Chicago Cubs: Tony Campana
Popular base-stealer Tony Campana was moved to the Arizona Diamondbacks for two 17--year-old Venezuelan pitching prospects. It says a lot about how people felt about Campana that he got a bigger ovation at the Cubs Convention than two-time All-Star Starlin Castro, but that’s mostly because of his underdog persona that goes along with his size (5-8).
Analysis: Though it’s not a blockbuster of a trade, it does -- once again – indicate where the Cubs are in terms of their development. They aren’t done acquiring prospects. The Cubs brass knows Campana is a useful piece, but only for a contending team. He was a luxury the Cubs didn’t want to afford. And the Cubs have not hidden the fact they need pitching at all levels.
“We have a little depth in the outfield, we have less depth in pitching,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “We’re happy we got two arms we like a lot for a guy that was designated for assignment.”
Campana had seen the writing on the wall.
"When you have eight outfielders on the (40-man roster) and you sign another outfielder, you know one of you is probably going to go and I was the one," Campana said. "I'm glad there is a team out there that wanted me enough to trade for me. That's cool.
"You have to perform when you get up here. I was able to in spurts but just not enough."
Campana, 26, hit .264 with 30 stolen bases last season for the Cubs but was designated for assignment earlier this month.
With the speedy outfielder designated for assignment by the Cubs on Feb. 10, giving them 10 days to trade him, will the Sox be interested again? It appears unlikely that a deal will be made at this time. The Cubs and Sox have not had conversations about Campana as of Wednesday, according to a source.
In August, the Sox were looking for a speed player in hopes of winning close games with a stolen base or a forced defensive mistake. Campana stole 30 bases with the Cubs in 2012 despite a reserve role.
If Campana is not traded, he will go on waivers. If he goes unclaimed, the Cubs can offer him a minor-league contract.
Trades between the Cubs and Sox are uncommon due to the possible negative result from a lopsided deal.
The teams last traded with each other in November of 2006 when the Cubs sent pitcher David Aardsma to the Sox for reliever Neal Cotts. The most famous deal between the city rivals came before the 1992 season when George Bell was sent to the Sox for Sammy Sosa.
Here are the top things to know as the Cubs continue their quest for their first championship since 1908:
Pitchers and catchers: They’ll actually report on Sunday and Monday, with their first official workout set for Tuesday. With an especially long spring training due to the World Baseball Classic, all major league teams will have to rework their normal pitching routines to prepare for the regular season. In other words, there’s no rush to ramp up the arms just yet.
Position players: They report Feb. 17, though many are already in Mesa working out and preparing. Anthony Rizzo, the team's only participant in the World Baseball Classic, will leave the Cubs to play for Team Italy.
Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein: They’ll address the media Sunday with the focus on 2013. Though they acknowledge their long-term plans, Epstein said recently that once spring training commences, it’s all about this year. Their eyes in camp will be focused on the prospects, which ESPN.com recently ranked fifth overall in baseball.
Spring games: They begin Feb. 23 and go through March 30, with the final two exhibition games played in Houston against the Astros. The Cubs will take on the White Sox on March 7 (at home) and March 15 (away). They’ll play two split-squad games against the Texas Rangers in Las Vegas on March 16 and 17.
Position battles: Believe it or not, there probably aren’t many for a team that lost 101 games a year ago. The starting infield is set; only the backups needs to be determined among a group that includes Luis Valbuena, Alberto Gonzalez and Brent Lillibridge. There isn’t a lot of room in the outfield; the only question is if speedster and fan favorite Tony Campana will break camp with the club. Health might help determine roster spots for the pitching staff, as Scott Baker is returning from Tommy John surgery. The battle for the final two spots in the rotation might be the best of camp. Carlos Marmol is the closer at the moment, but newcomer Kyuji Fujikawa could push him.
Major questions: In the spring, a lot revolves around health. Is Ian Stewart fully recovered from wrist surgery? Will Matt Garza (elbow) and Baker be ready as April approaches? As for performances, Welington Castillo is one to watch behind the plate. Can he handle the load of being the No. 1 catcher, and will spring games help determine that? If Fujikawa is getting hitters out by going after them –- something the Cubs said they liked about him -– will he push Marmol, who relies on his slider too often? And an eye has to be kept on Alfonso Soriano. At any time, a team could decide it needs his bat, but he has to approve the deal while the Cubs have to determine how much of the $36 million he’s owed they will pick up.
Analysis: Without a lot of questions at different positions, the focus in camp might be on the highly touted prospects the Cubs have. Javier Baez got a big league invite to spring training and should get into a handful of exhibition games before heading out to minor league camp. Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters will also get long looks, though neither is expected to make the team. How Garza throws coming off an injury and who wins those back-end rotation spots are the most important pitching questions. As always, how the Cubs actually fare in Cactus League play has little consequence on the regular season.
Jesse Rogers previews the Cubs by position in the days leading up to pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training on Sunday.
