Carlos Pena might be the best product the Cubs have to offer on the trade market (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
There is a little more than a month remaining before the trade deadline, and the Cubs are firmly in the seller basket.
Chicago is thirteen games under .500, 10 games back of the Cardinals or Brewers, depending on which way the wind is blowing, or who is rained out.
The farm system needs some life (even if the Tennessee Smokies look like the New York Yankees when it comes to the Southern League All-Star team), especially after the best prospects were sent to Tampa for Matt Garza.
But the Cubs are in a poor position because there is almost no one to sell.
FanGraphs tried to distill who would be trade targets at every position about three weeks ago; however the choices from the Cubs were almost laughable.
As if the Cubs could get rid of Kosuke Fukudome? Plus the team that came up most often as interested in the paltry sums that the Cubs had to offer were the Giants.
Based on what the Giants are doing right now â 39-34, 0.5 games behind Arizona â even with injuries and Miguel Tejada playing 63 games, it is hard to see why they would approach the Cubs for any help.
That is like asking a blind man to help you cross the street.
To be fair, Fukudome could be moved. If someone needed a lead-off hitter with a decent outfield arm, you could do worse. He has managed to keep his June average at .246, about 30 points above his career mark in the month, although some of that might be due to extra rest that Mike Quade has been giving the 34-year-old.
Notice, he is 34-years-old. To think that the Cubs would get a nice basket of prospects for a 34-year-old rental at a position where the best players are almost a decade younger is kind of a stretch.
The best thing that Fukudome had going for him this season was his ability to get on base at the top of the order, and despite his average staying up, his on base percentage for June is just .329.
He might still be 5th in the National League in the category, but most of that .400 mark was achieved with his typical hot April.
(On a side note, if the Cubs did manage to move him, and letâs say that Hendry stays as GM next season â a big âIFâ â you would have to put the chances that the Cubs resign Kosuke at about 90 percent.)
Scratch Fukudome off the list.
Marlon Byrd was only one week removed from taking a ball off his face when he was put up as a possible trade target of the Texas Rangers.
The reasoning went that Byrd could provide a stable player in center field as the prospects that Texas had werenât necessarily working. But the reasoning wasnât related to defense, but more to hitting.
The Rangers young guys were struggling to put the bat on the ball, and an upgrade was at least understandable.
But Byrd isnât a great center fielder, and if you move him out of Wrigley Field and into the spacious Ballpark in Arlington, he isnât going to get better. He might even cost the Rangers more runs, runs that his bat, especially coming off of a bean ball, wonât be able to make up for.
Short version: getting a fastball off his face pretty much killed any chance of moving Byrd.
Aramis Ramirez was the flavor of the month for trade speculation in May and early June. Since the flood of words on the topic (including here), Ramirez has come out to say that he wouldnât waive his no-trade clause.
That is even if he would potentially be going to a contender.
His reasons were family related, which you can respect, but given his nonchalance on the field it is hard to believe that Ramirez isnât just looking for the easy paycheck, including a $2 million one to go away after this season.
His bat has shown a little more life over the past month, including almost half of his RBIs and four home runs. He has really beat up on interleague opponents, going .387/.412/.516 in a short sample of eight games, so you could think that maybe he was auditioning for a DH role somewhere.
But it is hard to see Ramirez changing his mind at this point, and his performance this season, no matter what the last 28 days say, has guaranteed the phone wonât be ringing anytime soon.
No pitchers were on the list of potential moves, not even Carlos Zambrano who was suddenly a hot topic when the New York Yankees came to town.
Zambrano said he doesnât want to leave town any more than Ramirez, and given his contract, the only team that could take him would be the Yankees.
Sources close to New York said there is absolutely no interest in Big Z, so scratch that.
The two pitchers who could actually be moved are Sean Marshall and Kerry Wood. The duo has been the best part of the bullpen this season and for a team looking for a setup man, either arm would be a steal.
From the Cubsâ standpoint, Marshall (9.1 K/9, 3.78 K/BB, 1.0 WAR) would likely bring the better return, although any team looking at him would have to weigh his $3 million-plus salary next season (hey, thanks Jim Hendry).
