Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Fixing the roster in easy steps

Let's see if I've got this straight.  At this moment, the Cubs have on their 25 roster 12 pitchers and 13 fielders.

Of those 12 pitchers, 7 are relievers.  Of those 7 relievers, 1 is a Rule V pick and 1 is a LHP.

Of those 13 fielders, there are 2 catchers, 2 1B (one of whom can theoretically play RF and LF), 2 2B (one who plays third, one who plays shortstop), 1 SS, 1 3B, 2 LF (one who plays CF), 2 CF (one who can play all other outfield positions) and 1 RF.

At the moment, the following players are hurt: Derrek Lee (stiff neck), Aramis Ramirez (sore leg), Milton Bradley (sore groin), Carlos Marmol (sore leg), Geovany Soto (sore shoulder in my opinion).

That means the Cubs effectively have 2 catchers (Soto, Three Finger), 1 first baseman (Hoffpauir), 1 second baseman (Miles), 1 shortstop (Theriot), 1 third baseman (Fontenot), 2 left fielders (Soriano, Gathright), 1 center fielder (Johnson), and 1 right fielder (Fukudome). 

This.  Is. Not.  GOOD. 

But worse than this current situation of gum and twine is the fact that even if everybody is healthy they're still dangerously thin due to Lou's insistance of keeping 7 relievers and a backup first baseman.  We've seen already just how easy it is for the Cubs to come undone by a few troublesome injuries.  Therefore I am going to propose the following simple moves that the Cubs can take to rectify their current situation. 

Round One: Disabled List Roll Call

  • Place the following players on the DL: Milton Bradley, Geovany Soto, Carlos Marmol.  Let's be honest.  Bradley's a waste right now.  Geo Soto has something wrong.  Maybe a trip to the DL will help him straighten out his problems.  And Marmol might be ok and not needing a trip to the DL, but better safe than sorry with your best arm out of the pen.
  • I'd replace my DL'd Cubs with the following 3 players:

    IF Bobby Scales - One of my favorite players from Spring Training, Scales has started out hot in Iowa batting .328 in 67 at bats.  He'd be the eventual equivilent replacement of Joey Gathright once Bradley came back.

    IF/OF/C Jake Fox - Fox plays first, third, and left field (and has caught in the past).  Fox has already hit 11 homeruns in Iowa and was doing well in Spring Training before he got cut. 

    LHP Jason Waddell - the Cubs aren't exactly brimming with lefty talent this year, but Neal Cotts needs help.  (Actually he needs to be cut but it ain't gonna happen just yet).  I think the Cubs should promote Waddell - who has an ERA of 3.12 in 9 relief appearances - and, should Waddell be capable of handling major league hitting, cut Cotts and replace him with another lefty down the line.

Round 2: Roster Moves
So long as my three Cubs remained on the DL, I'd probably hold off on making too many roster cuts.  However, once Bradley, Soto, and Marmol were set to return, I would cut the following players:

  • Cut Joey Gathright.  Whatever he brings to the table can't possibly be better than that of any number of minor league outfielders in the Cubs system.  Maybe Lou chose to keep him around on the assumption that Milton Bradley would eventually get hurt, but Gathright is not receiving the play time - nor putting up the numbers - to justify a roster spot on a major league club.
  • Cut David Patton.  Sorry, I know, we love his unlikely story and the fact that he says Yogi Berraesque things.  But the Cubs bullpen is too weak to justify his continued prescence.  In fact, I reallllly don't understand this need for 7 relief pitchers.  Let's just cut Patton and go with 6.
  • Cut Angel Guzman.  See above.  It's time for Jim Hendry to let go; Guzman's ability does not justify his place on the roster, especially if Samardzija has been promoted to pitch in relief for the Cubs.

This would basically ensure a better balance on the Cubs.  They'd no longer have 7 relievers, but the 6 in place would theoretically be a lot better at their jobs -- and as I previously mentioned, once Waddell proves himself as a lefty in the majors I'd cut Cotts and find somebody else to replace him.   

