So what will the Cubs look like in 2012?

So what will the Cubs look like in 2012?
Castro throwing woes undoubtedly caused by overly moist hands

First things first: Carlos Pena's 2011 OPS+ is 115, and Aramis Ramirez' is 139.

Who is going to play first base for us next year?  Going into this season, we eagerly counted and re-counted the dollars still on the books for 2012, trying to figure out how we might pay Albert Pujols his $25 million + annual salary, or, perhaps as a nice consolation prize, a $20 MM annual salary for the Fresh Prince of Brewville.  Eeeeh, we figured, the Cardinals would not, could not let Pujols dangle all year without signing him.  So, we figured, once we got Fukudome and Ramirez and Pena off the ledgers, we could bring in Fielder, and then, we'd be really cookin'.

Who would have thought: that the Cardinals would NOT sign Pujols; that Fielder would actually play himself to the point where he stands to do better than Pujols next year; and that, most importantly, our favorite team would crumble so pathetically that adding either one wasn't going to do much good, anyway?

All this leads me to believe that next year's first baseman is currently in our system, and most likely, on the current 25-man roster, because there ain't nothin' in the pipeline that looks like an impact corner infielder.  Certainly the GM du jour isn't planning on picking up some B-or-C level free agent down there; at least, I hope not.  Let's look at who might fill the role, and the odds for each, figured entirely from the skin of my ass:

  • Tyler Colvin: is left handed, does hit home runs at a decent rate.  Has played first base for 20 innings in the majors; has the best range factor out of the people who have played first base this year - nearly the league average!  But .130 batting averages just don't lie; there's just no way in hell to sugarcoat it - even a Hard .130 ain't squat.  Odds: 15%
  • Carlos Pena: they put him on waivers.  Then he was claimed by the Yankees.  Then they pulled him back.  I find all that to be dumb.  When they waive him, it appears that they don't care if he comes back next year, but when they pull him back, they seem like they do care.  Which one is it?  He seems like a decent guy who hits a long one every so often, has a good eye at the plate, and scoops up a lot of low throws.  Kind of like Derrek Lee, and I didn't think much of him, either.  Odds: 25%
  • Aramis Ramirez: the history books are stuffed full of guys who got too slow to play third base, and prolonged their careers by playing first.  Certainly he would be the worst fielding of the three, but I think he would do us much less harm at first base than at third.  Of course, would he be willing to accept his buyout, then negotiate a more friendly contract with us?  When we considered trading him at the deadline, we heard all sorts of wistful longing from him about staying here.  Let him put his money where his mouth is.  Odds: 45%
  • Bryan LaHair: the closest thing we have to a slugger in the minors.  (The next closest thing we have, I kid you not, is something called Rebel Ridling, at AA).  He is 28.  I once passed him in a hallway.  He even smells like Quadruple A, if that is possible.  If LaHair is the first baseman next year, then make yourself comfortable, because this will be a signal the latest Cubs Rebuilding plan will be long, lengthy, drawn-out and long.  Odds: 5%
  • Other: 10%

Let's keep it short: Starlin Castro is going to be a fine major league hitter.  He is never going to be a fine shortstop.  The best shortstops have a combination of ability, focus, and instincts, and perhaps, maybe he has some abilities.  I remember Padre Ozzie Smith; he made mistakes as a Padre, but he had instincts, and good Lord, could he get to balls...I don't see anything special about Castro's play at short at all.  Honestly, I think Ryan Theriot was less destructive when he was with us.  Of course, Castro can run the bases.  And walk and chew gum at the same time.  Odds: 30%

  • Darwin Barney has played 34 innings at short.  He is not good.  Perhaps if he was given a shot at it in Spring Training, he might show improvement.  He has made some rookie mistakes, too, although not as many as Castro, and he has in fact made a couple of 'WOW' plays.  He seems to have somewhat better instincts than Castro.  Barring any other options, I would put him at SS next year.  Who knows if they will agree with me.  Odds: 45%
  • Marwin Gonzalez, Iowa shortstop, also young, Odds: 5%
  • Other: let's see if the GM du jour can scrape up one elsewhere.  I have to think that he will see what I see in Castro, and decide a change is necessary.  Odds: 20%

Thirdly: Aramis Ramirez, the first true heir apparent to the Ron Santo legacy (oh, boy), sucks with extreme ferocity at third base at this point in time.  Whether he stays or goes, let's all hope and pray that we will not see his listless corpse at third base next year.  Odds: 10%

  • Starlin Castro: gotta play him somewhere.  I think this is his position.  He does not seem like the kind of prima donna who would suffer from paralysis if he was taken out of his comfort zone (see Soriano, Alfonso).  Plus, if you stick him closer to the plate, he will be forced to pay closer attention to his surroundings, and will be forced to trim his fingernails on his own time.  Odds: 60%
  • Blake DeWitt: this is also his best position.  Too bad he can't hit lefties.  Or most righties.  Odds: 3%
  • Jeff Baker: Dear Lord.  Let the end of the Jeff Baker Era be soon.  Odds: 2%
  • DJ LeMahieu: is 22.  We know he hits for a high average in the minors.  He didn't really stand out during his brief visit to Chicago.  We don't know if he will hit for much impact.  We don't know if he is a third baseman, or a second baseman, fielding-wise.  If he has a nice spring training, and if the new regime sees something in him that most of us do not, maybe he gets to be first in line to be the heir apparent to the Aramis Ramirez legacy.  (oh, boy)  Odds: 15%
  • Other: gonna have to be outside the organization.  Odds for Josh Vitters: 0%  Other: 10%

Gotta think Geo Soto is the closest thing to a lock we have for 2012.  Unless he is laid low by a runaway pelotas wagon, a bad plate of frijoles y arroz, or some skunky homegrown weed, or traded to make way for the Great Wellington Castillo, I put his Odds: 95%

  • The Great Wellington Castillo: 5%

Darwin Barney is having a decent rookie year at second: let's hope he develops some more plate discipline, develops some more small-ball game (bunting, stealing) and most of all, moves to shortstop.  He might also bring some trade value, so he may not even be here at all next year.  Odds: 60%

  • Blake DeWitt: is really, really poor at second base.  He is also only 25 years old, and has absolutely zero trade value.  He has been Mike Quade's primary pinch hitter this year, and has not been what they call in the old country "impactful".  If he can't break the lineup at third base, I don't see him doing it here, either.  Odds: 5%
  • Jeff Baker: see above.  Odds: 0%
  • DJ LeMahieu: perhaps, in the right situation, if Castro goes to third, and Barney to short, he ends up here.  A full spring training of reps may help.  I don't see how our infield defense could be any worse.  Odds: 15%
  • Marwin Gonzalez: Odds: 5%
  • Other: I have never seen the need to look for second basemen in the free agent market - to me, and this may piss off all the former little league second basemen out there, but I find this to be the easiest position on the field, maybe except for LF.  There always seem to be a few Orlando Cabrera-type guys available, so let's see if our new lord and master decides to take a flier on one.  Odds: 15%

Speaking of LF: the Grandaddy of Albatrosses still hangs around our neck like we were the Ancient Mariner.  Except this ain't about the Mariners, who suck, but the Cubs, who suck just as much.  No, our Grandaddy is Alfonso Soriano, who I suspect is old enough to be a grandaddy.  If he was my grandaddy, I would ask for more money in my birthday card, because he has it.  I have spoken about how he is the  bottleneck in any Cubs improvement plan, because the one thing they do have are young outfielders who might benefit from a gradual introduction to the majors via left field at Wrigley.  Ah, but the $136 Million Dollar Man stands in the way, too brittle physically to move elsewhere in the outfield, too fragile mentally to move back to the infield via first base.  I do not see how anyone of this Earth or any other planet could manage to trade him and his $54 million this winter.  I do not wish harm on the man, not by runaway packs of burros in the DR, or by kidnapping by deranged Cubs fans disguised as deranged, um, anything elses.  But it would be ok if he decided to, you know, retire?  I am going to be really confident, though, and set Odds: 80%

  • Brett Jackson: I got other plans for him.  Odds: 5%
  • Marlon Byrd: my other plans for Jackson also involve Byrd.  Odds: 10%
  • Other: 5%

There has to be a place on next year's team for Brett Jackson.  Perhaps the best thing the front office has done this year is NOT bringing this kid up to the majors, sparing him from getting infected by what I am assuming is a self-satisfied, country-club clubhouse.  Now, I am sure the best thing for all concerned is if Jackson grows into an impact-hitting center fielder, and Tyler Colvin wakes the hell up and takes over in right.