The Chicago Cubs outfield of 2013 isn’t exactly the sexiest part of the team. There are holdovers and newcomers, but none are considered the next best thing on the horizon. Here’s a look at the outfield:
David DeJesus, CF: Ticketed for center field, DeJesus is certainly reliable, but not spectacular. He’s still considered a transition player for the Cubs while Brett Jackson is figuring things out in the minors. The best thing about DeJesus at the plate is his ability to get on base despite not being much of a power threat. His 61 walks last season helped contribute to his 76 runs scored, second only to Starlin Castro on the team. It’s not a Hall of Fame stat, but any player with less than 10 home runs (he had nine) and more than 500 at-bats needs to be contributing in some way. A solid center field and a repeat of his .350 on-base percentage is how DeJesus can accomplish that.
But that optimism wasn't just limited to the fans. Both new and returning Cubs players are anxious to hit the field and wipe away the stench of 2012. Maybe they feel they can only go up. Here are some notes from opening night, in no particular order:
“They weren’t messing around last year when they said they were going to build from the bottom up,” he said. “Last year when we did rookie dress-up I bought like 27 costumes. I knew there were going to be a lot of new faces.”
“I’ve been on a team that lost 100 games, and the next year went to the World Series,” Jackson said. “You can’t really focus on the past.”
And Jackson's experience with the White Sox in 2010 and 2011 is making a transition back to Chicago an easy one.
“The wife likes it,” he said. “Happy wife, happy life is a true statement. And she likes it here. And I like it here.”
“Better to be in spring training,” Soriano said. “Take it a little slow to get my body, my rhythm. For me it’s better to get in good shape and get ready for the season. They have more players in the Dominican that can do a better job.”
Castros added: "I told (Moises Alou) I’d think about it. But I don’t want to be on the bench. Jose Reyes is there. I have respect for him. I’d be on the bench. It’s better for me to be working, playing every day in spring training."
“A lot of guys haven’t been in a big league stadium,” Hoyer said. “They may never have been in Chicago. If the guy has to go out and face Clayton Kershaw that night, the last thing you want is the guy worrying about how to get to the ballpark, where’s the clubhouse, do I tip this guy, do I not tip this guy? I think it’s really important to acclimate them to Chicago.”
Hoyer was then asked if the Cubs are in the hunt for the playoffs, would they trade from their prospect pool they covet so much.
“You never ever give up a chance to make the playoffs,” he said. “That’s something really important, and something you don’t take for granted.”
It was stated earlier in the week that top prospect Javier Baez would stay at shortstop despite Castro, an All-Star with a long-term contract, holding down that spot.
“It’s a lot easier to move from shortstop to third base,” Hoyer said. “Why not develop a guy fully at shortstop so he can always play there?”
Hoyer was quick to point out that Baez isn’t on any “fast track” to the major leagues. He has to prove it like anyone else in the organization.
“On track to be ready for spring training and the start of the season,” he declared. “I have it mapped out for the start of the season. Whether they allow me to do that or not, that’s a whole different ballgame."
Baker says it’s a 100 percent recovery rate from Tommy John surgery if you follow the protocol.
“My body is like May right now with how much time we’ve had off,” Stewart said. “I’m trying not to do too much where I’d wear myself out before the season starts.”
Stewart is another player optimistic about improvement, and he also recognizes there are many players on one-year deals, including him.
“From an organizational standpoint, it keeps guys on their toes that they have to perform well or they could be gone,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s their motive or not. I think we’ll see the best come out of us this year.”
Jesse Rogers covers the Cubs for ESPN 1000 and ESPNChicago.com.
Although a source said last week that the Cubs brass had a conversation with agent Scott Boras about free agent Michael Bourn, the chances of singing the former Brave to a long-term deal are remote.
The team will look to add a center fielder or right fielder as a short-term answer while their farm-system players mature in the minor leagues.
“It is starting to come into focus,” said president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, who is attending the winter meetings. “The outfield market is tiered a little bit, so there is a domino effect with each move. With each day it becomes a little more clear.”
First and foremost, Epstein confirmed that the Cubs are looking to add at least two starting pitchers. But there are also plans to add to the rotation internally.
At third base, where the Cubs received little-to-no production this past season, the club could be willing to give Ian Stewart another chance, provided he no longer has health concerns stemming from a chronic sore wrist.
And in the outfield, the Cubs are focused on adding either a center fielder or a right fielder and depending on what they land, David DeJesus will take over the remaining position. Tony Campana still needs to show considerable improvement offensively to be considered an Opening Day center field candidate.
CHICAGO -- There were many areas that led to the Chicago Cubs' slow start and ultimate crash in 2012, and the bench was not exempt from that group.
The left-handed dominated lineup figured to have secret bench weapons when it came to opposing left-handed starters, but the strategy backfired in a hurry.
The Cubs were one of the best hitting teams against left-handed pitching over the previous two seasons, but slow starts from right-handed hitters Jeff Baker and Reed Johnson prevented the trend from continuing.
David DeJesus wound up being a steady contributor from center field for the Chicago Cubs, while Brett Jackson showed that more seasoning is needed before his day finally arrives.
There were even contributions made by Tony Campana, who sparked the offense for a stretch as a table setter before retreating to the bench and eventually Triple-A Iowa when the club needed more run producers.
