Monday, November 29, 2004

You Want the Truth, You Can't Handle the Truth

As I mentioned, I'm now writing at the MVN network, so stop on by. Here's a link to my latest article.

Friday, November 19, 2004


Well not yet, but it could happen. Ha...that just's mean, I know. Sorry but I needed an attention-grabber, cause I've got big news baby and I mean BABIES!!!

The AngelFan Wife and me are going to be the proud parents of twins...and we're not talking the Minnesota variety. We found out about 2 weeks ago and besides being overwhelmed, I'm actually beyond thrilled. Heck, they could be batterymates...the first ever brother to pitch to his own brother. Of course we don't know the sex yet as they aren't due until May(and if you're listening kids, try to escape the womb sometime in mid-May so Daddy can still catch the Cubs on their West Coast trip to San Diego and Los Angeles). And don't get me wrong, if they're girls I'll be just as thrilled as long as their happy and healthy, but if one turns out to be a boy who happens to be a power hitting lefty then so be it.

We're open for name suggestions and dressing them is going to be fun (okay who gets the Cubs socks, who get the Angels socks?) My first thought was to name them "2002" and "1908" but then one would always have an inferiority complex. As we figure it, one can be an Angel fan, one can be a Cubs fan and they BOTH can be White Sox haters.

And the news doesn't end there people. Apparently some folks have been reading this blog and liked it enough to ask me to come aboard the MVN network. Since I'm greedy for readership and liked the work that was going on over there, I agreed. So Transplanted Cubs Fan will be no longer as I'll be writing under the "Behind the Ivy" moniker along with fellow blogger George Kyroudis.

For the time being, I'll be posting links to my stuff over there, but eventually this will all disappear. Thanks to all that stopped by and PLEASE come on by to "Behind the Ivy" and bring your friends along with. I'd love to make it something special over there. I've already starting posting and here are links to my first 2 posts:

Movin' On Up
Lies, Damned Lies

Hope to see you over there and thanks again to all those who stopped by.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Cubs Off-Season Guide Part VI of VI

The last installment of my Cubs Off-Season Guide, just a basic summary. I was going to do a bit on the minor league system and Dusty but I'll save it for another time. Arbitration salaries are AN ABSOLUTE GUESS!!!

Committed & Arbitration Eligible Contracts
C - Michael Barrett - Arbitration eligible: $2.5 million
1B - Derek Lee - $7 million
3B - Aramis Ramirez - Arbitration eligible: $8 million
2B/SS - Neifi Perez - $ 1 million, $1.5 in potential incentives
CF - Corey Patterson - Arbitration eligible: $3 million
RF - Sammy Sosa - $17 million
SP - Kerry Wood - $8.5 million, $1 million of his bonus
SP - Mark Prior - $2.5 million, can opt out for arbitration, but can't see him getting much more.
SP - Carlos Zambrano - Arbitration eligible: $3 million
SP - Greg Maddux - $9 million
RP LaTroy Hawkins - $3.5 million
RP Ryan Dempster - $2 million
RP Mike Remlinger - $3.8 million
RP Joe Borowski - $2.3 million
RP Kyle Farnsworth- Arbitration eligible: $1.75 million

$75.85 million estimate for 15 players

Last years Cubs budget was $91 million and AT MOST that will go up to $95 million. That my loyal readers is ONLY $20 million to fill 10 spots. YIKES!!!!

The 10 spots are:
Backup C
Starting LF
Starting SS
Starting 2B
5th Starter
2 Relief Pitchers
2 Utility OF's
Utility IF

UNLESS the Cubs trade Sammy and save at least $10 million in the deal, I'll be very surpised if the Cubs make any significant off-season signings. Or to say the least Carlos Beltran is going to be tough to get unless we're planning an infield combo of Neifi & Jose Macias. Here is MY PLAN:

C - Bako or Todd Pratt ($850,000)
RF- J.D. Drew ($12 million)
SS - Garciaparra - ($8 million)
2B - Todd Walker - ($2.5 million)
5th starter - Sergio Mitre ($350,000)
RP - 2 out of Wuertz, Leicester, Will Ohman & Wellemeyer ($650,000)
OF - Hollandsworth ($1.5 million)
OF - Dubois ($350,000)
IF - Pokey Reese ($1 million)

Grand total: $27.2 million

Okay I'm over by a bit, but if the Sosa trade happens which looks to be more realistic every day and we end up with Cliff Floyd or even better Aubrey Huff from Tampa and save $7 to $10 million, it's a possibility. And if anything I'm at least close, not to mention who knows about my arbitration figures. Hendry and McPhail have never gone to arbitration with a player and they SHOULD sign Aramis and Zambrano to long-term deals and save some money there. I'm sure Mitre isn't everyone's favorite option as a 5th starter but he's cheap and pitched exceptionally at AAA Iowa(6-3 3.03 ERA), I think he deserves another chance and it's possible one of our minor league studs (Bobby Brownlie or Reynel Pinto) could be ready by mid-year if he falters again. Ryan Dempster may be the plan already that Hendry just hasn't shared with the rest of the world.

