Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dollars and Sense?

The spin from the Trib recently is trying to brace the faithful that money needed to be spent for next years version of the Chicago National League Ball Club may not increase very much. No hard rational is being given for this approach, but it seems that the Trib is hoping the Cubs fans will buy into the fact that the 2008 Cubs won 97 games, and only some minor tweaking will be necessary to get them to the World Series.

Well I'm not buying it, are you?

If we breakdown the current roster we notice that without resigning Dempster, Wood, Howry and Lieber, the payroll due to backloaded contracts will increase from $104M in 2008 to $111M in 2009. Now the Cub's total 2008 payroll was $118M, which means that some $14M went to the other nuts and bolts on the team. If that ancillary $14M remains static in 2009, the payroll would sit at $125M without doing a thing to upgrade, or replace Dempster, Wood, Howry and Lieber.

Pretty grim facts for Cub fans when the bean counters feel they only need a moderate increase in payroll to tweak the team.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Well now that we have the top of the organization locked up for good or bad, how are the Tribune bean counters going to approach the budget? Changes are going to be made and to what extent an increase in budget is necessary, Hendry has to make his case that "whatever it takes" is the attitude the Tribune should have. The Tribune has deemed Hendry 'The Man," so to tie his hands with a limited payroll would be the ultimate slap in the face of every loyal Cub fan.

Here is a list of the contracts for 2008 and 2009 for the major players on the Cubs.

$15.000 2008
$17.750 2009

$14.000 2008
$15.650 2009

$13.000 2008
$16.000 2009

$13.000 2008
$13.000 2009

$7.000 2008
$12.000 2009

$6.000 2008
$11.500 2009

$5.500 2008

$6.375 2008
$9.875 2009

$4.750 2008
$5.500 2009

$4.500 2008
$7.000 2009

$4.500 2008

$4.000 2008

$3.500 2008

$2.800 2008
$3.000 2009

$103.925 2008
$111.275 2009

As you can see the back loaded contracts are increasing the payroll even without the resigning of three relief pitchers, Howry, Lieber and Wood, and the one starter, Dempster. Of course the ancillary contracts of the rest of the team will remain somewhat static and the main increase of the budget will come from Hendry's acquisitions through trades and free agency.

As I've noted in previous posts, even if next years pitching staff performed as well as last years, the Cubs have to deal with the lack of productive LHB's.

So here is your chance to play GM and tell us all what you would do. I'll post my thoughts later.

Monday, October 20, 2008

2008 World Series Matchup

Well here we are on the eve of the fall classic with the worst to first Tampa Bay Rays vs. every baseball fans favorite team, the Chicago Cubs. What an historic event, hey?

Of course the 2008 World Series does not have the Chicago Cubs representing the National League, it has the first franchise to 10,000 losses, the Philadelphia Phillies. A point that should not be lost on those few faithful left in Cubdom, that milestones of futility don't necessarily mean good things can't happen.

When you look at the series matchup you are however struck by some striking differences in how these teams are constructed opposed to the Cubs. There are a number of stats for sure on the face of it, that you could argue the Cubs compare quite favorably. However, on closer examination the raw numbers, BA, OBP, Runs Scored and ERA don't accurately show the true makeup of the teams.

Characteristics like balance, managerial decisions and that never give up attitude are hard to quantify but let me try.

First, when you see the Phillies in 5 games dispatch the Dodgers, who had just swept the Cubs, you have to ask yourself, WTF just happened?

Second, when you see the Red Sox down 3 to 1 come back from a 7 run deficit with just a handful of outs left in an elimination game, then almost win the damn series you have to ask yourself, WTF just happened?

Third, when you see the Rays bring in a rookie pitcher that had only one month of MLB experience into a bases loaded situation in a 2 run game in the 8th inning then, let him close out the game you have to ask yourself, WTF just happened?

