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2010 Chicago Cubs: We'll See You in 2012 2010 Spring Preview
by Asher B. Chancey,
April 5, 2010

Everything you need to know about the Chicago Cubs

20. Alfonso “Garrett Anderson” Soriano

Starting in 1998, for years I would tell Scott how awesome Garrett Anderson was, and for years Scott told me he was crap. In 2004, when Anderson finally started to decline, Scott jokingly said
Key Transactions
Acquired Pos.
Carlos Silva SP
Marlon Byrd OF
Xavier Nady OF
Chad Tracy 1B/3B
Departed Pos.
Milton Bradley OF
Kevin Gregg RP
Aaron Miles INF
Jake Fox OF/INF
Rich Harden SP
Aaron Heilman RP
“see, told ya!” Alfonso Soriano has become my Garrett Anderson. From dropping him, post-draft, from my fantasy team a week before the start of his breakout 2002 season to predicting his failure in Texas to predicting his failure in Washington to predicting his failure in Chicago, I have always been down on Soriano. And in 2009, he finally sucked.

19. Signing Milton Bradley was Stupid at the Time . . .

Milton Bradley has always been talented, but he has always been as big of a nightmare for teammates in the clubhouse as he has been for opponents on the field. Bradley enjoyed one Ballpark in Arlington-inflated year in Texas, and the Cubs signed him to a longer-than-necessary deal for more money than it should have taken.

18. . . . but Being Rid of Him isn’t Worth Being Stuck with Carlos Silva

If you have stupidly signed Milton Bradley to a three year $30 million contract, and he has predictably failed, you don’t compound it by trading him for Carlos Silva, the only pitcher in memory to finish two different seasons with two different teams averaging over 12.0 hits per nine innings. It would have been better to give him away.

2009 Standings - NL Central
Central W L PCT GB Home Road RS RA Exp W% RHP LHP
St. Louis Cardinals 91 71 .562 0 46-35 45-36 730 640 .560 63-50 28-21
Chicago Cubs 83 78 .516 8 46-34 37-44 707 672 .523 67-62 16-16
Milwaukee Brewers 80 82 .494 11 40-41 40-41 785 818 .481 59-64 21-18
Cincinnati Reds 78 84 .481 13 40-41 38-43 673 723 .467 59-59 19-25
Houston Astros 74 88 .457 17 44-37 30-51 643 770 .418 57-67 17-21
Pittsburgh Pirates 62 99 .385 29 40-41 22-58 636 768 .415 44-73 18-26

17. So What Did We Learn From This?

A couple of years ago, I made fun of the Baltimore Orioles for continually snatching up failed Cubs outfielders. Now, it seems the joke is on the Cubs. For the second year in a row, the Cubs have dived head-first into the deep end of the Texas Rangers' pool and snatched up Marlon Byrd for three years and fifteen million dollars. Never mind the fact that Marlon Byrd has been in major league baseball for eight years and never come close to the numbers he put up last season with the Rangers. Never mind the fact that the Ballpark in Arlingon makes mediocre outfielders look like All-Stars. Never mind the fact that the Cubs just got burned last season by a guy who put up huge numbers in Texas.

16. Too Rich for Our Blood?

Does it seem odd that the Cubs traded for Tom Gorzelanny last season and then let Rich Harden sign with the Rangers for one year and six-and-a-half million dollars? It should.

15. Attention All AL Pitchers.

If I were a major league pitcher, I might take a 20% pay cut to pitch in the National League. There is no finer poster child for how much easier it is to pitch in the NL than in the AL than Ted Lilly. From 2003 to 2006, he went 49-44 with a 4.48 ERA in 121 games for the A’s and Blue Jays. Since joining the Cubs in 2007, he has gone 44-26 with a 3.70 ERA in 95 games. He is simply a whole different pitcher.

14. Out-Foxed by Billy Beane?

In parts of three seasons at Triple-A, Jake Fox hit 29 homeruns with 98 RBI and an RSL of .318/.384/.650/1.034 in 99 games. Before getting called up in 2009, he was hitting .409 with 17 homeruns in 45 games. Where will Fox be playing in 2010? Oakland. Does it seem odd that the Cubs would be shedding this guy just as he seems major league ready?

