Monday, October 31, 2011

Opening Day Roster Predictions: 10-31-11

Happy Halloween Cubs fans! The big news in the National League Central Division today is the retirement of Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa. It will be odd next year when the Cubs/Cards rivalry no longer includes Tony. Congrats to LaRussa on the World Championship and on an outstanding career.

Aramis Ramirez declined his end of the mutual option for 2012. He will test free agency and still could return to the Cubs, but the team is no longer on the hook for the $16 million option or $2 million buyout. Ramirez is looking for a three or four year deal for about $15 million per year.

Each year I make and update my opening day roster predictions for the following season throughout the offseason. The purpose of these predictions is to tell what I think would be the roster if the season started tomorrow. I do not use any players in the predictions that are not currently under control of the club. These predictions give us an idea of how many moves need to be made in order for the Cubs to have a decent roster. It also helps highlight which areas need improvement.

Starting Rotation
1. Matt Garza
2. Ryan Dempster
3. Randy Wells
4. Andrew Cashner
5. Carlos Zambrano

Closer- Carlos Marmol
LH Setup- Sean Marshall
RH Setup- Jeff Samardzija
LH Middle Relief- James Russell
RH Middle Relief- Chris Carpenter
Long Relief- Casey Coleman
Long Relief- Marcos Mateo

Starting Position Players
C- Geovany Soto
1B- Bryan LaHair
2B- Darwin Barney
SS- Starlin Castro
3B- DJ LeMahieu
LF- Alfonso Soriano
CF- Marlon Byrd
RF- Tyler Colvin

Koyie Hill
Jeff Baker
Blake DeWitt
Tony Campana
Lou Montanez

Cubs that are Free Agents
Kerry Wood
Aramis Ramirez
Carlos Pena
Reed Johnson
Rodrigo Lopez
Ramon Ortiz
John Grabow

I'll post more projections as the Cubs make moves this offseason!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Let the Offseason Begin

As much as it pains all Cubs fans to say it... congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals on winning the 2011 World Series. Game 6 will go down as one of the best games in World Series history. I actually enjoyed watching the Cards come back time and time again because it was just such good baseball. Joe Buck's "We'll see you tomorrow night" tribute to his father was perfect.

Now the the World Series is over, what should be an action-packed offseason for the Chicago Cubs begins. The first bit of news was made today as Ryan Dempster decided to pick up his player option for 2012. He will make $14 million in the fourth and final year of his contract.

Theo Epstein is now in place as the President of the Cubs, but there are still many question marks heading into next year. Among them are-

1. Who will manage the team?
There is a chance that Mike Quade will return, but most seem to feel he is on the way out. The Cubs did not pay Theo all that money to keep things the same. Some big moves are likely on the horizon and that will start with a new skipper. Ryne Sandberg, Terry Francona, Bobby Valentine, Tim Bogar, DeMarlo Hale, Rick Renteria and Dale Sveum are among the names being tossed around.

2. Will Ramirez return?
Aramis Ramirez has been a fixture at the hot corner at Wrigley Field since the middle of 2003. Can the Cubs find an upgrade on the market, or will the best option be A-Ram for 2011? Ramirez will leave a big hole in the lineup if he leaves. He has a player option where he can elect for free agency even if the Cubs want to pick up his $16 million team option. Ramirez was quoted saying that he is more likely to want to return now that Epstein has taken over.

3. Which other free agents will the Cubs let go, and which will they bring back?
In addition to Ramirez, Carlos Pena, Reed Johnson, Kerry Wood, Rodrigo Lopez, John Grabow and Ramon Ortiz will all hit the open market. My guess is that Wood and Johnson return while Lopez, Grabow and Ortiz go elsewhere. That leaves Carlos Pena as the big question mark. Theo will have to figure out whether or not there is a better option on the free agent market, because the Cubs do not have much corner infield depth in the system.

4. Which additions will the Cubs make?
There is no doubt that this team will have at least a few new faces come Spring Training. The biggest area of need is the starting rotation. There are three spots up for grabs with only Dempster and Garza penciled in. Randy Wells did not have a good season, but will likely end up back in the starting five none-the-less. Casey Coleman and Andrew Cashner could battle for the No. 5 slot, but the Cubs are in trouble if they do not add at least one middle of the rotation starter. Additions to the lineup will be based on whether or not they decide to keep Pena and Ramirez. The bullpen could also use a few extra arms.

