As the Cubs get ready for the first round of organizational talks, I thought I would take a look at some of the Cubs players currently on the roster and project their futures with the team.
Jim Hendry and his merry band of baseball cronies can chew on this as they look forward to 2010.
Aaron Miles. Status: Signed through 2010
If he can’t dump his salary (Hendry should not ask for anything in return), then I suggest the Cubs eat his contract. He is of little to no value offensively. And a team that hits like it has this year just can’t afford a guy like Miles.
Reed Johnson. Status: Free Agent eligible.
I know fans love him for his gritty play and occasional diving catches, but really, he’s just a guy who is a solid clubhouse presence and always gives 100 percent (when healthy). If you can bring him back as a fourth outfielder at a reasonable salary (read: $2 million), you do it. But his loss won’t make or break the team for next year.
Aaron Heilman. Status: Arbitration eligible.
For the life of me, I cannot see the Cubs offering arbitration to Heilman. As Hawk would say, “he gone.”
John Grabow. Status: Free Agent eligible.
The Cubs have had conflicting reports that say they are or they are not, discussing a contract extension with Grabow. It is, however, clear they want him back. To me, he’s just a guy, who is actually better versus righties than lefties, but given what the Cubs have as alternatives, I do see him coming back.
Kevin Gregg. Status: Free Agent eligible.
Sorry it didn’t work out for you, Kevin, but we have some nice parting gifts. Really, I’ve heard some suggest the Cubs bring Gregg back as a set-up man. But if there is any team that views him as a closer, his salary offers as a free agent would be prohibitive for a role that, by and large, he probably won’t excel at.
Even if other teams look at his track record of blown saves and decide, too, that Gregg is a set-up man, I really think it’s best for him and the team to part company.
Rich Harden. Status: Free Agent eligible.
Harden is a mystery wrapped up in an enigma. In other words, there will be some team that looks at the raw talent, accepts the risks and offers Harden a multi-year deal. That team won’t be the Cubs. I only see him coming back to the Cubs if he is willing to take a one-year deal.
Alfonso Soriano. Status: Signed through 2014
Milton Bradley. Status: Signed through 2011
Bradley is having the worst offensive season of his career and we should probably expect that his numbers will improve in 2010, similar to how he has been playing the second half of this season. It is clear that he won’t be back.
If you can do so without paying 80 percent of his contract, you have to strongly consider it, otherwise new owner Tom Ricketts might be eating the contract. Good thing for Hendry that he has job security. Still, there may be some team that is willing to put up with the shenanigans given his high OBP. After all, Jim Hendry did.
Aramis Ramirez. Status: Signed through 2011 (club option for 2012)
The question is what will the condition of his shoulder be come next season? He isn’t going anywhere, but you’d better have a solid backup for when he inevitably breaks down.
Derrek Lee. Status: Signed through 2010
After a slow start that had many of us, including yours truly, wanting to throw him under the bus, Lee has had resurgence and is enjoying the second best season of his career. Maybe someone forgot to tell him that next year, not this one, was his walk year.
In any case, Lee will be back, so the only question is whether the Cubs will be able to extend his contract beyond 2010.
Carlos Zambrano. Status: Signed through 2012 (vesting option for 2013)
Despite a full no-trade clause, rumors are circulating like vultures that Big Z will be the subject of trade rumors this winter (something I had proposed in any earlier article). If he wants elite prospects in return, Hendry will have to pay a sizeable portion of Zambrano’s remaining contract.
If the objective is to shed salary, then he will get only marginal talent in return. That’s the way it works, folks. Meanwhile, he has a full no-trade clause. My guess is he will be pitching elsewhere next season.
Kosuke Fukudome. Status: Signed through 2011
Kosuke is an average player who has a decent eye at the plate, but hardly worth the $38 million remaining on his contract. Defensively, his UZR in center field is
a woeful -8.3. But he is better in right, so if Bradley is moved, expect the Cubs to put him back in right and fill the center field position with someone from outside the organization.
Ted Lilly. Status: Signed through 2010
One of Hendry’s best moves as Cubs GM, Lilly has been a consistent force in the rotation and should have another fine season in 2010, especially since it’s his contract year. Plug him into the rotation and fahgetaboutit.
Ryan Dempster. Status: Signed through 2011 (2012 $14 million player option)
Is Demp worth $52 million over four years? Well, apparently Hendry thought so. After a career year in 2008, Dempster’s 2009 season has been inconsistent. Let’s face it, his regression was predictable if only Hendry was a numbers guy. But he will be pitching every fifth day for the Cubs in 2010.
