Posted on: January 6, 2012 3:51 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 4:12 pm
If Anthony Rizzo ever develops feet big enough for the shoes he's been supposed to fill over the past year ... well, he's going to have really, really big feet. And an All-Star career.
Last year, 22-year-old first baseman was the heir apparent to All-Star Adrian Gonzalez in San Diego.
Friday, he became the heir apparent to All-Star Prince Fielder in Chicago.
Well, not technically. Fielder never did play for the Cubs. But Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, Wrigleyville's new Glimmer Twins, effectively bowed out of the free-agent bidding for Fielder on Friday by acquiring Rizzo and minor-league pitcher Zach Cates from the Padres for right-hander Andrew Cashner and minor-league outfielder Kyung-Min Na.
The deal essentially brands Rizzo as the Cubs' first baseman of the future.
And however serious the Cubs were -- or weren't -- regarding Fielder, the nature of this winter will leave Rizzo attached to the Former Fresh Prince of Milwaukee regardless.
If Rizzo blossoms into a star, Cubs fans in the future will be heaving sighs of relief that their club didn't fork over half the franchise to Fielder.
If Rizzo flops, the Cubs will be answering pointed questions about their non-pursuit of Fielder for years.
Now, all Rizzo must do is grow into the role ... which is what Hoyer and Cubs assistant GM Jason McLeod had planned for Rizzo a year ago when the two executives were working for the Padres and acquired him from the Red Sox in the monster Gonzalez deal.
This is the second time Hoyer and McLeod have placed their bets on Rizzo in just over a year.
Now, it's up to Rizzo.
At Triple-A Tucson last summer, he was one of the most feared hitters in the game: .331, 26 homers, 101 RBIs, a .423 on-base percentage and a .652 slugging percentage.
But when he was summoned to San Diego in June to help boost an anemic lineup, Petco Park swallowed him whole. In 49 games (153 plate appearances), he batted .141 with one homer and nine RBIs.
"To be candid, I don't think I did Anthony any favors last year," Hoyer said on a conference call Friday afternoon. "He was leading Triple-A in RBIs by 20 percent and I called him up ... too early. It was a mistake on my part. I don't think I did Anthony any favors there."
Citing Rizzo's need for further development, Hoyer said he expects Bryan LaHair to open at first base for the Cubs and Rizzo to start at Triple-A Iowa come opening day.
Rizzo was rated this month as the No. 1 prospect in the Padres' system by Baseball America. He became expendable when San Diego acquired Yonder Alonso, also a left-handed hitting first baseman, from the Reds in the Mat Latos trade.
"This is now the third organization Jason and I have been in with Anthony, which speaks to how much we think of his ability and character," Hoyer said. "We expect him to be a middle-of-the-order run producer for a long time."
The Cubs steadfastly have not commented on Fielder this winter. As Hoyer said Friday when asked about a couple of potential Cuban free agents, "Discussing any free agent is something we're not going to do."
Dig the franchise out of its century-long World Series drought with big spending -- at least, right now -- is something Epstein, Hoyer and Co. are not going to do, either.
"Anytime you go with young players, it's the right thing to do," Hoyer said. "It's exciting to have young talent in the organization.
"There's no doubt that with young talent comes an adjustment period. ... It's nice to have a team with that upside because when you pass it, it can really explode.
"With young players comes growing pains and that's something we're prepared to deal with. ... The only way to be a great organization is to go through growing pains with young players and get to the end of that tunnel."
Posted on: November 29, 2011 11:29 pm
Albert Pujols has new company in his fireside chats this winter: The Cubs have expressed interest in the iconic, free agent first baseman, joining the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals as Pujols' three primary suitors, according to sources with knowledge of the talks.
It remains early in the process and it is not known how serious the Cubs' interest is. But new president Theo Epstein's desire to turn things around quickly combined with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement draft rules plus weak free agent classes the next two winters could spur them to action.
