With the 2011 Chicago Cubs season officially over now, the time has come to move on and look forward. Unfortunately, you can not move forward until you look back to see how you got to where you are. That is what I am going to do today, and then we can put this whole mess behind us and prepare ourselves for what has to be a brighter future.
There are many villains that played a role in the demise of the 2011 season, but Cub fans like to focus all their energy and hatred on two people. Both former General Manager Jim Hendry and Manager Mike Quade have been in the crosshairs of the fans since day one, in fact Hendry has been in their sites since the 2008 collapse. That is where the blame should lie, with the former General Manager and not so much the Manager. He can only work with what he is given, and there is not one manager who could have made this incompetent team into a team who was ready to go toe to toe with the best teams in baseball.
You heard me right, I do not care who the manager was this year, no one would have been able to win with this crap fest. Not Quade, not Charlie Manual, not even the great Ryne Sandberg. This was a hot steaming pile of garbage that Hendry gave Quade to compete with. Could a more qualified manager have gotten a couple more wins? Sure, a competent manager is worth a handfull of wins every year, but for the most part the players are the ones who win the games; not the manager. Besides, do you really care if you are a slightly better version of suck? Cubs still would have finished under the .500 mark.
Do not mistake what I am saying, Quade is not a great manager, in fact he may not even be a very good manager, but that is not the point. Managers do not play the game, they only set the lineup that they feel gives them the best chance to win based on the players they are given. Fans got pissed at Quade because he did not play the kids over the players who were over paid and underperforming, that is understandable as long as the players the fans want to play actually perform when given the chance. If the kids do not show anything when they get their opportunities then what would make the manager want to play them? His job is to win games, and if you have a guy hitting near .100 for the majority of the season (Tyler Colvin) getting consistent playing time is not going to be easy, even if you are competing with a completely inept defensive player hitting around .250 (Alfonso Soriano). While both are statistically in baseball hell, you want to go with the guy who has a track record of carrying a team when they are hot.
That is where this season died, not with having an inexperienced Major League manager at the helm, but having under performing players taking the field. Yes, Quade made some very inexcusable baseball decisions, as he was learning on the job. Yes, he left pitchers in too long at times, he took them out too early at others, and he started Koyie Hill far too many times, but the reason the season failed was not the main reason why this team failed as miserably as they did. The main reason they failed, would fall squarely on the shoulders of the players.
Say what you will about the great season by soon to be free agent Aramis Ramirez, his absence in April and May had more to do with the Cubs failures than having Quade in the dugout. Fans will chime in about his stat line and say how valuable he is to this franchise, but how valuable is he really? Yes, he put up impressive stats this year. They are even more impressive when you take note of them being produced in four months, but his absence in April and May led to a lot of losses which helped to dig the Cubs into a hole they just could not climb out of.
There will always be some fans that say something like “I don’t care when he puts up the stats, he is a super star”. That is the problem with the standard back of the baseball card thinking. The end of the year stats look great, but when they are produced is much more important than how much. The games in April and May are worth just as much as the games in August and September, some would say they are more valuable early on, because as the old saying goes, “You can not win a pennant in April, but you can lose one”.
The same goes for Carlos Pena, who also had an impressive stat line at the end of the year. But where was he in April? He, along with Ramirez, fell asleep in the starting gate and did not get started until the season was put on life support. That, too, had much more to do with the failure of the 2011 season than Quade sitting in the dugout.
Add in all the injuries the Cubs faced throughout the season, and you have a formula for failure and not success. I do not care who you are, losing two starting pitchers in the first week of the season is a great way to put yourself behind the eight ball before the season begins. Even if they were the number four and five starters, the drop off in talent level will hurt you. Maybe not if you only need them for a game or two, but if you need replacements for three or four months? That is no way to field a contender. Whether or not you think that the pitchers actually have the talent to compete in the majors is up to you, but there is a big difference between your four and five starters and your sixth and seventh starters.
Sure, the St. Louis Cardinals lost their ace pitcher Adam Wainwright for the whole season and won the wild card, but they still had another pitchers on their team who could qualify as an ace of just about any pitching staff. Everyone moves up a peg, and your long reliever becomes your fifth starter. With the Cubs though, they had to bring up a few pitchers to fill those voids. How is that the managers fault? Is he able to prevent injuries? Again, that falls on Hendry for not providing enough depth.
On top of everything else, there was the whole situation surrounding Carlos Zambrano. While his blowup took place long after realistic contending had long since past, that was still a big part of the season. I will not write much about this as I covered the incident in a blog when everything took place, but when a player walks out on your team, that is a good way to take out whatever chemistry there was with the team.
Overall, the team this year was a complete three ring circus. There was the dimwitted ring bearer, the first time lion tamer who gets his head bitten off because he is learning on the job in front of a live crowd, and you had a car full of clowns who tried to keep you entertained. Is Quade the reason this team fell apart and died a slow painful death? No, he is not why the team lost, but he should not escape blame. That falls on everyone from the General Manager on down to the 25th man.
Yesterday, after Aramis Ramirez declared that he would be filing for free agency, I wrote up a blog which voiced my opinion that the Chicago Cubs should now begin the rebuilding process. Some fans agreed with the thought process, while others completely disagreed. This is probably the most confusing situation for most Cubs fans to be in, as a majority of them are completely contradicting themselves when saying they do not want to sit through a rebuilding phase.