That also means no big money for a closer but none that are available are worth it. Don't ask me what to do..maybe Borowski comes back to form , otherwise try Dempster or Farnsworth.

There's also the trade front, I think they could trade Farnsworth for a legitimate lefty specialist or LOOGIE if you prefer. Next year's potential lineup:

2B - Walker
SS - Garciaparra
3B - Ramirez
RF - Drew
1B - Derek Lee
LF - Aubrey Huff
CF - Corey Patterson
C - Michael Barrett

Starting Pitching staff
Kerry Wood
Mark Prior
Carlos Zambrano
Greg Maddux
Sergio Mitre

Relief Corps
Mike Remlinger
Kyle Farnsworth (Trade him for Mike Gonzalez or B.J. Ryan if they'd take it)
LaTroy Hawkins
Joe Borowski
Ryan Dempster
Jon Leicester
Todd Wellemeyer or Mike Wuertz

Paul Bako
Neifi Perez
Pokey Reese
Jason Dubois
Todd Hollandsworth
David Kelton (instead of Wellemeyer or Wuertz)

Pretty good lineup in my opinion and a killer staff. Now although we didn't make the playoffs last year, the 2 biggest words I can pass along to everyone is "DON'T PANIC". This Cubs team record by the Pythagorean formula was a 94 win team, not an 89 win team that we ended up. Injuries, tough losses and most importantly 1 run losses contributed to a record that was poorer than it should have been. The history of baseball says that will correct itself next year. A major overhaul is NOT needed, just a few improvements. So don't go too nutty Hendry and start brining in the Tony Womack's of the world, stay the course, power pitching, let your minors develop, make big trades when they make sense and this Cub team will win the division next year.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Cubs Off-Season Guide Part V of VI

I'm just finishing up this off-season guide before I announce the big move. Today we talk about the bench, this will be much like the bullpen format.

Committed contracts
Neifi Perez - $1 million with another $1.5 million in potential incentives

Arbitration Eligible
Jose Macias

Depending if they go 7 deep or 6 deep with the bullpen will depend if we go 4 deep or 5 deep on the bullpen. If it was my bench I'd go with:

Backup Catcher -
2 utility infielders
2 utility outfielders

On top of that, one of the above should be able to steal you a base at any time (think Dave Roberts), two of them need to be able to hit left-handed, and at least one of your infielders is on the team cause of his defense.

Now backup catching duties will probably go back to Paul Bako. I have no real feelings about this, I mean he can't hit, but everyone seems to rave about his defense. So that's fine, neither for or against. Just pray Barrett doesn't go down. I'd like for the team to go after a slightly better hitter, maybe a Todd Pratt. Although if you like rumors we may end up with Piazza and Charles Johnson as our catchers. Wouldn't that be interesting? I'm betting on a Bako return at about $850,000.

Neifi takes one of the IF spots and can probably play 2B as well as SS. The problem with him is other than being one of the worst offensive players in the league, his defense isn't all that great and he steals bases at barely over a .500 success rate. What a waste!

Let's all hope and pray Macias is NOT the other super-utility player, I have nothing to say about him other than he sucks. I presume and hope Dubois is one of the bench guys as well. The dude has raked minor league pitching and it's time to give him a shot at the majors. My other hope is for Todd Hollandsworth to come back, bad shins and all. Here's my expectations for the Cubs bench next year:

Paul Bako
Neifi Perez
Todd Hollandsworth
Jason Dubois
Pokey Reese

This would give us some pop off the bench from both sides (Hollandsworth and Dubois), and a defensive stud/basestealer in Pokey Reese (85% success rate in SB's for his career). If we can't get Reese or get back Hollandsworth a trade for Dave Roberts would be nice as well. Other potential bench options I wouldn't mind,

Miguel Cairo
Gabe Kapler
Mark McLemore (probably retiring)
Ramon Martinez
Jose Hernandez
Craig Counsell

I'll finish my summary off-season guide probably on Tuesday along with the big announcement. Stay tuned!!!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Cubs Off-Season Guide Part IV of VI

The Bullpen's turn and although we all want a major overhaul, you're going to see that it's virtually impossible with our current contracts. I'm going to format this a little different and not really go into each guy and look at the bullpen more as whole unit.

Committed contracts
LaTroy Hawkins - $3.5 million, player option for '06 at 3.5 mil plus playing incentives
Ryan Dempster - $2 million
Mike Remlinger - $3.8 million
Joe Borowski - $2.3 million

Arbitration Eligible
Kyle Farnsworth - 2004 salary was $1.4 million

So depending if you go with a 7 or 6 man bullpen and if they end up offering Farnsworth arbitration, the Cubs need to fill anywhere from 1-3 spots. Now everybody wants us to sign an established closer after the Hawkins debacle. but I'm telling you the cubbard is bare people.

