Tagged: Ted Lilly

2013-2014 TO DO LIST

I do this every year.  I come up with a “TO DO LIST” for the Cubs.  Each year, I am a little ambitious in my list.  This year, will be somewhat similar.  So, let’s do this!

1.  The Cubs need to hire a new manager.  Some of the names that have been floated around are Dave Martinez, Rick Renteria, A.J. Hinch, Mike Maddux and Manny Acta.  I would prefer Mike Maddux, but I have a feeling the Cubs will go with Rick Renteria.  Just think, we could have had Ryne Sandberg a couple of years ago, but Theo & Jed went with Dale Sveum.  We see how that worked out!

2.  The Cubs have a lot of holes on their roster.  Free agency cannot fill all of them realistically.  Yet, there are some potential moves that could happen.
Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-soo Choo are both viable options to sign and become our new leadoff hitter.

3.  As much as I like Welington Castillo the idea of signing Brian McCann is enticing.  His bat in the lineup as a catcher would be an upgrade.  Yet, no matter if the Cubs make a big splash in free agency, we do not have the depth at pitching needed to compete with the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds in the NL Central at this point and time.

4.  Trade options.  Trading for David Price would cost the farm…..literally!  But it is an option.  Heck, trade Starlin Castro and Jorge Soler in a deal for him.  I know it would take more than just those two, but it is a start.  Don’t trade Javier Baez or Albert Almora though.  Those two have too much talent to lose.

5.  Stay patient and wait til our younger players arrive.  Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant all have high ceilings and are not that far off from playing in the big leagues.

Basically, the Cubs have a lot of money available to spend.  It’s hard to believe that the Cubs were 3rd in payroll in 2010 at just under $150 million.  Since then the Cubs no longer have to pay the huge contracts for Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, Carlos Silva, Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly and Derrek Lee.  The farm system has been restocked with hitters at every level.  Pitching is still a little bit thin, but it is improving.  I truly believe the Cubs are not that far off from competing.  But it’s going to take some work.  The Cubs have too many holes to fill in free agency this off-season.  I say let the young players earn their way to the big league roster and get their feet wet.  Our infield could have Javier Baez at SS or 3B, Rizzo at 1B, Barney at 2B and Castro at SS or OF.  The outfield could consist of Almora CF, Bryant LF or 3B and Soler in RF.

Whatever decisions are made I’m still a Cubs fan.  First things first though.  Let’s hire a manager.  I want Maddux but am predicting Renteria.

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JUST RANDOM THOUGHTS

The Chicago Cubs appear to content with the lineup we currently have.  I was kind of hoping we would trade Fukudome, but that does not seem like it will happen.  I was also a little bit interested in Michael Young to play second over the platoon of Blake DeWitt and Jeff Baker, but that is not going to happen either.  Another possible “solution” for second would be Luis Castillo if the Mets were willing to part with him.  Personally, I don’t like this idea at all.  The one move I still think the Cubs could make is acquiring Chris Davis from the Rangers.  I think it would take catcher Wellington Castillo and another high minor league player.  

I keep reading that teams are scouting Carlos Silva and Braden Looper.  I would love to see with us part with Silva no doubt.  However, I am curious to see what Looper could bring to the team this season.  
Matt Garza pitched four solid innings in his last outing which has me excited.  I think our starting five will be Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Matt Garza, Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner.  However, Braden Looper is making a strong case to make the rotation.  The downside of this rotation is that we do not have a lefty in there.  Ted Lilly was a great competitor during his time with the Cubs and he will be missed. Our bullpen is looking good too in my opinion.  Marshall, Wood and Marmol will anchor the pen and hopefully Samardzija and a healthy Grabow will be able to help out as well.
Scott Moore is making a good impression this spring and while I don’t think he will make the team, I believe he would be a great mid-season call up if someone were to get injured.  However, I would rather have Chris Davis as our corner infielder.  No offense to Moore, but I’ve been fixated a bit on Davis this off-season.  
That’s all I have for today.  It’s supposed to be in the 60s tomorrow and in the 70s on Thursday here in southern Illinois.  I hope the weatherman is right!

