Over the (Rich) Hill, Theriot Talks Trade Talk, and Lou on a Bicycle

Cubs f/x points out... Rich Hill is not part of this week's rotation on his Venezuelan Winter League team (los Tigres de Aragua).

In 6 starts (10/17--11/18), Hill's 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA, and averaging less than 4 innings per start (19 1/3 IP).
19 walks against 15 Ks and a 2.12 WHIP.
19 runs allowed, 16 earned.
That's bad in any league. Put a fork in him, he's done.

Other Cubs in the Winter Leagues include Ronny Cedeno, Jake Fox, Sam Fuld, Felix Pie, Angel Guzman, and Jeremy Papelbon.


Theriot talks about trade speculation to the Sun-Times (not that the Cubs getting Rafael Furcal is likely to happen at all).

While the Cubs have talked to Furcal's agent, Oakland and San Francisco appear to be the clear front-runners for the former All-Star, with Atlanta also said to be making a strong push. According to various reports, Furcal has four-year offers ranging from $48 million to $52 million -- well beyond the Cubs' taste.

Lou talked to the Sun-Times one more time about the 2008 postseason.

As for critics who blame him for not having the team prepared enough for October:

''We went over the scouting reports thoroughly, and we let the guys play,'' he said. ''The first game, we walk eight people in four innings; it's hard to win. The second game we didn't catch the ball, and the third game we didn't hit. Now, if that's me not preparing them, then I'll take the responsibility.''

Who was that game one starter again?

Lou also said "[W]e're set" on starting pitching (so no Peavy as if there was any doubt), but looking for one more experienced arm in the bullpen.

Also, if anyone has pictures of Lou "rid[ing] his bicycle around his neighborhood," please, please I beg you... Email me. theseoldcubs@gmail.com


Free Agent Roundup

Cubs beat reporter says "several sources" have told her the Cubs are not looking to deal Kosuke Fukudome.

According to the Chicago Tribune, (via Cubs.com), the Royals are "focused" on Sean Marshall and Mike Fontenot in trade talks concerning left-handed outfielder Mark Teahen. Personally, I say give Kosuke one more shot in right in a full season (Japanese league seasons are only 140 games).

Finally, via Wrigleyville 23. Apparently when Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins isn't insulting his fans onstage, he's blaming Eddie Vedder for the Cubs' collapse this season. Seriously.


Playoffs? Playoffs? **Updated

UPDATE: Lou refutes Dempster (Chicago Tribune).

Ryan Dempster admits Cubs were not "prepared" for the playoffs (via Paul Sullivan with the Tribune).

"I think sometimes we almost expected it, go out there and play hard and we're good enough and just expect it to happen, and we'll win this series and then the next one and all the excitement will happen once we get to the World Series," he said. "Maybe L.A. was just a little more prepared for us than we were for them."

Is this Lou's fault? Weren't the Cubs in the playoffs the previous year? Weren't they swept then too? Weren't you on that team, Dempster? This isn't rocket science, it's playoff baseball... why does everyone else get it but the Cubs?

"Maybe we underestimated how prepared you have to be, how ready you have to be, especially in a five-game series," Dempster said. "It's like a short heavyweight bout. Ding, the bell is ringing, you've got to go."

Have you got it figured out now, Dempster? Good to go next year? You were the Game 1 starter; who else was supposed to be "ready at the bell" to be prepared?

What I think Dempster's really saying... Lou shouldn't have rested the bats the final games of the season, and the bats weren't "prepared" for the playoffs. Who gave up SEVEN walks to the Dodgers? THAT WAS YOU, Ryan, no one else. You had a bad game, everyone has them, but don't go blaming the manager. Lou has a ring, you don't. All the bats were quiet, all the pitching was brutal, and --in my opinion-- playing the Brewers hard the last couple games of the season wouldn't have changed all that.

Dempster started Game 1 in Chicago against the Dodgers and got the loss, pitching 4 2/3 innings, giving up 4 earned runs (on a Grand Slam to James Loney), 4 hits and 7 walks against 2 K's for a 7.71 ERA.

Free Agency: Peavy, The Big Old Unit, and Furcal

Though in the wake of the Dempster signing the Padres have said the Braves are back in the Peavy race, the North Side is still widely regarded as the most likely place for the 27-year old righthander to go.

via Chicago Tribune

If the Cubs can't get Peavy, they will turn to Plan B—45-year-old free agent Randy Johnson, who would be a one-year fix. That obviously would push Jason Marquis to the bullpen, where he hasn't fared well. Marquis is owed nearly $10 million in '09, the final year of a three-year, $21 million deal, making him difficult to trade.
Zambrano, Dempster, Peavy, Hardin, Lilly... or Zambrano, Dempster, Hardin, R. Johnson, Lilly? In my opinion, both look much better in October than one with do-nothing Marquis.

Note: Peavy's agent also works with Rick Sutcliffe and Mark Grace; Sutcliffe has been actively pitching Chicago to Peavy through said agent.

"Rick Sutcliffe is not officially recruiting, because he is not in an official capacity with the Cubs," Axelrod said. "But he has certainly extolled the virtues of being a starting pitcher with the Cubs."
Back to free agency...
same link

The Cubs also are interested in free-agent shortstop Rafael Furcal, who is seeking $10 million per year for three or four years after hitting .357 in 36 games for the Dodgers in 2008. Furcal's agent said they have spoken to the Cubs, but it's "nothing serious" yet.

