RIGHT OFF!

“JERRY: You should just do it like a Band-Aid. One motion! Right off!”

As a fan of the Seinfeld series for years, this is one of my favorite quotes from the show.  If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll recognize it as Jerry’s suggested method of breaking up with someone in comparison to the best way to taking off a band-aid…one motion…RIGHT OFF!  Sure, it’s uncomfortable and hurts a bit, but it’s going to hurt anyway so just get it over with and move on already.

That’s how, after using a week of blogging absence to serve as a proverbial band-aid to the wound that was the Cubs sweeping effort in the NLDS by the victorious Dodgers, I have decided to now handle my getting over this brutal defeat.  RIGHT OFF!
And so it goes.
So now we’re looking at the off-season (sooner than expected…oh, right…RIGHT OFF!).  What are the Cubs going to do to fix this 100 year flop?  In recent years, we’ve been close to setting the clock back to zero…just didn’t have quite enough in the tank to do so.  Although I thought this particular group of guys was just what we needed.  Apparently not.  So.  Here is what we’re looking at for the offseason.  The roster, the free agents, the decisions.  The following is from a recent MLB.com article written by Cubs reporter, Carrie Muskat:  

“CONTRACT ISSUES

Free agents: RHP Ryan Dempster, OF Jim Edmonds, RHP Chad Fox, RHP Bob Howry, RHP Jon Lieber, 1B Daryle Ward, RHP Kerry Wood.

Eligible for arbitration: IF Ronny Cedeno, LHP Neal Cotts, RHP Chad Gaudin, OF Reed Johnson, RHP Michael Wuertz.

Club options: RHP Rich Harden ($7 million; picked up Oct. 8), C Henry Blanco, $3 million ($300,000 buyout).

Player options: None

Non-tender possibilities: None

CATCHERS

Geovany Soto, .285, 23 HRs, 86 RBIs

The Cubs expect Soto to follow up his sensational rookie season with another solid year. Henry Blanco was a mentor to Soto, but whether that’s worth the $3 million option owed him will have to be determined. Blanco started 45 games.

FIRST BASE

Derrek Lee, .291, 20 HRs, 90 RBIs
Micah Hoffpauir, .362, 25 HRs, 100 RBIs (Triple-A)

Hoffpauir is a solid left-handed bat with no place to play. He could be a better-than-average backup, but Lee never likes to take a day off.

SECOND BASE

Mark DeRosa, .285, 21 HRs, 87 RBIs
Mike Fontenot, .305, 9 HRs, 40 RBIs

DeRosa did seem to play more right field than second base in the final month because of Kosuke Fukudome’s struggles. Fontenot is a solid left-handed option.

SHORTSTOP

Ryan Theriot, .307, 1 HR, 38 RBIs, 22 SBs
Ronny Cedeno, .269, 2 HRs, 28 RBIs

Theriot improved from a year ago, although his numbers did go down again in the final month of play. Cedeno hit .378 in the first month but didn’t maintain that pace.

THIRD BASE

Aramis Ramirez, .289, 27 HRs, 111 RBIs

DeRosa is the backup at third to Ramirez, who notched his sixth 100-RBI season in the last eight years and set career highs with 44 doubles and a .380 on-base percentage.

OUTFIELD

Alfonso Soriano, .280, 29 HRs, 75 RBIs
Kosuke Fukudome, .257, 10 HRs, 58 RBIs
Reed Johnson, .303, 6 HRs, 50 RBIs
Felix Pie, .287, 10 HRs, 55 RBIs (Triple-A)

The Cubs head into the offseason again unsure about center field. Johnson made a positive impact and Jim Edmonds (19 homers, 49 RBIs with Cubs) did better than expected. Pie starred in the Minors but hasn’t been able to make the transition. He is still young. Soriano is signed through 2014, Fukudome through 2011. Fukudome batted .217 after the All-Star break, and one option the team may consider is adding a Japanese hitting coach.

