The Current State of the Chicago Cubs

The current state of the Chicago Cubs does not look so good … but the future appears bright in 2012, and beyond.

While 2011 isn’t looking very promising as 2010 comes to an end, there are several things we should keep an eye on that could very well turn out as positives for the future. Aramis Ramirez, Randy Wells, Marlon Byrd, Carlos Pena, and Kosuke Fukudome could help the Cubs in the future.

What did I just say? I must be losing my mind … If Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena return to form offensively in the first half they could be valuable trade bait at the deadline. Ramirez would get a million dollar bonus if traded and his $16 million club option for 2012 becomes guaranteed, but a team in need of offense and a third baseman could be interested.

Last year was definitely a down year for Ramirez. He was unlucky though his BABIP (batting average of balls in play) was .245 in 2010 versus a .287 career BABIP.

Carlos Pena is another candidate for a comeback year. I do not think he will hit above .250 but his OBP and power numbers have always been very solid and were down last year, along with his BABIP … which was just .222 compared to a career BABIP of .279. Unlike Ramirez, Pena is also a solid defender which teams value as well.

Kosuke Fukudome is an average to above defender and a decent offensive player, despite not being worth his high salary. Fukudome could be a starter, or a valuable fourth outfielder, on many teams at the deadline. But, of course the Cubs would have to eat some of his remaining salary.

Marlon Byrd has had two solid offensive seasons in a row, brings a good glove and can play all three outfield positions. Plus, Byrd has a reasonable contract ($5.5 million in 2011, $6.5 million in 2012) and if he could repeat his performances from 2009 and 2010, Byrd could be moved at the deadline as well for prospects … obviously depending on how much money the Cubs would be willing to chip in.

Randy Wells is not a front-end starter but he is a decent number four or five guy. Wells had a solid 2009 campaign and an inconsistent, at best, 2010 season. If he can level off in 2011 and pitch with more consistency, Wells could have some value at the deadline. His very affordable contract (league minimum) coupled with being under team control for another five seasons, Wells could net the Cubs a couple of decent prospects

Those are just a couple of things to be optimistic about going into the new year.

As for the youth movement, there are several players on the Major League roster that should be fun to watch in 2011 … Starlin Castro, Andrew Cashner, Tyler Colvin, Darwin Barney and Blake DeWitt. Plus, Brett Jackson, Chris Archer and Chris Carpenter will be front and center in big league camp (on non-roster invites) when the games begin in Mesa.

Starlin Castro has the makings of a star and his future looks very bright … but he must avoid the dreaded ‘Sophomore Slump’. Castro has great range and a cannon for an arm, plus raw speed on the bases that should allow him to improve his baserunning as he gains experience. He needs to improve his decision making on the field and should hit for more power as he matures.

Andrew Cashner will get a chance to crack the starting rotation … and we will see if he has the stuff to be a top of the rotation starter.

Darwin Barney is a solid defender at three positions (shortstop, second base and third base) and is a smart player that figures to give the team a boost off the bench. Barney has already reported to Mesa to participate in “Camp Colvin“. If Barney is able to make similar strides to what Tyler Colvin did a year ago, he could end up being a valuable role player.

Blake DeWitt is still pretty young and he still has upside. Many feel he is a poor defender, but according to his Baseball-Reference page he is very solid at third and decent at second. At worst he is an okay stopgap until one of the prospects are able to step up.

I know many people are ruling out DeWitt, but I think he may be a good candidate for Rudy Jaramillo.

In 2003 and 2004 Mark DeRosa’s career looked to be going down hill. After two dismal seasons of a sub-.700 OPS (2003 – .263/.316/.383/.699, 2004 – .239/.293/.320/.614), Mark DeRosa ended up in Texas in 2005 and started working with Rudy Jaramillo.

DeRosa showed improvement in a short amount of time and continued raving about working with Jaramillo when he signed with the Cubs back in the winter of 2006. DeRosa put together a .243/.325/.439/.764 line in 2005. While DeRosa showed improvement in 2005, especially in his on base and slugging percentage, he really broke out in 2006 and earned his big payday from the Cubs.

Under his second year with Jaramillo in 2006, Mark DeRosa turned the corner and posted a .296/.357/.456/.812 line.

Marlon Byrd had back-to-back dismal seasons as well in 2005 and 2006. Byrd put up a sub-.700 OPS and a line of .264/.318/.380/.698 in 2005 and it got worse with .223/.317/.350/.667 line in 2006.

