If I was GM, what would I do to fix the Cubs?


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Sunday August 28, 2011

If I was GM, what would I do to fix the Cubs?

Right now, even though they have millions coming off the books for 2012, the Cubs are saddled with $86.6 million in contracts for 2012 for just 8 players (including Ramirez whose option will be picked up). $52 million of that money is for 3 decidedly mediocre players – Zambrano, Dempster and Soriano.  5 teams with better records than the Cubs spent less than that amount on their entire team in 2011.
With no changes the team will have a payroll of over $100 million after signing their arbitration eligible players or replacing them with league minimum salaries.
The team has no realistic shot at competing in 2012 without overspending in a sparse free agent landscape. Yes they could make a splash and spend $25+ million to sign Pujols or Fielder to a long term contract, but that would only be a PR move as one player cannot turn around either the win/loss or the culture of this organization.
So what would I do if I was the GM of the Cubs?
#1 – Create a long term plan for the organization
For years the Cubs have been flying by the seat of their pants with no real plan for the future. They have been relying on deep pockets and big revenue to pay exorbitant salaries to too many mediocre free agents.  Its time to build from within for long term success.
#2 – Jettison Soriano & Zambrano – Some playoff bound team would like Soriano’s power bat off the bench and would give a 2nd tier prospect for him. The Cubs would have to eat more than half his salary of $57 million over the next 3 years to get anything back, but this is a case of addition by subtraction and would be worth it. ($18 million per year plus $1 million per season of signing bonus)
Zambrano will be extremely difficult to deal and not only because of the $19 million he is owed in 2012. He is a cancer in the clubhouse and most teams are not willing to take on that kind of problem regardless of salary. I still believe the Cubs can dump him while paying a big chunk of his salary to take on an underperforming player from another team. Get it done NOW.
#3 – Hire more scouts. The Cubs have one of the smallest scouting departments in baseball. You cannot build a quality system that will consistently produce major league talent if you are not able to take a good look at the talent available.
#4 – Commit to getting younger
This is a very OLD team, one of the oldest in baseball. If not for the two kids in the middle infield, every starter in the field would be 32 or over. Here are a few suggestions.
A – Trade Carlos Pena, Marlon Byrd, Reed Johnson, John Grabow, Rodrigo Lopez and any other older moving parts that are not part of your plan for the immediate future. 
B – Matt Garza is the youngest healthy starting pitcher (25 year old Andrew Cashner has been on the DL with rotator cuff issues since his 1st start of the season) and there is little in terms of quality arms in the farm system that are even near ready to join the rotation. Sign Garza to a 3 year deal that buys out his 1st year of Free agency. 
Face the fact that Wells and Coleman are simply not good enough to run out there every 5th day.  Wells is regressing under the tutelage of Riggins. Coleman is a AAA pitcher with no upside.
Carpenter, McNutt, Dollis and Whiteknack are coming, but don’t expect much help from any of them until late next year. Trade away some veterans like Dempster, Lopez, Grabow and Zambrano (even if you eat most of his contract) to re-stock the farm.
C – Play Colvin, Campana (& LaHair once you trade Pena) daily for the rest of the season. Bring up Brett Jackson to start the 2012 season and bring in some mid level talent as place holders until Josh Vitters and the few other good position player prospects you have are ready. Use the money saved in scouting, International Free Agency and next season’s draft.
#5– Get a real closer. Marmol is not a closer and all his blown saves are disheartening for the team. Put him back in a setup role and find someone with heart. With Balls.
#7 – Quade, Riggins and Strode go at the end of the season. The culture within the Cubs team and organization as a whole is rotted to the core. Zambrano is a symptom of a more endemic sickness.
What is happening with the pitching on this team is a travesty. Riggins & the rest of the staff have ruined the confidence and mechanics of the younger pitchers. In fact Jaramillo may be the only member of the coaching staff I would keep.
#7 – Non Tender Hill and Baker – they are older, non performing but likely to get huge raises in their 3rd year of arbitration. You can sign others at league minimum that can recreate their performance.

FA Salaries that are truly being shed

·        Pena – $10,000,000
·        Grabow – $4,800,000
·        Wood – $1,500,000
·        Johnson – $900,000
Arbitration Eligible Cubbies – Projected increase in salaries to sign = $8+ million
·        Garza – made $5,950,000 and due a big raise in 3rd year of eligibility – likely to $10 million
·        Soto – made $3,000,000 and due a large raise in 3rd year of eligibility – likely to $5 million
·        Baker – made $1,175,000 and due a large raise in 3rd year of eligibility – likely to $2+ million
·        Hill – made $850,000 and due a large raise in 3rd year of eligibility
·        Dewitt – 1st year of eligibility
·        Wells – 1st year of eligibility
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