Throw It Like a Ballplayer

providing baseball commentary and ponderings since April 2010

Posts Tagged ‘chicago cubs’

Soriano: Not Yet an Albatross.

Posted by dannmckeegan on March 5, 2011

A quick note on Fonzie’s crazy contract with the Cubs: So far, he’s been paid a total of $56 million, according to Cot’s ($9m in 2007, $13m in 2008, $16m in 2009, and $18m last year). In that time, he has produced a total of 14.1 fWAR, for a per-win cost of $3.97 million. Considering he produced a replacement-level performance during an injury-riddled 2009 season, that’s a pretty fair price.

Even if we add his $8 million signing bonus to the $56 million paid to date, his cost is $4.54 million per win. That price appears to be within the realm of reason.

While he is highly unlikely to maintain a $4-$4.5 million/win pace through the life of his current contract, his production has actually been less of an albatross than it’s made out to be. He is under contract through 2014 at an annual salary of $18 million ($72 million still owed). He would have to produce 16 to 18 WAR over than span to keep pace.

But let’s consider $5 million per win to be an upper threshold for the per-win average cost between 2007 and 2014 (i.e., assume that the price will continue to climb slightly). Dividing the contract’s total value by this per-win cost, we see that Soriano has to produce a total of 27 WAR over the life of the contract to hit $5 million/win. 30 WAR would place him at approximately $4.5 million/win.

So to reach this ballpark, Soriano has four years to produce between 13 and 16 WAR. While it is a safe bet that he will not be able to accumulate enough playing time (given the Cubs’ OF prospects and his own aging/injuries) or have enough defensive improvement (try, try again) to put up 4 WAR/season, a line similar to his 2010 output would likely keep him close to 3 WAR/year.

If, after the 2014 season, Soriano has produced the following annual WAR tallies:
2007 – 6.9
2008 – 4.3
2009 – 0.0
2010 – 2.9
2011 – 3
2012 – 2.7
2013 – 2.2
2014 – 2.0
he will have accumulated 24 WAR in exchange for $136 million, thus earning $5.67 million per win. A 2-win season in 2014, at age 38, would be a big surprise. But it would be equally surprising to see him either forced to the bench or retirement at that point. And once the contract is down to one or two years, an AL team in need of a power-hitting DH would possibly be interested in a discounted trade. If the Cubs have Brett Jackson, Matt Szczur, and Tyler Colvin (for example) penciled into their 2014 outfield, they won’t be worrying about payroll and can pay half of his final year spent elsewhere.

Barring a complete and utter late-career collapse (unlikely), Alfonso Soriano will likely end up being a noticeable but not atrocious overpay. If managed wisely, the club’s payroll won’t be negatively effected by his presence. If he can produce a simple .250/.310/.470-(20-25 HR)-(55-75 RBI) line for the next three years, he’ll have actually been a halfway decent investment. Considering the in-house options (Matt Murton, Angel Pagan, Micah Hoffpauir, Jake Fox, Jason Dubois, Matt Camp, Bobby Scales, Brad Snyder, Jim Adduci, Sam Fuld…) of recent vintage, it seems like Soriano has filled the corner outfield power gap that many teams do nowadays struggle to fill.

Remember: the albatross is a portent for good. It wasn’t until Coleridge’s mariner killed the bird that ill luck gained sway. The albatross is only hanging from around one’s neck when it is dead. Soriano: not dead yet.

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Who’s Who Behind the Plate, pt. 2

Posted by dannmckeegan on August 7, 2010

…wherein the author examines the high minors of the Chicago Cubs, in particular those players whose primary position is catcher.

Welington Castillo (http://blogs.desmoinesregister.com/dmr/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/icubs.jpg)Chris RobinsonRobinson ChirinosSteve Clevenger

Beyond Geovany Soto, Koyie Hill and Welington Castillo, there are several catchers in the Cubs’ farm system that are legitimate major league prospects.  There also are those who appear to be farm fodder at this point, as opposed to real prospects at the position.  There is little to no information available on DSL players beyond basic stat lines.  I’ll provide as much depth, in brief, as possible, as well as give a quick onceover to those who no longer are Cubs system catchers.

