GM for a Day: Chicago Cubs Edition

Wrigley Field needs to see a World Series and I think I know how (wallyg/Flickr).

Wrigley Field needs to see a World Series and I think I know how (wallyg/Flickr).

In a new series entitled “GM for a Day” here on “The Diamond Cutter” I will take a look at what I would do if I could take over one of the major league clubs for a day and what moves I would make to get them on track. To start off I figured we’d attack a club who is not only high profile but also has been at the forefront of a lot of rumors this off season. The Chicago Cubs have a very strong team heading into 2009 but still have some major holes that need filling. This is my chance to give some free advice to Jim Hendry in hopes he can steer them in the right direction.

The Cubs have a very deep and talented roster heading into the upcoming season. But as strong as they are, they do have some very blatant holes that have plagued them for years. While many clubs have a lot of issues that need to be addressed, the Cubs really only have two main ones that I would fix. Here’s a look at the two that will really help out heading into ’09:

Roberts is one of the best lead off hitters in baseball (Keith Allison/Flickr).

Roberts is one of the best lead off hitters in baseball (Keith Allison/Flickr).

1.) Close the deal they couldn’t make happen last season and bring Brian Roberts to Chicago.

Can you imagine if this club actually had a legitimate lead off hitter like Brian Roberts? I swear if I see Alfonso Soriano and his career .329 OBP and over 20% K% in the lead off spot again I will request to have Sweet Lou’s managerial card taken away. As good of a ballplayer as Soriano is, he’s not a lead off guy. Never has been, never will be and the Cubs have been hurting for a legitimate one for years.

That’s why having a catalyst like Brian Roberts at the top of your order is so important. Roberts not only averaged an OBP of .378 over the past two seasons, he has also averaged 45 stolen bases over that span. Now that’s a lead off guy. Here’s a look at Roberts stats over the past four seasons:

+------+-----+----------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+----+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM     | AB  |  AVG/OBP  | HR | RBI |  R  | SB |
+------+-----+----------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+----+
| 2005 |  27 | Orioles  | 561 | .314/.387 | 18 |  73 |  92 | 27 |
| 2006 |  28 | Orioles  | 563 | .286/.347 | 10 |  55 |  85 | 36 |
| 2007 |  29 | Orioles  | 621 | .290/.377 | 12 |  57 | 103 | 50 |
| 2008 |  30 | Orioles  | 611 | .296/.378 |  9 |  57 | 107 | 40 |
+------+-----+----------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+----+

In fact the Cubs need to pull the trigger on this one ASAP with reports that the Chicago White Sox are interested in acquiring Roberts for the sum of right handed pitcher Gavin Floyd. If this is all it would take to acquire Roberts, the Cubs should have no problem getting him. I’d offer up a Rich Hill or two of the three mediocre prospects they just received from the Indians in the Mark DeRosa ripoff. Whatever it may be, the Cubs need to acquire Roberts to energize the top of the Cubs order.

2.) Don’t sign the fragile Milton Bradley, instead offer up a 3-year contract to Bobby Abreu.

Any National League team that signs Milton Bradley is making a huge mistake. Bradley has averaged only 89.5 games per season over the last four years with only once (2008) playing over 100. If you don’t have a DH spot in your lineup you are just asking for trouble.

But Bobby Abreu on the other hand is just the type of player the Cubs need to slip into their lineup. Not only is he a legitimate number three hitter, but he will help fill the void that Kosuke Fukudome was supposed to fill. Here’s a look at Abreu’s stats over the past four seasons:

+------+-----+----------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+----+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM     | AB  |  AVG/OBP  | HR | RBI |  R  | SB |
+------+-----+----------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+----+
| 2005 |  31 | Phillies | 588 | .286/.405 | 24 | 102 | 104 | 31 |
| 2006 |  32 | PHI/NYY  | 548 | .297/.424 | 15 | 107 |  98 | 30 |
| 2007 |  33 | Yankees  | 605 | .283/.369 | 16 | 101 | 123 | 25 |
| 2008 |  34 | Yankees  | 609 | .296/.371 | 20 | 100 | 100 | 22 |
+------+-----+----------+-----+-----------+----+-----+-----+----+

Sure his numbers have gradually declined over the past few seasons, but that is to be expected from someone in his mid-30’s. However he is still proving to have enough left in the tank to offer him a contract and is the type of leader the Cubs could use.

Abreu would help solidify the Cubs lineup (Keith Allison/Flickr).

Abreu would help solidify the Cubs' lineup (Keith Allison/Flickr).

