Going into the next few years, I was hoping to take a look at the team's options by position. I wanted to start with catcher. Please chime in with other ideas if you have them.
First I wanted to start with catcher. My view is that catcher is a position that should be relatively stable for the next 3 years or so. Here are some of the options in the system:
Major League Level: Geovanny Soto (age 27). Soto is under the control of the Cubs until 2013 when he will be 30. I don't know what you guys think but as good as Soto seems right now, he doesn't seem like the type of player who will age well past the age of 30. I think the Cubs should ride him out until he's 30 and then let him go. He's a seriously net positive for the team, especially when he's walking like Eddie Stanky. I also believe he's underrated by the organization defensively. He's pretty much an average player on defense.
Major League Level:Koyie Hill (age 31). I love backup catchers and Hill is a perfect one. He's gritty, he does pretty well with the glove. He can switch hit so he sucks with the bat from both sides of the plate. Thing is, he's played way too much this year. He's hitting .221/.259/.273. That's an OPS of .532. His OPS+ is just 39 (100 being average). He is awful and it wouldn't hurt the Cubs on the field if he is replaced. I see him as a future manager but my God, Lou! Stop playing this guy.
AAA: Wellington Castillo (age 23). Castillo feels like a pretty good backup to me. He's only 23 so he could get better but his overall minor league triple slash line is .259/.315/.404. He's been a generally decent defensive catcher in the minors and he's slugging over .500 this year in Triple A but he rarely walks and usually doesn't hit for much power either. He's ok. If the Cubs didn't have Soto, I could see Castillo being the Cubs place holder at this position. If the Cubs were in contention this year, he'd be awesome trade bait.
AA: Robinson Chirinos (age 26). Chirinos has been in the minor leagues now for 10 years and has yet to play above AA. I think that's about to change but his upside isn't even as high as Castillo who I could see being a possible starter in the majors. Chirinos is only a starter on a team that is terrible and has seen everything else fail at this position. He's a backup at best. He's hitting the crap out of the ball in Double A at .325/.399/.556 but don't be fooled. He's almost the same age as Soto and he's not an option.
High A: Michael Brenly (age 23). Brenly was a 36th round draft pick by the Cubs and he has turned into an organizational player. Of course, none of this is surprising considering his bloodlines but not being able to hit in the Florida State League at the age of 23 is a sign of a player with little or no future. Sorry Bob, your boy is a future high school baseball coach!
High A: Mark Reed (age 24). Reed was once a pretty decent prospect. He was a 3rd round draft pick back in 2004 so he has a pedigree but I'm not kidding when I say he is a worse hitter than Michael Brenly even though he's a year older and has even spent a little time in Double A. Reed has no chance to be a big leaguer.
Low A: Mario Mercedes (age 23). 854 plate appearances in the minors. 2 HR. Yeah. and he's not an especially good hitter for average either. He's a place holder.
Low A: Jonathon Mota (age 23): Yeah, also not really a prospect. He spent an entire year in AA and then got demoted back down to the Midwest league this year. Not good. Can't hit. Ok defensively. That's about it.
Short Season A: Jose Guevara (age 22). Yeah, he's also a non prospect who hasn't shown the ability to hit enough to get out of A ball. At 22, he's rather old for the Northwest League. Notice a trend. This is why I was hoping the Cubs would draft a catcher. They did, btw.
Rookie League: Sergio Burruel (age 18). Here's the first real prospect since Castillo on this list. Burruel was a 19th round draft pick and is interesting enough that he bears keeping an eye on. It's early in the AZL season but after 4 games he is hitting .467, so who knows?
2010 Draft: Micah Gibbs (age 21). Gibbs is a switch hitter who was one of the most highly sought after catchers out of college in 2010 draft and was the Cubs' third round draft pick. He hasn't played a game of professional baseball yet but it's not hard to imagine Gibbs being the man who replaces Soto in about 2014. Here is a good scouting report I found on the 5'11" Gibbs.
