Projected 2010 NL Central Finish: 2nd
- Theriot ss
- Fukudome rf
- Lee 1b
- Ramirez 3b
- Byrd cf
- Soriano lf
- Fontenot 2b
- Soto c
- Gorzelanny (LH)
- Hill c
- Baker if
- Tracy cif
- Nady 1b/of
- Colvin of
- Marshall (LH)
- Grabow (LH)
- Marmol (closer)
- Lilly sp (LH)
- Guzman rp
It’s only February and the Cubs are already hitting speed bumps. Ted Lilly’s recovery from November surgery was apparently going well, but now he hits a bit of a set-back with illness. Angel Guzman hurt his knee and his shoulder is acting up. The Cubs expect Lilly back on track this weekend and Guzman will take 7-10 days off. These seem like minor issues, but don’t forget who we’re talking about here. The Cubs aren’t a team with the history of getting past speed-bumps (cough… Bartman!… cough). The Cubs are also not lucky enough to get past injuries when the team should’ve already prepared insurance for such instances.
Entering the off-season, GM Jim Hendry and manager Lou Piniella each made it publicly known that acquiring a veteran right hander for the bullpen was a necessity. Pitchers and catchers have reported and the only veteran righty they’ve acquired is Carlos Silva who won’t be competing for a setup role (at least I hope not!). The Cubs have missed out on affordable righties like Matt Capps, Octavio Dotel, Guillermo Mota, LaTroy Hawkins, and Chan Ho Park. The only reasonable options left on the market are Kiko Calero and David Weathers. But let’s be honest, “reasonable” is stretch for these two given Kiko’s questionable health and David’s old-ness.
The best solution for this dilemma may have to come via trade. The Blue Jays are currently rebuilding so setup man Jason Frasor is probably available. Luke Gregerson has been mentioned as a target as well. A trade offer for Gregerson could start with Mike Fontenot as the Padres don’t have a promising second baseman waiting in the wings. Cubs fans have to hope that Jim Hendry judged the market correctly for once and will make a smart move, but I wouldn’t bet on that.
But at least Hendry found some insurance for Lilly and added depth at the back end of the rotation… Or wait… He didn’t. If things continue to go the Cubs’ way, Lilly’s illness will lead to a sneezing attack that will keep him out of action for a couple months (See Sammy Sosa). Further down the rotation, the Cubs will be relying on at least one of Tom Gorzelanny (5.55 ERA), Jeff Samardzija (7.53 ERA), or good old Carlos Silva (8.60 ERA) to provide crucial innings. In case Hendry is reading this, allow me to let him in on a secret: The lower the ERA, the better… A team with playoff hopes can’t wait for these types of players to figure it out.
In the end, Hendry missed out on many proven winners who could have given the Cubs the depth that’s necessary to win a World Series. Doug Davis and Jon Garland got inexpensive deals and Joel Pineiro didn’t even get the cash he was hoping for this off-season. No, they’re not Cy Youngs, but they are serviceable. Due to the lack of starters left on the market, I expect Hendry to go all-in for Ben Sheets once he proves his health with the A’s. A different option could be a guy like Kevin Correia who should be attainable from the Padres.
Instead of addressing a pitching staff known for injuries (Zambrano, Dempster, Guzman, and possibly Lilly), Hendry decided to go down his usual path of disappointment. On paper the Cubs’ hurlers look great, but when you scratch the surface you see a bullpen lacking experience and starters lining up for their turn on the DL. Unless there are some changes in the near future, Cubs fans could be in store for another season of falling just short. As newest Cub Kevin Millar would say, it’s time for Jim Hendry to “Cowboy Up!”
The multi-year deals have not been flying around like off-seasons of past. Think players like Carlos Silva or Gil Meche would walk away with 4-5 year deals this winter? Now that we’ve entered 2010 teams will be looking for this year’s low-risk/high-reward one year deals. But some guys are worthy of longer commitments. Here are the top dozen players with the best chance of getting a 2+ year deal and a possible destination.
