Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Fixing The Chicago Cubs
[I found this pic at CustomAuthenticJerseys.com Can she help fix the Cubs?]
I'm obviously not someone who can actually fix the Cubs franchise. I don't know the ins and outs of their day to day business, nor do I have any idea what it takes to run a professional sports franchise. With that said- SCREW IT! Like Will Ferrell's version of Harry Caray said when someone told him that his guest Albert Einstein had been dead for 42 years. "We'll try to get him anyway!" With that ignorant (yet hilarious) attitude, I'm going to try to fix this team anyway!
Ok, so I'm going to dumb this down so I have a handle on it all. I'm looking at contract lengths, movable pieces, some (but not all) minor leaguers, and moves that are realistic. No one is trading the Cubs for Soriano and taking on his entire contract. That's idiotic and will not be suggested here.
Where to start? Well, let's start with a change in attitude. Jim Hendry has had a decade to run this team, and to his credit, it has been the most successful run by the Chicago Cubs in my lifetime. In the 2000s, the Cubs won 3 division titles, and won their first playoff series (2003 NLDS) since 1945 (can you believe that stat! Unreal!) However, Jim Hendry is now part of the problem. Hendry runs his team with a business plan similar to the Underpants Gnomes from South Park. Step 1: Sign long contracts. Step 2: ? Step 3: Win. It makes no sense. This needs to be looked at.
He has made bold moves that have locked the Cubs up. In a certain sense, he is the Brian Sabean of the midwest. Both he and Sabean love young pitching, but have had a hard time drafting/developing big bats from their own minor league system. Having been burned by potentially great prospects who are actually terrible (Jason Dubois/Corey Patterson for the Cubs, Todd Linden for the Giants) neither GM relies on young talent. Instead, they promote prospects to bench roles and sign veterans to bog down young players.
For example, Tyler Colvin hit over .400 in spring and has continued to rake when given the chance. Unfortunately, he's fifth on the outfield depth chart because the Cubs signed Xavier Nady. I think Nady's great, but let's try to develop some of the younger talent in the system. A change in philosophy is needed, and it starts at the top. Jim Hendry needs to go. (Side note: I wish the Cubs would have signed Walt Jocketty when he was available- surprise, surprise- the Reds are magically good!)
So how do we work the younger players in? Well, we can probably scrap this entire year. I know it's not going to be a popular sentiment among fans, but does anyone really expect the Cubs to be a force this year? They are SO inconsistent. They win 4, then lose 6. Then they'll split a few series and repeat. It's not going to get the job done. The White Sox recently admitted they are down to start trading pieces and the Cubs should follow suit. Make Chicago one big professional baseball flea market. Pick up a veteran starter or first baseman and while you're at it, have your future foretold by a topless psychic! Genius!
The way I see it, Derrek Lee is movable (though he has a no trade clause.) The Angels may be open to bringing him in because of the injury to Kendry Morales (my fantasy team hates you Kendry!) If not, do not re-sign him. I absolutely respect D. Lee and love what he's done for the Cubs, but it's time to move on. The Cubs traditionally keep players far too long and run into seasons like last year and this year. Letting D. Lee go will open up some cash and allow the Cubs to go younger. This cash will probably not be spent immediately, but allow the Cubs to make a splash later...
Place Big Z on waivers. This may do nothing (besides irritate Z, but we're not trying to have him to our house for a tea party- this is a business.) Maybe a team looking for pitching is crazy enough to snatch up his contract. Even crazier, maybe he actually helps a contender win. He's quite a talent, unfortunately his mental stability, diet and work ethic has eroded his talent earlier than one would think (he just turned 29!) If you can't get rid of him, keep him in the rotation. A $17 million relief pitcher is silly. That outside the box idea didn't work out, so let's move on and not try it again.
Trade Theodore Roosevelt Lilly. I love Lilly. He might be one of my favorite guys on the team right now. However, his contract expires this year, and he could help a contender. Get a solid prospect or two in return for him. Move Tom Gorzelanny back into the rotation. He's cheap and under team control for many years, unlike Lilly. Heck, keep an eye on the market and re-sign Lilly if the price is right. If not, let's move on by getting younger.
Pray that Aramis Ramirez starts hitting and declines his $14.6 million option for next year. It was almost a given that he was going to decline the option and become a free agent before the year started. Now, I can't even imagine him giving up that money. The guy is hitting below "the Mendoza Line" and not helping his own cause. If they can't get rid of him this year, then ride out the contract and say goodbye after next year. It's an expensive mistake, but at least it gives Josh Vitters more time to develop in the minors.
Best case scenario, we start to go young and things shape up like this in a couple years:
OF Tyler Colvin, Brett Jackson, Alfonso Soriano (boy, his defense is bad)
3B Josh Vitters
SS Starlin Castro
2B Ryan Theriot, Mike Fonenot, or someone better
1B ??? (either a majors ready draft pick, or even better, why not take a shot at Adrian Gonzales as his contract is up in a couple years.)
C Geovany Soto or someone better
SP Ryan Dempster, Tom Gorzelanny, Randy Wells, Andrew Cashner, and Mark Prior (Ha! Just making sure you're still with me here- I know that was ridiculous.) Maybe the fifth starter is a prospect, a draft pick from this year, or a free agent signing.
RP Who cares about middle relief? I will acknowledge that Andrew Cashner could be the next closer instead of being a starter. This would allow the Cubs to trade Carlos Marmol to someone for prospects or even a legitimate bat.
Basically, let's get Lee, Ramirez, Zambrano, Carlos Silva, and Lilly's payroll off the books. Let's look inward at our farm system and find out who is legit and who isn't. Anyone know if Jeff Samardzija is worth a damn at the Major League level? Let's figure it out and roll with him or move on depending on that answer.
Once we get the payroll at a manageable level, it's time to look for good deals via trade and/or free agency. I just don't need to see albatross contracts coming in and staying for 8 years. 4 year contracts and don't give in to no trade clause demands. The Phillies started that policy and it seems to be a smart way to go. Obviously, if you find a talent like Roy Halladay then do what it takes, but otherwise, follow that policy to a T.
There needs to be a change in attitude within the Cubs organization. I don't really mind Lou Pinella as a manager, but let's be honest, he's out after this year. Will they hire Ryne Sandberg? If he's the best man for the job, then I say do it. If not, find someone who is going to get the best out of the Cubs' players.
I'm writing this before the Cubs' draft pick, so that pick may change this analysis a bit, but overall, this is a plan I can work with. To recap: get payroll flexibility so you can offer a great free agent (Adrian Gonzales or someone similar) a competitive offer. Otherwise, go young, develop your players and draft well. Find a couple new people to be the new voice(s) of the Cubs and have the wins start rolling in.
Am I that off base? Was I not specific enough? Have some better ideas? Want Bob Brenly to become the manager and promote his son Michael to the majors? It's funny when people say the Yankees buy championships (and to some degree, they obviously pay a lot for their quality players) but look at how they were so successful over these years. Jeter, Posada, Rivera, and Pettite are all home grown farm products. Get a core like that, then spend money around them. The Phillies are doing the same thing right now (Utley, Howard, Rollins, Hammels) and it seems to work out. This is the mold I want the Cubs to follow.