Triple A – Iowa Cubs

Welington Castillo; Chris Robinson; Mark Johnson

I dealt with Welington Castillo a few days ago.  Read about him here.  In brief, he possesses decent power at the plate and a strong arm behind it.  His broader defensive skills are in question, while his free-swinging ways have downgraded his ceiling to a Miguel Olivo-type career, as opposed to the Ivan Rodriguez-type player the Cubs hopes they were signing back in the middle of the last decade.  Expect to see him on the MLB roster in a matter of weeks, if not days, given the minor ligament soreness Geovany Soto is experiencing and the fact that Koyie Hill is about as good a hitter as Jon Garland.

Chris Robinson, left, shakes hands with P/WR Jeff Samardzija

At twenty-six years of age, Chris Robinson is having a rough go in his second trip through the Pacific Coast League.  Debuting for the Tigers’ short-season low-A affiliate in 2005 as a third round draft pick, Robinson made his way to the Cubs’ system in the middle of the following year, the return in the trade that sent Neifi Perez to Detroit.  A right-handed hitter, Robinson doesn’t have much pop (career .359 SLG) or patience (101 BB in 1620 PA, 6.2%).  After a surprising .326 average in 331 plate appearances at Iowa in 2009, Robinson’s stock has plummeted just as far as his 2010 offensive production has.  He’s hitting only .228 with a .584 OPS in 204 PA.  Even in 2009, his best overall season as a pro, he drew just 13 bases on balls.  He also has caught only 24% of attempted base thieves since the start of the 2008 season.  However, at the start of this season, Lou Piniella and Jim Hendry kept him in camp through the final cut to reward a strong spring.  Piniella emphasized to Paul Sullivan that, at the time, Robinson looked to be the emergency call-up if either Soto or Hill were to go on the DL.  This was surprising, as both Castillo and fellow-farmhand Steve Clevenger, Robinson’s 2009 platoon partner at Iowa, had been considered more highly rated prospects.  With just three weeks remaining in the minor league regular season, Robinson would need to play just about every day to match his games played and plate appearance totals from 2009.  With the progress of those next to and behind him, that’s not likely to happen.  Robinson might remain in the system as Just Another Guy, but his chance to get a cup of coffee with the Cubs likely passed when neither Geo nor Koyie came limping out of the gate.

Out of respect for a longtime member of the Brotherhood of Backup Backstops, I’ll give a brief write-up to Mark Johnson (not pictured), a 34-year-old left-handed hitter who began his professional career in 1994 as the White Sox’ first round pick.  He’s played parts or all of 8 major league seasons and 14 minor league seasons for six different organizations (White Sox, Athletics, Brewers twice, Cubs twice, Diamondbacks and Cardinals), amassing 332 games and 1102 plate appearances in MLB and 3568 plate appearances over 933 minor league games.  For about six weeks at the start of 2010, Johnson rode Iowa’s bench, picking up one pinch hitting opportunity and playing the field in another game.  He singled, scored, struck out, had no one attempt to run on him, and found himself out of a job on May 27th.  It’s likely the end of the road for Johnson, but at least he gets to say he led his team’s position players in hitting and on base percentage in his final season.

Double A – Tennessee Smokies

Robinson Chirinos; Steve Clevenger

Robinson Chirinos

Robinson Chirinos has been in the Cubs’ farm system since he was 17 years old.  That was way back in 2001, when he was a defensively deficient and offensively raw utility infielder in the Arizona rookie league.  He played over 500 games before ever making it higher than high A Daytona.  In 2007, he split the year between the Florida State League and the Smokies, committing 9 errors in 39 games while putting up a weak .629 OPS for Tennessee.  At the urging of Cubs player personnel V.P. Oneri Fleita, Chirinos began to transition behind the plate in the 2008 season, catching 2 games in rookie ball and 18 at Daytona in addition to 55 on the infield between those teams and the Smokies.  In 2009, Chirinos caught 65 of the 81 games in which he played, primarily at Daytona, committing 6 errors, allowing 7 passed balls and throwing out 24 of 86 (28%) thieves on the bases.  He also had by far his best offensive season as a pro, throwing up a slash line of .294/.396/.519 with a career high 11 HR and, for the second straight year, having a 1:1 K/BB ratio.  Earning a spot on the Tennessee team coming into 2010, Chirinos also turned heads at Baseball America, who graded him as the Cubs’ best defensive catcher.  So far in 2010, all he’s done is start the Southern League ASG, earn multiple offensive player of the week awards, and carry a .316/.407/.578 line through the first week of August.  He’s walked 40 times to just 33 strikeouts in 307 plate appearances, as well as hit 15 home runs and 22 doubles.  He’s second on the team in total bases despite being sixth in plate appearances.  Defensively, he has 7 errors in 536 chances (.987), 5 passed balls and a 30% CS rate.  Having turned 26 two months ago, Chirinos is no spring chicken by baseball standards.  He is, however, getting close to MLB-ready.  While likely never a star and probably not a starter, he projects as a potentially strong all-around backup for a few years that might serve as solid trade-bait this coming off-season.

