Hi all. Here are some Cub related notes on today's trade deadline:
The Cubs themselves sent Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot to the Dodgers for second baseman Blake DeWitt and two varying degrees of good prospects. Brett Wallach is the jem here and will immediately move into the Cubs' top 15 prospect lists. Good Bye to Ted and Ryan, both of whom have been key parts of the team over the last four years and deserve our respect and honor. I am very interested to see what DeWitt will be able to do for the Cubs.
The Cardinals traded away Ryan Ludwick and received Jake Westbrook in return. Westbrook is an ok pitcher, everyone keeps speculating that he will be fixed somehow by Dave Duncan and while agree that Westbrook is the type of pitcher who has had success working with Duncan, I also think that rookie John Jay is going to be out of his depth and this deal further hurts the Cardinals' offense. I actually think that overall, the Cardinals have not really improved themselves.
The Astros, of course, traded both Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman away in an effort to turn those 2 out of 3's against the Cubs into sweeps.... I don't think they got back near enough and don't consider Bret Wallace to be anywhere near the offensive force that Berkman has been. I wonder if the Astros wouldn't have just better off keeping both players and trying to swap them in 2011. I don't think they did well.
The Reds did nothing. Kind of surprising. If I were a Red fan, I'd be angry. It may not matter. They could win it anyway. Oh and Jonny Gomes is still a huge Ahole. Just saying.
The Pirates flipped some of their roster for some potentially nice players and pretty much got more from trading Octavio Dotel, Javier Lopez, Bobby Crosby and Ryan Church than the Astros got for dealing Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. Wow.
Ex Cub Kerry Wood got traded to the Yankees. I wish him well and now I'm rooting for the Yankees to win the World Series. Wood is a Cub and will always be one. As such if he wins a title.... in a way we all do. Go Kerry!
Kyle Farnsworth was traded at the deadline to the Braves along with Rick Ankiel for a whole bevy of interesting prospects. Farnsworth doesn't have anywhere near the same level of respect in Chicago that my man Kerry has, thus I am not particularly concerned with this deal. I do find new Royals prospect Tim Collins particularly interesting.
Other than that, the rest of the Cubs are still here. No Fuku trade, no Zambrano trade, Nady will be passed through waivers I'm sure and could be dealt. I am a fan of Mike Fontenot bug with DeWitt on board, I don't really see what he does for the Cubs so I expect Fontenot be also be passed through waivers and possibly traded. Jeff Baker may still have value on the team.
Overall, a massively interesting day. I'm happy with the deal. I would have liked to have seen the Cubs do more but I don't believe I was ever one of those "Blow up the team" people so I won't complain. I will leave this up for two hours before posting today's gamecast.
(Edit) I forgot to mention Will Ohman traded back to the NL to play for the Marlins. He's still around and is pretty effective.
Dear Goat Readers:
It has come to our attention -- despite our best efforts at total denial -- that the 2010 Chicago Cubs, despite their massive salaries and high expectations, are a steaming pile of crap.
As July is just around the corner, it's totally reasonable to expect Jim Hendry to fire up his ol' cell phone, duct-tape it to his head, and work non-stop to unload the numerous disappointments on teams too dumb -- or too desperate -- to say no.
As we've highlighted in other posts, the following players are likely candidates for trade -- assuming any team will take their bloated salaries:
SS Ryan Theriot - Sure, he'll give you a .280-.300 AVG most years, and he steals a decent amount of bases, but do you really want your team's shortstop to be a guy with middling defense and no power whatsoever? No? Me neither, but with a little bit of luck, some other teams feel differently.
And remember -- before you decide to fellate Theriot, assuming anybody would at this point, the dude's got a slugging percentage of .307 and an OPS of .628. Unload him!
1B Derrek Lee - He has a no trade clause, a big salary, and a batting average that only Dave Kingman could be proud of, but I think he should be on the block. All Jim Hendry has to do is pull him aside and say, basically, "we are not re-signing you, but we can try to trade you to a competitive team -- and who knows, if you do well, maybe they'll extend you." If Lee knows his time in Chicago is ending, he may agree to something like that. The hard part will be finding any team willing to take him.
