After three months of trying, the Chicago Cubs were finally able to complete the trade of Milton Bradley. Yesterday, General Manager Jim Hendry sent the troubled outfield to the Seattle Mariners for struggling starting pitcher Carlos Silva, who also sent $9 million to the Cubs. With one of the most hated players in Cub history finally being extracted from the team, you would imagine that today would be a day that was filled with nothing but celebrations from Cub fans. However, you would be wrong. There is a large percentage of Cub Nation that is enraged that in getting rid of Bradley, the Cubs brought back Silva. While I can understand both sides of the argument, the level that this has reached is very surprising, considering how much Bradley was hated.
Since the day that Bradley was signed, Cub fans were angry at Hendry for wasting money on a player who has been in more trouble than the rest of the ball club combined. Most Cub fans knew that this experiment with Bradley would end in a very ugly way, and he would not see the end of the three year deal in a Cubs uniform. They were right with their prediction, as thing started bad, and got far worse as the year went on. As Cub fans everywhere know, things got so bad, Bradley was suspended for the last 15 games of the season. This final act, most likely made the upcoming trade of Bradley all the more difficult.
From the moment everyone knew that a trade of Bradley was going to happen, there were several assumptions that were made. Everyone was sure, that there would be two things certain to happen. The first was the Cubs would have to eat a majority of his contract in order to get the other clubs interested. Secondly, the Cubs would have to take on another bad contract which likely came with another bad player. For the most part, I believed Cubs fans knew this was the case. I thought Cub fans understood this was how things would have to turn out. I thought this was accepted to be what was coming. However, something funny happened yesterday. When the plan was carried out, things did not go according to plan. Those two certainties which most of Cubs Nation believed had to happen to make a deal work, did not need to be done. At least not both of them.
When rumors started flying that the Cubs would send Bradley to the Mariners for Silva, things appeared to be going exactly as thought. The Cubs would be getting back another bad player with a bad contract, while taking on additional money. With Silva making $4 million more, fans had little reason to be upset. Everything was playing out as expected, but with the Cubs paying less than initially thought. Then, however, things took an unexpected turn. The Mariners picked up some of the tab, sending $9 million with Silva to Chicago, meaning the Cubs gained an additional $5 million cushion to add to their limited payroll. One would have thought that this added bonus to getting rid of Bradley would have made the Cub fans day. However, that’s not exactly the case. There are a large amount of fans who are still not happy, and would have rather Hendry and the Cubs would have just cut Bradley outright instead of making this trade.
What is trouble most Cub fans about this trade, is that they got Silva back in return for Bradley, and the numbers don’t match up. No, not the dollar amount, but the production numbers. They look at Bradley and see what he is capable of doing on the offensive side of the ball, instead of what he did for us in 2009. At the same time, they look at Silva’s statistics and see what he has done the past two years, instead of looking at his overall career and seeing what he can do. I say, if you look at potential for one player, you should also do so for the other. Both players have had success at one point in their careers, and have also had disastrous seasons as well.
Looking at Silva’s eight year career, he has had a mixture of success and failure. He has had amazing seasons, as well as those that would make you curl up into a ball and cry. The 2006, as well as the 2008 and 2009 seasons send shivers into Cub fans as they think of the disaster that is to come, now that he is one of their players. They fail to look at the remainder of his career to see that he is also very capable of having great success as well. The rest of his career he has put up solid numbers, especially when you consider he spent most of his career in the American League, which is the more offensive league. His overall career numbers aren’t great, but they aren’t all too bad when you take into account his previous two years have been pitching for a bad team in a hitters ballpark. He also has suffered through an arm injury during the 2009 season and has been rehabbing since. His over all ERA is an unappealing 4.72 and he has a WHIP (walk plus hits by innings pitched) of 1.41, which means he gives up about one and a half this and walks combined every inning. Not bad, but not that great. His batting average against is hovering around the .300 mark. Again, not great, but not bad either. He has had success early in his career while pitching out of the bullpen for the Philadelphia Phillies, and had a great season in 2005. He is capable of pitching well, and only time will tell if the switch back to the National League and a healthy year will allow him to return to pitching the way he is capable of doing.
When you look at Bradley, we all see the potential in having someone like him in your lineup. The numbers that he put up in 2008 are something to make teams drool, and are what led Hendry into his signing last year. Over his career, like with Silva, he has had a mixture of success and disappointment. Fans look at what he is capable of and stars shine in their eyes, and sometimes they forget about the headache he brings with him, as well as the less than desired games he plays due to various nagging injuries. However, the potential is always there. Fans know what he is capable of doing, and they covet a player who can contribute the way they all know he can. Bradley would be any team’s dream player if controversy didn’t follow him everywhere he went. The attitude that comes with him always has been, and always will be a big deterrent when teams are looking for an outfielder to add to their mix. Sometimes you may very well strike gold, like the Texas Rangers did in 2008. He has had success in limited playing time elsewhere as well, all seasons where his playing time fell short of what was desired due to injury. The talent is there though, you can see everything he is capable of doing. His potential is why there are a vast majority of Cub fans who are disappointed in this trade.
There is an old saying, be careful what you wish for because you may just get what you want. To those who are still happy that Bradley is gone, Merry Christmas. You wish has been granted. The Bradley Era has ended for the Cubs, and the Silva Era has just begun. For those who wanted him gone, and are now unhappy with how things turned out, what else did you expect? Were you hoping for a miracle trade in which the Cubs got a great player in return for Bradley? Even if they ate every cent of his contract, the chances of that happening were very slim and very unlikely. You knew we would either get a bad contract back or have to just cut him, which would limit us for the following two years. Look at the Brightside. The Cubs needed a starting pitcher to replace Rich Harden and to fill in for Ted Lilly. The thoughts of Jeff Samardzija taking over the open vacancy did not sit well with fans, so now they have another option.
In the end, the Cubs got rid of a player that not many wanted to remain, and they saved money in the process. How many of you honestly thought this would be the outcome when everything played out? The Cubs have extra money that can be used to signing players that are needed, such as Marlon Byrd or Matt Capps. The off season is half way done, and now they are able to start working on other needs. There hasn’t been many big free agent signings, other than Mike Cameron and Hideki Matsui. Unlike in 2005 when the Cubs tried to trade Sammy Sosa, they still have time to make things happen. Whether you like this trade or not, the time to move forward has come. Look towards the future, and prepare for the 2010 season.
Baseball’s Winter Meetings start tomorrow, and fans can only sit back and wonder what their teams will do. The fans of the Chicago Cubs are no different, and are expecting at least some moves to be made. One big move they have been waiting to happen for roughly two months, is the trade of Milton Bradley. However, while waiting for the trade of one of the most hated players in recent Cub history, there have been two other minor trades made. The trade of Aaron Heilman brought a mass amount of cheers from a majority of the fan base. However, the trading of Aaron Miles and Jake Fox brought mixed reactions. Talks of signing Mike Cameron have also surfaced, but as with any other potential signing, everything hinges on when the Cubs are able to move Bradley, and how much of his contract they will have to eat.
After a mediocre season with the Cubs, General Manager Jim Hendry decided to undo one of his mistakes from the previous off seasons, by trading Heilman to the Arizona Diamondbacks. All I can say is good riddance to a pitcher who you never had enough confidence in to get the job done. Sure, he had moments where he looked really good, but they were outnumbered by the times he took the mound and gave up games. I am sure that there will be no Cub fans that will miss him, but I cannot help by wonder what will happen if he puts up stellar numbers in 2010. If you are wondering why I am asking this, just look at Michael Wuertz. The Cub fans hated him, wanted him to be cut or traded or sent down. When he was, most fans were happy. After the first month though, they all were screaming for Hendry’s head when he was having more success than Heilman. In the long run though, he was most likely going to be non-tendered and released. So at least they were able to get something for him. The prospects the Cubs received may never amount to anything, and most baseball insiders suggest as much, but you never know. One of them might surprise you. And turn into a very useful player for at least a year or two.
