Sunday, October 02, 2005

If I Ran the Cubs (End of Season Edition)

Once again the Cubs failed to reach expectations. Injuries are probably considered the main reason the Cubs ended up in fourth place. Though last I checked the Cubs were in the middle of the wild card till the injured players came back. But I’m not here to complain about the past. Let’s look to the future: 2006. Next season will be when the Cubs are completely out from under the Sosa contract. What does that mean? That means more spending money during the free agent market. They need it.

The Cubs only have five position players that will be back for certain in 2006. They are set at 3B and 1B with Ramirez and Lee respectively. Both of them ate 30 HR and 100 RBI guys. Barrett has improved each year at catcher. I don’t think he calls the best games, but he’s improved and has some pop in his bat. The other should be lock is Matt “Big Murt” Murton in left field. He’s a kid but has shown good discipline at the plate, and Dusty should have let him play fulltime a in July. I give Hendry credit for basically forcing Dusty’s hand. That leaves the big question mark of center field and Corey Patterson. He might be a five tool player, and he might eventually turn into an All-Star. The Cubs also have Felix Pie sitting in the wings. An ankle injury kept Pie from being called up, so we don’t know if he’s ready. My decision would be to let them fight it out in training camp. Some have suggested trying to sign Johnny Damon in the off-season. It’s not a bad idea, but it’s still wrong. With my plan whoever plays CF will be batting in the bottom of the order anyway. There is also the Cubs’ youngster Ronny Cedeno. He’s shown growth but I’m not completely sure that he’s ready. He came up as a SS, but I think he’d do well at 2b, which means goodbye to Walker. He’s been a great consistent hitter for the Cubs, but we need defense, and that’s Cedeno. So the Cubs really only have two position holes, RF and SS. That’s where some of the money comes in.

SS: Garciaparra is going to come at a discount. He likes Chicago, and wants to stay in Chicago. Still, he has yet to show he can play even half a season. The Cubs need to stop taking chances. I’m sorry Nomar but goodbye. The answer at SS should be Furcal who will be a free agent. He’s younger and faster than Nomar. He’s also what the Cubs have needed since 2003: a leadoff hitter. The Cubs need to stop converting players into leadoff and just sign one.

RF: Burnitz was serviceable, but he still strikes out way too much. The Cubs need contact hitters, and Burnitz loves swinging at high heat way too much. The answer the Cubs is playing in Southern California. Brian Giles is a veteran and just entering the twilight of his career. He’s also tough as nails, and is still a great hitter. His attitude is what the Cubs need. Yes his power numbers are down but have you been to PETCO? It’s twice the size of Wrigley. You have Giles hitting between Lee and Ramirez and you’ll see those number rise. That takes care of the position players and here’s my tentative lineup:

1. Furcal
2. Cedeno
3. Lee
4. Giles
5. Ramirez
6. Murton
7. Patterson/Pie
8. Barrett
9. Pitcher

Finally we come to what had been assumed would be their strength but has been their Achilles heel. The reason is simple. They are still paying for the way Dusty killed them in the 2003 postseason. The Cubs do though have their 1-2 pitchers locked up in Zambrano and Prior. That leaves three more slots to fill. The big question is when and in what condition will Wood return from another surgery. I would not count on him to start. I would plan for him to pitch in relief, that way if he does come back strong as a starter it’s bonus and not an expectation. Maddux hasn’t said if he’ll come back next year. I sure hope he doesn’t. He’s not even close to having his Hall of Fame stuff. I’m guessing he’ll have want come back, and the Cubs will be forced to keep him. The Cubs also have Jerome Williams who is only 23 and had a great string of 8 solidly pitched games at the end of the season. Any team would love to have him as a #4 or #5 pitcher. He could be a good #3, but the Cubs respect for Maddux will keep him at #4. So, the Cubs need a #5 pitcher. This may seem odd, but I say resign Rusch. He had a near 5 ERA but that’s from the Cubs using him in relief. He is not a relief pitcher. He’s not a great starter but he keeps you in games, and he’s left handed. As a #5 pitcher he’s decent and cheap. Now, if Maddux doesn’t want to come back, and again I pray he doesn’t, the Cubs will need to sign a free agent. I’m sure the Cubs will be tempted to go after A.J. Burnett, but I’m going to sign Milwood. Milwood didn’t have the wins, but he did have the lowest ERA in the AL. It also probably won’t take a long term contract to sign him. I know the Cubs don’t trust Rusch, so they will probably still sign a pitcher. I hope they still keep him though because he can pitch decent enough in long relief and as a spot starter. Finally, and it may seem odd to say this but I think the Cubs’ relief pitching will be fine. It wasn’t a great move to sign Dempster to a 3 yr. deal, but he’s been pretty good as a closer. If Wood has to pitch relief then that locks up our 8th and 9th inning. Ohman has been quite good as a the left hander specialist. Novoa has been good as well. That leaves the young kids like Wellemeyer, Van Buren, Hill, and Leicster to fight their way onto the squad.

My plan puts more emphasis on hitting, but the Cubs lacked contact and putting men on base for Lee and Ramirez. The Cubs will most likely sign an above average pitcher which will give them a great chance to win. Again, there will be high hopes for the Cubs next year. Which even if they fail is still a good thing. I still remember when that was a rare feeling for the Cubs’ fan. As for Dusty, the Cubs won’t fire him even though he still doesn’t know how to work a pitching staff, and can’t develop young players. I would like to see someone like Terry Pendelton, but I’m going to have to wait for that. Hopefully the Cubs will play beyond Dusty’s failings. I still have five months to dream though. Here’s to next season.

I'd finally like to apologize to Philly fans. Now you know the pain of watching Dusty stick with Maddux when five year olds know he should pinch hit for him. Again, all apologies.


MOL Junior said...

will they really be able to spend the $ on both giles and furcal?? i think giles will leave, but not furcal. i also would go with murton over cedeno in the 2 hole.

above anything else though, just pray that neifi is not on the squad next year so that dusty doesn't have the option of batting his .290 obp at the top of the lineup.

Bradford said...

The Cubs were still paying $16.5 million of Sosa's salary this year. With Burnitz gone and no part of a Sosa contract the Cubs will have around $20 mil in their ridiculously self imposed cap. Then if Maddux doesn't come back you can add around another $8 million to it. Even if the Cubs overpaid they could get both Furcal and Giles for $16 mil combined.

MOL Junior said...

i guess you must be thrilled with neifi's 2 year extension? get ready for MORE .280 obp at the top of the order!!!

Bradford said...

I was hesitant till I heard he called Furcal to try to get him to the Cubs. If he's willing to do that knowing it would put him on the bench then I'll take it. That's as long as Furcal actually comes to the Cubs, and Nefi doesn't start.