Goatriders of the Apocalypse

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My first Blog: Our team is fine right now... May need tweaking around deadline...

I will start by saying I think this is by far the best site on the net for Cubbie baseball discussion. I have learned so much about our system from top to bottom thanks to the blogs and discussion on goatriders. I have been telling all my fellow Cubbie Blue Bleeders about the site and they enjoy it as well. (OK did I suck up enough??") Here are just a few thoughts I've had concerning the team and the state we are in RIGHT NOW.

First the lineup as I see it right now:

1. Soriano

2. Fontenot

3. Lee (I still think he is a professional hitter at a high level )

4. Ramirez

5. Soto

6. Hoffpauir/Fukudome

7. Johnson/Fukudome

8. Theriot

9. Pitcher

Bench: Hoffpauir/Johnson/Fukudome, Bako, Cedeno, Miles, Gathright, Pie(I'm not giving up on a 24 year old with that much speed and talent, although it would be nice if someone could teach him to hit ML pitching.)

OK - Start to pick it apart. Not that different from last year, but we won 97 games. Another full year for Theriot, Fontenot, Soto. And maybe a full year for Soriano(healthy) and a better mechanically adjusted/americanized Fukudome makes the team stronger AS/IS.

Now if we sign THE LH RIGHT FIELDER EVERYONE THINKS WE NEED.

1. Soriano

2. Fukudome/Johnson (I think Fukudome could be the prototype #2 hitter. He definitely has control over the strike zone so he can take some pitches IF Soriano is healthy and could run again. I think he also understands the game and can move runners over and could post a solid OBP to set the table.

3. Ramirez

4. DUNN/Bradley  (Dunn is in caps because he is the superior, (although it sounds like all signs point to Milton "Mr. Congenialty/picture of health" Bradley, option. Dunn stays healthy, would be bouncing balls off buildings(when he hits it) and takes a ton of pitches, getting us into other teams bullpens early in the game.

5. Lee

6. Soto

7. Fontenot

8. Theriot

9. Picher

I love this lineup with Dunn. I guess I just don't want Bradley. I would give up the defenseand K's for the 40+ HR's and .380 OBP. The lineup would have great balance of Lefties and Righties and with Theriot and Fontenot at the back end if the pitchers could bunt that would set the table for Soriano.

PITCHING

Starters:

Zambrano

Harden

Dempster

Lilly

Marshall/Hill/Samardzija/Guzman (The best performer in the Spring)

I have not given up on Hill. He wouldn't bring much in trade right now. But he and a healthy Guzman both have the talent and pitches to be serviceable back end starters if they can solve their respective problems.

Bullpen: Marmol, Gregg, Cotts, Samardzija/Marshall/Hill/Guzman,Wuertz, Hart)

OK these are my thoughts in a nutshell. I think we are solid as we stand now and with a full year of experience in the Majors for (Soto, Theriot, Fontenot, Fukudome, Samardzija, Marmol) we will be even better this year. Of course everything hinges on health of key players: (SORIANO, Zambrano, HARDEN, Lee) I personally don't want to cripple an already weak farm to bring in Peavy or someone else. If we go get a rightfielder I pray it is Dunn. Expecting and paying Bradley for his POTENTIAL just seems to me like a VERY BAD IDEA. However it works out it will be fun to watch the CUBS ROLLER COASTER lead to a WORLD SERIES TITLE IN 2009!!!!

Matt in the Quad Cities

What To Do When You Are Out of Options?

The cubs roster is starting to take shape.  The Team has made several moves (some good, some not-so-good, some debatable) and has a big one left to make (Milton Bradley).  My question is, what are we going to do with all of the guys we have that are out of minor league options?

Felix Pie has been a hot topic for years now.  However, if the cubs do in fact add Milton Bradley, it will give us 974 outfielders.  Bradley, Kosuke Fukudome, Alfonso Soriano, Reed Johnson, Joey Gathright, Micah Hoffpauir, etc...  Where exactly does Felix Pie fit?  If you answered nowhere you are the 64 thousand dollar winner.  So, what do the cubs do with him?  Well, they have to trade him right, but to where and for who?  Are we going to have to trade him to the Orioles for Garrett Olsen straight up because we have no other options?

What about Rich Hill?  He is the next Erik Bedard, or at least that is what we all thought in the spring of 08.  He is also out of options.  Can we even move this guy, much less afford to keep him on our major league roster.  I dont think he gotten bad enough to clear waivers so that we can assign him back to the minor leagues.

Ronny Cedeno?  What to do with poor Ronny?  He could make the team, actually he has a way better shot than the other two listed above. These are a couple of questions the team has to be thinking of addressing in the next couple of weeks.

What about the bullpen?

