Goatriders of the Apocalypse

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Taguchi...so?

Just a very quick bit of news...

The Cubs have signed Japanese outfielder So Taguchi to a minor league deal that would pay 900k should he make the roster.  They have been looking to give Fukudome some Asian Companionship, and rather than go the bathhouse route, it looks like Taguchi is their man.

Actually, this is a great example of the way Jim Hendry hoards positions.  It's like he has an on-switch that he sometimes forgets to turn off ... this winter, it was "get an outfielder" and now that he's added Gathright, Taguchi, and Bradley to a mix already including Soriano, Johnson, Fukudome, and Pie, he can redouble his focus on "get a second baseman," "get a relief pitcher," and "get a starting pitcher."

I don't have much of an opinion on Taguchi.  He's a two-time champion who had a bad year.  I don't know how he'll contribute to The Objective, but as far as 5th outfielders go, there are probably worse ones out there.

Oh, and my latest photoshop for y'all ... another propaganda poster.  I need two things from everybody ...

1. Better slogan?
2. T-shirt/button/magnet worthy?

 

Goat Curse Revolution

Peavy Trade-0-Meter Updated

As per my discussion on the Jon Miller Show, the Peavy Trade-0-Meter as of today:

Peavy Meter

Also today in baseball history

newspaper out of Tampa reports that Bradley's contract with the Cubs will be formally announced later this week. 

The general response to this news is one of celebration and brow-wiping by the Goat Riders (who feared that Dunn would get his Wrigley Field wish) while Al Yellon is gently shaking with rage because the Cubs chose talent over character. 

But hey, when they have the Character Guy World Series, while Bradley would lose, we can take comfort in knowing that he will pummel the winner.

UPDATE - It's official - multiple reports are saying 3 years for $30 million.  Now that the offense is complete, it's time to try to upgrade the backend of the rotation or bullpen.  And then ... Yes They Can.

Paul Bako faces a great challenge

Chicago - When Paul Bako recently signed a contract with the Chicago Cubs, he knew that he would have a difficult road ahead of him.  In order to better prepare for his role of backup catcher, Bako pledged during a press conference this morning that he would soon start the most intense off-season regime of his career.

"It won't be easy," Bako said, "but I know I can win the hearts of Cub fans, and the respect of my pitchers."

Bako plans on making the transition an easy one by first getting himself incarcerated for the remainder of the winter.  He is not sure as to what he'll do to receive a month and a half of jailtime, but he has a short list of options, from petty larceny to barroom brawls.

"I know that (former Cubs backup catcher Henry Blanco) never actually went to prison," Bako said, "but have you seen that guy?  I guess that growing up in Venezuela gives you a toughness that a whitebread like me can't possibly understand."

Upon entering prison, Bako intends to toughen himself up by lifting weights during the morning, fighting off hoards of gangbangers in the afternoon, and covering his body in an elaborate tattoo that, if read properly, will help lead the Cubs to cracking the 54-year-old Goat Curse.

"I saw it on a TV show," Bako said.  "It looked cool, and besides, Blanco has sleeves like you wouldn't believe."

When Bako leaves the prison for spring training - assuming he is able to get out - his first order of business will be to start a fight with Carlos Zambrano in order to assert his dominance to the rest of the team.

"Prison is nothing compared to that guy," Bako said.  "If I can challenge and defeat him, then I will have established the same order that was in place when Henry was here.  After that, it should be cake."

While Bako may have a detailed plan to toughen up for the coming season, there is no question that it will be an even greater struggle for him to replace the awesome bat of Henry Blanco.  No amount of training will improve his stroke, but he hopes that through the power of intimidation, pitchers will go easy on him at the plate.

More thoughts on Milton Bradley

It seems as though the future acquisition of Milton Bradley remains in debate.  At this point, many of us probably have ants in our pants as we wait for news, and the lack of Hendry making any big moves has certainly left many fans - myself included - full of aggravation.