Available FA's are:
Armando Benitez
Troy Percival
Billy Koch (sometimes I make myself laugh)
Robb Nen (assuming he's actually healthy)
Bob Wickman (if we were getting the 2002 version but um no)
Dustin Hermanson (I suppose he quallifies as a closer)

Benitez would be a respectable pickup but we have other roles to fill and I just don't think we have the money. Percival I'm telling you is damaged goods. He's lost a good 4-5 miles off his fastball, his K rate is in a massive decline and he's a flyball pitcher which is something you don't want in Wrigley. Taking a flyer on Nen isn't the worst idea I ever heard but I'm haven't heard anything about him yet this offseason.

I have heard rumors about the following group as possible trades: Eric Gagne, Danny Baez, Danny Kolb & Shawn Chacon.

Who wouldn't want Gagne but the rumor is it would cost us one of our big 3 (Wood, Prior or Zambrano) and well that's a bad idea. Tampa is shopping Baez, no word on if the Cubs are interested, the Kolb rumor I came across at The Cub Reporter that the Cubs discussed it at an organizational meeting and although his K/BB rate is atrocious(1.33 career) as well as his K/9 rate(5.57 career), his extreme groundball nature(3.11 G/F career) could be useful if we put together a bench of good late inning defensive replacements. Shawn Chacon is a nightmare, even outside of Coors field.

So what should we do? What almost every other team does to find a closer and that is find someone who isn't a closer. 99.9% of all closers did not start their careers as closers. Awhile back I posted these guys at some potential trade options (none of which I know are available):

B.J. Ryan 3.49 K/BB 12.62 K/9
Brendan Donnelly 3.73 K/BB 12.00 K/9
Juan Rincon 3.31 K/BB 11.63 K/9
Mike Gonzalez 9.17 K/BB 11.42 K/9
R. Betancourt 4.22 K/BB 10.26 K/9
A. Otsuka 3.35 K/BB 10.13 K/9
S. Linebrink 3.19 K/BB 8.89 K/9

But anyone who can dominate in the late innings meaning a K/BB rate over 3.00 and a K/9 rate over 9 can probably be a closer. Do we need to go down the list of teams who found closers from within or by taking a chance on someone else's junk.
Okay here we go...

Joe Nathan
Brad Lidge
John Smoltz
Eric Gagne
on and on and on

See where I'm going....anyway I don't know who the closer will be next year but I'm guessing it's not a big name Free Agent.

Our other concern is to fill the hole that Kent Mercker's departure should leave us and that's a legitimate lefty out of the pen. Remlinger does not qualify cause he's actually better against righties than lefties (I wish Baker knew this) and although I'm not sold that a team needs one, having one is something Dusty Baker needs otherwise we'll see more of Remlinger in that siutation. Steve Kline is the best option out there but it looks like the Yankees want him. Our very own Will Ohman might be a good choice as well.

My best guess at next year's bullpen:
Mike Remlinger
LaTroy Hawkins
Joe Borowski
Ryan Dempster
Will Ohman
Kyle Farnsworth
John Leicester, Todd Wellemeyer or Mike Wuertz

Not the overhaul we're hoping for and when I summarize this whole off-seson guide, you'll see we DO NOT have the money to do much here. Farnsworth might get traded but most of his peripherals say he should be a good pitcher and he has been 2 out of the last 4 seasons. As for the closer unless a trade brings us one, I think we have to hope either Borowski finds his 2002-2003 form or Dempster can somehow find the touch(although his atrocious walk rate frightens me terribly and he may actually be our 5th starter).

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Cubs Off-Season Guide Part III of VI

A look at our starting staff, this should be easy as no one is going anywhere but Matt Clement.

Pitcher - Kerry Wood
Contract Status - Signed through 2006 with an option for 2007, no-trade clause. $8.5 million in 2005, $11 million in 2006. Their is a club option at $13.5 million for 2007 or $3 million buyout. If he pitches 400 or more innings in 2005-06 then it basically becomes a player option where he could choose the 2007 option or become a free agent.

A rather inconsistent year for Wood but that's kind of where he has settled at this point in his career. I seemed to catch most of his games last year and he got screwed by his defense more than any other pitcher on the Cubs and it was stuff that wont't show up in his ERA. Things like in San Fran where Ramirez dropped a pop fly and then no one covered 3rd base on a Bonds overshift (and there are more), but I guess that happens to every pitcher.

Just so everyone knows, Wood is not a #1 starter, he is a very, very good #2 or #3 starter on your staff and with Zambrano and Prior, you have the 2000's version of Glavine, Smoltz and Maddux where anyone of them can win a Cy Young from year to year. Wood stills strikes out a ton of guys and walks quite a few as well. And I'm pretty sure he'll put it all together one year and give us one of those monster years we've all been waiting for. Good news is we have enough now at the major league level where we won't depend on him.

