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Ramirez locked up; Cubs outright Guzman

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Ramirez locked up; Cubs outright Guzman

Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010
4:21 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

As the Cubs continue with their organizational meetings in Arizona, reviewing their prospect base and free-agency options, small details are emerging before the front office has to make the major decisions that will shape the 2011 roster.

As expected, Aramis Ramirez has exercised his 14.6 million player option for next season. The Cubs officially received the paperwork before Thursdays deadline and there might not be a player more critical to their success.

Nagging injuries limited Ramirez to 124 games last season, and he went through an inexplicable slump that lasted for months, yet still finished with 25 home runs and 83 RBI, numbers that led the team in both categories.

Ramirez will turn 33 next year, and though he has said that he wont play much longer, he could be motivated to secure his next contract. By not opting out, the third baseman is also guaranteed at least a 2 million buyout of the 16 million club option for 2012, which would be automatically triggered if he was traded.

Quite simply, the Cubs as currently constructed do not have another offensive force like Ramirez. Here are the only other players with six or more seasons with at least 25 homers in a Cubs uniform: Sammy Sosa; Billy Williams; Ernie Banks; Ron Santo; and Ryne Sandberg.

Ramirez is wired differently than those five, but there will be few players on the open market with his potential to generate runs, and its uncertain how hard the Cubs will pursue them.

If the Cubs allocate their resources toward pitching and a modest upgrade at first base, they will need Ramirez more than ever.

Guzman agrees to minor-league deal

The Cubs once rated Angel Guzman as high as Carlos Zambrano in their minor-league system, but a series of injuries nearly shattered his career. Surgery to repair a significant ligament tear in Guzmans right shoulder wiped out his 2010 season just as he was being viewed as a reliable setup man out of the bullpen.

The Cubs outrighted Guzman off their 40-man roster, which stands at 37 players. The reliever who will turn 29 next month and missed most of 2007 and 2008 because of Tommy John surgery cleared waivers and agreed to a minor-league contract with an invitation to major-league spring training.

The Cubs are planning to eventually add right-hander Chris Archer who at 22 is supposed to be the next big thing to the 40-man roster.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

David Ross indicates no Cubs players have tested positive for COVID-19

David Ross indicates no Cubs players have tested positive for COVID-19

The Cubs appear to be in better position than some teams as they start Summer Camp.

When asked Friday if he feels any anxiety being back at Wrigley Field, Cubs manager David Ross indicated the club has had no players test positive for COVID-19 during intake testing this week. 

Ross told reporters in Friday's Zoom session he didn't see any additional anxiety in the players initially either when it comes to the strangeness of the new protocols.

“And I think it's comforting to know that everybody's clear and, you know, has tested negative.”

Most Cubs players took their tests on Wednesday, but the club is following MLB guidelines and has not confirmed or denied any results. Because it’s not considered a work-related injury, teams cannot announce if a player tests positive for the coronavirus without consent.

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Later in the press conference, Ross was asked if he expects any players not to be at camp Friday, outside of the injured José Quintana.

“We’re not supposed to comment I guess — I think you guys have heard all that — on testing positive or negative or any of that stuff, and so I don't wanna lead into that,” he said. “But I definitely expect everybody to be here. I haven't heard anybody's not going to be here.”

Ross was then asked to clarify if every player is cleared.

“Report times are spread out, so not everybody is actually here,” he said. “But I haven’t heard of anybody from [Cubs head athletic trainer PJ Mainville] that is not gonna be showing up today.”

MLB intends to release broad league-wide testing results as early as Friday — the number of tests conducted and how many came back positive. We've already seen several COVID-related announcements from other teams this week.

Wednesday, the Phillies quietly placed four players on the 10-day injured list. Friday, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti announced outfielder Delino DeShields has tested positive for the coronavirus and is experiencing minor symptoms.

Former Cubs and current Angels manager Joe Maddon said Friday 9-10 players would not be participating in workouts and did not disclose why, suggesting that at least several of them have tested positive.

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What Jose Quintana's injury says about precarious nature of this MLB season

What Jose Quintana's injury says about precarious nature of this MLB season

One more injury or a positive COVID-19 test within the starting rotation, and the Cubs will be in trouble.

Jose Quintana’s thumb injury, which is expected to keep him from throwing for two weeks, called to attention just how precarious the future of every team is this season.

"We had some concerns about our starting pitching depth,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Thursday. “A freak injury further challenges us in that area, and we have to respond."

 

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Starting pitching is a particularly vulnerable area in general. COVID-19 can affect anyone, even a team’s ace. More reports of positive COVID-19 tests are bound to trickle out now that teams are beginning workouts Friday. And with a three-week Summer Camp expediting the ramp-up process, risk of soft-tissue injury becomes a concern for pitchers in particular.

Add into the mix a microscopic surgery on a lacerated nerve in Quintana’s left thumb – the Cubs announced on Thursday that he suffered the injury while washing dishes – and the Cubs are beginning Summer Camp already shorthanded.

“No one’s going to feel sorry for us,” Epstein said. “This this is a bump in the road that we just have to overcome.”

The baseball season could be cancelled for any number of reasons, safety as judged by the league and government officials being the most important. But MLB also has the power to suspend or cancel the season if the competitive integrity of the season is undermined.

What that means isn’t for Epstein to decide, but he declined to give an opinion on the topic Thursday.

“My understanding of what the standards would be don’t necessarily matter,” Epstein said. “It’s a question for the league. I hope we never get in that situation.”

Injuries always have the power to alter a season. But that’s even more so the case during a 60-game season. At best, Quintana’s injury could delay him a several weeks. At worst, even just a three-month recovery time would wipe out his entire season.

For now, the plan is to replace Quintana with someone like Alec Mills. Assuming Mills does win the starting job, that takes him out of his role as a middle reliever, a bullpen spot Cubs manager David Ross emphasized earlier in the week.

“It’ll be really unrealistic to expect guys to get to maybe 100 or so pitches right out of the shoot,” Ross said on Monday. “That may be a bit of a challenge. … The real important areas for me right now is that swingman, your Alec Mills-types that can give you two or three innings ang get to the back end of the bullpen. Those middle innings if guys aren’t stretched out enough are going to be vitally important.”

The ripple effects from Quintana’s injury aren’t nearly enough to undermine the competitive integrity of the season. But what if several teams have their starting pitching depth dramatically affected by COVID-19? What if those teams include the Dodgers and the Yankees?

Now that MLB has started ramping up for the 2020 season, it’s incentivized to keep the season running. But as the Cubs learned this week, just one dish-washing accident can alter a team’s 2020 outlook.

 

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