When you take a closer look at the Cubs you can see how these intangibles while they do not alone take the place of talent, are key ingredients in a teams ability to advance against the elite teams vying for a championship.

First, the lack of balance in Cubs lineup really pokes you right in the eye when looking at the above mentioned teams. The Cubs lack of quality LHB's in their lineup made a good Dodger RHP staff all look like Cy Young.

Second, I think we all saw the value of defense throughout the playoffs and I can't think of one team that wasn't extremely strong up the middle.

Third, where was the fucking passion and grittiness of the Cubs? Outside of the helmet bashing, bat flinging of Lee in game 3, were the rest of these lames sleep walking or what?

Lastly, can you ever imagine Piniella relying on the rookie pitcher Price, in a do or die situation?

Still Hendry and Piniella are given extensions, WTF!

Friday, October 17, 2008


After witnessing the dominant RH pitching staff of the Dodgers getting pantsed by the Phillies, we must realize that one of the Cubs most glaring weaknesses is not having a balanced lineup.

The Cubs had five players that hit 20 or more HR's and all of them were right handed.

Soto is a young quality defensive catcher that doesn't cost anything so moving him makes no sense.

DeRosa's versatility defensively is invaluable and isn't much of a hit to the payroll either.

Soriano's contract makes it almost impossible for the Cubs to move him.

Ramirez plays a position that there aren't many in all of baseball that could come anywhere close to his production, not to mention the ones that do aren't free agents or a LHB.

That leaves Lee. If there ever was a position with the exception of LF where you could afford to not have a Gold Glover, it would be 1B. The Cubs have a young power hitting LHB in Hoffpauir that certainly does not compare favorably defensively to Lee, but playing 1B is still his natural position. Hoffpauir doesn't cost anything and Lee, even with his no trade clause could garner some significant talent in return if he granted a trade.

If Fukudome doesn't improve much and Edmonds retires, the Cubs will have a less balanced lineup than last year.

Fortunately free agents have no conscience and with money as their mantra, there are two that would greatly help balance the Cubs lineup.

1) R. Furcal is a switch hitting SS with great range, a cannon arm and is a legit lead off man.

2) M. Bradley has better power numbers than anyone presently on the Cubs roster and is the type of outspoken feisty leader I think the Cubs sorely need. I know he has a history of injuries but is a stud when healthy. For a frame of reference, JD Drew also had such a past, but it didn't stop the Red Sox from signing him and as this post season has proved, Drew can come through in the clutch.

A CF and RF consisting of Bradley, DeRosa, Johnson and Fukudome, could produce the flexibility needed for Piniella to mix and match his lineup effectively.

You could let Fontenot compete with Theriot for the 2B job and have a legit backup when the dust settles.

Unfortunately Pie is out of options, which further exacerbates the foolishness of the Fukudome signing. Great job scouting department. I'd be willing to give Pie a shot but Fukudome isn't going anywhere, and you'd be hard pressed to think Pie would put up numbers as productive as Bradley. If Bradley is signed, Pie and Cedeneo should be packaged to a small market team where hopefully the Cubs take a quality arbitration eligible player that the small market team could not or would not be willing to pay up for.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Is It Chess Or Checkers

I've always been of the belief that during the season, a team with a decent amount of talent wins without much difficulty approximately 4 out of every 10 games. On the flip side, that same team loses another 4 out of every 10. These games both on the win and lose side are essentially blowouts. It's the other 2 out of 10 games where the manager can have a profound affect on the teams success or lack of.

Some managers, just like players are better than others and when as much as 20% of your games hang in the balance, it's important as hell that we have a manager that can not only rally his troops but is strategically one step ahead of his opposition if possible.

Probably no other aspect of the game magnifies these strategic decisions more than late game pitcher changes. I have my own opinions of Piniella, but I'd like to encourage all of you to give your assessment if you think Piniella is playing chess or checkers when making his strategic decisions. After you've all had your say I'll post my thoughts.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Two Thru Nine

As we look over the Cubs starting position players we will first look at how each of them rate at their position, then later look at how they compliment each other from a team aspect.


