I know the Chicago Cubs season is only nine games old, and we still have 153 to go, but there are already some things coming to be known about this team that I do not like whatsoever. You can tell me all you want that there is still plenty of time to turn things around (which is true) and that the season is still early (again, true) but that does not mean that you can not have things that you are not happy with, and things which must be improved if you plan on having any type of success at all.
Currently, after dropping a series to the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs stand with a record of 4-5. Thankfully, they are about to start a three game series with the bottom dwelling Houston Astros, a team which is a good bet to get back on the right track and to start some sort of a winning streak against. However, you could have very easily said the same thing about the Pittsburgh Pirates, who took the series from the Cubs to start the season. If they can not sweep this pathetically awful team, or at very least win the series, you might as well pack your bags and call the season over. Sorry for the negativity this early on, but like I said, there are just a few things which are grinding on my nerves.
First and foremost, is the starting pitching. Going into the season, the impression was that we had a pitching staff which had some really good potential. However, after nine games, the pitching staff has been anything but good, Outside of Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner, the other three pitchers have not been living up to expectations. Both Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza have gotten smacked around pretty well their first two starts, and have both left much to be desired. Carlos Zambrano on the other hand, has not been bad, but has not been all that impressive. Sadly, the best two starts we have gotten this year comes from the two pitchers that we have just placed on the disabled list.
What is even more troubling, is new addition Garza is already not happy with our pitching coach Mark Riggins. Apparently now that we are out of the thin air of Arizona, which he blamed for his poor Spring Training, he needs a new target, and Riggins seems to be just that target. God forbid anyone ever takes responsibility for their own performance, There is always someone else that is responsible for your sucking. What I find funny, is that in his close to a decade with the Cubs, I do not remember one incident of a pitcher ever calling out Larry Rothschild for anything. Not Kerry Wood, not Carlos Zambrano, no one. But, that is another argument for another day, one not likely to be worth arguing because much like with Alfonso Soriano, Cub fans have already made up their mind on him and hate him, blaming him for all the woes of the pitching staff. But, I would just like to point out that in one off season he has appeared to have fixed A.J. Burnett, not an easy task.
Another thing that is completely ticking me off right now, is Marlon Byrd. I do not know what he was thinking yesterday, but why in the blue hell did he decide to steal second base with Aramis Ramirez up at the plate? That was likely one of the dumbest moves that I have seen from the Cubs in a very long time, and believe me that is saying something. You could tell that he either misread a sign, or completely went on his own because of the swing Ramirez took on the pitch Byrd decided to run on. Ramirez tired to protect Byrd by at least making some contact, almost sacrificing himself in the process. So Byrd not only cost us a base runner and an out, but he cost Ramirez a strike. Thanks a lot Byrd!
What is worse, is his post game interview when he was questioned about his base running blunder. He could not admit fault, which I would completely accept, but instead he got snippy with the media and told them to “beat it”. Grow up Mr. Byrd, yes you are hitting but you have no speed and should not have ran, especially not in that situation.
The we have our golden child, Starlin Castro! I love this kid, and I am more excited about him than I am about anything we have had in a long time. He is phenomenal with the bat, and every time he steps up to the plate you are always feeling like he is going to get a hit. That is how impressive this kid is. He is going to be a star! The only problem is, he is a tremendous liability with the glove. He has tremendous range, and can get to just about any ball hit on his side of second base. He also feels that he can make every throw, which is both good and bad. He has a rocket for an arm, so he always feels like he can nail a runner at first. But he needs to learn when to make a throw and when he needs to just hold on to the ball. Add into the mix that he can not apparently take a throw from a catcher, as you could see by his getting drilled on a throw from Geovany Soto on Saturday. Yes, he is still young and can learn, and his limited time in the minors probably did not help his learning process, but he needs to improve, and fast.
Those are the three things that are irritating me early in the season, however there was one roster move which is seriously scaring me. That is the Cubs signing Ramon Ortiz to a minor league contract. The first question that should cross your mind here, is why. He is old, well past his prime and likely has less than nothing left in the tank. He was likely the only pitcher the Cubs could sign, due to the severely limited fund they have; especially since they had to pay Carlos Silva $11.5 Million to go away. But why sign him?
