CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Future Shock: Great Le... (09/15)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Tampa... (09/14)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: New Y... (09/16)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Ahead in the Count: Th... (09/15)

September 15, 2009

Kiss'Em Goodbye

Chicago Cubs

by Baseball Prospectus

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Baseball Prospectus' Pre-season Projection: 95-67, first place in NL Central
Current record: 74-68, second place

This was perhaps the most surprising tumble in the entire senior circuit.

ESPN.com's Buster Olney's Take

What went wrong: The Cubs reacted aggressively after getting swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the '08 playoffs-and in retrospect, they probably overreacted, trading Mark DeRosa and giving Milton Bradley a three-year, $30 million contract that turned out to be a major mistake. Some rival talent evaluators believe that a handful of the key Cubs were simply not prepared for success in 2010. "Geovany Soto is overweight, and so is Carlos Zambrano," said one scout. "They've got to get everybody motivated again. They looked like a dead-(bleep) team, anyway, and then Aramis Ramirez got hurt, and then they were toast." Said another evaluator, "That's a dreadful defensive team and, for a National League team, they're very slow."

Biggest puzzler on the drawing board: Alfonso Soriano has one of the most immovable contracts in the majors, with five years and $90 million remaining for a player who will be (a) 34 years old in January; (b) coming off a season in which he hit .241; and (c) doesn't have a natural spot in the lineup. Lou Piniella already has announced that Soriano won't be his lead-off hitter next year. So what do you do with him? "They need to create some competition in that clubhouse," a rival evaluator advised. "Make it clear to all those veterans that they're going to have to fight for playing time. Tell 'em that if they don't get it done, then Jake Fox and Micah Hoffpauir are going to get the at-bats." And Cubs GM Jim Hendry needs to settle the closer situation, one way or another, because there were too many days of uncertainty.

The Baseball Prospectus Take

Blame injuries or blame a number of ill-advised exchanges, but perhaps more properly blame the risk implicit in relying on an aging roster built to win now. No matter how you slice it, the Cubs came up snake eyes on every off-season risk they took in tweaking the league's best team of 2008. Six of nine regular hitters are having worse years at the plate than they did in 2008; only Derrek Lee is having a decisively better season.-Christina Kahrl, Baseball Prospectus

Key stat: 0-for-4

That might sound like a bad day at the office for a hitter, but that's how badly the Cubs did with regard to how all four units performed this year compared to last. While the bullpen gets singled out because Kevin Gregg hasn't been Kerry Wood while Carlos Marmol has conjured up memories of the Wild Thing, the pen wasn't really the big sore point this year. "Wait Till Next Year!" Cubs fans' familiar refrain didn't yield much in 2009. Check these drop-offs:


Unit              2008 (NL rank)  2009 (NL rank)
Offense by EQA    .271 (3)        .255 (12)
Rotation by SNWP  .537 (1)        .518 (5-t)
Bullpen by FRA    4.52 (8)        4.51 (11)
Defense by PADE   2.46 (1)        2.21 (3)

The real disaster has been the lineup, and it's been costing the Cubs wins hand over fist. One of the usual hallmarks of a team benighted by bad bullpen work is a worse-than-expected record and a poor split on one-run ballgames, but that's not especially true of this Cubs team-they're 15-19 in one-run games (ungood, but also infrequent) and projected for an even worse 71-70 record at this point, so they're actually slightly lucky relative to how they've performed.-Christina Kahrl, Baseball Prospectus