Anyway, here's what the lineup would look like once everybody is healthy:

SP - Zambrano, Lilly, Dempster, Harden, Marshall
Bullpen - LHP Cotts, Waddell, RHP - Samardzija, Heilman, Marmol, CL Gregg

C - Soto, Hill
IF - Lee, Fontenot, Theriot, Ramirez, Hoffpauir, Miles, Scales, Fox
OF - Soriano, Fukudome, Bradley, Johnson, Hoffpauir, Fox

The team would be better balanced, they'd have greater depth, and they'd be less inclined to go all topsy-turvy at the first sign of multiple freak injuries.  But maybe it makes too much sense to ever happen?  You decide.

I like the spirit but...

I like the idea of putting Geo, Crazy Milt, and Marmol on the DL - there's no sense in risking further injury this early in the season and hopefully it can help them heal and get out of their respective funks.

For the most part I agree with the call-ups - Jake Fox clearly deserves a spot by the way he handled his business in spring training and by the way he's demolishing AAA rotations. Scales can give you some infield depth and Waddell...well, he's left handed.

However, once the GeoBino, Crazy Uncle Milt, and Marmol return, well...now I'm not so sure of you're plan. In essence, it boils down to this:

Replacing Joey Gathright with Jake Fox - Where does Fox play? Hoffpauir backs up first and can back up the corner outfield spots (as well as Reed Johnson). We have a back up catcher, so the only place he could play would be the occasional spot-start at third. Is it worth getting rid of Gathright's value (all outfield spots and speed) for another 4 at-bats a week for a corner infielder? Additionally, it would thin the amount of at-bats on the Cubs bench to a dangerous level. A bench of Johnson, Hoffapuir, Fox, Hill, Miles, AND Scales? It's unlikely any would see enough at-bats to be successful, let alone warrant a roster spot.

Replacing David Patton with Jason Waddell - Man! Did you see the way Waddell mowed down hitters this spring!? - it almost reminds me of the way Patton dominated spring training as well...the only difference being that Waddell is left-handed. Is there any reason not to believe that this is Left-Handed David Patton 2.0? Are we any more comfortable with Waddell over Patton?

Replacing Angel Guzman with Bobby Scales - Since you've gone with Jake Fox as well, we've eliminated the need for Fontenot to back up 3rd base, meaning Aaron Miles will only see time backing up second and short. Again, at-bats will be too thin here to keep Scales on the roster. We don't need two backup middle infielders.

I agree with your plan about the DL and even the call-ups. But once we get healthy, let's try to return the roster to it's original form. I still believe that the opening day roster wins at least 95 games.

Answers ...

I think you're sort of missing the point that the Cubs do not have a viable backup third baseman on the roster right now and they are paying the price for it.

Fox plays backup catcher, third base, first base, left field, and right field. At the moment the Cubs are completely lacking of a backup third baseman and that could be Fox's primary role. Also, no offense, but there's no way in God's flaming hell (rather than God's green acres or whatever) that Hoffpauir can handle the outfield as well as Reed Johnson ... or Chad Fox.

Second, Gathright brings nothing to the table offensively, plays no position that Reed Johnson can't play, and seems to be Lou's dead last choice to take at bats. How exactly is he contributing to the team?

Third - Unlike Patton, Waddell has actually pitched above A ball before this season. The point is that the Cubs are in a bind for a quality lefty reliever and Hendry isn't about to swing a big trade this early. The best solution today is to actually try to use the players in the system. Worst case scenario, Waddell delivers nothing better than Cotts (or Patton) and gets demoted. Best case scenario, Waddell succeeds and the Cubs then can afford to Cut Cotts and try ANOTHER lefty reliever who can't possibly do worst than Neal.

Fourth - While I can see that you appreciate the Cubs and their revolutionary experiment to use an exceeding number of relief pitchers and backup outfielders, the reality of it is that most teams carry backups to play second, short, AND third base -- along with two guys to split time patrolling the outfield in reserve. Part of the point of having backups who can play a variety of positions is that they also provide the manager with additional options in pinch hit scenarios. Right now the Cubs are rocking ONE pinch hitter, maybe two. But with a normally constructed 25-man-roster (a century of team-builders can't be wrong), the Cubs would have as many as 6 players who can play late in the game or pinch hit in key situations.

