Cubs System Sonogram: Advanced Roster Jenga

Jorge Soler Barely Gets Mentioned In This Article - USA TODAY Sports

Al asked me during a recent thread who I thought would be a proper return for Arizona's Rule 5 selection Starling Peralta. My extended answer is a major part of the weekly Cubs System Sonogram.

A few times last year, I mentioned some of the players that would need to be added to the 40-man roster in the recently concluded off-season to avoid Rule 5 availability. Never mind, I was told. Depending on the month, I was told all the Cubs had to do was DFA Casey Coleman, Frankie de la Cruz, Randy Wells, Gerardo Concepcion, Alex Hinshaw, Justin Germano, or Jason Berken. It will be fine.

Those men are all off the roster. Even after that, Tony Campana was DFA'd, and brought quality in return. Don't worry. It'll be fine now. Management will add Brent Lillibridge or Brian Bogusevic in late March, and all will be fine. That is the thinking that got the Cubs here in the first place.

A non-rostered player with the talent of a rostered player is a huge bonus. Adding Bogusevic, Liliibridge, Darnell McDonald or Hisanori Takahashi could provide depth or balance to the parent club. However, there is (likely, unless they have an opt-out clause, which isn't necessarily made public) no compulsion to put them on the 25-man roster for opening day. Last year, Luis Valbuena and Shawn Camp were under-the-wire waiver additions. In the recent past, Reed Johnson was one as well.There is no point in rostering someone needlessly when you can add a player of similar or greater value instead. If it boils down to it, Lillibridge might be a decent add. But only if nothing better presents itself.

But there won't be any problems next year, all that has to be done is DFA.......

Who is Rule 5 eligible after 2013? A few players of interest will qualify. I always trust The Cubs Reporter's Arizona Phil on this. He knows this stuff like Dennis Miller knows obscure references. Next year's list is rather impressive, starting with Arismendy Alcantara, who is a Marwin Gonzalez comp. (The Cubs lost Gonzalez in the Rule 5 draft to Houston all the way back when they were an National League club.) Other names of note: Jose Arias, Frank Batista, Jae-Hoon Ha, Jose Rosario, and a handful of others. Remember that Theo Epstein will add talent, both through the season and after, to make the 40-man that much more solid through prospects and veterans. And it will get tougher as all the good draft classes come due.

What do these scare tactics have to do with trading Starling Peralta? Peralta, who retired three of four hitters in a return engagement with the Reds on Monday, is still a guy the Diamondbacks brass likes. The Cubs would like him back as well. Which led to the introductory question: Who would be a possible trade option in order to get him back?

I had a look at the Diamondbacks 2011 draft page. Why 2011? The players drafted in 2011 have a bit of a lag before they need to be rostered. I didn't check 2012's class, as they can't be traded yet. As every roster spot becomes more valuable, so too do years remaining until players reach the point where rostering becomes necessary. I ignored the first rounders (they had three) out of respect to the talent of a first-round pick. Their second-rounder was Anthony Meo, a college teammate of current Cubs farmhand Josh Conway. Both attended Coastal Carolina, a good baseball school.

Since Meo's first full season was 2012, he need not be a concern for the Rule 5 spot until after the 2014 season. That would give the Cubs' coaching staff two years to develop him with no strings attached. He pitched last year in High-A, and will likely face the Tennessee Smokies this season in the Double-A Southern League. I don't think for a second that Arizona would make the trade. (It isn't like they'd trade Justin Upton for Martin Prado or something.) Meo, however, would be a decent starting point, for Arizona to bargain down from. I would want someone in return that is an upgrade in proximity to the majors, likelihood to have a 10 WAR career, or more years before Rule 5 stipulations set in. Give Epstein someone who is two-of-three on those, and he'd listen on Peralta.

***

I was listening to the Cubs/Brewers spring game last Sunday while others were watching the Cubs/Angels game at the same time. Javier Baez kept having Javier Baez moments. I wasn't taking notes, but here are my memories. In his first trip, he fanned looking. Never a good thing. Unless that was the time he fouled off a bunch of pitches to get the count full. He did that once this spring. It might have been then.