Holding onto relief arms as if they are golden is never a great strategy. Most teams are able to plug holes in the pen, and the Cubs arenât exactly in need of a strong 7-8-9 combo with the way they are playing.
The best option might be to dangle Marshall now and see what offers come back.
Back in March I asked a bunch of my colleagues in the fantasy sports biz to give their thoughts on one player, someone no one was talking about too much, who could conceivably move into the top-50 of all fantasy performers this season (the results can be seen in a Undervalued Performers for 2011). Today I’ll take a look at see how the names that were mentioned have fared thus far, and just so you know, it isn’t pretty.
5-1, 4.41 ERA, 70 Ks, 1.42 WHIP in 81.2 IP
Holland’s performance this year has included some highs and some lows, an overall he has been decent. However, decent barely cuts it, even in an AL-only league. Holland has excited everyone with 22 punchouts in his last 22 innings, but at the same time he’s allowed nine earned runs and four homers in those three starts. And that brings up the main issue with Holland â his ratios. His K total is strong, and you can’t complain about the record, but the young lefty’s ratios are poor when the American League average is a 3.94 ERA an a 1.32 WHIP. Moreover, Holland’s ratios are actually worse than his marks from last season (4.08 and 1.38).
.263-2-12-18-1 in 175 at-bats
The guy has a lot of talent, but it’s rarely been on display this season â rarely. For a guy who entered the year hitting a homer every 22.5 at-bats it’s pretty shocking to see just two long balls in 175 ABs. Without the power Edwin isn’t worth very much since he doesn’t hit for a high average, or get on base at all (his current OBP is a sickly .301 though that number is hardly a shock given that he has posted a .305 mark over the previous two seasons). Edwin could wake up at any moment and start bashing long balls, but until he does he’s barely usable in AL-only leagues.
5-5, 2.67 ERA, 72 Ks, 1.36 WHIP in 81 IP
Gio is sixth in the Junior Circuit in ERA and there are only four lefties in the AL with more strikeouts. So he’s been a success then, right? Not so much actually. His WHIP is worse than league average thanks to all the walks, and there have been a ton. Gio walked seven his last time on the hill, and four times in his last seven outings he’s issued at least four free passes. As great as his stuff is, you can see that in his 8.00 K/9 and .234 BAA, it’s just darn near impossible to be a consistent force with a 4.44 BB/9 mark. Not only are you putting too many guys on base, but your often running up such high pitch counts that you have trouble going deep into games to pick up âW’s.â
.207-2-11-20-4 in 150 at-bats
He’s playing so poorly that he’s recently been losing playing time. I’ll admit to the fact that I’m totally at a loss to explain what happened to this once proud slugger. The former 30-100-100 player has hit eight homers with 58 RBI and 68 runs scored in 137 games as a Met. He’s showing no signs of breaking out of his slump, though that isn’t the right word given that we’re going on a year an a half of this. He’s offering no power (.273 SLG), isn’t getting on base (.303 OBP), and frankly, he’s been one of the biggest busts in baseball. At just 32 years of age the question needs to be asked â has he simply lost âitâ at an age where he should still be powering the ball into the seats?
.240-6-21-29-2 in 208 at-bats
None. That’s the level of improvement that Beckham has shown in his third season. After bursting on the scene with 14 homers and 63 RBI in just 378 at-bats as a rookie he’s posted 15 homers and 70 RBI in 652 at-bats. Beckham simply hasn’t developed at all since that hot start to his career, and at this point, if he keeps up his current levels, he’ll be lucky to even be drafted next season in 12 team mixed leagues.
.265-5-15-26-7 in 185 at-bats
This guy was my whacky, out of nowhere selection. While the numbers don’t really show it, the performance has been pretty solid from Mike Cameron, I mean Cameron Maybin. If Maybin were to keep up his current pace over a full season of games we’d be looking at 15 homers, 20 steals and 75 runs. Those numbers wont get you anywhere near a top-50 overall finish, but they’d get you into the top-50 in the outfield and be a pretty solid effort from a guy playing his first full big league season.
