Tag: Reed Johnson

Chicago Cubs: The Olive Branch Of Kerry Wood

When Lou Pinella announced his retirement this past fall and the Chicago Cubs tapped career minor leaguer Mike Quade as their new manager, a storm of epidemic proportions befell the front office.

First, general manager Jim Hendry hired an unknown relative to continue the starving organization’s quest for its first World Series title since 1908. As if that wasn’t enough? Hendry also spurned one of the most popular Cubs players in franchise history, Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.

While the decision boggled the minds of many fans, it wasn’t so much that Hendry made the decision, but rather how he made (and subsequently handled) the decision and its fallout.

Sandberg wasn’t immediately offered his previous post as the manager of the Iowa Cubs, where he was named the Pacific Coast League’s Coach of the Year in 2010. Instead, he was sent to pasture. A slight on one Cub is a slight on them all in this brotherhood of pain. Hurt by the perceived slight, Sandberg took an identical Triple-A job with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Needless to say: many Cubs fans were livid about the move.

From boycotts to threats of changing allegiances, many fans were huffing and puffing. Hendry had slighted one of their own. Sandberg set that perception in place the following week when he made his rounds on the talk radio circuit.

Hendry was a pariah in many bitter circles. They already struggled with the contracts Hendry had brought in (see Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome) as well as some of the head-scratchers (see Milton Bradley). However, many believed the growing pains would be bearable under the leadership of one of the most popular Cubs in history.

Hendry stood at a crossroads, and he couldn’t do right. He signed power-hitting, defensive-minded first baseman, Carlos Pena, at the beginning of December. Fans wept. Hendry began negotiating a possible trade for Tampa Rays starter Matt Garza. Fans scoffed. Hendry faced a lose-lose situation, and the Cubs faced a crisis of image (no matter how many teary episodes of “Undercover Boss” team owner Todd Ricketts appeared on).

Then Ron Santo, arguably the most popular Cub of all time, passed away.

Former teammates, friends and fans swarmed to his funeral, paying respects to a guy who loved the Cubs as much as he loved oxygen. Pallbearers included Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams, and one such guest was taken aback by his return home to pay his respects.

That guest was “Kid-K” himself — Kerry Wood.

Before Santo’s spirit left the building, Henry and Wood promised to speak again about a possible return to Chicago. Wood was a free agent, having just played a major role in solidifying the New York Yankees bullpen. He was due a large payout in the range of $7-10 million, yet something pulled him back into the most masochistic love affair in sports.

Within a week, Wood was signing a hometown discount deal for $1.5 million, and the ire of Cubs fans began to subside. Less than a month later, the Cubs finally landed Matt Garza and also brought back Augie Ojeda and Reed Johnson,two other fan favorites who had left the organization, as non-roster invitees.

The angry Cubs fans began warming up to Hendry again, muttering things like, “I love you, Cubs, but I just don’t like you very much right now.” Classic signs of an abusive relationship. Suddenly, Hendry was being likened to the outlawed friend of a friend who was now welcomed over for Pay-Per-View fights and the occasional night out for a drink. Awkward, but tenable.

Appealing to their nostalgia, Wood serves as an olive branch to the fans. Coexisting isn’t nearly as fargone a conclusion as it originally seemed. The only other moves he’s yet to make are bringing back Lou Brock, Mark Grace and the ghost of Billy Sianis and his billy goat.

Making amends takes time, effort and a fan base who is willing to forget the last 102 years of futility because — say what you want about Cubs fans — their loyalty runs deep.

Hendry may still be in the doghouse, but it’s an upgrade from where he was three months ago: the outhouse. Only time will tell if the move saves his reputation in Chicago, or if he is shown to door to oblivion like those who have come before: Larry Himes, Ed Lynch, Dallas Green and John Holland. But this relationship’s going to take some time, and perhaps a few W’s in April, to return to the glory days of 2007 and 2008.