C- Bengie Molina: 2 years, New York Mets
1B- Russell Branyan: 2 years, Texas Rangers
1B- Adam LaRoche: 2 years, Seattle Mariners
2B- Orlando Hudson: 2 years, Chicago Cubs
2B- Felipe Lopez: 2 years, Los Angeles Dodgers
SS- Orlando Cabrera: 2 years, Minnesota Twins
SS/3B- Miguel Tejada: 2 years, Cincinnati Reds
3B- Adrian Beltre: 3 years, Boston Red Sox
LF- Johnny Damon: 2 years, San Francisco Giants
LF- Matt Holliday: 6 years, St. Louis Cardinals
SP- Aroldis Chapman: 5 years, Florida Marlins
SP- Joel Piniero: 3 years, New York Mets
Some remaining free agents who are on the fringe include Rick Ankiel, Vladimir Guerrero, Doug Davis, Jarrod Washburn and Jose Valverde. Marlon Byrd’s backloaded contract with the Cubs may set precedent for quite a few of these players who want that extra year guaranteed.
Amidst studying for my last final, I’ve decided this is important enough for a slight break. Milton Bradley has finally been traded and it is a surprisingly O.K. ending to a failed relationship. Ironically, I will blame Jim Hendry for more of the failure than what I put on Milton Bradley. Hendry was the one who decided to offer Bradley twice the amount of his other offers last off-season, not to mention Bradley’s intense desire to become a Chicago Cub. Don’t you think that even if the offers were the same, his well-known motives for becoming a Cub would’ve placed them over any other option? The third year and huge dollars are very questionable. Mistake number one.
So, Jim, you already over-paid a man who is often injured and constantly giving himself the precise attention he doesn’t need… That all plays out in the perfect fashion that is the Chicago Cubs, that is, it falls apart. And while the story is in the middle of it’s decline, Bradley achieves his player friendly vesting option of playing 75 games in the outfield, kicking in the 3rd year of his contract and another $10MM. Mr. Hendry, just because an outfielder who gets hurt too often plays in at least 75 games, it doesn’t mean he produced worth a crap during that span. Rehabbing pitchers get vesting options for starts, not potential franchise right fielders, especially when you have no other option in right field (Micah Hoffpauir doesn’t count). Mistake number two.
Bradley’s foul behavior and comments got himself in more trouble late in the season. Instead of talking behind closed doors to find a solution, Hendry announced to the world that Bradley had been sent home for the season. It was obvious that the Bradley was not going to be back so Hendry lost even more leverage by saying we have to trade him. Did Hendry think he was sending a message to his team? Did he think if he didn’t ‘make an example’ out of Bradley that Derrek Lee and Ryan Dempster were soon to follow Bradley’s string of bad behavior? P.S. Jim: The Cubs were already well out of contention so the suspension mattered even less! Mistake number three.
But in the end, despite offering a contract that was too valuable and too easy, along with losing all leverage what-so-ever (Hendry couldn’t even work out a trade for Pat “I Lost My Bat” Burrell), the Cubs made a trade that will help them this season and next.
No I’m not talking about the Carlos Silva part. I’m talking about the ridiculous $9MM dollars the Mariners sent us with Silva. That balances out to the Cubs paying $15MM for two years of a bad pitcher while the M’s pay $30MM for two years of a player that we almost had to release because of Hendry’s horrible attempt at a PR move. If the Cubs were able to get this in return, imagine what the return could’ve been without Hendry’s butchering of the whole process…
Either way the Cubs brought in a pitcher who has had some success years ago and it never hurts to have some extra pitching depth, even though he’s really bad. Jack Z in Seattle had brought in Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee this off-season but the money he gave up here has me questioning him a little bit. I’m sure Bradley will bounce back a bit but was it worth that much?
Now Jim, just because you saved a few bucks this winter by ridding yourself of Heilman, Miles, and Bradley, you should not go out and blow it again. Marlon Byrd and Rick Ankiel are interesting options in center and both should be considered at the right price. Both have scary splits in their stats however. Orlando Hudson will be the most efficient use of money for any team this off-season and his effort/personality would be a great insert to the Cubs’ clubhouse after moving Bradley. Let’s hope that is the next move on the Cubs’ slate this off-season.
Right now every team needs pitching depth and will look to acquire it this time of the year. But right now I would like to focus on offensive aspect of the Chicago Cubs and what Jim Hendry should do to fix it.