A CLOSER LOOK AT JIM HENDRY: PART I-FREE AGENTS

Jim Hendry.jpgOkay, I’ve been a little critical of our GM, Jim Hendry, this year.  I’ve been frustrated with him and the fact that I feel we should have been in serious talks with the Padres about Adrian Gonzalez.  I also want him to go after Matt Garza as well.  Anyway, I decided to dig a little bit and look at his “stats” as a GM.  I decided to breakdown his trades and free agent signings over the years and what success or failures he’s experienced. 

I’ll begin by taking a closer look at his free agent signings.  This will be in chronological order, but I will only list signings or re-signings that I think are relevant to this post.  Beginning in 2003, he signed LaTroy Hawkins to a 2 year/$8 million deal.  At the time, this was a needed move.  In 2004 he signed Ryan Dempster after he was released by the Reds.  Dempster only pitched 20.2 innings in 2004 and was our closer for three years before moving to the rotation the last three where he has really succeeded.  This was a great move and Dempster has been a key part of the Cubs rotation.  In 2004, Hendry also signed Greg Maddux.  This was a good move for a lot of reasons.  First, it was 3 years/$24 million.  Not bad in my opinion.  Maddux has always been a fan favorite in Chicago and it was great to bring him back home.  Maddux now works for the Cubs and I can’t help but think that his relationship with Jim Hendry is one of the reasons why.  In 2006, Jacque Jones was signed to a 3 year/$16 million deal.  Not a bad price and Jones performed really well that year hitting 27 homers and batting .285.  He was later traded by Hendry in November of 2007.  So, I chalk the signing of Jones up as another good move by Hendry.  There were 3 more significant signings in 2006 that have helped define Jim Hendry and the Cubs.  First was Mark DeRosa to a 3 year/$13 million deal.  GREAT MOVE!!!! DeRosa became a fan favorite and a lot of that had to with his willingness to play anywhere on the field and his success at hitting too.  Then Hendry made his first mistake.  Signing Alfonso Soriano to an 8 year/$136 million deal.  I understand that a big move needed to be made at the time.  I agreed with that idea at the time as well.  However, 8 year deals don’t work out very often and that’s why you rarely see a player get one.  So, Soriano’s signing was necessary at the time, but was too long of a deal and has come back to bite Hendry a little bit.  The next signing was Ted Lilly for 4 years/$40 million.  This was another great move.  Lilly was a solid pitcher and provided us with a good lefty in the rotation.  Also, before I forget, Hendry resigned Derrek Lee to 5 years/$65 milion and Aramis Ramirez to 5 years/$75 million in 2006 as well.  I like both of these moves because they were only 5 years and I don’t feel we overpaid for either player.  Then 2007 rolled around and Jim signed Jason Marquis to 3 years/$21 million.  It wasn’t necessarily a bad move, but wasn’t a great one either.  We also resigned Carlos Zambrano in the summer of 2007 for 5 years/$91.5 million.  Okay, I know the Cubs needed to keep Big Z at that time.  He won 18 games in ’07 and just had his fifth straight year with over 200 innings pitched.  However, between 2008 through 2010, he has only won 14, 9 and 11 games and hasn’t reached 200 innings since the ’07 season.  He got his money, but hasn’t produced.  This move has made Hendry look bad, but at the time I agreed with it.  Longer deals for pitchers are a big risk and this one is a perfect example.  In the winter of 2007 we signed Kosuke Fukudome for 4 years/$48 milllion.  With that kind of contract and from what I had read, I expected him to be a combination of Ichiro and Hideki Matsui.  Some speed, some power with a good average.  Well, he’s not panned out that well and he’s finally in the last year of his contract.  This is another move that Hendry took a risk on and it’s backfired.  Soriano, Zambrano and Fukudome have all hurt Hendry and the Cubs at this point.  Then with have 3 more moves that I want to focus on from 2009.  The first is the terrible move of signing “Meltdown” Bradley in 2009 to 3 years/$30 million.  I wanted the Cubs to pursue Raul Ibanez or Bobby Abreu that offseason.  Instead, we ended up with Bradley and we all know how that turned out.  Hendry was looking to add some pop from the left side and ended up with a “bust” in Bradley.  Then Hendry resigned John Grabow after 2009 season to 2 years/$7.5 million.  That’s not much money when you first look at it, but he’s a setup man at best!  Plus, he spent almost all of last year on the disabled list.  Sean Marshall filled the role of lefty setup man beautifully.  Goes to show you that sometimes you need to trust the players you already have in your organization and spend the money elsewhere.  Grabow has the chance to rebound this year, but I doubt it happens.  And then in December of 2009 Hendry redeemed himself by signing Marlon Byrd to 3 years/$15 million.  Byrd plays the game the right way and was a great price! 

