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


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