For starters, there is a portion of Cub fans who have strong feelings against the Cubs, a big market team, going through a rebuilding phase. They do not believe that a team in a major market should ever have to rebuild, and be able to spend the money needed in order to contend. This is very true to a point, that would be what is expected from a team in one of the three biggest markets in the country. The problem comes into play, is that several fans of the Cubs want the team to bench, trade or cut several of the current veterans on the team to play various kids.
You will not go a single day without hearing at least one fan begging Cubs management to trade Alfonso Soriano or to just outright cut him. They beg and plead for the Cubs to give more playing time to both Tony Campana and Tyler Colvin. This situation will not take place unless Soriano is off the team, or at very least regulated to bench duty.
Fans also want to see Bryan LaHair get more playing time, if they want to see Campana and Colvin more the only likely position for him to play would be at first base. You could put LaHair in one of the corner spots, and either Covin or Campana in center, but I feel that would be counter productive. No one wants to see Colvin playing center field again, last time he was out there was a disaster. You could put Campana in center, but if you want him to make the team next year, you have to think about who you would rather have playing center field, him or Brett Jackson. No offense to the scrappy Campana, but I would rather have Jackson roaming centerfield and let Campy learn to play the corner. That means Byrd would remain in center leaving LaHair the odd man out, unless he plays first base. With LaHair at first base, that would result in the benching of Carlos Pena. He can not play third base so he would also be out of a job.
Then we have the problem of third base. Several fans want Ramirez back, while others do not want to waste the money on him since he rarely shows up in April and only occasionally comes to play in May. This leads up to who replaces him? There are no good free agent third baseman out there this off season or next, so that would lead to another kid playing third.
You see the problem yet? To me, a vast majority of fans can not make up their minds as far as what they want. They want to see the Cubs play the kids, but they also do not want the Cubs to go into a full rebuild mode. So I propose a question to all the fans out their who take the time to read my blogs.
Do you want the Cubs to ditch the veterans and play the kids to see what they have, or do you want the Cubs to go out and buy players to help them contend? You can not really have things both ways. Sure, you can do a mix of kids and veterans, but you would then have to decide which kids you want to see. Fans will have to chose between the overflowing population of young outfielders and which kids they really want to see.
Which kids do you want to see playing, and which are you willing to write off? From all of the calls for playing time I have seen on my Facebook page (http://www.Facebook.com/worldseriesdreaming) fans want to see a team filled with kids, but they do not want a rebuilding phase.
Confused yet? So am I.
Around 2:30 this afternoon, news broke that Aramis Ramirez’s agent, Paul Kinzer, informed the Chicago Cubs that his client will opt out of the final year of his deal, which also happens to be a team option, and file for free agency. However, Ramirez’s agent would not rule out the possibility that he would re-sign with the Cubs in the off season, but only if the team was not in full rebuild mode. In other words, unless the Cubs make a huge splash in free agency, likely by signing either Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, his tenure with the Cubs is likely over, even though he has claimed in the past that he wanted to retire a Chicago Cub.
Since joining the Cubs midway through 2003, Ramirez has put on a show for the Wrigley Faithful and has cemented a place for himself in Cubs history. In his nearly eight years with the ball club he has become the second greatest third baseman in Cubs history, right behind the late great Ron Santo. He was also the first long term third baseman the Cubs have had since Santo was traded to the Chicago White Sox at the end of his career. With his apparent departure, you have to wonder when the Cubs will once again be able to fill the vacant hot corner. Last night, 30 years past before they found a solid fixture, hopefully this time the fans do not have to wait so long for a permanent replacement.
With the third base free agent class being very weak, Ramirez becomes the best player available at that position, and should draw a lot of attention from several teams who need someone at third. The bidding war for the aging veteran will likely surpass whatever amount the Cubs would be willing to spend to bring him back, unless he gives the team he says he wants to return to a “home town discount”. With this being the final long term deal of his career, I am not so sure that he will be willing to give a significant discount to the Cubs in order to finish his career with them.
Now that you have a pretty good idea that Ramirez’s Cubs career is over, in my own opinion, the time has come to do what is best for both the player and the team. Sit A-Ram down for the remainder of the season and play a young player over at the hot corner.
How does that benefit Ramirez? The answer to that is quite easy. He has an injured qaud, so in the interest of his health, he should be sat the remainder of the year. Let the injury heal so he can fully heal before any physical that he would need to take before signing a new contract. I doubt Ramirez would have much problem with that scenario as he gets paid whether he plays or not. Why risk making an injury worse if you are about to reach free agency? I believe he will be happy to sit out the remaining six games while the Cubs begin the rebuilding process.
The question then turns to which kid do you throw at third base for the remainder of the year? You could turn to the kid who is playing there today, DJ LeMahieu. Let him test his ability and skill while the Cubs get a good look to see if he can play every day at the major league level. Sure, this is September baseball and no teams have advanced scouts so you need to take anything these call ups do with a grain of salt, but you would get an idea of what he can do.