Rumor Central

Free Agency: The Cubs aren't just hamstrung by a lack of performance, they have those under-performing or dinged-up players signed to immovable contracts-their outfield of Soriano-Fukudome-Bradley has 43 home runs combined, at $36.5 million in 2009. So how to inject some needed speed and a true leadoff presence? Try Chone Figgins, who can play anywhere and has 40 or more steals in five of the last six seasons. The problem? He's 32, and according to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, "If Raul Ibaņez could get three years at $10.5 million a year last winter heading into his age-37 season, it wouldn't shock me if Figgins got $11-12 million a year for three or four years." How many of these contracts can the Cubs carry, even after their ownership situation us ultimately resolved?
Money and trades: Will the Cubs re-up Rich Harden? They should have the inside track-his style begs for him to stay in the NL. And then it's a closer. There's little faith in the enigmatic Marmol, so how about trading for the demonstrative Jose Valverde of Houston? The Cubs will be involved.
Buzz: Amidst a slide earlier this year, several pundits speculated that perhaps Lou Piniella would quit following this season. While that's not likely, his replacement sounds ready. Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg has Double-A Tennessee in the playoffs, and Chicago media buzz is that he could eventually be Lou's replacement.

Who 2 Watch 4: John Gaub, LHP

The Cubs have one of the weakest minor league systems in the game, especially at the upper levels, but Gaub will be get a good look next spring for a bullpen job. One of the arms received from Cleveland in the Mark DeRosa trade, the 24-year-old put up some gaudy numbers in 2009, striking out 80 in 60 innings while allowing just 36 hits, but he's not a pure power guy, relying more on deception and movement than anything else. As a reverse-split guy who is actually more effective against right-handed hitters, he's more than just a situational reliever, and is just a few command improvements away from becoming a fixture in the middle of the Cubs bullpen.-Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus

Draft recap Signed: 27 of 50
Spent: About $3.5 million
Hit: Hmm, let's see. They did well with their funds. The Cubs over-drafted center fielder Brett Jackson in the first round and second baseman D.J. Lemahieu in the second. But despite overpaying LHP Brooks Raley in the sixth round, the Cubs generally didn't spend much on the talent for which they did reach.
Miss: They passed on prep catchers. Catching is always at a premium in baseball, and the Cubs passed on Max Stassi and others to take Jackson, a toolsy outfielder with poor contact rates.-Jason A. Churchill, ESPN.com

The Bottom Line

You'd normally figure the offense should regain some ground, but Soto is the only lineup regular who will be under 30 next season, and the farm system has nothing readily available to help address that problem. Then there are the questions about whether or not players like Bradley or Zambrano are worth the headaches when you don't win. The existing financial commitments of around $120 million to next year's payroll without adding anyone to help fix the offense suggest the Cubs need to see if they can make one more play for the post-season with their aging core, but finding takers willing to absorb some of the cost and all of the heartburn that comes with employing their problem children suggests that Jim Hendry's going to have to be much more careful in his exchanges this winter than he was last time around.-Christina Kahrl, Baseball Prospectus

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Related Content:  Cubs,  The Who,  Prospectus,  Christina Kahrl

14 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Future Shock: Great Le... (09/15)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Tampa... (09/14)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: New Y... (09/16)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Ahead in the Count: Th... (09/15)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Martin in Miami, Nate ...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Padres Wish Upton a St...
Fantasy Article Fantasy Team Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Is Marcus Stroman the Rea...
Premium Article Minor League Update: Winter League Games to ...
Premium Article Ninety Percent Mental: The Predictable Aggre...
Premium Article 2015 Prospects: Colorado Rockies Top 10 Pros...

MORE FROM SEPTEMBER 15, 2009
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Overachieving Yet Ag...
Premium Article Ahead in the Count: The BABIP Superstars
Premium Article Future Shock: Great Leaps Forward, AL
Under The Knife: September Shutdowns

MORE BY BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
2009-09-18 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Baltimore Orioles
2009-09-17 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Milwaukee Brewers
2009-09-16 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: New York Mets
2009-09-15 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Chicago Cubs
2009-09-14 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Tampa Bay Rays
2009-08-14 - Premium Article Prospectus Roundtable: The Problem with Youn...
2009-07-22 - Premium Article Transaction Retrospectus
More...

MORE KISS'EM GOODBYE
2009-09-18 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Baltimore Orioles
2009-09-17 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Milwaukee Brewers
2009-09-16 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: New York Mets
2009-09-15 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Chicago Cubs
2009-09-14 - Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Tampa Bay Rays
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2009-09-18 - Prospectus Hit List: Comebacks and Shutdowns