By Any Means Necessary: A Manifesto on Fixing the 2009 Chicago Cubs
Yesterday I posted an open thread in which I solicited opinions on how to fix this facked up Cubs roster. Loyal Goat Reader Matt suggested we head over to Bleed Cubbie Blue, where Al Yellon has posted a guide to "realistic" options that could fix the current roster. I said there -- and I will repeat here -- that anybody who self-titles their solutions "realistic" is at least somewhat deluded, and elaborated on my general disdain for the ban-happy Al Yellon.
Then I promptly shout-banned one of our most ardent readers for his consistent flaming of this blog. Oh, hypocrisy, thy name is Kurt. But said reader still has the ability to post comments in our articles, so he shouldn't feel too slighted and is welcome to flame us his own name or handle, rather than mine or somebody else's. But I digress.
So. A brief summary of what Al suggested over on his blog:
1. Cut Aaron Miles.
Why this is a relevant move baffles me. On a team short of multi-positional backup players, Yellon wants to cut a guy who is about as responsible for the team's failings as you or I are. Miles has been terrible, no doubt there, but cutting him outright makes less sense than using him in a more limited, back-up role. Miles should be the guy who comes in to play defense when you pinch hit Micah Hoffpauir for Mike Fontenot in close-and-late games. Until the Cubs can find another player as defensively versatile as Miles, or until they have at least a modestly balanced roster, Miles cannot be cut.
2. Trade Rich Harden.
The strength of the Cubs has been their rotation. So, apparently they should break it up. Al's realistic -- and only -- trade suggestion is Harden to the Angels for Brandon Wood, a 24-year-old prospect who can play third base. Wood is Anaheim's 1st round pick from the '03 draft and he has ridiculous power potential. And since the Angels are apparently a hack organization, I'm sure they'll jump on trading a young prospect with tremendous power for an older pitcher with a long history of being hurt. Because if the Angels need anything right now, it's another pitcher they can't count on.
3. Trade Heilman + Prospects for DeRosa.
But it's ok. Because if that doesn't work out, then Al thinks the Cubs can deal one of their failed relievers plus unnamed prospects to the Indians for Mark DeRosa. Again -- why the Indians would deal DeRosa back to the Cubs for any kind of trade involving Aaron Heilman is baffling, but apparently it's also "realistic."
4. Move Fukudome to second in the lineup.
This is fairly common sense, but has anybody noticed that Fukudome is batting .122 in June? How exactly is moving a .122-in-June hitter to the 2nd spot of the lineup going to help? Fontenot, on the other hand, is doing very well so far in June.
5. Leave Bradley alone (for now).
So the Cubs should take their new free agent, who apparently is constantly battling naggling injuries, and rather than force him to take time off to heal they should just leave him alone and let him start and struggle until his hurt leg magically heals on its own? Just checking.
6. Turn Guzman into the set-up man.
Actually I'd consider just making him the closer at this point.
7. Use Hoffpauir to spell Soriano more.
Why just Hoffpauir? Why not anybody on the team who can play left field?
With all due respect to Al Yellon, none of his moves would make a damned bit of difference. He apparently -- no offense -- wants to stupidly weaken the rotation and to trade for a couple of regular players while -- no offense -- ignorantly not moving any of the current regulars on the team ... while modestly and pointlessly -- no offense -- juggling the lineup a little. And at least two of his "realistic" suggestions would only occur -- no offense -- under the conditions that the other teams' GMs were drunk off their asses when they agreed to the proposed trades. No offense.
No, the Cubs need to take dramatic action. They need to shake the team up, to make smart, sensible moves, and they need to act soon. Here, therefore, are my solutions to the cluster-frack of a Cubs team that we are tortured by watching every single day:
1. Fire Lou Piniella
"He's better than Dusty" is not a justification in keeping a guy around. At this point Lou needs to eat the gun of responsibility, fall on his own sword, acknowledge that he's past his prime, and let go. I'm sorry, but I'm just over it. Lou is not putting out the best possible lineup. He is not balancing the team with players who can play the roles the Cubs are presently missing. And he's not using the tools he's given appropriately.
And rather than watch this team continue its slide into mediocrity, I think a firing of the best Cub manager of my lifetime -- which says nothing except how bad they've been -- might shake them up the same way that Clint Hurdle's departure from Colorado has helped propel the Rockies into an 11 game winning streak. Axe Lou - coming to a t-shirt near you. I'll have more on this very controversal subject in the coming days.
2. Promotions, Demotions, and Releases
The following Cubs need a chance to prove their worth in the big leagues:
Jake Fox - batting .409 in Iowa with 17 homeruns and 53 RBI in 45 games. He can poorly play catcher, first, third, left, and right field. But who cares? Lil' Mikey Fontenot has hardly been a defensive savant over at third base and it can be argued that forcing him to play a new position has had a negative impact on his hitting. Let Fox Play.