It really boggles the mind to realize that Hendry has done nothing of value this off season.  He allowed the departure of The Greatest Playing Cub, he whiffed when trying to acquire Jake Peavy, and he signed some schmuck named Gathright who couldn't swing a bat through a wet paper bag.

Milton Bradley, meanwhile, is not only available, he's not only a top option, but it still remains a strong possibility that he'll come at a discount, even though I think the risk of him flipping out and transforming into a douchebag is less likely than it used to be.  He's also a bit of an injury risk, but at this point the Cubs are certainly loaded in backup outfielders who can fill in should he miss a chunk of time due to any kind of necessary operation.

So - will the Cubs grab Bradley?  Sorry, but I still think it's unlikely, but I really don't have a clue.  My gut feeling is that Hendry has lost his magic touch - he's certainly lost his monopoly on the free agent market to the Yankees this year, but that's life for you.  But I hope with epic sincerity that Jim Hendry will find a way to improve the team, and if it means signing a dangerous, fight-prone outfielder who will kill the first fan who dares bate him, then I'm all for it.

I couldn't begin to guess where Bradley goes, but Chicago would be a good landing spot for him, at least in my opinion.

It hurts my eyes

According to Dan - yes, that bastion of accurate transaction news* - the Score is reporting that the Cubs will be signing free agent center fielder Joey Gathright.

(*I'm not teasing you, Dan, I just think it's funny for any article to cite as a source a faceless name from a Shout Box)

A few days back, I said "I have a feeling the Cubs won't get anybody they actually wanted."  Well, my friends, if Jim Hendry started the off season wanting Gathright, then the rumors that he's gone insane are true.

Gathright brings plus defense to the table, and decent speed, and nothing else.  He's got a solitary homerun in 1,145 career at bats, he's a career .263 hitter, he has a career OBP of .328, and his career OPS is .632.  It's like the second coming of Juan Pierre, if Pierre couldn't even hit singles.

Let's hope that Gathright is intended to serve in a backup role, because if the Cubs are turning to him to start in the outfield ... well, I can't even bring myself to conclude that thought.

Why holding one's breath is not advisable at this time

1) There seems to be some sort of informal unspoken moratorium on Major League Transactions until, at least, the Winter Meetings.  Owners and GMs are uncertain about how the Global Economy will directly impact them, so as long as everyone sits in their own silos, nobody is going to stick their neck out to, you know, actually SPEND money.  Once everyone gets together, someone WILL flinch, and everyone else will move, so they don't get left behind.

2) It is not a rumor - Cubs management is in contact with both the Orioles and Padres.  As they are in contact with the other 27 teams in the league.  But as berselius and kp point out, with Kevin Towers and Andy McFail in the mix, negotiations will move at a glacial, maybe even a galacial, pace.

3) Then throw in the added confounding element of the proposed sale of the team.  Hendry and Kenney are bound, by courtesy, to run any high-dollar transactions past ALL of the prospective buyers, to ensure their approval.  Since none of these buyers will probably be Mark Cuban, you would assume much harrumphing by the stuffed shirts that are still buyers.

4) Finally, taking into consideration the asinine stance regarding his No-Trade language by our top prospect (Samardjia) and the alleged 'hands-off' status of some of our most tradeable Major League assets (Marshall and Fontenot), the pool of available trade bait is mighty shallow.  Myself, I think all of part 4 is just posturing by our Braintrust, which is in some respects understandable, but it seems to best serve the Sale Value of the Cubs more than it does the Talent Value.

So, therefore, holding your breath while waiting for the Big One that is going to push us over the top in 2009 is Not Advisable.  To paraphrase former Celtics coach Rick Pitino, Brian Roberts is NOT coming in the door.  Jake Peavy is NOT coming in the door.  Hell, not even Raul Ibanez is coming in the door.

At least not this week.