This offseason we’ve signed Carlos Pena to a one year deal worth $10 million and Kerry Wood for 1 year at $1.5 million.  I’m cautiously optimistic about Pena’s deal and really excited about Wood coming back. 

When I look at all the signings and resignings Hendry has made it’s up in the air.  Here’s the names of guys that I don’t think worked out too well:  Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, Kosuke Fukudome, Milton Bradley and John Grabow.  And the names of guys that did work out:  Ryan Dempster, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Mark DeRosa, Ted Lilly and Marlon Byrd.  So, I guess it’s about 50/50 when Hendry signs or resigns players.  I’ll breakdown his trades later today or tomorrow.

CUBS WINTER MEETING PROGRESS…..OR LACK OF IT!

This offseason has been a slow one for Cub fans.  We haven’t made any visible progress on acquiring someone to play first or strengthen or starting rotation and bullpen.  Instead, we sat on the sidelines while the Red Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez.  We sat on the sidelines while the White Sox signed Adam Dunn.  We sat on the sidelines while our “Arch” rival, the Cardinals, signed Lance Berkman.  We’ve absolutely made no progress…….yet! 

We still need someone to play first.  Paul Konerko is available as of this post….heck, by the time I finish this someone else may have nabbed him.  There’s Carlos Pena too.  But I’ve been reading that the Cubs are interested in two other options.  The first option would be via free agency in Adam LaRoche.  I think we could sign him for $6-$8 million per year.  I vote against that option.  I think we would be better suited with Colvin at first instead of LaRoche.  The second option, which I just read about, is more intriguing is making a deal with the Rangers for Chris Davis.  Davis bats left, has plenty of pop in his bat, but strikeouts a ton and doesn’t hit for a high average.  I don’t know who we would trade, but a couple guys that the Cubs are shopping are Tom Gorzelanny and Kosuke Fukudome.   

I still say we need to sign Kerry Wood to help strengthen the pen but I haven’t read any updates on this issue as of late.  I did read that he may go back to the Yankees though.  I hope Hendry at least makes an offer.

Then there is the possibility of signing Brandon Webb.  I doubt we go after him.  I see him landing with the Nats.  But if we did get him I think he could help our rotation if he’s healthy.

Whatever happens, I would rather see Hendry make a trade instead of a free agent signing.  To be fair, Hendry has done okay when signing guys like Marlon Byrd, Ted Lilly and Mark DeRosa.  However, his deals with Kosuke Fukudome, Milton Bradley and Alfonso Soriano haven’t worked out that well. 

I guess all we can do is to stay tuned and hope Hendry can still make a good move or two. 

I’m Back….and Still Can’t Figure Out What The Cubs Were Thinking

It’s been almost 2 months since my last post.  I would like to say it was mainly due to laziness.  I don’t plan on taking any more breaks either.  But I will start back by trying to figure out why the Cubs brass did what they did last off-season. 

