padres' immediate future. 

Since taking over, Byrnes acquired a replacement at closer for Heath Bell in Huston Street, pulled off a big trade with the Reds that brought in Yonder Alonso and Edinson Volquez, along with more prospects, for Mat Latos. And the Byrnes may not be done yet.

"We feel like we still have some work to do," Byrnes said. "I think certainly the biggest weakness of the 2011 team, the offense, we feel like we've taken some steps to improve it."

Quentin -- if healthy -- could be a big part of the new Padres lineup, hitting in the middle of the lineup along with Chase Headley and Nick Hundley.

Quentin was named to his second All-Star team last season, hitting 17 home runs in the first half of the season, before being limited to just 33 games after the All-Star Game in Arizona. The San Diego native -- and current resident -- hit 36 homers in 2008 and has averaged nearly 24 homers a season since, despite playing in just 116 games a year since his break-out season.

San Diego Padres

"He's a real threat and we lacked that last season," Byrnes said. "Last year, when we were down two or three runs, we were out of the game."

Quentin also is a better fit than many for Petco Park because he's a right-handed hitter and the majority of his homers are to left field, where it's easier to homer at Petco. Of Quentin's 24 home runs in 2011, all but one came to the left of second base. While U.S. Cellular Field has the opposite reputation for home run hitters as Petco, 14 of his 24 homers were calculated to have gone out in all 30 parks, according to HitTrackerOnline.com -- and as Byrnes noted, the Padres do play half their games away from Petco Park, something he's no doubt told free agent hitters since taking over.

"I've heard the different talks about the park. I was here when the park was first built -- I'm familiar with it, I've played here," Quentin said. "Bottom line is I'm a hitter first. … It's always been my approach to hit first and stay within myself. That's the most ideal approach to produce power. I'm not planning on changing that at all."

Acquiring Quentin helps rectify what Byrnes called one of his "regrets." As general manager of the Diamondbacks, Byrnes sent Quentin to the White Sox in December of 2007 in a move that helped bring Dan Haren to Arizona.

"The key point with Carlos is the intensity he has, he plays with a real edge and that's something we've been missing," Byrnes said.

Quentin will play left field, joining center fielder Cameron Maybin in the outfield a likely platoon of Will Venable and Chris Denorfia in right. The team also has Kyle Blanks, Mark Kotsay and Jesus Guzman, meaning another trade is far from unlikely at this point.

While one of the pitchers the Padres traded away, right-hander Simon Castro, was ranked as a Top 100 prospect before the 2011 season, he struggled in 2011 at Double-A and Triple-A, putting up a 5.63 ERA (although some of that can be attributed to the altitude in Tucson). Castro, and left-hander Pedro Hernandez, were unlikely to be ranked in the Padres' Top 10. Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein had Castro ranked as the team's 20th best prospect and Hernandez wasn't ranked by Goldstein, so the true cost of the Padres' acquisition will be money. Quentin is arbitration-eligible and will be a free agent after the season. He could make as much as $8 million this season through arbitration, plus the Padres took on payroll in the Latos deal, meaning the team could see a significant bump in its payroll for 2012.

As for the White Sox, they have perhaps the worst minor-league system in baseball and the acquisition of Castro and Hernandez should help. Both should be in Chicago's top prospects list. The White Sox have already traded off closer Sergio Santos and despite the extension for John Danks, the team appears to be in rebuilding mode, which is why they went ahead and dealt Quentin.

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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 14, 2011 1:23 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2011 1:28 pm
 

Zambrano climbing mountains, running on beaches



By Matt Snyder


Carlos Zambrano has long been one of the most mercurial players in the bigs. We've all seen his meltdowns and heard his excuses afterward. This past summer, when he skipped out on his teammates and uttered some words about retirement, he was placed on the restricted list by the Cubs. The thought was that he'd never play for the Cubs again, but that's now looking like a possibility.

