Kap's Corner

Some Ideas for the Cubs

The Cubs are starting to see the fruits of their labor to improve their farm system, as a handful of top flight prospects are nearly ready to play at the major league level. SS Starlin Castro is probably the closest position player to the big leagues, with 3B Josh Vitters not far behind, especially offensively.

So with Castro on the fast track to the Cubs everyday lineup, incumbent shortstop Ryan Theriot will be moved to 2nd base when Castro arrives. If Castro is being penciled into the starting lineup for Opening Day 2011, or perhaps sooner, why not move Theriot to 2nd base now? Rather than have two middle infielders in new surroundings when the 2011 season begins, why not let Theriot play there in 2010 and sign a veteran shortstop to a one year deal until Castro is ready?

What about a one year contract for Orlando Cabrera, who played very well for the Minnesota Twins down the stretch? The former White Sox has had a solid big league career for the past 12 seasons. He is excellent defensively, hits for average, runs fairly well and would not cost a ton of money to sign. Cabrera plays nearly every day, and brings a ton of postseason experience.

That would allow Theriot to play 2nd base, where he would be a better fit, and it would allow him time to get comfortable with the position before he has to help Castro with his transition to the big leagues in late 2010 or at the start of 2011.

With Ted Lilly recovering from shoulder surgery, and probably out until mid April at the earliest, the Cubs are going to need to add another arm to their rotation. A look at free agency doesn't show much in the way of top flight starting pitching. So for the Cubs to acquire a solid arm, it will have to come through a trade or from within.

Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija, and perhaps someone else from the system will contend for a rotation spot. But the Cubs are trying to win big next season, and that means you have to enter the season with solid starting pitching. It appears that Rich Harden will not be brought back. All indications are that the Cubs will not offer him arbitration for fear that he would accept it.

Harden finished the season shut down by Cubs management, and there are some around the club who do not believe that he is 100% healthy. I would not resign him, because he cannot be counted on to stay healthy. Despite his incredible talent, he fails to take the ball every fifth day and usually fails to pitch into the 6th inning.

The big question is this: why didn't the Cubs trade him when they had the chance in late August, with the Minnesota Twins willing to offer prospects for both Harden and Kevin Gregg?

GM Jim Hendry said the Cubs were still in the race, but realistically this team had no chance at that point. If they don't offer Harden arbitration, it will be looked at as a missed opportunity to get something for a player that it appears they have no intention of bringing back.

So what names are out there to be had in free agency or via trade? What about Derek Lowe? Barry Zito?  Lowe is a far better pitcher than Zito, but the California lefty could fit nicely between Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly.

And here's a name who might be Rich Harden part two, but may be someone the Cubs could consider: Ben Sheets.  I have said in the past that my biggest criticism of Rich Harden is that he's unreliable and a strain on the bullpen due to his inconsistent health and consistently short outings.  Sheets might be the same thing, and may not be a risk the Cubs want to consider, but when healthy Sheets is a more dynamic and talented arm than Harden. 

The Cubs right-hander of the past two years (Harden) relied on changing speeds with the fast ball and change up.  Sheets, when he's going right, has the ability to throw a devastating curve along with an overpowering fastball and change.  The upside is likely greater for Sheets than Harden, and if he's willing to sign on the cheap to prove he's healthy again, maybe the Cubs could add an ace to the staff.  Then again, it may not be worth the risk.

Whether the Cubs make a trade, sign a free agent, or add from within, they have to improve their starting pitching with Lilly a question mark and Harden probably gone. Jim Hendry, the ball is in your court.

I am amused by all of the comments after I talked earlier about adding John Lackey to the Cubs. First of all, he is going to command a fortune and I do not expect the Cubs to be players for him. However, those of you who think that he isn't better than Carlos Zambrano really need to take a look at both pitchers.

Lackey is a solid teammate and clubhouse guy, and he pitches in the much more difficult AL. He has very similar numbers to Zambrano. In addition, Lackey is considered a much better competitor by his teammates than Zambrano is by his fellow Cubs. If Big Z would ever mature, control his emotions, and get in great shape, perhaps he would realize the tremendous potential that he has. However, since signing his 91.5 million dollar extension in August of 2007, he has failed to produce.

I will post his numbers in several categories other than wins tomorrow and then we can have a discussion about his worth and what the Cubs should do to improve their rotation. 

By the way, here is what one teammate had to say about John Lackey....

Torii Hunter on John Lackey....
"He's a bulldog, he's one of the reasons I came over here," said Torii Hunter. "He gets tougher when there are guys on base, and you have to hear him in the dugout. He played football and he brings that intensity. He set the tone tonight the way he started out, and we were pumped up from then on."