Pujols' only offer thus far is believed to be from the Marlins, a reported nine-year offer for less than the $200 million bar the slugger is thought to be seeking. The Cardinals, while continuing to talk with Pujols, are not believed to have made a new offer since last spring.
Industry speculation continues to put Pujols back in a Cardinals uniform in 2012. But St. Louis failed to make much of a move during its exclusive negotiating window with him following the World Series. Maybe the Cardinals think the market simply will not materialize as much as Pujols hopes, or maybe they're simply thinking nine years is too long to commit.
Whatever, the staredown is on, and the intensity is expected to pick up significantly next week as baseball convenes for its annual winter meetings in Dallas.
Pujols already has visited Miami and received a tour of the Marlins' new stadium. And though the Marlins' offer is said to be light, it also is the only one in Pujols hands right now.
The Cubs are an interesting case. General manager Jed Hoyer said on SiriusXM radio Tuesday that they're specifically looking for a left-handed hitter, which, among the top-shelf free agents, would be Prince Fielder, not Pujols. New manager Dale Sveum is the former Brewers hitting coach and was tight with Fielder, so for those looking to fuel speculation, there's your entree.
They're also one of the handful of clubs in the game that can play in Pujols' financial league. Their payroll currently is some $50 million lighter than it was in 2011 after Aramis Ramirez and others dropped off.
And they have nothing to lose by entering the negotiations because at the very least, even if they do not sign Pujols, they perhaps can drive the price up for the Cardinals and sting their NL Central rivals -- and defending World Series champions -- that way.
Posted on: November 18, 2011 6:21 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 6:28 pm
News that the Red Sox are talking with Bobby Valentine appears to mean one of two things for the flailing Bostons, who now are the only major-league team without a manager:
1. There is a total lack of direction and the Red Sox don't even know what they want anymore.
2. Ownership has seized the steering wheel from rookie general manager Ben Cherington and now is controlling the process.
Either scenario is not good, a far cry from the well-oiled machine that won the World Series in 2004 and 2007.
The first scenario is evidenced by the dramatic contrast between Valentine and the initial group of candidates they interviewed: Dale Sveum, who was named Cubs manager Friday, Sandy Alomar Jr., Gene Lamont, Pete Mackanin and Torey Lovullo. Of that group, only Lamont has prior major-league managerial experience (Mackanin was the Pirates' interim manager in 2005 and the Reds' interim pilot in 2007). All of those guys veer toward the quiet and unassuming and, to an extent, could be controlled by management. Valentine is brash, has years of experience and is his own man.
The second scenario is evidenced by the fact that Sveum veered in the Cubs' direction in short order following a lunch with Red Sox ownership on Wednesday. He was the only candidate brought back for a second interview. Clearly things did not click between Sveum and Boston's ownership. What we don't know is whether Sveum told Boston the Cubs were his first choice or whether Red Sox ownership pulled the plug on him.
Either way, it speaks volumes.
Obviously, Cherington did not think experience was a necessity when this process started. Valentine was on the shelf, available, when Terry Francona was let go. If the Red Sox were that interested in Valentine, they could have had him in place weeks ago. Why waste time first-dating all those first-timers?
Unless ... they arrived at Valentine once ownership lost confidence in Cherington.
Now there are more questions than answers:
-- Has aggressive president Larry Lucchino been turned loose by co-owners John Henry and Tom Werner to do his thing after being kept away from baseball operations during Theo Epstein's last few years in Boston?
-- By hiring Sveum, did Theo and Co. sting the Red Sox enough that Lucchino and Co. looking to one-up the Cubs with a splashy hire?
-- With his outsized personality, how much fun would Valentine be managing the Red Sox mixing with the outsized egos of ownership, the outsized coverage of the local media and the outsized noise from the New England fans?
-- How does Cherington regain his balance after his legs were cut out from under him this week and command authority going forward? Is it even possible?
At this rate, the Red Sox may take until Valentine's Day to have a manager in place. Or maybe (Bobby) Valentine's Day will come early to Boston.
