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— Cubs Baseball for Thinking Fans

Monday, May 16, 2016

This and That

Some assorted thoughts about the last week, in no particular order.

Addison Russell

Wow, does he look good right now.  His season line is up to .263/.375/.447, and his K% is down from over 28% last year to just under 20%.  His walk rate has jumped from 8% to 14%.  He’s really been driving the ball lately, and driving it to RF.  He actually had a bad April (.214/.341/.343) but has really been on fire in May (.341/.431/.614).  During his spring training power surge, I predicted 20HRs for him this year, and his slow start scared me off that.  I think I’m back on that one. 

Jason Heyward

He’s currently on a six game hitting streak, and has hits in seven of his last eight games, but he still doesn’t seem to be making solid contact in my opinion.  His line for those 8 games is .323/.447/.355).  On the bases and in the field, he’s been just as good as, if not better than, advertised.  Unless he ends up getting surgery at some point, we’ll likely never know how bad his wrist is.  Putting on my amateur armchair trainer hat, I just don’t know if his wrist is going to heal this year while he’s still playing.  I know we make too much of the batting order - and if he’s getting on base still it doesn’t matter - but I wonder if Maddon’s thought of moving Russell ahead of Heyward in the lineup.

Jorge Soler

I’ve said it a couple of times now, but I really think he needs to go back to Iowa.  Maybe it’s just a confidence thing, maybe he needs to crush the ball for a couple of weeks.  It also wouldn’t hurt him to get more regular playing time in LF where it doesn’t impact the Cubs.  He’s just a mess right now, and I’m predicting he goes down when Szczur is ready to come off the DL. 

Feel free to talk about anything else here you’d like - Zobrist’s nice run, Javy’s amazing defense, how tough if still is to root for Lackey…

Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 16, 2016 at 06:27 AM | 72 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 16, 2016 at 06:51 AM (#5221904)
Carrie Muskat ‏@CarrieMuskat 12h12 hours ago
Ryan Kalish, who the #Cubs DFA'd on Saturday, has cleared waivers and will report to @IowaCubs


I'd have to guess Federowicz is going down soon, because the bench makes no sense right now. And Soler isn't going down when there's 3 catchers around.
   2. Charles S. is not doing chainsaw bears any more Posted: May 16, 2016 at 10:16 AM (#5222022)
I'm still worried about Heyward. He's finding a few more holes, but still not hitting with any authority. I wasn't expecting 20 HRs or anything, but 5 doubles with no triples or homers in 150 PAs is terrible, and the eyeball test doesn't look any better.

I don't see any reason to send Soler down. He has had rough stretches before, and I'd rather have Maddon working on his confidence than the Iowa staff. He's not really blocking anyone, and I don't want him to turn into the next Alcantera.
   3. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 16, 2016 at 10:40 AM (#5222051)
Did demoting Alcantara ruin him, or was he just not good enough (at the time) to make the necessary adjustments?

I'm worried about Soler - if he was duplicating last year, it wouldn't be a positive, but at least he was hitting the ball hard (and his batting line was significantly better: .262/.324/.399 vs .174/.263/.267, which is good for a 43OPS+). Yes, he's had rough stretches, but this is 99PAs and it's really, really bad. I agree there isn't an obvious better option with Schwarber hurt, and Joe has very publicly backed Soler. If he doesn't turn it around soon, the Cubs hand will be forced.

Option 1: Bryant LF, Baez 3b (with some LaStella starts mixed in), Kawasaki back up as UT IF (or maybe Alcantara since his bat has recovered finally, but he really hasn't played much SS lately).
Option 2: There really isn't one, until Szczur comes back, and really, he's not a guy you want playing every day - though that would be a very good defensive OF.
Option 3: Almora. He really should be playing CF, so I guess you could move Fowler to LF, but I think this isn't very likely. Cubs might want him to play more in AAA though. They showed they could be really aggressive with promotions last year, but not sure if the way the team is now if they feel differently.
Option 4: Hope Victorino starts hitting. This seems like the longest shot of all, he looked pretty done his last few seasons. Andreoli had a good spring, but hasn't hit in AAA this year, and is really just a righty Kalish anyway.
Option 5: Trade for someone. This would likely be furthest down the list, as it would be just a guy for this season anyway. And Soler would have to prove he's not gonna hit before they'd acquire someone.

So yeah, leaving Soler alone for now is the most obvious and likely answer. In a month if things haven't improved though...
   4. Due to the leadership of Zonk... Posted: May 16, 2016 at 10:40 AM (#5222052)
Much as I, too, am a huge believer in Russell and see great things for him... I think the K date decline is real improvement, but I'd just point out that Maddon has gone with the more standard pitcher in the 9 hole most of the year -- and at least before Montero got hurt, Russell was generally hitting 8th. Again - not downplaying his improvement, I think his BB rate would be up regardless - but I do think a decent chunk of that is just more of your standard 8th place hitters not getting as much to hit.

   5. Due to the leadership of Zonk... Posted: May 16, 2016 at 10:42 AM (#5222055)
Also -

Do we need to talk about how this Cubs team really seems to have a problem playing bad teams? The DH sweep is clearly the low point of a season that's really just had the Schwarber injury and precious little else to ##### about.... but losing 2 of 3 to both San Diego and Colorado? 1-1 against friggin' Atlanta?

They smacked around Cincy pretty good - but Cincy is a .500 team if they hadn't had to play the Cub so much so far.

I know it's really hard to complain when you've got the best record in baseball by a good 3-4 games, you've got far and away the biggest division lead in baseball, and you're peripherals (python!) back up the record as not just a matter of luck.... but if the Cubs had handled SD, Colorado, and Atlanta like THEY SHOULD HAVE, this team would easily be ready to smash by the Tigers' 1984 35-5 start.

Why do they look so human against lesser teams? With Maddon and the youth/chemistry, I don't feel like the team is taking days off or anything... they just.. seem to make the mistakes - pitching, hitting, baserunning, defense, of bad Cubs teams against bad teams.
   6. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 16, 2016 at 10:44 AM (#5222058)
I think his BB rate would be up regardless - but I do think a decent chunk of that is just more of your standard 8th place hitters not getting as much to hit.

2016:

Russell batting 7th: 81PAs, .261/.370/.507. 11bbs, 13.5bb%.
Russell batting 8th: 42PAs, .314/.405/.429. 6bbs, 14.3bb%.

That would seem to contradict your theory, small sample size caveat applies.
   7. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 16, 2016 at 10:52 AM (#5222072)
Do we need to talk about how this Cubs team really seems to have a problem playing bad teams? The DH sweep is clearly the low point of a season that's really just had the Schwarber injury and precious little else to ##### about.... but losing 2 of 3 to both San Diego and Colorado? 1-1 against friggin' Atlanta?

No, because you're talking about 5 games. Cubs are 15-5 against teams under .500.
   8. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 16, 2016 at 11:03 AM (#5222085)
Do we need to talk about how this Cubs team really seems to have a problem playing bad teams? The DH sweep is clearly the low point of a season that's really just had the Schwarber injury and precious little else to ##### about.... but losing 2 of 3 to both San Diego and Colorado? 1-1 against friggin' Atlanta?

No, because you're talking about 5 games. Cubs are 15-5 against teams under .500.


You guys are kind of talking past one another, because Colorado isn't one of those teams under .500.
   9. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 16, 2016 at 11:22 AM (#5222112)
Sure, I wasn't clear, and only makes my point stronger by calling it out. The 5 sub .500 losses are 2 to SD, one each to ATL, ARI and CIN. At the end of the year, that number will change for many reasons (more losses, other teams' records changing), but really doesn't matter since there won't be a "bad" team in the playoffs even if this were some sort of real problem. The 5 losses he called out were all at Wrigley...

Maybe going into the season people would have been surprised if the Rockies were better than the D'Backs, but it's not really now that we've seen them both play (plus the Pollock injury).
   10. Andere Richtingen Posted: May 16, 2016 at 01:08 PM (#5222276)
What's most evident about Soler this year is:

1) He is hitting a lot more fly balls. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
2) His BB and K rates are fine -- a bit improved.
3) He is not hitting as many balls hard though; a pretty steep decline is evident.
4) He is not pulling the ball as much.

So the bat seems to be in the zone later, which is resulting in a lot of lazy fly balls to the deeper parts of the park. A lot of things could explain that: reduced bat speed, swing issues, not seeing the ball well. I'd err on the side of letting him play this one out.
   11. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 17, 2016 at 07:25 AM (#5222743)
How much longer would you give him?

He is playing most days now, which is better than when he wasn't starting for while there.
   12. McCoy Posted: May 17, 2016 at 07:50 AM (#5222746)
I'd err on the side of letting him play this one out.