.249-5-26-26-4 in 261 at-bats
This guy has had one of the oddest seasons in baseball this year. A 2-time 20 homer bat, Nick hit 18 homers in 2009, 12 last year, and is on pace for about 14 this year. In addition to the loss of homers, he’s seen his ability to drive the ball completely disappear. In each of the past four seasons he’s hit 43 doubles, and that’s the second longest streak in the history of baseball. This year he has six putting him on pace to fall short of 20. A career .294 hitter who has never hit below .291, he’s completely failed there as well. Vexing.
This was a shot in the dark when the prediction was made as Seth dug really, really deep to try to find his guy. Montero hasn’t spent a day in the majors yet, but he is doing well down in the minors hitting .293 through 51 games even though he has only five homers. Just 21 years old, Montero will be a powerful middle of the order bat when he settles into the big leagues.
.246-7-20-17-0 in 138 at-bats
Sizemore started off well, but he’s spent way too much time on the DL missing about half of the Tribes’ games this season. He’s also continued to have a tough time hitting for average for the third straight year (since the start of the 2009 season he has hit .241 in 702 ABs). The power has been as good as ever, but with the low average and a complete lack of anything on the base paths â he has attempted only one steal all year â his effort can easily be diagnosed as a complete disappointment.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive, 5-8 PM Eastern, on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray’s baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys’ Twitter account.
Thomas Diamond's time in professional ball has been a little rough (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
You can file this under the category of “Things that I wouldn’t be certain about, but look pretty good at this point in time.”
By this I mean that I am pretty certain that Cubs minor-league pitcher Thomas Diamondâs professional career is the metaphorical toast at this point, after being dropped from the Cubsâ 40-man roster to make way for the aged Doug Davis.
In case you missed it, the Cubs called up Davis to start Saturday’s rain-soaked, Fox-required affair against the Giants.
The network mercifully relented after six miserable innings, that had already lasted three hours (appropriately enough, the normal time slot allotted for baseball outside of the marathon Red Sox-Yankees games). That they were forced to play Saturday, and that the rain continued into the morning on Sunday, probably accounted for Sunday’s game being postponed indefinitely (leaving us with just over a game and a half to dissect and essentially raining out the normal series roundup that would accompany the three-game set).
Davis muddled through the weather, pitching effectively given the circumstances. The jury will remain out on the decision to sign him until he begins to see some better weather and a more competent lineup than the injury-filled Giants.
We have already spilled a number of words lamenting the signing of Davis and how desperate the team is in terms of actual pitching prospects (although the Cubs should be lucky that they had the option of Davis rather than only Ramon Ortiz).
Now that he has been called up, the Cubs have essentially locked themselves into keeping him for the entire year as either an injury-replacement in the rotation or the long-relief/6th man.
As for Diamond, he continues to pitch in Triple-A Iowa, and it looks as if nothing has changed.
But by dropping Diamond from the 40-man roster, the Cubs have in essence labeled him as an organizational arm, someone good enough to eat innings at a given level in the minors, but no longer headed for the big leagues.
It is a long way from where Diamond started just seven years ago, as a first-round pick by the Rangers out of the University of New Orleans.
Diamond was part of a trio of pitchers labeled âDVDâ by the fan base: John Danks (now with the White Sox), Edison Volquez (Cincinnati) and Diamond.
He was even considered the best prospect of the three, with high strikeout numbers and a low-90s fastball.
âAmong the trio, Diamond has the best 1-2 combination of pitchers with a low-90s fastball and a plus changeup, and his breaking ball gets the job done. He has the best body (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) and has been the most dominant (112-36 strikeout-walk ratio in 102 innings, with opponents batting .197 with four homers).â â Jim Callis, Baseball America, June, 2005.
Diamond was powering through the low minors, but late in 2006 began to lose some of the control that Callis raved about. In spring training the next year, he felt the dreaded twinge in the elbow.
Since undergoing Tommy John surgery, Diamond has not been the same pitcher. The velocity is gone off his fastball and in his brief appearance with the Cubs in 2010, he averaged less than 90 mph on his bread and butter pitch.
And the control has never come back. In 2010, he flashed at regaining his form, dropping his walks per nine innings from 7.11 in 2009 between two levels with Texas, to 3.82 with Iowa.
