Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Maybe Next Year? A Look At The Offseason

Overview

The Cubs are already committed to roughly $115 million in salary going into next season, and while they do have a few holes on the roster to fill, I seriously doubt that the Cubs front office plans on dismantling a 97-win team. So expect some mild tinkering, not the radical remakes of the past two offseasons.

Pending Free Agents:

Henry Blanco, C – The Cubs have a $3 million option on Blanco, a long-time fan favorite. Three mil is probably a lot to pay for a backup catcher, and while Blanco is probably an upgrade over Koyie Hill, that’s money that could be spent elsewhere. The Cubs could also be eyeing prospect Wellington Castillo as Soto’s backup of the future, and the future could be soon.

Jim Edmonds, CF & Reed Johnson, CF – The Cubs have a lot of decisions to make in the outfield this offseason, and they’ll probably break up the most successful outfield platoon for 2008 in the process. Edmonds has to decide whether or not he’s still interested in playing after this season. Johnson may see if he can find full-time work elsewhere. The Cubs need to figure out if they’re interested in a long-term answer or another one-year stopgap in center field.

Ryan Dempster, SP – Ryan Dempster is probably the single-biggest decision facing the club this offseason. Coming off a career year, he’ll probably be the third-most sought-after pitcher in free agency, possibly the second-most if the Jays are able to sign A.J. Burnett to an extension. (Sheets may have really hurt his cause with his late-season arm problems.)

That said, we’re talking about a guy with a career ERA identical Jason Marquis’, and the Cubs already have a lot of money locked up into the rotation, with commitments to Zambrano, Harden, Lilly and Marquis. They also have Marshall, Gaudin and Samardzija, all of whom could be competing for a rotation spot. Hendry stayed out of the Zito and Schmidt bloodbath, to no small credit, and he may decide to sit out on the bidding for Dempster. He’ll almost certainly rate Type A compensation, which means a first-round draft pick if the Cubs let him walk.

Rich Harden, SP – The Cubs have a $7 million option on Harden that’s simply a no-brainer. He’ll be back next season.

Kerry Wood, CL – And Wood’s the second-most likely guy on this list to return, right after Harden. He loves the Cubs, and the Cubs love Wood, and as a closer he was worth every penny to the team, some minor health issues notwithstanding.

Bob Howry, RP – Howry could be a Type B free agent, but after the year he’s had the Cubs may decide to not risk him accepting arbitration. I don’t think he’s in the team’s future plans.

Jon Lieber, RP – Lieber is most likely out of baseball at this point.

Daryle Ward, 1B – With the emergence of Micah Hoffpauir, it’s not clear that the Cubs need Ward (if they ever did). This is one area where the Cubs could trim a little salary without anyone noticing.

Trade Bait:

Jason Marquis, SP – After a blessedly mediocre season, Marquis could finally be tradable, especially with only one year remaining on his contract. He’s certainly expendable at this point.

Felix Pie, CF – The Cubs kept Pie on the postseason roster in preference of Micah Hoffpaiur, but that’s the only sign in a long time that the organization still holds Pie in any sort of high regard. Pie’s last minor league option year has been used, so the Cubs must keep him on the 25-man roster next season or lose him to waivers. The Cubs might decide to shop him instead.

Mark DeRosa, 2B – This is an outside shot, but I figured I’d mention it. The Cubs have Mike Fontenot, a capable replacement for DeRosa at the keystone. They could go out and get someone like (ugh) Willie Bloomquist for peanuts to fill the utility role, no doubt not as well as DeRosa but probably well enough. DeRosa is coming off a career year and has probably peaked as far as trade value goes.

Possible Acquisitions:

Outfielder – The Cubs were able to find a stopgap in center field, but may attempt to address the issue long-term. There’s little chance they go into camp with little more than Pie and a prayer for a third time.

The free agent market for center fielders is thin at best and nonexistent at worst. The trade market looks pretty much the same as the last time we looked at it – Marlon Byrd? Coco Crisp?

