Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Derrek Lee

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Reader Blog: Fun With Statistics!

In light of a few numbers that were thrown around in the shoutbox recently, I decided to further investigate some statistics that may or may not be trends. Most of these things are probably unrelated, but some of them are very interesting to know. So without further adieu… Fun With Statistics!

We’ll start out with a couple of team-centric warm-ups

The Cubs are:

  • 8-12 in One-Run games
  • 9-7 in blowouts (5+ runs)
  • 3-24 when they score 3 runs or less (!)
  • 23-7 when they score 4 runs or more
  • 11-0 when they score 7 runs or more
  • 12-2 when they allow 2 runs or less
  • 14-29 when they allow 3 runs or more
  • 7-14 when they allow 3 or 4 runs (What!?)

Ok… So from that we can accurately say if we score 4 runs or more, we’ll probably win and if we allow 2 runs or less, we’ll probably win. Jeez, not too much margin for error there.

Alright, next let’s look at some situational statistics for the team

The Cubs are:

  • 26-1 when they start the 9th inning with the lead or tied (damn, alright, that’s actually pretty great)
  • 0-30 when they start the 9th inning behind (Holy. Shit.)

The Cubs have:

  • 8 comeback wins with the largest deficit overcome being 3 runs (sigh, remember that Rockies game in magical 2008?)
  • 14 blown leads (for comparison, we had only 22 in all of 2009.)
  • 2 walk-off wins
  • 0 walk-off losses (Hey! An improvement! We had 13 in 2009)

Wow. Alright. Those are some pretty polarizing numbers. Let’s move on.

Time to pick on some individual contributors (or, probably more than likely, “lack of” contributors)

The Cubs are:

  • 10-1 in games started by King Carlos Silva (this is my personal favorite and the one that spawned this post)
  • 16-30 in games started by anyone else
  • 11-12 in games where John Grabow pitches (I assumed worse)
  • 20-6 in games where Carlos Marmol pitches (Only 12 being Saves)
  • 7-3 in games where Aramis Ramirez does not play
  • 9-16 in games where Aramis Ramirez does play AND has a hit
  • 5-14 in games Derrek Lee goes hitless
  • 19-17 in games Derrek Lee has at least 1 Hit
  • 12-5 in games Derrek Lee has at least 1 RBI

Ya know, I could probably go on and on, but let’s sum up what we’ve learned here.

- The Cubs do not do well in close games
- They will, however, win most every game they score 4 or more runs
- Unfortunately, if they give up more than 2 runs, they will probably lose

- If we have the lead in the 9th, you can chalk that baby up in the W column.
- If we’re losing in the 9th, you might as well turn the game off.

- Carlos Silva and Carlos Marmol have saved this team.
- John Grabow and Aramis Ramirez have killed this team.
- Derrek Lee may or may not be expendable.

Go Cubs.

Stats Update (Game Recap: Cubs 1, Dodgers 0)

The Cubs win another close won today, thanks to back-to-back extra-base hits from Cubs bench players who I would argue should be starting against righties -- for now, at least.

After seven and a half scoreless innings combined from the two teams, Mike Fontenot led off the bottom of the eighth with a triple. (Stats Update #1: Fontenot is now hitting .330 this season, with a respectable .836 OPS to go along with his average.)

Cub fans everywhere were immediately overcome with dread and fear, as we all know the team can't bring home runners from third when there are less than two outs. And Geovany Soto added fuel to those flames by striking out on three pitches. (Status Update #2: Soto is now hitting .257, quickly converging with Lee's average, which now stands at .246.)

Fortunately, Tyler Colvin hasn't been with the team long enough to learn how to not bring runners home from third with less than two out. So he went ahead and doubled in Fontenot, and then took third on a fielding error by the Dodgers' right fielder. (Stats Update #3: Colvin has a .348/.385/.609 in May, while Kosuke has a .258/.338/.394 after today.)

Cubs take lead, all is well -- until Theriot pops out on a bunt attempt (grrrrrr) and Starlin Castro, Mr. Contact Hitter Himself, strikes out at the worst of times. (Stats Update #4: Castro's .292 average has now fallen two points below Theriot's .294.)

Fortunately, Carlos Marmol is teh balls. He struck out Rafael Furcal swinging, walked Blake DeWitt (which people booed? WTF), struck out Manny Ramirez swinging, and then struck out Garrett Anderson swinging. (Stats Update #5: Marmol has struck out 49 of 103 batters faced, a 47.6% rate. Thanks for that one, Rob.)