5. Will the Cubs find a way to dump Carlos Zambrano?
Carlos Zambrano's days pitching in a Cubs uniform are likely over. The question is how, not if, he will be moved. The Cubs will search for a trade partner that is willing to take the baggage that he carries with him. After the end of last year, it is unlikely that Z returns to the Cubs, but since there is an overhauled front office there is a chance the he comes back.

The Cubs have until Tuesday to work out a compensation package with the Red Sox, or Bud Selig will step in.

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted all offseason long!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Breaking News: Hoyer & McLeod Added to Front Office

Theo Epstein has made his first additions to his staff. Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod have officially been announced as the Cubs Executive VP/General Manager and Senior VP of Scouting and Player Development. The Cubs will send a player to be named later to San Diego as compensation.

McLeod will be in charge of Oneri Fleita and Tim Wilken. His title will not be assistant GM, as originally reported. As of now Randy Bush remains the assistant to Hoyer.

On a side note- Bruce Levine tweeted today that Aramis Ramirez is open to returning to the Cubs now that Theo is in charge.

With the front office set, it's time to start talking about what moves it should make. We'll have breakdowns of managerial and free agent options this weekend.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reaction as Theo Takes Over

Theo Epstein was introduced today as the President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs. Click here for the article and video from CSN Chicago.

Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod will be introduced later in the week, no later than next Monday.

Here were some of the tweets that were being sent out today regarding #Esptein.

  • Jon Heyman- Cherington said that compensation from the Cubs was agreed to be significant.

  • Jon Heyman- No matter who was hired to run the Cubs, Quade was a goner. He was Hendery's guy. Of course, why pay Theo $3.7 million to leave status quo.

  • CSN Mooney- Theo says he never asked for a contract extension or new role with the Red Sox.

  • Len Kasper- The thing about Theo that is common among brightest people I've met--he's not condescending,he listens.Less is more. Great vibe.

  • Chris DeLuca- Theo says if Francona hadn't left the Red Sox, he would have stayed another year.

  • David Kaplan- By the way, yes that was Theo at Starbucks a couple of weeks ago. He confirmed.

  • WGN TV- It certainly feels great to be a Cub today.

  • Click here for more #Theo tweets.

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Epstein's Press Conference Set

The press conference to introduce Theo Epstein as the general manager of the Chicago Cubs is set for tomorrow at Wrigley Field. The press conference will start at 11am and will likely be televised on CSN Chicago and WGN-TV Chicago. Look back at my recent posts for more Epstein coverage, and expected a recap tomorrow!

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Radio Recaps: Getting Set for the Epstein Annoucement

Bruce Levine joined Carmen, Jurko and Harry for the latest on the Theo Watch on Thursday-

  • The Cubs were very close at that time to the deal with the Red Sox. One of the holdups may have been the medical situations of some of the deals that they agreed on.

  • Levine called the situation a real tangled web, with Jed Hoyer moving to the Cubs. The front office will grow under Epstein and Hoyer.

  • Theo will be the guy to call the shots. This is a lateral move for Hoyer.

  • The media and fans are going to be talking to Jed Hoyer every day. Jed is going to be a very important part of the front office.

  • Levine was told that there would not be any compensation need to San Diego, but some reports have said that there will be a low level prospect.

  • Bruce was told that Trey McNutt and Brett Jackson are both staying in Chicago. Nobody is sure who the prospect going to Boston is.

  • Bud Selig has not gotten involved much yet. He has allowed these teams to make the announcement during off days of the World Series so that the teams (San Diego, Boston and the Cubs) can be ready for free agency.

  • Theo was probably the one who decided that he wanted a general manager under him. Esptein likes to have a lot of guys under him. At times, he has had three assistant general managers working under him.

  • The Cubs going to add more people to the front office after Esptein and Hoyer. A few more guys from Boston and San Diego will become over.

  • Levine shot down the possibility of John Lackey being sent to the Cubs. Starlin Castro and Matt Garza's names also came up during the compensation offers.

