Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cubs improve to 15-6, but with no help from Lou

I guess if your team is as good as the Cubs have been playing, you really don't need to pay attention to the in-game moves you make as a manager. At least, that must've been what Lou Piniella was thinking.

All of you know that I've had very little issues with the way Piniella has managed the ballclub, but his decisions in Wednesday's extra inning win over the Rockies brought me back to the days of Dusty Baker managing the Cubs. No, actually, even Dusty wasn't this bad...

Down by a run in the ninth inning, Derrek Lee stroked his fourth hit of the game: a one-out single into right field. But, the most shocking thing was when Pie popped out of the dugout and ran for Lee. Granted, Lee left several of the recent blowouts early because he was battling a sore neck, but taking the best player out of the game in a one-run game in the ninth is absolutely absurd, unless he physically was unable to continue playing. That wasn't the case; there was no mention of a Lee injury after the game.

Never mind the fact that Lee runs well (which he does). Never mind the fact that there was a strong possibility that the game would go into extra innings (which it did). Never mind the fact that there was a strong possibility that Lee's spot in the lineup would come up again (which it did). We needed to keep Derrek's glove on the field. Mark DeRosa played first base for the final two innings of the ballgame and played it well, but some of the incredible plays that Lee has already made earlier in the season were plays that swung games. We shouldn't have taken that risk.

Then, in the tenth inning, after Theriot singled home what would be the go-ahead run, Jason Marquis was summoned to pinch run for Daryle Ward at second base. Now, you might ask "What was wrong with that?", but the issue was that Ward was allowed to run for himself at first base after he was intentionally walked. I had theorized that perhaps Marquis, who was the next day's starter, was already back at the team hotel. That's standard practice for many teams, especially with a day game following a night game. But, that wasn't the case. Simply, Piniella waited to make a move that he was going to make anyway.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

No Soriano, No Problem

At the risk of setting on a jinx (we're 13-6 on the year and 13-5 since I last wrote here), I sense something coming so I have to write about it. This is for all you ignorant people out there. The people who say that it's always so easy to second guess a move, just because it turned out poorly. I've never second-guessed any move based on the result alone. In fact, the result is pretty insignificant when it comes down to it. (For example, pinch hitting Rich Hill for Derrek Lee close and late in a ballgame is a bad move, no matter what. Even if Hill drives in the winning run, it's a bad move.)

But, there are those of you that think that you haven't actually accomplished anything if you don't pre-emptively make these kinds of statements. So, here it is.

Since the injury to Alfonso Soriano, many Cubs have had different opportunities to flourish in different roles. Reed Johnson has fit very nicely into the leadoff slot for the team and Ronny Cedeno is making the most of his extra playing time. In fact, in his last three games, Cedeno has five hits and five RBI and a ton of good at-bats. He hit eighth all three games, but did well, so he should be moved up, right?


While I know this may sound a little over dramatic (but please understand, I'm intentionally doing this to make a point), this is a huge point in Ronny Cedeno's career. He was supposed to be the shortstop of the Cubs' future but has continuously struggled and saw Ryan Theriot leapfrog him on the depth chart. Cedeno had a good winter, but probably should not have made the team on his own merits. The way it turned out though, Murton had options, Cedeno didn't. So Ronny stayed.

Now, he's starting to find his groove, coming up with clutch base hits, and starting to find a rhythm. Let's not mess with that. I certainly agree that Ronny Cedeno has earned himself at least one, if not two or three, starts in the lineup, but moving him up in the lineup would be a preposterous idea! Never mind the fact that Johnson and whichever Cajun plays that day make up a good 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup, you don't want to put Cedeno in a big spot. Let him hit in the eight hole. If a big spot naturally comes to him, so be it. But, the last thing you want is the heart of your lineup rolling through late in the game and seeing Cedeno's name in the mix.

Granted, if two weeks from now, Cedeno is still seeing the ball well, it's something to consider. After three games, though? He's earned nothing more than staying in the lineup for the immediate future.