It's hard to complain about a catcher that is above average defensively and has the power numbers of Soto, but to have a catcher like Soto that performs that way as a rookie is outstanding. Soto also handled the pitching staff like a veteran. He is young and it seems willing enough to accept instruction to fix some of the holes in his swing. Soto is a real keeper and it gives Cubs fans a sliver of hope that the organization can actually produce some position player talent.

First Base...Lee

Lee is a superior glove man and again put up good numbers offensively, but at a position like 1B where the league has an abundance of power hitters, Lee rates out little better than average. High strikeouts have always plagued Lee and although he still carries a high OBP, his power numbers have gone down. If we look realistically at Lee's career numbers we find that before his 2005 season, he batted in the 5 hole. Comparing Lee to elite first baseman that play solid defense and hit in the 3 hole as Lee presently does, ie; Berkman, Pujols and Howard, to name just a few, Lee's $13 million salary is hefty and since he has 2 years left on his contract with a no-trade clause, he may not be easy to move. Still, the organization should explore all interests in him and if unable to trade him, move him down in the lineup to no higher than the 5 hole.

Second Base...DeRosa

DeRosa is coming off one of his finest offensive years but only plays average defense at second base. His real value to the team, sorry to say this Mark, is as a super sub or a corner outfielder. The problem is the Cubs have a shitload of money tied up in left and right field. DeRosa could get some steady playing time in RF if Fukudome struggles this spring and is willing to go down to AAA and see if he can get his stroke straightened out. However, the prospects of a $12 million, 32 year old being able to change his approach at the plate or the organization being willing to dump him is highly unlikely. With the Cubs in short supply of LHB's, Fontenot's performance this year should stand him in good stead at next year's spring training to win the 2B job outright.

Third Base...Ramirez

Ramirez has steadily improved to a quality defensive third baseman. His power numbers and low strikeouts make him a dangerous middle of the order presence and he even hustles on the base paths now. Ramirez had about half of his HR's hit after the 7th inning this year, and while many Cub fans are on the rag about his and many of the other teams big bangers not producing in the playoffs, let me share this little bit of information. Ryan Howard is 2 for 19 with zero HR's, 1 RBI and 7 K's this postseason.


Theriot had an outstanding year offensively, but there may be no other SS in baseball with as little range as him. With almost 3/4 of his hits being singles and his propensity to take the ball to RF, he is an ideal hitter in the 2 hole. Still defensively Theriot is best suited for 2B, and if he were moved there, it would bring back the nightmares of past Cubs teams that had no SS and a half a dozen 2B. Rafeal Furcal is a free agent after this season. Furcal hits left handed, has loads of speed, is an accomplished lead off man, and is a superior glove man with a strong arm. The Cubs should make every attempt to sign him this off season.

Left Field...Soriano

Almost 200 post season AB's is not a small sample and Soriano's numbers are abysmal. He doesn't run like he used to and his total lack of plate discipline make him a nightmare in the lead off role. Once again we have a monstrously expensive back loaded contract with a no trade clause that would make it almost impossible to move him, not that any other GM would be interested in assuming that contract. The Cubs are going to live and die with Soriano for the next 6 years, and a more suitable spot down in the order is a must for the Cubs roster to be as productive as possible.

Center Field...Edmonds/Johnson

Theses two players that were picked up off the waiver wire provided about as much defense and offensive production as could be expected from most full time CF's. Still Edmonds probably will retire and it's time to see if Pie is a legit major leaguer. Pie will most likely platoon with Johnson and the defense will be solid, but there will be a drop off in the power numbers. If Pie can approach his plate appearances like Johnson and learn to steal bases, that's a big if I know, the team will do just fine. Otherwise it looks like a platoon of Fukudome and Johnson in CF and all I can say is YUK! How many pitchers do you think we need to trade for Josh Hamilton?