You let someone who has something like an 80 OPS+ with good fielding play it out. Somebody with a 43 OPS+ and not very good fielding needs to go down and work on his game in AAA.

This is where the Schwarber injury really hurts the Cubs.
   13. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 17, 2016 at 08:23 AM (#5222751)
You also kinda have to let the guy with a 69OPS+ and $184mil contract play it out.

The list of people worse than Soler right now is a bunch of has beens or never beens. He's really, really bad right now.
   14. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 17, 2016 at 10:32 AM (#5222815)
Is Addison Russell clutch?

No need to make up storylines, but he has had a few nice hits late this year.
   15. Andere Richtingen Posted: May 17, 2016 at 01:16 PM (#5222964)
The list of people worse than Soler right now is a bunch of has beens or never beens. He's really, really bad right now.

It's a question of what's going to work best for Soler's improvement. The Cubs are 27-9, so I am willing to look at this as a player development issue until it looks like it's hurting the team bottom line. They've done just fine with him sucking. Is he more likely to turn things around playing in AAA, or in the majors? Is there someone in the minors ready to take his place and do a better job?

I don't really have an answer to the first question. As I pointed out, despite the overall lack of productivity, he's shown steps forward in his approach at the plate. His bat is either slow or just late/missing -- that could be for a lot of reasons, and as far as I know no one has an answer as to why. What will he accomplish in AAA that will fix whatever the problem is? Are the Cubs better off bringing up Alcantara, Almora, or Kalish? I am seriously just asking these questions -- I don't have answers.
   16. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 17, 2016 at 01:37 PM (#5223026)
He'd get more consistent reps in the minors - he'd likely start every day and wouldn't be pulled for a defensive replacement. He had a good postseason run, but he wasn't great last year and his production has regressed even if there are some positive indicators (and there's plenty of negative too).

I trust Maddon - and Maddon has given him a vote of confidence. So if Maddon doesn't think it's a mental thing, I'm fine with that for now. There has to be a breaking point though, it's not getting better yet.
   17. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 17, 2016 at 02:35 PM (#5223124)
Sounds like Joe Nathan is this year's Rafael Soriano.
   18. bbmck Posted: May 17, 2016 at 02:57 PM (#5223140)
Under 70 OPS+ with 20+ G at LF/RF/1B/DH in 2016:

Player             OPSAge  Tm  PA
Logan Morrison       11  28 TBR  96
Peter Bourjos        37  29 PHI 113
Jorge Soler          43  24 CHC  99
Prince Fielder       43  32 TEX 158
Eddie Rosario        56  24 MIN 114

Desmond Jennings     56  29 TBR 104
Justin Upton         58  28 DET 161
Adam Lind            62  32 SEA 100
Kendrys Morales      63  33 KCR 152
Jason Heyward        69  26 CHC 149 


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/17/2016.

Same in 2015:

Player            OPSAge  Tm  PA
Marc Krauss         18  27 TOT  81
Coco Crisp          33  35 OAK 139
Kyle Parker         35  25 COL 112
Collin Cowgill      47  29 LAA  74
David Lough         50  29 BAL 144

Casey McGehee       50  32 TOT 258
Jake Elmore         52  28 TBR 158
Todd Cunningham     55  26 ATL  93
Ichiro Suzuki       56  41 MIA 438
Sam Fuld            57  33 OAK 325

Daniel Nava         57  32 TOT 166
Matthew Joyce       60  30 LAA 284
Mike Aviles         61  34 CLE 317
Ryan Rua            62  25 TEX  86
Tyler Moore         63  28 WSN 200

Michael Bourn       64  32 TOT 482
Matt Szczur         67  25 CHC  80
Shane Victorino     67  34 TOT 204
Brandon Barnes      68  29 COL 281
Garrett Jones       69  34 NYY 152
Kennys Vargas       69  24 MIN 184 


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/17/2016.
   19. The Honorable Ardo Posted: May 17, 2016 at 03:28 PM (#5223156)
Two areas of concern:

1) Corner outfield. Heyward is still a helpful player as is, but he can't bat 2nd in the order unless he gets his power stroke back; Zobrist should. We don't know whether a demotion would help or hurt Soler, but I do think a healthy Szczur should get most of the left field playing time. Yes, he was a non-prospect, but he's 26, at his athletic peak, a strong defensive OF, and should play as long as he keeps hitting well.

2) The bullpen. Joe likes to mix and match, but there's too many one-batter outings and relievers warming up excessively. Travis Wood is not suited to be a LOOGY, and the front office really needs to acquire one at some point.

The Cubs have allowed 26 home runs - 12 by the relief corps, despite pitching only about one-fourth of the team's innings.
   20. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 18, 2016 at 07:15 AM (#5223607)
Wrigley Field ‏@WrigleyBlog 9h9 hours ago
The Cubs at 10 losses the last 5 seasons:

2012 3-10
2013 5-10
2014 4-10
2015 13-10
2016 27-10
   21. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 18, 2016 at 07:15 AM (#5223608)
The bullpen. Joe likes to mix and match, but there's too many one-batter outings and relievers warming up excessively. Travis Wood is not suited to be a LOOGY, and the front office really needs to acquire one at some point.

Maybe Joe Nathan is going to learn to throw left handed?
   22. McCoy Posted: May 18, 2016 at 07:38 AM (#5223613)
Lost 4 of the last 6. Not liking it at all. RPG has dropped to 5.84. Allowed is up to 2.95.
   23. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: May 18, 2016 at 09:13 AM (#5223667)
It probably won't mean anything to the 2016 Cubs with Montero and Ross on the roster but I think I'm going to allow myself to get excited about Willson Contreras. He's putting up a .937 OPS in Iowa right now.
   24. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 18, 2016 at 10:46 AM (#5223762)
Oh, I'm very excited about Contreras. I'd expect him and Montero to split time close to 50/50 next year, with Contreras getting more and more as the year goes on. He's a guy that shouldn't be traded, save for Mike Trout or something else crazy like that.
   25. McCoy Posted: May 18, 2016 at 11:03 AM (#5223792)
Montero is going to be 33 next year, hasn't exactly stayed healthy in his old age, and hasn't exactly been hitting over the last 4 seasons. It could very well be Contreras, Schwarber, and Montero catching with Montero having the bulk of his playing time being in the first part of the season before he is cut/traded.
   26. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 18, 2016 at 11:12 AM (#5223808)
I think I'll be surprised if Schwarber catches again. Before the injury, I already thought the chances were pretty low that his one day a week catching was going to last all season (to piggy back onto a previous discussion, I bet Soler would already be in AAA if Schwarber were around to play everyday in LF). Contreras doing what he's doing only clinches that. After Montero finishes his contract, the Cubs will cycle through various veteran caddy types, in order to appease babyman Lester.
   27. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: May 18, 2016 at 11:44 AM (#5223840)
Oh, I'm very excited about Contreras. I'd expect him and Montero to split time close to 50/50 next year, with Contreras getting more and more as the year goes on.

Yeah, it's pretty fortunate timing on Contreras's part. Ross will be gone after this season and with Montero's last year being next season the Cubs will have no reluctance to make way for the younger player.
   28. Jerry Mumphrey Posted: May 18, 2016 at 12:05 PM (#5223863)
A few things:

Szczur isn't hurt. He strained his leg a little bit and already reported feeling better the next day. The Cubs took the opportunity to DL him for roster flexibility and because things were looking so peachy for the rest of offense anyway. Now that they've lost a few contests of late while the offense has gone into hiding they might want to rethink the value of playing the hot bat. But the whole thing is just another instance of a non-prospect getting no respect at the ML level, much like...

Tommy LaStella. He is a good pinch hitter because he is a good hitter. He should be getting most of Baez's playing time right now. I would trust LaStella's bat over Baez against a tough playoff pitcher any day.

Has anyone noticed what Welington Castillo has been doing lately? Whoops. Anyway, with Montero aging Schwarber will be a fine idea for catcher of the future (non-interleague). His defense is probably no worse there then anywhere else you choose to play him, and it is adequate with a good possibility of improvement. I know...what about the knees? Shouldn't be an issue after the rehab and a year off. That's like saying a pitcher shouldn't ever throw after having TJS.
   29. McCoy Posted: May 18, 2016 at 12:11 PM (#5223870)
Castillo could always hit. The issue with him was durability and defense.
   30. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 18, 2016 at 12:59 PM (#5223906)
Right, I think the Cubs are pretty happy with what Montero/Ross have done, especially defense and working with the pitchers. Ideally the Cubs would have traded him for Montero, or right around the same time, because the 3 catchers on the roster never worked and they ended up with nothing for him.

Szczur isn't hurt. He strained his leg a little bit and already reported feeling better the next day. The Cubs took the opportunity to DL him for roster flexibility and because things were looking so peachy for the rest of offense anyway.

