I was reading up on the MVP races last night after Miguel Cabrera and Andrew McCutchen won the award for their respective leagues. I felt both players were the right choice.
Then I received a call this morning from my buddy Dave, a Red fan, and was reminded about Josh Donaldson who finished 4th in the AL MVP race. You see, Josh Donaldson was drafted by the Cubs in 2007 and traded to the A’s in 2008 in a deal that netted Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin for the Cubs. Just think, Donaldson could have been our future at third base.
In addition to Donaldson, another former Cubs prospect received some attention in the AL Rookie of the Year race. Chris Archer, originally drafted by the Cleveland Indians, was acquired by the Cubs after the 2008 season in a deal that sent Mark DeRosa to the tribe. Archer was later dealt to the Rays in a deal that brought Matt Garza to the Cubs. He finished third in the AL ROY voting this year posting a solid 3.22 ERA in the tough AL EAST.
These are just two examples of players the Cubs traded away while trying to add pitching just a handful of years ago. Rich Harden, Chad Gaudin and Matt Garza have all moved on from the Cubs now.
Donaldson and Archer have bright futures ahead of them and I wish them the best. Yet, it still makes me wonder what could have been…………..
With the winter meetings right around the corner I guess it’s a good time to talk some business. The Chicago Cubs have a lot of work to do….mainly involving Milton Bradley. It is my opinion, that the Cubs will try to deal Bradley starting next Monday. I am halfway tempted to make the drive to Indy and tell Jim Hendry what I think. Then again, I know I wouldn’t even get a chance to say hello to Jim or any other exec so I won’t waste my time.
So, far the Cubs made a good move trading Heilman. We need to trade Aaron Miles too while we are at it. I have read that the Cubs may shop Jake Fox to some American League teams. While I understand the business side of this I really like Fox and would love to see him playing for the Cubbies in 2010.
The Cubs decided not to offer arbitration to Kevin Gregg, Chad Fox, Rich Harden and Reed Johnson. While I love Reed Johnson I understand we have Tyler Colvin and Sam Fuld that could take over Johnson’s role with the team. I would also like to see Harden back with the Cubs, but I know he will command more money than the Cubs will be willing to pay.
The Cubs have a lot of work to do. There are rumors about trading for Curtis Granderson. I like Granderson a lot. Yet, I don’t want to trade away too much young talent to get a guy that strikes out a ton and hits for a low average.
Some of our minor leaguers that may attract interest from other teams are SS Starlin Castro, 3B Josh Vitters, P Andrew Cashner and P Blake Parker. These are just a few of our young players that other teams may inquire about in any potential trades. I would prefer not to trade any of them away personally, but if the right deal comes along……who knows?
Finally, the Braves and Phillies made some moves this week that I like. The Braves signed Billy Wagner. If he stays healthy the Braves will have an elite closer. Meanwhile the Phils picked up Placido Polanco to play thirdbase. Polanco will hit for a good average and play great defense while hardly ever striking out. Good moves by both teams. Hopefully, the Cubs will make some good moves next week!
The Cubs need a boost. I don’t think there is any denying it. We have had injuries this season to Aramis Ramirez, Rich Harden, Carlos Zambrano and the list goes on and on. Milton Bradley hasn’t hit well and neither has Soto. Fontenot has been playing out of position at third since Aramis went on the DL and his hitting has suffered since moving to the other side of the infield. The Cubs have brought up Bobby Scales, Andres Blanco and Jake Fox. I say we keep Scales and Fox up and let go of Freel and Miles who are both on the DL. Blanco is a great defender, but is not known for his hitting. If he gets sent down it won’t bother me one bit.
I still want the Cubs to acquire Jake Peavy. I say we trade young Josh Vitters, pictured below, to obtain Peavy.