Looking at these two moves, here is what your lineup would now look like:

1.) Brian Roberts, 2B
2.) Ryan Theriot, SS
3.) Bobby Abreu, RF
4.) Aramis Ramirez, 3B
5.) Derrek Lee, 1B
6.) Alfonso Soriano, LF
7.) Geovany Soto, C
8.) Reed Johnson/Kosuke Fukodome, CF
9.) Pitcher

Now that is a lineup I would much rather go into battle with than the one they could alternatively trot out there. It is very balanced with good on base and speed guys at the top, good run producers and power in the middle and it finishes off strong which not too many NL teams can say.

I know a lot of people think that bringing Jake Peavy to the Cubs is critical. While this would definitely be a nice addition, I believe the Cubs rotation, if healthy, is one of the best in the game already. Adding Roberts to the team is a much bigger addition than Peavy is because the Cubs need a legitimate lead off hitter more than they need another ace.

Now its your turn to voice what you would do or if you agree or disagree with my assessment of the Cubs.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | Facebook

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14 Responses to GM for a Day: Chicago Cubs Edition

  1. E K says:

    Okay, glad you started with the Cubs since they are the team I know best. Here is what I would do:

    1) Fire Jim Hendry and hire you (or anyone else that has some common sense) to be their GM. A lot of fans seem to ignore the fact he really has been a bust as our GM. Yes, he made a few very good deals in trading for Lee (only giving up Hee Seop Choi), trading for ARAM (only giving up Bobby Hill), and dumping Hundly’s salary and getting Grudz and Karros. But he has ruined our minor league system. He has labeled too many average prospects as “untouchable” only to dump them for nothing a few years later. And he has basically taken on as much debt as the US Government with the ridiculous contract he handed out to Soriano and Marquis and now Dempster.

    All kidding aside, Jim Hendry should be fired.

    2) While I’d really love to get Peavy, I agree that the Cubs #1 weakness is and has been leadoff hitter. I like Roberts, would love to have Roberts, but based on everything I’ve read I just don’t know how we can get him. They would never take Rich Hill nor should they…..he’s got no future in MLB. And Roberts has said all along he wants to stay in Baltimore. So it comes down to how much are you really willing to give up for ONE YEAR of Roberts. Me, not much. At least with Peavy you get FIVE YEARS. And I don’t see any other lead off hitters that the Cubs can obtain.

    2) Definitely DON’T SIGN BRADLEY!!!! Abreu would be a MUCH BETTER option. Even Dunn would be better (though him and Soriano would make one aweful outfield tandem!).

    3) I’d look to trade D Lee to the West Coast (his prefered location since he has a not trade). If we could get Conor Jackson for him I’d do it in a heartbeat. Matt Cain for him…..I’d do it. Not sure either of those is an option, but I’d pick up the phone and try.

    4) Improve the bullpen. Right now it scares the heck out of me. If trading DeRosa wasn’t a prelude to a trade for Peavy or Roberts then he should have been dealt for a few relievers that could have helped us immediately.

    I could go on and on but I’ll stop there.

  2. E K says:

    A quick follow up on my Hendry comments:

    The trades I referenced that he did well in making I believe anyone could have made. I mean, Bobby Hill for ARAM? Seriously? I never understood what the Pirates were thinking on that one, but anyone with half a brain would have made that deal.

    And Hee Seop Choi for D Lee??? Again, seriously?? Florida was clearly dumping salary and Hendry got very lucky.

    The Hundly deal is about the only one I will give him credit for. He managed to rid us of one terrible contract for two players that helped them get within 5 outs of the World Series.

  3. At this point I think the Orioles would take any young pitching for Roberts. If they are considering taking Gavin Floyd from the White Sox for him (I’m not big on Floyd as I think he had a very lucky season last year and will come back down to earth in 2009) I think the Cubs can scrape something together.

    I agree 100% with you about the Cubs system being completely jacked. They over value their players (Pie) and won’t part with them (Pie) then when they are rendered useless (Pie) they try to trade them. Then they rush their players to the majors way too soon. Plus I feel someone needs to get in there and straighten things out as I don’t believe the hitters are learning how to hit properly (working counts, situational hitting, etc) and the pitchers aren’t being shown proper mechanics or how to handle hitters. Plus I’m willing to bet that as much potential as Josh Vitters has that he will end up not amounting to all he could have due to not being able to develop. Basically the talent they do have gets wasted. Its a damn shame.

    I like what you are thinking with the Derrek Lee angle. I know the Angels would love to get their hands on a “power” hitting first baseman. They have some prospects that could help rejuvenate the Cubs system.

    And yes the bullpen scares me too. Do you have anyone in mind you’d like to see added?

    I’ve been a Cubs fan for 20 years and it kills me to see them make mistake after mistake. I’m just going to clutch my Ryne Sandberg jersey and hope for the best!

    (On a side note E K, I can’t remember, do you write for any baseball or Cubs blogs?)

  4. E K says:

    I’ve been a Cubs fan for 35 very LONG years.

