Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Trade Rumors

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Things I'd like to see from the Cubs this offseason.

This will be a disjointed post. It will encompass all sorts of issues facing the Cubs during this offseason, including personnel, role decisions, and contract decisions. Lets jump right in.

From a management perspective, the Cubs' house is in order very early in the offseason. The new Cubs manager is an Alpaca (he has alopecia). Jumbo Jimbo gets at least one more offseason to fix his own messes. The Ricketts family now has a year of ownership under its belt, and I do believe they have a vision that goes beyond the mens room piss-troughs. At the field level, the Cubs are a team in transition. All time great Cub Derrek Lee (yeah I said it) is gone, as is Terrible Ted Lilly. Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, and Carlos Silva are all in the last year's of their respective contracts. I don't expect any to return in 2012. The window to win with the old guard has slammed decidedly shut, which is why the first move the Cubs should make is....

This should be a no brainer for Hendry, which is precisely why I doubt it'll get done. The Cubs should be beating down Castro's door with a long term extension that would eat up Starlin's arbitration eligible years, with club options that would keep him off of the free agent market.Starlin was promoted to the majors for good on May 7, 2010. Unless the new CBA does away with "Super Two" status, the 2012 season will be the last year that the Cubs will have Castro for the league minimum salary. The time to sign him to an extension is right now, when the Cubs can lock in substantial long term savings in exchange for security on the player's part. 6 years, $30M, with 2-3 club options at $10-$12M sounds about right for a player who has less than a full year of service time. This would guarantee the Cubs the right to Starlin's best years, and save them a ton of money that can be invested elsewhere. Once the club guarantees its future with its best player, it's time to look to 2011. The Cubs have an opening at 1B which they should fill by....

The Cubs have nothing in the pipeline at 1B, so they'll be acquiring their starter through free agency or trade. I like Pena for a number of reasons.

1) Pena is likely to be underpaid next year no matter where he signs. Pena had a superficially ugly season, posting a .196 batting average which was anchored by a .222 BABIP. He also failed to hit 30 home runs for the first time since 2006, when he spent substantial time in the minor leagues. Pena has a career OBP of .351 and a career slugging % of .490. A Scott Boras client, Pena may accept a 1 year, incentive laden contract to allow him to rebuild his open market value for a larger payday in 2012. He could provide a handsome return on investment next season with a return to form.

2) Pena is an average 1B. He's no "Rodan", but he fields his position well. I see the acquisition of a decent 1B as an investment in the team's future. Starlin Castro is still learning his position, and he will continue to make mistakes as he grows at the major league level. If for no other reason than to protect the kid's psyche, it behooves the Cubs to acquire a 1B who will be able to corral some of his errant throws. Castro is the Cubs future, and the team should do everything in its power to help him develop.

3) For those of you who put stock in such matters (Rob), Pena has a reputation as a Jim Thome type clubhouse leader. He's both extremely well liked and vocal, and could join Ryan Dempster as the de facto clubhouse leaders.

4) Pena is left handed. The Cubs have lacked a left handed power threat for what seems like decades. Pena makes the offense far more dangerous against right handed pitchers, whom the Cubs continue to struggle against.

5) He's not Adam Dunn. No offense to the Big Donkey, but his signing would be a huge setback for the Cubs. Dunn is a better hitter than Pena, but they are remarkably similar players. Unlike Pena, Dunn is said to be asking for 4 years, at more than $10M per year. The Cubs are only now starting to dig out from their stable of long term, big money contracts to declining veterans. Dunn just turned 31, and his is the kind of body that frequently ages quickly. He's the type of player a team adds when it's one piece away, not 5 or 6 pieces away. This team is just not built to compete for a world championship in 2011, so signing a guy long term who's best days are likely behind him doesn't make much sense.

With Pena in the fold, the "Tyler Colvin to 1B" concept goes out the window. The Cubs still need to figure out exactly what they have with Colvin, which is why they should....

Colvin might be the Cubs' long term left handed power threat. It will depend on his ability to learn the strike zone at the major league level. Tyler's rookie year was extremely impressive, but I'm still not convinced that he isn't the next Jeff Francoeur. Hopefully, the Cubs will have the patience to give Tyler 600 plate appearances in 2011. If he's really the player he appeared to be this past season, the Cubs will realize substantial savings in free agency that can be invested elsewhere. In a development/consolidation season, it's worth finding out exactly who Tyler Colvin is, and what his future is with the Chicago Cubs. Of course, the Cubs already have a left handed RF on the roster, who would stand to lose significant plate appearances to Colvin if he's no longer "the starter." Many fans are calling for the Cubs to trade Fukudome. Not I. The best way to utilize him is to....