2B Mike Fontenot - He's a journeyman middle infielder who could be a servicable backup on any number of competitive teams. Hell, trade him to the Red Sox or the Yankees -- they love their scrappy white guys.
3B Aramis Ramirez - He has a big contract and this is an opt-out year. But, as Rob observed, A-Ram would have to be about as stupid as Bam-Bam to vie for free agency in a season where he's batting .173 into July! The Cubs would have to eat a considerable amount of his salary -- probably the remainder of 2010's, and maybe even up to half of his salary for 2011, which I'm guesstimating to be in the $7 million range.
LF Alfonso Soriano - Ah yes. The White Sox had The Big Hurt in Frank Thomas, the Mariners had the Big Unit in Randy Johnson, and the Cubs have The Big Albatross in Soriano.
At this point, Sori's numbers aren't so bad -- he's on pace to play in more than 150 games, to hit nearly 50 doubles, 4 triples, nearly 30 homeruns, 80+ RBI, and his OPS is .910. The only problem is that he's making 19 million this year, and he's going to earn roughly that much money for the next four seasons. How the hell do the Cubs trade a guy who is still owed more than $70 million?
RF Kosuke Fukudome - He has one year remaining after this season, in which he will earn around 12 million dollars. Stat-hounds everywhere will tell you that the Cubs are paying him appropriately. Realists who watch the games and have even the smallest semblance of how reality works will tell you that he's been a tremendous, heaping disappointment. But -- if the Cubs will eat half his salary in 2011, who knows, maybe somebody will take him.
SP Ryan Dempster - He has two years left on his current contract. At this point, he's actually pretty much earned his wage. But based on his age, that probably won't be the case as he transitions from Year Three to Year Four. Therefore, the Cubs should swing a deal for him while he might actually be worth something.
SP Carlos Silva - With the Mariners already eating a good portion of his salary, and with one year remaining on his present contract, and with Carlos pitching better than he ever has in his entire career, this might be the ideal time to unload him on a team needing a starter.
SP Ted Lilly - I'll be sad to see the best free agent acquisition of my lifetime traded away, but why would Lilly come back next year? Could the Cubs even afford him? Despite his crappy record -- 3-6 -- Lilly surely has some value right now.
SP Carlos Zambrano - Alfonso Soriano's Albatross-in-Crime. Who knew that Carlos would not only remain an immature asshole, but at the still-young age of 29 he'd lose the talent which justified his insanity? If the Cubs can find any team willing to roll the dice on him, and if he'd be willing to approve a trade, this needs to happen.
Realistically speaking, Theriot, Fontenot, Silva, Dempster, and Lilly are all capable of finding homes without the Cubs needing to pay for parts of their salaries. At the same time, Lee, Fukudome, and Ramirez would require some financial sacrifice to deal, and Soriano and Zambrano are probably untradeable.
All that said, I was originally going to suggest likely teams for whom each player might fit some needs, but I think I'd rather leave it up to you guys to make suggestions.
So -- what teams would take these jabrones, and how much might they be willing to pay for them? I leave it to you.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
The question comes up in this discussion. Who is Juan Cruz?
Well, after a fairly long career, I think we know what we have here.
Cruz is a fly ball pitcher who strikes out a ton and walks way too many. His tendencies make him generally hard to hit but when he does get hit, he often gives up home runs and needs to blow people away to get out of tough spots.
Unfortunately, his most recent performance (2009 I'm talking about) suggests that he is still doing all the bad things he does but has seen a marketed drop off of his K rate:
K rate by year:
So, if he's closer to a 12 K's per 9 IP pitcher, the Cubs should take a shot, if he's closer to the 7 K per 9 guy from last year, forget it.
One point in his favor is he's K'd 11.8 batters per 9 in 2010 before being released.
I think he's a better pitcher than Justin Berg. As a matter of practice, that is the only hurdle he has to jump. If there's even a little chance he can be the dominant pitcher from 2007 and 2008, he's worth the minimum salary.
I agree with Kurt. Let's give him a try.
In other words, the Cubs have signed themselves their first Cuban defector in recent memory. The player in question is Juan Yasser Serrano, a pitcher who is apparently destined for Double (or possibly Triple) A.