Conclusion: Thankfully, the Cubs have Geovany Soto because the rest of the system is bad shape at the position of catcher. Castillo is pretty good and should probably take Hill's place in 2011. Chirinos is another candidate to be the backup catcher in 2011 but will probably be the placeholder at Iowa. Burruel is very young and bears watching and Gibbs looks like he's already the best catching prospect in the organization.
Since the destruction of the 2010
Chicago Cubs is imminent, I figured I'd go through and see who I
would and wouldn't want out of this organization if it were me,
starting from the top.
Jim Hendry Must Go. The man has an
inability to spend money the right way. Sure, he's pulled off some
monster trades (Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton, Rich
Harden) and he's had his fair share of great free agent signings
(Reed Johnson, Ted Lilly) But the vast majority of his signings and
extensions have left the team severely handicapped. In short, The
Chicago Cubs will NOT win a World Series under Hendry, and that's the
goal, isn't it?
The Replacement: I don't claim to know
a lot of front office guys in the MLB, but if it were my decision,
it'd make sense to draw guys from the organizations that build teams
the right way and are regularly competitive (Boston, either LA team,
Lou Piniella is an old man. He doesn't
want to be in Chicago, he wants to be in Tampa with his grandkids. He
needs to be replaced immediately. His coaching staff, on the other
hand, is something I'd keep intact. Larry Rothschild and Lester
Strode can stay, as can Mike Quade, Ivan DeJesus, Alan Trammel and
Rudy Jaramillo. However, to me, Matt Sinatro seems more like
Piniella's little helper than a real coach, so I say he needs to exit
The Replacement: Bob Brenly is probably
my favorite candidate, as I get to listen to his opinions on the team
most days. Steve Stone could be an interesting choice. Bobby
Valentine isn't really doing much and he could be a good option.
Tim Wilken isn't going anywhere. After
all, under him, the Cubs have developed a wealth of young talent
(Starlin Castro, Andrew Cashner, Tyler Colvin) and the farm system
still has a decent amount to offer (Jay Jackson, possibly Darwin
Barney). Wilken has earned his pay, and there is no reason for him to
And now, to the roster
The Starting rotation needs to be blown
up. Zambrano needs to be put on waivers or traded. Lilly needs to be
shipped to Minnesota or somewhere. Wells needs to go back to Triple
A. And the Cubs need to sign Cliff Lee to be the Ace of the
Rotation. Jay Jackson is called up to start and Tom Gorzelanny is
used in the rotation. When everything is said and done, my rotation
The relief corps was criticized early
in the season as the reason the Chicago Cubs had done so poorly.
However, don't look now, but which Chicago team's bullpen has an ERA
of 2.80 in June. Carlos Marmol, Andrew Cashner and Sean Marshall
shouldn't be going anywhere. All three are young guys who have really
excelled in their roles. Jeff Stevens has proven that he has the
ability to be a solid middle reliever for years to come. However that
leaves four spots open. Bob Howry is an old man and John Grabow can't
throw strikes on a regular enough basis to deserve his spot, but our
good buddy Jim Hendry decided to give him a pretty hefty contract,
basically forcing him onto the 2011 roster barring an injury. Those
five, Marmol, Cashner, Marshall, Stevens and Grabow are fairly solid
pieces in the pen. However, the other two spots can be fairly fluid
in 2011. John Gaub, James Russell and Blake Parker are all
interesting options and Jeff Samardzija is having a nice year in
Iowa, so he may finally be able to pull it all together and finally
be an effective major league pitcher again.
Onto the Position players, first
striking at catchers. There really isn't much to say about the Cubs'
catchers. Geovany Soto has largely done his job this year, and Koyie
Hill is an adequate back-up. If either goes down, Wellington Castillo
also has the ability to be a quality backstop.