I don't believe this at all. You think they really DL'd him so they could take a look at Kalish? Come on. Not to mention that they'd be so arrogant as you suggest.

Tommy LaStella. He is a good pinch hitter because he is a good hitter. He should be getting most of Baez's playing time right now. I would trust LaStella's bat over Baez against a tough playoff pitcher any day.

Let's not overreact to a hot streak. He's much more likely the .724OPS hitter we saw last year (which is still nice to have off the bench) than the .985 this year in limited ABs. He's also 27, so like Szczur, the upside is limited, even if they both have their uses. Baez's defense/baserunning really push him over the top, even if Baez never reaches his full potential.

Welcome though, we can always use new blood round these parts.
   31. McCoy Posted: May 18, 2016 at 01:04 PM (#5223914)
I'm fine with Montero on the team but don't think the Cubs should have gotten Ross I think Montero/Castillo would have been fine.
   32. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 18, 2016 at 01:15 PM (#5223933)
I agree. Though I've kinda bought into the veterany goodness magic Ross appears to bring a little. Not sure if it's enough to make up for that, or if signing him was a requirement to getting Lester or not.
   33. Jerry Mumphrey Posted: May 18, 2016 at 01:50 PM (#5223989)
Tommy LaStella. He is a good pinch hitter because he is a good hitter. He should be getting most of Baez's playing time right now. I would trust LaStella's bat over Baez against a tough playoff pitcher any day.

Let's not overreact to a hot streak. He's much more likely the .724OPS hitter we saw last year (which is still nice to have off the bench) than the .985 this year in limited ABs. He's also 27, so like Szczur, the upside is limited, even if they both have their uses. Baez's defense/baserunning really push him over the top, even if Baez never reaches his full potential.


I view playoff baseball as a different animal, much like playoff basketball is. When the chips are down and the defense intensifies, you really need guys who can, above all else, make shots (in basketball) or put the fat part of the bat on the ball (in baseball). I have seen this play out enough times in either sport. The offense will go completely dormant against a opponent's lock-down defense performing at its peak, and suddenly all the "intangibles" and "fundamentals" go out the window and what you really need are players who can do the basic thing really well under pressure. But then the Cubs show up with Alfonso Soriano and wonder why he keeps striking out against the league's best pitchers.
   34. McCoy Posted: May 18, 2016 at 01:59 PM (#5224002)
Well, to be fair everybody on the team from that era was sharting the bed come playoff time. I mean Zambrano had a good start in those series and Lee had a good second series but that was about it.

Cubs got swept last year in the NLCS but they were 4-5 overall and were 4-1 against the two teams with the best records in the NL. The Cubs looked to have improved since then. Anything can happen in a short series but there doesn't appear that the Cubs are fatally flawed for a playoff run anymore so than any other team would be put in a similar situation. Yeah, last year they rode the homer heavily, had a ton of strikeouts, and needed their pitchers to be really dominant but this year so far they are being more patient and appear to be a lot better all around than they were last year. Plus Baez wasn't doing to bad last year in the postseason when Maddon could pick his spots to use him in.
   35. Charles S. is not doing chainsaw bears any more Posted: May 18, 2016 at 02:09 PM (#5224018)
Baez did hit a big home run in the StL series last year, and LaStella was 0 for 10. That's a mighty small sample, but I don't see any evidence that LaStella would be better "when the chips are down".
   36. McCoy Posted: May 18, 2016 at 07:20 PM (#5224273)
Quoted because it is good.

114. Walt Davis Posted: May 18, 2016 at 06:29 PM (#5224259)
Hmmm ... Cub hijack and I don't have time to go through it all. Your 2016 Cubs:

C: trade for "overpriced" vet; sign personal C

1B: trade young cost-controlled SP for young cost-controlled 1B. Heaps of credit to Theo and Jed here as they've always liked Rizzo a lot and they were right.

2B: vet FA

SS: Great trade

3B: Reward for sucking; probably an ML-ready hitter on the day he was drafted, not really a development target

RF: young, big money FA

CF: initially a vet acquired by trade, then re-signed for 1 year

Soler/Baez/Schwarber/LaStella: all solid "rebuild" moves, Schwarber a bit like Bryant.

Arrieta: miracle

Lester: big-money vet FA

Lackey: medium-money vet FA

Hammel: "low"-money vet FA

Hendricks: trade and develop

Rondon: Great rule 5 pick ... what combo of luck, scouting, Bosio, etc. I don't know but big credit to Theo and Jed

Strop: water into wine kinda pales in comparison to bringing back the dead, but it's impressive

rest of bullpen: meh, mix of vet retreads, return for vet trades, kids from the minors.

Oh yeah, a $80 M increase in payroll over the last two years to $170 M total.

What I (not so much McCoy) was saying back in the day is that the Cubs couldn't rebuild quickly WITHOUT spending big on FA, vets, etc. That the miracle turn-around via farm system was a long process. That the Ricketts were cutting payroll (they were) and that it wasn't certain how much they'd spend when the time came (turns out quite a bit).

As it is, the Cubs now are a team that has the type of player that McCoy was pushing for at C, 2B, CF, 2 SPs and arguably RF (pricey but young). In terms of minor-leaguers that the Cubs have developed under Theo, the list is pretty good but not transformative -- Baez, Soler, Hendricks, Grimm, Ramirez. Players like that are not going to lead the Braves to contention.

As noted, Bryant and Schwarber were nearly finished products as batters when drafted ... and it's extremely unlikely at this point that Schwarber will become a starting C. The Cubs probably improved Bryant's defense at 3B in that 1.5 years but we may already be seeing him shifting to the OF (but maybe not if Schwarber returns healthy next year). And obviously Schwarber has nothing to do with the success of the 2016 Cubs so Bryant is the sole reward from stinking for 3 seasons.

So it's mainly been spending money and three awesome trades that has transformed the Cubs. Spending money to add talent quickly was what McCoy and I were advocating. Cub payroll in 2012 was $110 M. You think adding the 2012 equivalents of Lester, Heyward and Zobrist to that team towards 500? You don't think bringing in better filler than Joe Mather, Ian Stewart, Tony Campana, Chris Volstad, Shawn Camp, etc. doesn't push that team to 500? You think giving Rizzo the starting job from day 1 instead of keeping him down until his clock reset would have helped?

And none of that precludes trading Dempster, Garza, Samardzija, Feldman when the time comes if you're not in the hunt for a playoff spot.

Theo has done a great job. But the great job he's done is not a great job of drafting and developing and building from within which is what "the other side" was arguing back in the day. A big part of what I was saying was that, among guys like Baez, Alcantara, Almora, signings like Soler, guys we'd pick up in trade like Edwards, etc. ... that a lot of them wouldn't make it and that, even if they did, they probably wouldn't be truly productive until 2017 or so. OK, so Baez is productive now but who else?

So Theo got finished young products in Russell and Rizzo via trade and Bryant and Schwarber via high draft picks. Excellent job, man apparently knows how to spot finished talent. He's also spent a lot of money on Heyward, Zobrist, Lester, Lackey and Montero -- which has worked out well enough in the short term but not amazingly and hopefully Heyward, Zobrist and Lester will be productive for the next couple of years at least. (i.e. we certainly can't call any of those signings a mistake yet but Heyward hasn't hit and has a long way to go, Lester has been worth his money but has a long way to go, Zobrist and Lackey are just old and could go at any time.

Epstein's an outstanding GM. He also clearly decided that the way to get good fast was not to wait several years for 18 year-olds to develop but to find finished young players and spend money on vets. I certainly underestimated his ability to find finished young players and especially his ability to sucker other teams out of them. I also underestimated Ricketts' willingness to spend, especially before a big money TV contract is in place.

If anybody in 2012 was saying that THE PLAN was to find (not develop) 4 All-Star level, ML-ready position players in their early 20s and spend $170 M in 2016 while developing a 4th starter, a super utility guy and a couple of lower-level relievers ... major kudos to them.

But nobody was arguing that it's impossible to turn around a team in 5 years through a mix of spending a lot of money and a couple of high draft picks.
   37. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: May 18, 2016 at 10:12 PM (#5224352)
You think adding the 2012 equivalents of Lester, Heyward and Zobrist to that team towards 500?


