These are all familiar faces, of course, as all three have been with the Cubs already this year, and their recalls have been made necessary given the four empty roster spots after today’s trades.
There’s not much to say about Cardenas, who spent most of his time in the majors earlier in the season on the bench, and frankly I’m not sure what he’s doing back with the major league club. He’ll be used in a utility role, but it stands to reason that he’s more or less taking Reed Johnson’s spot on the roster. And that’s what’s confusing, because Cardenas bats lefthanded, unlike Johnson, and isn’t really very useful as an outfielder, unlike Johnson, who could play all three spots. I’m not sure what use the Cubs have for a lefthanded utility infielder with little power, especially since the most logical defensive role for a utility player on this team would be to sub for Valbuena at third. But Valbuena is a lefty, also, so Cardenas isn’t even suited to that role. I would have guessed that Dave Sappelt is the more logical choice, but despite playing better lately, Sappelt has been mostly unproductive for Iowa this season (he’s hitting .260/.318/.355).
Coleman’s role is most obvious, since both Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm have been traded, and the day of Matt Garza’s next start has yet to be determined. However, Coleman is simply a poor pitcher, having been bad in the majors this season (7.32 ERA in 16 relief appearances) and in the minors (5.01 ERA in 11 appearances, including 9 starts). And just to reinforce the point, as I write this he’s already allowed a grand slam in tonight’s game.
Neither of those two guys likely figure in the Cubs’ long-term plans, but for Castillo it may be a different story. After a big start, he’s cooled off recently at Iowa, and is now batting .260/.375/.425 for the season. The Cubs have talked about wanting to give him as much playing time as possible, but now with Geovany Soto having been traded, he finds himself likely to split time with Steve Clevenger behind the plate. I hope that Dale Sveum doesn’t go with a straight platoon, because that would leave Castillo (as the righthander) on the bench more often than not, and that playing time is divided more or less evenly. Regardless, though, this looks like a real battle for the position, with both players getting a chance to earn the starting job outright next season. Hopefully at least one of them makes the most of the chance.
The Cubs have acquired P Kyle Hendricks and INF Christian Villanueva from the Rangers for P Ryan Dempster
Honestly? My initial reaction to this is disappointment, as it’s not as good of a deal as the aborted trade last week that would have sent Randall Delgado to the Cubs. Delgado is both major league ready (which would hopefully spare us from having to see Casey Coleman make too many more starts) and a better prospect than either of these two guys.
However, I also have to admit that the Delgado deal was a much better one than I expected the Cubs to be able to get for Dempster, and this deal is much more in line with what my expectations were before we ever heard of the Atlanta deal. Dempster will be missed, but he’s in the last year of his contract, and the Cubs have little apparent interest in keeping him. And the bottom line is, the return from Texas is much better than the compensatory draft pick the Cubs would have gotten if they hadn’t resigned Dempster … only to get that pick, they’d have had to offer Dempster a sizable contract (probably around $12 million or so) for 2013 and have him sign elsewhere. No doubt the front office wanted to avoid that potentially awkward scenario if at all possible, and as good fortune would have it, this deal was completed just minutes before the trade deadline this afternoon.
So, let’s look at these prospects, neither of whom appear to be elite talents, but both of whom are interesting in their own rights:
Hendricks (age 22, RHP) was drafted out of high school by the Dodgers, but elected to go to college instead, and was drafted again in 2011 by the Rangers in the 8th round out of Dartmouth. After playing last summer in short-season A, he made the jump directly to advanced-A Myrtle Beach this year, where he’s having a fine year:
20 G (all starts), 130.2 IP, 2.82 ERA, 8 HR, 8.5 H/9, 1.0 BB/9, 7.7 K/9
That extraordinary K/BB ratio is not a fluke, either; he did the same thing with Spokane last season. Obviously that kind of control is very rare at any level, and frankly I have no idea what to think of Hendricks in terms of upside. From what I can tell, he’s not a hard thrower at all, but he throws a lot of pitches, and relies on finesse and guile (not to mention amazing command) to get hitters out. I guess we’ll wait and see, but for now he’s a curiosity, not to be dismissed but not to get excited over, either.
