Friday, December 10, 2004

Dreaming in central Illinois...

Well the first post-season post from this blog. I have found that trying to juggle full-time employment, a rigorous PhD program (about half way through after this semester - woohoo!), a family, and a regular Cubs blog is proving to be difficult to say the least. In any event, Hendry continues to impress with the recent signing of Walker-Garciaparra - well done Jim! The question on everyone's mind, however, is what Hendry will be able to do with Sosa and the related issue of Carlos Beltran. It seems as if everyone is speculating that Beltran is an impossibility if Sosa isn't dealt. However, Phil Rodgers makes an excellent point when he states:

You can't blame Hendry for proceeding cautiously. He already has about $90 million committed for the 2005 payroll. To land Beltran without moving Sosa's $17 million salary (really a $25 million commitment including the buyout of an '06 option and severance pay), Hendry would have to take the payroll above $100 million, even if it's only for one year.

Tribune Co. should allow him to do exactly that. Beltran is an exceptional talent who will mean more in terms of winning than the one-dimensional Sosa ever has. Playing together, alongside Garciaparra, Ramirez and Lee, Beltran and Sosa should keep the Cubs from wasting their state-of-the-art starting rotation, as they did in 2004.

Once Sosa leaves as a free agent after next season, the payroll could shrink back to a slightly more comfortable level. And don't forget that this isn't the last time the Cubs can consider a Sosa deal. He could be traded in January or February, before camps open, during spring training or at the trading deadline.

That will be too late to go get a talent like Beltran. Now is when Hendry needs to seize the moment, not play nice with Tribune Co. accountants. But all bets are off if Moreno, like Hicks before him, is seduced by the momentary thrill of hitting a home run for the home fans.

I couldn't agree more - we really need some cure to the sickly offense that plagued this team last year, especially with the departure of the club's leading RBI producer (Alou), and Beltran could very well single-handedly be that cure (and anyone who watched the NLCS knows that for a fact). Trade Sosa if you can, but even if you can't - still go hard after Beltran! This team has the pitching to win a world series, but if the team can't generate runs (like they couldn't last season), this fine pitching staff will virtually be wasted.

Whether Hendry will be able to show the same skill in opening the Tribune Company's coffers as he has in engineering excellent trades (the Andy Pratt debacle excepted of course) remains to be seen. So, allow me to dream a little and put forth my dream line-up for next season:

1) Todd Walker
2) Nomar Garciaparra
3) Carlos Beltran
4) Aramis Ramirez
5) Derrek Lee
6) Corey Patterson
7) Michael Barrett
8) Left Fielder (Dubois/Kelton - if you really want to dream, slot J.D. Drew or Mags in this position and move them into the five spot in the order - that would be flat-out filthy!!)
9) Pitcher

Now is it just me, or does the top of that order have a Cardinals-like feel to it? I get goosebumps just looking at that thing of beauty. Oh well, let's wait and see what develops in Anaheim at the winter meetings.

Survey of the CBA landscape...

Al Yellon was the first (that I saw) to report the rumor of a possible Kansas City destination for Sosa - (Phil Rodgers reported the same rumor today):

Latest rumor: Sosa and a pitching prospect to Kansas City for Mike Sweeney and Scott Sullivan. The Cubs would then flip Sweeney to the Mets for Cliff Floyd.

I'd do this in a heartbeat, depending on how much money the Cubs would have to eat in the deal. It would also be good for Sosa, since he'd be reunited with Royals hitting coach Jeff Pentland, who helped him tremendously in his years with the Cubs -- and even with clouds surrounding Sosa, it'd surely help the Royals sell tickets.

Agreed - shipping Sosa to the Royals would be fine with me - although I will be surprised if this deal goes down. I just have this gut-feeling that it will be near-impossible to deal Sammy after the Giambi imbroglio (coupled with the suspicion of Sosa's involvement with Steroids).

Chuck Gitles makes an interesting observation as it relates to the Beltran-sweepstakes:

Steve Finley will sign a two year deal with the Angels today. Why is that news? Well, an outfield that includes Finley, Vlad "The Impaler" Guerrero, Garrett Anderson, and Chone Figgins does not figure to have room for Carlos Beltran.

That leaves the Yanks, Cubs, and Astros as the primary bidders for Chuckie B’s services. And I think the Astros are not a real player.