(Stats Update #6: The Cubs are now two games below .500, and will be either four or five games behind the Reds for the division lead tomorrow morning.)

Dempster + Lee = Win (Game Recap: Cubs 3, Dodgers 0)

Ryan Dempster is vindicated! Except not quite. Sigh.

Demp starred in last night's outing, mostly by not crapping his pants and/or giving up any grand slams. No, but seriously, eight innings, seven strikeouts to only one walk, and just three hits. That'll do it.

I was hoping Ryan would get a shot at completing the game, but I'm not going to complain about the opportunity to watch Carlos Marmol make lame-os like Manny Ramirez look compleetly stoopid with his narsty slider.

Derrek Lee knocked in all three Cub runs, taking himself above both the .230 mark in batting average as well as the .700 mark in OPS. He'll keep coming back around, I promise. (For the record, Fangraphs' preferred predictor suggets he'll hit .280/.364/.476 for the rest of the season, which would be fine by me.)

So yeah, see? Winning is easy!

On Big Game Players and Leadership

Rob has stirred the pot, again, regarding this time-and-true issue, and I'm glad.  I'd been wanting to write something about this anyway.  But before I jump into it, I'd just like to preface this post with a comment directed to Sman, who recently complained over having an article written in direct response -- and contradiction -- to an opinion of his.

Sman, I'm about to rebuke Rob, a co-writer on this site, a man who has been cheering for the Cubs for at least a full decade before I was even born (and two full decades before I became a fan myself), a man with more experience and knowledge than I can ever hope to accumulate.  If I can disagree with Rob with him being man enough not to get offended or angry, then I'm sure you are man enough to be disagreed with by Sayers or myself, or anyone else on this blog, without taking -- or making -- it personal.

What I don't think Rob gets is that, while players can certainly have a negative impact on team play and chemistry through bad attitudes (see Major League Baseball's very own Kanye West, aka Bradley, Milton), they are rare.  Besides that, "leadership," "big game players," and all that stuff is, for the most part, complete and total crap.

On one hand, you've got a guy like Alex Rodriguez.  A-Rod was the poster child for the "big game loser," who lacked leadership, who couldn't buy a win with a thousand dollar bill.  Then you've got guys like Derek Jeter, whose game presence probably sells as many MLB tickets as anybody else in the game -- including Pujols -- who is Mr. November, the team captain of the Yankees, a man who has victory know-how ingrained in his soul.  You want a sure-fire winner to elevate your team in the playoffs?  Get Jeter!

But apparently, A-Rod's presence on the Yankees was evidence that he was incapable of winning, because they just didn't win with him for a long-ass time.  But -- but -- I thought Jeter was a winner and his leadership was elevating!  Is A-Rod leadership kryptonite?  Or is it just a huge honking load of B.S.?

Same deal with Kevin Tapani.  In 1998, Tapani won something like 19 games for the Cubs while posting an ERA of 4.85.  Fans touted him as being a Superior Pitcher, because he quite clearly Knows How to Win.  The following season, he dropped his ERA to 4.83, and his record went from 19-9 to 6-12.  Then, in 2000, he went 8-12.  Then, in '01, he went 9-14.  What the hell happened?  Did he just suddenly FORGET how to win one day?

The point is, Rob is calling out Lee for lacking the intangibles that the Cubs apparently need in order to win.  Lee should be the leader, I guess.  He should get the game-winning hits more often, he should be more vocal in the clubhouse, I dunno, he should do something or else he isn't worth his roster spot and his production is valueless. 

Or maybe he does exactly what he needs to do, and he fills an important role in the clubhouse, and he hits well for a guy his age with his injury history, but the Cubs are hurting in so many other areas that it just doesn't matter.  Because I'm telling you now, you could dumbo-drop Derek Jeter In His Prime onto the worst Cub team in the last 10 years (the '06 model, maybe?) and it would only make a difference of 6 games -- or maybe 10 at the most. 

Rob, I get it, you want the Cubs to have something they've been missing for a long ass while, but it isn't the lack of the Leader's Winning Attitude that has kept the Cubs out of the World Series.  It's been the inability of the players to execute when necessary, it's been their flawed fundamentals, and it's been their poorly constructed roster composition.  Plain and simple.  It's not Derrek Lee's fault.  The blame rests on Jim Hendry.