Who goes where

Ok, here's what I say we do for right now.

Given that Lou Piniella has just announced we're "set" for starting pitching, I'm taking that into account and not adding any starters.

SP1: Zambrano

SP2: Dempster

SP3: Harden

SP4: Lilly

SP5: Note 1

SP6/Swing man: Note 1

Closer 1: Note 1

Closer 2: Note 2 and Note 4

Set-up 8th inning: Carlos Marmol

Set-up 6-7th inning: Kevin Hart *OR* Michael Wuertz

Long Reliever/Mop-up guy: Rich Hill

Lefty One-Out GuY: Neal Cotts

Catcher 1: Soto

Catcher 2: Blanco (Having this good a backup catcher is worth 3 million)

1B: Lee

2B/Util: DeRosa

3B: Ramirez

SS: Cedeno

Backup 2B/SS: Theriot

LF: Soriano

CF1: Edmonds

CF2: Reed Johnson

RF: Fukudome, presuming he can re-learn to hit

Util/PH 1: Hoffpauir, or if he suddenly starts sucking, sign Doug Mientkiewicz while his price is low (We need a backup first baseman other than Daryle Ward)

Util/PH 2: Note 3

Util/PH 3: Note 4

Note 1: As of now, Marquis is the fifth starter, and Samardzija is the closer. If we can sign/develop someone else to be closer, than Samardzija is the 5th starter, and Marquis is the Swing Man.

Note 2: I believe in having two closers: that way you can bring in one in a critical situation (i.e. bases loaded, none out, small lead) early in the game, and bring in the other in the 9th inning. However, the 9th-inning closer should be gotten as cheaply as possible, as he's not as important (in my opinion) as the guy who can get you out of bases-loaded no-out jams with minimal damage.

Note 3: I don't know who's available to fill this slot. I advocate Nick Punto, who can play 2B, 3B, and SS, and well (although he might need some practice at wrigley, being used to the Metrodome) and who earned $2.4M last year while putting up decent numbers. He can probably be had for a discount.

Note 4: Realistically, we aren't going to get the two closers I advise, so drop one of them for another backup bat, preferably an outfielder who can play all outfield positions. Maybe Scott Podsednik, who earned $750,000 last year, doesn't hit too well, but can play both LF and CF fairly well, and has just over 100 career innings in RF (and did well in those games.)

 

In short, the three guys not on the Cubs last year I advocate signing are 1. a closer, any closer; 2. Nick Punto, 3. Scott Podsednik. For the closer role, one possibility that can be had cheap is Juan Rincon; yes, he's sucked the last two years, but was dominant for 3 years before that; if we can make Lilly not suck, and Marquis suck less, we can probably fix up Juan Rincon. He made $2.5M last year but
can probably be had for less given the ERA the last two years; maybe even sign him to a minor league contract and see if he can put it together in spring training.

I think these three guys can be had for a total well under $10M, as we'd be "buying low" on all three. This wouldn't put much of a dent in the budget while retaining the other 22 guys I mentioned.

Looking like an unrelenting idiot

On the weekend, I wrote two articles highlighting some of the suggested moves by the Goat Rider Army, and then discussing those moves in greater detail while ripping them apart.  This led to a brief war of words between gunsnascar (or g&n, as I call him) who thought I was talking down to everybody while elevating myself.

Far from it.  I know I'm an idiot - I write on a blog that has a hooded figure with a scythe riding atop a goat as its logo.  I also know that while I've been proven to be pretty good at guessing value and cost regarding free agents, my trade speculations are just as absurd as anybody's.  I also believe in fair play and I might as well open myself to the same level of criticism as everybody else.  So let us begin.  Read On.

In a blaze of hell and fury

As promised, today's epic post will be about many of the numerous trade and transaction speculations made by various members of the Goat Rider Army.  As I said in last night's blog, I will try to point out the bad and the good in each trade idea.  And remember, I truly believe that Jim Hendry himself could retire from the Cubs, take a job as an analyst for ESPN, and write about trade suggestions all day every day and he'd come off looking like a tool.  It's almost impossible for amateurs like us to not be completely wrong about trade talks.

