After watching the Cubs implode yet again against the equally hapless Houston Astros, it's starting to become clear that this team just isn't good enough to compete consistently in 2011. We can blame injuries, but it's hard to believe things would be a lot different if they were healthy. They'd probably be better, but good enough to win the NL Central? Probably not. So what do we do? Here are 5 ideas...
1. Hire a new GM.
Nothing personal. I think if I had a chance to have a drink with Jim Hendry, I'd find him very personable and engaging. He's made tremendous connections around the league and is well-liked by both his staff and peers around the league. If he were to be let go, it'd probably take about 37 seconds for him to get an interview. He'll be fine. The Cubs, however, need a new direction and a new philosophy. There are some great GM candidates, like Boston's Asst. GM Ben Cherington, available and the Cubs should get on board with the new school approach that combines advanced statistical theory with advanced scouting.
2. Hire a new manager
Mike Quade is probably not getting a fair shake this season as the Cubs are in transition and have had more than their share of injuries, but it does appear sometimes like Quade may be in over his head. He's a good baseball man, but it doesn't necessarily mean it makes him a great manager.
3. Hold a fire sale
All overpriced items must go! The Cubs should get what they can for their big contract players. Admittedly, this is easier said than done. Trading Soriano will be nearly impossible, for example, but they should be able to move someone like Fukudome and, if he heats up, Aramis Ramirez. The Cubs should listen to any and all offers that don't include their young players.
4) Give the youngsters a shot.
The Cubs have started this process out of necessity, but most of the guys we've seen come up from the minors are fringe prospects -- they're not the players who may someday put us over the top. I like Tony Campana as much as the next guy and he'd be a great energy guy, but if he's our long term starter, we're probably in trouble. The Cubs did call up legitimate top 10 prospect DJ LeMahieu recently, but it's likely he'll go back as soon as the Cubs get healthy. There are other players, such as Brett Jackson, Ryan Flaherty, and Trey McNutt, who could help the team at some point this season -- and the Cubs would be wise to see what they have in these guys before they head into the offseason.
5. Add multiple players in free agency instead of trying to land one big fish
I like to dream on Pujols -- but does anybody think that if we put all our money in on one player that it will change much for the Cubs? I don't. The Cubs have a few holes and not all of them can be filled in by prospects. They should spread their money out amongst several good, undervalued players to start filling in the gaps. Once it seems the Cubs are on the brink of turning the corner, then I'm all for going out and getting a big star or two. But for now, it just doesn't seem practical.