Bobby Scales - he's had some success in the bigs, and some failings. But he's versatile and, if he could have prolonged success, it would set the stage for a justifiable release of Aaron Miles.
J.R. Mathes - This lefty can at the very least try out for the role of lefty relief specialist. Maybe he'll bomb. Maybe he'll find success. The point is the Cubs need somebody else who throws lefty and he should get a shot.
Kevin Hart - So far he's thrown 46.1 innings in Iowa, he has a 3.30 ERA, and he's struck out 50. He's not been a hot hand in Chicago but maybe with a new manager who doesn't dispose of relief pitchers like so many used tampons Hart can find better luck if he returns.
As a consequence of these four in-house players making the team, the following players need to be ousted:
Dave Patton -- is Patton's potential so great that it's worth lampooning the team's chances in 2009? I think not. Let him go back to his original team, he's not helping out the Cubs.
Aaron Heilman -- Yellon is right in that he's not helping the Cubs. The difference is this overall sense of reality that Al seems to have been lacking the day he wrote his "realistic" take on how to fix the team. Heilman is not going to net DeRosa or anybody else. The Cubs would be lucky to find somebody who'd eat his contract. Therefore I am advocating the release of Aaron Heilman.
Andres Blanco -- Why he's on the roster at all is a mystery to me. I'd return him to Iowa where he can hit better than .212.
But what about Hart? Promote him if/when Ascanio fails.
3. Trades and Acquisitions
So far the moves I've suggested will have presented the roster with a stronger overall balance, but they lack the punch necessary to spring forward. And since Ramirez remains out -- and will probably not be what we hoped he'd be once he gets back -- I'm going to advocate the following trades:
Aubrey Huff to the Cubs for prospects - Huff is another defensively mediocre player versatile enough to play first, third, and the outfield. He won't be heroic with the glove but until Ramirez returns he can fill in over there while providing a bit of a better bat than Fontenot. This trade may not be possible unless the Cubs can a) take on salary and/or b) lose Heilman and his ilk to other teams via waiver claims, rather than through being forced to eat their contracts.
4. Shifts and re-alignments
At this point the Cubs would have made a few moves but they will still need to shake things up a bit. I would do the following:
Move Angel Guzman to closer - He's been the most effective pitcher on a team rife with blown games. Guzman has earned the chance to be a huge contributor rather than a middle innings eater.
Change the lineup in the following ways
SS Theriot - .400 OBP vs. LHP
CF Johnson - .419 OBP vs. LHP, .905 OPS
RF Bradley - .288 AVG vs. LHP, .819 OPS
LF Soriano - sucks vs. LHP, but there aren't a ton of options at this point
C Soto - .433 SLG vs. LHP, .828 OPS
1B Lee - .770 OPS vs. LHP
2B Miles - .273 AVG, .713 OPS vs. LHP
3B Fox - It's a mystery but he can rake
2B Fontenot - .352 OBP vs. RHP
SS Theriot - .330 OBP, .746 OPS vs. RHP
3B Huff - .850 OPS v. RHP
LF Soriano - .484 SLG v. RHP
1B Lee - .804 OPS v. RHP
CF Fukudome - .813 OPS v. RHP
RF Bradley - .682 OPS v. RHP
C Soto - .606 OPS v. RHP
The Roster at this Point
C - Soto, Hill
1B Lee, Hoffpauir
2B Fontenot, Miles, Scales!
3B Huff, Scales, Fox!
SS Theriot, Miles
LF Soriano, Fox, Hoffpauir
CF Fukudome, Johnson
RF Bradley, Huff, Hoffpauir
SP Zambrano, Dempster, Lilly, Harden, Wells
LR Mathes, Marshall
MR Ascanio, Marshall, Mathes
SU Marmol, Gregg
As a consequence of these moves, the Cubs would have a new manager, a stronger lineup, greater depth, and fewer weak-spots in the bullpen. But as much as this modest shake-up would impact the team, perhaps the biggest move they need to make is this:
Sell the team!
It's just so ... so ... Cub for this team sale to be so bungled. Shouldn't they be owned by somebody else by now? How long is this mess going to take? Perhaps the Tribune should seek a bail-out and America can own the team! Either way, I am more anxious than ever for a new-look Cubs run by a fresh owner. I have to confess at this point that I sincerely hope it's not Ricketts, I'd suffer through another year of bids and rumors, but this idiotic, slow process is harpooning the team's ability to function.
Because let's be honest. The Cubs as they are built will not win a World Series. Rob is right. The side-shows have taken the spotlight, center stage is a disaster, and the elephants are loose somewhere on the grounds. This simply will not do, and yet it's all we know. And that, my friends, is why we are boned for 2009. Again.