Serrano brings with him a fastball in the low 90's, and is reportedly 21 years of age. (Keyword: reportedly.) It'd be interesting to look a little deeper into the numerous Cuban defectors through the years, in order to uncover the number of them who are actually successful, but my feelings are that it's actually a small number who move on to glorious things.
But one thing I will say about Cuba: their jerseys are pretty cool. I gotta get one.
Picture may or may not be of an actual Cuban baseball player
Confession time -- I have not exactly been spending a ridiculous amount of time thinking about the Cubs this off-season. In fact, if I measured the amount of time I've really considered the future of the Chicago Cubs, I could probably count the minutes on both hands. It's not that I am Cub-burned out, or anything, I've just been busier than ever before in my life.
Luckily -- or not, depending on your outlook for 2010 -- the Cubs haven't exactly been burning up the AP wire with moves so far this winter. They finally managed to deal Milton Bradley for an equally detestable, overpaid, abortion of a human being (whose presence will only be detrimental every 5th day, rather than every single day) and the Cubs have also managed to sign themselves Marlon Byrd, who'll make about half of what Bradley made with about the same offensive output. In other words, the team is hardly any better, except maybe in the clubhouse.
Still, as the cliche goes, it's relatively early. There's plenty of time for Jim Hendry to pull a team-saving deal out of his ass, even if it's about as likely as Charlize Theron returning my phone call -- or even making eye contact with me. Without really weighing favor in any one move, the following is my take on what should happen between now and March:
First, the likely 25-man roster:
SP - Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly, Randy Wells, Tom Gorzelanny, Carlos Silva
MR - John Grabow, Sean Marshall, Angel Guzman, Carlos Marmol
C - Geo Soto, Three Finger Hill
1B - Derrek Lee
2B - Jeff Baker, Mike Fontenot
SS - Ryan Theriot, Andres Blanco
3B - Aramis Ramirez
LF - Alfonso Soriano, Micah Hoffpauir
CF - Marlon Byrd, Sam Fuld
RF - Kosuke Fukudome
My initial thoughts here are that while this is better than the far-gone days of Ronny Cedeno-to-Neifi Perez, or Ron Coomer and Matt Stairs straddling the corners, this is not the team that will hold up a World Series trophy. The rotation is a borderline weakness, the bullpen is incomplete, the middle infield is about offensively able as a one-armed cricket player, and neither Soriano nor Fukudome can be relied upon at this point to justify their bulging contracts.
So -- why does Jim Hendry still have a job? What's he done this winter to justify his position? And how will Tom Ricketts prove himself as an owner? At this point this whole thing has kinda sucked ass.
Still, let's look at the free agents who remain and the things the Cubs can do to surprise us:
First and foremost, Marmol is the defacto closer. This is a concern unless you want your 9th inning pitcher to be as likely to bury a ball into the batter's ear as he is to throw an epic strike-out pitch. My general rule about relief pitchers is that they should be no older than 32 when signed as free agents, because they seem to become dramatically less reliable once they're in their mid 30's. Although the best of the crop are gone, according to ESPN the following remain available:
Danys Baez, 32, - A former closer who posted a 4.02 ERA in the most offensively destructive division in baseball last year. Worst case scenario, Baez could be a 7th inning guy or even a set-up option. Best case scenario, the man with 22 walks in 71.2 innings of work last year could be an alternative if Marmol melts down or flames out.
Joe Beimel, 32, - A lefty, Cub fans might best remember him from that time he owned our team in the playoffs in 2008. He posted an ERA of 3.58 last year with two teams, including the Rockies, and although he looks like a douchebag he can't possibly be worse than Bradley/Silva. Then again, the Cubs have their bullpen lefties, so he's not a necessity.
D.J. Carrasco, 32, - How do you throw 48 games in relief, including 89.1 innings, and not manage to log a single hold the entire season? Ask Carrasco, who must've done something to piss off former manager Ozzie Guillen. Still, Carrasco logged a 3.43 ERA as a reliever last year.