Posted on: November 17, 2011 12:03 am
Edited on: November 17, 2011 2:41 pm
Dale Sveum is in place as the new manager of the Chicago Cubs. The club made it official Thursday and will formally introduce him at a Wrigley Field news conference on Friday.
As the Red Sox prepared for an 11th-hour expansion of their managerial search, sources said late Wednesday night that the Cubs had offered their position to Sveum. By midday Wednesday, he had agreed to a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth to replace Mike Quade in the Cubs dugout as the Red Sox regrouped.
Sveum was brought back for a second interview by both the Cubs and the Red Sox as the two venerable franchises lurched toward Thanksgiving looking to fill managerial vacancies. He met with Boston's brass in Milwaukee, site of the general managers' and owners' meetings this week, a second time over lunch on Wednesday.
While there were growing indications in recent days that Sveum preferred the Cubs' job to that of the Red Sox, Boston officials acknowledged late Wednesday night that they will expand their search. Sveum had been the only candidate invited back for a second interview by the Red Sox.
Sveum, who was Boston's third-base coach in 2004 and 2005, will re-join new Chicago president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer as the Cubs look to dig out of the mess of a 91-loss season that left them fifth in the NL Central last summer.
Sveum has been on Milwaukee's coaching staff for the past six seasons, and has served as the Brewers' hitting coach for the past three seasons, and his choice could be viewed as odd given that Milwaukee twice bypassed Sveum when its own manager's job was open.
In 2008, during one of the strangest finishes to a season for a playoff team in memory, the Brewers fired Ned Yost and replaced him on an interim basis with Sveum with just 12 games remaining.
However, instead of making Sveum their full-time manager, general manager Doug Melvin instead hired veteran baseball man Ken Macha. Then, when he fired Macha following the 2010 season, Melvin hired Ron Roenicke.
Reasons? Back in '08, the Brewers weren't sure Sveum, now 47, was ready for a managerial gig. Plus, Melvin philosophically is not a fan of hiring interim managers. The Brewers still weren't convinced that Sveum was ready after the 2010 season.
They are now.
"I think Dale's ready to manage," Melvin said Wednesday afternoon. "He's well-prepared, organized and conscientious. He's someone the players will like."
Both the Cubs and Red Sox viewed Sveum as being ready. And the Brewers have only good things to say about a man who has been loyal throughout when others may have fled the organization after being bypassed for the full-time manager's job.
"It was a very unfortunate situation at the time," Sveum said when we talked in mid-September about his brief interim gig in '08 and his reasons for staying in Milwaukee afterward. "I only managed for 12 days and then the playoffs. It wasn't like I was there for three months or something. It wasn't the norm where you think you deserve the job."
He said in September that he still wanted to manage and thought, given the right situation, he was ready to do so.
The Cubs may not be perfect, but they're the right situation. While Boston's roster is far more talented, Sveum lives in the off-season in Scottsdale, Ariz., not far from the Cubs' spring training base in Mesa. Boston trains in Florida.
Also, as a rookie manager, because the Cubs are not expected to win in 2012, Sveum will not face the same pressure he would have faced in Boston. He will have time to get his feet under him and break into the job (though Cubs fans who suffered while Mike Quade did the same in 2011 surely will not want to hear that).
During Sveum's 12-year major-league playing career, he spent time in Milwaukee (five seasons), Philadelphia, Chicago (White Sox), Oakland, Seattle, Pittsburgh and New York (Yankees). A cousin of former big leaguer John Olerud, Sveum managed Double-A Altoona in Pittsburgh's organization from 2001 through 2003 before joining the Red Sox coaching staff.
Posted on: October 22, 2011 7:39 pm
When the Cubs and Red Sox announced the Theo Epstein deal Friday night, they said that they had "reached an agreement regarding a process by which appropriate compensation will be determined for the Red Sox and that issue will be resolved in the near term."
That process, sources with knowledge of the talks said Saturday, will involved Commissioner Bud Selig serving as the arbiter if the clubs cannot agree on compensation. Most likely, that would happen fairly quickly after the World Series.
