Offseason Outlook: Chicago Cubs

Next up in our Offseason Outlook series, the Cubs.  Their likely 2010 commitments:

C – Geovany Soto – $575K
C – Koyie Hill – $475K+
1B – Derrek Lee – $13MM
2B – Jeff Baker – $415K+
SS – Ryan Theriot – $500K+
3B – Aramis Ramirez – $15.75MM
IF – Aaron Miles – $2.7MM
IF – Andres Blanco – $400K
LF – Alfonso Soriano – $18MM
CF – Kosuke Fukudome – $13MM
RF – Milton Bradley – $9MM
OF – Sam Fuld – $402K
3B/OF – Jake Fox – $402K

SP – Carlos Zambrano – $17.875MM
SP – Ryan Dempster – $12.5MM
SP – Ted Lilly – $12MM
SP – Randy Wells – $402K
SP – Tom Gorzelanny – $433K+

RP – Aaron Heilman – $1.625MM+
RP – Carlos Marmol – $575K+
RP – Sean Marshall – $450K+
RP – Angel Guzman – $422K+
RP – Esmailin Caridad – $400K
RP – Jeff Stevens – $400K
RP – Jeff Samardzija – $2.5MM

Non-tender candidates: Aaron Heilman, Neal Cotts, Mike Fontenot

The Cubs have about $124.2MM committed before arbitration raises to Hill, Baker, Theriot, Heilman, Marmol, Marshall, Guzman, and Gorzelanny.  Fontenot, at two years and 139 days of service time, is on the bubble for Super Two status (which could influence his 2010 status with the team).  Heilman, Cotts, and Fontenot are candidates to be non-tendered.  With at least seven arb cases, there is payroll uncertainty, but I'll put the Cubs around $135MM committed.  The Cubs entered 2009 with a payroll right around that mark, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts.  The Cubs have new ownership for 2010, and their payroll plans are not yet known.

The Cubs seem dead-set on moving Bradley and finding someone else to play right or center field.  A player they loved a year ago, they hate now.  Bradley had a slow start and finish, showed little power, and had issues with the fans, media, and manager.  Still, he posted a .378 OBP in the off-year and certainly could improve upon that in 2010.  My advice: work it out, rather than eating $15MM+ or taking on a different bad contract.  Bradley is not the reason the Cubs received over 2,000 plate appearances of subpar hitting from Soriano, Fontenot, Soto, Hill, Hoffpauir, and Miles, nor is he the reason Ramirez was limited to 342 PAs due to a shoulder injury.

With proper conditioning, Soto should bounce back.  Baker can't do worse than the other Cubs' second basemen did in '09.  Ramirez's shoulder is worrisome, but the Cubs must hope for good health.  Soriano finished the season with knee surgery and will presumably be healthy for Spring Training.  His contract is so absurd that the team has no flexibility.  In all likelihood the Cubs will replace Bradley, but it is the holdovers who need to improve.  It would be a shame to see new hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo encourage aggression from the hitters, as it was patience that led to the team's NL-best .354 OBP in 2008.

The rotation looks strong, with the front four locked in.  Gorzelanny, Marshall, or Samardzija will probably fill the fifth starter role.

As for the bullpen, the Cubs seem willing to spend good money on John Grabow, perhaps not the best idea (5.0 BB/9).  Heilman could be non-tendered.  Marmol is the de facto closer, despite 65 walks in 74 innings.  Adding a Billy Wagner type makes sense, if payroll allows.  Guzman is interesting if he can stay healthy, while Caridad is a sleeper.

The Cubs are a pricey team with room for little more than tinkering.  GM Jim Hendry will need to push the right buttons this winter after a 2008-09 offseason filled with miscalculations.

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