Goatriders of the Apocalypse

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Are we just bored or anxious?

All these speculations on what moves we should make.  Peavy or not.  Roberts or not.  Hudson or not.  Packaging prospects.  Milton/Dunn/Abreu, etc.

Why do so many people think we have to make such drastic moves on a club that won 97 games and in 2009 is still the easy favorite to win the division?  Again.

Tweak a few things and let the team meld another year.  We have a really solid team.  We can't predict injuries.  We can't predict on who we have from last year may go down in production or who will better themselves.  Adding new faces doesn't guarantee the same or better stats just by switching teams (let alone staying healthy).

We can only go with the actual stats/history on the back of the player's baseball cards.  Hope that we don't get any key injuries.  If we are looking good by the AllStar break, we can tweak again for the playoffs.  Just like 2003.  That's really all we can ask for.

Kick the tires at least

I guess that I just hold the opinion that if the team isn't going to sign any free agents, then they should at least be doing their do diligence in attempting to put together some trades.  I have a hard time seeing how a ballclub that is likely not going to get much support from the farm system, in the form of call-ups, while making few high dollar free agent signings will be enough.  The cubs have got to be willing to break out of this wait-and-see mode of doing everything and step outside of their comfort-zone.  The team could do much worse by doing nothing than by exploring the possibility of moving some of their players for a reason other than dumping salary.  At some point a significant trade needs to be consumated that helps the team in ways that the farm system and free agency can't.  If the economy remains as it is, then the landscape of this game will have to change with it, and the result will be many teams saddled with players they can't afford.

There are certainly endless possibilities depending on what the team is looking to add along with what they're willing to give up.  So I'll throw a few ideas out there to stir the pot.

-trade Ted Lilly & Ryan Theriot ----> to Braves for Yunel Escobar & Jair Jurrjens.

-trade Gaudin or Gregg & Mike Fontenot ---> to Nationals for Cristian Guzman

-trade Fontenot, Gregg, & Weurtz ---> to Yankees for Robinson Cano

-trade Ronny Cedeno ----> to Padres for Justin Hampson

-trade Vitters, Harden, and Hart ----> to Rangers for Josh Hamilton

I'm not trying to say that any one of these trades could, would, should, or may happen.  I'm simply saying the team should look to be active in making trades as a way to improve the performance of the team on the field, especially if they're not willing to sign free agents or value draft picks in any way shape or form.  I don't view standing pat as others improve around the league to be a good formla for advancing any further than the previous two seasons.

 

O-Dawg?

There remains a little over 3 weeks until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, and despite that fact around 100 free agents remain unsigned; some of which are extremely talented players that are struggling to find employment.  The cubs' roster right now resembles a can of sardines, with hardly enough room for everyone; but right now is the time that the cubs could land a player they didn't expect to for much less than they would have ever imagined possible.  Speculation has run amuck this off-season concerning players the team could consider adding to the roster for 2009 yet little has transpired outside of signing Milton Bradley.  So as usual, I will toss another idea out there for cubs' fans to chew on:

Sign Orlando Hudson to a 1-2 year deal.

The opportunity is there, and he would be a certain upgrade at 2B.  Mighty Mike Fontenot could then subsequently be used to further facilitate the Peavy trade talks or he could be put on the market to see what value he could bring in a another trade.  In any case, O-Dog would be an uprade at the position over Font or even DeRosa for that matter.  Hudson's defense is unmatched by most other players in the league at his position, and he provides another hitter in the order switch hitting.  Imagine slotting Hudson in the 2 hole, after Soriano and before Aramis, where the cubs could potentially have switch hitters in the 2nd & 4th spots in the order.  Not to mention the fact that the improved infield defense would aid the cubs' pitchers.  I realize that Hudson is an injury risk, but all players in the league are to a degree, and who's really to say how Fontenot would hold up as an everyday starter anyway.  Beyond Hudson's risk for injury there is very little else that would cause concern in adding a 3 time gold glover to the cubs' infield.  So I said it, and now I expect most of the members of Mighty Mike's fan club to take aim and start throwing bombs in my general direction.