The 2012 equivalent of Lester and Heyward were Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.
   38. McCoy Posted: May 18, 2016 at 10:33 PM (#5224375)
Well, not so much. There aren't a lot of good direct comparisons between the two classes. Buerhle might be the closest thing to a Lester and he was older and not quite as good as Lester. But Buerhle wouldn't have been a bad pickup. Heyward doesn't really have a comp. Zobrist? Being able to play everywhere is a bit of an issue for direct comp. Josh Willingham, maybe? But the thing of it is is that the Cubs wouldn't need to go after a first baseman with Rizzo around.
   39. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 19, 2016 at 04:58 AM (#5224576)
My response to Walt's post, also posted in the Braves thread:

Theo has done a great job. But the great job he's done is not a great job of drafting and developing and building from within which is what "the other side" was arguing back in the day. A big part of what I was saying was that, among guys like Baez, Alcantara, Almora, signings like Soler, guys we'd pick up in trade like Edwards, etc. ... that a lot of them wouldn't make it and that, even if they did, they probably wouldn't be truly productive until 2017 or so. OK, so Baez is productive now but who else?

So Theo got finished young products in Russell and Rizzo via trade and Bryant and Schwarber via high draft picks. Excellent job, man apparently knows how to spot finished talent. He's also spent a lot of money on Heyward, Zobrist, Lester, Lackey and Montero -- which has worked out well enough in the short term but not amazingly and hopefully Heyward, Zobrist and Lester will be productive for the next couple of years at least. (i.e. we certainly can't call any of those signings a mistake yet but Heyward hasn't hit and has a long way to go, Lester has been worth his money but has a long way to go, Zobrist and Lackey are just old and could go at any time.


I think this is a very biased interpretation of what happened in order to fit your side of the argument.

My biased interpretation:
24 of the 25 players on the current roster, and 32 of the 43* guys on the 40 man (that includes the 3 guys on 60day DL) were acquired by Thed. 8 of the current top 10 prospects by BA were acquired by Thed. The argument most of us made on the "other" side were that the Cubs needed a full tear down and rebuild, top to bottom, including the player development process. Which is what they did. We also said it was pointless to sign guys like Pujols, Fielder, CJ Wilson, Josh Willingham, etc that would barely have moved the needle and who'd be currently dead money against the current team (with the Jackson contract - easily Thed's biggest mistake to date - the Cubs have shown they could carry some). I am glad the "Ricketts is cheap" part of the argument has been proven wrong, which is something I was against from the beginning (not you, but he was compared to the Wilpons repeatedly). The argument was that the goal should be to build a team that would compete for an extended period of time, not just the Hendry model of trying to plug holes and hope for the best***. The idea wasn't that the team would be solely built through the draft, but that you had to build an organization from the bottom up so that you could have sustained success, the ability to plug holes from within by promotions or trade, and to spend strategically where needed.

As for the acquiring vs developing players - where you conveniently hand wave away the 4 most important prospects they acquired - is going to be a matter of interpretation. I don't think there's such a thing as a "finished" product. Rizzo was coming off a 51OPS+ season in SD, he was most definitely not a sure thing. Addison Russell had 70PAs above A ball when he was acquired. I don't recall anyone saying Schwarber's bat was a guarantee - he was an overdraft, underslot signing at the 4th pick. Bryant is the most debatable, but even you've conceeded the work on his defense**, and it's hard to know exactly how much of his time in the minors was development vs contract control games (at least half his first season was likely legit development).

Essentially, Thed has done exactly what they said they'd do. They've built up the system, they've spent money when they felt it was right, and they've built a great team and a good system. Who know what the team would look like had they taken a different path to get here, could be better (I don't know how, but maybe there would have been fewer losses in '12-'14), could be worse, but it'd be different. I don't have any major complaints about the spot they're in, and I bought in early, so obviously I'm pleased where things stand. I readily admit the amount of luck that's gone into this, but that's true of every successful team. It's having a good enough group to take advantage of that luck and not waste it (like the Angels are doing with Trout right now).

I think a legit criticism of this process is they've completely, or near completely, failed on developing the pitching side to the extent they've had to put a lot more resources in FA pitching (and a shitton of luck with Arrieta). Even now, there's really no one close to contributing (Edwards is closest, but his impact would be minimal at this point). If they can acquire a young, cost controlled pitcher, it's likely going to cost a lot on the prospect side.

*Those leftover include Baez/Vogelbach from the 2011 draft (which was after Hendry was fired, but before he was let go), Beeler from the 2010 draft, int'l FA signings: Contreras, Alcantana, Villenueva (all from 2009), and Rosscup who also came over in the Garza deal. So like 98% of the production from the 2015/2016 teams.
**He's playing a lot of LF because of Schwarber's injury and Soler's ineptitude. It also helps that they have 2 backup IFs that are worth playing, as opposed to no legit OFs right now.
***That most definitely undersells Hendry. But considering how little is left of what built here, it would appear to confirm it was all going to collapse on its own eventually.
   40. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 19, 2016 at 05:04 AM (#5224577)
The 2012 equivalent of Lester and Heyward were Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.

2016 Heyward is 26, 2012 Pujols/Fielder were 32/28. Fielder was on the fast path to a full-time DH, so he was always going to be a mistake for an NL team.

Regardless, signing Lester/Heyward when they did also fit the team, and the team's needs, much more so than either of those. I don't think the 2012 Cubs could have signed Heyward/Zobrist, both talked about wanting to be on this team right now, and both took less guaranteed money to do so. Lester took a big leap of faith (and the biggest offer). All of the make a lot to a significantly lot less than those guys.

Look at the deals those guys got in 2012 (Fielder $214mil guaranteed, Pujols $240mil + $100mil personal services deal) and then assume the Cubs have to beat those deals to sign those guys. Who wants either of those contracts? How much of a difference would either of them made? Of course, considering what Heyward's done so far, it's not exactly a shining counter to that point.
   41. McCoy Posted: May 19, 2016 at 09:50 AM (#5224606)
I think the point that keeps getting ignored is that almost any FA picked up in 2012 could have been traded in 2012 or later and that a rebuild from the bottom up could have happened even with a FA splurge in 2012.

In terms of the 2016 team about the only player on it that the Cubs might not have on the major league roster is Bryant if they had gone a different route in 2012.
   42. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 19, 2016 at 10:15 AM (#5224624)
That's a pretty big piece not to have. That won't be true next year or the year after (or maybe even this year). Perhaps Maddon doesn't come to the Cubs without the promise of the young guys. Same for Lester. Or who knows - it's completely unknowable.

I get that you guys are always going to feel the way you do about the rebuild - and same for at least me on the other side - but I can't look at this team and system now and think "I wish it had happened differently." It's the butterfly effect - sure they could have maybe signed Fielder, and then maybe traded him later. But they wouldn't have Rizzo, they could have Kinsler instead, so they wouldn't have Zobrist, etc etc. Pujols wasn't traded, neither was Wilson. Bad contracts are bad contracts, even if you move them you're usually getting more crap back and who knows what moves those could have pre-empted. The specifics don't really matter to me, because it's all hypothetical anyway. But there's very little I'd want to change about the 2015 team or the team today.

I understand trying to deconstruct a strategy by the end results, I think the way Walt broke it down misses the point of the strategy. It surely would be a much different conversation if Arrieta didn't happen, Rizzo busted, etc.
   43. Charles S. is not doing chainsaw bears any more Posted: May 19, 2016 at 10:23 AM (#5224633)
In terms of the 2016 team about the only player on it that the Cubs might not have on the major league roster is Bryant if they had gone a different route in 2012.
Unless those free agent signings in 2012 give you the illusion of contending (and if they don't why bother). With the illusion of contending in 2013, you don't have Strop, Arrieta or Hendricks. With the illusion of contending in 2014, you don't have Russell. If you sign Fielder or Pujols, you might be tempted to trade Rizzo in 2013 or 2014. And then, do you have the money (or the willingness) and the cache to acquire Heyward, Zobrist and Lackey? I'm not sure I buy your contention that a splurged-upon free agent in 2012 could easily have been traded for anything worth a damn without eating a good a large chunk of the money.

We'll never know the answers, but I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the Cubs rebuild in a way that I had not seen since moving to Chicago in 1984. Sure there were a lot of losses, but tracking the progress of the minor leaguers, of the new additions, and finally seeing it all come together, that's what makes being a sports fan fun.
   44. Chicago Joe Posted: May 19, 2016 at 10:32 AM (#5224638)
Of course, considering what Heyward's done so far, it's not exactly a shining counter to that point.


Even so, Heyward is 30 mil cheaper with a contract end date at age 33.
Fielder: +30, ends at age 36. 10.0 bwar this far.
Pujols: +60, ends at age 41. Maybe +160, depending on how you count the additional money. 11.1 bwar thus far.
   45. Kiko Sakata Posted: May 19, 2016 at 10:59 AM (#5224660)
I think the point that keeps getting ignored is that almost any FA picked up in 2012 could have been traded in 2012 or later and that a rebuild from the bottom up could have happened even with a FA splurge in 2012.

In terms of the 2016 team about the only player on it that the Cubs might not have on the major league roster is Bryant if they had gone a different route in 2012.


