I for some reason just can't seem to understand this immediate need to throw $30M+ at a right fielder.
I don't see Milton Bradley as the answer to any of the lineup's problems, as Bradley has only been able to play in about 60% his teams' games since he came into the big leagues and he spent one full season (last season) as a DH. If everyone is so unhappy with Fukudome, his performance and his contract, I don't see how adding another player with just as many unknowns to a similar contract is a good idea. The prospect of not knowing what to expect from CF or RF for the next 3 years, while paying $60M+ for the two doesn't seem like a good investment to me.
I understand the team just cleared payroll space by trading Marquis and DeRosa, but at the same time I don't see what the immediate need to spend it is either. I think the team could do much better in investing $10M for 2009 than settling for Milton Bradley. That money could be used to help complete a trade for Jake Peavy, if that is possible, or it could be held until a better opportunity presents itself. Adding one player based on their handedness doesn't even balance out the order, and thats even given the assumption that Fontenot will start at 2nd and Fuku in CF. The cub's lineup is going to be right-handed dominant because 5 starters are RH hitters (Soriano, Soto, Ramirez, Lee, Theriot) before you even determine who plays the other positions, so if you really want to balance out the lineup one of them needs to be moved for a LH hitter at that same position. The point I am making is that adding Bradley doesn't add much to the threat the cubs pose from the left-handed batters box, and it really won't change the approach of other teams facing the cub's lineup. So my question is, what's the rush to throw $30M at the guy and lock him up for 3 years? If money is so tight, why is the team paying a premium for an unproven, questionable character?
But then again adding the player that led the league in OBP and putting him in the cleanup spot would be exactly what I would expect from an organization that takes their second best run producer and slots him to lead-off. The team is taking good money, that was hard to come by, where players had to be traded to get it; and they're using it to enter into another bad contract - which is what got them into the problem of not having money to work with in the first place. So the cycle continues: the team overpays for another player that won't play up to their pay, and it gives management something to talk about at the cubs convention coming up - which we all know is extremely important.
Even if no trade develops with the Padres, I think the cubs should continue to explore the idea of making big moves.
I think the best and easiest move to make is sweeping in and signing Manny Ramirez out of nowhere. (Everybody yell now, I know, but Manny is a no-brainer) I realize he is older and not left-handed, but he is one of the few players in the game today that you know will produce with a near .300 average, 30 home runs, and 120+ RBI. I would pay a premium to get one of the best hitters of our generation long before I paid that premium to get a player that has even more personal issues than Manny does; while at the same time Bradley is less productive, no more durable, and provides less postseason experience. So to me, I think it would be worth spending more to get more production from the higher priced player, as I think the better player pushes you deeper into the playoffs. Especially now, the cubs want to win now and Manny Ramirez is available now and either no other team wants him or none can afford him. So it makes sense, the cubs can afford him, the lineup could certainly use him, and he is the type of player that pays for himself. This is likely the last time in a long time that a player of Manny Ramirez's caliber can be had with little competition along with a lower pricetag than most would have ever thought possible; along with the fact that the 2010 free agent class is much thinner than what is available this year. The cubs ownership situation is uncertain, but one thing is known, and thats the fact that 81 home games will be completely sold out at Wrigley Field in 2009 and the revenue streams will continue to flow. When a team is as solid as the cubs already are its difficult to improve, but Manny Ramirez is a clearly an improvement that could be made.
And even before I gave Bradley his 3 year deal I would make one last stab at the Orioles two stars B-Rob and Markakis. The O's have made little progress in reaching extensions with either, and if the cubs could put together a package of players to acquire both then the cubs and orioles could both likely benefit from the deal. The O's are in the process of rebuilding while the cubs are looking to win now, so they naturally are a good match to strike a deal. For the 2 together I would be willing to part with a package of Vitters, Cashner, Pie, Cedeno, Hoffpauir, along with at most 2 pitchers - but it likely would be difficult to be able to land both Roberts and Markakis in the same deal, but definitely worth trying. I also think that asking the braves what it would take to get Yunel Escobar in a deal would be a good idea. The braves seem willing to move him, and the cubs could play Escobar at SS and move Theriot to 2nd Base, which would improve the defense in the middle infield considerably.
