Wednesday, December 21

Jones-ing for a real RF


This definitely shook the cobwebs off an otherwise turgid week of Cubs news, as the team announced the signing of bells-and-whistles FA Jacque Jones to a 3-year, $16 million deal in Chi-town.

What are we thinking?

Jacque Jones is:

1. In decline
Despite career numbers of .279 BA/.327 OBP/.782 OPS, Jones has posted two mediocre seasons back-to-back in 2004 and 2005.

2002: .300/.341/.852
2003: .304/.333/.797
2004: .254/.315/.742
2005: .249/.319/.757

It's a troubling drop-off between '03 and '04, and I worry greatly about what sort of offense he is likely to provide somewhere in the middle of the lineup. I cannot imagine him towards the top of the batting order given low SB totals and generally average speed.

2. A touch of clutch
One of his wild-card features is his hitting in clutch situation. Despite those low BA stats over the past 2 seasons, he has a reasonable .281 BA with RISPs, and a .275 mark with 2-out RISPs. Those numbers are down slightly in '04 and '05, but nevertheless, I'd take Jones over Burnitz for contact hitting and putting the ball in play during moments with runners on and time running out.

3. Reasonable in the Field
4 errors in 2005 show that his defense is still where it needs to be. It might take him a while to adjust to the wind and swirl at Wrigley, but he's a marginal upgrade over Burnitz out there.


I am still a little bitter about this deal. We were supposed to be looking for another offensive threat to not only augment the power of Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, but someone who could provide yet another warm body on base (along with Pierre, hopefully) for the deadly duo to convert into runs.

The salary size (it seems small, but there's a reason the Twins weren't even thinking of shelling out close to this) is also disconcerting, because we have a number of big names up for arbitration and free agency looming around the corner (ARam, DLee, Zambrano I think, off the top of my head) and this money is now clogged up in a declining outfielder.

As it stands, the starting lineup seems to be complete:

C Barrett
1B Lee
2B Walker
SS Cedeno
3B Ramirez
LF Murton
CF Pierre
RF J. Jones

I worry about that as it looks, but it's still way too early to tell. We've lost some years on our starting lineup, but we've gained unnecessary salary in shaky players. Regardless, we can't fight Hendry saying that he hasn't addressed a need, but it will be some time before we can tell if that need has truly been addressed.

Thursday, December 8

Small Notes

I won't be around much today, but I forgot a couple of small things:

1. As Lazlo pointed out, Sergio Mitre was eventually named as being part of the Pierre deal. Eh, so we gave up 3 dudes instead of 2. At the end of the day, I'm happy because we operated as a team should: using resources to fulfill a major need. I can see no way to argue with the fact that Pierre is an upgrade, and even performing at 2005-level numbers will greatly help this team in the lead-off spot. He's ours now, end of story. Let's make him feel welcome.

2. The end of the road has been reached for the Gremlin. It is with a heavy heart that I "announce" (aka "regurgitate old news") that Jose Macias was designated for assignment in the aftermath of the Bob Howry and John Mabry transactions. The extra space was needed, and Macias' number was called. Farewell ye hearty utilityman, may the world not find you too weary. Let's leave with some Macias highlights:

Bill Hall feels the wrath

Slide, Gremilito, slide!

Young Gremlin


Wednesday, December 7

Well slap me in the face and call me Susan

Goodbye Asheville, hello Chicago!

The Cubs have indeed pulled the trigger on Juan Pierre, firing two pitching prospects down to sunnier climes while welcoming in their new CF/lead-off man. It's true. The Cubs made a deal.

I've talked at great length about JP and our other options, so I won't go on at great length. I will however quote a couple of other excellent Cub resources (well, that implies I'm calling LB excellent, which it most certainly is not! Insert pity here) who have analyzed the trade at more depth.

First up is Derek Smart from the brilliant Cub Town:

"Still, the Cubs have adopted a solid approach with this deal. Your minor league system is there to funnel talent to your Major League squad, either directly or through trade, and in using the type of players they have in surplus to address an issue, they have attempted to do just that.

Pierre is far from perfect, and to my mind including the quantity of talent the Cubs did in this deal was overkill, but he does address a need better than the other available options, at least while staying realistic (rail all you like about the superiority of non-prototypical lead-off alternatives, the fact is, with Dusty at the helm, all attempts to go down that road lead to Neifi! getting 700 at bats at the top of the order).

This is not a great deal, this is not a terrible deal. It is, instead, a trade that makes something livable out of a potentially unlivable situation, and while that may not be a thrilling result, it has its value."