First base is the most interesting
issue for the Cubs. Derrek Lee should not be re-signed. There are two
angles to go with this problem. The Cubs could sign Carlos Pena to
mash homers for them after this season, or they could sign a stopgap
for 2011 and wait until next year to sign a big first baseman. Prince
Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez and Albert Pujols are all available after
the 2011 season. Pujols probably won't hit free agency, but the other
three likely will. Personally, I'd like to see Pena in a Cubs
Second Base is arguably the biggest
dilemma. O-Dog and Felipe Lopez are available, But I'd personally
like to see the Cubs inquire upon the availability of Chone Figgins,
Jose Lopez, Aaron Hill or Dan Uggla. I personally like Figgins
because he fills the leadoff void which desperately needs to be
filled on the North Side, and he's underperformed exponentially in
regard to his contract, so Chicago may be able to pull off another
swap of bad contracts with the M's. Perhaps the M's are somewhat
interested in Fukudome?
Third Base is pretty obvious. Ramirez
isn't going anywhere after this year, and if he performs in 2011, he
isn't going anywhere until after 2012. Likewise with Shortstop and
Left Field, Starlin Castro and Alfonso Soriano are stationary, albeit
for different reasons.
A lot of people have been impressed
with Marlon Byrd's hustle and hitting prowess this year. However,
it's no secret that one always needs to sell high. Assuming Brett
Jackson is ready or close to being ready at the end of the year, I'd
trade Byrd during the offseason and install Jackson as the starting
centerfielder. If not, I keep Byrd until Jackson is ready.
Finally, Tyler Colvin has more than
proven that he can hit major league pitching. The kid has earned his
right to play, and it's the job of the manager, whether it be Lou
Piniella or anyone else, to give him the playing time he deserves.
Fukudome needs to be traded. The Red Sox are rumored to be looking
for a defensive out fielder, and eating half the money on Fuke's
contract could possibly get him to Boston for a half-way decent minor
On the bench, I like Hill or Castillo,
along with Ryan Theriot and Jeff Baker. Sam Fuld would be my fourth
outfielder, and I'd sign someone like Mike Jacobs as a backup first
baseman. He's got a fairly decent glove and massive pop in his bat.
Perfect as a guy to come off the bench and pinch hit.
In conclusion, I leave you, the
GoatReaders with how I'd love to see this roster built for the 2010
season. I personally doubt that any of the deals I'd make are deals
that Hendry or his successor would attempt to make, but regardless, I
think that the team I propose here could win.
Subtracting the Money owed to Derrek
Lee, Ted Lilly and Carlos Zambrano and perhaps half the money owed to
Fukudome (as we can't expect anyone to want to trade for the WHOLE
contract), and adding a 20 million per year contract for Cliff Lee, a
15 Million per year contract for Carlos Pena and the 9 Million per
year contract for Chone Figgins, the Cubs spend roughly 7-8 Million
less in 2011 according to my plan that they do in 2010 before
2B – Chone Figgins
CF – Brett Jackson/Marlon Byrd
3B – Aramis Ramirez
1B – Carlos Pena
RF – Tyler Colvin
LF – Alfonso Soriano
C – Geovany Soto
SS – Starlin Castro
Rotation: Lee, Dempster, Silva,
Bullpen: Marmol – C, Marshall,
Cashner, Stevens, Grabow, Gaub, Gray/Samardzija/Parker
Bench: Hill/Castillo, Ryan Theriot, Sam
Fuld, Jeff Baker, Mike Jacobs
So often in baseball, with its epically proportioned regular season, a team can shrug off a single game, or a series, or even a bad month. "It's just one loss," you might say, or, "That team is on fire right now," or, "The Cubs are always miserable in June."
At the same time, a single game, or inning, or play -- or in this case, 30 seconds' worth of off-field antics -- can dramatically reshape a season.
It's fitting that Carlos Zambrano's latest meltdown -- the one that may well be his last in a Cub uniform, if standard Chicago media outlets are to be believed -- came on a weekend where the Cubs got their first taste of Kurt's dreaded Number of Death, as the Bears in Blue momentarily went ten games below .500 for the season. As Kurt went on to suggest, these latest events may finally bring about the changing of the guard that this team appears to need so badly.
Having said that, there were some bright spots for the Cubs against the White Sux this weekend.
Take the starting rotation -- that is, the pitchers that comprise the Cubs' starting rotation as of today. Following Ted Lilly's successful bounceback in Seattle, three of the Cubs' other four starters -- Carlos Silva, Ryan Dempster, and Tom "The Phoenix from the Ashes" Gorzelanny -- looked good, combining for 16 strikeouts to just three walks in 16.1 innings pitched.