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43 Comments

Max Power said:

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If Castro earns the spot, give it to him and try to trade Theriot before it's too late. Jeff Baker is younger, knows the position, and I don't think it's physically possible for him slug worse than Theriot. If they are going in house at 2B, Baker is clearly the best alternative.

And Sheets is NOT a more talented arm than Harden. I'd provide stats, but what's the point?

David Kaplan said:

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Sheets is not more talented? Harden has fewer starts by a large number. He has NEVER thrown anywhere close to 200 innings while Sheets has three consecutive seasons of 200+ innings. Sheets is also already through his surgery while Harden had to be shut down in September. Sheets threw 198.1 innings in 2008 and Harden had a lousy 2009. I'll take him any day although I think you would agree both are candidates for injury based on their history.

joeydafish said:

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All things being equal as far being injury prone...
Sheets over Harden IN A HEARTBEAT!

Break in Castro at short, move Theriot to 2B, leave Baker on the bench/super sub.
Forget about Cabrera...DEVELOPE OUR OWN!!

No National league team GM will trade FOR Soriano (other than Hendry, of cousrse) so forget about Zito,
He'd be just another pitcher acquired at the WRONG TIME OF HIS CAREER.

Lackey over Big Z any day, but Hendry blew the budget on an ill-advised extension for Zambrano (as Kap stated)

This coming 2010 season is adding up to the PERFECT time to throw out the blueprints of past years and go with more home-grown youth than soon to be retired free agents that can't field or pitch. Name recoginition and "experience" ain't gonna cut for Hendry, never has in the past anyway. The ball IS in Hendry's court, but does he HAVE ANY???

dat cubfan daver said:

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Does Hendry have any court? Well, I don't know. I've never been to his home and I don't know whether he enjoys tennis. Or basketball.

joeydafish said:

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Not COURTS...BALLS. But you knew that...HA HA.

MysticaTan said:

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Your argument in the post was that Sheets is more talented than Harden, when he's healthy.

But here, you only talk about the number of innings pitched, which doesn't relate to your argument at all.

Which one is it? They're both injury-prone, but when both pitchers are at their best, Harden is more talented.

Also, who cares that Sheets had three straight 200+ innings pitched seasons? That was from 2002-2004. That's forever ago.

joeydafish said:

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I can see an argument for either pitcher, however I agree with Kap and would prefer to see Sheets over Harden in 2010, BUT wouldn't lose sleep over not having either.

David Kaplan said:

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By the way, the latest from the baseball world is that Theo Epstein and the Red Sox are hot after Sheets.

Jordan said:

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Hey Kap,

The Cubs obviously need to acquire a starter now. And you're right about Ben Sheets, being a Cub fan we got to see him a lot, and he is by far the better pitcher than Rich Harden. Sheets, when healthy, is an annual Cy young contender. But with the Red Sox interested, the Cubs may not have enough to outbid them. I'm going to throw out a name and get your reaction, how about Randy Wolf. He is 33, and last year posted a 11-7 record with a 3.23ERA, and with a k/BB ratio of 160/58, just over 3/1, he would not be a bad option. He is not too good that we would have to keep him at the top of rotation, but good enough to remain in the rotation. It would remind me alot like the Jason Marquis signing from a few years back. But for the Cubs to make any moves, they Need to clear out Milton Bradley's salary, What is the latest that you are hearing on that?

dat cubfan daver said:

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OK, Kap, I'll bite: Who could the Cubs trade to the San Francisco Giants for Barry Zito? The only contract that really matches up is Alfonso Soriano -- a trade idea that's been bouncing around the Internet for ages and that the Giants would likely not agree to (especially given Alfonso's awful 2009).

And why would you slot Zito that high in the rotation? Yes, he rebounded somewhat in '09 but he's still a rapidly aging, soft-tossing lefty who's easily lit up when he can't get his curve ball to work. Barry would be, at best, a veteran back-of-the-rotation option.

Last, I'd really challenge you to provide some substantiation for the following statement: "In addition, Lackey is considered a much better competitor by his teammates than Zambrano is by his fellow Cubs."

So let me get this straight: Carlos Zambrano's teammates have gone on record saying he is not a strong competitor? They've actually said this? Isn't Z's problem that he competes TOO strongly - losing control of his emotions in the heat of battle? I'd really like you to expand on this statement.

melissa said:

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Evidently Kap hasn't heard that Orlando Cabrera is a guy that's been perceived as extremely selfish and a "bad" clubhouse guy. Kap, don't you remember when he got into it with Jermaine Dye in the Sox dugout? Personally, I wouldn't want the Cubs to get him because he just isn't that good.