Steve Clevenger

Steve Clevenger’s name has fallen on this list just as far as he has on the organizational depth chart.  Late in 2009, this 24-year-old with a lefty stick was figuring out AAA pitching for the first time during 66 games played with Iowa after a torrid start early on in Tennessee.  A career .300/.360/.390 hitter in the minors, he was a seventh rounder by the Cubs back in 2006, the same draft in which the team took Jeff Samardzija and Tyler Colvin.  A singles hitter with walk and strikeout rates hovering around 10% apiece, he’s only been able to squeeze 200 plate appearances and 43 games behind the plate back at AA Tennessee.  Through no fault of his own, he was the odd man out when someone had to give way to Castillo’s promotion.  Expected to be the long side of the platoon with Chirinos, Clevenger started as slowly as Chirinos was hot and has been playing catch-up ever since.  He’s at .277/.319/.351, numbers more similar to his first trip through the Southern League in 2008 than the .364 average and .976 OPS he put up in the first month down there in 2009.  Clevenger’s first season with the Cubs saw him at the keystone is short season low-A at Boise, but he hasn’t played an inning there since.  In addition to those 63 games at second, he played first in 82 games between 2007 and 2009 while catching just under 200 to date, catching 29% of runners while allowing just 14 passed balls and 15 errors as a catcher.  Given what we know about the careers of Paul Bako, Brian Schneider, and Gregg Zaun, a catcher with even the potential to hit over .200 from the left side will be given every chance and then some to make it.  Expect Clevenger to stick around the system, a la Koyie Hill, for at least a year or two more.

Prognosis

Chris Robinson, most likely, is near the end of his tenure in the upper minors.  The Cubs are hardly a top-5 system, but they do have solid players who have excelled at lower levels.  Room has to be cleared, and that generally means that age gets the boot.  While he is the same age as Chirinos and has been a pro for a shorter period of time, Chirinos’ recent positional transition and rapid development – along with his improving offense and respectable slugging – should make Chirinos Iowa’s starter or someone else’s farmhand come next Februrary.  It’s hard to imagine that Welington Castillo will be anywhere other than Alfonso Soriano‘s sofa in the coming weeks (sorry, Starlin – time to get your own place).  Clevenger likely will be shuffled back up to Triple A Iowa.  There are some intriguing options at catcher in the low minors.  Michael Brenly, Jovan Rosa, Luis Flores, Jonathan Mota and others might be ready to move up one or more steps, with their Augusts, winter ball stints, and spring training performance (if applicable) will determine what the upper minors look like.  Count on Castillo to back up Soto unless he looks absolutely feeble and over-matched as 2010 comes to a close.

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Who’s Who Behind the Plate, pt. 1

Posted by dannmckeegan on August 6, 2010

Geovany Soto (http://a.espncdn.com/photo/2010/0301/fantasy_g_soto_576.jpg)Koyie Hill (http://thebloggerinthegloamin.mlblogs.com/koyiehill.jpg)Welington Castillo (http://blogs.desmoinesregister.com/dmr/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/icubs.jpg)