  • Carem and Bruce agreed that the Red Sox have been set on dragging this thing out as long as possible. The Bo-Sox have made this as difficult as possible.

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Breaking News: Epstein to the Cubs

It's official, Theo Epstein is the President of Baseball Operations of the Chicago Cubs. Check back tomorrow for all the details.

Update Saturday 10:30am
Theo Epstein has joined the Chicago Cubs on the team's President of Baseball Operations. The compensation to the Red Sox has not yet been announced, but the two sides have reached an agreement as to the process that will be taken. The compensation issue will be worked out soon. If the compensation process does not work, Bug Selig will make the final decision.

With the World Series going on, the official announcement will be made on Tuesday, an travel day for the Cardinals and Rangers. Neither club will have further comment until that time.

A few days after Epstein's press conference, several more announcements are expected to be made. Padres general manager Jed Hoyer and assistant GM Jason McLeod are expected to join the Cubs organization as the GM and assistant GM respectively. Hoyer is set to sign a five year deal with a Cubs. The compensation to San Diego is expected to be a low level minor leaguer.

Crane Kenney will remain with the Cubs organization, but his title will change to President of Business Operations.

That's it for now, but we'll have much coverage of this story this weekend and early next week.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Radio Recaps: Rogers, Hughes & Moreland on WGN Radio

Although the deal is not officially done, Theo Epstein talked filled the radio airwaves this week. Phil Rogers joined WGN Sports Night this week.

  • One of the most respected executives in baseball thinks the Cubs have a fighting chance. Theo would not be coming to Chicago if he didn't think Tom Ricketts was a guy who could do big things.

  • There are a number of guys out there who have worked with Epstein before that he could bring in as an assistant general manager.

  • Rogers reports that it is possible that there will be multiple levels of baseball operations where the second guy in charge could have the GM title. Epstein could be the guy who hires the general manager instead of becoming the general manager.

  • For the most part, Theo will be working with the guys who are already there.

  • Epstein is a guy who can make a very difficult decision. You will no longer see the general manager down the clubhouse becoming friendly with the players. Rogers expects him to be a tougher GM.

  • Rogers is excited about Ricketts' commitment to the farm system.

  • Demarlo Hale is the Boston bench coach and could be a candidate for the Cubs managerial position. Rogers if pretty sure that Terry Francona will not be the Cubs manager in 2012. Ryne Sandberg is a guy who does make sense.

  • The deal for Theo Epstein is not done yet. This thing could still go sideways.

  • Rogers thinks that Pujols will leave the Cardinals. The NL Central might be has winnable as ever in 2012.

  • A turnaround to be competitive could happen in 2012, but the Cubs are 2-3 years away from winning 90-95 games. The lack of stability throughout the organization as been the biggest problem for the Cubs.

  • The front office must take a patient approach.

Pat Hughes and Keith Moreland joined Greg Jarrett to talk about Epstein-

  • "There's a feeling of this all being a bit premature right now. It looks like it's going to happen, but it's a little premature," Hughes said.

  • Moreland said that he is sure that players are following the situation and wondering what might take place. Keith said that there is a lot of speculation going on at this point.

  • The Cubs organization needs to put itself in position to win year in and year out for a decade.

  • Hughes is impressed by Theo's track record for success. If indeed he does become the Cubs general manager, Pat will be pulling for him to do well.

  • Keith thinks that starting pitching is the biggest area of need for the Cubs.

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Remembering Ronnie Roundup: 10-13-11

While we are waiting for the official announcement, let's take a break from all the Theo Epstein talk for our monthly Remembering Ronnie Roundup, the section of the blog where we honor Cubs legend Ron Santo.

Ronnie's Walk
The Ron Santo Walk to Cure Diabetes took place on October 2. It was the 33rd annual event but the third since Santo's death last December. Click here for a photo gallery of the walk from WGN Radio. The 2011 walk was held in six different locations throughout the Chicagoland area. Click here for the official thank you message from the JDRF website.

Baseball Voices CD
The next big date on the Ron Santo calender is coming next month with the release of Pat Hughes' Baseball Voices CD featuring Ronnie. Pat and Ron teamed up in the WGN Radio booth for 15 great years. The CD is sure to produce a lot of laughs. It is expected to be released by Thanksgiving.