The Cubs will hopefully be active this summer before the trade deadline. I want to get another stud pitcher. Peavy is at the top of my list. He may be the kind of guy that puts the Cubs over the top. I would hate to lose Vitters in a deal, but I also understand that it would take a deal involving him to get Peavy. I would be willing to make that sacrifice.
The Cubs finally set their roster for opening day. Two players weren’t going to make the team. It didn’t surprise me that the Cubs sent Jeff Samardzija to Triple-A Iowa, but I was stunned that they let go Chad Gaudin. Here’s a guy that throws hard, just turned 26 and has experience starting and pitching out of the pen. And when some other team signs Gaudin the Cubs will still be paying him $1.6 million. I have read that Jim Hendry tried to trade Gaudin but couldn’t find any takers. Yet, I would be willing to bet that someone will have him signed by the end of this week. The Cubs did keep Angel Guzman on the big league roster and I wasn’t too surprised by that move. Hopefully he can stay healthy for a change.
Another thing on my mind is Rich Harden. He gave up 7 homers in 13 innings this spring and that’s not good news for Cub fans. If Harden is having troubles once the season starts then I will be even more concerned. The Cubs need him to be healthy in order to win the Central Division this year. I consider every team a threat to the Cubs to win the division except for the Pirates. Sorry Pirate fans. The Cards are really scaring me with the emergence of what appears to be a healthy Chris Carpenter. If he’s able to make 30+ starts in ’09 then the Cards will have a good chance to make it to the post-season.
Anyway, I just had a few things I wanted to touch on today. I have more thoughts bouncing around in my head, but I don’t have enough time to cover it all today.
Ever since the 2003 collapse in the playoffs against the Florida Marlins, I have been waiting for the Cubs to return to the post season and win. 2007 and 2008 were great regular seasons followed by utter disappointment by getting swept out of the playoffs each season. This year is different for me. I am not as confident as I was last year. I look at this current team and still see some holes that need to be filled. However, I strongly believe that any issues the Cubs have this year will be taken care of once the sale of the team is finalized. I am putting a lot of faith into Tom Ricketts, Jim Hendry, Lou Piniella and the players and other coaches. Here’s my quick preview of what I think this year’s team has entering spring training.
The starters should look something like this to start the season:
Here’s the bench:
Aaron Miles-2B, SS, 3B
Jake Fox has a chance to make the team as a versatile player capable of playing 1B, 3B, C, LF and RF.
Koyie Hill has a chance to make the team as a backup Catcher.
Here’s a quick look at our pitchers:
Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden and Ted Lilly.
Guys that could start or come out of the bullpen.
Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija, Chad Gaudin, Angel Guzman and Aaron Heilman
Guys out of the pen.
Carlos Marmol, Kevin Gregg, Luis Vizcaino, Neal Cotts, and Kevin Hart.
I am sure things will look a little different when the season starts, but I imagine the team will come out of spring training with a roster consisting of most of the players listed above. A few will start the season at Iowa and hopefully get called up when needed.
Things look bright for 2009. But we can always improve. Go Cubs Go!
Last season Carlos Zambrano was up and down with shoulder problems. It was the first time in several years that he did not pitch over 200 innings. I believe that this could turn out to be a good thing. Big ‘Z’ is also not going to pitch in the World Baseball Classic for Venezuela. That’s also good news in my opinion. The Cubs need a healthy and fresh Zambrano in 2009 if they want to repeat as Central Division Champs. What has me concerned now though, is an eye infection. He was already considering having laser surgery to help correct a vision problem. Now, with the infection he may have to put the surgery off until later this spring. I hope he doesn’t do it during the regular season. I think the surgery is a good idea, but he needs to have it done when his eye is completely recovered from the infection and before the season starts.
I mentioned that Zambrano won’t be competing in the World Baseball Classic and I think that is a good thing. Fellow Cubs pitcher, Rich Harden, has also chosen not to compete in the Classic. This is great news for the Cubs.
