Goatriders of the Apocalypse

The 25 Man Roster - how does it compare to last year?

As inspired by Rob's most recent post, I'm going to try to construct the 25-man roster that we'd be most likely to see in Game One of the season.  A fun exercise would be to revisit this post then to see just how wrong I'll be because I'm sure I'll screw up at least three or four roster spots.

Starting Pitchers (5): Zambrano, Dempster, Lilly, Harden, Gaudin

Relief Pitchers (7): Cotts, Marshall, Wuertz, Vizcaino, Heilman, Gregg, Marmol

Catchers (2): Soto, Bako

Infielders (6): Lee, Fontenot, Theriot, Ramirez, Miles, Rivas

Outfielders (5): Soriano, Fukudome, Bradley, Johnson, Hoffpauir

The most debatable guesses - Gaudin as a starter, Rivas cracking the lineup as a backup middle infielder, and Hoffpauir being the 5th outfielder in front of Gathright.  My reasoning is that the Cubs need Marshall in the pen, Gaudin is young enough to still find success as a starter, the Cubs really have no good alternatives for backup middle infielder (Bobby Scales?), and unless he flat-out reverts, Hoffpauir earned it last year.

Compare these guys with last year's team.

2008 Zambrano vs. 2009 Zambrano

Carlos was plagued with arm problems last year.  It seems to be an issue with his mechanics, though, not with the actual condition of his ligaments and rotator cuff.  He was hurt and examined often; we were told that there is no damage and his arm is in good shape, let's assume that he'll have a healthier '09.  Advantage: 2009

2008 Ryan Dempster vs. 2009 Ryan Dempster

Dempster won 17 games in a walk year.  He's been rewarded with a large contract and is now 5 years removed from Tommy John Surgery.  I just can't imagine him having a year as good as last year, although he should hopefully remain reliable as a front-line starter - albiet one who you do not want to start the first game of a playoff series.  Advantage: 2008

2008 Ted Lilly vs. 2009 Ted Lilly

Lilly had a painfully rough start last year and then managed to climb out of it and win 17 games.  He very well might be capable of winning 17 more this year, and unless the Reds continue to give him trouble he should have a better ERA.  But overall I doubt he'll be much better - or worse - than last year's performance.  Advantage: Push

2008 Rich Harden/Sean Gallagher vs. 2009 Rich Harden/???

When Jim Hendry pulled the trigger last year for Harden, he was seen as either a genius or an idiot.  The basic argument was that Billy Beane knows when to cut the chord on a player and Harden would be unlikely to stay healthy enough to help the Cubs.  Well, he had a great 2008 - when he was healthy enough to pitch - but he enters '09 with a damaged wing and about a zero percent chance of staying healthy all year long.  Advantage: 2008

2008 Jason Marquis vs. 2009 Chad Gaudin/Sean Marshall/anybody else who wings the job

I just can't see the Cubs missing Marquis.  The only thing he really brought to the team was consistency - he didn't miss a start due to injury concerns.  Colin liked to point out last year that Marquis was the 7th or 8th best starter on the Cubs and I agree with him.  It'll be hard for the Cubs to do worse in terms of overall performance.  Advantage: 2009

2008 bullpen vs. 2009 bullpen

It would be way too time consuming to do this arm by arm.  The Cubs are better by subtraction.  Bob Howry and Scott Eyre are gone, and while Cotts lingers the Cubs should have fewer blowout middle inning defeats.  Vizcaino, Heilman (or Gaudin), and Gregg all have the ability to be very capable middle relievers, and it seems unlikely that the Cubs will have 8th inning problems either.  Nobody here will have the flat-out dominance that Marmol exhibited, but you don't need that to be a good team with a good bullpen.  Overall, Advantage: 2009

2008 Kerry Wood vs. 2009 Carlos Marmol

I like Kerry Wood as much as anybody but there are a few things I won't miss.  I won't miss his regular injuries.  I won't miss the concern that he'll walk into a game without his stuff.  I also like Carlos Marmol as much as anybody but there are a few things that worry me.  I won't forget how he spent a month missing the plate with regularity.  I won't forget how concerned Larry and Lou would look if his first couple of pitches were balls.  I also won't forget how flat-out dominating he can be.  While Marmol scares me a little, I think it's hands-down Advantage: 2009

2008 Geo Soto vs. 2009 Geo Soto

Catching is a weird position because it beats the crap out of your body.  Players like Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench are miraculous because they remained consistently good hitters while taking years of physical abuse.  Geovany Soto has the body of a catcher and he's at the age where hitters tend to get better.  I don't know if he's going to hit the ball with more pop, or even as much, but I'd have to say that it's going to be Advantage: 2009