Poor umpiring: While watching our 7-1 victory over the Mets, I saw two horrible calls made by the men in blue. In the sixth inning, Mark DeRosa was called out by homeplate umpire Angel Hernandez on a check swing. I never understand when umpires do that. There's no reason to try to get a notch on your belt. Just get the call right, ask the base umpire. Besides, if you, as the plate umpire, are claiming that you did get a good look at the bat, then you didn't pay enough attention to the thing you are supposed to be watching: the pitch! Then, in the eighth inning, Mets set-up man Aaron Heilman balked twice in a span of one second, but none of the umpires caught that.

I should point out, though, that I get upset when people bitch about the umpires. Everyone's quick to blame losses or bad calls on umpires, but when your team catches a break due to a bad call, it seems to be forgotten. For that reason alone, I feel obligated to remind everyone that it took two blown calls from Adrian Johnson and ten innings for us to avoid the sweep in Philadelphia earlier in the month.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Nothing Piniella could do about it...

What a heartbreaker.

Looking back at Opening Day 2008, it would be easy for fans to question how Piniella handled the pitching staff, especially towards the end of the game. But, there really wasn't much Lou could've done with the situation; he pushed all of the right buttons and unfortunately for us, the players just couldn't execute on the field.

I know people will call for Kerry Wood's head. I know people will want Carlos Marmol to be the closer, but the fact that Marmol was even in consideration for the closing job was outrageous. Marmol is nothing more than an unproven journeyman who had one career year last year. To hand him the reins of the closing duties for the defending NL Central Champions is a ridiculous thought. Personally, I would've preferred Howry (actually, everyone knows that I would've left Dempster right where he is), but Wood was an equally acceptable choice. Let's not jump down the their throats; they'll be incredibly valuable pieces of the puzzle down the road.

But, there were many other things that could've changed the outcome of today's game, and it's clear that the Cubs are either still trying to shake off of the rust from Spring Training or have picked up right where they left off in 2007 as far as athletic effort.

With Fukudome on 3rd base in the second inning, Felix Pie struck out on a Sheets breaking ball in the dirt to end the inning, but didn't get a quick start out of the box. Even after the late break, Pie barely jogged down the first base line only to have an errant Kendall throw pull the first baseman off of the bag. Fielder calmly stepped off the bag, received the throw, and kicked the cushion a full step ahead of Pie. Now, what if Pie was running at full speed right away? Does he beat the throw? Does Kendall throw it away? Who knows?

Geovany Soto also showed that he had a long way to go. With two men on and just one out, Soto stepped up the plate in the 7th inning to try to break what was then a scoreless tie. Kendall blocks a pitch in the dirt and the ball caroms off of Soto in the box. Meanwhile, Fukudome reads a wild pitch and starts to break for third, only to be trapped in no man's land when the ball lands in front of Kendall's feet. Now what's my point? Veteran ballplayers are usually good at motioning to the baserunners whether to stay or go on a pitch in the dirt, but Soto stood there motionless. Again, I'm not saying that Fukudome wouldn't have been picked off had Soto told him to stay put; in fact, Fukudome got such a great jump, he was probably forty feet off the bag by the time the ball hit Soto. But, the least Soto could do is inform his teammates as to the location of the baseball.

Also, in the tenth inning, Soto took a roundabout route to a Braun pop fly with two men out in the inning. Again, the play didn't seem to hurt us directly, as Braun was later fouled out to Fukudome (who, by the way, never gave up on the ball because he knew which way the wind was blowing), but Soto again showed that he definitely could use some improvement on the more subtle aspects of the game. Everyone in the ballpark (and most of us at home) knew that the ball was going to land down the third base line. Everyone but Soto.

After all, in the bottom half of the same inning, veteran catcher Jason Kendall quickly accounted for the wind on a Soriano foul out and was positioned perfectly by the time the ball reached ground level again.

