Next Stop, Hope….

The Chicago Cubs, I have heard, are now the Illinois Yankees of the baseball world. Apparently they spend obscene amounts of money and have signed just about every good free agent on the market thus far. In fact, Lou Piniella has assured us all that Jim Hendry is really Pac-Man, gobbling up players in a giddy and previously unimaginable Tribune shopping spree. So, I assume, that all the other teams in the league will just forfeit now, right? You know better….

Word Gets Around….

Lot’s of great comments on the site recently, and I am really impressed with the intelligent views expressed by all of the CCO readers. We may not always agree with one another, but we seem to make a point, or share an opinion, and offer solid reasonings for our beliefs. This is refreshing when you consider so many other forums are littered with useless banter and lame one-sentence insults.

Some of the best topics revolved around whether defensively gifted shortstops are a dime a dozen, and how great the off-season has been. Let’s take a deeper dive into that, shall we?

He can “Pick It”….

The Dodgers could afford to let go of Izturis because they had Furcal at SS. The Dodgers knew Izturis was going to be hurt leading into the 2006 season, which is one reason why the Dodgers picked up Furcal. The other reason being that Furcal can “pick it” and “hit it”….which is usually preferable, in my world, to the plain old “can really pick it and not really hit it” type of shortstop that can be seen on the bench of just about every Major League team. Izturis, I believe, deserves a chance, as defense can make a pitcher, like Greg Maddux, look about ten years younger. Don’t underestimate the value of turning a double play to get out of a tight spot, or having a guy with the range to be a rally-killer, by taking away would-be singles up the middle.

Having said that, our shortstop still has to be productive at the plate. That could be in the form of bunting, moving runners over, keeping the ball on the ground, etc…. Izturis will have to have better than a .300 OBP to be effective, and I think we have coaches with the right mind-set to improve all of our hitters’ OBP this year, not just Izturis. Would it be better to have a guy with Nomar’s bat, and Izturis defense? Sure….but there aren’t that many of them. Trade for Tejada, by all means, but I am not sure what we have to offer the Orioles that they would want. Julio Lugo may be an offensive upgrade over Izturis, but he isn’t Tejada, A-Rod, Jeter, or Michael Young. The Cubs have some big bats, and guys like Murton and Barrett that should hit for average, so I am not worried about their offense at all. The problem with their offense last year was their lousy OBP and Derrek Lee being hurt. With Lee healthy, Soriano added to the lineup, and a healthy approach to OBP, the Cubs offense, which was middle-of-the-pack last year, should be very good.

So don’t sweat it if our guy at SS, in 2007, can only “pick it” and can’t really “hit it”.

$400 Million Dollar Payroll!!!

Haven’t you heard? The Tribune is opening the floodgates, and the Cubs payroll should be at least double that of the Yankees! Ok, that really isn’t a rumor yet, but the way some fans are getting excited, you would think the Tribsters have forgotten how to be, well, the Tribsters.

The Cubs have Rich Hill and Murton for peanuts. Izturis/Cedeno/Theriot are cheap. Barrett, Jones, and DeRosa are all $5 million or less. Throw in a couple of bullpen arms like Wuertz/Novoa/Cotts. etc…. those guys are fairly cheap. Wood and Miller are on cheap incentive-laden contracts. Prior is still cheap (assuming he has a good and healthy year, then he is still a tremendous value for his talent level).

The big money is going to be spent on Zambrano, and already is being spent on Soriano, Lee, and Ramirez. If we add two middle of the road starters, that would be about $8 mill/yr each. If we add Schmidt, that would be about $15 mill/yr.

That is still a big IF.

We are all acting like the Cubs are the Yankees, but the fact is they have only signed Soriano, and otherwise have resigned their own players, plus a career backup (DeRosa). They haven’t exactly gone crazy yet…. and their history still says they will settle for the cheaper options. I think they plan to hang their hat on Piniella and Soriano, and then get a bunch of depth, but won’t really add more stars. They won’t say it, but….

– they are hoping Prior is healthy….
– they are hoping Wood is the next Smoltz in the bullpen….
– they are hoping DeRosa didn’t just have a career year….
– they are hoping Izturis/Cedeno/Theriot will hit….
– they are hoping Barrett learns how to throw out a batter….
– they are hoping Jones learns how to hit a cut-off man.

Get the picture? This team is still Soriano, Ramirez, Lee, Zambrano + HOPE. I think you need more than 4 healthy good players to win a World Series.

So while the Cubs have, currently, 3 high-salary players (4 if Zambrano gets his extension), they haven’t become the Yankees by any stretch of the imagination, and they still have a huge need for at least two established starting pitchers. I think Meche would be ok, but I would be very, very, happy with Jason Schmidt and Jake Westbrook!

Final Thoughts

Keep up the debate, CCO Readers! Your comments and input really make this website fun to read and visit every single day. Let me know if you believe in Jim Spendry, and if the Pac-Man is still in gobbling mode. Let me know if you believe we can win with a guy at SS that can only “pick it.” Let me know if you believe that there is more to 2007, than 4 great players and a lot of Hope. Until next time, let’s go sign some starting pitching, let’s bring back Greg Maddux, and let’s go Cubs!!!!

Quote of the Day

"Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." - Joe Maddon