Potential Replacements None, if he stays healthy he could contend for a Cy Young (you'll be seeing that again in this post)

Pitcher - Mark Prior
Contract Status - Signed through 2006 but can opt-out for arbitration this year which I assume he'll do. Won't get much of a raise over $2.5 million he was due.

Mark Prior's September/October numbers:
2-0 2.17 ERA 37.1 IP, 7 BB, 43 K's

Pretty much what we were all hoping for the entire year. Whatever ailed Prior seemed to finally heal in September. The biggest reason for his disappointment last year was his lack of control. His K/BB rates the last 3 years:

2002 - 3.87
2003 - 4.90
2004 - 2.90

And not to mention that lack of control led to quite a few pitches left over the plate and thus a few too many extra base hits. Will Carroll over at and speculated that in September he finally found his release point and it lead to his improved numbers. Something like 1/8th of an inch difference in release point is something like an 8 inch difference in pitch location. His hurt ankle caused him to change his mechanics, which put a slight pain in his elbow and the aforementioned struggles in finding his release point. Let's hope that's the case and not Dusty's insistence on throwing him for 120+ pitches in blowouts.

I'm pretty stoked on another dominating year from Prior next year and he should be our #1 if everything is going right for him.

Potential Replacements None, if he stays healthy he could contend for a Cy Young (you'll be seeing that again in this post)

Pitcher - Carlos Zambrano
Contract Status - Arbitration eligible, at least $2-3 million. Cubs should sign him and buyout his arbitration years once they figure out their free agent situation.

Crazy Z may soon become one of my all-time favorite Cubs. The boy just deals and he plays with emotion. He's toyed with no-hitters already twice and honestly is the most fun thing to watch in a Cubs uniform since Sammy was pounding them out onto Waveland at an alarming rate. My favorite Crazy Z moment was the July 19th game versus the Cardinals. We all remember this right? He plunks Edmonds in the 1st, Edmonds knocks one out and stares at it from home plate and Z lets him know it's not appreciated. Next at-bat he strikes Edmonds out on 3 straight fastballs and then after Rolen hits a 2 run bomb off of him, and figuring he's not going to be around much longer he just drills Edmonds on the next pitch. There's a rivalry for you. Can't wait till they meet up next year.

He finished 5th in the Cy Young (I would have put him 4th) and if he ever figures out how to lower his walks, he'll easily be in Pedro, Big Unit, Schilling territory. Let's hope Baker doesn't pitch him until his arm falls off. Great year and expect A LOT MORE.

Potential Replacements None, if he stays healthy he could contend for a Cy Young. (I'm done writing that for now)

Pitcher - Greg Maddux
Contract Status - $9 million in 2005, $9 million in 2006 if he pitches at least 400 innings in 2004-05. (187 IP to go)

We're paying a little too much for a guy with a 4.02 ERA last year, but as a certain first ballot Hall of Famer he still could rebound for a little better year next year. He did give up an alarming 35 HR's last year (easily a career high), so if the wind blows in on a few of those starts, he's suddenly an All-Star caliber pitcher. I'm glad we have him and when he's on, probably one of the more fun pitchers to watch. He won his 14th Gold Glove this year and if he does one thing before he leaves, I hope he teaches Wood and Zambrano how to get into fielding position after each pitch.

Potential Replacements None, Cy Young days are past but he's one helluva 4th or 5th starter.

Pitcher - None
Contract Status - None

Matt Clement was quite fantastic last year, as in Cy Young contender until August and September hit. Some can be attributed to a neck injury, some of it to he just ran out of gas. The Cubs need to offer him arbitration and get whoever's draft pick he ends up signing with(He's a Type B free agent which means a 1st or 2nd pick but no sandwich pick). I've already heard the Indians and D'Backs are interested (the Rangers should be interested if they have a brain) and there will be more. There's a small chance he'd accept arbitration but I doubt he would turn away the secuirty of a multi-year deal for the potential of a higher one year deal.

Glendon Rusch was also on the fantastic side of things last year and easily our biggest surprise. It was also easily the best year of his career. Since the Cubs need to fill this spot on the cheap with so many other glaring needs & pay raises, Rusch is probably the best option. Although if we somehow swing a Sosa for Randy Johnson trade, then I'm all for it.

Potential Replacements Glendon Rusch, Sergio Mitre, David Wells, Ryan Dempster....other scrubs as long as they are not named Shawn Estes

Monday, November 08, 2004

Free Agent Compensation

The list of free agents and their rankings as either Type A,B,C or none of the above is out and you can find it here.

