Goatriders of the Apocalypse

No holes; just several low spots and too many 25th men

I positive Chris DeLuca's article today in the Sun-Times, because like myself, he looks at the 2008 Cubs, and he's looking at what we have right here, in the now, and The Now is a bit lacking.  He then focuses on two areas that he more or less categorizes as "holes".  One is the Lack of Five Proven Starters, which natually he opines would be filled quite nicely by Jake Peavy.  And the other?  That would be the Lack of A True Leadoff Man, whereupon he re-opens the Oldest Story Ever Told, the Brian Roberts trade.  He even goes as far as tossing Chone Figgins into the mix here.  I found it more interesting than anything else I've read lately, but whether it be due to the lack of available space, or the need to simplify, but there are factors in play that he either missed or was not able to cover in his article.

On paper at least, what we have now is not quite as good as what we saw when the Cubs were last on the teevee.  Keeping Dempster was a huge thing, sure.  But DeLuca's title, paraphrased, is "Additions do not add up to Subtractions".  And in my mind, DeRosa + Edmonds + Blanco + Howry + Marquis + Wood is more than Bradley + Miles + Gathright + Luis Vizciano + three mid-level Indians prospects.  And no, bringing in Paul Bako is not going to tip the scales in our favor.

Where I veer away from DeLuca today is that I don't really see any big, car-swallowing potholes on the roster.  Addressing the two he brought up, I might phrase it this way: We don't lack a fifth starter, we have Sean Marshall, he has experience in the role; and We don't lack a leadoff man, we have Alfonso Soriano, he has experience in the role.  Therefore, we have no gaping, dripping chasms that we're gonna fall in.

But see what I did there?  I applied Cubness to the argument!!  Sure, Soriano HAS hit leadoff, but he ain't so good at it!  And sure, Marshall HAS started, but only one full season's worth, and while his overall record compares with what we lost with Marquis, it certainly doesn't represent an upgrade. 

And let's go further!  Milton Bradley HAS played right field.  Aaron Miles HAS played second base.  Mike Fontenot HAS played second base.  (Ryan Theriot HAS played shortstop, too, but I'm not including him as part of this argument today.  There are plenty who can and will).  Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano HAVE, at various times, served as the "Ace" of the rotation. 

More?  Sure.  Carlos Marmol HAS closed games.  Luis Vizcaino HAS been an effective setup man.  Derrek Lee HAS served as the Clubhouse Leader, and he HAS also hit in the 3 hole.

I can go on and on, but all of the above aren't exactly "holes" in the true sense of the word (ie. Jacque Jones is our right fielder), but I suggest they represent "low spots", like when Streets and Sanitation drop some tar into a pothole, tamp it down, and three days later it starts to sink again.  You're not going to rip your fender in two when you hit them, but you have to slow down, they will jar your spine, and you might get home safe, but you ain't winnin' no races that way.

THEN, then, there's another problem - we have several guys who are young, cheap, and might have value to someone, but have not proven anything with us.  I'm sure Hendry knows who these people are, and perhaps you do too, but I will maintain over and over again that it is simply NOT healthy and useful to keep a BUNCH of AAAA players like Cedeno, Marshall, Hart, Guzman, Hofpauir, Pie, Gathright, Koyie Hill, Rich Hill, Wuertz and Cotts around.  Not to mention the three prospects that we just haaaad to trade DeRosa for, plus all the arms Hendry's drafted the past ten years.

I understand the need for depth; protection against injury, and development for the future.  But none of these guys are blue chip.  None of these guys are ever going to win a pennant for anyone.  There's too much redundancy; we don't need Miles AND Cedeno.  We don't need Pie AND Gathright.  We don't need Hart AND Marshall AND Rich Hill.  I'm not sure we need Miles AND Fontenot.  I wouldn't mind too much if we kept Hofpauir, to be this year's Daryle Ward, except that while Ward is old and fat and more accepting of his fate, Hofpauir is young and fit and probably most desirous of a full-time position at this point in his career.  These guys can't all play at once - or even be on the active roster.  It's one thing to be hungry, but another yet again to be discouraged by the logjam of mostly high-dollar talent in front of you.  It's NOT a healthy situation, take it from a former benchwarmer - I won't be convinced otherwise.

So, finally, my point - certainly we aren't going to fill in all the rough spots, nor should we.  All teams have at least a few.  But we may have a few too many, and perhaps that was what DeLuca was getting at - pointing out a couple that have been previously discussed.  It doesn't take a magician to throw $30MM at Milton Bradley, or get someone to give you prospects for a top-flight utility man.  If Hendry is the man we think he is, can't he use some of the surplus resources we STILL have to improve?

