Goatriders of the Apocalypse

A virgin blogger pops his cherry on Christmas

First I would like to apologize to all on the site for not putting my thoughts into this type of blogging format before.  I'm the new guy, my bad.  Well here goes.  I am not going to comment on Mark DeRosa, as I would rather bang my head off the bricks at Wrigley than talk any more about his situation.

Instead I am going to concentrate on the one team weakness that I feel is consistently being overlooked; which is the Cubs Bullpen.  I was one of the many that was upset to see the Cubs let Kerry Wood walk, and then that fire had gasoline poured all over it soon after the news of the trade for Kevin Gregg broke.  So here the team sits on Christmas day with question marks up and down the bullpen, and no one in the organization is willing to actually address the issue.  The closer from 2008 is now a member of the Cleveland Indians and God bless America Bob Howry is gone too; so that's basically one step forward and two steps back.  Hendry then turns and hands the Marlins an early Christmas present in the form of Jose Ceda, who is and has been a highly regarded relief pitching prospect in the organization.  When the news of the trade first broke I expected Jeremy Hermida to be coming to town, but instead we picked up Kevin freakin' Gregg.  A player that the Marlins didn't even want to keep around because even they realized he is going to be overpayed in comparison to the production he will give a team.  The decision to let Woody go was supposedly based on dollars, but then the Cubs turn around and hand over half of the money it would have taken to keep him to acquire a terrible pitcher with virtually no upside; and we gave up a quality prospect in the process.  So where do the Cubs go from here? Do you hand the keys to the car to Marmol and let him be the closer?  If not, then I would assume Marmol remains the setup man and Smardjz becomes our closer for 2009.  And the final scenario, a true sign of the apacalypse, Kevin Gregg is the Cub's closer with Marmol and Smardjz working as setup men.

So that being said, the back end of the bullpen needs some help.  Along those same lines those within the organization that could step in and contribute in the bullpen are mostly younger guys; in which the Cubs really don't know what they can expect from them over the course of a full season.  Some of those names include: Sean Marshall, Kevin Hart, Angel Guzman, Chad Gaudin, Michael Wuertz, Neal Cotts, Jose Ascanio, and the unknown soldier Rich Hill.  Looking at what we've got and what we need the idea of the bullpen having to finish the game from the 6th inning on is a pretty scary prospect.  So basically the bullpen goes from being a strength in 2008 to a weakness in 2009 overnight.  I am currently holding my breath until the season starts, in hopes that Angel Guzman joins forces with Carlos Marmol and the two of them transform into the 2-headed Megatron that the Cubs need at the back-end of the bullpen.

So I will end this by asking a few questions.  First, what does the team do with Marmol?  Do you move him or leave him in a role that he has flourished in?  Is Smardjz ready to close at the Major League level?  Should the Cubs attempt to trade any of their surplus of middle infielders (Ronny Cedeno) or outfielders (Felix Pie) or starters (Jason Marquis) to add some quality relievers to the bullpen?  Finally, would it be worth it to extend a 1 year offer to someone like Trevor Hoffman to bridge the gap to Marmol closing in 2010?

Merry Christmas

my idea

Well this is what i say.

1) Trade Pie and Marquis for a quality lefty reliever and anything else you can get
2) Marmol becomes closer, Smardj isn't ready.
3) Keep Wuertz, excluding a few games against the infamous Reds who seemed to give Cubs pitchers fits, Wuertz had another quality year.

the Bullpen would look like

Marmol, Gregg, Wuertz, Guzman, Reliable Lefty Reliever, and 2 of Marshall, Samardjza or Gaudin (one will be used in the rotation to replace Marquis)

The Trevor Hoffman idea may work but I wouldn't expect great numbers from him, no better than Marmol, Wuertz and maybe even Guzman could produce.

Bullpen

There are a few free agent relievers/starters that I didn't mention as well that could be considered, such as:

Lefties: Joe Beimel, Eddie Guardado, Ray King

Righties: Eric Gagne, Tom Gordon, Juan Cruz, Chad Cordero, Brandon Lyon, Takashi Saito

Starters to consider for rotation: Randy Johnson, Andy Pettite, Ben Sheets, Brad Penny, John Garland, Randy Wolf

Of the choices that you've

Of the choices that you've given, I would choose Joe Beimel, Juan Cruz and Ben Sheets, although I feel that with what we have available to us now we do not need to spend a substantial amount of money on a starter an be able to simply use one of Gaudin, Marshall, Samardzaja or (through my own twisted hope) Rich Hill to fill out that 5th starter role.

