Cubs

Cubs reportedly ramp up pursuit of Jorge Soler

660274.png

Cubs reportedly ramp up pursuit of Jorge Soler

With Yoenis Cespedes being strongly considered by almost every team in the league -- most notably the Miami Marlins, whom he visited last week -- the Cubs have seemingly turned their attention to 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler:

embedly_twitter_44813818background:url(http:a0.twimg.comimagesthemestheme1bg.png) 9ae4e8; padding:20px; embedly_twitter_44813818 pbackground:fff;padding:10px 12px 0px 12px;margin:0;min-height:48px;color:000;font-size:18px;line-height:22px;-moz-border-radius:5px;-webkit-border-radius:5px embedly_twitter_44813818 .embedly_tweet_contentbackground:fff;padding:10px 12px 10px 12px;margin:0;min-height:48px;color:000;font-size:18px !important;line-height:22px;-moz-border-radius:5px;-webkit-border-radius:5px embedly_twitter_44813818 p span.metadatadisplay:block;width:100;clear:both;margin-top:0px;height:40px; padding-bottom: 12px; embedly_twitter_44813818 p span.metadata span.authorline-height:15px;color:999;font-size:14px embedly_twitter_44813818 p span.metadata span.author aline-height:15px;font-size:20px;vertical-align:middle embedly_twitter_44813818 p span.metadata span.author imgfloat:left;margin:0 10px 0 0px;width:48px;height:48px embedly_twitter_44813818 p a color: 0000ff; text-decoration:none; embedly_twitter_44813818 p a:hovertext-decoration:underline embedly_twitter_44813818 .embedly_timestampfont-size:13px;display:inline-block;margin-top: 5px; embedly_twitter_44813818 .components-above span.embedly_timestampfont-size:10px;margin-top: 1px;line-height:12px embedly_twitter_44813818 a color: 0000ff; text-decoration:none; embedly_twitter_44813818 a:hovertext-decoration:underline embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-screen-name font-size: 14px; font-weight: bold; embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-full-name padding-left: 4px; color: 999; font-size: 12px; embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-actionsmargin-left: 10px;font-size:13px;display:inline-block;width:250px embedly_twitter_44813818 .components-above span.tweet-actionsfont-size:10px embedly_twitter_44813818 .controlsline-height:12px!important embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-actions a margin-left:5px embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-actions a bfont-weight:normal embedly_twitter_44813818 .components-above span.tweet-actions a bvertical-align:baseline;line-height:12px embedly_twitter_44813818 .components-above .tweet-textfont-size:13px;vertical-align:baseline embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-image float: left; width: 40px; embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-user-block-image float: left; width: 48px; height: 48px embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-row margin-left: 40px; margin-top: 3px;line-height: 17px; embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-user-block margin-left: -40px; embedly_twitter_44813818 .stream-item padding-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 12px; embedly_twitter_44813818 .simple-tweet-image img margin-top: 4px; embedly_twitter_44813818 .simple-tweet-content margin: 0 0 13px 0px; font-size: 14px; min-height:48px; embedly_twitter_44813818 .in-reply-to-border border-color: EBEBEB; border-style: solid; border-width: 1px 0 0; embedly_twitter_44813818 .in-reply-to-text margin-left: 4px; padding-left: 8px; padding-right: 10px; color: 999; font-size: 12px; embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-actions i background: transparent url(http:a2.twimg.coma1306889658phoeniximgsprite-icons.png) no-repeat;width:15px;height:15px;margin:0 4px -3px 3px;outline: none; text-indent:-99999px;vertical-align:baseline;display:inline-block;position:relative; embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-actions a.retweet-action i background-position:-192px 0; embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-actions a.reply-action i background-position:0 0; embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-actions a.favorite-action i background-position:-32px 0; @Kevin_Goldstein
Kevin GoldsteinRumors out of the DR today that the Cubs are making a very very big play for Jorge Soler.
Feb 12 via Twitter for iPad Favorite Retweet Reply

This is not all that surprising. Given his age, he is seven years younger than Cespedes and will come at a much cheaper price. He fits in much better with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer's future plans, as he is likely still a couple years away from having an impact in the majors.

Goldstein, of Baseball Prospectus, appeared on MLB Network Radio after the Cubs signed 18-year-old pitcher Gerardo Concepcion and discussed Soler in a little bit more detail.

"He has some paperwork issues just like Cespedes does," Goldstein said. "He profiles as a very classic right-field profile on a scouting level. He's a big, athletic kid. He ran well for scouts. He ran a 6.7 60 for them the other week, which is above average. At his age and his size, that's not going to last. He just doesn't look like a guy that's going to stay fast.

"What he's going to be is a right fielder who's gonna hit for power. He's gonna throw well, hit home runs. That's going to be his job. Big, big kid. Broad shoulders, tons of raw power. He's a very exciting player...I think it's important -- and same with Concepcion -- to talk about how they are different from Cespedes.

"I think for Soler, his most logical assignment, based on his youth experience and talent, would be Low-A ball...Soler and Concepcion are not guys who are going to help you this year. These are not guys who are going to help you in 2013 and probably not 2014. These are long-term players. These are guys who you hope can turn into impact players, but they're not even close to that yet."

