9:49 AM CST, February 11, 2013
MESA, Ariz. -- Talking baseball while wondering if Brandt Snedeker is the new Tom Watson:
1. Tony Campana isn’t really gone yet, but I’m already missing him. The Cubs made an unpopular decision Sunday, dropping Campana off the 40-man roster to open a space for Scott Hairston. It was the right call.
Campana has been a fan favorite at a time when fans have had a tough time finding players to embrace, but it doesn’t seem likely that the little overachiever is going to develop into anything more than a poor man’s Juan Pierre at the plate.
Campana used his speed to hit .301 over his minor-league career but has a .306 on-base percentage after 347 plate appearances the last two seasons. He has struck out almost four times as often as he’s walked because pitchers know he won’t drive the ball.
When a pitcher thinks like that, he’s not going to nibble on the corners. He’s coming over the middle and making a guy hit his way on. Like the saying goes, you can’t steal first base.
With prospect Brett Jackson slated for a full season at Triple-A Iowa, Dale Sveum is looking to use four outfielders – Alfonso Soriano in left and the right-handed-hitting Hairston platooning with the left-handed-hitting David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz in center and right. The options behind those guys includes veterans Darnell McDonald and Brent Lillibridge and 4-A guys Dave Sappelt and Brian Bogusevic (former first-rounder of the Astros from De La Salle Institute), as well as Jackson and lesser prospects Matt Szczur and Jae Hoon Ha.
The Cubs have 10 days to trade Campana or run him through waivers, after which he could be placed on the Iowa roster. It sounds like Theo Epstein is hoping a team like the Diamondbacks or Dodgers will give up a minor-leaguer to get him.
The guy is fun to watch, that’s for sure. His leap into third base over the thigh-high tag attempt by the Astros’ Matt Downs was the play of the year for the 2012 Cubs, and he discussed it in delicious detail afterward.
He delights in being in baseball the way all of us would have when we were his age. Here’s hoping his love of the game will have rubbed off on others if he is gone.2 Epstein and Jed Hoyer knew Josh Vitters wasn’t going to be ready for the big leagues long before he hit .121 in those 36 games last year, which is why he’s joining Jackson in a return trip to Iowa for 2013. But you wonder if Vitters has a future in the organization at all based on the scheduled position change for Junior Lake. The 22-year-old Lake is moving from shortstop to third base this season, according to Epstein, and the organization believes he has the tools to become a significant part of the team’s future if he can learn to slow the game down and anticipate better. Lake, who hit .312 with 11 steals and an .856 OPS in the Dominican Republic this winter, can also play the outfield, including center, but the Cubs have a lot of outfield prospects on the way. They have only Christian Villanueva, acquired from Texas in the Ryan Dempster trade, and 19-year-old Jeimer Candelario in the pipeline at third. Lake could jump past Vitters to get a look there at some point this season, provided he is an adequate defender. He’ll be an interesting guy to watch this season, more than when he was blocked by Starlin Castro, his long-time friend.
3. It’s almost impossible for two contenders to make trades on the eve of spring training, but I’ve got one to propose – if I’m Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak, I have the Blue Jays’ Alex Anthopoulos on the phone, trying to pry away Mark Buehrle. If anyone could fill the Chris Carpenter role for the Cardinals, it would be Buehrle. The $48 million over three years owed him makes it a risk for St. Louis, sure, but they’ve got a team built to win and no longer stack up against the deep Reds in the NL Central. The Cardinals have plenty of parts to deal if the Blue Jays can find a way to make the money work (possibly taking Jake Westbrook along with a reliever or a prospect).
The Jays’ motivation is that Buehrle, a family man, has revealed he’s not moving his family to Toronto because dogs like Slater, his pit bull, aren’t allowed in Ontario. That doesn’t bode well for his performance. He’s as professional as they come but he’s always had a big support system around him, and you’ve got to wonder how he’d be impacted by the loneliness he’s certain to experience. The flip side is that he’d be energized by a chance to step in as a staff leader for his hometown Cardinals, who are talking to Adam Wainwright about an extension and dealing with Jaime Garcia’s rehab from a tear in his shoulder. It's a long shot but Buehrle in St. Louis makes more sense than Buehrle in Toronto.
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