Creativity

There have been recent grumblings around the baseball hotstove that Adam Dunn isn't likely to get anywhere near the type of money or years he is after.  Some reports have even been bold enough to predict that he will take a 1 year deal for significantly less money than he expected so that he may re-enter the free agent market next off-season to land a more favorable deal.

With all that being said, why don't the cubs enter into the mix and talk with Dunn about bringing him to the team on a 1 year deal?  If the team could land him on a 1 yr deal for $5-8M then why not?  Even after signing MB it still makes sense because the team could use Dunn in the OF or at 1B.  Dunn would add even more of an attack from the LH side of the plate, he could provide insurance in case of injuries, and having him on the roster could help to give more off days to Lee, Bradley, and Soriano.  Adding Dunn could potentially give the team another big bat to further separate the big hitters in the middle of the order while adding further balance as well.  This is a deal that would make a lot of sense for both Dunn and the Cubs, as he has been quoted as saying that Chicago would be his 1st option and the team could add more to its LH attack.  The biggest dimension that Dunn could potentially add to this team comes in the form of a DH for Interleague games as well as a World Series matchup, where the team could boast a ridiculous pitching staff alongside an American League-caliber lineup.  The move makes sense for so many reasons, and the best part is that there is virtually no bidding war for Dunn's services that the team would have to engage in - Hendry would simply have to beat out the lowly Washington Nationals again.

Imagine the lineup possibilities:

Soriano - Fontenot - Ramirez - Bradley(CF) - Lee - Dunn - Soto - Theriot

Fontenot - Soriano - Bradley - Ramirez - Dunn - Lee - Soto - Theriot

Those are both scary top-to-bottom.  I realize that the team's defense would suffer with an OF of Soriano-Bradley-Dunn, but it wouldn't be everyday and using Dunn in tandem with Fukudome could limit that defensive risk.  I personally like the move because its short-term, low-cost, lends lineup and roster flexibility, provides insurance for many different injury risks, and the guy is available with few suitors and he wants to play in Chicago.  Dunn and Bradley combined take the cubs left-handed hitting presence from non-existent to extremely dangerous overnight, where adding them extends the meat of the order from 3 to 6 with incredible L/R balance.  I would put adding Adam Dunn near the same level of effect as adding Jake Peavy to the team, and the biggest reason for that is the cost involved in acquiring the 2 players.

The Cupcakes are the Problem

The cubs are coming off of a 97-win season, where the team went to the Playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since man took flight in an airplane.  Changes have been made in this offseason to the players that will be on the field, and most hope to have a new ownership group in place by Opening Day.  The 2009 Cubs' team looks to bring a more balanced attack offensivley, with an extremely nasty pitching staff, and a restructured bullpen to close out games.

 

 

However, I see one problem outside of the team's control that could have a significant impact on the way this season plays out:  And that is playing in the CUPCAKE NL CENTRAL

 

 

In 2009 the Cubs will play close to 50% of their scheduled games (80) against their feeble counterparts in the NL Central.  Its hard for me to view playing half of the season against second-rate opponents as a good precursor to the Playoffs.  I think that playing so many games against a lower-level of competition puts the Cubs at a distinct disadvantage when October rolls around.  Simply by being in the division they are in, the Cubs will not see the type of competition throughout the regular season that gets a team primed for the Postseason.  I for one, believe that the Yankees/Red Sox/Rays are all better teams because of the intense competition throughout the season between the teams within the division.  Look no further than last season, where the Cubs and Angels were each the best teams in their respective leagues throughout the regular season.  But both had few meaningful games down the stretch and each team looked unprepared and exited the Postseason quickly.  Consistently playing the best competition in the game is what makes a team get better.  The Cubs are currently in a situation where they get to bully teams for the better part of the season, while at the same time being shielded from some of the better competition in the other divisions.  Then the Playoffs roll around and the team has to suddenly "turn it on" because meaningful games are being played, but no one on the team is in a rhythym because none of the games the last 2 weeks meant anything anyway.  Just look at the pitchers that are in the NL Central, where very few aces exist and most of what is there isn't going to get a team ready to face a Cole Hamels or Johan Santana in the Playoffs.