Trading Fukudome is unlikely to net the Cubs anything of value. They'd need to swallow at least half of the $14.5M salary before they could move him at all, and they won't get much more than minor league roster filler in return. His is just a bad, bad contract. However, it's a sunk cost, and a bad contract does not equal a bad ballplayer. The Cubs should utilize Kosuke so as to realize the most return on their investment. Fukudome has a career wOBA of .351 against right handed pitching, which is 11% better than the average hitter. Both his career OBP and his career slugging are significantly higher against righties than against lefties. Considering the Cubs struggles against right handed pitchers, Fukudome SHOULD be playing against right handed starters.

Rotating Fukudome will help keep Soriano and Byrd fresh and healthy, will improve the OF defense on days that he is playing, and will ensure that he stays engaged during the season. On days he doesn't start, Fukudome is the first LH bat off of the bench. Kosuke should get 250-300 plate appearances, even though he isn't the "starter."

At this point, the Cubs would have 38 players on its 40 man roster. They'll need to make some changes to the 40 man roster during the offseason to make room for other additions, and protect their top prospects from the Rule 5 draft. Specifically, the Cubs MUST....

All three of these players would be exposed to the other major league teams in this winter's Rule 5 draft if they are not added to the 40 man roster. Archer is the Cubs' top pitching prospect, and was the most 'projectable' player acquired by the Cubs in the Mark DeRosa trade. What he lacks in his ability to make the Trixies wet, he makes up for with a mid nineties fastball and a sharp, diving curveball. Last year, Archer pitched 142.1 innings split nearly evenly between High-A Daytona and AA Tennessee. He averaged a 3.16 FIP across those two levels with a K/9 rate of 9.45. He's got the chance to be great.

Marquez Smith is not likely to be great, but he might be the Cubs' next 3B. He's a little old for a prospect (26 in March), but he showed good patience and great power in AAA last season. At worst, he should serve as an Aramis Ramirez injury insurance policy, and an acceptable bridge to Josh Vitters. If he's a late bloomer, he could seize the starting job at 3B and hold it for years. It's worth finding, right?

Brandon Guyer is probably the Cubs' second best outfield prospect, after Brett Jackson. He's a speed guy who stole 30 bases in 33 attempts at AA Tennessee this past season. He plays all three outfield positions, although I can't find any data on his center field range. If he can play CF well, it certainly raises his value to the Cubs and other teams.

To make these additions, the Cubs are going to need to make some subtractions first. Koyie Hill and Micah Hoffpauir should both be DFA'd. If they clear waivers, keep them around, but they don't belong on the 40 man roster at this point. That leaves one roster spot available for the Cubs to make a selection in the Rule 5 draft, or for Hendry to give to the mediocre reliever he gives 3 years and $12M to.

You'll notice that my plan leaves no room for big changes on the pitching staff. This is intentional. The Cubs have more than enough quality arms to fill out their rotation and bullpen. The internal roles for a few of the Cubs pitchers are still undefined. Right now, the Cubs seem intent on using Andrew Cashner as a reliever. I hate this idea, and I believe the Cubs should....


Dempster and Los Dos Carloses are already penciled in for the first three rotation slots. Randy Wells probably gets the fourth spot based on incumbency, but I doubt he'll keep his position in the rotation all year. Based on last year's usage, the #5 starter gig probably goes to either Tom Gorzellany or Casey Coleman. GORZ did enough to earn the spot last season, and Coleman has an argument as well based on his late season audition.

The Cubs should disappoint them both, and give the job to Andrew Cashner. Cashner's physical skills are far better than either GORZ or Coleman. He's been a starter in the Cubs' system for a while now, and we know he can do it in the minors. It behooves the Cubs to give him the chance to be a starting pitcher in the majors. If his command and secondary pitches develop, he could be an Ace pitcher. That's worth gambling on in 2011.

Finally, there is the matter of the batting order. I'm a big Lou Piniella homer, but he lost some of my support this season by refusing to let the Cubs' best hitter bat in the middle of the order. The Cubs can improve their offensive output in 2011 by....

This is another one of those "should be no brainers" that will nevertheless not happen. Soto posted the highest wOBA of any Cubs hitter last year, and at 28 years old next season, is firmly in his prime. He is the Cubs best hitter, and he should be hitting third as a result. 