That said, I think our pitching staff simply needs to be tweeked as apposed to overhauled. We have the pieces now to build a respectable if not lights out bullpen, a few small additions should be all we need.

Ray King? Eric Gagne?

Ray King? Eric Gagne? Pettitte Sheets Penny Garland?

Um, cool ideas. Except not.

Look

I simply stated the players that are available for teams that have money to spend. I never said that they should sign every one of them or any one of them. Its obvious the cubs pen needs to add at least 1 quality arm, and the only way you wouldn't notice that too is if you've been living under a rock for the last 3 months. Everyone wants to whine about how the team's batting order is unbalanced with too many right-handed hitters, well all you geniuses need to look at the pitching the cubs are going into 2009 with - because unless I am retarded nearly all of them are RIGHT-HANDED. To me I would look to add left-handed pitching to balance that out long before I go on an insane witch-hunt to overpay for the 7th cub's outfielder.

AJWALSH, you haven't had a positive/constructive thing/opinion to say to me since I landed on this site. I'm not here to argue with you. I liked this site because a lot of cubs fans are on it exchanging thoughts ideas and frustrations about the team, all of which has not a thing to do with you. So if you need something to bitch about go adopt one of Tony LaRussa's stray cats, or if you need someone to argue with go play on MySpace or Facebook where there are lots of immature little kids for you to argue with. I'm not here to make enemies with anyone, I just enjoy talking baseball with anyone that has an informed opinion Smiling

Don't take it personally,

Don't take it personally, Harry; I'm not looking to make enemies either. I just think you're a little crazy if you really are interested in bringing Gagne or King on to the team. It actually sounds like you're the one that needs to log on to MySpace, if all you want is to talk about your feelings, whether or not they're silly.

You may not be here to argue, but I am, and I'm not alone. I learn a lot from the debates that happen on this website, and I think there are many others that would agree.

I promise I don't hate you; hell, I know nothing about you. But a bad idea is a bad idea.

Cheers!

As I said before

I never said to sign any one of them from Ray King to Gagne. All I did was point out that there are relief pitchers that are available on the open market. I just think if you would read what was written maybe you could learn something like you have before. I realize its nothing personal, but it can't be a bad idea if I never even suggested signing them (there's a difference between a declaration of fact and a suggestion). And I'm not talking about my feelings I'm talking about baseball. Keep reading the things I have to say and I guarantee you will learn more in the future because baseball is about the only thing that I know anything about, so good day grasshopper.

Bullpens are horrifically

Bullpens are horrifically impossible to predict. Yes, Jef7 is ready to close. Obviously there will be hiccups along the way, but expecting Woody to have another healthy season is simply asking WAY too much. As much as I love Wood( and I do) it was the right move. That and Charles Barkley is a racist.

But why trust Smardj to close

But why trust Smardj to close more than Marmol. Marmol has better numbers in everything but ERA and has more experience than Samardzija and was more consistent. All this plus the fact that the Cubs still see Samardzija as a starter in the future and not a reliever.

Smardjz

You trust him to close because Marmol is more valuable as a set-up man pitching when you need him most. I don't agree that Smardjz is likely in the long-term a starter, but if you take that route in 2009 then he lands in AAA because there are others ahead of him on the totem pole for the 5th starter slot. Along those lines, I would attempt to avoid sending him up and down any more than you absolutely have to so that you don't exhaust his options and you can send him down if you really need to. Also I think the cubs have to be careful to avoid a Joba Chamberlain situation with Smardjz, where you bounce him back and forth between starting and closing. Its obvious that he doesn't currently have enough pitches to really be an effective starter; so I think you continue to let him develop as a reliever where he can pitch in shorter stints and throw harder on average and he can get away with not having those secondary pitches yet. Also I like his mental makeup and toughness much more than I like Kevin Gregg's, if you're considering each for the closer's role.

The exact...

...sentiments I stated when Gregg was acquired. No one can say the bullpen isn't weaker now and one can only deduce that the Marlins have Hendry's number. If Hendry makes another trade with the Fish, it should be his last.

But getting back to the bullpen makeup. I have no doubt it is Hendry and Piniella's intention to have Marmol close. The problem is Gregg has showed he may be no better than Howry, and now the Cub's bullpen is minus Wood. This is not good boys and girls.

The Cubs were short a lefty specialist in the pen last year and with the uncertainty
created by Wood's departure, an effective LHRP should be there first priority if they acquire or trade for a free agent reliever.

Of course with all the focus on the Peavy fiasco and now the gridlock over the power LHB, I too think the bullpen's needs are being minimized at best and in the worst case scenario, being overlooked.