Oh, and by the way?  That guy, A-Rod, who couldn't be a Winner?  World Series MVP last year.  You can't pass judgment on how somebody will do in the playoffs based on their past experience there.  And that is, without possibility of refute, the truth.

And...this is what is wrong with Cub Fandom

I knew my post yesterday about Derrek (DP) Lee would rankle Sayers40, but the rest of you?

Please, let's face facts here.  Nice man.  Good looking man.  Devoted to his wife and children, as far as we know.  No arrests, no rumors, no illicit drugs.  Lives his life with grace and dignity.  Faced a debilitating disease that threatened his daughter's eyesight and possibly more without complaining, without taking it out on the press.  Would love it if he were my neighbor (because that would mean I myself would be living in a more prosperous part of town).

Has always been a fantasy league darling.  Used to be able to run some, stole bases.  Had a monstrous year in 2005, also had a monstrous 4 months last year.  Has a World Series ring as a member of the Marlins in 2003, which I do not begrudge him at all.  He is not Dusty Baker, Mark Prior, Alex Gonzalez, or Moises Alou.  He is not even Juan Pierre, Luis Castillo, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Beckett or Jack McKeon, all of which, frankly, had more to do with shaping the 2003 NLCS than Lee.

But I do not hate Derrek Lee.  How could you?

But if you are really going to sit there and say that "you didn't see this coming", then you haven't been a frequent reader here.  Three years ago, it occurred to me that in tight games, with runners on base, he was most willing to take walks, when the situation called for action.  I went out here and said it, and you all jumped down my throat.

Two years ago, when the Cubs won 97 games, Lee led the major leagues in GIDP.  I went out here and complained about it, and you all called me a killjoy.

Last year, I did not CALL for the team to replace him with Micah Hoffpauir, but simply for everyone to consider using a man who, in relation to Zambrano, Ramirez, Soriano, Bradley and Fukudome, had a favorable contract and possibly using him in some fashion to shore up the two huge gaps we had at the time, namely Leadoff Hitter and Staff Ace.  Gaps which did end up biting us on the ass, well, that and fat Geo, dislocated Aramis and limpy Alf.

And yes, from June forward last year, he hit very well, while Hoffpauir didn't do dick.

But have you forgotten?  We did not make the playoffs last year?  We did not make the playoffs in 2004, his first year.  Or in 2005, his best year? 

In fact, his three least productive offensive years in our uniform were 2006-2008, and of course, we won the division in 2007 and 2008.

There is NO statistical correlation, Colin-breath, between Lee Success and Cubs Success.  I can recall Aramis Ramirez homers to win games, Alfonso Soriano homers to start games, Ryan Theriot hits to start rallies, great catches by Reed Johnson and Fukudome...hell, I can even recall a couple of special Mark DeRosa moments in 2007-2008, and folks, it truly took confidence in my own manhood to admit that

Really, put down the goddamned kool-aid for a second, use the logical side of your brain for once, and ask yourself this question:

I realize that he is a good human being, but what exactly has Derrek Lee ever done to put the Chicago Cubs over the top?

(Besides beat the Sox once with a homer.  Whippty damn doo.)

I know it is just a movie, but in "Little Big League", the kindly bench coach (played by the guy who was Taggart in "Beverly Hills Cop") advises Billy Heyward that he can't be a fan anymore, that he has to use his head, and not his heart, when assessing his team's chances.  The Cubs have not won in 102 years, and they are no closer to a World Series than they usually are.  Honestly: they don't deserve your heart, at this point.  They deserve a kick in the ass.

Once again: you want to root for the Cubs with your heart?  Go over and hang out with Al, he'll stroke your head and tell you what a great player Derrek Lee is.  Here, at GROTA, we root for the Cubs with our heads - both of them!!

First I give some credit, then I reiterate yesterday's point

Who likes Starlin Castro batting second? 

It goes against all I believe, putting a barely 20 year old kid in such a position.  Every great offense in the history of baseball relies on the leadoff man getting on base, and the second hitter moving him along either by hitting or walking.  This seems like a lot of pressure, but I suppose if he truly is going to be one of the Greats of the game, when you are five-six games under .500 might be a good time to see if Castro can handle it.  He does make a lot of contact, and he made good contact in the 11th.  But more on that in a second.

