Should They Stay or Should They Go?

Now that the gauntlet has been dropped and there will be a new sheriff in town - eventually - let me take a look at what a new statistically inclined general manager may think of the current crop of Cubbies with the predisposition that the Cubs are not going into some full 3-year rebuild mode. That may be a faulty assumption on my part, but I assume the Ricketts would at the very least like to make the appearance of contending and with nearly $50M coming off the books and even more after 2012, no reason a savvy GM could not make things a lot more interesting, rather quickly.

Let me preface this with the explanation that this is intended more as a look at who may stay and who may go, then who will they try to bring in, although they'll certainly be some of that mixed in.

Catchers

  • Geovany Soto
  • Koyie Hill
  • Welington Castillo

I assume the second pen is laid to paper to sign the new GM's contract, Koyie Hill ceases to be on the Cubs 40-man roster. Soto's patience and power should be appealing as well as his low cost and he has improved his defense a bit this year. He's certainly worth dangling in a trade, but hard to see anyone that could be found that would be a worthy replacement. Castillo's power the last two years in Iowa has been intriguing, but what little I've seen at the major league level has me questioning that his defense would be any better than Soto's to justify what would likely be an offensive drop. And Castillo has shown little ability to stay healthy. If the new GM feels like committing to Soto as the catcher for the next 2-3 years, looking to trade Castillo and leaving back-up duties to Clevenger, Robinson or the like would suit me just fine.

First Base

  • Bryan LaHair
  • Carlos Pena

I only added LaHair since it seems inevitable he'll be added to the 40-man for a September call-up. But I can't imagine he's part of any future plan despite the gaudy AAA numbers this year. Bringing back Pena next year on another one year deal wouldn't be the worst thing, nor the best thing, but his patience and pop would likely be welcome. Jonah Keri suggests the Cubs pass on Pujols or Fielder because they likely won't be contending next year. This line of thinking always confuses me. If you're signing a guy for 6-8 years, I think you're intending to try to contend beyond just the first season of the contract and I doubt anyone as good as Pujols or as good and young as Fielder will be available anytime soon. There's something to be said about not spending your resources on a 32-year old that no one believes is 32 or a big-boned vegetarian who plays terrible defense and runs the bases poorly, but that something shouldn't be, "well we don't see ourselves winning in the first year of their contract".

Second Base

  • Darwin Barney
  • Blake DeWitt
  • DJ LeMahieu
  • Jeff Baker

With the asssumption that no one is going to move Starlin Castro from shortstop anytime soon and my own reservations that Barney would be all that great of a defensive shortstop, I'm guessing one of the first jobs of the new GM would be to let everyone know that barely nipping at a .700 OPS is not good production from your second basemen, regardless how awesome his defense is suppose to be (awesomeness that hasn't really reflected in the defensive stats) or how dirty his uniform gets. I have no idea what kind of trade value Barney has, but I'd certainly look into it, cause guys like Barney run the risk of impressing their managers into playing time with their intangibles rather than their production when they're on the roster. Or to put it another way, do the Red Sox, Yankees or Phillies employ a Darwin Barney as a starter? Marco Scutaro is the closest comp I could think of, but his patient approach fits in better with the Red Sox philosophy and his defense (at least on reputation) is much more well regarded.

That being said, with all of Wilken's middle-of-the-diamond draft picks over the years, it's not a position you want to tie up with an expensive free agent contract. I would hope, just by sheer odds, that one of those picks should inevitably result in a decent enough regular. A Baker/Flaherty platoon would interest me the most for next season,  but I could also see Flaherty struggling mightily out of the gate. I guess we'll find out how strong the committment to player development is, when the Cubs are losing lots of games with some of these youngsters.

Shortstop

  • Starlin Castro
  • Darwin Barney
  • DJ LeMahieu

At age 21, Castro is 10th among shortstops in total WAR and 7th in wOBA. I assume that he stays where he's at and continues to get better. Barney as a bench guy makes more sense to me. LeMahieu seems more like a future utility guy and doesn't really have the approach that I care for, but I'm not sure what the the trade value is for a barely top-10 prospect, if any exists at all.

Third Base

  • Aramis Ramirez
  • Jeff Baker

Is Ramirez worth the $16M next year in a bare free agent market for third basemen? This might be one of the tougher decisions for a new GM. The Cubs have the money to keep him and his production, and even with declining defense, he should justify the cost (for the most part). On the other hand, is it worth taking that $16M and putting it toward Fielder or Pujols contract as an investment for the future.

Left Field

  • Alfonso Soriano

If Ricketts is feeling generous, he'd say the sins of the past are not the burden of the future GM. Pay whatever it takes to make Soriano go away as quickly as possible. What that entails I don't know yet. The chatter is that Soriano is suited to be a DH, but I feel the demand for right-handed hitting DH's with wOBA's of .316 and falling and owed $54M for three years is pretty sparse. There's always the swap of bad contracts (Vernon Wells?), but what does that really solve? A deferred buyout or outright release would be the last ditch options. The other option is making him earn his playing time and benching him regularly, something I feel a certain Hall-of-Fame second basemen wouldn't be opposed to doing.