Hmmm. That is news indeed. The major obstacle for the Cubs in signing Beltran, however, appears to be their ability to move Sammy Sosa.

Graham, over at A Cub Fan Rants, suggestively opines:

Now, if we could just solve our outfield quandry. This is the tough part. Jim Hendry and Andy MacPhail have taken a big chance on our bullpen, but if we add a big time outfielder on the Wrigley grass, life will be good. If we have to keep Sammy for one more year, his Farewell Tour, then so be it. He'll most likely respond positively to that challenge and try to show Baseball and the Fans that he's still got it. Athough, if we can move him, then our overall chemistry will improve immensely, and we then would HAVE to sign either Carlos Beltran or J.D. Drew in my opinion. Some like Magglio Ordonez, and he's been good, but I am not sure he'll be back to where he was in 2002. Well, we'll see what Hendry has for us next.

Hendry, good work at short and second. Decent job with the Blanco signing too, albeit expensive. Sweet. Now, make your good work great and finalize our 2005 outfield and make sure we can't wait for that first pitch in April in Arizona. Like it's easy to wait as it is.

The folks over at 1060West ask a few important questions about next year's team:

The Signing of Nomar, Walker, and Maddux's new caddy Henry Blanco leaves the Cubs with many of the same question marks they had in '04.

1) Who is gonna leadoff? It looks to me like the current options are the new LF, Patterson or Walker. I hope they find a fast LF option.
2) Next the bullpen. Who's gonna close and do you trust any of the setup guys?
3) There's still a player in RF who had his boombox smashed on the final day of the year. Can they trade him? If he returns will he produce?
4) Team Leadership, this team didn't have any (see Walker's comments)
5) I am very concerned with the middle inf. defense.

Hopefully, Jim Hendry can find this team a player or two who will put the focus back on the field. It's sounds to me like Walker could use some help with his focus.

Mike, over at 94 years and counting, humorously if infelicitously offers some Sammy suggestions:

I’ve ranted about the 800-lb. gorilla so many times in the past, and I don’t have the time or the energy to work up another diatribe against the Cancerous Tumor today. Allow me to only forge ahead with what I do if Sam Me is next seen crashing furniture again in the Cubs’ clubhouse next Spring, sitting wherever he wants to. In other words, the albatross of a contract for which Andy McPhail should rightfully be hanging from Tribune Tower from his toenails for having awarded four years ago may make it impossible for any suckers to take Fat Sam off our hands and, as such, there still exists the very real possibility that he shows up in Mesa next March. What will need to happen, in my opinion, is for Baker and Hendry to sit his bulbous ass down and get it through his thick, delusional skull, the following five points:

1) This team belongs to Aramis, Prior and Wood. We're removing the "C" from your sleeve--you were never really captain material anyway, and it was just away to acknowledge that this was, indeed, "your house". But it's not anymore. Thanks for filling the seats in the nineties and packing the bleachers with a bunch of retard Chads and Trixies, who wouldn’t know the value of hitting a cutoff man and preserving a force play if it bit them in their Lincoln Park asses. We now charge $38.00 a ticket to sit in the so-called “cheap seats” and you probably had some small role in that, so thanks. But it’s 2004. You’re old, broken down, and sucky. Deal with it.
2) You’re playing Left Field. You can still play the part of the Circus Clown if you want, and run out to your position harder than you run when you hit a double that you think is a homer, but we recommend you save yourself what little dignity you have left and just play the goddamn position.
3) You’re batting sixth.
4) There will be a clubhouse ban on music before AND after games.
5) If you squawk about any of this, we will unleash our unlimited media resources as a newspaper subsidiary to tarnish you beyond any redemption

Sam will either A) Produce big-time while being a big, sulking diva (which is fine so long as he produces) or B) get on his knees and beg Hendry, Adam Katz, and everybody involved in his business to move him elsewhere. He will gladly waive his ridiculous conditional option for ’06.

In the meantime, try to get Beltran. If not him, then JD Drew.

That's all for now. Happy Friggin' December.

Jason Steffens, formerly of the Clark & Addison Chronicle, but now of The Cubs Chronicle, discusses the Cubs search for a closer:

The Chicago Sun-Times reports today that "Cubs general manager Jim Hendry will meet in the next few days with Milwaukee Brewers counterpart Doug Melvin to discuss what it would take for the Brewers to part with closer Dan Kolb." The Sun-Times also states that Kyle Farnsworth would likely be included in any trade for Kolb. (The interest in Kolb stems back at least a couple of weeks now.)

