Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Small Changes

Much has been made of two consecutive postseason sweeps of the Cubs with players, manager and fans, scratching their heads how a team on a roll entering the 2007 post season, and a team that won 97 games entering the 2008 post season could fail so miserably.

If we look at the pitching staff while not lights out, it's hard to say other than Dempster's walk-a-thon in the first game against the Dodgers, had very little to do with the Cubs losing the series. It can be argued that Piniella's game one decisions in 2007 and 2008 certainly didn't help the Cubs to victory, but the impotence of a season long productive offense, especially in 2008 was the big culprit.

It's not hard to understand that many players don't perform up to their regular season numbers during the post season as they are usually facing quality rotations where the 5th. and quite possibly the 4th. starter never start a game.

It doesn't discount the fine offensive season most of the Cubs had but it does shed some light on the fact that against quality pitching, many of the Cubs didn't perform as expected.

The point of this article is to see why, and explore some options that might help many of these same players be more productive.

First, there are very few playoff teams I can think of that start their lineup with a free swinging power hitter, even if he has speed. Sure there have been a few Ricky Henderson types, but anyone that isn't living under a rock understands that Alfonso Soriano isn't a Ricky Henderson.

The big boondoggle that has been perpetrated here is that Soriano is a leadoff man because he has so much experience hitting leadoff. Well if Soriano has all that experience, how come he isn't any fucking better at it?

Leadoff hitters work the count, not because they can't hit and are hoping to get a walk, but precisely the opposite. These are the most patient hitters on the team and they have the ability to spoil pitch after pitch until the pitcher makes a mistake or walks them. Building up those pitch counts for the opposing pitcher is the other important responsibility of a leadoff man and Soriano just fails at it miserably.

Of course Soriano has speed and when coupled with his power, it is the narcotic that clouds the minds of otherwise sane managers into thinking he can be a leadoff man, especially when the team doesn't have a proven option to replace him with.

Soriano has to move out of the leadoff spot. You just can't have an undisciplined whiff machine, getting more AB's than anyone else come the post season.

Second, it has been long acknowledged that a teams most productive hitter bats third in the lineup. You know the type, good average, low strikeouts, and good power with a knack to drive in runs. Do the Cubs have such a player? The closest player they have is Aramis Ramirez.

Derrick Lee has been the number three hitter since 2005 and while he still has a good BA and OBP, his power numbers have been declining and he still whiffs way to often. However if Lee hit in the 5 hole, he could provide protection for an undisciplined hitter like Soriano, hitting immediately behind him. If Soriano were to get on base, the patient Lee would allow Soriano to still run and possibly cut down on the 27 double plays Lee hit into last season.

This revised middle of the order would prove to be more effective with Soriano's power sandwiched between two of the more disciplined power hitters on the team and still afford Soriano plenty of AB's and opportunities to still steal a base.

Third, now that Soriano is out of the leadoff spot we need a replacement. As I mentioned earlier, you need a disciplined hitter to fill that role and for that matter the 2 hole as well. Ryan Theriot demonstrated last year that he can perform well for a whole season and actually had some experience, albeit with mixed results as a leadoff man. If Theriot was told from the jump that the leadoff role was his to lose, I think he could perform well there.

Many of the runs scored last year came as a result of having the high on base hitter Theriot, on base in front of the big bangers. If Theriot is inserted in the leadoff spot, the Cubs will need to replace him with an equally proficient on base machine in the 2 hole.

The righty/lefty tandem of Mark DeRosa and Mike Fontenot, would be the best suited to address the need for another disciplined hitter in that crucial 2 hole in the order. Both have shown discipline at the plate and of course that is the key ingredient of hitters at the top of the order.

Fourth, even without securing a power left handed bat, which I still hope is possible, I can't imagine Fukudome performing worse than he did the last half of 2008. If no acquisition is made, certainly Pie and possibly Hoffpauir, depending on how Fukudome is performing will see more time in the outfield. Of course the platooning of Reed Johnson in the outfield and DeRosa just about everywhere, will help the Cubs against the tough left handed pitchers.

This Cubs lineup is quite formidable and I haven't even mentioned our Rookie of the Year catcher Geovany Soto. He's a stud and will play most every game.

Hopefully a quality left handed bat for the middle of the order can be acquired before we enter next season but if not, the small adjustments mentioned above could get more consistent production out of the lineup against the top pitchers in the league.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Money, Money, Money, Monnnnney, MONEY!

