We have been abandoned. For the 2006 season, the Cubs Faithful has been utterly and thoroughly abandoned by Jim Hendry. I blame Hendry now more than I do Baker, because Baker has been consistently bad, and he is managing the only way he knows how. To be upset solely with Baker is akin to only being upset with the noisy, spoiled child in a restaurant, and to give the parents of that child a free pass. You are right to be upset that the child is there….just as you are right to be upset that Baker is still in the dugout….but they are both only doing what they have gotten in a habit of doing. It is those that have allowed those bad habits to continue unabated that should receive the lion’s share of our frustration and wrath.

If the Cubs wind up making the playoffs, I will be as happy as the next loyal fan. Still think that the Cubs have really got a shot at saving this season, though? You know better….

Reality Bites….

Reality for the Cubs Faithful is that Hendry will still be in power for the next couple of years, so it is pointless to hope for fresh ideas coming from the Tribune in 2007. With that in mind, and knowing what kind of moves and deals we have seen Hendry make, what kind of predictions can we come up with for next year’s roster? This is actually going to be a two-part column, as I have an ominous feeling that something may finally give this week, and some roster changes may be made, and if this premonition comes to fruition, it may affect some of my thoughts on what the 2007 roster will look like.

Multiple brains are better than one….

I think I am reasonably intelligent, but even I know better than to think I know everything….so I am making an invitation to all the Cubs Faithful (yes….even you lurkers….we know you are there!) to help contribute to rebuilding the Cubs roster. Some of you may know more about roster budgets, or future contracts, or have some great trade ideas. Do you know which free agents will be available in 2007 that can help the Cubs….do you have any faith in any of our prospects on the farm to contribute? Finally….what do you think will happen, and what do you think needs to happen, with our coaching staff?

What I know….

From a couple sources online, I believe I have relatively accurate info on who is under contract and for how much, in 2007. Here is that list:

Derrek Lee (1B) $13 mil
Aramis Ramirez (3B) $11 mil
Michael Barrett (C) $4.6 mil
Jacque Jones (RF) $4 mil
Ryan Dempster (Closer) $5 mil
Scott Eyre (RP) $3.5 mil
Bobby Howry (RP) $4 mil
Glendon Rusch (pile of crap) $3.5 mil
Neifi Perez (see: Rusch, Glendon) $2.5 mil

Under contract I believe, but unsure on 2007 salary (so making an educated guess):

Carlos Zambrano (SP) $8 mil – arbitration eligible
Mark Prior (SP) $6.5 mil – arbitration eligible
Matt Murton (the guy platooned with Fast Freddie Bynum in LF) $500,000
Ronny Cedeno (light-hitting SS with a light amount of steals) $500,000
Felix Pie (the future CF….you know….like Corey Patterson was) $337,000
Angel Pagan (utility OF) $500,000
Sean Marshall (SP possibility) $500,000
Roberto Novoa (RP; the poor guy who just gave up 27 HRs to the Tigers) $500,000
David Aardsma (RP….the next Farnsworth, baby!) $500,000

These players have options (like Wood) or are simply free agents in 2007:

Wood (gotta pick up his $13 mil option or pay $3 mil to void final year)
Maddux (sorry, Greg….you deserved a better fate in your 2nd time around the block)
Pierre (CF….lifetime .300 hitter….SB machine)
Wade Miller (SP….could be cheap….may give us a chance since we gave him one)

When you add the $3 million needed to get off the hook of Wood’s option year to the $68 million in 2007 salaries, that means you are already at $71 million. To put that in perspective, from the numbers I came up with, I showed the Cubs to have a 2006 budget of about $95 million. We have to make some assumptions here, so I will assume that will be the allowable budget for 2007, which means we have $24 million to play with.

Just let it go, man….let it go.

I am back to tracking-individual-stats-of-my-favorite-Cubs-players mode, now that I have officially given up on the playoffs for this season. Again, I still root for the Cubs to win every game, but I am just facing the facts that I ran out of Kool-aid and all the stores are closed, and even when they open again the word is that there is a kool-aid crisis in North Korea that is cutting off all supplies to America. Derrek Lee is a fine player….maybe even a great player. But last time I checked, the Cubs finished under .500 last year, and that was with Lee’s monstrous season. So there are no more saviors coming off the DL that are going to cause the Cubs to rip off 20 straight victories….it is just not going to happen. So I will follow Aramis Ramirez, and Lee, and count their homeruns and watch their RBI totals go up. I will happily watch as Zambrano tries to take over the strikeout lead from Johan Santana. I will keep my fingers crossed that Greg Maddux can win 15 games and finish his career in style, and hopefully with a winning record. The Cubs may very well play .500 ball or better the rest of the way, especially with Wood, Prior, and Lee all regularly contributing….but the hole has been dug far too deep, I’m afraid.

Final thoughts and a look ahead….

We have, in theory, $24 million to play with, and we need, at a minimum:

Second Baseman
Center Fielder
Left Fielder (unless you stick with Murton)
A couple Bullpen guys and a couple bench guys (can probably use prospects for this….the rest of the bullpen is solid already)
2 Starting Pitchers (make that 3 if you don’t count Sean Marshall in your plans)

Wow….this looks bad, folks. Even if you stick with Murton and Marshall, and fill the bullpen and bench with farm products, you still have only $24 million to spend on 4 huge holes at 2B, CF, and in your starting rotation. I want to mull this over another week, and then I will give you my prediction of what Hendry/Trib will do. In the meantime, I want to know what you think. You don’t have to wait until next week, as you may give me some great ideas that I add to my plans (don’t worry, I will give you credit for it!). So please tell me what players you want to dump now (or at the end of the year), which players you want to resign, and which players you hope to add (now or in the off-season). As Neil always asks, please be realistic with budgets and/or trades, as the Orioles won’t trade us Tejada for Neifi, no matter how much we like the idea! Don’t worry CCO readers, this situation can be fixed….just look at the Tigers and how pathetic they were over the past 2-3 years. Keep the faith, put the Father’s Day Massacre behind you, and let’s go Cubs!

Quote of the Day

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." - Albert Einstein