 

 

The cubs face one of the most difficult challenges a team can face; which is improving without having much quality competition to consistently challenge them.

Cubs Convention 2009

Some of this is from a comment I left to one of Kurt's recent posts, but thought I'd include here as my own commentary/noodlings/things I heard.

THING THE FIRST: REED JOHNSON - I think it was him - well, trust me, you just need to see a photo. ZZ Top Impersonator? Saddam's long lost cousin? Noah? Cat Stevens? Bluebeard the Pirate? You tell me. When he walked into the Kathy and Judy (WGN radio) panel, people just HOWLED. The commentary had me laughing so hard the tears came to my eyes.

I wish I had thought to bring a tape recorder. Kaplan absolutely grilled Hendry (Piniella wasn't at the panel otherwise I'm sure the question would have been directed at him) about why, if we're so concerned about winning, there isn't more calls to bunt, even if it's the clean up man. (I think the implication was that these guys are getting paid a hell of a lot and should know the basics like bunting for the team's good.) I really can't recall the exact wording of the question, and don't mean to imply any commentary of my own regarding his question. I hope WGN puts up audio from the convention on their website. If they do, I would really recommend listening to that one. (I guess it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't type of scenario, however. My question would be, why not sub in another player who CAN bunt if the situation demands it. If the game is on the line, do it.)

Lots of questions from the fans in the audience (in ANY panel that had Hendry it seemed like) about the trading of both Kerry and Mark. Just an observation: many people were not happy about it. I got a little bored with the phrasing of the "questions" however: "Do you really think [x] trade was a good idea?" Jaysus, what do you expect Hendry or Lou to say? "No, I think it was a horrible idea, but looks like we're stuck now!" I mean, just say you think the trade blowed if that's what you really want, but don't ask a question to which you already know what the answer will be.

One thing I didn't necessarily like: Hendry saying he was holding off on long-term, big $ deals until ownership is settled. Not that I'm disagreeing with the principle behind that, but I thought the talk was all "we're not worried, we're not worried"? This sounds like worry to me.

Also dislike (now that I'm thinking about it) the implication in the media (see today's Sun-Times for a quote by Hendry) that it was just the women who had their panties in a twist about the DeRo trade. I.e., we're all mopey over him just because the "handsome man" is gone. This is the same type of idiot logic that says women will buy any baseball product as long as it's pink. I've got plenty of eye candy left, thank you very much (Rich Harden, I'm looking at YOUR posterior), *IF* that was all I was worried about. I dislike the DeRosa trade for other, less hormonal reasons. If Hendry really wants a PMS show out of me, I can give it to him no problem.

It was my first convention. The auto lines were stupid long, horribly managed (at least the one for Stage A I was at on Saturday). Assuming I go again, I'll just stick with the panels next time. Was disappointed Ron was only there for the OC, really. Heard he wasn't feeling well. Hope it's not serious.

My picture upload is taking forever today. Here's a link, but it might be a work in progress for a while. http://flickr.com/photos/17986186@N08/sets/72157612676209851/

2009 Community Projections, Hitters Edition

As we start to approach spring training, it's time to look forward and see what the 2009 squad is going to look like.

As part of a community project from Beyond the Boxscore, I'm working on doing a set of community projections for the Cubs in 2009. And I could use your help. How? Glad you asked! Use this simple web form to make projections for individual players.

