Theo Epstein in Chicago: First 5 Moves to Make the Cubs a Winner in 2012
The deal is done. Tom Ricketts has pulled off what many would have described as the impossible only a month ago.
Let’s look at the first five moves Epstein should make as the Cubs' new president in no particular order.
5. Fire Mike Quade
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I liked that Hendry gave a minor league lifer like Mike Quade a shot. There, I said it.
I liked it when Quade said his focus would be on fundamentals and a sound defense going into spring training.
We had to suffer through the worst defense in MLB, with 134 errors. It didn't take long for the veterans to start disrespecting him.
Then Hendry traded Fukudome at the deadline so that Colvin could be evaluated as an everyday right fielder. Quade made him share time with Reed Johnson instead. If Theo wants to install a winning attitude in this ballclub, Quade has to be the first to go.
4. Deal Carlos Zambrano
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Zambrano technically still has one year left on his deal for $18 million. However, it’s clear that he’ll never pitch in a Cubs uniform again. Ozzie Guillen has voiced interest in bringing him down to Miami.
Good luck with that.
No matter where he goes, it will only be a partial victory for the Cubs. They will likely have to eat a very large portion of his contract to make a deal happen. Ideally, Epstein could unload him and “only” have to eat $10 million of his contract.
3. Exercise Ramirez Option
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I know $16 million feels like a lot. But in order to win right now, Epstein needs to pick up this option.
Ramirez was the best-hitting everyday third baseman in MLB last season. He batted .306 with 25 home runs and 92 RBI. He is statistically the Cubs' best third baseman since Ron Santo.
The alternatives to this in free agency include Mark DeRosa, Greg Dobbs and Casey Blake. Old, bad and bad. Add to this the fact that the Cubs have no one coming up who can replace his power numbers, and this is an easy decision.
2. Get Prince Fielder
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Prince Fielder, not Albert Pujols, is the real gem of this year’s free agent market.
Fielder is 27 and looking for $20 million a year. Someone will have to to give him that for seven or eight years. The Cubs have enough to do it when the Fukudome and Silva contracts come off the books.
Paying Fielder $20 million in his final year at age 35 looks a whole lot better than paying Pujols $30 million at age 41. In fact, $30 million at ages 39, 40 and 41 would make Soriano’s contract look palatable.
An infield composed of Fielder, Barney, Castro and Ramirez looks pretty respectable.
1. Sign Kerry Wood
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Woody is now a free agent. He has said that he wants to come back to Chicago for one more year, and will retire if the Cubs don’t need him.
One of the few bright spots of last season was the Cubs' relief pitching. The combination of Wood, Marshall and Marmol was potent in 2011. The Cubs will need it again to contend in 2012.
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