Carlos Marmol. Status: Arbitration eligible
Lou Piniella probably did Marmol a favor by naming him his closer for next season. Despite a season in which his command was awful, the arbitration judge will take into account the minuscule .163 BAA and the other fine seasons he has had and Marmol will be sure to get a big raise for 2010.
Ryan Theriot. Status: Arbitration eligible
Theriot’s defense has quietly improved this season. While it may not pass the eye test, his UZR is third in the league. His 2.7 WAR ranks fourth among NL shortstops. The Cubs like him, and he will return, with a healthy raise.
Koyie Hill. Status: Arbitration eligible
I have no idea if the Cubs will bring him back, but I do know they are interested. While you could possibly use Jake Fox as your backup catcher (assuming Geo is the starter), that would limit Fox’s ability to pinch hit late in games.
Sean Marshall. Status: Arbitration eligible
Sean has what all teams desire in that he throws with his left hand. His stuff isn’t impressive, but he’s had stretches where he’s gotten the job done. He’s been better as a relief pitcher this year, with a 3.47 ERA as a reliever vs. 5.25 as a starter.
His counting stats, which most arbitration judges look at, haven’t been such that he would demand a huge raise, so expect Marshall to return.
Jeff Baker. Status: Arbitration eligible
Baker has looked pretty good since coming over from Colorado. His .291/.352/.430 slash is well above his career average, however, except in the power department. There is nothing in his background to suggest that Baker is anything more than a utility player, and utility infielders that don’t play shortstop just don’t have a lot of value.
Tom Gorzelanny. Status: Arbitration eligible
Again, he throws lefty and there is always a market for these guys. He has fanned 19 in 18.2 innings as a starter and will get at least one of the two starts that Harden is expected to miss. I don’t think the Cubs will offer him arbitration, but should make a play to re-sign him without going through that process.
Mike Fontenot. Status: Arbitration eligible
Despite a very poor 2009, Little Mikey may benefit at the arbitration table by the .395 OBP he put up in 2008. Because of this, I don’t expect the Cubs to offer it to him. We might be seeing the last of Fontenot in a Cubs uniform.
Neal Cotts. Status: Bad. Oh, and arbitration eligible.
The only reason Cotts is still floating around baseball is that he happens to pitch with his left hand. He will almost certainly have a job in 2010, but it won’t be with the Cubs.
Geovany Soto. Status: Fat
To say that Soto’s 2009 season has been a disappointment is like saying that the Titanic was merely a fender-bender. I believe Soto was one of those one-year wonders, though a better conditioning regimen and putting down the pipe should produce better numbers next season.
Meanwhile, there have always been “whispers” about how Soto suddenly went from organization guy to prospect. He’ll be back, but if he plays like this again, the Cubs will be looking for another catcher.
Jake Fox. Status: Under team control.
Though Fox is a DH waiting to happen, the man can hit. And hit with power. Unless something changes, expect Fox to make the team next year as an occasional starter and pinch hitter and maybe, just maybe, a second baseman!
Sam Fuld. Status: Under team control.
Fuld is a fan favorite for his diving catches but really, he is not the center fielder of the future. He should be among several outfielders trying to make the 2010 Cubs as a spare part.
Micah Hoffpauir. Status: Superhero.
All hail The Hoff. Defensively, he is a liability anywhere other than first base. And first base is presently occupied by D-Lee. I would see what I could get for him if I was Jim Hendry.
Randy Wells. Status: Under team control.
What a pleasant surprise Wells has been this season. Though the innings are starting to get to him, he was a savior in the rotation while Big Z, Lilly and Dempster were going down around him. His stuff isn’t overwhelming, and he needs pinpoint control to be effective, so we’re not looking at a future star here.
But he’s a pretty decent fifth starter. Put him in the rotation for 2010.
Angel Guzman. Status: Under team control.
Like a lot of Cubs pitchers, especially in the bullpen, Guzman is as good as his command allows on a given day. He’s had a nice season, overall, so expect him back as a seventh or eighth inning guy in 2010.
Jeff Samardzija. Status: Signed through 2011 (club options for 2012 & 2013)
The Shark teases you with his plus fastball, but so far, it’s been straight and he lacks command of his secondary pitches. His future with the Cubs could be as a late inning set-up man or even closer, but for now expect them to continue the starter experiment. The Bears could use him at wideout, however.
There are a handful of other Cubs players on the roster, but I won’t profile them at this time, come to think of it.