I can't believe we're still having this conversation. Theo had a plan. He executed that plan about as well as it's possible for a human being to execute a plan (i.e., everybody signs an Edwin Jackson at some point in their life).

But this statement is trying way too hard to have it both ways. The Cubs don't have Kyle Hendricks without being terrible in 2012. The Cubs don't have Jake Arrieta or Pedro Strop without being terrible in 2013. The Cubs don't have Addison Russell without being terrible in 2014.

If you're arguing that doing it some alternate way could have still landed you Hendricks, Arrieta, Strop, and Russell, then you're conceding that the Cubs would have still been sellers at the trade deadlines in 2012, 2013, and 2014. So, how is that a better plan than the one that Theo executed?
   46. Brian C Posted: May 19, 2016 at 11:16 AM (#5224668)
So, how is that a better plan than the one that Theo executed?

More and more, I think this whole argument comes down to simple payroll. Some people just don't want to see a big market team like the Cubs with a small payroll. Losing with a big payroll seems to be fine - it means at least you tried.

At this point, it's all I've got. This argument was wearying already in 2013 and like you, I'm amazed it keeps getting dredged up. And in ever-sillier forms, at that.
   47. bbmck Posted: May 19, 2016 at 11:45 AM (#5224690)
Using Teixeira as a baseline who is on pace for 0 WAR in the final year of his contract which would make it $8.5mil per WAR for the entire contract, how much WAR (pitching only for pitchers) in the remainder of active $150mil+ contracts players need to end up at $8.5mil per WAR, I discounted A-Rod $20mil for the suspension forget exactly how it worked out with the eligible for spring training thing:

33.7: Giancarlo Stanton, $325,000,000 (2015-27)
28.2: Miguel Cabrera, $248,000,000 (2016-23)
25.7: David Price, $217,000,000 (2016-22)
24.5: Zack Greinke, $206,500,000 (2016-21)
21.3: Jason Heyward, $184,000,000 (2016-23)

20.6: Stephen Strasburg, $175,000,000 (2017-23)
17.7: Prince Fielder, $214,000,000 (2012-20)
17.7: Chris Davis, $161,000,000 (2016-22)
17.4: Joey Votto, $225,000,000 (2014-23)
16.8: Max Scherzer, $210,000,000 (2015-21)

16.3: Robinson Cano, $240,000,000 (2014-23)
14.9: Albert Pujols, $240,000,000 (2012-21)
14.1: Matt Kemp, $160,000,000 (2012-19)
13.3: Jon Lester, $155,000,000 (2015-20)
12.8: Justin Verlander, $180,000,000 (2013-19)

11.9: Jacoby Ellsbury, $153,000,000 (2014-20)
10.6: Masahiro Tanaka, $155,000,000 (2014-20)
7.5: Clayton Kershaw, $215,000,000 (2014-20)
6.2: Joe Mauer, $184,000,000 (2011-18)
5.4: Alex Rodriguez, $255,000,000 (2008-17)

3.3: Felix Hernandez, $175,000,000 (2013-19)
2.5: Buster Posey, $167,000,000 (2013-21)
2.1: Adrian Gonzalez, $154,000,000 (2012-18)
0.1: Mark Teixeira, $180,000,000 (2009-16)
-1.8: Troy Tulowitzki, $157,750,000 (2011-20)
   48. McCoy Posted: May 19, 2016 at 03:23 PM (#5224896)
That's a pretty big piece not to have. That won't be true next year or the year after (or maybe even this year). Perhaps Maddon doesn't come to the Cubs without the promise of the young guys. Same for Lester. Or who knows - it's completely unknowable.

Bryant not being on the team is not a guarantee if they sign FA in 2012. Who will be on this team next year that wouldn't have been if the Cubs had signed FA in 2012?

Unless those free agent signings in 2012 give you the illusion of contending (and if they don't why bother). With the illusion of contending in 2013, you don't have Strop, Arrieta or Hendricks. With the illusion of contending in 2014, you don't have Russell. If you sign Fielder or Pujols, you might be tempted to trade Rizzo in 2013 or 2014. And then, do you have the money (or the willingness) and the cache to acquire Heyward, Zobrist and Lackey? I'm not sure I buy your contention that a splurged-upon free agent in 2012 could easily have been traded for anything worth a damn without eating a good a large chunk of the money.

What is the illusion of contending? Winning?

But this statement is trying way too hard to have it both ways. The Cubs don't have Kyle Hendricks without being terrible in 2012. The Cubs don't have Jake Arrieta or Pedro Strop without being terrible in 2013. The Cubs don't have Addison Russell without being terrible in 2014.

This is odd. If they try and it doesn't work then they aren't good in 2012 or 2013 or 2014. If they try and they are good what is the problem? What Walt wrote is that Theo has been very good at acquiring good major league talent. So because the Cubs are winning Theo is going to suddenly suck at spotting talent?


So, how is that a better plan than the one that Theo executed?


A)why does it have to be? b)more chits to trade and or more good players on the team now.

Walt's point in his post was that what we have now in 2015 and 2016 is largely a team built the way I wanted it built. It wasn't built the Rays way like a lot of people here wanted. People here right up until the Cubs actually did it didn't want the Cubs to spend money on FA. Right up until the Cubs did it people on this board were forever worrying about what the payroll was going to look like in 2020 instead of worrying about winning a WS now.
   49. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 20, 2016 at 05:00 AM (#5225186)
Bryant not being on the team is not a guarantee if they sign FA in 2012. Who will be on this team next year that wouldn't have been if the Cubs had signed FA in 2012?

Exactly on Bryant, that would be a big deal not to have him. Next year, Schwarber. Whenever (if) Happ makes the team (not saying next year, but eventually). Plus the other people 43, 45, etc listed.

What is the illusion of contending? Winning?

The illusion of contending is assuming the roster the Cubs had in 2011 plus a couple FAs (that all in retrospect turned out to be anywhere from mediocre to downright shitty, in a way confirming Thed's evaluation) would be good enough to make a playoff run in 2012. Or being just good enough you think you're only a piece or two away and sacrifice a piece that could help you down the line (such as, trading someone like Baez or Contreras to plug a rotation hole, aka Hendry's Garza trade; yes I realize trading either of those examples may not materially impact the 2016 team).

This is odd. If they try and it doesn't work then they aren't good in 2012 or 2013 or 2014. If they try and they are good what is the problem? What Walt wrote is that Theo has been very good at acquiring good major league talent. So because the Cubs are winning Theo is going to suddenly suck at spotting talent?

Yes, Theo's been very good. He thought they couldn't be good in 2012 and/or aiming to be really good 2015-2018 plus the chance of continuing to be good after that. So he decided to do what they did. You're trying to say he could have worked even more magic, if so, I think the onus is on you - with the benefit on hindsight - to go back to 2011/2012 and show us what he could have done that would made the Cubs better then without making them worse today. Look at the Angels over the Theo run - they spent big in FA that offseason, they won more games than the Cubs the last 4 seasons, had the one really good year but a bad playoff showing (#### happens, crapshoot, etc). They kept their payroll at a level the Cubs very well could have; would you trade the Cubs 2012-2017 for the Angels 2012-2017? That's including having Trout. I wouldn't, even without knowing how 2016/17 (or beyond) is going to go. I'm not saying you'd be wrong if you would prefer that, by the way. It's a philosophical question.

So, how is that a better plan than the one that Theo executed?

A)why does it have to be? b)more chits to trade and or more good players on the team now.


A. Because they're really f'in good now, and were last year, and should be again next year. B. Because it's hard to prove the Cubs could have more chits and more good players than they do now. If it were so easy, someone (not just Theo) would have done it.

Walt's point in his post was that what we have now in 2015 and 2016 is largely a team built the way I wanted it built. It wasn't built the Rays way like a lot of people here wanted. People here right up until the Cubs actually did it didn't want the Cubs to spend money on FA. Right up until the Cubs did it people on this board were forever worrying about what the payroll was going to look like in 2020 instead of worrying about winning a WS now.

If you really think the team now would be the same after the offseason you wanted back then, we just will never agree. It was never about not spending money, it was about spending money smartly and not adding bad contracts (which are not as easy to get rid of as you constantly say they are) that would have limited what the Cubs could have spent the last couple of offseasons. The idea has always been give the team as many chances at a WS as possible, not just hope to get lucky. You have to get lucky, but it's easier to get lucky if you're really good and have a bunch of chances at it.
   50. McCoy Posted: May 20, 2016 at 07:45 AM (#5225204)
Exactly on Bryant, that would be a big deal not to have him. Next year, Schwarber. Whenever (if) Happ makes the team (not saying next year, but eventually). Plus the other people 43, 45, etc listed.

Again, they could still have all the players they have now and then some while signing FA in 2012.