Right Field...Fukudome

Well Fukudome certainly is no Suzuki or Hideke Matsui. Not even a Iwamura or Kaz Mutsui. Still, Fukudome has 3 years at $12 million with a no trade clause left on his contract. K. Matsui also struggled when he first came over with the Mets and was booed out of town. After arriving in Colorado, he went down to the minors and resurrected his career. I don't know if Fukudome at 32 can do that, but if he can't the Cubs will have the most expensive defensive replacement in baseball. How many pitchers do you think we need to trade for Josh Hamilton? I know that's a redundant question but the Cubs sorely need a LH power bat.

In Summary...

The Cubs need a lead off man, more speed and LHB's in the lineup.

Furcal addresses all of these needs and the only thing it will cost the Cubs is money. Furcal should be priority number one.

The Cubs also need more power from the left side.

If Lee can be moved, there is another free agent on the market this off season, Mark Teixeira. Teixeira is a switch hitting monster first baseman and again would only cost the Cubs money.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bullpen Decisions

The Bullpen this year for the most part didn't sabotage many games and quite often was a strength. Still, middle relief started to raise some questions by years end.

Wood and Marmol, with the exception of some minor blips performed admirably. Wood is a free agent, and with the evaluation process of predicting a relief pitchers effectiveness from one year to the next pretty much a crap shoot, the Cubs would be well served to resign Wood.

Cotts being the only LHP in the pen will most assuredly be back and performed about as expected. Still Cotts is not would be described as a LH specialist and the Cubs could really use such a reliever. Fuentes of the Rockies and Marte of the Yankees are two excellent LHP candidates and either one would greatly help balance the bullpen.

Gaudin was performing well until his freak accident and should provide some quality middle relief innings.

Samardzija is raw but shows tremendous upside and should be able to land on spot on the 2009 roster.

Guzman, Hart and Wuertz should be battling for the final bullpen spot if a lefty isn't signed this off season. Howry's spotty performances in 2008 coupled with the fact he had a large contract and is now a free agent makes it hard to see how he's in the mix for next year.

The following is a list of the potential free agent relief pitchers...

Jeremy Affeldt CIN
Tony Armas Jr. PIT
Luis Ayala WAS
Joe Beimel LAD
Joe Borowski CLE
Juan Cruz ARZ
Brendan Donnelly BOS
Alan Embree * OAK
Scott Eyre CHC
Kyle Farnsworth DET
Casey Fossum DET
Brian Fuentes COL
Aaron Fultz CLE
Tom Gordon * PHI
LaTroy Hawkins HOU
Mark Hendrickson LAD
Trevor Hoffman SD
Bobby Howry CHC
Jason Isringhausen STL
Steve Kline SF
Brandon Lyon ARZ
Damaso Marte * NYY
Tom Martin COL
Julio Mateo PHI
Guillermo Mota MIL
Will Ohman CHC
Hideki Okajima * BOS
Darren Oliver LAA
John Parrish SEA
Chris Reitsma SEA
Dennys Reyes MIN
Juan Rincon CLE
Francisco Rodriguez LAA
Brian Shouse MIL
Rafael Soriano ATL
Jorge Sosa NYM
Mike Stanton * CIN
Salomon Torres * MIL
Derrick Turnbow MIL
Oscar Villarreal ATL
David Weathers CIN
Dan Wheeler TB
Dave Williams NYM
Matt Wise NYM
Jay Witasick TB
Kerry Wood CHC

Once again I'd like your thoughts and we'll discuss the potential starting position players next.

Update On The Rotation

Well it seems Harden doesn't need shoulder surgery and the Cubs have exercised their 2009 option for Harden for $7 million. I still think we need to make a strong push for CC Sabathia, especially if we don't resign Dempster and trade Marquis. Trading Marquis with only one year left on his contract and coming off one of his best seasons seems like a no brainer, especially with Marshall ready to move into his slot in the rotation.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What Happens To The Starting Rotation?

