After posting a blog suggesting five moves the Cubs front office should make, many fans agreed with my views. However, the most discussion on varying views was that of Dempster. I discussed through the blog, other social media sites and “water-cooler chats” on why or why not the Cubs should move Dempster. Being that fans are seemingly adament on their beliefs of the topic, I decided to devote a post to the discussion.
Fans who support the Cubs retaining Dempster support their arguments by the Cubs needing a workhorse, an All-Star, a dependable pitcher who gives a team confidence on the mound. The Cubs sorely need a vital, confident focal point on a struggling team. As of now, Dempster is that player. Through five starts, his stat line of a 1.02ERA, 0.85WHIP, 36K and only allowing 4ER in 35.1IP is suggestion for an All-Star ballot; yet his record is 0-1 with four no-decisions. Dempster is off to a great start.
However, Dempster is 36 years-young. He has already spent time on the DL this season with a quadricep strain. He is in the last year of his contract, where he is to receive $14 million. Dempster is still pitching strong and clearly the “Ace” of the team. But what is the likelihood that the Cubs front office resigns Dempster and giving him the money he wants or deserves?
If the organization does not plan to resign Dempster after this season, the best option is to trade him. With the Cubs in yet another rebuild mode, trading Dempster will save money for the remainder of the season going into the next. In addition, the Cubs could acquire a RP with potential to be a closer, a young talented SP or any combination of the two.
Any team with money and in the hunt for a World Series Crown would be interested. Of course teams like the Yankees and Red Sox will be in the mix. But other teams like the Rays, Rangers, Dodgers, Braves, Indians, Orioles and even the Phillies should consider adding Dempster to their rosters. Most of these teams are leading their divisions, while others are performing well under expectations. Only two of these teams starters combined are performing in the “Top 5” of the league, with the majority in the lower half of the league.
I would think the leading contenders would be the Red Sox – as Theo knows the young talent in the organization; the Yankees – as they have the money for any player; and the Rangers – after two World Series loses in back-to-back years have them thirsty as ever.
Yet with the Yankees and their star Closer Marino Rivera possibly ending the impressive run, would they be willing to part with a top prospect closer? Would the Cubs organization be willing to make another deal with the Red Sox? I feel the Rangers would offer the most for a SP like Dempster.
It’s too early to tell at this point, but I feel the Cubs will be fielding offers from now until August, hoping Dempster keeps performing the way he is and staying healthy. By August, the true World Series contenders will be known, weaknesses/needs will be at the fore-front of each team and the injury bug will have some teams sweating. This is when the Cubs could get the most for Dempster and better assist with the rebuilding process.
At least, that’s the opinion of this blogger.
Since the Cubs are rebuilding, many discussions have been held on who should stay and who should go. Here is my take:
1. Dempster: For teams who are legitimate World Series contenders, Dempster would be a great addition for any team in need of an improvement to their staff. His stock is high at this point, as he is pitching lights out. But he is aging and maybe has two good seasons left. Epstein should be looking to acquire a closer or a highly sought after young SP with great potential.
2. Soriano: Like Dempster, Soriano is aging and nearing the end of his career. He could benefit any team in need of an experienced bat and outfielder either due to improvement at position or injuries. The Cubs won’t get a great deal for him, but acquiring developmental players at key positions is worth the risk.
3. Soto: With Clevenger showing signs of promise, and Castillo serving as a backup, the Cubs could move Soto for developmental players, but more-so to free up money. I think the risk is worth the possible reward.
4. Wood: I really hope Kerry will retire as a Cub by the end of the season. He has shown devotion, loyalty and love for this organization and it’s fans. But his body cannot handle the big leagues anymore. But if he is unwilling to retire, than he has to be sent down or cut.
5. Marmol: He just needs to go and I don’t care where. The Cubs won’t acquire much for him, but Sveum could use a new razor.
