Goatriders of the Apocalypse

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.

I don't think we'll trade

I don't think we'll trade either of them.

Didn't we have almost this exact same "problem" last year? Z, Lilly, and Hill were set (now four of our starters are). Dempster had been a reliever for a few years (like Heilman, and I guess Gaudin), Lieber was brought on to add depth, and Marquis was lying around anyway so we gave him a shot (that's three guys for two spots, instead of two guys for one spot this year). Demp and Marquis were put into the rotation, and Lieber was kept in the pen as a reliever.

Shark is almost certainly in AAA. Marshall, Gaudin, and Heilman will duke it out for the 5th slot this spring. The losers will work out of the pen.

Also, do you think five guys is enough to cover every start? Last year, 10 different pitchers started games for the Cubs. One of those was Angel Guzman at the end of the year, and the Rich Harden trade bumped that number up one as well. But still, 8 is 3 more than 5 (see what I did there?).

You may be correct to think that both Gaudin and Heilman will start. I think they both might start for the Cubs next year.

5th starter saga

I think everyone needs to realize what this big competition is for. This is after all open audition to replace Jason Marquis as the 5th starter in the rotation, where any candidate can likely give the team more than Marquis did. The cubs have got plenty of able bodies to slot into the 5th spot, and they have more than enough time to let the players compete to win the position. Realistically the cubs don't even need to use a 5th starter until the very end of April, in a series where they play the Cardinals, because with the extra off days built in to the schedule the 5th starter can be skipped. The way I see it, the cubs have already dramatically improved their rotation simply by subtracting Marquis from the equation. I could care less what the 5th starter's name or number is, as long as its the player that's pitching best out of the group when the team breaks camp. A lot can happen on a baseball field in the two months before the season starts, and at this point the cubs should be happy to have the depth throughout the rotation and bullpen that they've got.

Heilman could surprise people the same way that Dempster did last season, while having the exact same motivation to get out of the bullpen and into the rotation. Gaudin, when healthy, is someone that can easily fill the role. It would be nice to see the team hand Marshall the ball every 5th day, but that will likely require the team adding another LH reliever to the mix. Rich Hill's ship has sailed, he has been an enigma to this organization, he is out of options, and is likely to be with a different organization very soon. Angel Guzman is someone that I look to have a huge year in some capacity pitching for the cubs in 2009, whether his role will be coming out the bullpen or the 5th starter has yet to be determined.

Jeff Smardjz is the most intriguing guy in the group. After seeing him in the bullpen at the end of 2008, there is no doubt the kid has potential and a big league fastball. I, however, am not convinced that he should be a starter now or in the future. When I see him pitch, I see a pitcher with a blazing fastball that has excellent downward movement on it, but he seriously lacks secondary pitches especially an out pitch. As a starter I see his max-effort delivery, lack of secondary pitches, and lack of command with the fastball all being detrimental to him having success. If Smardjz is left as a reliever, then he can utilize his best fastball more and he would also likely only have to develop one solid secondary pitch (as opposed to likely having to develop at least two secondary pitches to be a starter). I see Smardjz as a way above average reliever, where the sky is the limit for him in that role. But I don't see him as anything more than an average starter at best; especially when you take into consideration that he won't be working with his best fastball, his ability to work deep into games is questionable, he lacks secondary pitches that a starter usually possesses (changeup especially), and he lacks an out pitch even as a reliever. My only hope is that the cubs don't waffle with Smardjz the same way the Yankees have waffled back and forth with Joba Chamberlain, as I see many parallels between the two players' situations. Smardjz can help this team now in 2009, and if Marmol is this teams' closer, then Jeff Smardjz is the best setup man the cubs currently have on their roster.

I might argue that the

I might argue that the competition is for the fourth rotation spot, and that Harden will be the beneficiary of every available off day in the schedule.

You know what I mean. I

You know what I mean. I agree that Harden should be in the 5th spot in the rotation. I'm just talking about whichever body it is that rounds out the 5 man rotation. Again the team will have to decide what to do with Harden over the first month of the season, when the team can use 4 starters if they so choose.

Also

I wouldn't be opposed to the team adding Randy Wolf. But adding Wolf, or even a lefty reliever such as Reyes or Guardado, will require others to be moved to open spots on the roster.

the only two available people

that could push this team over the top by their presence are Jake Peavy and Manny Ramirez, and it is debateable how available Peavy really is.

