What the Cubs Must Do

Like Carlos Zambrano, I have reached my boiling point with the Cubs organization. There have been worse seasons than this one, but rarely has one seemed this disappointing. Perhaps that’s because one look at this roster and you realize: this modern era of Cubs success, 2003-2008, is over. An aging roster filled with bad salaries isn’t going to blossom into playoff caliber anytime soon. As I see it, there are two, and only two, moves that the Cubs can make:

1) Fire everybody.
2) Rebuild.

Preferably in that order. I have many written positive words about Jim Hendry, about Tim Wilken, about the Cubs front office in general over the last decade or so, as Hendry helped engineer an era of competitiveness. His mistakes were usually more subtle — the failure to sign Player X, Y or Z — although he’ll be remembered for ill-fated contracts given to Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano, and perhaps unfairly, Milton Bradley. But more, with talented rosters that were sometimes chosen by pundits to win a title, this front office and coaching staff never broke the curse that haunts the organization.

The Cubs now need a new leader, one with less personal ties to the assets in this organization, to begin anew. A person that would start with these moves:

1. Trade Ted Lilly and Kosuke Fukudome. This was the main point Jack Moore made in his “What Should the Cubs do” piece from last week, and since then, Lilly only lowered his ERA. The difference between that number (3.28) and his xFIP (4.63) is now staggering, and he represents the most typical mid-season trade chip the Cubs have. Trading Fukudome would mean eating salary in 2011, but if that means acquiring a decent prospect, it’s worth it.

2. Put Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano on waivers in August. This won’t work. But desperate times…

3. Keep Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez. This rebuild is not geared at success in 2011, so selling low won’t do any good. The draft compensation from Lee’s next signing will likely surpass his 2010 midseason trade value. Ramirez is a sure bet to pick up his $14.6 million player option for 2011, so I’m not sure you could trade him now anyway. But keeping him does allow for a bounce-back next season (while adding a year of development for Josh Vitters), which would allow you to trade him July 31, 2011.

4. Trade Marlon Byrd and Carlos Silva. Credit to Hendry where it’s due, as he may have created two assets out of thin air here. Byrd has been extremely valuable, and is signed to a team-friendly contract through 2012. A team like Atlanta, with their outfield problems and limited finances, would surely part with a good young player for Byrd. Silva’s value on the open market is a little less transparent, but given the Mariners commitment to his salary, he’d only come at $4 million for this year and $6 million for next year, without accounting for what the Cubs might kick in, too.

5. Trade Carlos Marmol. This would be wildly unpopular given Marmol’s quest to shatter the K/9 single-season record. But relievers tend to be overvalued in midseason markets, and Marmol would offer a team 2.5 seasons of arbitration-controlled salaries. He would, semi-deservedly, attract the biggest haul of the bunch. The Cubs could also afford to be stingy with their demands, as he might bring in just as much this winter.

Without question, these moves would be met with scrutiny from Cubs fans and media alike, but they also exist the only chance this team has to compete in a couple years. Hopefully the new person in charge could handle easy decisions like getting rid of the Koyie Hill temptation, returning Sean Marshall and Andrew Cashner to their rightful places in a rotation, riding the Tyler Colvin never-ending hot streak, etc. It shouldn’t be difficult.

Ownership groups are not remembered for the sponsors they land, or the renovations to bathrooms they finance. The Ricketts family must be decisive, and quickly, to salvage something from their inherited regime, and to ensure some eventual success.

Dear Mr. Ricketts: Fire them all. Start over. Faithfully, Bryan Smith.



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gorillagogo
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gorillagogo
6 years 3 months ago

I don’t think there’s anything unfair about criticizing the Milton Bradley deal. To Hendry’s credit, he was able to get out from under it and acquire something useful in the process, but the deal itself was a mistake from the day the Cubs offered it.

Realist
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Realist
6 years 3 months ago

“A team like Atlanta, with their outfield problems and limited finances, would surely part with a good young player for Byrd.”

