Vote in the poll below to let us know who you think the Face of the Cubs is for our Face of the MLB tournament.
UPDATE: 4:10PM ET
The Mariners have signed Scott Baker to a minor-league contract
Chris Cotillo of mlbdailydish.com reports that the Cleveland Indians and the Seattle Mariners are the favorites to land Free Agent Pitcher Scott Baker. According to a industry source, there are 5-7 teams interested in Baker. He will likely make a desicion within the next few days.
Baker has been interested in signing a Major League contract, but will most likely settle with a Minor League contract that includes an inviation to spring training. “He is feeling better than he has for the past three years” says the source, “and will try to earn a starting role in the rotation in Spring Training with the team he decides to sign with.
The 32 year old pitcher made three Starts with the Chicago Cubs last seasons recording 6 earned runs in 15 innings after not playing for almost three years. Scott showed interest in returning with the Cubs but now likely heading back to the American Leagues with either Seattle or Cleveland.
In eight seasons with the Minnesota Twins (’05-’11) and Cubs (’13), Baker has a lifetime 63-48 record and 4.14 ERA in 166 major league appearances.
In case you don’t know already the teams in the NL central are the Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates, and Reds.
1: Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates have re emerged as one of the powers on the National League. The reason I think the Bucs will win this year is the Cardinals have weakened. Another reason is they have the pressure of having a winning season off their backs. Now they can focus on going further in the playoffs and winning the division. If they pick up a solid starting pitcher on the free agent market they can make a serious run for the World Series. They basically have the same team as last year (minus Garrett Jones, and possibly A.J. Burnett) so I think they can make a repeat playoff appearance.
2: St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals will miss Carlos Beltran’s power in the lineup, but knowing the Cardinals’ organization, they will find a way to stay in the playoff race. I think their key will be power hitting first baseman Matt Adams, and newly acquired Jhonny Peralta. If Matt Adams can start the 2014 season where he left off in the playoffs, he may be able to fill the hole left empty by Carlos Beltran. Peralta will definitely be an upgrade at shortstop over Daniel Descalso. Peralta has 2.8 WAR rating over Descalso’s 0.2 . Because of the always solid starting rotation and new additions, the Cardinals will stay in the division race.
3: Milwaukee Brewers
Surprise! The reason I think the Brewers will finish in third (with the Reds not far behind) is that Ryan Braun will be playing with a fire under his butt, trying to win the fans back, and if he has a solid year that would be a huge boost (needless to say). With the energy of Jean Segura, Carlos Gomez, and Matt Garza, and the veteran presence of Rickie Weeks, Aramis Ramirez, and Jonathan Lucroy I think the Brewers have enough to possibly compete in the division/wild race.
4: Cincinnati Reds
I have no doubt that the Cincinnati Reds can finish higher than I predict them to, but I just don’t see it happening. The Brewers are re-stocked, the Cardinals are almost always good, and the Pirates are pretty stacked. But that doesn’t mean they can’t compete. They have a solid starting rotation with Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, and Homer Bailey. They also have one of the best left handed hitters in the league in Joey Votto, and one of the better defensive players in the league in Brandon Phillips. But one of the wild cards with this Reds team is who is going to get traded before the season starts. Brandon Phillips has said he would like to be traded, and Homer Bailey’s contract expires at the end of the season and GM Walt Jocketty has said he will not re-sign him at the end of the season.
5: Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are the only team in the central not fit to compete this year. I think they will do better than last year, but not enough to get out of the NL central basement. But don’t worry, the Cubs time will come. As a Cubs fan I am very excited for the future.
As we all know Brandon Phillips won the Gold Glove at Second Base in The National League this past season. Darwin Barney won the award in the 2012 season. I have heard a lot of support for both players. Personally, I think they are two of the best defensive second basemen in the league. Barney tied the record for most consecutive games without an error in 2012, going 141 games with perfect defense. I looked at some stats from the past four seasons from both players. Phillips has played 597 games at second base since 2010. Brandon has made 23 errors with a .984 fielding percentage. Phillips has a 4.73 range factor and has saved 26 runs in the past four seasons. Barney has played in 441 games at second and has made only 20 errors. Barney has a .990 fielding percentage in four seasons with the Cubs. Darwin has a 4.46 range factor and has saved 40 runs since 2010. Yes Phillips has played more games then Barney. Which means more chances to make an error. But Barney has played games at shortstop and third base in those years. Phillips has played every game at second. Both players are very good defensively. My question is who would you rather have FOR JUST DEFENSE at second base: Barney or Phillips? (only reason I said defensive only is because Phillips is a lot better with the bat then Barney.)
I think Masahiro Tanaka would have helped the Cubs A LOT in the near future if he would have signed with them. Tanaka would have taken a lot of pressure from Samardzija and Wood. Tanaka would have been the ace for the Cubs, which, in my opinion, would have made Travis Wood the number 2 starter and Jeff Samardzija number 3. Yes, I think Wood is the Cubs’ “ace”, for he had a lower ERA and a lot more quality starts then Samardzija. Samardzija does have ace material at times: he can run his fastball up to 98 MPH and had 9.0 K/9 in comparison to Wood’s 6.5. Samardzija also has a devastating splitter that is his out pitch. Yes I know he pitched 200 innings and struck out over 200 batters. I just think that Samardzija needs to lower his ERA to the mid to upper 3 and have more quality starts and he can easily be the ace. Samardzija had a 4.34 ERA versus Wood’s 3.11. Back to Tanaka, if he would have signed with the Cubs it would have also taken some pressure off of pitching prospects CJ Edwards, Pierce Johnson, Arodys Vizcaino, etc. Tanaka would have definitely added a measurable amohnt of wins for the Cubs. No, not making them a playoff team in 2014, but with young help of Baez, Bryant, Almora, and Soler on the way, the Cubs could and should be ready to make a splash in 2015 or 2016. What I’m trying to get at is that Tanaka would have helped the Cubs win sooner and would have given them a legitimate number 1 ace.