''John (McDonough) is going to work with Jim Hendry and the rest of the organization to prepare for 2007. John will be the point person for decision-making with the Cubs." - Trib President Dennis FitzSimons at Andy MacPhail presser last Sunday
''It's important [candidates] understand what a privilege it is to be the manager of the Chicago Cubs. It's a unique culture -- the lights are brighter, the stage is bigger. Whether you're playing the Milwaukee Brewers on a night in April or the Los Angeles Dodgers in July, you're always playing in front of a full house. You need someone who recognizes it's a privilege and respects the logo and the fans and everything about it. It's a unique mystique, and the payoff should be the winning part.'' -- John McDonough telling the Sun-Times
yesterday what he expects to see in the new Cubs manager
''They have to bring in someone who is pretty assertive. And someone has to take control of the clubhouse and just try to change the attitude of the whole organization.'' -- Joe Girardi on the type of manager needed by the Cubs, expressed as he left the Cubs as a FA November 2002
OK. So after John McDonough hears Jim Hendry's opinion and decides to hire Joe Girardi instead, what's next?
is going to get a big pay day whether he remains with the Cubs or goes elsewhere, and so who the new Cubs manager will be could have a major influence on whether Ramirez decides to sign a renegotiated extension with the Cubs, or looks elsewhere. In fact, I don't think any player currently on the Cubs 40-man roster would be more concerned about who the new manager will be than A-Ram.
I somehow can't see Aramis Ramirez and Joe Girardi
getting along too well. Ramirez's style of play and what seems to make him most-comfortable is a laid-back approach to the game, without a lot of scrutiny or criticism about lack of hustle. Ramirez is what he is, and either you accept him that eway or you don't. Dusty Baker could accept Aramis that way, and that's no doubt why Ramirez liked playing for Dusty. But I believe Girardi will not tolerate Ramirez's occasional loss of concentration or lack of hustle, seeing that type of behavior as a dangerous influence that could spread to others (especially younger players) on the team.
So I suspect that when Girardi is named manager, Aramis Ramirez will decide to leave and get his money someplace else.
I also expect Juan Pierre
to leave, although I don't think Girardi will be the reason. I just think Pierre will want to play someplace where he knows the manager and can be absolutely sure that he will be utilized the way he feels he should be utilized. And that would be the White Sox, where Pierre will see Ozzie Guillen (a Marlins coach when Pierre played there, and an unabashed fan of Pierre's) as "his kind of manager."
So then what's gonna happen?
Well, Hendry will have about $20M in 2007 payroll that he was probably planning and hoping to spend on re-siging Ramirez and Pierre that he will be able to re-direct elsewhere.
Some possible scenarios:
1. CF (replacing Pierre): Hendry might take the money appropriated for Ramirez and either sign WAS LF Alfonso Soriano
(to play CF) or try and make a trade with the Blue Jays for Vernon Wells
(who will be a FA after next season), making sure to sign Wells to a multi-year big bucks extension before or at least immediately after the deal is consumated. The other alternative would be to direct the A-Ram money toward an overwhelming offer for a premier FA starting pitcher (like Jason Schmidt
) and eventually go with Felix Pie in CF, making sure to acquire a short-term solution for CF (and lead-off) who can be turned into a super-sub bench guy once Pie is deemed Ready for Prime-Time. That short-term guy could be somebody like Ryan Freel
(CIN), because we know the Reds will trade just about any position player for pitching (heck, they traded their starting RF and their starting SS to WAS for two relief pitchers this past season!), and the Cubs do have a lot of pitching depth that can be used in a trade.
2. 3B (replacing Ramirez): Hendry can take the money he appropriated for Pierre (probably around $7-8M for 2007) and either sign a FA 3B like Pedro Feliz
(SF), or else attempt to acquire a 3B like Mike Lowell
(BOS) or Bill Hall
(MIL) via trade. Lowell will make $9M in 2007 and then will be a FA, and Hall will be eligible for salary-arbitration for the first-time this off-seaaon. Again, the Cubs have a lot of pitching depth (Bob Howry
, Mark Prior
, Ryan Dempster
, Angel Guzman
, Sean Marshall
, Juan Mateo
, Carlos Marmol
, David Aardsma
, Michael Wuertz
, Will Ohman
, Roberto Novoa
, Jae-kuk Ryu
, Sean Gallagher
, Donald Veal
, et al) plus a AA All-Star 3B (Scott Moore
) they can package in a deal for somebody like a Mike Lowell or a Bill Hall.