The Cubs bullpen has caused many heartaches, gray hairs and collective breaths to cease. Dempster and Garza pitched gems in the first two games of the 2012 season, carrying late game leads against the Nationals, while Cubs fans helplessly watched as the bullpen seemingly gave the games away. From this moment on, fans have been overly critical and skeptic whenever a reliever begins to warm-up.
The bullpen is 3-7, with 4 SV, a 3.90ERA, in 80.2IP. Collectively, the have allowed 70H, 35ER, 45BB, 6HR and struck out 61 batters. Most notably, the bullpen has given away 3 games in which the Cubs should have walked away with a win, squandering the lead late in a game. They have also been credited with 4 additional losses when the game has either been tied or the Cubs held a 1-run lead.
To Manager Dale Sveum’s credit, he has given every player on the active roster time to adjust to the 2012 season before making any roster moves. However, Marmol’s latest meltdown prompted Sveum to finally address the bullpen woes.
After Marmol single-handedly cost the team yet another win in a 3-4 loss to the Reds in extras, Sveum announced a change at the closer position, designating Russell and Dolis as a closer-by-committee duo.
Three righties: Dolis, Bowden and Camp, and a lefty: Russell, are now the perceived bullpen rotation. The four relievers have a combined record of 3-3, a 2.37ERA, allowed 14ER, 15BB and 30SO in 48.0IP. In last nights’ come from behind victory, Camp, Russell and Dolis combined for 5.0IP, allowing 3H and no runs or walks. This is exactly how the bullpen needs to conduct business day-in and day-out.
The Cubs batters have proven the ability to get hits and score runs throughout the season, as the team has yet to be shutout. The pen allowed for the hitters to come through late in the game, tie the score and ultimately win in extras. Had the pen been able to perform in this manner earlier in the season, the Cubs could be sitting atop the NL Central, with a record of 18-10.
I would still like to see the Cubs acquire a more experienced closer, one who has confidence and can also mentor a young future potential closer. But for now, at least Sveum finally booted Marmol and I’m certain the front office is looking for trade potentials. I just hope Russell and Dolis can carry the load for the interim.
Here are 10 quick Cubs stats that you may not have known thus far into the 2012 campaign:
- There are 22 MLB players who have batted third in 15+ games; only five have yet to hit a home run, Castro being one of them.
- As a team, the Cubs best day to hit is Saturday (.269 AVG in 3 games) and their worst is Wednesday (.190 AVG in 2 games).
- The Cubs have 12 SB in 9-inning games; four of which have come in the 8th inning alone. This accounts for 33% of all successful stolen bases by the Cubs.
- Although the Cubs are batting only .218 with RISP (6th worst in the league), they have 59 runs with RISP, which is the 10th most in the league.
- The Cubs are the second worst team to bat with two outs; .187 AVG in 182 AB.
- The Cubs are one of three teams who have one or fewer SV (tied for 28th in the league); they also only have had four SVO (tied for second fewest in the league).
- The starting pitchers for the Cubs have allowed six ER with a combined ERA of 6.75 when the pitch count is between 91-105.
- The Cubs pitching staff has allowed 28 ER when there are two outs in an inning.
- When the pitching staff is ahead in the count, the combined ERA is 2.40; opposed to a 7.45 ERA when they are behind in the count.
- The Cubs starting pitchers are one of only two teams to have seven losses and seven no-decisions (PIT has seven losses and eight no-decisions).
The more you know…
In an expected move, the Cubs traded CF Marlon Byrd to the Boston Red Sox for RHP Michael Bowden (RP). The move signaled an important stepping stone for the 2012 season and beyond: Theo Epstein and company are watching the season and are willing to make moves.
Epstein’s rebuilding theme has continued into the first month of the 2012 season. He moved an aging Byrd, who is struggling this season, for a young relief pitcher in a system which is in dire need of bullpen help. The move is encouraging as many fans agree that Byrd is on the decline of his career and the team needs to build for the future. With the glaring focus beginning with the bullpen.
