Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking Ahead to 2010

Before I begin, I would like everyone to meet the newest Cub fan in the family, Beau.

I was hoping a solid season by the Chicago Bears would ease the pain of watching the car wreck that was the 2009 Chicago Cubs. I even picked Jay Cutler as my starting quarterback in Fantasy Football. No such luck (although, somehow I ended up with the third place trophy for the fantasy league). So now, as I watch the rumors come and go, I begin to wonder about how next season's Cubs are going to fare.

In 2009, it seemed to be one disaster after another. Every starting pitcher spent time on the disabled list, Geovanny Soto suffered the "sophomore slump," Aramis Ramirez separated his shoulder and was out for two months, and Alfonso Soriano had every problem imaginable. Then there were Jim Hendry's acquisitions: Milton Bradley was an expensive bust, Kevin Gregg couldn't hack it as the closer, and the Aarons (Heilman and Miles) were just plain bad. Now, everyone acquired for 2009 will not be a Cub in 2010.

The Shopping List for 2010

The start of the offseason began to look eerily similar to the one five years ago when the biggest item on the "to-do" list was getting rid of an overpaid tumor. To Hendry's credit, he was unable to unload Bradley without paying any of the salary. He even got money back in the deal. The bad side of the deal was that the Cubs ended up with Carlos Silva, whose abominable numbers in Seattle do not have me jumping for joy. I guess all we can do is hope he can regain his form from his time with Minnesota.

Right now, the Cubs are looking for a center fielder, bullpen help, and possibly another starter (especially with Ted Lilly out for the first month). The Cubs lost out on Matt Capps, who would have been a good setup man for Carlos Marmol. They lost out on Curtis Granderson, the best center fielder available on the free agent or trade market. They lost out on getting Roy Halladay. They are not going to spend the money it would take to bring in Johnny Damon. There's nobody left in the FA pool of starting pitchers who are worth the money, either. It appears to be down to Scott Podsednik and Marlon Byrd for the center field opening (I refuse to mention Rick Ankiel as I pray that one does not happen). And the bullpen will probably be filled out during spring training competition.

Is the Window Beginning to Close?

The contracts for Derrek Lee and Ted Lilly end after 2010. Aramis Ramirez has a player option at the end of the year. Will the Cubs resign any or all of them (assuming Ramirez declines the option)? Looking at next season's potential free agent crop, I'm not too impressed with what's available, at least at the hot corners. (Yes, I know Albert Pujols has an option, but that will get picked up). As far as pitchers go, Cliff Lee, Brandon Webb, and Josh Beckett could all be available if they do not sign extensions with their current teams. But it would be quite expensive to get any of those guys.

Looking at the Cubs' minor league hotshots, Josh Vitters and Starlin Castro seem to be a couple of standouts. Vitters could be a replacement at third if/when Ramirez leaves. I'm not sure who the eventual first baseman of the future will be (I though possibly Jake Fox, but that's not happening). I'm sure it's a dream to think the Cubs will have any shot at nabbing Pujols, should he even reach free agency after 2011.

The Cubs will have Zambrano, Dempster, and Wells for a few more years. Soto, Theriot, Marmol, and Soriano are going to be here for several more years as well. Where is this team going? Will the underachievers from 2009 get back to form to make it work in 2010? Will the holes be filled with the right people this time (it can't be worse than last years newbies, can it)? So many questions to answer before the season, but I'm just going to focus on one thing:

Pitchers and catchers report in a month and a half!