Check out the Roster Rules for a good explanation, but here's the quick and dirty version. All free agents are ranked as either a Type A,B,C or not good enough to qualify. If his former team offers him arbitration and another team signs him, then the former team is awarded compensation for the signing.

Basically it helps determine whether you offer a player arbitration and/or you should sign another team's player knowing you may risk losing a draft pick. The big thing of course is whether or not a team offers the player arbitration, cause you risk that they may accept it. (i.e. Greg Maddux 2 years ago for the Braves who accepted arbitration although the Braves really didn't expect him too). Last year there were only about 20 some players who were offered arbitration. Here's the Cubs list:

Type A:
Moises Alou, Nomar Garciaparra, Mark Grudzielanek, Kent Mercker

Type B:
Matt Clement, Todd Walker

Type C:
Ben Grieve, Ramon Martinez, Todd Hollandsworth

So Alou and Garciaparra there is no way in hell you offer arbitration cause they'd almost definitely accept it. It's rare that a players gets a paycut in arbitration and neither of those are expecting multi-year deals. Grudz is a tricky one cause he has been relatively good the last 2 years and some team may take a chance on him as a starting 2b, but since I really don't want to see him back, I would let him go. Same goes for Mercker cause who in their right mind would give up a 1st round pick for Mercker? Now one of the rules is a team with a pick in the top 15 only loses their 2nd round pick and not their 1st, plus Mercker wasn't all that bad so if he accepts it, it wouldn't be the end of the world. In the end, I'd probably say no.

Clement to me is an absolute must. His agent is going to convince a pitching starved team to sign him to a multi-year deal next year and explain any concerns they have with how he finished on physical problems with his neck. If by some crazy reason he accepts arbitration, we'll have a slightly overpaid 5th starter for one more year until Brownlie or Pinto is ready. Walker is also an absolute must as we should want him back and if he does sign with someone else, we should get their pick for it.

Hollandsworth is also a yes in my opinion, Grieve and Martinez would be no's.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Cubs Off-Season Guide Part II of VI

Here's a look at our starting outfielders, a place where if Sosa leaves could look very different next year.

Left Field - Open
Contract Status - Open

Moises Alou had one helluva a year last year offensively and surprisingly his defense wasn't as atrocious as I thought at least according to defensive win shares. That being said he was old, overpaid and more than anything I could NOT STAND THE CONSTANT WHINING. Play and shut up!!!! Plus Mr. Piss Hands jokes just have to end. So declining his option was a no brainer as they could bring him back for $6 million next year plus the buyout saving him a few million if they chose that route.

Now listen Mr. Hendry, DON'T CHOOSE THAT ROUTE!!! He's also a base-running train wreck and if the wind wasn't blowing out so much last year he would have looked just as bad as the last 2 years. There are only 3 ballparks in the NL I think he can succeed anymore since he pulls EVERYTHING, Wrigley with the wind blowing out, the Juice Box in Houston and the video game ballpark in Colorado, (he'd probably have a field day in Boston as well). So where do we go?

Well the hot rumor is sign Beltran and move C-Pat to left field which would give us a rather devastating defensive outfield. And if Beltran goes for $15 million, I'm all for it. But here's a word of warning, look at Beltran's numbers last year and Alou's:

Beltran: .267/.367/.548 38 HR, 104 RBI. 121 Runs, 42 SB 3 CS
Alou: .293/.361/.557 39 HR, 106 RBI, 106 Runs, 3 SB 0 CS

Eerily similar, so all of those that expect just signing Beltran will improve our 7th ranked NL offense, it's not going to happen. Not to mention if you sign him, you'll probably not afford any upgrades at SS or 2B, plus Boras is saying he wants a 10 year deal meaning we'll have an overaged outfielder with a burdensome contract in about 7 or so years. (If that doesn't sound familiar scroll down to the right field section of this post). Now don't get me wrong, obviously Beltran is going to be better in the long run and his defense and baserunning are probably worth 1 to 4 wins all in itself, but don't expect us to compete with the Phils, Cards and Giants next year(offensively) if this is our only significant move in the off-season.

If we can get Beltran for the $14-15 million range and 5 to 7 years, then I'm all for it but anymore and I think there are other options like J.D. Drew, Magglio Ordonez or a trade for Jose Guillen. . My top choices are below.
Potential Replacements:J.D. Drew, Carlos Beltran, Magglio Ordonez, Brad Wilkerson, Jose Guillen, Jason Dubois, Moises Alou, Todd Hollandsworth, Jermaine Dye

Center Field - Corey Patterson
Contract Status - Arbitration eligible, $480,000, expected 2005 deal I'm guessing in the $2 - $5 million range

Corey is the definition of a guy who strikes out WAY TOO MUCH. I have no problem with strikeouts if you work the count, constantly at 2-2 or 3-2, but that is not what Corey does. Corey thinks he 6-5 and swings at WAY TOO MANY bad pitches particularly over his head. That being said he's still only 25 so we can expect improvement over the next 3-5 years and hopefully that comes in the way of not swinging at pitches over his head. Want to see the definition of hot and cold....

