Just a few quick thoughts on some of the trade rumors swirling about on the interwebs and other more traditional news outlets.
Randall Delgado: Future Cub? (photo courtesy of braves.com)
Ryan Dempster to Atlanta for Randall Delgado
What looked yesterday to be a done deal, this trade is currently in-limbo waiting on Dempster’s approval. A couple of things stand out here. First, I think this would be a great deal for the Cubs if it works out. The initial reaction on the twittersphere when rumors of the deal first broke were something along the lines of “NO WAY the Braves trade such a highly regarded prospect for a rent-a-player like Dempster.” By all accounts, the deal represents great value for the Cubs. A second point to consider is the current holdup of the deal. Apparently Dempster is more than a bit miffed at the way the front office has handled the situation. He even took to Twitter in an effort to dispel the rumors. My primary concern with the current dissension is that it could scuttle a really good deal for the club. Beyond that, even if the deal does go through, Dempster’s unhappiness with the manner in which the whole situation was handled could significantly impair the Cubs’ chances of resigning him after he becomes a free agent at season’s end.
Matt Garza to the Dodgers for Zach Lee (and others)
For as great of a deal as the Dempster-Delgado trade appears to be, I am far more tepid when it comes to potentially shipping Garza off for a highly regarded, yet completely unproven pitcher in the form of Zach Lee. For whatever reason, the front office seems more than willing to part with Garza. I have no problem with the idea in theory, but it seems very risky to trade away a top-of-the-rotation type pitcher for a greenhorn pitching prospect. Early round high school pitching prospects are notoriously hit-and-miss, and being dealt for a known quantity such as Garza will only serve to heap even more pressure on Lee during the crucial next few seasons as he tries to develop into a legitimate major league pitcher. For me at least, a minimum of one or two more good prospects would need to be included for the deal to make sense. One potential hiccup could be the injury Garza picked up in his last outing against St. Louis over the weekend.
There have also been various rumors surrounding other players such as Darwin Barney and Paul Maholm. More info on those as details become available.
So, about that unannounced two or three-month absence. Yeah, we don’t want to talk about it, but we’re sorry (for whatever that’s worth).
But moving right along. A lot has happened during our leave, some good and some bad, so it’s probably best to quickly run through and recap some of the more prominent highs and lows. Just looking at the standings, the Cubs were in last place as of the last post (4/11) and today we sit one rung above the cellar. That’s what we call progress.
Certainly that 12 game losing streak in mid-May was a terrible thing, and significantly contributed to our current sub-standard position in the standings. But there have also been bright spots. A solid stretch of games heading into the All Star break, plus a sweep of the Diamondbacks to kick-0ff the second half of the season, has provided glimmers of light in an otherwise dark and dreary abyss.
Speaking of the All Star break, the Cubs had two representatives, Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair. As surprising as it was for a team with a record as poor as the Cubs to have two All Stars (and this doesn’t even account for Ryan Dempster and his NL-leading ERA), I was even more surprised that both Cubbies actually got to participate in the Mid-Summer Classic. The reason for my shock was the fact that Tony LaRussa decided to don his transition lenses one final time and manage the NL squad. It just seemed so out of character for him to do anything within his discretion that might be perceived as an act of kindness towards the Cubs. I don’t know, maybe he was too caught up in screwing over the Brewers and Reds players in the selection process that he just simply forgot about the Cubs. It didn’t really matter though, as the game was well in hand by the time Castro and LaHair made their uneventful appearances. One final thought. I was more than a little disappointed that LaHair was not named as the late substitute for the home run derby (Andrew McCutchen got the nod instead). I just thought it would have been a classy move, given that this might very well be the only All Star appearance of his career.
And finally, probably the biggest talking point of all was the call-up of franchise savior Anthony Rizzo on June 26. Since his promotion, Big Tony has been hitting at a .350 clip, while adding 4 homers and 10 RBIs. It has certainly been a wonderful start and the transition has been seamless. So seamless in fact the move required the Cubs to exile their All Star first baseman (LaHair) to right field. Watching Rizzo’s progress over the second half of the season will be one of the most interesting story lines to follow.
With the trade deadline looming, look for the Cubs to be active participants. And look no further than the The RedLine Roundup for coverage and analysis.
Just a couple of thoughts from the last two games against the Brewers:
1. If it’s possible to beat a dead horse 5 games into the season, that dead horse is the Cubs’ anemic offense. Right now the Cubs are averaging a miniscule 3.60 runs per game. Sticking with the theme of looking for isolated glimmers of hope amongst an abyss of mediocrity: after zero home runs in the first series the Cubs have hit three over the last two games. That’s not too shabby, and the fact that all three homers have been solo shots is a bit unlucky. Continuing to hit a few homers, and hitting them with a runner or two on base, should help boost the runs per game number.
2. After a terrible first inning, Paul Maholm settled down and was basically effective for a few more innings. Sadly for the Cubs, 5 runs is a big, deep hole for this team (see above) and it proved to be too much in the end Early April games are notorious for pitching lines like Maholm produced (4IP, 6H, 6ER, 2HR, 2BB) so I will refrain from a rush to judgment for the time being.