2008 Derrek Lee vs. 2009 Derrek Lee

Derrek showed decline last year and he did a few concerning things.  He was a little too prone for errors at first.  He hit into a ton of double plays.  He still managed to put up good offensive numbers with fewer homeruns than we would've liked.  He shouldn't have been a #3 hitter based on his production and he shouldn't be the #3 guy in '09 either.  But will he be any worse in '09?  Probably not.  I think that if he is on a decline, it will be a slow one.  Advantage: Push

2008 Mark DeRosa vs. 2009 Mike Fontenot

This is the fun debate.  DeRosa had a career year.  Actually, so did Fontenot.  It's very unlikely that 2009 DeRosa will be as good as the '08 version; in fact it's very unlikely in my opinion that 2009 DeRosa will be as good as 2009 Fontenot.  Then there are two other factors to consider - the balance lefty Mike brings to the lineup and the better defense he has at second base.  It's a tough argument to make and I'm going a little bit on faith and assumption here, but at this point I'd argue Advantage: 2009

2008 Ryan Theriot vs. 2009 Ryan Theriot

He played over his head in '08 and probably put up the best numbers that he'll ever have.  He's not going to be any better or worse defensively, he might get caught stealing fewer bases, but overall I'd expect somewhat declined production from the Quite Theriot in 2009.  Advantage: 2008

2008 Aramis Ramirez vs. 2009 Aramis Ramriez

I don't think he's going to put up better or worse numbers.  A-Ram is consistently good and he will probably demonstrate the same sort of offensive dominance that we've come to expect from our third baseman.  Advantage: Push

2008 Alfonso Soriano vs. 2009 Alfonso Soriano

The one argument I will make is that Soriano just can't keep getting hurt every single year.  And if he stays healthy, even if he doesn't hit as many homeruns per at bat, then the Cubs will benefit from his health this coming season.  Advantage: 2009

2008 Jim Edmonds vs. 2009 Milton Bradley

I know that Bradley won't be playing the same position as Lassie did last year, but realistically Edmonds is who he will be replacing in 2009 in the lineup.  While Jim Edmonds put up awesome production in his limited play time, he was defensively horrible and he actually wasn't that great of a hitter especially as the season rolled on.  Bradley comes to Chicago with an injury risk and a possible attitude, but he's younger and can hit the crap out of the ball.  Advantage: 2009

2008 Kosuke Fukudome vs. 2009 Kosuke Fukudome

I keep saying it and I'll say it again.  In March when we tried to guess how he'd do, some of us came extremely close to his final offensive totals.  We then said "cut him some slack because it's his first year and he'll do better in '09."  Then we forgot our own words and now we worry that he's a bust.  I don't think he will be.  He's not going to hit .300 next year, or even .290, but Fukudome will have a better second year in Chicago.  I'd bet on it.  Advantage: 2009

2008 Bench vs. 2009 Bench

Last year's bench was bar none stronger.  Granted, Pontoon Butt didn't hit the ball well, but the bench benefited from guys like Blanco, Fontenot, Reed Johnson, and Hoffpauir.  I don't think the bench of 2009 will fail the Cubs, but I don't think they'll be as responsible for as many awesome moments.  Advantage: 2008

Final Tally: 2008 4, 2009 9, 3 ties

I've made this point before too, but I like to repeat myself I like to repeat myself.  (That was a joke.)  We as Cub fans are so enamored by how we feel about DeRosa and Kerry Wood that we kind of aren't looking with clarity at how much better the team actually is.  I imagine that a lot of Cub fans would argue that this off season was a bust, despite upgrades in the starting rotation (by subtraction), the bullpen (by subtraction), and the outfield.  The Cubs didn't have that one big move this year, but all the little ones will add up.  I honestly won't be surprised if they come close to matching - or even exceeding - last year's total runs scored and if they stay healthy this might be the first time in a long time that the team wins 100 games.

It could happen.  It may even be likely when you consider how bad the rest of the NL Central will be.  But more importantly, could this team as constructed win in the playoffs?  I say yes, even if we didn't know that they'd be likely to upgrade some more in June and July.

I still find it troubling

I still find it troubling that, aside from Marshall (who is more suited for starting/long relief), Cotts is still our only lefty situational reliever. With all the offseason activity, you'd think Hendry would've found a way to get his hands on a solid and consistent southpaw reliever. I have zero confidence seeing Cotts warming up in the bullpen in an important spot. I remember sitting right behind our bullpen during a tight game last year and watching Cotts jump up and head towards the bullpen mound after Z encountered some trouble. Without realizing, I loudly screamed "Not Cotts! Jesus, no!" Guess who heard me and gave me the stink eye? Yep, Mr. Mullet Man himself. Oops.