Mike MacDougal, 32, - Another White Sox cast-off, MacDougal had a 12.46 ERA in his 5 White Sox appearances last year, before finding himself in D.C. where he pitched 54.1 innings, posted a 3.60 ERA, and saved 20 games in 21 tries. That's the good. The bad - he walked and struck out 31 players, neither number particularly encouraging especially when compared to each other. But as far as insurance options go, the Cubs could do worse.
Jose Valverde, 31, - After rejecting arbitration from the Astros, Valverde is probably looking for a big payday in 2010. And he just might deserve it -- he's struck out 470 in 386.0 career innings, and saved 167 to only 27 blown (that's a very respectable 86% conversion ratio). If the Cubs wanted to forgo the Marmol experiment, Valverde would be the player to target.
None available really reek of hero to me. Of the guys who the Cubs might grab, a few names are familiar - and were smack-talked by me a year ago - like Orlando Hudson, who's living off of his reputation of defensive goodliness. Despite his slightly-above-average year, though, I wouldn't call Hudson a viable option. Probably the only half-decent second base option is the following:
Felipe Lopez, 29, - He's on the right side of 30 (well, until May 12th), he hits doubles, gets on base a lot, and posted an OPS last year of .810. Then again, his next team will be his 7th in 9 seasons. He isn't a game-breaking offensive player, nor is he a Gold Glove caliber infielder (but his defense is indeed better than Hudson's, according to Fangraphs), but he's probably a better option than Fonteblow or Jeff Baker.
Miguel Tejada, 35, - Probably too old, and no longer an offensive force since they hid his needle on him, Tejada would still be a better bat at short than Ryan Theriot at shortstop. Of course, the problem would be that if the Cubs grabbed Miguel, then they wouldn't have a "leadoff" hitter anymore ... not that Theriot is really a great leadoff hitter, either. Assuming he'd take a ridiculous pay-cut, and pretending the Cubs have money to play with, and ignoring that he's a defensive miscarriage of justice, then Tejada might just be an option to consider.
-- Side bar --
Something I really enjoy about the hypocrisy of Cub fans who think they know everything is that they will consistently argue the value of Kosuke Fukudome (whose defense apparently makes up for his inability to regularly hit tossed balls) while criticizing Ryan Theriot, whose defense is apparently atrocious. Yet, in 2009, Fukudome had an UZR/150 rating in center field of -18.1, while Theriot's was 8.3 at shortstop, making him one of the 10 best defensive shortstops in all of baseball in 2009. I don't care that they overvalue Fukudome -- although I don't understand why -- nor do I care that they constantly harp for Theriot to be moved to second base, but the kind of thinking where a person conveniently cites a statistic to back up an opinion in one case, while conveniently ignoring a statistic to back up an opinion in another case is (pardon my French) really fucking stupid. Even better, though, these stat-loving Cubtards have chosen to ignore the numbers in both cases this time to make their point. This is totally typical of the cynical, smart-ass, idiotic Cub fans who spend their time on the internets wasting their time and yours. But I digress.
-- end side bar --
Looking closely at the pieces available in contrast with the needs of the Cubs, it seems pretty evident to me that the only hope the team has is for an HGH dealer to set-up shop outside the ballpark in April. The pieces do not fit the puzzle. Soriano is probably going to bounce back a little bit this year, but not to the point of justifying his contract. Zambrano is an episode away from being committed, and the once-turgid Cubs offense appears increasingly flaccid.
Hendry will not be able to dramatically improve the team through free agency. Maybe he'll swing a trade, probably he won't, and the hopes of the team will depend upon rebound performances from guys like Soto and Zambrano and offensive outbursts from players like Ramirez, Soriano, and Fukudome.
In other words, maybe I've been avoiding the act of looking closely at this team for a reason. I don't like what I see. Does anybody?
ESPN is reporting that the Cubs are close to signing hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo to a deal. He will be replacing Von Joshua and Gerald Perry as the Cubs hitting coach.
As smart, sophisticated, kick-ass Cub fans, we all have to realize how little this might mean. Jaramillo has had a lot of success serving as the hitting coach for the Rangers (since 1994) and Astros (from 1990 to 1993), but the question is this: was he successful at turning guys like Bagwell, Biggio, Gonzalez, Rodriguez, Teixeria, and Young into super-stars, or was he fortunate to have those guys around to make him look good? Let's not forget that Sammy Sosa became a stud when he started listening to Jeff Pentland, who would segue his success with Steroid Sammy into two jobs with hopeless, mediocre offenses in Kansas City and then Seattle.