The 2010 Randy Wells is not the 1988 Greg Maddux, but he is a damn good third starter, and Sean Marshall has been simply invaluable the past four years.  Marmol blew a save, but good golly, Grabow just grunged up a whole big dunghole and threw Carlos in it.  I might be playing favorites here today, but I don't hate Marmol today.  I have already fallen on my Grabow sword. 

Just another big wad of wasted money, but nowhere near as big a wad as Z's.  I'm not even going to touch THAT mess today.

I want to talk about the 11th inning.  Castro got on with his 3rd single, and Ramirez hit the walk-off homer.  Is he back?  God only knows.  In fact, this incident kind of proves one of my points.  A player can lose "it" in a number of ways.  He can lose it physically, mentally, or both, I guess.  Geo Soto lost it both ways last year, although since he was young, his ailments relatively minor, and his decline was almost entirely self-induced, he has been able to return nearly to his ROY form. 

Ramirez's 2010 decline appears to be much more severe than 2009 Soto.  But we all wondered - was it physical, mental, or both?  The physical decline has to be a given.  He doesn't even much physically resemble himself from the past five years.  However, after the bad strikeout the other night with the game on the bases, I had pretty much given up on him mentally, too.  Had he forgotten how many times he has come through for us over the years?

Apparently, not.  Yes, he did not come through last week, but he came through last night in his next big-time tight-and-late situation, so it is likely that the mental edge is still there for him, and when whatever physical limitations he is suffering from right now (and there is NO way anyone is going to convince me otherwise, the man looks skinny, weak, and in pain), he very well may return to most of what he has always been, Clutchy McClutcherson.

It was just nice they had him batting third last night, right behind Castro, so that he has some....what?

Oh yeah!  Clutchy was batting 4th.  Right behind Derrek Lee.  What did Lee do with Castro on base, needing only one run to win? 

He lined out.

Gee.  At least he didn't GIDP, or strike out, or walk, to let his .170 hitting buddy do his heavy lifting for him, yet again.  But, yet again, when the nutts are cut, Derrek Lee is AWOL.

Folks, I will disclose something.  As a ballplayer, I can't stand him.  I thought he was an easy out when he was with the Padres, and with the Fish.  He came here in 2004, he started out poorly, and down the stretch, as the team most picked to not only win, but win it all, he stuck his head in his ass along with the rest of the crumbling bums.  He put up monster numbers for an also ran in 2005, then spent the next three years hobbled with what we all thought was a wrist injury, when it turned out it was a neck injury.  WTF?

Last year, he started out poorly yet again, and he DID catch fire, but by the time he caught fire, we were already 10 games behind the Cardinals.  We got close again, even taking first for one whole day in August, and he did have a HUGE September, but as his trend arrow was rising, like in 2005, at the same time ours was falling.  He plays better when the pressure is off. 

He is not clutch, he is not particularly impactful, like Mark Grace, he is our best fielder in our least important defensive position, and also like Grace, he does not produce satisfactorily in the 3rd spot in the order.  In the NL alone, he cannot claim having the past production of Helton or Berkman, he doesn't have the present production of Gonzalez, Pujols and Howard, and no way he has the future of Mark Reynolds, Joey Votto, Ike Davis and whats-his-name in Atlanta.  He might be Prince Fielder, but that's it.  And I wouldn't touch THAT tub of goo, either.

I am officially sick of Derrek Lee.  That makes me a bad man?  Whatevs.

In defense of Derrek Lee

From the comments section:

If Lee hits around .700-.750 OPS all year, he will have little interest with his age and injury history. Sure, he might have been one of the best over his prime, but his prime was a long time ago now…

This was in response to my suggesting trading Derrek Lee wasn't a good idea because if the Cubs are smart, they offer him arbitration and take the two high draft picks that come with his being signed in the offseason.

The commenter is very angry about the Cubs right now. That is obvious based on all of his comments all over this site and others I am sure. But Lee is not a .700-.750 OPSing 1B. If he is, the Cubs shouldn't offer him arbitration. I think the Cubs should offer him arbitration because having him back for one year at the 10-12 Million area wouldn't hurt the team.

Just for perspective on his numbers right now:

2009: May 16: .195ba/.615 OPS
2010: May 16: .230ba/.690OPS

Lee's final numbers in 2009: .306/.393/.579

Yep, he's done. </sarc>

Reader Blog: 2011 Free Agent Class: First Base

After the 2010 season, two key Cubs are going to become free agents. I wanted to devote my next two posts to these players and what I think the Cubs should do.

