Yesterday, after Aramis Ramirez declared that he would be filing for free agency, I wrote up a blog which voiced my opinion that the Chicago Cubs should now begin the rebuilding process. Some fans agreed with the thought process, while others completely disagreed. This is probably the most confusing situation for most Cubs fans to be in, as a majority of them are completely contradicting themselves when saying they do not want to sit through a rebuilding phase.
For starters, there is a portion of Cub fans who have strong feelings against the Cubs, a big market team, going through a rebuilding phase. They do not believe that a team in a major market should ever have to rebuild, and be able to spend the money needed in order to contend. This is very true to a point, that would be what is expected from a team in one of the three biggest markets in the country. The problem comes into play, is that several fans of the Cubs want the team to bench, trade or cut several of the current veterans on the team to play various kids.
You will not go a single day without hearing at least one fan begging Cubs management to trade Alfonso Soriano or to just outright cut him. They beg and plead for the Cubs to give more playing time to both Tony Campana and Tyler Colvin. This situation will not take place unless Soriano is off the team, or at very least regulated to bench duty.
Fans also want to see Bryan LaHair get more playing time, if they want to see Campana and Colvin more the only likely position for him to play would be at first base. You could put LaHair in one of the corner spots, and either Covin or Campana in center, but I feel that would be counter productive. No one wants to see Colvin playing center field again, last time he was out there was a disaster. You could put Campana in center, but if you want him to make the team next year, you have to think about who you would rather have playing center field, him or Brett Jackson. No offense to the scrappy Campana, but I would rather have Jackson roaming centerfield and let Campy learn to play the corner. That means Byrd would remain in center leaving LaHair the odd man out, unless he plays first base. With LaHair at first base, that would result in the benching of Carlos Pena. He can not play third base so he would also be out of a job.
Then we have the problem of third base. Several fans want Ramirez back, while others do not want to waste the money on him since he rarely shows up in April and only occasionally comes to play in May. This leads up to who replaces him? There are no good free agent third baseman out there this off season or next, so that would lead to another kid playing third.
You see the problem yet? To me, a vast majority of fans can not make up their minds as far as what they want. They want to see the Cubs play the kids, but they also do not want the Cubs to go into a full rebuild mode. So I propose a question to all the fans out their who take the time to read my blogs.
Do you want the Cubs to ditch the veterans and play the kids to see what they have, or do you want the Cubs to go out and buy players to help them contend? You can not really have things both ways. Sure, you can do a mix of kids and veterans, but you would then have to decide which kids you want to see. Fans will have to chose between the overflowing population of young outfielders and which kids they really want to see.
Which kids do you want to see playing, and which are you willing to write off? From all of the calls for playing time I have seen on my Facebook page (http://www.Facebook.com/worldseriesdreaming) fans want to see a team filled with kids, but they do not want a rebuilding phase.
Confused yet? So am I.
One member of the Chicago Cubs who should be traded, but likely will not be, is Marlon Byrd. Despite being the most tradable player on the team, we have not heard anything about other teams being interested in him. There are several reasons why Byrd should be drawing interest from the other teams, one being that his contract is very affordable, and will not be a hindrance on any team who wants him. He is still owed around $2 Million for this year, and a very reasonable $6.5 Million in 2012. Considering that he is actually a pretty good hitter and defensive outfielder, I am mystified as to why there are no reports of other teams at least even inquiring about him. Although, perhaps there are teams interested and the Cubs are just absolutely refusing to move him; at least right now.
In my opinion, the Cubs should be at least looking into trading Byrd before Sunday’s trade deadline, or at very least in the off season. There is little reason why the Cubs should be keeping him around past this year. Sure, he is the best outfielder on the Cubs roster right now, and if he is traded the Cubs will have to depend on a lesser talent, but that should not prevent the Cubs from trying to move forward. With Kosuke Fukudome now officially traded, another one of the players I mentioned as replacements for Fukudome would likely be replacing Byrd if he is moved, so I can understand why trading him midseason might not be an appetizing thought for the Cubs brass or the fans. There is a huge drop off in both offensive and defensive capability between Byrd and the “scrappy” Tony Campana who last time he played center showed why he should never play center field until he can actually throw the ball a little better; that would leave Reed Johnson whose back may not hold up long enough to allow him to play every day.
I am sure that fans would complain if Byrd is traded, but they need to look at the whole picture, and not just what is right there in front of them. The question fans must ask themselves, is how close are the Cubs to competing for the World Series, and can they make a legitimate run next year. If the answer is no, then Byrd absolutely must be traded. If you honestly think that the Cubs are just a move or two away, then yes Byrd should stay; at least until you see if those moves will be made.
Along with being one of the most beloved players on the team, fans see him as a part of the future, maybe not realizing how old he is. When his contract expires next year, Byrd will be 35 years old and nearing the end of his career. He may have a good year or two left in him, but how much are you willing to give to an aging center fielder? He may be willing to re-sign after 2012 for another two or three year deal at roughly the same thing he made on this contract, or perhaps he will want more of a pay day knowing it will be his last contract that will actually pay him a decent salary. No guarantee that he will give us a discount because he likes playing here, and if he continues hitting .300 with home runs in the teens, I am sure another team will offer him something that might be too rich for our blood.
For those fans will contend that the Cubs can still contend next year, and that Byrd should be a key part of that contending team there are some things to consider. While I do not disagree that there is a possibility that they can contend, a lot has to fall in place for the Cubs to be considered a legitimate contender in 2012. The first thing that needs to happen, is the Cubs must sign one of the two top first baseman that will be on the market. They need to bring in either Prince Fielder (who is my own personal choice) or Albert Pujols. Without either one of them, the Cubs will need to bring back Carlos Pena, and hope that he actually does something to help the team in April rather than waiting until May to turn things on. If the Cubs fail to sign either one of the three first baseman in the off season, then all chances of them competing next year could be realistically considered gone.