It seems the Cubs quest so far to improve the team for next year is to make the bullpen weaker, resign a 31 year old starter for 4 years and $52M coming off a career year and Mark The Fuck Teahan?

Those of you willing to buy into this, we haven't sold the team yet and the economy is bad bullshit, are just as full of it as Hendry is trying to make us swallow this jerkshake of an explanation.

Do you really think that the Trib couldn't afford another $30M in expanded payroll for the one commodity that will bring them any significant return? Bullshit!

What I can't believe is how readily the papers, blogs and fans are buying into this nonsense.

Just ask yourself this, didn't the Cubs franchise turn a profit last year and maybe a bigger profit than ever before? Of course they did on both counts and crying poor mouth regardless of the countries economic conditions is just absurd. Even if Zell took the lowest bid to buy the Cubs, which is a deal that could be consummated immediately, he would still realize a tremendous profit.

So wake up folks and let your voices be heard. Payroll was recently expanded because Zell thought it would increase the value of the Cubs and maximize his fleecing of the next owner. Just because it's a buyers market, doesn't mean it's in Zell's best interests to not improve the team.

This is the problem that corporate ownership brings to a sporting franchise. It also is why a man like Cuban, even if squeaky clean would never be voted in as a MLB owner. The last thing MLB wants is another owner like Stienbrenner, who is hell bent on fielding a winner at any cost.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Budget Pressure

The big question for all Cub fans is how can the team be more productive in the playoffs? We've seen with horror how a fine 2008 regular season came crashing down in the playoffs, but can we excuse this outcome with the alibi that a short best of five playoff series is really a crap shoot?

While I believe that the short series format is absurd when MLB has extra days off built into the playoffs, but that's another issue for another time. The truth of the matter is that there is some validity to the belief that a team enjoying success throughout the regular season can still be only slightly better than 50/50 come playoff time.

If we breakdown the major aspects of any successful team we know it all starts with pitching, but the defense and offense can't be afterthoughts. Now there is no doubt that the Cubs where leaders or in the top echelon of MLB in all three of these categories during the 2008 season. So does the crap shoot theory in the playoffs explain the Cubs exit? Not hardly and here is why.

Yes it's is true that anything can happen in a short series and with that caveat, the better team isn't guaranteed to come out victorious. But let me ask you this. Did it look like the Cubs were even in the same league as the Dodgers? We know that the numbers said that the series should have at least been competitive, if not favor the Cubs outright. So WTF happened? Let's look at the following...


A definite strength of the Cubs, but who could have expected that Dempster would shit in his pants on the big stage? The Cubs down 0-1 at home placed even more pressure than the short series already has on any team and certainly contributed to the tight play of it's players in game two.


We've all heard that you build your teams defense up the middle first, and while the Cubs were above average statistically, anyone with eyes to see understand the range and ability of our middle infielders was sub par.


Once again, the Cubs led most offensive categories, even the one least likely OBP. OBP had been a major Achilles heel for the usually free swinging Cubs, but during the regular season the Cubs made great strides in addressing this issue. So what happened in the playoffs?

When you look a hitters numbers over the course of a season you have to understand that much of their success comes from facing the weak sisters of baseball and that even when you play a potential playoff contender, quite frequently your team can often miss that teams number one starter.

When the playoffs role around, there are no weak sisters to play and your team will most certainly face the other staffs ace at least once if not twice. This can explain how a teams regular seasons offensive numbers can quite often be misleading. Superior pitching does in fact negate many teams hitters and that's why a balanced lineup can play such a key role in victory.

There just isn't much room for error with most playoff teams having superior rotations. So the teams that demonstrate the most patience at the plate and pay error free defense usually succeed. Looking back at a Cubs lineup that featured their least disciplined batter getting more AB's than most anyone else, you can see how that shoots to shit the idea of plate discipline and making the opponent's pitcher pile up his pitch count.

Soriano is like many successful hitters that fail miserably in the playoffs. He accumulates most of his good numbers during the regular season by beating up the back end of most opponent's rotations. When you consider the short supply of quality starting pitchers in the league, it's not hard to imagine how many above average hitters put up some pretty good numbers over the course of the season.

Did Soriano alone scuttle the Cubs offense this post season? Of course not. In any playoffs series, especially a short one when there is such a premium on every win and especially the first game, Piniella's decision to replace the highest BA and OBP hitter on the team Theriot, in the two hole with the worst hitter on the team Fukudome, really set the stage for the Cubs offense to fail. Not much chance for small ball with those two at the top of the order. This decision I suspect didn't go unnoticed by the rest of the lineup and once they fell behind in game one, it's understandable although not acceptable, that the team looked lost offensively.