This would be a really big signing for the Cubs and has the potential to be a great move for the future. Stay tuned, as if Goldstein's sources are right, more will come on this story shortly.

Remember that guy? Former Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutiérrez

Remember that guy? Former Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutiérrez

Ricky Gutiérrez played in the Majors from 1993-2004. He played shortstop for the Cubs from 2000-01 and later signed with them again in June 2004. 

However, Gutiérrez never got back to the Majors with the Cubs, who sent him to the Red Sox the following month. His final Major League game was with the Red Sox on Oct. 3, 2004, the final game of the 2004 regular season; he didn’t play in the 2004 postseason. Gutiérrez was subsequently signed and released by a few other teams, including the White Sox in 2005.

Gutiérrez holds the distinction of being the first Cubs player to hit a regular season grand slam against the White Sox (July 12, 2001). In his two seasons with the Cubs, he tied for the Major League lead in sacrifice bunts both years (16 in 2000, 17 in 2001) which was odd since he had a grand total of 18 sacrifice bunts in his 847 career games NOT in a Cubs uniform. He also had uncharacteristic power with the Cubs:  21 home runs for Chicago in 272 games, 17 home runs with everyone else (847 games).

What Cubs fans probably remember most is what Gutiérrez did against them. On May 6, 1998 he had the lone hit (many dispute it should have been ruled an error) for the Astros off Kerry Wood in Wood’s 20-strikeout masterpiece at Wrigley Field (Gutiérrez was responsible for two of the strikeouts). 

Later that season, on June 26, the number 20 and Gutiérrez were again connected when he had a 20-pitch battle against Bartolo Colón, which ended in a strikeout. It remained the last plate appearance in the Majors of at least 20 pitches until Brandon Belt flew out on the 21st pitch of an at-bat against the Angels' Jaime Barria on April 22, 2018.

Gutiérrez’s nephew, James Jones, played 14 seasons in the NBA for the Pacers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Heat and Cavaliers.

2019 encore for Jesse Chavez?

chavez_kamka_story.jpg
USA TODAY

2019 encore for Jesse Chavez?

On July 15, Brandon Morrow recorded his 22nd save of the season with a scoreless inning in San Diego. It wound up being the last time he pitched in a game for the Cubs in 2018. 

Four days later, during the All-Star break, the Cubs made a move to bolster their bullpen, acquiring Jesse Chavez from the Rangers in exchange for minor league hurler Tyler Thomas. It wasn’t even the biggest trade they’d make with the Rangers that month – a little over a week later they dealt for Cole Hamels. 

Despite pitching nearly half the innings, Chavez was almost as valuable as Hamels.

2018 with Cubs IP fWAR
Jesse Chavez 39.0 1.1
Cole Hamels 76.1 1.5

Chavez made his Cubs debut on July 21; from July 21 through the end of the season, 187 pitchers tossed at least 30 innings. 185 of them had a higher ERA than Chavez, while 184 of them allowed more baserunners per 9 innings.

Best ERA, July 21-end of season

(minimum 30 innings) IP ERA
Blake Treinen 32.1 0.56
Jesse Chavez 39.0 1.15
Blake Snell 61.2 1.17
Trevor Bauer 35.0 1.29
Trevor Williams 71.2 1.38
Robert Stock 36.0 1.50

Fewest baserunners per 9 innings, July 32-end of season

(minimum 30 innings) IP BR/9 IP
Blake Treinen 32.1 5.85
Blake Snell 61.2 7.15
Jesse Chavez 39.0 7.15
Jacob deGrom 93.2 7.49
Scott Oberg 30.2 7.63
Josh Hader 33.1 7.83

But how did Chavez transform into one of Joe Maddon’s best bullpen arms down the stretch?  According to Chavez, his own transformation started on Mother’s Day.

Chavez entered a game in Houston with a 5.48 ERA in a dozen appearances, but pitched three innings with no hits, no walks and four strikeouts. From that point through the end of the season, he posted a 1.70 ERA and 0.892 WHIP. 

Chavez points to a change in arm slot which resulted in better consistency and a slight jump in velocity. A glance at his release point charts show that consistency, and he added roughly one mile an hour to his fastball.

"It's kept me more consistent in the zone," Chavez said. "Things have been sharper, velocity has been a lot sharper. I was huffing and puffing trying to get a 92 (mph fastball) out there and it wasn't coming.

"Next thing you know, I dropped it and it's right there, and I'm like, 'something's wrong here.' But I just took it and ran with it."

Jesse Chavez 2018 four-seam fastball velocity

  Average Max
Prior to May 13 92.6 mph 94.6 mph
May 13 on 93.6 mph 95.7 mph

Can Chavez be valuable in 2019?  The 35-year old reliever posted the best ERA (2.55), WHIP (1.059) and walk rate (4.5% - nearly two percent better than his previous best) in 2018, and he continued to get better as the season went on. 

He’s a former starter who can pitch multiple innings if needed, and that’s a valuable thing - especially for a manager like Joe Maddon, who uses his pitchers in a variety of ways. It’s unlikely he’ll have a second consecutive career year.

But he’ll likely be well worth the price tag; he only made $1 million in 2018, and even with a slight raise he should be very affordable. There’s definitely room in Maddon’s bullpen for a pitcher like Chavez.