Zambrano recently told reporters he is -- for what, the seventh time? -- a new man. From MLBTradeRumors.com:
"I'm preparing like when I was a rookie, climbing mountains, running on the beach, and exercising hard so that I can arrive at Spring Training in optimal shape," he said, as relayed by Joiner Martinez at Líder en Deportes. "I want to stay in Chicago for the two seasons I still have with the team. I'm not a coward who would take the back door out of the majors."
Climbing mountains and running on the beach ... uh, has he been watching the Rocky movies as inspiration? I wonder what name he yells when he gets to the top of the mountain? Maybe Michael Barrett's.

And I'm not quite sure "coward" is the right choice of words there. Only a complete and utter fool would leave the $19 million on the table Zambrano is owed in 2012. The cowardly act would have been to storm out of the locker room and leave his teammates hanging. Oh, wait ...

Zambrano Saga
For stretches, when Zambrano could remain healthy and sane, he produced as a frontline starting pitcher. He's a three-time All-Star who finished exactly fifth three times in NL Cy Young voting. After anger management sessions midseason in 2010, he closed the season in lights-out fashion, going 8-0 with a 1.24 ERA. But then Bad Z showed his face again in 2011 and it looked like the Cubs had seen enough. Then-general manager Jim Hendry basically kicked Zambrano off the team.

The problem, of course, is that Hendry also inked Zambrano to a huge contract -- five years, $91.5 million -- that began before the 2008 season. The second season Zambrano mentioned in the above quote, where he said he wants to stay in Chicago for two seasons? Good luck with that. There's a vesting option for 2013 that is guaranteed if Zambrano finishes in the top four of Cy Young voting this coming season.

It does seem that he'll at least get his chance, though. New Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are giving every indication Zambrano is allowed back as long as he's on his best behavior. History indicates that won't last very long, but there's no reason to not give him a fresh start for a fresh administration, considering that untradeable contract.

One thing is for sure, the conclusion of Zambrano's time in Chicago is not going to be boring.

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Posted on: November 28, 2011 7:15 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 11:06 am
 

Trade rumor du jour: Matt Garza available



By Matt Snyder


Earlier Monday, Buster Olney of ESPN tweeted that the Cubs were willing to trade starting pitcher Matt Garza and there's been much discussion all day about where he might be headed, if he's traded. This isn't really news, though, because it's widely known the Cubs will listen to trade offers on just about everyone (21-year-old shortstop Starlin Castro probably isn't headed anywhere, but everyone else could surely be had at a reasonable price).

Still, we might as well just take the opportunity to talk about where Garza would fit. It's that time of the year, after all, with the Winter Meetings starting in just one week.

Rumor Mill
We know the Yankees and Red Sox want starting pitching. They always do. The Blue Jays, Rockies and Reds are also looking and a trade would fit better than spending big on a free agent. The Marlins and Nationals have been heavily involved in courting free agent starting pitchers, and in doing so they wouldn't have to cough up a good package of prospects, but don't count them out, either. And the list could be even bigger, this was just picking out a few obvious teams.

Expect the new Cubs administration -- led by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer -- to actively seek out ways to restock the farm system as they look to build a strong foundation. That means if you see a name in trade rumors, it's probably true the Cubs are listening to offers. To reiterate, they're listening on virtually everyone. They're looking for any opportunity to start planning for the future, even if it's at the expense of the present.

Garza, 28, was 10-10 with a 3.32 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 197 strikeouts in 198 innings last season, his first in Chicago. Sabermetric stats such as FIP, xFIP and WAR loved Garza last season, too, so front offices with analytical leanings will certainly be contacting Epstein, Hoyer and company.

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Posted on: November 11, 2011 7:45 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2011 8:29 pm
 

Manager interviews finishing for Cubs, Cards, Sox

Sandy Alomar Jr.By C. Trent Rosecrans

The interviews, it seems, are done for the three managerial openings. The Cubs, Cardinals and Red Sox are all done with their first round of interviews and it appears the hirings could come relatively soon.