Follow my plan, and the Cubs look like this to start 2011:

Against RHP
Kosuke Fukudome: CF/LF
Starlin Castro: SS
Geovany Soto: C
Carlos Pena: 1B
Aramis Ramirez: 3B
Alfonso Soriano/Marlon Byrd: CF/LF
Tyler Colvin: RF
Blake Dewitt: 2B

Against LHP
Blake Dewitt: 2B
Starlin Castro: SS
Geovany Soto: C
Aramis Ramirez: 3B
Alfonso Soriano: LF
Carlos Pena: 1B
Marlon Byrd: CF
Tyler Colvin: RF

Ryan Dempster
Carlos Zambrano
Carlos Silva
Randy Wells
Andrew Cashner

Carlos Marmol
Sean Marshall
Jeff Stevens
Justin Berg
Esmailin Caridad/Jeff Samardzija
John Fucking Grabow

Whew. That got long. Thanks for sticking with me, if you made it this far.

I believe if the Cubs follow this plan, they will finish in fourth or fifth again next season, but they will make serious progress towards becoming an NL Central force, year in and year out. Way back at the top, I mentioned that I believed in the Ricketts, and that they do have a plan for this franchise. Tom has stated publicly that he wants to build the team through scouting and development, and I applaud him for that. I believe that this is the only way to ensure a competitive team, year in and year out. The Cubs should take their lumps in 2011, knowing that 2012 might be the start of something special.

Game Recap: Padres 1, Cubs 0 -- Lee to be traded?

Zzzz.  Cubs, Padres.  Zzzzz shutout.  Zzzznother loss.  Zz--wha'?  Derrek Lee might get traded?!

That's the rumor this morning, anyway.  It's sort of a nice deflection from the dead-to-the-ears-up ball team we are currently stuck following.  The Cubs last last night after allowing only 1 run, in the 1st off of a ground-out.  They then succeeded to hold the Padres to only 3 hits all night, even as the Cubs failed to score any runs themselves.

Therefore, I have to give props to Randy Wells.  Granted, he's a 5-11 pitcher this year now (ugly!), but he pitched 7 innings, struck out 6, walked 3, and lowered his ERA to 4.44.  Hopefully he'll have a better record next year, if he's a Cub.

Anyway, back to Derrek -- earlier this season he said he'd refuse to okay a trade to the Angels, but it makes sense that the Cubs would've gotten his approval before negotiating with the Braves.  With Atlanta losing Chipper Jones for the year, Lee makes sense to be a "McStiff Eats Ass" solution for them.

It'd be a cool idea.  Anything's better than keeping Lee at this point.  I doubt the Cubs would get any really good prospects, but who knows?

Rob puts in his two cents:

The latest word about the possible deal:

Those of you who get giddy about draft day and lust over single A prospects are having a confusing day.   We wouldn't likely receive any compensation at all at the end of the year from Lee, but here's a chance to get the proverbial bukkit-o-spit. 

Me, myself?  I would have traded him this past winter, when his value would never be higher.  We might have gotten some bullpen relief for him if he'd okayed the Angels trade.  Now, we'll get a class A guy that most likely we will never see.

For all his gaudy stats in 2005 and 2009, Derrek Lee did precious little, in my opinion, to help us.  FanGraphs recently revealed he was the least clutch starter in the majors in 2010, and even in his best years, when the cane got high, he was more willing to take a base on balls and hand the machete over to Ramirez.

I suppose I should be glad that I get six less weeks of DPLee than I was counting on.  Ok, yes, I am glad.  Of course, if that means I have to look at six weeks of X Nady and Micah the Hoff, what the hell's the difference?

It is time to find out if either Colvin or Ramirez can play first.  If not, then as I said last week, look for us to spend the winter debating whether or not to sign Big Donkey Dunn.  But if either of them can, then maybe we can use the money Dunn would want, and use it on some pitching.

But, of course!  Ricketts owns the team now.  He will use the salary savings to put a Smirnoff Ice Bar-n-Grill near the left field gate.  Drinking, chicks, revenues and drinking is all that overgrown Chad thinks about.  Fuckin' dick....

Trade deadline recap

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.

If Derrek deserves flak, Ted gets triple.

Most of the Cub trade hubbub lately has focused on Derrek Lee's decision to invoke his no-trade clause and prevent a deal with the Angels. That led to a debate about Lee's interest in winning, his skills as a leader, and other intangibles discussion points.