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Trying To Fill Remaining Chicago Cubs Needs on a Shoestring Budget

The Cubs managed to get Carlos Pena for only $5 mil this year ($5 mil deferred until 2012) and stole Kerry Wood for $1.5 mil.  Factoring in arbitration raises though, they only have a few mil left to work with, so what are the rest of the possibilities for the Cubs offseason?  In this article I’ll look at free agent possibilities and later will look at trade possibilities:


The position players all look set and will probably break down to 13 people:

Starting lineup:   Castro, Colvin, Byrd, Ramirez, Pena, Soriano, Soto, Dewitt

Bench: Fukudome, Baker, Barney, Hill

As always, no great leadoff options and Hill’s offense is nonexistent.  Having said that, Fukudome makes  a more than capable backup in case Soriano continues his 3 year decline or Colvin suffers from the sophomore slump.  I like Baker in a platoon at 2B with Dewitt but not crazy about Pena playing everyday as he’s always struggled against lefthanders….an average lineup at best, unless Ramirez rounds back into a 110-RBI threat in his contract year.

Possibilities: Not much affordable that’s still out there since the Cubs already missed the boat on a couple of possibilities.  SF only paid $1 mil for Pat Burrell to come back and I would’ve offered $2.5 to make him the right-handed part of a RF-platoon.  They could still go out and get Reed Johnson back for $1.2 mil to spell Tyler Colvin against left-handed pitchers and provide late-inning defense for Soriano.  In the infield, what about Cristian Guzman as a superutility player and right-handed platoon option?  He does have a .329 avg and .816 OPS against left-handed pitching the last 3 years, so you could play him at 2B and Jeff Baker at 1B for 6 innings until the other team’s bullpen comes in.….if Bill Hall can get $3 mil, I might offer this to Guzman only if the club can’t afford to get anybody else on the roster.  Otherwise, might offer Mike Lowell $1 mil to be the platoon 1B option and bat off the bench.

Current Grade:  C


Starting rotation: Zambrano, Dempster, Silva, Wells, Gorzelanny

Say what you will, but Zambrano managed to turn around his season once he was back in the rotation for good, and Dempster has continued to surprise me by throwing  great innings for a 3rd consecutive year. Wells and Gorzelanny are average starters for the back end and Silva’s always an injury risk.

Possibilities: I see Casey Coleman getting lots of average fill-in innings once again. Although I’d prefer having a low-base guy like Brandon Webb or Chris Young waiting in the wings, I see them signing for more with other clubs….if you can’t get either of them, Kevin Millwood’s stock has never been lower so you could probably get him for just $2 mil plus incentives….this might all change if Andrew Cashner looks good as a starter during spring training and unfortunately I don’t see them trading Silva now while the free agent market looks as bad as it does for teams looking for pitchers….

Current Grade: C+


Bullpen: Marmol, Marshall, Wood, Grabow, Cashner, Samardzija, Maine

The late innings look good and I expect Grabow to bounce back as a decent middle reliever (although a really expensive one at $4.8 mil…..)  This is Samardzija’s last year and the club is paying him $3.5 mil so I expect him to get his final shot at a bullpen spot in spring training.  Scott Maine impressed down the stretch last year so lets hope he doesn’t turn into another pumpkin like Esmailin Caridad and Justin Berg did this year after their 2009 stretch runs……

Possibilities:  This is the one area where I think the Cubs will probably make their remaining moves. Middle-relief is thin again and they could probably use a left-handed specialist.  I might offer Joe Beimel $2.25 mil annually to fill that role, and if he turns the club down offer $1.5 to Lance Cormier. Strangely, Cormier is a right-hander who has been better against left-handers, with a 3-year OPS-against-lefthanders of .686.  Brian Fuentes, Octavio Dotel, and Jon Rauch will probably all cost $4 mil or more, so I would take a flier on Takashi Saito.  Strangely, this guy continues to fly under the radar but there have been few relievers in the last five years that have been as good as this guy if you really crunch the numbers. He’s terrific against left-handers and even better against right-handers.  Many teams will try to lowball him with incentive-laden deals due to his advanced age and injury concerns, but I would offer a deal guaranteed to blow away the competition: 1-year, $3.5 mil guaranteed, with vesting option for 2012 based on innings pitched.

