My own 2 cents
With apologies for stepping on Rob's rebuttal to my Nine Reasons post...
Part One - The Guys Who Remain:
Yesterday I posted a long article about why the Cubs will win next year, but like the political candidate on the campaign trail, I gave no specifics and got dodgy when people called me out on my promises. However, like a lot of you I've still got baseball on the brain and I can't help but think about how to keep this team competitive for next season. So, who are the guys who'll be back for sure?
C Geovany Soto - the soon-to-be Rookie of the Year will hopefully be productive in a Cubs uniform for years to come.
1B Derrek Lee - A big contract and a no-trade clause make this a no-brainer, with all due respect to those who want to send him packing. While I can understand the frustration directed at Lee - not just for the decrease in offense this year, but also for the harsh words about booing Cub fans - I think the place where the debate should be had is in regards to his spot in the lineup. Lee should not be batting third next season. He`s a #2 hitter or a #6 hitter at best.
2B Mark DeRosa - He has one year remaining on his $13 million contract with the Cubs. I doubt he will be as offensively great as he was this past season, but DeRosa has proven to be a very valuable asset with the Cubs.
SS Ryan Theriot - Theriot won't be a free agent, but should he be a starter? After the '07 season ended, his position was the one that I thought would most likely be upgraded. I lamented at the time that, if he'd only gotten about 1 extra hit a week over the span of the season, then he'd be loved not loathed. Well, Theriot did even better than that - he had 178 hits, compared with 143 from the previous year. He also drew a ton of walks, while regretfully displaying to me two flaws in his game that might be beyond his abilities to overcome. Those are: limited defensive range, which may have hurt the Cubs in the playoffs, and a tendency to get caught stealing way too often. If the Cubs can improve offensively elsewhere, keeping Theriot won't be a bad thing, necessarily, but he may find himself in a backup role on next year's team, and that won't necessarily be a bad thing.
3B Aramis Ramirez - A-Ram remains a valuable asset to the Cubs lineup. I hope that, in 2008, he maintains his newfound plate discipline, and I hope Lou uses him correctly in the lineup - in the #3 position.
LF Alfonso Soriano - Sorry, folks. An 8 year deal would make him close to untradeable even if the Cubs wanted to. I will reiterate something from earlier this season: if you want a guy to help the Cubs cease a quick lead, Soriano is your man. No player is more likely to hit a leadoff homerun than this guy, and he statistically does better early in a game. But if you want a guy to deliver the clutch homerun at the end of the game, look elsewhere. Whlie the Fonz flailed and failed yet again this October, he remains a valuable asset to the Cubs. He also is incredibly streaky, and he wasn't exactly setting the world on fire before the playoffs this year. He's capable of doing better, and he just might next year.
RF Kosuke Fukudome - Rumor has it that the Fooky is thinking about ripping up his contract and going back to Japan. I don't see it happening. Fukudome has the potential to do better than he did, and if we actually went back and look at early season predictions, we'd find that he met or surpassed the expectations of some very cynical Cub fans. I'm talking to you, Rob. These are your words from March of this year: "People are gonna say FukU (will have 'dropped this biggest turd') because he is NOT going to hit for a high average in 2008...probably around .250. His OBP will still be over .350, though." I think the frustration stems from his white hot start. If Fukudome does return next year, the Cubs will probably consider moving him to center field and upgrading offensively at right.
IF Mike Fontenot - Depending on what's up with DeRosa, Fontenot could find himself playing more next year, which might be a mistake. Little Babe Ruth did well this season, but he belongs as a bench player. He may find himself in the Professional Pinch Hitter position with the Cubs next year ... and they could do worse than him if that's the case.
IF Ronny Cedeno - Every team needs a 25th guy on their roster, and Cedeno is the Cub's guy. I don't like him, I don't want to see him in close games, I don't want him to be the defensive replacement, but he's there and I have to imagine he'll be back.
OF Felix Pie - Either the Cubs will be dealing Pie, or he'll be starting in center, or he'll be a backup, but he's not going back to Iowa. Although he is now a player of diminished expectations, Pie remains one of the biggest wild cards on the team - if he ever actually figures out major league hitting, he could be a tremendous asset. But it's a big if.
SP Carlos Zambrano - In an apparent effort to garner attention in this time where reading about the Cubs is pretty much the last thing people want to do, one Cubs blogger has written up a post suggesting that if the Cubs ever win, it'll be after trading Zambrano. I think not. Carlos is no longer a sure thing, though. His arm appears healthy. Lord knows they checked it enough this year. But the velocity problems, the soreness problems, the massive amount of use he's seen in his career, at this stage it's a little concerning. If I were laying odds, I'd think it might be 2-1 or 4-1 that Carlos will be seriously injured before his most recent contract ends. But will that happen in 2009? Hopefully not if the Cubs tread carefully.