Brian Roberts is a pipe dream; and Jake Peavy may very well be also.  But looking at a Chone Figgins is an example of stepping outside of the box a little.  It won't make as big of splash as grabbing a Cy Young winner and certain Staff Ace.  But the Cubs employ an army of scouts, a boardroom full of Special Assistants, and the so-called best personnel man in the biz, the Magnum P.I.-clad Gary Hughes.  Why can't these people complete a decent trade?  If it is because Sam Zell can't decide which billionaire to rip off, then MLB ought to step in tomorrow and tell the scaly motherstroker to Shit or Get Off The Pot.

If all of our spare parts (Pie, Cedeno, et al) are still on the roster, and if the "DeRosa Prospects" are still around, come Opening Day, I will consider this offseason to be a Qualified Failure.

 

For the most part DeLuca has a point

The team is in no way going to be weak going into 2009, but you'd have a tough argument saying that there has been much improvement. It is going to be tougher for the cubs, being a 95+ win team, to go out and find a whole lot of other teams in the league that want to make them better. Add to that the fact that the cubs just used their best trade chip, Mark DeRosa, as a salary dump instead. And what you're left with is a team that's looking to make big-time deals for star players, but the problem is the cubs have little to offer the other team in return. At this point, the best player/prospect the cubs have to offer in a trade is Josh Vitters, who is a 19 year-old that is still at least a few years away from the Majors.

If the cubs intend to pick up either Jake Peavy or Brian Roberts or even Chone Figgins, they are going to have to pay a premium to get those type of players since they are well-known faces of each franchise, if not franchise players. I honestly don't think the cubs have enough to offer San Diego even if they include Marshall, and that's simply because of the package of players the Padres could have had from Atlanta. So, next is Brian Roberts, who likely would also require a package of players similar to Peavy, but the biggest problem with him is that he is only signed for 2009 and is looking for $10M+ per year in a contract extension. Chone Figgins is probably even less likely than the other two players simply because he is a big part of a contending team, and I don't see the Angels being interested in many players outside of Derrek Lee. Figgins is a step outside the box, but that's only if you're willing to trade D-Lee and let Hoffpauir step in as the everyday 1st baseman.

The main thing that you need to realize is that if Hendry only got 3 minor league arms for Mark DeRosa, then what can honestly expect in return for players like Ronny Cedeno, Felix Pie, & Rich Hill? The present day value of the 3 together is probably less than a million dollars, and each as talented as they may be have yet to prove themselves as consistent MLB players. We've had each for a number of years now, and no one in the organization knows what to expect from them or whether or not to give them a chance. I especially don't see a lot of teams willing to give up much now to get players that they could likely pick up on a waiver claim after the cubs can't trade them or make room for them on the 25 man roster. If a team that is rebuilding really wants Josh Vitters, then a deal could ultimately be made, but I don't think it will be for one of the players that everyone is talking about in the media. Get your qualified failure stamp ready, there's a little over a month before pitchers and catchers report.

There will be trades...

There is really no way there won't be more activity. While it might or might not be bad to keep a bunch of AAAA guys around, it's really not possible.

Pie, Wuertz, Cedeno, Guzman, and Hill are out of options. Therefore, they will either be on the roster or traded. Pie and Gathright make no sense unless one is starting, and neither are going to start. So Pie is going to be traded, because he can't go to the minors.

Cedeno and Miles make no sense either, and Miles just got signed to a two-year deal. So Cedeno will be traded, because he can't go to the minors.

Miles and Fontenot make sense together because you have to have a backup middle-infielder, and Miles is a switch hitter. And more likely Miles and Fontenot will platoon anyway. So that combination makes sense. Fontenot COULD go, I guess, if we made a Roberts trade. But the Angels wouldn't want him for a Figgins deal.

We have about 15 guys in the bullpen. Marmol, Gregg, and Cotts (for some reason) appear to be set there, leaving four spots for Vizcaino, Wuertz, Guzman, and the losers of the Marshall/Gaudin/Hill battle for the #5 spot, assuming no other starters are added. That means at least one of those guys will be traded, because that's 8 guys for 7 spots. And that doesn't consider the possibility that another starter or a lefty-specialist could be added, nor the possibility that Samardzija stays in the pen and doesn't go back to AAA to work as starter.

There will be trades made. The question is whether they are roster spot dumps for minor leaguers or whether they are used to bring in a bigger name to play 2B or be the last starter.

I've sketched out the 25 man

I've sketched out the 25 man roster, and I'll do it again.