The Cubs' pair of young, potentially star-powered position players impressed, as well. Starlin Castro went 3-for-6 on the weekend and, perhaps more importantly, didn't strike out once. And Tyler Colvin hit a home run off of a left-handed pitcher (and it was a decent one at that in John Danks), going 3-for-9 on the weekend. Also, speaking of young Cub position players, Geo Soto went 3-for-4 today, and while his .259 average may not impress you, his .398 on-base percentage should.
On the farm, the Cubs have promoted some prospects to higher levels, most notably moving Brett Jackson to Double A Tennessee. So, yeah, the youth movement is on, and it is going pretty damn well. It will be interesting to see how many long time Cubs -- including the 29-year old Carlos Zambrano -- are kept around to see it through.
Well, with Kurt giving up, the team still presses on. Today is a good pitching matchup so fire up the grill, have a dog and a beer and get ready to watch the greatest game in the world. Sometimes it's tough to be Cubs fan, but let's just remember, it's still baseball no matter what.
Today's Matchup: Ryan Dempster (103.2IP, 3.56ERA, 3.91xFIP) vs John Danks (92IP, 3.23ERA, 4.26xFIP)
I've never been a huge fan of Danks who I see as an ok #3 starter on a good team. Dempster is more like an ok #2 starter on a good team and I've become a fan over the past several years. I expect Dempster to pitch well and I expect the Cubs to struggle with Danks, even though they shouldn't.
Who's Hot: Changes, they are a coming, although slowly and not at the level that will please people on this site. Oh, I'm sorry, this is about who's actually playing well on the field. Well, Aramis Ramirez hit a HR yesterday!!! I actually think he's going to have a decent second half, ala Magglio Ordonez last year.
Who's Not: Kosuke is hitting .196/.260/.239 in June. Wow, just wow.
Conclusion: Baseball is a beautiful game so I can find enjoyment in it even when the Cubs are less stellar. Hopefully the rest of you can also. I'm hoping that as the Cubs move on without the Zambrano distraction for the time being, that they can turn it around and win some games. I don't think this team is built to "blow it up" or whatever people like to write so they will continue to drudge on.
I'll probably watch the game today somewhat dispassionately and see what happens. Go Cubs! Avoid the friggin' sweep!
For all of our bluster and bluff, for all of the criticisms we levy at the team, and the times we say proclaim the team "done for," I have always had a simple system for giving up on a season: 10 games under .500, or 10 games out of first place.
The Cubs pretty much managed to accomplish both of those things on the same day, as they are now 32-42, 9.5 games behind the Reds.
In the process, Carlos Zambrano has imploded -- again -- and we have learned that a team can have a good manager and can rid themselves of the most toxic players and they can still implode and look miserable.
The fallout of this is that Carlos Zambrano is probably in his final days as a Cub, as is Derrek Lee, Jim Hendry, and Lou Piniella. And if I have to be honest about it, I don't see that as a bad thing at all.
I'm just tired of these guys. I'm tired of the disappointment, the failure, the under-performance, the ridiculous antics, the heartbreak, and the losses. I'm tired of Carlos -- and, believe me, I've been his biggest fan and supporter. I mean, I'm the creator of the Scarlos photoshop, for Cripe's sake! I've got a Zambran-0-Meter which is fueled by firebeams shot from his eyes. But if Zambrano never again pitches a game for the Cubs, I won't be upset. Enough is enough, and he's lost me.
At this point, I want to see the team deconstructed. I want to see anybody in a managerial position -- from Jim to Larry and Alan to Lou -- fired. I want the Cubs to eat the contracts on Fukudome, Soriano, Zambrano, and even Ramirez. I want next year's team to be the youngest in the league. What I don't want is another group of tired old veterans and all the baggage they bring with them.
But in the meantime ... it's over. We hope you'll stick around, though, as we write about the Cubs and their need to pick up the pieces.
