The Cubs have traded P Chris Carpenter and a player to be named later to the Red Sox for a player to be named later
Nearly four months after Theo Epstein joined the Cubs from the Red Sox, the compensation owed to the Sox has been worked out. Or at least, it’s been mostly worked out, since there’s now still a matter of two PTBNLs to be determined. One assumes these two players will be inconsequential minor leaguers, but there have been no official indications of what the two teams have discussed in this regard.
As for Carpenter, he’s a bigger price than I’m sure the Cubs wanted to pay. Throughout the process, they’ve been dangling the name of Hector Trinidad, the A-ball pitcher who was sent to the Twins from the Cubs as compensation when the Cubs hired Andy MacPhail after the 1994 season. Trinidad pitched a few more years in the Twins organization but never made it past AA. The Red Sox, in turn, were reportedly demanding a highly ranked prospect or even major league starter – at multiple points, the name of Matt Garza was floated. That was never going to happen, and one would like to think that the Red Sox knew it, but it sounds fair to say that the two teams were far apart on their assessments of the situation.
Carpenter, then, seems like a reasonable compromise, and honestly seems like pretty fair compensation. He’s a prospect, sort of, but he’s not very high up the rankings; most sources have him ranked in the mid-teens in an organization that does not have a very strong farm system. He’ll be 26 this season and spent 2011 between the Cubs, Iowa, and Tennessee, and at the ML and AAA levels he walked a whole bunch of guys (over 6 per 9 IP) while striking hitters out at a good but not overly impressive rate. Plus, in 10 appearances in the majors, he allowed an astonishing 9 of 11 inherited runners to score; the league average is only 30%. Small sample size, sure, but despite his 2.79 major-league ERA, I think it’s fair to say that he was overwhelmed in his initial big-league exposure.
Long story short, Carpenter was in a situation where he would have had to produce in 2012 or find his spot on the 40-man roster at risk. The new front office has shown little regard for pitchers that walk high numbers of batters, and Carpenter has walked 4.2 batters per nine innings over his minor league career. He throws hard, and I’m sure the Cubs would have rather kept him for now rather than just giving him to the Red Sox, but as noted Carpenter is already 26 and has a long way to go before he’s more than a spare part in someone’s bullpen.
Besides the two PTBNLs, the other outstanding issue now is the compensation owed by the Cubs to the Padres for the hiring of Jed Hoyer. When Hoyer was hired, reports indicated that the relationship between Cubs ownership and Padres ownership was more friendly than relations between the Cubs and Red Sox, although again, here we are 4 months later and no resolution. I can only speculate why that is, but it’s not immediately apparent why that deal would depend on a resolution to the Cubs-Sox matter. If anything, I would have guessed that the Cubs would have wanted to get the San Diego matter resolved first, to use as another precedent for compensation to the Red Sox, but that’s not what happened. I guess we’ll see.
The Cubs have claimed INF Adrian Cardenas off waivers from Oakland, and designated INF Blake DeWitt for assignment
Cardenas has yet to play in the major leagues, and will be 24 this season. His numbers last year for AAA Sacramento:
545 PA, .314/.374/.418, 5 HR, 56 K, 13 SB in 19 attempts
That pretty closely tracks is career numbers of .303/.368/.413 over 2802 plate appearaces. Essentially, he’s a guy with little power, but good plate discipline. In other words, he’s Blake DeWitt, but two years younger, and with better patience and contact skills and a true lefty bat (DeWitt bats lefthanded also, but actually fares better against lefthanded pitchers than righthanded pitchers).
What this means is that Cardenas ought to have a real shot at the starting job at second base. He’s better than Darwin Barney offensively, and it’s not like Barney’s defense is good enough to justify his weak bat. Jeff Baker is the other potential second baseman on the roster, but I don’t think anyone wants his defense out there on a daily basis, especially considering that he can only hit lefthanders. A Cardenas/Baker platoon might be an decent option.
