The weekly radio baseball gabfest known as "Talking Baseball" (ESPN AM 1000, Chicago) hosted by Bruce Levine (and frequently Chet Coppock, in the role of sidekick) is a nice source of Cub information. Of course you have to wade through lengthy questions that often take minutes to unfold. Interviews with management are usually cloaked in generalizations, clichés and unrequited hope.
This saturday's show featured an interview with Cubs Vice President of Player Personnel, Oneri Fleita, as well as some discussion on the management's thinking behind the recent Mark DeRosa for prospects trade.
Fleita was not going to short change us on clichés like "You've got to play the games" and "Everybody starts in first place." Still it was good to hear about prospects in the news like Josh Vitters and the 3 newest pitching prospects acquired from Cleveland.
Bruce Levine updated and opined about the state of the Cubs roster changes including keeping the roster flexible as well as the progress on acquiring a sense of left handedness with attitude (feisty Milton Bradley, scrappy Aaron Miles and the even scrappier Mike Fontenot).
He also has an opinion about Jake da Ace, aka he-who-must-not-be-named.
The incredibly wordy play by play after the jump...
Cubs VP of Player Personnel, Oneri Fleita was interviewed on Bruce Levine's Talking Baseball show hosted by Bruce Levine and Chet Coppock (ESPN radio 1000), Saturday 1-3-09.
Chet Coppock: Asks about what hurdles (Felix) Pie has to vault over with his unique set of tools?
Oneri Fleita: I heard you talking about Corey Patterson before. He (Fleita) was a scout in Georga when we signed CPat. Regarding Pie, the toughest thing to do is to get the job done at the major league level. I'm the guy who alway has to be positive, who says they can do it, it's easier to talk about what they can't do. Pie hit over .300 in winter ball, he's starting to show signs of learning the strike zone. Learning to control emotions. Some guys develop sooner than others. I still think he can get that done.
Bruce Levine: Who will be this years surprises of the guys coming thru the minor league system. This year's Geo Soto or (previous year) Ryan Theriot? Who should Cub fans be watching?
Fleita: We just acquired Jeff Stevens (recommended by Stan Zielinski), looks like he could surprise us in camp. Not far down the pipe is (shortstop) Darwin Barney, (1st round draft choice, pitcher) Andrew Cashner could be on a fast track. You mentioned catcher Soto, the kid Wellington Castillo, he can really catch and throw and handles the bat real well and should start at triple-A level. Jim was with me on a trip last year, right place right time, when we signed a kid pitcher from the Dominican Republic, Esmailin Caridad. He spent minor league time in Japan and could come fast. A number of guys are close and we're always looking for a bigger group of guys that are closer, but spring training always brings a number of surprises.
Coppock: I'm looking at your game right now, not the demise, but the lack of African-American players on the major league level, the exponential rise of Latin American ballplayers to the bigs, down the line (6-8 years) will the latin ballplayers compromise 75-80% of the ballplayers?
Fleita: I hope not. A lot of things contribute to that. Baseball is watered down by other sports, golf, soccer. All sports face this issue. For example, my children play hockey, I didn't grow up playing hockey at all. Our scouting director, Tim Wilken is trying to get into the inner cities. (He's) trying to find those players and get them playing baseball.
Levine: When you see guys like Cedeno and Pie's names bandied about as possible guys used in trades, how do you feel knowing you've help raised some of these guys. Part of your job is player development which is used to get players from other teams. Is it difficult to see guys leave the system before they reach their peak?
Fleita: The longer you do this, you'd think it would get easier and you understand this is a business, but you do get emotionally attached. You become a father figure to a lot of these kids. A lot of these kids are a long way from their home and don't have their father nearby. You've got to understand that this is a business and part of the job is to feed the major league club. (Part of the job is) having the guys in the system to help us acquire the players that will help us win. That's what it's all about but it is difficult.
Levine: How fast of a track is Josh Vitters on? Another name that is heard from other teams that want to make a deal with the Cubs. One of the first names that comes up.
Fleita: Vitters is by far our best pure hitter in the organization. I believe if we put him in the Florida State league rather than Peoria, he may flourish and move real fast. Peoria in the spring is like Chicago, it's real cold and difficult on a hitter in the midwest league, early in the season, especially players from California, Florida, Texas, or somewhere in Latin America, It's tough to swing the bat and young hitters can lose their confidence. He's the best young hitter in this organization and I think will be a very good mlb player.
Coppock: Bruce and I were projecting 2009 for the Cubs. Last year they knocked down the division with 97 victories. Looking at the division, I look up at Milwaukee and they appear to be a shadow of what they were last year without Sabathia. Strohs, Pittsburgh, Reds aren't going to frighten anybody. Would you make book that you'll win the division with 87-88 wins?
