The trade deadline is tomorrow and as of now the Cubs have not made any moves. The only move they almost made was trading Derrek Lee to the Angels, but Lee invoked his no trade rights.
Conceding that the Cubs are indeed completely out of contention this season, what moves could Hendry make that would put them in a better place for the start of 2011?
Here are my ideas :
1) Trade Ryan Theriot
There probably isn’t a long line of teams that are looking for a 2B that hits for no power and is at best average on defense. But hey, he can steal some bases! That being said, there may be a team that would add him this time of year for the stretch run. At least he can play both middle infield positions adequately. The Cubs could then let Darwin Barney have a chance to play every day in the majors for the rest of the season and decide if he can earn that job for 2011. Most likely, they will need to find a 2B on the free agent market.
2) Keep Ted Lilly
Lilly is no doubt the Cubs best trading chip, but they may do better by keeping him and then re-signing him after this year. The Cubs are always going to be in a “win now” situation, and Lilly seems like he would be a valuable piece of the rotation if the Cubs are going to contend next year. Moving into next year, the Cubs rotation could be pretty set again with:
Dempster, Lilly, Gorzelanny, Silva, Wells
This is the group that has led all of baseball this year in quality starts. Notice there is no Zambrano in that mix…
3) Trade Carlos Zambrano and Kosuke Fukudome
I’m trying to keep this as realistic as possible, but this will be hard. Most likely, there will be a team that is willing to take a chance on Carlos Zambrano, but the Cubs are going to have to eat a lot of his remaining salary. At this point, that’s going to be the best option. Keeping Zambrano around in the bullpen is not the answer. The Cubs are going to have to move him but it probably isn’t going to be possible until the offseason. Hopefully he’ll come back from his suspension and prove he can get hitters out again, though that’s unlikely.
Kosuke has been a huge bust. He’s a very average player and you don’t pay average players $12 million a year. He reminds me of a guy that would be on the Royals. You know, a decent player but not one that you’d start on your team. He might be someone a team in contention might trade for after the trade deadline if they need a fourth outfielder or to fill in after an injury. He’s going to clear waivers and like Zambrano, the Cubs are going to have to pick up the tab for most of the remainder of his contract.
4) Say goodbye to Derrek Lee
Lee becomes a free agent after this season and it’s time for the Cubs to move on. There are going to be plenty of 1B options on the market soon- Adam Dunn, Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, and Adrian Gonzalez to name a few. Pujols will probably end up staying with St. Louis which may be a blessing in disguise if he asks for $30 million a year. Fielder’s price will have to come down as well as Scott Boras has already indicated that Ryan Howard’s $25 million a year deal will be a starting point for Fielder’s services. But adding a Fielder, Dunn, or Gonzalez to the lineup would finally give the Cubs that middle of the order left handed hitter that Hendry has coveted for so long. With those top options hitting the market in 2012, I would offer Lee a one year deal for around $8 million and hold out for one of the big boys.
5) Fix the bullpen
The Cubs have been in pretty good shape with a lead late when they can use Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol. You feel pretty good about your chances with those two in the 8th inning and a lead. Any other time a starting pitcher comes out of the game there’s trouble. The revolving door that is the Cubs bullpen has been, in a word, bad. The addition of Cashner in the pen has been helpful, but the bullpen still needs to be addressed. We’ve learned that James Russell, Jeff Stevens, Mitch Atkins, Bob Howry, Brian Schiltter, etc. are not the answer.
A healthy John Grabow and Esmalin Caridad in 2011 would be a big step. The loss of Angel Guzman was a big blow and there’s still no assurance that he will ever be healthy.
Hendry has made some really good trades in his time with the Cubs, but he’s also dug them in a hole with some of the contracts he has given out. It will take some creativity to work around the contracts, but the Cubs have a pretty decent core of players that they can build on if they can just shed some salaries and move a few players.
What else should they do?