I am afraid that I know why. Either Wells or Cashner will be missing some significant time, and the Cubs are not too enthusiastic about either Casey Coleman (who got manhandled by the Brewers yesterday) or James Russell who will be starting on Tuesday against the Astros. Hopefully this is not the case and he is just here to fill a roster spot in Triple A. The Cubs say that the injuries of Wells and Cashner are minor, but we have heard that all before.
Alright, I have vented. I am ready for some more Cubs baseball! Going against the Astros should bring the Cubs some easy wins. Just as long as the pitching actually is clicking, but I will not hold my breath.
With a week left until opening day, the Chicago Cubs have finally announced their full five man starting rotation. The top three have been known since training camp opened. Opening day starter Ryan Dempster will be followed by Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza. Even though the official announcement only came a week ago, every knew that Randy Wells belonged as the teams fourth starter, and the fact that he had to compete for the job was a complete joke. The fifth and final starting pitching job, a battle between youngster Andrew Cashner and Carlos Silva has finally been decided; and the winner is Cashner . What this means, is I can finally finish my look at the 2012 ball club.
With Cashner beating out Silva or the fifth starting job, two birds were just killed. One on hand, the Cubs get to begin to build towards the future and use Cashner to develop at the big league level. On the other hand, the have a young pitcher with some upside in Cashner starting over Silva, whose better days are far behind him. This was the best possible move the ball club could make for both the present and the future. The Cubs are finally doing something that actually makes sense.
Today, we look at the starting pitching staff for the 2012 club and what I feel we can expect from them for the year to come.
With the Cubs tabbing Dempster to be the opening day starter, the team is already on the right path to having a successful season. Nothing against Zambrano, but over the years he has had some of his worst starts in his career on opening day. You do not need to go back much further than last years exploding disaster to get a good idea of how this usually go for him. Whether he is too amped up or not, I can not tell you, but Zambrano on opening day does not usually work out.
Looking at Dempster, he has been our most consistent pitcher over the past few years, which is probably why he will get the honor. There is no reason to believe that the trend for him will not continue Figure a good record of 16-10 with an ERA around 3.45
Zambrano, I think is the key to the whole rotation even though he is not labeled as the “ace” of the staff. However, he is still likely our best starter and might very well show that this year. The move to take him out of the opening day starters gig is more of a change of trends than a slap in his face. I see him having one of the best years of his career. I can easily see him putting up a 17-12 record and an ERA close to 3.65.
New comer Garza is switching leagues, going from the American to the National, which should help him out. However, he is also going from a pitcher friendly park to one that favors the hitters. Normally, I would give a pitcher a boost in his statistics with a switch like this, but in Garza’s case, I am not sure I can see that. For Garza, I would not be surprised to see a record of 12-10 with an Era around 4.00.
With Wells, the man who was made to compete for a job when he should not have had to, I expect a nice year from him. He has shown to have the ability to pitch well in big situations, but has never been able to get decent run support from him team. Both years as a starter, he should have won high totals, but was never able to do so because the Cubs could not score for him. I think that this is the year that all changes. Wells could very well put up a record of 16-11 with an ERA close to 3.25 earning him the recognition he truly deserves.
Finally, we have Cashner who is the wildcard in this lineup. We do not have any idea what to expect out of him, so making a predication for him would make little to no sense. But when have I ever let that stop me from doing anything? Cashner will have a shaky record of 12-11. His ERA will likely be near the low 4s. Not to spectacular, but that will be a start for him. We are better off by far having him than Silva though, no matter how well Cashner does.
By my count, the Cubs starters will be responsible for 73 wins and 54 losses, which is not all together a bad thing. That will be 19 games over .500. If they work out the way I think they could, the Cubs might have a legit shot of making some noise in the division. That means that 35 games will be decided by the bullpen, which just so happens to be the last positional blog I will be doing this spring. That one will be up tomorrow.
While I have already stated a few times that
I am not in favor of the Chicago Cubs trading prospects to
the Tampa Bay Rays for starting pitcher Matt Garza, recent
reports of a trade being “close” has urged me to be a little
more clear on my full stance on this situation. Garza is a
fantastic young pitcher who, under different circumstances, I
would absolutely love to bring in to the fold. Putting him at
the top of the Cubs starting rotation along with Carlos
Zambrano and Ryan Dempster would give them a very dominating
pitching staff. Any team would give their right arm to
acquire him, because he is still young and relatively cheap.