He is a 30 year old, switch-hitting outfielder, who can play any of the 3 outfield positions. Bradley has played in 9 seasons so far, and in those 9 seasons he has played for 6 different teams and only once has appeared in 140+ games. He is a hitter that on average hits about .280, with the potential to hit in upwards of .320 or higher. He has slightly above average power and speed, where the team can expect 20+ homers and 10-15 steals with 80-90 RBI's as well. He is also a player that has been prone to strikeout, where in a 3 game series Bradley is likely to strikeout in 2 of those 3 games. The one stat that absolutely jumps off the page at you, is the fact that Bradley played in 120 games last year and in those games he only played in the field 20 times.
So all in all, I would say that the package of Milton Bradley looks nice on the outside, but things could become a little more complicated after opening. In my opinion, at 3 years $30M+ the gamble is a little too large and doesn't provide much wiggle room for the cubs. Milton Bradley is consistent, but only when healthy, and probably one large reason he was able to play in 120+ games last season is because he had the luxury of being a DH for the Rangers - a luxury the cubs can't provide. Bradley has also been a difficult player to deal with, and thats putting it mildly. He has had issues with any other human he could possibly come into contact with on the baseball field; from teammates, to coaches, to fans in the stands, to umpires on the field, and even broadcasters calling the very same game he is playing in. If things got to the point they did in the other places he has played I would have to bet that the relentless, never-ending Chicago media will get to him at some point. So given the injury risk and interpersonal issues I think the team has to back away from paying a premium over a long period of time. I'm not saying to not sign him, just play the move a little more conservatively by either offering less money or making it a 2 yr deal with a team option for a 3rd. Look, we all know what Bradley is capable of in a perfect world, but you can't just look at that and ignore what he is capable of doing when things aren't going his way and that perfect world turns into a perfect storm. Milton Bradley is one hell of a ballplayer and would be a nice addition, as long as the team is willing to take on his injury and behavior risks, and as long as the team realizes that he is a good LH hitter and not a good LH hitting slugger.
There are talks all over Chicago about trading Marquis to the Rockies for Luis Vizcaino, which addresses the bullpen and the cubs pay virtually none of Marquis's salary for 2009. Other talks have surfaced of Mark DeRosa being on the move to the Indians for 2-3 young arms in return. The cubs also welcomed their 17th middled infielder to the mix by signing Aaron Miles to a 2 year deal that pays him less over those 2 years than what DeRosa will make in 2009 alone. Also throw in there the notion that the cubs will have Milton Bradley signed to a 3 year deal by the beginning of next week, and this is quite a bit of activity to end 2008 and begin 2009.
Not to read too much into these moves, but the idea behind moving Marquis was to free up money to spend on Milton Bradley. Trading DeRosa and signing Aaron Miles points toward another trade the cubs fell short of making at the winter meetings, which is none other than Mr. Jake Peavy. The way I see it, Hendry found out what it would take to get this thing done early, but he was reluctant to get into a 3 or 4 team deal because the team would have had to give up too much to satisfy the other teams involved. Now Hendry is acquiring the players needed to fill in the gaps, so that the Cubs can complete this trade without having a 3rd party involved.
The padres have now lost all of the leverage they once had in this process, but they still remain despearate to move Peavy. So I fully expect a trade to develop, quietly this time, that will land the cubs the righty they were after all along. My guess is you will see the cubs send Josh Vitters, Felix Pie, Ronny Cedeno, the pitchers they acquire in the Cleveland deal for DeRo, and possibly 1 other pitcher all sent to Sand Diego in a 5-6 for 1 deal.
Looks to me like Jim Hendry waited back and let the pieces fall into place, and in the end he got his man. So it was a little after Christmas, but I think cub's fans will find it worth the wait. All of the inactivity and non-moves had cubs fans worked into a frenzy already, but I think the team will explode with 1 major signing and 1 blockbuster trade to begin the new year.
There should finally be a press conference with lots of smiles on the faces of Cub's management next week, when they are introducing Jake Peavy and Milton Bradley as the newest members of the Chicago Cubs. WOW, if Hendry pulls both these moves off simultaneously I think that few could argue the job he has done this offseason. I would be more than willing to let Woody and DeRosa go, if I knew that Milton Bradley and Jake Peavy would be joining the team soon after. This will be a fun team to watch in 2009.
I think the Cubs should consider signing free agent C Javier Valentin. He is a solid switch hitting veteran catcher, and most teams are chasing the big prizes in the market right now. It would be a quiet move, but it would be a good move that addresses several team needs. Valentin is a professional hitter that can pound the ball when he plays, which would allow the cubs to rest Geo more throughout the season so that he can can be more productive and healthier down the stretch. Also by pursuing him now the cubs would have very little competition, with the exception of the Reds, who just acquired Ramon Hernandez to be their everyday catcher. So the cubs would be offering him the same role except on a contending team. He likely could be had for a modest price, somewhere in the neighborhood of $1-$1.5M on a 1-2 year deal. So by swapping Valentin for Blanco the team gets a younger, cheaper player at the position, who is also a switch hitter.
