Let me start by saying this.
The 2008 Chicago Cubs team was very, very good. This team was one of the best Cubs teams in recent history, with a very good balanced offense, a good balanced pitching staff, and a good defense. They finished with the following National League rankings:
- BA: 2nd
- OBP: 1st
- SLUG: 1st
- Runs: 1st
- ERA: 3rd
- WHIP: 2nd
- K’s: 1st
- Runs Allowed: 2nd
The Cubs clearly had the best offense in the National League, and arguably the second best pitching staff in the league.
But as we all now know, things did not work out quite as well in the three playoff games that the Cubs played. The Cubs, in the playoffs, looked bad. Their pitching staff was mediocre (and at times bad), their offense was bad, and their defense was bad.
So what does this mean? And where do the Cubs go from here?
I believe, pretty strongly, that we should not make judgments about this team based on three games. The Cubs played really poorly in those three games, but it is wrongheaded to assert that those three games are more indicative of the team’s ability than the 161 games played in the regular season. So it is important that we look at the greater picture what than the three-game let down of the NLDS.
As good as the Cubs were during the regular season, the team still has some holes, and here are what I see as the priorities to figure out. Now, I do believe that there other places that can be upgraded, both those upgrades need to be done in a way that still allow the above areas to be addressed.
- Center Field. The Cubs were actually very productive in CF this year with the Jim Edmonds/Reed Johnson platoon. They were actually second in the National League in OPS, just .001 behind the Carlos Beltran and the Mets. But while the Edmonds/Johnson platoon worked like magic this year, it is not likely that they will be able to repeat that performance. Jim Edmonds is old and slow, both his leg and bat speed. Reed Johnson is what he is – a solid role player and can have a positive impact on the team.
- Right Field Backdraft the movie . Right field is a mess right now. I do not think that any of us really know who the real Kosuke Fukudome is, but we know that he looked awful over the last two to three months of the season. Mark DeRosa has been able to step in and play RF, but his defense is clearly lacking in RF. And oh yea… Fukudome is only owed 36 million dollars over the next three years.
- BullpenThe Cubs bullpen, down the stretch, started to fall apart. Eyre was gone, Howry forgot how to get people out, and no one else was reliable. Jeff Samardzija was able step up, but his inability to throw strikes limited his effectiveness.
- Shortstop. This should be fun. I think that everyone knows my opinion on Ryan Theriot. He is one of the worse SS’s in the game – both offensively and defensively. You can read the link if you want to know why.
- First base. Ah… Derrek Lee. I am a big fan of Derrek Lee. He defense is very good (though may have fallen off a bit), he is a smart baseball player, and a good hitter. But for some reason he lost his power. He hit 13 home runs through May, and his just seven after that. That is a problem for a first baseman.
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So that leaves LF, 3b, 2b, C, and the starting rotation as places that don’t need Witches’ Night buy upgrades. Can they be upgraded? Absolutely. Brian Roberts would be a (slight) upgrade over DeRosa. Sabathia would obviously upgrade the rotation. But none of those places need an upgrade, especially if Dempster is resigned.
I would also say that an argument could be made that SS and 1b are not positions that need to be upgraded, and should be a lower priority.
So this is what I do.
I would re-sign Dempster and Wood. I would have Fukudome start in the minor leagues, unless the Cubs have legitimate reason (other than the $36 million) to think that he has been able to fix things.
I would go after Rafael Furcal to play SS and leadoff. I would go after Raul Ibanez to play RF. I would resign Reed Johnson, and let him platoon with Felix Pie in CF.
I would attempt to trade Jason Marquis and let Marshall, Guzman, and Samardzija fight it out for the 5th slot in the rotation. I would also look into Derek Lowe and AJ Burnett, but it would be a lesser priority.
I would try to sign someone like a Jeremy Affeldt for the bullpen, but I would be veryhesitant to spend significant money/years on a middle relief pitcher.
And, unless the Cubs can sign Mark Teixeira, I would keep Derrek Lee at 1st.
I would also let Blanco go, and have Koyie Hill be the backup catcher, while also letting Ward walk away with Hoffpaiur filling the LH pinch hit role.
This would give the Cubs a lineup looking like this:
And a rotation that looked like this:
A bench that looked like this:
And a bullpen that looked like this: