Monday, November 14, 2005

OF FREE AGENTS AND OFF SEASON DEALS

Thanks to Chris for inviting me to participate on PNR. Or is it TPNR? Well, either way, I hope to be the
Mary Mapes to his Dan Rather or The Rev. Jackson to his T.O.

Before Jim Hendry starts his free agent spending spree along with the usual wheeling and dealing, I thought I would get on record so Jimbo can go out and do the exact opposite. As he was quoted recently:

"You can't say, 'I'm going to get this guy or that guy.' Sometimes those people aren't available. You have to be prepared to go in a different direction if you don't get one of those upper-echelon guys."

LOCK 'EM UP

The Cubs could have a pretty decent core of perennial all-stars for the next few years, sprinkled with up and comers if they get Lee, Prior and Zambrano locked up after '06. I would really like to see these three have new contracts soon (especially considering the serious change Maddux and Wood are currently getting--$20M). I'm glad ARam was locked up for a few years and am satisfied with Barrett through '07. Add Murton, Cedeno, and everybody's favorite Pie to the mix and you have something to build on for '06 and beyond.

It looks as though Nomar won't be around much longer and I don't see how he would fit in. I'm no longer intrigued by a Nomar in LF experiment. Hendry seems to
concur. But hey, at least he got a world series ring while in Chicago. Too bad he wasn't wearing the same uniform as the champs at the time.

I'm also not disappointed with picking up Walker's option and signing Neifi. Yes, that Neifi. The shortstop FA market is pretty thin this year (
and next year too). If Furcal doesn't come to Wrigleyville we still have a decent IF of Lee, Walker/Perez/Cedeno, and Ramirez. I'd prefer Walker to start because of his good lefty bat and Cedeno at short because, as Hendry said recently, "Cedeno is very good."

FREE AGENTS AND TRADES

Of course, I would like to see Furcal on the north side and he seems to be the Cubs priority. Bravo. I'm not opposed to a 4 or 5 year contract worth 9M or 10M per year. He won't be 28 until August and has been pretty healthy--except for missing about a week in August because of a sore knee--while averaging over 150 games the past 4 years. Plus, the Braves have talked with Tampa about a Lugo trade which might indicate they won't resign him. Getting Furcal would also make Walker or Perez available to trade.

Obviously the OF is pretty wide open. I'm still not sure what to do with the CF position and really don't think Damon will be an option because of the money he'll demand in this weak FA market. But if the Cubs do have $30M to spend he might be worth taking a look at, but not at the expense of failing to resign some of our '06 free agents. Chris mentioned Lofton earlier, but I'm not sure how viable Lofton is for a whole season, although he does perform well when healthy (.392 OBP!). Perhaps he would be a good option if the Cubbies intend to bring Pie up in July or sooner.

Giles is the best RF possibility (because of the need for lefthanded power) and Murton should start in LF. Sanders might work out too. And then find a good defensive CF (not Patterson--which would just hurt the club because how he is now viewed by most of Cubdom--and Preston Wilson is overpriced). Pierre is a great idea, but I don't know if we have anything to trade for him.

I don't want to pick a fight with Camden so soon but I wouldn't mind seeing Bradley in CF. Sure he's been a headcase, but he's arbitration eligible and he'll be a free agent after next year if he doesn't work out or Pie is ready to take over. He is a productive centerfielder on whom I would rather spend $2-3M than Patterson and he's in anger management to boot. Besides, Dusty's contract is up after '06 too, so anything is possible.

But aside from addressing the SS position and getting some semblance of an outfield together they should focus on that collection of stiffs they call a bullpen (either Ryan or Wagner would be a huge boost, but probably unrealistic). Maybe
Wickman and Eyre would be solid options along with some of the more promising relievers from this year.

They also should think about making a splash in the starting pitching market. I like Rusch and could see him doing long relief or spot starting. We'll probably need a spot starter--injury is more probable than not with the starters. But I'd prefer signing a quality starter like
Washburn (Lhp, 3.20 ERA, 1.33 WHIP in '05) or Bird (Rhp, 3.74 ERA, 1.19 WHIP in '05) who were decent, but didn't have great records. Another, probably more costly, option is Millwood (Rhp, 2.86 ERA, 1.22 WHIP in '05). But I don't think Millwood would bring anything that the left-handed Washburn wouldn't for less money. In any case the Cubs could use a quality starter, with Zambrano and Prior, to actually realize the Big 3 hopes the Cubs have had the past few years. With both Maddux (retiring) and Wood (free agent) possibly gone after this year, the investment of a 3 or 4 year contract would be well worth it, especially if some of the prospects begin to perform.

Could the Cubs compete next year? I'll wait and see.