By David K. and Paul Schmidt
(DK) The wheel certainly doesn’t need to be re-invented. But after the embarrassment of a second straight three-and-out in the post-season, some sort of shake-up needed to be made with the Cubs roster. GM Jim Hendry has kept the core of the club in tact, but has been fairly active in adding other pieces to the puzzle.
Perhaps the biggest transaction for the Cubs this off-season is the one Hendry didn’t make. During the winter meetings, it seemed like all but a done deal that Padres ace Jake Peavy would end up calling Wrigley Field home. Instead, Hendry passed stating that San Diego’s asking price was too expensive. I can’t help but think that Hendry still believes he has a shot at landing Peavy. By trading Mark DeRosa and Felix Pie for five young pitchers and then dealing one of those young arms and Ronny Cedeno for Aaron Heilman, it seems like Hendry is still trying to load up on enough young ammunition to pull the trigger on a deal for Peavy. Even ESPN’s Buster Olney believes the door is still open between the two teams. So let me ask you this, what do you think the chances are that Peavy will be donning a ‘C’ on his hat by the start of Spring Training?
(PS) It certainly seems as though a deal will get done, although I fear it will be sooner than later. The latest Jim Hendry trade to go through is a little baffling to me, as I don’t know that I see the logic of ever giving up anyone for a pitcher (Aaron Heilman) with a career ERA as a starter of 5.96. But hey, we have more Golden Domers, and that’s gotta be good, right?
The Peavy trade though is going to happen. I think that, in the long run, the Cubs will still be the frontrunners, but I don’t believe a deal is going to happen until much later in the season, most likely around the All Star Break or later. The Pads have to cut salary and Peavy makes up 25 percent of their salary this season (an astronomical figure, really), and that will only get worse in the later years of the contract.
Do the Cubs need Peavy? I think that’s a resounding yes, with the questions surrounding the fifth starter in the rotation, whether Ryan Dempster can repeat his ’08 effort, and if Rich Harden’s arm is eventually going to detach at the shoulder mid-pitch. Hopefully, Hendry will see sooner rather than later that right now we have the power in the trade talks. IF there’s a big injury or underperformance from the rotation, power shifts to the Pads and we’d have to give up more.
I think that I’m curious how much rope Jim Hendry is going to have this season. He’s made a lot of moves that are very easy to question and second guess, which is interesting given how solid he has been over the last several seasons. With new ownership set to take over, how long of a rope will Hendry have this coming season?
(DK) I do think the Cubs need Peavy to contend for a World Series. I am not sold on rewarding Dempster with 4 years, $52 million after his first year as a full-time starting pitcher in five seasons. He is a great clubhouse guy and was as valuable a player for the Cubs in ’08 as anyone on the team, but I fear that he hit his peak last year and in two or three years, that signing will come back to bite Hendry in the butt. And let’s pray that Harden’s arm doesn’t go Dave Dravecky on us. I am sure Sweet Lou will be smart again in protecting him and limiting his innings throughout the season.
As for Hendry’s leash, I think he did a good job this off-season of cutting back on the spending. He jettisoned about $15 million in unloading Jason Marquis and DeRosa, and saved another five or six mil by letting Kerry Wood walk and instead acquiring Kevin Gregg from the Marlins. So hopefully the new management realizes his smarts with those matters and that the Cubs are a never-ending source of income and lets Hendry pursue a player with the salary of Peavy.
On the other hand, Hendry did give Milton Bradley $30 million over three years. I know the Cubs were desperate to land a left-handed bat for the middle of the line-up, but now we’e counting on a guy who spent most of last year DH’ing (just 20 games played in the outfield) to come and play 130 games in right field. I thought the circus days of a right fielder patrolling Wrigley Field was over when Sammy Sosa, Jeromy Burnitz, and Cliff Floyd left. Plus, there is that whole crazy factor with Bradley. I would not want to be a Gatorade cooler in the Cubs dug-out with both Bradley and Carlos Zambrano pacing back and forth for 162 games…
(PS) – Let me be the first to say that I love Bradley’s fire. Most of his outbursts aren’t directed at teammates. Rather, they are directed at people questioning his heart, desire or talent, and I’m ok with that. He had a really, really tough childhood, and it’s amazing he’s even alive, let alone a Major League Baseball player. Obviously, your concerns about his health and…”ability” to field are exactly the same as mine.
Whether or not you’re right on Kerry Wood remains to be seen, though he did say he’d come back and play for whatever Hendry thought was fair. I don’t know why you wouldn’t bring him back for another season, especially since it seemed what he wanted to do.
Kevin Gregg isn’t a good pitcher and no kind of answer to any possible bullpen problem…obviously, I’m not real high on that acquisition. I’m also not sure why giving away Jason Marquis for a below average reliever when Marquis had been nothing below an average starter and could hit the ball and pinch run – an underrated part of his game- was supposed to be a good plan.
I also think that our roster as a whole got a lot less flexible after DeRosa left. I said at the time that sometimes players are more valuable to you than they are to other people – and this was back when they were looking to send him to San Diego for Peavy, so what they actually got for him was disappointing.
Point being, I think that Hendry might be in more jeopardy than people think.
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