That earned him a cup of coffee with the Cubs, where he struck out 36 in 29 innings over 16 appearances.
It sounds pretty good (especially given the James Russell experiment), except Diamond also walked 18 batters in those same 29 innings.
This season, the strikeout numbers are back where they have always been, but the walks are again on the rise, which made Diamond expendable for a 35-year-old retread.
It is possible to be effective at the Major League level with a high 80s fastball, but a pitcher has to have the control to go along with it. Ryan Dempsterâs average hovers around the 90 mph mark, and he has survived, and even prospered when he hasnât walked a ton of batters.
In the latter half of his career, Greg Madduxâs fastball was barely 85 mph. He got by with location pitching.
Just this year, Ryan Vogelsong made his return to the majors (and beat the Cubs on Saturday), by redefining himself as a pitcher.
It can be done, and Diamond is just 28-years-old. But the control has consistently been an issue for him, and it doesnât look like there are any signs of that changing.
Having been dropped from the 40-man roster, Diamond will have to show major improvement, and outperform almost every pitcher in the Cubs system before he will ever see The Show again.
Or he will have to make his change with another club.
Other Moves: The Cubs sent Tyler Colvin back to Iowa to get his head straight. Colvin continues to struggle to hit with the Cubs, derailing his multiple opportunities with the club. Several outlets are reporting that Tony Campana will be called up to replace him… And on the topic of pitchers with arm troubles, Andrew Cashner will have his shoulder MRIed again after experiencing more tightness. As if the Cubs needed more bad news.
If thereâs one thing I learned in the past week, itâs been the unpredictability in found in the nature of sports. Who really thought that after six games both the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays would be held without a win? Hadnât Boston already punched their tickets for this yearâs World Series? Didnât the Rays win the AL East last season?
I donât care if youâre Bill James or Miss Cleo, no one can predict what will happen in the sports world. Itâs just not possible. If you want to talk about unpredictability, set your sights towards Baltimore, Maryland. Did anyone honestly think that, though the first week of the 2011 season, the Baltimore Orioles would be leading in the American League East standings after battling some of the best ballclubs in the MLB? I sure didnât.
Whether you believe in the birds of Baltimore or not, itâs difficult, if not down right impractical, to ignore the fact that Buck Showalter has exuded an infectious confidence that has taken over his team. Baltimore (5-1) has demonstrated that their late-season success in 2010 âafter Showalter took over as manager â wasnât a fluke. In fact, Baltimore is 39-27 since Buckâs takeover on August 3rd of 2010. Thatâs the best record of any MLB club from August 3, 2010 to March 8, 2011
So, where does this team go from here? Itâs hard to tell. Remember, sports are unpredictable. What is known for sure comes from the past. In the past the belief in Baltimore was, and had been for some 13 years, that the Orioles were the bottom-feeding team of the American League. The Oâs were a team that accepted the concussive smacks, which amplified throughout the stretches of every ballpark, from opposing teams and never fought back. They were literally the Cleveland Indians from Major League. But that was then and this is now.
A lot can change in 66 games, canât it?
Hereâs what we learned over the weekend:
A Texas-sized Task:
The Rangers seriously have a vendetta out after losing the 2010 World Series â the clubâs first World Series appearance in team history. To kick off 2011, they crucified Red Sox pitchers and hitters, alike and then stormed over the Mariners in a three-game series, which included a beat down of King Felix. As a club Texas was hitting .284 and took pitchers deep an astounding 13 times before the start of the weekend. We all knew that the Rangers could hit, but whatâs been most surprising is the pitching in Texas. The Rangers staff held a 2.84 ERA coming into the weekend series and, obviously have helped the club win all of their six games. Derek Hollandâs performance today against the Oâs on Sunday just shows the depth of the Rangersâ pitching staff. Just imagine what this team will look like if Brandon Webb ever makes his way back on the mound. Texas is clearly a team that was left behind when analysts were making their 2011 predicitons. It looks like theyâve used it as bulletin board material to help motivate their scorching start, because they havenât once let off the gas. Over the weekend Baltimore only took one win from the three-game series, but it was clearly a true testament to gauge what sort of ballclub the Orioles really are.
