November 02, 2008

The offseason, part 1 (of however many I feel like)

Now that the playoffs are finally over (congrats to the Phillies by the way), the Hot Stove is heating up. Lots of trades/signings/etc have been bandied about, but let's get a few things straight.

  1. Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Alfonso Soriano are going to be Cubs in 2009. They all have no trade clauses, and Lee (the most tradeable), loves being a Cub, and I do not see any reason for him to go to, say, the SF Giants (a Lee for Cain swap seems to be one of the most popular wishful thinking scenarios running around). I wouldn't mind seeing some lineup shifts (especially if my scenario below comes to pass), mainly that I would like to see Lee batting 2nd or 5th/6th, and Soriano batting 3rd or 5th/6th.

  2. Felix Pie has no future within this organization, which sucks, because I think that he will be a productive player, if the team would only give him a chance. But a combination of Lou's lack of faith in him and Fukudome's contract status (and handedness) are going to squeeze him out of the lineup. He is out of options, so the Cubs either have to trade him, or keep him around as a 5th outfielder, which I don't see happening.

  3. We will not be able to sign both Wood and Dempster. Ths Cubs will likely stand relatively pat for next year, but these are the two big names leaving the team. I don't think the Cubs have enough trading chips to fill some of the holes they have (namely, a Real SS or RF), so that will likely be the only big FA pickup this year, and I think they'll only have money to keep one of them. Dempster will be the linchpin of this I think - if another team offers him 5 years I think he'll take it (the Cubs will likely only go to 3, maybe 4). If Demp goes I think the Cubs resign Wood. Both players have expressed a desire to remain in Chicago, but hometown discounts are only as good as the difference in the contracts that other teams are offering, and there is a LOT of money out there. My gut tells me that we do manage to keep one of them though.

Now that that's out of the way, here's my (very simple) plan for the offseason.

  1. Sign Rafael Furcal

That's pretty much it, plus or minus the minor moves that teams usually make (bullpen stuff, usually). This solves several problems

  1. It moves Soriano out of the leadoff spot. I really think Soriano should be the 3-hitter on this team - he has too much power to be hitting leadoff, and his speed is still great in front of our other bats (Ramirez, Soto).

  2. It moves Theriot out of the SS position. Riot is a scrappy guy, but he is a 2B, not a SS. He just doesn't have the arm/range to be a full-time shortstop. He's still OK at second base, and I think the luster has finally worn off of Ronny Cedeno for me. Plus, if we get someone to play RF in place of DeRosa, we would have some trade bait in Riot, Fontenot, and Cedeno. Riot is overrated by pretty much everyone, so he would be great to include in a deal.

  3. We finally get a real leadoff man. I guess see #1 above. Furcal was the one that got away 3 years ago, and I think the team does still want him. The only red flag is some of his injury issues, which are troubling....

What I think/hope happens is that Dempster leaves, Wood stays, and we sign Furcal and a FA bullpen arm. Then the team would shake out like this.

SS Furcal
1B Lee
LF Soriano
3B Ramirez
C Soto
RF DeRosa
CF/2B Dome/Fontenot
2B/CF Johnson/Riot

B K. Hill
B Hoffpauir
B Cedeno
B Dome/Johnson
B Riot/Fontenot
(B: Pie?)

1 Zambrano
2 Lilly
3 Harden
4 Marquis
5 Marshall

CL Wood
S Marmol
S Samardzija
BP Wuertz
BP Cotts
BP Gaudin
BP Guzman

Others in Minors
Rich Hill
Randy Wells
Kevin Hart
Jose Ascanio

Clearly, either Cedeno or Pie (or Hoffpauir) is going to be gone - there just isn't enough space. I'm not a big Hoffpauir believer, but I think the team won't want to break camp without a pinch hitter with some power (LBR notwithstanding).

Bonus speculation
Since, in this scenario, Pie or Cedeno needs to be traded, we have some small chips to go after someone. The biggest speculation right now is that we might go after Peavy. Cedeno, Pie, and Marshall could be enough to get it done, but I don't really like offering up more than that many. Peavy is quite good though, and I'm not really sure I share the concerns of some others about his injury history. Depending on the package, I think it's a risk worth taking. We could pick up another dime-a-dozen backup SS with some glove to backup Furcal/Riot if this goes through. Maybe even including Riot in the trade might push this over the top.

I would love to trade for Matt Cain or Brian Roberts, but I don't think we have enough to get it done for those guys. The only other free agent name that intrigues me is Derek Lowe, who has had a pretty interesting career. I'm not sure I would want him unless we knew that Riot would not be playing SS though - it would nullify some of the value we would get from all of his ground balls.