The team also needs to work on infield communication. On a play to begin the seventh inning, a pop up near the mound caused a collision between Lee and Zambrano, which eventually led the early exit of our pitcher. Granted, I'm not saying this changes the outcome of the game either. Had Zambrano tossed eight scoreless innings, I still turn the ball over to Wood in the ninth and Howry in the tenth. But what is clear is that something went wrong. We certainly don't want our all-star first baseman clipping our ace pitcher every time a pop fly is hit on the infield.

So maybe Piniella can be blamed for the out-of-game ways he handled his team. Certainly, it's his responsibility to make sure that the players have all these things sorted out before they break camp. (Or at the very least, his responsibility to make sure someone else gets it sorted out.) But, Piniella made all of the right in-game decisions.

Now only if we could've gotten Fukudome up to the plate in the tenth...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

After day off, Cubs return

The Cubs are 7-12 after taking their off-day in the Cactus League season and the roster for Tuesday's exhibition game looks a lot like what we might expect to see on March 31.

But, the way the 25-man roster will shape up on Opening Day is actually less clear now that what it was heading in the Spring Training. Here is how I see the depth chart. The names in bold are locks and the stats you see are the Cactus League numbers. They have been sorted so it's best to see what the team might look like.

Carlos Zambrano (1-0, 0.60 ERA in 14 IP)
Ted Lilly (6.00 ERA in 9 IP)
Rich Hill (0-1, 6.35 ERA in 11 IP)

Jon Lieber (1-0, 1.80 ERA in 10 IP)
Jason Marquis (0-1, 2.00 ERA in 9 IP)
Ryan Dempster (2-1, 6.75 ERA in 10 IP)
Sean Marshall (3.24 ERA in 8 IP)

Kerry Wood (3.86 ERA in 9 IP)
Bob Howry (11.81 ERA in 5 IP)
Carlos Marmol (1.29 ERA in 7 IP)
Scott Eyre (9.82 ERA in 3 IP)
Michael Wuertz (0.00 ERA in 6 IP)

Tim Leahy (1.23 ERA in 7 IP)
Kevin Hart (2.70 ERA in 6 IP)
Neal Cotts (12.00 ERA in 6 IP)
Carmen Pignatiello (0.00 ERA in 4 IP)
Jose Ascanio (6.43 ERA in 7 IP)

Geovany Soto (.241/.353 in 29 AB)
Henry Blanco (.200/.238 in 20 AB)

Derrek Lee (.167/.262 in 36 AB)
Mark DeRosa (.267/.353 in 15 AB)
Aramis Ramirez (.263/.391 in 19 AB)
Ryan Theriot (.333/.349 in 42 AB)
Daryle Ward (.500/.522, 2 HR in 22 AB)

Mike Fontenot (.250/.341, 2 HR in 36 AB)
Micah Hoffpauir (.439/.442, 2 HR in 41 AB)

Alfonso Soriano (.370/.419, 2 HR in 29 AB)
Kosuke Fukudome (.229/.378, HR in 35 AB)
Felix Pie (.290/.371, 2 HR in 31 AB)
Matt Murton (.359/.419 in 39 AB)

Sam Fuld (.172/.359 in 29 AB)
Eric Patterson (.300/.362, HR in 30 AB)

The way I see it, it's still foolish to try to project the 25-man roster with a week-plus of games remaining and the rumors of a Brian Roberts deal still lingering. However, Tim Leahy looks like he's throwing the ball well enough to make the team and Jon Lieber seems to have earned a spot in the rotation.

With the lack of a clear fifth outfielder and the fact that Micah Hoffpauir is on fire this spring, could there be a chance that Piniella decides to break camp with seven infielders and four outfielders? Besides, Ward, DeRosa and Hoffpauir can all play a corner spot in the outfield in a pinch.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Marquis' arguments justified

I don't understand all of the Jason Marquis hate going around here.

