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!”
When I found the MLBlogs feature I couldn’t wait to get started. I had just one problem: “What’s worthy of my first entry?” When I got out of class and jumped online, I was shocked, absolutely shocked, at what I saw.
Aaron Heilman to Arizona
No trade-backs! On the heels of the Cubs announcing that they’re nearing a deal with Grabow, the Cubs were able to cut some costs and get rid of a semi-handicapping move. Now I know Heilman’s contract is no Soriano or Bradley, but I can rest a little easier knowing Jim Hendry is at least attempting to think.
I would’ve been happy with the good old ‘addition by subtraction’ move and releasing him but they actually got value in return. The two minor leaguers have showed some potential, including high strikeout rates by Scott Maine, a lefty hurler.
This move opens up a bullpen spot for a younger, cheaper, and more exciting option from the Cubs’ farm system. The late inning group is now set with Marmol closing and Grabow as the primary setup man. Filling in the middle relief as of now, are Marshall as another lefty, Guzman as an emerging setup man, and Esmailin Caridad who came on late last year to post a 1.40 ERA in 14 appearances. Other guys to keep in mind are the Jeffs. Jeff Stevens pitched well in the second half after being acquired for Mark DeRosa while Jeff Samardzija has yet to fulfill his potential despite his high-powered fastball.
The Cubs’ 2010 bullpen is shaping up to be young and exciting, though somewhat inexperienced. Hendry should look to add another veteran on a less-expensive deal than Grabow to provide added stability. In the end, this should be a bright-spot for next year’s Chicago Cubs.