Well yes, and if I were the

Well yes, and if I were the queen of England I would sleep in a room full of Cadbury eggs. I am in the same boat as you. If you can add the best hitter in the game, when no one else wants him, then why not? Sign Manny to a one year $30M deal, and move bunny-hop Soriano back to 2B. Have an outfield of Manny-Fuku-Bradley, with an infield of Ramirez-Theriot-Soriano-Lee, and GeoSoto behind the plate. Yikes, with that lineup Peavy becomes an afterthought set aside for the trade deadline or next off-season.

Peavy is a toss-up. I would love to have him, I'd have to believe that he is available, but the problem lies in the cubs pulling enough talent together to entice the Padres into trading their ace and franchise player. Honestly, if Hendry can do it with what he has I would be amazed. Looking at it from the Padres side, I don't know how they could take anything less than Vitters, Marshall, Hoffpauir, Hart, W Castillo, and another pitcher - but even all that may not be enough. From the other side of it, I can't see how any other team in either league would jump at the chance to aid in the process of getting Peavy to the cubs, when that team is likely to get little in return for their efforts. Then again, I would expect many surprises in the coming weeks given how many quality players remain on the free agent list, so who knows?

my point being...

...that Randy Wolf isn't going to push us over the top, so why bother with him?

Anyway, that whole sleeping in a room of Cadbury Eggs sounds scrumptious....especially before Easter, when they are still relatively fresh.

Not every move will be made

Not every move will be made to put the team over the top, but at this point adding any left-handed pitcher with a pulse will help lend some balance to the staff. That's kind of why I almost shit my pants when I saw that the team traded Olson to get Heilman. Olson is no prize, but he could likely fill a role. At the end of the day, the cubs have pissed away a majority of the talent that was once in their system for a meager return of Aaron Heilman, Kevin Gregg, and a minor league pitcher I hope pans out.

Might as well clean house, or whats left, and use what you've got to help the major league team in 2009. The farm system is already near the worst in MLB, so there's not much further they could fall. The team has to go all-in at some point, and now makes the most sense as they presently have no farm system & will have no additional compensation picks for any free agents they lost. I would use Vitters now and trade him for the best possible player that you can get; a pitcher, 2B, SS, CF, etc. Then near the trade deadline I would use Cashner and trade him for the best player available that could fill a team need at that time. So theoretically, if the team used those two lone-ranger prospects they have in the system in trades, then they could acquire two major leaguers that can contribute to this team in 2009. Take your pick of two guys available, whether it be Jake Peavy and Brian Roberts or anyone else you can think of - those two additional outside players would have a huge impact on the team. Rebuilding the cubs farm system is going to be a long process, with or without Vitters & Cashner, I say use them both to get players that can help the major league team win now. Rebuild the farm system after you're done building the major league roster.

See, this is my problem ...

See, this is my problem ... you ARE aware that a) the Cubs have Marshall, a lefty who could start and b) they are going to be hands-down the favorite to win the NL Pennant, right?

They don't need to nickle and dime themselves with overrated, overaged veterans like Randy Wolf. They're already as good as they're going to get. Let them be. Watch. Enjoy. Cheer.

I would bet alot the team

I would bet alot the team would be better if you added any left-handed pitcher to the staff. Pick any one you like; Beimel, Ohman, Guardado, Reyes, etc. Don't get me wrong, they will be plenty good, but a LH balance is presently missing with this staff.

The Cubs pitching staff

The Cubs pitching staff already has a lefty starter. In a short series, they are pretty well guaranteed that Lilly will pitch once - if not twice - every single time. Your logic is really, really flawed here, they are already deeper than any team perhaps in all of baseball as far as starting pitchers go.

HC, THIS IS A COMPLETE TEAM. THEY DO NOT NEED TO IMPROVE. I promise!

You don't think

they'd be better off with a LOOGY like Beimel? Seems like that'd be something they could add that would really be nice.

A team is never as good as

A team is never as good as its going to get. There's always room to improve in some phase of the game. That's why there are trades, free agent signings, and strategic drafting styles because each and every team can get better.

Sure, and come July if the

Sure, and come July if the Cubs are battling injuries or under-performance, they can improve.

But they have already MADE their trades. They've already SIGNED their free agents.

Look, you have no idea how much I appreciate the amount of contributions you make to GROTA, so please don't take this the wrong way... your logic of "teams always trading, signing, and drafting" have nothing to do with the Cubs at this moment. We're two weeks away from Spring Training and Jim Hendry has improved the team. He did his job for the start of the 2009 season - all while battling budget constraints because of a downtrend economy and a pending sale.

The Cubs are pretty much complete. They have one of the best starting rotations in the game - which already includes a lefty, a guy who won 17 games for them last year. They've got 4 pitchers competing for the 5th spot - any of whom could start for half the teams in the league. They have a deep bullpen. They've got talented hitters at every position. The one thing they may NOT have is a backup shortstop.

