Cubs

On the Farm: What did Cubs get back for Lee?

On the Farm: What did Cubs get back for Lee?

Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010
8:53 PM

By Kevin Czerwinski
CSNChicago.com

While the Cubs continued to trade away Major Leaguers on Wednesday afternoon, sending popular veteran Derrek Lee to the Braves, they are also continuing to stockpile minor leaguers and load up a system that already boasts several top-notch prospects.

The trio of pitchers Chicago received-right-handers Robinson Lopez and Tyrelle Harris and lefty Jeffrey Lorickarent household names, that much is true. But each, particularly Lopez, have an upside, one that could be felt at the Major League level within the next year or two.

Lopez is the biggest name of the bunch. The hard-throwing native of the Dominican Republic turned 19 this season and has shown flashes of being dominant this season while pitching for Rome in the South Atlantic League-though he seems to have run out of steam in the second half of the season. Coincidentally, he moved into the starting rotation in mid-May and thats when his numbers started to dip.

Overall, hes 3-8 with a 4.37 ERA in 92 23 innings but hes 0-5 with a 7.02 ERA in his last nine starts. Lopez didnt make it out of the fourth inning in five of those starts. He has a nice fastball that can reach the mid-90s though not with regularity and it has a tendency to flatten out. His curveball is a bit slurvy, however; while his changeup is effective when he uses it.

Lopez projects as more of a reliever than a starter at this point but hes still young and experience will prove to be his best teacher. Hell likely head to Peoria of the Midwest League.

Harris seems to get around quite a bit. He pitched at three different colleges before the Braves finally grabbed him in the 19th-round in 2009 out of the University of Tennessee. He pitched in Danville Rookie and Rome A last year and has spent time at Rome, Myrtle Beach High-A and most recently Double-A Mississippi, where he has a 1.46 ERA in 12 13 innings.

Hes already been assigned to Tennessee after Jeremy Papelbon was placed on the disabled list Wednesday afternoon. Harris hasnt allowed a homer in 49 23 innings this season and didnt allow one in 17 23 innings last season. He also combined with Julio Tehran to no-hit Mobile on Aug. 2. Harris pitched 3 13 innings in his Double-A debut that day, earning the save.

While he has some occasional life on his fastball, dont be fooled by the no-hitter or his numbers. Harris, 23, is not destined for big things in the big leagues. Rather, hes a back end of the bullpen type of pitcher who may have little or no impact on the organizations future.

The Braves also grabbed Lorick in last years draft, taking him in the 20th round out of Virginia. He was recently bumped up to Myrtle Beach of the Carolina League so figure on him sliding over to Daytona. He pitched two shutout innings in his lone appearances for Myrtle after pitching to a 2.32 ERA in 26 appearances in the South Atlantic League. He was pretty hard on lefties in the Sally League, holding them to a .128 average in 47 at-bats.

Lorick was recently moved into the rotation at Rome, where he was 0-2 with a 3.24 ERA in four starts. While he may develop as a starter think more lefty specialist.
Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at ktczerwinski@gmail.com.

No momentum yet on potential Cubs-Zobrist reunion

No momentum yet on potential Cubs-Zobrist reunion

SAN DIEGO — Theo Epstein's front office has a lot of difficult decisions to make this winter, but Ben Zobrist has yet to come up with his own tough answers.

The 2016 World Series MVP is currently a free agent after wrapping up his four-year deal with the Cubs. He played a major role on the team in September following a four-month absence to deal with a family matter. 

Zobrist, 38, said at the end of the season that he was unsure if he would call it quits after an impressive career or return for another season on the diamond. More than two months since he last put on a uniform, he still has not reached an answer:

If he does play another season, it would have to be in the right situation for his family. He's made enough money in his career and accomplished plenty — including hoisting a couple championship trophies — but he clearly still had the drive and desire to play, as he said in his September return.

The Cubs figure to be on the short list of teams that would make sense for Zobrist given the mutual familiarity, a home in Chicago and how the entire organization supported him as he stepped away from the team to address his personal life.

It would seem to fit from the Cubs' perspective as well, since they talked all season long about how they missed Zobrist's professional at-bats and his presence inside the clubhouse. 

But there is no traction on the reunion front at the moment.

"I haven't talked to him recently," Epstein said Monday. "I've talked to him since the season ended, but it was more just checking in on his family. As far as baseball, he hadn't made a decision at that point. He was gonna wait a while before deciding what to do. He left open the possibility, but that was it."

The Cubs have an avenue for playing time next season at second base and potentially in the outfield for Zobrist and they are currently searching for leadoff options. He proved he can still play at his advanced age by hitting .284/.388/.377 in September after months away from the game. He isn't an everyday guy anymore, but can still provide value as a role player.

If Zobrist decides to give it one more go, the price would have to be right for the financially-hamstrung Cubs, but a reunion would make a lot of sense for both sides.

Angels' search for catching help could lead them to Willson Contreras

maddon_contreras.jpg
USA TODAY

Angels' search for catching help could lead them to Willson Contreras

Could we see a Willson Contreras-Joe Maddon reunion in Los Angeles?

According to Maria Torres of the Los Angeles Times, the Angels are “heavily engaged in the catcher market,” and are having “active conversations with two teams” regarding a trade for a catcher.

Torres didn’t specifically mention Contreras, but he’s one of several Cubs who have been linked to trade rumors this offseason. The Cubs aren’t looking to enter another all-out rebuild, but they’re keeping the future of the organization in mind following a disappointing 84-win season.

The Cubs farm system has grown barren of impact talent. They’ve struggled to develop big-league starting pitching under team president Theo Epstein. Their payroll is projected to exceed MLB’s luxury tax threshold for a second straight season, meaning they’d encounter a 30 percent luxury tax on their overages and see their draft position drop 10 spots, should they exceed the $208 million threshold by $40 million or more.

Trading Contreras — who’s projected to make $4.5 million via arbitration next season — won’t solve the financial problem. However, trading him could net the Cubs the type of blue-chip prospects they desperately need to replenish their farm system.

Contreras is also under team control through 2022, so there’s not a huge rush to deal the two-time All-Star. But if the Cubs sense he’s unlikely to sign a contract extension now or in the future, they must do their due diligence on him and see what they could acquire in a potential trade. The same is true for Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber.

The Angels have one top 100 prospect, (outfielder Jo Adell — No. 5 overall), according to MLB Pipeline, so what Los Angeles could offer the Cubs is questionable. Epstein and Co. won’t trade their backstop for the sake of doing so, especially if they deem any offers to be unsatisfactory.  

Contreras hit .272/.355/.533 with 24 home runs and 64 RBIs last season. He’d be a major addition for the Angels, whose catchers posted a combined .221/.293/.344 slash line with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs. The 27-year-old also has a special bond with former Cubs/current Angels manager Joe Maddon.

Contreras posted a heartfelt good-bye to Maddon on Instagram after the Cubs announced they weren’t retaining the manager for 2020. Contreras later commissioned a painting of he and Maddon as a gift for his former skipper.

Monday, Maddon said it’s “weird” to hear Bryant and Contreras mentioned in trade rumors, adding that he likes both players. 

The Angels aren't definitively linked to Contreras and Epstein recently advised to take rumors with a "mouthful of salt." But considering the Angels are reportedly seeking a catching upgrade, it won't be a surprise to see that change soon.