Byrd joined the Rangers and started working with Jaramillo in 2007 and showed improvement in each of his three seasons under Rudy’s tutelage (2007 – .307/.355/.459/.814, 2008 – .293/.380/.462/.842, 2009 – .283/.329/.479/.808) … and had a good year in his first season with the Cubs, despite slowing down in the second half (2010 – .293/.346/.429/.775).

The Cubs have a lot of money coming off the books after the upcoming season and should be looking at one of the free agent first basemen … Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, and Adrian Gonzalez. Pujols and Gonzalez are not expected to hit the open market and will likely sign extensions at some point next year. But at least the Cubs have put themselves in a position to be in the mix for all three.

As for the prospects down on the farm, the Cubs have a lot of depth in the system and while the system may lack an impact prospect, at least there is quality and just not quantity. Besides Brett Jackson, Chris Archer and Chris Carpenter, the Cubs could also receive contributions at the big league level in 2011 from Brandon Guyer, Jay Jackson, Welington Castillo and Robinson Chirinos … with Trey McNutt and possibly Hak-Ju Lee not being too far behind.

What are your thoughts? I will be writing another article soon about players down on the farm to keep an eye on in 2011. Stay Tuned …

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  • Anonymous

    I agree with your reasoning but some of these prospects may be traded over the next few weeks. I don’t think Garza would add that much if we have to part with four prospects. Instead, I’d like to see one of the second basemen traded and Hak-Ju Lee given a shot at shortstop or second base. Retain DeWitt as a backup at third and second. Or, groom Barney for that role. Barney could take over for Ramirez after next year.

    • Patrick_Schaefer

      I like Hak-Ju Lee he is a defensive superstar in the making and has amzing speed, but his bat needs a lot more maturing before he can make a contribution at the major league level. It will probably be atleast a couple years still. Merry Christmas!

      • GrantJones7

        I dont think Hak is ready this year, but possibly midway 2012

      • stormyweather

        Indeed-realistically I dont see Lee as a big leaguer until 2013 and then only if he shows he can dupicate his minor league numbers.

  • Patrick_Schaefer

    Merry Christmas Cubs’ Nation! Heck it’s christmas merry christmas all you Cardinals, Brewers, Reds, and White Sox fans out there as well.

    • Ripsnorter1

      Okay Patrick, let’s not over do it! LOL

      Have a blessed Christmas and New Year, too.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Aram was not “unlucky with his BABIP.” In the first half he was making–and I’ll quote Bob Brenly–”terrible swings on the ball.” While some may consider BABIP to be a barometer of a batter’s luck, I look at it as a barometer of how hard they are hitting the ball. Aaron Miles had a terrible BABIP when he was with the Cubs simply because he was hitting a weak grounder to the pitcher or 2B most of the time.

    • stormyweather

      Yep-lets not forget how many Ks Aram had in May and June. His K numbers were about 25% of his Abs until he went on the DL. After he came back healthy his K numbers came in near his career norms. Also dont forget this-last year both DLee and Aram admitted they wouldnt take hitting advice from Rudy Jaramillo.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZHTMAIGK4MF65LJQK54NZL62JI Jim

    I agree that 2011 will be miserable but things should look better in 2012.

  • cloycub13

    Test again…. OK I found the edit profile, got a new pic up…. I think I am figuring this bad boy out…. rants to come in the future. I am stuck here at work, but for those who are not enjoy your day!!! Happy Christmas eve to all!

  • StevenF

    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/justice/baseball/7351492.html
    Great article on the Astros approach in 2011. I hope the Cubs adopt the same philosophy.

    • dan

      I couldn’t agree with you more, Cubs are a team in transition, they took their shot with free agents, they are not in a payroll position to continue this. Clear the decks of the huge contracts (Fuk, A-Ram, Silva, Zambrano), and then assess where the team is at that point. The possibility of good walk year performances and the emerging young talent will be fun to watch.

  • Steve G

    The Cubs need to decide whether they are in or out for next year. They are clearly trying to rebuild from within, but refuse to totally sell out. Giving up any top prospects for Garza makes no sense at this point unless they unload Zambrano or Ramirez. I would rather see them cut Soriano, trade Byrd and play an outfield of Guyer, Jackson, and Colvin than see a half effort at rebuilding and giving away outstanding young players for a stop gap to appease a few ticket buyers.

  • Tony_Hall

    Merry Christmas to all of CCO!