Villanueva (age 21) has been playing third base for Myrtle Beach this season, after being named to the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list – as #100! – this past offseason. He had a good year last year for single-A Hickory, batting .278/.338/.465, with 17 HR, while building a reputation for excellent defense. This year his numbers have slipped a bit after being promoted:
100 G, 425 PA, .285/.356/.421, 10 HR, 83 K, 9 SB in 18 attempts
Now, maybe you’re like me, and you’re thinking that his OBP is pretty decent, so he has pretty decent patience for a guy his age. And the reality is … sort of. He’s only walked 24 times this season, which is unimpressive, but he has been hit by a pitch an astounding 20 times, following up on a 12 HBP campaign in 2011. That pretty much puts him squarely in Craig Biggio territory, and hey, it’s a skill, so don’t knock it.
Overall, though, like Hendricks I think I have to say that Villanueva is a curiosity instead of an important prospect. That may change, and it’s good to know that Villanueva is at least defensively sound. But at best he’s treading water at Myrtle Beach this season. Either one of these guys could turn into something, or they might not, but they both have a ways to go before we know.
As for Dempster, he’s been with the Cubs a surprisingly long time now, having made his Cubs debut all the way back in 2004. Since that time, he’s been effective as a closer and later as a starter, the latter being an experiment that I thought was sure to fail at the time. Instead, he became a very reliable and consistent member of the rotation and is having a great year this season. He’s definitely a feather in previous GM Jim Hendry’s cap, having been signed as a reclamation project after arm troubles to give the Cubs nearly 1200 innings of quality pitching, and to boot he was the best player on the 2008 team that won 97 games.
He ought to be a big help for Texas, who have desperate problems with their starting rotation. I can only wish him well.
This is a somewhat complicated deal; in addition to the players mentioned in the headline, the Cubs are also sending cash to the Rangers, and the Rangers are sending back either a player to be named later or some cash themselves. Maybe a Texas Land & Cattle/Gino’s East gift certificate swap is in order.
Soto leaves the Cubs after a distinguished but inconsistent tenure as the Cubs’ starting catcher. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2008, followed that up with a disappointing season in 2009, had his best year in 2010, and then split the difference with a pretty average season in 2011. Now this year he’s been mostly terrible again, and through the years I believe he’s always found himself on the disabled list at least once. That’s not highly unusual for a catcher, but catchers like that don’t typically age very well, and as hard as it is to believe, Soto is already 29 years old.
Brigham is a 25-year-old righthander with a minor league track record that doesn’t really stand out, and in fact he’s yet to make it past AA. He’s in his second year with AA Frisco, and his numbers there are flat-out pedestrian:
56 G (35 GS), 238.1 IP, 4.38 ERA, 32 HR, 8.6 H/9, 3.8 BB/9, 8.7 K/9
What jumps out the most to me there are those homers – the Texas League is an unforgiving one for pitchers, but that’s still a lot of homeruns to allow, a rate of 1.2 per nine innings. Brigham’s been starting exclusively this year, but it’s awfully hard to imagine him ever cracking a major league rotation, giving his advanced age (for AA) and underwhelming performance to date. In fact, I think it’s tough to believe that he’ll ever stick in a relief role in the majors. Nonetheless, he has a spot on the 40-man roster, so a September callup is not out of the question, provided that he’s still on the 40-man by then.
I’m not all that sad to see Soto be dealt, but all the same, I can’t help but wonder if the Cubs sold a little low on him. Inconsistency means that he can bounce back, and while a bounceback obviously couldn’t have happened before the trade deadline today, Soto is still under team control through next year. With a good August and September, he might have been worth more over the offseason, and at any rate he probably wouldn’t have been worth much less. Unless the Cubs were seriously considering non-tendering him in the offseason – and they maybe were, with both Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger in the organization, if they believed that Soto was washed up – this seems like a move that didn’t really have to be made right now.
EDIT 8/1/2012: Brigham has been optioned to AA Tennessee.
The Cubs have acquired P Arodys Vizcaino and P Jaye Chapman from the Braves for P Paul Maholm and OF Reed Johnson
It seems like the trade deadline season has moved in very slow motion this year, with the Cubs being the center of rumors for months now without any movement. Sure, there was the aborted Dempster trade to the Braves, but with so many players on the roster being discussed as trade bait, I think a lot of Cubs fans are surprised that it took so long for players to start moving.
