Showing posts with label Scott Feldman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scott Feldman. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cubs sign reliever Jose Veras ... will he be closing games in August?

The Cubs have agreed with relief pitcher Jose Veras on a one-year, $4 million contract, according to reports.

The deal reportedly includes a $5.5 million option for 2015, along with incentives.

Without question, Veras, 33, will replace Kevin Gregg as the Cubs closer -- at least at the start of the year. I just wonder if another midseason trade isn't in Veras' future.

Last year, he began the season with the lowly Houston Astros, where he compiled a respectable 2.93 ERA and 19 saves in 42 appearances. Just before the trade deadline, he was sent to the Detroit Tigers for future considerations.

The Tigers hoped Veras would help solidify their bullpen for the playoffs. However, he and everyone else in the Detroit 'pen struggled in an ALCS loss to the Boston Red Sox.

I doubt, however, the rebuilding Cubs are concerned about Veras' playoff performance. I suspect they would like him to perform as he did last year from April to July, so they can flip him to a contender in exchange for minor league talent.

It's a plan we've seen the Cubs execute the last couple years. They've signed pitchers like Paul Maholm and Scott Feldman to team-friendly contracts. They get a decent or good half-season out of them, then trade them in July.

I won't be the least bit surprised if Veras is pitching somewhere other than Chicago when August rolls around.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cubs did well at bottom of pitching market

It's easy to roll your eyes and think of Edwin Jackson when talking about the Cubs' big free agent pitching additions last year. Kyuji Fujikawa's contract might not inspire the same belly laughs as Jackson's pact, but it probably gets a guffaw.

Despite those big misses higher up on the free agent food chain, the Cubs actually did pretty well in cobbling together reclamation projects.

Scott Feldman was the obvious winner in the retread lottery. For a modest one-year, $6 million deal after an injury-stunted year in 2012, the Cubs got 91 good innings (3.46 ERA) before spinning him for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop.

Strop showed a marked improvement in his command once arriving at Wrigley Field, and might be a solid addition to the Cubs' bullpen. Arrieta posted only a superficially good ERA (3.66), but at least gives the team a low-cost option for the back end of the rotation, or maybe another bullpen piece if shift to relieving can help him harness his control problems and home run tendencies.

The other retreads the Cubs tried out didn't pan out nearly as well. Scott Baker (1 year, $5 million), who had done plenty of good work with the Twins, never got healthy enough to contribute. Carlos Villanueva (2 years, $10 million) did what he's always done, which is pitch well enough as a low-leverage reliever, not so well as a starter. Dontrelle Willis was sent packing after spring training.

If you think one out of four on those kind of projects is a bad rate of return, you're wrong. Especially for a team like the Cubs, which didn't block any real prospects from their rotation by doling out innings, or waste any staggering amount of money.

(To help put the money in perspective, the money givein to Feldman, Baker, Villanueva and Willis was less than what the $16.8 million paid to Carlos Marmol the last two seasons.)

It's all worth considering as the Cubs haven't been linked in rumors to many big free agents this winter, but have been linked to a few names like free agent Joba Chamberlain, and trade targets like Nationals pitchers Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard.

Once the dust settles, with the Cubs still looking to fill out a rotation and closer spot, there will probably be other names. And why not? For a team with job openings that doesn't want to commit another colossal contract blunder, taking a chance on a player that's fallen on hard times can be a cost-effective way to build value for an organization that sorely needs to do just that.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Should the Cubs part with Samardzija?

Maybe the most interesting choice the Cubs face this offseason is what to do with right-hander Jeff Samardzija.

It will be interesting not just because of what Samardzija is -- not really a No. 1 starter, though maybe the best pitcher the Cubs have -- but the choice will signify the team's intent over the course of the next couple years.

Last year the Cubs reached for Edwin Jackson to plug a hole in the rotation, figuring someone had to pitch, so why not Jackson? The free agent had some upside, and teamed with Matt Garza, Samardzija, Travis Wood and a hopefully healthy Scott Feldman, if enough things broke right among the position players on the roster, you could squint at this team and see a contender. Or at least a team that could look competitive in a possibly weak NL Central.

Obviously, not much of that happened as the division was strong, high hopes for guys like shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo sank, and Jackson revealed himself to be the innings eater he is. Nothing more and nothing less.

Samardzija himself took a step back, at least as far as results go with his ERA climbing from 3.81 to 4.34, though advanced stats like fielding-independent pitching indicate his results weren't that much of a drop-off from 2012.