The Cubs do have an inhouse candidate who seems ideal for the job – Kosuke Fukudome. Fukudome is probably never going to give Lou the offensive production he desires; his MO seems to be Ichiro Light, but with walks instead of singles. He’s a talented defender who could probably handle center well, and moving him out of right field relieves him of expectations on offense – particularly power – he likely can’t meet.

That opens a whole as soon as it creates one, though, leaving the Cubs with an opening in right field. They could consider moving DeRosa out to right field to make room for Mike Fontenot. Trader Jim could get creative, although after the Harden deal it’s not clear he has a whole lot to offer in trade.

There are some free agent corner outfielders available, although none of them sound like strictly good ideas. One free agent name to idly consider is Adam Dunn, the sort of lefty power Lou always seems to be after. Manny Ramirez is of course available, baggage included. There’s no indication that the Cubs are after that caliber of free agent, however. The Cubs could go back to kicking the tires on Raul Ibanez.

Shortstop – Don’t expect much on this front – Theriot put up a career year that should solidify him in the eyes of the organization going into next season. (I’m sure my own feelings on the matter are well known.) But if the organization still hasn’t forgotten about the allure of a switch-hitting leadoff man, Rafael Furcal is available through free agency.

On The Farm

There isn’t a lot of potential impact available from the farm system right now. The most interesting options are bench players – Micah Hoffpauir and Wellington Castillo. Hoffpauir you’re all familiar with by now, and it seems plausible that he’ll step into Daryle Ward’s spot on the bench next year.

Castillo is the organization’s top catching prospect following Soto’s matriculation. Nobody thinks he’s got Geovany’s potential on offense, but as a catch-and-throw type he has real potential. Could possibly be ready to be a backup as early as next year. Could also be trade bait, with Soto seemingly locked into the catcher position for a long time to come.

The Cubs also have a lot of fungible pieces when it comes to pitching in the minors – not really impact players but capable enough of slotting into middle/long relief roles out of the bullpen.

Pie

Colin,

What is YOUR feeling on Pie? I still hold out hope that he could be a quality major league CF. Obviously the Cubs organization doesn't seem to share that opinion. Could he still be the centerpiece for a trade for a decent OF?

I still think Pie has the tools to be a good CFer in the majors.

Especially given his defense. But the Cubs don't seem inclined to wait around and have a guy in Fukudome that probably needs to be in center field. He probably does have trade value in a package, but I don't know what you package him with. The Ms were asking for him in the proposed Ibanez trade.

Although I'm still bandaging up from last night,

I suppose the best time to forget about the recent past is to look ahead.

I agree with K-Fuk moving to center. Any chance Hoffpaiur can play right? Is his defense that bad? Would his offensive potential override that?

As much as we all love SuperHank, yes, he will be sent out to pasture.

Gone: Ward, Cedeno, Wuertz, Edmonds, Marquis, Howry, Pie, R. Hill

Stays: Johnson, Fontenot, Cotts, Dempster, Guzman, Samardziawhatever, Marshall

Question mark (to me): Lee. Not sure what it is. Although his basic stats on the surface look good. They just seem rather empty and not enough clutch. And he's on the 'over' part of the aging process. Maybe nice trade material. Then Hoffpauir at 1B.

PS....Can Fukudome's japanese hitting coach be hired by the Cubs?

Pitching Wild Cards

Two pitching questions not mentioned:

Rich Hill - I'm not ready to give up on him yet. As early as spring training this year Lou was still referring to him as a top guy. He started to show flashes of past potential before he got hurt to end the year. I would not rule out him earning a rotation spot next year. Or maybe he could play center field. Can you say Rick Ankiel? (just kidding)

Kerry Wood - return to the rotation? In an interview I heard mid season someone asked Kerry if he was jealous of Dempster making the move back to the rotation and if he would consider asking for the same in the off season this year. His answer was something like "I can't even think that way until the season ends. Right now I have to focus on being the best closer I can be." To me that left the door wide open for Kerry to ask for the same chance they gave Demp. And with Marmol ready to step into the closer role - why not give him a shot? What a great story that would make to see Kerry return to the rotation and win 15-18 games.

