Steve Stone's mailbag: Can Castro win ROY?

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Steve Stone's mailbag: Can Castro win ROY?

Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010
12:36 PM

Steve Stone dives into his mailbag to answer your questions about Starlin Castro's Rookie of the Year chances, the effect of Manny Ramirez' presence and more!

Tom, Chicago -- Does Starlin Castro have a good shot at Rookie of the Year? Or do you think he has to win the batting title to achieve that?

Steve Stone: I think Jason Heyward from Atlanta has the best shot of winning. Heyward plays for a first place team, has been hitting towards the top of the order and has displayed lots of power. With his batting average in the .280's and the defense he presents, that could be a problem for Castro. As far as winning the batting title, Castro has to pick up 23 points over Carlos Gonzalez of Colorado who is hitting .340, while Castro sits at .317. I don't think that will happen but it doesn't diminish what Castro has done. He is going to be a terrific player, especially if he starts to remember how many outs are in an inning. Right now he is benched by Mike Quade, which I think is a good thing because it will hit home and show Castro what is expected in the major leagues.

That being said, there are some other great rookies out there that are going to be in the running. Just in the National League, one of the guys coming to mind is Gaby Sanchez; not sure if he still qualifies as a rookie but he is having a great season. Competition this year is pretty stiff; don't forget Buster Posey of the re-surging Giants. He is hitting .326 and the Giants' offensive resurgence as well as their knocking at the door of first place could be directly related to Posey becoming an every day player. It appears there are some exceptional young talents in the majors already and certainly on the horizon. This may be tough for Castro, I don't think he will make rookie of the year but you never know.

Ronnie, Westmont, IL -- Ted Lilly always impressed me during his time with the Cubs, do you think there is a chance that they bring him back next season as a free agent?

Steve Stone: I think the Cubs are going to reduce a bit. If you could tell me that the Cubs would be able to trade Zambrano, Fukudome, or Silva without eating too much money, then I would tell you that, yes, there is a good chance they may go after Ted. I think Lilly will be looking for a multi-year contract and wont find that with the Cubs.

Trace, Santa Barbara, CA -- Is Manny Ramirez's presence in the White Sox lineup enough to push the team past the Twins and into the playoffs?

Steve Stone: I think Manny's presence is a good thing. I don't think he can hurt your ball club at all for a month. I would like to see him get a base hit to drive in a run, which he has not done yet. He is hitting unbelievably well; Manny has always been a clutch player. I don't think the Sox have the Manny that hit .349 (in 2002), but I don't think it hurts at all. The Sox are just looking for him to drive in some runs and occasionally hit it out the ball park; which should be easy in US Cellular. With the philosophy that Manny cant hurt, I think it was a pretty good addition to the baseball team and now we will see if he can generate some run production and some power.

Pat, Highland, Ind. -- Do you think Chris Sale has the stuff to be the White Sox closer next season?

Steve Stone: I don't think he will be the closer next season. He does have the stuff to be a closer but he has always been a starting pitcher and there is no reason to think he can't be a starter at the big league level. It would be very difficult to have both your premiere setup man and your closer to be lefty. Sale is too young to put a designated tag on what he will be. Sometimes it comes down to where the ball club needs him. If you count on Peavy coming back and Garcia, I count 7 starting candidates for next year's rotation, but obviously you will go with 5. Then you go to the idea of trading and it would be a substantial trade because these guys are pretty good. There are some tough questions that have to be answered. A lot depends on dollars that you can spend and what you think you can get in return for some of the talent. If you have the enviable position of having too many starting pitchers, there will be a team that would love to take one off your hands.

Ernie, Chicago -- Who are your picks for Cy Young this season? (Ernie - Chicago, IL)

Steve Stone: The fashionable pick among the sabermetric community is Felix Hernandez of Seattle because he is going to be first or second in strikeouts, first or second in ERA, first or second in quality starts, and most likely first in innings pitched. In looking at those numbers, if the vote were today, and it's not, you would lean towards a guy having a terrific year with a contending baseball team. So I go to a guy leading the league in victories (19-5), who is 5th in ERA (3.02), second in innings pitched, second in quality starts, and will likely strike out 200 men this year. That man is the gigantic CC Sabathia, who will likely be the first major league pitcher to win 20 games this year.

And as long as we are on the subject of Cy Young awards, I will throw in an extra bonus for you and we will talk about the National League, where it really gets tough. When looking at all categories this is one of those years that the victory list doesn't add up all that well with the ERA list. Though you could make a case for Adam Wainwright, you could also make a case for Chris Carpenter or Ubaldo Jiminez who, though the second half of the year has been difficult for him, has still compiled an 18-6 record with a 2.79 ERA.

My Cy Young Vote, which will be decided down to the wire, would be Roy Halladay. Roy is 17-10 with many losses due to lack of support. As of this writing, he leads the National League in strikeouts and, by a wide margin, innings pitched. He is two off the lead in quality starts and has a 2.36 ERA, which before the end of the season may drop even lower. You must also consider the miniature ballpark he plays in, compared to Latos of San Diego, Hudson of Atlanta, Johnson of Florida, and Wainwright and Garcia of St. Louis who all pitch in very pitcher friendly ball parks. Conversely Roy Halladay pitches in home run bay. He has also completed 8 games, which places him number one in a category that everybody seems to have forgotten about.

