The Cubs Off-Season Report – The “Inactivity” of the Cubs

The Cubs News was very slow on Monday and a late report from the Chicago Tribune stated the Cubs will offer arbitration to Carlos Zambrano, Mark Prior, Juan Pierre, Jerry Hariston, Jr., Will Ohman and Corey Patterson. The article also mentions the Cubs plan to sign Juan Pierre to a long-term deal. Check back for updates….

I thought I would bring up the Cubs “Inactivity” this off-season. This might not be a popular stance, but this is the way I see it. Feel free to leave your comments.

In my eyes the Cubs needed to improve in 3 areas this off-season: health, leadoff hitters/.OBP and the bullpen….so here we go….

Have the Cubs been too quiet this off-season or have they been smart and done just enough to this point? Did anyone want to see the Cubs give A.J. Burnett a 5-year, $55 million dollar contract? I did not. Will Furcal be worth the 3-year, $39 million dollar contract he signed with the Dodgers? I think not. Did they overpay for Scott Eyre and Bobby Howry? Again….I think not. Did they give up too much for Juan Pierre? The answer to that question might not be known for years. But if the Cubs go deep in the playoffs or even make it to the (blank….I try not to say those words) in 2006, will anyone care to remember who the Cubs gave up for Pierre? I think not.

Let’s take a look at what the Cubs have done since that last game in Houston in early October….

Jeromy Burnitz: The Cubs did not offer arbitration and I still agree with this. Right now all of the Cubs Faithful are concerned about who will play right field. Burnie was a good bridge from Sosa, but a VERY expensive option for a player his age. I have heard rumors of Corey Patterson, Jacque Jones, Reggie Sanders, Aubrey Huff and Kevin Mench as the possibilities to fill the spot in right field….this one will take sometime. The thought of Patterson playing right field intrigues me, I wonder if the Cubs let him play and not try to force him into something he is not, could he perform? Larry Bowa said on XM’s morning show on Monday that Patterson could benefit from being around Juan Pierre and the two together (along with Matt Murton) could be a very good outfield.

Nomar Garciaparra: The Cubs did not offer arbitration and I think they should have. It was hard to hear Nomar being introduced to the L.A. media on Monday. Nomar is one the Cubs should have left the door open for.

Neifi Perez: The Cubs resigned Neifi for 2 years, $5 million dollars. This one I did not see coming and was very surprised about. I figured Neifi would want to be guaranteed a starting spot with another team. I look at Neifi’s role to being like Jose Macias’ for the last 2 seasons. I wonder how much of the Cubs signing Neifi had to do with their courtship of Rafael Furcal. As long as Cedeno performs, (and Dusty allows him to do so) Neifi should be a good bench player.

Glendon Rusch: The Cubs extended his contract for 2 more years and $6 million dollars. This is Hendry’s insurance policy. The Cubs rotation has not been healthy in 2 years and Rusch has filled in and been an innings eater. I just do not think the Cubs will be successful in 2006 with the Glendon Rusch we’ve seen for the past 2 seasons in the starting rotation. Rusch wants to be a starter and I keep looking for Hendry to package him in a trade….nothing to this point.

The Cubs picked up the options on Todd Walker and Scott Williamson. Walker is a good hitter, just does not have the range at second base. There have been a ton of rumors that suggest Walker is on the trading block. The Cubs could do a lot worse than Todd Walker’s bat in the lineup on opening day. If Scott Williamson can stay healthy and be the 2006 version of Ryan Dempster, this could end up being a VERY smart move.

The 2005 Cubs bullpen was VERY bad most of the year. I think all of the experience the young guys (Wuertz, Ohman, Novoa) got last year could pay HUGE dividends in 2006. Hendry did not think so and signed 2 free agent relievers: Scott Eyre (3 years, $11 million) and Bobby Howry (3 years, $12 million). I know this has been a very unpopular move in the eyes of the Cubs Faithful and everyone thinks they overpaid for both of them. Look at what the Blue Jays, Yankees and Phillies just paid for their bullpen help and I do not think they overpaid. While the experts question these moves, every caller I hear on XM asking about the Giants or the Indians bullpen, the first thing they say is, “I hate the fact the Giants lost Eyre” or ‘Now that Bobby Howry is gone, what are the Indians going to do to replace him?” The fans of the teams usually know more than the experts. Holden Kushner said on Monday, he loved the additions of Eyre and Howry to the Cubs bullpen. Here is what Kevin Kennedy of Fox Sports and XM Radio had to say: “The Cubs have also made a couple of pretty good signings, upgrading their bullpen, one of their obvious weak spots the last few years. They’ve inked righty Bob Howry, who appeared in 79 games with the Indians last year, and lefty Scott Eyre, who answered the call 86 times for the Giants. These are a couple of sleeper moves, but the kind that could produce real dividends during the upcoming season. Both relievers can pitch often and both are capable of closing if the need arises.” Right now Eyre and Howry might look like Hawkins and Remlinger, but those 2 signings could pay huge dividends in 2006.

The Cubs signed free-agent utility man John Mabry to a 1-year, $1.075 million dollar contract. This signing, I think, could make another huge difference in 2006. The Cubs basically just replaced Jose Macias with a much better player. Mabry can play all of the corner spots in the infield and outfield and he KNOWS how to win and be a team player. Major upgrade.

The Cubs got their lead off hitter in Juan Pierre. I cannot believe how unpopular this trade has been among the Cubs Faithful. I think Pierre is a better option than Furcal and does not cost nearly as much. Pierre was hurt for the first 2 months of the 2005 season and it reflected in his numbers. Larry Bowa was talking about Pierre on Monday and he brought up the fact that the Pierre trade might be the best trade in the off-season. Brian Cashman called Bowa (new 3rd base coach for the Yankees) and asked him about Pierre and Bowa thought the Yankees should pursue him. Bowa thinks Pierre will have a tremendous year and will be a perfect fit for Wrigley Field. The Cubs gave up a lot of prospects for Pierre (Sergio Mitre, Ricky Nolasco and Renyel Pinto) but he could be a fixture in the Cubs outfield for years to come.

The Cubs also traded Jon Leicester to the Texas Rangers for a player to be named later. They dfa’d Jose Macias, which I think was a move in the right direction, to free up room for Bobby Howry on the 40 man roster. And Jermaine Van Buren was dfa’d as well and traded to the Boston Red Sox for the same player to be named later.

The Cubs have been active and regardless of the ‘F’ that (correction made) gave the Cubs on their off-season moves, I agree with Holden Kushner and I think the Cubs have made improvements this off-season, just not the popular ones.

Quote of the Day

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow." - Albert Einstein