The 2008 Chicago Cubs starting rotation was at or near the top of the league all year long. If there is one area of the Cubs that needs the least tinkering. Dempster is a free agent, Harden has an option the Cubs could pick up, Marquis is in his walk year and Zambrano and Lilly seem to be no brainers.

Although Dempster seemed to have crumbled in the bright spotlight of the postseason, his value this year was undeniable. Much will depend on what the terms are of resigning him. If other options are available the Cubs need to look at them, but barring any outrageous hard line negotiations, I think he deserves to be resigned and will be a valuable asset to the team.

Harden has ace like stuff but his durability has to be a concern. I can't see how his option can be picked up when the Cubs can and should make a run at Sabathia. As valuable as Harden can be, do we really want to be holding our breath when his next start will be?

Marquis may have been more effective than any other fifth starter in baseball, but if trading him can improve the team elsewhere, Marshall seems more than ready to fill that role.

The following is a list of the potential free agent starting pitchers available this off season...

Kris Benson PHI
A.J. Burnett TOR (may opt out)
Paul Byrd BOS
Ryan Dempster CHC
Jon Garland LAA
Tom Glavine ATL
Mike Hampton * ATL
Rich Harden * CHC
Orlando Hernandez NYM
Jason Jennings TEX
Randy Johnson ARZ
John Lackey * LAA
Esteban Loaiza CHW
Braden Looper STL
Derek Lowe LAD
Pedro Martinez NYM
Mike Mussina NYY
Jamie Moyer PHI
Mark Mulder * STL
Carl Pavano NYY
Brad Penny * LAD
Odalis Perez WAS
Oliver Perez NYM
Andy Pettitte NYY
Mark Prior SD
Horacio Ramirez CHW
C.C. Sabathia MIL
Ben Sheets MIL
John Smoltz * ATL
Julian Tavarez ATL
Steve Trachsel BAL
Brett Tomko SD
Claudio Vargas MIL
Randy Wolf HOU

So share your thoughts folks and we will discuss the bullpen next.


There are some broad guidelines a GM would use when constructing a team that can advance deep into the playoffs. Of course input from his scouting department and field manager are important but the GM should understand what makes for a quality playoff contender.

Good players are simply not enough. Most playoff teams have plenty of talent or they wouldn't be a playoff team in the first place. The eventual champion usually doesn't have a major deficiency ie; power, speed, bench, rotation or bullpen, and their manager and coaching staff have instilled a team philosophy that promotes heads up play that the players buy into.

When assessing the 2008 Chicago Cubs, it was fair to say that they didn't have a major deficiency. But the lineup wasn't balanced and the manager didn't have a game plan. Hitters were undisciplined and the pressure of the moment seemed to affect key personnel, including the manager.

Much of these shortcomings were a result of not having a game plan and team philosophy. If these little things that have nothing to do with talent were stressed during the season, players incapable or unwilling to adhere to the game plan could be replaced. The team then would be better able to handle the postseason pressure knowing if they were off their game, another teammate is more than capable of stepping in and doing the job.

It's that team philosophy and belief in the manager's game plan that inspires the confidence our 2008 Chicago Cubs seemed to lack.

Posts in the future will address the team's coaching staff, pitching and position players. So I encourage all of you to start formulating your own opinions and telling me where you agree or disagree.

Monday, October 6, 2008


Due to work related issues, I took leave from this site to contribute occasionally on John Dooley's GOPN site. But since the wild ride of 2008 has come crashing down with a thud for our beloved men in blue, I thought I'd recommit to posting regularly here on Lollygaggers.

Something is wrong with our Cubs and we all need to vent our opinions and offer suggestions to the new fearless leader who buys them.

So have at it folks and I'll follow up with my observations right after they release me from the mental ward.