OPS By Month
April: .820
May: .691
June: .932
July: .571
Aug: .993
Sept: .644
Oct: .382 (in 3 games)

Good news is defensively he completely turned it around last year, showing off a good arm, chasing down everything while finally realizing that he is ALLOWED to call off Sosa and Alou and defensive win shares show him as deserving of a gold glove (one which Steve Finley somehow ended up with). Baserunning wise he also set a career high with 32, while being caught only 9 times for a 78 percent success rate which is good.

If they do end up moving him to LF cause they sign Beltran his value will go down as he won't produce the numbers expected of your corner outfielders, but Hendry values players reaching their prime years so don't expect Patterson to get moved anywhere.

Potential Replacements:None, he should be a Cub for another 3 years and hopefully his breakout year is coming in 2005

Right Field - Sammy Sosa
Contract Status - $18 million, with an $18 million team option for 2006 or a $4.5 million buyout, option automatically vests if he's traded plus he's a 10/5 man

Where do you start when it comes to Mr. Sosa? Is he a clubhouse distraction, has he dejuiced, can he still reach 2001 or even 2002 levels or is he a DH waiting to happen? Do we trade him and start over and if we do trade him, the bigger question is HOW do we trade him?

Everyone is calling for Sammy's head as if he's the reason we didn't make it to the Wild Card, that if he was more unselfish, more a team player, more a leader, on and on and on. And there are valid points, you definitely want your captain to be a good example for the rest of your teammates and not be the distraction that he can tend to be.....of course he's only a distraction cause of the media but I digress.

I'm going to write a big old article just on Sammy once I finish this off-season guide, but right now trading him looks very difficult unless we're interested in acquiring a bunch of bad contracts rather that one and well that doesn't sound appealing. All the press reports and stuff you'll hear from Sammy this off-season is a ploy for him to try and force a trade so his option gets vested cause he knows the Cubs are going to turn it down and he won't get anywhere near that kind of money on the open market next year. The thing is that I think Hendry is smart enough to know that it's all a ploy and I'm about 60-70% sure at this moment that Sammy will be coming into spring training wearing a Cubs uniform.

Potential Replacements:You'll hear a lot of names but I'm not sold on any of them, trades are way too hard to predict so I don't know if it's worth trying. Personally one more year and a farewell tour of sorts sounds like the best option, not to mention any trade we make probably means we have to take on some bad multi-year deals rather than just suffer through one more year of Sosa. My hope is he stays, realizes he's playing for probably his last multi-year deal and puts up a nice .300/.400/.600 line with about 50 HR's and 150 RBI's. (a boy can dream right). I'll take .280/.380/.550 to be honest.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Cubs Off-Season Guide Part I of VI

It's a shame we don't use Roman numerals more often.....isn't the Super Bowl like XL or somehthing weird this year.

So here's what I'm going to do, it's my guide to what the Cubs should/could do this offseason and I'm breaking it into 5 parts.

- Starting Infield - (5 deep)
- Starting Outfield - (3 deep)
- Starting Pitching - (5 deep)
- Bullpen - (6-7 deep)
- Bench - (5-6 deep)
- Management, Minors, Whatever Else that hasn't been covered

I'm going to look at each guy, his contract, and whether we should keep him, lose him or if the position is already open, then who should/could be the replacement. Let me say right off, this isn't what the Cubs could do in a world where money was no object. I'm trying to look at it through what I believe the Cubs can afford & what I believe Jim Hendry and the Cubs brass values in their players. It's more of a what you can expect next year deal rather than a why don't we just get the best player at every position thing. So here it goes:

Catcher - Michael Barrett
Contract Status - Arbitration eligible, $1.55 million last year, expected 2005 deal in the $2 - 3 million range
As this fella so eloquently put it, Barrett is Hendry's white whale. He's been infatuated by the guy for years and well it certainly paid off last year. So kudos to Jim Hendry, as Barrett was a huge surprise offensively. At 28 we should still expect some improvement, not to mention he was originally drafted as a shortstop and was converted to catcher only in 1995, so I think it's reasonable to assume his decline won't be as bad as most catchers once he reaches 30. That all being said, last year was a career year for Barrett so Hendry should really be looking to get a much better bat as a backup catcher than Paul Bako. Defensively he just always looks out of place to me and his ability to call a game seems to be questioned by Maddux and Prior. Well not publicly but the one time Barrett caught Maddux, there was a lot of shaking off and looks of disgust by Maddux and once Bako started catching Prior in September his ERA went back to his superhuman levels, although more of that can be attributed to him finding his release point in my opinion. Anyway the Cubs will not be doing anything here other than resigning Barrett, so let's hope we see more of last year's Barrett.
Potential Replacements None, Barrett's staying