Brittonâs second crack at the bigs:
Zach Britton was fantastic last weekend on the mound in Tampa Bay. He made the Rays look foolish for six innings and picked up the win. He was dealing with a very large task to accomplish on Saturday as he matched up against Colby Lewis and the undefeated Texas Rangers in his second start of the season. But Britton showed that he can clearly back up the hype as took down the mighty Rangers in the first game of the Saturdayâs doubleheader. The young lefty only allowed seven men on base through 7 2/3 innings demonstrating great poise in his second big-league start. He only fanned two, but thatâs saying a lot against a Rangers club that had already scored 42 runs coming into the series. Heâll face the Cleveland Indians next Friday in a very favorable match up. Â
Adam Jones is taking big strides to stardom:
Adam Jones, who has gotten off to a slow start (2 hits in 19 AB) made his presence felt on Thursday against the Detroit Tigers, clubbing in three runs including a two-run homer. I hate to judge any guy with just 19 AB, but Jones showed against the Tigers what heâs capable of doing when hitting deeper in the lineup. Over the weekend, Jones broke out for three hits, during the day-night doubleheader, including his third homerun of the year. While he only has two stolen bases, which doesnât necessarily pad his statistics, expect to see more steals from Jones as he continues to swing the hot bat.
Canât question Bad Vlad:
Heâs a machine. Thatâs the best way to put it. I know I ripped him a bit in my last column, but Guerrero is going to hit. He smacked his first home run of the season last night and also knocked in a pair of runs. Hitting Vlad clean up is going to be a big plus and a huge help and will keep the guys in front of him (Roberts, Markakis and Lee) getting better pitches to hit. Guerrero had two straight multi-hit games over the course of the week and looks to have found his form from last season. He only had two hits in eight AB against his former club this past weekend, but whatâs most important is that Vlad is looking healthy he hasnât been striking out (only five whiffs) in the early goings of the season.
SS Hardy to the DL:
The biggest hit the Orioles took this weekend, wasnât dropping the series to Texas, but losing shortstop J.J. Hardy to an oblique injury on Saturday night. Hardy came in to hit on Sunday and after sustaining the injury, but after just one at bat, Hardy obviously aggravated it and was benched for the remainder of the game. The shortstop has been prone to injuries his entire career and was only hitting .227 on the season, but still, if heâs out for an extended period of time (diagnosis recommends six weeks), the Oâs will feel his absence as Cesar Izturis will man the nine spot in the lineup.
The opening series against Texas didn’t go exactly as planned. Boston sits at 0-3 and the staff gave up 11 home runs in three games. Perhaps the reigning American League champions didn’t take too kindly to hearing how the Red Sox would run away with the AL this year.
Some thoughts to take away from the series. Why does Ian Kinsler hate the Red Sox? Can Josh Beckett put a stop to this three-game skid on Tuesday? And lastly, once the season gets rolling what will be the everyday lineup?
Manager Terry Francona used three very different lineups in each of the first three games. There is no doubt that you’ll witness variance in a team’s lineup over the course of a season due to injuries, days off, and involving reserves. With that said, what will the “best case scenario” lineup be? Over the first three games the Red Sox sent out these lineups.
Only three spots in the batting order (spots one, two, and eight) remained the same in all three games. To be fair, Texas saw the same amount. However, in every spot of the batting order Texas started a player who hit in that spot at least two times. The Red Sox had two spots (spots five and seven) that wasn’t occupied by the same player twice.
That is not to say that this is entirely a bad thing. As previously stated, no one is privileged with their best lineup in every game of the season. It’s nice to have players who can bat in different spots of the order. Each spot carries different points of emphasis and easily finding players who can fit multiple roles is a great advantage.
At a certain point in the season teams settle on an everyday lineup and the Red Sox should be no different. If I were the manager of the Red Sox my everyday lineup vs. right-handed pitchers would look like this…
1. Jacoby Ellsbury
In a recent article I questioned Jacoby Ellsbury’s ability to provide a true lead-off hitter for his team. While some questions involving Ellsbury’s plate discipline remain, his mixture of pure speed and great contact makes it very difficult to not place him at the top of the lineup.