The batting order on most teams places a premium on having their best OBP hitters at the top of their order, and with good reason. The Cubs lack of a true lead off man may not make the difference during the course of a long season, but in the playoffs when every base runner is at a premium, it is an absolute must that the top of the order have the hitters than can get on base by every means possible and work the count.

When considering the direction that Hendry has followed this off season so far, we only hope he understands the need to address the teams need for a quality, proven lead off hitter. More balance is also needed in a lineup that can fall victim to a predominant right handed pitching rotation. Hendry just can't secure any LHB to hit in the middle of the order, he has to acquire a quality run producer.

These two offensive weaknesses mightily contributed to the short circuit of the Cubs offense in the postseason. We can only hope Hendry has enough payroll left to address the Cubs biggest reason for their recent playoff failure. If not, committing the dollars to resign Dempster will have been for naught.

The way the rotation is set, there has been no significant upgrade and the bullpen may even be weaker. If the quality additions mentioned are not made to the offense, a likely repeat of last years playoffs is more likely than not.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Demp Gets His Due

Ryan Dempster is reportedly being resigned to the tune of 4 years at $54M. Now the question swings to if the Cubs could have spent that money more wisely.

Although Dempster may well not achieve a season like last year, there is every indication that he will perform as well as many the Cubs could have signed as free agents.

Here is a list of this years possible free agent pitchers...

Kris Benson rhp
1 year (2008)
released by Philadelphia 8/30/08
agent: Gregg Clifton
ML service: 8.000 (through 2006)

A.J. Burnett rhp
5 years/$55M (2006-10)
signed as a free agent 12/05
$6M signing bonus
06:$1M, 07:$12M, 08:$12M, 09:$12M, 10:$12M
Burnett may opt out of the contract after 2008
agent: Darek Braunecker & Mark Rodgers
ML service: 8.038

Paul Byrd rhp
2 years/$14.25M (2006-07), plus 2008 club option
2 years/$14.25M (2006-07), plus 2008 club option
signed as a free agent 12/05
06:$7M, 07:$7M, 08:$7.5M club option ($0.25M buyout)
2008 option may increase to $11M, with $1M buyout
agent: Bo McKinnis
ML service: 11.072

Shawn Chacon rhp
1 year/$2M (2008)
placed on release waivers by Houston 6/26/08, released 6/30/08
agent: Dan Horwits
ML service: 6.140

Matt Clement rhp
1 year/$1.5M (2008), plus 2009 club option
released by St. Louis 8/2/08
agent: Barry Axelrod
ML service: 9.024

Bartolo Colon rhp
1 year (2008)
signed by Boston as a free agent 2/25/08 (minor-league contract)
$1.25M on Major League roster ($18,000/month in minors)
deal includes up to $5.75M in roster, performance bonuses
contract purchased 5/21/08
placed on suspended list 9/19/08
placed on restricted list 9/25/08
agent: Mitch Frankel
ML service: 10.112

Shawn Estes lhp
1 year/$0.55M (2008)
free agent 10/5/08 after refusing outright assignment by San Diego
agent: Dave Meier
ML service: 10.101

Josh Fogg rhp
1 year/$1M (2008)
agent: Dan Horwits
ML service: 6.030

Freddy Garcia rhp
2008 contract purchased by Detroit 9/17/08
signed as a free agent 8/12/08 (minor-league contract)
agent: Peter Greenberg
ML service: 9.000

Jon Garland rhp
3 years/$29M (2006-08)
agent: Craig Landis
ML service: 7.071

Tom Glavine lhp
1 year/$8M (2008)
signed as a free agent 11/19/07
perks: suite on road
agent: Gregg Clifton
ML service: 20.052

Mike Hampton lhp
8 years/$121M (2001-08), plus 2009 club option
$20M signing bonus ($1M to charity, $19M deferred to 2009-18 at 3% interest)
01:$8M, 02:$8.5M, 03:$11M, 04:$12M, 05:$12.5M, 06:$13.5M, 07:$14.5M, 08:$15M, 09:$20M club option ($6M buyout)
agent: Mark Rodgers
ML service: 14.073