14. If it doesn’t make sense, it isn’t meant to be.

Coming into the 2007 season, Geovanny Soto’s career-high OPS had been .756; his career high for homeruns was nine; and his career high for batting average was .273. In 2007, at Triple-A Iowa, Soto hit 26 homeruns and 31 doubles with 109 RBI and an RSL of .353/.424/.652/1.076 in 110 games. It didn’t make sense, but he kept it up in his 18 game call-up to the Cubs. Then, in 2008, he won the Rookie of the Year on the strength of 23 homeruns, 86 RBI, 35 doubles, and an RSL of .285/.364/.504/.868.

He hasn’t been back since. In 2009, at the age of 26, he played in only 102 games, hit 11 homeruns, and batted .218 with a .702 OPS. He lost 40 pounds this off-season, but still struggled all spring.

If it doesn’t seem right, it isn’t right. And something isn’t right about Soto’s numbers thus far.

13. Why would you spend tons of money on an aging foreign outfielder?

Kosuke Fukudome’s career April RSL: .337/.452/.535/.987
Kosuke Fukudome’s career all-months RSL: .259/.368/.402/.770

12. Why would you give a huge contract to a no-defense home-field hero?

Aramis Ramirez’s 2009 home RSL: .396/.453/.583/1.036
Aramis Ramirez’s 2009 road RSL: .247/.333/.457/.790

Cubs Team Capsule

7/20/10: Lou Makes It Official - Cubs manager Lou Piniella has made it official that his 23rd managerial season will be his last. Piniella will finish the 2010 season as skipper of the Cubs and intends to continue to work as a consultant for a major league team, but currently at 1,826 career wins, Lou's bid for the 2,000 win milestone is guaranteed to fall short. He is nevertheless an obvious Hall of Fame manager, with being the first Cubs manager since Leo Durocher (1970-72) to lead the franchise to three straight winning seasons and and the first since Frank Chance (1907-08) to lead the Cubs to consecutive playoff appearances as the latest in a long line of accolades.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has confirmed that Jim Hendry will be the Cubs' general manager heading into the 2011 season and that Hendry will be leading the search for Lou's replacement. Hendry would only reveal that Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, who has been managing in the minor leagues for the past four seasons, was a candidate, and that the Cubs would explore both internal and external options for the position, plus that previous MLB managerial experience was not a prerequisite. The speculation at Baseball Evolution, however, is that Ryno is the obvious frontrunner for this vacancy.

11. Just because he was terrible doesn’t mean we shouldn’t play him.

Carlos Marmol was terrible in the closer’s role the last couple of years. Last year, that meant the Cubs handed the closer-reigns to Kevin Gregg. This year? Back to Marmol. Okay. Let’s see how that works out. FYI, Marmol’s ERA has increased each of the last two years, his K/9IP has decreased, and last season he walked nearly a batter per inning. Doesn’t it seem odd that, knowing Marmol struggles in this role, the Cubs didn’t bring in a new closer or retain Gregg?

10. Pauir to the People.

Why, exactly, are the Cubs so incapable of developing offensive talent? I went through this last season – Mark Grace is quite literally the last offensive prospect to be developed into a major league talent by the Cubs system, and Ryan Theriot (who ain’t Joe Cronin) is the best player they’ve developed since then. In recent years, we’ve seen Corey Patterson, Felix Pie, and Matt Murton (to name a few) bite the dust. Now, Jake Fox and Micah Hoffpauir have absolutely no future with the Cubs despite seemingly limitless ability.

I’m not saying these guys don’t have flaws – they quite clearly do. My question is, why is it that the Cubs are so incapable of ironing out the last remaining flaws in guys like Patterson, Hoffpauir, and Fox, and making them into great players?

I’m just a guy asking questions.

9. What’s the difference between Carlos Delgado and Derrek Lee?

Apparently, three years. Carlos Delgado was 36 when he did his horror movie “Come back from apparently dead for one more scare before finally dying” routine. Derrek Lee, who did it last season, was 33.

8. I’ll take lack of talent over talent any day.

You know what’s awesome about last season’s Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio for Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow trade? We got rid of a six-foot-four right-hander who strikes out a batter per inning in exchange for a reliever who walks almost as many as he strikes out and a starter who specializes in giving up both hits and walks.

7. Chad Tracy . . .

Chad Tracy was awesome with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2005. Since that season, he has done everything in his power to prove his 27 homeurns, 34 doubles, and .911 OPS that season to be a fluke. He hasn’t played over 100 games since 2006, and last season he hit .237 in 98 games for the D’Backs. He is 30 this season.

