To say it has been a busy off-season for the Chicago Cubs would be an
Cubs' fans have seen their team's owner declare bankruptcy and the club will be
sold before opening day.
They have, once again, sat through rumors of an "imminent" trade for a star
player (Jake Peavy), only to see those talks completely collapse see Roberts,
They have said hello to a potential headache, Milton Bradley, and waived
goodbye to fan favorites Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood. And, in a much rejoiced
moved, they said good riddance to much maligned fifth starter Jason Marquis.
In everything that I have read, Cubs fans and baseball experts have all fretted that the loss of DeRosa and Wood will mean the downfall of the 2009. But these two have both been replaced in subsequent moves by Cubs' GM Jim Hendry.
While he won't replace DeRosa's power numbers, Miles is even more versatile than DeRosa, as he can play both shortstop and center field, two positions DeRosa never manned for the Cubs last year. He also can hit for average and is a much better defender than DeRosa at second base, the primary position both men play.
DeRosa's absence will also mean more playing time for the "Pocket Rocket", Mike Fontenot, who should build on his impressive part-time power numbers (9 HR in 243 AB) and give the Cubs an additional presence from the left-side of the plate, something last year's team desperately needed.
As for Wood, the Cubs will be fine in late game situations whether it's Carlos Marmol, who had 114 Ks in 82 IPs last year, or Kevin Gregg, who had 61 saves the last two years with Florida.
Additionally, Wood's injury history, as most Cubs fans know, provides no guarantee that he can replicate last year's success. Remember, despite his performance, Wood missed a large part of the 2008 season's second half with a blister on his finger.
The loss of Marquis, however, could prove the most detrimental of all the off-
season subtractions if no more changes are made.
For all his perceived shortcomings, Marquis has actually been an invaluable part
of this team and has played a key role in its two straight division championships.
It's no coincidence that Marquis, a bottom of the rotation starter his entire
career, has never missed the playoffs in his eight full seasons with the Braves,
Cardinals and Cubs.
Yes, those teams have had "aces" such as John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Greg
Maddux, Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder and Carlos Zambrano carrying their
However, the key to being success in the marathon that is the baseball
regular season, is pitching depth.
Having fourth and fifth starters who can log innings and keep their teams in the
games keeps bullpens' healthy and fresh and keeps managers from having to
frequently shuffle relievers.
Jason Marquis has been that type of consistent back of the rotation pitcher
manager Lou Piniella could rely upon. In his two years with the Cubs, Marquis'
innings pitched (358) and wins (23) rank third among Cubs pitchers, trailing
only Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly in both categories.
These numbers do not even do justice to Marquis and his selfless attitude. Just
like DeRosa played any position, Marquis pinch-ran, pinch-hit and did whatever
else was necessary to help the Cubs win.
Pitching-wise, Hendry has yet to compensate for the loss of
While lefty Sean Marshall, who had a 3.92 ERA in 19 starts in 2007, should be
able to fill Marquis' role as fifth starter more than adequately, his movement to
the rotation puts the Cubs at a serious disadvantage for two reasons.
Marshall was a particularly important piece of Lou Pinella's relief corps. Not only
did Marshall fill the long relief role, but he was the most effective lefty in the
Without him, Piniella will be forced to use Neal Cotts and the newly-acquired
Garrett Olsen in late-inning situations against left-handed batters. Not a pair
that will exactly strike fear into the likes of Lance Berkman (switch hitter), Prince
Fielder, Ryan Howard, or Chase Utley.
Mainly though, Marshall will be missed in the bullpen because of his ability to
effectively make a spot-start when called upon. Having a guy like that is a
necessity for any successful team, especially when its this year's Cubs, who are
relying on oft-injured starter Rich Harden.
Cubs' management has already announced that Harden will be given time off
throughout the season. Who is going to replace him with Marshall already in the
rotation? Angel Guzman? Olsen? Chad Gaudin?
These names don't exactly make me feel confident that the Cubs have a chance to win nearly as much as seeing Marquis on the mound did.
Luckily, as Cubs writers on this site have pointed out, the Cubs, in their trades
of former top-prospect Felix Pie ) for Olsen, and DeRosa, have acquired the
pitching assets necessary to resume talks for Peavy.
Acquiring Peavy would certainly solve this situation and provide a key upgrade over Marquis. However, with such a complicated, and uncertain ownership situation, there are no guarantees Hendry will be be able to resume talks and pull off such a deal.
If the Cubs cannot acquire Peavy, there are still a few free agent options, such as former Cardinal Braden Looper, who can keep the Cubs in games and fill the innings-pitched void left by the departure of Marquis.
Whatever he decides to do, Jim Hendry better act fast, or dumping Marquis may be his biggest mistake yet.