I think that about sums it up from any standpoint really. It's exciting from the perspective that we've addressed arguably our most pressing need, and while we did give up a couple of prospects, we ultimately have to realize that they are just that: prospects. Despite our high-ranking farm system, these fine gentleman have never tasted a live MLB pitching mound. There is no assurances beyond speculation, no guarantees beyond estimation.

We have given up some current major league stars in recent times: Dontrelle Willis and Jon Garland to name just two. However, for every Dontrelle, there have been a thousand question marks, and I'm sure we can all agree that at the end of the day, disgruntled or otherwise, we have taken care of a massively important issue, one that, whether brilliant or average, can now be laid to rest. He may not have a season like 2003 or 2004, but even a 2005-type year will trump the collective efforts of what we did have. Short-term or long-term (I hear we have him for effectively a 1-year deal with arbitration included, and since the Cubs don't often go that route, he is a quick fix until Pie is ready for the bigs. This could all be wrong, but I'm just going on what I've heard), we have a lead-off man. We may now exhale.


I will leave with one further quote, taken from the same Cub Town article (sorry Derek if you ever read this. I am making sure everyone knows it wasn't me who wrote all this!), although written by another highly-informative source, Bryan Smith from Baseball Analysts:

"This new haul of Marlins minor leaguers is their weakest yet, but also their deepest. None of these players would grade above a straight B, but none would be lower than a B-. Pinto and Nolasco both pitched well in AA, however, it was their second time around. Pinto has control problems, and has stalled in now two attempts at AAA. I've compared him to a young Arthur Rhodes before, and like Rhodes, I think Pinto will thrive when moving to the bullpen.

The same could be true with Nolasco, though he has a bit more chance of succeeding in a starting role. Nolasco's groundball numbers were done last season while his strikeout numbers were up, oftentimes indicating an advancement in stuff. Like Pinto, Nolasco needs to prove it in AAA, but is on a similar timetable to Josh Johnson, the rich man's Nolasco."


Make of that what you will.

Tuesday, December 6

I love the sound of my own voice

There's not a whole lot going on at the moment, but there's always tons of idiotic rumours to put to bed. I've seen a bunch in the last few days, so let's review "The Crazy Shit that could happen to the Cubs":

With Bobby, every day's a party

- Trade SP Mark Prior to the Phillies for OF Bobby Abreu
A report surfaced in the Philly Daily News that the two clubs are talking about swapping ace pitcher for ace Home Run Derby winner. I think this perhaps the most outlandish rumour out there, considering how the article made it sound. Basically their argument is that the Cubs didn't say yes, but they didn't say no either. You know, one of those James Bond things where everything is vague and implied by facial movement. A smile, a wry nod, a Roger Moore eyebrow raise.

New Phillies GM Pat Gillick and his manager Charlie Manuel have been most vocal about the endless quest for pitching. While the Cubs would definitely not consider shipping out Zambrano (aka "The New Ace of our Squad"), there is apparently all this hubbub in PA about Prior, and the murmurs might continue if top SP free agent AJ Burnett does end up signing with the Blue Jays sometime this week.

Fact: this will not happen. I just can't see it. While Abreu would be a good fit in terms of power numbers (perhaps DLee and BAbreu can be the NL Manny/Ortiz?), I don't think we would risk that. It doesn't solve our leadoff problem necessarily, and I think that a trade for an OF like Aubrey Huff, Pierre or even Reds IF/OF Ryan Freel to set the table would mean that we'd give up younger pitching. This would make Prior even more valuable to anchoring our rotation, so sorry Philly, keep on looking.

Now with realistic Corey Patterson batting stance!

- Trade pitching prospects to the Reds for OF Austin Kearns
Kearns is a guy that Hendry and Dusty love. Why? Because he hits lots of HRs at Wrigley Field, a fact that is neither here nor there for a guy who has yet to complete a full season in the major leagues. He's a right-handed RF who can hit, albeit still in the developmental stage (.266 BA/.360 OBP/.461 SLG in a truncated 3-year career), and it would take some solid AA or AAA to really interest Cincinnati. You know what I mean: when a team knows that a rival wants something really bad, the price goes sky-high.