In the fifth, he fouled one of his foot. He hobbled around just long enough for me to zone out and forget who was hitting. A pitch or two later, he took Brandon Kintzler deep on a line drive homer. It sounds like the ball, and his foot, were okay. In the sixth, he walked, scoring a run. I'm not sure when the parade will be for Baez walking, but the Brewers pitchers were very wild that inning.

The reason I'm writing this was off of his last at-bat. With one out in the ninth, the Cubs trailed by a run. While it would be fun to say he roped an extra base hit off the wall, what happen next was his best plate trip of the day. Better than a walk. Better than a homer. He... grounded to second. What? Says you.

When you listen to baseball games as a pastime, you get used to the crack of the bat. After a few weeks, you get the 'that sounds like a routine fly' sound versus the 'that could leave the yard' sound. They are different. and important, when judging hitting skills. The grounder to Scooter Gennett (Brewers second baseman) had a different sound. It wasn't a crack. It wasn't a thud. It sounded like a noise a bat doesn't usually make. Gennett made the play, and two hitters later, the Cubs had lost. I think I will listen to some Daytona games this season, If Baez and Jorge Soler are hitting back-to-back, there should be some interestingly struck baseball sounds in Jackie Robinson Ballpark this season. Audio calls are free, and the Cubs announcers have a fun time. They were also brutally honest last season when Baez looked overmatched after his promotion to Dayton.

***

I have two new features this season. One is my note-taking Google Document. I haven't figured how I'm posting that yet, and I still have about a month. This link is the other, and one I expect to learn from, and all are welcome to view it. Even Cardinals fans. The premise is, how are Cubs affiliates doing as compared to their league rivals? Every Thursday (-ish), I plan to update on a new page how all the teams in the system are doing in some of the basic metrics, and include a link with my System Sonogram.

I can hear some of you saying, you didn't include FIP or wOBA. Correct. I didn't. What I'm planning on doing is sorting the categories on MiLB's site once a week. I'll plug in the numbers so we can chart progress. If you think other stats are worth the time and effort, Google Docs are easy to set up. I will let you piggy-back your findings on mine, every single week.

If you have any recommendations (I'm not much on bells or whistles, obviously) like adding steals or sacrifices, let me know. I like it like this, I think. There will be a new page every week, so you can flip back to check on progress or regression.

***

One final nugget before I realize my word count (yikes), I saw a curious response from AZ Phil in a Cub Reporter post. The response discusses player salaries. No, not Zack Greinke's dollars, or even Mike Trout's. It discussed salaries of players in different minor league levels. As usual, he nails it better than I do, but if Logan Watkins hit Triple-A without being on the 40-man roster, he would be making (give or take) $17,000 in 2013. Since he is on the 40-man, in Iowa, he will make more than twice that -- without ever being in a big league game. Christian Villanueva and Robert Whitenack receive the same.

Even Lendy Castillo will make (sit down on this one) $288,000. This is a negotiated salary. The next time someone says that Rule 5 players are abused and ruined, and will never get any benefit from having been in the majors, remember this article. Castillo may have, in a Butterfly Effect-free world, developed into a much better pitcher if the Cubs had never brought him on board. However, it's doubtful he would have combined for $700,000+ in earnings the next two seasons had he not been taken out of his routine in December 2011.

Players have huge benefits from being added to the 40-man. They get more money, and become closer to free agency. Since wise teams try to keep players off the 40-man until absolutely necessary (or beneficial to them), the Rule 5 draft is important to players' financial development, whether they hit it big or not. Which many of them wouldn't have anyway,

***

As noted in this fanshot, the Cubs have signed Cuban reliever Armando Rivero. Rivero, 23, is a 6-3 righthanded relief pitcher, or at least has been a reliever. His delivery is a bit irregular, and he throws a fastball in the low-to-mid 90's. He also has a splitter, and a slurvy off-speed pitch. Or, it could be two different pitches. Rivero is listed in Double-A camp now. I had better add a tab to my player documents.

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