Jason Marquis has won 54 games in the last four years, including at least 12 in each of those years and he is being forced to compete for a job in the rotation? I understand where Piniella's coming from: he does have seven starters, but to say that all seven pitchers are on the same level playing field is ridiculous.

Granted, with the amount of capable options, Marquis could lose the job during Spring Training, but he should be as much of a lock for number four as Rich Hill is for number three. If my number four starter can win 14 games while posting a 4.60 ERA, I'd be ecstatic. And that's exactly what Jason Marquis has been averaging since 2003; he's got potential to be even better. I challenge all of the Marquis haters to name a better number four in this league. He might be one of the top three (if not the best) #4 starter in the National League today!

Dempster should be fighting for a spot in the rotation. Lieber should be fighting for a spot in the rotation. Marshall should be fighting for a spot in the rotation. Not Marquis.

But what are you going to do? Send Marquis to the minor leagues? Move him to the bullpen? He's an established big league starter and he should remain that way. I, too, am upset that he is being asked to compete for a job.

For once, I do agree with the player.

Partly, blame Jim Hendry for this for signing Lieber. (Note that I say blame in the same tone that I call having too many pitchers a problem.) Initially, we suspected that the Lieber signing was because the Cubs planned to flip Marquis or Marshall to the Orioles in a trade for Brian Roberts. Judging by the Cintron signing, we still think that a Roberts deal is in place, and there's still a very good chance that this thing gets done.

We'll see how things turn out.

Wood, Howry compete for closing job: With Kerry Wood and Bob Howry competing for the spot as the club's closer, both allowed at least a run in their Saturday Cactus League outing. However, I can't help but noticing that both pitchers threw the ball extremely well. Wood got victimized for three bloop hits and a homerun that looked like a shallow fly coming off the bat and Howry also suffered a slew of soft hits.

If you ask me, both showed they are capable of closing. But we already knew that.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Here we go again...

The first game in Spring Training hasn't even started yet and already the Cubs are fibbing on the health of their players.

Mark DeRosa was taken to a hospital on Saturday after experiencing an irregular heartbeat. The initial report had said that he was released from the hospital that night. Only another report came out today, saying that he actually stayed in the hospital overnight.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to say anything negative about DeRosa or minimize his condition. I understand that it's a scary situation and I know that it's an issue DeRosa has had before. What I'm confused about is why the team initially reported that he had been released. It didn't say that he was expected to be released or that he was going to be released. But, the report said that he was already released. Obviously a lie, since now they are saying he spent all of Saturday night in the hospital.

Quite frankly, I don't understand why they find a need to lie about things like this. As far as an injury is concerned, I can understand why they might lowball the injury: to play a little gamesmanship to the other teams and a little optimistic thinking. But why would you lie about something like where a ballplayer spent the night in the middle of February. The season is still a good six weeks away, and we all know (at least, we think so) DeRosa will be ready to go come March 31 and much before then. So what's with the lies?

Anyway, it looks as though Kerry Wood has yet to slip in a hot tub or have his arm fall off. Let's hope at least he can stay healthy.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Marmol throwing winterball?!?

So, I was glancing over the rosters for the Winter Caribbean Series that is going on right now and imagine my surprise when I saw our ace reliever, Carlos Marmol's name on the roster!

After the type of season that Carlos Marmol posted last year, plus my already quivering confidence that he had a fluke season, I would've thought that the number one thing on Carlos Marmol's to-do list this winter is rest. Especially after the signs of fatigue he showed in late September and the postseason.

But, nope. Carlos Marmol is pitching for the Dominican Republic, less than two weeks before pitchers and catchers are supposed to report to Spring Training. I'm not sure what Marmol hopes to achieve in winter ball. He's got a spot solidly locked in the thick of the Cubs bullpen for 2008; only bad things can come out of this decision.