It's also complete nonsense to keep saying how much better Lackey is than Zambrano, it's just not true. Without Zambrano the Cubs wouldn't have won back to back division titles, don't tell me he hasn't been valuable to this team. Who judges a player's ability based upon clubhouse gossip? Well, Kap has shown us who.

Huny said:

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Melissa,
Why are you so blind to Zambrano. He just finished his 9th season and he has averaged just over 11 wins per year! He won just 14 games last year for a team that won 95! and he won 9 thats right 9 games this past season. What is so special? He has only won 2 more games in his career than Ted Lilly!! In the last three seasons including those back to back championships he wasn't even the winningest pitcher in the rotation. Ted Lilly W 44 L 26 Zambrano W 41 L 26 Dempster W 30 L 24.

cc002600 said:

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Yea, I'm not crazy about Orlando Cabrera.
Don't we have enough jerks on the team right now ?

If you want to move Riot to 2B, how about taking a flyer on JJ Hardy ? Or Scutaro ?

Sheets would be a nice pickup if you can get him for incentive laden deal, but if Red sox get involved, the price is going up.

Edelweiss said:

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All the talk about moving Theriot to second base has come from the media and blogging fans, but not from the Cubs. They know better. Theriot has hit well and done a decent job at short, but he is not versatile, and takes a long time to adapt to new situations. The Cubs tried to make him a switch hitter with awful results, and finally gave up. Theriot hasn't played second base for more than a few games since college. Skip Bertman moved him to short in his sophomore year to make room for incoming freshman Mike Fontenot, who was barely five feet tall. Theriot had trouble making the transition even 10 years ago, when he was only 19. It would be useless to look for a new infielder with such good prospects no more than a year away. If Mike Fontenot doesn't recover from this year's slump, the team still has Jeff Baker, who could also cover the missing outfield position if Mike hits like he did in 2007 and 2008.

joeydafish said:

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I think we "bloggers" are just trying to make a point that the Cubs should move Theriot to second base to accommodate the promotion of a much better fielding shortstop. Theriot's transition to second base would be insignificant because as you mention he has done a "decent" job at short and should be able to at least "get by" at second base to the same level of defense of either Fontenot or Baker. The point being having Castro or Blanco at short with Theriot at second would be better than Theriot at short and Fontenot or Baker at second...for 2010 at least. Then in 2011 MAYBE Henddry can pull off a deal for a legit second baseman or promnote yet again from within. Get Castro or Blanco a year under their belt at SS during the perfect season to do so, 2010.

Huny said:

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Not only that, But Theriot has second basemen range and is killing us by not getting to balls he should!

Edelweiss said:

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Theriot seems to play better at shortstop when there is a good fielder at second. Look at last year's games, and you will see that when Fontenot or Blanco is at second, Theriot plays better. It was when Miles or Baker played that he made most of his mistakes. His range is adequate, but someone like Fontenot or Blanco can cover the area behind second base, which makes up for it. Baker and Miles make the routine plays, but have only average range and arms. Neither of them can play shortstop, although Miles tries. Moving Theriot to second might also interfere with his hitting. He is doing OK where he is. The Cubs keep their cards close to their chests, but the rumor is that they are thinking of moving Fontenot to shortstop. Since he and Blanco both have good range and arms, and both hit for low averages last year, with Fontenot having more power, that just might make better sense until Castro is ready for the majors.

David Kaplan said:

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It is not coming from the media. Both Jim Hendry and Ryan himself came on Sports Central and talked openly about a possible position change for him to 2nd base.

Max Power said:

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The only place a guy with an ops of .712 who is a terrible baserunner should be moved to, is the bench.

Where did the falacy that this guy hits well originate?

joeydafish said:

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So Theriot doensn't hit well??? How can you explain his near .300 average the last two seasnons then? I would not be the first to say Theriot is a MUST KEEP player but I'm looking at having the best AVAILABLE infield for 2010 and Theriot has certainly proved to be valuable enough to start at second base over Baker...IF he needs to move to make room for a better shortstop. This would leave the best available utility man (Baker) able to come off the bench, spell Ramirez at third, Soriano in left, Fukodome in right, and whoever plays center...you know, an all-round "speller" for Hendry's miserable outfield.

Max Power said:

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What is it 1978? People are using batting average to judge an offensive player? Are you Steve Stone?