Yeah sure, here’s Julio Teheran…. :/

OremLK
Member
OremLK
6 years 3 months ago

The Cubs are basically in the same boat as the Astros, except with a larger payroll and a crappier scouting department.

Cubs fans will hate me for saying that. Let ’em.

oompaloopma
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oompaloopma
6 years 3 months ago

Except the Astros players are asking to get traded, and I am still in disbelief that none of the Cubs players has asked for a trade? I am beginning to wonder if these guys want to win, or just collect a paycheck.

B N
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B N
5 years 11 months ago

That’s because all the players with enough experience and worth to get traded have salaries and/or question marks so big they’d never get moved- ever.

Tony
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Tony
6 years 3 months ago

Crappier scouting department? I look at the two systems and the recent draft picks, and I see on crappy scouting department and one doing alright. The one doing alright isn’t Houston, that’s for sure.

PurifiedDrinkingWater
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6 years 3 months ago

yeah except they’re loaded with young talent at the major league level and in the minors and have a fantastic scouting director. oh and they have deeper pockets and significantly more intelligent owner, and soon a significantly more intelligent GM.

Pete
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Pete
6 years 3 months ago

Bryan,

After watching last night’s futile effort against the Buccos, I must finally come to grips with the fact that you sir… are absolutely right. With every single move. Keep Tim Wilken if possible.

Sincerely,
Beaten Dog (Cubs fan)

Dan
Guest
Dan
6 years 3 months ago

I am right there with you. Although I thought the Cubs should have made all of these moves months ago. But in Jim Hendry land, Cubs fans and media run the show, not management. So my guess is none of this is going to happen.

I am a life long Cubs fan and I wouldn’t be upset one bit if they traded away everything and had a young team with a $40M payroll for a year or two to rebuild. It’s time.

First, get a new GM that looks for free agents and talent that are less than 28 years old. Then do all that Bryan and Jack said and maybe some even more creative things. Last, bring in Ryne Sandberg and Greg Maddux to run the show. At least Cubs fans would like the management and the potential if not the players.

Max
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Max
6 years 3 months ago

please not Ryno. The reason Hall of Fame players never turn out to be decent managers/GMs is because they have not had to go through the processes of trying to get every…..last…..ounce…..of…..talent out of their bodies. Not saying Ryno didnt try, strive or learn – but take a look at the successful managers around Baseball. Youl find nary a HOFer. They all were (at best) solid, yet unspactacular players. But they played for 10-15 years doing everything they could to keep themselves relevant which allows them to know what to do on the bench. Torre, LaRussa, Pinella, Scioscia, Cox, Girardi, Francona, Manuel, Leyland, the list just goes on and on.

I know the Cubs want to, and will likely go the Ryno route. It will be a mistake – but its not like they cant afford to let the guy learn on the job with a group that wont make many waves the next year or two.

odbsol
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odbsol
6 years 3 months ago

It’s the pain that we endure year-in, year-out that will make that eventual WS Championship all the more sweeter. Or at least for my kids.

I can’t disagree with any of the moves that you suggest. How about not bringing in crappy middle relievers who were never anything but moderately successful like Howry, Grabow, etc. and try to build one internally. At least stop overpaying for guys coming off years where they pitched out of their head.

Ted Lehman
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Ted Lehman
6 years 3 months ago

If you want to comfort yourself by thinking that years of suffering will somehow make an eventual (maybe) championship better, more power to you, I guess.

yayforme
Member
yayforme
6 years 3 months ago

Marmol as a trade chip is an outstanding idea, and one I haven’t seen written about in previous articles on the Cubs rebuilding plans.