The Cubs are absolutely as good as they need to be RIGHT NOW. If they need to upgrade later, they can.

I'm not really sure how you

I'm not really sure how you know that the team is done making moves, but I'm not convinced they are. Anywhere from 75-100 free agents remain unsigned, while the team still has 2-3 guys that are out of options left to unload. There was money to be spent once upon a time when they were going to complete the trade for Peavy, so that money is still available for some use. What sense does it make, to say they are as good as they can get right now, but if they need to they can add someone later? The players are available now, so all it takes is a little foresight to be able to look over the roster and find areas that can be improved. My logic isn't for the team to always be trading or what have you, my logic is simply to do those things at the appropriate times - one of which is right now.

If the team can address a situation before it becomes a problem, then why not do it? A left-handed reliever is needed in the cubs' bullpen no matter how you slice it. Neal Cotts and Sean Marshall are two nice arms to have on the staff, but they cannot handle being the only lefty relievers that this team has over the course of 162+ games, in addition to the other roles they will be asked to fill. There are at least 4 guys available on the open market that fill an immediate team need; in Joe Beimel, Will Ohman, Dennys Reyes, and Eddie Guardado. The team has more than enough money left to sign any one of those guys, but yeah it makes perfect sense to wait until the problem surfaces and then when you need one of those guys they will no longer be available to sign. Who am I to question Hendry's moves? If he thinks So Taguchi is the next diamond in the rough when there are unsigned players that could actually help the team, then who am I as a meager blogger to second-guess him? I'm not saying I wouldn't follow Hendry into a battle; I just wouldn't go in blindfolded.

I've got to get you into my

I've got to get you into my OOTP league because you would be fun to follow. You would be trying to sling more trades than the rest of the league put together which would consequently make my team better and yours perhaps the worst.

The Cubs can't predict which problems they will have in 2009. They do not know that Ryan Theriot will be batting .220 into July. They don't know that Alfonso Soriano will suffer a season-ending ACL tear in early September. They don't know that Gaudin, Heilman, Marshall, and Samardzija will all prove to be ineffective starters - nor do they even know for a fact that Rich Harden will miss a single turn on the mound.

And neither do you, so try a little harder to explain this logic nugget: "If the team can address a situation before it becomes a problem, then why not do it."

"There are at least 4 guys available on the open market that fill an immediate team need; in Joe Beimel, Will Ohman, Dennys Reyes, and Eddie Guardado. The team has more than enough money left to sign any one of those guys, but yeah it makes perfect sense to wait until the problem surfaces and then when you need one of those guys they will no longer be available to sign. "

Last time I checked, major league baseball teams like to go with no more than 2 lefty relievers. There are occassional exceptions but the Cubs don't need to be one of them. They also have a number of pitchers invited to Spring Training who toss lefty - all of whom will be inexpensive options as the LOOGY should 2 lefty relievers just not cut it for the Cubs for some bizarre reason.

The issue they can resolve

The issue they can resolve before it becomes a problem is not having a LH reliever late in games. I know the team doesn't have one, you know the team doesn't have one, so if people as wise as you and I can see this then I hope the brain trust that is the cubs can see it as well. The team doesn't have 2 lefty relievers either. Sean Marshall is not a relief pitcher, he's a starter that the team is using to patch over the fact that they have no freaking left-handed reliever. I throw out a lot of trades, yeah great point that has no relevance right now. I'm talking about Casper the non-existent lefty reliever the cubs are going to use to get tough outs against a team like the Phillies late in games in the playoffs. The team needs a REAL left-handed reliever, not a bum that throws left-handed who got invited to spring training. Neal Cotts will not be able to shoulder the load of being the only lefty in the cubs pen, and Marmol won't be there to take the burden off of him anymore. Address the problem now while players are still available, as waiting will only magnify the problem more because the team will have no clear options available to fix the problem later.

Basically if the team addresses the issue of adding a legitimate left-handed reliever to use alongside Neal Cotts now, then they will avoid having a serious problem later. Also you speak of guys getting injured, but what if Cotts or Marshall gets hurt? The team acquires no left-handed relievers now, and one of the two golden boy lefties goes down then this team will be heading down oh-shit creek without a paddle in hand.

You want a guy who can pitch

You want a guy who can pitch in the late innings that can get lefties out?

Carlos Marmol - .180 BAAlefties in 2008, .204 career
Kevin Gregg - .181 BAAlefties in 2008, .232 career
Michael Wuertz - .230 BAAlefties in 2008, .232 career

We have three guys who don't get hit by left-handed hitters that can pitch at all different times throughout the game. Why do we need another lefty so badly again?

