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
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.
Marlon Byrd has signed a 3 year $15M dollar deal with the Chicago Cubs. The deal still gives Jim Hendry some flexibility this winter because it is backloaded and only pays the center fielder $3M in 2010.
The deal is already drawing criticism. This is the second year in a row that Jim Hendry gave a 3 year deal to a Texas outfielder coming off a career season. The Ballpark in Arlington is well known to be a hitter’s park and may have inflated Byrd’s numbers over the past couple of years as shown in his home/away splits.
Also, it appears that Hendry has overbid, basically, himself. There was interest from other clubs in regards to Byrd but no details on their offers have been reveiled yet. However, it is not expected that Byrd received any other 3 year proposals.
The value of the contract is what makes it OK in my eyes. $15M is not the worst thing in the world and his defense will improve when he can focus on one position all year. He will get some playing time in left when Soriano inevitably gets hurt again (probably making his trademark skip when he catches routine flyballs). Cubs fans just shouldn’t expect too much out of Marlon. He isn’t supposed to ‘save’ the Cubs or hit 4th like Milton Bradley was. Do expect high energy and some RBIs though.
Only time will tell if this contract was worth it, but maybe the small ’10 salary will give the Cubs enough room to still bring in Orlando Hudson. The team could still use another arm as well. The Cubs are at least trying to keep pace with the Cardinals who now appear likely to re-sign Matt Holliday to a huge deal.
Though a couple big name targets are off the market, each team can still fill there voids with quality talent. Here’s the best of what’s left:
- Orlando Cabrera ss
- Orlando Hudson 2b
- Matt Holliday lf
- Russell Branyan 1b
- Adrian Beltre 3b
- Rick Ankiel rf
- Bengie Molina c
- Marlon Byrd cf
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.
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.
With the free agency period off to a frustratingly slow start, I’ve decided to post my synopsis of the top free agents in this year’s market. Also listed are some potential destinations.
1. Matt Holliday OF– Great all-around hitter who rebounded well in St. Louis after his short stay in the AL. He is the premier offensive player in this year’s class and a legitimate 3-hitter for any contender. His combination of power, speed, and competitiveness will land him the biggest contract of all free agents in the coming months. Yankees, Mets, Red Sox
2. John Lackey SP– Despite a couple recent injuries, Lackey’s leadership and determination are great intangibles. He consistently puts his team in the spot to win games and will be the ace anywhere he goes, besides the Yankees… Yankees, Brewers, Angels
3. Jason Bay OF– Bay has taken some hits lately for his defense and even criticism for rejecting the Red Sox initial offer of 4 years/$60MM. Bay, however, was able to post great HR and RBI numbers and that’s what gets free agents paid. Bay is a great number two option to Holliday. Red Sox, Mets, Giants
4. Chone Figgins 3B/UT– After Chone struggled mightly in the playoffs, he is on a mission to get back in the post-season and earn another ring. Figgins will go to a winner where he can play third base, his best position. Many teams have been rumored to the speedy utility man for many different positions, though the White Sox have said they’re already out of the hunt due to the price. Angels, Phillies, Mariners
5. Aroldis Chapman LHP– Chapman is a lefty phenom who defected from Cuba who just changed his agency. He has great stuff and a fastball that approaches 100mph. Nearly every team has some level of interest in his rare skills set. He may spend some time in the minors, but will still earn a great paycheck. I could see Chapman as the Dodgers’ single big move this off-season if they’re unable to attain Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays. Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers
6. Mike Gonzalez LHP/Rafael Soriano RHP– This pair of relievers come from the same bullpen and can both setup or close. Their electrifying stuff will earn them both a huge (and probably over-priced) payday. My guess is that both will have a chance to close. Phillies, Braves, Tigers
7. Orlando Hudson 2B– This perennial gold glover is a switch hitter with pop and speed. He can work an at-bat and is a great clubhouse guy. The only thing going against Hudson is his injury plagued second-half with the Dodgers, which will keep him affordable like this time last year. Mets, Nationals, Twins
8. Joel Piniero SP– I like Piniero. Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan once again worked his magic with Piniero. Piniero always had talent and he finally turned the corner. In a relatively weak market for starting pitchers, Piniero comes in as the number two. Mets, Cardinals, Brewers
9. Mark DeRosa 3B/UT– Mark DeRosa built his great reputation off a couple solid years with the Cubs. His value diminished a bit with a wrist injury which required surgery after the season and a rough stay with the Cards where his OBP dropped significantly. DeRosa though, is a good option for most teams as he can play a very formidable second and third along with first and the corner outfield spots. Even though the Cubs fans love this guy, they will not reunite on the Northside. Phillies, Cardinals, Twins
10. Bengie Molina C– In a very thin offering of catchers this year, Molina provides a veteran presence with a solid bat. He has hit cleanup or fifth many times in the past few years with the Giants. Mets, Brewers, Mariners
11. Jason Marquis SP– Marquis’ sinker worked well for him in Colorado where he flourished for the first half, but then dropped off. He is durable and an innings eater, and provides some offense from the pitcher’s spot for what it’s worth. Keep in mind his 10 year streak of making the playoffs. Mets, Cardinals, Rockies
12. Johnny Damon/Hideki Matsui OF/DH– Pros: came up huge in the post-season. Cons: age and declining overall skills. These two Yankees favorites would both love to be back in the Bronx but the Yankees are looking for more athleticism in LF and would rather commit one year too few than one year too many. White Sox, Yankees, Mariners
13. Rich Harden SP– Harden would like to be back in Chicago’s rotation but I’m not sure he proved his health enough to be warranted a raise in the windy city. He has an upper 90s fastball and a nice changeup/sinker that makes him perhaps the biggest risk/reward pitcher this year. It’s very conceivable Boston picks him up to be another reclamation project similar to Paul Byrd, John Smoltz, and Brad Penny of late. Red Sox, Cubs, Mets
14. Adrian Beltre 3B– Beltre is still a great defender and a power threat. His value is nowhere near it was the last time he hit market and cashed in, but he will still be coveted with lots of vacancies at the hot corner this year. Phillies, Orioles, Twins
15. Nick Johnson 1B– Johnson is known for his injuries and his above average OBP. He improved that OBP with his second half Marlins stint in which he posted a .477 OBP. This off-season he will earn himself a multiyear deal to provide the steady production people have grown accustomed to. Mets, Giants, White Sox
- Orlando Cabrera SS
- Russell Branyan 1B
- Miguel Tejada SS/3B
- Marlon Byrd OF
- Vladimir Guerrero DH/RF
- Adam LaRoche 1B
- Fernando Rodney RP
- Andy Pettitte SP (would be higher on the list, but the Yankees are the only destination)