At first base, Derrek Lee has been an above average player for some time. He is going to be, quite possibly, the best player at his position to enter the free agent fray after 2010. Here is a quick and dirty look at the tiers of first basemen and what it will probably take to get them.

Top tier. There will be nobody from the Pujols/Howard/Fielder/Gonzalez tier available in the 2010 free agent season so these are the main guys:

Derrek Lee:
Lee currently earns $13 Million and will be 35 next year. He's very good defensively and has an established wOBA around .370 or so. He also has a serious attachment to the Cubs. Having said that, he's aging and probably wouldn't want to take much of a pay cut. Plus if he leaves, the Cubs get back 2 draft picks, whereas if they sign most of these other guys, the Cubs would lose only 1 draft pick.

Adam Dunn:
Dunn currently earns $12 Million and will be just 31 next year. Dunn's established wOBA is over.380 meaning he's on the whole a better offensive player and younger than Lee. In fact, many of Dunn's offensive numbers compare favorably to the $125 Million man in Philadelphia. I believe Dunn's value is often depressed by his low batting average and terrible defense. Given his age and offensive contributions, if he becomes available, I'd hope the Cubs would look past his shortcomings and give him a nice below market offer. I don't believe the Cubs should be willing to go over the $12 Million he made last year.

Carlos Pena:
Pena currently earns $10 Million and will be 33 next year. He has the advantage of being left handed and has an established wOBA in the .375 area. I believe he is going to be asking for $16 Million plus and I don't think the Cubs should even consider this. I think if he drops down below $12 Million, he would become a bargain and then the Cubs could jump on him. Not likely the Cubs will go for him.

Paul Konerko:
Konerko currently earns $12 Million and will be 35 next year. He currently is experiencing a career year (contract drive?) and may be overpaid for his season. Given this, I'd hope the Cubs would just say no. He's a big, lumbering, right handed hitting first baseman. We could just keep Lee. BTW, Konerko's established wOBA is only about .360, well below the rest of these guys.

Jorge Cantu:
Cantu is playing third base for the Marlins and will be just 29 next year. He is earning $6 Million this and may choose to play third where he would be more valuable to some other team. I don't believe he is right for the Cubs, despite his age, and his established wOBA is only .340.

Second Tier: Usually not going to have to spend a draft pick for one of these guys:

Adam LaRoche:
LaRoche is probably my favorite of this group. A .355 wOBA ing have bat will travel first baseman who is just 31 and would sign for less than $10 Million and not cost a draft pick. He'd probably sign a one year contract also but even if he does ask for 2, I don't think it would be totally out of the question. He's a clear drop from Lee but would provide the team flexibility, especially for the 2011/2012 off season.

Aubrey Huff:
Huff signed with the Giants for one year and $3 Million this off season. He will be 34 in 2011 with an established wOBA of .345. He's not bad at under $5 Million but I'd rather have LaRoche.

Russell Branyon:
Injruy prone left handed hitter who will be 35 in 2011. Established wOBA around .350 with very little added defensive value. I'd go with a different plan instead of signing either Branyon or Huff.

Looking at the group above, I think the Cubs should either try to resign Lee for under $12 Million per year on a short term contract, or sign Dunn for around $12 per year on no more than a 3 year deal, or sign LaRoche to a 1 year deal for under $10 ( or a 2 year deal for under $18)

Of these choices, I'm partial to the LaRoche move only because if it's a 1 year deal, we can take a shot at a big name player at this position in the 2011/2012 off season while at the same time taking advantage of a net 2 high round draft picks for losing Lee.

I think that since 2011 is probably going to be a transitional year for this club, they should try not to do anything rash like signing Jorge Cantu to a 4 year deal or something this offseason.

Post Script:
Many people may suggest moving Soriano to first base and installing Tyler Colvin in left field. I'm opposed to this for a few reasons. The player I'd really like to see the Cubs get eventually plays first base and Colvin will not come close to replacing Lee's production at the plate ever. The idea of Soriano trying to dig throws out of the dirt is also very worrisome to me! However, I would do that instead of stooping down to sign Branyon or Huff or Troy Glaus or someone like that.

Reader Blog: Trade Winds

Jim Hendry has been the Cubs GM since mid 2002, so we’ve got a lot of trades to look at. I’m going to highlight one or two from each season that strike me as particularly important or illuminating.