The Cubs bullpen carries a dismal 4.63 ERA (26th in the league), allowing 24 ER (6th most in the league), issuing 29 walks (tied for 3rd most in the league), a WHIP of 1.56 (26th in the league) and is credited with 5 loses (tied for 2nd most in the league). Had the bullpen not blown those leads, the Cubs would be 9-7, 2nd place in the NL Central and giving the Brewers and Reds both an additional loss, rather than wins.
Epstein and Ricketts know the numbers as well, this being why they made the trade and were willing to swallow a large portion of Byrd’s remaining contract. The organization is focused on the future; something many fans of the Cubs are not accustom to.
This move should be an indicator of additional issues the Cubs ownership should be addressing sometime within this season, such as:
The lack of a power hitter – The team is ranked last in the entire league for home runs hit with five (5). Even the Pirates have hit more home runs, who boast the worse offense in the league. Many fans are pleading for Rizzo and Jackson to be called up to the majors, but Gordon Wittenmyer interviewed Epstein who indicated the organization is waiting to move either player to the majors. Brian Davis and Andy Behrens further suggest the organization should wait to move either player with statistical analysis to support their reasoning. These reports would indicate Epstein and his staff will look at possible trades throughout the season to solve this problem.
An aging roster – The Cubs roster has eight players who are over the age of 30; six of which will be over the age of 35 before the All-Star break. Young promising talent is crucial for the development of this ball club within the next three years and into the next decade. Epstein developed such a talent pool in Boston and will likely carry on this tradition within the Cubs organization. The trade of Byrd was the first step in this direction.
It’s encouraging to see the organization recognize glaring problems and addressing them within the first month of a long season. I’m certain the ownership will continue to make moves to improve the Cubs in the years moving forward.
Only time will tell.
Cubs’ fans know, just as the previous 103 seasons, this is likely not the year. Expectations of ending the longest drought of a professional sports team without a championship is unlikely to occur during the 2012 MLB season. However, amassing countless number of losses is greatly unacceptable. Many fans would be grateful if the Cubs finish one game above .500, but doubt this will likely happen (read Bullpen Brian’s post of the subject here). I simply ask the Cubs to be contenders in each game, playing one game at a time and giving the fans the best possible lineup from our club for each game. Here are my two suggestions to Dale Sveum and the Cubs’ ownership that need to change now!
Improve the Bullpen
Every game when the Cubs have a lead and Wood comes in as the setup man and/or Marmol comes in as the closer to get the win, Cubs’ fans will be holding their collective breathes all season long; I’m sure the organization and coaching staff will do the same. The issue is these two pitchers are the veterans of the bullpen. If, and when, one of them struggles, the depth of experience within the pen is cut in half. And if both of these pitchers struggle as we’ve seen in the first two games of the season…!?
The Cubs recently called up Rodrigo Lopez, a 10-year veteran righty who made his season debut last night (2IP, 0H, 0ER, 1K, 1BB) and also have Shawn Camp, an 8-year veteran righty who is 0-1 in relief appearances this season (3.1IP, 7H, 3ER, 3K, 0BB). But both pitchers are 36 years-old, likely nearing the end of their careers and are not a longterm solution.
The Cubs have three active relief pitchers with a combined three years of experience in Lendy Castillo (23), Rafael Dolis (24) and James Russell (26). The three relief pitchers have combined for 6.1IP, 1H, 1ER, 5BB, 4K, 1.00ERA, 0.86WHIP. The trio has promising numbers, well, at least better than Wood and Marmol have performed so far this season. If the Cubs’ organization is not going to pursue options outside of the organization, then Sveum should focus on developing these pitchers throughout the season to establish potential setup men and/or a future closer.
