The Big 25 for 2009, as I see it
Note: this is NOT my Dream 25. Oh no. I wish Colorado would trade us Brad Hawpe and Brian Fuentes for Micah Hofpauir and Ronny Cedeno, San Diego trade us Jake Peavy for Rich Hill, and we snatch CC Sabathia out of the jaws of the Yankees. This is my Realism 25.
Be sure to check out the first of our upcoming series/report card of the 2008 Cubs, recapping the performance of one Ryan Dempster, who naturally looms quite large in our 2009 plans.
For, in fact, I will start with him. The latest 'legitimate' media feedback indicates that Demp is not interested in hometown discounts. Someone WILL overpay for Ryan Dempster. The legit media also seems pretty unanimous in their feeling that that Someone is Jim Hendry. Any deal over three years is overpaying for Dempster. The Cubs will eventually make that deal, which takes us out of the Jake Peavy Relays.
Feel free to take the last paragraph, replace "Ryan" with "Kerry", and "Dempster" with "Wood".
Ryan Dempster is not a Staff Ace by definition, but he did set a good example for the rest of the staff with his brutal off-season conditioning regimen. He is a great teammate by all accounts, and he is worth keeping at the right price. Kerry Wood is not a Dominating Closer by definition, but he did set a good example for the rest of the staff with his endless persistence. He is also a great teammate by all accounts, and he is also worth keeping at the right price. Keeping both will preserve our decently-performing 8th-9th inning tandem, and I will step out here and predict that Dempster will be good for 45 wins the next three years.
It is the Cubs' bad fortune that this is also the winter of CC Sabathia and K-Rod. Sure, Dempster and Wood will get less money than either, but they WILL get as much money as Your Typical Staff Ace and Dominating Closer of years past. From us.
Which pretty much blows us out of the water for any other big-name free agents, if you believe what you hear from the brain trust.
I only have one trade on my page, and a couple of relatively minor free agent signings.
We are going to end up with Brian Roberts. It makes too much sense, now. We wanted him last winter, to help the offense that ground to a halt in the playoffs. We went to the playoffs again, and the offense ground to a halt again. He is going to play second and bat leadoff, and Mark DeRosa is going to become the (principal) right fielder. No, DeRo is not my "plus" fielder I have been chanting about, but we had one this year (Fukudome) and as it turned out, his sparkling RF defense was an unnecessary luxury in the playoffs. DeRo will play it well enough, and as he gains reps throughout the year, I am confident he will grow more comfortable in the role.
Roberts is going to cost us, way more than the spare parts we all talk about slipping McFail. Marshall/Pie/Cedeno ain't gonna do it. It didn't get it done last year, and the price has only gone up. Now, Pie can come or go, I don't really give a rip. If they want him, give him. I'm thinking they won't take another chance on our CF rejects. They don't want a fundamentally flawed player like Cedeno, either. Maybe they do, but they will probably ask for Theriot first; we will have to counter with Fontenot. Yes, they gave US Fontenot, but they probably also didn't figure on him ever hitting 9 dingers in 150 ABs like he did this year. His trade value is at an all-time high. Move him, now.
Finally, the pitching portion of the deal. They ain't gonna take Marshall; his upside is pretty limited. They are going to want Marmol, we will refuse; then they will want Jeff Samardjia, and that's the deal. Samardjia, Fontenot, and Pie and/or other "prospects".
We resign Hank White, and make a couple of smaller FA signings, Juan Cruz and Eric Hinske. Cruz gives us what Howry was supposed to give us; Hinske fills in every so often at one of the corner OF spots.
Other fill-ins on the staff include Gaudin, Wuertz, and Cotts, along with the $8MM Long Island native, Jason Marquis du Suc. Marquis will probably be your fifth starter, again. He's being paid 2nd starter money, but as a 5th starter, we could do much worse. In my world, Hofpauir never goes back to Iowa, again. It would be lovely if he could be part of the Roberts deal, but that just makes too much sense. It would be far better for us if McFail would accept Marshall/Hofpauir/Fontenot, but once again, I am sure that was probably already on the table last year.
My guy Fukudome - they ain't gonna trade him, and they ain't gonna come north with him. He will either accept a nice trip to Des Moines, or a plane ticket home.
Some folks will have to adjust to new places in the batting order. Soto will have to step up to the cleanup role. He should see better pitches there. Lee will go back to batting sixth, where he was the last time he won a title. Soriano is going to have to deal with batting fifth. We're all sick of the strikeouts to start games, which happens far more often (23, .302 OBP) than when he goes yard to start games (5).
So here's the Grand All-Majestic 25 Man Roster (realistic version) to start 2009:
P (12) - Z, Harden, Lilly, Marquis, Dempster, Wood, Marmol, Marshall, Cruz, Gaudin, Wuertz, Cotts.
C (2) - Soto, Blanco
IF (6) - Theriot, Cedeno, Ramirez, Lee, Roberts, Hofpauir
OF (5) - Soriano, Johnson, DeRosa, Pie, Hinske
Order: Roberts, Theriot, Ramirez, Soto, Soriano, Lee, DeRo, Johnson, P
Hopefully Fukudome can adjust himself to American Baseball by the time that Felix Pie's batting average dips below .100.