Fleita: I won't make book on anything to be honest with you. You've got to play the games. Everybody starts in first place. There are so many things that come into having a good season and winning 87-97 games. The goal all winter from Jim (Hendry) and Randy Bush's standpoint was to get a lot of players that have versatility, get left handed hitters, they've done a great job in doing that. When you're a manager in the NL, you want to have as many players with versatility, if you have guys who are switch-hitters or hit left handed and a nice balance of both, you're got a chance to win a lot of games.
Levine: You've got to feel good about this trade for Mark DeRosa. Not for the fact of trading DeRosa, who was popular with everybody including media, players and front office alike, but the fact that you got 3 really good young arms from Cleveland. Not only can they help solidify whatever minor league spots they are sent to but all three can be projected as mlb pitchers.
Fleita: DeRosa, he obviously contributed to much of the success we had here the last couple of years. We lost a couple of guys like Jose Ceda (trade for Kevin Gregg), Donald Veal (rule 5 draft) and Sean Gallagher (last season trade for Rich Harden). To be able to replenish and to add on to pitching, its so difficult to acquire and develop pitching. To bring in guys like Jeff Stevens who is real close to the major leagues. John Gaub, a left handed reliever, who is now healthy, with good stuff. That's an area in the game that everone is always looking for, left handed pitching, especially relief pitching. The young kid Chris Archer, the needle is pointing north. He's got a great ceiling. He throws in the mid-90's. He's 20 years old. Those are the kind of guys we can't get enough of. I'm thrilled we've added them to the organization.
Here are the highlights from the Cub section of the Talking Baseball radio show. The good news is Chet only asked one question. The bad news is it was 3 hours long on a 2 hour show. Most of the commentary is from Bruce Levine.
• Bruce Levine discussed the DeRosa trade:
Premise: Cubs locked into $140M payroll (for 40 man roster)
the budget was at $140M before the DeRosa and Marquis trades...saves $11M. (Marquis trade will be announced Monday or Tuesday)
$2.5M for Miles
$8-9M for Bradley (my take: implying year 1), not so sure it implied $8-9 per yr x 3 yrs (my take: expect some backloading).
DLee has a no trade, can't trade ARam, Fuku, Soriano...locked into your Pitchers.
...this left DeRosa as the tradable player, age 34 on last year of his contract. The only way to get more left handed was to move DeRosa. Not the most ideal situation, as at times he was the most valuable and flexible player on the team. This deal gets the team (organization?) younger, more left handed and gets players to help go after Jake Peavy one more time in January (also implying the salary unloading factor plus young pitching aquisition).
• Chet Coppock asks about over-unders in terms of Bradley and Fukudome at bats. Bruce Levine expects 400-500 AB's for Fukudome in a platoon with Reed Johnson. Late in games he expects Joey Gathright will be a late inning defensive replacement with Fukudome moving to RF. Fukudome won't be coming out of games that much because of his defensive skills.
• Hendry is giving Lou Piniella a roster with the possibility of 4 starting lefty bats in a game (implying Miles at SS, Fontenot at 2B, Bradley in RF and Fukudome in CF; last year had 3 maximum, including Fontenot at 2B, Fukudome in RF, Edmonds in CF).
• Levine thinks Hendry is still going after a #1 pitcher and that's why Jake Peavy is back on the radar. Bruce Levine still thinks there is about an 80% chance of a Peavy deal happening.
Caller Question: Aaron Miles, what kind of defensive player is he? Can he fill in SS and can he hit from both sides of the plate?
• Miles is not an everyday SS but he's sure handed, has a decent arm but not a great arm, not alot of range, he can't go in the hole at SS. He's not an everyday SS but good for 15-20 games at SS. He's similar to Theriot defensively. He can hit leftys, a .300 hitter who has come a long way. The lefty element of his switch hitting will be a key. The Cubs didn't have a lefty infielder last year (BL temporarily forgets about Fontenot? but he talks about him shortly).
• Not sure that Cedeno, Pie will be on the team, both are out of options. Both will be involved in trade talks in the next 2-3 weeks. Not surprising if they both get moved.
• The development of Pie is a disappointment in the Cubs organization. The hitting part has not worked out at the major league level (see the Fleita interview above, regarding more on Pie). Discussed a comparison with regard to Corey Patterson, as a touted prospect from the farm system who was a bust, although CPat got more major league time until it was clear he was a failure.
Caller Question: How does DeRosa's departure affect Fontenot?
