It's Just a Jump to The Left
The Cubs finished up their organizational meetings in Arizona and as expected, they'll attempt to find some left-handed bats.
''We're going to try to add some different wrinkles, offensively
especially,'' Piniella told the Sun-Times. ''We are going to add
left-handed hitting to this mix. From an offensive standpoint, that is
definitely the No. 1 priority. And if we can get a little more athletic
in the process, we're going to do that, too.''
I think we all knew that was going to be the plan, but the big question will be what can they afford. Crane Kenney has already backed off his earlier statements that the Cubs will raise their payroll next season, citing the worldwide economic slowdown as the main culprit along with a curious case of content over the current Cubs roster.
''I don't want to get into payroll speculation until Jim and
[assistant GM Randy Bush] and their team have done their work,'' said
Cubs chairman Crane Kenney, who nonetheless made it clear he doesn't
expect the kind of jumps that increased the payroll from in the $90
millions in 2006 to $130 million by the end of this season.
''I'm not sure we're going to have any major offseason moves that
would require significant payroll capacity,'' Kenney added. ''We'll
leave that to Jim and Randy and the guys to work through, and we'll see
where we are in a couple of weeks. ... We try not to lose sight of the
fact that we won 97 games for a reason. We have a core that's pretty
Yes, the Cubs outscored everybody in the NL last year and if they returned everyone from last season, I'm rather confident they would still be one of the best teams in the NL, possibly even better with a few more starts going to Rich Harden. Yet, they'd still be vulnerable to a right-heavy pitching staff again in the playoffs and it's never a good idea to stay content, no matter the previous successes.
The short list of left-handed bats worth looking at for next season:
Mark Teixeira -1B
Adam Dunn - LF
Jason Giambi - 1B
Bobby Abreu - RF/LF
Milton Bradley - CF/RF
Orlando Hudson - 2B
Rafael Furcal - SS
Ken Griffey Jr. - RF/CF (team option)
Jim Edmonds - CF
Raul Ibanez - LF
Garret Anderson - LF
Brian Giles - RF (team option)
There also might be some trade targets like Brian Roberts or Aubrey Huff of the Orioles, but a little too early to speculate on who might be available and at what cost. And much like last season where the Cubs went after Kosuke Fukudome in free agency before exploring trade talks for players like Nick Swisher or Raul Ibanez, I imagine the Cubs will do it again this season.
If I were a betting man, either Rafael Furcal or Orlando Hudson will be a Cub next season with the Cubs likely putting another full-court press on Furcal like they did three years ago...this time without McFail there to cockblock Hendry. This will make it easy for Lou to move Soriano down in the order and give Lou that flexibility (in other words more speed) in the lineup. If that was the only move to the lineup, you could see something like this versus righties.
Furcal, Lee, Soriano, Ramirez, Soto, Fukudome, DeRosa, Pie
And with Mike Fontenot in the mix, we could see plenty of Fontenot in there instead of Fukudome with DeRosa moving to right field. Fontenot is also the reason I think the Cubs will make Furcal their number one priority over Hudson, as he already give the Cubs the flexibility to move DeRosa around. If Furcal alludes them again and they can sign Hudson, it could look a little like this versus righties.
Theriot, Hudson, Soriano, Ramirez, Lee, Soto, Fukudome/Pie, DeRosa
That still leaves the middle of the order lacking a left-handed presence so I don't expect the Cubs to stop there. I don't think they'll make a big move, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if the Cubs go after Raul Ibanez or Brian Giles if his option is declined by the Padres which seems likely considering they've entered cost-cutting mode. I think there's a small chance they go after Milton Bradley, but injury and attitude concerns will always be there with him.
That would pretty much make Fukudome battle for a spot in the lineup, likely with Felix Pie in center field. While the changes aren't drastic, I'm not sure the Cubs need to make drastic moves for a team that already scored the most runs in the league, just a few subtle improvements to help balance out the lineup. And with already $109M committed in payroll next year and a few spots to fill on the pitching side, just adding Furcal and Ibanez would add plenty to their payroll, although with Hendry's mastery of the back-loaded deal, it might not be that big of an issue for 2009.
Now Hendry might surprise us all and find some takes for Derrek Lee and Jason Marquis and then get in on the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes and trust me I'm all for it. I just don't see there being much of a market for either Lee or Marquis. Lee has a no-trade clause, declining skills and $26 M left on his deal. No-trade clauses get waived all the time, but it usually takes some incentive to do so and then you're likely getting into paying part of Lee's contract which would sort of defeat the whole purpose. Marquis can be traded against his will but at almost $10M there's just no way the Cubs will unload that without paying a healthy portion of it. If it's $1-2M out of the Cubs pockets, it might be worth it still, but if they're going to start having to pay half or more, how much of a benefit will that really be?