Showing posts with label Mike Olt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mike Olt. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Report: White Sox 1B/DH Adam LaRoche 'stepping away from baseball'

Adam LaRoche
White Sox 1B/DH Adam LaRoche is stepping away from baseball, according to a Chicago Tribune report.

The 36-year-old apparently intends to retire, but teammates reportedly asked him to reconsider during a lengthy team meeting Tuesday morning.

LaRoche said he would take a couple days to ponder his future, but it sounds like his career is over.

"I’m confident I am stepping away from baseball," LaRoche said in the Tribune report. "Out of respect for my manager, my GM, these guys and my teammates have asked me for an hour (to reconsider). I’ve tried to convince them I am convinced, but I will do them that, and give it a day or two, and then come back in and finish the story."

LaRoche had a career-worst season for the Sox in 2015. He batted just .207 with a .634 OPS, 12 home runs and 44 RBIs in 127 games. He has been sidelined for much of this spring by a back injury.

It would be surprising to see LaRoche walk away, as he is owed $13 million this season. The Sox will be off the hook for that if he retires.

From a baseball perspective, it's too bad that he didn't arrive at this decision two months ago. The Sox would have had $13 million more to spend in free agency in the offseason.

From a personal perspective, hopefully there isn't a health issue or a family problem that has caused LaRoche to make this abrupt decision. It didn't work out for him with the White Sox, but there should be no ill will directed toward him.

White Sox make four roster moves

The Sox made four roster moves Tuesday.

Pitchers Brandon Brennan and Daniel Webb were optioned to Triple-A Charlotte. Pitcher Jordan Guerrero was assigned to minor-league camp. Infielder Mike Olt was given his release.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

MLBPA threatens litigation over Kris Bryant demotion

So, the Cubs assigned third baseman Kris Bryant to their minor league camp on Monday.

You can't say the 23-year-old prospect didn't make a strong case to be included on the Cubs' 25-man roster to start the season. He hit .425 with nine home runs in 40 at-bats this spring.

We've talked about the service time rules before on this blog, but just to review, if Bryant spends 12 or more days in the minor leagues this season, the Cubs would delay him from becoming eligible for free agency by one year, until after the 2021 season, according to baseball's collective bargaining agreement. If the team keeps him on the roster for all of this season, he would be eligible for free agency one year sooner, after the 2020 season.

The Major League Baseball Players Association, as expected, was not happy with the Cubs' decision.

'"Today is a bad day for baseball,'' the union said in a statement. ''I think we all know that even if Kris Bryant were a combination of the greatest players to play our game, and perhaps he will be before it's all said and done, the Cubs still would have made the decision they made today. This decision, and other similar decisions made by clubs will be addressed in litigation, bargaining or both.''

Whoa, timeout here. Litigation? Seriously?

This is the part where I think the union is out of line. The rules for service time were collectively bargained, and the union signed off on them. The union can sue the Cubs or MLB if it wishes, but I don't think it will take long for that lawsuit to be thrown out of court.

If the union is unhappy with the service time rules, maybe it should bring that up in the next CBA negotiations. But with the rules that are in place right now, the Cubs are clearly within their rights to send Bryant down to the minor leagues. The question here isn't whether the Cubs can do this. They can. The question is whether they should.

From a purely business perspective, it's the right move. The Cubs can bring Bryant to the majors 12 days into the season and not cost themselves that year of control in 2021. Barring weather issues, the Cubs will play just nine games in those first 12 days of the 2015 season. If you're the club, would you rather have Bryant for the first nine games of 2015? Or would you rather have him for 162 games in 2021?

That's a no-brainer. Anyone would take the 162 games in 2021. But that's just from the business perspective. I don't think you can just ignore the baseball side of things and just make a pure business decision.

On the baseball side, the Cubs are running the risk of alienating their own players by sending Bryant down. In any workplace, employees don't like it when decisions are based upon something other than merit. It's no different with a baseball team. This move by the Cubs no doubt pisses off Bryant and his agent, but it probably pisses off some other players, too.

Think about it. If you're a prospect in the Cubs organization and Bryant is one of your peers, what are you thinking today? I'd be thinking, "Damn, that dude did everything right. He earned his shot, and they still didn't give it to him. Is that going to happen to me? How is the organization going to treat me when my time comes?"

Or, what if you're a veteran player on the Cubs? Say you're Anthony Rizzo or Jon Lester or Miguel Montero, and you're listening to Joe Maddon talk about how the team has "very high expectations" and "expects to win."

OK, that's good, it's Major League Baseball, and your manager should say he expects to win. But then you look over at third base and you see Mike Olt standing there instead of Bryant. If I'm a veteran Cubs player, I'm looking at Olt and saying, "If we expect to win, then what the hell is that guy still doing here?"

The idea that the Cubs are better positioned to win with Olt at third base instead of Bryant is complete fiction. It's not even an argument. Everyone knows it. The Cubs players aren't stupid. They know it, too. I'd be frustrated if I was in their spikes. A team that has "very high expectations" doesn't put Olt in its everyday lineup to start the year when there's a better option available.