Some simple instructions, to get you started:

  • Fields with an asterisk are required; fields without an asterisk are not.
  • Only project as many players as you are confident in.
  • You do not have to look at any computer-based projection systems before hand. We are deliberately seeking human input here.
  • Remember that these are median forecasts - we're projecting the most likely estimate here, where the truth is likely to hover around that.
  • These forecasts are for a player's time as a Cub only - if you anticipate a player being traded away before the season starts, just put a 0 into everything.

I have solicited other Cubs blogs to participate as well. Under the referrer's box, please remember to indicate that you are voting from the Goatriders website. At the end of the project, I hope to tabulate the results based upon what blog they came from - a chance to see what blog's readers are truly the best and brightest. (Or the luckiest. Luck could certainly be involved.) So if you find deep meaning from the choice of Cubs blog you frequent the most, go out there and win one for the Gipper. Or something.

And thank all of you in advance for your time.

What If We're Okay?

There has been a ton of hand-wringing on this site and others recently. From my ESP with my friend Kyle, I know he's not exactly happy, and he's my moral compass on all things Cubs. But here I demur.

What if we're okay? I mean, we have holes. That's true. Things are by no means perfect. Specifically, Marmol is most likely our new Rod Beck. Of course, that could be okay. Despite giving me an average of 2.3 heart attacks per outing, Mr. Beck actually was pretty decent that one year that he was raising the salaries of cardiologists everywhere. The next, well, we traded him, right? Heh.

Our lineup isn't perfect. We still lack a true leadoff hitter, as we have since I can remember (I don't think Kenny Lofton counts). Our best left-handed hitter is comparable to Randy Moss in terms of the WTF? factor. And of course Fonzie. If he hops one more time, I'm going to cut him off at the knees. I can't take Marmol and Fonzie for an entire season testing my testicular fortitude.

Theriot is still...Cajun? I don't know. I alternate between hating him and being somewhat okay with him. As long as he's league minimum, he's not going to be castrated Colin-style by me.

So, we have a questionablely complete 1B, a 2B who's never played a full season as a major league starter (last year does not count), a SS who is Cajun, a LF who should probably undergo psychiatric counseling, a CF who...doesn't yet exist, a RF who has never been a reliable fielder much less a reliable human being physically or emotionally, a 5th starter who...also doesn't exist, a setup man who I wasn't even sure was capable of that role, and a closer who has never regularly closed.

That makes me uneasy.

But not really. We had essentially the EXACT same thing last year. With the exception of RF (Fukudome was certainly a good fielder and human being, but lacked the consistent offense of Bradley) and 2B (but DeRo had never played like that before, and Aaron Miles has played a lot of ball). This is the mindset I had going in to last year. YES, I thought we were very good. But we aren't so bad now that this is worth losing it over.

In my oh so humble opinion, Mike Fontenot may have been one of the most impressive players down the stretch, where he always seemed to come up big in big situations. Milton, on the other hand, caused almost no commotion in Arlington, where the biggest story all year was about how much of a clubhouse cancer he was...as he was in no way a clubhouse cancer there. He may very well cause problems, and I am no one to judge his emotional stability, but he is also not Terrell Owens. The man at least has shown the desire to rise above his statistics.

I may be dead wrong. All of those concerns may turn out to be valid. But my point is that this is not that different than the way we entered last year. This year we have Satan/Zell to deal with as well. If we stay anywhere near .500 as we approach July and Death/Zell has finally sold the team, I DO have faith in Hendry to fix which ever of these problems has reared it's ugly (and unfixable without trading..) head.

Obviously, I would like upgrades at 5 starter, 2B, SS and CF. Jake Peavy would cause me to spend my last cent in jerseys. But...it's not that bad. I look at us and still see the best team in the NL Central. If Moose ever gets his act together, he is exactly the type of pitcher you want to throw in Game 2 to get your team on a roll (huge IF). Dempster is unlikely to drop to his low as he ended his last starting gig. He was playing on a broken Marlins team (thank you Jeffrey Loria) and had a toxic environment. I don't think MB is the type of problem Owens or Avery or even Bonds was towards a team.