In other words, it's extremely hard to win by building a team in which your starting second baseman is your only backup third baseman, your secondary backup outfielder is better known for his carjumping skills rather than his ability to hit the ball, and your third outfielder never played anywhere but first base before his 28th birthday. Considering the current roster abortion that the Cubs are dealing with - in which they are listing Alfonso Soriano as a backup second baseman now - I'd say that making a few moves to balance things out wouldn't be a bad thing for Lou/Jim to do.

Answers bring more questions

First - yes, there is a weakness backing up third base. Don't worry, I recognize this. I personally would love to have an outstanding backup at every position on the field, but roster restrictions and cost would limit this philosophy.

I understand that the primary role of Fox would be "backup third baseman" - but I also think that he wouldn't receive enough at-bats to make his presence on the roster worthwhile. The past five seasons, Ramirez has averaged 141 games played - that's not a ton of playing time for his understudy. So where would Fox get his at-bats if he's not at third? Catcher - not likely, he's been phased out of that role the past few seasons at the minor league level and the Cubs are pretty well set at the position. First? He'd be third in line to the throne behind Lee and Hoffpauir. He could play the outfield, but with Soriano, Fukudome, and Bradley starting - Johnson and Haufpauir providing solid backup, he would essentially be a 6th outfielder - and I know how you love having that 6th outfielder!! To sum this up; I don't believe there are enough at-bats in the backup third base role to keep Fox on the big league roster. He won't get playing time anywhere else on the diamond and I'd rather have him raking in AAA than receiving 5 AB's a week in Chicago.

Also, I think there may have been a misinterpretation - I in NO WAY think that Hoffpauir can play the outfield as effectively as Reed Johnson (I mean I'm dumb, but I'm not THAT dumb). When I said "as well as" I meant "in addition to". That's my bad.

While I can argue that Gathright plays all three outfield positions and is valuable as a pinch runner, I'll save time and just say he's pretty much useless, receiving little playing time and no at-bats. But again, I'd rather have Gathright making himself cozy on the bench than Fox. It's much more valuable to have Fox get AB's in AAA than sit on the bench.

In regards to the bullpen, yes, the worst thing that can happen is that Waddell fails. If he does fail, it's not entirely a big deal. However, there is now no Vizcaino, and you've cut Patton, Cotts, and Guzman. This leads us with Gregg, Heilman, Marmol, and the Shark. This would leave the Cubs scrambling for at least two more relievers, and let's face it, the market isn't exactly saturated with big-league caliber relief pitching.

While I'd love a backup for second, short, and third, there needs to be enough at-bats to keep everyone playing effectively. I don't think we can carry that deep of a bench only to not play them. So you're scenario has left us with four big league arms in the pen, heck, even five if Waddell succeeds, which I hope he does. We would have plenty of backups, enough so that every position is effectively covered, but to the detriment of the bullpen and the consistency of the bench players. It's tough to build a winning team THAT way as well. I'll put my trust in Lou and Jim, they've built winners before and it's too early to stop trusting them.

I can see some of that

I really wouldn't see any issue with having Jake Fox instead of Joey Gathright, and I'd be shocked if that wasn't in the works as soon as Bradley is healthy. I also just generally hate David Patton and his sucktacularness, so I'm cool with saying goodbye forever.

However, the Angel Guzman one is where I'm struggling. Really... he hasn't been that bad. His numbers seem to suggest a guy who has had pretty bad luck.

Some numbers that jump out at me that I think help support my case....
- 9 K in 8.1IP
- 65% Groundballs
- He's only given up 4 flyballs (and 1 popup) all year, and 25% of them left the park. Generally, only 10% of flyballs tend to leave the stadium.
- 58.1% LOB. That's just a silly % of guys on base scoring. 40% of his earned runs came courtesy of Cotts/Heilman in Milwaukee who pushed his runners along before getting out of the inning without getting any of their own earned runs.
- His fastball is averaging 94.2mph, which is the most zip on a fastball on the team.

The 4BB aren't good, I don't deny, but I think if left alone and left uninjured, Guzman will be a pretty critical part of the Cub bullpen. I think it's entirely likely Guzman and Marmol make up next year's 8th and 9th innings.

I can see your point about

I can see your point about Guzman, but I've never understood the 7 relievers thing and I think it's important that the Cubs start tinkering with their lefties. If Patton goes in favor of a hitter, and if Guzman stays on the roster then Cotts would need to be cut in favor of Waddell or somebody else.

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