• BL see's more at bats for Fontenot now that DeRosa isn't here. He showed the capacity to hit well and in the clutch last year. Fontenot will platoon with Miles and backup Theriot at SS at times. Miles will also play at SS so both Fonty/Miles gives LouPa lefty flexibility at SS as well as 2B.
Sure, no marks and some inconsistencies in the witness's statements. But firing your gun into garage wall immediately after an argument and punching out your car window is still threatening and out of control behavior. There was certainly enough for MLB to think it warranted a 30-game suspension.
I'd prefer they be flexible with the closing situation depending on matchups. You're not really adding a lefty reliever if you use him strictly as a closer.
Stockpiling young talent isn't only for trading for someone like Chapman though. Even with an elite closer winning the World Series is basically a crap shoot so the key is to get to the playoffs as much as possible and not just mortgage everything on one year. Once you get there an elite bullpen certainly helps but the playoffs can be won by one hitter or starting pitcher getting hot (Murphy, Molina, Baumgardner) and a closer might not be able to stop that.
I'm also not crazy about press convictions. As the police report noted, there were no marks on the lady in question. There's a TMZ link (of course) to her police pictures, as well.
I think the only way this trade goes real bad is if Cubbery intervenes and Chapman is suddenly bad for some reason.
I am right there with you closing in on 60.
I don't care that much about "mortgaging" one player who is not only blocked by two guys, but is not ready to hit the majors for at least a couple years.
There is no reason why this team, this year, can't have a real shot at something NONE of us have experienced.
Further, I don't feel that even if they fall short that they have ruined their farm system.
I have made my opinion clear here, with others, Warren was shit on the Cubs save one spot start.
Trading for Warren, Warren sucking, getting Warren back for Chapman plus 3 prospects, sounds like Revenge of The Yankees on the former Boston executive. Old rivalries never die.
I pray to the heavens above Chapman doesn't suck for some reason, or he'll be booed out of town faster than a Todd Hundley revival meeting.
I'm kind of nostalgic for the Schwarber-for-Miller rumors.
This offseason, after some ridiculous playoff run and Chapman saving every game from here until the end of the postseason striking out 27/9innings, I welcome anyone to quote this thread and call me a dummy: I hate this trade, and my hate is 2 parts Chapman makes this team less likeable and 1 part that's a ridiculous overpay for 30 regular season innings and, at tops, 10 postseason innings. Already hoping they don't extend him.
btw...Thanks AZ Phil. I'm really enjoying your take on this trade.
I'm a bit disappointed on the Warren experience. Essentially they gave Castro away for crickets (OK, well they signed Zobrist with the Castro salary dump). Otherwise one might look at it as Chapman for Castro and our #1 minors prospect (Torres) + McKinney/Crawford. Seems pricey for a 2 month rental. We will see if this price tag is that steep in a relative way based on the remaining deadline deals for relievers.
Yep. One of the great things about this team (in addition to being really good at baseball) was the "likable" factor. Feels a bit different now. Who knows...maybe Chapman will be the king of the dance parties.
Here are some possible corresponding minor league moves we might see in the aftermath of the Chapman trade:
SOUTH BEND to MYRTLE BEACH: OF Donnie Dewees and INF Bryant Flete
EUGENE to SOUTH BEND: OF Robert Garcia and INF Vimael Machin
There is really no reason to replace Billy McKinney at Tennessee because both Chris Coghlan and Jorge Soler are doing their rehab at Tennessee.
And there are plenty of pitchers at Iowa. No need to replace Warren at AAA. .
I am 70 years old. The Cubs last played in the World Series in 1945. I was born in 1946. I hate to lose a prospect like Torres, but when the opportunity is there to get that World Series ring, you go for it. This was the idea in stock piling all this young talent. I would like to see Reddick added now and the Cubbies should be done.
I would expect Richard to accept an optional assignment because based on how he's played this season, there is a decent chance that he won't find work elsewhere. Rather stay and potentially get a ring. Same goes for Coghlan since he's struggled mightily this year.
Edwards should not go down. He's pitched very well and Maddon is very impressed with him. I would expect Grimm to go down for Cahill so he can get back on track (he's pitched better in July, but he's not getting enough appearances).
chitownmvp01: Indeed Clayton Richard would seem to be odd man out once Chapman reports, but Richard might accept a minor league assignment if he is promised a return to Chicago on 9/1 when MLB Active List rosters expand (Richard has minor league ioptions left).
The only player in the deal that would cause me a second thought is Gleyber Torres.
McKinney and Crawford are decent prospects but both are redundant/replaceable in the system and Warren was really only a middle-reliever or #6 starter, so to me it's really just Torres for Chapman.