He’s got a lot to offer contenders in that he a) significantly improves their chances to make the playoffs and succeed in post-season play, b) is under team control for a few more years, and c) is probably the #1 most exciting pitcher in the game. More importantly for the Cubs, though, d) is perceived as providing more on field value than he actually offers. Yeah, he’s good, but his control issues have come and gone over the years, and most guys that face him have figured him out and are taking until they get 2 strikes. (Even Ozzie Guillen’s club was trying to draw walks against him!) On days he can locate his slider, he’s unhittable. But if that doesn’t happen, teams can jog around the bases, 90 feet at a time. And most teams are wising up when it comes to the value of closers. But as teams like the Mets and Angels continue to overpay for the false sense of security these guys provide, it appears that it’s still a market with a bit of inefficiency built in.

Having said all that, I expect the Cubs to trade for Jason Kendall in the next month or so to make a Houstonesque run at the playoffs. Maybe in 2011 we’ll have a GM that can face reality and these sorts of discussions can be more than escapist daydreams for Cubs fans without anything to look forward to for the next 4 months.

yayforme
Member
yayforme
6 years 3 months ago

Hm, that was an odd place to post that. Originally started a reply to this comment to call someone out for being a dick and adding nothing to the discussion, then changed my mind and wrote to the original article, yet it still posted it here. Oh well.

Virgil Pryor
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Virgil Pryor
6 years 3 months ago

I have a few problems with this. First of all, if the Cubs were to take very little of this advice, or perhaps only some of it, there is no reason to believe that they would have no hope of competing for another few years. In fact, given the salary that they are primed to shed between now and next years’ FA class, there’s really no reason the Cubs couldn’t spend that money wisely and find themselves in the playoff hunt in 2011.

Now, if you don’t think that Hendry is capable of spending that money wisely, then fine, you might be right. But it’s just poor analysis to say that the team MUST do all of the aforementioned things and that it is their only hope at sniffing the playoffs for the next few years. Using this kind of absolute language can get you into trouble, and in this case I think it has done just that.

Greg
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Greg
6 years 3 months ago

You’ve got to stop thinking that the Cubs are just a few moves away from being contenders. Moving the albatrosses that you can when you can in order to secure some solid foundation for rebuilding is the best and only move that makes any sense at this point.

Jack Weiland
Member
Member
Jack Weiland
6 years 3 months ago

What salary are they shedding, exactly? Lee? Anyone else? Zambrano, Soriano, Fukudome, Ramirez … all of those guys will still be under contract next summer.

I think any moves the Cubs make where they decrease payroll and add young players (be it prospects or young, useful MLers) will help the team. By no means do they HAVE to do all of the above to improve the fortune of this franchise. But sitting pat and doing nothing is CLEARLY not the answer. This is not a very good baseball team. It really never was (speaking of the ’10 Cubs). To me they didn’t disappoint, they merely played to about the level I expected. It was pretty clear when they signed Soriano to that huge backloaded contract that they’d have a couple of good shots at a WS and then the end of his deal would be terrible.

Well they didn’t win a WS and here we are. Clean house and start anew.

Max
Guest
Max
6 years 3 months ago

Bryan, I agree with your evaluation. The people who inhabit Wrigley Field (very different than Cubs fans I would like to point out) all want a quick fix, but that simply cannot happen in this situation. They are going to have to wander the Baseball desert for 2011, and likely 2012. I appreciate that you made sure to write the Cubs will get more for Lee with draft picks than dealing him for a B- or C+ prospect which is something ive been trying in vain to explain to people around the office.

Two points of order: 1)Ill bet Soriano has been put on waivers for the last couple of years, with no takers, and Zambrano was probably too. 2) The Soriano signing often get dumped on Hendry when in fact it was Cubs President Crane Kenney who told Hendry to go throw everything at Soriano because he felt they could market him as the face of the team.

Pete is correct – Tim Wilken has done a darned good job. It wasnt long ago the Cubs has one of the three worst farms in baseball with no help on the way – now its full of pitchers and middle infield talent.