The first game DeJesus ever played at Wrigley Field came on Opening Day and the park was probably least accommodating to the veteran of seven-plus previous seasons, all in the American League.
The early-season winds blowing in off the lake seemed to cost DeJesus more home runs than anybody, but it also seemed to encourage him to play to his strengths. DeJesus has never hit more than 13 home runs in a season, but he is adept at getting on base.
In Tony Campana's case, he went into Saturday’s game looking as if his assignment as the No. 9 hitter was going to be a compliment to the leadoff spot. He ended up actually leading off an inning twice, getting two hits on those occasions and scoring a run both times.
“It took 138 games but I finally did something right, huh?” manager Dale Sveum said after the Cubs' 4-3 victory over the Pirates. “It worked.”
“The Cardinals used to do it a little bit,” Campana said. “It’s like another leadoff guy. It lets me bunt a little bit without thinking about the pitcher hitting behind me. It makes sense, I think.”
Sveum didn’t discuss the move with Campana, but that was exactly what he was thinking too. Sveum had watched in the past as Cardinals manager Tony La Russa used the same quirky lineup a number of times.
“At the time you thought about it because it was the first time you saw it and you really understood what he was doing,” Sveum said. “But you have to have the right personnel to do it. The last thing you want to do is put a hitter ninth and the pitcher comes to the plate with the bases loaded. But you can’t predict that.”
As it turned out, in all of Samardzija’s four at-bats he came to the plate with a runner in scoring position, making an out three times and laying down a sacrifice bunt. But two of Samardzija’s inning-ending outs cleared the deck for Campana.
Sveum said he would be up for using the lineup again, but it all depends on how long Brett Jackson will be out with his bruised right knee. Campana was playing center field in place of Jackson on Saturday.
With left-handed pitchers facing the Cubs on Sunday in Pittsburgh and Monday at Houston, Sveum said he might not use the lineup again until Tuesday at the earliest. Campana would be on board with the plan.
“I’m in the lineup,” he said. “I’m fine with it.”
The right-hander will still be on the mound Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he will bat from the No. 8 spot in the lineup. Tony Campana, who will play for a banged up Brett Jackson, will bat in the No. 9 spot.
The Cubs will not use Samardzija again this season after deciding to shut down the first-year starter for precautionary measures.
Using Samardzija ahead of Campana doesn’t mean the Cubs think he is a better hitter. The lineup wrinkle, popularized by former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, is done to get two leadoff types hitting back-to-back when the lineup swings around to the top again.
David DeJesus will lead off for the Cubs and play in right field.
Jackson was injured Friday when he crashed into the center-field fence while making a spectacular running catch. He was diagnosed with a bruised right knee and isn’t expected to play again in the current series.
The complete Cubs lineup for Saturday’s game against Pirates right-hander James McDonald:
Luis Valbuena, 3B
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Alfonso Soriano, LF
Starlin Castro, SS
Welington Castillo, C
Darwin Barney, 2B
CHICAGO – The first wave of reinforcements for the Chicago Cubs were in the house Saturday, but the team’s tough schedule down the stretch figures to limit their playing time.
Tony Campana, Adrian Cardenas and Dave Sappelt were all added as rosters were expanded across baseball for the final month. Recently claimed pitcher Miguel Socolovich will be added Sunday and pitcher Chris Russin and catcher Anthony Recker will join the Cubs on Tuesday.
Manager Dale Sveum’s reluctance to use them, though, isn’t necessarily because he doesn’t want them to be exposed against teams like the San Francisco Giants, Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals, all of whom loom during the final month.
Because Sveum wants to field a competitive team against contenders he expects to use his regulars more often in September.
“The core of the lineup will be pretty much the same all the time,” Sveum said. “It’s not something where I’m going to play these guys a lot. It will just be periodic, matchups, but like I said before, when we’re playing these teams in first place, we’re going to put our core guys out there every day.”
Six games remaining with Houston and three with Colorado will give Sveum more of a chance to see what the newcomers are made of, but the regulars are still being evaluated as well. Just because the Cubs are teetering on a 100-loss season, doesn’t mean the manager can’t see what some of his guys are made of.
“With the way our record is and the end of the season coming up, you can find out a lot about people,” Sveum said. “Are they that guy who grinds it out on a daily basis and an at-bat basis and all that, compared to caring that the season’s ending? You come to play and beat somebody’s butt every day. You don’t know that Oct. 1 is nearing.”
One move was already made Friday when left-handed reliever Jeff Beliveau was called up to replace Brooks Raley, who is being shut down for the year after reaching his personal 150-innings limit.
Three moves are scheduled for Saturday with Tony Campana, Adrian Cardenas and Dave Sappelt all coming up to the major leagues.
In other roster additions, pitcher Miguel Socolovich will be called up Sunday and pitcher Chris Rusin and catcher Anthony Recker will be added Tuesday.
Socolovich and Recker were both claimed off waivers recently and optioned to Triple-A and can’t come up for 10 days after they were originally assigned to a club. Rusin will be added to the rotation to take over the spot Raley had occupied.