Another option would be to allow Starlin Castro to spread his wings and fly over at the hot corner. He may not be a bad option, especially since he does have a strong arm and good range. Add in to his ever growing power, he could grow into an excellent option over there. Then the problem would be who plays short stop, or who plays second base if Darwin Barney shifts over as well. Time will tell how the Cubs will handle the third base position going forward, but you can be sure things will be interesting.
There is some good news that comes with the departure of Ramirez, even for those fans who do wish he would return. The Cubs will be saving the $16 Million that he would have made next year, which can be spent elsewhere, perhaps on the pitching staff or a certain first baseman who shall be left unnamed. That is not the only good news however. From the sound of some of the reports, because Ramirez was the one who opted out of the 2012 deal and not the team, the Cubs may in fact be off the hook for the $2 Million buyout to the contract. So that is another $2 Million that the Cubs can use to rebuild a ball club that seemed to have fallen apart. Heck, they might even be more willing to ship off Alfonso Soriano knowing that they suddenly have this extra money that they can throw into a deal to help a team pay his contract. However, that “saved money” might actually be put towards the Carlos Zambrano going away package.
Ramirez declaring for free agency, six games before the season actually ends, should open the flood gates that should have been opened for the trade deadline back in July. That means letting Carlos Pena walk, trading Marlon Byrd and trying desperately to send Alfonso Soriano packing. Without Ramirez, there is little reason to sign Pujols, Fielder or even bringing Pena back.
Let the rebuilding process begin. The only question is will Cub fans be willing to sit through a few years of what could be sub .500 baseball while the kids grow and learn on the job?
The trade deadline in Major League Baseball has come and gone, and the Chicago Cubs were not as active as many fans would have liked. The only trade the organization made, was to pass Kosuke Fukudome on to the Cleveland Indians while eating all but $775,000 of his remaining deal and receiving two below average prospects in return. The reasoning why there were no other moves is rather maddening. General Manager Jim Hendry fully believes that the Cubs are close to being able to contend next year, and wanted to hang on to the pieces he felt would be the key elements to guiding the Cubs to the Promise Land in 2012.
That is why, according to published reports, the Cubs do not want to trade Carlos Pena, Marlon Byrd or Aramis Ramirez. We also can not forget that Hendry does not want to trade Jeff Baker either. Apparently Hendry and company believe that those four players will be key elements in guiding this team back to the playoffs and making a World Series Run. Don’t ask me how Hendry feels this team can compete next year with pretty much the same pieces, when they are currently chasing the Houston Astros for the worst record in baseball. The only changes would be swapping out Tyler Colvin or Fukudome and maybe replacing Fielder or Pujols for Pena. Is that enough to compete next year? Perhaps, but there is a lot that needs to go right for the Cubs in order for them to compete with such little change in the roster.
With so few changes, the Cubs can compete for a playoff spot. You heard me right, they can compete for a playoff spot, if everything goes right for them. That means that Aramis Ramirez needs to contribute earlier than June like he did this year. They will need Alfonso Soriano to contribute in more than just April, and Pena (assuming he is here) to also start producing earlier in the season instead of waiting until May. That is only the start of what needs to go right for the Cubs, and we haven’t even started in on the problems on the pitching staff.
For all those reasons, the Cubs should have been in full fledged fire sale mode waving the white flag up and down the streets, and yelling come and get it as if they were serving dinner. Everyone and anyone should have been on the table for any and all interested parties, except for maybe Starlin Castro. Perhaps everyone was on the table, and they were not getting any offers for any of the players they waned to move.
From various reports, we have heard that the Anaheim Angels really wanted Ramirez, but he does not want to leave the ball club. Another player who was requested in a trade was Kerry Wood, whom the Phillies made an enticing offer for, so much so that Hendry went to Wood to seek his approval. However, much like with the Ramirez trade talks, Wood chose to void the trade because he wanted to stay with the Cubs. There are two players who other teams wanted that decided they would rather bask in the glow of being a Cub than going to a contender.
Nothing against either player deciding to do so, as they are both well within their rights. Ramirez, as has been discussed, used his 5-10 rights to block any trade, and Wood used his no trade clause, which he was given after giving a very generous discount, to make his decision. Would have been nice to get some good young prospects, but the decisions have been made.
Then we have the two players who the Cubs were practically begging people to take away practically for free. The Cubs offered to pay a huge chunk of the contracts owed to both Soriano and Carlos Zambrano, and still got no takers. One such team to turn down the Cubs, was the New York Yankees who print money. If they do not want him for free, that should speak volumes.
If there were other offers made for some of the remaining players, who Hendry did not want to keep, the reports of the interest in them never surfaced. If you are hopeful to compete for a division crown, much less a World Series title, having a team filled with players no one wants is not a good way to start that success run.
Sure, the Cubs could make a few moves in the off season, but unless there are some other trades made in the August Waiver period, or in the off season, this team will not compete next year. The Cubs have some serious needs that must be addressed if they have any realistic dreams of competing next year. Just replacing Fukudome with Colvin and possibly even replacing Pena with either Pujols or Fielder will not be nearly enough.