OrenLK is not – the cubs at least have some farm hands who should be ready to help by the time this storm is done. When Jason Castro is your best prospect…..you may have the worst farm in the game.

philosofool
Member
Member
philosofool
6 years 3 months ago

I would suggest a third thing for the Cubs to do:
-Grow some balls and tell the local media that they’re not building a team around the inadequate opinions of sports pundits.
I can’t think of a team who have been more fettered by cowardice toward the local media. In 1980, fighting a media battle with the media would have been impossible. They own their own website now and can freely disseminate their own opinions in repsonse to idiot journalists.

Jack Weiland
Member
Member
Jack Weiland
6 years 3 months ago

I think you’ve made a good point, and this is where the new ownership will be tested first. Do they have the guts to say “Hey this is what we feel we need to do to build a sustainable winner here?” and make unpopular moves? Or do they cower to the media and common fan? We will know soon enough I guess.

rick
Guest
rick
6 years 3 months ago

I agree with most of this. I’m sure Soriano and Zambrano have been placed on waivers in the past. I’m not opposed to dealing Marmol. He probably could bring a lot back. However he’s probably one the few closers around that I’d like to have. Their farm system is improving so I don’t think a firesale is necessary, but you can trade selectively like you have mentioned.

They do have money coming off the books after 2011 so 2012 is a realistic goal to compete for the WS again. The Central isn’t a strong division either so it’s possible you can steal a division title in 2011. The Cubs have strong pitching so that should keep them competitive. They just need to find some impact bats.

Jack Weiland
Member
Member
Jack Weiland
6 years 3 months ago

I can see where you’re coming from, although impact bats don’t exactly grow on trees. You have to develop them or buy them, and the Cubs don’t look likely to do either by next year.

Jack Weiland
Member
Member
Jack Weiland
6 years 3 months ago

Cubs fan pessimism: Yes, they WILL trade Lilly, but they can’t do so yet so as to appear as though they’re still trying. Then by the time the deadline comes and they wouldn’t face outlash from fans, media, etc. for making such a move his ERA and xFIP will have caught up to each other in the mid-4s and the package they receive in return will be greatly reduced.

Sigh.

geo
Guest
geo
6 years 3 months ago

I don’t care how much salary the Cubs eat, they will not get a decent prospect for Fukodome. The best they can hope for is a middling prospect at best.

Actually, this article smacks of fanboy dreaming that’s more appropriate for a Cubs blog than FanGraphs.

Tom
Guest
Tom
6 years 3 months ago

1. They can put Zambrano and Soriano on waivers now. Nobody will take them, but nobody will take them in August either.

2. The point of trading Fukudome is to clear some of his salary and free up his roster spot. We’re not going to get a great prospect for him regardless.

3. I disagree with trading Marmol. If we are rebuilding, keep him until midseason 2012 and then trade him. We aren’t going to get THAT much more now (even though we should), and getting the 2 years of valuable play at a friendly contract is a good idea.

4. Trade Lee. He’s not helping the team, and clearing his salary this year theoretically frees up more money for next year.

5. If there was ANYONE out there to play third next year I’d say add Ramirez to the waivers list. The fact that there isn’t gives us a shot that he’ll opt out an try to capitalize on the barren market.

6. I don’t think Byrd will fetch much. Jermaine Dye has shown that teams won’t overpay for old outfielders. Byrd is better than Dye, but still. Plus I think he has value beyond his play in the example he sets for the younger players on the team. On a team with anti-leaders like Z and Ramirez, that’s important.

Jack Weiland
Member
Member
Jack Weiland
6 years 3 months ago

4. Lee is FA next year, no? I think the point he was making was the Comp Picks they’d get when he signs elsewhere will both give them prospects in return for losing Lee AND free up cash for next year. And that the picks would probably be better than whatever watered down offers they’d get for him at the deadline.

Pete
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Pete
6 years 3 months ago

That’s assuming the Cubs offer Lee arbitration. Which is not a given by any stretch.

Mr. Sanchez
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Mr. Sanchez
6 years 3 months ago

3. Trading Marmol later instead of now risks injury and the other unpredictable nature of relievers. His value is highest now, may as well cash in if they can instead of possibly missing a chance and having an either wild, injured, ineffective or some combination of the 3 closer in 2 years. And that’s not saying Marmol isn’t great, he’s killing it. But it’s not a given that he’ll have good control and stay healthy for the next 24+ months.

