You be the GM!
Now that Jim Hendry is returning, it looks as though the Cubs will be stepping up their Moves to be Made timetable. Hendry will likely be in touch shortly with a few pending free agents - particularly, Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood. Colin has already presented a few quotes which imply that, between the two, Dempster is the priority, although I don't think we'll see Hendry allow Wood to enter the free agent market.
At this point, I think we all agree that some moves will be made, and there will be a few new faces on the Cubs next summer. Some people, heartbroken and delirious over the October loss, have advocated the dismantling of the winningest Cubs team since 1945, which is just plain idiotic. I would characterize other people as being more sensible when they suggest making a few improvements where possible.
I'm opening this post up to serve two purposes: 1) I'll make a few fantastical suggestions that I would focus on were I the GM - which will be ripe for criticism and dissent, and 2) Please contribute your own suggestions, as well. Let's see what we can do here... (click on Read More here or Directly Below)
Step One - Defensive re-alignment: In the past, I have suggested that Soriano would be better in right field than in left. My reasoning was basically that Sori has a cannon of an arm, and usually your best outfield arm plays in right field. This became a moot point with Fukudome. However, if I'm the GM, one of the first calls I make are to Soriano and Fukudome, and I tell them to practice at a new position for next season - Sori in right, Fuku in center.
Step Two - Housekeeping: I offer the following deal to Ryan Dempster: 3 years for 36 million dollars, with a 4th year for 14 million that can be exercised mutually between team and player, or kicks in automatically if he averages 200 innings or more of work during seasons 1-3.
I also offer Kerry Wood a 2 year deal for 15 million, with mutual options for a 3rd year at 8 million which also has an option to kick in automatically based on meeting performance goals.
I buy out Henry Blanco's contract and offer him a 2 year deal for 2 million per year.
Step Three - Free Agent Bonanza: My areas for improval are Middle Infield, LF, and the bullpen. I make the following offers:
LF Adam Dunn - 4 years for 64 million, or 16 million per year. Dunn is defensively disastrous, but he's a force of nature with the bat - especially at Wrigley Field. (Consider him the modern day Dave Kingman, but without the douche factor.) He's also a tremendous hit-and-miss kind of player - he'll blast a ton of homeruns and draw a lot of walks, but he strikes out in Sosa-like proportions. However, the reason he becomes the Main Offensive Objective is because of two reasons: a) his age - he's 29, and b) his Epic Stroke. But if Dunn goes elsewhere, the second objective is...
LF Pat Burrell - 4 years for 52 million, or 13 million per year. Philly will make a play to keep him. He's theoretically the poor man's Adam Dunn. He's a low-average slugger who hits a lot of homeruns - he's averaged 29 per year since 2001, he strikes out a lot - 142 per year, and he draws a lot of walks - 90 per year. If Burrell goes elsewhere ...
LF Milton Bradley - 2 years for 16 million, or 8 million per year. More of a pure hitter than the other two, Bradley brings a lot of baggage to the table. He has an attitude streak of epic proportions and he's been injury prone any time he's actually had to play defense.
2B Orlando Hudson - 3 years for 18 million, or 6 million per year. It's hard to say what's a good price for Hudson, and I may be way off with my 6 million per year offer. He tends to play about 130 games a year, he hits on average between 8 and 15 homers, he might be good for 10 stolen bases, and he's a career .282 hitter with an OBP of .346. So, why would I toss 2008 Team MVP Mark DeRosa to the curb? Defense. Hudson is a 3-time Gold Glover at second base. If the Cubs fail to sign Hudson, then their backup offer is...
SS Orlando Cabrera - 3 years for 21 million, or 7 million per year. It's ridiculous that he'd probably go for more than Hudson, not to mention that he'll be 34 next season and on the decline, but again - defense. Yes, Theriot had a good enough season that most of his critics will be silenced, but the Cubs need to upgrade in the middle infield. If they can't pull Hudson, they need to settle for Cabrera. If they get Cabrera, then DeRosa remains the team second baseman and Theriot either becomes a backup or, better yet, trade bait.
Middle of the Article Review: This is getting wordy, so I thought I'd take a moment to recap. Here are my suggestions so far:
Plan 1: Sign Dunn and Hudson.
Plan 2: Sign Burrell and Hudson.
Plan 3: Sign Bradley and Hudson.
Plans 4-5 same thing as Plans 1-2, but swap out Cabrera for Hudson. But if the Cubs nab Bradley for a lot less than what they'd spend on Dunn/Burrell...