For what it's worth, though, Marmol has been pitching well. In two appearances, Marmol has tossed 2 1/3 innings of hitless, shutout ball, allowing just one walk while fanning five.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Looking ahead to 2008

A couple of days ago, Lou Piniella announced what he thinks he would most likely use as the Opening Day lineup on March 31. I'm sure all of you have seen it by now, but here it is anyway:

Soriano, lf
Theriot, ss
Lee, 1b
Ramirez, 3b
Fukudome, rf
DeRosa, 2b
Soto, c
Pie, cf
Zambrano, p

While I don't necessarily disagree with his choices, I would do some things differently. I'm not trying to say that Piniella's lineup is undoubtedly wrong, like some of Baker's choices were, but if I had it my way, the lineup would read...

1. Alfonso Soriano
Okay, so he's not your typical lead-off hitter and his bat would be more useful elsewhere in the lineup, but let's face it: if Soriano doesn't get to lead off, he bitches and moans. Having him lead off might as well have been a clause in the contract that brought Soriano to the Cubs long term. When we were signing him, we knew what we were getting ourselves into. Hopefully, he'll be happy and keep his mouth shut.

2. Mark DeRosa
This may be the toughest decision in the lineup. Those that are for Theriot being in this spot prefer DeRosa in a run-producing spot in the lineup. But, we saw that Theriot's productivity goes down with each passing at-bat and while he should be a little more acclimated to a full season in 2008, we should still try to protect Theriot as much as possible. Besides, Theriot finished with an on-base percentage below Soriano's last year; I don't want a pair of .320-something's at the top of the order.

Theriot does a lot of things that a two-hole hitter should do: take pitches, lay down bunts, and hit behind the runner. But what's the point in having a prototypical number two hitter if you don't have a lead-off man that gets on base. Among the very few times that Soriano reaches, an unusually high proportion of those times will be a double or a homerun. Soriano usually doesn't stop at first base.

(If we get Roberts, he hits here. Soriano is the lead-off man. Period.)

3. Derrek Lee

4. Kosuke Fukudome
I fully expect Fukudome to be able to, at the very least, match Cliff Floyd's production from 2007. With that having been said, that should translate to about a .370 on-base percentage and 10-15 homers with a load of doubles. I had no problem hitting Floyd in between Lee and Ramirez and Fukudome is faster and has potential to be greater than Floyd, so why shouldn't he get to bat here? Besides, breaking apart Lee and Ramirez with a lefty in between can never be a bad thing.

5. Aramis Ramirez

6. Geovany Soto
Maybe I'm stretching a little bit with Geovany Soto, but I have him penciled in for production similar to what Michael Barrett has been doing for us in the past few years. That's a .280 or better average with about 15 homers and 20 or more doubles. If he can do that, then he provides more than enough protection for Ramirez in the lineup, especially if Lee and Fukudome reach base ahead of him. Teams would think twice before loading up the bases to get to Soto...

7. Ryan Theriot

8. Felix Pie
Felix Pie is surrounded by six very good bats and a seventh very capable bat. The way he plays defense, I would be okay with Pie brought little to no production offensively. As long as the top seven can mash the ball and the pitching lives up to expectations, there is no reason why you wouldn't run Pie out there every day.

General Notes:
Obviously, this lineup shouldn't be set in stone. If Ryan Theriot gets hot and proves that maybe he could maintain an on-base percentage around .350 for the entire year, then he would probably be the best candidate for the two-hole hitter. If you remember, Felix Pie also hit second for a small portion of the season last year and did very well. I don't expect Lou to write the Opening Day lineup exactly for 100 games out of the season; it's just a starting point.

Lou's starting point is an okay starting point. I think my starting point is equally valid. Once we are three-plus weeks into the season, the starting point won't matter anymore. Lou showed his willingness to flip-flop the order and juggle the roster when things weren't working and so it's really not a big deal what the team looks like on the first day. Once the season gets going, Piniella will make the appropriate changes, if necessary. Whether he's right or I'm right or a combination of the two, you can rest assured then when the pieces fall into place, Lou will know what to do with them.