    We may disagree on the moves, the signings, the staff, but the one thing we have in common, is the most important, we are all Diehard Cubs Fans.

    Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas.

  • cubs1967

    I would disagree that 2012 will be any better………..considering the incompetent PK MCCaskey , JH, etc will be around. This decade is looking like a loser. None of the supposed “stars” in the minors are considered 5 star by anyone………so i’m not sure what you all are hoping for, but is sounds like a bunch of kids to play and at their best will be a 85 win team.
    102 yrs and counting…………the cubs convention is NOT sold out should be clue one what is expected……….A CUBS CHAMPIONSHIP.

    any talk of anything less than that is garbage. and you don’t let all the salaries run off thinking in 2013 you sign all new ones and compete………..you do it year-by-year to re-load.

    Merry X-mas Cub Fans……………..enjoy your cubby blue coal Mr P.K. and family and your too JH, Kenney Craine and Mike Quad (no E).

    • sadowski

      Football retorts

  • http://twitter.com/JMattWeaver Matt Weaver

    “If Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena return to form offensively in the first half they could be valuable trade bait at the deadline.”

    Where’s your optimism? If those two guys play like they’re career norms, we could be talking about adding at the deadline.

    • BosephHeyden

      Unfortunately, Ramirez’s “career norm” seems to be “don’t start trying until the second half when everyone else is wearing down”. In 07 and 08, it seemed like he played well throughout the year, but that may have been more because Lou was a bit stricter at the time.

    • Patrick_Schaefer

      I like your thinking anything is possible, especially if we have great years from some of the young guys Castro, Colvin, Cashner, Dewitt, and Barney. I didn’t think the bears would be as good as they are this year. Thamks for the optimism.

    • Gary J

      You beat me to this comment – IF the “bouncebacks” happen like suggested above – the Cubs will be in contention and be buyers… although now I can say I said it first LOL

      The pen looks good… the rotation needs one more big league arm (assuming Cashner sticks… if not then two)… but other than that the pitching looks good.

      If….

      Cashner sticks….
      ARam stays healthy…
      Soriano adjusts to not hitting leadoff finally and hits around .280 in the 5 or 6 hole….
      Big Z of the second half is back to stay and the Big Z first half doesn’t return…
      and Pena hits .230….

      this team has potential while still giving the youth movement a chance.

      I’ve always been a glass is half full kind of guy – but this team UNDER performed big time last year. If the vets return to their career numbers then hope remains :-)

  • paulcatanese

    Paul Catanese. Still figuring out the new format. MerryChristmas everyone.

  • stormyweather

    Right now, McNutt, Archer, and Lee need to stay in the minors. If we can keep B Jax down at aa/aaa it should also be the same. Right now, Chirinos/Castillo make the most sense at breaking with the big league club. J Jax has to show better command(far too many gopher balls). Guyer is an outside possability, it would be nice to see if a former football player can play someplace besides OF-im wondering if the Cubbies might consider him taking grounders at third? Guyer has progressed probably the most in the last 2 years-be nice to see if he can be a 15-20Hr 20-25SB .280BA type in the bigs.

  • studio179

    I really hope the Cubs at the top on down does not panic and pull a Garza trade or something similar. Keep the draft and player developement moving forward and don’t make hasty decisions. We all know we have to accept a year or maybe two of growing pains. But if it is done right and a direction looks positive, there is hope. Identify the keepers to let them get experience in the minors. Then, when ready, the big club.

    Merry Chirstmas and happy holidays!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZHTMAIGK4MF65LJQK54NZL62JI Jim

    True on all points

  • MikeT

    I think that if we’re lucky the prospects will be ready by 2012, I personally think maybe 2013 but I really hope I am wrong, but there is no need to rush the kids up too soon

  • paulcatanese

    Paul Catanese. I think I have the hang of the new format,It’s not bad and I see a lot of new posters out there, should be great. I’m looking to next year with a guarded attitude,am going to wait and see how Rip and Tony handle it and of course Aaron.

  • Baron_S

    Testing DISQUS..

    Merry X’mas to all CCO’ers

  • paulcatanese

    paulcatanese. I read above that Castro needs to avoid the sophmore jinx. Does Tyler Colvin not face the same challenge? Also read somewhere that Lee and Ramirez did not warm up to Rudys advice and refused. Heck all they had to do was look at their own film and if they didn’t see what was wrong,how could anyone help?