Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Step sideways

As you are all aware, the latest Cub rumors are about the possible acquisition of Randy Johnson, The Big Unit.  Johnson is 5 wins shy of 300 and 211 strikeouts shy of 5,000.  He's also undefeated at Wrigley Field and, earlier in 2008, his season basically turned around after he drubbed the Cubs on July 21.  Before that date, he'd been 6-7 with a 4.89 ERA.  After that date, he went 5-3 with an ERA of 2.16, and it all started with an easy victory against the Cubs in Arizona.

In the long history of the Cubs organization, the team has acquired Cub Killers fairly often, and usually once they come to the North Side they see their success and production level off.  The obvious reason why is because they no longer have the Cubs to pad their stats against.  Like Adam Dunn, Randy Johnson is a legendary Cubs killer who probably will not have the same level of success as a Cub.

Actually, write that down.  Johnson will not have a spectacular 2009.  Chances are that, at 46 next year and with a history of back and knee problems, he'll be inconsistent at best and will likely be mediocre.  Don't get me wrong, I'd expect him to still put up numbers that compete with those of Jason Marquis, but considering that he'd probably make as much or more money as Marquis, and considering that he'd be essentially replacing Ryan Dempster in the rotation, then it seems fair to say that the Cubs would be stepping sideways - if not backwards - in signing the Unit.

Hopefully the Cubs make it a moot point by acquiring Peavy, although that seems to remain a long shot.  Or maybe they will moot it by bringing back Dempster, although that also seems unlikely.  But Randy Johnson as a Cub will not be what this team needs to win, of that I feel certain.

And I'm already missing Kerry Wood.

The Unit

First, I'm really glad there's a show on cable called "The Unit." Ha ha.

As for the one we're talking about here, I think he's a definite upgrade from Jason Marquis. He strikes guys out, and doesn't give up a ton of walks. He'll be old, yes, and certainly shouldn't be counted on as anything more than a 4th starter; in other words, I agree that he can't be viewed as an adequate replacement for Ryan Dempster. Having said that, looking at the full extent of their pitching careers, are you sure you'd much rather have Demp?

If he can be convinced to sign a one-year deal, I think Johnson provides a boost to the back end of the rotation. Depending on what the rest of the market does to his final price, I think he's a low risk, high ceiling signing (check out the Bill James 2009 projection on fangraphs.com). We could use some of those types of arms, considering the injury history of Harden, and to a lesser extent, Big Z.

One final comment on Kerry - even if he came back, I think we'd all miss the 2008 Kerry Wood. He had a phenomenal season, that I don't think he can replicate.

At this point, AJ, I wouldn't

At this point, AJ, I wouldn't trust Johnson in a rotation. Because of his age and injury history, I believe he'll struggle to make 20 starts, I believe that the quality of his starts will be inconsistent, and I don't think he'll be that much cheaper than some of the other, younger, more reliable starters on the market.

In other words .... 13 Games Started, 5 wins, 5 losses, 66.1 IP, 46 K, 4.88 ERA, that was Nolan Ryan's line when he hit the age of 46. I wouldn't expect much different from the Unit.

The Nolan Ryan Comparison

Maybe a bit more mileage on Ryan's arm at age 46?

Also, Ryan's control was not nearly that of Johnson's at 45. Johnson put up nearly a 4:1 K/BB ratio last year; Ryan was much closer to 2:1.

At the same time, I'm no doctor, and obviously don't know how a 46-year old's body will hold up. But last year's line, after all was said and done, was solid for Johnson. If there's overwhelming injury concern around the league, maybe we can get him on the cheap.

As far as Marquis...

Sure, we've witnessed his craptacular outings. But he's always there when it's his turn to start. No arm issues. As witnessed the last couple years, his lame starts can be recovered by our offense.

Maybe Johnson can be moved into a closer role - but not as a Cub.

The Market

Marquis might be easier to move in this market for starting pitching. I think we'll find a place for him.

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