Furcal's addition would solve the leadoff dilemma and allow them to move shortstop Ryan Theriot to second base, or be part of a trade package.


The Dempster Contract

ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick

Four years, $52 million.
Player option for 2012.

$4 million signing bonus.
$8 million in 2009.
$12.5 million in 2010.
$13.5 million in 2011.
$14 million in 2012 (Dempster's option).

Dempster is currently 31

With this signing, he'll probably have the fifth or sixth highest salary on the team next year. Last year, Lilly was fifth (or so) with $8 million, Dempster made $7 1/3 million.

By comparison, Zambrano is 27 and made $16 million last year alone. He signed a five year, $91.5 million contract mid-season in 2007.

Sporting News.com: "Cubs now the only suitors for Jake Peavy"

via the sporting news.

"It's really come down to one club now -- the Cubs," Towers told the newspaper. "It's going to take awhile. They have a couple of players to pick from that we are interested in, but anything with them is going to potentially involve a third team or fourth team. We're focusing only on them."

Who's on the block? Fukudome? Wood in a sign-and-trade (we know Hoffman isn't going back to SD, see below Kerry Wood post)? A pitcher like Marquis or Lilly? Samardzija?

Dempster Deal Done?

ESPN reports the Cubs are close to re-signing free agent pitcher Ryan Dempster, to a four-year, $52 million contract.

Ken Rosenthal of foxsports.com first broke the story.

UPDATE: The Sun-Times reports the deal is done. (via Another Cubs Blog)

The 2009 Schedule

Online 2009 Schedule

Opening Day(s)

Game 1: Monday, Apr 6 @ Houston (Minute Maid opening day)
Game 4: Friday, Apr 10 @ Milwaukee (Miller Field opening day)
Game 7: Monday, Apr 13 (Wrigley Opening Day v. Colorado)

Interleague series:
H: Minnesota Jun 12-14
H: Sox Jun 16-18
H: Cleveland Jun 19-21
A: Detroit Jun 23-25
A: Sox Jun 26-28

Stretch Run (Mid Sept/Oct):
Cincinnati Sept 11-13
Milwaukee Sept 14-17
@St Louis Sept 18-20
@Milwaukee Sept 21-23
@San Francisco Sept 24-27
Off Sept 28
Pittsburgh Sept 29-Oct1
Arizona Oct 2-4

First thoughts... the interleague opponents are no pushovers, and I'm a little thrown off by ending with the D'Backs, a non-division opponent (as opposed to this year, ending on the road against the Brewers).

The 2008 season ended on September 28 (with a cancelled makeup game with the Astros on the 29th); this year the Cubs (and everyone else) will have two more full series after that date. There are some "easier" opponents near the end of the schedule (Giants/Pirates) in case we need some extra wins to lock up the division.

Sorry for all the parentheses.


Postseason Awards and Kevin Gregg vs. Kerry Wood

Geovany Soto wins NL Rookie of the Year with 31 of 32 first-place votes. The Reds' Joey Votto received the other top vote. Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays won the AL ROY award.

Lou wins NL Manager of the Year and donates his bonus to a Chicago charity. He previously won AL Manager of the Year in 1995 and 2001 while in Seattle. Charlie Manuel from the World Champion Phillies is second, Florida's Fredi Gonzalez finishes third. Joe Madden of the Rays won the AL counterpart.

Carlos Zambrano wins... a batting award. He batted .337 with four home runs and won his second Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger award at the National League Pitching position, winning previously in '06.


The Cubs also acquired reliever Kevin Gregg this week from the Florida Marlins in a trade for Minor Leaguer P Jose Ceda. Before the deal was made, Cubs GM Jim Hendry reportedly told last year's closer, perennial Cub Kerry Wood, that the Cubs would not be re-signing him (unlike the unprofessional way the Padres treated their closer).

There was no question, even before Wood's famous 20K game, that he always had the talent to be an elite pitcher, which made his often inconsistent play all the more befuddling. I never knew "which Kerry" would show up in the ninth inning, and "routine" saves felt few and far between. One or two run leads at home became nail-biters until the end. I feel sad to see him go-- he always seemed like a nice guy-- but from a purely business perspective, the Cubs weren't getting the value for what they were spending and needed to move on.

I'm not exactly sure where Gregg fits in the Gaudin/Samardzija/Marmol picture, but the Cubs still seem relatively deep at reliever, and got younger to boot.

Wood was the 13th highest paid Cub last year, earning $4.2 million. In contrast, Gregg was the 2nd highest paid Marlin, but at only $2.5 mil. Gregg is younger and performed almost as well with less talent around him, and was acquired for less money (even if Wood signed a one-year with a pay-cut).

Kevin Gregg entered the majors in 2003 and spent four years with the Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels before being traded to the Marlins for the '07 season. Last year in 68 2/3 innings and 72 appearances, he went 7-8 with 29 saves, 58 K and a 3.41 ERA/ 1.28 WHIP .

Kerry Wood last year pitched 66 1/3 innings in 65 appearances, posting a 5-4 record, 34 saves, 84 K and 3.26 ERA/1.09 WHIP.

Both Gregg and Wood are righties.