The most recent trade, brought mixed reactions. Sure, they traded away Miles who Cub fans have hated with passion since his signing a year ago, but they also traded away Fox who had become a fan favorite. There will not be a tear shed for the launching of Miles, but the ripple effect of the trading of Fox will be felt in a large way. Fans were already complaining about the trade of Fox he moment the news broke wondering why he was traded away as he was a really good player for the team. This may upset many Cub fans, but I am glad they traded Fox away. Not because I think Fox is a bad player, or because I dislike him, but because the traded benefits both teams.
Whether you love Fox, or hate him, you have to admit that he is a below average defensive player. Not only is he limited defensively, but he is blocked at every position he can play. You would never start him over Derrek Lee at first or Aramis Ramirez at third. You certainly wouldn’t start him in left field over Alfonso Soriano or in right field over Kosuke Fukudome. With the Cubs, he would only be a floating platoon player, or a bat off the bench. With this trade however, he will get a real shot at being a full time player, at a position that everyone says he would be a great fit for. That position is a designated hitter. This trade is the best thing that could have happened for Fox, even though he is upset about being moved. To make the trade even better, the Cubs got a few decent prospects in return. Two pitchers who look to have a bright future, as well as a corner outfielder who has some decent pop. I am disappointed that Fox is gone, but I am glad he will get more of an opportunity to play now that he is in the American League, which has the DH. With Fox being dealt, the team now has an additional outfield spot which they can use on someone who can give them a little more dependability and a little more depth. Players like Sam Fuld and Tyler Colvin now have a much better chance of making the team out of Spring Training.
When you look at the move of Miles, even though the Cubs have to eat $1 million of his salary, they are still saving them selves $1.7 million in the deal. In his time with the Cubs, he never looked comfortable, playing poorly every time he took the field. He never got the job done with the bat, and looked less than capable of playing defense when he was given the chance to do so. His departure, much like with Fox’s, also opens up roster space for players who may not have made the team otherwise. Players like Andres Blanco and Mike Fontenot now appear to be the front runners to make the bench as back up infielders.
Looking back at this off season, Hendry has already cleaned up just about all of his mistakes of the off season he had a year ago. Every player he signed, or there about, has been shown the door or soon will be. Joey Gathright was traded midseason, Kevin Gregg was decline Arbitration, Heilman and Miles were traded, and Bradley has been the focal point of any off season trade talk for the Cubs. That would cover every major player the Cubs signed or traded for in the previous off season. Nothing like correcting your mistakes once you realize how bad your decision was. Fixing your past mistakes is a great way to start the new off season, as that will improve your team, addition by subtraction works.
Hendry has stated that he would like to move Bradley before the Winter Meetings start, and as the hours continue to expire, the likelihood of that happening is becoming very slim. The trade rumors about who he will be traded for are the same as they were a month ago. Nothing has changed in any of the possible scenarios. Personally, I am getting sick and tired of all the Bradley trade talk and can not wait until the situation is resolved one way or the other. Trade him or keep him, just end the drama already. The most recent rumors have the Tampa Bay Rays as the top landing spot for Bradley, with Pat Burrell going back to the Cubs, who would then immediately trade him to ditch his salary. One thought was to trade Burrell of the New York Mets for second baseman Luis Castillo, a player who has come up in several possible Bradley trade rumors. Castillo isn’t a player I would actively pursue as the Cubs could do better, but they could also do a lot worse than to have him be the second baseman.
While the Cubs have actually been active this winter, they have yet to accomplish their main goal of trading away Bradley. There are still two months left until pitchers and catchers report, so there is still time to make a deal. However, as I stated several times, the sooner the Cubs trade him the better. They can not sign an outfielder to replace Bradley, until he is gone for a number of reasons. If they sign an outfielder before Bradley is traded, they could very well wind up with an expensive backup. They also need to know how much money they have left to spend after eating some of Bradley’s contract. The Winter Meetings start tomorrow, and the flood gates for a lot of signings and trades will open. How active the Cubs will be, remains to be seen. But of course, everything depends on when or if Bradley is traded away.
With the Chicago Cubs front office, along with the new owner Tom Ricketts, in Arizona for the Organizational Meetings, the time has come to turn our attention to the off season. During this meeting, the Cubs will be putting together a game plan to prepare for the 2010 season. Among the discussions that will be held, will be which contracts of players the team wants to renew. One player that we know the Cubs want to bring back is John Grabow. The two sides have been discussing a contract or the past few days. Other players who may be brought back would include Reed Johnson, Kevin Gregg and Rich Harden. Several sources have stated that both Gregg and Harden will not be brought back. As far as Johnson goes, there hasn’t been much news on the Cubs plans for him, so stay tuned.
One of the more important decisions that will be made during the meetings, will be the exact figure for the Cubs payroll for the 2010 season. Unfortunately, with what we have learned, the payroll will not increase nearly as much as most fans would like to see. According to several reports, as well as straight from Ricketts’ mouth, there will only be a slight increase in payroll for the upcoming campaign. That slight increase, will likely bring the Cubs up into the $140 million range. Most of that increase, will be used by all of the escalating contracts that currently exist on the payroll. Once you add in the pay raises for the young arbitration eligible players, the Cubs will be left with only a few million left to spend.
However, the one topic that will be discussed at great lengths during these meetings, is what I will spend my time on today. What in the world are the Cubs going to do about Milton Bradley. Until the Cubs are able to figure out what their plans are for Bradley, they can not make another major move, outside of resigning their own players. There have been several rumored trades that have sprouted up all over the internet, as well as several papers. Cub fans have also had their voices heard on what they feel should be done. Some go as far to say that the team should just eat his whole salary and just completely cut him. All of these thoughts deserve to be looked at and examined. That is precisely what I intend to do. I am sure that I will miss one or two ideas, so feel free to add them in.
Lets look at the least likely situation first. For all of the fans who want Ricketts and the Cubs to just cut Bradley, and give him $21 million to just go away, think about what you are asking for. If the Cubs were to just cut him, sure, he would no longer be on the team, but that will not free up any money on the payroll. As a matter of fact, cutting him further limits what Hendry and the Cubs can do. Bradley will make $9 million next year, whether or not he plays a single out for the team. If the Cubs cut him, they still owe him the money that he will make. That $9 million will still be a part of the Cubs team payroll, so if Hendry can spend up to $145 million, he will be limited to $136 million once you take into consideration that $9 million is already locked in. Cutting him will basically mean that the Cubs will not be able to sign anyone in free agency. At least not without making some very creative trades to free up more money. So please, those who just want the Cubs to cut him, be careful what you ask you/. You may not like the end result.
What is more likely, is a trade. According to several reports, the Cubs have numerous teams who have an interest in trading for the disgruntled outfielder. Most of the trades actually do make sense when you break them down into a financial situation. The chances of the Cubs making a trade where they will save money, is very slim. What is more likely to happen, is a trade of one bad contract for another, which is the basis for every rumored trade which has popped up. The hope would be to make a trade without eating any of Bradley’s contract, and just to take on the salary of whatever player the Cubs would take back. Here are a few of the trades that have been discussed.