SS Raffy Furcal - 3 years for 42 million, or 12 million per year. Hendry came this close to signing Furcal the last time around, but he opted for a shorter contract with Los Angeles with the hopes of grabbing one last payday while in the prime of his career. Furcal went on to play well for LA while breaking the wrist of Derrek Lee. Bringing Furcal to the team gives the Cubs a legitimate leadoff hitter and a base stealing threat.
In other words... Plan 6: Sign Bradley and Furcal
This leaves the Cubs in need of some middle relievers. In terms of available free agents, it might look like this:
RHP Juan Cruz - 3 years for 9 million, or 3 million per year. Cruz has turned into a dependable middle innings option for Arizona. He's also one of the youngest middle relief free agents available, increasing his value. He may cost closer to 4 million, which is a bit on the ridiculous side.
LHP Jeremy Affeldt - 3 years for 12 million, or 4 million per year. His career numbers = meh, but he's 30, he's had a few good years, his ERA is outstanding when he's not pitching at home for the Reds, and he's got good strikeout totals.
LHP Joe Beimel - 3 years for 12 million, or 4 million per year. Expensive, but the Cubs need help. Affeldt and Beimel would give the Cubs 2 very talented lefty relievers, freeing up Cotts and Marshall to be trade bait.
Step 4 - Trades to be Mades: As acting GM of the Cubs (heh), I'm going to pretend that I succeed in all of my top objectives - I've signed Dunn, Hudson, Cruz, Affeldt, and Beimel. I now need to clear some salary room - players on the move will be Jason Marquis, Sean Marshall, Neal Cotts, Michael Wuertz, Mark DeRosa, and, perhaps, Felx Pie.
Trade: Jason Marquis and Neal Cotts to a Team to be Named Later for A Player to be Named Later. Yeah, maybe it's a cop out, but there are a lot of big name free agent pitchers on the market this year, many of whom are very pricey. There will likely be a handful of teams competing for the top names - guys like Burnett, Sabathia, Sheets, Penny, and a score of others. However, one of these teams will be hard-luck losers, and rather than go home empty handed, they should be willing to take Marquis from the Cubs.
Trade: Felix Pie, Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija, Michael Wuertz, Mark DeRosa and probably a low-level prospect or 2 to San Diego for Jake Peavy and MR Heath Bell. If this trade happens, I'd take the offer to Cruz off the table. Maybe it's a lot to offer, but for a player like Peavy, it's worth it.
Results: This ridiculous plan of mine leaves the Cubs with the following team:
SP Carlos Zambrano - 17.75m
Jake Peavy - 10m
Rich Harden - 7m
Ted Lilly - 12m
Ryan Dempster - 9m
Starting Pitching Payroll: 55.75m
MR Angel Guzman - .4m
Jeremy Affeldt - 4m
Joe Beimel - 4m
Heath Bell - 1m (arbitration eligable)
Chad Gaudin - 1m (arbitration eligable)
Carlos Marmol - 1.5m
Kerry Wood - 6m
Bullpen Payroll: 17.9m
CF Kosuke Fukudome -12m Bats: L
2B Orlando Hudson - 4.5m Bats: R
LF Adam Dunn - 12.5m Bats: L
3B Aramis Ramirez - 15.65m Bats: R
RF Alfonso Soriano - 16m Bats: R
1B Derrek Lee - 13m Bats: R
C Geovany Soto - 1.2m Bats: R
SS Ryan Theriot - 1m Bats: R
Lineup Payroll: 75.85
Bench - IF Mike Fontenot (.4m), Ronny Cedeno (.4m), OF Reed Johnson (1.5m arbitration eligible), Micah Hoffpauir (.35m), C Henry Blanco (2m)
Bench Payroll: 4.65
Total Team Payroll: 154.15 million.
It's debatable if that's too much money - there have been reports that the Cubs will spend 130 million+, and there have been reports that they will spend around 150 million.
But looking at these moves, if they are remotely possible, the question becomes this: will the Cubs be improved a) offensively b) in the rotation c) in the bullpen?
Hudson may not match the bat of '08 DeRosa, but it's arguable that he'll be offensively equatable to '09 DeRo. Actually, the two biggest question marks may be Theriot and Fukudome - I'd expect the former to put up worse numbers, and the latter to adjust and play like we hoped he would last year.
The rotation, as presented in this scenario, would be hands-down the best in baseball. The bullpen would theoretically be improved as well.
Like I said way back at the beginning of this mammoth post, feel free to flame me. I fully expect it - some of my dollars and cents will certainly be off, and the one trade I suggested may fall on the side of the ridiculous. Not to mention an outfield consisting of Dunn and Soriano on the corners would require a heroic performance from Fukudome to be defensively viable at all. And, while you're at it, post yer own, too.