One of the more talked about players on the Chicago Cubs around the trade deadline is Kosuke Fukudome. He may not be the best player on the ball club but, according to published reports, he may be the most coveted by other teams. Whether or not the reports are more agent and Cubs induced remains to be seen, there are four teams that have been linked to a possible trade with Fukudome. Of that group of teams rumored to have interest, only the Cleveland Indians have been named as a possible suitor.
While I can only speculate on who the other teams may or may not be, the Indians may actually be the perfect fit for him, as they are suffering through injuries to two of their outfielders, with Shin Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore both hitting the disabled list. One would think that he would fit like a glove on that team, who desperately needs a live body to fill out the void. He provides little spark in the offensive side of the ball, outside or his ability to work the count and compile a very respectable on base percentage, but his defense is still well above average. With the range he is able to provide, the Indians would love to get their hands on him.
There is no question that Fukudome should be traded, as he has no place on the Cubs next year or in the future. With that being the case, why should the Cubs keep him for the stretch run in a lost season? I can not answer that, can you? At least with Carlos Pena, there is a good chance that the Cubs would want to bring him back, as they have no obvious in house replacement at first base. However, with Fukudome’s departure, there are any number of players who fans would love to see taking the field everyday in his place.
The Cubs may have to eat some of his remaining contract, which is about $4 million, in order to move him, but why not? Even if the Cubs have to eat everything that he is owed, there is no downside to making the move. They would have been spending the money regardless, and with the trade they will get a prospect back in the deal. The quality of that prospect will likely depend on how much money the Cubs take on of the deal, as I believe that the more money they pay on his contract the better the prospect will be. On top of that, the Cubs can begin to develop his replacement as early as today, depending on when he is traded. The players who the Cubs can slide in to replace him should satisfy the masses no matter who they chose.
Personally, I would call up Brett Jackson and let him start his major league career in a pressure free environment. By all accounts, he is the future center fielder for the Cubs, and should be breaking camp with the big club as early as next year. If Fukudome is traded, move Marlon Byrd over to Right Field and let your young prospect continue his progress at the big league level.
That is what I would do, but perhaps the Cubs will disagree. They may chose to play the veteran fan favorite Reed Johnson on a daily basis, or at least until his back gives out as we have come to expect. This would fly in the face of everything the organization has ever said though about playing for the future. Johnson may be in the team’s plans for next year, but as a fourth or fifth outfielder. There is very little chance he would be the every day right fielder, so I doubt this is the move that they decide to go with long term for the remainder of this year.
Then we have fan favorite Tyler Colvin who has struggled more often than not in his time at the big league level. True, he hit 20 home runs last year when getting close to regular playing time, but his batting average was well below average and his defense is subject. He will not dazzle you with his range or his arm. Perhaps those qualities that he lacks will improve if he is given the chance to play more. That is a reasonable outlook on the kid, and what the Cubs may decide to do if the feel that Jackson still needs a little bit of seasoning before getting the call up. I would not be completely against this move, as we would get to see if he can improve when he is given regular playing time but, seeing his batting average dip below .100, doesn’t really give me much optimism for his ability to succeed in the future.
The final choice to fill the void if Fukudome is traded, is none other than the scrappy Tony Campana, who already has a portion of the fan base clamoring to see more of him. Whether they think he will be a future star in the majors, or they just want to see less of the “over paid bums” who currently reside in the outfield I do not know. But I for one hope they do not turn the reigns over to Campana. Other than his speed, I have yet to see him give us anything that I would see as talent. Granted, this is all in limited time, but he has yet to even give a sparkle of excitement. We have seen that his fielding is not that great, and his arm strength is lacking. He makes former Cub Juan Pierre look like he has a cannon; okay maybe not, but Campana has a very weak arm and I shutter every time I see him playing the field. As a pinch runner, there is no one I would rather see, but as a fielder he would likely be last on the list; yes, even behind the man who fans call a butcher in Alfonso Soriano.
As you can see, the Cubs have four in house options to replace the very tradable, and apparently sought after, Fukudome. In fact, two of them are currently on the roster, but the two I would rather see getting the playing time are down in the minors.
Fukudome should be traded, and why they are making the Indians wait another day is beyond me. The Cubs must know that they likely will not get that great of a prospect back, no matter how much money they eat of his remaining deal. The only holdup would have to be a hopeful “bidding war” between the interested teams, seeing who would be willing to eat the most money and who could deliver the best prospect. But again, with all the intelligence and news sources out there, the only visible team that has let their interest known, are the Indians. The longer they wait, the better the chances are that Fukudome stays and, the longer we have to wait for the rebuilding to finally begin!
As promised, I am back with my trade deadline blogs about the individual players I mentioned should be moved in a deal if at all possible. While all five should be dealt for prospects, or at very least a salary dump, we must be honest with ourselves. The likelihood of all of them being traded is nonexistent, so we should focus on the ones who will be the most likely to be moved, and that is the what I will lend my focus to in this series, and go in order of most likely to be moved to least likely of these five.
That being said, the most likely player to be moved is Chicago Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena. According to reports by Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated, he is almost certain to be traded, with the two teams mentioned the most as possible landing spots for the left handed slugger being the Arizona DiamondBacks and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Both teams will likely ask that the Cubs pay at least a small portion of the $5 Million that was deferred in his initial $10 Million one year contract. That would not be too much of a noose around the neck of the franchise going forward, and would not keep the Cubs from signing a key free agent they feel could help them in the years to come.