Anyway, the Cubs say goodbye to Maholm and Johnson, who were, respectively, both spare-part free agent signings in the offseason, and in return they got bullpen fodder (Chapman) and a genuine prospect (Vizcaino), even if the latter is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery that he had this past spring. That’s not really too bad of a haul, actually, considering. Maholm has been excellent lately, allowing one run or fewer in his last six starts, and Johnson has also been a perfectly good fourth outfielder this year. They should help the Braves contend this year.
Chapman is a 25-year-old righthander who has yet to see action in the Majors, but has made 83 appearances now in AAA. His numbers at that level:
83 G (1 GS), 108.0 IP, 3.25 ERA, 8 HR, 7.2 H/9, 4.6 BB/9, 10.1 K/9
Those stats look pretty typical – lots of walks, lots of strikeouts, not a lot of hits allowed – for a Cubs minor league relief candidate from the Hendry era, and as we all know, most of those guys have had trouble getting established in the majors. I expect that Chapman will get a shot with the Cubs, perhaps sooner rather than later, but he’s not going to stick around very long if he walks major league hitters at that rate.
The real centerpiece of the deal is Vizcaino, who Baseball America ranked as the game’s #40 prospect before this season. He’s righthanded, 21 years old, and has rocketed through the minor leagues, having started 2011 at advanced-A and climbed all the way up to the majors, where he made 17 appearances in the bullpen.
The catch, of course, is that he’s rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and is out all this year, and has had other arm problems in the past. Last season was the only time in his career that he’s pitched over 100 professional innings, and even then he only hit 114.1 combined at all levels. Many observers think that he might be not be fit for the demands of starting, and may be relegated to a bullpen role over the long term. Still, there’s no question about his stuff when he’s healthy, and his control has been excellent, too, with a 4.10 career minor league K/BB ratio.
It’s a high-risk move for the Cubs, but then again, it’s not like they had to give up elite players to get Vizcaino. If they had to decide between a high-risk move like this on one hand, versus accepting lesser but more reliable players on the other, then I’m glad they went this route. This has the potential to be a very major trade for the team down the line … or little to nothing may come of it. And frankly, the latter is probably more likely. But for the price they paid, I think it’s worth a shot.
Both pitchers have been added to the 40-man roster.
EDIT 8/1/2012: Chapman has been optioned to AAA Iowa.
Beliveau was the Cubs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2011, after splitting the season between advanced-A Daytona and AA Tennessee. He had a fine year, but as I’ve said before, giving him that award showed how weak the pitching talent in the Cubs’ system really was. I don’t mean that as a knock on Beliveau at all, but an organization should be able to do better than a 24-year-old reliever for that award.
Since then, he’s been pitching in Iowa all this season, and he’s been OK:
34 G (all in relief), 40.0 IP, 4.05 ERA, 3 HR, 9.4 H/9, 3.8 BB/9, 10.6 K/9
Essentially, he’s a younger (by 2 years) version of Scott Maine, and I’m frankly surprised that the Cubs are willing to go with three lefties in the bullpen. But given the state of the Cubs’ bullpen this season, he deserves his shot.
And lefthanded or not, he’s certainly a better option than Dolis. Since being recalled in late June, Dolis has only been in 4 games and been ineffective, allowing 5 runs in 3.2 IP. I don’t think that the front office has high hopes for him any more – he wouldn’t have spent the last month not pitching if they did – but either he needs to go down to Iowa to pitch more regularly, or he needs to go down to Iowa because he’s not good enough to justify a spot on the major league roster. But either way, he belongs in Iowa.
This is technically a trade, and officially Germano has been acquired for a “cash consideration.” Boston had already designated him for assignment, though, so I can only assume that the “cash consideration” was a Legal Sea Foods gift card.
Anyway, Germano only appeared in one game for the Red Sox, but has been having a pretty good (albeit homeriffic) year in the rotation for AAA Pawtucket:
17 G (16 starts), 105.0 IP, 2.40 IP, 15 HR, 7.0 H/9, 1.1 BB/9, 6.2 K/9
He presumably will work out of the bullpen, unless Dempster, Garza, or Maholm are traded, at which point he stands to get a shot in the rotation. And good thing, too, because I don’t think anyone wants to see Chris Volstad or Casey Coleman in the rotation again until such time as it just can’t be helped.
