Now I am the General Manager

For months Cubs fans and followers have been throwing around ideas and thoughts regarding the 2007 Chicago Cubs. About two weeks after D. Lee was injured, the season was over and the discussions began. We need Zito, we have to sign Soriano, Hendry is a bum, yada, yada, yada. Well, the regular season is over, there are only three and a half teams left in the playoffs and the Hot Stove is boiling. I have spent the past few days taking notes, researching the free agent market and formulating a plan for my beloved Cubs. Please read on to see what I would do, if I could.

The Manager

The current glaring vacancy is the manager’s position. In the past week it has become apparent that either Joe Girardi or Lou Pinella will be managing the Cubs next season. Now Bruce Bochy may have an outside chance, but I think this is just an example of Hendry displaying his “due diligence.” As of Wednesday morning, Pinella appears to be the front runner for the job, however, as reported, Joe Girardi was extremely impressive during his interview Monday. Personally, I would hire Joe Girardi and not because I am a ‘homer.’ Lou Pinella is 63 and not in it for the long haul. When I hear that Pinella wants the job, I think he is jaded by being “the man.” He wants to be the person who brings the title to the Northside. His brief three year stint in Tampa should prove that he needs to win now and that is not a definite at Wrigley. It may have only been one season, but Girardi proved he can work with anyone. He molded young talent, gave room to experienced players and sold the team on the fundamentals of the game. These three aspects are keys to success, two of which have been missing from the Cubs’ recipe for quite some time. So for these reasons and a few more, I would offer a three year contract to Joe Girardi to manage the Chicago Cubs.

Everyday Players

The following players will be a part of the 2007 Chicago Cubs, barring a trade, and I would plan on them playing daily:

1. Michael Barrett
2. Derrek Lee
3. Ryan Theriot
4. Cesar Izturis
5. Jacque Jones
6. Matt Murton

I have perused the free agent market, and based on my findings and the cost for certain players, I am pretty confident these six men will be playing for me on a regular basis. Please note that this may change depending on other free agent acquisitions.

Bench Players

The following four players will definitely be my utility/bench players for 2007.

1. Angel Pagan
2. Ronny Cedeno
3. Scott Moore
4. Henry Blanco
5. Freddie Bynum

Ronny Cedeno hit about .390 in AAA during the 2005 season, so I see no need to send him back. He hit a slump and with a new hitting coach he should be fine. Plus, he needs to work on his game at the major league speed, I do not want him building any false confidence on the farm. Angel Pagan is extremely talented and will challenge both corner outfielders for playing time. (Please note that I would attempt to trade Jacque Jones, but due to his torn labrum, this will not happen. However, on my team, he would have already had surgery, if it was deemed effective.) I like what I saw from Scott Moore and if I can sign a veteran backup at third base, Scott Moore would start the season in Iowa. I believe Hank White is a free agent, but I would definitely re-sign him. Though Freddie Bynum was a large disappointment in ’06, I think he would benefit greatly from Girardi’s tutelage and could become a key bench player and game changing pinch-runner in ’07.

Aramis Ramirez and Juan Pierre

I re-sign them both, there you go. I am going to assume I can sign Aramis to a 4 year/$56 million dollar contract. I am willing to go to 4 years and $60 million for the guarantee. Also, I plan on offering JP a 3 year contract for $24 million. I am willing to go to $27 million over 3 years if my hand if forced. The Cubs gave up Ricky Nolasco for Juan, therefore he is worth $27 million, but no more.

Potential Offensive Free Agents

This is where it gets tricky. I am much more in need of pitching than hitting at this point. I have two large free agent pitching candidates, and I would rather sign both pitchers than one hitter. I will take my time to investigate the dollar range, but neither Carlos Lee nor Alfonso Soriano is worth more than Derrek Lee. Also, I have to take into consideration that I just dropped almost $25 million/year on JP and A-Ram. With that said, I will now officially remove myself from the bidding war for Carlos Lee and Soriano. In all honesty, I was never interested in Carlos Lee, he is a defensive liability who hits .270. His power numbers took a dive in Texas and that is a hitter’s park. With that said and in accordance with the year he had, Soriano is going to demand north of $100 million and I do not have that kind of money.

