Kap's Corner

How to Start to Fix the Cubs for 2010

With a new ownership group scheduled to assume control shortly after the World Series the
Jim Hendry at the Cubs Podium.jpeg

Jim Hendry has three years left on his contract and he will probably get the chance to build the 2010 Cubs and to correct what went wrong in 2009.

Cubs will not only have a lot of tough decisions to make to improve their team but they will also have a new direction to plan with Tom Ricketts and his family as the architects.

What will the Cubs off season look like? Will Jim Hendry be the man making the decisions? Let's take a stab at answering those questions and trying to figure out what is on the horizon for the 2010 Cubs. First, let's start with who will be in charge of baseball operations. There is considerable angst among Cubs fans over the moves made by General Manager Jim Hendry last winter. Nothing that Hendry tried worked and after seeing a 97 win team go backwards he is certainly hearing complaints from the fan base.

However, after seeing his team lose 6 straight playoff games Hendry tried to improve his team to take the next step and it didn't work. You have to give him credit for having the guts to make several moves to try to get better and to try to bring the ultimate prize to the Cubs organization. You also have to realize that when the Cubs opened the checkbook in the winter of 2006-07 Hendry was told you better win and win now. Back loaded contracts were not a problem because the Tribune knew they were selling the team and that they would not be paying most of the deals.

Then the sale process got sidetracked, the credit markets went cold and the Cubs saw their ability to keep spending dry up. None of this is an excuse for why they have played so poorly and doesn't excuse Hendry's poor decisions last winter but also give the St. Louis Cardinals credit for how well they have played. They have earned their place atop the NL Central.

Still, I believe that Hendry will be asked to return and he will be given a chance to fix what is wrong with the team. He fixed it after 2002, he fixed it after 2006 and with three years left on his deal and knowing that the Ricketts family signed off on Hendry's contract extension last fall they will give him a chance to fix it again.

One thing that Hendry has to do a better job at though is knowing what he has in his system before he goes out and adds a player through free agency. Take the signing of Aaron Miles who was given a 2 year deal for 4.9 million dollars. If you had to move money to sign Milton Bradley and that money cost you Mark DeRosa how could you not know that you had Andres Blanco and Bobby Scales in your system who are both better players than Miles and both make the league minimum.

Another move that made no sense was letting Casey McGehee leave for the $20,000 waiver price to the Milwaukee Brewers when you had no other backup third baseman on your roster. He has had an outstanding season in a backup role batting .289 with 10 HR's and 39 RBI's. For those wondering who those numbers compare to on the Cubs roster think of the 30 million dollar man Milton Bradley. McGehee has a better batting average , just 1 less home run and more RBI's than Bradley and he has done all of that in just under 100 LESS at bats. One other note about McGehee, he too makes the league minimum of $400,000. 

However, I also believe that Tom Ricketts will add an executive to his management team who will be slotted above Hendry in terms of power. Who that will be has been the cause of much speculation but I am fairly confident that someone will be hired because when a family pays 800+ million for a franchise you know they are going to add someone who they select and rely upon.

What type of a person will fit what the Ricketts are looking for? I believe that it will be someone who has previous GM experience but who has no interest in going back to the grind of that role. Hendry has a number of excellent qualities including a great work ethic and great people skills which is essential when you are recruiting free agents and dealing with players and agents.

Hendry is also well respected by his fellow GM's for his honesty and his approach when they are discussing potential trades. However, a major criticism of his from a handful of baseball executives that I spoke with is his anxiousness to complete a deal or to make an acquisition without showing patience before acting. Sometimes, striking first is the best approach but sometimes restraint to see if the market changes is the smarter way to operate.

We all looked at Andy MacPhail when he was in charge of the Cubs and wondered why he was so deliberate in his dealings with agents and other GM's. However, if you look at what he has accomplished in his short time running the Baltimore Orioles you will see a number of astute trades that have restocked the Baltimore system with solid prospects and future stars. His trade of Erik Bedard to the Seattle Mariners for 5 players including All Star Adam Jones was an absolute blowout in favor of the Orioles. His trade of George Sherrill (who also came over in the Bedard trade) to the Dodgers this past July netted two more solid prospects who should both play in Baltimore in the near future.

While MacPhail did not do a very good job running the Cubs for more than a decade, perhaps he was the counter balance to Hendry's ultra aggressiveness that helped Hendry shape the 2003 and 2004 Cubs which were very talented teams that fell short for various reasons. Maybe Hendry needs another voice to bounce things off of other than just the guys who work for him. Perhaps a person with a background in scouting who has been a GM could help him fix what ails the current club.

One name that I keep hearing about is former Minnesota Twins GM Terry Ryan who is currently an adviser to the Twins. He is considered one of the best scouts in the game and you would have to think that his contacts as a former GM would be a great help to Hendry as he goes about fixing what what went wrong with his team in 2009. He has no interest according to friends of his that I spoke with in being a GM again but might have interest in trying to win a championship with the Cubs.