I love Byrd, and have enjoyed the entertainment that he has provided the past year and a half, but I still say that he should be traded if the opportunity is brought up to the Cubs. Unless everything falls right for the Cubs, competing next year will be very hard to do. There are far too many “what ifs” for the Cubs next year in order for them to compete. As mentioned already, if they do not sign either Fielder or Pujols and they do not bring Pena back, that delivers a devastating blow to any chance they have and should open the flood gates for the rebuilding and retooling that needs to happen sooner or later. On top of that, the Cubs need Ramirez to produce from the start of the season, and not wait until June to start earning his paycheck, even though his hot streak has made him look like the best third baseman in the majors according to all major statistics. They also need Geovany Soto to put up his rookie year numbers, and for Alfonso Soriano to contribute anything positive, which he is barely earning a half a WAR share at the moment.
If you are not sure if all of those things are possible, then the time of acceptance that keeping Byrd is rather pointless. Trade him to a team with a better chance of contending, save some money and start playing one of the young outfielders currently sitting on the bench or playing in the minors.
One of the more talked about players on the Chicago Cubs around the trade deadline is Kosuke Fukudome. He may not be the best player on the ball club but, according to published reports, he may be the most coveted by other teams. Whether or not the reports are more agent and Cubs induced remains to be seen, there are four teams that have been linked to a possible trade with Fukudome. Of that group of teams rumored to have interest, only the Cleveland Indians have been named as a possible suitor.
While I can only speculate on who the other teams may or may not be, the Indians may actually be the perfect fit for him, as they are suffering through injuries to two of their outfielders, with Shin Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore both hitting the disabled list. One would think that he would fit like a glove on that team, who desperately needs a live body to fill out the void. He provides little spark in the offensive side of the ball, outside or his ability to work the count and compile a very respectable on base percentage, but his defense is still well above average. With the range he is able to provide, the Indians would love to get their hands on him.
There is no question that Fukudome should be traded, as he has no place on the Cubs next year or in the future. With that being the case, why should the Cubs keep him for the stretch run in a lost season? I can not answer that, can you? At least with Carlos Pena, there is a good chance that the Cubs would want to bring him back, as they have no obvious in house replacement at first base. However, with Fukudome’s departure, there are any number of players who fans would love to see taking the field everyday in his place.
The Cubs may have to eat some of his remaining contract, which is about $4 million, in order to move him, but why not? Even if the Cubs have to eat everything that he is owed, there is no downside to making the move. They would have been spending the money regardless, and with the trade they will get a prospect back in the deal. The quality of that prospect will likely depend on how much money the Cubs take on of the deal, as I believe that the more money they pay on his contract the better the prospect will be. On top of that, the Cubs can begin to develop his replacement as early as today, depending on when he is traded. The players who the Cubs can slide in to replace him should satisfy the masses no matter who they chose.
Personally, I would call up Brett Jackson and let him start his major league career in a pressure free environment. By all accounts, he is the future center fielder for the Cubs, and should be breaking camp with the big club as early as next year. If Fukudome is traded, move Marlon Byrd over to Right Field and let your young prospect continue his progress at the big league level.
That is what I would do, but perhaps the Cubs will disagree. They may chose to play the veteran fan favorite Reed Johnson on a daily basis, or at least until his back gives out as we have come to expect. This would fly in the face of everything the organization has ever said though about playing for the future. Johnson may be in the team’s plans for next year, but as a fourth or fifth outfielder. There is very little chance he would be the every day right fielder, so I doubt this is the move that they decide to go with long term for the remainder of this year.
Then we have fan favorite Tyler Colvin who has struggled more often than not in his time at the big league level. True, he hit 20 home runs last year when getting close to regular playing time, but his batting average was well below average and his defense is subject. He will not dazzle you with his range or his arm. Perhaps those qualities that he lacks will improve if he is given the chance to play more. That is a reasonable outlook on the kid, and what the Cubs may decide to do if the feel that Jackson still needs a little bit of seasoning before getting the call up. I would not be completely against this move, as we would get to see if he can improve when he is given regular playing time but, seeing his batting average dip below .100, doesn’t really give me much optimism for his ability to succeed in the future.
The final choice to fill the void if Fukudome is traded, is none other than the scrappy Tony Campana, who already has a portion of the fan base clamoring to see more of him. Whether they think he will be a future star in the majors, or they just want to see less of the “over paid bums” who currently reside in the outfield I do not know. But I for one hope they do not turn the reigns over to Campana. Other than his speed, I have yet to see him give us anything that I would see as talent. Granted, this is all in limited time, but he has yet to even give a sparkle of excitement. We have seen that his fielding is not that great, and his arm strength is lacking. He makes former Cub Juan Pierre look like he has a cannon; okay maybe not, but Campana has a very weak arm and I shutter every time I see him playing the field. As a pinch runner, there is no one I would rather see, but as a fielder he would likely be last on the list; yes, even behind the man who fans call a butcher in Alfonso Soriano.
As you can see, the Cubs have four in house options to replace the very tradable, and apparently sought after, Fukudome. In fact, two of them are currently on the roster, but the two I would rather see getting the playing time are down in the minors.
Fukudome should be traded, and why they are making the Indians wait another day is beyond me. The Cubs must know that they likely will not get that great of a prospect back, no matter how much money they eat of his remaining deal. The only holdup would have to be a hopeful “bidding war” between the interested teams, seeing who would be willing to eat the most money and who could deliver the best prospect. But again, with all the intelligence and news sources out there, the only visible team that has let their interest known, are the Indians. The longer they wait, the better the chances are that Fukudome stays and, the longer we have to wait for the rebuilding to finally begin!