Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Marquis officially joins Cubs, Hendry content

It's been almost two weeks since we knew that Jason Marquis would be a Cub, but finally the 28-year-old right hander has finally passed his physical and signed the contract. The three-year deal is worth $21 million, just like his number, 21, which he plans to keep, despite the history of the number within the organization. Earlier this month, Ted Lilly was told to choose a different number when he requested 31, the number he wore with the Blue Jays. Though there are no plans to formally retire the number any time soon, team president John McDonough didn't feel that it was appropriate to let another player wear it. Of course, hall-of-famer Fergie Jenkins and future hall-of-famer Greg Maddux have previously worn 31 with the Cubs. Instead, Lilly will wear number 30.

Cubs' GM Jim Hendry seems to be content for the moment, and he should be. After re-signing Ramirez, Wood and Miller, as well as adding free agents DeRosa, Soriano, Lilly, Ward, and Marquis, the Cubs have spent over $300 million this off-season. There are still a few issues that need to be addressed before the start of the season, though.

The Cubs would still like to add a left-handed bat in right-handed heavy offense, though Daryle Ward should be a threat off of the bench. Ward hit .345 in 113 at-bats last season against right-handers, posting a 1.032 OPS while slugging all 7 of his homeruns and collecting all 26 of his RBI's against righties. The team was interested in Cliff Floyd for a while, and though the interest has died down recently, Floyd is expected to remain a free agent for quite some time.

Center field also appears to be an issue of concern, as there currently isn't a clear-cut starter for the job. Though the team is leaning toward giving Felix Pie the job, the Cubs organization should be careful not to let Pie turn into another Corey Patterson. Moving Jacque Jones or Mark DeRosa to center field has also been considered.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Report: Marquis to join Cubs

It appears that Jason Marquis will join the Cubs.

If you thought that paying Soriano $136 million over the next eight years or giving Lilly more than $40 million for the next four years was bad, wait till you hear what Hendry has agreed to pay Jason Marquis.

Though sources have been reporting figures between $20 and $28 million over the next three years, the Chicago Tribune announced Saturday that Marquis will join Lilly, Zambrano, and Hill in the rotation. Having to pay Izturis over $4 million next season doesn't seem too bad anymore, does it?

In any case, I still like the signing. I'm sick of worrying how much we're paying any of these players to come to Wrigley Field. The rotation needed help, and Marquis brings it. Sort of.

Marquis won 14 games last season, but finished with an ERA over 6, including a 3-10, 6.72 second-half. Marquis has shown some success in the past, however, posting a 15-7 record with a 3.71 ERA in 2004 and a 13-14 record, with a 4.13 ERA in 2005. Despite the fact that he's allowed an average of 30 homeruns per season over the last three years, Marquis has recorded almost 50% more groundouts than airouts in his career. Hopefully the thick grass at Wrigley Field will help him keep the bases empty when he does give up the homers.

Lilly, Ward sign with Cubs

We may have overpaid for Ted Lilly, as we have with Aramis Ramirez, Kerry Wood, Mark DeRosa, and Alfonso Soriano, but it seems like Jim Hendry is finally sick of losing. It’s about time, too.

Ted Lilly may not be a quality arm like Schmidt or Zito, but he is still a great addition to the team. Lilly posted a 15-13 record last year with a 4.31 ERA with the Blue Jays last year, and has averaged over 12 wins per year for the last four years. The pitching does not need to be as dominant as it was in 2003, because of the fact that the offense contains Lee, Ramirez, Soriano, and Barrett, who should, in all likelihood, combine for over 120 homeruns.
The starting rotation still lacks one arm though, as Lilly joins Zambrano, Hill, and Marshall. While Glendon Rusch, Wade Miller, or Mark Prior could take up the fifth spot in the rotation, the team should not enter the season having to count on one of them to step up.

I also like the addition of Daryle Ward. With Dusty Baker no longer around to play the wrong guys, shoring up the bench with quality pinch hitters is not a bad idea. Ward hit .308 last season in 98 games with the Braves and Nationals, while clubbing 7 homeruns in just 130 at-bats. Ward should serve as a backup at first base and the three outfield positions as well as giving Pinella a decent bat off of the left side of the bench.