The illusion of contending is assuming the roster the Cubs had in 2011 plus a couple FAs (that all in retrospect turned out to be anywhere from mediocre to downright shitty, in a way confirming Thed's evaluation) would be good enough to make a playoff run in 2012. Or being just good enough you think you're only a piece or two away and sacrifice a piece that could help you down the line (such as, trading someone like Baez or Contreras to plug a rotation hole, aka Hendry's Garza trade; yes I realize trading either of those examples may not materially impact the 2016 team).

So then the illusion of winning is actually losing and somehow Theo would be incapable of looking at a standings page for 3 years?


Yes, Theo's been very good. He thought they couldn't be good in 2012 and/or aiming to be really good 2015-2018 plus the chance of continuing to be good after that. So he decided to do what they did. You're trying to say he could have worked even more magic, if so, I think the onus is on you - with the benefit on hindsight - to go back to 2011/2012 and show us what he could have done that would made the Cubs better then without making them worse today. Look at the Angels over the Theo run - they spent big in FA that offseason, they won more games than the Cubs the last 4 seasons, had the one really good year but a bad playoff showing (#### happens, crapshoot, etc). They kept their payroll at a level the Cubs very well could have; would you trade the Cubs 2012-2017 for the Angels 2012-2017? That's including having Trout. I wouldn't, even without knowing how 2016/17 (or beyond) is going to go. I'm not saying you'd be wrong if you would prefer that, by the way. It's a philosophical question.

I've already done it and done so numerous times. But again, every single player on this team today could be on this team even if the Cubs had signed FA in 2012 so onus to show something isn't very hard.

A. Because they're really f'in good now, and were last year, and should be again next year. B. Because it's hard to prove the Cubs could have more chits and more good players than they do now. If it were so easy, someone (not just Theo) would have done it.

a) and that wouldn't change because they did something different in 2012 b)how is it hard to prove? Either Theo signs players that are still producing to this day or he's traded them for players that would be. Your argument basically boils down to the view that Theo would suddenly cease being capable of doing things that he has shown he is capable of doing often and well.

It was never about not spending money, it was about spending money smartly and not adding bad contracts (which are not as easy to get rid of as you constantly say they are) that would have limited what the Cubs could have spent the last couple of offseasons.

The Cubs did have a bad contract FA and the Cubs are still here in the spot you like. The big 4 that I wanted either got traded off or could have been or would have been in the same category of Edwin Jackson (with the upside that they were good enough at one point to be able to trade). None of the guys I wanted had the potential to be a disaster like the Heyward signing has the potential to be.

It's absolutely silly to think that if Aramis Ramirez was on the team in 2012 the Cubs wouldn't be good in 2016.
   51. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 20, 2016 at 11:55 AM (#5225425)
I have a lot of time, and I think this has been pretty civil - and I plan to keep it that way - so I'll continue even if it's only us interested. I'm legit curious how this would look, so bear with me.

Again, they could still have all the players they have now and then some while signing FA in 2012.

Repeating something over and over doesn't make it true.

So then the illusion of winning is actually losing and somehow Theo would be incapable of looking at a standings page for 3 years?

He's done a good job of getting the team to where it is now. Is your argument he held back from doing a good job? To what end?

I've already done it and done so numerous times. But again, every single player on this team today could be on this team even if the Cubs had signed FA in 2012 so onus to show something isn't very hard.

I remember your proposals for 2011/12 FA - you emailed it to me so I could post it on this blog, but I'd lost the keys by then. I don't recall the other seasons, or you looking back to see what would have changed. For example, say the Cubs signed Fielder, what would they have done with him once he tanked? If they signed Fielder (or Pujols or kept Pena), would they have traded for Rizzo, or would the Padres have already dumped him on someone else? Let's assume the Rangers were still interested in Fielder and the Cubs got the exact same Kinsler deal, is Kinsler still on the team, or who'd they dump him for? Would they have traded Castro sooner, or bothered signing Zobrist this year? Had the Cubs signed a FA in 2012 (or kept Aramis), how many more games would they have won - 3? 6? 7? Cause passing each of those totals drops them down a draft slot - do the Rockies/Twins/Indians all pass on Bryant? I could go on; virtually every transaction that could have happened would have had an impact on another one. I don't think you or anyone can answer any of those questions with any certainty, so no, I completely disagree with the statement that the Cubs would be the same team today.

What about the Angels question? Would you trade spots with them?

Either Theo signs players that are still producing to this day or he's traded them for players that would be. Your argument basically boils down to the view that Theo would suddenly cease being capable of doing things that he has shown he is capable of doing often and well.

No, my argument boils down to Theo spending money on the bust that was FA in 11/12 is that his job would have been much harder to make the team as good as it is today, because of how bad almost all of those contracts ended up being. Again, you can't magically make Prince Fielder's $214mil contract (which probably would have actually been for even more) just disappear. Which of those deals, with the benefit of hindsight, would you have liked? Buerhle? Aramis?

The Cubs did have a bad contract FA and the Cubs are still here in the spot you like.

That's one contract, and it was a terrible contract. But $52mil for Edwin (and eating half of it completely) doesn't compare to the other ones.

Con't in next post.
   52. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 20, 2016 at 11:59 AM (#5225427)
The big 4 that I wanted either got traded off or could have been or would have been in the same category of Edwin Jackson (with the upside that they were good enough at one point to be able to trade). None of the guys I wanted had the potential to be a disaster like the Heyward signing has the potential to be.

Let’s evaluate this. Here, I'm quoting you from 2011:

The final payroll question.
Okay, so let us say they sign one of the big first basemen and Jose Reyes
and CJ Wilson and they bring back Aramis Ramirez. What does that make next
year's payroll? Well, obviously they can manipulate those contracts anyway
they want and with the salaries coming off the book after next year they'll
have tons of space. I wouldn't be surprised if the 3 FA salaries for next
year come to 40 to 45 million dollars. If so and they bring back Aramis then
payroll should be around 145 to 150 million dollars next year.

The record question.
If they get those three FA I think the Cubs will have at least a 15 game
turn around next year. Provided of course they stay healthy. If either
Dempster or Zambrano or both of them bounce back a bit next year it could be
a 20 to 25+ game bounce back. If the Cubs don't go whole hog into the FA
market next year I doubt they'll have a winning record in 2012.


First, whether or not they were disasters. Both Pujols and Fielder are almost fulltime DH now (Pujols less so). Fielder’s contract is for $30mil more than Heyward’s (and goes for 4 more years past this one), Pujols’s is for $56mil more (or $156mil if you include the personal services part, and goes for 5 years after 2016). Both can somewhat be considered disasters right now (Fielder is one the people hitting worse than Heyward today). Rizzo has been better than both (and significantly cheaper) so far and will be for most likely the rest of those 2 guys deals. Yes, Fielder was traded, but the Tigers had to take back Kinsler’s $75mil deal *and* pay $30mil (IOW, $105mil total, which is more than twice as much as Zobrist’s deal); Kinsler has rebounded somewhat, but is likely to not produce as much as Zobrist (and Kinsler is signed for 1 more year). So with Pujols, you don’t get Rizzo and you owe him $265mil more (so more than Heyward, Zobrist and Lackey combined); with Fielder, you’re also not getting Rizzo and if you deal him for Kinsler you’re not getting Zobrist and you have to find another 1b. I’d say signing either of them on their own would have been a total disaster for the Cubs, much more so than worst case scenario for Heyward (because in total, the Cubs would be paying a lot more for less total production). I haven’t even talked about production (I’ll get to that for 2012 later). Both have full no trade clauses, so your trade options are limited, and I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say no one is taking on Pujols’s deal right now (or at any point since it was signed).

If you sign Reyes to his 6yr/$106mil deal (against, more than twice Edwin Jackson’s deal), you can’t trade for Kinsler to dump Fielder unless you trade Castro (which could have been possible, depending on when you trade him; in the version with Aramis on the Cubs); the Marlins were able to dump him (and a bunch else) for a bunch of prospects (they turned out to be nothing as of yet for them), the Blue Jays then dumped him (because he’s hurt and not good) for Tulo (which meant taking on even more money back). The Rockies today would call Reyes’ contract a disaster. But since he’s been moved twice, maybe he doesn’t become a disaster for the Cubs, maybe.

Wilson signed for 5/$75. He’s been hurt/not great, but clearly better than Jackson. I’d call him a minor disaster (after 2012), but around the same level as Jackson in total. Angels never moved him, but he mostly likely pre-empts the Cubs signing Jackson (so that’s a good thing).

Aramis was a pretty good deal – and the Cubs got jackshit out of 3b for most of his tenure in Milwaukee (Valbuena was a nice scrap piece though, and I’d guess without regular playing time – which he wouldn’t have gotten if the Cubs had some combo of Aramis/Reyes/Kinsler/Castro, so he wouldn’t have been enough on his own to get Fowler). Not a disaster overall, though obvious huge decline problem (maybe he moves to 1b if you move Fielder for Kinsler, and you're now looking for a 3b).