The two clubs are bickering strictly over players coming back to the Red Sox, one source said. As of now, there are no financial considerations.
Epstein will be introduced at a Wrigley Field news conference on Tuesday, the travel day between World Series Games 5 and 6. As CBSSports.com reported Thursday, Padres general manager Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, one of Hoyer's top assistants in San Diego, will join him in Chicago and the Cubs will send a low-level minor league player (or players) to the Padres as compensation.
Those moves, though, will not happen until later next week. At that point Josh Byrnes, the former Arizona general manager, will be named as the Padres' GM, succeeding Hoyer. Byrnes currently is a senior vice-president for baseball operations in San Diego.
Posted on: October 20, 2011 8:31 pm
The Red Sox-Cubs soap opera spins forward as the clubs haggle over compensation, but the general parameters of a deal that will affect three clubs are in place, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the negotiations:
Not only will Theo Epstein take control of the Cubs, he will take Padres general manager Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, one of Hoyer's assistant general managers in San Diego, with him. Josh Byrnes, the former Arizona general manager who currently is San Diego's senior vice-president for baseball operations, will replace Hoyer as the new Padres' GM. Ben Cherington, Epstein's top assistant, will succeed him as GM in Boston.
While Epstein will receive a five-year deal worth $18.5 million, Hoyer, likewise, is expected to receive a five-year contract with a significant bump in pay from his current salary as incentive to move. Hoyer currently is signed with the Padres through 2013, with and the club holds an option on him for 2014.
While Epstein would hold a presidency role, it would be a lateral move for Hoyer. However, he would be reunited with his very close friend, Epstein, and he would have large-market resources at his disposal.
The deal could be announced as early as Friday, though one source says that "a lot would have to happen" for everything to be put in place by then. As of late Thursday, particularly with Boston still holding up the Epstein part of the deal over steep compensation demands from the Cubs, it seemed realistic that these talks could spill into next week before things are finalized.
As of early Thursday evening, the Cubs had neither asked permission from Major League Baseball to hold a news conference on Friday, a World Series off day, nor had they asked permission from the Padres to speak with Hoyer.
Compensation issues are not limited to the Cubs and Red Sox in this elaborate game of executive hopscotch, either. Not only will the Cubs pay Boston for the right to take Epstein -- either financially or via players -- the Padres also are expected to be compensated by the Cubs for allowing Hoyer to break his contract.
That part, however, is not expected to be nearly as difficult a transaction as that which the Cubs are attempting to complete with Boston. San Diego most likely will receive one or two lower-level minor leaguers in return.
As for the Cubs and Red Sox, one source said Thursday night that he thought the two clubs were "getting close" on the compensation issues, though those talks have been ongoing for several days with Boston delighting in holding the sledgehammer.
Both Hoyer and McLeod worked under Epstein in Boston before they left the Red Sox for San Diego following the 2009 season. Hoyer was one of Epstein's top assistants and McLeod was director of amateur scouting for the Red Sox.
Under McLeod, among others, the Red Sox drafted outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, right-hander Clay Buccholz and infielder Jed Lowrie.
Byrnes was one of Epstein's right-hand men for three seasons in Boston, a time during which the Red Sox drafted Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, before the Diamondbacks hired him to become their GM in October, 2005.
Posted on: October 12, 2011 6:14 pm
Talk about a golden autumn for general managers. Billy Beane goes Hollywood in "Moneyball." Theo Epstein is about to go Wrigleyville in "Cubbyball."
Posted on: February 19, 2011 7:56 pm
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Outtakes from the Red Sox camp, and a reminder to look beneath the gaudy exterior of Boston's winter:
"There's no getting around the fact that last year we lost way too many games, or the chance to win games, late," manager Terry Francona says.
For one thing, closer Jonathan Papelbon, eligible for free agency this winter, had his worst season in 2010, posting a 3.90 ERA and blowing seven saves.
