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Jim Hendry: What Will He Do With the Chicaco Cubs?

Michael AshkenasiContributor INovember 27, 2009

CHICAGO - MAY 19: General manager Jim Hendry of the Chicago Cubs talks with members of the media before a game against the Chicago White Sox on May 19, 2006 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

With things so quiet on the trade front, you have to assume that the winter meetings will start the momentum of the offseason going—someone will overpay for a reliever that had a career year or a position player that was great two years ago but has been injured since.  The question for us is, what will Jim Hendry do?

Yes, getting rid of Heilman was a good move and saved $2 million, but once again Hendry overpaid for a middle-of-the-road reliever: $3.75 million a year for John Grabow is another bad bullpen move. This is like Danys Baez, or Ron Mahay, or Jeremy Affeldt, but luckily for only two years.

I anticipate that Harden won't be back and Gorzelanny probably beats out Sean Marshall for the No. 5 spot.  (Don't even joke that maybe Jeff Samardzija might make it, that guy sucks. We'll be lucky to get bullpen innings out of him in 2011.) 

Randy Wells probably takes a step back, but is still serviceable. I don't see major changes to the rotation and I think because Soto's BABIP was so low this year, in 2010 he ends up somewhere in the middle between his 2008 and 2009 numbers.   (.250 Avg, .340 OBP,  .770 OPS.)

Let's look at the 4 key areas that may be addressed by Hendry this winter:

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1)  RF

2)  CF

3)  2B

4)  Bullpen

1)  RF—Everyone in baseball knows Hendry wants to get rid of Bradley. The question becomes, how low do people think Jim is willing to go?  I say the Cubs go to the Rays straight-up for Pat Burrell and Cubs chip in $6 million for Bradley's 2011 salary. That way for 2010 they're not taking on any extra salary but they've gotten rid of the clubhouse cancer.

Burrell's not yet old enough to be over the hill and this is his last contract year, so I'd be willing to roll the dice.

Sure, the outfield defense would be awful if Soriano is still getting ABs, but we could slide Fukudome over to RF after six innings. OR if Soriano is done, then Burrell could start in LF, Fuld in CF, and Fukudome in RF. That would mitigate Burrell's bad defense. OR if Burrell sucks, just let him play RF for Fukudome only when there's a left-handed starter up. Even as bad as he was last year against lefthanders, in 2007 he had a .950 OPS and in 2008 he had a .951 OPS.

Worst case scenario is you get nothing productive out of Burrell this year because his career is finished (like the Phillies with Geoff Jenkins) and you have to pay a player in 2011 that's not even with your club any more. Is that too high a price to get rid of a one-man distraction circus?  I don't think so.

Net salary effect:  $0 Mil  in 2010.   -$6 Mil in 2011.

2)  CF—The Grabow signing probably makes this hard to do, but I would have said let Gregg, Grabow, AND Heilman go, use that money to trade for Curtis Granderson by selling high on Sterlin Castro and Jay Jackson.  Re-sign Reed Johnson for $1 million to platoon in CF, because he's not gonna get more than that on the open-market and Granderson can't hit left-handed pitching. 

That would have cost about $9 mil on CF, which isn't that bad.  But Grabow's resigning makes that probably too costly.

Other options? 

David Dejesus from Kansas City makes perfect sense. LH hitter that's good against RH pitchers and can play CF (even though he's better in LF). Still won't be expensive in 2010 and would likely take lesser prospects to acquire than Granderson. A Dejesus/R. Johnson pairing in CF would actually be pretty decent.....

Dejesus' stats from 2007-2009 in the No. 1 spot in the lineup:

AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB HBP SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
1299 203 383 64 20 27 153 131 29 174 21 17 .295 .369 .437 .806

Johson's stats last year against LH pitching:

AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB HBP SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
68 11 22 7 1 1 11 7 2 13 2 1 .324 .403 .500 .903

The last three years (2007-2009) Johnson has been great against LH pitching. Last year he wasn't great with runners on, but in the last three years combined these are his stats:

AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB HBP SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
331 101 100 15 2 7 81 22 11 64 11 9 .302 .359 .423 .782

Proof that a combination of Dejesus/Johnson would look great in CF/No. 1 spot. Johnson has also looked good as a middle-of-the-lineup hitter against LH pitchers.

Mike Cameron has a lot of good qualities but is too expensive. While he crushes left-handed pitching and it's interesting that his day games AND Wrigley stats are so good, here is his line against RH pitching the last three years:

AVG. OBP SLG OPS
.233 .308 .426 .734

I wouldn't pay $10 million for that.

Net salary effect:  -$5 Mil  in 2009 for Dejus/Johnson. -$9 Mil in 2009 for Granderson/Johnson.

3)  2B—don't do anything at 2B.

I know, Fontenot had an awful year and Baker had a great year, but I think they'll both level out.  Fontenot's BABIP last year was really low, and that always tends to improve for players the following year.  I bet that Fontenot will hit RH pitchers in 2010 around a .750-.800 OPS while playing good D. Perfectly acceptable. 

Jeff Baker played insanely in 2009, there's no way he can keep up that pace and historically he hits LH much better than RH.  I say Fontenot will do better, Baker will do worse, and even Aaron Miles can't be as bad as he was in 2009. 

All told, the club will get much better production from 2B by a platoon situation.  Don't sacrifice defense at second base.

However, if they don't get Granderson or Dejesus and/or are still stuck with Bradley, I MIGHT make a play for Luis Castillo, since the Mets seem eager to get rid of him. If you get Castillo, go RF Fukudome/Johnson, 2B Castillo as 1-2 in the lineup. 

Castillo, for all his problems (getting older, no power, less range, etc.) can still work a count and get on pace at a healthy clip.   If you get him, give CF to Sam Fuld. Even if he never hits again as well as he did in 2009, he's clearly the best defensive CF and works a count well.

A .250 avg, .333 OBP and great defense out of CF is fine for the No. 8 spot in a lineup when Fukudome and Castillo are setting the table so well.

Net salary effect:  $0 Mil  in 2009 if you do nothing.   -$6 Mil in 2009 if you get Castillo.

4)  Bullpen—Once again, Grabow signing was a bad idea.  But, he is a veteran and maybe he'll pull a rabbit out of his hat again.  Justin Berg and Esmailin Caridad surprised the hell out of me at the end of the year, combining for four ER allowed in 31-and-a-third innings and a 0.92 WHIP.  So they'll get a look, plus Marmol, Guzman, and Sean Marshall.

Jon Gaub had sick numbers last year. In 60 combined innings, he struck out 80 and walked 33. Even when he went up to triple-A his stuff was filthy. Hendry also picked up Scott Maine in the Heilman trade, who whiffed 61 batters and walked just 22 in 62 innings in the minors. Marshall looked good in a relief role.

I think Hendry MAY wait in the bushes and try and pounce on another veteran late in the game (Arthur Rhodes? Brian Shouse? Brendan Donnelly? Takshi Saito? David Weathers?), but for right now the pen is six deep and will look like:

CL - Marmol   

SU - Grabow, Guzman 

LR - Marshall 

MR - Berg/Caridad,  Gaub/Maine

All told, there are several possibilities out there that won't break the bank.  A lot is contingent on finding someone willing to take a flyer on Bradley, and preferably we can defer paying part his salary until 2011.

What do you guys think?

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