Kap's Corner

The Cubs Need to Say Goodbye to Rich Harden

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Rich Harden's inability to pitch deep into games combined with his injury history makes it likely he won't be a Cub in 2010.

With the Cubs looking towards next year and trying to figure how to improve their team without having a big budget increase lets take a look at their salary commitments for 2010 and how their payroll may prevent them from making many major moves.

Here are the Cubs who are already under contract for next year:
Alfonso Soriano  19 million
Carlos Zambrano 18.875 million
Aramis Ramirez  16.75 million
Kosuke Fukudome 14 million
Ryan Dempster  13.5 million
Derrek Lee  13 million
Ted Lilly 13 million
Milton Bradley 10.33
Jeff Samardzija 1.0 million
---------------------------------------------
119.455 million

Add in to this number arbitration eligible players like Ryan Theriot, Carlos Marmol, Aaron Heilman, Angel Guzman, Sean Marshall, Mike Fontenot, and Koyie Hill and you have to figure that the payroll will swell to approximately $130 million or more and that is just for 16 players.

Add in needing to either re-sign or replace Rich Harden, Kevin Gregg, and Reed Johnson and you have a payroll that is close to or more than 140 million BEFORE you attempt to improve the roster.

So those of us who like to play arm chair general manager and have the Cubs taking a run at Chone Figgins or another high priced free agent better understand that the Ricketts family is not going to be adding big money to the payroll in their first year of ownership.

That means that the Cubs will be very limited in what they can spend and what moves they can make this winter. And if the rumors are true that the Cubs will try to move Milton Bradley they will most assuredly have to eat some of his salary and that will further diminish General Manager Jim  Hendry's ability to make moves.

What then should Hendry do to improve his underachieving baseball team? What salaries can he shed to give him some payroll flexibility to fix what was wrong this season? Well, in my opinion you cannot bring Rich Harden back because it will cost you a minimum of 10 million to sign him, and he probably will command a multi year deal.

Harden is a health risk, he cannot pitch deep into games, ( he has not pitched one game this season of more than 7 innings and he has only pitched 7 innings 5 times in 26 starts) and he hamstrings your bullpen due to his inability to pitch 7 or more innings.

A five-inning start by Harden puts extra pressure on the next day's starting pitcher to go deep into the game, because 2 bad starts back to back could wear out a bullpen for a week.

Harden has excellent stuff, but you cannot re-sign him for all of the above reasons, plus the fact that paying him big money will prevent the Cubs from adding more payroll. I know that many of you out there love Harden's "stuff", but the best "stuff" doesn't always win games.

A rotation of Zambrano, Lilly, Dempster, and Wells has the potential to be very solid, provided Zambrano can come to camp in better shape and avoid the drama that has plagued him for the past few seasons.

All four guys have the ability to win 15+ games, so that should allow Hendry and his staff to take some time and see what is out there later in the free agent period as the Cardinals did when they signed Kyle Lohse to a bargain basement deal a couple of years ago.   

As for other decisions facing Jim Hendry, we'll look at the rest of the team in the coming days. 

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14 Comments

Frank said:

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This team needs an enima. I would love to see Ricketts tear it down and build from the ground up, but since he's putting out a ton of cash just to purchase the team he's not going to want to trade the big name players for prospects and stink for a couple of years while waiting for them to mature.

dat cubfan daver said:

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The Cubs should at least offer Rich arbitration so they can get draft picks for him. If he accepts, you've still got a very talented pitcher at, presumably, a bargain price. A couple other points:

1) An immensely talented "five-inning pitcher" such as Rich Harden doesn't necessarily hamstring your bullpen. The key is partnering Rich up with a long man (such as Sean Marshall or Tom Gorzelanny) to eat up those middle innings. If Rich goes five, Sean or Tom need pitch only two innings and suddenly you're in the eighth.

Even if Harden goes only four, two innings from your long man still gets you to the seventh. When you've got a pitcher capable of striking out major league hitters to the extent Harden is (and, yes, I realize his last two starts have been relatively disastrous), you've got to be flexible and creative.

2) Harden is indeed a health risk, but so is just about every other pitcher in baseball. The Cubs have done an excellent job of keeping Rich healthy (he just made his 26th start - did ANYONE dare predict that many going into the season? It's entirely possible that Harden has established a good routine and working relationship with the Cubs training staff and this should be taken into consideration when re-signing him.