Fact: if we had to give up one or more of what the Dayton Daily News thinks are good options:

Ricky Nolasco (AA) 14-3, 2.89 ERA, 161 2/3 IP, 173 K, 46 BB
Sergio Mitre 2-5, 5,37 ERA
Jerome Williams 6-10, 4.26 ERA
Todd Wellemeyer
Rich Hill (he has been declared "pretty much untouchable" by the Cubs FO)

Then I don't think this would work. To get Hill, they'd definitely need to sweeten the pot, and I think Nolasco could have a great future at the major league level. With solid numbers like that, he is made for those 4th/5th rotation spots that Williams and Rusch are currently inhabiting. That being said, Mitre would be a good fit for Cincinnati (they are craving a sinkerball pitcher in a hitter's paradise), so that might not be a bad low-level trade. It would start getting silly if bigger names are involved, as I'm not sure Kearns is where it's at.

Aubrey Huff: he'll put in that hard yard on Jason LaRue

- Trade pitching to the Devil Rays for RF Aubrey Huff/SS Julio Lugo/CF Joey Gathright
This won't all happen in one deal, but that trio are high on Hendry's wishlist. Lugo put in a solid year offensively from the SS position, and would form a good young duo with Cedeno at second. Gathright is good defensively in the CF spot, and his offense is developing, while Huff is that RF/left-handed "finesse" bat (22 HR, 92 RBI in 154 G last year) we need in the lineup.

Fact: I think this is where most of our movements will be made. We've talked and debated Pierre to death, and we all know where we stand on the matter. Whether we can get him or not, expect to see at least one of these guys somewhere in the Cubs lineup come next season. It makes sense; the D-Rays are prolific in taking young prospects, developing them into tidy major leaguers and then trading them away, and although none of them would fulfill that lead-off need, it would leave us free to try Murton or Cedeno up top and let either Lugo or Huff hit in the order. Lugo would be a solid #2 in the order, and with Huff behind Lee, we could get something going.

Huff is a good player overall (5 year career: .288 BA, .320 OBP, .478 SLG), can play IF or OF depending on need, and he could develop well amid proven power like Ramirez and Lee. Lugo can hit and steal from the SS position (2005: .295 BA, .362 OBP, .765 OPS, 89 R, 39 SB) and would be a solid addition. Low-key and hopefully cheap. Gathright is the reach of the trio -- .271 BA, .316 OBP, 40 R and 26 SB in 95 career games -- and we would need someone with more MLB-established skills to fill that CF spot.


- Trade 2B Todd Walker and pitching/prospects (Mitre, Cedeno) to the Mets for OF Cliff Floyd
Another intriguing thought set forth by the Tribune. This would be a late-developing trade, as the Mets have to get Manny first before they would consider shipping out Floyd. The Cubs have wanted him for years, as he can play in right, can bat for power, and is left-handed. This is pretty much Hendry's wet dream wrapped in a fantasy that's swimming in porn stars. For that, and with the Mets being fully aware of that, we would need to pay through the nose. The Mets aren't too happy with Kaz Matsui as the long-term option for 2B, and Hendry's made no bones about declaring the availability of Walker in a trade package.

Fact: Again, this is intriguing. Floyd, despite the injuries, can be devastating with the bat -- .273 BA, .358 OBP, .505 SLG, 34 HR, 98 RBI in 150 games in 2005 -- and would solve a lot of problems. With another proven slugger in the lineup, imagine our middle order of DLee, Floyd and ARam coming atcha. That could be an absolute RBI/runs machine if someone's setting the table at 1 and 2 in the order. I'm not sure just how much Hendry would part with to seal the deal, but Walker is expendable, and throwing in a pitcher like Mitre or Williams might be considered a steal. We would need to be sharp in dealing with Minaya, who'll most likely still be dazzled by having Manny in Queens to notice Floyd catching the first plane to O'Hare.


There are other thoughts out there, including Pierre and Mr. Milton Bradley, but these dreamy could-be deals are enough to wet the whistle for today. Plus it's lunchtime, and I'm in need of a sandwich.

Any thoughts on these flights on fancy?

Monday, December 5


No news on the Transactions front, but significant developments in Hendry's bathroom.

Welcome to post #180 on Lingering Bursitis. It's been that long, folks, and throughout it all, many things have changed. Some contributors have graduated, others build houses, one lives in Alabama. And while none of us involved, readership included, can say that we are not different now compared to 180 LB posts ago, there has been one shining constant amongst the maelstrom and evolution of our lives: The Cubs do not care.

This is a harsh way to begin a post, I concede, and who knows, maybe towards the end it will get sunnier. But right now, given a couple of comments I've seen in the last couple of days, the crushing burden of pessimism (wow, that was some flowery language. Look out Verlaine, beware Joyce, for the next airy-fairy wordsmith is fast approaching) is becoming too much. Dramatic, yes. Knee-jerk, you betcha. But realistic?