That's the risk the Cubs are running here. Is sending Bryant down a sound business decision? Yes, no question, but it sure is a maddening one when looked at from a pure baseball perspective.

Friday, May 9, 2014

It's time for the Cubs to get rid of Darwin Barney

Outside of shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs have gone with a musical chairs approach to their infield. Between second and third base they've rotated Luis Valbuena (20 starts), Emilio Bonifacio (12), Mike Olt (16) and Darwin Barney (16).

Bonifacio has also gotten time in the outfield, but this is a pretty even job-sharing arrangement. That makes some sense in that the Cubs have a lot of guys they're trying to sort out, even if not for their direct benefit, then to give scouts from other teams a look-see at players so they can be peddled for something interesting in a trade.

Olt is a former top prospect not far from the form that made him one, so getting his career back on track would be huge. Valbuena and Bonifacio are playing like credible stopgaps or bench options should a better team come calling for one of them. Maybe the Cubs will like Bonifacio enough to hammer out an affordable contract extension.

Barney is hitting like one of the worst hitters in all of baseball. Which he is outside of pitchers and backup catchers. That's not just his meager 63 plate appearances this year (.127/.226/.181, so emphasis on meager). That's been his career in the majors (.242/.241/.331). That's really what his body of work in the minors would have suggested (.288/.337/.378).

There's his glove, which is excellent at second base and would probably play well at short or third. But as good as it is, it won't carry him as a starter at any position, and you'd really rather he never have to hit, making him a second-best utility infield option on a decent bench. That means he's not likely to bring the Cubs back much value in trade.

After making $2.3 million this season, I think it's also safe to say that if he's not sent to another team, the Cubs won't be tendering him a contract and taking him to arbitration for next season.

Barney simply has no value to the Cubs right now, and keeping him around is eating into something the team has right now that's very valuable, and that's playing time for those other guys who might play their way into the long-term picture, or at least boost their short-term value.

Even as a "rebuilding" team, the Cubs have other, better options. They should go with them.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ryan Braun and a few other random Friday thoughts

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun finally admitted Thursday that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his 2011 MVP season.

Apologies from disgraced athletes are nothing new, and I can't say I have anything to offer on the matter that hasn't already been written dozens of times before.

But you know who owes me an apology? The idiot Brewers fans who sat behind me at U.S. Cellular Field on June 23, 2012. Not that Braun could hear me, but I yelled insults at him and booed him the entire game as the White Sox defeated Milwaukee, 8-6, that night.

These Brewers fans seemed offended by my conduct, and on multiple occasions made snide remarks toward me and claimed that Braun "was right" for appealing his positive drug test after the 2011 season. Ha ha, whatever.

I guess some fans will defend the indefensible when it comes to players on their own teams. I think we all should be smarter than that. No matter which team is your favorite, understand that at some point you have cheered for a player that was using performance-enhancing drugs. That's just the sad reality we live in as baseball fans.

Six straight saves for Addison Reed

They say you can't win 'em all. Well, you can't lose 'em all either, and over 162 games, even struggling teams will have a winning streak at some point.

That where the White Sox are right now. They aren't very good, but they have won six games in a row after defeating the Kansas City Royals 4-3 in 12 innings Thursday night.

In an unusual twist, closer Addison Reed has earned a save in each of those six victories. The Sox did have an off day on Monday, so Reed has not pitched six consecutive days. Still, it's fairly remarkable to pitch six out of seven days and be effective every time.

The last closer to save six consecutive games for his team? Eric Gagne of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003.

Reed has been a bright spot in a dismal season for the Sox. He has 34 saves and five wins, meaning he has played a role in 75 percent of the Sox' 52 victories this year. He'd get my vote for team MVP.

Mike Olt is playing really bad

Coming into the 2013 season, third baseman Mike Olt was the second-ranked prospect in the Texas Rangers system. I don't think he'll be rated so highly going into 2014.

Olt has hit just .185 at Triple-A this year, and the Rangers gave up on him, sending him to the Cubs in the Matt Garza deal. The Cubs could use some help at third base -- journeyman Donnie Murphy has been getting playing time at that position recently.

I think when the Cubs acquired Olt, they had designs on calling him up in September for a late-season look at the hot corner. Doesn't look like that would be wise.

Olt has played 28 games at Triple-A Iowa since joining the Cubs organization. He has gone 12-for-99 with two home runs and four RBIs. That would be a .121 batting average, to go along with a .194 on-base percentage and .222 slugging percentage.

Ouch.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I can't get on board with this whole 'rooting for draft position' thing

It's my understanding that a lot of the cool White Sox fans are rooting for the team to lose these days, hoping to secure a more favorable draft pick for next June.

In my world, such a thought process is stupid.

Folks, this isn't the NBA. This isn't the NFL. LeBron James (pictured) will not be awarded to the MLB team that finishes with the sorriest record in the league. Andrew Luck is also not available, nor is .133-hitting uberprospect Mike Olt.

You see, the baseball draft is a complete crapshoot. It is less predictable and more volatile than drafts in other sports.

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, aka the best young player in the game today, was selected 25th overall in his draft year. Chris Sale, the best young player on the White Sox roster, was chosen 13th overall in 2010. That goes to show you do not need to be drafting in the top 10 to get All-Star talent.