Whether the Cubs acquire Kolb or not, it appears likely the Cubs will trade Farnsworth to someone this offseason. Farnsworth rumors have been as rampant as Sosa trade rumors, without the national attention. Farnsworth is undoubtedly talented, but his inconsistency and his apparently not having the right attitude appear to have left him unwanted in Chicago.

If the Cubs do end up trading Farnsworth for another reliever, it will tell us at least three things.

First, Glendon Rusch -- recently signed to a two-year contract -- will be the 5th starter. The Cubs already have LaTroy Hawkins, Mike Remlinger, and Ryan Dempster slated for the bullpen in 2005. Todd Wellemeyer and Jon Leicester (leading the league in silent letters) will also likely be given spots in the bullpen. Add in Kolb and you have 6 relievers. And that's even without a lefty specialist. The same Sun-Times article speculates that role could fall to Will Ohman, currently performing well in the Mexican League. 6 relievers (with Ohman possibly replacing Wellemeyer or Leicester in the pen) means no room for Rusch, which means he's starting.

Second, Sergio Mitre, who struggled for the big league club last year, but who has been a very good minor league starter for four straight seasons at four different levels, appears to be headed to Iowa again. With Rusch out of the swingman role, Mitre could be the starter called up should one of the five starters go down with an injury.

Finally, it will mean that the Cubs will lose the player with the best nickname on the team.

James, over at Just North of Wrigley Field thinks the Astros will up the ante and land Beltran as a result of the Kent-to-Dodgers deal:

Houston could be the wounded animal of this bunch. Not only did they lose Kent, but they also don’t have a firm commitment from Roger Clemens for next year.

With aging franchise cornerstones Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell still on the books, not losing Beltran could end up the Astros number one priority at the Winter Meetings this weekend.

I’m saying I expect the Astros to act desperate and pay like they’re desperate, something like a whole lotta years and over $17 million per season (think AROD, circa 2000).

I don’t think the Astros are going to leave this weekend without showing Beltran an offer like this, and I wouldn’t blame Beltran for accepting on the spot.

I know I’ve gone all over the place with this post, but here’s the part you’ve all been waiting for: What then for our Cubbies?

Here comes another poker analogy for you: Everybody’s got all these middling hands (they have to be, cause they can’t all be good), and they’re putting in a whole bunch of chips.

Now, your chances of catching a hand ain’t that great either, so you could call and hope a miracle flop comes up, and you make a hand and no one else does... whereas it’s just as likely the opposite happens, and you just wasted your chips.

The price of poker at that point would be pretty high to make the call at that point.

So what should you do? Commit a whole bunch of your stack, or stay out of it and let them fight it out?

This is what I want the Cubs to do. Under this scenario, Beltran is gone and Drew’s already over-inflated market value just went higher than I want to my team to pay.

So instead of casting their lot (and part of subsequent year’s lot too) on a low-reward player such as Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Jordan or Juan Gonzalez, who are all going to be looking for a multi-year deal after what they saw Dye sign for, they look to the route they took with Nomar and sign a guy with something to prove and willing to sign for just one year.

If the Cubs can’t reel in Beltran, Magglio Ordonez is the only free-agent outfielder available I want wearing Cubs pinstripes (I SAID CUBS PINSTRIPES) next year.

He’s only two years older than Drew. Yes, he’s right handed, but he hits right-handed pitchers (.924 OPS over the last three years) almost as well as he does left-handed pitchers (.969 vs LHP).

Watching the Mariners all those years, he sticks out in my mind as one of those guys who I absolutely hated to see come to the plate with anything cooking on the basepaths.

And he could duke it out with Sammy Sosa over who had to shift over to left field, and if the new guy wins, so be it.

I’d love it if the Cubs could work out an option for 2006 included in the deal, just in case his knee isn’t 100% sound the whole season, but a base salary + incentives contract similar to Nomar’s would be very reasonable for a four-time all star, who has cracked the 30 HR-110 RBI plateau four times.

And from everything I’ve heard, there are a lot of worse people to build the core of your team around than Magglio Ordonez and Nomar Garciaparra.

...a couple of one-year wonders.

That's about it as far as the CBA goes. It will be interesting indeed to see what the winter meetings produce.