Mark Hendrickson lhp
1 year/$1.5M (2008)
ML service: 5.056

Livan Hernandez rhp
1 year/$5M (2008)
agent: Greg Genske
ML service: 11.097

Orlando Hernandez rhp
2 years/$12M (2007-08)
$1M signing bonus
07:$4.5M, 08:$6.5M
agent: Greg Genske
ML service: 9.117

Jason Jennings rhp
1 year/$4M (2008)
agent: Casey Close
ML service: 6.039

Randy Johnson lhp
2 years/$26M (2007-08)
agents: Alan Nero & Barry Meister
ML service: 19.020

Byung-Hyun Kim rhp
1 year/$0.85M (2008)
released by Pittsburgh 3/26/08 ($0.3M buyout)
agent: Scott Boras
ML service: 8.009

Jon Lieber rhp
1 year/$3.5M (2008)
agent: Rex Gary
ML service: 13.077

Esteban Loaiza rhp
3 years/$21.375M (2006-08), plus $7.5M 2009 club option
released by Chicago White Sox 7/25/08
agent: John Boggs
ML service: 12.052

Braden Looper rhp
3 years/$13.5M (2006-08)
signed as a free agent 12/05
06:$3.5M, 07:$4.5M, 08:$5.5M
$1M annually in performance bonuses (GF & other categories)
agent: Hendricks Sports
ML service: 9.012

Derek Lowe rhp
4 years/$36M (2005-08)
signed as a free agent 1/05
05:$7.5M, 06:$9M, 07:$9.5M, 08:$10M
agent: Scott Boras
ML service: 10.100

Greg Maddux rhp
1 year/$10M (2008)
acquired by LA Dodgers in trade from San Diego 8/19/08
agent: Scott Boras
drafted 1984 (2-31)
ML service: 21.021

Pedro Martinez rhp
4 years/$53M (2005-08)
$3.5M signing bonus (paid 05-08)
05:$10M, 06:$14M, 07:$14M, 08:$11M
$10M of 06-08 salaries deferred at 5% interest
agent: Fern Cuza, SFX
ML service: 15.026

Mark Mulder lhp
2 years/$13M (2007-08), plus 2009 club option
re-signed as a free agent 1/07
07:$5M, 08:$6.5M, 09:$11M club option ($1.5M buyout)
agent: Gregg Clifton
ML service: 7.167

Mike Mussina rhp
2 years/$23M (2007-08)
agent: Arn Tellum
ML service: 16.066

Russ Ortiz rhp
1 year/$0.38M (2007)
agent: John Boggs
ML service: 9.125

John Patterson rhp
1 year/$0.85M (2008)
released by Washington 3/20/08
agent: Casey Close
ML service: 4.126

Carl Pavano rhp
4 years/$39.95M (2005-08), plus 2009 club option
signed as a free agent 12/04
05:$9M, 06:$8M, 07:$10M, 08:$11M, 09:$13M club option
($1.95M buyout)
agent: Gregg Clifton
ML service: 9.161

Brad Penny rhp
3 years/$25.5M (2006-08), plus 2009 club option
signed extension 6/05
$3M signing bonus (paid 2006-08)
06:$4.5M, 07:$7.5M, 08:$8.5M, 09:$8.75M club option ($2M buyout)
agent: Greg Genske, Brian Peters
ML service: 8.000

Odalis Perez lhp
1 year/$0.85M (2008)
agent: Pat Rooney
ML service: 9.027

Oliver Perez lhp
1 year (2008)
won in arbitration 2/22/08 ($6.5M)
agent: Mike Fischlin, Scott Boras Corp.
ML service: 5.034

Andy Pettitte lhp
1 year/$16M (2008)
agents: Hendricks brothers
ML service: 13.000

Sidney Ponson rhp
1 year (2008)
contract purchased 6/27/08
signed as a free agent 6/18/08 (minor-league contract)
agent: Barry Praver
ML service: 8.167

Mark Prior rhp
1 year/$1M (2008)
signed as a free agent 12/26/07
$4.5M in performance bonuses
agent: John Boggs
ML service: 5.131

C.C. Sabathia lhp
2 years/$17.75M (2007-08)
acquired in trade from Cleveland 7/7/08
signed extension 4/05 (Cleveland picked up 2006 option at same time)
07:$8.75M, 08:$9M
may earn $7.75M in award & performance bonuses:
up to $2M in 2006, $3M in 2007, $2.75M in 2008
award bonuses for top 5 finish in MVP vote or top 2 finish in Cy Young vote ($0.25M for 2007 Cy Young)
2007 Cy Young increases 2008 salary to $11M
$0.1M award bonus for All Star selection
agent: Scott Parker, Brian Peters, Legacy Sports
drafted 1998 (1-20)
ML service: 7.000