For another, partly because of Papelbon's blowups, the Sox ranked 14th among AL bullpens with a 4.24 bullpen ERA. Furthermore, Boston as a team ranked 23rd in the majors in allowing an average of 4.60 runs per game.
Wheeler and Jenks maybe are under the radar to the average fan, but you'd better believe they're not around here.
"There are a lot of ways a good team can get off track and get derailed," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein told me during a weekend conversation on one of the Boston practice fields. "There is no way that's as painful as having a bad bullpen, or running out of quality guys out there."
To that extent, Epstein said, the Sox really wanted to focus on bullpen depth this winter -- and not just the first seven or eight guys, but nine and 10 deep.
"Jenks, we all assumed, was going to get a closer gig," Epstein said. "Everyone in the game thought he was going to be non-tendered, but he actually turned down a couple of closer roles to come here, which we all appreciate."
Working behind Papelbon and set-up man Daniel Bard, and alongside Hideki Okajima, Scott Atchison, Matt Albers and others, mark it down: Jenks and Wheeler will be pivotal weapons for Francona this summer.
"There's no getting around the fact that last year we lost too many games, or the chance to win games, late," the manager said. "We felt like we were going to Bard too much, or wanting to go to Bard too much. I don't think we did. But we lost games late, and then there were games that were close where we didn’t give ourselves a chance to win like good teams should.
"I think we feel like we have some reinforcements. We're a little bit deeper, and that's the hope. Because last year was difficult."
-- Jenks declined to say which clubs he turned down this winter, simply saying the chance to sign not only in Boston, but with a fully loaded Red Sox team, was too good to turn down.
"It's a great organization and somewhere I wanted to play," Jenks said. "I didn't think it would be this soon. But once the opportunity came around, I jumped on it.
"It didn't hurt that they had made all of these moves, too."
The Sox traded for Gonzalez on Dec. 5, signed Crawford on Dec. 13 and signed Jenks on Dec. 21, three days after they signed Wheeler.
After closing for the White Sox for his entire career, Jenks signed specifically to be a set-up man. But you know how things work -- if Papelbon struggles like last summer, Francona has options.
Especially if Jenks feels as good as he does right now. Struck by elbow inflammation last season, Jenks says it's a thing of the past, and various X-rays and MRIs seem to support him.
Jenks is 29, posted a career-high 4.44 ERA last year but has 173 career saves over six seasons. He signed a two-year, $12 million contract with Boston.
"I came here knowing my role," he says. "It's an eighth-inning, seventh-inning thing, a set-up role. I feel very good. Terrific. Nothing from last year is bothering me."
-- Francona on the bullpen: "We've had pretty good teams here, and I think those things have a way of evolving. ... I do know the teams that we've had here that have been really good, our bullpens have always been good. It's hard to have a really good team and not
Likes: The optimism of early spring in every camp. ... Lakeland. Passed through there the other day and it's like a town caught in the 1970s. Love the marquee outside the Southside Cleaners that without fail, every year, keeps cheesy sayings on its marquee. On one side this year, it read: "To err is human, to purr is feline." On the other side: "Synonym: A word you use when you can't spell the other word." ... Then, the marquee at the church down the street checked in with "A daily prayer reduces your cares." ... The gumbo and crawfish etouffee remain superb at Harry's Seafood Bar and Grill in Lakeland. ... Dairy Queen. ... Buddy Guy's performance with the Rolling Stones on Champagne and Reefer is reason alone to Netflix Shine a Light. Knockout stuff.
Dislikes: New year, new batting practice and spring training jerseys. Every chance to try and soak more money out of the fans. Detroit's are navy blue with white shoulders. What the hell? Looks awful. Cincinati's have a ridiculously large "Reds" scripted across the front. Loved Brandon Phillips' tweet in reply to a fan who asked what he thought of them: "It's NOT my cup of tea, but I'm happy to have one, though."
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Well, the plane touched down just about 3 o'clock
-- Zac Brown Band, Toes