With the Cubs coming to terms last Monday with Lou Piniella today starts the second full week under the new regime….the real work for Jim Hendry should have already begun. Hendry has apparently hired his man, the one he has coveted, reportedly, since it became very evident that Dusty Baker’s contract would not be renewed. Hendry’s mission now becomes to give Piniella the players to win with. The Tribune Company has apparently given Hendry the mandate to win and win now but with the players that were on the field at the end of last season….not even the great Cap Anson could have strung together more than a handful of wins. Several reports have indicated that Hendry will have more money to build a winner with….a reported $20 million dollars more ($95 million – $115 million and some have said as much as $120 million)….with all of those holes, where does the smart money go?
So as we all wait for the World Series to conclude and for Piniella to announce who his coaches will be, let’s have some fun today, what moves would you make to give Lou Piniella the players that he will need in order to build a winner on the Northside? Pitching….
Pitching wins championships, just ask the Detroit Tigers, who could compliment the fiery Carlos Zambrano and the very talented but very young, Rich Hill, in order to give the Cubs a solid 5 in the starting rotation? Mark Prior’s status has changed and apparently the days of waiting on the right-hander to return to a previous form is over….who do you replace him in the rotation with? Do you put any faith into one of the rookies from last season taking the next step, or do you go out and sign a Woody Williams type of pitcher?
The bullpen was one of the bright spots last season with the exception of Ryan Dempster, how do you handle the pen? Do you give Kerry Wood a chance, for a lot less money? Could Bobby Howry be your closer? The Cubs have several young arms that could be very good trade bait….Roberto Novoa and Will Ohman to mention a couple, or do you look (and hope) for the same results next season? It has been shown that a closer, with the exception of a choice few (the Riveras and Hoffmans of the world) is a year-to-year success story, like Ryan Dempster and if you look at the Southside, Bobby Jenks. So do you look to shore up the back end of the pen?
This one starts with Aramis Ramirez. The talks between Hendry and Ramirez took a backseat while Hendry took care of who would lead the team. Now that is complete all indications have pointed to Ramirez being the next box on Hendry’s “To-Do” list to check off. There were reports on Sunday that contract talks would resume between Hendry and Paul Kinzer on Monday. Ramirez will ask for a pay increase in both years and value but Ramirez is likely Hendry’s only option at 3rd base to “win now”. Ramirez proved last season that he is a very good compliment to Derrek Lee but is not capable of leading a team on his own….a la Scottie Pippen. How much do you pay the very talented Aramis Ramirez?
With Piniella now at the helm the Alex Rodriguez rumors are flying faster than anyone can keep up with them. The Yankee fans want him gone and the question A-Rod and Scott Boras must find an answer to is, “Will Rodriguez be allowed to succeed in New York?” The only way he will in the eyes of the Yankees fans and media is if the team wins a championship with him at 3rd base….talking about pressure. Ken Rosenthal thinks thinks that A-Rod’s days of playing at shortstop might be numbered. So would the Cubs be trading one very good player for the other? Ramirez will cost a lot of money and Rodriguez will cost a lot of money and prospects….but one is heading to the Hall of Fame, so is it worth it?
Next is Juan Pierre, the Cubs have not mentioned much concerning the speedster. He appears to be heading for free agency and one of the rumors circulating is that the Cubs could replace Pierre with Gary Matthews, Jr. via a free-agent signing and others have the Cubs trading for either Vernon Wells or according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a deal for Andruw Jones, that would involve Tim Hudson. And then there is Carl Crawford, very talented but often injured….does Rondell White come to mind?
The Cubs must also address their bench and prepare to have injuries, instead of hoping that everyone remains healthy for 162 games….an impossibility. Could there be a second coming of Nomar to Chicago? What about Joe Randa? Maybe Scott Spiezio? What other options exist for Hendry and Piniella? Also, do not forget about any active player that ever put on a uniform for a Lou Piniella team, because the mainstream media has not.
Big Name Free Agents….
Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee will both be staring Jim Hendry in the face. Are they worth the big money they are rumored to be asking for (remember there were reports two weeks ago, that were later denied, stating Soriano had turned down a 5-year, $70 million dollar contract from the Nationals)? What about Jason Schmidt or Barry Zito? Should the Cubs go after one of these big names or spend their money on several other players that could pay big dividends as well?
So as the Faithful await the next move to be made, have fun today….be Jim Hendry for a day and give Lou Piniella the team he needs to bring a winner the Northside of Chicago.