SP Ted Lilly - I may be wrong, but I believe that Lilly will be in the last year of his deal with the Cubs. After winning 32 in his first two seasons, I won't be surprised to see him do it again in a walk year.
SP Rich Harden - Harden's health is perhaps the biggest pitching issue next season, but his talent makes him worth the risk. Thankfully, the Cubs have a few other guys who could step in if the Cubs third ace needs a few weeks to rest every once in a while.
SP Jason Marquis - If Jim Hendry has a To Do list this off season, let's hope "Trade Jason Marquis" is on there somewhere near the top.
Other SP's - Jeff Samardzija, Sean Marshall, Chad Gaudin, Rich Hill - The first three on this list will certainly make the roster in some capacity. There will certainly be room for one new starter on the Cubs next year, be it because Dempster does not return, or Marquis is dealt or demoted to the bullpen. Rich Hill is a mystery, and we very well may never see him again, but he just might surprise us.
RP's - Neal Cotts, Michael Wuertz, Carlos Marmol - At this point, while they will almost certainly be joined by some of the guys listed above, only Cotts and Marmol are certain to return to the bullpen in '09. Wuertz is a big if. An improved pen may well be at the very top of Hendry's off season list, because while the Cubs pen did not necessarily cost the team against the Dodgers, Jim couldn't have helped but notice that the Dodgers elite bullpen held the Cubs offense down.
Part Two - Free Agents Who May Return
SP Ryan Dempster - This is the biggest area of interest this off season. I'm sure there are some people who think that Dempster will be an elite pitcher next season. I'm not one of them. However, I do think he'll have a good 2009, and maybe even a good '10 and '11. If Jim Hendry can negotiate a reasonable deal with Dempster - say, 3 years for 30-36 million with an option for a 4th year - then I support his return. But if Dempster demands 4 or 5 years for 14 million or more, the Cubs will need to wish him the best and let him go. He may win 15 next year, and he may keep his ERA below 4, but if Dempster gets Cy Young votes this year I suspect that they will be the only ones he ever gets.
CL Kerry Wood - Some Cub fans already have visions of Wood Returning to the Rotation dancing in their heads. It sure would be cool. But even as a closer, Kerry missed about a month of the season. He has the potential to be an elite closer if he stays healthy, and I think that he will return to Chicago. Now here's a question for you, the reader - how many years should Hendry offer him?
C Henry Blanco - Hank White has an option, but he may choose to retire. At this stage, he's a pricey backup catcher who's hit fairly well the last few years, and I get the feeling that the Cubs enjoy having him on the team if only because he intimidates fans from approaching them at airports.
OF's Reed Johnson, Jim Edmonds - Jim Hendry pulled Reed off the scrapheap last year, and the former Jay repaid the team by being a tremendous roleplayer. Hendry then rolled the dice with Edmonds, who also was a surprise hit. Jim may be tempted to bring both of them back - he should resist it. Edmonds has Gaetti written all over him. Reed, on the other hand, is the kind of backup outfielder that every team wants, and I'd support his return via a 2 year deal.
Part Three - Gone but not forgotten:
Daryle Ward, Jim Edmonds, Bob Howry, Jon Lieber - They all had their moments with the '08 team. Some more than others. Let's remember them, thank them for their contributions, and throw up in our mouths if any of them actually return with the team.
Part Four - Places to Upgrade, Things to Ponder
2B, SS - Hendry will likely try to upgrade at one of these two positions. Considering the size of his contract and how important a piece DeRosa was to the '08 squad, it seems likelier that Theriot will become a backup next season - perhaps forcing Cedeno off the team. There are some interesting options out there via the free agency market, according to MLB Trade Guy" href="http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2007/12/2009-mlb-free-a.html" target="_blank">Crazy MLB Trade Rumors Guy. (With a name like that, how can you resist checking him out?) Without preference or prejudice, here are the potential free agents according to that insane source: Willie Bloomquist (31), Orlando Cabrera (34), Alex Cintron (30), Alex Cora (33), Craig Counsell (38), David Eckstein (34), Adam Everett (32), Rafael Furcal (31), Nomar Garciaparra (35), Jerry Hairston Jr. (33), Cesar Izturis (29), Felipe Lopez (29), Edgar Renteria (33), Juan Uribe (30), Ramon Vazquez (32), Omar Vizquel (42).
