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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Cubs 2005 Hot Stove Heats Up

The final week's collapse by the Cubs as they lost 7 out of 8 games to hand the wildcard to the Astros is behind us. I'm ready to start thinking about 2005. A few observations.

  • The Cubs found a new third base coach in Chris Speier after firing "waving" Wendell Kim. Speier played with the Cubs in 85-86. Personally, I though Kim did a much better job this season than last, when it was clear that he used poor judgment on sending runners. Overall, the Cubs definitely need to improve their baserunning. I noticed a marked increase in aggressiveness out of Corey Patterson after Vince Coleman was added as a coach after midseason. From Patterson and Derek Lee that kind of aggressiveness should pay off.
  • The Cubs declined their $11.5M option on Moises Alou and their $6M option on Mark Grudzielanek buying both out for $2M and $500K respectively, freeing up $15M. Both had decent years although Grudz was hurt much of the time. It is possible that Alou could be back under a different contract although of course every Cub fan's dream right now is that the money is used to lure Carlos Beltran to Chicago. Beltran's agent Scott Boros is probably looking at $20M although that's certainly more than he's worth. J.D. Drew is also an option.
  • That also leaves a hole at second base. Todd Walker is a free agent and has said that he doesn't want a part time job next season although he'd only consider it with the Cubs (November 2004 Vine Line). It seems to me that it's a no brainer to go after Walker and make him the everyday second baseman. That would also get a left-handed bat in the lineup everyday and someone who gets on base.
  • The Cubs picked up the option of Ryan Dempster for $2M. In the November issue of Vine Line, GM Jim Hendry said that Dempster has the mentality for the closer role and "has the makeup to do it." Uh oh. Hendry also said, however, that they're leaving Dempster's role up in the air right now and he could be a "rotation guy" or setup man. To me, Dempster clearly has never had enough control to pitch late in the game or come in with runners on base and he didn't show any more control last season. To me, he's a long reliever and spot starter at best.
  • Nomar Garciaparra filed for free agency. He says he'll consider staying in Chicago. With his brittleness I don't think a big contract for more than two years and preferably one, makes any sense. Also on the market are Edgar Renteria (728 OPS), Orlando Cabrera (689 OPS), Cristian Guzman (693 OPS), and Jose Valentin (760 OPS). Renteria is probably the best choice both offensively and defensively while Guzman is the youngest. I wouldn't waste any money on the other two since Valentin will be 35 and Cabrera has a .316 lifetime OBP and will command a larger amount because of his improbable postseason performance.
  • Other Cubs who are free agents include Matt Clement, Glendon Rusch, Kent Mercker, Ramon Martinez, Tom Goodwin, Paul Bako, and Ben Grieve. I wouldn't mind seeing Rusch, Martinez, and Grieve back in pinstripes. Rusch, as a swingman and lefty spot starter, Martinez who is a good utility man whos offensive production is better than most utlity men despite a poor season (659 OPS), and Grieve as a fourth outfielder and left-handed bat off the bench with some patience. I'm not sure what the status of Todd Hollandsworth is but I'm sure the Cubs have overrated his ability based on his hot start last year.
  • Letting Clement go frees up $6M to help in signing free agents.
  • There is no way they should re-sign Bako. At $865K he's already way overpriced. If Hall of Famer Greg Maddux can't pitch to Michael Barrett, then there is something seriously wrong. Backup catchers like him can be had for league minimum and almost all of them would be far superior hitters.
  • I'd be ok with brining Kent Mercker back He still walks an awful lot of batters but he could be your situational lefty again as long as Dusty finally realizes that Mike Remlinger is not a situational lefty and actually has better stats against right handed batters. Of course, with the option picked up on Dempster that may leave Mercker out.
  • Also, in Vine Line Jim Hendry has this to say in regards to Neifi Perez, "We have every interest in trying to re-sign...Neifi Perez more sooner than later-hopefully sometime even before the end of October." I hope he wasn't serious. The only role Perez should play is that of utlity infielder and with his history as an attitude problem, I'm not so sure about that. He is still a good defensive player but if the Cubs think he is suddenly going to perform at the level he did at the end of last season in a full season they're kidding themselves.
  • A story in Vine Line hinted that the Mets might want Sammy Sosa because of his connection with Mets GM Omar Minaya. No way. If Sammy is traded he automatically gets his $18M for 2006. I can't imagine that any team in their right mind would trade for the quickly aging Sosa. No, I'm hoping he can bounce back for one more tour with the Cubs in 05 and then they can buy out his contract for $3.5M. On a veteran team like the Cubs his last day shennanigans will likely not have that big of an impact.
  • Although the Cubs pitching is relatively young this is still a team built to win now before Aramis Ramirez, Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano get to be free agents.

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