Curt Schilling rhp
1 year/$8M (2008)
agent: Ed Hayes
ML service: 17.134

Ben Sheets rhp
4 years/$38.5M (2005-08)
$4.5M signing bonus (paid in 3 installments, from 4/05 to 10/06)
05:$4.5M, 06:$8.5M, 07:$10M, 08:$11M
full no-trade clause 2005-07
limited no-trade clause for 2008 (may be traded to only 8 clubs)
agent: Casey Close
ML service: 7.000

John Smoltz rhp
1 year/$14M (2008), plus 2009 & 2010 options
signed extension with Atlanta 4/07
08:$14M, 09:$12M option, 10: club option
2009 option guaranteed with 200 IP in 2008
2010 option: $13M (200 IP in '09) or $12M (less than 200 IP in '09)
agent: Lonnie Cooper, Career Sports & Entertainment
ML service: 19.072

Steve Trachsel rhp
1 year/$1.5M (2008)
DFA by Baltimore 6/10/08, released 6/13/08
contract purchased 3/27/08
signed as a free agent 2/11/08 (minor-league contract)
1 year/$3.1M (2007), plus 2008 club option
signed as a free agent 2/07
07:$3M, 08:$4.75M club option ($0.1M buyout)
performance bonuses: $0.25M annually
agents: Levinson brothers
ML service: 14.017

Kip Wells rhp
1 year/$3.1M (2008)
signed by Colorado as a free agent 12/13/07
$1.5M in performance bonuses
signed by Kansas City as a free agent 8/19/08 after being DFA 8/10/08 (KC pays pro-rated portion of $0.39M ML minimum, with Colorado responsible for balance of Wells' $3.1M salary) released by Kansas City 10/24/08
agent: Hendricks Sports
ML service: 7.116

Randy Wolf lhp
1 year/$4.75M (2008)
acquired in trade from San Diego 7/22/08
agent: Arn Tellum
ML service: 8.115

Jamey Wright rhp
1 year/$1M (2008)
agent: Casey Close
ML service: 9.110

When you consider acquiring a free agent as fickle as a starting pitcher, I think Hendry decided to go with whom he knew. As you can see from this list, many of the pitchers are not in the same league as Dempster, many that are or have a more dazzling resume are on the wrong side of their career, and the few that do compare in age and salary range just didn't many any sense for Hendry to go a different direction unless of course Dempster would have forced the issue by trying to get every dollar possible.

Yeah there are some studs out there. The big one being CC Sabathia, will be asking for the moon, Derek Lowe is 36 and wants the same number of years Dempster took and AJ Burnett and Ben Sheets while talented, will not come much cheaper if at all and pose a health risk that make Kerry Wood look like a sure bet to stay off the disabled list.

The only other course of action for Hendry to take would have been to gamble on a youngster from the organization. Of course this is not Hendry's MO, especially when the team has to perform in the next year or two. Actually I would have prefered to trade Marquis and go with Marshall, but Marquis is due $9.5M. Unless the Yankees swing and miss on the 2 or 3 big starters left, what team would trade for him and absorb Marquis's salary?

The main problem with the Cubs having a rotation with over $50M committed, there isn't much payroll left to acquire the quality leadoff man and power hitting RF unless the budget is expanded. Even with a slightly increased budget, Hendry would still have to be creative with a trade to address the Cubs biggest postseason weakness, a balanced offense. More on that later.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

End of an Era...

KERRY WOOD is gone. You'll pardon the caps on WOOD'S name, but some one has to show KID K some fucking respect.

Is WOOD'S departure understandable? The conventional wisdom being spouted out by an organization that has been less than forthright with it's fans certainly would seem so. You know the company line, "it's a poor economy and budget constraints from the uncertain sale of the team, blah, blah, blah, blah blah." All this is true as far as it goes but what this reasoning doesn't address, is the piss poor manner in which this team was assembled with excessive, multi-year, back loaded contracts.

The shame of it all is that WOOD, went through hell to morph himself into a viable asset to this team and now is out the door.

Do I want what's best for the team as a whole? Of course I do. But when you look back at some of the knucklehead long term, expensive contracts for players of significantly less value, you wonder why at this time Hendry cries poor mouth over the only player that has gone through hell and back for the team and city he loves.