The guy compiled an ops of .712 last season, only slightly worse than his awful career ops of .726.
His career slugging pct. is.369.
.369, that's only 27 points lower than the slugging pct of the evil Carlos Zambrano.
The more I look at the stats, Theriot is actually an awful offensive player.

And if there are injuries, Baker can, if needed move around then. If not play him at 2B until those things happen.

Huny said:

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Oh and Baker is a GREAT HITTER RIGHT!

Max Power said:

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Who stated that?
I've re-read all the posts, still can't find it.

Do I think he's "GREAT"? No. But he is better than Theriot.

joeydafish said:

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No, I am not Steve Stone but for all you youngsters out there...
I see the point you're making about Theriot BUT...AWFUL??
C'mon...AWFUL?? Batting average at least has to be a part of detrming a good hitter. You seem to have some stats to back up your position which is very diligent of you. I am wondering since you think Theriot is an AWFUL hitter if you could determine how you would describe Soriano or Fukodome or Miles, not to argue with you, just to see what you think of the 3 players I always considered to be major dissapointments...if not AWFUL.
I would love to see "stat" for determining General Managers, are there any??

AuroraFan said:

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Theriot is an okay player and no one should fear if this guy were to get traded.

joeydafish said:

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It's not the fear of losing Theriot...it's the fear of who Hendry will get for him. If Castro/Blanco beats out Theriot at SS (both better SS's than Theriot) and Baker beats him out at 2B, I would rather see Theriot on the bench than see Hendry try to trade him for sake of trading him. It's not like we have to unload his salary like would be nice to do with Bradley and Soriano.

IrishYeti said:

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So, you're ready to dump Soriano after 1 bad hitting year, but not ready to dump Theriot after 2 (and arguably 3) bad hitting years in a row?

joeydafish said:

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Absolutley ready to dump Soriano, his hop, terrible defense, swing for the fence un-disciplined approach at the plate, not to mention the FIVE YEARS REMAINING. In fact just to show you I am not an AVID Theriot fan, you can include him in the same deal that dumps Soriano. Viewing Theriot as having 2-3 BAD hitting years is definatley arguable.
He certainly has performed as well as expected (even if expectations were low) on the other hand Soriano has PLAYED (not just hit)worse than expected. If Soriano was a DH on an American League team where he belongs he may yet be considered useful.

Huny said:

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The Guy has hit over .300! the last two years. What Team are you watching?

joeydafish said:

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So Soriano is a valuable player because hit over .300 (how much over?, just curious, honest) but Theriot is considered awful (by Max Power) for hitting near .300??? Soriano can hit .350 and still be a detriment to the team. I'm not saying I hope he doesn't hit .350, in fact to make up for his terrible defense he'd pretty much have to. I'm just saying Hendry should never have come close to an 8 year deal for that kind of player that brings ONLY offense (whether hitting .300 or not) ...on a National League team.

AuroraFan said:

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The best that can be said about Ryan Theriot is that he is'nt Neifi Perez (or Aaron Miles, or even Mike Fontenot)

reppend said:

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I agree with Kap in having some very legitimate concerns over the lack of pitching the Cubs may face when/if they let Harden depart. However, I am very curious as to what Jeff Samardzija has ever done to make anyone think that he deserves a spot in a major league starting rotation? The only thing that he has ever done to impress Cubs fans is grow up in Merrillville Indiana and play football for Notre Dame. Sure, he tossed a few innings of decent ball at the end of 2008. And?? His inability to earn himself a spot in the starting rotation last spring seems to have set him off in a spiral of pouting and self pity. By the way, he looked absolutely terrible last spring. Can anyone who is not a sidewalk Notre Dame alumni disagree?

Sorry Kap, but I don't see how the Cubs are going to make any decent additions to the rotation from either within the club or from elsewhere in the league. I don't think they are going to sign Harden or any other free agent. Like you said, the pickins' are slim. Even if there were a huge name pitcher available, they can't afford it! But even if they do sign Sheets, Zito, or the like, they are not significantly improved from last year -- barring a miraculous comeback season from the newcomer. Harden's numbers were not terrible last year -- especially away from Wrigley and at night. There is just not a LOT of room for improvement.

