The Cubs made big moves Friday, releasing seven players, while setting both their rotation and bullpen in the process. Tom Gorzelanny and Carlos Silva round out the rotation, with James Russell becoming—as of now—the last man in the 'pen to start the season.
What, 10 more days til Opening Day? Let's just say that I'm in extra great anticipation of the upcoming season, as I've begun marking days off, and checking scores on an almost daily basis already. W
hy, you ask? Well aside from my general love of baseball, the 2010 Cubs are turning themselves into something of a scientific test bed for baseball ideas. Lab rats, if you will. Apropos for a team that spent the last few years working on "chemistry" in the clubhouse almost as much as they have "talent" on the field.
So, while these moves answer most roster questions, they leave quite a few much bigger questions unanswered, and in cases, leave the questions unasked altogether. I won't hold my breath waiting for a beat reporter to ask them, but I'll put them to you; you probably know better anyway.
1) What is the long-term plan for Jeff Samardzija? It's three years, and $10 million later, and Samardzija is as much a curiosity as he was on draft day. The organization keeps suggesting that he's starter material—which is probably the best use of their dollars—yet waited a few years to really start work on his secondary pitches, which are still very much works in progress.
He's still got repetition issues with his delivery, and I've not seen one season of professional baseball in which he's been gone over 150 innings, and this season looks to be no different. Is his highest and best use a middle reliever, and if if isn't, shouldn't you be working toward that?
2) If a .91 WHIP and 1.64 ERA this spring isn't enough to win you a job in the rotation, then what is? Yes, Sean Marshall has again been hosed. If your bullpen dictates that you need to make a move like this, you're better served just addressing your bullpen.
3) How successful can the Cub be sacrificing defense for offense, even on the bench? And why do it? Manager Lou Piniella looks giddy about the idea of bringing both Kevin Millar and Chad Tracy up north, which probably puts Andres Blanco out of a job, or at least on a long DL stint.
Using your already average defensively starting second baseman as your backup shortstop is curious, to be sure. Couple that with talk of grabbing Tyler Colvin over Sam Fuld to round out the bench, a lesser defender by any standard, and this team looks extremely questionable catching the ball. We won't even start with Xavier Nady, who still is being told not to attempt "competitive" throws from the outfield.
There used to be an understanding that defense up the middle was what separated average teams from good teams. It didn't matter if you middle infielder and 5th outfielder could hit, just be versatile, and catch the damn ball. What gives?
4) What does this need to back extra offensive punch on the bench say about the Cubs faith in their starters, particularly Alfonso Soriano, and Kosuke Fukudome?
5) Three rookies in the bullpen? On a Lou Piniella team? Please, please, please fix this before leaving Spring Training. Othrwise, I give the date that Piniella comes undone at these guys costing the team games at May 4.
How does a team that feels that they can compete do this willingly?
A drop in defense across the board, an inexperienced bullpen, questions about the offense, and financial constraints. Yet the Cubs to a man say that they feel good about 2010. Like I said, it's quite the experiment.