Monday, August 02, 2004

Twins get: Justin Jones f/ Cubs
Red Sox get: Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz
Expos get: Alex Gonzalez, Brendan Harris, and Francis Beltran
Cubs get: Nomar Garciaparra and Matt Murton

Jim Hendry pulled a rabbit out of his hat with this one. For the last 2-3 weeks, word was Nomar was staying and the Cubs had their sights on Montreal's Orlando Cabrera. Even baseball guru, Peter Gammons, who is never wrong about these things (sarcasm) said he was 99% sure Nomar was staying in Boston until the end of this season. So, Saturday afternoon, Cubs nation was waiting to see what Hendry had given up to the 'Spos for Cabrera. Montreal was rumored to be asking for Angel Guzman and/or Felix Pie, along with the exchange of two .230s hitting SS. Obviously, Hendry was not gonna give up his top 2 prospects for an underachieving 2 month rental, so it was possible the Cubs would do nothing before the July 31 deadline.

Just after 5pm EST, it was announced that Nomar Garciaparra was coming to the Cubs in a 4-way deal. No other details were given, except that it was assumed the deal involved Matt Clement and perhaps, Derek Lowe. Not only did the Cubs not have to give up 1/5 of baseball's best rotation, but they got a 2-time batting champ, and perennial All-Star SS without giving up the 2 big named prospects rumored to be going for months.

Breakdown: Cubs obviously get a huge upgrade at SS. Nomar will hit over .300, and makes an inconsistent lineup potent from 1-8. The Cubs did give up 3 of their top 10 prospects. But another key in the deal was picking up Matt Murton. Murton was a 2003 supplemental draft pick by the Red Sox out of Georgia Tech (same school as Nomar). He was rated their 5th best prospect. Murton is a legit 4-tool player, who lacks only a strong throwing arm. He has a good batting eye and doesn't strike out much. He will hit for average, and is developing the power of a corner OF. Murton is currently 9th in the FSL in hitting at .301. He was elected an All-Star and won the league's HR derby over the Cubs, Brandon Sing.

Francis Beltran had the system's best fastball, and was being groomed as a possible closer of the future. After a dominant winter ball season, Beltran spent the majority of this season in the Cubs bullpen. He was used sparingly early on, but fought his way into pitching in close game situations where he started to flourish. Just the last couple weeks, Beltran started to falter and saw his ERA take a bit of a hit. Francis had a great K rate, but also had his share of control problems.

Justin Jones was rated by some as the system's best pitching prospect before the season. At 18 years old, he was dominant at class A- Lansing in 2003. He was hailed as the next great Cubs prospect, a projectable lefty with a good feel for 3 pitches and near pinpoint control. However, in the 2nd half of 2003, Jones ran into some arm problems, that he hasn't fully recovered from yet. His numbers were down while repeating Lansing, but the ceiling is still there for the 19-year old to be a top of the rotation type starter.

Brendan Harris probably hurt the most to lose. Jones is at least 3 years from the majors. Beltran had seemingly been passed by Jon Leicester, Todd Wellemeyer, and Ryan Dempster for one of the final spots in the bullpen. But Harris had a legit shot to be part of the 2005 Cubs. Harris has hit everywhere he has been, including the pitching dominated Florida State League in 2002, when he drew comparisons to Albert Pujols. Harris, though, is more in the mold of Michael Young or Marcus Giles, a doubles hitter with good patience, who makes contact, has decent speed, and surprising power. He has the versatility to adequately play 2B, SS, and 3B defensively, and would have been a great cheap option in the middle IF for 2005. At worst, Harris would have been the utility man for a Cubs team with a re-signed Todd Walker at 2B and a long-term answer at SS. Brendan showed in a brief callup that he had a great approach at the plate and will be a ML hitter someday soon.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

More Minor League Manuevering

The enigma that is Luis Montanez took another turn this week, as the Cubs sent the former #3 draft pick to extended spring training in Mesa. The Cubs apparently plan to convert Luis from middle IF to outfielder.

For some odd reason, the Cubs feel that Montanez (a very bad offensive middle IF) will be better suited to play corner OF, (because face it, he won't be able to play CF) where his bat will be even more of a liability.

As noted in the farm report, Ryan O'Malley was returned to Daytona to fill the roster spot left by Montanez.

Daytona will have to make another roster move in 2 days as #1 prospect Angel Guzman will make his season debut this Thursday in Daytona. Guzman will make one or 2 starts in Florida before joining the talented West Tennessee rotation.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Again, sorry for the week off. There was a bunch of roster movement throughout the Cubs organization over the past 10 days.

