Now that the new Manager (Mike Quade) is in place, what will owner Tom Ricketts & GM Jim Hendry do to rebuild the Cubs for the 2011 MLB schedule? The Cubs finished strong under Quade (24-13) down the stretch, but still ended the season with a 75-87 record. There is a lot of work that needs to be done, but it sounds like the Ricketts family has put a hold on the “free spending” philosophy to which GM Jim Hendry is accustomed.
As we previously noted, Aramis Ramirez exercised his option to stay with the Cubs in 2011 for $14.6 million. With that, the Cubs are committed to $130 million going into the off-season. Certain arbitration-eligible players will also be getting pay raises in 2011, so you have to factor in some additional dollars to account for these players. Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall, Geovany Soto, Tom Gorzelanny and Jeff Baker fit into that category.
The Cubs have a hole at 1st base with the departure of Derrek Lee. The Cubs opted not to re-sign Xavier Nady, but can still work out a deal with him this winter. Adam Dunn is the best free agent 1st baseman out there, but many sources say that he doesn’t fit into the Ricketts’ budget. This amazes me. After shelling out so much money over the years, not being willing to shell out $10-12 for Dunn for each of the next 3 seasons amazes me. Even if it sends the payroll up to the high $120′s, that would still be a LOT less than the $144 million shelled out for the 75-win team in 2010. The talk that the Cubs will be able to trade for Adrian Gonzales at some point this season is a joke. The Padres new GM – Jed Hoyer – was the former assistant GM to Theo Epstein in Boston. The Red Sox have been trying to pry Gonzalez from the Padres for 2 years now, and the Padres know that they cannot re-sign him after the 2011 season. Hoyer will move Gonzales to the Red Sox before the July trading deadline and he knows the Red Sox minor league system as well as anyone given his previous assistant GM position. I would be shocked if Hoyer and Epstein don’t work out a deal to move Gonzales to the Red Sox – it would get Hoyer some great players back and it would also move Gonzalez into the American League where they would only have to play him in interleague play, if at all. If Ricketts and Hendry really think they have a shot at Gonzales, they are kidding themselves. If they don’t sign Dunn, then your other options are not so hot - . I don’t think the Cubs really want to move Tyler Colvin to 1st base, so I think the best move would be to shell out the $$$ for Dunn for a 3-year deal. If he pushes for 4 years, then you take a pass.
After that, the Cubs need to work on the outfield. Moving Alfonso Soriano or Kosuke Fukudome would be huge, but I doubt it will happen. So that means splitting time among Colvin, Fukudome and Soriano in right field and left field. Not the best option. The Cubs are set with the rotation – Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva and Tom Gorzelanny – but it isn’t all that pretty. Jeff Samardzija is out of options, so he either makes the big league roster out of Spring Training 2011 or the Cubs have to waive him. The bullpen is young, but “talented”. Marshall and Marmol can hold down the fort at the back end and the the Cubs hope that John Grabow can remain healthy for the entire 2011 season. Samardzija is better suited as a starter, so look for Gorzelanny to be used as a reliever in 2011. The Cubs could also be in the market for a veteran arm as well.
Quade is ever the optimist, as he doesn’t think the Cubs need a major over-haul in order to get back into contention in the National League Central: “I’m smart enough to know six weeks doesn’t make six months. But what I saw with the improvement of the kids and the way we pitched and the way we played last the last six weeks, why not? I believed that from Day 1. Why not us?… There are plenty of examples of teams which had rough years and finished strong – look back at San Diego – and built on it for next year. I find no reason to approach this season any other way. Expect to win? Expect to contend? Yes, I do.” Gotta love it, but I just don’t see the Cubs being a consistently good team in 2011.
It should be an interesting, but frugal winter. Look for the Cubs to take shots on several “economical” free agents or players via trade in order to try to catch lightning in a bottle…