That said, while Cardenas is an upgrade over DeWitt, he still looks to have a rather average upside, and second base will still be a position where the club will look to get better. And I still have no idea why Barney is higher on the organization’s depth chart than DeWitt. DeWitt was better than Barney even last year, and has a better minor league track record as well. And yet DeWitt is the player that gets cut when the new guy arrives? It’s not like DeWitt’s a potential All-Star, and in the long run it probably won’t matter much, but I don’t get it.
EDIT (2/21/12): DeWitt has accepted his assignment, and will report to Cubs’ spring training as a non-roster invitee.
The Cubs have invited 21 non-roster players to spring training. I think the easiest way to look at these players is by sorting them into groups:
Prospects and minor leaguers with a chance of seeing the majors in 2012:
P Marco Carrillo
OF Brett Jackson
P Jay Jackson
INF Jonathan Mota
P Blake Parker
P Chris Rusin
Carrillo pitched for AA Tennesse (29 games, 2.36 ERA) and AAA Iowa (11 games, 6.10 ERA) in 2011, mostly as a reliever. He’ll be 25 this season, and since the bullpen looks likely to have a lot of turnover this year, he could get a major-league opportunity at some point in 2012.
Brett Jackson, of course, is the team’s centerfielder of the future. If he doesn’t make the team out of spring training, he’ll probably be a mid-season callup. He dominated AAA last year (939 OPS in 215 PA), has performed well at all levels of the minors, and will be only 23 next season. He strikes out a lot, but can also take a walk and hit for power. We’ll have to see about his defense at the major league level, but by the end of the year, he ought to be patrolling center for the Cubs.
Jay Jackson will be 24 and coming off two full seasons as a starter in Iowa. Once one of the organization’s top prospects, he’s struggled in AAA, where he’s put up a cumulative ERA of 4.91 in over 300 innings pitched. Especially concerning is that he’s had difficulty getting strikeouts after very high K rates in the lower minors. In his favor, he’s kept his walk rates down, but it’s getting close to the time for him when he needs to take a step up or find the Cubs moving on. A good spring could put him back on the organization’s radar.
Mota will turn 25 in June and spent most of his 2011 season playing in the middle infield for Iowa, where he batted .289/.321/.446 over 220 plate appearances. That’s a considerable improvement over his career minor-league numbers, but he could find his way into a utility infield role if he can put up numbers like that again (keep in mind, though, that the Pacific Coast League is notoriously high-offense).
Parker is old to have not yet made the majors (approaching his age-27 season), and he walks a ton of batters (4.4 BB/9 over 303 career innings), which makes him a questionable fit for the kind of staff that GM Jed Hoyer is assembling. On the other hand, he racks up strikeouts as well, 10.5 K/9 with Iowa last season and 9.6 K/9 over his minor-league career. Again, the team looks like it will have issues with bullpen depth this season, so Parker may get his shot.
Rusin will be 25 for the 2012 season, and looks like the kind of low-walk pitcher that the new front office regime seems to favor. Since being selected in the fourth round of the 2009 draft, he’s walked only 1.9 hitters per nine innings over 284.2 innings in the minors while striking out 7.1 per nine. He appeared in 11 games for Iowa last year after being promoted from AA.
Prospects on schedule for 2013 or later:
OF Jae-Hoon Ha
P Trey McNutt
P Dae-Eun Rhee
Ha played centerfield for both Daytona (71 games) and Tennessee (61 games) last season, putting up a composite .279/.315/.413 line that was actually nearly identical at both levels. That’s pretty impressive for a CF at his age, but he’s not major-league ready and obviously he’s blocked for now by Brett Jackson in CF anyway. I’m guessing that he goes back to AA out of spring.
McNutt’s one of the organization’s top prospects, but he struggled last season in AA. He put up a 2.0 BB/9 and a 10.8 K/9 for high-A Daytona in 2010, but those numbers became 3.7 BB/9 and 6.2 K/9 over 22 starts in 2011, and he posted a 4.55 ERA in a low-offense league. He’s still young (22), and I assume he’ll start the year in AA again but earn a quick promotion if he starts well.
Rhee spent his second full season in Daytona in 2011, and was vastly improved over his first season there. His K/9 rate jumped from 5.5 to 8.2, kept his BB/9 rate even and shaved over a full run off of his ERA. He’s entering his age-23 season in 2012 and I imagine will enter the rotation in AA.