There are several Cubs players that are going to participate in the World Baseball Classic this spring. Carlos Marmol, Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez will be playing for the Dominican team. Ted Lilly and Derek Lee are on the USAs team roster. Geovany Soto may play for Puerto Rico. Outfielder Kosuke Fukudome will be playing for team Japan. There are other players from the Cubs that will be participating, but these are the main guys. These are the guys that will either be in the everyday lineup or play a major role on the pitching staff. I think the only guy that will really benefit from playing inthe WBC is going to be Fukudome. He needs to have a good WBC to gain confidence. He finished last year on a sour note, even losing his starting role. The Cubs invested a lot of money into him and they need for him to deliver this season. I believe he is capable of hitting over .280 this year. We will have to wait and see.
I wish the World Baseball Classic would take place in November after the regular season. I feel that having the games before the season starts isn’t a good thing. I went to Florida in 2006 to watch some spring training games. Several players were absent because they were representing their country in the WBC. It wasn’t the same for me. But I guess I am complaining and I know I don’t have any say in the matter. Yet, I think it would be better to have the games after the season rather than before.
Pitchers and catchers report next week and I cannot wait. As of rignt now, we still don’t know who the fifth starter will be. We do know that our 1-4 pitchers stack up well against any other team in baseball.
I’ll start with Carlos Zambrano, also known as Big Z. Last year was the first time since 2002 that Zambrano did not pitch over 200 innings. That may be a good thing for him and the Cubs in 2009. Hopefully, his arm and shoulder will be more rested and a healthy Zambrano could mean 20 wins this season. Last year was up and down for Big Z. He slugged the snot out of the ball and even threw a no hitter. He now has 6 consecutive winning seasons as a pitcher. He’s been consistent winning between 13 and 18 games since ’02. I expect big things from the big guy this year.
Next, we have Ryan Dempster. He is coming off a career year and it would be hard to expect him to improve off of last season. I anticipate 15 wins and 200 innings though. He’s one of my favorite players because of his competitive nature. When he first came to the Cubs he was out of shape. Since then he has slimmed down and turned into a lean pitching machine. He signed on to stay with the Cubs this off season and I believe he will have much success over the next 3-4 years in a Cubs uniform. His dedication to excel as a pitcher will hopefully push his teammates to do the same.
Then we have our sole lefty in the rotation, Ted Lilly. I love Lilly now, but when we first signed him I wasn’t so certain. This is a classic example of me questioning a move by Jim Hendry. It is also an example of Henry making the right move. Lilly is 32-17 since joinging the Cubs. Another thing I like about Lilly is his striking resemblance to a close friend of mine named Zane. Zane was also a left handed pitcher, but he never quite made it as far as Lilly. If I were to post a close up picture of Lilly and Zane side by side you would think they were related. Anyway, Lilly is a great guy to have in the rotation. I think he will be third or fourth in the rotation and will probably win 15 games again this year.
Rich Harden is our next guy. His stuff is electric. He is capable of being a number one pitcher on most any team, but he also has a history of not being healthy. I would use him as the number four starter personally due to his health concerns. He would probably be the best number four starter in all of baseball. I hope he stays healthy and I know Lou won’t over use him. If we can get 25 starts from Harden I think he will win at least 12 games. Who knows, if he stays healthy all season we could be looking at a sleeper Cy Young candidate. But that may be reaching just a little bit.
As far as our fifth starter goes it’s still up in the air. I could see lefty Sean Marshall fill that role, but I like his versatility out of the bullpen. I think he is more valuable as a middle reliever who is capable of starting when needed to. There is also Jeff Samardzija. The 24 year old Samardzija has great stuff and could fill this role nicely or he could be used as a setup man. Either way, I see a bright future for this guy and the Cubs. There are other guys who have been mentioned as a possible fifth starter, Chad Gaudin, Aaron Heilman, and Angel Guzman seem to be the main ones. Whoever the fifth starter is I think he will be solid. I would prefer Samardzija personally.