Geovany Soto won the 2008 National League Rookie of the Year Award, joining Kerry Wood in 1998 and Jerome Walton in 1989 as Cubs to earn the honor in my lifetime.  After a disappointing 2009 campaign, Soto has bounced back in 2010 and begun to earn consideration as one of the top catchers in the majors.  He is currently joined on the Cubs’ 40-man roster by two fellow catchers, backup Koyie Hill and Iowa catcher Welington Castillo.  The 2010 season has also revealed some organizational depth at the position that is intriguing both for the future and as potential trade bait.  The goal here is to give something of a onceover to the catchers in the Chicago Cubs system, from the major league roster all the way down to the Dominican Summer League.  The three most important names – Soto, Hill and Castillo – will be profiled in this installment. Read the rest of this entry »

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Silva’s Bum Ticker Gives Rookie a Shot

Posted by dannmckeegan on August 2, 2010

The Cubs have placed SP Carlos Silva on the 15-day disabled list for cardiac evaluations (who had “bum ticker” in the office pool?) after he was forced to leave Sunday’s start at Colorado in the first inning because of an elevated heart rate.

Between Silva’s health issue and the trade of Ted Lilly, the Cubs starting rotation was down to three men: Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells and Tom Gorzelanny.

To fill the two vacant spots in the starting rotation and on the active roster, Thomas Diamond and Casey Coleman (both righties) have been purchased from Iowa.

On the season, Diamond has made 21 starts, averaging about 5.1 IP/GS. He’s 5-4 with a 3.16 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 86 hits allowed, and a 104:46 K/BB ratio. He’s allowed 9 HR, or 0.75 HR/9. He is said to have a mid-90s fastball and above average slider and change. Iowa manager Ryne Sandberg has said he’s been effectively wild at times, and hopefully he can harness his stuff at the next level. At 27, this would likely be his first and last chance to make up for the time he lost due to injury. Just about every scouting report says control, control, control.

Coleman is 10-7 with a 4.07 ERA in 20 starts for Iowa, of which he’s completed 2 and averaged just under 6 IP/GS. He’s given up 106 hits (10 HR) in 117.1 IP, has walked 35, and struck out 59. His WHIP is 1.20, while his HR/9 is 0.77. He turned 23 years old just one month ago. He’s an extreme ground ball pitcher (1.90 GO/AO in 2010) who has held righties to .200 BAA, while lefties have been more successful (.298 BAA). He was a 15th-round pick in the 2008 amateur draft. Needless to say, he has a decent sinker, but Patrick Schaefer of Bleacher Report says his changeup is his best pitch. Late in ’09, he added a cutter to his repertoire. Vineline’s preseason “Fifty Names From the Farm” rate Coleman as having the best command in the system, as well as ranking top-five in poise, athleticism, durability and mechanics.

Well, now’s the time for the kids to continue making an impact.  For those keeping score, eight of twenty-five active Cubs have rookie status.  Only two had previously been on the Cubs’ MLB roster for cups of coffee, those being RHP Justin Berg and OF Tyler Colvin.  Bullpen arms James Russell (14th round, 2007), Andrew Cashner (1st round, 2008), Brian Schlitter (16th round, 2007 by PHI) and SS Starlin Castro (signed 2006) are the other four.

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Mid-Season Review, Part Deux

Posted by dannmckeegan on July 2, 2010

Part Deux, as one might guess, implies that this entry will focus on the Cubs middle infield.  With the May promotion of Starlin Castro to the majors from Double A Tennessee, everyone else’s role changed.  Ryan Theriot moved from short to second.  Fontenot became a backup at second.  And Jeff Baker found himself on the bench, for the most part, pinch hitting until Aramis Ramirez went to the DL in June.  As a group, the best descriptor is probably “frustrating,” but each man merits that adjective for different reasons.  So without further ado, let’s begin.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Milton Bradley vs. Carlos Silva & Cash, Part 1

Posted by dannmckeegan on April 8, 2010

Congrats to Kurt Suzuki of the A’s for his walkoff double last night.  As you can see in the video, Mariners LF Milton Bradley, who managed his first home run (and hit) with his new club last night, doesn’t quite pull that one in.  Is there a little schadenfreude on my end?  Not really, since it isn’t Bradley himself that causes me to draw attention to him.  The majority of the baseball commentariat – talking heads, writers and bloggers alike – was convinced that Seattle had fleeced the Cubs in the off season.  In an exchange of bad fits, they said, Bradley was by far the better option and well worth the extra money Seattle has to pay Chicago to take on Carlos Silva.  Foolishness. Read the rest of this entry »

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