1. Carlos Zambrano
What a nutcase this guy is. He wanted to let Lilly start on Opening Day, but that's not his decision to make. Carlos Zambrano is the ace of this team, despite what I may have said or thought at certain points during the 2007 season. Sure, there are times when another pitcher might be hotter than Zambrano, but in the grand scheme of things, few are better than Zambrano. I would start him on Opening Day, and Lou has said he would as well.

2. Ted Lilly

3. Rich Hill
Wow, this 1-2-3 is about as good as they come. I honestly believe that Zambrano, Lilly and Hill could combine for as many as 45 wins in 2008. (Zambrano just over 15, Lilly around 14-15 and Hill just under 14-15.)

4. Jason Marquis
I know a lot of people don't like him, but I don't understand why. Marquis has won 12 or more games in each of the last four seasons. And while I don't know the exact record of the Cubs in games in which Marquis has started, Marquis personally went 12-9. This means the team was, most probably, over .500 in all of Marquis' games. It's not like we need him to be the ace of the ball club; winning more than half of your games started by your number #4 starter is pretty good.

5. ??????
Sean Marshall filled in admirably in this role last year and he, among others, will be in the running for this spot. Ryan Dempster was moved out of the closing role, presumably to make room for Wood, but also to compete for this spot. Sean Gallagher is also in the mix, as is Kevin Hart.

Then, last week, the Cubs signed former 20-game winner Jon Lieber. Despite the fact that he has battled with injuries (albeit, not arm related) and that he will be 38 this season, Lieber will most likely be the fifth starter as long as he's healthy and consistent.

Closer: Bob Howry
I don't understand why Dempster was taken lost this job. A closer's duty is simple: finish the game with your team winning. If a closer has a three-run lead, any baseball enthusiast knows that he should go out there and pump strikes. He does, and the batter inexplicably swings at the first pitch and hits a homerun. How is Dempster to blame?

Throwing more strikes with a multiple run lead is the obvious thing to do. Even though you know that you'll give up the occasional solo bomb, that's still what you expect the guy to do. So don't blame him for the homeruns that he does give up. The closer's job is the preserve the lead, and Dempster ranked second in the league in save percentage last year.

Anyway, Wood is the popular choice and also appears to be Lou's choice. I would much rather see Howry as the team's ninth inning man (too late to move Dempster back now) as he has done it before, but I suppose Wood might have a higher ceiling.

RH Set-Up: Kerry Wood

LH Set-Up: Scott Eyre
As bad as he was for parts of the season last year, the fact that he lowered his season ERA all the way to 4.13 says a lot about how good was as well. Exactly how good was he? How about 2 runs and 17 hits in his final 25 innings? Oh yeah, he's definitely re-earned the role of being the top dog (and maybe only dog) among lefty relievers.

Middle Relievers: Carlos Marmol, Michael Wuertz
The fact that Marmol and Wuertz are considered the fourth and fifth best relievers in the bullpen should say something about how good the bullpen is. Marmol has little to no experience pitching as a closer, let alone as a closer for an entire season. We saw him starting to show the kinks in the armor late in the season, which is something that you won't see from Howry and Wood.

Until Marmol proves to me that he didn't have a fluke season (see: James Baldwin), he is at least third in line for the closing job.

Two spots remaining...
Tim Leahy immediately pops to mind, because we traded for this Rule 5 pick. A second lefty, either Ascanio or Pignatiello, also raises some eyebrows. Kevin Hart impressed a lot of people at the end of the season last year and the loads of pitchers that competed for and didn't get the fifth starting job also get thrown into the mix here.

Hendry and MacPhail are still talking potential trades and there's also a month of preseason before the roster needs to be cut down to 25, so trying to pick the two guys that would make the roster right now would be foolish.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cubs, Lieber re-unite

While the rumors about Brian Roberts coming to the Cubs appear to be on-again, off-again, the team did announce that they have agreed to a deal with former 20-game winner Jon Lieber.