If the Cubs signed Fielder (picking him over Pujols since he’s cheaper overall, but sub in Pujols if you’d like; 12/13 are cheaper, 14/15/16 same, 17 on more expensive), Reyes, Wilson, Ramirez, but not Jackson, their payroll would have been $49mil higher in 2012 - you nailed that (so $160mil, give or take the roster spots not taken by the guys the FA replaces), $41mil higher in 2013 ($148mil, assuming no other adds – which they would have needed), $61mil higher in 2014 ($153mil or $59mil if sub Kinsler for Fielder) and the 2015 payroll without adding Lester/Hammel/Montero/Fowler is exactly the same as the actual $120mil (so add all of those guys and its $190mil, excluding Rizzo). Add this year’s FA and the Cubs payroll could be $228mil (less Rizzo’s $7mil).

Maybe the Cubs could afford all that. But that’s a lot of dead money, and that doesn’t even try to balance the roster appropriately.

As for the 2nd part of your claim from way back – those 4 FA being worth 15 wins over 2011, Fielder had 4.7WAR (Pujols 4.8), Reyes 2.9, Wilson 0.7, Aramis 5.5; the Cubs filled those spots with Rizzo/Lahair 2.2/0.1, Barney 4.6, Maholm/Volstad 1.6/-1.7 Valbeuna/Stewart 0.4/0; this is very quick, dirty and has plenty of room for tweaking (like the Cubs likely also have better bench players, bullpen, etc) that’s a net of about 7 WAR. Cubs won 61 (pythag of 65), being generous with the pen and bench doesn’t get you to 80 wins, IOW not a competitor. 2013 is almost impossible to realistically even hash out this analysis.

I can see tons of ways the 2016 is worse after all this, I can’t see any that it’s as good or better. Feel free to prove me wrong. If they’re in bad as 2012 after those signings as this makes it look, perhaps they still trade away everyone – Garza, Dempster, Maholm, Hammel. Samardzija – and get the same prospects – but they don’t have Rizzo (thanks to Fielder or Pujols signing), they don’t have Bryant (the extra wins pushed them to a lower pick) and probably not Schwarber (residual effect of the extra 2012 wins also meaning a few more in 2013), they definitely don’t have Zobrist (currently, that would be bad, maybe in 4 years would be a positive), almost definitely don’t have Heyward (currently, that’s a good thing), maybe don’t have Lester (they probably sign another SP somewhere in here, but for less money and maybe not as good). They’re stuck with at least one of those FAs still (or someone equally overpaid), most likely 2 or 3, and you are hoping to replace Rizzo/Bryant/Zobrist production with something you get back for those 2012 FA signings or even more FA signings or trading other prospects (so unknown). I don’t know. I think this though process would confirm Thed was right to sit out 2012, which in a way probably makes the path they took the most likely best way to contention in 2015/2016/etc.
   53. Charles S. is not doing chainsaw bears any more Posted: May 20, 2016 at 12:09 PM (#5225438)
Well said, Moses. Far more work than I was willing to do on the subject.
   54. McCoy Posted: May 20, 2016 at 01:04 PM (#5225512)
Is your argument he held back from doing a good job? To what end?

No. I think he's done a good job. He's basically did what I asked of him. A couple off years laters but he still did it.



What about the Angels question? Would you trade spots with them?

As in have Mike Trout and be willing to spend money? Yes.
   55. McCoy Posted: May 20, 2016 at 01:08 PM (#5225517)
For the first basemen I said the Cubs should make a play on one of them in October of 2011. I also said at various times that they should only do it if the price was reasonable and when the price was going up and up and I no longer thought the price was reasonable.
   56. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 21, 2016 at 08:48 AM (#5225860)
Ok, I thought you'd have more disagreements.

For the first basemen I said the Cubs should make a play on one of them in October of 2011. I also said at various times that they should only do it if the price was reasonable and when the price was going up and up and I no longer thought the price was reasonable.

It should have been obvious from the start - and I believe multiple people said so - it wasn't like the price was ever going to be reasonable. I don't think it's realistic to say the Cubs should have (or even could have) signed either Fielder/Pujols to a reasonable deal, or any reasonable, realistic deal, that would not be a complete disaster right now. Which is why it is clear they did the right thing.

As in have Mike Trout and be willing to spend money? Yes.

I think that oversimplifies the Angels' situation, but ok. I absolutely would not trade spots with them.
   57. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 21, 2016 at 08:51 AM (#5225861)
Maddon on Soler:

"I don't care about the home run at all," Maddon said. "It has nothing to do with how excited I am right now. Everything else I saw, I saw a major league baseball player out there. That's what got me excited.

"How about how he ran the bases? When he came in after scoring one run, I wanted him to know that's how you run the bases."

Maddon was downright giddy because he's hoping the message is finally getting through. We saw things from Soler we haven't seen much of. Tracking fly balls, swinging at strikes and running the bases properly are exactly what Heyward does when he's at his best. Can Soler get there? That's the question on everyone's mind.

"I want to believe he understands what we're talking about," Maddon said. "He went out and did it. That's the kind of mental effort that can make him a superstar."


Obviously Maddon completely disagrees with me, so I hope I'm wrong.
   58. McCoy Posted: May 21, 2016 at 10:17 AM (#5225877)
Ok, I thought you'd have more disagreements.


There isn't much to disagree on when the entire premise of your post rested on getting someone I didn't want on the team.

I think that oversimplifies the Angels' situation, but ok. I absolutely would not trade spots with them.

Coming off of 2011? Angels had Trout, Segura, and Richards as the youth. Kendrick & Aybar had breakthrough seasons. Trumbo was looking useful. Torii being Torii but with a year left. Vernon is on the team but the Angels would unload him by taking on 42 million of his salary through 2014. Haren for another season, Weaver looking great, and Santana looking good. The team quite correctly figured they were in the win now mode and looked to be good for a few years. Were they supposed to dismantle at that point?

The Angels would win 89 games in 2012 and 98 games in 2014. Last year they missed the WC by one game.
   59. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: May 21, 2016 at 10:35 AM (#5225883)
If the Cubs have to DL Heyward, would it be totally crazy to bring up Almora for a look? Move Fowler to left and Soler to right. Also bring up Sz... and get rid of Timmy.
   60. McCoy Posted: May 21, 2016 at 10:59 AM (#5225891)
Whatever they do they better do it quick because if Heyward can't go today that leaves the Cubs with two guys on the bench that aren't catchers. Granted Ross isn't hitting like a backup catcher right now but the point remains the same.

At this point I'd put Heyward on the DL, send Timmy! down and bring up Almora and Vogelbach. I know he'd be severely limited in his play but I'd love to have that bat off the bench.
   61. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 21, 2016 at 11:01 AM (#5225892)
There isn't much to disagree on when the entire premise of your post rested on getting someone I didn't want on the team.

Are you talking about Heyward? Because that is absolutely not the premise of my post. The premise of my post is to contradict the following comments from you: a) "they could still have all the players they have now and then some while signing FA in 2012. " and b) "The big 4 that I wanted either got traded off or could have been or would have been in the same category of Edwin Jackson (with the upside that they were good enough at one point to be able to trade). None of the guys I wanted had the potential to be a disaster like the Heyward signing has the potential to be. "

Coming off of 2011?

No, I never said coming off 2011. Now. I said "would you trade the Cubs 2012-2017 for the Angels 2012-2017?" I asked that because the Angels took the path you wanted the Cubs to take, plus they already had Trout (who obviously was much, much, much better than anything on the Cubs roster/system in 2011). The Angels essentially are the bizzaro Cubs on the McCoy 2012 plan, down to signing 2 of the exact players you wanted for the Cubs.
   62. McCoy Posted: May 21, 2016 at 11:04 AM (#5225894)
On a side note who the hell is Negron and why oh why isn't he the guy up instead of Timmy!?

Realistic me would be Kalish and Almora.
   63. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 21, 2016 at 11:05 AM (#5225895)
At this point I'd put Heyward on the DL, send Timmy! down and bring up Almora and Vogelbach. I know he'd be severely limited in his play but I'd love to have that bat off the bench.

I'd strongly consider bringing up Almora, but only if he's going to play virtually everyday. I like what Vogelbach is doing, but the Cubs don't play in an AL park until 7/15, and I don't see what good he is only getting PH ABs (or how that's good for his development). If Szczur is ready, bring up him and Almora. I could totally get behind that.

Cubs should bring up Vogelbach to DH like they did with Schwarber last year though. I totally agree with that.