Ultimely, I'm not saying the Cubs should go all out to keep Rich Harden on the team, but he's not a pitcher they should dismiss lightly.

backslap said:

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You know this team is probably going to win the same amount of games that it did in 2003 and 2007 when they won the Division. Take away the injuries to your big 4 starters (who all missed at least 3 starts a peice), the month and a half ARam was out, and having a closer instead of Kevin "I lead the NL in blown saves 2 years running" Gregg and they are in the Wild Card lead. Bradley might be a bad clubhouse guy and probably should go but this team really is not a reclamation project like Kap and all the so-called pundits think it is. You need a legit leadoff hitter and a another arm in the bull pen and this team is a playoff contender if everyone stays healthy next year no question. Also for guys like Kap who think Lou is the problem think about after all the obstacles this team has face they are on pace to win 87-89 games which in most years would get them in the playoffs. St. Louis won this divsion the Cubs did not lose it don't forget, they are going to have the best record in the NL.

dat cubfan daver said:

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I like your thinking here. In many Cubs fans rush to vent their frustration with this team and this season, they're ignoring the fact that the St. Louis Cardinals have simply been dominant and very fortunate in terms of key injuries. I say give the Cards credit and focus on finishing over .500.

Philg Knows said:

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Dave, Hello this is your buddy and Cub faithful
Phil Gialluisi.

Dave, i follow this team as hard a those earning all those bucks working for the Cubs and asking for nothing more than seeing my views on this team going forward.

Rich Harden up to a few weeks ago was convinced he must be resigned to give this rotation the chance to be one of the best in 2010. Thinking about this fuirther, Rich has been mysterious and up to July he was actually awful with a era over 7. Since then he has pitched much better and really did well away from Wrigley. Knowing he hasn't been consistent threw this year and being on the DL again with his back problem whom knows what will be next as he does have a rip in his rotator cuff. He cant pitch threw 6 innings effectively each and every outing. He just doesn't seem to be a guy whom i could depend on each 5th start. I'm in agreement that Rich will should move on and pitch for someone in the AL. Rich in will be a liability for any team and i would rather Jim hendry look for another 5th starter whom is young and has good stuff or has some proven back ground somewhere around baseball. I like Rich but Chicago doesn't need another expensive piece like we have in Soriano and Bradley and others. There is allot of talent out there Dave. Allot will come down to the scouting we have reporting to Jim. I look at Colorado and the Dodgers and some of the other teams whom have some quality starters and where did they come from.Chicago and the Cubs should have the best resources available.
It all starts with pitching and yes Wells was very good this year still I hope he doesn't have a jinxed year in 2010. For the Cubs it's imperative we have a solid rotation 1-5. After having you're pitching together the rest of getting to the Ws isn't so difficult. Maybe we need to have better scouts or something. I may just look into talking with Tom Rickett's again and offering myself assuming my health is ok to help this team with personnel.I have a good feeling with ball players.

I will be interested in hearing you're further comments on the roster in general. I will say Jim Hendry has some work to do and mess's to clean up. He wont be around I promise you if this club doesn't turn it around come next season 2010. The window is still open but bareley. I would like to add if Tom could go get Dave Duncan and Tony Larrusa. These men will take the talent the cubs have and bring it up a notch. Big Z needs these type of coaches around him to be what he's capable of being. Lou Pinella isnt the answer Dave and this is something i would vote to change. Again, Lou hasn't managed this team during the beginning of the year as he should have. So much could have been different rite now but it isn't. I hope Tom Rickett's listens to my reasoning on why to replace Pinella. Tom has a big heart for this team but also is new at this. He may outside hiring Larrusa just stay with Lou. if Dave Duncan would come to Chicago alone, this I like to. Duncan will be going somewhere as he is leaving Stlouis after his sons release.

Talk to you soon

JustinB said:

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Way to add an extra million to Soriano and Zambrano's salaries next year. I'll bet they wish that was really what they were getting paid.

I actually agree with you about Harden hamstringing the bullpen and all the stuff, but still if the Cubs can get him at his arbitration money than that is a major win. The Cubs are one of the few teams that actually have the pitching depth to keep Harden despite his DL stints and short outings. What they need to do is use the DL for him more and keep his arm rested as the season goes along.

David Kaplan said:

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Check out this link. http://tr.im/yZX3 They list every team's salary commitments for the next few seasons and they have Soriano at 19 million. If they are wrong then I apologize but the website Cot's Contracts is usually very accurate.