1. Angel Guzman is ready to pitch
The Good: Guzman was at one point considered to have more promise than Mark Prior.  Instead, he turned out to have as many health problems as The Franchise.  However, after pitching for the Cubs at the tail end of '08, Guzman is now playing very well in Winter Ball and maybe, just maybe, at long last, he's ready to pitch in the Major Leagues.
The Bad: Maybe this is true.  But let's take a look at the past half decade for Guzman:
2003 - his season was cut short with a damaged shoulder.
2004 - Various injuries limited his season to 11 starts and an 0-3, 5.60 ERA at AA and a 4.20 ERA at A
2005 - More injuries; Guzman threw in 6 total games this season.
2006 - Arm cramping and other mechanical issues keeps Guzman from being an effective pitcher
2007 - Tommy John Surgery, at long last
2008 - Guzman returns from TJS and pitches ineffectively for the Cubs.
The thing I said about Guzman this season is that, while he once had ungodly stuff, it appears as though his numerous surgeries have shaved off some of his talent.  Now, Guzman may at long last be healthy enough to contribute.  He might be the unspoken answer to the middle relief question.  But his long history of arm problems makes Harden look as reliable as Maddux.

2. Adam Dunn would be a good choice to spell D.Lee while playing off the bench for the Cubs.
The Good: Well, it's true.  Dunn kills the ball at Wrigley Field and he would be a damaging force for the Cubs.  Can't contest that.
The Bad: Dunn is going to make 8 figures next year, and for a long time to come.  There is just no way that he would sign with a team to be a bench player.  None.  Not gonna happen.  You're dreaming.

3. Mike Fontenot is a 25-30 HR hitter who would serve the Cubs far better than Brian Roberts.
The Good: Fontenot was certainly a valuable Cub in '08.  In 243 at bats, the little lefty batted .305 with a .395 OBP.  He hit 9 homeruns, drove in 40, and most impressively smacked 22 doubles.  In 479 career at bats, Fontenot is now batting .290 with a .369 OBP, he's hit 34 doubles, 12 homers, and driven in 69 RBI while maintaining an OPS of .826.  In other words, for a guy who can only reach his listed height of 5'8" by standing on his tippy-toes, he's been an effective major leaguer. 
The Bad: He would be a less expensive option to Roberts, but he would also come nowhere close to ever hitting 25-30 homeruns over a full season, nor would he match the production of the Orioles switch-hitting second baseman.  There's just no way that Fontenot has the ability to outslug Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, or even Mark DeRosa or Geovany Soto.  No way.  His best role is that of bench star, and that's where he should remain.

4. Lefties, lefties, lefties.  The Cubs could stock their team with the best pitchers in all of baseball, but without a few more lefty hitters in their lineup, they'll never get through the playoffs.   Just take a look at all the World Championship teams of the past half decade.  Almost all of them had a bunch of good, lefty hitters.
The Good: Well, this is more a philosophy than a trade suggestion, but this one is flat out right.  As much as I hate to admit it, having a more balanced lineup of effective hitters would increase the team's chances of going deep through the playoffs. 
The Bad: You can't trade for the player who isn't available, and you can't sign the free agent that doesn't exist.  There really aren't many great lefty hitters out there.  Hell, the Cubs appear poised to spring on Mark Teahen, for Crist's sake!  (Charlie Crist, Governor of Florida.)  Therefore, while more lefties would be good, what's better would be to improve the team with the best available players - like Jake Peavy.

