Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hot Stove Rumors a Flyin'

No, she can't hit or catch but she can sure shake things up.

Still, when Marquis, Vizcaino, Bradley, Miles, DeRosa, Peavy, Marshall and prospects all hit the press in the span of 24 hours, it still deserves at least a Wow! Just when everybody was in their break between post Christmas and pre New Year naps, all hell breaks loose. Of course we all know the problem of getting hyped up over rumors, but it has been such a dull and slow off season, unless you're from the Bronx, that this is a pretty eventful newsday for the Cubs. So let's try and sort the rants from reality.

There has been no mystery of the Cubs intention to show Marquis the door and the recent rumblings seem to point to a legitimate trade with the Rockies for RHRP L Vizcaino. From what we hear, the Cubs will clear around $5M of salary to pursue other free agents.

There also seems to be no mystery on the Cubs pursuit of M. Bradley and reports seem to think a deal will be done in a week or so. Of course I'm mush more skeptical of these reports than the Marquis deal but the movement of Marquis can only help with acquiring the best free agent position player available for the Cubs.

Now for some fact, A. Miles seems to have reached a two year deal with the Cubs. No numbers have been released apart from that but he is a versatile career backup that might be needed if the following rumor is in fact true...

...the Peavy talks on back on. During the winter meetings when the Peavy trade was front and center, DeRosa was mentioned in a possible trade in order for the Cubs to sweeten the pot with prospects for the Padres. This is probably the impetus behind the Miles signing.

If a Peavy trade is possible, DeRosa will likely be moved as I'm sure Marshall will as well. I only hope Hnedry holds fast on his reluctance to include Vitters in any such trade package for Peavy.

That's it for now, but as always feel free to opine with your take on the recent rumblings.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

In and Out?

Well we know now that Gathright is in, does this mean Pie is out?

I'm as sad as anyone to see Pie not turn out, but he was never developed right from the jump. Gathright does the little things that make the most of his abilities, like 15 bunt hits last year in 279AB's. Pie never took that approach and we can only wonder if it was his resistance to learning or the organizations incompetence of developing those skills.

I believe the latter, only because Pie isn't the first speed guy to come up through the organization who failed to deliver on all the promise that was projected. Patterson was the other example of a young speed guy that had surprising pop in his bat that only digressed when coming to the majors. Pie like Patterson, were both blessed with many tools but the organization never got them to develop them to best make use of them.

Now I'm not saying that all prospects that are blessed with abilities like Patterson and Pie are surefire major league studs, but it seems that with the Cubs long history of bringing so few position players of any value to the majors, that there is something fundamentally wrong down on the farm.

Anyway, if Pie is actually gone, I wish him and his package, ouch, nothing but the best.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Winter Meeting Observations

With the Peavy soap opera behind us at least for now, a few things that were not quite so apparent have come into more focus now.

First, there was the misinformation being disseminated from the Tribsters that with the uncertainty of the economy and sale of the Cubs, there may not be much money to improve the club. We have now come to know, that while the Cubs won't spend like 2006, there seems to be plenty of cash to address many of the Cubs needs.

Second, Hendry seems to be willing to wheel and deal but only from a position of strength, and that is never a bad approach. I have often bashed Hendry's approach in haphazardly throwing around dollars and length of contracts with little foresight to see how those decisions might hamper his ability to maneuver effectively in the future. He has seemed to learn his lesson here, at least with respects to Peavy and I must give him his due on this one.

It seems now Hendry can devote his full attention to his preliminary discussions to land Milton Bradley. Out of the remaining free agent LH outfield free agents, Bradley is if not the best, is at least in the top two offensively. Bradley is also the youngest, not turning 31 until April of 2009 and the best defensively. Bradley came up as a CF'er and has played all outfield positions. This will give Piniella a tremendous flexibility in the field and with Bradley being a switch hitter, the tough righty or lefty matchups with opposing pitchers will be a non-issue.

Next it would seem through the failed Peavy negotiations, that as many as 8 or 10 teams would be interested in DeRosa. There is no doubt that Derosa's flexibility is a plus for any organization and if the Cubs can move him to free up a spot for a legit lead off man, DeRosa's value will never be higher coming off of a career year. If DeRosa numbers don't fall off the planet in '09, he will probably price himself out of the Cubs lineup when his contract expires at the end of next year anyway.

