Archive for December, 2010

In the News: Is Carlos Pena a bad fit for the Cubs?

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

The following is a guest post from Scott Caruso, former editor of Rays of Light

I was surprised earlier this week to get the following message from Joe:

The cubs are looking at pena for 1b. Can you type up a summary on what we’d be getting. I think it would be a bad move. I’d like to run the post Thursday morning.

Certainly he couldn’t be implying that signing Carlos Pena would be a mistake by the Cubs, could he?

I am here to tell you, Joe, that you are dead wrong. With Carlos Pena you are getting a proven – albeit flawed – first baseman that you can instantly stick into the middle of the lineup and the middle of the clubhouse. He’s the poor man’s Adam Dunn – without the giant slab of concrete stuck on his glove hand.

Since 2007, his first year with Tampa Bay, he has posted OPS+ values of 172, 129, 133, and 102. 2010’s poor showing has more to do with a ghastly .291 BABIP than anything else, so he’s a safe bet to rebound back into his 2008/2009 form.

By comparison, Derrek Lee during that time had OPS+ values of 130, 108, 146, and 103.

Yes, he strikes out a ton. He averages 171 of them over a 162-game season. He also, however, averages 35 longballs a season, which would have led the Cubs each of the past 4 years. He’s “clutch” – if you believe in that sort of thing – delivering a 115 OPS+ in the ambiguous “close and late” situations category. He’s the kind of guy that can carry a lineup when he’s hot.

Pena is a good, if not slightly overrated, defensive first baseman. He’ll save his infielders their share of errors (though he will make the routine play look anything but from time to time), but rarely will he lose you a game with his glove. His tall, lanky frame plays even taller, as he’s got the wingspan to pull down the most errant of wild throws.

And for those that care about clubhouse chemistry and leadership, Pena is that guy, too. Always with a smile on his face, Carlos is the first at home plate on a walk-off home run, the first to greet a teammate after a big play, and traditionally wears the biggest grin of all in the dugout. Joe Maddon and his teammates have frequently been quoted as referring to him as the heart and soul of the Rays.

Matt Silverman, the Rays’ Team President, put it best prior to the 2009 All-Star Game:

“He’s an All-Star player and he’s an all-star person. He means so much to this club. He’s been the heart and soul. And it’s something that would be very special for all of us if he can get to St. Louis.”

Look, I’m not going to lie to you. There will be nights where he’ll give you headaches. He’ll step up to the plate in the first inning and take two fastballs right down the middle to go down 0-2, and you’ll know he’s going to 0-for-4 with 3 Ks. You’ll wonder how he ever made it out of Little League, let alone to a 10-year big league career. But when he’s not doing that, he’s winning games with 420-foot home runs and helping lead a team that had no business doing so to 2 AL East titles in his 4 year tenure.

I, for one, would be incredibly sad to see Pena leave Tampa Bay. He most certainly would be a tremendous addition to the Cubs’ lineup and the Cubs’ clubhouse.

But, hey, if Joe doesn’t want him, I’m more than happy to take him back.

Scott Caruso is the former editor-in-chief of Rays of Light, and is currently available for guest blogs, feature stories, magazine articles, and Bar Mitzvahs.

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Chet’s Corner: Hot Stove? Not Quite.

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Talk about a bland off-season for the Cubs.  It’s starting to taste like a rice cake.

They call it the “Hot Stove” season.  The time of year when moves are made and teams are improved, or at least that’s the idea.  I call it, let’s have hope!

One would think the Cubs, with the way they finished off 2010, would be lighting bonfires on their stove in order to position themselves for a solid 2011, but so far there is merely a small flame.

Bruce Levine describes the Cubs as “Bottom Feeders”for the upcoming Winter Meetings starting Dec. 6th.  His blog post also brings light to the fact that we are in a tight market for starting pitching.  Cliff Lee is beyond our payroll and when Carl Pavano is seeking over $10 million/year for three years you know the pickings are slim.  With his injury history, whoever bites on that number, can only expect to get 2 years out of him at best.

This means the pickings from there on out are slim.  Of the available pitchers most are a gamble.  Names like Brandon Webb, and Jeff Francis are out there but I would have rather had them three or four years ago.  Then again, these are the perfect specimen for a Hendry signing.  Pitchers that once were great and have since busted a shoulder or elbow and have fallen off the radar.  Throw ’em a small bone, one year for $1 mill w/ incentives, and see if you can recapture the greatness that once was.  All along selling Cubs season ticket holders and fans on that 2006 Cy Young award that Webb holds.  After the tickets are sold the towel drill begins and start dates get pushed back.

So it looks like the rotation won’t see much change from the outset but what about the rest of the squad?

A first basemen is needed seeing as though we don’t have one.  $112 million locked in before arbitration starts and we don’t have a first basemen??? How is that possible?

Well,  your choices are bleak there too.  Adam Dunn seems to old a spot in many a Cub fans heart.  For the money, I think he will look about as good as Soriano does in left field.  He will hit a dinger every five games and commit a slew of errors at first base.  The people who buy seats behind first are going to get a few wild throws as it is in the coming season, but with Dunn manning the bag……let’s just say we will miss Derrek Lee’s defense.  The good news is this, we won’t be able to afford him.

Laroche could be an option but not a great one and Lance Berkman is available.  A once proud member of the Killer Bee’s is now just a plain Bee buzzing around the free agent honey hole.

The best case scenario is a trade for Adrian Gonzales.  The Padres are hoping to build around him for the coming season so a trade probably w0uldn’t happen until the all-star break at best.  Until then we may see a few “different” options manning the bag.

How about the pen?

With a wealth of young pitching I truly don’t see the Cubs making a big splash here.  Maybe a small splash….maybe a splish.

The problem is I don’t want to see a bullpen as disgusting as the one we had last season.  I turned off my fair share of games midway through the latter innings because I can’t stand watching young bucks throw away hard fought games.

However, with the wealth of arms I don’t see a potential investment worth noting here.   I have this creeping feeling that we will see the same names on the rubber in the late innings…’s to hoping some of them develop in the right direction from year to year.

Hope….there’s that word again.

At this point we know two things……

1) The Cubs only have around 5-7 million to work with.

2) The free agent market isn’t exactly booming.

It may be best to sit on their hands and expect improvement out of the youth.

I look to a team like the Giants who won the past World Series.  Their payroll wasn’t astronomical, the players that starred were either home grown or came on the cheap through free agency, and chemistry and luck once again played a huge role.  When you think about what it takes to get to the World Series you begin to realize that splashy off season moves or the “hot stove” is more hype then it may be worth.  It gives people something to write about…….at least as Cubs fans entering 2011 we  can only hope.

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