Wednesday, November 10, 2004

We'll Get 'Em Next Year - Bringing heat

Yes sir, it's time to start thinking about baseball again. After my brain went into shutdown mode after the Cubs were eliminated (though it did temporarily return during the Yankees - Red Sox series) I finally feel ready to start thinking about next season.

The Cubs were good last year, better then a lot of people give them credit for. They improved on their 2003 regular season record despite an incredible number of injuries. That said, there are some serious problems with this team.

Despite what Dusty Baker says, OBP and walks are very important. I recall a DB quote from spring training where he said something to the effect that walks "clog up the basepaths". That's ridiculous. Clog them up for what? The Cubs didn't steal very often so it couldn't be that. So what is being hurt by having more men on base? Last season the Cubs led the league in HR's by a wide margin, yet they were in the middle of the pack in runs scored. Why? Because no one was on base when they were hitting those HR's. So, getting folks on base should be priority #1.

Next, they need to get a real closer. Despite his troubles, I think Latroy Hawkins is a very good relief pitcher. But he's a setup man, not a closer. There isn't a very big FA market out there for closers so the Cubs will probably have to trade for one. Though Rob Nenn is a FA this offseason and it's possible he could come back from an injury plagued 2003 to have a good season. This should be priority #2.

They also need to find a replacement for Matt Clement. I highly doubt he'll return to the Cubs so they need to go out and get a good #3 starter. There are plenty in FA (Eric Milton, Kevin Millwood, Estaban Loaiza, Brad Radke, and a few others) or they could make Dempster a starter. Also, I really think they need to resign Glendon Rusch. He proved he's still a good pitcher last season and it's obvious he enjoys playing for the Cubs.

In addition to the big 3, there are a few other holes the Cubs to need to concentrate on. They need a new backup catcher now that Bako is finally gone. Mike Redmond is a FA, but I doubt he would agree to be a backup and we shouldn't sign anyone who would take significant playing time away from Barrett. Greg Zaun is also out there and he has decent pop and defense and might make a good backup.

Finally, we need to replace Moises Alou and Mark Grudzelainek. IMO, we have rookies who could fill the hole in LF (Dubois or Kelton) but the big name being thrown around is Carlos Beltran. He would play CF and Corry Patterson would most likely move over to RF with Sosa in LF. I'm not sure if the Cubs can outbid the Yankees, or even if they should, but that would be a huge pickup and immediately provide a great boost to the offense. As for 2B, we should resign Todd Walker. He did very well last year and would make for a good #2 or #6 hitter depending on who replaces Alou.

Oh yeah, Sosa. What in the world do we do with him? He acted like a total "Pujol" (to steal a phrase from my beautiful wife ;) ) for pretty much the entire 2003 season and I just don't see how he can become a part of this team again. BUT, and this is a big but, who in the world is going to take his contract? There were rumors flying around that the Cubs and Dodgers were thinking of swapping Shawn Green and Sosa, which would be a decent deal but that seems to be dead in the water. This is definitely something to keep an eye on and I think the Cubs would be much better of without Sammy on the team. He was a great player for quite a few years, but his time with this club should be over.

That's all for now, back with more later.
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