I wrote a gamecast yesterday but it appears to have disappeared into cyberspace. It's tough for many people to be Cub fans right now but that's when you find out who's a real fan. I am a real fan. I hope Zambrano can work out his sometimes Milton Bradley level temper and get back to being a decent, above average starter that he is. I know that Derrek Lee is a professional and will be able to put this behind him also. Nothing cures things like this like winning.
Today's Matchup: Carlos Silva (80.2IP, 3.01ERA, 3.79xFIP) vs Freddie Garcia (78IP, 4.85ERA, 4.78xFIP)
What can I say. The Cubs call on Silva to be the stopper once again. I like the matchup today because Garcia is pretty bad and the Cubs could get well against him. I worry about Silva because, well, he's Carlos Silva!!!!! plus he's bothered by a hamstring and it's just the way this season has gone that he would give up a bunch of runs today in the midst of the team falling apart.
Who's Hot: For some reason a team of pretty mediocre players continues to play like they can't lose and it's the White Sox. No one on the Cubs is particularly hot right now unless you count Z.
Who's Not: Trade rumours. They just haven't happened yet and probably won't start heating up in earnest for another 2 weeks. I think that unless the Cubs put together an improbable run, that will be when the team faces the music.
Conclusion: When the White Sox were at their nadir, on June 8th, there were rumours of fights that were happening between the manager and the GM and all over the team. No one talks about that now. The Cubs will need a hot streak to get back into the race. I don't think they have it in them but if they do, they need to start soon.
...you just don't do what Carlos Zambrano did today.
So, now, what's gonna happen? Not much, I'm afraid. The league isn't going to agree to "sponsor" an indefinite leave of absence for Z. A few games, at most, of league-backed suspension, and then he has to return to the team. Hendry talked out his own ass as much as you'll ever hear him today, but don't believe his threat that he intends to ride out the string one man short.
For one thing, Lou won't abide by that, not that Lou has any room to make any demands at this point. A team takes its cues from his manager, and Lou Piniella is a defeated man. He is every bit as defeated as the 2006 Dustbag or the 2002 Smooth Baylor. Lee and most of the rest of the team look like they are just going through the motions, waiting for a change to be made.
This long-awaited change isn't going to happen. Piniella is no quitter - he will gut out the rest of the year, not so much because he wants the remainder of his money...well, maybe it is the money. But he isn't going to quit. Hendry will never fire Lou, because based on the unwritten "2 field managers per general manager" rule...he hired Baker, ran his course, then hired Lou. Typical baseball etiquette dictates that the next field manager for the Cubs will be hired by a new GM.
As for the owner...his hand was forced when Lou ran his biggest investment and highest-paid player into the bullpen, which introduced all sorts of injury risk, and Ricketts decided it was a good time to plan an African safari. The Ricketts family is doing NOTHING with this damn team. They are Wrigley Field owners, and the on-field product is secondary to the good times and revenue streams generated by the butts in the stands.
And as long as the days and nights are warm, the beer is cold, and the bathrooms accessible, the Chads and Trixies and all the Keokuk housefraus will keep spinning the turnstiles.
What you see is what you got, folks. Z will be back in a week or so. Nobody wants his dumb ass at this point, even IF Ricketts opted to eat the contract, which they won't. So you'll have a bunch of guys walking on eggshells the rest of the year, making their fishing and hunting plans, and counting the days.
If you choose to follow this team the rest of the year, prepare for disappointment more often than not. Enjoy Lou stuttering his way through the post-game conferences the rest of the summer, one he'll never accomplish. Enjoy Ramirez's stirring quest to reach .200. Enjoy Lee Eating Ass ala the 2001 McGriff. Enjoy watching once promising young guys like Soto, Theriot, Colvin and Wells play their way into oblivion. Enjoy Carlos Zambrano acting like a petulant tool the rest of the year, leaving game after game early and burning out whats left of our bullpen.
And Good Lord, if they manage to win a game once in a while, by all means, play the song, wave the flag, and swill the Kool-Aid. Every time they manage to score more than they give up, please, bang the pans and proclaim that THIS is the game where they turn it around and make a run.