The first move that I believe must happen is the purging of Milton Bradley from the roster. His signing was questionable from the day it occurred and his antics have been a distraction to the team and a problem for management all season long. He will end up with decent numbers when the season ends including an excellent on base percentage and more games played than most anyone gave him credit for. However, the Cubs need run production and there aren't too many positions where you can make a move that will dramatically increase the offensive production at that spot. I will be shocked if Bradley is on the roster next spring no matter what the cost is to move him.

First base will continue to be manned by Derrek Lee who has had an excellent season and has one year left on his contract. Second base is wide open and must be improved either by moving Ryan Theriot there or by adding a big time player to the mix.  Shortstop is Theriot's unless he moves to 2nd and then a big time shortstop is a must have addition. Third base will be greatly improved simply because Aramis Ramirez will be back for a full season. Now he must stay healthy plus the Cubs must have a backup for him on the roster from the get go in case he has any injuries in 2010.

In the outfield the Cubs are stuck with Alfonso Soriano because his contract (90 million left over the next five years) makes him almost impossible to move. Hopefully, the knee problems that have plagued him this season will be healed by next April and that Soriano will return as a much better player than he was this season. Kosuke Fukudome has had a much better season this year and with $26.5 million left on his deal he is not going anywhere. Plus, the Cubs like how he has played and feel that he is a fit on their roster.

Behind the plate the Cubs have to spend the off season getting Geovany Soto in shape and producing like he did in 2008. If they believe that he will never achieve to that level of performance again then they need to find a veteran catcher who can handle their pitching staff and provide some offense. The top available name in free agency is 35 year old Bengie Molina who is currently playing for the San Francisco Giants and his hitting .263 with 16 HR's and 67 RBI's However he has only thrown out 24.5% of base runners who try to steal on him while Soto has thrown out 30%. The best catcher in the National League is Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals who is enjoying one of the best offensive seasons of his career and has thrown out 40% of would be base stealers. BEST OPTION: GET SOTO FIXED.

The pitching staff needs some work both in the rotation and in the bullpen. The starters that will probably return are Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, and Randy Wells. Rich Harden is a free agent and with his injury history there is no way I would give him any more than a one year deal. In fact, if Hendry is smart he will trade Harden to the Twins by Monday and add a couple of prospects to his system. Harden has some value and the Twins are desperate enough to add a starter that they just might overpay for him. That should mean that the Cubs will look to add a veteran starter to help anchor the staff but with payroll flexibility a question mark that may not be an option.

In the bullpen you have these names that I believe you can definitely count on: Carlos Marmol, Angel Guzman, and Sean Marshall. Tom Gorzelanny will be a candidate for both the rotation and the bullpen but I don't believe that he is the caliber pitcher the Cubs should be looking at as a starter if they are serious about contending in 2010. Andrew Cashner could surprise in spring training as a bullpen arm and Jeff Samardzija could also be in the mix in a set up role. That leaves a glaring need for a top flight set up man and very slim pickings in free agency. Aaron Heilman and John Grabow are candidates to return but I would only bring Grabow back as Heilman has had a very up and down season. In fact, I would also move him by Monday as he was claimed in a waiver deal by San Francisco. Kevin Gregg has no chance of coming back after struggling as the closer.

All in all, the Cubs have major dollars already committed to several under performing players and unless they are either replaced (not likely) or they improve greatly (questionable) the 2010 team could be a long shot to reach the postseason. The optimist (and what Cubs fan isn't an optimist) believes that Soriano's knee will be healed and he will play much better in 2010 than he did in 2009.

They also believe that Geovany Soto will return to form after a horrific 2009 and that Carlos Zambrano will finally mature and reach the incredible potential that he has in his right arm and be the true ace that the staff so desperately needs. Add in that Carlos Marmol will harness his control and become a dominant closer. Also, that whatever bat replaces Milton Bradley on the roster (if he is indeed moved) brings big time production to revive the sagging Cubs offense.

However, the realist says that the Cubs have far too many ifs to believe that 2010 will be the next year that Cubs fans have dreamt about for so very long. You can though, think back to the winter of 2002-03 when the Cubs were coming off of a 66 win season and had fired both Don Baylor and Jim Essian. When the 2002 season ended who would have thought that just 12 months later the Cubs would almost make it to the World Series. Perhaps Jim Hendry has that magic left in his bag of tricks again. As a Cubs fan you better hope so.



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*dan bradley said:


Put Fox in right. Re-sign DeRo to play second (keep Andres Blanco as a backup and purge yourself of Miles and Fontenot so you can keep both Fuld and Johnson on the roster). Then completely re-tool the bullpen. Also- after this year i don't believe Zambrano will ever reach his star potential. His attitude will always cause a setback. So, your no. 1 need almost, then, becomes signing an ace to lead your rotation. Thoughts on this one?

