Well, another Cub’s fan checking in, and I’ll at least pretend like there’s a solution here.
Here’s move #1, get rid of Hundley. No matter what it takes, cut him if need be. He’s pathetic, won’t turn things around, and has got to be cancer in the clubhouse if for no other reason than the fact the fans rabidly hate him, and he makes more than most everyone else on the team while hitting .200 if he’s lucky and sucking on defense. I’d make this trade offer: Todd Hundley for Mike Hampton. Both are horribly overpaid, Hampton makes more but is worth a little more at this point. The Rockies get a catcher who could very possibly turn things around with a fresh start, and as a left handed fly-ball hitter could actually put up numbers in Coors. The Cubs get another solid starter who at the very least will eat up innings, and very likely could rebound as well with a change of scenery in a somewhat pitcher friendly park in Wrigley. And hey, the Tribune Company can afford it if it doesn’t pan out.
Move #2, get a new manager who’s primary skill is talent recognition and can stress fundamentals. There were rumors that the A’s Howe could be available, and if he is the Cubs should offer him anything he asks for, though he’s recently claimed he’s staying in Oakland. I wouldn’t want Pinella or Baker for this kind of team. A secondary option if Howe stays in Oakland would be Alou, but for all his magic in Montreal I’m wondering why he’s currently out of work. Perhaps there’s something I don’t know.
The new GM, (apropos of this thread apparently) Hendry, came from Oakland, and even though he’s claiming he’s not necessarily looking for a veteran manager, he might just have a little sway in getting Howe if he does go back on his words and move.
The rest of the team is in reasonable shape as long as a few players show up to play at the beginning of the season.
McGriff is gone and at 1B the rookie Hee Sop Choi should fill in nicely. He’s a player who could really benefit from a manager who’s had successful rookies and can get him soild in all aspects of the game since hitting will probably take care of itself.
Bobby Hill at 2B, another rookie with lots of promise, see above.
Alex Gonzalez at SS, was clutch all last season even though the overall numbers don’t bear it out. He’s well rounded, and isn’t a liability in any phase of the game. Lets focus on the real problems and give this guy another year or two. Anyways, he’s under contract so why rock the boat.
Mark Bellhorn at 3B, he was a huge suprise this season and managed to cement himself at 2B when everyone was expecting Hill to be starting there last season around the All-Star break. The real plus is that he’s a natural 3rd basemen, and his defense will likely improve, not that it was all that bad to begin with. I’ll miss the fan-fave Bill Mueller, but he never really got back on track after that knee injury.
In the outfield there’s no need for changes, just improvement. In right you’ve got Sammy. Not sure why it is, but the guy seems to alternate years or good and bad defense. And the Cubs fate hinges on that it seems. This coming year he’s due for a good one, but a manager who can motivate that aspect of his game would be a huge plus. Then you’ve got Alou on the other side, who’d better get his old lazy ass in the gym all off-season. If his personal assessment is correct, he could be back to full stride next year. In the middle Patterson will be fine, good range and has been streaky at the plate. He needs to become the propect he was hyped to be, and theres no reason to think he can’t. In any case it’d be rash to move any of these guys in the offseason.
The starting pitching staff is excellent, and with some consistency on defense and some run support could be dominating. Sadly I think the losing and frustration has affected them in the late season. Presuming Lieber returns at full strength, the starting 4 spots should be rock solid. They do need to wrangle some deal to secure Lieber with that club option for this coming year in which he’ll miss the first half, but both sides have talked positively. Shouldn’t be any reason this won’t happen. Then if my above deal goes through, Hampton could make an excellent 4-5 starter, and if he regains old form could even be higher. No matter how he performs, the number of innings he always east up could save the bullpen.
The bullpen is the most pathetic part of this team. If they are successful in getting Hampton, or another solid free agent starter, it’ll really help their bullpen. They’ll either be able to trade one the of the younger starters who’ve shown signs of strength, or move them to the pen as long relievers and set up men. Then another free agent move or two to acquire a reliable arm or two, and it should at least be better than last year. If we manage to shore up that starting staff and they don’t get bounced early too often, we could be in good shape. Its unrealistic to think you can go out into the free agent market and just buy great bullpen talent, it doesn’t happen.
At closer, I’d probably end up keeping Alfonseca. I don’t know the details of his contract, but the guy seems to be a problem. The odds of a good trade are unlikely, but it might be possible depending on other teams needs. I’d have to basically say “I don’t know” on that question mark.
Then it brings us to catcher. If we dump Hundley on some unsuspecting team, we’ll need to sign one as a free agent. We don’t have anyone solid in the minors that I’m aware of and we can’t count on the likes of Girardi as a full time catcher. If I had my drothers I’d spend a fat chunk of the Tribune companies money and make this my big free agent move and go out and grab Pudge Rodrigez. With the losses of McGriff, Meuller and some of Lieber’s obligations we should be able to put together a pretty solid compensation package without breaking the bank.
Its alot of ifs…
If 2 out of 3 of those rookies/youngsters pan out (Patterson included in that list).
If Sosa and Alou play up to potential.
If we can dump Hundley.
If we sign a solid defensive catcher at the very least.
If we get the right manager for this team.
…then I think we can compete in this division that doesn’t have a consistant powerhouse.
If only I were GM…