One interesting thing to note was that, from stories early in the year, Milton Bradley reportedly missed his old hitting coach from the Rangers (Jaramillo) who he connected to back when he had his spectacular '08 season. Does this mean there is even a small chance of reconciliation with Jim and Milton? Probably not. But we can look at Bradley's production in the '08 season as an example of how Jaramillo just might know what the hell he's doing.
Either way, before we remember that the Cubs '09 offense was swinging from crapville for most of the year, we should try not to forget that the '08 team -- which consisted of many of the same key players -- was a force of nature. Therefore, regardless of Jamarillo's actual talent, and even regardless of Hendry's success at upgrading the team in the winter, I will be expecting some bounce-back.
I still think that hitting coaches are important, despite how some Cub fans would argue that they do nothing to impact the multi-millionaires they coach. Chances are that a hitting coach can't turn a bad hitter into a good one, but he might be able to take a good hitter with bad habits and get him focused and directed. Besides, much like pitching there are mechanics to good hitting. Jaramillo's direct impact on the team should stem from his ability to fix an errant batting stance and to close a swing with big holes in it. We can't underestimate the value of that, much as we shouldn't oversell it, either.
Pending court and MLB ownership approval, the Chicago Cubs will soon belong to the Ricketts family, who spent 845 million for the privilege. It's been a long time in coming.
Back when the team's sale was first announced, many of us had hoped it would be a guy like Mark Cuban who would step up and buy the team. Cuban is the sort who would put product before profit, and while he probably wouldn't go into the red to win he would almost certainly spend more than most.
Still, Tom Ricketts is a Cubs fan. There's no doubt that he wants his new team to break the drought, although he's going to have a very, very long process ahead of him. In the next few years he's going to have to deal with some big, untradeable contracts, a crumbling ballpark, and a fanbase that continues to grow more alienated. Or he could just wait two years and sell the team again and probably make a cool 200 million dollar profit -- the downturned economy may have delayed the family's purchase of the team, but it also aided them in buying the Cubs at a relatively big discount.
Regardless of his plans, we're all still probably a little concerned about what Tom Ricketts will do next. It seems doubtful that a guy who was barely able to scrounge up the money to buy the team will be able to grow -- or even maintain -- the third largest team payroll in baseball.
Hopefully his next move will be to answer those issues, to calm us in the face of concerns, and his public silence should soon be broken.
Remember last October, when a 97-win Cubs team was swept out of the playoffs by Los Angeles? People wanted to blow up the team. They wanted to deal Derrek Lee, start Micah Hoffpauir at first, unload all the failures and under-performers, and -- the level-headed blog this is -- we suggested an exercise of caution. George Steinbrenner may disagree to some extent, but the actions and reactions of a strong organization is not to trade away the key components to a 97-win baseball team just because of an early playoff exit. And despite all that has gone on, I stand by that. Nobody -- no, not even the Cubbie Downers -- could have predicted such bad seasons from so many key players. Nobody could have guessed at the sheer amount of man-power lost to bizarre injuries. This season has hit us like a knock-out punch launched from the shadows -- no way did we see it coming. So, here's the dilemma: we do not know if this year was a trend or an aberration for Alfonso Soriano. We do not know if Ryan Dempster is really as bad as his numbers convey -- and I maintain that he's been the worst-luck pitcher on the team by far. We don't know if Bradley will bounce back next year. We don't know if Ramirez will be healthy in '10, or if Lee will continue to perform or drop off a cliff, or if Geovany Soto is just the new Rick Wilkins, or if the Cubs have a closer somewhere in that mess of a bullpen. We know that many players under-performed in 2009. We don't know if they will under-perform in 2010. So -- do the Cubs need to blow up this roster? Can Jim Hendry (or his inevitable replacement) unload these heavy, ridiculous contracts? Or is it possible that Soriano and his ilk will bounce back with a vengeance in 2010? And all I ask is an exercise in realism when you voice your opinion -- last year we had people who seemed to seriously believe that a Derrek Lee "clearly on the decline" would be capable of netting San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez, which is about as realistic as the plastic lightsabre I have hanging from my wall in my bedroom. One other thing -- if you choose to go with the seldom-used "reader blogs" option, rather than merely responding in the comments (and you probably should as your responses will likely be long), I will happily link back to them in this article so that they are clearly visible to everybody. So have at it. It's Wednesday morning -- what else could you do right now, work?