Cidron
Member
Cidron
6 years 3 months ago

I agree with the article, in that, they have to get what they can from Silva, Lilly, and Byrd while they have value (which they may not again for years). If you can package Fukadome in there as well, great. Check the market for a C (hill or soto) and see who will pay for what.

I am uncertain about keeping Lee. He hasnt been the same player since his wrist surgery a few ago (but, is it the wrist, or the age, or both *shrug*). But, moving him will be hard given all the 1B types out there, some clogging DH slots as well. I would at least explore the market.

Soriano, Big-Z, and Aramis — Cubbies, you are stuck with them. between contracts, performance, and.. other, not sure you can find that market. But, on the upside, Aramis might rebound nicely with an offseason to get well. He has a good track record. I guess, I agree with the article on him.

Keep Marmol though. There is nothing more disheartening than to have a lead and lose it late (due to uncertainty in the closer role). It will be a young team when all is done, and they need to start to believe in themselves as a team, rather than have a good game, then get all “oh-no, we are gonna lose in the 9th”.

Cub fans, get ready for a rebuild. New owners, get ready for some death threats and other assorted hate mail. But, you cant simply reload. Rebuilding is whats needed. OR – If you can tell me any two positions you are set for the future, I might say otherwise.

JR
Guest
JR
6 years 3 months ago

Don’t you have offer arb for Lee in order to receive compensation? Isn’t that almost a certainty he’d accept?

Jack Weiland
Member
Member
Jack Weiland
6 years 3 months ago

Good point. Hrm.

oompaloopma
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oompaloopma
6 years 3 months ago

I agree with most of it, but when you are a seller you pretty much put everything up on the market except who you truly want to rebuild around. I put Cashner, Colvin, Marshall, Marmol and Castro on the list of who you want to rebuild around, but they are not untradeable by no means. Whoever is left with the contracts like Soriano and Zambrano. I personally think Z is getting dumped similiar to Bradley only we wont hit the lottery like with Silva. We may eat half big Z’s salary to a big market team looking for a number 5. If I was not biased as a Cub fan I would take Z as a Number 5 especially when the offense will win the majority of games for him. His WAR last year was 3.6, and this year really was jacked up for him, he went into the bullpen which basically said look we have 5 better SP then you, that would tick me off. He will probably dominate on another team in contention, but I personally am sick of having him as our supposed number 1.

Pete
Guest
Pete
6 years 3 months ago

If we’re going to talk about a rebuild, what if the Cubs trade Dempster?

If he averages about 3.5 WAR through 2012, according to BTB’s trade value calculator that’d be worth about $14M. Good for about a top 25 pitching prospect or a top 75 hitting prospect. They could look for a return in the ballpark of what the Sox gave up for Peavy.

Virgil Pryor
Guest
Virgil Pryor
6 years 3 months ago

This much must be understood regarding D-Lee’s contract status: (not sure if this has already been said) but if he finishes this season as a Type A free agent (he is currently Type B, just short of the cutoff there is a very good chance that whichever team he is with will not be in a position to offer him arbitration.

I can’t envision a scenario this winter where multiple teams will be interested in a long-term deal for a 35 year old first baseman entering a market flush with other first baseman who won’t necessarily be coming off of their worst season in years, especially if it comes with the additional cost of a first or second round draft pick.

If Lee is Type A at the end of this year, he would almost certainly accept arbitration if it were offered to him, and while that might not be an absolute worst-case scenario, I doubt the Cubs would be happy with such an outcome, especially if the incentive for keeping the player in question was to reap the draft pick reward.

This is a big reason why I think the Cubs are much better off seeing if someone will pay the rest of his salary for 2010 and save the $4-5MM.