Ryan Dempster will take the mound this afternoon against Yovani Gallardo. Also John Grisham will be throwing out the first pitch and doing the 7th inning stretch. Surely this is a promotional stunt related to his new book Calico Joe, which was released yesterday. A brief glance at the product description informs that the book is about a hot-shot prospect for the Chicago Cubs who makes a big splash…until something bad happens. I had to double-check and make sure this was in fact a fiction book, as the memories of Bobby Hill and Felix Pie, among many many others, led me to believe this might just be a “based on a true story book.” Grisham is a devoted fan of the Cardinals, but without the chance to read the book yet, it’s unclear whether this will be a noticeable part of the plot. Let’s hope not.
So, the Cubs aren’t going to go 0-162. It’s an Easter Miracle!
Seriously though, what an outing by Jeff Samardzija. So glad Marmol held on for the victory. While the first series was definitely disappointing, considering we very well should be 3-0, and instead are 1-2, a couple of successful series against the Brewers and the Cardinals would definitely go a long way in making up for the underwhelming start to the season.
So go ahead and tune in for the Monday Night game on ESPN tomorrow night and let’s hope for the start to a win streak!!
From The Natural:
“We must begin by asking it…”What is losing?” Losing is a disease…as contagious as polio. Losing is a disease…as contagious as syphilis. Losing is a disease…as contagious as bubonic plague... attacking one…but infecting all. But curable.”
Well, it may have been a different day, but it was certainly the same story. The Cubs batters clearly read our Piecemeal Preview for today’s game and went about chasing Gio Gonzalez in the 4th inning. A string of two-out hits in the 4th, highlighted by Reed Johnson’s two RBI triple, put the Cubs in the driver’s seat.
But alas, once the game was turned over to the bullpen, things went south in hasty fashion. It must be said that Rafael Dolis did a nice job in the 7th, and Kerry Wood actually was looking very sharp before surrendering the two-out bomb to David Espinosa that served as the catalyst for a 5-run 8th inning. After hesitating the other day, perhaps it is time to castigate Carlos Marmol. Marmol was his typically wild self, giving up a couple of hits, a couple of walks, and a couple of earned runs without recording an out. Shawn Camp did well finishing things off once the game was already lost. I know there will be calls to give Camp an elevated role (which he very well might deserve), but for me at least, his performance today offers little in the way of predictive value for future performance since he came in after the game had been blown wide open.
And so, returning to opening quote from The Natural. Theo, Jed, this is what you’ve gotten yourselves into. The last sentence of the quote is very short, stating in two simple words (“But curable”) that losing is not an ailment without a panacea. Simple words yes, but many Cubs’ fans would probably choose to punctuate that sentence with a question mark instead of a period. Here we stand, two games in and one hundred-sixty to go and the one constant remains: the Cubs’ unflagging ability to lose, their indefatigable ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Two very nice starting pitching performances, yet Dempster and Garza have both been let down by the bullpen in characteristically frustrating style. So, Theo and Jed, your job isn’t just about making all the right personnel moves, it’s about inspiring hope in a fan base and showing us that the final sentence in that quote is indeed a statement and not a question.
Our Piecemeal Preview Series offers a haphazard glance at an upcoming game or series. Not a comprehensive preview; instead only a handful of relevant (or irrelevant) topics will be touched upon.
The Cubs complete the first series of the season with a couple of afternoon games against the Washington Nationals.
On Saturday (12:05) Matt Garza will take the mound, looking to help the Cubs get back to .500 and also get his second season with the team off to a good start. Garza was easily the Cubs’ best starting pitcher last season with a solid ERA (3.32) and superior K/BB ratio (8.95). But due to a lack in run support and several leads blown by the bullpen, he finished the season with a pedestrian 10-10 record. Garza will faceoff against Gio Gonzalez, who is making his Nationals’ debut after joining the team in an offseason trade with the Oakland Athletics. Last year he produced solid numbers, winning 16 games while posting a 3.12 ERA. While not exactly an elite pitcher, most of the Cubs will have little or no experience facing Gonzalez, which is usually a recipe that favors the pitcher. It will be important for the Cubs to get to him early and put some runs on the board in the first couple of innings.
Jeff Samardzija gets the start on Easter Sunday (1:20). Working out of the bullpen, 2011 was probably Samardzija’s best season with the club. Samardzija impressed enough during spring training to earn a spot in the Cubs’ rotation (and also benefitted from the unmitigated disaster that was Travis Wood). After finally getting his shot to start, Samardzija can ill-afford to get off to a bad start if he hopes to curry favor with the new coaches. Starting for Washington will be Jordan Zimmermann, who like Garza, posted respectable numbers (ERA 3.18, WHIP 1.15) for a mediocre team (ending up with an 8-11 record).
A couple other items to look for:
-It is still unclear whether Bryan LaHair will be ready to make his season debut after being sidelined with a back injury. Look for him to possibly be ready to go for Sunday’s game.
-Carrying only 11 pitchers right now, it is important the Cubs don’t string together a couple of games where the starting pitcher gets chased early. Even though Ryan Dempster’s strong outing on Opening Day meant the middle and long relief pitchers went unused, the Cubs are playing 9 games in 9 days and will not want to head into the Milwaukee and St. Louis series with a depleted bullpen.
-After a rather chilly day on the opener, the weather forecast for the weekend is great. Highs in the mid-60s should make for a couple of great days at the ballpark.
*Stats are from baseball-reference.com.