Current Grade:  C+


Final free agent possibilities: 

Player                                   Role                                                                                       Contract

Reed Johnson                   4th OF against LH pitchers                                              1 year, $1.2 mil

Mike Lowell                        1B against LH pitchers and RH bat bench                1 year, $1 mil

Kevin Millwood                 5th starting pitcher                                                           1 year, $2 mil guaranteed

Joe Beimel                          LOOGY relief specialist                                                   2 years, $2 mil in 2011

Takashi Saito                      right-handed relief, 7th inning                                     1 year, $2.5 mil with $1 buyout


Total cost in 2011:  $8.7 mil


Ultimately, the everyday lineup and starting rotation still aren’t great but the bullpen and bench are a little better.  That might be all we can hope for this offseason before some of the big contracts (Ramirez, Fukudome, Silva, Grabow, Samardzija) come off the books after 2011…

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Meeting the Los Angeles Dodgers: Who Is Jay Gibbons?

The last we heard of Jay Gibbons was in 2007 while a member of the Baltimore Orioles. Three years later, Gibbons has finally made it back to the Majors, and thus far, he is making it count.

Jay Jonathan Gibbons was born in 1977 in Rochester, Mich. However, he spent the majority of his childhood in California, graduating from Mayfair High School in Lakewood. Following high school, Gibbons was a standout at UCLA

The 6-foot, 205-pound outfielder was drafted in the 14th round of the 1998 amateur draft by the Toronto Blue Jays.

Gibbons immediately began making an impact, becoming the Triple Crown champion of the Pioneer League, with 19 home runs and 98 RBI while carrying a .397 batting average.

Following the 2000 season, the Baltimore Orioles claimed him in the Rule 5 draft. He made his major league debut on April 6, 2001. Gibbons rookie season with the Orioles in 2001 was off to a great start.

The young slugger had 15 home runs and 36 RBIs in 73 games before becoming hampered by a hand injury.

The following season, 2002, was a career-best for Gibbons. That season he hit 28 home runs for the Orioles,

In 2003, he followed up that performance with career highs in batting average (.277) and RBI (100). He was voted team MVP and many considered 2003 his break out season.

However, in 2004, the injury bug once again bit Gibbons. He appeared in just 97 games, a great reduction compared to the 160 games the year before. Gibbons collected just 47 RBIs while striking out 64 times.

The Orioles were convinced his declining numbers weren’t due to just injuries. In his shortened playing time, he also struggled at the plate while not complaining of physical discomfort.

The lefty had LASIK eye surgery following the 2004 season, and his numbers improved immediately in 2005. 

Gibbons smashed 135 hits in 139 games, re-emerging on the scene as a legitimate force at the plate. But it was short-lived.

The 2006 and 2007 seasons were once again plagued with injuries. Gibbons didn’t play over 100 games in either season.

To add insult to injuries, Gibbons was named by pitcher Jason Grimsley as an anabolic steroid user in a September 2006 report by the Los Angeles Times.

He was also named in the infamous Mitchell Report  in late 2007 as a steroid user and was eventually released by Baltimore on March 29, 2008. 

Left without a team and on the outside of the fringe having been linked to steroids, Gibbons spent four months from late March to late July as a free agent, before being given another shot by the Milwaukee Brewers.

However, he never appeared in a major league game for the franchise, and was again released in November. 

Gibbons was signed in January 2009 by the Florida Marlins, but spent less time with them than he did with the Brewers, and was released in March of the same year.

The outfielder found himself signing a deal to play for the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League.

Finally, in 2010, Gibbons impressed the Dodgers enough to be given an invitation to Spring Training. Gibbons took the invitation to heart, determined to reach the majors again to prove he could still compete.