Asencio has a pretty good ERA (3.07) to his credit, but he’s walked more batters (11) than he’s struck out (8) in 14.2 IP, that’s just not a good way to keep yourself in the Cubs’ bullpen.
Really, though, he’s just the odd man out. With the trading season upcoming and at least three of the Cubs’ starters the subjects of trade rumors, the team needs someone who’s a more traditional swingman in the bullpen in case the need for a spot start arises. Asencio can’t really do that, and he hasn’t pitched well enough to make himself unexpendable. I probably would have been inclined to option Rafael Dolis to AAA and keep Asencio for now, since a) Dolis has options left, and b) isn’t pitching regularly for the Cubs and would probably be better of in AAA anyway. It’s not that losing Asencio is any great loss, and they may be able to hold on to him anyway if he slips through waivers. But they didn’t have to get rid of him now.
EDIT 7/26/2012: Asencio has been outrighted to Iowa.
Not much to say here. Dempster returned from the disabled list a little earlier than it looked like he would, and pitched well over 5 innings this afternoon. At this point, he’s pitching to increase his own trade value, which must be an odd feeling for him personally but which probably serves as a kind of weird incentive in its own way.
Anyway, I’m glad he’s back. He’ll probably be gone in a few weeks, if not sooner, but until then he gives the Cubs a better chance to win games.
I imagine we’ll see Volstad more in the second half of the season after some of the Cubs’s starters are traded, and it’s not a very appealing thought.
I don’t think he’s being hit all that hard, actually. He’s only allowed 4 HR, and he’s not really giving up a huge number of extra base hits or even line drives (he’s allowed extra base hits to about 18% of batters faced, which is right about league average. The general feeling I get watching him is that he’s just being singled to death, and sure enough, his BAbip against is pretty high at .338 (his career average is .304). On the other hand, his other problem is that he’s just not fooling anyone; he’s struck out only 12.7% of opposing hitters, way below average and the worst mark of his career to date.
At any rate, he’s managed only one quality start in nine tries, and even that one he only got on a technicality; a quality start is defined as 6 innings pitched and 3 earned runs or fewer allowed, and in his one QS, Volstad pitched the minimum 6 innings and gave up 4 runs, but only three were earned. I’d say that there’s a good chance that Volstad could be better in the second half than he’s been with a little bit better luck, but there’s simply no indication that he can actually be good. The way things are going, he’s going to be a candidate to be non-tendered at seasons’s end.
Volstad was again ineffective last night upon his return to the majors, allowing 6 runs on 7 hits in 4.1 innings, while walking 2 and striking out 3. Once again, it was the big inning that did him in, as he allowed 5 runs in the fifth inning. In short, nothing really seems any different than when he was with the Cubs earlier in the season. He now has an 0-7 record, and while I don’t really think that W-L records tell you much, it’s hard to argue that his record is not an accurate reflection of the way he’s pitched.
So where does he go from here? It’s hard to say. The Cubs are expected to need another start from his spot in the rotation before Ryan Dempster returns, but as Volstad’s been, he’s probably the best option to make that start. Randy Wells hasn’t been any better, and now that he’s no longer on the 40-man roster, it hardly makes sense to clear a roster spot for him at any rate. Rodrigo Lopez is still down at AAA, but hasn’t really been any better than Volstad during his stint in the minors, and at any rate we’ve seen that Lopez isn’t really a major league caliber starter anymore. Frankie De La Cruz has a decent ERA for Iowa, but in 66.1 IP has walked more batters than he’s struck out, so that’s not going to fly. Coleman, having been sent down, will be ineligible to be recalled for 10 days unless someone moves to the DL, and we know he can’t get the job done anyway. So who’s left?
As far as I can see, Brooks Raley is the only other candidate. Raley was promoted to Iowa from AA Tennessee earlier in the season, and has an 3.88 ERA in 46.1 IP, with 2.7 BB/9 and 7.0 K/9 ratios since his promotion. That’s a big uptick in his K/9 rate, though, as he has a 5.9 K/9 ratio throughout his minor league career and posted only a 5.4 K/9 rate over 48.2 IP while with Tennessee. He’s not on the 40-man roster, either, so does it make much sense to roll the dice on a guy who’s probably not major league ready in order for him to make one spot start? I don’t think so. So I imagine we’ll see Volstad again, as frustrating as it will probably be to watch.