Pardon my lack of segue. Call it a quick left turn:

Last night, the Minnesota Twins traded for Matt Capps, the Nationals' closer. In the deal, they gave up Wilson Ramos, a 22-year-old catcher who hit .317 in AA last year, a guy who apparently has a super arm when it comes to throwing out runners.

Another left:

In a potential Ted Lilly trade, the Cubs are asking the Mets for Josh Thole, according to some reports. Thole has a .783 OPS in his career in the minors, but in 48 plate appearances with the big league club this year has managed to post a .941 OPS.

Three lefts, just one more to go:

Until very recently, the Twins had been considered a likely landing spot for Lilly. They wanted him pretty badly, and given the deal they just made with Washington, it seems like they had a guy in mind that they were willing to give up to get Ted.

Fourth left, now we're back to where we started:

Some folks seem to have been bothered by the fact that Derrek Lee used his no-trade clause (the one he earned from having played in the league for 10 years, spending five of those with one team) to block a Los Angeles deal. Let me be honest: the Cubs may have possibly saved some money, but given Lee's performance this year we probably weren't going to get anything valuable back.

Having said that, it looks like up until last night, a Ted Lilly-for-Wilson Ramos swap was distinctly possible. And according to reports, the only thing that held the deal up was Ted Lilly's decision to invoke his limited no-trade clause, which happens to include the Twins.

If you want to talk about "wanting to win," turning down the Angels, who trail the Rangers by a sizable margin, is one thing. But the Twins are getting tons of buzz as a World Series favorite. If you want to give a guy flak for not wanting to go after a championship, take everything you've said about Derrek Lee and triple it, because that's what Ted Lilly deserves, not to mention his role in denying the Cubs a Top 100 catching prospect.

Look at me, I'm an expert on trades!

UPDATE: One down; according to Bruce Levine, Derrek Lee will not be traded. Let further speculation continue!

I'm sure you all read the same things I do (since MLBTradeRumors.com does such a great job of aggregating all the online buzz), but with Rob having brought up the subject of trades, I thought I'd try my best to summarize what's out there so we have a place for reader comments as these things begin to materialize.

1) As Rob said, looks like Lilly's gone. Bruce Levine (not Miles, whoops) says it's either the Dodgers or the Twins. Even though they're the smaller market, I feel like the Twins probably have more financial flexibility, and Ted appears to be the kind of guy that fits right into their pitching mantra, which is, "Don't walk anybody." So, guess number one: Ted Lilly to the Twins.

2) It's the apparent interest in Ryan Theriot that motivated Rob to post in the first place, and I do think he'll be moved. I think Lou Pinella and Jim Hendry are smart enough to know that a Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker platoon would be just as, if not more effective than starting The Riot everyday, and I think they're starting him so often because they know scouts are watching, so they're marketing him. It sounds like the interested teams are the Rockies and the Padres, but now that Troy Tulowitzki is back, and with the Padres leading the division, I think San Diego is probably more motivated to get a deal done. My guess: Ryan Theriot to the Padres.

3) I disagree with Rob on one point: I don't think Derrek Lee will be traded. If there's one thing Jim Hendry's been consistent about in his tenure with the Cubs, it's that he treats his players well (avoids arbitration, gives lots of NTCs, apparently consulted Lilly about his trade options, etc.). So if the return for Lee appears underwhelming -- and I'm pretty sure it does, given his cost and performance -- Hendry won't ask Lee to uproot his family for the sake of one more single-A pitching prospect. Derrek Lee will not be traded.

4) If the Cubs make more than two trades before Sunday, the third Cub to go will be Kosuke Fukudome. There clearly isn't a place for him on this team, and since you're gonna be paying him anyway, why not save $2MM-$5MM and try to get SOMETHING that complements your farm system? The Braves have expressed a need for an outfielder that can play center, and the Red Sox could probably use another outfielder as well. Gut feeling: Kosuke goes south. Kosuke Fukudome to the Atlanta Braves.

When all is said and done, I think the Cubs get back four A-level pitchers for Ted, Riot, and Fuk, and maybe end up paying $10mil of Kosuke's owed salary. So some money saved, and some pitching depth added.

I admit, I could very easily be totally wrong about all of this. But how will you be able to disagree with me unless I put my thoughts out there for you to roast them? Comments, please!

Reader Blog: Win now vs. Win later?

I've been advocating a "scorched earth" approach to dismantling this team since Mid April, so this post is not all that timely. That said, I read an interesting article on fangraphs this morning (Link Here: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/rentals-processes-and-flags-fly...). After reading the article, I jumped into the wayback machine and transported myself back to the high flying 2008 season, when the Cubs were kicking ass and cici Sabathia hadn't yet pulled on his beer helmet.