The first trade, would be the most talked about swap in which the Cubs would send Bradley to the San Francisco Giants for Aaron Rowand. Both the Giants and the Cubs want to get away from a player they signed. Rowand is still owed $36 million over the next three years, where as Bradley makes $21 million over the next two. This trade makes sense for both teams, as far as money goes. The Giants will save $15 million dollars alone over the three year period. One would hope that with the Cubs taking on the extra money, that they wouldn’t have to eat any of Bradley’s contract. On a year by year basis, the Giants would save $3 million the first year, the salaries match up in year two, and they would be clear of the $12 million on the third year of the Rowand deal. This works from the Cubs stand point, because they will get rid of Bradley, and getting a centerfielder back in the deal, allowing Kosuke Fukudome to return to his natural position of right field. The problem with this is, that while Rowand is a much better person, and a above average defensive player, his offensive stats lack anything to get excited about. If push comes to shove, I would take Rowand. This may very well be the best trade the Cubs will be able to make, where they aren’t completely screwed over financially.
Staying with the Giants, another name that popped up was Barry Zito. With the Cubs needing another starting pitcher, and the Giants desperate to get rid of him this could also be a match. However, the Giants would need to take on the entire contract of Bradley, and eat a good portion of Zito’s contract. With him still being owed $83 million over the next four years, the Cubs would be digging themselves into yet another deep financial grave if they assumed the whole deal. This is one trade I do not see happening, and the main reason is the money aspect. Just to pile on, Zito has gone down hill fast since he left Oakland, and hasn’t pitched anywhere near what would be acceptable for what he is being paid. The Giants would love nothing more than to get this contract off their books, but the Cubs would be doing themselves and their fan base a disservice if this trade is made.
Another trade which has gotten a lot of miles, is a trade that would send Bradley down to Tampa Bay for Pat Burrell. Both players had very disappointing years in 2009, and failed to live up to the expectations that were laid upon them when they were signed. An interesting note, is both Burrell and Bradley make $9 million in 2010, so you would figure the Cubs would likely have to eat the remaining $12 million that Bradley is owed for 2011. Burrell, if he is able to rebound into the player he was expected to be when he was with the Philadelphia Phillies would fill the void in the outfield, and give the Cubs the power bat they so desperately crave for the upcoming season. If the Cubs have to eat the overlap in salary, I can not see this trade being made, unless the Cubs are able to pull off another trade which would see Burrell landing elsewhere in a salary dump trade for low level prospects.
The Cubs could also make a trade, which would see them bringing back a player whom they had a few years ago. The Los Angeles Dodgers are apparently floating Juan Pierre to see if there are any takers. Both he and Bradley have two years left on their deals, with the difference in salary only being about $2.5 million. This would solve the Cubs leadoff situation, and give them the outfielder they would need once Bradley was sent packing. Pierre has had an up and down stint with the Dodgers, after being a complete failure for the Cubs. His value went sky high when Manny Ramirez was on suspension, by helping to carry the teams offense. This would not be a keen situation, at least not in my eyes. While the Cubs would get the leadoff hitter they desperately need, bringing back a player who has already failed here could be asking for disaster.
Speaking of trading for a former Cub, the Texas Rangers are trying to move Gary Matthews Jr. This would likely be the best fit for the Cubs from a financial standpoint. Matthews is owed $23 million over the next two years, Bradley will get $21 million. The contracts are nearly a perfect fit, but like with Pierre, why would you want to bring in a player whom you already had, who was a complete failure? Matthews has been a complete bust of a player every year of his career, except one. That was the year that he put up monstrous stats, which landed him such a lucrative contract with the Rangers. While Matthews would be a better fit in the Cubs club house, taking on a player who will not perform the way the team needs, would lead to complete disaster. This would be a trade just to get rid of Bradley, without having to eat much, if any money. This trade would not help the Cubs in any other way.
Over the weekend, a very unlikely trade possibility was brought up, in which the Cubs would receive highly over priced Center Fielder Vernon Wells. Much like with the Zito trade thoughts, the Wells contract is one the Blue Jays would love to get out from under. Wells is under contract for six more years and will make $107 million dollars. The contract alone would scare anyone with a brain off, as that is far more money then he could ever hope to earn. We would send two years of Bradley for six of Wells, and $86 million. Is getting rid of Bradley really worth taking an additional hit on payroll that will limit the Cubs ability to spend money in ways that are needed? I think not. Also note that Wells’ play is already on the decline. I would rather have Bradley to be perfectly honest.
None of these rumored trades appear to be all too beneficial for the Cubs as a whole. They would either take on a lengthy contract with an over priced player, or make a trade where the Cubs would have to eat a large portion of Bradley’s salary. Neither of those two situations are all too desirable, so their may only be one thing left for the Cubs to do. This move would drive most Cub fans crazy, and turn a lot of them against Ricketts almost immediately. However, the best thing for the Cubs to do may just be to keep Bradley in a Cubs uniform for at least one more year.
I know what you are saying, “there is no way Bradley can come back next year”. I fully agree, there is no way that Bradley can come back next year. Too much has been said from everyone involved for him to be wearing a Cubs uniform next year. When you take into account that he has gone on record saying that he hates playing here, along with half the roster speaking out against him, I can not see any way that Bradley comes back. Which is a shame, especially when you consider the alternatives. Cutting him or paying out a good portion of his remaining salary in a trade will limit what the team can do for the next two years, or beyond if you take on a longer termed contract like the Zito or Wells rumor. Keeping Bradley would be the best thing the Cubs could do, despite the animosity that will exist between teammates. Who says you need to like one another to play winning baseball though? The Oakland A’s from the 1970s hated one another, and they had a lot of success. If the bridges that were burned late in the season can be repaired, keeping Bradley would be the best thing for all parties involved.
These are just a few of the ideas that are floating around about Bradley. What the Cubs actually will do is anyone’s guess. Though, if I had to make a choice, I would keep him on the roster for next year. He played better than his numbers show, and he really started playing better once the Cubs put him in the second slot of the order. They would not be losing nearly as much money as they would if they traded him and had to take on another contract while paying off some of Bradley’s money. Since that is a very unlikely move, I would have to pull for the deal with the Giants and get Roward back in return. He isn’t the idea fit, but he may very well be the best player financially and performance wise the Cubs could get back. One thing is for sure though, other than re-signing their own players, nothing else can be done until they decide what to do with Bradley.
The Chicago Cub fans are getting excited, and are looking for good things to come in the 2010 season. One reason they are happy, is with the departure of the Tribune Company and Sam Zell as the owners. With Tom Ricketts now taking control of the ball club, there is a new sense of optimism is overcoming the masses. They believe that with Ricketts as the new owner, a man who has suffered through years of heartbreak like we have, he will stop at nothing to win the World Series with the Cubs. After all, isn’t that the goal of every team in baseball every year? You could argue that the Tribune Company (and Zell for that matter) never tried to win the World Series until the fans had the taste in their mouths after being five outs away in 2003. Since then, they have spent more money then any fan could have imagined their team ever spending. Sure, they made a bad investment or two, but they spent the money fans wanted them to spend.
The very first move that Ricketts made, was signing Rudy Jaramillo to take over the duties of hitting coach. As I stated in my last blog, many people in baseball feel that Jaramillo is the best hitting coach in the game today, his resume speaks volumes. With such a move, some fans believe that this will be the start of a massive upgrade in player personnel, bringing in some off the best talent that money can buy. They figure that if Ricketts is going to go out and get the best hitting instructor, then he must be also determined to sign the best players available. How true that is, remains to be seen, as we are still close to a month away from free agency beginning. However, there are several reasons to believe that there will not be the spending spree that Cub fans have been dreaming of.