The Cubs, however, have disputed the report by Heyman with the usual throw away line of ‘why would we trade him?”. The answer to that is very easy, and will remain the same for all of the players who are on the last year of their deal. Get something for him so you do not lose him without getting anything as he walks out the door, and save some money. Those are the two keys going forward if you have any hope of rebuilding a team. Rebuild the farm system and save some money that can be spent elsewhere.
There are those who are against the trade, as there will always be in most cases, because he is producing or because they think that the Cubs should bring him back next year. Neither of those reasons should ever stop the Cubs from trading away a player. Neither of those reasons should even give the Cubs cause for hesitation. The simple fact of the matter is that the contending teams want him because he is producing and could help them in the stretch run. The very reason that he is producing is what could likely bring us back a good prospect who could be a key to our rebound and key to our future.
As far as re-signing him for 2012 and beyond, the Cubs can still trade Pena and then sign him once again in the off season. If the Cubs think he is a key part of their 2012 team and beyond, there is nothing stopping them from pursuing him again once the free agency period begins, If this is the case, the Cubs come out on top, especially if he does re-sign here, if that is indeed in their plans. They get at least one prospect and get Pena back. Where is the downside to making this move? I surely do not see one. If the Cubs truly want him back, and if Pena likes being in Chicago and playing for the Cubs, then make a handshake agreement with him, letting him know the situation. Tell him you want to bring him back, and would be highly interested in signing him in the off season, but that they want to give him a chance at a winner and that they have received a deal they can not turn down.
Personally, I would not mind Pena coming back. I would rather bring in Prince Fielder, but the bidding war for that puffy power swinging first baseman might reach too high for the Cubs budget. If that is the case, the Cubs need to weigh their options and decide how close they truly are to contending for the World Series. If they honestly think that they can contend next year, and not just saying they can in order to give the Cub fans hope, then by all means bring him back. If not, let him walk away and bring up a kid to play first base, or move Alfonso Soriano over to first base to save his legs. Sure, every time you hear about a Starlin Castro throw to first you are likely to have a heart attack with Soriano over there, but in an honest moment do you not already cover your eyes every time the kid gets ready to make a throw anyway? The move of Soriano to first is smart, because then the Cubs are free to bring up and play another outfielder from the minors and give them an opportunity to play everyday. The downside to this argument is that if he has issues catching those routine fly balls in left field, how will he handle several throws a game to first, especially those wickedly wild ones from Castro?
With only five days remaining, the Cubs need to figure out what they want to do; not only for the rest of this year, but for the future of the franchise. If continuing to play Pena is what General Manager Jim Hendry thinks is the best for both the present and the future, then there is very little chance that he will be moved at all. As for me, if I were the General Manager, I would trade Pena for whatever I could get. How about you? Would you trade Pena?
After nearly two months I am back with yet another blog. What can I say, I have been a complete lazy bum as of late, and I have not given the attention to my blog for the Chicago Cubs that I should be. I will not make excuses for my lack of blogs, but come on, watching this complete suckfest game after game, would you want to spend even more time on them? Okay, so that was an excuse, and that will be the last one that I give, at least for myself. No more looking back, the time has come to look forward. Not only for myself, but for the Cubs organization as a whole. If you are ready, we can once again continue our path into the World Series Dreaming view of the Cubs.
If you can remember back far enough, about a month and a half ago, I wrote a blog about waiting until the year after next. In that blog I wrote how I felt was the best case scenario for the Cubs chances to be a competitive team again, and when fans can start to see a shimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. In case you do not want to look back or remember that far back, allow me to summarize for you. In my mindset, whether I am right or wrong, I see very little chance of the Cubs being competitive again until the year 2013 when all of these current long termed contracts, save for Alfonso Soriano, will be completely off the books and our beloved Cubs can start anew, hopefully not signing mega-length contracts again like we did for our vilified aging left fielder.
In current news, the Cubs have finally put together a winning streak. We have been teased with such a thing several times this year with winning two in a row, but never have we been able to celebrate such an accomplishment. Sure, we have swept series, two in fact, of the one game and two game caliber, but never have we been able to put together the elusive winning streak. No longer can we saw that, as yesterday some fans celebrated like the Cubs had just won the World Series! To be honest, I smiled a bit as well, and who can blame any of the Cub fans for feeling at least a little overjoyed with finally accomplishing the seemingly impossible feat.
But in an honest moment, I must confess that I felt a little disappointed when all was said and done as well. While I love my Cubs, and I enjoy each and every single win that we are able to rack up, all that win did for us yesterday was to keep us from acquiring the number one pick in next years Amateur Draft. Do not misunderstand what I am saying, I am not hoping for losses. But in a lost year, and who can call this season anything but that, the Cubs need to look towards the future and to start the rebuilding process which will be able to being in the year 2013. That includes building the farm system, which is built primarily on the draft. At the moment, yesterday’s win moved the Cubs into the third spot in the draft. Still a good pick, assuming there is enough amazing talent to last, but usually in every draft there is only one sure fire stud that you can say without a doubt will be a future star. With the Cubs currently holding the third pick, unless the Houston Astros and Baltimore Oriels suffer major brain cramps, they will have very little chance of drafting that player.