Remember last October, when a 97-win Cubs team was swept out of the playoffs by Los Angeles? People wanted to blow up the team. They wanted to deal Derrek Lee, start Micah Hoffpauir at first, unload all the failures and under-performers, and -- the level-headed blog this is -- we suggested an exercise of caution. George Steinbrenner may disagree to some extent, but the actions and reactions of a strong organization is not to trade away the key components to a 97-win baseball team just because of an early playoff exit.
And despite all that has gone on, I stand by that. Nobody -- no, not even the Cubbie Downers -- could have predicted such bad seasons from so many key players. Nobody could have guessed at the sheer amount of man-power lost to bizarre injuries. This season has hit us like a knock-out punch launched from the shadows -- no way did we see it coming.
So, here's the dilemma: we do not know if this year was a trend or an aberration for Alfonso Soriano. We do not know if Ryan Dempster is really as bad as his numbers convey -- and I maintain that he's been the worst-luck pitcher on the team by far. We don't know if Bradley will bounce back next year. We don't know if Ramirez will be healthy in '10, or if Lee will continue to perform or drop off a cliff, or if Geovany Soto is just the new Rick Wilkins, or if the Cubs have a closer somewhere in that mess of a bullpen.
We know that many players under-performed in 2009. We don't know if they will under-perform in 2010. So -- do the Cubs need to blow up this roster? Can Jim Hendry (or his inevitable replacement) unload these heavy, ridiculous contracts? Or is it possible that Soriano and his ilk will bounce back with a vengeance in 2010? And all I ask is an exercise in realism when you voice your opinion -- last year we had people who seemed to seriously believe that a Derrek Lee "clearly on the decline" would be capable of netting San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez, which is about as realistic as the plastic lightsabre I have hanging from my wall in my bedroom.
One other thing -- if you choose to go with the seldom-used "reader blogs" option, rather than merely responding in the comments (and you probably should as your responses will likely be long), I will happily link back to them in this article so that they are clearly visible to everybody.
So have at it. It's Wednesday morning -- what else could you do right now, work?
The thing is, you don't sink the ship to fix the mast.
Derrek Lee to Seattle for SP Jason Vargas -- Fans will object on both sides to this suggestion. If Lee was willing to be dealt to Seattle, Cub fans would probably want more than a middling starting pitcher like Vargas. And Mariner fans would probably object to trading such a young starter with potential for an old and expensive first baseman. It's not that Lee isn't more valuable on paper than Vargas, but his salary, age, and position make him a hard trade. The Cubs would be lucky to get anything better for him.
MR Carlos Marmol, Dave Patton, Jose Ascaino, Brad Ziegler, Jeff Samardija, Nick Masset, J.R. Mathes -- Still a weak link. The Cubs pen should be a top priority in the off season.
1B Chris Davis -- He's having a rough year offensively, but if the Cubs could grab such a young prospect it would be a boon for them.
2B Mike Fontenot -- Unfortunately I couldn't find a way to "upgrade" at this position.
SS Alberto Gonzalez -- Not a long term solution (unless he proves otherwise)
3B Michael Young -- Defensively weak on the left side, I would start Young over Encarnacion for the remainder of the year before looking to deal him again in the off season.
LF Matt Holliday -- A top hitter having a rough year
CF Elijah Dukes -- Having an off year, but with potential for 2010
RF Alex Rios -- Having an off-year but might find Wrigley to be friendlier confines
Bench - OF Gomes, Kearns, IF Encarnacion, Miles C Hill
Halladay 14.0, Wells .50, Vargas .75, Outman .50, Harrison .50, Marmol 4.50, Patton .40, Ascaino .40, Ziegler .40, Samardzija 1.50, Ziegler .50, Masset .70, Traded Cubs 24.0 = 91.70 million.