The Cubs organization has enjoyed a rather uneventful offseason to date. Cedeno is 'balling to his heart's content in South America, Corey is wasting away pondering the root causes of his misery and unease at the plate, while our stalwarts like Lee and Ramirez drink and consider just what sort of squad will await them in Spring Training. Will it be a winning unit committed to the cause, or will it be the same perky troop that loses focus and slowly wanes in the heat of increasingly difficult Wild Card chases? Will we see the team that sticks it to St. Louis, or keeps losing those roadtrips to Arizona and Colorado?

We have spent Burnitz' 2006 salary on a couple of middle relievers who have shown some spark in their 30s, and we've added (or at least I think we have - last I heard was that the trade was pending a physical at the end of last week, and nothing since then) a reliable, sturdy bench player in IF/OF John Mabry. Neifi has been resigned to a modest deal, we retained the services of Rusch and held the options to Walker and Williamson while sending AAA relievers Leicester and Van Buren (why, G-d, why?) to fresh pastures.

Amongst all of these matters, we designated hapless Adam "One At-Bat" Greenberg for assignment, and did little else.

I know it's early in the offseason, but to me, time is already running extremely thin, not to mention my patience. While other NL "Nearly-Theres" have been stocking their pantry with the best of a streaky FA class, the Cubs have sat idly by. I'm not too great at this "predictions" business (read: any prediction I've ever made on this site and you'll see why), but with many teams seemingly adopting a Buyer's stance going into the Winter Meetings, just how will we fill our most important needs?

Like a kid struggling in an exam, we've filled out the easy answers and are spending the remaining minutes chewing on our pencil. Furcal has gone to the Dodgers for a lower price than expected (3 years, $39 million), and despite what many think/say, he wouldn't have been a bad signing at all. With the amount of runs he scores per year, as well as his steals and defensive range, our leadoff woes would have evaporated the minute his ink dried on the contract.

There are still options, but with the bulk of the FAs effectively gone (and please, don't say Nomar in this discussion), it's gonna take more than money now. It's going to take *gasp* prospects, and I am skeptical as to how much our old lady organization will loosen her grip on the purse strings.

Regarding the Winter Meetings, there are tons of questions still to be answered, but I'm not sure how many of them would involve Cubbie Blue:

- When will Cincinnati figure out which OFs to trade?

- Is Pierre the next victim in South Florida?

- Could the Cubs actually find a trade partner for Corey Patterson? (well that one does)

- Manny Ramirez?

Any Thoughts?

JT being JT for a moment

Yes, the Juan Pierre fire is burning brightly for me. I know a few folks who aren't so keen, but allow JT to play JT for a second in looking at these two guys face-to-face:

Option 1: Juan "Rapper with Cheese" Pierre


162 G, 100 R
.305 BA, .361 OBP, .734 OPS
55 BB, 35 K
65 SB, 20 CS

162 G, 100 R
.326 BA, .374 OBP, .781 OPS
45 BB, 35 K
45 SB, 24 CS

162 G, 96 R
.276 BA, .326 OBP, .680 OPS
41 BB, 45 K
57 SB, 17 CS

Option 2: Jerry "The Lesser" Hairston Jr.


58 G, 25 R
.271 BA, .353 OBP, .725 OPS
23 BB, 25 K
14 SB, 5 CS

86 G, 43 R
.303 BA, .378 OBP, .775 OPS
29 BB, 29 K
13 SB, 8 CS

114 G, 51 R
.261 BA, .336 OBP, .704 OPS
31 BB, 46 K
8 SB, 9 CS

My first point here: look at the number of games played. I know it's hard to compare the two given the different sample sizes, but I have to look at consistency over the course of a season. We had 4 guys trying to make CF their own, and the two who got the longest crack at it (JHJr. and CP) simply did not get it done. With all the lineup shuffles and position "battles" that played out last year, we need one guy who can play CF every day without fail. It's also worth noting that the only year in JHJr's career that he played a full year (he played 100+ games in only 3 of his 7 years thanks to injury and inconsistency) in 2001, his line was not good:

159 G, 532 AB
.233 BA, .305 OBP, .649 OPS
44 BB, 73 K
29 SB, 11 CS

What would it cost? We'll most likely have to ship out a couple of reasonable prospects, and maybe a guy like CP with major-league experience. If we nabbed Pierre, that would kill two birds with one stone, and the RF hunt could begin. Thoughts? (Note: I will doggedly defend this, perhaps too doggedly.)