While with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes, Gibbons batted .347 in 94 games while hitting 19 home runs.  

Injuries to Manny Ramirez and Reed Johnson, coupled with the consistent underachievement of veteran Garret Anderson, prompted the Dodgers to promote Gibbons to the 25-man major league roster.

Thus far, you’d never guess Gibbons hasn’t played in the majors since 2007, as he has found his way into two Dodger games, and it would be difficult for Gibbons to perform any better. He is 4-for-5 with a home run and four RBI (Gibbons’ RBI single).

His current performance leaves Dodger fans pondering two questions: What took so long for the team to promote him? What would the season look like had he been called up much earlier?

In any event, the hometown kid may be here to stay, and is certainly making his case to cement a roster spot for the remainder of the season, and possibly into the future.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Los Angeles Dodgers Hope Roster Moves Pay Dividends

In a few surprising roster shuffles surrounding the MLB All-Star break, the Los Angeles Dodgers made several efforts to upgrade their pitching—at least until they seal a deal before the trade deadline.

In an unexpected move on Sunday, the Dodgers optioned RHP John Ely to Triple-A Albuquerque and replaced him on the roster with reliever Jon Link.

Ely is 4-7 with a 4.63 ERA in 14 starts overall this season; however, he has failed to pitch three complete innings in his last two outings.

Link, who has already been recalled three times this year by Los Angeles, has a 3.86 ERA in five appearances and just over four innings of work.

In a more anticipated decision on Wednesday, Los Angeles placed struggling left-handed reliever George Sherrill on outright waivers.

Sherrill has a 7.32 ERA in 34 appearances for the Dodgers this season. He is expected to clear waivers on Monday, at which time he would have the opportunity to accept a minor league roster position. In the meantime, he will retain his roster spot with Los Angeles unless he is claimed by another Major League squad.

One possibility for replacing Sherrill in the bullpen is Jack Taschner, who was signed as a free agent by the Dodgers in June.

In seven appearances with Albuquerque, the 32-year-old lefty is currently 0-0 with one save and a 3.52 ERA in just over seven innings pitched.

However, the immediate priority is to fill the fifth spot in the starting pitching rotation vacated by Ely, and all signs are pointing to James McDonald being called up on Monday to start the home series vs. the San Francisco Giants.

McDonald, who recently added a hard slider to his pitching repertoire, is 6-1 with a 4.41 ERA in 12 games started with the Isotopes.

If all else fails, among other pitchers, Carlos Monasterios could be utilized in a starter-by-committee scenario, at least until Los Angeles decides whether a trade will be made or a deal with a free agent pitcher will be signed before the deadline.

Citizens of Dodgertown still have high hopes of acquiring a big market starter to complete the pitching staff, however all indicators are suggesting that team finances will limit Los Angeles in terms of making a deal.

In yet another move to make room for Manny Ramirez returning from the 15-day disabled list, the Dodgers placed utility outfielder Reed Johnson on the DL with an injured back.

Manny’s return was expected to prompt Los Angeles to make a decision on whether to retain rookie outfielder Xavier Paul, or contemplate the future of veteran outfielder Garret Anderson.

So far this season, Paul is batting .259 with 22 hits in 85 at-bats with the Dodgers while compiling a .308 on-base percentage and a .341 slugging percentage. Paul is also highly valued for his speed, both in defense and on the bases, as well as his strong arm in the outfield.

Anderson, on the other hand, is batting just .178 with 24 hits in 135 at-bats, while registering a .193 OBP and a .274 slugging percentage.

It has been suggested that Anderson may be considered as a potential trade commodity, however it’s unclear whether or not any teams around the Majors would have interest in the veteran outfielder.

Nevertheless, with cash at a minimum, General Manager Ned Colletti will be exploring every possible angle to acquire much needed pitching help.

The MLB trade deadline is July 31.

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