I wanted Sabathia that year. Bad. I was really pissed when the Crew landed him, although I was somewhat assuaged when the Cubs reeled in Harden for minor league flotsam. Milwaukee failed to win a postseason series that season, and Sabathia broke the bank with the Yankees that Winter. Here's the hypothetical I would like to pose to my fellow goatreaders: If the Cubs had a great major league roster but had the chance to trade for a superstar which might put them over the top, would you do it? What if it cost them Starlin Castro? Or Andrew Cashner? Or Brett Jackson? Basically, how do you value the chance to win it all today, vs. the likelihood of getting good to great value from your prospects tomorrow?

Unofficial Goatrider odds on Cubs leaving via trade by the deadline

2 to 1
7 to 1
12 to 1
15 to 1
20 to 1
20 to 1
20 to 1
20 to 1
25 to 1
30 to 1
35 to 1
50 to 1
50 to 1
50 to 1
50 to 1
50 to 1
50 to 1
50 to 1
Atkins *  
75 to 1
Berg * 
75 to 1
Dolis * 
75 to 1
John Gaub
75 to 1
Jeff Gray
75 to 1
Mateo * 
75 to 1
Parker * 
75 to 1
Russell * 
75 to 1
75 to 1
Castillo * 
75 to 1
75 to 1
75 to 1
75 to 1
Hoffpauir * 
75 to 1
Adduci * 
75 to 1
Sam Fuld
75 to 1
100 to 1
100 to 1
150 to 1
200 to 1
Samardzija * 
250 to 1
500 to 1

The Waiver Test

Alex Rios has been mashing for the White Sox this year with a .317 average, 13 home runs, and 19 steals. You don't happen to remember how Chicago's AL team got him onto their roster, do you?

Rios was claimed off of waivers. That is, his former team -- the Toronto Blue Jays -- simply gave him away, for absolutely nothing in return.

Given Rios' recent performance at the time, it was thought that the Blue Jays were making a potentially shrewd move to eliminate some salary; Rios had six years left on a seven year, $70 million deal. At the same time, many in the media scoffed at the White Sox' gamble. That was a heckuvalot of salary to take on.

What does this have to do with the Cubs? Well, it appears the hot stove is truly beginning to heat up already. (Aside: what's with everyone writing about how the Cubs aren't sure about whether they have a shot at the playoffs or not, and won't entertain trade ideas until then? You're kidding, right?)

If this team does, as it should, enter full-on sell mode in the next few weeks, there are a few names you can expect to see pop up in all sorts of trade rumors: Lee, Nady, Lilly, etc. But here's my question for the trade-happy public:

If the entire Cubs roster were put on waivers tomorrow -- that is, offered up for zero in return -- how many players would be worth a roster spot to other teams?

I look forward to reviewing your answers in the comments.

Stump for Cruz

In the comments section yesterday, Goat Reader Sman invited us to Meet Juan Cruz:

Sman wrote: "For his career, that means 352.2 IP, 1.392 WHIP, 188 Runs and 53 IRS
(average 6.2 Rc/9) with 11 Blown Saves in 14 opportunities. (And that's
with 194 of his 310 appearances coming when his team was trailing, so
mainly low leverage)

It is hardly small sample size with Cruz - its par for the course..."

Actually, Sman, when you put it that way, I am all that much more excited and hopeful that the Cubs will pursue Cruz.  I appreciate the time you took to collect the statistics, although I'm going to argue that the '02 and '03 numbers are pretty irrelevant to Cruz's ability, partly because he was still a jobber rookie, and partly because he kept flipping between starting and relieving.  But looking at the past six seasons, we can identify the following stats pertaining to Inherited Runners:

2009 - IS% 37%; league average 34% (22 inherited, 8 scored)
2008 - IS% 44%; league average 36% (27 inherited, 12 scored)
2007 - IS% 26%; league average 31% (27 inherited, 7 scored)
2006 - IS% 0%; league average 32% (4 inherited, 0 scored)
2005 - IS% 25%; league average 30% (16 inherited, 4 scored)
2004 - IS% 31%; league average 33% (13 inherited, 4 scored)

As Sman noted, Cruz allowed roughly 32% of his inherited runners to score.  The non-precise league average over that time is close to 33%, which means that Cruz is average or slightly above average.  Sman also posted Cruz's earned runs numbers -- Juan's career ERA as a reliever is 4.14, and his WHIP is 1.39.  I'm glad Sman pointed that out because the non-scientifically calculated league average for reliever ERA over the past 6 seasons is 4.73 -- Cruz is nearly 0.70 points better.  Also, the league average for WHIP tends to fluctuate around 1.40 - again, putting Cruz dead in the center of what you'd expect from a better-than-bad relief pitcher.