5. Screw that!  Jake Peavy is so good that the Cubs could just reshuffle their current lineup and they'd be fine with Peavy in the rotation.
The Good: The Good would be Jake Peavy.  I'm with Rob on this one - imagine a Cubs team in which Rich Harden - you know, the guy with the Sub 2.00 ERA last year - was the Cubs #5 pitcher.  Just imagine.  It's... well, it's flippin' awesome is what it is.  Besides, if your pitching is good enough, you could have the crappiest offense in the playoffs and it wouldn't matter.
The Bad: I think that the offense might flounder so much that it would be a struggle to get to the playoffs.  I neither trust DeRosa in RF, nor do I trust Fontenot at 2B.  An offensive upgrade or two this off season is essential.

6. The Cubs really need to actively seek a left-handed leadoff man.  Soriano just doesn't cut it, especially in the playoffs.
The Good: I think we all agree that a lefty leadoff man with a pedigree for walks and speed would be nice.  Real nice.  Roberts or Furcal very well might do the trick in this case.  Moving Soriano and his ability to drive runs in to 5th in the lineup would make the Cubs offense ridiculously dangerous. 
The Bad: You can't argue with the success of the Cubs since Soriano started leading off for them.  And while it's true that Sori has been crappy in the playoffs, there is no way to predict that he'll be crappy every post season series.  Sooner or later, he's going to put up big numbers in October, and when that happens nobody will care where he's batting in the lineup.

7. The Cubs have given us so many years of heartbreak and losing that they should spend every penny to get every key player in order to form a super team that will help them win the World Series.  At any cost.
The Good: Sure, this would be a fun idea.  Trade for Peavy, sign Furcal, bring back Wood, lock up Dunn, the Cubs - or Yankees Central, as they'd become known - would be a fun team to watch. 
The Bad: You know another thing that would be fun to watch?  Flames shooting from me arse.  That would be fun.  But like the At Any Cost approach, flames will not be shooting from me arse any time soon.

8. Forget Peavy, stick with Marquis or pursue the cheap alternative that is Randy Johnson, because the Cubs money needs to be spent on a switch-hitting leadoff man.
The Good: It's hard to argue with improving the offense.  Also, while old, broken, and ugly, Randy Johnson probably will have a year comparable to Marquis, if not perhaps slightly better. 
The Bad: Maybe the keywords there are "old" and "broken."  Sure, Marquis might not be the best choice to pitch #5 for the Cubs, but the answer isn't to turn to a broke-down lefty.  The Cubs have plenty of pitching prospects they can turn to if Marquis winds up dealt somehow.  Besides, with Harden and Zambrano being moderate-to-severe injury risks, obtaining a third pitcher who is an injury risk might be temping the fates just a little too much.  Can anybody say 1985?

9. Micah Hoffpauir has the ability to hit 30 homeruns a season and should get the nod to play RF.
The Good: It's hard to contest that Hoffpauir had a great 2008.  As an Iowa Cub, the Hoff batted .362 in 290 at bats with 25 homers and 100 RBI.  Upon being called up to Chicago, Hoffpauir batted .342 with 2 homers and 8 RBI in 73 at bats - with both homeruns coming in the same game.  Without a doubt, he's earned the opportunity to make the team in 2009, in order to serve - at the very least - as a left-handed bat off the bench.
The Bad: Hoffpauir is going to be 29 next year.  Sure, he had a good season, especially at Iowa, but let's not forget that this was his fifth year facing AAA pitching.  If Hoffpauir is such a potentially good player, major league teams would be blowing up Jim Hendry's phone in order to persuade him to make a deal, because Hoff should be starting somewhere if there's no room for him in Chicago.  The reality is, Hoffpauir will be an "average" major leaguer at best with below average defensive skills.

10. Brian Roberts should be conned from the Orioles to leadoff for the Cubs.
The Good: Roberts is very good.  He's still young, he steals a lot of bases, I've heard no negative complaints about his defense, and he's one of the best - if not the best - leadoff men in the game today.  There is no doubt that he would be a drastic improvement in tha position for the Cubs.
The Bad: With DeRosa playing second base, the need for Roberts is not great.  Furthermore, Roberts would be costly-if-not-impossible to acquire.  The Orioles do not want to part with him and he will be pricey.