RF, CF - If Hendry bids farewell to Edmonds, as he should, then he has three options. A) Live or Die with Felix Pie (which would sound great if it actually rhymed), 2) Pursue a new CFer, via free agency or trade or C) Move Fukudome to center and pursue a new RFer via free agency or trade.
Potential free agent CFers: Rocco Baldelli (27), Willie Bloomquist (31), Mike Cameron (36) - $10MM club option for '09 with a $750K buyout, Jim Edmonds (39), Jerry Hairston Jr. (33) Gabe Kapler (33), Mark Kotsay (33), Corey Patterson (29), Scott Podsednik (33).
Potential free agent RFers: Bobby Abreu (35), Casey Blake (35), Cliff Floyd (36) - $2.75MM club option for '09 with a $0.25MM buyout, Brian Giles (38) - $9MM club option for '09 with a $3MM buyout, Ken Griffey Jr. (39) - $16.5MM club option for '09 with a $4MM buyout, Vladimir Guerrero (33) - $15MM club option for '09 with a $3MM buyout, Gabe Kapler (33), Jason Michaels (33) - $2.6MM club option for '09, Fernando Tatis (34), Brad Wilkerson (32).
SP - I've already mentioned that Dempster may stay or go. I think we'll all agree at this point that if he's somebody Hendry wants to keep, then Ryan will be wearing Cubs Blue next year, as Hendry hasn't lost a player on his radar in years now. I've also already mentioned my fierce desire to deal Marquis - in a market saturated with good starting pitchers, I actually like the Cubs chances of dealing him because somebody will still come out a free agency loser and will be looking to upgrade through trades. The Cubs may have one or as many as two new starting pitchers next April, but I don't think they need to actively seek one out on the market.
RP - Middle relief is the toughest thing to improve upon through free agency. I will refer to my rule of thumb, developed a few years ago - never sign a free agent middle reliever over the age of 32, and even then, sign him to no more than a 2 or 3 year deal. The more likely case here will be acquisition through trades, fingers crossed that Jim can pull something out of his hat.
Part Five - On the blog
In case you missed it, Goat Reader Madisoncubaholic wrote a post today about her many various feelings on the team. At one point, she wrote: "On this website I was told when I predicted that this years team did not 'have it' that I would have no right to partake in the celebration when they did win it. I guess you have to drink the Kool-aide without asking any questions." I'd just like to address that briefly.
On the contrary, Cubaholic, we do not drink the Kool-aide here and you should know that by now. There was no lovely-dovey all is well rhetoric in my posts, or anybody elses, and certainly not in the shoutbox. Point of fact, I called that kind of Cub fan out very loudly in my Game One Recap. Rather thank make you go find it, I'll quote the relevant part: "I hate the Pollyannas out there who cling to the bitter end, until the very last out of the final game even if the Cubs are being blown out. Those people make me want to puke. But as much as I hate Cub Fan Pollyanna, I can't stand Cub Fan Nietzsche even more."
Do you know when, in any future season, we'll know for sure if the Cubs have what it takes to win the World Series? When a Cubs player's glove closes in on the final out of the World Series, and not a moment before. Alternatively, do you know when, in any future season, we'll know for sure if the Cubs don't have what it takes? The answer is not weeks before season ends, while the Cubs are in first place. The answer is not after they get brutally beaten in the first game of a playoff series. It's not even if they enter an elimination game of a playoff series.
As a fan, Cubaholic, you nor I have the stomach for players who quit before the game is over. I am sure you'll agree with me that you feel absolute, total disgust toward any team that loses its fire before the last out is made. I apologize, but I also feel that way about fans. It's not about "swilling the koolaid." It's not about donning the rose-colored glasses. It's about pure, total disgust toward quitters.
I said it then, I'll say it now, and I'm sure I'll say it again: I was there in the tough times, and I wasn't alone. A lot of us were there. We were frustrated, we were pissed, and we were heartbroken. But if you don't have the stomach for the hard times, if you essentially quit because it doesn't look good, then you have no place nor right to be there when it's easy. If you're pissed because they are in the middle of blowing it, be pissed. Express it. Criticize the team for bad play - lord knows I did. Tell us how displeased you are. I welcome it. Voice your fears that they're going to blow it. I'd understand and probably commiserate with you.
But the second you start saying things like "it's over," unless it really is over, then I've got no place for you. It's not swilling the koolaid, Cubaholic. Far from it.