I think we're okay. Not perfect, but this team should win a lot of games.

Cubs We Can Believe In.

The best move that no one would expect

 

 

Sign Rickey Henderson to a 1 year deal for 2009.

 

How awesome would that be?  Yes he may be 50, but I'd rather have him as the 5th OF than Joey Gathright.  Just listening to the guy talk is hillarious enough, and maybe he could teach Alfonso how to lead-off while he's on the team.  It would be the 1st player to ever be elected to the Hall and then come back and play, why not in Chicago, the city where Henderson was born?  Who knows maybe the guy can still play,  I wouldn't doubt it.  At least invite him to spring training because Rickey is the Greatest.

What's the rush to add a 5th Starter?

Fresh off the heals of Milton Bradley's signing Hendry has come out and stated that he would like to add another pitcher, for either the rotation or the bullpen.  I can't argue trading for Jake Peavy much, as he is far better than anything the team would give up to get him, but I can't see the logic in adding another mediocre pitcher (such as a Tim Redding, who praise Jesus agreed to a 1 yr deal w the Mets).

I think the need to fill the 5th starter slot is being a bit overhyped, and there are other needs the team should address instead.  A team's 5th starter is usually sqeezed at the beginning and end of each season, where with extra off-days the team can skip the 5th spot in the rotation if they so choose.  So basically, a team's 5th starter isn't usually getting the ball in April, September, or the Playoffs.  Look at the role Marquis played in 2008; the cubs will need to find someone to replace the 28 starts and 167 innings he threw, but I think there are players already on the roster very capable of filling that vacancy.  Guys like Chad Gaudin, Sean Marshall, Kevin Hart, Rich Hill, Angel Guzman, Randy Wells, and Smardjz could all fill the void.  Where even if no one guy throws lights out, I would bet that you could get 28 starts out of those 7 guys while getting similar numbers that Marquis would have put up.  I would argue that getting a reliable lefty for the bullpen is a greater need than finding the 8th cadidate for the 5th starter role.

Assume that the cubs land Peavy tomorrow, and the Megatron Rotation comes together; with Peavy, Zambrano, Lilly, Harden, & Dempster.  This also means that Ryan Dempster is slotted into that spot in the rotation that could be skipped 5-10 times throughout the regular season and the same spot in the rotation that won't exist in a Playoff Series.  So if Demp is willing to pitch in any role, then adding Peavy makes sense.  Then again, having a staff with 3 out of 5 starters being somewhat injury prone, it could make sense to use a 5th starter for the entire season to limit each pitchers' starts and give them extra rest days throughout the regular season.  If the cubs had the Megaton Rotation, and all 5 guys took the ball every time they were supposed to start then each member of the rotation would get 32 starts minimum.

Zambrano has made 30+ starts in each of the last 6 seasons.

Peavy has made 30+ starts in 4 of the last 6 seasons.

Ted Lilly has made 30+ starts in 5 of the last 6 seasons.

Rich Harden has made 30+ starts 1 time in the last 6 seasons.

Ryan Dempster has made 30+ starts 1 time in the last 6 seasons but he did make 30+ starts in 3 other seasons earlier in his career.

The rotation could work for the first 162 games, but it could be tricky to find a way to utilize 5 starters in a 5 or 7 game series when the Playoffs roll around.  Dempster could add some stability to the bullpen assuming he could effectively go from being a starter to a reliever at the end of the season, but thats tough to do and a lot to assume.  Another possibility is putting Rich Harden in the 5th spot in the rotation, where he can be skipped easiest if he needs extra time between starts since he is the highest risk for injury.  In any case, I would love to see Jake Peavy on the roster, but if the team can't complete the trade to get him then I think the cubs should look to add a lefty reliever to the bullpen.

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