Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Hey - I Have An Opinion!

Admittedly, blasting away at others' ideas is much easier than creating your own. I've been all over the Shout Box and Comments these days saying how craaazy Rob and Kurt and Colin's ideas are, hiding in the shadows and failing to take an official stance.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, the wait is over! Random Goat Rider You've Never Heard Of, and likely don't care about, is ready to make your Monday shine! Because what's more fun than ripping on a guy who has even less of an idea of what he's talking about than any of the regulars on this blog? (Other than most things.)

I give you Cubs Offseason '08/'09: The AJ Plan.

The AJ Plan is based on a few key assumptions that people may or may not generally agree with.

1. In professional sports, inertia rules.

While the sports media love to generate tons of buzz about potentially crazy mega-deals, it seems to me that, more often than not, these things just don't happen every day.

2. For a 97-win team, inertia rules even harder.

Jim Hendry himself has said this. For the most part, the guys that won in 2008 will be back for 2009. That includes Theriot's weak throwing arm, and DeRosa's... solid bat?

3. The Cubs are one, or maybe two, major moves away from being done.

1 + 2 = 3.

4. The team appears to have one, or maybe two, major needs: an upgrade in right field, and perhaps another starting pitcher.

3 + common sense = 4.

5. This team is built to win now.

A lot of people didn't like the Ceda/Gregg trade because we gave up several years of a guy, who might be able to overpower some major league hitters with a high-90s fastball, for one year of a player with major league closing experience (who blew a few saves--albeit with a crap defense behind him) and gave up three home runs in 2008 (one of which was huge for the Cubs). A lot of people didn't like the Dempster signing because it locked in a pitcher with little starting success for too many years. To me, both moves accomplish the same goal: make some balanced sacrifices (a little from the farm, and a little future payroll) in the future, to win in 2009. In that sense, while Mark Teahen may end up with the Cubs, which would be cool because he's young, I don't think he's the final answer to start in right field, because he's young--and unproven.

Speaking of assumptions, I'm going to reject one that Kurt threw out recently--that $130MM is it for the budget. To me, not signing Wood doesn't mean the Cubs are stuck with this level of payroll; it means they can't go too far over it, which is what happens when you give an injury-prone, high-priced reliever the money he's due to receive based on his absurd 2008 (that is, unfortunately, unlikely to be repeated).

Having said all that, let's talk moves.

AJ Plan Move #1:

Sign the cheaper of Bobby Abreu or Raul Ibanez.

This will take a while, because I don't think we can really say, in this market, what these guys' true value is. There was a great article about Abreu at FanGraphs that said Abreu's value was much lower than he perhaps thinks. There was a rush to sign Dempster because everyone wants starting pitching. I may be missing something here, but what other teams are really in the market for an older, left-handed corner outfielder with mediocre defense? I claim none. In the end, I'll bet it's Abreu, 3 year deal in the $8-10MM range. Because I know a lot about contract values and stuff.

AJ Plan (Non-)Move #2:

Either keep Jason Marquis on as the fifth starter, OR, move him for whatever crap you can, and sign Randy Johnson to a one-year deal.

If Jon Garland gets $30MM and three years, who wouldn't want (to use an NBA term) Jason Marquis' expiring contract? As for the Unit, yes he's old, yes he's been hurt - which is exactly why he's obtainable for a short-term deal and not a lot of money. You get what you pay for, and I think the Unit is worth the cost.

And that's it.

The AJ Plan has a remarkably low impact on the Cubs' 2009 budget. If we're at $130MM now, and spend, say, $10MM on Abreu, we're still under the $150MM that has recently been offered as a target (I know Kurt doesn't like this number, but I still think $140-150MM is reasonable). If we move Marquis' whole contract, and grab Johnson for, what, $5-8MM? We're even under $140MM.

Depending on what the budget actually calls for, there may be one more free agent reliever signing in the mix. But barring that, I think this is the most realistic approach to the offseason a Cub fan could expect.

I guess, let the roasting begin?

The only thing I'll point out

The only thing I'll point out is that if I gave myself a budget of 140-150 million, my moves would've been a heck of a lot different than the ones I suggested. Therefore, it's not comparable.

But I would be curious to see how you improve the team if they are already at their budgetary limit. It's not easy to do, which is why you wind up trading players like Ted Lilly and taking chances on guys like DeJesus and Teahen.

understood.

i'll see what i could do with 130mm.

Let me ask you this Kurt...

If you were a GM from another team that needed a starter and both Dempster and Lilly were free agents, which one would you choose?

I know you've proposed trading Lilly. Does that mean you'd slide Marshall into the 4 slot in the rotation? I actually like Marshall, and think he could perform well there as a #4 starter. But I can't understand why Hendry would resign Dempster and then trade Lilly?

If Hendry's intention is to move the $9.5M salary of Marquis, most Cub fans would probably applaud that, but could the Cubs expect a team to trade only prospects for Marquis and not expect the Cubs to eat some of the Marquis salary? That doesn't leave much money left to upgrade the offense. If the Marquis trade would yield a major league ready player, it would more than likely be a salary swap. If the latter was the scenario, would that player or players solve the Cubs offensive needs?

If in fact the Cubs payroll is to be $130M, Hendry most certainly would have had more bullets to acquire what the Cubs needed to balance their lineup by not resigning Dempster.

I only hope that the payroll has some wiggle room to increase by $10M or so. Otherwise, it's really suspect to think the Cubs can get quality improvements for the offense.

If I'm a GM, I'd probably go

If I'm a GM, I'd probably go after Lilly because he's been successful longer than Dempster and is therefore less of a risk.

If I'm trading him, I wouldn't deal Lilly unless I could get somebody of comparable ability in the same trade. So, Marshall would not be my top choice for replacement, although Marshall could compete with Gaudin, Samardzija, and Guzman for Marquis's spot.

Chances are the Cubs won't be able to clear 9.5 million off the books. Either they'll directly eat Jason's salary, or they'll be acquiring players who'll be making cash. Teahen and DeJesus, incidentally, should combine to make more than 5 million next season, although the Royals would be idiots to straight-up trade them for a pitcher of the caliber of Marquis.

And certainly Hendry has the bullets ... you're going to see him pick up some inexpensive players, is all. There won't be any ground breaking free agency signings like the years of yore. He'll acquire an inexpensive younger player of modest ability who we haven't really thought too much about.

Tbird mentioned acquiring

Brad Hawpe, and the Rockies are looking for a starter. I don't know if Tbird has any inside info that the Rockies would move Hawpe, but if we could make Marquis available by eating enough salary to make the trade salary neutral and throw in another prospect or two, maybe Hendry could swing the deal.

Anyone have any thoughts about this scenario?

Obviously, I am all for it!

I see Hawpe as a better, younger, healthier, better defensively version of BobbY Abreu....a player already good who is ready to explode into his prime, plus he is under contract for multiple years at a reasonable price.

I wish I had some sort of inside info saying the Rockies would deal Hawpe, but I do not. But I do know that the state of the economy is going to hit many teams and ownerships group very hard, and I anticipate the Rockies being one of them. They have already moved one stud outfielder this offeseason due to payroll concerns and a lack of confidence they can sign him. I would not be at all surprised if they further tried to reduce their payroll by moving Hawpe, who is one of their most coveted and movable pieces.

Having said that, there is no way they take Jason Marquis in a deal back. The Rockies would want multiple young pitching prospects I think, plus a viable cheaper alternative in the outfield.

While I and everyone else is dying for the Cubs to make a move now, the most prudent thing for Jim Hendry to do might just be to wait until June, survey the financial landscape of all these teams, and make a move then.

But if we are going to make a move, Brad Hawpe is the very best fit for what we need in right field, both in 2009 and beyond. Rick Ankiel has some appeal to me too, but he likely won't be moved by St. Louis to Chicago within the division.

i'm almost positive

brad hawpe is not available.

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award