But it just totally inconceivable that whatever ails Tyler Colvin in 2011 is going to work itself out for 2012.  Therefore, in RF:

  • Brett Jackson: Odds: 65%
  • Tyler Colvin: Odds: 10%
  • Ryan Flaherty, decent minor league hitter without a true position: Odds: 5%
  • Bryan LaHair, AAAA All-star, Odds: 5%
  • Other: 25%

And, in center:

  • Marlon Byrd, who would have some trade value in the last year of a smallish contract: 50%
  • Brett Jackson: Odds: 30%
  • Reed Johnson, he of the spectacular catches, stellar part-time hitting, bad back and diminishing returns once you make him a starter.  Odds: 5%
  • Tony Campana, current MLB leader in the all important SWP category, the exact meaning of which I forgot, but I believe it is equivalent to "scrappy whiteness playability".  Odds: 5%
  • Other: I imagine Felix Pie could be had if the offer was right.  Also, Corey Patterson is still out there.  Odds: 10%.

Comments

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  • Simple geometry: the further a throw has to go, the wider the divergence from the bull's-eye for a given level of inaccuracy. Translation: if you move Castro any further away, there isn't a Firstbaseman born on this planet with long enough arms. Which is not to say he won’t get better … someday …
    Given that Ricketts seems to be making decisions based on long-term improvement, I just don’t see him signing a big-name firstbaseman (like Puhols or Fielder) to a long-term contract, and paying him $25M/year while the Cubs get better … and the FA grows old. It doesn’t make sense for a team as far away as the Cubs are to buy a “centerpiece” player who will be over the hill before the Cubs could get to the WS. Those are the kind of players a team in the Cubs’ position would want to UNLOAD in a trade for younger players / prospects.
    ARam is an interesting problem. In terms of hitting numbers, there doesn't appear to be a [healthy] alternative that would be as productive. I think most of his fielding deficiencies (range, intensity) are due to the fact that he appears to be completely unmotivated. The good news is that he’s probably lazy enough to sign a 2-year/$20-22M extension. The bad news is that he doesn’t fit into any long-term plan. It’s possible that a new manager could get ARam’s butt in gear, but we don’t have anyone else to play 3B.
    Or do we?
    The problem I see is that neither ARam nor Soriano can play 1B well, because it’s a position that requires you to PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT’S GOING ON. Firstbasemen get WAY more fielding chances than a thirdbaseman; I don’t think either one of these guys could comprehend the concept of holding a runner on. But next year already is set up to be a disaster, so why not go all the way and make it an official rebuilding year. Let Soriano (with his ivyphobia) play 3B (which he did a bit earlier in his career). He plays the outfield like a bad secondbaseman, anyway, so you might as well let him get out of the way of the tsunami of outfield prospects. If he shows any aptitude at all, you might be able to dump him at the trading deadline, given the dearth of available talent at this position. Just think of all the money available for the pitching side, without spending any more on either 1B or 3B.
    In the meantime, you’ve GOT to start playing your best talent from the minors, to find out if anybody has a future with the club. I know, I know … Quade will say he has to play the guys who have earned playing time. But you have to patiently explain to him, in words even HE can understand, that nobody on this team has earned ANYTHING. If he can’t get that much through his thick head, then you have to pinkslip him on the spot.

  • Decent article with some thought, but I can't see a new GM sitting on his hands. He will have to make a splash and the obvious place is at 1B. The new boss will go after Pujols or Fielder (maybe both with the first to take the offer getting the job), with Pena/Lahair as fall backs. I think it is increasingly more likely that Ramirez is gonna be given the 3B job next year. Without any viable Free Agent candidates or home grown talent ready, this looks like the lesser of the evils. I believe if ARam has a solid first half, he will be trade fodder...again. Vitters shouldn't be ready until next Sept, but he can't play 3B. 1B may be his home. Flaherty needs at least another year. Castro is far too athletic at this point to move to 3B, but I see him there eventually. Barney plays 2B far too well and hits near .300. There would be a host of teams lining up to snatch him if the Cubs were to give up. You are right about Jackson, he will likely take over duties in CF in a few days and stay in the lineup for years.

  • Hate to disappoint, Ray, but there isn't gonna be any splashes this winter. You might be right on everything else, but Albert Pujols is not coming through that door, and Prince Fielder isn't coming through that door.

  • Who in the heck are you...Rob Letterly?

  • Do you know me?

    If not, I'm, um, awesome, I guess. There should be a link somewhere on here with slightly more information about us.

  • Please start re-building from scratch. There must be one or two prospects in the farm system. Moving the same losers around the diamond won't cut it. A .500 season with young players and a fresh attitude would be an improvement. The "Loveable" Cubbies tag is starting to wear thin as the new Century wears on.

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