At the end of every offseason your favorite team will fall into 4 categories:
1. Improved team through free agency spending. Yankees & Braves
2. Improved team through trade(s). A’s & Royals
3. Kept quiet, not making any major signings or trades. Cardinals
4.Traded players and lost players to free agency because team is rebuilding or economy affected the team. Padres & Astros
The Chicago Cubs, fresh off of a 97-win season somehow managed to fit into all 4 categories. They signed free agents and made trades, but let some of their top free agents go. Thus, making the Cubs offseason truly puzzling. Let’s take a look at some of the players the cubs brought in this offseason and who they replaced from that 97-win team.
In – Carlos Marmol, Cubs 8th inning set-up man in 2008
Out – Kerry Wood, Signed free agent contract with Indians
Analysis – Carlos Marmol takes over for Kerry Wood as the Cubs closer. This is either going to end up very good or very very bad. There will be no gray area with Marmol. Some guys can make the transition from 8th inning set-up guy (Krod, M. Rivera) and some guys can’t (Benitez, Dotel). I just don’t see it from Marmol. I am going to put him in the Benitez, Dotel class. Before you start disagreeing with me, remember this. Marmol in save situations in 2008 had a 3.22 era. In non-save situations, his era was 2.11.
In –Aaron Heilman/Kevin Gregg, both acquired via trade
Out –Carlos Marmol, promoted to closer
Analysis –Failing to re-sign Wood created a ripple effect in the Cubs bullpen. Marmol replaces Wood and Heilman and Gregg will attempt to replace Marmol. Heilman, was actually traded twice this offseason. First to the Mariners and then of course to the Cubs. After being one of the top set-up men in the game from 05-07, Heilman had a meltdown last year with the Mets. A 5.21 era and 46 bb in 76 innings put Heilman in the doghouse.
Gregg, was having a solid season for the Marlins last year until he melted down in August. An 0-4 record with a 10.12 era earned Gregg a demotion from Marlins closer to set-up guy. The Cubs acquired 2 guys who had meltdowns last year. It will be interesting to see how both Heilman and Gregg react when they blow their first 8th inning lead and the Wrigleyville faithful boo them off the mound.
In – Aaron Miles, signed as free agent/Mike Fontenot, bench player in 2008
Out –Mark DeRosa, traded to Indians for 3 minor leaguers
Analysis – This is where the Cubs offseason gets interesting. Cubs GM, Jim Hendry traded the heart and soul of the team last year for 3 minor leaguers. Not only was DeRosa the heart and soul but he also was one of the Cubs MVP’s last year if not the MVP. DeRosa hit .285/21/87/.376 and played 2b, 3b, lf, rf, ss and 1B last year. He replaced Soriano in LF when Soriano went on the DL, he filled in for Fukodome when he was struggling and he gave Ramirez a day off at 3B from time to time. No matter where DeRosa played, the Cubs’ lineup never suffered. How do you trade one of your MVP’s from the year before, in what seems like a salary dump and then go ahead and sign Aaron Miles to a 2 year $4.9MM deal? Just doesn’t make sense. Though Miles can play 2b, ss, 3b and all 3 OF positions, he just can’t match DeRosa’s offensive output. In 6 seasons, Miles has 16 hr and 170 rbi. I am completely puzzled by this move.
In – Reed Johnson, 4th OF on Cubs in 2008
Out –Jim Edmonds, free agent remains unsigned
Analysis – The Cubs signed former Cardinal, Jim Edmonds in May and he gave them the spark they were looking for. Edmonds hit 19 hr with 49 rbi in 85 games. Unless the Cubs resign Edmonds right before the season starts, they will go into 2009 with Reed Johnson as their starting CF. Johnson to me seems more like a great role player and bench guy rather than a starting CF on a team trying to win the pennant. Johnson has never had more than 12 hr and 61 rbi in a season.
In – Milton Bradley, signed as free agent
Out –Kosuke Fukodome, 4th OF for Cubs in 2009
Analysis – If the Mark DeRosa trade was puzzling, the Milton Bradley signing defies logic. Give a guy a 3 year $30MM contract to play RF who has only played 23 games in RF the last 2 years and is injury prone? This signing could be a disaster. Who would you rather have…Bobby Abreu for 1 year and $5MM or Milton Bradley for 3 years and $30MM? I would rather have Abreu. The odd man out in the Cubs OF shuffle is Kosuke Fukodome. After having a dismal 2nd half in 2008 (.217/3/22) Fukodome found himself in Piniella’s doghouse. A place were Fukodome may never get out of.
I tought Fukodome deserved a 2nd chance. Remember, it was Fukodome’s patience at the plate (81 BB in 2008) that was contagious throughout the Cubs lineup early in the season. Plus, he is a much better defensive player than Bradley. Piniella is a great manager but one of his faults is when a player get’s into his doghouse, there are no 2nd chances. Just ask Rich Hill.
As you can see, this Cubs offseason has been very puzzling. In my opinion, an offseason where the Cubs have gotten worse. I do believe the Cubs will win the weak NL Central this year but is team better than last years version of the Cubs? Based on the offseason, it might be 101 years without a title in Wrigleyville.