Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cubs Hellbent on Keeping Silva for Some Reason

The Cubs have to be pretty pissed at Randy Wells, Andrew Cashner, and Carlos Silva for messing up their well-laid plans.  Wells and Cashner are supposed to be the ones fighting over a rotation spot, while Silva claimed that fourth spot.  That is how it was supposed to happen, but it didn't happen.

What's that you say?  The Cubs said that this was a three-man race for the last two spots?  They also said you wouldn't be able to buy tickets for the Yankees games when single-game tickets went on sale.  The Cubs lie.  There is no getting around it.  When the Cubs state that the sun rises in the east, it would be wise to look out your window to make sure it is true.

Of course, most businesses lie at least a bit, so the Cubs aren't necessarily the MLB version of Wolfram & Hart or anything, but they also shouldn't be trusted as much as a lot of fans want to trust them.

So why do I think the Cubs were lying when they said the last two rotation spots were open to competition?  Because Carlos Silva is still alive in the rotation competition, and I think he's going to get it.

Despite Silva's six inning, one run outing today, his Spring ERA stands at 10.90.  While Andrew Cashner's 3.97 this spring isn't something that would win him a Cy Young award if he did that all year in the rotation, it certainly is a hell of a lot better than an ERA that requires 4 digits.

Anybody who has watched the Cubs at all this Spring can clearly see that the two best performers to take the #4 and #5 spots would be Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner.  Wells and Cashner are also the younger candidates and have the highest potential to possibly outperform their projections if you completely disregard the Spring numbers.  They are also the more marketable candidates since they are products of the Cubs farm system and still basically make league minimum salaries.

Yet, it is looking more and more like Carlos Silva will be in the Cubs rotation and Andrew Cashner will not.  This says to me that there was almost nothing Carlos Silva could have done short of injury that would have kept him out of the rotation.

Let's go to the map.

Carlos Silva is a big fat-ass with heart issues, so if there was any debate about whether he should be in the rotation or not, he probably should have shown up to camp in better shape than a Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloon.  He did not.

When one is fighting for a spot on a major league roster, it is best to not get into a fight with the team's best offensive weapon.  But if one does get into a fight with the team's best offensive weapon, maybe one should wait and not get into it during the fourth game of Spring Training.  He did not.

Then there was his inability to get anybody out with any regularity until today's outing.  When one is fighting for a spot and you are a big, fat, old, expensive pitcher that was never all that good to begin with and pretty much a malcontent wherever you've been, you should probably keep your ERA in the three-digit range.  He did not.

So how will Silva get a spot in the Cubs' rotation?  Because he never was going to lose the spot.  Unfortunately he, Wells, and Cashner didn't follow the script.

Wells or Cashner were supposed to battle it out for the fifth spot so that one of them could get sent down to work on another pitch (Cashner) or work on his confidence (Wells).  Meanwhile, Silva wouldn't necessarily be fantastic, but he would be a veteran presence on the back end of a rotation for a team that was trying to win now.

The problem is that Randy Wells pitched so well he absolutely HAD to be included in the rotation.  Between his results from 2009, his peripherals from 2010 (which the Cubs don't care about, but they should), and his Spring performance, there was no way on God's green earth that Wells was going to go down. So it supposedly became a two man race between Cashner and Silva.  Silva screwed that up by pitching as poorly as if he was lobbing the pitches in underhanded and Cashner actually stepped up and pitched like he wanted that rotation spot.

The problem is that Cashner never really stood a realistic chance.  He went out in his last outing and gave up a few runs in the slop that inflated his ERA a bit and Silva went out and had his best outing, but Cashner still has Silva beat by a wide margin.  Cashner is presumably the best option if the Cubs are trying to win now OR if they are trying to focus on development, but Silva is still lingering.

Why?  I'm guessing it is his salary.  The Cubs would have to eat his salary.  He can't go to the bullpen because he doesn't want to be there and he won't go as quietly as Carlos Zambrano did when he had even less reason than Silva to do so.  They can't send him to the minors since he's a veteran.  He has almost no trade value (and today's outing didn't suddenly change him into a viable trade chip).  The Cubs seem extremely reluctant to just consider the 8-0 start from last year as the best return they could have hoped for in return for Milton Bradley and just walk away from the casino with a small profit.  They seem intent on going back to the roulette table to really try to cash in their longshot.

We can't believe it either, Carlos.
If Silva makes the rotation, I can not think of a single scenario where Silva actually had his starting job in jeopardy where he retained the spot based on his performance or value to the team.
I have an easier time rationalizing Braden Looper making the rotation as the fifth starter than I do coming up with an argument for Silva that doesn't involve the crossing of fingers and outright overstatement of his capabilities.  The only thing I can come up with is that there was never two rotation spots open.  It was one spot between Cashner and Wells (with the other dark horses thrown in for good measure) and Wells won that battle.

If anyone can think of a rational reason why Silva would be a part of the rotation, feel free to let me know.  I've got nothing.

I can't wait to see how the Cubs rationalize Cashner getting sent down.


FrankS said...

If Cashner does go down to the minors, then I'll take that as a sign that he'll be back in May or June to take Silva's spot in the rotation. I hope.

The management for other teams seem to understand the idea that sometimes you just have to kick a player to the curb, pay him his money and move on without him on your team. With the Cubs, they keep thinking they have to get some kind of return on that money, never realizing that they are digging themselves a deeper hole.

This entire season is about treading water. The Cubs don't want to go young and develop a team that can win in a couple seasons. They want to appear competitive so they can sell tickets. And maybe if they get enough breaks, they can be the NL Central's version of the 2010 Chicago Bears. But that doesn't strike me as a realistic expectation. And a lot of people seem to agree with me as ticket sales are poor compared to recent seasons.

If Cashner does go down, Hendry and company will make the excuse that he needs to be stretched out more or that he needs another pitch or that he needs work on his command. The last one might be the best option as he is still walking too many hitters.

Kin said...

I'm hoping that the plan IS to send Cashner to Iowa to stretch out rather than have him atrophy in the bullpen again. Otherwise, this is probably worse than the Z-to-bullpen experiment where they kept dicking him around all season and wondered why he snapped.

Berselius said...

+1 for the Wolfram & Hart reference

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