Add that into the report from Bruce Miles, who was on the weekly “Hit and Run” show yesterday morning on 670 The Score, which said that Cub fans should not expect any major moves before the deadline, and yesterday was a gloomy day despite the win which brought such happiness to Cubs Nation. In my opinion, not trading as many of these players is a massive mistake. Move as many of these older veterans as you can, and save as much money as possible. I fully understand that some players will be more difficult to move based on the size of their contracts, Soriano for example, but even if the Cubs must eat $40 Million of his remaining $60 Million owed between now and the end of 2014 (roughly $6 Million left for this year and $18 Million each of the next three years) you are still saving $20 Million which can be used on players to fill out the roster.
While every fan has their own personal favorites, only one player should even be considered untouchable, and that is Starlin Castro; although some fans have made a solid argument why even he should be considered a trade candidate if the right deal came about.
That being said, there are at least five players whom the Cubs should move if the opportunity should arise, and clear some salary off of the books. This shouldn’t be too hard for you to figure out which five, but I will let you know anyway.
The Cubs should look into moving all three starting outfielders, yes that includes fan favorite Marlon Byrd, and both corner infielders. I know that in the past Aramis Ramirez has stated that he will not accept a trade because he loves the city of Chicago and the fans of the Cubs, but recently his agent has come out and acknowledged that he may in fact consider a trade in August once his family leaves for the Dominican Republic for the children to return to school.
Fans may object to trading the players who are producing when they should be looking into getting rid of those players who are not. What they need to realize that teams chasing a pennant will want those very players who are producing and not a player who is not putting up the desired numbers.
There are several other players whom I know Cub fans would not mind seeing traded, but those are the top five in my opinion whom should be moved for one reason or another. I will get into why I feel each one of those five should be traded over the next five days. Yep that is a promise that you will get a fresh blog every day this week as I try to get back in the habit of updating my blog on a regular basis.
For now, there are only six days left until the non-waiver trade deadline. Stay tuned, there may be a trade made by our Cubs at any moment, or we may just see out beloved boys in blue stand pat and hold out hope that the team catches fire!
With Tom Ricketts now entering the second full year as owner of the Chicago Cubs, the fans are ready to start passing judgment. As a matter of fact, they started passing judgment on Ricketts during and after his very first year as the owner of the team. How fair or unfair this is, boils down to each and every person and their own personal opinions. However, allow me to go on the record here and now and tell you just how unfair the fans are being for calling him out already in response to the Cubs and their failure to be a competent team in 2010, and having less than stellar expectations for 2011.
In the mind of some fans, they expected immediate results and a complete turn around as soon as Ricketts officially became the owner of the team. They wanted him to immediately fire Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry, start releasing various players and to spend millions of dollars to bring some top players to the club and turn them into a contender. They expected him to turn the Cubs into the New York Yankees of the National League. Unfortunately, that was not a realistic demand. To be honest, that is still not a realistic demand for the fans to make of him.
Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry screwed over the financial books for the Cubs for a few years with his mad spending in 2007 and 2008. He left them with a king sized payroll which tied the financial hands of the Cubs and whoever would have would up owning them for a few years until the contracts all expired. While fans all blame Hendry for signing all these players to the contracts that were handed out like candy, there is one thing you need to keep in mind. For one, the Tribune Company, which was owned by Sam Zell at the time, told Hendry to spend like there was no tomorrow in order to pump up the team’s value in order to sell at a higher price. If he had not done so, he would have been fired and someone else would have done what Zell wanted. Blame Hendry all you want, but when your boss tells you to do something, you follow orders if you want to keep your job.
Actually, if you want to dig a little deeper, Hendry is not completely to blame for the Alfonso Soriano deal either. Current Chicago Legend, John McDonough was the man who pulled the trigger and actually finished working on that deal for Soriano. Being the new president of the Cubs, he wanted to make a big splash with the team. That is exactly what he did when he signed the over paid slugger.
Regardless of who is to blame for the money problems the Cubs are in, I fully believe that the fans criticism of Ricketts is coming in far too early. He is not a miracle worker and can not make immediate changes over night, or even in a year or two. His first year asking for massive changes was just completely unreasonable. The man just spent $900 Million on the Cubs, and in my mind over paid for the team, and fans wanted more. They were hoping he would clean house of the overpaid and over rated talent that was festering on the roster and bring in bigger and better super stars. That was not a reasonable request when you sit down and think rationally about things.
On the other hand, he has also made a questionable moves which does paint him in a bad light. Trading for Matt Garza goes completely against his “build from within” philosophy. With that trade, our farm system turned from one that has a number of young and promising up and coming talent, to one that is very bare. The Cubs still have a few good prospects, but they lost their best ones in the over paying for Garza, who according to all the advanced statistical analysis is almost the same pitcher as Randy Wells. This trade is not a good way to go about building from within if that was your mindset. At the moment, he seems far more interested in promoting the product instead of trying to win ball games. Which means, if that is the case, the Cub fans are in for a world of hurt for a long period of time. If this continues, the Cubs will be returning to what life was like under the Pre-Zell Tribune company.
