I have been surprised by recent reports about potential moves that the Cubs might be trying to make at this time, especially with the gm meetings this week. By the way, I am sure you heard that the teams decided like 26-2 to vote yes on approving instant replay for home run calls beginning this year. I think this is a good move. This is a black and white call. It is not affected by rule interpretation. It has black and white results. It either left the park or it did not. The runners either stay where they are or everyone scores. I think this makes sense and will not really change much of the fabric of the game. How many times would you guess this instant replay would be used this year? My guess is at most once a day…not in every game, once per day total. (Probably less).

You can take a look around at different newspapers and find the sources for some of these stories about who the Cubs are interested in and what some of their plans are for the coming season. Please comment on what you think about these moves and what other things they might need to address:

Starting Pitching
Unlike our fearless leader Joe, I believe that the Cubs do need to make a move at starting pitcher. I am distressed by the bad numbers that Jason Marquis put up in the second half of the season. Once again there might have been serious discussion about leaving Marquis off the post season roster. They did drop him from the starting rotation in the playoffs and he did not make an appearance.

Ted Lilly did a solid job last year, but also seemed to have ups and downs towards the end of the season. I wonder if his second year in the National League will result in a production drop. I think Lilly is a solid number three, borderline number two. But he has always been a career .500 pitcher and I wonder if this year was an anomaly.

As I look at our rotation we have an “Ace” who we think is one of the best pitchers in baseball, but sometimes goes off the deep end. Having said that, Zambrano is our ace. He is clearly a number one and I am glad to have him. Less walks and less pitches would be nice. Come to think of it, less blow ups would also be nice. Lilly is the number two. Rich Hill is the number three. Which I also don’t love. I know that not everyone can have solid pitching one through five and everyone has some bottom of the rotation issues. But I do ask the question: Is there any way that I could envision Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, and Rich Hill winning a World Series? It’s hard to imagine. And the thing is, I am no longer hoping for something serviceable. I want the Cubs to win a World Series. We all do. So when we evaluate players we must think with that question in mind.

So I think we have pretty shaky four and five pitchers. Marquis is OK at 5 but not at 4 to me. Even if he is 4, who is 5? Does Sean Marshall have what it takes? He hasn’t shown the long term reliability. Kevin Hart looked good, and maybe he gets a shot. Maybe there is another young guy out there.

According to the papers the Cubs are looking at moving Ryan Dempster to starter. I wasn’t overly impressed with him for one inning let alone six. They are also one of the main bidders for Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. In an 11 year career Kiroda is 103-89 with a 3.69 ERA. One other potential name is out there. A guy by the name of Mark Prior. According to the Sun Times the Cubs might offer prior a one year contract with a club option for the following year.

Bullpen
With Dempster potentially being a starter the Cubs will use either Howry, Marmol, or Kerry Wood as closer. Dempster might balk at this idea, and with the Cubs potential closer depth, might be a trade candidate. The Cubs are very high on resigning Kerry Wood, which they would be best to have done by November 12. The rest of the pen remains pretty solid, unless you want to add a left handed relief guy. But a bullpen of Marmol, Wood, Howry, Eyre, and Wuertz looks like a pretty good start.

An update today said that Dempster is more than OK with the move to the rotation and would even welcome the idea.

Catcher
It seems like Geovany Soto will get his shot. Jason Kendall will not be given a new contract. Henry Blanco is still under contract. So Soto will be your everyday catcher. There are some rumblings about his surprising offensive numbers this year, and whether or not they will be repeated playing everyday at the Major League level.

Infield
Do you think the Cubs would like Alfonso Soriano’s contract back so that they could make a run at A-Rod?

The Cubs are pretty set at infield. The corners are locked up, barring injury, for years to come. The middle infield of Theriot and DeRosa would be a place where you could do something, but I think that most people would place that down on the list of things that need to be changed. There are rumors a plenty about some potential moves for the Cubs here, including signing Kaz Matsui or a trade with the Padres for Khalil Greene. Following my last article there was some discussion about just how good is Ryan Theriot anyway? Are you comfortable with him solid everyday?

Outfield
The most likely place to see some changes. Undoubtedly the Cubs are looking for at least one guy, and have an absolute need to be better on defense in the outfield. Some big names have been thrown around Torii Hunter has no interest in running into a brick wall, and Aaron Rowand will end up somewhere else. There has been some talk about acquiring Coco Crisp but I don’t think that is likely. The move that has been picking up steam is a deal with Tampa Bay for Carl Crawford. If this is true, sign me up…I’ll take it. This will cost the Cubs a fortune of prospects, but Tampa seems willing to listen. Another possible scenario that is talked about often is the Cubs getting another Japanese player, outfielder Kosuke Fukudome. He is an outfielder with some pretty good power numbers.

Then there is the enigma that is Felix Pie. Reports say that the Cubs have Gerald Perry working with Pie in the Fall Leagues to help him develop as a hitter. It is possible that Pie is on his final season of opportunity with the Cubs. He would be a likely first prospect that teams would seek in a trade. Up until now the Cubs have been extremely hesitant to trade him. That hesitancy might be diminishing.

I must admit I am relieved that the team understands a need to upgrade. I am unsure if they will put out the resources to do so. All of these things hinge on the sale of the team and how much payroll they will be willing to add. The news is out that Jim Hendry believes that the Cubs will raise their payroll this year.

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