Other Possibilities: Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia, Marco Scutaro
2. Carl Crawford
Crawford spent most of his recent career batting second for the Rays and possesses the speed, contact skills, and moderate pop sought for this part of the lineup. I wouldn’t want Crawford hitting third in my lineup as the Red Sox placed him early because he carries a career .444 SLG % and never amassed 20 HR in his career. His skills are that of a number one or two hitter. Another reason I like Crawford here is because both he and Ellsbury are left-handed batters.
When the Red Sox are facing a right-handed pitcherÂ (Jarrod Saltalamacchia bats left-handed, J.D. Drew likely in the lineup) there will be six lefties in the lineup, therefore having multiple strings of left-handed batters is inevitable. I feel like having two contact hitters who are left handed brings less prominent end-game problems than if they were power hitters.
Other Possibilities: Dustin Pedroia, J.D Drew, Marco Scutaro
3. Adrian Gonzalez
Gonzalez is a great hitter and I wouldn’t consider him to hit anywhere but in the three or four spot in the lineup. Batting Gonzalez third as opposed to fourth even though his skill set may be best suited to fourth is done because it separates Gonzalez from Ortiz in the lineup. I don’t want to offer opponents the chance to bring in their left-handed specialist and face both David Ortiz and Gonzalez without facing a right-handed batter in between.
Other Possibilities: Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford
4. Kevin Youkilis
Youk is another great hitter in a potent Red Sox lineup. Possessing the best “hit” tool out of the Red Sox sluggers I feel he’ll provide Gonzalez with great protection. If a team wants to pitch their left-handed specialist against both Gonzalez and Ortiz, that pitcher must remain in the game to face Youkilis who posted a .404 average and .798 OPS against lefties last year.
Other Possibilites: Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz
5. David Ortiz
While no longer an elite power hitter as he was when he posted a 54 HR 137 RBI seasons, Ortiz is still a presence in the middle of the Red Sox lineup. I could see the case to hitting Ortiz sixth but I prefer to have my best power hitters placed between the three and five spots.
Other Possibilities: Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, J.D. Drew
6. Dustin Pedroia
It feels a little ridiculous hitting Dustin Pedroia this low the lineup, but that happens when your lineup has this much talent. I’d feel equally ridiculous hitting any of the previously mentioned players sixth also. The decision to drop Pedroia as opposed to the others came down to the fact that Pedroia lacks both top-end speed and power. His career high in home runs was 17 and steals was 20.
The best part about hitting Pedroia sixth is that he is a great situational hitter. He knows what his job is, and can execute what is needed of him. Hitting sixth he may be asked to come up in an RBI situation and drive someone in. He excelled at this during his MVP season where he hit fourth at times. At this spot he could also be called upon to set the table for the back end of the lineup, which is where he is at his best.
Other Possibilities: J.D. Drew, David Ortiz
7. J.D. Drew
J.D. Drew is a professional hitter. He works pitchers and is not afraid to draw a walk. Like Pedroia he harnesses some pop and has the ability to get on base for the remainder of the lineup. Against right-handed pitchers I would like to see Drew net about three-quarters of the starts with Mike Cameron getting the rest.
Other Possibilities: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Ortiz
8. Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a bit of a wild card in this lineup. He has the pedigree to be a good contributor on the offensive side if he finds a way to put it all together. Either way, his offense will not make or break the Red Sox. I would like to see Salty get about three-quarters of the starts here and Jason Varitek the other quarter.
Other Possibilities: J.D. Drew, Marco Scutaro
9. Marco Scutaro
Scutaro hitting ninth is the result of an absolutely stacked lineup. A second lead-off hitter slated here is a great way to turn over your lineup. Just two seasons ago Scutaro walked 90 times and he also exhibits good enough speed to swipe the occasional bag. Like Drew and Saltalamacchia, I’d like to see Scutaro get about three-quarters of the starts while giving the other quarter to Jed Lowrie.
Other Possibilities: Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, J.D. Drew
With a lineup this talented it’s challenging to go wrong. There are advantages and disadvantages to every set up but in the end it is up to the players to perform. Be sure to check back for the left-handed edition and feel free to share your opinion on what you think the Red Sox lineup should look like vs RHP.