What the Cubs may soon look like

The Cubs are 8.5 games out of first place and it’s just the first of June. Their pythagorean record is even worse than their actual 23-30 record. Pythag has them at 22-31. The only team with a worse Pythag than the Cubs is the Houston Astros at 22-33. Minnesota is worse in the AL at 17-36, but no other team has fewer Pythag wins than the Cubs. Three teams have 22, but needless to say, that’s pretty damn bad. (click the link below to read more)

 

The odds of contending get worse by the day. They weren’t good when the season started, but now that they’re 8.5 out and after today the schedule gets ridiculously tough for the rest of June. It’s very unlikely the Cubs make up any ground in June. Even if they play much better baseball, it’s still unlikely considering the quality of their opponents coming up. About the best the Cubs can hope for is being 7 to 8 games under .500 and 8 to 9 games out of first place when the month of June ends. And that’s if the Cardinals don’t improve upon their already impressive record. The Cubs also trail 4 other teams so it’s not like they just need one team to lose. They need the entire division to lose, which is impossible given the unbalanced schedules.

I expect the Cubs to continue trying to win as they should. A lot can happen in a short amount of time and the trade deadline isn’t for two months, but the Cubs also have to be looking at this realistically. Doing so they realize that now is not their year. Next year probably isn’t either. Nor is the year after that. This team got old and expensive at the same time.

It’s likely had Brett Jackson not been injured he’d have taken over CF when Marlon Byrd broke his face. I remain skeptical about Byrd’s return this season and I’m assuming once Jackson puts together a couple solid weeks he’ll be up to permanently take over CF. He’s only played two games since coming off the DL.

Kosuke Fukudome is in the final season of his contract and the man gets on base. That’s something a lot of playoff teams are going to be looking to add to their bench at the deadline. The Cubs will have to kick in some money and Fukudome will have to approve the trade, but I expect he’s wearing a different uniform when the season ends. That opens up a spot for Tyler Colvin. We discussed him here last night and it’s unlikely he’ll ever be good enough to be a regular starter, but with a position open he may be the best candidate.

I’m not sure there’s much you can do with Alfonso Soriano unless you’re willing to release him. It’s something the Cubs are going to have to consider at some point because he’s pretty damn bad right now. If Marlon Byrd does return late in the season, he could take over in LF. Byrd is around next year too so he would be the team’s LF in 2012.

Aramis Ramirez‘s contract is up at the end of this season presuming the Cubs don’t pick up the 2012 option for $16 million. There is a $2 million buyout and if he’s traded that option becomes guaranteed. Ramirez could negotiate that out of his contract if he really wanted to play for a contender, but who is looking for a defensively challenged 3rd baseman who has hit for almost no power this season? Maybe if Ramirez gets hot over the next couple months it becomes more feasible but as of right now I think it’s not likely.

Starlin Castro is the team’s SS for the foreseeable future. Darwin Barney has taken over 2nd base and performed as we’d expect him to. I took a look at Carlos Pena‘s trade value yesterday and the Cubs could expect a C prospect in return unless, but the Cubs do have $5 million remaining on his contract next season they’ll be on the hook for.

The Cubs don’t have an up and coming first baseman, but I could see Jeff Baker taking over the position if the Cubs traded Pena. If the Cubs somehow found a team interested in Ramirez I’d expect Blake DeWitt to take over unless Josh Vitters really starts hitting the ball a lot better than he has so far in AA.

Of all the position players, the most attractive one to another team is going to be Geovany Soto. He’s a bit injury prone at this point and certainly his bat is inconsistent. Even at his worst offensively he’s still an average hitting ballplayer. His defense isn’t spectacular, but he has two more years of club control so teams would be willing to give up something valuable in return. Soto is 28 years old and turns 29 in January. That’s not exactly young for a catcher. That’s not young for any position, but catchers age quicker than other position players do.

Since 1975, only 8 catchers had 1000 or more PA during their age 29 and 30 seasons (14 did so from the ages of 25 to 26). Only 29 had 800 or more. Soto has already shown signs of being unable to play regularly so counting on him to be a productive player the next couple seasons may not be the smartest decision a team could make. He’s still cheap and valuable, but he’s probably more valuable to a team in contention. Welington Castillo would take over unless the Cubs are just plain fucking stupid and put Koyie Hill there.

I said it last year and the same thing is true now. Geovany Soto should be traded. I’ll post his trade value later today, but it’s quite high.

Carlos Zambrano has one year left on his deal and will make $18 million next season. Over the final two months of this season he’ll make $6 million. The Cubs would have to send some money along in the trade, but any player with only one year left on their contract is tradeable. The best years of Z’s career are long gone. He’ll always be one of my favorite players of all-time and I’d like to see him in a Cubs uniform for as long as possible. At the same time, I’d like to see him get a chance to win a championship and that’s not going to happen as a Cub.

Ryan Dempster also has one year left on his contract (a player option) so he’s easily tradeable as well. The Cubs may not even have to send money in any deal.

Matt Garza, like Geovany Soto, is still relatively cheap considering his production and many teams would have interest in him.

I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect the Cubs to trade three of their starting pitchers, but I think they should trade two of them. Garza brings the most in return so he has to be one of them. As for the other, Zambrano makes more money so freeing up whatever money you can would make sense. On the other hand, Dempster is better and the Cubs can free up some money and do so without having to send much or anything along with him.

The only relievers the Cubs have that are going to draw any interest is Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall and Kerry Wood. Despite Wood’s contract, he really doesn’t have much value. He’s basically been a replacement level pitcher for 2+ seasons now. He also is being paid only $1.5 million and his contract ends after this season so there’s no real need to trade him. Marmol and Marshall will draw interest from a lot of teams and both could bring something nice in return. I don’t see much reason for the Cubs to keep either of these pitchers and even if some team is willing to give up something decent for Wood I’d trade him as well. I just doubt that happens.

If the Cubs went all out fire sale, we might see a team that looks something like this:

C: Welington Castillo
1B: Jeff Baker
2B: Darwin Barney
3B: Aramis Ramirez
SS: Starlin Castro
LF: Marlon Byrd
CF: Brett Jackson
RF: Tyler Colvin
SP1: Ryan Dempster or Carlos Zambrano
SP2: Randy Wells
SP3: Rodrigo Lopez
SP4: Trey McNutt
SP5: Jay Jackson
CL: Kerry Wood
SU: Andrew Cashner

I don’t expect the Cubs to trade Soriano, but he’s not deserving of playing anyway. What we’re more likely to see from the Cubs is something that results in a team looking like this:

C: Geovany Soto
1B: Tyler Colvin
2B: Darwin Barney
3B: Aramis Ramirez
SS: Starlin Castro
LF: Alfonso Soriano
CF: Brett Jackson
RF: Marlon Byrd
SP1: Ryan Dempster
SP2: Carlos Zambrano
SP3: Matt Garza
SP4: Randy Wells
SP5: Trey McNutt
CL: Carlos Marmol
SU: Sean Marshall
SU: Kerry Wood

Basically, the same team with a couple exceptions. I think it’s very likely that Fukudome and Pena are playing for different teams before this season ends. I also expect that we’ll see the Cubs trade either Jeff Baker or Blake DeWitt. Other than that, not much is going to change.

It does leave 1st base open for a potential big free agent signing. You may have heard, but Albert Pujols is a free agent. So is Prince Fielder.

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