Well, Jason Marquis-to-Colorado appears to be all but a done deal. Many fans expect Sean Marshall to step in as the new 5th dude in the rotation for 2009. In the Shout Box, Chief has wondered aloud what would happen to the bullpen if this were to actually happen.

Fortunately for the Cubs, there are too many names to list in the Shout Box to complete this discussion. Of course, only one of those names refers to a lefty. If Sean Marshall were to move into the rotation, Neal Cotts would be the Cubs' only left handed reliever.

But who might the Cubs use in the bullpen beyond Cotts?

Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg are near certainties for the 8th and 9th innings (although it's less clear who will pitch when). That likely leaves four spots for the following pitchers, which I now present to you in a particular order:

Jeff Samardzija - Anybody who followed the Cubs in 2008 knows what this kid can do. The Shark throws gas. However, while he ended up with a great ERA, he had some issues throwing strikes toward the end of last season. Might be better off as a starter in AAA, both from an individual standpoint, and as a valueable "sixth starter" for the Cubs. But if he were put in the pen, he certainly has the stuff to succeed.

Michael Wuertz - His out pitch is a plus slider, and I happen to think it's a pretty good pitch. I've seen him get big strikeouts with it. Wuertz' problem is the base on balls - he walks too many opposing hitters. However, before 2008 he did manage to rack up a K per inning every year of his career. Even though many interpreted last year as a down year for him, he had an ERA of 3.63. His career ERA is 3.57; furthermore, his career BAA is .233 (this is against hitters from either side of the plate). This guy should have a chance to pitch for the major league club, and I think Lou will give him that chance in spring training.

Chad Gaudin - People were very pleased with Jim Hendry when he managed to steal this guy away from the A's along with Rich Harden. He was viewed as a "utility pitcher" that could start in case Harden were injured, or pitch out of the 'pen as well. For me, the numbers aren't really there. In 64 innings in 2006, for example, he walked more guys than he struck out. Some people are expecting this guy to contribute in 2009 after he tanked in late '08 (something about a drunken accident with a dumpster?); frankly, I myself don't expect a huge rebound.

Luis Vizcaino - Luis is a newcomer to the Cubs in 2009, and will likely be in the bullpen, if for no other reason than his contract--he's making a few million bucks next year. Had a bad year last year, but was apparently frustrated with his usage. He's had some good years in the past, but cannot get lefties out for the life of him over the course of his career.

Jeff Stevens - Acquired in the DeRosa trade, Stevens is a strong candidate to pitch in relief for the Cubs in 2009. He put together 30 very strong innings at AAA at the end of 2008, with 44 strikeouts, only 19 hits, and only 16 walks. He has a career 3 to 1 K to BB ratio in the minors. Good control, success at the highest level of the minors - he'll definitely have a shot from Day 1.

So that's the crew, as far as I can tell. There are a ton of young, unproven names like Angel Guzman, Randy Wells, Kevin Hart, Jose Ascanio, Mitch Atkins, and lefty Carmen Pignatiello that may get a shot throughout the course of the season. But I think there's really only a couple of ways Lou can go with his bullpen for Opening Day 2009, depending upon whether Jeff Samardzija starts at AAA or in the 'pen.

My guess: Marmol, Gregg, Samardzija/Stevens, Wuertz, Cotts, Gaudin, Vizcaino.

Throwin' Good Money at the Bad

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.

Blinded by the Blue

When exactly did fans of a team, and any team not just the cubs, lose a sense of reality because of loyalty to players.  Correct me if I am wrong but don't we cheer for a team and not the players.  This has been going on since the beginning of time most likely but our players are almost always better than anyone else.

For starters, Cubs fans all over the place have decided that our weak, injured farm hands are enough to pull in almost any trade target.  The day when we can trade Ronny Cedeno for Brian Roberts straight up will be the day that Satan and Suddam have that long awaited snowball fight.

This year has been the worst in recent history, as far as fans crying over lost players.

For starters, I love Kerry Wood, always have and always will.  But...  losing him does not make the cubs the cellar dweller of the NL Central.  He has never been healthy. Even this season, his "Healthy" one, he missed a month with a blister.

Mark Derosa is next up.  Sure DeRo played great in the two years he was in Chicago, but at what point exactly did he become Mickey Mantle.  I mean we are crying over this guy like the drunk redneck next door just ran over our dog with his monster truck.  DeRo is a utility player.  He has averaged around 12 HR and 60 RBI throughout his career.  We probably have scrubs in AAA that if given 500 at bats could produce those numbers.  Yes, I know he was great this year.  But, does anyone seriously think he will replicate the numbers he put up in 08?  If so the rude awakenings would have been brutal and it would have been DeRo's and not Fukudome's head we were calling for next year.