First and foremost, the situation with Milton Bradley will hold up the Cubs spending until everything is resolved. Ricketts and Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry need to know exactly how much money they will have to eat of his salary before they start looking at players outside the organization. Much like with what happened at the end of the 2004 season when they were trading declining Cubs megastar Sammy Sosa, the organization will be handcuffed until a move is made. Why do they have to wait you might ask? Simply put, he makes $9 million next season. If Hendry is somehow able to find a team willing to take his whole salary, and lets be honest that wont happen, then he has $9 million more to work with. Knowing how much money you have left to spend is a big advantage when you are negotiating with players and against other teams. In all likelihood, Ricketts will have to eat at least half of Bradley’s remaining salary. That is money he is spending that you wont see on the field of play, and takes away from what can be spent. Hopefully, a trade of Bradley comes at the start of the free agent period, or even before hand. If this goes the same route as the Sosa trade, who was traded just before Spring Training of 2005, then the Cubs will miss out on most of the better free agents. Reports do say that there are several teams interested in trading for Bradley, and Hendry remains confident that he can make a deal without eating a majority of his remaining salary. So we will have to wait and see what happens.
Staying with the Bradley situation, Hendry will have to get a player back in any deal that is made. Add that players salary to whatever you may have to eat on Bradley’s deal, and that takes a good percentage out of the budget that has been set for the 2010 season. Maybe Hendry will get lucky and be able to make a trade for a guy who does not make as much as Bradley, or makes the same amount, and the Cubs just have to eat the difference in salary. Some of the rumors included the Cubs trading Bradley to the Tampa Bay Rays for Pat Burrell who had as bad of a year as Bradley did, and also makes $9 million next year. This would seem like a perfect fit, don’t you think? Both teams want to get rid of a player that didn’t work out and their salaries match for the following year. Maybe the Cubs would just have to eat the remaining $12 Million for the 2011 season. However, some reports stated that the Rays would only take Bradley if the Cubs ate most, if not all, of his contract. Another rumor was a possible swap with the San Francisco Giants for Aaron Rowand, which would benefit both teams. With Rowand owed $36 Million over three years, and Bradley owed $21 over two, a Giants executive said he would approve that deal. Cubs would take on more guaranteed money over a longer period of time, and more per year but they would be rid of Bradley. The Giants on the other hand would be saving $15 million in the end. Whether or not either deal is made, remains to be seen.
If the Cubs are unable to find a deal for Bradley, they may have to ultimately eat the entire contract, especially if they are deadset against bringing him back. Much like with paying a portion of his salary in a deal, that money will be included in the budget, and take away what can be spent on possible free agent candidates. While some may look at cutting him as freeing up $9 million for the 2010 season to spend elsewhere, in all reality you are just giving away that money while keeping every cent on the books. If they have to eat his entire salary, there will need to be other moves made to accommodate losing that amount, and fans may not like what happens in the aftermath of that move. So just be careful what you ask for Cub fans, you may not like the end result.
Enough about Bradley, and on to some other possible reasons why the Cubs will not be able to go on a spending spree to bring in star players. Obviously, there is a lack of open positions. As I have stated a few times, the Cubs really only have one or two open spots that can be filled. The main spot which may be available to upgrade is second base. Depending on what transpires with Bradley, there may be a spot open in the outfield at either Center or Right. Unless you want to ditch some of the younger talent we have on the team, such as Ryan Theriot or Geovany Soto, the moves that can be made are severely limited because of open positions. Don’t start with the “trade Alfonso Soriano” or “trade Kosuke Fukudome” to free up positions and money. That will create more mess like the currently have with Bradley. If you think the Cubs will have to eat a lot of money to get rid of Bradley, imagine what they will have to eat to get rid of Soriano. Do you really want to limit the team financially even more? I would hope not. So the lack of positions is another major roadblock in making massive changes.
A final reason, are the rumors that there are certain clauses in the bankruptcy filing which will significantly limit any and all moves that the Cubs are able to make. Ricketts may very well have his hands tied financially for at least the first year of his ownership tenure in regards to the payroll of the players. If this is in fact truth, then Ricketts may not be able to add anyone to the team to improve them. If people are unaware of these set limitations on Ricketts, they may turn sour on him when they come to see that there hasn’t been much done at all to improve the team. Don’t get confused by the adding of Jaramillo, his contract does not get added into the Cubs overall team budget, and wont effect how much they will, or will not, be able to spend in upgrades. According to Carrie Muskat and her Cubs blog, they expect the budget to remain close to the 2009 version, allowing only for pay increases for current players making up the difference.
Like many fans, there is a list of players who I would love to see the Cubs sign. There are also Cubs who contracts are up that I want to see them resign. But all of these may very well depend on the Bradley deal, and the bankruptcy rulings which might limit upgrade. The offseason is a long one, and hasn’t even officially begun yet. As time goes by, there will be more information coming out as far as how much the Cubs will be able to spend for the upcoming season. After the Cubs have their Organizational meetings, we should learn a bit more about how much money they have to spend. With the General Manager, and Winter Meetings, we will learn more about the direction Hendry and Ricketts will be going for the 2010 season. But for reasons I have just stated, do not expect a lot of moves, or anything real major. If you do, then I am afraid that you will be highly disappointed.
Today, the Chicago Cubs made the first move of the off season, and signed Rudy Jaramillo to take over the role of hitting coach. Many people around the league will tell you that Jaramillo is one of the best hitting coaches in the game. With the Cubs struggling with offense throughout the 2009 season, he could have a huge impact on a team that could never put together an extended run of hot hitting. While you can make the argument that the hitting coach is an overrated position on the coaching staff (and Derrek Lee said as much) if you have to have one, you might as well go out and get someone who has as good of credentials as Jaramillo.
While he should be able to help out a number of Cubs, one player in particular might benefit the most from his addition to the coaching staff. That player would be Alfonso Soriano who spent two years under his instruction while he was playing for the Texas Rangers. Why would Soriano benefit more then other players? One reason could be that in 2010, Soriano will be spending his first full season out of the leadoff spot since he was with the Rangers and Jaramillo. In those two seasons, he hit mainly third in 2004, and fifth in 2005. In those two seasons, Soriano averaged 32 homeruns and 98 RBI. Not only did Soriano have success under Jaramillo, he had a strong relationship with him as well, which is what he was quoted to say in the Chicago Sun-times on Tuesday.
So why do people consider Jaramillo to be one of the best hitting coaches in the game? According to the article on the Cubs homepage, the players he has worked with have had a tremendous amount of success. The article noted that Jaramillo’s hitters have won 17 Silver Slugger Awards, four Most Valuable Player Awards, three home run titles, and three RBI crowns under his tutelage. That is a very impressive list to put on your resume. While the hitters themselves are the ones who do all the work, the hitting coach is the one who tries to work out any possible kinks that hitter may have. How much of a difference he will make is anyone’s guess, but if he is able to help Soriano return to the player he was before this year, then he will have earned his salary.
Now, for those who think that this move was made to accommodate Milton Bradley, who the Cubs have said they are going to do everything in their power to move, that is not the case. Too much has transpired since his suspension for Bradley to ever play another game as a member of the Cubs. With the way his soon to be former teammates tore into Bradley, he can not come back. In fact, the only player to really stand up for Bradley was Aramis Ramirez. Well, he was the one guy to speak about him that didn’t throw Bradley under the bus. The only way he can come back to the Cubs, is if you were to trade everyone on the roster who said anything bad about him. The Cubs will not trade away half of their roster to make the club house more friendly for Bradley. That just wont happen, so you can forget about any chance of that happening.