C: Soto, Bako
1B: Lee, Hoffpauir
2B: Fontenot, Miles
3B: Ramirez, Cedeno
SS: Theriot
LF: Soriano
CF: Fukudome, Johnson
RF: Bradley

So for position players, Cedeno's my 13th man. Gathright is 14th, and is called up as soon as there's room. The only position player that must be traded, in my mind, is Pie.

You're right about the pen, though. Too many optionless arms there, and your points about Shark and the free agent lefty addition are spot on.

One or two more moves coming, or else we are giving away a lot of decent talent for nothing.

I think Cedeno is gone...

I don't think the Cubs paid $800,000 for a guy to not make the team. Nor do I think they will go with only one backup OF defensively. Gathright can't go to the minors any more than Cedeno can, and Gathright is more expensive. And Gathright can't be traded. And I don't think they go with 14 position players with the uncertainty about the #5 spot and Harden's inability to go deep into games. Thus, I think Cedeno is the odd man out.

I think Gathright can

I think Gathright can actually be placed in the minors. I may be mistaken, though.

I don't think he can...

He's been on a 40-man roster for four years beginning with his 4th season in pro baseball. He can't be sent down without clearing waivers.

I mean just maybe we got rid

I mean just maybe we got rid of derosa because we needed to free up some money for bradley. One of those prospects might end up being really solid but really that was, to me, an indirect trade of derosa for bradley and prospects. If you look at it that way it really sounds better. I do lament the loss of Kerry Wood greatly no matter what though.

I also agree that

the Cubs have a surplus of what you called 25th men, but I disagree that we don't have a rather significant hole at SS.

Theriot ranked as one of the worst fielding SS's in either league last year and while it's true he had a good year offensively in '08, he most likely will regress some offensively in '09 and most likely occupy the 8 hole in the lineup. .

Now Hendry could approach the Pirates who are trying to move J Wilson and his $7M salary. They had the Dodgers interested before they resigned Furcal and Hendry should be able to move Theriot and some prospects to obtain Wilson.

Wilson is as slick fielding SS who only ranked defensively behind Tulowitzki and Furcal in 2007. If the Cubs have the opportunity to upgrade the position that anchors the infield defense by signing him, Hendry should do it. Who knows, the Pirates may even eat a million or so of Wilson's salary if they receive a ML ready SS to replace him and if the Cubs have to sweeten the pot with a Pie and/or Cedeneo to boot, so be it.

You have got to be the biggest Jack Wilson Fan in the world

You should start a website for Jack Wilson, just stamp a picture of his face on the opening page - beautiful.

Not really HC, it's just that

good SS's don't grow on trees and the Cubs have one of the most important defensive positions on the team manned by Theriot. When you consider any of the Cubs needs, I can't see how Jake Peavy, no matter how studly he is, is a bigger priority to a team that already has a solid rotaion. In fact the Cubs bullpen is a bigger priority than adding another starter. The fact is the biggest weakness is at SS and if extra payroll is available, a small amrket team like the Pirates is always willing to acccept less than studly prospects to eliminate payroll.

Completely disagree. Theriot

Completely disagree. Theriot is really a fine, league average shortstop, with above average speed, making not very much money, and young enough to potentially improve. He doesn't have the best arm, or the best range, but considering his combined hitting and fielding abilities, you could do a hell of a lot worse.

The bullpen could potentially use another lefty, or a seventh inning guy. But I think the way cheaper option is to let the 36 guys we already have fight it out in AAA and spring training. With so many young options, I feel like someone will step up.

One way to add a lefty to the bullpen, as well as a solid long reliever, would be to add another starting pitcher. Then, if Marshall becomes a reliever/the 6th starter, Shark could be used in relief at the major league level. If/when Marshall is needed to fill in for spot starts, Shark could be moved either to long relief or AAA to give him a chance to stretch out and start, if the need were to arise.

Signing a free agent starter, or moving Pie, Vitters, and some of our young arms for a Jake Peavy-type pitcher (like Jake Peavy), would add depth to the rotation, strengthen the bullpen, and perhaps more importantly, give me that "uh oh" feeling in my bathing suit area.