Making only $3 Million last season and likely around $6
Million this coming season due to arbitration, he comes at a
very manageable price that most every team can afford. So, if
he comes with a relatively cheap price tag, why would anyone
in their right mind not want to bring a pitcher with as much
talent as he possess into the mix? Adding a pitcher like
Garza to an already strong one and two starting pitcher could
only help in the long run, am I right? Allow me to explain
why I am so against bringing him into the Cubs system. The
main reason I am against this, is because of what the Cubs
would have to give up in order acquiring him. They would
almost certainly have to give up a number of their top
prospects, such as outfielder Brett Jackson or pitcher Jay
Jackson. Another name surely to be mentioned is Hak-Ju Lee,
an up and coming short stop said to be better than Starlin
Castro. These are just a few of the names that are surely
being discussed between the Cubs and Rays. These players
could certainly be of a big help to the Cubs for years to
come. However, I know what you are thinking. They are just
prospects and they are usually hit or miss, so why not trade
a few unknowns for a sure thing. That is good logic, which
does make sense to an extent. What makes even more sense to
those of this though process, is trading Brett Jackson while
his value is high. With the outfield being locked up by
several players currently on the Cubs for the 2011 and 2012
seasons, he may not get a true luck for another three years.
Trading him might make perfect sense in that instance, but
that doesn’t mean that I agree with this at all. If the Cubs
were close to competing for a World Series crown this season,
I would be all for trading away the young up and coming
talent we have in our farm system to secure his services.
Winning a World Series would make people live with giving up
on some of our top young talent. That is the problem though;
the Cubs are not close to winning a World Series title. At
least not for the 2011 season and maybe not for another year
or two after that if you want me to be perfectly honest.
Barring future free agent signings next year and beyond, by
the time the Cubs are finally ready to compete for a World
Series title, Garza’s contract would likely be up costing
them countless millions over the next few years. Granted, the
Cubs could sign him to an extension, but would they have
anything left in the system or in the bank to surround him
with anything to help him win a title? That is the question
that needs to be taken into account before making any trade
for Garza. Making the trade would put the Cubs in the
discussion for possibly a division title, but likely not for
the World Series. Not with the National League power house
Philadelphia Phillies or the usual American League suspects,
Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Mortgaging the future
for a slightly brighter immediate impact, in my honest
opinion, is not worth while. Unless Cubs Manager Jim Hendry
is able to pull off a miracle (which to be honest he is very
capable of doing, especially with trades), and keep out top
prospects, I give this trade a solid and firm vote of no. My
plea to Henry and the Ricketts family is to save the money
and play the kids.
Now that the Chicago Cubs have signed Carlos Pena to play first base for the 2011 season, they can now turn their thoughts and attention to the other needs that are haunting their ball club. While the Cubs have seemingly an endless amount of pitchers on their 40 man roster, those needs are the starting rotation and the bull pen, both of which are in serious need of some revamping. Because of the detail each of the situations require, today I will be looking solely at the starting rotation, and will take a look at the bull pen needs tomorrow.
Currently on the 25 man roster from last year, the Cubs have a slew of pitchers which could slide into the starting rotation, but after Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster, there is a huge drop off in talent. None of the other pitchers currently on the Cubs roster who would be in consideration give you all too much to have confidence in. That is why the Cubs have been looking outside of the organization for the much needed help. Before we discuss the talent outside of the organization, here are the top three in house candidates till fill out the rotation, if not other moves are made.
One of the candidates to fill a vacancy is Randy Wells, but after a shaky second season in 2010, he has to be considered a question mark at best. His rookie season gave some fans butterflies and allowed their minds to race about how good the former catcher could be as a starter. But last season was very shaky and doubt overshadowed the optimism for 27 year old. With him still learning how to be a pitcher, we could see a lot more of the 2010 Wells than the 2009 version that so many fell in love with. If that is the case, he will not do to much to ease the pain and worry of the Cub fans in terms of the staring rotation. With that type of performance, he could be best suited to fill the fifth starts role. At least he could if there were not some other lower caliber pitchers currently on the roster.
The other name who will most likely get the most looks for the starting rotation is Carlos Silva. This is a man who is mystifying to say the least. After coming to Chicago in the trade for Milton Bradley, there was zero confidence that he would be a serious contributor in any way shape or form. However, he surprised the fans by putting up extraordinary numbers in the first half of the season. His surprising performance, along with the dwindling hopes for a pennant chase, prompted several fans (myself included) thinking the Cubs should start try to trade him while his value was sky rocketing. This however did not happen, and the fade that so many expected occurred. Silva had reverted back to the dismal performances that he had given the past several years after earning his big contract. Add in the season ending injury he had late in the year, and the question mark gets about as large as Silva’s stomach.