Center Field

  • Marlon Byrd
  • Tony Campana

On the last year of a rather cheap deal, Byrd should have some suitors in the offseason trade market. The sort of leader type with good enough production that a contending team might look at. It's not a move that needs to be made, but the market should be explored. He certainly doesn't bring the trifecta of patience, power and good defense that a saber-inclined GM would want. Campana could be a perfectly reasonable last man on the bench, or not.

Right Field

  • Tyler Colvin
  • Reed Johnson

Bringing Reed back again to hit lefties would be fine, he does it well enough and cheap enough, but that's a January decision. I think Colvin truly has 30-HR potential in him if he played everyday, but he'll never have the patience that you'd really want to make him an above average player. With the year he had, his trade value amounts to whatever lies above completely non-existant, so I assume he stays and maybe he earns his full-time shot in spring training.

Starting Pitching

  • Carlos Zambrano
  • Ryan Dempster
  • Matt Garza
  • Randy Wells
  • Casey Coleman
  • Andrew Cashner

Before Hendry got fired, I'd say Ryan Dempster picking up his $14M player option was inevitable. No such loyalty may exist now and Dempster could look to explore a multi-year deal. With a 3.62 FIP, the new GM would probably prefer Dempster stay, unless they'd want the financial resources to play around with. Z seems as good as gone if they can find a team, get Z to waive his NTC and eat some money. Good luck with that new GM.  Garza's 3.01 FIP says he should stay, but he's also worth dangling in a trade to see what's available. No doubt he'd be one of the top 3 free agent pitchers if he was available, but I assume he stays a Cubbie. Wells and Cashner really depend on what else may be brought in, but both have their appeal to stay as Cubbies. I mean Cashner's not going anywhere, it's just whether he moves to the pen or sticks with being a starter. Coleman just needs to go away.

Relief Pitchers

  • Carlos Marmol
  • Kerry Wood
  • Sean Marshall
  • Jeff Samardzija
  • James Russell
  • Chris Carpenter
  • Scott Maine
  • Berg, Cabrera, Caridad, Dolis, Gaub, Mateo, Schlitter, Smit

Unfortunately Marmol's second half implosion is likely to hurt his trade value, as is his declining fastball velocity. That makes trading him in the offseason, likely a poor proposition. If Kerry Wood wants back for $2M or less, that's a no-brainer. Marshall should of course stay, they can even try him out in the rotation or as a closer, but it's also worth seeing how much someone would overpay for him in a trade. I'd probably see if someone is just looking at Samardizja's ERA and not notice his walk rates. The rest are a case-by-case basis that I don't care to delve into today.

P.S. I highly recommend Chris Jaffe's very balanced take on the Hendry years at THT.

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Comments

Reason #1053 why Q-Ball needed to be fired along with Hendry

gives Castro a "mental day off" because of yesterday's lack of attentiveness

Q-ball needs to be relieved on, and then relieved of his duties today. I didn't watch last night's game to see what Castro was doing, and if he did have his back to the batter while a pitch was thrown, that is a big deal, but Q has been such a hypocrite all year with Castro and Barney while the rest of the team dogs it daily. A manager in any business needs to be consistent.

it was pretty bad, had his glove off and back turned while the pitch was being delivered. There's a link in the earlier thread.

Nonetheless, I prefer the Bobby Cox method, deal with it then and forget it ever happened the next day. I realize he said he didn't see it, but dragging this out does no good. He should berate his coaches for not telling him immediately then, that he claimed were watching.

Nice article, Rob.

I was talking to a friend last night about the prospect of being able to trade Soriano. I said that even if they ate half of his contract, he's still a $9 million a year DH for another team, and free agent DH's didn't get contracts like that last off-season. Thome got $3 mil, and Godzilla got $4.25 mil. Manny got what, $1 mil? Only Ortiz got more, but that was an option picked up by Boston. True DH's have gotten big contracts for a few years, as the owners have pushed most of the older players without actual positions out of the game. The Cubs would probably have to eat enough of Soriano's contract that he only costs a new team something in the $3-5 mil per year range, I would think.

I think you try to trade Soriano by picking up the majority of his contract, or you tell him and his agent that you're thinking of a number between $1 and $54,000,000 that has the first digit of 2. If they're not amenable to that then Fonzie will become the best paid RH pinch-hitter in baseball through the 2014 season.

Thome only got one year.

$1-3 million sounds about right for Soriano, but only for a year. But then the Cubs are paying 95% of his salary. Only Hendry (who recently agreed to pay 84% of the rest of Fukudome's contract) would be motivated to make a face-saving deal like that.