Virgil Pryor
Guest
Virgil Pryor
6 years 3 months ago

ok… Looks like it already was mentioned. Sorry, didn’t read the whole thread before posting. Those who mentioned it earlier are right on: D-Lee would be very likely to accept arbitration, especially if he finishes as a Type A, which is still very possible, given that his agent knows he would come as at an even greater cost to whichever teams might for some reason be interested in him.

Regardless of where you stand on this issue, all this simply points to why keeping Derrek Lee should not be on any list titled “What the Cubs Must Do.”

Virgil Pryor
Guest
Virgil Pryor
6 years 3 months ago

For a team with as many bad contracts and as desperate a need as the Cubs to free up some salary, that $4-5MM isn’t insignificant, and really, it has yet to be determined how liberally new ownership will allow the front office to spend, which makes the $4-5MM in hand that much more valuable.

I agree that him accepting arbitration wouldn’t be a catastrophe, but the Cubs would almost certainly be better off going younger at a position where they could conceivably find someone who can swing the bat capably at a very low cost. Yes, they could always just trade Lee if/when he accept arbitration and then market him as a one-year low risk commitment, but given that, really, the only incentive in not dealing him this season is for the chance at draft picks, I don’t see the point in passing on the opportunity to deal him now with the understanding there is almost no chance you’ll get the picks.

Whichever route the Cubs choose to take, it won’t drastically impact their chances at winning now or even next year. So, again, I just don’t think it’s fair to say that keeping Lee is something the Cubs “must” do.

BX
Guest
BX
6 years 3 months ago

When you’re not going to be contending in 2011, that 4-5MM really is insignificant.

Virgil Pryor
Guest
Virgil Pryor
6 years 3 months ago

Also, if Lee accepts, and he is only takes a small cut from his $13MM price tag from this year, the Cubs would possibly be in a situation where they’d have to eat even more money than they would have to right now in order to move his contract. To me, that’s a risk that simply shouldn’t be taken since it’s just so improbable that the Cubs would be in an position to recoup draft picks.

BrianA
Member
BrianA
6 years 3 months ago

Great article, but what about Theriot? He has been awful.

odbsol
Guest
odbsol
6 years 3 months ago

Once Hak-Ju Lee is ready to switch over to 2B and gets promoted, Theriot will be out of a job. Whether he’s on the bench, in the minors or on another team, I’ll be happy.

PurifiedDrinkingWater
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

Selling low seems to imply Ryan Theriot will inevitably play much better and raise his trade value in some significant fashion.

MM
Guest
MM
6 years 3 months ago

why Fontenot doesn’t play over Theriot, I’ll never know. Don’t even get me started on the Hill/Soto “platoon.” Would love to see Maddux in the dugout. Don’t know this for sure, but I’ve been told Ryno likes small ball, FML.

Jishwa
Guest
Jishwa
6 years 3 months ago

SO glad you mentioned Sean Marshall going back to the rotation. I’ve been saying how he needs to be in the rotation for literally years now. Seems like the Cubs org. just likes to mess around with the lineups and rotations for the heck of it to see what happens. The Cubs seem to be stuck in this perpetual state of boredom. They’re not bad, but they’re not good enough, and even if they were, they severely lack the motivation and drive to win it all as they just seem bored and content to cash in their paychecks while lightly slapping at the ball and jogging to first time and time again. I agree. Fire everyone. Rebuild. And definitely put Sean Marshall in the rotation dammit!

eastsider
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eastsider
6 years 3 months ago

“Ownership groups are not remembered for the sponsors they land, or the renovations to bathrooms they finance.”

That’s only because no one has ever renovated Wrigley’s bathrooms.

kevin
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kevin
6 years 3 months ago

How does trading Byrd or Marmol or Silva make them competitive in 2011, which is the premise of the article? That’s a rebuild, which is probably where the Cubs should be headed.

oompaloompa
Guest
oompaloompa
6 years 3 months ago

Thats not a rebuild, thats a touch up. Rebuild is in the future usually years down the road usually starting with very young guys who will be there for a while.

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