Mike_thoms said:

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Kap...I don't understand why you think that Heilman will be anywhere near a Cubs uniform next year, unless he decides to retire from baseball, stay in Chicago and become a bleacher bum. I wonder if he'd wear his own jersey to the games? So take him away and the only guys on your arb list who deserve a raise are Riot, Hill, Guzman and Marshall. And as much as I like what Hill did this year, the smart thing would be to bring back a bargain basement Hank White for Geo's sake. Granted, it does get pretty close to your $30 mill but i still think they're under it.

tbianco592 said:

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I just don't understand how Hendry has received a 'free pass' for this season. I never saw the 'team that was going to win the Central easily' that most others saw.

For me, it started in December '08 when Hendry traded Derosa. I can't speak for all Cub fans, but that deal took the wind out of my sails and any momentum this team could have been building going into '09....AWFUL deal!!! Then the signing of Milton Bradley, who is a known clubhouse cancer and had spent the past seven seasons playing for seven different teams. Hendry gives this selfish knucklehead three years, when nobody else was willing to go beyond a one year deal, because he hit .321 and had a career year in '08, despite the fact he was a career .275 hitter who had never driven in more than 67 runs in a season, prior to 2008. I don't know whether Hendry did or not, but he should have made a serious run at Ibanez, a proven run producer with legitimate power, and despite the knock on him defensively, would have been no worse in RF than Bradley has been. He is also a guy who had driven in 100 plus runs the past 3 seasons and has played all 162 games on a few different occasions!! And then of course, our 6 foot and under league bench....Miles is awful!!

As for Harden, if you can get him to agree to an incentive laden contract, you definitely bring him back. I still think he would make a helluva closer.

As for Hendry....can we trade our GM??

JF said:

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Either Harden is signed or another starting pitcher has to be signed. There isn't anything about Gorzelanny, Marshall or any of the other fellas to make one think they can take the mound and pitch a better 3-6 innings than Harden can.

From a strategic stand, the Cubs shouldn't skip any of Harden's remaining starts. He can have good outings, or he can have bad ones that could diminish his value for the first year of his contract. Either way, Harden should pitch. The Cubs should definitely offer arbitration to Harden and to Grabow.

As for payroll, must the fans figure-out everything? Gregg and Heilman go. Johnson could also go. The Cubs can send another team both Bradley and enough money to cover his salary for next year, making the other team responsible for the rest of the contract. Underachieving arbitration eligible players can be traded and replaced with lower cost alternatives buying time until bad contracts expire. That, or raise the payroll.

DGRon said:

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Looking to 2010 I say...

Harden-If you can get 1YR deal done otherwise cya Rich your just not a good risk/reward at 2yrs/20M

Zambrano-Not an Ace, but respectable #'s. Hope the Cubs keep him around unless you can get a knock your socks off type of deal. Come spring training Z will be back to normal (for him) predicting the Cubs will win the WS...blah blah Dont we know this guy by now?

Lilly-resign this guy asap

Dempster-Personal/family issues earlier in year,2010 bounceback coming.

Wells-Earned a rotation spot for 2010. But have a plan B....Marshall/Gorzelany

2010 Starting Rotation Win Totals ***
*if healthy
*if the offense bounces back
*if closer can save 85-90% Marmol?

Zambrano 15+
Dempster 15+
Lilly 15+
Harden 10+
Wells 10+

Not too shabby, but reality check...How would ya feel about going up against Carp/Waino, Hamels/Lee, Kershaw/Billing or even Linc/Cain. Cubs need a #1 badly.

lynsbandit said:

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61 million dollars ,thats how much wasted money is on the Cubs roster next year ! Hendry ought to be fired ! Zambrano,Soriano,Bradley,Fukodome,Gregg .Useless ballplayers ,no heart ! And these stupid fans keep filling up the ballpark ! Nothings going to change .Who's going to want to take any of these pieces of deadwood off the roster ! If Ricketts has any brains he will clean house .who cares about starting over, it was much easier being a Cub fan when they stunk ,you didn't expect a damn thing !

JobbaJibba said:

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You let Dick Harden walk. Offer arbitration and have Kosuke tell him "sayonara"

Edelweiss said:

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It is easy to blog and suggest strongly that this player should be let go,and another should start, but sometimes management knows things that the public does not.

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