The 2010 off season has officially begun for the Cubs, and while they did not add any on field talent, they took the first step in improving their offense. The main difference between Jaramillo’s philosophy and what the Cubs have been taught in the previous three years in plate discipline. Jaramillo tries to get his hitters to be more aggressive, as opposed to showing patience at the plate. Maybe that is just the change the team needs for them to return to being one of the best offensive clubs in the game in 2010. Anyway you slice the situation, this is a good start to getting the Cubs back on track.
Now that there are no more games to be played in the 2009 season, at least not for the Chicago Cubs, we can take a better look at this ball club and the failure of a season they had. Yes, I said failure. Take any stats you want, if you do not win the World Series, your season was a failure. The goal of every team every year is to win the World Series. The season is, in essence, a one question test. You either answer the question correctly, or you fail. Unfortunately, for the 101st straight time, the Cubs season ended in failure. Don’t get me wrong, you can have a good year, and a good team in years that you don’t win the World Series, but the season still amounts to nothing if you don’t win the whole thing.
Take this years Cubs team for example; many fans will say that this ball club was a complete disaster. They will say that General Manager Jim Hendry blew up a World Series contender, turning the Cubs into a joke. Fans are also blaming Cubs Manager Lou Piniella for not doing a better job of managing the team, or for playing the wrong players at the wrong time. While both Hendry and Piniella could be to blame for the demise of the 2009 Cubs, ask yourself this question. Just how much worse was this years team compared to last years?
When looking at the two teams, the 2009 Cubs ended the season with 14 fewer wins then the 2008 ball club. That is a horrible stat, but there are many things to keep in mind when looking at the record for the 2009 Cubs. During the 51 games that Aramis Ramirez was on the disabled list, the Cubs went 25-26. Are you telling me, that if Ramirez was healthy, we wouldn’t have won more then those 25 games? I am not saying that the Cubs would have won 14 more games in that stretch to match their 2008 record, but that would not be out of the realm of possibility. Don’t forget all the games he sat out as well because his shoulder was giving him problems after he came back. The entire season, he only played in 82 games. Had he played the whole season, or at least the average number of games he usually does anyway, the Cubs would have won at least the 14 games they needed to match last years record. While the Cubs did not lose all the games that Ramirez missed, he would have helped them win some of the games they did lose.
Do you need more proof that this years team is not as bad as fans have made them out to be? Look at our pitching staff. This years pitching staff, as a whole, were better then the 2008 team’s, even with Kevin Gregg blowing saves. The ERA was slightly better this year, posting a 3.84 ERAA, as opposed to an 3.87 the year before. This years club also struck out eight more batters, in one less game. Keep in mind that the Cubs top four starters each missed at least two starts, some missing more. As a whole, they likely missed about 12-15 games combined. While they didn’t lose all the starts that their replacements made, they would likely have had better outing and brought the team a few more wins.
Am I being a bit of a homer here? You could easily say that I am, But at the same time, I am being completely honest. This ball club was nowhere near as bad as people are saying. Sure, Hendry traded away some fan favorites and made a few mistake signings, but they did not make this team bad. This team had the talent to compete, and would have lasted a lot longer in the divisional race had they not been completely decimated by injuries. You can say that the Milton Bradley signing doomed this years ball club, you can say that the trade of Mark DeRosa killed this ball club, but that is not the case whatsoever. This years team was just as good as last years team. In fact, you could even say that this years team was, in fact, better then last years team. If Ramirez, Soriano and all the pitchers were healthy all year, the Cubs would have surpassed last years win total. You can deny that all you want, offer up all the reasons and all the excuses you can think of; but you know that I am not far off base.
The end justifies the means, so yes, this years team was worse then last years. You can also use what ifs for every team in baseball to get whatever message you want across. Perhaps that is what I am doing, but my logic here is very realistic. The 2009 Cubs should have had a better record then the 2008 version.
While no one knows for sure what moves will be made to prepare for the 2010 Chicago Cubs, I can make one guarantee. No matter what moves the Cubs make, there will be a large percentage of fans upset that one of their favorite players will no longer be with the club, at least not on the opening day roster. Unfortunately, there are not enough positions, or bench roles on the club for everyone’s favorite players. The fans want the players that they are currently watching have some success, but ultimately, most of these young players will likely be forced to start the season in Triple A. Before I go into my in-depth looks at the various openings in the Cubs roster, I think fans need to realize the difficulty of making decisions with what the team already has.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, the Cubs have a tremendous amount of outfielders. While having more then you need is better then the alternative of having too few, the decisions that will be made will send shockwaves through the fan base, and upset a good majority of fans. One thing that we know for sure, is that Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome will both be brought back as the starting outfielders, and Milton Bradley will be traded at some point this winter. The problem lies with who will fill in the final three voids in the outfield.
With Reed Johnson entering free agency at the end of the year, there are many fans who will be demanding the Cubs re-sign him. Sounds easy enough, sign him to a deal, and let the rest of the pieces fall into place. Fair enough, but then there are only two slots left. Who else should make the team? Fans love the way that Sam Fuld plays, and they have seemingly fallen in love with recent call-up Tyler Colvin. If you want both of them on the roster, then you can more less kiss Jake Fox goodbye. You cant keep him if you want Johnson, Fuld and Colvin. What about Micah Hoffpauir then? Fans want to see him on the team as well. If you take him, who do you leave off? Five current players for three slots, you don’t have to be a genius to do the math, they wont all fit. The solution? Let Colvin and Hoffpauir head back to the minors where they will be able to play everyday. Case solved, or is this only the beginning of the problem?
Everyone knows that the Cubs will be doing everything in their power to trade Bradley to get him as far away from the team as possible. The outfield problem gets all the more difficult if the Cubs get another outfielder back in the deal, or if they sign a free agent bat. If either of these are the case, then the choices for your outfield get more frustrating, for the management staff of the Cubs, and for fans who will get even more upset that their team is not keeping another one of their favorite youngster on the active 25 man lineup. With the possibility of the team adding an outfielder from outside the organization, you know have only two open slots for the outfield. Do you want to re-sign Johnson? If so, then management and fans will have to make a tough decision between Fuld and Fox, unless you want to add Colvin and Hoffpauir into the mix as well. Five players for two slots, there will be plenty of fans who will be upset that one of their choices will not make the team leaving Spring Training.
If you thought that the outfield would be the extent of the tough choices, wait until you see the infield situation. With Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Theriot all but guaranteed to keep their starting jobs, there are three spots left. There is the need for a second baseman, and two backup infielders, one of which will be Aaron Miles, unless he is traded. The easiest solution would be to have Jeff Baker playing second base, and picking through the remaining players to be the final infield backup spot. The players to choose between would then be Andres Blanco, who is out of options, and Mike Fontenot. If you wanted, you could keep Fox over these two, then most problems are solved. The team could keep Johnson and Fuld, depending on if they bring in a free agent or make a trade for an outfielder, they might even be able to keep Colvin. Case closed, everyone wins right? Not so fast.
Much like with the outfield situation, the Cubs could very easily sign a free agent to come in to play second base. That makes the infield problem all the more difficult. The choice for one spot is between Baker, Fontenot and Blanco, add Fox in if you want to keep both Johnson and Fuld. An easy solution would be to try and trade Miles, then the team could be able to keep two of these players, as well as having a second baseman. Having Baker and Fox as the backups would be nice, but missing the defense of Blanco would hurt.