ROTATION

RHP Carlos Zambrano, 14-6, 3.91 ERA, 188 2/3 IP, 130 K’s
LHP Ted Lilly, 17-9, 4.09 ERA, 204 2/3 IP, 184 K’s
RHP Rich Harden, 5-1, 1.77 ERA, 71 IP, 89 K’s (Cubs)
RHP Jason Marquis, 11-9, 4.53 ERA, 167 IP, 91 K’s
LHP Sean Marshall, 3-5, 3.86 ERA, 65 1/3 IP, 58 K’s

Dempster earned the Game 1 start in the NLDS after winning a career-high 17 games. A wild card in the mix is lefty Rich Hill, who won 11 games and led the team in strikeouts in 2007. Hill struggled with his control and back problems in ’08. Another option to be considered is right-hander Angel Guzman.

BULLPEN

RHP Carlos Marmol, 2-4, 2.68 ERA, 82 Gs, 114 K’s
LHP Neal Cotts, 0-2, 4.29 ERA, 50 Gs
RHP Michael Wuertz, 1-1, 3.63 ERA, 45 Gs (Triple-A)
RHP Jeff Samardzija, 1-0, 2.28 ERA, 26 Gs (Cubs)
RHP Chad Gaudin, 9-5, 4.40 ERA, 50 Gs (Cubs/A’s)
RHP Kevin Hart, 2-2, 6.51 ERA, 21 Gs (Cubs)

PROSE AND IVY THOUGHTS:

As for the free-agents:  How do you not figure out a way to keep Ryan Dempster?  As far as I’m concerned he’s one of the most valuable pitchers in the game right now.  17 wins in his first year back in a starting rotation, which could have been higher if the Cubs didn’t blow a couple of those games for him late…and I guy who is comfortable pitching late in a game if need be in the postseason.  Some may feel Dempster jinxed us this year with his predictions in the Spring, but I’d rather have a confident pitcher who can follow it up and performs well in Wrigley, than some unknown Wrigley-untested potential bum with a big name.  I say keep Dempster…and Wood.  Sure he’s a heart attack across the board for Cubs fans and is extremely injury prone.  But, with Marmol in the set up role, its hard to find a better 1-2 punch late in the game.  Unless of course they feel like spending for K-Rod.  Then Marmol K-Rod may send us to 161-1 next year (I don’t want to get ridiculous of course).

As for those eligible for arbitration: Goodbye everyone!  Except Reed Johnson.  I say keep Johnson, lose Edmonds and try to find a strong left-handed swinging center-fielder to start for us, keeping Soriano in left and Fukudome in right.  Fukudome went South come the second half of the season, but I have a feeling that was just first year exhaustion and will get better as we go on.  His defense is impeccable too.  Having him on the team as a first option RF and Derosa around to back him up when the lumber goes silent is a situation I’m okay with.

Club options:  Harden is going to be our leader in wins next year.  That’s how I feel about Harden’s potential in a full season as a Cub so I’m thrilled the Cubs picked up his option.  Blanco?  I don’t know.  He’s fine as a back up.  $3M isn’t that much for a back up catcher so I suppose I’m fine with keeping him.  Not sure who else we’d get to back up the extremely talented Soto.  Thoughts anyone?  I’d pick up the option unless anyone has any better ideas?

The rotation: I would leave our rotation as is however I would switch out Marquis for Marshall as our fifth starter.  This of course would require re-signing Demp.

The bullpen: Get rid of Cotts, Weurtz and Gaudin.  See what that money can get us elsewhere.  Love Marmol in the set up role of course and is the perfect go to guy if Wood can’t handle the closing job or gets injured.  If that’s the case, I agree with Muskat: give Samardzija a shot in the setup role and see what happens.

Clearly a left-handed heavy swinging bat is needed.  Maybe that requires signing a rightfielder who’s a lefty and moving Fukudome to center with Reed Johnson as the fourth fielder and Pie close on everyone’s heels again?  I’m a huge Pie fan and like the kid’s potential, but I have a feeling we’re looking at 2010 for his first complete season as a starting CF for the Cubs.  Hendry might end up having $118 million dollars to play with this off-season.  That’s the same number he had last winter and he followed that up with a repeat title in the Central.  

Same spending amount sounds great.  How about greater results?  (RIGHT OFF!)  Wait ’til next year!  Go Cubs Go!  

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for blogfooter2rectangle2.jpg