Jim's real close to being done. But he's not done yet.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Cubs sign Soriano to record deal, still need pitching

The Cubs have signed free-agent outfielder Alfonso Soriano to a record deal worth $17 million per year over the next eight years, pending a physical. The contract means that the former Nationals outfielder, coming off of a 40-40 season, would be a Cub until the end of the 2014, when Soriano would reach the age of 38.

It may be a little excessive, but it's nice to finally see Jim Hendry get off of his ass and get something accomplished. The length of the deal, of course, risks that Soriano might end up in a situation similar to that of Sosa at the end of his Cub career. That, however, is a long way's away; there's no need to worry about that now.

The offense is now solidified with another bona fide bat in the lineup to accompany Lee, Ramirez, and Barrett, but, the pitching, as it always has been from the beginning, is in trouble. This blockbuster deal likely means that the Cubs will not go after a big-name free-agent pitcher such as Zito or Matsuzaka, though rumors of the trade involving Westbrook still exist. One starting pitcher may not be enough, though; the rotation for 2007 as it stands now is Zambrano, Hill, Rusch, Miller, and Marmol/Marshall, as I refuse to consider Wood and Prior as options for the rotation.

Everything else on the team is fixed, except maybe a closer. Go get a couple of competent pitchers, Jim.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Looks like Hendry didn't learn

Last season, Jim Hendry thought that he could pull the wool over the Cubs fans' eyes by trading away two pitchers unknown to the average fan for Juan Pierre. While Pierre posted a .330 on-base percentage in one season before filing for free agency and possibly headed to the Giants, Nolasco and Pinto will be around the Marlins organization for quite some time. In fact, Nolasco already paid dividends, winning 11 games for the Marlins who had a serious shot at the playoffs down the stretch. Pinto is showing promise, he posted an 8-2 record for Alburqurque (AAA).

Hendry is back at it again, trying his best to deplete what once was a farm system rich of young quality arms. After somehow miraculously getting David Aardsma for LaTroy Hawkins, Hendry has traded Aardsma and Carlos Vazquez for Neal Cotts. Of course, the addition of Cotts makes Eyre expendable, but I'm not quite sure what you can get for Eyre that you couldn't have gotten with Aardsma and Vazquez.

Besides, Cotts is another mediocre player to join the team; in 54 innings last year, Cotts allowed 33 runs and 88 baserunners. Meanwhile, Aardsma, in his last 22 innings with the big club, allowed only nine hits and four earned runs, while fanning 24. Vazquez, who is only 23, posted a 6-5 record with Daytona (high-A) and West Tenn (AA). He had a combined 2.75 ERA and allowed just 65 hits while striking out 91 in 85 innings over 54 appearances.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Cubs continue to add mediocrity

This is irritating.

I don't understand why we continue to add mediocrity to the team and overpay for it.
The sooner Hendry understands that a player coming off of one good season does not deserve a multi-year, multi-million deal, the better off it would be. But, after numerous failures in the past, Hendry, unfortunately, hasn't learned.

Not only do we need to dish out $4 to Cesar Izturis next season, whose career on-base percentage is lower than both that of Patterson and Neifi Perez, now Mark DeRosa and his career .331 on-base percentage are owed $13 million in the next three years. Sure, DeRosa had a good season last year, but he was hitting in front of all of that power in the Rangers lineup. Prior to last season, DeRosa's career highs were 33 runs batted, 23 bases on balls, and 74 hits. DeRosa has has 21 homeruns over the past two years, but that's in Texas!

The most frustrating thing about this move is the fact that second base wasn't a main problem for next season. Center field remains a question mark as does the closer's spot, but the middle infield was covered by Theriot, Cedeno, and Izturis; we didn't need to add another weak bat at that price. But with only Carlos Zambrano and Rich Hill set for the rotation next year, the starting pitching should be the biggest concern! The free agent market in starting pitching is so rich this off-season, with guys like Schmidt, Zito, and Matsuzaka all looking for new teams; qll of the available funds should be spent there.

The signing of Kerry Wood also made me mad. Wood provided us with an average of two wins per season in the last couple of years, and we're paying him nearly $2 million? I suppose that's not as bad as the price tag on DeRosa and Izturis, because Wood actually has some talent, but if we were to bring back Kerry Wood after paying him well over $6 million per win (includes buyout) in the last two years, we shouldn't be paying him a penny over the league minimum.