Cubs Bullpen

Good post, Harry. The bullpen does need to be addressed and thank you for bringing it up. First of all, I apologize for the "Dusty Baker" comment in the shout box, it wasn't meant to be as disrespectful as it came across.

Secondly, Kevin Gregg isn't a "terrible" pitcher, that being said, I agree with your point that he's not great and the Cubs gave up WAY too much for him in Ceda. At this point, I would be comfortable in turning over the reigns to Marmol. He's easily the best pitcher in the pen and has nasty stuff, and after a season as the set-up man will easily transition to the closers role. Smardzija still has a lot more to prove before he can fill that role, or even the set-up role, but he will be a nice asset for the Cubs.

While I'd like to see Marmol close, I whole-heartedly agree that the Cubs should try to acquire Trevor Hoffman this winter!! Even while San Diego inexplicably tried to push Hoffman out of the closer role in 2008, he put up these numbers:

45.1 Innings Pitched
38 Hits
46 Strikeouts
9 Walks!!
9.13 BB/9
1.73 K/9
1.04 WHIP

Despite what anyone says, Hoffman has not "lost it". His age will definitely drive down his value, but he can still bring it, and would be an outstanding signing for a set-up man.
1.79

The bullpen would then shape up like this:
Closer: Marmol
Set-up: Hoffman
Lefty: Marshall
Middle: Gregg, Wuertz, Cotts
Long: Gaudin

I would go with that pen anyday!

In regards to the 5th starter spot, I know Marquis is expensive, but I still maintain that he is the best 5th starter in the game. Qualified and durable 5th starters aren't easy to come by, and while he's not worth his price tag, he serves his purpose. Hang on to the kids, let Pie play in AAA.

Bullpen

I get that Kevin Gregg does not moisten the underpants, so to speak. However, I think it was noted on mlbtraderumors that the Cubs potentially see a limited window to win with their current core of players. Further the Cubs have a budget of $X, which only they know. The Cubs are rich, but they aren't the Yankees.

So they have to make some decisions about what's possible and what's not possible to maximize their window of winning while living within their budget (which is still pretty huge, it's not like we're talking about Pittsburgh $). Kerry Wood was not affordable to the budget of $X when the Cubs considered what they needed to spend for an offensive upgrade.

Jose Ceda is a fine prospect and is too much to give up for Kevin Gregg in a vacuum, but Jose Ceda had a very unrealistic shot at contributing at the big league level for the Cubs in 2009 as he's never pitched above AA. There was a discussion about this on fangraphs back in November that GROTA's Colin Wyers got in on where a very similar discussion took place so everyone can read that for some rehashing on Kevin Gregg's value, or non value, depending on your perspective.

It seems to me that the Cubs have several options in the bullpen to close even without Gregg. Obviously Marmol is a logical choice, but don't forget back in 2007 that Angel Guzman was an out of nowhere posh choice as a late inning power arm. He was throwing seeds at the end of 08 and, just because everyone drools over Ceda's AA stats... Guzman shredded AA hitters in his 08 stint there! With Marmol, Gregg, Smardzjia, Guzman and Marshall, that leaves Wuertz, Cotts and Gaudin competing for the final 2 spots (or maybe not, depending on how many pitchers are carried).

Wood is a tremendous loss, and was my favorite Cub.. but the one or two runs lost by his replacement with Gregg should be more than counterbalanced than the runs gained by bringing in an offensive threat with that money in RF, while still allowing the Cubs a servicable bullpen.

Marmol Closing

Don't get me wrong, I have all the faith in the world in Marmol's ability to take the reigns and close out the 9th inning - my concern is its not the best or most productive role he could play out of the pen. Marmol is the guy the Cubs used most in game-changing and dangerous situations where the other team was threatening. And often times the hardest outs to come by in a game aren't the last 3 in the 9th inning. So my concern is that he would sit down in the bullpen waiting in vain to get saves that may not be there because the cubs don't have anyone to get the outs that he used get. I think that by tabbing him the closer you limit him, where the circumstances have to be just right for him to enter into a game. There are 2 statistics that really stand out to me as reasons not to have Marmol close in 2009, or ever for that matter. The first is the fact that he appeared in over half of the Cubs games last year (82), which is many more than most closers make, and if pitching every other day is something that keeps him sharp then closing contradicts his strengths/preferences. An even more alarming statistic is the fact that over 20% of Marmol's 82 appearances (18) he pitched for more than an inning, where again as a closer he likely would be asked to pitch for 3 outs at a time, so by anointing him the closer the team could be minimizing the impact he could ultimately have.

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