More on The Fifth Starter - Gaudin vs. Heilmann
or: As I Lick My Wounds After My Dreadful Performance Last Night On The On-line Jeapordy Game Show Tryout
So, be careful what you wish for, huh?
Who's been beating the drums for Hendry to trade his "spare parts"? Me, that's who! So he did, and ended up with one of his "guys" who he's been lusting after for years. Jim Duquette, former GM for the Mets, said Hendry was calling him five years ago about Aaron Heilmann, and he (jokingly?) said maybe he should have listened better...in case you haven't heard by now, Aaron has been the Mets' LaTroy Hawkins-equivalent for a few years. The comparison is intentional - like Hawkins insisting he was NOT a closer, Heilmann has insisted that he is NOT a reliever. I am of course the world's largest proponent of the mindset of a player being a key determinent to success, and I am now beginning to understand why everyone in Queens wanted to kick this guy's ass.
We have seen the past few years that Hendry gets a hard-on for certain guys, and sometimes they work out great, ala Reed Johnson. Sometimes, they don't, right, Mike Barrett? And Heilmann is this year's Hendu-Du-Jour. Glad we got that out of his system, and all it cost us? Two former prospects who will never, ever do anything for us, who were out of options, and by their absence makes this a cleaner, brighter, better-smelling Cubs team. So let's see what has been wrought.
Kurt outlined the certain fifth-starter competition, and although I think it will appear on the outside exactly the way he describes it, I think we can pretty much assume that it is a 2-man competition, with the winner taking up the FOURTH spot, and the loser getting traded a week before opening day.
Lemme explain. Jeff Samardzjaiaia (aka Shark) is going to start the season in the Iowa starting rotation, unless he simply BLOWS away everyone and steps into the Big Shoes. Shark's relief days are over. He's a great reliever, got great stuff, and would be a great 8th inning guy for the 2009 Cubs. This is going to sound contradictory to everything I have preached this winter, that all stops need to be pulled out. But this guy seems to have a level of leverage over his own existence, due to his contract or his ability to enter the NFL on a whim, or some other factor, like maybe compromising photos of Omeri Flieta. So the organizational directive for the Shark is to allow him to start in 2009. Well, at least until they get enough of Luis Vizcaino.
Then you have Sean Marshall, which I have previously touched upon as a man who may be too unselfish for his own good. He could probably get 35 starts in Texas or Seattle, or San Diego. I feel he has the least upside of the candidates, but his lefthandedness and his unassuming nature makes him invaluable to Lou Pinella as a swing-man. Unless HE just blows people away in Spring Training, I think Marshall will pretty much serve in the exact same role he filled the past two years.
Which leaves us with Gaudin and Heilmann, who are pretty much the same guy; namely, fifth starters turned relievers. Guys who CLAIM to have 3-4 pitches, but excuse themselves by saying it is impossible to harness all their pitches while in the pen. Guys who will tell everyone who stands still long enough that they are born to be starters; they prefer the structure, the routine, the ability to fight their way out of their own messes, rather than clean up someone else's. Guys who have the inflexible ego, but not the amazing stuff. If Gaudin had the stuff, then HE would be Rich Harden, HE would be guaranteed a spot on our rotation, regardless of his durability issues. But it is Harden that makes guys smack themselves on their heads with their bats, not Gaudin or Heilmann. So Harden rests easy, knowing he will make his 25 starts this year, while other, tougher hombres sweat out the situation.
However, dealing with the here and now, I call it a two-man race, barring either injury or an otherworldly jump by either Marshall or the Shark. In a perfect world, I would want Jake Peavy, of course, to push the other guys down a slot, and tell Gaudin and Heilmann that this is a Big Blue Train, and you can get on and sit where we tell you, or stay off. Since THAT ain't gonna happen, then whoever shows the most to Uncle Lou this spring will end up slotted between Lilly and Harden. To me, this is preferable to going out and throwing more money at a Randy Wolf or Braden Looper. If either of these guys are able to put their money where their mouth is (like Dempster did last year), then the victor should be able to at least match the performance of the Marquis du Suck, and hopefully exceed it. We then reserve the "Wolf money" to patch any unforeseen holes at the trade deadline, by pilfering some poor arbitration-eligible from the Pirates or the Marlins.
The last question will then become what to do with the loser of the Gaudin-Heilmann derby. Sending him to Des Moines isn't an option....
...."Wait, why don't we just put him back in the pen?" Ain't gonna work. Haven't you been watching the past two years? Pinella has zero patience for guys who chafe in their role, and God bless him. I maintain that the greatest reason behind his managerial success is that he makes sure guys want to do what they are doing, and if they don't, he lops them off like unsightly skin moles. He sure as hell doesn't want some 'prima-donna' bitching about starting when he's relieving. He isn't going to put anyone out there who he might think is gonna make us look bad. You notice how well he hid Gaudin this fall?
Mark my words, both Gaudin and Heilmann will start in the majors this year. Just not necessarily for us.