2002: Cubs trade Todd Hundley&Chad Hermansen for Mark Grudzeilanek&Eric Karros.

Hundley is my least favorite Cub of all time. He was shitty.  He was overpaid. And he was a mean son of a bitch. The Cubs handed him a 4 year, $23.5 million contract before the 2001 season. In his two years as a Cub, Hundley totaled 579 plate appearances and posted an OPS below 700. For those who prefer batting average, Todd hit .187 and .211 in 2001 and ’02. He’s most famous in Chicago for flipping off the home fans while rounding the bases after a home run. He was like Fukudome without the production, pleasant demeanor or sobriety.

Somehow, Jimbo convinced the Dodgers to take this sad sack off our hands, and send us something useful in return. Both Grudzeilanek and Karros contributed to the division winning squad in 2003. Grudz became our starting 2B, and he could inside out the ball to the opposite field as well as any hitter I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget watching Karros videotaping the playoffs from the Cubs dugout during the NLCS. It really felt like he was one of us. He wasn’t a bad platoon first baseman either.

Oh, and Hundley was pumped full of steroids for much of his career. So there’s that.

2003: Cubs trade Jose Hernandez, Matt Bruback&a PTBNL for Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton&Cash.

Cubs trade Ray Sadler for Randall Simon.

2003 was Hendry’s finest season. The Cubs would not have won their division that season were it not for Ramirez, Lofton and Simon. Lofton and Simon are long gone, while Aramis remains as the greatest Cubs 3B since Ron Santo. And Hendry gave up practically nothing to get them. Thanks, Pittsburgh!

2004: Cubs trade Hee Seop Choi for Derrek Lee.

Cubs trade Brendan Harris, Alex Gonzalez&Francis Beltran for Nomar Garciappara & Matt Murton.

The Choi for Lee deal rivals the Aramis Ramirez trade for the best of Hendry’s career. Clearly, Jim was on his game in the early nineties. Choi never realized his potential, and is probably best remembered for being carted off the field after an in game collision with Kerry Wood.  Derrek’s achievements speak for themselves. He is my favorite Cub, and I will be sad to see him go if this is truly his last season here.

As much as the Nomar trade did not work out, I believe now as I believed then that is was the right move to make. The Cubs SHOULD have won their division that season and were trying to add the missing piece for a postseason run. Obviously things didn’t work out. Mercker bitched, LaTroy imploded, Sammy stepped out, and the Cubs massively underachieved and missed the postseason altogether. The following April, Nomar suffered the most excruciating injury imaginable, and that was that. He was on the DL until August, and by that time the only interesting question left was whether DLee would win the 2005 NL MVP. The Cubs finished 21 games behind the Ratbirds, who won 100 times that year.

2005: Cubs trade Sammy Sosa & Cash for Jerry Hairston Jr., Mike Fontenot and David Crouthers.

Cubs trade Ricky Nolaso, Sergio Mitre & Renyel Pinto for Juan Pierre.

2005 was the first year that Hendry really pissed me off.  These two trades, which neatly wrap around a lost season, signal a real change in Jim’s ability to maximize value on the trade market. Let’s tackle the Sosa deal first. Sosa was a diva who didn’t mesh well with his teammates. He was getting older and was obviously on the decline. He still hit 35 HR in 2004. He should have brought more in return than he did. I believe he would have, if not for the systematic way the Cubs undermined any leverage they might have had in trading him. As you all undoubtedly remember, Sammy left the ballpark 15 minutes into the final game of the 2004 season. This became public, and it shortly became obvious that Sosa would never be welcomed back into the Cubs clubhouse. When 29 teams know you have to trade a guy, 29 teams will not give you good value in return. Fontenot was the only piece worth mentioning here, and he’s a platoon 2B who was nearly DFA’d by the club this past offseason.

Then there’s Juan Pierre. Hendry’s worst trade as the Cubs’GM. Full disclosure. I despised him then and I still do. Maybe it’s because, along with Josh Beckett and Pudge Rodriguez, I still associate him with the 2003 Marlins. Maybe it’s because he posted a crappy OBP with zero power. Or his limp dick outfield arm. Or maybe it’s because we lost 96 games and I needed a scapegoat. Here’s why this trade still pisses me off to this day: Ricky Nolasco is awesome. He’s exactly the kind of player the Cubs need to keep if they are going to be successful. And Jimbo traded him for one subpar year of a crappy player on a terrible team. GAHHHHHHHHHH.

