miCubs Monday

By Jordan Bernfield          Follow @miCubs and @JordanBernfield on Twitter.

  1. NEWS AND NOTES:  The first half of the real "Year One" has come and gone, and the Cubs finished 33-52, and in fifth place -- not last (small victories).  With nine wins in their last 14 games, including seven of their last ten, they finished the first half on a positive note.  Of course, the last two weeks of quality play have coincided with the addition of Anthony Rizzo, whose exciting start has reinvigorated fans interest in a rebuilding season.  Rizzo's hitting .354 with 4 home runs, 9 RBI, and has already produced three hits that proved to be game winners.  The Cubs are 8-4 since his call-up, and his presence in the lineup and at first base have already played dividends.  As the team moves into the 2nd half, we wait to see if and when Ryan Dempster (I think he's definitely gone) and Matt Garza (he's probably gone) are traded.  What the Cubs net in both of those trades could be important to the continued rebuilding effort.  Finally, the team reportedly signed first round draft pick Albert Almora to a $3.9 million dollar deal, completing their quest to sign all of their first 20 draft picks.
  2. WEEK IN REVIEW: As was reviewed above, the Cubs have played much better baseball of late, winning seven of ten heading into the all-star break.  Following a 5-1 homestand in which the Cubs won consecutive series against the Mets and Astros, they split a four game set in Atlanta before taking two of three in New York to end the half.  Notably, Travis Wood was very good again, tossing another quality start and out-dueling Johan Santana Friday evening.  And Dempster returned from the DL to toss five more shutout innings, extending his consecutive scoreless inning streak to 27, and further increasing his trade value.
  3. THIS WEEK:  The Cubs are off for the all-star break until Friday, when they'll host the Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field.  Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair will represent them in the all-star game Tuesday night, marking the shortstop's second consecutive appearance at the mid-summer classic, and LaHair's first.
  4. STAT OF THE DAY: Through 12 games with the Padres last year, Anthony Rizzo hit .167 with 1 home run and 2 RBI. His on base percentage was .333.  Cleary, his Cubs career has started much better than it did in San Diego.
  5. SABR STAT: Ryan Dempster's 3.00 K/BB ratio in 2012 is a career high, as is his 1.02 WHIP and 83.3 LOB%.
  6. THE QUOTE: Super-agent Scott Boras to Paul Sullivan of the Tribune on the Almora deal: "We're working on it.  They knew the player and they knew the value of the player.  With where the Cubs are at, I think the fan base has to believe in player development.  So that means these types of signings are very important."
  7. MINOR LEAGUE STAT:  2011 second round pick Dan Vogelbach has gotten off to a promising start with Mesa in the Arizona Rookie League.  In 14 games, the slugger has posted a .339 average, a .391 on-base percentage, a .629 slugging percentage, and a 1.020 OPS.  He has tallied seven doubles, a triple, three home runs and 16 RBI.
  8. PITCHING PROBABLES: Paul Maholm will open the 2nd half of the season opposite Ian Kennedy Friday.  
  9. QUICK TAKE: Now that Albert Almora's deal is reportedly just about done, the focus for the Cubs becomes the trade market.  The Cubs should trade anyone that can net them significant value.  Obviously, Dempster and Garza are the focal point of this discussion, but it shouldn't end there.  Speculating on what the Cubs could potentially get for players like Geovany Soto (if he even still has a shred of value), Paul Maholm, and others is frivolous.  But the Cubs must consider every possible avenue to replenish their minor league system with young talent.  Should they be able to get high quality prospects for Dempster and Garza, it would be a major step for the franchise moving forward.