I also appreciate Sman noting Cruz's blown save issue.  If I had seen that on its own, I would have panicked a bit -- nobody wants a setup guy who blows saves!  But, in a round-about (probably unintentional) way, Sman makes a valid point: middle relievers blow lots, and lots, and even more saves.  It's the nature of the beast.

Just last year, the 10 pitchers with the most holds had 32 saves and 45 blown.  That's a 42% save ratio, while we expect our closers to save minimally 80% of their chances.  Even worse, that ratio dramatically drops if you remove 11 of Marmol's saves from that list -- he had 4 saved and 4 blown when he was given the gig to close.  That 42% save ratio quickly becomes 32%.  Therefore, Sman's observation that Cruz also has a crappy save success ratio just basically lumps him in the middle of the pack.  He's not one of the elite hold-getters in the league, they're 32% successful at saving games; he's more in the middle of the pack with the 20 percenters. 

Therefore, Sman has clearly demonstrated that Cruz is a middle of the pack reliever.  Some fans might worry and think Cruz is above-par and below-average, but the numbers as presented by Sman demonstrate that he's actually probably the guy we'd want pitching in the 7th inning of a good team, or the 8th inning of an insanely desperate team like the Cubs. 

Sman has shown us that Cruz's Inherited Allowed percentage is not mediocre, but instead is average, his WHIP is typical, not abnormal, and his blown save ratio is nothing to lose sleep over.

In this case, the numbers don't lie.  Cruz won't put out your barn if it catches on fire, but he'll usually keep it from sparking up.  On a team whose only reliable setup man is a converted, under-30 starting pitcher earning nearly 18 million in 2010, taking a low-risk chance on an available pitcher like Cruz makes way, way more sense.  He's not elite, but he's not mediocre.  That's good enough for me, for now, and hopefully the Cubs will pick up Cruz, use him to buy time so they can get a more reliable 8th inning pitcher, and move Zambrano back to the rotation.

Thanks then, to Sman, for setting us all straight.  I now fully endorse the pursuit of Juan Cruz.

Trade Moon Rising?

It's been a tumultuous week to be a Cubs fan: a 1-3 start to the road trip, an offense that can't score, and the "ace" off the staff being relegated to set-up duties.  To add more fuel to the fire during the Cubs Post-Game Show, Dave Kaplan stated that his sources have told him the Cubs are discussing "major trades." 

At this time it isn't clear who the Cubs are talking to or about, but it would be safe to bet that any trade talks involve bolstering the club's largely inexperience and (so far) ineffective bullpen.  It has been made somewhat clear that moving Zambrano to the pen is only a temporary fix until the club can promote or trade for a solid bullpen arm.  For now, Z (hypothetically) provides the 'pen with the experience and effectiveness that has lacked through the first 16 games of the season.

So who might some of these mystery trades involve?  In my mind, one player that makes sense for so many reasons for the Cubs is Kerry Wood.  Here's why:

The Indians have been trying to move Wood's contract since the GM meetings ($10.5 MM this season with an $11 MM vesting option if he finishes 55 games).  With Wood starting the season on the DL the option is unlikely to vest.  However, for the Indians it doesn't make much sense to pay that much money for a closer when the team has two younger and cheaper future closers already on their roster in Jensen Lewis and Chris Perez.  If the Cubs come to the table willing to take on all of Wood's contract the Indians may be satisfied with a low prospect in return.  Thus, the Indians make logical trading partners at this point simply for their desire to engage in a salary dump.

Moreover, Kid K makes a lot of sense for the Cubs bullpen situation.  Big Z was demoted to the pen because Lou wanted a power righty that brought experience as well as the ability to get hitters out.  Kerry Wood is a power righty that has more experience in the pen than Z and has proven that he can not only get hitters out, but do so under the Chicago microscope.  Oh, that and the entire fan base is in love with him.

Wood has always been a wild card when it comes to his durability and health.  A second tour in Chicago would be no different, especially as he is recovering from a back injury suffered in spring training at the moment.  However, the Cubs should take a long look Wood's way when assessing the logical pieces that could help resolve the bullpen shortcomings.

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