Report: Aroldis Chapman returns to Yankees on five-year deal

Report: Aroldis Chapman returns to Yankees on five-year deal

After helping bring a World Series title back to the North Side, Aroldis Chapman is headed back to New York.

The former Cubs closer signed a five-year, $86 million deal with the Yankees, according to FOX's Ken Rosenthal.

He was acquired by the Cubs in July in exchange for pitcher Adam Warren and prospects Rashad Crawford, Billy McKinney and Gleyber Torres.

Chapman notched 36 saves and owned a 1.01 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and recorded 90 strikeouts across 26 2/3 innings with the Cubs during the regular season.

He appeared in 13 postseason contests, where he registered a 3.45 ERA,1.09 WHIP and 21 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings. 

Why Cubs felt like they had to trade Jorge Soler now

Why Cubs felt like they had to trade Jorge Soler now

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Before making the blockbuster Aroldis Chapman trade with the New York Yankees, the Cubs checked in with the Kansas City Royals about Wade Davis and found the asking price to be Kyle Schwarber. 

The psychology and the supply-and-demand dynamics are different in July. Schwarber had been damaged goods, still recovering from major knee surgery and months away from his dramatic return in the World Series. Davis also could have impacted two pennants races for his new team instead of one.
 
By the time a $10 billion industry reconvened this week outside Washington, D.C., for the winter meetings, the small-market Royals could compromise with Jorge Soler, betting on his long-term upside and facing the reality that their World Series closer could have been part of a mass exodus of free agents after the 2017 season.

The Cubs also checked into the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center knowing that Soler is a diminishing asset for a loaded team at a time when his best attribute – right-handed power – could be found on the free-agent market in sluggers like Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Trumbo.  
     
“I think there’s some great baseball ahead for him,” team president Theo Epstein said Wednesday night after the Cubs finalized the Soler-for-Davis trade. “I think it’s more likely that he reaches his ceiling now than it was 24 hours ago, because he’s got a chance to play every day.” 

Soler became a top priority within the first weeks of the Epstein administration as Cubs officials scouted the Cuban defector in the Dominican Republic before Thanksgiving 2011, picturing him as a building block for future playoff teams at a renovated Wrigley Field. 

Even chairman Tom Ricketts met with Soler’s camp during a trip to the Dominican Republic before the Cubs won the bidding war and the prospect signed a nine-year, $30 million major-league contract in the summer of 2012. 

Years later, manager Joe Maddon would describe Soler as Vladimir Guerrero with plate discipline, the kind of talent who would be drafted No. 1 overall if he had been born in South Florida. 

Soler showed flashes of superstar potential. He absolutely crushed the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2015 playoffs (2.341 OPS) and will get a well-deserved World Series ring. But he didn’t look like a complete player or an athlete the Cubs could count on to stay healthy, profiling more like a designated hitter in the American League.

“When George was playing sporadically, he became a little bit more of an all-or-nothing power threat,” Epstein said, “because it’s hard to get into a good rhythm and you’re not seeing pitches as much. You’re not recognizing spin the same way. 

“When he’s locked in, he can work really good at-bats. And he’s a hitter – not just a power hitter. So I think it’s more likely now that his potential gets unleashed at some point. We’re rooting for him.”

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Maybe Soler – who still hasn’t turned 25 yet – can avoid some of the leg injuries as a part-time DH and put it all together in Kansas City as the Royals try to balance the present, the future and their financial realities. But the Cubs are a win-now team that believes Davis could get them the final out of the 2017 World Series. 

An October legend (Schwarber) and a $184 million Gold Glove defender (Jason Heyward) would keep blocking Soler at the corner spots in Wrigley Field, where a National League MVP (Kris Bryant) and a World Series MVP (Ben Zobrist) can move away from the infield. Javier Baez is another versatile, well-rounded player who would continue to marginalize Soler. 

“It became tough for us,” Epstein said, “with Schwarber looking like he’s destined to play quite a bit of left field. Not ruling catching out as an option to some extent, but he’s going to play a lot of left field. 

“And with Javy’s emergence – and what that means for Zobrist’s possible role in the outfield as well at times – it just became tougher and tougher to see George getting regular at-bats with us. 

“We felt like he needed to play – and it would have been a tough fit.”

It would have been even tougher to trade a spare outfielder during his fourth season in the big leagues. Stashing Soler – who has 27 career homers in less than 700 big-league at-bats – at Triple-A Iowa wouldn’t have been the answer. 

The Cubs saw this day coming. Schwarber wrecked his knee in early April and Soler injured his hamstring two months later and wound up missing two months.

“He just couldn’t quite stay healthy enough,” Epstein said, “and kind of slumped at the wrong time and started to get hot right before he got hurt.

“That was kind of how we envisioned it: ‘Hey, if there’s an opportunity, this guy can take the job and run with it – and then we have an even more valuable trade chip – or we’ve got an everyday leftfielder/middle-of the-order bat.’ It just didn’t quite come together. 

“But I think this trade – despite that – recouped a lot of his value. It made sense for him, for us and for the Royals.”