The good news is that the Cubs pitching was not their problem in '09. Whoever is tossing for the north siders, if they can perform similarly in '10 the pitching will not be a problem.

justin matulonis said:

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The cubs two biggest needs are 2 quality left handed hitters, one in the outfield that can drive in runs and one in the infield. Yes you do need good left handed hitting. Hence the phillies and the yankees. You also need to get hitters and pitchers whom have had success against the NL west. The last two post seasons and this years regular seasons both dictated that. I think talking to the diamonbacks about brandon webb and stephen drew would be top in the interest for the cubs. Another club to talk to would be the florida marlins whome are looking to move renyl pinto and cody ross. Given hendry's dealing with the marlins I don't see why they cubs couldn't get both. maybe there is a three way trade that could involve the three teams. anyways hope all is well.

arch21002 said:

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Kaplan you should be ashamed of yourself that you actually don't use the "updated" version of today's statistics. Your followers on here are still using BATTING AVERAGE to determine how good a hitter is?!?! As one poster said earlier..is it 1978? Kap, I actually like you....and I wish I could like you more if you would actually further educate yourself on baseball statistics and how so many metrics are better. And WINS for pitcher in today's baseball to determine how good a starting pitcher is really means you have no credibility when speaking about baseball in general. At least let's use .OPS can't we?

The reason I am even taking the effort on here is that you seem to be the #1 Cubs guy/reporter/journalist/fan in the media. For a team to be that big, in a baseball crazed city like this one is a big time honor. We don't have a WSCR like the Sox have. For supposed good, educated, Cubs discussion you pretty much lead the charge. I wouldn't mind this if you actually became someone of a baseball stat geek when you do your research. Your arguments, and discussions really make the Cubs fan that much more stupid. The White Sox traded for Mark Teahen, and I was listening to WSCR when this occurred and Dan Bernstein/Terry Boers were having a GREAT, intelligent, informative baseball discussion in every sense of the words. I was actually sitting back in my car going...."WOW this is fun and an awesome intelligent discussion." I was actually jealous that the Cubs, the #1 team in town, huge fanbase, can't get that kind of serious, solid, intelligent baseball discussion. Go get you a baseball prospectus book, or go to fangraphs and PLEASE start reading up.

joeydafish said:

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I for one was only commenting on Theriot not being an AWFUL hitter since he has been around .300 for his Cubs career.
Doesn't .ops describe a players all around offensive value?
Can't a player be a good hitter but be a below average producer? That is what I meant about Theriot, just that he is not AWFUL. That is a word that can describe Soriano's defense, Bradley's attitude, Miles' contract. I've been a Cubs fan a long time and I would trade GMs with the Sox in a heartbeat knowing how Williams evalutes the production of his players way better than Hendry ever could.

Max Power said:

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Indeed. That Alex Rios pickup was a thing of genius. A guy who is considerably less productive than Milton Bradley, only at a higher cost. But at laest the media doen't hang on his every move. And getting less than nothing for Swisher? Brilliant.


You really are Steve Stone, aren't you?

You really

joeydafish said:

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No, I am not Steve Stone BUT...for all you youngsters out there, Max Power did bring up an interesting point regarding Alex Rios. Still, at least Rios can play a solid defense, brings more to the game than just a bat. Can't argue with Max on this one but I still would rather have Williams and Rios than Hendry and Bradley. Plus from a perspective of filling a teams need I think Rios has a better chance of filling the Sox's need for an outfielder than Bradley has of filling the Cubs' need for a left-handed bat. If I'm not mistaken (which I'm sure I'll be proven to be by somebody out there in Hendry's corner) Bradley has always been a better right-handed hitter so I don't see Hendry as doing a good job filling that particular need.

joeydafish said:

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Mark Teahan...another good pick up by Williams. Didn't we hear that Hendry was pursuing him last year? If so, I'm not surprised he didn't get the deal done, after all he did work ever so hard on getting the highly sought after Miles!!

arch21002 said:

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Teahen is mediocre. His UZR 150 at 3b is awful, and his batting leaves a lot to be desired for an everyday player on a contender. He can be a poor man's Mark DeRosa, but that is about it.

joeydafish said:

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Still a nice pick up for who Williams traded, don't you think? Maybe a nice "complimentary" player...better than Miles for sure anyway, I know, duh, that's not saying much.

sandberg1984 said:

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he is a free agent,deeeeeeeee roooooooooo saaaaaaaaaaaa,de ro sa, MARK DEROSA>>>GO CUBS GO!!!

David Kaplan said:

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Stop the DeRosa love! No one appreciated his abilities more than I did when he was a Cub but he is 35 years old, coming off of wrist surgery, and he wants a lot of money. He has limited range to play 2nd base and he had a sub par finish to his 2009 season. Let it go.

sandberg1984 said:

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my wish list,get derosa back-get kerry wood back-get soriano healthy-keep lee & ramirez healthy and on track,get rid of gregg-heilman & bradley. GO CUBS!!!

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