Steve Stone's mailbag: Carlos Quentin's slump

Steve Stone's mailbag: Carlos Quentin's slump

Tuesday, May 18, 2010
5:45 PM

Steve Stone dives into his mailbag toanswer some of your questions about Carlos Zambrano, Sergio Santos, and more!

Question from Ryan - Chicago: Do you think there is something wrong physically with Carlos Zambrano? He doesn't seem like the same pitcher.

Steve Stone: Well I think a couple things come into play, I don't think he has had
the same stuff for a year, a year and a half or so that he had before. That being said, I think the Cubs would tell you he is 100 percent. I personally am not too sure about that, I think his arm angle changed somewhat. I also believe he will never excel as an 8th inning setup man because I don't think he will accept that. Acceptance is the first step
in excelling. I think that is not the case with Zambrano.
Question from Lee - Oswego: Should we be worried about Starlin Castro's defense? He's looked shaky so far to start his MLB career.

Stone: I think Starlin is going to be just fine in the majors. The only thing that troubled me was essentially walking after that ball after he made that third error in that debut at Wrigley. I think that was addressed and I think he will be a good solid shortstop for a long time. As far as defense, young kids make mistakes; they have more range to get more balls and they always look to make the spectacular play other than to make all the good plays, and the rare spectacular plays. I think he has a very bright future.
Question from Tracy - Mount Prospect: How hard is it going from a position player to a pitcher like Sergio Santos has done?

Stone: Well Sergio is not the lone ranger. Randy Wells, who won 12 games and has thrown very well for the Cubs this year, was also a position player as well as Carlos Marmol. The history of baseball is loaded with position players who figure they can't hit as well as they wanted and make that conversion. Although not easy, it's not unusual. The quality of his change up and his slider, you will see a lot of guys with strong fastball but you very rarely see them with a good a slider and change up as Sergio has shown early in his pitching career.

Question from Ricky - Chicago: What does Carlos Quentin need to do to get out of the slump he is in?

Stone: I truly believe if I knew that, much smarter baseball people than I would have already gotten him out of the slump. I just know what I see is from a pitching perspective. He is probably pulling off of the ball, trying to hit more home runs every time he hits one. Realistically you dig yourself out of a slump one bat at a time. For the Sox and Carlos' sake. this will turn around sooner rather than later. We are getting to the point now where 47 games have been played and Carlos has really struggled. One day the light will turn on and he will start hitting again. I am sure because no one is more intense than Quentin and no one works harder than he does.
Question from Michael - River Forest: Hey Steve, what's your favorite current MLB ballpark?

Stone: Well, the political answer would be I like both Chicago ballparks. If I were running for office, that would be my answer. I always liked Dodger stadium, I guess because I started the 1980 All-Star Game there and the fact that it was a pitchers park. As other National League parks are concerned, I haven't seen the new Mets stadium. I always thought that Pittsburgh happened to be nice but very few go to see it. San Diego is a beautiful stadium as is San Francisco. In the American League, Detroit's is a very pretty stadium as well as Baltimore's. Fenway has that classic baseball field much like the American's version of Wrigley. Minnesota's brand-new ballpark is great, so you get the idea that a lot of the new parks are terrific. But if I had to narrow it down to one in each league, I would probably say Yankee Stadium. They carried over some of the traditions and locker room facilities and things associated with the old Yankee Stadium and spent a billion and a half, so if you didn't have to play the Yankees there, it would be outstanding. In the National League, I would say that my favorite is Dodger Stadium.

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.”