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the Cardinals' next manager will come from one of the six candidates the team interviewed. The Cardinals interviewed former Red Sox manager Terry Francona, Ryne Sandberg, third base coach Jose Oquendo, former Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny, Triple-A manager Chris Maloney and White Sox third base coach Joe McEwing.

"I'm fairly confident that it will," Mozeliak told Goold when asked if the team's next manager would come from that list.

That does not mean there will not be further questions asked of any of those six, but it doesn't appear that a surprise candidate will emerge.

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer wasn't quite as definitive about his team's next manager coming from the list of four interviews that they have already conducted.

"I wouldn't guarantee that it is (the entire list), but we feel really good about the four guys we brought in," Hoyer told MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. "We had four very good interviews. I wouldn't rule out an additional candidate, but it's not a certainty."

The team interviewed Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. on Friday. It has also interviewed Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin, Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum and Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux.

The "additional candidate" could be Francona. Hoyer said Theo Epstein has already talked to Francona, and with the history between the two, a formal interview wouldn't be a necessity. There's also Rays manager Joe Maddon, who was the other finalist when Epstein hired Francona in Boston. Maddon's resume would certainly make an interview unnecessary, although the Cubs would have to work out a deal with the Rays for compensation -- something they've still been unable to accomplish with the Red Sox.

As far as Francona's successor in Boston, Alomar, Sveum and Mackanin have already interviewed with the Red Sox. Blue Jays first base coach Torey Lovullo interviewed on Friday and Tigers third base coach Gene Lamont will interview on Saturday. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told reporters after Louvullo's post-interview news conference that the team had no plans on bringing in additional candidates after interviewing Lamont on Saturday. He also added that the team had not been formally turned down by another other organization when seeking permission to interview candidates.

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Posted on: November 5, 2011 12:16 pm
 

Cubs continue rounding out brain trust



By Matt Snyder


Late Friday night, news broke that the Cubs had hired Joe Bohringer as director of pro scouting (ESPN Chicago). And the praise on Twitter soon followed. Keith Law of ESPN.com noted the Angels were also after Bohringer's services. Baseball author Jonah Keri said "Joe is GREAT, Cubs fans should be thrilled." Baseball America's Jim Callis noted it was "another tremendous hire by the Cubs." Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus said it was a "fantastic" hire.

The hiring possibly completes the major front-office moves in Wrigleyville, where they've added president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer, senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod and now Bohringer. Already in place were assistant general manager Randy Bush, scouting director Tim Wilken and personnel director Oneri Fleita.

One takeaway from the Bohringer hire is how much a Mickey Mouse operation the Cubs were previously running. Bush had reportedly been pulling double duty, serving as both the pro scouting director and assistant GM. This coming from one of the biggest money-making teams in the bigs. What a joke. But the laughs are beginning to subside now.

Allow me to formally apologize to Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts. Back in early September I said that Ricketts locking up Fleita could possibly sabotage his search for a general manager -- namely that it took the possibility of a "home-run hire" off the board. Boy, was I wrong. It could be argued Ricketts has hit several homers these past few weeks.

Epstein won two World Series with the Red Sox. Hoyer and McLeod have left the Padres' farm system in great shape and had helped Epstein build the Red Sox foundation (say what you will about spending, but Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard -- just to name a few -- were homegrown). Bohringer has 21 years of scouting experience (after graduating from MIT) and has been a lead scout for the Diamondbacks since 2006. Fleita was being courted by the Tigers before the Cubs re-signed him.

Obviously, front office personnel don't immediately pay on-field dividends nor do they necessarily equate to championships in the future. Further, these hires don't necessarily mean the Cubs have the smartest front office in the bigs. But the fact is that the Ricketts family has done absolutely everything they could possibly do this offseason to put a brilliant baseball brain trust in place. Success is not even close to being guaranteed, but simply seeing the effort is a departure from how things have been throughout Cubs history.

Now Cubs fans just need to be patient with the new brain trust -- as it's going to be a long process -- in hopes that on-field history is made as well.

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