Other minor-league non-prospects just hoping for a break:
OF Jim Adduci
C Michael Brenly
C/INF Blake Lalli
Adduci will be 27 next season and has simply never found the offense he needed to rise up through the minors (career .279/.352/.356 in 2513 PA). He actually spent 2010 in AAA, where he hit .248/.302/.302, and found himself back in AA last year. He but up a career-best batting line (.308/.379/.430), but a guy his age stuck in AA is in an uphill struggle, to say the least.
Brenly, son of Cubs broadcaster Bob, hit .206/.248/.248 while repeating high-A Daytona as a 24-year-old. That’s pretty much all that needs to be said. A defense-first catcher is one thing, but even Koyie Hill was light-years ahead of Brenly at that age.
Lalli is a strange case in that, last year at a 28-year-old, he played more games at catcher (37) than he ever had before. He actually played more at 1B (45 games) than behind the plate, and the team had him play some time at third (7 games) as well, just for good measure. He hit very well (.287/.359/.433) although it was his third straight full year in AA. I guess the Cubs were trying hard to find a role for him, but again, he’ll be 29 next season and still hasn’t made it past AA.
Major-league vets just looking to stay in the game:
INF Alfredo Amezaga
P Manuel Corpas
INF Edgar Gonzalez
C Jason Jaramillo
P Rodrigo Lopez
OF Joe Mather
P Trever Miller
INF Bobby Scales
INF Matt Tolbert
Amezaga has spent most of his 9-year career with the Marlins, where he provided defensive value in the infield and in centerfield and never was much of a hitter.
Gonzalez brings a 5.90 career ERA over 8 seasons in the majors, mostly with Arizona. He doesn’t get many strikeouts (5.8 career K/9), walks too many for that low of a K rate (3.2 career BB/9) and gives up a ton of homers (1.6 career HR/9). I know Arizona’s a hitters park, but yikes.
Jaramillo – not related to hitting coach Rudy – has played parts of the last three seasons in Pittsburgh, where he’s posted a 67 OPS+ in 366 plate appearances. He’s thrown out 30% of opposing basestealers in that time, which isn’t terrible, but it’s not good enough to make up for his weak bat. For context, Geovany Soto has thrown out 27% over his career, including an even 30% last year.
Lopez spent time with the Cubs last season, so we’re all familiar with what he brings, and it ain’t all that great.
Mather has spent time with the Cardinals and Braves, posting a 78 OPS+ in 294 plate appearances while playing all three outfield positions. His minor-league stats are OK and he has some power; he hit 31 homers in 2007 between AA and AAA. Honestly, teams including the Cubs have done a lot worse for their reserve outfield spots. Unfortunately for him, the Cubs look set in the outfield for now.
Miller made his debut in 1996, and has been bouncing around various organizations’ bullpens ever since. He’s had a decent career as a lefty specialist, but at 39 the end is near. Even lefties have to retire sometime.
Scales made appearances with the Cubs in both 2009 and 2010, and honestly, I could never figure out why he didn’t get a better chance than he did. All the crappy middle infielders that the Cubs have had over the past few years, and they’ve had Scales languishing in AAA (and last season, Japan) since 2008. If nothing else, he could have given them some desperately needed OBP, and yet Aaron Miles (among others) got more plate appearances in 2009 than Scales did over those four years. Bizarre.
Tolbert has spent the last four seasons with the Twins, posting a 65 OPS+ and providing questionable defense in the infield. In short, he’s been exactly the kind of player than the Bobby Scaleses of the world are around to replace.
EDIT (2/21/12): INF Blake DeWitt will also report as an NRI, since he has accepted a minor-league assignment after being designated to make room for Adrain Cardenas. Obviously, he fits in the “Major-league vets just looking to stay in the game” category.
Also added to the NRI list is P Esmailin Caridad, who has been in the Cubs system since signing with the organization out of Japan in 2007, and did a couple stints for the team in 2009 and 2010. Last season, though, he struggled with injuries and his control, making only 31 appearances in the minors (mostly at AAA) and walking nearly 6 batters per nine innings.