Hopefully Hendry will explore what he can garner for DeRosa, and a possible target in need of some power out of 3B like the Angels, may be willing to go for DeRosa, allowing them to let Figgins walk instead of offering the free agent a new deal. Figgins brings much of the same flexibilty as DeRosa does to play all over the field and is better than DeRosa defensively. What Hendry would give up in power with DeRosa, Figgins would give the Cubs in more speed, athleticism and a proven lead off hitter.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bang for the Buck!

It seems that economic conditions have given tremendous cover for Hendry and the Cubs to go on the cheap for improving the ball club for 2009.

Without discussing the validity of this spin we can assume that if the offense is significantly upgraded, Hendry won't be able to address both the need for a legitimate leadoff man and a left handed power hitting outfielder. That begs the question, if the Cubs can go after only one, which should it be?

Well there are two camps here, so let's do a little plus/minus with the present roster and see what conclusions we can come up with.

Realistically looking at the Cubs big free agent acquisition of last year, the best we can hope for is a modest improvement. This of course still doesn't make Fukudome worth the money, but if can cut down on the strikeouts and put the ball in play more often, it might make the expense a little easier to swallow. Fukudome is still a plus defensively and brings another LHB to the lineup. He should start next season as the everyday RF'er and if he doesn't improve, waive his ass.

The Cubs once again find themselves in a position of having too many second baseman, and our SS may be best suited to play there as well. This is a real problem as only Cedeneo has superior defensive range and athleticism as a middle infielder but is one of the weaker ones offensively. I think Cedeneo would improve offensively if given the chance to play everyday but the Cubs probably only have a two year window with it's big guns to win it all and I just can't see Piniella going this direction.

The Cubs do have a LHB that plays 2B and although his sample of AB's is not large (479), his line of 290BA 369OBP 826OPS with 34 Doubles 5 Triples and 12 HR's is not to shabby. It's in the Cubs best interests to give Fontenot every shot to be the Cubs everyday second baseman this spring and plan accordingly. I know we have DeRosa's bat that needs to be in the lineup, but with his defensively versatility in the field, I think he can get his AB's and still be productive. DeRosa is coming off a career year and considering he may revert to his norm, his role as a bench player may not be as big a loss offensively as it looks on first blush.

If we look at the Cubs defensive shortcomings other than the Fonz in LF, which no one will replace his offensive numbers, the middle infield is the most susceptible. Theriot like DeRosa, is coming off of a career year and both of their trade values will probably never be higher. If Hendry can get a left handed hitting, superior glove to replace Theriot, it would help the team immeasurably. The team's first defensive priority should be as strong up the middle as possible. With Fukudome able to play CF if Pie doesn't make the team or is traded, the Cubs would be an excellent defensive team while adding at least 2 LHB's to the lineup.

A player like Furcal, would give you more bang for the buck as he would be both an offensive and defensive upgrade to the team while being a similar cost to adding an Abreu or Ibanez. Neither of these free agent outfielders is superior to Fukudome. There is no doubt both Abreu and Ibanez have displayed an ability to rake, but Abreu at this point in his career is an average RF'er at best and Ibanez hasn't played but a handful of games in RF his whole career.

The Cubs have plenty of thumpers, but have serious shortcomings with their leadoff man and SS. Come next seasons trading deadline, it will be much easier for the Cubs to replace an outfielder than a quality defensive SS that can leadoff.

A lineup that could feature up to four LHB's if Pie is able to make the team, you will have balanced the lineup significantly by replacing Theriot's bat with Furcals and DeRosa's bat with Fontenots. With Pie in CF, you've improved the overall team defense and speed, upgraded the leadoff spot and improved Soriano's RBI production. Against tough lefties DeRosa could spell Fukudome or Fontenot and Johnson could spell Pie. This allows Piniella offensive flexibility while still having the ability to make late inning defensive replacements.

Most people don't get second chances but Hendry does now. Go get Furcal now Jimbo, and don't make the same mistake twice.