Because as the closer hope

Because as the closer hope that lefties lineup in the 9th for Marmol to face because the team isn't going to use him at just any time anymore. Wuertz is out of options, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him out the door right behind Dick Hill. So Kevin Gregg as our lefty specialist, that surely strikes fear into the Chase Utley and Ryan Howard's of the NL. That's kind of my point, why not just go get a lefty reliever to do the job they're supposed to instead of assuming other guys can pick up the slack? Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol are already being asked to do enough, in closing and setting up, so sign a lefty reliever and let these guys concentrate on their role instead of filling other roles they shouldn't have to worry about.

Wuertz' career BAA against

Wuertz' career BAA against lefties is better than Joe Beimel's.

Wuertz is out of options and

Wuertz is out of options and has yet to prove he's worth keeping on a major league roster for an entire season. I would take my chances with Beimel based on recent performance and the team's definite need for a late inning left-handed reliever. Wuertz is a guy that just won't stop throwing his slider, along with little command of the fastball, he is largely ineffective. I could see Wuertz landing on the Mets, Tigers, Marlins, or Padres prior to Opening Day. At least the player they receive for him will likely have a name the day the trade is consummated.

How can you ignore CAREER

How can you ignore CAREER MLB numbers?? Wuertz has done it, IN THE BIGS, for years! I think the leash was far too short on him in 2008, and expect him to do well in 2009.

Go look at Michael Wuertz' MAJOR LEAGUE LEVEL stats, and tell me why you don't think he should be in our bullpen.

Simply because he is out of

Simply because he is out of options. I'm not arguing his past performance at all. If the team were going to keep any player that they had left that is without options, I would assume that player would either have been Pie or possibly Angel Guzman. I simply don't see the team taking on the risk of having two players on the roster who are both out of options, and I see the team cutting ties with Wuertz long before they do so with Guzman. I think it would be wise to trade Wuertz now and get a decent return for him, as opposed to having him toil in the pen as the mop-up guy or take a chance sending him down hoping he clears waivers. I could be wrong and they could keep both, since I'm not usually right anyway - remember Kurt pointed that out earlier?

at least this is easy to

at least this is easy to read with one inch thick columns and 2 words per line

Also if you're talking about

Also if you're talking about me being detrimental to my own good in a fantasy baseball league, that would be a pretty accurate reading. But even more so than making trades, what hurts me is taking too many risks on young players and rookies, and the main reason is because no matter how many trades I offer up another manager has to be willing to accept them. But if you are inviting a challenge in a fantasy league I would certainly have to accept, if you're serious that is.

Exactly...

How many lefties do we need? Majority of hitters are righties. If Gaudin becomes SP #5, we'll already have two in the pen with Marshall and Cotts.

Oh...WTF is a LOOGY? ha

Marshall is not a reliever,

Marshall is not a reliever, he's a starter being used as a reliever - Awesome way to hurt a pitchers arm. Neal Cotts, shit his nickname is steel-stones because of how durable he is, right? The team can definitely put all of their faith in Cotts and Marshall being the only lefties in the pen since players never get hurt and the season isn't very long. If this team intends to compete against the best teams out there, then they will need a lefty to come out of the pen late in games to get outs against tough LH hitters.

Lefty One Out GuY, I'm

Lefty One Out GuY, I'm pretty sure. You bring in a lefty specialist for one big out against a lefty.

Personally I don't understand the obsession with the position throughout this site. Cotts is left-handed, and Wuertz has a career BAALefties of .230. I understand Cotts wasn't that great last year, but he has a history of succeeding. Relievers are such a crapshoot; this time last year we were confident Howry was gonna be awesome.

Scott Eyre and Will Ohman used to be Cubs, but were traded because Lou didn't want them. Now, to varying degrees, they've come around, and are even somewhat sought after. Let's not waste hundreds of thousands of dollars on a guy that we expect to get one or two outs a game.

Unless you're prepared for

Unless you're prepared for Carmen Pignatiello being the left-handed enforcer in the cubs bullpen, I would say something needs to be done.

Neal Cotts/Sean

Neal Cotts/Sean Marshall/about four guys invited to Spring Training

I like Marshall

but he's no LOOGY. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we *need* a lefty reliever or we're in trouble, but it'd really be nice. And no, Cotts does not inspire confidence.

I think we need a LOOGY, too

I would think Hendry could pick LOOGY's out of his own belly button lint. If he and Uncle Lou wanted a LOOGY, they could get one anytime.

^^^^^^^^^^^ This, HC.

^^^^^^^^^^^
This, HC.

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