Jason Marquis

I don't see Marquis getting traded. He is a solid number five pitcher. If the Cubs let Dempster walk, who do they bring in? I think Harden is still a question mark. After his performance yesterday, I would say the Cubs should be on the fence with him. If the Cubs keep Dempster and trade Marquis, I imagine Harden should be the number five pitcher unless he can prove that he can go more than six innings consistently. Toronto appears to be shopping Halladay, he wants out of town. I think the Cubs should work out a deal for him. He has two years left on his contract, and it is a lot safer than signing a pitcher because the Cubs will not have to worry about long term deals. I say package Marquis and Hoffpauir for Halladay. Hoffpauir will be 29 years old next year, I think the Cubs need to get value for him while they can.

You just got me thinking

You just got me thinking about that rotation.

Z, Lilly, Dempster, Harden and Halladay.

Could you possibly have a better rotation?

J.P. Riccardi is a bad GM, but not THAT bad.

Halladay would take a king's ransom of prospects, a la Bedard.

Besides, if you want to dream big, then dream big. Jake Peavy's supposed to be on the trading block. And no, we don't have the pieces, if you're wondering.

Prospects

We shall see what it would take, but I think it is within reason. The Cubs have some nice prospects in the system. Like I said the Blue Jays are in need of offense. If the Cubs are willing to part with Hoffpauir and perhaps Fontenot, then I am sure something could be worked out. I think teams will be less willing to deal their cherry prospects after seeing what the Rays have done this year. Besides prospects are nice, but teams have seen what Fontenot and Hoffpauir can do in major league play. If the Cubs want to win now, they may pull something similar to a Halladay deal.

I'd personally rather deal

I'd personally rather deal Pie, Hoff and maybe throw in Cedeno or something than lose Fontenot AND the Hoff.

We had one of the best benches in the MLB this year, and Fontenot was a big reason for that. If there's any way to keep him, I say aye, especially because there's a great chance he'll be starting at second, with DeRo moving to right.

I agree

I would like to keep either Hoffpauir or Fontenot, but I would like to add some good pitching. Given that Cedeno appears to have no real future as a starter I am not sure who would take him. Dealing Pie may not be bad considering that there aren't very many quality center fielders available in the market.

Halladay is untouchable in

Halladay is untouchable in Toronto. Faustus, you're really out of touch in terms of the value of players. If the Jays EVER traded Roy - and trust me, it won't happen - as Colin noted it would take a treasure trove of prospects unlike anything the Cubs have.

I agree

but a fan can hope for something. If Hoffpauir put up those minor league numbers when he was in his early 20s, the story would be different. There appears to be very little the Cubs can do in the off season to improve the team. To go after a player like Halladay, the Cubs would have to give up a star player or a lot of prospects. Instead of ixnaying the idea, I want to hear what are the alternatives. What else could the Cubs do?

Easy. The market for good

Easy.

The market for good starters this year is huge.

Asumming they resign Dempster, though, they don't really NEED another starter, although it would be nice to get Marquis out of town.

Personally, I'd love to get AJ Burnett. If the Jays resign him, it's not likely that they'd trade him, but if they don't, that's a great pitcher to pick up.

However, that leaves nowhere to send Marquis.

Perhaps trading off Marquis and maybe Pie for a Right Fielder? WHo knows, it might happen.

No to Harden

I really don't think they should pick up his option and here is why. For the little time he was here, he had to be nursed the entire time. He skipped starts, took extra days and it was fine because of where we were in the season. But come on. Who wants to see this go on for a whole year? All it would do is screw up the rotation every fifth day and who knows if his arm would explode or not on top of that. I say take that 7 million else where.

Hold on a moment.

Skipping Harden a start or two in 2009 wouldn't be any more difficult than it was 2007. This team has enough starters to fill in from time to time. furthermore, if you decline the option then you go arbitration in which he'd probably get $12 million so you'd be paying almost twice as much as you would have to. If you really want to get rid of him, exercise that option and trade him.

What about Abreu?

Granted, I don't follow the AL at all, but a quick glance at his numbers shows that he's starting to decline a little. Maybe things would improve with a move to the NL, but even in decline I think I'd still take him over Raul Freaking Ibanez.

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