The Cubs should probably expect Samardzija to be what he's been over the last two seasons, which is a right-hander with a big fastball and a lot of strikeouts who is still pretty hittable, maybe walks a few too many guys, but isn't exceptionally homer-happy.

Maybe most people look at that and think Samardzija is a decent No. 3 starter, a pretty good No. 4 or a great No. 5. Maybe some teams look at the increasing ground ball-to-fly ball ratio (0.71 in 2011, 0.81 in 2012 and 0.97 last year) and think he just needs a better defense behind him to close the gap between his actually ERA and his FIP (3.45 last year). Some of those teams probably also look at the big strikeout rate (9.0 per 9 IP), consider the slow start to his baseball career while he played football at Notre Dame, and think he's still got the tools to blossom into a real No. 1 starter as he approaches his 30th birthday.

I don't buy that most optimistic version of Samardzija's future, because you really have to be sold on arguments that can't be made with numbers alone. However, I can see how those arguments might become more convincing to a team that finds itself unable to trade for David Price this winter.

Obviously, the offers the Cubs gets should determine their willingness to pull the trigger on any Samardzija trade. Though the haul for Garza and Feldman was underwhelming when those pitchers were dealt last summer, Samardzija is still under team control for two more years.

If I were the Cubs GM, though, it would have to be a pretty nice package, because just like a piece of the rationale for the Jackson signing, somebody's got to pitch.

The Cubs are not so deep in pitching that they can easily fill Samardzija's spot. They can't count on mining free agent gold like Feldman again. Jackson will be another year older, and any diminishing results from him might lead frustration from those expecting more to boil over into his ouster from the team. For as tough a time as Samardzija has had with his ERA not matching his FIP, Wood has exceeded expectations there by more than half a run each of the last two seasons, and that might not happen again. Other options like Chris Rusin and Jake Arrieta look underwhellming.

In other words, trading Samardzija would mean the Cubs aren't pretending they might start getting things together next year. Not without risking big bucks on a replacement pitcher, or getting an MLB-ready pitching prospect back.

Current Cubs president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer have been pretty candid from the beginning that this was going to be a long rebuilding process. While a lot of Cubs fans have accepted that, it's a different matter being asked to suffer though a third straight season of embarrassing baseball. Not when the second straight year led to the manager being fired

So unless the Cubs are offered a package that looks to surely exceed the value of two more seasons from Samardzija, plus a draft pick when he's offered a qualifying offer before free agency, Hoyer and Epstein should elect to keep their hurler for at least one more season.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cubs trade Scott Feldman to Orioles; Carlos Marmol headed to Dodgers

The Cubs began their much-anticipated midseason trading frenzy Tuesday afternoon with a pair of deals.

First, the North Siders sent pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger to the Baltimore Orioles for starting pitcher Jake Arrieta (pictured), reliever Pedro Strop and international bonus slots No. 3 and No. 4.

In a second move, the Cubs dealt reliever Carlos Marmol  and international signing bonus slot No. 4 to the Los Angeles Dodgers for reliever Matt Guerrier.

I like what the Orioles did here. Baltimore enters Tuesday's play at 47-36. The Orioles have won four in a row and sit just 2 1/2 games back of the Boston Red Sox in the competitive AL East. But, you have to wonder whether Baltimore can stay in the hunt with such poor starting pitching. Orioles starters have a 4.79 ERA this season; that's the third-highest mark in the American League. That's not what you want as a contending team.

Feldman will help. He is having one of his best seasons, having gone 7-6 with a 3.46 ERA in 15 starts with the Cubs. He's been pitching well above his career norms -- his career ERA is 4.66. But even if he crashes back to reality, he provides Baltimore with a more consistent option than Arrieta or any of the other guys who have toiled at the back end of the Orioles rotation. If I'm Baltimore, I'm still looking for another front-line starter to solidify things, but I'm also feeling better about my chances after adding Feldman in exchange for a couple guys who weren't in my plans.

From the Cubs' perspective, I would guess the international bonus slots are what they coveted in this deal. They are probably angling to sign a prospect or two as international free agency opens this week. Certainly, neither Arrieta nor Strop gives fans any reason to get excited.

