So I’m having a super-busy week. That, combined with the lack of any real Chicago Cubs news leading up to pitchers and catchers reporting in FOUR DAYS has caused me to zone out a little bit on the Cubs reporting. Not that there’s much report.
I heard a few little nuggets in a conversation recently, which led me to ask a source about their veracity. I wanted to pass one along, because it concerns Starlin Castro’s really horrible, terrible not-very-good season in 2013. Apparently, the Cubs blame Starlin’s decline almost entirely on Dale Sveum, who they feel made no real effort to bring Castro along or to prop him up during slumps. Sveum’s an old school baseball guy, who comes from the “just suck it up and do it” school of thought. Castro, on the other hand, is young, sensitive, and often lacks for confidence. The Cubs feel he needs a manager/mentor/father figure, and Sveum just wasn’t the guy. By the end of 2013, Castro and Sveum were barely on speaking terms. This was the real catalyst for Sveum’s firing and for the Cubs bringing in a guy like Rick (are we calling him Rick or Rich?) Renteria, who is more like your favorite fun uncle than a hard-nosed baseball coach, at least that’s the impression I get from him so far. He’s definitely warmer and cuddlier than Sveum.
The other nugget I overheard, and this one is unconfirmed, is that Crane Kenny is almost solely responsible for Clark the Cubs, and that creating Clark was a knee-jerk, oh-my-god-the-fans-are-restless-we-have-to-do-something-this-offseason move. If true, this makes me laugh. Even if it isn’t true, it makes me laugh.
Have you been scratching your head over the Cubs starting rotation? So have the rest of us. Mark Gonzales breaks down the possibilities, including some flickering interest in Jeff Samardzija:
With six days of split-squad games, the Core Four of Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler will receive ample playing time during spring training with the Cubs before they’re assigned to their minor league affiliates.
Those split-squad games will provide an even more important opportunity to the candidates facing long odds to make the opening-day rotation. Those starters will have more chances to leave a favorable impression on the Cubs’ talent evaluators. That impact could go a long way, especially if the Cubs continue their recent tradition of trading starters in midseason.
Ace Jeff Samardzija, fresh off a $5.345 million settlement for 2014 after an offseason saturated in speculation about his future, remains the focal point of trade considerations. His durability (coming off a 200-inning, 200-strikeout season) and contract status (he won’t be a free agent until after 2015) make him attractive.
The Diamondbacks addressed their pitching needs last winter, but the Mariners have emerged as a potential trade partner, according to a scouting source. Five of the Mariners’ top seven prospects are pitchers, according to Baseball America, and acquiring young pitching would help the Cubs fill a void.
But perhaps the most intriguing starting/trade candidate is Carlos Villanueva, who split the 2013 season between the rotation and the bullpen.
Samardzija has been signed for all of two days. Perhaps we could wait a week or so before the trade rumors begin again?
If you get bored today, make sure you check out Mark Gonzales’ mail bag. He does his best to put up with mouth-breathing Cubs fans, like this one:
Do Epstein, Hoyer, and Ricketts really expect Cubs’ fans to buy another year of “rebuilding” without even trying to put a viable team on the field? Hundreds of dollars for tickets to watch another 90+ losses? Ridiculous! Why not just play all these future phenoms now instead of yet another incredible list of B-level has-beens?
They would get “experience” at the highest level. I’m tired of LOSING! – Dan Salvatore, Roanoke, Va.
Funny that you mention the idea of playing the phenoms now rather than make them dominate each level before receiving a promotion. There have been some greats, such as Willie Mays, who struggled immediately and terribly at the major league level before dominating. But the Cubs have invested so much in their young talent that they don’t have the luxury of rushing these top guys, especially when Baez is the only player who has a semblance of experience at the Double-A level.
Oh yes. They preach patience until the “Core Four” arrive.
So far, Mark is doing a great job of remaining civil and not asking Dan from Virginia if his parents were brother and sister. Let’s see where Mark’s temperament is in June.
Four days until pitchers and catchers report. Hang in there, Cubs fans.
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