The one-year deal worth at least $3.5MM puzzles me, as I don't expect Lieber to bring more to the table than what Dempster is capable of. Nonetheless, the deal does bring options for the team and that can't be all that bad. It might come at a slightly high price, but options are options.

Among those options include trading either Rich Hill, Jason Marquis or Ryan Dempster. While Hill would definitely put more meat on the table, Cubs' GM Jim Hendry has said that Hill, like Pie, is untouchable. Another option is to move Dempster back into the bullpen, though it's unlikely that Piniella would consider him for the closing role. In any event, speculation is that Lieber will make the rotation somehow and Sean Marshall would be the sixth man.

Quite frankly, I hope that Jason Marquis stays in the rotation, because otherwise it would mean that both Dempster AND Lieber will be. Whether or not Dempster can return to being a starter is a large question mark and Lieber's health and ability to pitch at his age is equally uncertain. Sure, they both have upsides, but with Marquis, you know that you'll be getting at least 12 or 13 wins. If our top four pitchers could combine for 55+ wins, we'd be in good shape.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Cubs close to landing all-star Roberts

A couple of sources have reported that Roberts was traded to the Cubs, only to have other sources come out and say those reports are false. However, the general consensus is that the deal is all but finalized. Gallagher, Marshall, and Cedeno would be going in the other direction.

I'm getting giddy just thinking about our lineup for 2008. Should Roberts lead off? Yes. Will he lead off? I don't think so.

1. Alfonso Soriano
2. Brian Roberts
3. Derrek Lee
4. Aramis Ramirez
5. Kosuke Fukudome
6. Geovany Soto
7. Ryan Theriot
8. Felix Pie

Not bad. Not bad at all.

In a dream world, Roberts would be a shortstop or center fielder, so he can replace either Theriot or Pie and keep Mark DeRosa in the same lineup. In a dream world, DeRosa could slide over and play shortstop to replace Theriot. (In a dream world, Soriano would move down in the lineup.) Even so, the opportunity to land of a guy the caliber of Brian Roberts should not passed up and Hendry realizes it.

While I haven't seen eye-to-eye with Jim Hendry on most of his moves, I want to applaud Hendry for being able to get this deal done without trading Rich Hill, Felix Pie or Matt Murton. (I guess it proves that MacPhail is even worse than Hendry?) Some would've been willing to give up Hill for Roberts and it would've been something that I would've had to think about long and hard about. Gallagher, Marshall, and Cedeno? I don't need to think about that one. And while Felix Pie doesn't impress me, he's our best option at center field and considering the perceived value of Pie on the market, Hendry deserves to be commended for his ability to land Roberts while keeping Hill and Pie.

Again nothing is official yet, but it's close. Real close.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Mets re-acquire outfielder Angel Pagan

The Chicago Cubs have dealt outfielder Angel Pagan for two prospects.

Pagan, originally drafted by the Mets in the 4th round of the 1999 draft, spent two major league seasons with the Cubs posting a .255 batting average and hitting 9 homeruns in 318 at-bats. Pagan was originally slated to compete against Sam Fuld for the fifth outfielder's spot on the 2008 roster, but it looks like the Cubs are trying to make room for the 2007 Arizona Fall League MVP.

In return, the Mets have sent A-ball pitcher Ryan Meyers and outfielder Corey Coles the other way. Meyers, 22, served as the closer for Savannah (A) last year, recording 13 saves. Coles, soon to be 26, hit .342 with 27 doubles and 21 steals in a full season with St. Lucie (Advanced-A) in 2006, though he's struggled a bit while bouncing around different levels of the Mets' farm in 2007.

Meanwhile, it looks like rumors about closer Joe Nathan coming to the Cubs will not happen and the story with second baseman Brian Roberts has also considerably cooled down, though there's still a chance for that.