Reorder the Batting Lineup
Many analyst/fans agree Starlin Castro is a great player and possible future star at shortstop, but he is in wo-way shape or form a #3 power hitter. I believe the theory behind Sveum placing Castro third in the batting order is in belief if the first two batters get on base and Castro can duplicate his batting average from 2011 (.307: 207 of 674), than the Cubs will ultimately score runs often. However, my arguments for moving Castro back to first in the order are as follows:
1) The third position in the batting lineup should be a guy who can physically handle the position, but more importantly, mentally affect the game. He should rattle the nerves of an average pitcher from the opposing team, while also giving you the potential for late game heroics. Castro does not have this effect. He only hit 10 home-runs in 2011 with 674 AB. The power to hit balls out of Wrigley with the wind blowing in is not there and the intimidation he projects is less than many batters in the same position (as seen in the 9th inning against the Brewers).
2) Castro had 24 stolen bases throughout 2011 and has the speed to improve on this number for 2012. Granted Castro has four stolen bases within the first week of the season, his attempts will be limited throughout the season if even one batter ahead of him reaches base. With the aggressive base running Sveum wants to use, Castro could easily be in scoring position before the second batter even leaves the box. This would greatly improve the potential for runs being scored within the first inning and thereafter. He would also intimidate pitchers by his on-base presences and potential for stealing bases.
3) With his .307 batting average from 2011, Castro is bound to reach base. Soriano has hit 20+ home-runs in each of his last 10 seasons and is currently batting a .353 with four RBIs. Soriano has the power and presences needed that a #3 hitter HAS to have. He intimidates pitchers and can change the outcome of a game with one swing of his bat. He has the experience and confidence to bat in that position with runners in scoring position.
As I stated, realistic Cubs’ fans don’t hold high expectations for this season, however, that doesn’t mean a high number of losses this season will be easily tolerated. This fan would like to see the perviously mentioned changes to occur sooner than later, especially the reshuffling of the batting order.
What are your thoughts?
As we come to the closing of the first week in the 2012 MLB season, many Cubs’ fans are disheartened by the team’s performance thus far. Realistically, the Cubs’ record should be 3-2; however, after two blown leads by the bullpen occurring twice in the 8th inning, the Cubs sit at 1-4. But I’m here to provide support to my fellow fans, and hopefully give a glimmer of hope for the direction the organization is headed. Let’s look at the areas in which the team has performed well in after week one:
- Granted, the efforts of Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm are still fresh in everyone’s mind, the Cubs rotation has looked decent. Dempster, Garza and Samardzija have pitched strong performances in their season debuts, protecting the team’s late game leads to only have the bullpen give it away. Here are the numbers compared to the league:
- Strike Outs: 1st (31)
- WHIP: 4th (0.96)
- HR: 5th (5)
- IP: 6th (31.1)
- OPP AVG: 7th (.196)
- Runs: 9th (15)
- ERA: 15th (3.73)
Aggressive Base Running:
- Besides the gaff by Mather representing the tying run during the season opener by being thrown out at home, the Cubs have been running the bases smarter and harder. The Cubs led the league in triples (3) and are ranked 17th in doubles (6). Fans have noticed the hustle down the first base line by Cubs’ batters, even when the play is a routine out; we are very appreciative of the efforts.
- After finishing the 2011 season ranked 28th in the MLB in Stolen Bases (69), the Cubs are currently ranked 2nd with 5. At this point, the Cubs are averaging one stolen base per game and are on pace to amass 162 stolen bases for the season.
- From Ian Stewart’s throw from his knees to Soriano laying out to in left field, the Cubs have looked better defensively. They are tied second in the league for fewest errors committed (2), tied fifth in the league for base runners caught stealing (2), and are tied seventh in the league for fielding percentage (.989). Every fielder is making smart throws, hitting the cutoff man and moving around the diamond effectively in support of each position.
So Cubs’ fans, not everything is terrible with start of this season. Yes, the team has only one win, but remember, this team is rebuilding and moving in the right direction. The on field play proves this. Just like the show, the numbers never lie…