Wednesday, November 5, 2008

FA FA FA: Chicago Cubs

I decided I'm going to do short previews for the offseason for each team in the NL Central. I will be focusing on free agent losses and availability at desired positions. I will call these previews FA FA FA until someone gives me a reason not to.

CHICAGO CUBS (97 - 64)

Significant FAs: Ryan Dempster (SP), Kerry Wood (RP), Jim Edmonds (CF)

Significant Gaps: None

A team with the fourth highest EqA and second highest OBP in the entire MLB is lucky to be returning most of it's starting lineup. They could improve in some positions, of course, but until they get a stronger reason to they won't. As far as Jim Edmonds is concerned, a .256/.369/.568 line will be hard to replace, but a) that was in a half season and b) he turns 39 next year. Reed Johnson, the heir apparent to the position, put up .303/.358/.420. You are admittedly losing power (a lot of it) and if they can sign Edmonds they may as well, but Johnson provides similar defensive ability in CF, although I may be biased because of his freak of nature catch in Houston last year. It's a matter of if they can find that power some other place in the lineup (move Soto up) or find a better replacement.

Their highest priority should be Ryan Dempster. Granted, he may have had a career year in 2008 (1.21 WHIP, 2.46 K/BB) his career stats indicate that his WHIP should stay below/around 1.5. That is not bad for your fourth starter. The Cubs are keeping Rich Harden for 2009 and along with Zambrano and Lilly that makes a very good pitching staff for a team that is strong defensively and offensively.

Kerry Wood should be signed not even necessarily because he had a good year last year (1.09 WHIP, 4.67 K/BB) but because he is a franchise player and keeping him will be good for the public image. That being said, I am of the belief that dominant closers can be made/broken easily and wouldn't devote too much payroll to them. If necessary I will clarify this statement.

The Cubs are also losing some bullpen players (Lieber, Howry) and could use some help there but I honestly think that statement applies to every team in the league and premium bullpen help is hard to predict and even harder to find.

1 comment:

  1. He may not be a big name, but Henry Blanco is also a free agent this year, and although Geovany Soto is, as my mother would say, "the shit," the Cubs need to make sure they have a backup catcher available. Blanco isn't much of a hitter, but he's a solid defensive backstop, and let's face it: teams don't carry backup catchers for their bats.

    The Cubs do have options (Koyie Hill, for one) at the position, but having a veteran around to work with Soto, already a fantastic defensive catcher in his own right, would be nice for another year or two. Still, if the Cubs have to decide between making Blanco an offer and making Dempster, Wood, or Edmonds an offer, the choice should be obvious.

    You're dead-on with regards to the Cubbies' priorities, by the way. Dempster won't be an ace every year, but particularly after Rich Hill's disappointing (see: non-existant) 2008, the Cubs need to keep their rotation intact if possible. And because a great deal of Dempster's 2008 success has been attributed (rightly or not) to his new glove-waggling delivery, there is a distinct possibility that he'll continue to outperform his seasons as a starter with the Marlins and Reds.

    Wood is, as you say, a franchise player, and with Marmol proving that his dominant 2007 numbers were no fluke (and Jeff Samardzija hopefully poised to do the same in '09), keeping Wood in the closer slot would give the Cubs one of, if not the, most lights-out 7-8-9 inning combos in the bigs. I agree that closers come and go, but if the Cubs have the opportunity to play 6-inning games, they should sign the checks they need to take advantage of that opportunity, particularly if Wood wants to stay in Chicago (as he has always indicated).

    Edmonds is a bit of a tough call. Picking him up in 2008 was a no-brainer, since San Diego basically paid Edmonds to play for Chicago, but due to his age it's likely the Cubs could sign Edmonds to an incentive-based contract for next to nothing, and with the question marks surrounding Fukudome, such a contract would (like in '08) be worth the minimal risk.

    Personally, I think Fukudome will bounce back next year, but between Edmonds and Johnson, the Cubs would have a solid insurance policy. If they lose Edmonds, the Cubs will once again be in the market for a (preferably left-handed) power hitter to protect Ramirez, assuming they don't simply move Soto into the 5-slot.

    If the Cubs wrangle Brian Roberts away from the Orioles, however, they'd be wise to let Edmonds go and instead shift Fukudome into center and DeRosa into right, with Reed Johnson backing up all three outfield positions. Of course, if they snag Roberts, they'd also be wise to bat him leadoff and move Soriano into the 2-slot, but who knows whether or not Soriano would be willing to accomodate such a move?

    I think I've put the cart sufficiently ahead of the horse, don't you?