Because that's what you want, isn't it? Blind, unconditional hope?
Not me, goddammit. I have two degrees, and I have been deemed 'redundant' by three companies in four years. I have two sons, 17 and 21, who call me disappointing because I can't understand why they want to do all the things they do. I wake up each day wondering if this just might be the day that one of the major arteries clogs shut, or perhaps the headaches I've been having the last two weeks aren't stress after all, but something far more sinister.
I need an escape, I need some GOOD news, and right now, the Chicago Cubs ain't it. They remind me too much of life on THIS side of the TV screen.
The Pale Hosers come into this series having won 9 in a row. They just dispatched the formerly red-hot Atlanta Braves three games to none, so while the first few wins came against awful teams (like Pittsburgh – who the Cubs can’t beat), the last 3 wins were no joke. While the offense for the White Sox still probably isn’t good enough, the pitching sure has been. They’ve allowed 12 runs in the last 6 games. Also – the Cubs can’t score any runs. This could be a recipe for disaster. As bad as this season’s been for the Northsiders, I sure don’t know if I can handle a sweep at the hands of the White Sox. We’ll have to see what happens. On to the pitching matchups.
Friday June 25th: Carlos Zambrano (3-5, 5.10) vs. Jake Peavy (6-5, 5.07)
In 2008, this would have been a matchup of two of the best pitchers the NL had to offer. This afternoon, it’s a matchup of two overpaid guys with bloated ERA’s over 5. To be fair – both have been pitching much better of late, especially in their last starts. On Sunday, Z went 7 strong, allowing 8 hits, more importantly only walking 1, in getting the victory. The game was a laugher, a 12-1 win, the last time the Cubs scored more than 3 runs – and Z could have got the win even if he’d pitched poorly. It was good to see him bear down, and pitch like the Zambrano we gave the big extension too. Peavy had an absolutely disastrous start to the 2010 season. His last time out he fired a 3-hit shutout against the Nationals. Apparently his fastball had more life in that game, and his stuff is hands down better now than it was 6 weeks ago. If that continues, he’s gonna beat the Cubs today.
Saturday June 26th: Carlos Silva (8-2, 3.01) vs. Freddy Garcia (8-3, 4.85)
Silva got his start pushed back a couple days due to injury, so he gets matched up tomorrow evening against Sweaty Freddy..an exciting matchup over beefy Venezuelans who 12 months ago were thought to be completely washed up. Now both of them have 8 wins and are doing a solid job of holding down spots in pretty decent rotations. This baseball, it’s a crazy game, huh? Silva was supposed to start against his former teammates in Seattle, but the injury that knocked him out of his last start against the Angels got him pushed back. Last time out, Garcia gave up 3 runs in 7 innings. In his last 5 starts, Garcia has failed to go at least 7 innings only once. This will be the Cubs best chance at a W, if Silva’s healthy and effective after the hamsting issues.
Sunday June 27th: Ryan Dempster (5-6, 3.56) vs. John Danks (7-5, 3.23)
Dempster had one bad inning in Seattle, allowing a 2-run homer to Franklin Gutierrez, and that was it – but it was enough in a 2-0 Cubs loss. Dempster’s been solid all year for the Cubs, and he’ll need to continue that on Sunday against the lefty Danks, who’s been real good for the Pale Hose in 2010, lightyears better than he was last season. He’s allowed just 6 HR in 14 starts and his WHIP is a tidy 1.17. He beat the Braves on Tuesday in his last start. We’ll need a combination of good pitching and hitting to beat Danks.
I’m feelin the Cubs dropping 2 of 3 here. Picking us to win Saturday is the easy call…so I’ll say Z comes up big today, and we snap the Sox’ winning streak at 9, but then drop the 2 weekend games. You guys feelin the love?
Given this most recent development, along with your comments in the ShoutBox, I thought I'd ask:
1) Of the players currently under Cub control, who should start at 1st and 3rd? Does the handedness of the starting pitcher change your answer?
2) Same question for 2011.
3) Same question for 2012.
Have at it, y'all.