Being a lifelong Cubs fan has its ups and downs, and currently the team is gearing up for a three-peat of the NL Central Division. Here I will briefly summarize the major moves they've made and add in some of my own opinions on Jim Hendry's "masterplan:"
- Did not re-sign Kerry Wood - Not a terrible move. Wood ended up signing a two-year $20.5 mil contract with the Indians. The thing I don't get, however, is that there were reports that Wood would've taken less money and signed a one-year deal with the Cubs. GM Jim Hendry said those reports were "highly exaggerated." Really? Then why didn't you offer him arbitration and get a draft pick when he signed elsewhere? I believe Jon Papelbon set the record for arbitration for a closer at over $6 mil this year. I think a draft pick, or Wood for $5-$6 mil this year would not have been a bad idea.
- Traded Jose Ceda for Kevin Gregg - To fill Woody's shoes, the Cubs traded highly touted prospect Ceda for decent closer/set-up man Kevin Gregg. I'd say you can expect a 3.70 ERA from him, but he's not a dominant pitcher by any means. Why all of a sudden did the Cubs trade Ceda, after REFUSING to trade him the year before? Something we don't know? Perhaps. I have a feeling the Cubs may come out behind on this deal.
- Traded Mark DeRosa to the Indians for 3 pitching prospects - I've said all along that if this trade leads to a possible acquisition of Jake Peavy, then I'm cool with it. If not, it probably was a salary dump and that is stupid. Realistically, only one of the three pitchers (Jeff Stevens) is projected to be good at the Major League level. Trading away a hard-nosed utility guy like DeRosa could have a negative effect on the clubhouse.
- Traded Jason Marquis for Luis Vizcaino - Salary Dump. Solid move. I like Marquis enough, but Sean Marshall can hold down the fifth starter spot with equal effectiveness. I doubt Vizcaino will be that good, but clearing payroll was worth it for the next move...
- Signed Milton Bradley - 3 years/$30 mil for a switch-hitting, crazy outfielder. Bradley sounded awfully calm at the press conference, and he a great year last year with the Rangers. He will do great with the Cubs as long as a) he stays healthy and b) he doesn't challenge any fans or teammates to a No Disqualification Match inside Wrigley Field.
- Signed Aaron Miles - Also a switch hitter, he will fill some of what DeRosa used to do. I have a feeling that Mike Fontenot will be taking over Second Base duties with Miles subbing at different positions.
- Traded Felix Pie to the Orioles for Garrett Olson - I loved this trade. Pie is a good defensive outfielder, but hasn't shown an ability to consistently hit at the plate. He was out of options so the Cubs could've put him on the roster, released him, or traded him (no minor league option.) Getting left hander Olson was a steal and also a piece that the Padres were interested in.
- Traded Ronny Cedeno and Garrett Olson to the Mariners for Aaron Heilman - Ah, the Cubs. Being a fan of them is so great, and yet so frustrating. Getting rid of Cedeno was a great move. He, like Pie was out of options. He's a good bench/utility player, but nothing more. Olson on the other hand is a valuable left handed pitcher the Cubs could've turned over to the Pads for Jake Peavy. Jake Peavy! One more time- Cy Young Winner Jake Peavy! And if they weren't going to do that, they could've kept Olson and let him be the fifth starter or a long reliever. Instead, the Cubs now have Aaron Heilman. Great. The guy that the Mets let go, when the thing they need the most is bullpen help. Awesome.
- Other than that, they re-signed Ryan Demptster and acquired Joey Gathright. Fukudome is likely moving to Center Field (I still don't expect much from him- he has a hole in his swing!) The Cubs line-up looks very good, and their rotation looks great. I might be a bit greedy when it comes to getting Peavy, but I'm certain there was a way it could have happened. It disappoints me that they made all these other moves rather than go after the biggest fish available to them.
I expect them to defend their Division title this year, but we'll see when it comes to the Playoffs. Considering their 0-6 record over the last two years in the NLDS, I can't predict anything beyond that- they have to prove themselves this year.