It's also true that the overall No. 1 pick is no sure thing. The Tampa Bay Rays have a track record of drafting quality players and stocking their MLB roster with homegrown talent, but ask them how that No. 1 overall selection of Tim Beckham in 2008 is working out for them. Five years later, Beckham still hasn't seen the bigs and is toiling at Triple-A Durham for a third straight season.

People need to understand, in baseball, you are not assured of getting any sort of franchise savior by securing the top pick or the second overall pick. I'm not going to root for the White Sox to land in a certain draft position, because I have no idea what I'm going to be getting when the Sox finally do make their first-round selection next June.

I'd much rather cheer for the guys who are currently on the team, especially younger players like Sale, Jose Quintana, Hector Santiago, Andre Rienzo, Avisail Garcia, Gordon Beckham, Dayan Viciedo, Josh Phegley Addison Reed and Nate Jones. These are the guys who are still going to be around once GM Rick Hahn finishes the veteran purge that's going on right now. You want them to finish out the season strong, so they have a good feeling going into next year.

Take a look at the last White Sox team to finish in last place. You have to go all the way back to 1989, but understanding what that team did can be constructive. That season, the Sox were a godawful 32-56 at the All-Star break. But the second half of the season, they played much better. They went 37-36 after the break. Young players learned some things about playing in the big leagues. They finished with just 69 wins, but guys improved their games and came back the next season with the right attitude. In 1990, the Sox went 94-68.

Now, I don't expect the Sox to bounce back and win 94 next season. However, a good finish over the next 43 games can set the table for a much more competitive year in 2014. Personally, that's what I'm going to root for. I see no point to cheering for some nameless, faceless future draft pick. There will be plenty of time to root on that individual, whoever he may be, once that player joins the Sox organization next summer.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cubs trade Matt Garza for a package of ifs and maybes

We interrupt the ongoing Theo Epstein love fest in Chicago to point out none of the players the Cubs acquired in the Matt Garza trade have accomplished much of anything in professional baseball.

The long-rumored Garza deal finally went down Tuesday. The Cubs sent the veteran right-hander to Texas for Triple-A infielder Mike Olt, Class-A right-hander C.J. Edwards and right-hander Justin Grimm, plus either one or two players to be named later.

As most people are aware, I'm one of those evil people who prefers proven talent to prospects. Accordingly, I really like this deal for Texas. Garza has been pitching well this year. He was 6-1 with a 3.17 ERA at the time of the trade. Those are impressive numbers with a losing Cubs team playing behind him. I watched Garza pitch earlier in July against the White Sox, and he appears to have refined his changeup. He's always had a good fastball and good, hard breaking ball. Now that he's got another off-speed pitching working for him, he's especially tough to hit.

Garza's presence in the rotation makes the Rangers much more dangerous in a short playoff series. They can stack up Yu Darvish, Garza and Derek Holland now. Those are three pretty good arms.

But if you read the Chicago papers this morning, nobody is really talking about that. The tributes to the Cubs front office are flowing. "Theo" has done it again. He's fleeced another team and acquired a "haul" for a player who wasn't part of the Cubs' future plans anyway. I can agree that Garza wasn't part of the Cubs' future. They probably weren't going to sign him to an extension. But that's about as far as it goes for me.

I don't see how anyone can say whether this was a good or bad trade for the Cubs. We won't know for two or three years.

Olt, a 24-year-old third baseman, is ranked as the second-best prospect in the Texas system. However, he's having a tough year. He was hitting .213 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs in 65 games for Triple-A Round Rock. I assume the Cubs will convert Olt to a corner outfield spot. The team just used its first-round pick on third baseman Kris Bryant. The organization has high hopes that Bryant will advance to the big leagues quickly, so surely they don't plan to have a guy like Olt blocking his path. In the short run, Olt needs to report to Triple-A and try to find his swing.

Edwards, 21, was 8-2 with a 1.83 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 93.1 innings for Class-A Hickory. Intriguing prospect? Sure. Close to making the majors? Nope. We'll reserve judgment.

Grimm, 24, made 17 starts for the Rangers this season, going 7-7 with a 6.37 ERA. His last start was July 12 against Detroit. During that outing, he gave up seven runs before leaving in the fourth inning with forearm soreness. I've seen Grimm pitch a few times, and he's basically fodder for the back of the starting rotation. I wouldn't think of him as a building block for the future.

So, I'm struggling to figure out why people are so in love with this trade from the Cubs' perspective. Over the last two summers, the Cubs have traded four big-league starting pitchers -- Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Scott Feldman and Garza. All they have to show for it is a bunch of promises for the future. Cubs' brass has consistently said, "We'll be contenders by 2015." Chicago media seem to have bought in hook, line and sinker. Well, who is going to be pitching for the Cubs in 2015? We know it won't be Garza.

If I'm a reporter covering the Cubs, the theme of my column today would be along the lines of "You guys better be right with this deal." Starting pitching is what wins in Major League Baseball. If you're going to trade a guy like Garza, you damn well better get "a haul" in return. In two years time, we'll know more about the outcome of this deal.