11. Marquis + Pie = Nate McLouth. 
The Good: That would be McLouth in this case.  At the age of 27, McClouth made less than 500k last season.  He batted .276 for the Pirates, hitting 26 homers, driving in 94 RBI, and he stole 23 bases in 26 tries while walking 65 times.  In other words, he's a total stud.
The Bad: Maybe Jim Hendry could wine and dine the Pirates GM before making this trade offer.  Maybe if Neal Huntington was really, really drunk, he'd agree to this trade.  But in reality, there is no way the Pirates deal McLouth, especially not for a mediocre #5 pitcher and a prospect who is at risk of falling into the "failed" category.  McLouth puts up the numbers that some people wish Fontenot would put up - and if Fontenot put up McLouth's numbers, those same people would deem him untradable.  Let's just call this what it is - sipping the Cubbie Blue Koolaid while wearing the Rose Colored Glasses.  McLouth is a tremendous asset for the Pirates; they would never trade him for the crap combo of Marquis and Pie.  And considering that this same reader suggested that the Cubs might basically have to give Marquis away ... well, you get what I'm saying.

12. The Royals might be inevitable trade partners.  If not for Teahen - who Colin is nuts to defend - then for DeJesus, who is an ideal leadoff guy. 
The Good: Well, the Royals are known to give up players who start to earn real money.  David DeJesus is a left-handed center fielder making more than 2 million a year and he puts up respectable numbers.  He batted .307 last year with a .366 OBP, 11 steals, 12 homers, 25 doubles, and 7 triples.  He also doesn't strike out too often and his career numbers reflect that he'd do well: .287 AVG, .360 OBP.  As for Teahen as the right fielder, a .255 AVG plus 15 homeruns in 572 at bats (and a .715 OPS) does not make for a great offensive upgrade.  Put it to you this way, Colin - you've said that DeRosa wouldn't put up enough offense to justify being a regular RF.  Do you really think Teahen would outproduce DeRosa?
The Bad: I don't know about his defense, but DeJesus is only a somewhat respectable leadoff option.  He doesn't steal a lot of bases, in fact he gets caught way too often - he's stolen 40 in his career and has been caught a ridiculous 31 times.  As for Teahen, we really don't know what kind of numbers he might put up in a different ballpark and with a different batting coach.  But if he can come anywhere close to duplicating his rookie numbers over a full season, we might be talking a .290 AVG, a .874 OPS, and 26 homeruns.

13. Orlando Hudson = defensive gold
The Good: He wins Gold Gloves and he hits probably in a comparable way to what DeRosa will hit next year, should DeRo return to EarthRo.  Not to mention his age - Hudson is only 31 next year.  He's also a switch hitter.
The Bad: While answering the quest to improve defensively, Hudson missed time due to injury last year and he's no offensive upgrade.  In fact, while he might match DeRo's average offensive production, he certainly won't surpass it, nor would he put up the kind of production that we saw from DeRosa in '08.

In Conclusion

You could probably summarize this article by saying that it was very internet of me.  In other words, I took ideas - some good, some bad, some unrealistic - and took a heaping crap on all of them, although I did try to positively spin them all as well.  It's very Internet Trollish to say "I hates it!  I hates it!" no matter what it is.

I've posted in the past my thoughts on what is realistic and unreasonable, and I'll probably post updated thoughts early in the week.  I welcome all to crap heapingly on my own opinions as well.  In the meantime, I think we will all agree on one thing: nobody wants the Cubs to stand pat.  They have a few moves to make, a few things to do, and I think we're all very curious - if not outright anxious - to see what they are.

And regardless of what Hendry does, I'm sure we'll dump on him a bit.  Nobody is ever always happy, after all, especially not Cub fans.

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