1st base - Derek Lee
Contract Status - Signed through 2006, $7 million next year
Well his defense is just as good as they say, the Win Shares system shows him only behind Todd Helton among NL first basemen. Offensively, um, yeah that was disappointing. The Friendly Confines were rather nice to him. but away from Wrigley he was quite mediocre. Look at these splits:

Road: .297/.388/.591
Home: .242/.371/.419

So get him away from pitcher friendly Pro Player, not to mention the wind howling out most of last year and we should have ourselves the 4th best first basemen in the NL behind Helton, Pujols, and Thome, right? Not quite:

Road: .273/.339/.480
Home: .282/.371/.528

His numbers did go up at home but we was quite bad away from Wrigley and if you could figure out why, then let me know. All I can think of is that he seems to perform better at night than during the day and that Dusty's, "you can't walk across the plate" mantra seriously put a damper on his OBP which is where most of his dropff can be attributed to. He ended up about 8th among NL first basemen and well that's not what we were expecting. So let's hope we get the guy who was supposed to hit 40 HR's while sporting a nice, fat .380 OBP.
Potential Replacements None, Lee will be staying.

2nd base - Open
Contract Status - Open
The Grudz/ Walker combo was rather effective last year, ranking somewhere between 6th & 8th among NL position players. Of course Walker was around 4th when he was starting all by himself last year and his defense was better than you think. Since he's the exact kind of player this team needed all season, someone who WANTED to get on base and not just slug homers, resigning him is probably our most cost effective strategy. There are a bunch of others who I wouldn't mind signing or trading for if the opportunity arises. Grudzielanek at age 34 should be shown the door. If you sign him to play the bench you know Baker wil use him way too much. Thanks for the last 2 years Grudz, love the name, but we can do better. The replacements are in my pseudo order of preference/expectations.
Potential Replacements Todd Walker, Jeff Kent, Mark Bellhorn, Placido Polanco, Mark Grudzielanek

Shortstop - Open
Contract Status - Open
We traded for a potential Hall of Famer and everyone thought we'd run away with the wild card. That certainly didn't work out. Still a great trade as we gave up very little for Garciaparra and hopefully he liked enough of Chicago to come back. His numbers are no longer in the 1.000 OPS range but by OPS he'd still would have ranked 3rd among all shorstops last year and first in the NL. His defense is a question mark but I think our pitching staff strikes out enough people where Garciaparra's offense outweighs those concerns. Plus other than maybe Renteria there's no one all that attractive out there. The talk is he's willing to take a one year Pudge like prove I'm still valuable deal with incentives, which would make signing him a no-brainer in my opinion. The one thing the Cubs should not do is offer him arbitration, he made $11.5 million last year and he would accept it in a heartbeat and I think it's more likely he'll get a deal at a base around $7-8 million with a lot of incentives. Either that or someone signs him long-term for way too much and we forget about him.
Potential Replacements Nomar Garciaparra, Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, Neifi Perez (You think I'm kidding), Omar Vizquel, Christian Guzman (if we get really desperate)

3rd base -Aramis Ramirez
Contract Status - Arbitration eligible, $6 million last year, expected 2005 deal in the $8-10 million range
Well first let's talk about his defense, his errors went down from 33 to 10 and more importantly every time he got a ball, my butt didn't clench up fearing he'd throw it into the first base stands. Dusty said last year that once they got him into training camp, they'd fix his footwork which leads to his throwing and well it worked. Some of it can be attributed to Derek Lee I'm sure but not 23 errors worth. His range is still his range and well he's not going to win any gold gloves but at least his defense is no longer a nightmare.

Offensively it was between him and Alou for team MVP, and since I really don't like Alou, my vote goes to Ramirez. The best thing is most of his splits don't show any warning signs, he was better at home than on the road but it wasn't drastic (1.000 OPS at Wrigley, .900 on the road). At 26 (let's hope that's right), we should expect greatness from him for the next 4-6 years.
Potential Replacements None, Ramirez will stay and sign a four to five year extension with option years unless Scott Boras is his agent. Personally I'd love to make a run at Troy Glaus but no reason to risk it when you have Ramirez already there.

Summary:The Cubs have open spots up the middle at second and short, and I think it will look a lot like the Cubs of last year with Walker and Garciaparra. A rebound year by Derek Lee and it might be one of the best in the league. Many think defense is the most important thing at second and short but I think with our high strikeout pitchers and with Clement probably leaving, it won't mean that much. Prior and Wood strike out a ton and are flyball pitchers. Zambrano strikes out a ton but is a groundball pitcher. Maddux use to be a groundball pitcher but not so much anymore, which leaves us our 5th starter. Clement was a groundball pitcher, if Glendon Rusch takes his place, he's pretty much neutral. Not to mention you could just sign backups who are defensive wizards. We're looking at somewhere between $30 to $35 million on our infield next year, with the chance at being one of the best offensively in the league.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

AL Awards Race

My AL picks, but first I forgot a category in my NL picks last week.