Multiply Mike Fontenot's stats from last year over a full season and what do you have?  a player that is very comparable to Mark Derosa, but at a fraction of the price.

The final point in my 15 year old girl, bitchy tantrum is Henry Blanco.  SERIOUSLY!  We are talking about a freaking back up catcher.  The guy gets 120 at bats a year.  Will he really be that missed?

And I don't want to hear any whining about how he is needed to tutor Geovany Soto.  Paul Bako is a veteran catcher, who is as good in the field and will not kill us at the plate.  He has caught Hall of Fame caliber pitchers.  Lets see, how about, oh I don't know, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz.  Not to mention Carlos Zambrano.

When are we going to look past our loyalty to players and start seeing the team realistically.

Cubs need to keep thinking big even if they can't land Peavy

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.

A closer look at the biggest free agent the Cubs are Targeting

 

Milton Bradely

 

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.

Something is about to go down

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.

 

 

If Only If Only...

Now before i start i think i should tell anyone who reads this that I have no illusions that this will ever happen, it wont.  However, this would solve all of The Cubs and isnt an outragous thought if not for the politics of the game.  Trading for Rick Ankiel of the (scary music playing) Cardinals would solve nearly every problem the Cubs have.  Now before u scream of evil and come at me with torches and pitchforks, hear me out.

What are the Cubs biggest need(s) this winter?  In my opinion A left handed power bat for the outfield and bullpen help are the most important needs this offseason.  What is Ankiel?  He is a lefthanded power bat for CENTER fild, not right field.  just having him in CF means that we can move Fukudome back to RF where he is much better defensively.  As far as i can remember (or care to do the research) the only thing keeping us from signing Dunn or Abreu or Ibanez while he was available is the defense which, by having Fukudome back in right, negates that issue.  So we would have an outfield of Soriano/Ankiel/Fukudome which, while not outstanding defensively, is solid even with Soriano's balarina hops.

But how would that help the the bullpen?  Directly it wouldn't.  The Cardinals are looking for pitching, both starting and relief.  I would advocate the trade of Marshal and someone on the line of Wuertz perhaps a little more.  Maybe, knowing the Cards, they would take a repair job such as Hill but i wouldn't bet on it.  So this is actually hurting the bullpen by loosing both a reliable reliever and our most reliable lefty and swingman.  But what this does is free up a lot of cash, not buy trading salery, but by freeing up money that was going to go to a free agent RF.  That money could now go to improving the bullpen.  I advocate signng another lefty such as Joe Beimel and another solid righty such as Juan Cruz.  so lets take a look at what that gives us...

 

Lineup assuming that Soriano stays in the leadoff:

R  LF  Soriano

R  SS  Theriot

L  CF   Ankiel

R  3B  Ramirez

R   C   Soto

R   1B  Lee

R   2B  DeRosa

L   RF  Fukudome

or...

R  LF  Soriano

L  RF  Fukudome

R  3B  Ramiraz

L  CF   Ankiel

R   C   Soto

R  1B  Lee

R  2B  DeRosa

R  SS  Theriot

If need be, I would trade DeRosa to acquire Ankiel and insert Fontenot into his spot.

 

And, in my mind, the Bullpen would consist of...

Marmol

Gregg

Cruz

Beimel

Samardzja

Gaudin

Cotts (ugh...)

while not completely lights out its by no means a liability.  And it still leaves Gaudin and Samardzja as swingmen if/when a starter (yes, thats you Hardin) gets hurt.

 

However, as I said before, this will never happen.  With the Cubs and Cardinals being rivals and in the same division with both teams able to compete this trade has absolutely no chance of happening.  And if it does i will completely forgive Hendry loosing Wood. (I lied) But this would solve all the problems the Cubs' issus except for a true leadoff man.  The same could be said for a Josh Hamillton trade.  hmmm....

Oh, and one other thought

I can't help but feel warm and fuzzy by our reader base.  Even though it's December - aka the slowest damned month of the off season so far - and in spite of the numerous days off that cut into peoples' work-time browsing of this website, we have surpassed November's numbers in terms of unique visits and page views.

The likely final tally of unique visits we'll have by midnight of Dec 31st will surpass all but 2 months of 2008, August and October.  We are also at more than double the total number of hits we had last December and we have the 2nd most total page views in the history of this blog.

So ... thanks guys.  Thank you for reading the blog.  Thanks to Colin, Rob, and all the rest for keeping us fresh with daily content.  Sometimes we argue, sometimes we debate, and sometimes it is a vomit-inducing love-fest, but we'd be nothing without the loyal readers.  I anticipate we'll continue to grow into 2009, and I hope you all stick with us throughout the coming months.

/ego tickling

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