The only way everyone’s favorite position players can make the team, is if the Cubs do not try to trade for or sign any players at all. Then they can have an outfield of: Soriano, Johnson and Fukudome, with backups of Fuld and Fox. The infield would be: Lee, Baker, Theriot and Ramirez, backed up by Blanco and Fontenot (assuming they would trade Miles). With Cub’s manager Lou Piniella likely to carry seven bullpen pitchers as he always does, the team only has room for five back up players, counting the backup catcher. That’s a decent team, but would you consider this team to be championship material? I am not so sure.
Something has to give among the fans demands. They all want the Cubs to go out and sign this player or that player, but also to keep all these other players. With the roster being limited at 25 players, the fans must be willing to accept any and all moves that are going to be made. They can not keep everyone they want to, as well as add everything they think they need. There just isn’t enough room on a 25 man roster to sooth everyone’s wants and demands. The fans must ask themselves one question, do you want to add bigger or better players, or do you want the young guns to get the playing time? Pick your side and stick to what you decide. You cant have everything.
With the 2009 Chicago Cubs season all but over, the attention of the fans, and hopefully General Manager Jim Hendry, will be how to fix the mess that they currently find themselves in. As a whole, I honestly do not believe that much needs to be done; only a little bit of tinkering. Sure Hendry needs to pull off a miracle trade in order to get rid of Milton Bradley, but other then that, I believe that our team does not need too much work. With most of our team already in place, and with the key pieces already locked in, all that remains is to find one or two key elements which will bring us back to the championship form the Cubs found themselves in the previous two years.
The first, and in my eyes the most important, piece to the championship puzzle that Hendry must bring into the fold, is a true leadoff hitter. The Cubs need an explosive bat at the top of the order that will be able to put the team in the best position possible to score early and often. They need a player who not only has the ability to hit and get on base at a high level, but also has the ability to steal second or third when they get on base. Presently, the Cubs have two options for leading off, neither of which fits all three areas of need.
With Kosuke Fukudome, they have a player who is able to fill the need for a great on base percentage. The downfall for having Fukudome lead off is because he has not proven that he can hit at a high level. His batting average, while slightly improved over last year, still sits at a mediocre .256. Even if he were able to show that he can hit closer to .300, he lacks the true potential to be a stolen base threat. Fukudome, while he can be a decent number two hitter, should not be looked upon to be the leadoff hitter for the Cubs next year. His qualifications do not meet the standard of what the ball club needs.
As far as Ryan Theriot, much like with Fukudome, he does not fit the ideal description of a leadoff hitter either. While he is able to hit at a respectable level and get on base close to a .350 average, he does not have the true speed to make him a stolen base threat either. While he does lead the team with 21 steals, only being caught seven times, he does not run enough to put the fear into the opposing team’s pitchers or catchers. His ideal position in the batting order would be either second or eighth in my eyes. While you want to take advantage of his ability to get on base for your sluggers, we saw in 2008 what his presence at the bottom of the order could do for our offense. With Fukudome batting second in a line up I would write out, Theriot would be a nice fit in the eight hole.
The Cubs could also look at using some of their minor leaguers to fill the void at leadoff. This option is very intriguing, as he has shown to be a great defensive player, making several amazing plays in the outfield. While his batting average is still a bit lower then you would like to see your leadoff hitter have, his on base percentage is amazing, hovering around .380. The one draw back, is he apparently does not have enough speed to be the stolen base threat the team requires. However, we do not know fully what he can do, as he has only been allowed to steal base three times, of which he was caught once. I would not be opposed to his leading off, if they were unable to find a suitable replacement.
If none of these three option fit Manager Lou Piniella’s desire, that leaves us with a need to be found outside the organization, and a limited availability for positions to play. The Cubs need to find a leadoff hitter who can play one of three or four possible positions. Fukudome can play either Right or Center field, and while Theriot has mostly been used at Short Stop, he is also capable of playing second base. While there are many options that will be available for the Cubs to sign once the free agency period starts in November, most of them are already in the 30s, and will all come with a hefty price tag. The list is long, and I will not list them at the moment, but rest assured, I do have my favorites already picked out, and I will let you know that sooner rather than later.
In today’s Chicago Sun Times, Piniella mentioned that the Cubs top priority should be to add another power bat to the middle of the order. As I mentioned, I believe that finding a true leadoff hitter should be on the top of the Cubs wish list. However, do we really need another power hitter on the team? With Alfonso Soriano being moved permanently out of the leadoff role, he would be a nice addition to the heart of the order. That is, of course, if he is able to give the team the power numbers he gave them during his time here. If he is able to do so, then the need for another power hitter becomes lower on the wish list.
Another reason the team may not need another power bat added to the lineup is Geovany Soto. While he has raised red flags with his performance this year, I for one am not willing to give up on him. He has shown exactly what he is capable of when he fully prepared for the season. He has admitted that he slacked off in the off season, and did not prepare himself the way that he should have. I am willing to write off 2009 as a rookie mistake, even though he is no longer a rookie. Lesson learned, and he has earned the chance to redeem himself with the level of play he displayed at the end of 2007 and all of 2008. All he needs to do is revert to doing whatever he did in those two years, and I believe that he will be back to everything the team expected of him. If both Soriano and Soto return to form, then there is no need whatsoever to go out and spend a lot of money on another power bat for the middle of the order. If they both fail to accomplish what the team needs from them, there are two options that could fill the bill, though I would advise against them.
In the outfield, you can play either Micah Hoffpauir or Jake Fox in Right Field. If I had to choose between the two of them, I would choose Fox over Hoffpauir, because Fox has more upside. With that being the case, I would severely advise against either one of them playing in the outfield, especially with Soriano playing in the opposite corner. The team can not, and should not, depend on an outfield which would have less than average defenders in both Left and Right Fields. While I would greatly welcome both of them to the bench, I do not want to see either as the everyday Right Fielder. Fukudome would collapse with all the ground he would have to cover in Center Field.
While you can never have enough power in the lineup, the money would be better served elsewhere. However, much like with the speedster that the Cubs should be looking for, the team would need to find a player who can hit for power, who also is able to play one of the previously mentioned four positions. Again, there are many options that may be available, but all would come with a hefty price tag, and are all in their early to mid 30s.
With the slight improvements in mind to help the everyday lineup, the focus should then move to the bench and the backups for each of the replacements. The bench portion of our team is a mess, but in a good way. The Cubs have more pieces then they know what to do with. In the outfield, assuming the Cubs sign a free agent, they have the options of re-signing Reed Johnson, Fuld, Fox and Hoffpauir. Some would question why I left out Tyler Colvin, but that is simply because of his lack of experience, and the Cubs lack of space. He would benefit well from having a little more time in the minors, mainly because he could have an everyday job playing in Triple A. If the Cubs were to sign a free agent for the outfield, chances are only one or two of these players would be on the Cubs bench, that is assuming they decide to re-sign Johnson. If the Cubs decide to have one of them be a starting outfielder, they can keep three of the players. While the Cubs said they wanted to resign Johnson, his time with the Cubs would likely come at the expense of Fuld.