Why trade for Peavy

if Hendry is hell bent on adding a starter and not just go sign Sheets?

couple reasons

Health risks and Sheets will cost draft picks

HC, what the hell is up with

HC, what the hell is up with us agreeing all over the place these days?

crazy

crazy

So that explains

Why both the dodgers and tigers weren't able to complete a trade to get Jack Wilson, when both teams actually needed a SS at the time. In both cases the Pirates asking price was too high. But in your scenario the Pirates turn around and trade Wilson within the division for absolutely nothing in return, yeah that seems likely. Why a team would trade away any talent for 1 year of Jack Wilson I'm not exactly sure anyway. He has been a good fielder, but one that missed half of last season, one that is 2 years older than what the team already has, and his price tag isn't low by any means. Wilson will make close to the same amount of errors and have a very comparable fielding percentage when compared to Theriot, so exactly how many more balls do you think he will get to than Theriot? And on those plays how many times will he even be able to get the guy out at 1st?

Its pretty obvious if you take a SS thats a plus defender and a minus offensive threat, and you put him in place of the SS you had who was a minus defensively and a plus offensively - the addition would be negligible because you're adding defense at the expense of subtracting offense. Also the player you are getting is older, more expensive, and under the team's control for only 2009.

I can't imagine what

resource you're using to even mention Theriot's defense in the same sentence as Wilsons and anyone who thinks Theriot won't regress some offensively is looking through his 5' nothing brief hole.

Wilson is by no means the next Jimmy Rollins offensively but he's just as good defensively. Wilson is a career 270 hitter with a anemic OBP to be sure but he doesn't strikeout often, can give you 10 HR's and would be hitting out of the 8 hole anyway.

It wasn't that the Pirates demanded a shit load of talent from the Dodgers or Tigers as their motivation was a salary dump. Those two teams primarily didn't want to absorb the salary, especially in the case of the Dodgers when they knew they still had a shot at resigning Furcal.

Wilson was hurt in '08 that's true but any player can get hurt and he doesn't have any history of being injury prone or that he's not completely healthy now. Wilson's last full season 2007, he posted a range factor and fielding percentage better than every SS except Tulowitzki and Furcal so when you mention his range won't be much different than Theriot's your mistaken. Theriot's range factor in 2008 was 390, Wilson's range factor 2007 was 492 and since Theriot has a minus arm he's defense is even further compromised.

Wilson may be better, but I

Wilson may be better, but I certainly don't think he's $7MM better. I'll stick with The Riot and upgrade pitching.

Well its a huge secret

I know how all the baseball statistic resources have way different numbers, so what you said really makes a lot of sense. I really wish I could use your sources because they are the only ones that know the real truth about Jack Wilson being such a good player, I can't seem to find proof of it anywhere. Honestly I'm not certain if Jack Wilson's parents would argue so vigorously on behalf of their son's ability to play baseball. But if you simply read what I wrote before there wouldn't be much use for you to talk at all Clute.

I used the 2 players' statistics for their entire careers at the SS position, crazy idea I know. I noted they will each have near the same amount of errors and close to the same fielding percentage over a season, but I also said that Wilson was the better fielder that would get to more balls. You can use your same statistics over and over again in different posts, but the story remains the same - Jack Wilson is a terrible idea. Look at the statistic that you are trying to waive around like everyone should be impressed; its fielding percentage for 2007 where your guy is right behind 2 other players that couldn't stay healthy in 2008 either. Theriot, as a player has potential to actually be good, while we all know that Jack Wilson is nothing other than the coolest Pirate. Wilson is old, not cheap, not signed beyond 2009, can't hit as well as The Riot, can't steal bases, so lets let him stay in Pittsburgh - plus he's ugly enough to be a Pirate already so its a good fit.

I'll tell you the difference

Adding Peavy to the team:

Peavy instantly becomes the 2nd best starter on the team and will not be your 5th starter but more likely your 2nd starter in the rotation behind Z. So you get 30-35 starts from Peavy, where he can pitch 2-3 times in any Postseason series as well. So the team gets one of the best starters in baseball to join an already ridiculous roation, and the cubs prove the theory that pitching wins championships.

Adding Jack Wilson to the team:

Wow, lookout now everybody. The team adds a light hitting SS to bolster the 8th spot in the order, where he bats .266, catches everything hit at him, but overall makes no difference whatsoever. The 25 extra balls he gets to don't add up to a whole hill of beans, and the added weight of Wilson's contract causes chunks of concrete to fall from the skies at Wrigley Field.

Comparing one of the best starters in the game to a SS on the Pirates is pretty comical, especially given their contracts - where you get 5 years of an All-Star & Cy Young winner in Peavy or 1 year of Gomer Pile at SS. Gee, let me sleep on that decision, it's a tough one.

I know I lump myself on YOUR side of the argument, but...

..if Peavy joins the Cubs, he isn't the 2nd starter, he becomes the Ace, he starts Opening Day, he starts the first game of the NLDS and all subequent series, and he is the stud hoss that makes all the other sailors row in line.