I just don’t understand what the Cubs were thinking last off-season.
They had a team that had just won 97 games in the regular season.  I
know there was pressure to “tweak” the roster so they could perform
better in the post-season, but the moves they made have backfired.
Jason Marquis, Mark DeRosa, Henry Blanco and Kerry Wood are all gone.
That may not seem like much, but it’s had a huge impact and I am going
to attempt to explain why. 

Jason Marquis may not put up dazzling numbers, but he gets the job done
every fifth day.  What I mean by that is he is one of those guys who
pitches and gives his team a chance to win almost every time out.  As of
today, he is 14-8 with a 3.47 ERA for the Colorado Rockies, who look
like they have a good chance to win the wild card.  Considering the Cubs
injuries to their starting rotation this season they sure could have
used him.  And it doesn’t hurt that the team he’s played for has made the
playoffs every season during his major league career.  But trading him
away for Luis Vizcaino was a mistake, especially considering the Cubs
don’t even have Vizcaino anymore. 
The Cubs also decided to trade away super-utility man, Mark DeRosa.
Not only was DeRosa capable of playing almost any position, but he did
it without complaining or letting it affect his hitting.  With the
injury to Aramis Ramirez this year, the Cubs really could have used
DeRosa at third base.  Or, DeRosa could be the starting second baseman
and Fox could play third when Aramis is out.  Or, DeRosa could play
leftfield or rightfield when needed.  He’s got a good bat and plays
solid defense wherever the you put him.  To make matters worse, he’s now
on the Cardinals.  I wish DeRosa the best, but I would love to have him
back in a Cubs uniform. 
The loss of Henry Blanco may not seem like much to most fans.  But to
me, it was a huge loss.  The Cubs let him get away via free agency last
off-season.  Here’s a guy that was a mentor to Geovany Soto.  Soto went
on to win the Rookie of the Year award and I would like to think that
Blanco was a factor in that.  Plus, he hit well when he did get to play
last season. 
Finally, the Cubs let go of Kerry Wood allowing him to sign with the
Cleveland Indians.  That made me mad.  I understood that baseball is a
business, but Wood had been with the Cubs since 1998.  As the Cubs first
round pick in the ’95 draft, Wood quickly became one of my favorite
Cubs.  While his career has been plagued with injuries, there is not
doubt that he possessed the talent to be a good starter early in his
career and a solid closer now.  So, the Cubs let him go and then go and
trade minor league Jose Ceda for Kevin Gregg.  As much as I want Gregg
to succeed he hasn’t been consistent as the Cubs closer.  So, the way I
see it, the Cubs gave up Kerry Wood and Jose Ceda (and his 98mph
fastball) for Gregg.  Another move that hasn’t worked too well. 

Equally important is the chemistry the team had last year.  The loss of
these four guys wasn’t just a loss on the field but in the dugout,
bullpen and clubhouse.  There is no doubt that this year’s team does not
have the chemistry of the ’08 Cubs.  I believe that loss combined with
injuries to Soto, Ramirez, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly, Reed Johnson and
Carlos Zambrano is the reason why the Cubs are struggling to stay above
.500. 
It will be interesting to see what moves the Cubs make the remainder of
this season and this upcoming off-season.  Will the Ricketts family give
Jim Hendry a blank check book?  Will Lou Piniella stick around for
another year or will Ryne Sandberg be the new Cub manager?  Will the
Cubs even finish this season over .500?   We’ll just have to wait and
see.

2009—The Year the Cubs Shine?

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:

C-Geovany Soto

1B-Derek Lee

2B-Mike Fontenot

3B-Aramis Ramirez

SS-Ryan Theriot

LF-Milton Bradley

CF-Kosuke Fukudome

RF-Alfonso Soriano

Here’s the bench:

Micah Hoffpauir-1B,LF,RF

Aaron Miles-2B, SS, 3B

Paul Bako-C

Reed Johnson-OF

Joey Gathright-OF

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:

Starters first.

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!

 

Big ‘Z’ and the World Baseball Classic

Carlos Zambrano.jpgLast 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.