Because I don’t see the Cubs and Milton Bradley getting past their differences, I’ll plan on him not being with them this summer. So priority number one, deal Bradley for whatever salary relief you can get. I would not clog up the lineup with another bad contract, but instead try to get a pitcher in return. It would have to be another bad contract (Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson, Carlos Silva come to mind) but they would add depth I was just talking about if nothing else. Bringing in Pat Burrell would not help the Cubs in any way, shape, or form.
The free agent market is where the Cubs should go to fix their lineup. I like the idea of Coco Crisp on an inexpensive deal to share time with Tyler Colvin. Crisp provides solid defense, speed and a true leadoff bat. That shifts Kosuke Fukudome back to right where he is most valuable. It’s a no-risk move and if Colvin produces with more time, Crisp could easily be moved.
Orlando Hudson is the best option at second. Why trade for Luis Castillo if Hudson is available, better, and less expensive? Hudson is comparable to Crisp in the fact that he is a switch hitter, plays great defense, and both guys offer a great clubhouse presence. Hudson has been injured very often over the past two seasons but that should not be too much of a worry, ironically, in this situation. Like a year ago, it will keep his price tag down but you still get five-tool value when he is healthy. Also, Jeff Baker came on strong in the second half and deserves some starts against lefties while still giving the team further depth at first, third, left, and right. Baker’s starts will keep Hudson rested and hopefully injury-free.
These two options should cost a combined maximum $8MM next year. These players don’t hurt the pocket book but are solid value. My hopeful lineup for 2010:
- Crisp cf
- Hudson 2b
- Lee 1b
- Ramirez 3b
- Soriano lf
- Fukudome rf
- Soto c
- Theriot ss
A recent post on mlbtraderumors.com by Tim Dierkes posed a challenge to the readers: Create the best possible lineup, rotation, and bullpen of this off-season’s trade candidates. So this evening I’ll take my crack at it, again only using players who have a good chance of getting traded this winter.
1. Granderson cf– Detroit seems to be cost cutting, could bring in a haul.
2. Pierre lf– Dodger’s OF is full and getting expensive through arbitration.
3. Bradley rf– You know the story. Will he rebound after another ‘fresh start?’
4. Uggla 2b– Another Marlins cost cutting off-season is very probable.
5. Cust dh– Billy Beane isn’t a huge fan of giving out raises via arbitration.
6. Atkins 1b– Ian Stewart’s emergence has made Atkins expendable.
7. Gamel 3b– The Brewers will try to make a big splash after failing to retain C.C. last year. That splash starts with prospects.
8. Doumit c– Had a rough season and doesn’t seem to fit in with the coaches/management.
9. (Macier, not Cesar) Izturis ss– Erik Aybar’s earned the full-time role at short.
1. Halladay– The new GM knows the Jays won’t compete before his Doc’s deal runs out.
2. Jackson- See ‘Granderson’ above.
3. Kawakami– The Braves don’t have a spot for him in their solid rotation and he’s affordable.
4. Arroyo- Great second half but the Reds are cutting costs and they’ll start with this $13MM.
5. Silva- Will be swapped for another bad contract.
- Tallet LH– May not fit Toronto’s plans and will be getting a slight raise.
- Pinto LH– Talented lefty struggled for the Marlins but is very talented. Will draw interest.
- Casilla RH– Similar to Pinto, though a righty.
- Farnsworth RH- His deal seemed bad from the start. He’s due $5MM.
- Corpas RH- Shedding the $6.5MM he’s due will redirect money towards resigning Betancourt.
- Wheeler RH- Has closed but is better as a setup man. Rays will go cheaper.
- Lindstrom CL- Leo Nunez stole his closer job in-season. Brings intimidation with heater.
As you can see, I don’t think some of the more intriguing picks (Adrian Gonzalez, Felix Hernandez, Carl Crawford, etc.) will get traded this off-season. These types of players are both integral to their team’s success and are rather affordable, not to mention how close each of those teams are to contending in their division. I expect this off-season’s trade market to consist of more cost-adjusting moves and less blockbusters than the headlines would like to suggest.
But they don’t call it the Hot Stove League for nothing as I’m sure there will be some surprising and exciting deals pulled off as the owners’ holiday wishlists grow larger.