The Cubs' offense is struggling, nearly as much as Alfonso Soriano's defense in left field. As I was sitting at Wrigley Field on the first perfect night of summer, one thing came up between my friend and I, and it made me think. Why do we continue to watch Soriano play slip n' slide in left field when we have a young, talented outfielder in Tyler Colvin sitting on his behind on the bench?
So here is what you do, Jim Hendry:
Create a package of Blake DeWitt, Randy Wells, Darwin Barney and some minor leaguers for an inning-eating starter and some prospects to bolster our sagging farm system.
Possible starters to target:
Livan Hernandez: I know he is super old, but this guy can still pitch 200 innings in his sleep.
Fausto Carmona: It would be hard to pry him away at this point, but he is a solid starter.
Joe Blanton: The odd man out in Philly could be gold for the Cubs if they get him.
Dan Hudson: Young, talented, but the D-Backs already traded for him, so questionable.
John Danks: He pitches a lot of innings and he is a lefty—bingo! We have a winner.
If that happened, it would set off a domino effect of moves. First, Soriano should be moved back to second base where he started his career. Next, Colvin is now put back in the starting lineup in left field, where he hit 20 homers last year in his rookie campaign.
Also, by acquiring a pitcher who can go deep into games, you accomplish two things. One—you give your other starters reinforcements, which the Cubs desperately need after having James Russell and Casey Coleman pitching only four or five innings a start—thus putting pressure on the likes of Carlos Zambrano, Matt Garza and especially Ryan Dempster to go farther into a game than they should. The second way it helps is by shortening the amount of action the bullpen sees. Because at the current rate, they are being abused twice every five days.
Let's face it, the Cubs have talent and they can compete right now. What we need is a better average with runners in scoring position and fewer innings for the bullpen. The Cubs' offense currently ranks third in the NL in average, but third to last in runs scored—that needs to change...now.
For example, take the May 10th game against the Cardinals. The Cubs score two runs in their opening frame, and from then on, they leave 12 runners on base and only score two more additional runs. In addition, the taxed arms of Zambrano and Kerry Wood gave up four runs late in the game due to fatigue.
Ideally, Big-Z would have been pulled in the sixth and handed the ball over to a well rested bullpen to close it out. But like I said, because Russell and Coleman have been producing short outings, the bullpen is overused and the trio of Zambrano, Garza and Dempster are relied upon to go seven or eight innings too early in the year.
In my opinion, the worst thing Jim Hendry can do is to try and blow this team up. Instead, he should allow Fukudome's and Silva's contracts to come off the book, re-sign Aramis Ramirez to a reasonable contract, and play the wait-and-see game with Carlos Pena.
The trade above would be a good first step. It would allow Colvin to develop and help infuse more youth into the starting lineup. Mike Quade's relationship with his players is great, but he is stunting the growth of both Colvin and Starlin Castro with inconsistent play and lineup position. In addition to Colvin rarely playing, Castro has been hitting all over the lineup, preventing him from becoming comfortable. I get the fact that Quade wants to play the hot hand, but Castro needs to either be put in the two-hole or just stay in the bottom of the order.
With my proposed trade, here is what the Cubs' lineup should look like:
- RF. Kosuke Fukudome
- SS Starlin Castro
- CF Marlon Byrd
- 3B Aramis Ramirez
- 1B Carlos Pena
- 2B Alfonso Soriano
- LF Tyler Colvin
- C Geovany Soto
Let's just put it out there—if you can handle Soriano's defense in left and Castro's inconsistent play at short, you can handle Soriano at second.
Now some people may want to point out that being an infielder may wear down Soriano's legs and lead to injury, but let's face it, he is not old, he is just a wimp (like every other player in today's game). He is being paid an ungodly amount of money to be a hit or miss slugger and a sloppy defender. He could at least play through some little bumps and bruises.
So basically, this is what I would say:
Dear Mike Quade and Jim Hendry,
I am a Cubs fan desperate for some excitement in the friendly confines like the run in 2003. I was wondering if you could stop signing people to absurd contracts and get with the modern times. You need to clear salary and acquire some athletes and young arms. Please read and consider my article above as to how to start in the right direction. Also, please play Colvin and Castro consistently and allow them to get comfortable. Oh, and can we see what our farm system has in the way of catchers? Because Soto isn't hitting and he has never played good defense. Finally, I would like to see you build around this team and not destroy it.