Ok; so Tom Ricketts said the team was going to rebuild... and then they sign a power-hitting firstbaseman who hit under .200 last year and traded away three prospects for starting pitcher Matt Garza. This is a little confusing, but we should all be happy about it.
Before getting to my main five reasons why fans can actually be excited about the upcoming Cubs season, let's examine the offseason a bit closer. First off, the signing of Carlos Pena to only a one-year deal makes him a relatively easy piece to trade at the deadline, should things be looking ultimately gloomy for the team once again. Otherwise, we can hope that his average takes a drastic step up, and that he finds his power to be even more effective in his new home at Wrigley. I don't love spending $10 million on him, but it gives us a viable trading option a few months from now as well as a legitimate first baseman in the meantime.
Next, let's consider that the newly acquired Matt Garza is a great pitcher. His ERA has not been above 3.95 since 2006 and he has pitched 200 innings in each of the last two years. Last season, he won a career-high 15 games and, no matter what anyone says, he is not as crazy as Zambrano. Furthermore, if GM Jim Hendry is able to pull off some sort of miracle move, the trade for Garza makes trading Zambrano away that much more of a legitimate trade, as Garza can fill Z's hole (giggidy).
Many people have complained that the Cubs traded away too much for Garza, but of the five
prospects the team gave up, I can only count three of them legitimately. Sam Fuld, no matter how much I liked him, has no place on this team. The outfield is already cluttered with Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, Tyler Colvin, and Marlon Byrd. Colvin needs as much playing time as possible, so tell me where Sam Fuld was going to fit into things.
Likewise, the 20-year-old shortstop, Hak-Ju Lee, who the Cubs traded would certainly have been blocked from the Cubs' major league roster by Starlin Castro. I for one am all-in on Castro, and am looking to forward to him developing in a Cub uniform. Not counting Fuld and Lee, the Cubs only traded three prospects to the Rays for Garza; starting pitcher Chris Archer (acquired in the Mark DeRosa trade), catcher Robinson Chirinos, and Brandon Guyer. Of them, Archer is certainly the center piece, and could come back to haunt the Cubs a bit. But, what would you rather have: the uncertain future of another Cub prospect, or the sure thing in Matt Garza?
I like the trade, despite and illogic on the part of Ricketts and Hendry, who are obviously not focused on rebuilding. However, with the trade of Tom Gorzelanny to the Washington Nationals, the Cubs have already received three new prospects to add to the farm system. After Gorzelanny passed his physical, the Cubs received 22-year-old outfielder Michael Burgess, 24-year-old right-hander A.J. Morris and 20-year-old lefty Graham Hicks. BAM; the prospects we lost are immediately made up for.
My five reasons to remain optimistic are right around the corner (under the paragraph I guess), but quickly before we get there, does anyone really think our division will be that much better next year? I am not picking the Cubs to win the NL Central next year, but I wouldn't say it is out of the question. No matter what moves the teams in our division make, year after year the NL Central proves to be largely mediocre. I am not sold on Dusty Baker's Cinncinnatti Reds having turned a corner last year, and I refuse to believe that the Brewers can make that jump either. That leaves the Cardinals, and we all know they are only a Chris Carpenter injury away from another 84-win season.
Again, don't count on the Cubs to win the division, but don't count on them being dead by June like they were last year. In any case, here's five reasons to look forward to the start of baseball:
5- An improved radio broadcast.
While we will all miss Ron Santo to some extent, thankfully Pat Hughes will be able to provide a play-by-play to the listeners without having to make sure his radio partner is awake and aware that there is a baseball game being played. No matter who fills Santo's spot, this will be an improved radio broadcast for Cubs fans, and likely add a few years back on to Hughes' lifespan as well.
4- Mike Quade might be a good manager.
There was no pressure on Quade during his successful run at the end of last year, so I am certainly not sold on him yet either, but I liked the types of things I saw consistently from him during that stretch, and the players certainly responded well to him. Let's see what he can do with a slightly re-vamped team with the spotlight solely on him.
3- Kerry Wood is back.
So it is not the triumphant return of "Kid K," but the Kerry Wood that we are getting next year will immediately bandage our terrible bullpen, and certainly give some relief to Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall. Mainly, however; doesn't it just feel good to have him back?
2- IT WILL BE WARM OUTSIDE!
Okay, maybe not right away, but no matter how bad the Cubs are, you will be able to go outside and complain about them without feeling like you are inhaling tiny shards of glass through the bitter air.
1- The further development of Starlin Castro (and Tyler Colvin)
I expect to see a first-to-second-season jump out of Castro similar to the jump Derrick Rose made between his rookie and sophomore attempts at the pro level. This may be a bit much to ask, but if he can buckle down on defense and become a more patient hitter, we are looking at the type of player that could be a superstar. I expect to see better things from Tyler Colvin as well, but not to the level that Castro will hopefully provide.
And there you have it baseball fans. Whether or not the team is any good, and I expect them to be improved, at least right now we can feel like we have something to look forward to.
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Tags: Alfonso Soriano, Baseball, Carlos Pena, Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs, Jim Hendry, Kerry Wood, Kosuke Fukudome, Marlon Byrd, Matt Garza, Mike Quade, MLB, Offseason, Offseason Moves, Radio Broadcast, Ron Santo, Starlin Castro, Tom Gorzelanny, Tom Ricketts, Tyler Colvin