If I am unable to resign JP, I focus solely on Gary Matthews Jr. Granted he had a career year, but I would be able to sign him for 3 years and $15 million. He only made $2.4 million last year and even though I would be doubling his salary, $5 million/year for an All-Star is a good deal.

Next, I turn my attention to solidifying the bench. I know that I have Ronny to cover the middle of the infield, so I really need a back-up corner infielder. First, I go after Scott Spiezio. Spiezio hit .272 and a had a .366 OBP. He is a solid defender that can play both third and first. Also, he would come at a decent bargain due to recent injuries, and he has won a World Series. Honestly, when it comes to back-ups, injuries do not scare me.

Starting Pitching

At this point, I have two guaranteed starting pitchers in my rotation:

1. Carlos Zambrano
2. Rich Hill

At this point, I have many possibilities for my starting rotation, they are listed, in order of preference below:

1. Mark Prior
2. Wade Miller
3. Sean Marshall
4. Carlos Marmol
5. Juan Mateo
6. Angel Guzman

Of these six pitchers, I will only count on one of them being a full time starter next year as I hope to sign two free agent pitchers to contracts. Obviously I hope that Prior can find his ability and return to the Cy Young form he displayed in 2003.

Free Agent Starting Pitching

I am not going to sign Barry Zito. The New York teams and a few others are going to outbid themselves over $100 million. Combine this with the fact that Scott Boras is his agent and you have a recipe for a disastrous contract and unattainable expectations. Instead, I turn my attention to Jason Schmidt. Schmidt has been one of the most consistent and effective pitchers in baseball the past five seasons. He made approximately $10.5 million last season and will be 34 years old on Opening Day. With that said, I am confident that I can sign Jason Schmidt to a 3 year/$33 million contract and I am willing to go to $35 or $36 million if I must, remember how much money I just saved on Zito. Secondly I turn my attention to unheralded Adam Eaton. Eaton had a problem with a finger tendon all season in Texas and this should help his selling price. He was an above average pitcher for multiple years on the Padres and would be a very above average fourth starter. If I am unable to sign Eaton, I would turn my attention to Woody Williams. I know he is 40, but if wants to pitch one more year, I would give him $4 or $5 million. He was 12-5 with a 3.63 ERA on a playoff team in 2006. He would also be an above average fourth starter.

The Bullpen

The following six men will comprise my bullpen, and they will look very familiar:

1. Scotty Eyre
2. Bob Howry
3. Michael Wuertz
4. Will Ohman
5. David Aardsma
6. Ryan Dempster

Outside of Dempster’s debacles, the bullpen was the lone bright spot for the Cubs, and I see no need to change anything at this time.

Free Agent Relief Pitchers

If he is willing to sign the incentive-laden contract, I would try to work something out with Kerry Wood. I would tell him he was working out of the bullpen and his contract would depend on appearances. I know there are some clauses in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but I would work around them and give Kerry one final chance on the Cubs. The total contract would not be for more than $2.5 million. If he was willing to sign it, he would be a member of the 2007 Cubs.

25 Man Roster

With all of this said, below is my 25 man roster, in order of positions:

1. Michael Barrett
2. Derrek Lee
3. Ryan Theriot
4. Cesar Izturis
5. Aramis Ramirez
6. Matt Murton
7. Juan Pierre
8. Jacque Jones
9. Henry Blanco
10. Ronny Cedeno
11. Angel Pagan
12. Freddie Bynum
13. Scott Spiezio
14. Carlos Zambrano
15. Rich Hill
16. Mark Prior
17. Jason Schmidt
18. Adam Eaton
19. Scott Eyre
20. Bob Howry
21. Michael Wuertz
22. Will Ohman
23. David Aardsma
24. Ryan Dempster
25. Kerry Wood

The Minors

I think that Sean Marshall, Angel Guzman, Carlos Marmol, Juan Mateo and Scott Moore could all greatly benefit from another year in AAA playing consistently. I firmly believe two of these five will be above average major league baseball players, but just not in 2007. They all showed flashes, but need more time.

There you have it, my 2007 Chicago Cubs, if I was the General Manager. Thanks for reading and please share your thoughts at the bottom. Feel free to drop me a line at brian@chicagocubsonline.com and until next time….

Stay Classy Cubs Fans!!!!

Quote of the Day

"The will to succeed is important, but what's more important is the will to prepare." - Bobby Knight
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