Today Rich Harden was placed on the 15 day DL retroactive to Monday due to back spasms. Given Harden's injury history some would cringe and others would start complaining about curses, but honestly, who's to say that he is actually hurt?
Hear me out on this...
I think that he probably isn't actually hurt, but instead is getting a little bit of rest as we reach the end of the first quarter of the season. It's a good time for the team to give him a start or two off with Marshall and Wells pitching pretty well. Even though the Cubs have recently lost a few games in a row, it was because of their offense not their pitching.
Putting Harden on the DL also delays any major roster move that may need to be made and gives Hendry an opportunity to try to move Cotts or Heilman. This was probably about the best move the Cubs could have made at this time and I think that it is going to end up being good for them in the long run.
What this may end up doing also is aiding the team in potentially resigning Harden to a one or two year deal at the end of the year for much cheaper than if he stayed healthy all year long. If Harden was able to prove that he was at 100% for an entire season, especially in a career year, he would probably have a ton of potential suitors, but now a lot of teams may stay away. So good move Cubbies! This is probably going to benefit you more than you know!
On a day when the city was still in euphoria over one of the biggest trades in Chicago sports history, another trade made months ago was made to look even worse than it was at the time because of the release of another player. I am talking about the release of Chad Gaudin. This was obviously the right move and many of us saw this coming from a mile away. Gaudin was pretty bad this spring and really since he came to the Cubs in July. The only reason I was kind of hoping he would stick around would be so that the DeRosa trade would still make sense. Now that Gaudin was released, it makes the DeRo' trade look even worse than it did in January. At the time, people justified the trade by saying that they sold high on DeRosa because of the season he had last year and that they needed to cut salary to get Bradley. Honestly, DeRosa was pretty damn good in the WBC and probably will have a similar season this year as he did last year so selling high is something I can say they did not. He is just good. The other reason, $$$, just took a hit. They traded DeRosa's $5.5 million dollar salary for three players whose contracts totaled $1.2 million. Then they signed Miles for $2.5 million. This led to a net gain of $1.8 million, plus 3 players who many scouts say will never see the majors. Today, though, the Cubs released Gaudin and his $2 million dollar salary for...NOTHING! Great job Cubbies management. You could have released Gaudin at the end of last season and it would have cost you what? 400K? We knew that Lou didn't really like Gaudin so why give him a chance at $2 million? There is no good reason. We knew he didn't stand a chance. So in the end, the Cubs gained roughly 200K and three players who probably won't amount to anything by trading DeRosa. A lot of people have criticized the Bears this week for giving up a lot for Cutler, but at least they aren't the Cubs who gave up a lot for, well, nothing.
For those of you who may have missed it Tuesday night, MLB Network's Hot Stove had a segment where they analyzed the Cubs' offseason and where they feel that the team is compared to where they were entering the playoffs last year. Some of the key points that were brought up:
Key Additions: P Aaron Heilman, P Kevin Gregg, IF Aaron Miles, OF Milton Bradley
Key Losses: P Jason Marquis, P Kerry Wood, IF Mark DeRosa, OF Jim Edmonds
Addition by Subtraction?
The question brought up was whether or not they put back more than they lost. The guys on the show all pretty much agreed that their was a big question mark in the middle of the infield and around the backup situation for Ramirez and Lee since DeRosa was traded. Obviously, Hendry feels that Miles is a good replacement for DeRosa's versatility and I would have to agree. DeRosa was average at best at all of the positions he played last year. He wasn't a gold glover at any position which was obvious so I think that Miles can easily fill the role. Offensively, Fontenot, given a similar number of at bats, would have performed very similarly to DeRosa in almost every catagory, so Fontenot could end up replacing DeRosa's bat. The one thing that wasn't replaced however, was DeRo's locker room presence. What affect will this have? I am not sure, but what I am sure of is that I will miss him when the media starts turning to guys like Soriano for post game interviews. UGH!
5th starter and who's in center?
This is funny actually because when you look back a year ago they were asking the same questions. This was obviously before Dempster had a good spring training and a career year. The only thing that really is different about this year is that there is only one spot in the rotation guys will be competing for and we have two guys who can hit in the majors (well...kinda) competing for the starting CF job. The guys on Hot Stove made a quick reference to these positions, but pretty much brushed past them feeling that they are big question marks that Hendry and Pinella will need to address come spring training. I, however, don't feel that this is the case. CF is going end up being a straight platoon like last year with Fukudome taking the place of Edmonds and I am content with that. The 5th starter job will end up being a competition between Heilman and Marshall. Pinella doesn't seem to be a fan of Gaudin, so I consider him out. At this point, you could flip a coin with Heilman and Marshall. Who knows? What I would like to see happen (and also is the likely scenario) is to have Heilman as the Cubs' 5th starter will Marshall being the swing man. This would make the most sense because it would give the bullpen a second lefty and provide insurance in case of a needed day off (Harden) or injury (Harden). This scenario would leave Shark in AAA getting ready to become a big league starter. Stashing Shark away for a few months would be huge for the Cubs if...and this is a big IF...Harden stays healthy and pitches like he did in the second half last year because he would be a VERY valuable trade piece at the deadline. It's too early to speculate on July trades, but in a perfect world, it would happen.
Hothead vs. Hothead
Now that Milton Bradley has signed with the Cubs and is being looked upon to balance the Cubs' lineup, people are waiting for Lou and him to go at it much like Big Z and Barrett. You put two historically explosive guys in the clubhouse together you can expect some fireworks, but for some reason, the guys on Hot Stove don't think so. And the odd part is...I agree. I think that Bradley will be great for the Cubbies and for their clubhouse. They need to lose that "You blew the game, but it ok, you tried your best" attitude that they seem to have. Bradley is the man to light that fire and really give it to someone when they lose a game they should have won. Lou seems to have lost his edge in his old age (sorry Lou) and I think that MB is the guy to bring that back. I see this becoming the Kobe Bryant/Phil Jackson love affair for baseball. But...I could be wrong and we could see Bradley break Pinella's jaw for taking him out of a game. Either way, I'll take him.
All in all, I think the offseason hasn't been that bad. It really isn't much different than last year. I mean we signed our big name lefty to play right field, we have questions surrounding CF and the fifth starter spot, and we were glued to our computers waiting for that big trade to come through only to see our Trade-O-Meter stay at Nuh-uh for 90% of the offseason. I am sure Hendry still has a few minor things up his sleeve, like he always does, but if the season were to start tomorrow, I would take this team even with the question marks...and so should you.