If you thought that the outfield situation was a tricky one to work out, take a look at the log jam the Cubs will be facing with the infield backups. In my opinion, the Cubs need to sign a player to play second base. While Jeff Baker has played very well since coming to the team, I am not completely sold on him being the everyday player at second base. We fell into this trap last year with Mike Fontenot, thinking he would be able to produce the entire season the way we saw him perform in limited time in 2008. If we carry two backup outfielders, that limits us to only being able to carry two back up infielders. There are a few people I would love to see make the team as role players, but only one of them will get the nod, mainly because the Cubs are stuck with Aaron Miles for another year. That means that two of the following three men will not make the team, if the Cubs sign a second baseman. The Cubs can keep Baker, Fontenot or Andres Blanco. Personally, I would let Fontenot go, either by a trade or sent back to the minors. That would leave Piniella and Hendry with the tough decision between Baker and Blanco. This, of course, could all be solved if Baker becomes the starting second baseman. While I don’t know if he can be dependable as an everyday second baseman, he has got to do better then Fontenot. That would also allow us to keep Blanco on the team.
The way the starting rotation for the Cubs will likely only carry over four of the five starters from this year. Love him or hate him, Carlos Zambrano will likely return to the team next year, along with Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly and Randy Wells. While Rich Harden would be a welcome commodity, there are far too many rumors floating around that he will not be brought back. If he is willing to give the Cubs a discount, and not demand a long term deal, he may be brought back, but according to some baseball analysts he will get a contract worth at least $10 million a year. With his injury history, that would not be a quality investment. That would leave the Cubs one starting pitcher shy, but they have a few names who could step into the role as the fifth starter for 2010.
The in house options that the Cubs can consider for the vacant starters job are Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija and Tom Gorzelanny. From the way the end of the season is winding down, with Samardzija and Gorzelanny getting a few starts, you would be led to believe that the competition is currently limited to these two men. While Samardzija has looked very shaky in his outings this year, out of the bullpen and with his first start, he looked impressive in his second major league start. Gorzelanny on the other hand has been more then impressive in most of his starts with the Cubs. Whether or not they will be able to fill in and give us what we need will be determined once Spring Training commences. However, if neither of them impress, they can always look to free agency, and there are a few starters out there that could be
The bullpen is another mess that needs to be fixed, however this may be fix may not be all that difficult. We have our closer in Carlos Marmol, but after him everything else is a crapshoot. While Angel Guzman has looked amazing this year, he once again ended the year with an injury. If he could stay healthy, he would be an amazing set up man for the eighth inning. John Grabow is a free agent at the end of the year, but from all things I have heard, the Cubs want to resign him. That leaves four pitchers left to fill in the remaining bullpen spots. The Cubs have a slew of young arms that could fill those roles, like Jeff Stevens and Justin Berg. They could also use Marshall as the second lefty in the bullpen. If those three all make the team, that leaves one spot open for any number of guys. However, like everywhere else, there are plenty of options to sign in free agency.
While the Cubs have needs, they don’t necessarily need to go out and sign anyone. All of their holes can be solved in house. However, over the next few days and weeks, I will break down my thoughts on the possible targets who I think the Cubs should go after for all the open spots that need to be filled before the 2010 season beings. Just to recap, those positions are: Center Field or Right Field, Second Base or Short Stop, Starting Pitchers and Relief Pitchers. All the Cubs need is a little bit of tinkering, and they will be more then fine for he following season.
Now that the Chicago Cubs season has officially ended, or at least realistically, lets look back and see where everything went wrong. You can point fingers at whomever you wish, but you would still only be partially correct in your assumption. There are several factors which by themselves could have been enough to cripple a team for the year, but when you put them all together you get sure fire disaster. While I am sure that I will overlook a few things which added to the failure of the 2009 Cubs, I believe that the following is what contributed the most to the demise and heartbreak.
In order to properly start the autopsy of the 2009 Cubs, we need to go back to the end of the 2008 season, when the Cubs were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Not long after the series ended, Cubs Manager Lou Piniella threw out a statistic which showed that not one time in the entire season, including regular season games, did the Dodgers use a left handed pitcher against us. Using that as a jumping point, he claimed that the Cubs were too right handed, and he wanted to add some left handed bats to the lineup. One of the casualties of this statement was Mark DeRosa who quickly gained popularity with the Cub’s faithful fans. With his departure, the Cubs lost a big part of the clubhouse, and in the long run, helped to strengthen the competition when the Cleveland Indians traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals.
There are a few reasons why DeRosa was traded, one of which was that Piniella wanted to become more left handed in the batting order. Other then the desire to become more left handed, one factor which was rumored, was that Piniella wanted DeRosa gone because of his comments after the Cubs lost their second game in the National League Division Series, where he said that the Cubs backs are “against the wall”. That statement upset Piniella. Whether or not that rumor is true, I don’t know. Another reason why DeRosa was looked at as being dispensable was because of the surprising play of Mike Fontenot. The way he played throughout the 2008 season in limited playing time, fans were clamoring for him to get more playing time. When he was given that chance this year, he showed that he is not an everyday second baseman, as his batting average plummeted into the low .200s. If Fontenot had performed up to expectations, there would be a lot less fans disappointed that DeRosa was traded. Finally, the financial reason for his trade has to be mentioned. They had to trade him to free up some room in order to have enough money to sign a free agent who could bat left handed. While Cubs General Manager will ultimately get the blame for the trade, he was only doing what a good GM will do. Give his manager the team he wants.
Another loss, which hurt the Cubs and helped the competition, was the trade of Jason Marquis. While there was a good majority of fans who disliked Marquis, he was a big loss. Not even taking into account how good of a year he is having with the Colorado Rockies, he was a big part of the team the two years he was here. Even though his ERA was in the mid 4s, he was above .500, and a big innings eater. What more would you want from your 5th starter? While the Cubs could have used him, there was some good which came out of his departure, and that’s the emergence of Cubs rookie right hander Randy Wells. If Marquis was still a part of this ball club, we may never have known about this talented pitcher, who will hopefully be able to continue his success next year.
In what could have been the biggest mistake by Hendry in the offseason was replacing Kerry Wood with Kevin Gregg. The mistake was not in letting Wood go, but in trading for Gregg to replace him. While I will freely admit that I was one of the defenders of Gregg for most of the year, he blew up at the end of the season beyond anything I could defend. Thankfully, this is a mistake which the Cubs don’t have to live with for long. Gregg is a free agent at the end of the year, and he will be someone else’s problem next year.
I said the trade for Gregg could have been the biggest mistake Hendry made in the offseason; the reason that wasn’t the biggest, is because he also signed Milton Bradley. This was the biggest mistake Hendry has made since becoming the Cubs General Manager. I won’t buy into all the fans complaining about the failure to sign Raul Ibanez, because who could have envisioned he would be having a career year at this stage in his career? However, there were plenty of other options who should have been signed over Bradley. While the fans were against him from the start, he never did anything to win them over. From having a horrible April, to forgetting the number of outs there were in an inning, to the bickering with the fans and media he dug himself into a hole that no one could have gotten out of. Things got so bad with Bradley, that even on days he collected hits on his first two or three at bats, he got booed when he made an out in that same game. Now, he has been suspended for the remainder of the year, and will likely be traded after the season. Now, we can fully understand why Bradley has been on so many different teams in his career. Bradley does have talent as a ball player, he just needs to learn to shut up.
The trades and free agent signings aside, what really cost the Cubs their season were the injuries. I know the old cliché says that you can’t use injuries as an excuse, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Cubs have suffered through more injuries then any other team in the Majors, with the exception maybe of the New York Mets. Nearly everyone on the Cubs starting 25 man roster spent at least two weeks on the disabled list, if not just sitting out for a week. The stat has been mentioned several times, the Cubs only had their desired roster together for a total of two games the entire season. That is a very tough obstacle for any team to overcome.