I agree with most of Kurt's predictions with just a couple of excptions. While I believe Fontenot will be our opening day starting 2B, I think Miles will be there when the playoffs begin. Just a hunch. I also think Gaudin is much more valuable to our staff as a reliever due to Marshall's consistent ability to give us decent pitching as evidenced by his random spot starts in 2008. Not to mention the fact that, as a starter, he'll be that much more valuable as the July trade deadlione approaches. I don't see him finishing the season in a Cubs uniform.

I'm with you about the Cubs

I'm with you about the Cubs not having a lefty who dominates lefty. Unfortuantely they are tough to come by.

Thing is, realistically the Cubs don't need that - they just need a *righty* who dominates lefties (which they've had).

Spot on! I personally don't

Spot on! I personally don't care about handedness; I just want SOMEONE who can get lefties out, and I think we have a few of those on staff already.

I'm afraid Hendry has gotten too handedness-happy this offseason. Gathright, Bako, Miles, and probably others may have been paid too much simply for their handedness.

08 VS 09

I would agree that this year's team should be a little better than last year. I couldn't agree more about Fontenot be a slight upgrade over DeRosa. Statistically, they had a VERY similar year. Fontenot scored half as many runs, had half as many HRs and RBIs, and had a similar BA in half as many at-bats. So offensively, they had a similar year. Defensively, Fontenot is stronger, plus he hits from the left side. The only advantage that DeRo had was his versatility. This has been offset by Miles. I was upset by the DeRosa trade when it happened, but after looking at the stats and comparing the players, it makes sense as long as the return he got for him was decent. When you have two players who are very similar in every way, you should trade the older player who could net you a bigger return. So in a nutshell: ADVATAGE 2009

Soto, Lee, A-Ram, Lilly, the bullpen, the closer and the bench are all, in my opinion, going to be a push. I think Soto did a fantastic job last year and will continue to do the same this year, but I don't see him improving that much. He will hit 25-30 HR, 80-90 RBI and hit .290 or so. This is similar to last year and he will continue to handle the pitchers like a veteran catcher. A-Ram and Lilly are pretty consistent year after year and will continue to do it again this year. Lee won't get worse, but he probably won't get better either. He will play solid defense, hit 20-25 HR and hit close to .300. The bullpen and closer will be very similar performance wise even with a very different look this year. Every guy that they lost they replaced with a very similar player, but didn't improve too much. The only thing that they did do is gain a bit of depth for the rotation and the bullpen and which gave them the opportunity to stash some players with experience in the minors (Shark, Hart, Guzman)

Plain and simple, the Cubbies will be better in 2009 and by trading away a few unneeded players they received a few trade pieces they could use to make any necessary moves come July. Every move that Hendry made I am sure he had a reason for and I think that people who feel he has had a horrible offseason should wait until the season starts before they assess the team and the moves he has made.

Guzman won't be stashed in

Guzman won't be stashed in the minors. He's out of options and has to clear waivers before he can be sent to AAA.

Actually, Bruce Miles posted

Actually, Bruce Miles posted a comment on his own blog update about the Wuertz trade suggesting Guzman may be granted "another year on the options clock" because of injuries. So we'll have to keep an eye on that.

That would be nice, I didn't

That would be nice, I didn't know that was a possibility. The team would likely keep Wuertz if Guzman were granted another year right?

Not sure. If Wuertz doesn't

Not sure. If Wuertz doesn't make the team, he's gonzo, and his short upside might not be worth the risk of losing him for zilch.

A smarter baseball mind than I pointed out to me that Wuertz' down K/9 last season may mean a lot of teams have him figured out. It'll be interesting to see what he does in the AL.

My guess

My guess would be that Wuertz is good early on and Jim Hendry gets ripped by fans and media for trading him away only to have him end the season with an ERA of 97.34. All in all, it was the right move, even if we just got scrubs. I'm interested in seeing what Hendry does with the two 40 man roster spots though.

if he could locate his

if he could locate his fastball and throw it for strikes more often than he currently does he could be effective. A slider alone isn't enough to get out major league hitters consistently. Look at Brad Lidge, probably one of the best sliders in the game, but it was completely useless during the time he had no control or confidence in his fastball. If Guzman doesn't get another year in AAA, then either Guzman or Wuertz is likely to be traded before the team breaks camp.

Wait, did you miss the story

Wait, did you miss the story about Wuertz being traded? He's already gonzo.

Wuertz

To the A's for Richie Robnett(25, OF) and Justin Sellers (23, IF).

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