Of course this move is par for the course from an organization that holds back season tickets so their own ticket scalping firm, Prime Tickets, can stick it to their own fans.

WOOD exemplifies everything Hendry and the Cubs organization isn't, CLASSY!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


It's unrealistic to expect much movement this early into the offseason, but the Padres desire to trade Peavy as soon as possible is certainly feeding the rumor mills in the cities of Atlanta, San Diego and Chicago.

One question that most of us here in Chicago have to concern ourselves with is, other than the Padre's intent to slash payroll, why the rush?

The Cubs must be very careful and leave no stone unturned to determine if Peavy is completely healthy. It's not as if Peavy hasn't had a couple of episodes on the DL with both his shoulder and elbow.

The Cubs already are relying on Harden, who most likely will need to have at least some accommodations made in his rest between starts to keep him healthy. If their is any question about Peavy's health, is it wise for the Cubs to pursue him?

There is no doubt if Peavy is healthy, he is a certifiable ace. Still, health issues aside, Peavy's Home and Away splits are not so great. Petco Park is definitely no Wrigley Field and if his present away numbers become the Cubs home numbers, Peavy certainly is no bargain at sixty-some million.

It's not like the Cubs don't have other options and the full court press by the Padres to move him ASAP, should give cause for concern.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Off Season Musings

I'd like to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of what players the Cubs already have, to determine if they have reasonable alternatives to some of their present starters. If they do, we could possibly achieve a better balanced lineup while freeing up money for a Free Agent or two.

The 2008 starting rotation was a strength last year but we have R. Dempster filing for Free Agency. He most certainly deserves a big, long term payday, but is resigning him in the best interests of the team?

There is no doubt his numbers were awfully good last year, 17-6, 2.96 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, .227 BA and 200 + innings. With that said let me ask you this question. Did anyone think Dempster's line would look anything like that? I know I didn't, and this is the problem with signing a player at 31, who is coming off a career year.

We also have to consider Dempster's own admission that the significance of the playoff moment made it a problem for him to stay focused. A pitcher's biggest asset is his ability to out think his opponent, regardless of the stuff he has on any given day. Therefore if he is rattled, he loses one of his most important weapons. Dempster's Free Agent status makes resigning him an expensive risk that needs to be seriously questioned.

If the Cubs don't resign Dempster, could S. Marshall have a similar breakout season? It's a tall order I know but at least Marshall demonstrated that the pressure of the moment in last year's playoffs didn't faze him. Marshall also has been ready to assume a starter's role with the Cubs, but has had big money contracts in the rotation blocking him.

IMHO, replacing Dempster with a LHSP like Marshall who costs nothing, is no more of a risk than last year's gamble that Dempster would work out. With the difference in salary and commitment between the two of them, it's a no brainer for the Cubs to give Marshall the opportunity he has earned.

I know everyone has an idea concerning J. Marquis's value to the Cubs, but at $9.5M for 2009, I just can't see who would take him in a trade without the Cubs eating at least half of his salary. Marquis may not be worth what the Cubs are paying him, but when you consider eating over $4M if they trade him, his real cost is cut in half. At that cost, the Cubs could certainly do worse for a #5 starter.

No matter what course of action the Cubs take on the rotation, the bullpen was also was one of last year's team strengths, and it too has an expensive Free Agent in K. Wood to consider resigning. Wood like Dempster, deserves a big multi-year contract and again we have to ask ourselves, if it's in the best interests of the Cubs to resign him.

If the Cubs have any strength in their organization it is pitching. With Marmol chomping at the bit, it wouldn't be a stretch to see him as effective as Wood in the closer's role at a fraction of the cost.

There are other holes in the bullpen if Howry and Lieber are not resigned, but I doubt anyone would shed a tear to see either of these past their prime pitchers leave. Gaudin should be healthy, Guzman looked good after his September call up and Samardzija should only be more effective after him getting his feet wet this season. The bullpen is short of lefties and although Cotts is serviceable, he is not the typical shut down LHRP the Cubs need. There are Free Agent LHRP's available in Feuntes and Marte, that could fill that role and I can't believe they would cost the Cubs anywhere near the money that a commitment to Wood will.

If these moves in the rotation and bullpen are made, the Cubs could save some $15M to 20M in payroll and have more flexibility to address balancing the lineup with a legitimate lead off man and more productive LHB's.