I figure this idea to get mixed results, but the Cubs are trying to move Jason Marquis and aren't likely to get more than a sack of salty peanuts in return - so I have an idea. Why not offer Marquis to the Yankees for Hideki Matsui? But only on the condition that the Yankees send the cubs some cold, hard cash to offset Matsui's higher contract, say somewhere in the neighborhood of $5M. I know he has recently had injury problems with his knee, but when healthy Matsui produces with a .295 career average, 100+ RBI, and he brings a LH bat to the OF with postseason experience (in 41 postseason games he has hit .302, with 6 HR, 26 RBI, and 27 runs scored). If you aren't sold on the cubs having players ready to step into the 5th spot in the rotation then you take the cash from the Yankees, add a little to it, and pick up a starter on a 1 year deal - someone like Andy Pettitte/Randy Johnson/Brad Penny. These 2 moves would benefit both the rotation and the lineup, with a subtraction of only Jason Marquis from the roster & cash. Doing something like this makes more sense to me than signing any free agent outfielder long-term. Also you add another Japanese player, which could greatly benefit Kosuke Fukudome's comfort level on the team along with his production, and the cub's marketing department likely wouldn't argue either.
First I would like to apologize to all on the site for not putting my thoughts into this type of blogging format before. I'm the new guy, my bad. Well here goes. I am not going to comment on Mark DeRosa, as I would rather bang my head off the bricks at Wrigley than talk any more about his situation.
Instead I am going to concentrate on the one team weakness that I feel is consistently being overlooked; which is the Cubs Bullpen. I was one of the many that was upset to see the Cubs let Kerry Wood walk, and then that fire had gasoline poured all over it soon after the news of the trade for Kevin Gregg broke. So here the team sits on Christmas day with question marks up and down the bullpen, and no one in the organization is willing to actually address the issue. The closer from 2008 is now a member of the Cleveland Indians and God bless America Bob Howry is gone too; so that's basically one step forward and two steps back. Hendry then turns and hands the Marlins an early Christmas present in the form of Jose Ceda, who is and has been a highly regarded relief pitching prospect in the organization. When the news of the trade first broke I expected Jeremy Hermida to be coming to town, but instead we picked up Kevin freakin' Gregg. A player that the Marlins didn't even want to keep around because even they realized he is going to be overpayed in comparison to the production he will give a team. The decision to let Woody go was supposedly based on dollars, but then the Cubs turn around and hand over half of the money it would have taken to keep him to acquire a terrible pitcher with virtually no upside; and we gave up a quality prospect in the process. So where do the Cubs go from here? Do you hand the keys to the car to Marmol and let him be the closer? If not, then I would assume Marmol remains the setup man and Smardjz becomes our closer for 2009. And the final scenario, a true sign of the apacalypse, Kevin Gregg is the Cub's closer with Marmol and Smardjz working as setup men.
So that being said, the back end of the bullpen needs some help. Along those same lines those within the organization that could step in and contribute in the bullpen are mostly younger guys; in which the Cubs really don't know what they can expect from them over the course of a full season. Some of those names include: Sean Marshall, Kevin Hart, Angel Guzman, Chad Gaudin, Michael Wuertz, Neal Cotts, Jose Ascanio, and the unknown soldier Rich Hill. Looking at what we've got and what we need the idea of the bullpen having to finish the game from the 6th inning on is a pretty scary prospect. So basically the bullpen goes from being a strength in 2008 to a weakness in 2009 overnight. I am currently holding my breath until the season starts, in hopes that Angel Guzman joins forces with Carlos Marmol and the two of them transform into the 2-headed Megatron that the Cubs need at the back-end of the bullpen.
So I will end this by asking a few questions. First, what does the team do with Marmol? Do you move him or leave him in a role that he has flourished in? Is Smardjz ready to close at the Major League level? Should the Cubs attempt to trade any of their surplus of middle infielders (Ronny Cedeno) or outfielders (Felix Pie) or starters (Jason Marquis) to add some quality relievers to the bullpen? Finally, would it be worth it to extend a 1 year offer to someone like Trevor Hoffman to bridge the gap to Marmol closing in 2010?