Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Roster Moves into October


The Cubs have lately been playing extremely well as of late and find themselves in an unusual (for 2009 at least) predicament. With several key players soon to return from trips to the DL, Lou and Jim will have to decide who to demote and what the roster will look like going into September, when it can expand to 40.

We'll do this two ways -- the way I'd do it, and the way they probably will, the difference being that I'd keep the Cubs with an 11-man pitching staff rather than their unecessary 12-man staff.

First, the pitchers:

SP - Zambrano, Dempster, Harden, Wells, Gorzelanny
LR - Heilman
MR - Grabow, Guzman
SU - Marmol, Marshall
CL - Gregg

To me, this is pretty well a no-brainer. Samardzija has not pitched well enough to justify his position with the team and, despite misconceptions, he is nowhere near running out of options. Player options are one-a-year deals, not one-a-promotion/demotion. The Cubs have already exercised Samardzija's option for 2009, which means that within the confines of the rules they can promote and demote him as often as they want, amassing a respectable number of frequent flier miles while doing so. With Geovany Soto's return this weekend, I would almost gleefully demote Samardzija to make room for him. That guy's gotta go.

This would leave 14 spots for the hitters. The questions are -- do the Cubs keep Hoffpauir on the team considering that he's a .233 hitter whose only real skill is the ability to mash? How do they handle their mess-of-a-middle infield?

If Johnson was healthy, I would suggest either sending Hoffpauir back to Iowa, or -- if he's out of options, which I believe he may be -- cutting him free completely. Hoff was a great story last year but stories don't win championships, and I can do nothing but mock, gloat, and strut when recalling how more than a few fans wanted to dump Derrek Lee for Hoffpauir before the start of this season. So I say to you with definitive authority: nyaaaaa! But... with Johnson injured, the Cubs need Hoff and his "ability" to patrol the outfield.

Ahem, after that I'd then cut the tenaciously craptacular Aaron Miles. Enough is enough and he's batting under .200 this season. It was a dumb idea when Hendry signed him and keeping him around is even more ridiculous. The guy could play every position including pitcher and he'd still suck. If only his "versatility" included the ability to hit the damned ball. Lastly, I would return shawties Bobby Scales and Sam Fuld to the 25-man roster. That would give the Cubs an offense which looks like this:

C - Soto, Hill
1B Lee
2B Fontenot, Baker
SS Theriot, Scales
3B Ramirez, Fox
LF Soriano, Hoffpauir
CF Fukudome, Fuld
RF Bradley

By the end of the month, Theodore Roosevelt Lilly is expected to make his return, as is Andres Blanco. If possible, I'd probably wait until September to activate them, thereby preventing the demotion of any players. But if I had to juggle the roster, I'd probably send Scales down for Blanco and, at least temporarily, Fuld down for Lilly (both of whom I'd recall immediately on Sept. 1).

With Lilly back and hopefully healthy, I'd place in the bullpen whichever pitcher -- Gorzelanny or Harden -- has the worst August, with special considerations going to how pitching in relief might land Harden on the DL.

With Blanco back on the roster, I would also consider very strongly either starting him at second or moving Theriot over there, not because it makes the offense better but because it improves the team's defense. It's funny that we remember the drubbing the Dodgers delt the Cubs last October, but we've all seemed to forget that the worst moment happened in an inning in which Lee, DeRosa, and Theriot all made defensive errors resulting in an assload of runs and nausea. Maybe a juggled defensive setup would be, y'know, helpful.

On September 1st I'd recall whichever players remain from my "sweeping" changes initiative -- I'd promote Stevens, Samardzija, and maybe a few other young pitchers just for depth.

But since the Cubs are insistent on having a 12 man pitching staff, they're likely to keep Samardzija (or perhaps Stevens) up the entire time while being a man down in the infield. And since they also are probably going to insist on keeping the damnable Aaron Miles, then that means that they'll either wind up releasing Jeff Baker -- who also sucks -- or demoting Jake Fox, which would be a horrendously stoopid move.

Next Question - Can the Cubs Win the Series With This Roster?

I love writers arrogant enough to ask -- and answer -- their own questions. If you've been reading the comments thread of a few articles the last few days, you'll have seen a running -- but extremely civil, if not boring -- debate between myself and a Cub fan/Goat Reader about What This All Means. Dan has pointed out that the Cubs have done their worst damage against really crappy teams and that their record against winning teams is about as pretty as a naked Betty White. I get the feeling -- I could be wrong -- that Dan thinks my disagreement with him stems from a strong belief that the Cubs are favored to win the World Series.

Well, I haven't said that. I don't think I've said "the Cubs will win the World Series" since March, and that would probably have been when I predicted a 110 win season like the smart-ass I am.

But to pompously answer my own question, yes, the Cubs can win the Series with this roster. It's kind of shocking, but any team that makes the playoffs on any given year can win the World Series... even the Cubs. But I won't play favorites with them in that scenario. I've come to believe that the playoffs are a total crapshoot. Talent does not always win out, sometimes teams as bad as the '06 Cardinals will win a Series, and rarely does the baseball team with the most regular season wins -- or the biggest payroll -- get the job done. I said to Dan that I thought the Cubs, should they reach the playoffs, would have a 25% chance of reaching the World Series and a 12.5% chance of winning it. Anybody who tells you more than that is talking out of their ass, because -- seriously -- the playoffs are a crapshoot.

All that said, I do believe that the Cubs are a much better team than what we saw in April, May, or June. I suspect that they will put up better numbers against good teams in August and September than what we saw earlier in the year. I also believe that they remain one of the deepest teams in the league, even if they were poorly assembled from the parts they started with -- particularly they are strong in the rotation. All of these things lead me to believe that the Cubs are going to be extremely difficult to overtake in the NL Central, and I now think they are very likely playoff bound. But that's as far as I'll go.

Actually, I could be wrong,

Actually, I could be wrong, but I think Baker might have options left.

Yeah, but Iowa is only 5 out

Yeah, but Iowa is only 5 out of 1st place ... do you really want to foist Baker on them in a playoff drive?

Our 2nd base situation is

Our 2nd base situation is really really effed.

Baker

Baker does not have any options left that was one of the reasons the Rockies traded him.

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award