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.