    Developing players has NEVER been the Cubs strong suit. You look at the Dodgers and Atlanta, and Minnesota and other organizations that seem to build from within. The Cubs have NEVER done that. And until they “rebuild” from the top down I’m not sure they ever will. So my #1 wish remains seeing Hendry fired.

    On the Roberts note, I don’t think the O’s would even do Floyd for Roberts (and they’d be crazy not to). I’m not sure Floyd is as good as he showed last season, but he is young and has the skill set to be a solid #2 pitcher for plenty of years. The Sox would be crazy to make that deal. I think if the O’s owner let the GM make his own decisions then maybe a deal between the Cubs and O’s could be worked out. But I think the O’s will still ask for too much in return.

    I thought about Lee to the Angels as well. I know they have a lot of talented young players. Just not sure there is any one player I like enough to trade Lee for.

    I haven’t really thought much about any actual relievers that the Cubs could get. If Colorado was willing to trade someone then I think either Corpas or Street would be a fine acquisition.

    And no, I don’t write for any sites (never been a great writer). Baseball is the one sport I follow the most. It has always been a passion of mine.

  5. Matt says:

    I agree with you on both points. As a Rangers fan, I’ve had experience with both topics. I’ve seen Soriano as a lead off and have never been pleased by it. Roberts would be a great addition. Then, with Bradley last season, he was great offensively but no way does he belong in the field daily. As a growing fan of the city of Chicago, and subsequently the Cubbies, here’s hoping they make both moves.

  6. Yeah I feel for as a Rangers fan. You have had a lot of (offensive) talent run through your system but can’t hold on to them. While he wouldn’t help defensively, what would you think of adding an Adam Dunn or Pat Burrell? It would help protect Hamilton in the lineup so he’s not pitched around.

    And how about the talks of signing Ben Sheets? I for one am a fan of Sheets even though he’s a little fragile.

  7. Mike says:

    E K – Obviously, you underestimate the vast impact of Hee Seop Choi. I haven’t seen someone with his talent come along since Hack Wilson or Hiram Bocachica.

    ‘Sheets’ is actually Swahili for ‘Fragile’, it’s a Canadian fact. He actually makes morbid sense for the Rangers- sign him to a big contract, he gets hurt, they turn to their kids too early, blow them up, sign Kevin Millwood again, bring David Clyde back….a vicious cycle. It just seems to be a fact of baseball life- The Rangers have no pitching, The Royals have no talent, Scott Boras has no ethics…

    Brian Roberts is a God!! He would put the Cubbies in the Series all by hisseff.

    As a Gavin Floyd owner, I sure hope E K is correct…..

  8. I would love to see the Rangers sign Sheets, see them succeed and have Sheets have a full season of success.

    Realistically it would make the most sense for the Rangers to pursue Lowe because of his heavy sinker. During the humid summer days in Texas having a guy who keeps the ball on the ground like he does would be extremely valuable.

    …good ol’ Millwood…

  9. Matt says:

    To answer your questions, while I wouldn’t like to see Dunn or Burrell in a Rangers jersey in general, it’s not a terrific fit right now in my mind. I think Murphy and Cruz have earned the right to get extended time as starters this year, which packs the outfield. Though if we shifted Davis from first to third, we could put Dunn at first and make it work (since the Rays picked up Burrel). In short, I’d be a fan of the move.

    As for Sheets, I’m a big fan as well, injuries or not. And with Mike Maddux on board, it sure seems like a great situation. Pitch him and if he gets injured, the young guys get more chances. Here’s hoping the rest of the league is too scared of his DL history to dump a lot of cash on him.

  10. Matt says:

    To clarify, if Sheet joins the Rangers, I’d like to see it as a max two year deal. Maybe a year guaranteed with a club option?

    As for Lowe, I like him. Not a superstar but talented and reliable. Granted, I said the same about Millwood when we signed him…

  11. I agree. I’m hoping the rest of the league is too scared of Sheets’ injury problems and the Rangers are able to get a discounted price on him. I like your idea of a 1-year with a club option.

    The Rangers are so close to putting together a good run and now that the Angels don’t have anyone in the middle of their lineup they are very beatable. I want to see a couple big moves from them.

    Plus in a couple of years you will have Justin Smoak who is incredible. I still don’t know how the Rangers had him fall that far to them.

    Maybe I’ll do the Rangers next for my GM for a Day series…

  12. Matt says:

    Definitely a good idea for one of the upcoming GM posts. I didn’t mean to hijack the comment thread into a Rangers discussion. I could talk about them all day!

  13. Ha, no worries. The comments on here tend to get skewed in other random directions at times. But that makes it fun!

  14. […] Brian Roberts Image by Keith Allison Image used at: diamondcutter.wordpress.com/2009/01/03/gm-for-a-day-chica… […]

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