2006: Cubs trade Greg Maddux for Cesar Izturis.

This one is more emotional than anything else. Hendry traded Maddux to the Dodgers to give him a shot at winning a championship. Respect.

2007: Cubs trade Rocky Cherry and Scott Moore for Steve Trachsel.

WTF? Cherry and Moore were no great shakes, but I can’t begin to fathom what Hendry was hoping to accomplish here. Trachsel was old and finished. Trachsel made a few starts, didn’t pitch well, and was left off the postseason roster.

2008: Cubs trade Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, Eric Patterson & Josh Donaldson for Rich Harden & Chad Gaudin.

Cubs trade Jose Ceda for Kevin Gregg.

Like the Nomar trade, the Harden deal was a well meaning, but ultimately failed attempt to improve the team for a deep postseason run. I saw Harden’s first Wrigley Field start in person. He was DOMINANT. If memory serves, he went 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 10 K. I was convinced he was the missing piece.  Two years later, the Cubs have no rings, and Harden struggles to get out of the third inning with fewer than 100 pitches thrown. At least it doesn’t look like those prospects amount to much.

Kevin Gregg was a disaster and I'm glad he's gone.

2009: Cubs trade Mark DeRosa for Jeff Stevens, John Gaub and Christopher Archer.

And the Trixies wept.

2010: Cubs trade Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva & cash.

Cubs trade Aaron Miles, Jake Fox & cash for Jeff Gray, Ronny Morla and Matt Spencer.

Two things are obvious to me about these most recent trades: First, it is far too early to say anything definitive about these deals.  Second, they were all about Hendry fixing his free agency mistakes from the previous offseason. That’s never a good thing for a GM. I was furious with Hendry for suspending Bradley for the last 15 games of the 2009 season, as it robbed him of any leverage he might have had in trade talks. I was furious all over again when the Cubs traded for Silva, who has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball for the last several years. Now I’m just sort of numb. I know Silva isn’t an ace, and his sub – 1.00 ERA is the product of small sample size. I’d be thrilled if he finished the year with an ERA under 4.50, and right now that looks like a possibility. As for Gray, at least he got AAron Miles out of here. Meh.

Hendry made a number of brilliant trades early in his GM career. Since 2004, he’s been significantly less productive in the trade market. It’s not clear whether other teams simply got smarter, Jim lost his touch, or something else altogether, but Hendry hasn’t had an obvious win since the trade that brought Derrek Lee to Chicago. Hendry’s trades aren’t getting it done anymore. He should be fired.

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Reader Blog: Playing Nostradamus: Derrek Lee

I do not believe that the Cubs should give up on 2010 but I do think they need a contingency plan in case it looks like they are falling well behind in both the division and wildcard races. Looking forward to 2011 and beyond needs to be a priority for this team.

The first player they need to look at is Derrek Lee. Now at the moment, Lee is in the 5th year of a $65 million deal. He's done a pretty good job of earning that $13 million per year and is currently having a very nice season for the Cubs.

I like Lee and I suspect the Cubs' brass does also. So here is my take on what needs to be done:

1) Approach him about waiving his No Trade Clause
2) Insist a potential trading partner give up at least 2 Grade B or better prospects who are currently residing at the Double A level or higher.
3) If no trading partner exists, let Lee finish the season with the Cubs and offer him arbitration after the season.
4) When he struggles to find a taker at the price tage he has come to expect, offer him $8 Million(per year) for 2 years.

Derrek Lee is going to be 35 in September and even though he is a good hitter. Good hitters who can play first base adequately are a dime a dozen in the current major league environment. Adam LaRoche got a 1 year, 6 Mill contract this past offseason. I don't believe that as good a player as Lee is, he is that much better than LaRoche, especially when one considers that Lee is 5 years older. He is simply not going to find the free agent market amenible to what he may expect.

OTOH, if Lee leaves, he leaves, the Cubs need to have a backup plan and while one doesn't appear to exist on the team. There are always players like, well, like LaRoche who are available every year for around the same price we would offer Lee. such a player might not perform quite as well as Lee has but would probably cost half as much and could be let go at the end of the season. Lee would net the Cubs 2 draft picks if he is a Type A Free Agent and that would be almost the same as trading him.

All salary data is courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts

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