In my honest opinion, you can not really start to judge the job that Ricketts is doing until at least the start of the 2012 season. The reason I say that season, is because the financial handcuffs get loosened quite a bit on Ricketts. Over $40 Million will be coming off the books and he will have some money to work with. Granted, he will still have a few more years of Carlos Zambrano and Soriano to deal with, but there will be plenty of money that he will be able to play with. Right now, he has very little money and roster space to play around with. He has not been able to do much of anything other than figure out how to upgrade Wrigley Field and keep the place from falling apart.
If Ricketts is serious about turning this franchise around, he needs to go about business better; and the sooner the better. Year one I can write off and clear him of blame for the disastrous outcome of the season. He said that he wanted to sit back and let the baseball people underneath him take care of the baseball business. I can even accept that he kept Hendry around, as he knows the team and what they need better than anyone else does at the moment. While that was not a very popular move in the minds of the fans, I can at least understand the decision.
With the second year underway, and prospects still not looking too bright, I can still clear him of almost all blame and criticism as he is still buried under the mess that he was left by Zell and his demands to beef up the payroll. He was left with a big bill to pay and he is still suffering from the contractual obligations that were given to him.
However, next year, the excuses for him will come to and end as he will be losing around $57 Million coming off the payroll when the season comes to an end. The following players will most likely be gone: Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, Carlos Silva, Carlos Pena, John Grabow, Jeff Samardzija, Kerry Wood, Jeff Baker and Koyie Hill. With all these players leaving, the Cubs will have plenty of space for some of their young and up and coming prospects to finally show what they can do. What this also means, is that the Cubs will have plenty of money to play around with, to add the players to fill the voids that the farm system can not fill.
In my books, Ricketts get a complete pass for 2010. He also gets a pass for 2011, though that comes with a suspicious eye. His third season, 2012, is when all the possible excuses come to an end. That is when he will finally be able to take charge and be able to make some serious roster moves.
The Ricketts Era may have stumbled out of the starting gate, but the race is not over.
Today, because you are finished with my look at the individual positions and who should be starting for the Chicago Cubs, I will give you my thoughts on what I feel would be the perfect line up to run out everyday. Thankfully this is made much easier because Cubs Manager Mike Quade and I are in full agreement on who should be playing everyday. The one thing we do not agree on, is how they should be lined up. So far in Spring Training, based on the line up that has been run out most often, Quade is looking at running out this line up.
Pitcher of the day,
While I agree with three of the nine spots in the line up, I feel that the others should be shuffled around for reasons that I am about to explain. In my mind, the line up should look like this.
Kosuke Fukudome: This one Quade has right. With his precise at the plate, there is no one better to hit lead off. What he lacks in batting average, which tends to be his main down fall with the fans, he makes up for in drawing walks. That is the main objective for any lead off hitter. Get on base for the big boppers behind you.
Geovany Soto: Cuttently, Quade has him batting seventh in the lineup. In my honest opinion, this is a big mistake. He is the teams best on base percentage guy and should be at the top of the line up batting second. Much like with Fukudome should be batting lead off, getting on base is the most important thing for your first and second hitters. The reason Soto should be hitting second, is because he does just that. Because he has a keen eye at the plate, and has a fair amount of power, pitchers will need to pitch to him very carefully if he is hitting second. They do not want to walk him, and give you best run producers a chance to drive him in, so they will have to throw him pitches to hit. Doing so could cost them dearly.
Aramis Ramirez: The Cubs need a power hitter in the three hole, and that just is not Marlon Byrd. These two men should be flipped in the order. History has shown that if there are men on base for Ramirez, that chances are he is going to drive them in. He is the Cubs best run producer, and has been for the past few years, and needs to bat in the first inning. With Fukudome and Soto hitting in front of him, he will typically always have someone on base for him to drive in.
Marlon Byrd: I know what you are thinking, if Byrd isn’t powerful enough to hit in the three spot, why hit him clean up? I think he should hit clean up for those exact reasons. He is a good line drive hitter and can move guys over and drive them in without the use of a home run. In some instances that is a better weapon than a home run hitter. He gives you a different aspect to think about. If Ramirez is unable to drive the previous guys in, Byrd almost certainly will. Besides, I feel that having power back to back is a waste and kind of is easier on the pitcher who does not need to chance his thought process when the batters change. You typically pitch all power hitters the same way.
Carlos Pena: He should be hitting fifth, exactly where Quade has him. Left handed power in this spot is very nice. A line drive hitter right in front of him could mean that there is typically someone on base for him to try and drive in. While his average has not been very good the past few years, he still has the power numbers to make him a big threat with men on base.
Alfonso Soriano: Once again, Quade gets the decision right to bat him here. While he is no longer the big 40 home run threat that he once was, he is still very capable of hitting at least 20 home runs. He will never have another good year of stealing bases either, which is why he is not batting higher in the line up. Because he still has some decent power, he still has to be considered a threat at the plate.
Blake Dewitt: He is not a strong hitter, and can occasionally draw a walk. I will not tiptoe around this guy at all, he is our weakest hitter. The reason I have him hitting seventh instead of eighth is because you do not want two easy outs back to back. Perhaps with another year of professional baseball under his belt he will be able to surprise us with something. Either way, I am not expecting much out of him. Only good thing I can say about him, is that he is better than Ryan Theriot because he can occasionally draw a walk.