NL Executive of the Year

1. John Schuerholz
2. Walt Jocketty
3. Gerry Hunsicker
Honorable Mention : Paul DePodesta

Wacky category since the job of a GM should be judged in it's long-term effectiveness. But Schuerholz once again had the cajones to make the changes necessary to keep the Braves on top, mostly with the J.D. Drew trade, plus the Kevin Millwood for Estrada trade from a year ago paid off as well. Jocketty did a good job getting Reggie Sanders and a few no name pitchers who kept the ball in the park for their defense to catch and the Larry Walker deal was brilliant. Hunsicker (or the owner Drayton McClane) talked Clemens out of retirement and the big Beltran deal. DePodesta made some bold moves at the trade deadline and the Dodgers will be contenders for awhile now. There's not much stock in this award personally, but those are my thoughts.

AL Executive of the Year

1. Terry Ryan
2. Theo Epstein
3. Bill Stoneman
Honorable Mention : Dave Dombrowski

Terry Ryan keeps winning in Minnesota with a much more minimal budget than Billy Beane has ever had. Say what you want about competition, the team is doing their job and he keeps making almost all the right moves (Nathan for Pierzynski, losing Mientkiewicz for Morneau, etc, etc). Epstein and Bill James are proving quite the tandem and who knew that Garciaparra deal would work out so well, huh? Stoneman got Guerrero, Colon and Escobar to sign while still developing a wonderful minor league system that's contributing at the major league level. Dave Dombrowski turned one of the worst teams around to respectability and somehow got Pudge to sign with the Tigers.

AL Manager of the Year (should be known as Manager of the Team that the Media Thought Would Suck)

1. Buck Showalter
2. Ron Gardenhire
3. Mike Scioscia
Honorable Mention : Terry Francona, Joe Torre

All those managers had to deal with injuries and a multitude of other distractions to get their teams up to respecability. Showalter gets the nod for the biggest improvement though.

AL Rookie of the Year

1. Bobby Crosby
2. Zack Greinke
3. Shingo Takatsu (35 year old Rookie?)
Honorable Mention: Justin Morneau

Lew Ford got screwed and apparently doesn't qualify, much like the NL, do we have to pick? If healthy I think Joe Mauer would have run away with it. Mauer and Greinke will be All-Stars one day, Crosby and Morneau will have stiffer competition at their positions.

AL Cy Young

1. Johan Santana
2. Curt Schilling
3. Brad Radke
Honorable Mention : Francisco Rodriguez, Mark Buehrle, Pedro Martinez

I spelled out my criteria in the NL awards, but I made a HUGE mistake. Total Batters Faced is NOT a good criteria as a pitcher could rank high here by allowing a bunch of hits and walks, so I've changed my focus to WHIP (Walks + Hits Divided by Innings Pitched) and Innings Pitched. Anyway you look at it, Santana should win it unanimously. He led the league in ERA, Quality Starts, WHIP and was 2nd in Innings Pitched, and 4th in K/BB ratio. Yeah I think that deserves it. A lot of people think Rivera deserves the 3rd spot but I think Francisco Rodriguez was a better pitcher than him last year. I was surprised to see how good a year Mark Buehrle had.


1. Vladimir Guerrero
2. Manny Ramirez
3. Gary Sheffield
4. Miguel Tejada
5. David Ortiz
6. Hideki Matsui
7. Alex Rodriguez
8. Ichiro Suzuki
9. Mark Teixeria
10. Melvin Mora
Honorable Mention (pick any of these for your #9 and #10's): Michael Young, Derek Jeter, Carlos Guillen, Hank Blalock, Johan Santana

The hardest one to pick of all the awards in my opinion. Manny led in OPS and HR's, Sheffield led in Win Shares, Tejada led in RBI's, Vlad was really, really close in all and played in a pitcher's park (as did Sheffield). So why give it to Guerrero? That last week of the season was absolutely amazing but I don't think he deserves it just for that. I mean, cause he turned it on the last week of the season cause the Angels couldn't put the division away in mid-September against the Blue Jays and White Sox mean more than Manny and the Red Sox going crazy in August and cruising to their wild card berth? No...(I feel like I'm talking myself out of this). The reason for me is that Vlad (or Pedro as the AngelFan wife so delightfully calls him after the guy in "Major League") had to carry the offense a little bit more than the other guys. The Red Sox and Yanks are All-Star teams masking as franchises while the Angels had to survive through injuries to Glaus (who may have been the MVP if he stayed healthy) and Garrett (missed 2 months and his ailment sapped all his power). I follow the Angels somewhat so take it with a grain of salt but it seemed to me he carried the team all year and you know what I just like the guy. So live with it....