The final in house candidate who could slide into the vacancy is left hander Tom Gorzelanny, who the Cubs have been shopping around. He is far from a great pitcher who will give you confidence before the game starts that you have a better than average chance to win. However, he is a left hander, and would be the only real left handed candidate on the current roster who could make the starting rotation. You will not get very far in the season if you are running five right handed starting pitchers, so he should have a better than average chance to make the rotation if he were to stick around, not that I would complain mind you. He is probably the most under rated pitcher the Cubs have on their staff, and had quite a number of impressive games.
I know what you are saying, what about some of the young kids on the roster? Completely agree, they should all get consideration, but do you honestly have more faith in them than any of the previous three pitchers named? Andrew Cashner looks like he could be a great pitcher one day, however at the moment he is a one pitch pitcher. You will not have much success if you can only throw one pitch. He will likely land in the bullpen. Casey Coleman looked impressive here or there, and might be the best pitcher out of this group, but not much is really known about him. Then we have Thomas Diamond, who was a steal from the Texas Rangers a few years back, but he did not show much last season in his limited time with the big club. That brings me to Sean Marshall, a man who has all the makings of a really good pitcher; just not in the starting rotation. In his brief stints in the rotation, he has done ok, but has never pitched well enough to keep his job. He is far more use to the Cubs in the bullpen in the set up role. Finally we have Jeff Samardzija. He is in his final year of his rookie deal, and is running out of chances to show that he made the right decision to go to baseball instead of football. He has had moments where he has looked great, and others where you wanted drive your foot through the TV screen.
If you are thinking the way that I am, none of these several pitchers give me any confidence going into 2011, and that is where Hendry is likely at as well. That is why he is looking primarily at two starting pitchers right now.
If the Cubs are going to dip into the trade market to improve their team, Matt Garza makes the most sense. Not only is he still young and under club control until 2013, but he is healthy. He has put up great years in his time with the Tampa Bay Rays. He would look very nice in the mix with Zambrano and Dempster at the top of the Cubs rotation. The only problem here would be the cost of getting him to Chicago. The Rays have a great General Manager, and he would take the Cubs over the barrel and drain our young farm system of a lot of the up and coming talent. On top of that, he will be very costly, as he is already making around $6 million, and being arbitration eligible the final three years of his deal, his salary will continue to go up. If I knew for sure that the Cubs will be in a serious position to compete this year, or before 2013, I would say go for it and be behind the move 100%.
I would love to have Garza on the team, but not at the expense of a lot of our future. The Cubs have some gems that are close to being major league ready, and I do not want to see the Cubs blow their load trying to win this year, when the likelihood is that there is little chance of them competing.
Then we have former Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb who the Cubs are looking to sign in free agency. While many people are against this, I am willing to take the chance on signing him. Depending on how much he is looking to sign for, I would not be against the Cubs signing him to a one year offer for low money. He could easily be a low risk high reward if he is able to bounce back and put together a full healthy season. This is, of course, assuming that he is healthy. Last report I heard, he was still only throwing about 80 MPH, and likely to get pounded if that is all he has. If that is the case, Hendry would be a fool to sign him for anything more than the major league minimum with massive incentives built in.
What I would do, and if Hendry was smart he would do the same, was use our farm system to have a complete rebirth. No, I am not telling him to sell the farm to bring in already established players, I am fully advocating developing our rising stars at the Major League level in a season where there will be little chance of the Cubs actually competing. Call up some of the highly touted pitching prospects we have been hearing about for a while now. Young pitchers like Jay Jackson, Chris Carpenter (no not the guy from the St. Louis Cardinals), Chris Archer and Trey McNutt. They are all right handed pitchers, but these four pitchers are going to be our future. If they are close to being major league ready, why wait?
Why should the Cubs go out and spend more money they can afford on an injured pitcher? Why should they trade away pitchers that are supposed to be our future players (of which one of these pitches is sure to be included) to get a guy you have no guarantee will be here when you are ready to compete.
Mortgaging the future just for a chance to have some sort of respectability or to get back to the .500 mark would be the biggest mistake of Hendry’s career, of which he has had several.