Arrieta went 1-2 with a 7.23 ERA in five starts with Baltimore this season. The hard-throwing right-hander owns a career 5.46 ERA in 69 games (63 starts) over parts of four seasons with the Orioles. Arrieta was once considered a top prospect, but now he's nothing more than a 27-year-old reclamation project who will spend some time in Triple-A Iowa.

Strop, 28, had solid overall numbers in 2012 -- a 2.44 ERA in 70 appearances as Baltimore's primary setup man. A closer look reveals he actually had an outstanding first four months, followed by some horrific struggles down the stretch. From April through July of last season, Strop compiled a 1.34 ERA. In August and September, his ERA was 5.12.

It has only gotten worse for the right-hander in 2013. He is 0-3 with a 7.25 ERA in 29 relief appearances. He's been battling back problems throughout the season. Recently, he complained about the home fans booing him off the mound in Baltimore. 

Both Arrieta and Strop seem to be on the fast track to nowhere. The best the Cubs can hope for is a change of scenery getting both back on track.

Speaking of the need for a change of scenery, Marmol is finally out of Chicago. The 30-year-old headcase was 2-4 with a 5.86 ERA in 31 relief appearances before the Cubs designated him for assignment on June 25. Marmol is owed more than $5 million on his $9.8 million contract for this season, and the Cubs will send some cash to the Dodgers for doing them the favor of taking Marmol off their hands. In return, the Cubs get the 34-year-old Guerrier, who is 2-3 with a 4.80 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP in 34 relief appearances this year.

Guerrier will not be part of the solution on the North Side, but hey, he's not as bad as Marmol and he'll eat up some innings in middle relief. That's probably the best thing you can say about his acquisition.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Scott Feldman? Who knew?

The best Cubs starting pitcher the last couple times through the rotation has been .... Scott Feldman?

Yes, Scott Feldman.

I can't even find a photo of Feldman in a Cubs uniform, so you'll have to settle for this picture of him from his time in Texas. The right-hander had a strong outing against his former mates Monday, firing seven shutout innings in the Cubs' 9-2 victory over the Rangers.

In his previous start, Feldman struck out 12 and tossed his first career complete game in picking up a win against the San Diego Padres. With Monday's win, Feldman evened his record at 3-3 and lowered his ERA to 2.70.

This hot streak has come at a fortunate time for him because Matt Garza will be coming off the DL soon, and that means one of the Cubs starters is headed to the bullpen.

If decisions were made strictly on performance, Edwin Jackson would be the starter destined for a demotion. The right-hander has been the biggest North Side disappointment this side of Carlos Marmol so far this year, compiling an 0-5 record to go along with an unsightly 6.39 ERA.

But we all know these choices aren't made strictly on performance. Jackson is being paid $13 million to be the Cubs' supposed No. 2 starter. He's been a starter his whole career, and he's got three years left on his contract after this one. No way the Cubs pull the rug out from under him this early in the season.

Feldman and Carlos Villaneuva have spent their whole careers alternating between starting and relieving. It's inevitable one of the two will draw the short straw when Garza comes off the DL. Feldman has been on top of his game lately, while Villaneuva has given up four runs in each of his last two starts.

Villaneuva has pitched better than Jackson, but the realities of the situation make it likely he'll be the odd man out. Perhaps manager Dale Sveum will use Villaneuva in a short relief role when the Cubs have the lead late in games. Hey, he's a better eighth-inning option than Marmol, right?

Reed bounces back for White Sox

I liked what I saw from White Sox closer Addison Reed in the South Siders' 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals Monday.

In case you missed it Sunday, Reed was absolutely awful in blowing his first save of the season. He walked the No. 8 and No. 9 batters in the Kansas City lineup, then hung a 3-2 slider to Billy Butler, which the Royals' designated hitter deposited in the right-center field gap for a game-tying two-run double. The Sox went on to lose 6-5 in 10 innings.

Reed was right back on the hill Monday, summoned to protect a one-run lead in the bottom of the 11th inning. He had to face the best three hitters in the Kansas City lineup: Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar and the aforementioned Butler. He retired them all to earn his 11th save in 12 tries this year. Reed displayed the kind of short-term memory every closer needs -- forget about yesterday, pound the strike zone, don't beat yourself. It was an impressive inning by a 24-year-old reliever who is still learning how to pitch at the big-league level.

I can make a case that Reed is the Sox team MVP this year. The club has only 13 wins in its first 30 games. Reed has one win and 11 saves, so he's played a critical role in 12 of those 13 victories.