No news is good news

The Cub team that I’m excited about is a couple years away, but 2010 is shaping up as a solid season, largely because Jim Hendry has been demonstrating the same patience and shrewdness in selecting players that new owner Tom Ricketts has applied to the choice of a spring-training site. Hendry corrected a few old mistakes–Bradley and two fellows named Aaron have been peddled–and avoided new ones. Three years is too long for Marlon Byrd, but the contract is cheap and tradeable. Plan on Byrd being a starter for two years, maybe a bit less. Carlos Silva is something of an albatross, but the Cubs accepted him for the same reason that they accepted Luis Vizcaino in the Marquis deal last winter. They just wanted to be rid of the other guy. The Cubs paid Vizcaino $3.5 million, and he pitched 3.2 innings for them. We’ll see whether Silva stays on the roster much longer than it takes him to go sixteen innings.

The Cub offseason so far has been prospect-safe: no prospects were harmed in the manufacture of the deals that jettisoned Bradley and Miles, in particular. Shedding Miles did cost the Cubs Jake Fox, but I’m more focused on real prospects, those who can actually play a position. That group is intact, for which I congratulate the GM. Castro remains a Cub. In spite of a certain Trib reporter’s efforts to create a groundswell, I doubt that the Cubs were highly motivated to acquire Curtis Granderson, for the simple reason that one of their top two or three prospects is a natural centerfielder with speed and power.

There’s not much baseball in November and December but I’ve been keeping an eye on two winter leaguers whom I’d like to see invited to spring training with the major-league team. Robinson Chirinos is apparently an excellent defensive catcher who has matured into a power hitter. His numbers in 153 at bats in Venezuela are .366/.420/.641/1.061 with 10 home runs and 34 RBI. He also has two playoff homers. Koyie Hill had a strong year defensively in ’09 and is not in jeopardy, but Chirinos could make a run at him defensively, and for that matter could challenge Soto both ways.

Chirinos survived the Rule 5 draft, as Jim Hendry noted at the end of the winter meetings.

Hendry said he thought a team might draft catcher Robinson Chirinos, who was batting .344 with eight homers and 26 RBIs for Magallanes in Venezuela this winter. Chirinos was available in the Major League phase.

“It’s hard for a Rule 5 catcher to stick [on a big league roster],” Hendry said. “[Chirinos] became a quality receiver when we converted him [from an infielder prior to 2009].”

Like Chirinos in Venezuela, Brad Snyder put up MVP-type numbers in 211 at bats in Mexico: .379/.463/.602/1.065, with 18 steals (5 CS’s), 9 homers and 48 (!) runs batted in. Snyder slumped in the playoffs but had two home runs in the final game. Snyder runs like a CF and throws and hits for power like an RF. The question is, is he still a Cub? He may be a minor-league free agent at this point, but I haven’t had much luck nailing down his status. (Matt Eddy of Baseball America keeps the only list I know of.)

The Cubs wanted to address two lineup needs this offseason: a run producer to bat 5th or 6th instead of Bradley, and a speed guy to hit first or second in place of Soriano. If they had signed Podsednik instead of Byrd, that would have left Baker or Fontenot in the role of run producer. Byrd is better for that role, but he leaves them short a top-of-the-order guy. The answer could be a Castro-Theriot tandem at short and second, but more likely the Cubs will trade for Luis Castillo. I think they have that intention, but with all the newly acquired patience and shrewdness–you don’t want to overcommit to Castillo when Castro is on the threshold–it may take several more weeks.

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