Also, DFA Richard and bring up Edwards if Joe insists on an 8 man pen. Then put Edwards on the AAA shuttle as you need or don't need that extra arm. Using Kalish or Negron (he had an ok spring, but that's all I know about him) or whatever as the other guy on the shuttle.
   64. McCoy Posted: May 21, 2016 at 11:07 AM (#5225897)
Are you talking about Heyward? Because that is absolutely not the premise of my post.

No. Fielder.

No, I never said coming off 2011. Now. I said "would you trade the Cubs 2012-2017 for the Angels 2012-2017?" I asked that because the Angels took the path you wanted the Cubs to take, plus they already had Trout (who obviously was much, much, much better than anything on the Cubs roster/system in 2011). The Angels essentially are the bizzaro Cubs on the McCoy 2012 plan, down to signing 2 of the exact players you wanted for the Cubs.

I would trade the Cubs 2012 through 2015 for the Angels potential of 2012 through 2015.

Yes the Angels are the failure side of my plan* but the 2015 and 2016 Cubs are the success side of my plan.


*Again, they won 98 games one season and had three winning seasons in 4 years.
   65. McCoy Posted: May 21, 2016 at 11:53 AM (#5225918)
In other news Starlin Castro has crossed below the 100 OPS+ line. He's got a .280/.359 line in his last 37 games. At this point I don't think he'll stick around long enough to be Edgar Renteria light.
   66. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: May 22, 2016 at 05:24 AM (#5226320)
No. Fielder.

Pujols' contract is much, much worse! How is the Pujols contract on the Cubs right now not an absolute disaster and roster killer? I gave the Pujols numbers too, so the post still applies. I quoted you expecting either him or Pujols on the team; with your "reasonable" contract caveat, Fielder obviously (and actually) signed for much less so the Pujols deal makes that analysis ever more detrimental for the Cubs. Here's more from that email/post:

I believe the Cubs will make a run at Prince and Albert this offseason but
both come with question marks and worries due to the amount and length they
will end up getting. I think the Cubs will land one of them. With Albert you
just hope that Theo can build a winning team around him fast enough so that
Albert isn't in decline by the time they start getting good. With Prince you
hope he doesn't eat his way out of the lineup before they get good.


So even then you saw the disaster potential with signing either guy - and both came true. If you really didn't want him, you never said that. But it really doesn't change the point of the analysis; you said none of the 4 FA you wanted would have been a disaster. Regardless, both Fielder and Pujols are complete disasters; Pujols the worse of the 2. Add that to the other contracts, and again, the Cubs are still digging out of that hole - like the Angels right now.

I would trade the Cubs 2012 through 2015 for the Angels potential of 2012 through 2015.

Yes the Angels are the failure side of my plan* but the 2015 and 2016 Cubs are the success side of my plan.


That wasn't the question. Would you trade 2012-2017? Because 2016/2017 are direct results and completely linked to 2012-2014 (as I laid out in posts 51/52.

*Again, they won 98 games one season and had three winning seasons in 4 years.

They made the playoffs once - and were swept - they were the 2007-2009 Cubs essentially. Of course, playoffs are a crapshot - and the Cubs aren't guaranteed anything in 16/17. That 98 win team had holes (like the 2008 Cubs), and were backed into a corner due to bad contracts and a system that couldn't plug those holes directly or via trade the next couple of seasons, and have yet to get out (kinda like the 2009-10 Cubs). So sure, they almost made the playoffs a couple more times, but they're not making the playoffs this year (admittedly, injuries are a big, big reason for that) and are unlikely to make the playoffs next year (this year's FA class sucks, and they have no prospects left to trade). Which is how they're different than the 15/16 Cubs.

Yes the Angels are the failure side of my plan* but the 2015 and 2016 Cubs are the success side of my plan.

The entirety of my post 52 is why I completely disagree with that statement. The fact that the Angels only made the playoffs once, and are a mess right now, in spite of this generation's greatest talent, is the exact reason your suggested plan was a failure.

In other news Starlin Castro has crossed below the 100 OPS+ line. He's got a .280/.359 line in his last 37 games. At this point I don't think he'll stick around long enough to be Edgar Renteria light.

He's bounced back before, several times. I'll always root for him, but I do think the Cubs moved on at the right time.
   67. McCoy Posted: May 22, 2016 at 07:16 AM (#5226326)
Pujols' contract is much, much worse! How is the Pujols contract on the Cubs right now not an absolute disaster and roster killer? I gave the Pujols numbers too, so the post still applies. I quoted you expecting either him or Pujols on the team; with your "reasonable" contract caveat, Fielder obviously (and actually) signed for much less so the Pujols deal makes that analysis ever more detrimental for the Cubs. Here's more from that email/post:

I didn't want Pujols either!

So even then you saw the disaster potential with signing either guy - and both came true. If you really didn't want him, you never said that.

I've said it for years now. I wanted either one at reasonable contract exactly because I didn't think either would age well and be worth the contract. In Pujols case I didn't think he would decline immediately only that an 8 to 10 year mega contract would look pretty bad in 4 years or so. Again, the post you are quoting as scripture was from October and written while the WS was going on. The bidding for FA hadn't started yet. Once it did and it became clear that Pujols was going to get big money and that Fielder wanted big money I didn't advocate going in for either. If Pujols had signed for 500 million over 15 years that doesn't mean I'm advocating signing Pujols at 500 million+ over 15 years.

That wasn't the question. Would you trade 2012-2017? Because 2016/2017 are direct results and completely linked to 2012-2014 (as I laid out in posts 51/52.

That's a silly proposition in my eyes. We know the past and the future is unknown. In 2011 every Cub fan would have taken the Angels over the Cubs and that probably remains true all the way through to 2014. It is also silly because if the Angels retool and win it all in 2018 or 2019 while the Cubs go to a few playoffs, never win it all, and slump back down then, hey, the Angels way becomes better again. But here is the thing, the Angels didn't have an "illusion of contending". They actually did contend and won more games than the Cubs ever did so far. The Angels like the Cubs had a chance to win it all one season. That's pretty great. They made some mistakes along the way that have put them in a rough spot now but the same can be said about the Cubs and the future. The Cubs are banking on success now and in the near future. 2018 or 2019 could be really ugly for the Cubs both in terms of wins and in terms of payroll. The Cubs are going to be handing out 62.5 million dollars to Zobrist, Heyward, and Lester in 2018 and their combined WAR could be something like 2 that year. Arrieta could be gone, Soler could be a flop and still owed 4 million, and the Cubs could be sitting at 200 million dollars in payroll and limited as to what they can do.

The entirety of my post 52 is why I completely disagree with that statement. The fact that the Angels only made the playoffs once, and are a mess right now, in spite of this generation's greatest talent, is the exact reason your suggested plan was a failure.

And yet the Cubs are having great success* with my plan as well. The Angels are largely a "mess" right now not because they signed CJ Wilson and Albert Pujols but because they failed on multiple other fronts. This Cub team wasn't built through the draft. It was built largely via trades and free agent acquisitions.



*Well, like the Angels they've had only 1 playoff appearance and they have had only 1 winning season to the Angels 3.
   68. McCoy Posted: May 22, 2016 at 08:11 AM (#5226330)
27. McCoy Posted: December 06, 2011 at 09:33 PM (#4008527)
Supposedly Rosenthal has the Cubs saying they won't do 9 or 10 years for Albert and I am quite happy with that stance.


31. McCoy Posted: October 27, 2011 at 06:38 PM (#3977106)
. . .

If you can get it, and you can't, I'd take Prince on a 6 year deal. . .

   69. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: May 29, 2016 at 10:46 AM (#5231567)
Continuing with the "What CYA winner do the Cubs starters in aggregate resemble today?" theme, I give you Steve Carlton 1980:

Cubs: 27-10 2.52 161 ERA+ 300 IP 279 K 84 BB 1.012 WHIP 7.6 WAR

Lefty: 24-9 2.34 162 ERA+ 304 IP 286 K 86 BB 1.095 WHIP 10.2 WAR

Not sure why the large discrepancy in WAR. Cubs have allowed 90 runs total, Lefty 87 so that's some. I'm guessing the Cubs have better D, so a penalty there as well. Anyway, not a bad comp.
   70. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: May 29, 2016 at 12:17 PM (#5231599)
Miserlou: nice!

The Cubs are 78-32 (.709) in their last 110 regular season games.
   71. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: May 29, 2016 at 12:29 PM (#5231604)
The Cubs are 78-32 (.709) in their last 110 regular season games.

So, even if you throw out the Arrieta games, they are still 55-32 (.632). Which is still a 102-60 pace. If you ignore the Arrieta games.

Jeepers.
   72. McCoy Posted: May 29, 2016 at 01:16 PM (#5231618)
Cubs are 105-57 in their last 162 regular season games. They've also won 151 games out of their last 250 regular season games.

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