The new GM and Ricketts will mull this over for about five minutes and then decide to just release the guy. The money is already spent, as Levine has been saying. That's true when the new guy gets here, and it was also true when Ricketts arrived.

not everyone a fan of the great Szczur

http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/chat/_/id/397...

from last Friday, Keith Law chat


Would you please explain your comparison of Matt Szczur to Juan Pierre a little more? Obviously they both make easy contact and have great speed, but Szczur's upside seems considerably different than what Pierre has done. Szczur is bigger and stronger now as a very young man than Pierre was/is as a fully developed man. Szczur is hitting for more power in the minors at the same stage than Pierre did. Szczur also shows big power in BP, which I don't remember ever hearing about Pierre. Despite Pierre's speed he didn't provide the defensive value that Szczur projects. Why wouldn't Jacoby Ellsbury be a more appropriate comp? Do you honestly think that Szczur's power will be as limited as Pierre's?

Klaw (1:54 PM): Let's ignore for the moment that Szczur has been terrible in high-A. He has one of the shortest, slappiest swings I've seen on a "prospect" - no leverage, no rotation, just flicks the bat at the ball and meets it out front. Until that changes, I don't see him hitting for any meaningful power in pro ball, and it's not like he's got great plate discipline. He'll be lucky to have Pierre's career.

and then he just gets snippy

an (Chicago)Can we maybe chalk up Matt Szczur's dip in batting average at high-A to fatigue considering he's playing his first full season of pro ball ON TOP of a full football season.....also, he's 6 for 6 in stolen bases and was voted the best defensive outfielder by midwest league managers, so assuming he's carried that defense over and is playing plus defense at a premium position while stealing bases is it still fair to say he's been "terrible" at high-A?

Klaw (2:12 PM): He has a .289 OBP, too. Maybe while you're chalking it up to fatigue, we can talk about your massive need to rationalize bad performance by a prospect in your favorite team's farm system, coupled with your need to get me to say something positive when the stats are so negative.

I've always wondered this: How come whenever someone describes the "prettiest swings" it's almost always a lefthanded batter. I can't think of one righty with that tag attached to them. I doubt this is the case, but is there some physical reason lefties would have a prettier, or more ideal, swing than a righty? Or is it just coincidence? Thanks.

Klaw (1:15 PM): Josh Vitters is right-handed, and his swing would qualify.

Ted (Wilmington): Best guess as to where you think Dillon Maples may have been drafted if his signability wasn't an issue?

Klaw (1:41 PM): Second round? Crazy arm strength but reliever's delivery and command.

Justin (Chicago): Agree with Wilken's high-ceiling, diamond in the rough draft strategy?
Klaw (2:05 PM): Yes even if I don't agree with all of the specific picks.

He did this two days after Szczur hit two home runs?

2 days before I believe

Colvin or Sori at first next year.

You can write off next year with lack of starting pitching available and on Cubs.
If Dempster goes, you only have Garza.

/next year rebuild should have been this year
// F U Hendry

Pena in right field and Dewitt in left?

Even the stupid Royals and Nationals can figure out that you can't sign the perfect free agents when you're "ready" to compete, and that you have to grab one or two a year.

Gammons tweet
Any Cubs list has to include Larry Beinfest, who has done a remarkable job in Florida on a dime store budget
Twitter for iPad • 8/22/11 5:42 PM

Nope, the rule has to be nothing prior to 2004 can be considered because otherwise you wind up hiring Hendry back.

And the irony involved with asking Beinfest to be the GM is just too heavy. There's the whole 2003 RoY-Dontrelle-Willis Juan-Pierre D-Lee come and gone thing. What's more, Beinfest has the title of President at Florida so Ricketts might have to offer him his job and abdicate.

guess I missed Jokisch getting promoted, but starting I believe his 2nd game for AA tonight.

I am getting lazy, letting expecting the Phils to report all of this stuff.

Nice blogical today. The last sentence in the LF writeup had me laughing aloud.

More national media weighing in on Cubs-

http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/6884431/t...

well done

/checks article
//yep, same link.

Oh shit, sorry.

My attention span...look puppies!!!

breaking news: ken griffey jr. traded to the reds

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/baseball/mlb...

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HA

If they really care to fuck with Soriano, a Colvin or Jackson platoon in LF might be worth something. Soriano still has good splits versus lefties.

A minor correction on the Ramirez decision. It's really a $14 million savings if they let him go, because of the buyout.

It's hard to see Fielder coming over without Aram to hit behind him, though. Unless they just blow the competing offers away, they're going to have to do some selling to get him signed.

In all seriousness, I really can't wait to see who Ricketts hires to replace Hendry. It's decisions like whether to re-sign Ramirez with the crap of 3B FA's available this off-season or linking that to a Fielder signing, that is going to tell a lot about the direction the team will be heading in. Should be an interesting off-season for once.

I'd like to introduce you to our 2012 Chicago Cubs first baseman, Carlos Pena. :)

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