Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Open Topic - The Year of Questions?


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?

Derrek Lee and Dempster

I thought Derrek Lee should have stayed a Cub, he should have been moved lower in the lineup. Lucky for us, he is in a renaissance. It is amazing that he is even sniffing .300 considering how he started this season.

Dempster, on the hand, we knew wasn't going to reach 17 wins again. He was arguably the luckiest pitcher in the majors last year. He had a very high contact out ratio. He had a lot fly outs and ground outs. Those contacts have turned into hits this season.

I think we all have underestimated that how poor a field Soriano is. A lot of you are saying, we already know that. Well, I am not talking about errors. I am talking about how many singles fall right in front of him. If the Cubs had a competent left-fielder, many of those singles would have been outs. In previous years, he has had hot streaks that covered up for those fielding deficiencies. Let's face it he stinks this year. The Cubs should put him on waivers and hope someone stupid picks him up.

A huge reason why the Cubs are currently down six games is that management and ourselves completely underestimated our enemies. The Cards last year lead the majors in blown saves. All they needed was a competent bullpen and they would be greatly improved. In addition to having a good closer, they bet the farm literally on getting Matt Holliday. That is the reason why they are 15 games over .500 and are more than likely going to the playoffs and probably a NLCS appearance.

To complement the previous paragraph, the Cubs of 2009 on paper is a worse team than the Cubs of 2008. The starting pitching is a much better, but the offense is abysmal. Did we think it would be this bad? No, but I thought winning more than 90 games would not be very likely. You lose over 40 home runs by trading DeRosa and letting go Edmonds without replacing that production from a team that is dependent on the long ball. Well, you have a lot problems. Only a jive turkey would have thought Bradley would be a run producer. At no point is his career was he one. I still repeat the mantra that I wanted Abreau. Seven straight 100 RBI seasons?!!!

What does the future entail? If the pitching is healthy (ie Zambrano develops a work ethic, Dempster doesn't trip over railing, nothing else happens to Lilly), the Cubs could be a wild cards team. There won't be any additions to this team in the coming years. Tom Ricketts has already mentioned how unhappy he is with the Cubs payroll. You are probably going to the see the movement of players who have decent value to reduce payroll. The Cubs are more likely to move Ramirez or Lee than Soriano or Bradley. On a positive note, while Fukudome is vastly overpaid, he looks like he is no longer a waste of space. Hopefully, Soto comes into Spring Training not resembling the little fat kid from Nacho Libre. Jeff Baker looks like he could be an everyday second baseman, and Theriot is one of the most underrated offensive shortstops in baseball.

Many fair points. A few

Many fair points. A few thoughts about them from me...

1. Chances are, the Cubs have already put Soriano on waivers. Most teams put the majority of their players -- stars and scrubs alike -- on and through waivers after the trade deadline. (I'm looking into it, btw)

2. With respect, RBI is the least successful way to determine a player's success at driving in runs. It's no coincidence that Abreu has had his successful RBI seasons while playing in a number of good lineups. So far this year he has an OPS that's about 70 points higher than Bradley's. No doubt he'd be a better hitter in the Cubs lineup, but I doubt his presence would have fixed what ails this team.

That said, hindsight is 20/20 and I appreciate your thoughts on what the Cubs may do. I have my doubts, though, that we'll see many differences in the outfield or infield, except hopefully for significant upgrades at second base and perhaps shortstop.

Abreu

I agree Abreu benefited by playing for the Yankees. However, he has shown he can drive in runs against decent pitching. RBIs are not the best indictor of the ability to drive in runs, but they are pretty good. The Cubs have been decent about putting runners on board. The problem all season long has been the fact they have no one outside of Ramirez and Lee have been able to drive in runs. Throughout his career, Abreu is a .322 hitter with RISP. That is very good.

Pretty much any hitter in the

Pretty much any hitter in the league who can bat .290 or higher with power tends to drive in runs against decent (and poor) pitching. Abreu over his career has been a better hitter than Bradley, we don't have to look into the detailed splits to identify that information. But if you offer me the option to sign a 30-year-old with a near 1.000 OPS and injury concerns or a 34-year-old with declining power numbers, I'll go with the younger guy every time unless the older guy is just that much less expensive and asking for no more than a 1 or 2 year deal.

Anyway, I believe that even if Abreu was in RF instead of Bradley, the Cubs wouldn't be much better off this year. I'm more interested in what the Cubs can do to prepare for next year and how much blowing up they need to do. Maybe later today or tomorrow I'll open a "debate the value of Milton Bradley" thread.

Abreu

I bring up Abreu again because he is a free agent at the end of this season. The reason why I thought the Cubs shouldn't have gone after Ibanez was his age. Also factored in is who only starts doing well after reaching the age of 30. Too many questionmarks for my taste.

http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2008/12/2010-mlb-free-a.html

If Bradley vs Abreu was the

If Bradley vs Abreu was the only issue with the Cubs, I'm pretty sure they'd be in the division race right now.

If

If Abreu for Bradley was the only issue, I wouldn't have written over page worth of complaints about the Cubs in my first post.

There is no way you get

There is no way you get yourself out from under that Soriano contract. You'd have to eat well over 60% of it I'd imagine, to deal him.

Bradley on the other hand I think can be dealt if you eat a fair portion of his salary. And I would be all for it. Look, I actually like Bradley. He has heart (albeit a crazy one) but what are the odds you get 300 ABs from him again? I'd say pretty slim, so might as well let that be someone elses problem.

Soto? He got lazy this year. I say you light a fire under his ass and bring up Castillo? Something to make his fat ass get back in shape.

Lee...I think it would be a PR disaster to trade him after his 2009 season. For better or worse I really do think you keep him unless you get a real good package for him. (Looking at you SF).

The bullpen is a complete disaster, and thank the lord above Gregg is gone in the offseason. I hate buying bullpen arms because of their volatility. I would rather see the Cubs bring up Cashner and whatever else they can and solve this in-house vs spending money on arms that you don't know how htey will perform.

All in all, this is a team with numerous problems and the next GM (if not Hendry) will have a lot of cleaning up to do. I personally wouldn't completely mind a total retooling of the team, as long as it is in the right fashion. Meaning starting a youth movement (more in the direction of Tampa Bay's, not the Royals or Pirates versions).

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