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
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.
This evening, Jim Hendry traded infielders Aaron Miles and Jake Fox to Oakland for relievers Jeff Gray and Ronny Morla and outfielder Matt Spencer. Let’s break it down.
Miles was injured basically all of last year after Hendry attempted to replace the versatile Mark DeRosa with him. He never made a contribution and would only take up space on the Cubs roster this year as the infield was already set without him. He will be valuable to Oakland as he can mentor their very young infield.
Jake Fox will be a 27 year old DH without options left. A healthy Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez make him expendable even though he showed mammoth power while with the Cubs. Third base still is not set in Oakland however Fox’s defense may not be good enough to hold up there for an entire year. His power threat is what intrigued Billy Beane and Fox will get at bats at DH and first base against tough lefties to spell Jack Cust and Daric Barton, respectively.
Gray succeeded in 24 relief appearances with the A’s in 2009, posting a 3.76 ERA. Oakland has many young arms however, and taking a chance on a power bat makes sense for the Athletics right now. The addition of Gray to the Chicago bullpen means fireballer Jeff Samardzija will spend more time in AAA Iowa searching for control.
The other prospects Chicago received are 21 year old Ronny Morla, a starting pitcher, and power-hitting outfielder Matt Spencer. These two will not be in the majors within the next year so only time will tell as far as their worth to the Cubs. At face value however, it seems as though both clubs made a sensible move for their situation.
One bright-spot of the Chicago Cubs last year was the stride of improvement their ’09 class of prospects made.
Pitcher Randy Wells was discussed as a National League ROY candidate while Jake Fox played five positions and banged 11 home runs. Angel Guzman was healthy for a full year and and posted a 2.95 ERA in 55 outings. There were also some part-time players who contributed big-time. Esmailin Caridad appeared in 14 games, struck out 17, and walked only 3 en route to a 1.40 ERA. Justin Berg found similar success in 11 outings, only allowing one run. Backup outfielder Sam Fuld and reserve infielder Andres Blanco provided exceptional defense and reasonable offense.
Now to Jim Hendry all of this is just fine and dandy but it doesn’t matter. After a couple division titles and two disappointing trips to the NLDS, Hendry is on the hot seat. The window may be slim. Derrek Lee and Ted Lilly are entering the final years of their contracts. Meanwhile, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano aren’t getting any younger…
These factors raise the question: Why not continue getting younger? The bullpen is already almost all products of the organization’s farm system. It consists of mainly pre-arbitration arms, providing the team with some financial security and still the possibility of a future. The rotation will have openings after this year which top prospects Jay Jackson, Andrew Cashner, and even ‘the other’ Chris Carpenter should have opportunities to fill.
The offense has an opening in center with the plans to move Kosuke Fukudome back right after the imminent Milton Bradley disposal. Instead of replacing Bradley with a high-priced center fielder (Curtis Granderson, Vernon Wells, Aaron Rowand, etc.), I would plan on leaving the spot open for an internal replacement. Tyler Colvin made his debut last season and is a lefty gap hitter who plays center. He hit very well at AA. Kyler Burke is another top outfield prospect but he is only 21 and still a few years away.
As for the middle of the infield, Starlin Castro is the young phenom rising fast in the club’s inner circles. Still only 19, Castro will not break camp with the big league club this spring. But that’s not necessary. Leave him at AAA to get some more seasoning and let Jeff Baker hang onto the starting gig which he earned last summer. If Castro can prove himself in Iowa and the right situation arises, a promotion is likely as Ryan Theriot has already agreed to moving to second base if it would help the team.
Going along with these moves will be tough for a GM under fire and a manager in the last year of his illustrious career, but will set up the Cubs for a financially functional future. The Ricketts have big plans for Wrigley so saving money when possible would be nice. Instead of the huge free agent/trade targets, the Cubs need to pursue a right handed outfielder to split time with Colvin in center and share the load with Kosuke against tough lefties. If Marlon Byrd’s value really does drop as far as some say it will, he would be a perfect fit as would guys like Randy Winn, Coco Crisp, and Reed Johnson. Otherwise, acquiring this outfielder as part of the return for Milton Bradley makes sense with such possibilities as Gary Matthews Jr. and Nick Swisher. The other spot Hendry needs to focus on is the rotation because it sounds like Ted Lilly will miss extended time next year.
I don’t predict this to be a huge off-season for the Cubbies, but I also don’t think they need huge changes. Saving some money now may give them the flexibility to add payroll in a couple winters when the free agent class will offer better values.