<h4><em>It's early, but the Cubs bullpen looks like a mess. How can they fix it? Should they really care?</em></h4>
<p><strong>Jeff Reese: </strong>Early is the key word. We're two games into the season. It's hard to believe that Marmol and Wood will continue to be anywhere near this bad. And if they are, perhaps Rafael Dolis steps up and takes on more responsibility. The Cubs also have the pitching depth (with Randy Wells and Travis Wood in AAA) to move Samardzija back to the bullpen to stabilize things.</p>
<p><strong>Steve Fiorindo:</strong> It's too early to get worried, and don't really think they need to care much due to their expectations. I think you know what you get with Marmol, and you just gotta take whatever that days results are.</p>
<p><strong>Al Skorupa: </strong>Just random poor outings. They have some quality arms out there - and even if it IS a problem, I wouldn't waste resources trying to fix it this season. This club isn't ready to compete yet. Trading assets to fix this pen is the equivalent of a broke guy spending two grand on nice rims for his beat up old Chevy.</p>
<p><strong>JD Sussman:</strong> Probably, Al. I'm curious to see Wood's approach the rest of the year. He couldn't find the zone in the Washington series and relied heavily on the cutter. Marmol is an enigma. He should really pound the zone with his fastball significantly more than he does.</p>
<h4><em>Jon Niese just signed a similar extension to Derek Holland and many other arbitration eligible pitchers. Are teams making the right move locking up pitchers long term?</em></h4>
<p><strong>JR:</strong> There will always be risk when signing pitchers to long term deals, but I'm generally in favor of doing so to save money in the future. Even average pitchers get paid substantially as free agents; locking down home grown starters before they truly bloom is the right move.</p>
<p><strong>JS: </strong>My issue is guaranteeing money in arbitration years. A lot of fans and teams get scared when a player enters arbitration because it's a sizable salary increase from league minimum. But, one of the big bonuses that the arbitration system has over a traditional contract is the tender system. If a player gets hurt or under-performs his already expected arbitration award, he can be non-tendered. The team basically has an option on that player for all three or four arbitration years. That's a powerful and flexible tool. Too sign one of these arms I would need a pretty large discount and several free agent years.</p>
<p><strong>AS:</strong> I'm less comfortable with these kind of deals for young pitching, but at these kind of prices I can't complain. The only thing I insist on in these extensions is the team buys out at least a year of free agency at a below market price to make it worth their while.</p>
<p><strong>Conor Dowley:</strong> I like Holland more than Niese, but at the price paid there's not much to complain about. I really have no problem with teams locking up pitchers if they like them enough to do so, and Niese is a pitcher that, while he hasn't been exceptional, is a guy worth locking in a decent price to help anchor a rotation.</p>
<p><strong>SF: </strong> I like teams locking guys up early, saves them some cash by waiting until they are free agents. It's a little bit of a risk, because the pitcher may not keep developing the way they want, but they aren't really locking guys up that are fringey back end guys. I like what teams are doing now.</p>
<h4><em>After the first four games of the season, Cepedes has put on a powerful offensive display. What are your expectations for his first full season?</em></h4>
<p><strong>JR: </strong>There will be power! That's not much of a statement at this point given what he has already shown in his first week of games, but it has to be said. He just attacks and completely unloads on a baseball; he gave me a bit of a Juan Gonzalez vibe when I first watched that now infamous scouting video. So, I expect the majestic homeruns to continue to rain/reign. It will also come with significant swing and miss as offspeed pitches out of the zone are definitely a problem area. So it will come down to whether he can make adjustments throughout the season.</p>
<p><strong>SF:</strong> Cespedes: He'll kill the ball for a while, and then he'll show a weakness and get exploited for a bit. Tough to be able to tell how he'll make adjustments, but he'll rack up big power numbers just punishing mistakes.So what do you guys expect from Cespedes as far as average/on base? No walks and 7 K's thru four games. I'm thinking maybe 250-260, probably at best.</p>
<p><strong>AS: </strong>Like Steve I think Cespedes will struggle for some decently long stretches in 2012... but he still will hit for plenty of extra bases. Cespedes has 13 ABs so far... 4 hits, 3 of which left the park and SEVEN (7) strike outs. He's taken some ugly looking swings at offspeed stuff and with the big cut he takes K's are going to be a serious issue.</p>
<p><strong>CD:</strong> Cespedes is going to gravitate between being fun to watch and utterly frustrating to watch. This year I'd bet there's more frustration than fun, but it wouldn't shock me in the slightest that next year he's made at least the base adjustments he needs to find more consistent success in the majors. Of course, I might be a little bit biased on that front after he hit a homer on Friday night that still today has me picking up pieces of my jaw off my living room floor.</p>
<p><strong>JS:</strong> Steve, his performance will be Trumbo-esqe maybe even more extreme. He'll have an OBP well under 300 and but hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases. What a monstrous hack he takes. I could see .250/.285</p>
<h4><em>Is there a better hitting duo than Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder?</em></h4>
<p><strong>JR: </strong>Nope, I cannot think of a better offensive tandem.</p>
<p><strong>SF:</strong> No, maybe only in the All Star Game, and even then it may be tough to find a better pair. They aren't the dynamic all around guys we all adore, but they are two of the most feared hitters around.</p>
<p><strong>AS: </strong>Nope. Those two are the best, hands down. Those two might be worth >100 batting runs by themselves.</p>
<p><strong>JS:</strong> The Red Sox don't think so. There are a few that many challenge them by the end of the season like Tulowitzki/Gonzalez, Votto/Bruce, Cano and anyone else on the Yankees and Bautista and Lawrie, but as of today I'd take the two in Detroit.</p>
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It's early, but the Cubs bullpen looks like a mess. How can they fix it? Should they really care?
Jeff Reese: Early is the key word. We're two games into the season. It's hard to believe that Marmol and Wood will continue to be anywhere near this bad. And if they are, perhaps Rafael Dolis steps up and takes on more responsibility. The Cubs also have the pitching depth (with Randy Wells and Travis Wood in AAA) to move Samardzija back to the bullpen to stabilize things.
Steve Fiorindo: It's too early to get worried, and don't really think they need to care much due to their expectations. I think you know what you get with Marmol, and you just gotta take whatever that days results are.
Al Skorupa: Just random poor outings. They have some quality arms out there - and...