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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.