I agree he's the #1 guy, but

I agree he's the #1 guy, but the cubs would let Big Z throw opening day still out of respect and tenure, I think. Peavy is first on the mound in game 1 of the playoffs though.

Although Peavy has shit the

Although

Peavy has shit the bed in playoff games, including the one game playoff from a year ago when Tony Gwynn Jr stuck it to the Padres.

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Actually fangraphs lists

Actually fangraphs lists Theriot as about a league average shortstop defensively.

Like I said

no need for me to broach the Theriot subject because there are plenty of you that will.

I personally heart him very much. Doesn't mean I'm right, but it is real hard for me to put my heart into an argument against him

JULY

I still think no major moves will be made before July ... and I'm not convinced that last year's team is better. Consider the in-season moves that were made and you have to expect more of the same in 2009.

Compare the April 2008 Cubs (and all the question marks) to the current version. Who do you like better?

Let's also consider what the rest of the NL has done. I can't think of one contender that is better than last year's team; in fact, I would argue that the Cubs have even more separation from the pack RIGHT NOW than they did last year.

The real question is how will this group fare in a short series? I like their chances.

Don't forget

They also added Gregg to help offset the loss of Wood.

I really disagree with you pretty strongly. Given that Fontenot isn't much - if any - worse than DeRosa and the the combo of Fukudome/Reed/Bradley in center and right is about a 1000 times better than Edmonds/Reed/Fukudome, I see no way they didn't get better.

With unlimited money I'd love to have kept Wood and DeRosa while acquiring Bradley, but that wasn't the reality. But it the choice is between Wood/DeRosa or Gregg/Bradley, I'll gladly take the later.

DITTO

Ditta that.

Uh, fellas?

1) Fontenot is WAY worse than DeRosa. DeRosa is five times the athlete, twice the hitter, and a better fielder.

2) Wood is WAY better than Gregg.

3) Marquis is WAY better (at present) than any fifth starter candidate we currently have on board. The Shark may develop, and soon. Let's hope so.

4) Bradley is the biggest crapshoot in the free agent market this year. He had a nice year last year, but his track record does not suggest that he is the savior we still need.

5) Players certainly headed for a decline in 2009 from their 2008 numbers - Zambrano, Lilly, Soto, Lee, probably Ramirez

You think Lee is headed for a decline?

I'd argue that Lee is due for a rebound, actually. His numbers suggest it was a down year last year.

And I'm not convinced that Marshall can't match what Marquis would have done given the chance.

Yeah...

Other than Wood over Gregg, I don't agree with any of the above statements. Maybe point 5, but that has nothing to do with what kind of offseason the Cubs have had.

- Every stat points to Fontenot being just as good - if not better - than DeRosa. Certainly in the field, projects to be with the bat.

- Marshall is certainly just as good as Marquis.

- Bradley has always hit well and was the best option in the offseason. What more could you possibly want other than them acquiring the best free agent to fill a hole.

I'm going to miss DeRosa and Wood too, but it had to be done for the Cubs to get the big bat they needed. I mean, he had an OPS of almost 1000 last year. That's really, really good. Nobody was better in the AL. Yes, he could get injured, but that's certainly true of Wood as well. I'll take my chances.

25 man roster

While I am not competely discouraged by the various options the Cub's have for their roster, I am not encouraged by it. While nothing is etched in stone we have to assume that between Bradley and Soriano they will miss at least 50 games. When you include the fact that Aramis Ramirez is a likely dl canadiate and the additional time off everyone wants to give D. Lee. How are we going to make up the the lack of offense? I am not totally comfortable that Hoffpaur and/or Fukudome can make up the difference. Not to mention Miles/Cedeno at 3rd for any lenght of time is very scary. I think Hendry needs to address this before anything else. I am not sure what would be a major upgrade and would be interested in hearing your otions. I will throw these names out and see how they fly - Greg Dobbs, Wes Helms, Jose Bautisa, and here is a real reach Hank Blalock. Blalock would be a reach at first and third (could he play outfield?), but when you consider that the time he has missed the last 2 years would Texas be interested in pitching and move some of the 6m he is owed.

I got one

Ty Wigginton

I'll throw his name out there even though he may be reluctant to accept a 1 or 2 year deal and a reduced role on the team. If he were to accept those things he would be a big addition that could play all over the field (3B, 2B, 1B, LF, RF) and he is a good hitter. He could serve as insurance for many different positions and injuries throughout the lineup, but the cubs have little roster room or flexibility to even add a player such as what is being proposed.

I don't think we're going to

I don't think we're going to be signing a super sub this offseason because we just traded away the best one out there.

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