Ford C. Frick Finalists Announced
Both Pat Hughes and Ron Santo were up for the fans vote for Ford C. Frick Award finalists, but neither cracked the ballot that the 20 member committee will vote on. The ten finalists are Skip Caray, Rene Cardenas, Tom Cheek, Ken Coleman, Jacques Doucet, Bill King, Tim McCarver, Graham McNamee, Eric Nadel and Mike Shannon. The winner will be announced on December 6.

Baseball HOF Vote
The aforementioned Veterans' Committee voting results will be announced at the Winter Meetings in December as well. Santo needs 12 of the 16 votes to be elected. According to an article by Rob Neyer this summer, "It seems likely that at least one candidate will get the necessary 12 votes. It's probably Ron Santo's turn, finally. You know, just in time for the first anniversary of his death. When he should have been elected 30 years ago."

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Breaking News: Epstein on the Verge of Becoming Cubs' GM

The Cubs are on the verge bringing Red Sox general manager to Chicago to fill a similar role, taking over for Jim Hendry who was fired in August. This deal seems to be all but official, and it should be made official in the next 24 hours.

Jon Heyman tweeted today that part of the agreement is that Epstein cannot take any other Red Sox front office members with him. Compensation will most likely be sent to Boston in the form of either cash or a minor league player. Heyman reports that Boston is leaning toward wanting the money.

Jeff Passan tweeted that Theo Epstein is a spectacular hire for the Cubs and an unnecessarily stupid loss for the Bo-Sox. ESPN's Buster Olney has reported that the deal is done. The deal is reportedly for five years and close to $20 million.

Bruce Levine was on ESPN today to talk about the move:

  • The final hurdle is getting the compensation sorted out.

  • The Red Sox could ask for a lot and the Cubs could balk at that. This could take a little while to get figured out, but Bruce would be shocked if it does not get done.

  • Mike Quade's future in Chicago is unknown at this time. Levine thinks that people have gotten a little bit ahead of the story by talking about the possibility of the move under Epstein.

  • Levine would be shocked if the Cubs went after a slugger like Pujols or Fielder. The Cubs need starting pitch, so that must be the top priority.

  • The Cubs need a lot of help in the rotation behind Dempster and Garza. The money that they have should go toward pitching first.

Ryan Dempster was on The Herd with Colin Cowherd to offer his perspective.

  • Dempster thinks that the Cubs have an incredible bullpen. He thinks that they have a bullpen that can be very strong.

  • "The starting pitching has to do a better job, and that starts with me," he said.

  • Demp also pointed out that the Cubs must to play better defense.

  • Ryan and Cowherd agree that Chicago is one of the best cities for sports in America. Dempster said that the city appreciates hard work.

  • Demp has never met Theo Epstein, but he is looking forward to having him on with the Cubs.

That's it for now, but I'll update you when the deal is official.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Epstein Close to Coming to the Cubs

Today news has broke that the Cubs are very close to bringing Theo Epstein in as their General Manager. There were reports today that the Cubs will have to compensate the Red Sox since Epstein is under contract, but that will be only a minor hurdle in completing the deal. The Bo-Sox would like Epstein to stay in Boston but they will not prevent him from leaving.

The Boston Harold has issued a report that says that Epstein is on the cusp of leaving his job in Boston for one with greater power in Chicago. An official announcement is expected in the next 24 to 48 hours.

According the Chicago Tribune Peter Gammons has tweeted that a deal could happen, but it is not as close and people think. The Tribune's article also said that the Cubs declined the comment on the issue.

Comcast Sports Net New England reports that the deal is close but not done yet. On the issue of compensation, most sources are reporting that it will not be top players on the Cubs roster, most likely only minor league prospects.

That's it for now, but we'll keep you posted as more news breaks.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Theo Epstein Watch

So far this offseason most of the Cub related talk has involved the possibility of the team hiring Theo Epstien as its next general manager. Here are the latest rumors involving the Red Sox' general manager.

  • Scott Miller of CBS Sports tweeted that he has talked to two executives that know Epstein well. One predicted that he will stay with the Bo-Sox, the other thinks he will end up in Chicago.

  • Noah Pinzur, a Lakeview resident, claims that he saw Theo at Starbucks in Illinois, according to Paul Sullivan of the Tribune.