Starlin Castro: The very reason Quade likes him hitting second is why he should be hitting eighth in the order. Someone who can hit at a high average at the bottom of the order is a good way to help turn the line up over and get back to the top of the order. If you have three low average guys at the bottom of the order (no Soto is not a low average hitter, but his power says he should be hitting higher) you will have three easy outs all in a row. That is something pitchers dream of, you are basically handing them an easy inning. Throwing a .300 hitter here helps keep the offense rolling. Add to the mix that he can draw a walk, which is a very important aspect for anyone who is going to hit in the eight hole. Pitchers will tend to pitch around this hitter in order to get to the easiest out in the line up, the pitcher. Yes, the pitcher is the easiest out even if we are talking about Carlos Zambrano. This guy needs to get on base for the pitcher to move over with a sacrifice bunt and to reset the line up.
A line up like this would give the Cubs the best chance to win on a daily basis. Granted, that is assuming everything works the way they should. While we may not have the most talented line up in baseball, I believe that you can still make noise if you put things in the proper order. Perhaps Quade’s line up is better than my purposed one.
As we anticipate the potential free agency of the greatest player in baseball, Albert Pujols, we should not forget about the player who will be playing first base for the Chicago Cubs in the 2011 season, Carlos Pena. While he is not in the same league as the impressive slugger, he is not a bad option to have camping out at first base for your ball club.
While his batting average has continued to dip further and further into less than mediocrity over the past few years, his power and run producing numbers have not been hurt at all. As a matter of fact, his past four years have been his most productive years of his career. In that time frame, he has hit an average of 36 home runs and 101 RBI, which stands up there with some of the best sluggers in the game.
Now, in signing him to a one year deal, this opens up a lot of doors for the Cubs, as well as for Pena. For the new first baseman, this allows Pena to prove that he is fully healthy, after an injury plagued year saw his batting average slip below the Mendoza line, and saw both his power and run producing numbers to slip below the 30-100 (he wound up with 28-84) mark from the first time in the past four year mark. While those numbers would still be a big help to any team, they still leave you to wonder if Pena has anything left. That is where is benefits Pena.
While I do not believe in the contract year myth, though several do, I do believe in the redemption year thought process. I will give you that there are several arguments in favor of the contract year, Adrian Beltre is the primary example, there are just as many cases of people in contract years who do not have outstanding numbers; one such example is Pena. He did put up impressive power numbers in his contract year, but his average and on base percentage took a hit which would scare some teams away. They didn’t scare the Cubs away, but likely allowed them to sign him at a lower price than the power numbers would have suggested.
In this redemption year, Pena has something to prove, which would make him more determined to shine than he normally is. In an effort to not be a hypocrite, I will not back off of anything that I have said in the past. Players should always be fully motivated and determined to do the best job they can possibly do, but there will always be instances where you find that little something extra to help carry you to the next level. I believe that will be the case for Pena this year. I am not talking about a complete rebirth or explosion of stats, but a potential leveling out of his stats to some sense or normalcy. Signing the one year deal, allows him to get paid a decent amount for this season, with the potential to get one last big money deal for extended years after this season if he proves to be back to form.
Where this benefit’s the Cubs, is they now have a stop gap between first basemen. While they did not really have anyone in the farm system you would trust to play first base, at least not a young player close, free agency was the path to take. Because of his season long lingering injury, and dipping statistics, the one year deal is less of a risk than they would be facing if they signed him to a longer term deal. If he is a great success, and returns to a mid to high .200 batting average with 30-100 numbers again, you could very well re-sign him to a pretty good deal, and the potential that he could give you as slight discount knowing that you took a chance on him where others may not have been so sure.
This one year audition of sorts, also allows the Cubs the flexibility and opportunity to sign one of the pending free agent first baseman who will be hitting the market after the 2011 season. I fully believe that was the main reason why Pena was signed to a one year deal. There would be no one standing in their way of pursuing one of the two free agent slugging first basemen. While there was only one guy who we figured to reach free agency, Prince Fielder, now there could potentially be two with Pujols.
With the potential offense that Pena could bring to the Cubs, he also brings gold glove defense. With Aramis Ramirez always a threat to throw the ball away, and with Starlin Castro likely to do the same, you need someone over at first who can prevent those wild erroneous throws. Never under estimate the importance of a good defensive first baseman.
Because of his power, Pena will be batting in the middle of the lineup, either third or fourth. With the proper batters in front of him, meaning guys who cant actually get on base, he should have plenty of opportunities to drive runs in. This means a potential return to the 100 RBI plateau, which will be a massive improvement over anything we got from last year’s first sacker Derek Lee, which is another example of a player in a contract year failing to deliver breath taking statistics.
As far as what I expect to see out of Pena for 2011, I would like to believe we will see a jump in all his numbers. While this will not be impressive, I think Pena can bring his average back above the embarrassing Menzona line, and finish with possibly a .250 average, which sadly would be his highest average since his power surge began. As far as power and run producing, I would be surprised if those change too much. Expect a near 30 homer season and around 100 RBI, again this all depends on if people can get on base in front of him.