Random Notes: Stepping Back Off the Ledge

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It was a slow week for Cub fans. Every day seemed like an eternity. Still, at the end of the week, no Jon Lester. I am hoping by Wednesday the 26th that Lester will have made his decision and I am hoping that he will be a Cub. If he isn’t…

The last week only saw the Cubs make two major transactions. One was expected, the other was not. CJ Edwards was added to the Cubs 40 man roster bringing that total to 39. That was expected. The other, the trade with the Braves, brought second baseman Tommy La Stella to the Cubs. La Stella saw action in 93 games last year and hit .251 with a .328 OBP with only one home run. He is likely to be a backup utility player seeing more additional time at third base. While some may see the La Stella trade as a signal for greater things like a Castro or Baez trade, I see it differently.

La Stella’s greatest assets are his ability to get on base and to hit left handed. He is not an outfielder. He is not a shortstop by trade. Castro is not going anywhere. To replace Castro, an established MLB hitter with a light hitting on base machine would not be a good thing, let alone La Stella is not proficient at the shortstop. He has average range and an average arm.

At this point in the off season, there is no reason to panic or over analyze any transaction. The off season is long. There are still 3 months before spring training and 4 before the season starts. I, myself, need some talking off the ledge by my wife from time to time. All will not be lost if Lester is not signed this week or this offseason. There will be plenty of arms available when the Cubs are ready.

Someone is always looking to make a trade. Cole Hamels and Jordan Zimmermann have been bandied about the past few months. However, I don’t think Theo is in a rush. He is still patiently aggressive when it comes to this offseason. Ideally, the Cubs will have 2-3 arms ready late this year in Edwards, Pierce Johnson, and Corey Black combined with Erick Jokisch who is ready now. Edwards and Johnson are like #3 starters, Jokisch a 4 or a 5, but the Cubs still need that #1 and #2.

I am liking Jason Hammel, not as a number one, but as a definite arm who worked well with pitching coach Chris Bosio. Brandon McCarthy is the other arm I like a lot. He had a great second half last year with the Yankees. Ideally, the Cubs could get and afford, Lester, Hammel, and McCarthy, but it is more efficient that Cubs will get either Lester (option A) or Hammel and another arm (option B). I think the plan is still to save some money for next winter when more arms, and younger arms, will be available including Zimmermann when he could be had for just money.

I don’t think the Cubs will do any major trade deals until July and only if they find themselves in a race or can make a significant savings in doing so. With arms like Duane Underwood, Paul Blackburn, Jen-Ho Tseng, Daury Torrez, Carson Sands, Trevor Clifton, and Jake Stinnett on the way, the Cubs will wait to see what they really have in their young arms before any could possibly be traded.

With the rule 5 draft coming, I doubt if the Cubs select anyone unless it is a bullpen arm or a pick to trade to another team (ala Josh Hamilton). It wouldn’t surprise me much to see the Cubs make some minor league transactions as the Cubs beef up Triple A Iowa’s roster. Here are some names, but not all, of Cubs prospects who were let unprotected for the Rule 5 draft.

Gioskar Amaya, INF
Jeffrey Baez, OF
Hunter Cervenka, LHP
Gerardo Concepcion, LHP
Willson Contreras, C
Kevin Encarnacion, OF
P. J. Francescon, RHP
Dustin Geiger, INF
Marco Hernandez, INF
Michael Jensen, RHP
Austin Kirk, LHP
Matt Loosen, RHP
Barret Loux, RHP
Dillon Maples, RHP
Andrew McKirahan, LHP
Felix Pena, RHP
Ivan Pineyro, RHP
Tayler Scott, RHP
Rock Shoulders, 1B
Ben Wells, RHP
Tony Zych, RHP

I doubt if any of these players are selected by other teams as they would have to be placed on the MLB roster. Most, but not all, played at AA or lower last year with the majority at high A Daytona. Next year, there could be some issues for the Cubs when it comes to who to protect as their system is now pretty deep.

So, going forward, I expect the Cubs to be slow and cautious. I have a sneaking suspicion the Lester deal is not going to get done by Thanksgiving; It should be completed by mid-December. Once Lester goes, the whole free agent market will be set and more players will sign elsewhere, including the Cubs.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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