  • MLB Trade Rumors reports that John Henry and Larry Lucchino declined the Cubs request to speak to Epstein.

  • The Boston Globe says that Henry will not stand in Epstein's way if he decides to leave.

  • Jon Heyman of SI tweets that it would still be a surprise Theo goes to the Cubs.

  • Bruce Levine writes that we should find out in the next few days whether or not Theo is coming to the Cubs.

  • Tom Ricketts has said that there are a lot of good GM candidates out there. His hope is to find the right fit for the team.

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Former Cubs in the Championship Series

Tonight the American League Championship Series begins with Game 1 between the Rangers and Tigers. The National League Championship Series, which begins tomorrow, is a matchup of two NL Central clubs with the Brewers taking the Cardinals. Cubs fans will be forced to decide which is the lesser of the two evils (most will pick the Brewers) to root for.

The Major League Baseball playoff run has been fun to watch thusfar, starting with that compelling final day of the regular season. Three of the four Division Series took five games to complete and one went to extra innings in game five. To make it even more fun for Cubs fans to watch the rest of the way, here is a list of guys with Cubs connections competing in the LCS.

  • Al Aburrquerque, Tigers: never played in the big leagues for the Cubs but was the farmhand traded to Colorado for Jeff Baker.

  • Josh Hamilton, Rangers: drafted by the Cubs in the Rule Five draft but was quickly shipped to the Reds.

  • Ryan Theriot, Cardinals: Played for the Cubs from 2006-2010

  • Corey Patterson, Cardinals: Has landed on his feet with St. Lou after bouncing around for a few years. Roamed the outfield at Wrigley during the early part of the 2000s.

  • Kyle Lohse, Cardinals: Cubs farmhand who was traded to the Twins

  • LaTroy Hawkins, Brewers: Was always better as a set-up man than a closer during his time in the Cubs bullpen

  • Casey McGehee, Brewers: Briefly played with the Cubs during the 2008 season before he was shipped to Milwaukee. The Cubs regret letting the talented third baseman go.

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The 2011 Cubbie Awards

It's time for my annual awards presentation right here on Everything Cubs blog. This year there we not many bright spots, but it is time for us to look back at them, as well as several of the many low lights.

MVP: Starlin Castro
LVP: Tyler Colvin
Rookie of the Year: Darwin Barney
Cy Young: Matt Garza
Rookie of the Year: Most Under-Rated Season: Jeff Samardzija
Midseason Call-up: Tony Campana
Bench Player: Reed Johnson
Game of the Year: Historic Comeback in Washington
Disappointing Player: Carlos Marmol
Biggest Move: Kosuke traded the Cleveland
Newcomer of the Year: Matt Garza
Reliever of the Year: Jeff Samardzija/Sean Marshall

Feel free to comment with your thoughts! That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Early Offseason Rumors and Notes

The offseason is just underway and the rumor mill has wasted no time in getting started. It will be an interesting offseason with many questions surrounding the Chicago Cubs. Here's the latest!

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

2011 Cubs Reports Cards

Each season, I give each Cubs player a letter grade based on his overall performance. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments!

Starting Pitchers
Ryan Dempster: C+
Matt Garza: B
Carlos Zambrano: D
Randy Wells: D
Rodrigo Lopez: C-
James Russell: F (also graded as a reliever)
Andrew Cashner: No Grade
Casey Coleman: C-

Carlos Marmol: C
Sean Marshall: B
Jeff Samardzija: B+
Kerry Wood: B-
John Grabow: D-
Ramon Ortiz: C
James Russell: A

Position Players
Alfonso Soriano: C-
Carlos Pena: B-
Aramis Ramirez: B
Marlon Byrd: B-
Starlin Castro: A-
Darwin Barney: B+
Geovany Soto: D
Koyie Hill: D-
Jeff Baker: B-
Blake DeWitt: C+
Reed Johnson: B
Tyler Colvin: F
Kosuke (before being traded): C-
Tony Campana: C

Mike Quade: C-
Rudy Jaramillo: C
Ivan DeJesus: D+
Mark Riggins: C-

Links to Past Report Cards

Coming Up on the Blog
The Cubbie Awards
Season in Review
Offseason Preview

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted!