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?