4/30- Glendon Rusch's contract was purchased (spot vacated by Sanchez trade), he was promoted to Chicago and Mike Wuertz sent down to Iowa.
5/5- Alex Gonzalez went on the 15-day DL with a broken bone in his wrist.
5/6- Damian Jackson's contract was purchased after the Cubs moved Mark Prior from the 15-day to the 60-day DL. Jackson was promoted to Chicago to replace the injured Gonzalez.


5/5- Andy Pratt was placed on the disabled list. Bryan Corey was released and allowed to sign a contract in Japan. Ryan O'Malley was promoted from Daytona.
5/6- Matt Creighton promoted from West Tenn. RHP-David Manning signed as a free agent.
5/8- Ryan O'Malley returned to Daytona. Cubs received RHP- Shawn Sedlacek from the Mets for cash considerations and assigned him to Iowa.

West Tenn-

5/1- Scott Chiasson activated from the disabled list.
5/6- Former 1st round draft pick, Ben Christensen was released by the Cubs. Mike Dzurilla activated from the DL. Matt Creighton promoted to Iowa to make room.
5/8- Chadd Blasko was placed on the DL. Jordan Gerk promoted from Daytona.

5/5- Craig Green promoted from Mesa.

5/7- Justin Jones promoted from extended spring training. Carlos Mejia promoted from Mesa. Kyle Boyer and Ed Campusano sent to Mesa.

The injury to Alex doesn't hurt much on the surface, as he was the least productive Cub in the lineup, by far. But Martinez and Jackson are utility men at best. It's early in the season, but with Gonzalez out 6-8 weeks, I would love for Hendry to go after a cheap replacement and simply release the worthless, Jose Macias.

In the minors, it's good to see guys like Jones, Harris, and Chiasson coming back from injuries. All have important summers ahead of them. Sorry to see Big Ben go. He had #1 pick potential at one time, but elbow and shoulder surgery was too much to overcome. I wish him the best. The Mejia for Boyer swap is interesting. Boyer has been battling a hand injury after being hit by a pitch and hasn't been able to get the playing time to get his timing together.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

The Cubs trade LHR- Felix Sanchez to Detroit for LHS- Jon Connolly.

This trade seems like a case of Sanchez not developing as the Cubs would like. Sanchez has always had the arm, but never developed a serviceable offspeed pitch. Felix had a 7.71 ERA in 7 games for the AA-West Tenn DiamondJaxx. In Jon Connolly, the Cubs get crafty lefty with a brief, but successful minor league career. Here's the Baseball America scouting report on the newest Cub.

Connolly led the minors in ERA, and not just because he pitched at Fifth Third Ballpark. His ERA was 1.35 at home versus 1.51 on the road. While he didn't scare any hitters with his stuff, he has a good enough feel for pitching that scouts and managers give him a chance as a back-of-the-rotation starter.

Connolly's changeup, a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, isn't just his only above-average pitch--it's his only average pitch. He throws 83-88 mph, and his 6-foot build doesn't figure to generate more velocity. His curveball is just a tick better than his fastball. But his ability to locate his pitches precisely where he wants and to change speeds is outstanding.

The key for this move is it clears a spot on the 40-man roster for the Cubs. It is expected that the news in tomorrow's transactions will be that Glendon Rusch is called up for this weekend's series in St. Louis to replace Michael Wuertz in the Cubs bullpen.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

In a minor move on Tuesday, the Cubs promoted Jermaine Van Buren to AA West Tennessee and cut Jose Cueto. Cueto allowed 11 runs and 11 hits, on 4 HRs in just 4 2/3 innings this year for the Jaxx. Van Buren's spot on the Lugnuts roster has not been filled.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

So, I was wrong! I said that Grudz's injury may have given Andy Pratt a couple more weeks on the roster....well, before yesterday's game the Cubs sent Pratt to AAA-Iowa and called up Francis Beltran. Beltran had been the closer in Iowa. He was a perfect 3 for 3 in saves with 3 strikeouts in over 3 1/3 spotless innings. Pratt will likely join the Iowa rotation. He walked 7 men and posted a 21+ ERA in just under 2 innings of work for the Cubs this season.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Injuries continue to pile up

The Cubs place 2B-Mark Grudzielanek on the 15-day DL with a partial tear to the achilles tendon. Jose Macias was taken off the disabled list to replace Grudz on the roster.

That damn achilles again! First Prior, now Grudzie. The Cubs believe he will be out just 2 more weeks, so it doesn't sound too serious. Grudz was the hottest Cub hitter, and probably had the best approach at the plate of anyone so far this season. Todd Walker should get the majority of the starts at 2B, with Ramon Martinez getting a shot vs. LHPs. Seven games into the season, and this is the 4th Cub to see time on the DL already. This injury probably spared a couple more weeks for Andy Pratt, who has proven to be not ready for this level. Hopefully, the Cubs can stay afloat for the first month or two. When this team is 100% healthy, it should still make its run.

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