I wont mention every injury the Cubs faced this year, because that could take forever; however , the biggest and most damaging injury for the Cubs, was the loss of their best player for two months. When Aramis Ramirez left a game in mid May with a separated shoulder, Cub fans everywhere knew the team was in trouble. You cant lose your best player, and biggest run producer and survive easily. Sure, there were mistakes that were made immediately following his injury, such as the failure to bring up Jake Fox to fill the void, but nothing could have completely covered for the loss of Ramirez. As good as Fox has shown to be with the bat, he is no Ramirez. He has also shown that he is limited defensively, which has limited his chances at an every day job.
Along with the loss of Ramirez, our top four pitchers all spent time on the disabled list as well. The injuries to the pitching staff this year brought back bad memories of the 1985 Cubs season where every member of the starting rotation was on the disabled list. While I was not old enough to witness the season, I have read and heard a lot about what transpired. When you lose one of your starting pitchers for a period of time, you are bound to struggle. When you lose all of them, you are in for a long and stressful season. The Cubs have a tremendous pitching staff, and was supposed to be the strength of our team. However, the injuries to the starters hampered our success, even though I believe we are still near the top, if not at the top, in the quality starts category. While their injuries hurt us, they did everything they could to keep us in the games.
The other injury which caused our season to fall apart, was Alfonso Soriano’s bad knee. Soriano has had the worst season of his career, and fans wouldn’t let him forget how bad he was playing. I give Soriano all the credit in the world for trying to play through the injury and help the team in anyway he could. Unlike some other players, he wanted to stay on the field and earn his money. Sadly, his play suffered as the season went on. Love him or hate him, Soriano is a big key to the success for the Cubs winning. When he struggles, the team struggles. Despite his poor defense in left field, his bat is a key ingredient if the Cubs are too succeed. Over his first two years here, Soriano has played very well for us giving us what we expected, except for the speed. He has given the Cubs his career average in homeruns and in batting. He has admitted that he had a bad year, and I believe he will be better next year, now that he is having the knee taken care of.
Speaking of having bad years, two players come to mind other then Soriano. They would be Ryan Dempster and Geovany Soto. In regards to Dempster, he has not been close to what he was last year, and that hurt us. The Cubs were expecting him to come close to what he did to earn his new contract. While he hasn’t been horrible, he has been less then what was expected. You can partly pin that on what was going on with his personal issues and his newborn daughter’s complications, but he would never use that as an excuse. However, you should note that once those complications were resolved he started pitching better, and as we had hoped he would all season long. Does that mean he is back to form and we can expect this from him next year? That remains to be seen, but you are seeing signs that would point to the answer being yes.
With Soto, there are a few things you can point to with his season falling off after his Rookie of the Year campaign. For starters, he participated in the World Baseball Classic. For the record, and if you read one of my earliest blogs you would know this, I hate the fact that these players miss Spring Training to play in this event. If the competition doesn’t help us win the World Series, I don’t want our players anywhere near those games. Soto played in the WBC and missed a lot of time in Spring Training, and when he did show up, he was out of shape. To start off the season, he also suffered a shoulder injury which placed him on the shelf for a good stretch of games. I am not willing to write off Soto after one bad year, and I feel he will return to form next year. His not playing up to expectations was a major blow to the Cubs offense, as he did not give us anything close to what he thought we would be getting from him.
These are the things that I look to when I think about what went wrong with the 2009 Cubs. I remember, way back in Spring Training, we were picked to win the division easily “Unless everything that can go wrong, does go wrong.” Well, that is exactly what happened this year. The Cubs faced adversity from all sides, in the end they were not good enough to overcome. All we can do as fans, is look forward to next year and hope for the best.
While the Chicago Cubs gained ground in the Wild Card race over the past week, putting up a record of 3-3 against the New York Mets and the lowly Washington Nationals has got to deliver a fatal blow to the confidence of several fans. You would have thought, that when playing against the Nationals, the Cubs would have been able to sweep them, or at very least win two of the three games. However, that was not the case, as they lost two of three games, putting them behind the eight ball almost immediately out of the gate. They would have to sweep the Mets to get close to being back on par of where they should be at this point in my 40 game breakdown. That, however, was also not the case as they lost the final game of the series, which prevented the Cubs from sweeping the Mets. There is still plenty of time to gain the ground that was lost in the next four games of the home stand, but we would have to win all four of those games. Considering the Cubs are playing the Houston Astros for three, and the Chicago White Sox for one, that task may be easier said then done. However, there are a few things which the Cubs can do which will assist them in winning all four of the following games.
The first thing that needs to be done, to help the Cubs further their chances in winning enough games to make the playoffs, is get Jake Fox into the lineup everyday. For now, he is filling in for Alfonso Soriano in left field. With the way that Soriano has been playing this season, that is an ideal place for him to stay for the remainder of the season. However, we all know that will not be the case, so there has to be another way to keep him in the lineup. We could play him at third base when Aramis Ramirez needs a day off, as well as at first when Derrek Lee needs one as well. Throw him in right field for Milton Bradley once in a while as well, though I would not bench Bradley completely as he is playing very well lately and getting on base at a high percentage. Ideally, he would be able to play his original position well enough where he wouldn’t be a complete disaster. I am talking about playing catcher, where we are not getting much offense from at all this season, despite the recent hot streak from Koyie Hill. However, we can likely count that option out as well, as there are reasons why he was moved out from behind the plate. Watching him behind the plate trying to catch a Carlos Marmol slider gives me the cold sweats. I worry about Geovany Soto or Hill trying to catch the ball when Marmol is on the mound. No one knows where the pitches are going, and having a lesser experienced catcher behind the plate. However, this could be avoided by bringing in Soto or Hill for late inning defense. Though, I am not sure I would be comfortable with Fox behind the plate for an entire game. All I know is that I am glad this is not my decision to make.
Another thing I would do, is play Jeff Baker at second base every day. I have seen enough of Mike Fontenot to last me a lifetime, and Aaron Miles can join Fontenot on the unemployment line for all I care. Last year, everyone thought that Fontenot would be a great second baseman, and that his numbers in limited play would only get better with the more playing time he received. Obviously, everyone that wanted to see more of Fontenot was wrong. We were fooled yet again by a player who had a good half year. This is the same reason why I do not want to see Baker given the job as our second baseman next year, but for the remainder of this season, I will take what I can get. He is our best, last and only option at second base. Keep him playing, and keep Fontenot on the bench. Use him the same way you did last year, meaning very sparingly in moments where he has the highest chance of success.
Finally, after today’s outing by Carlos Zambrano, I would shut him down for a little while. His first two outings since coming off the disabled list have been nothing short of disaster. Throw Tom Gorzelanny back into the starting rotation for the time being. He has done well in his limited starts since coming over from the Pittsburgh Pirates, and in any case, can he do any worse then what Zambrano has done these past two starts? I don’t think the Cubs would be any worse off if they started Gorzelanny instead of Zambrano. The Cubs Ace pitcher, and I use that term very loosely right now, needs some time off to clear his head. He is not doing the Cubs any favors by throwing up clunkers every time he takes the mound.
The Cubs have the pieces to make a run at the Wild Card, but their time is running out. They can not afford to lose to the teams that they should be able to beat handedly. If they continue to lose games to mediocre teams like the Nationals, they will be on the fast track to sitting at home during the off season. These next four games must end with the Cubs winning all four if the Cubs want to hold on to their slight chance to make the playoffs. While a 7-3 home stand gives us the .700 play in the final 40 game plan I laid out, you would have hoped that with the teams the Cubs were playing they would have been at a higher pace. I don’t like the chances of us winning the last four games of the home stand, but you can never be too sure. The Cubs are 5.5 games out of the Wild Card lead, and are still in fifth place.