CLH said:

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Kap, you mention that Hendry has to do a better job at recognizing what is in his farm system, but you follow that up with adding another executive above him? I am confused. Wouldnt you want to overhaul the people below Hendry? I thought this was an interesting article:


Three years ago, they praised Wilken for his ability to get players to the majors. What has he produced? Soto? I also love the fact he mentions how he likes to target middle infielders. Again, in the past three years, what has he produced?

I may be totally off on this, but I still feel that the Cubs will not be able to compete year in and year out without better talent evaluation. I also agree with Steve Stone's comment that your scouts need to be able to find baseball players who are going to come to the park every day and not be out drinking the night before an afternoon game.

farina96 said:

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Okay People That means you to Kap I believe that the cubs only need to make a couple of adjustments PLAIN AND SIMPLE!!!!! and they will be back on top!!!!!No Doubt

Jarrett said:

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Jarrett said:

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Hey Kap - I agree with most of what you said, but I think Hendry needs to man up and admit he made a mistake and bring back DeRosa, that is unless the Cardinals sign him. I guess that all depends on how DeRosa's performance down the stretch and into the post-season. I like DeRosa for his versatility (2B, 3B, LF, RF, 1B), his bat and most of all, "chemistry". He's a guy that loves Chicago and was not for leaving. I believe Jake Fox needs to be part of the Cubs plans for next season. The interesting thing is, can he develop into an everyday player? If so, do we have an everyday position for Fox?

I agree 110% with Bradley. He needs to be gone (figure it out Hendry/Ricketts. As much as I'd like to see Soriano gone, we are stuck with him. I'd also like to see us say good-bye to Zambrano. How many more chances can we give this guy?

Its ridiculous Kap and its a disgrace that the top paid players on the Cubs are underachievers (1. Carlos Zambrano 18,750,000
2. Alfonso Soriano 17,000,000).

This is where I get disgusted with how major league baseball salaries are structured. I think MLB needs to look at how at the NFL and the NBA and model something close to that. If I was commissioner, everyone would be paid a guaranteed $500,000 and on top of that, what each player earns is all incentives (based on individual and team performance). Every player would have individual goals, including what they must contribute to the team, in order to receive incentive payouts. Top performers could end up making some great money. Baseball players should be paid like sales people. Payouts should be based on Wins/Loses, ERA, Batting Averages, RBI's, fielding percentage, # of games played (staying healthy). Performance dictates how much you make (sky is the limit). The team wins the division, everyone receives a payout. Team wins the division series, again, everyone receives a payout. Team that wins the World Series, again, another payout.

IvyChatChuck said:


In fact, if Hendry is smart he will trade Harden to the Twins by Monday and add a couple of prospects to his system

So, another data point in the answer being, "no."

jack74 said:

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Hi Kap,

Well, for starters, I believe that Jim Hendry should remain where he is at currently. He basically has made some very good moves throughout his tenure, acquiring Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee. Both have performed exceptionally well during their tenure. He has also made some "ill-advised" acquisitions, like Milton Bradley, Kevin Gregg, and Aaron Heilman. I think next year's team will need to be "revamped", but not overhauled, because the talent is basically there. Here's what Jimmy needs to do:

1. Trade Milton Bradley. His attitude and work ethic are very questionable, and, I believe, are a real reason this team didn't contend this season in the first place. A trade to the Nats for Adam Dunn might be a possible move. Dunn has walloped 40 homers at Wrigley - might be inviting for the bleacher bums, especially those in the tier above the green shrubbery.

2. Let Heilman and Gregg go after the season. They were both liabilities. Replace them with Carlos Marmol (already the closer), and Grabow/Marshall. I'm sure Carlos can get his confidence back, and resume his phenom-like status. Gorzelanny can alternate between the bullpen and the rotation.

3. Re-acquiring DeRo is also a possibility. In my estimation, he would bring good chemistry back to the team. His bat would also be a plus.

4. Get Geo. Soto back into shape, and keep him away from drugs of any kind. In my opinion, his drug problem poses a serious concern, and some thought should be given to replacing him if any more drug occurrences arise. Otherwise, if he keeps his weight down, he should return to his '08 form. Koyie Hill also should be retained as a backup; he seems to be a good defensive catcher. I thought I saw a stat of him throwing out 40 percent of would-be base stealers thus far. Seems to me that's a pretty good statistic.

When these changes are made, I believe the Cubs have a good chance of being very competitive next year, and perhaps winning the division.

*dan bradley said:


Dude... Adam Dunn is ANOTHER Soriano (it's either home runs or nothing. He's terrible in the outfield- maybe even worse! And he probably strikes out even MORE!). Do you want another Sori? i don't.

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