Welcome to the Cubs.

6. . . . and Xavier Nady?!?!?

When last we caught up with Xavier Nady, he went from an NL MVP candidate with the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first half of 2008 to being traded to the New York Yankees in time to play a pivotal role in the Yankees missing the playoffs for the first time since the Don Mattingly Era. In 2009, Nady missed all but a few minutes of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, his second.

Welcome to the Cubs.

5. Time to Trade Zambrano?

In one sense, no – Zambrano hasn’t been up to his old tricks the last couple of years, as he has struggled with walks allowed and seems to be striking out fewer batters than we once thought he would. On the other hand, pitchers notoriously struggle in Wrigley Field, but Zambrano has had a charmed existence there. The guy is 29 years old in 2010 – maybe we shouldn’t think of it as “getting rid” of him as much “setting him free.”

4. Seriously, Who Cares About Notre Dame Football?

Now entering Year Three of the Jeff Samardzija Phenomenon, this is becoming, quite clearly, a case of a bad minor league pitcher who became a bad major league pitcher.

3. Fighting Tigers

This will be Year Four of the LSU Tigers (Ryan Theriot/Mike Fontenot) middle infield. These guys will both turn 30 this season, and both players went backwards as hitters in 2009. While Fontenot needs to play better to secure his job, neither player faces any real risk of losing his position. While I like these guys, isn’t it odd that the Cubs aren’t trying to upgrade here?

2. You Look Like a Monkey, and You Smell Like One, Too

Of the 2010 Chicago Cubs non-bullpen regulars, only Geovanny Soto, Randy Wells, Carlos Zambrano, and Tom Gorzelanny are under thirty years old. Weird that this team is trading away young guys at a time when their roster is getting so much older.

1. Outlook for the Season

It is clear to me what is happening here – the Chicago Cubs have gone absolutely insane doling out the huge contracts the last few years, and they simply aren’t getting the return on the investment that they’d hoped. In light of the current economic situation in our country, the current ownership turmoil with the Cubs, and the team’s overall lack of competitiveness, the Cubs have reached a point where they simply aren’t willing to spend another dime until some of these huge contracts come to an end.

Consider: In 2010, the Cubs will be paying $13.5 million to a very solid Ryan Dempster, $18.875 million to a suddenly not-so-great Carlos Zambrano, $13.25 million to an aging Derrek Lee, $16.75 million to an oft-injured and one-dimensional Aramis Ramirez, $14 million to a league-average outfielder in Kosuke Fukudome, $19 million to an aging, injured, and suddenly ineffective Alfonso Soriano, and $12.75 million to one of the worst pitchers in baseball in Carlos Silva.

That is roughly $106 million to a core group of seven guys who, in 2010, aren’t going to be All-Stars, aren’t going to be competing for MVP awards or Cy Young Awards or Gold Gloves, aren’t going to make the playoffs, and can’t even think about making it to a World Series.

In 2010, the Cubs will outspend the Philadelphia Phillies, who are gunning for their third World Series appearance in a row. They will outspend every team in four divisions - the AL and NL Central, the AL and NL West - and will thus outspend the winners of those divisions. They will outspend the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers, both of whom they’ll finish the season looking up at in the NL Central. They will outspend the Atlanta Braves, who many people are picking to go to the World Series.

So of course Carlos Marmol is back in the closer role. Of course the Cubs are filling their roster with guys like Chad Tracy, Xavier Nady, and John Grabow. Of course the Cubs are grabbing up guys like Tom Gorzelanny to throw into the rotation, or guys like Marlon Byrd to start in centerfield. Deep sixing Micah Hoffpauir and Jake Fox even makes sense when you consider the fact that these guys are running out of time they can spend making six figures.

The good news is that these contracts will eventually end – Lee’s contract ends after this season, Ramirez, Fukudome, and Silva’s contracts all end after 2011, Zambrano and Dempster’s contracts end in 2012, and Soriano’s contract ends in 2014 (yikes). If the Cubs can somehow move Zambrano and Dempster by the trade deadline in 2011, the Cubs could be ready for a renaissance in the 2012 season. The bad news is, until then, it is low-cost minimally-talented veteran-player day in the north side of Chicago. This isn’t a team built to win – this is a team built to weather some rough times.

(And, by the way, if this isn’t what the Cubs are thinking, it is the single worst job of building a major league baseball team in the history of major league baseball teams.)

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