Offseason In Review: Chicago Cubs

Next in our Offseason In Review series, the Cubs.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

Summary

The Cubs were handicapped this offseason by their need to unload outfielder Milton Bradley, a deal that went down on December 18th.  The Cubs had little leverage with Bradley, as it was well-known they were dead-set on trading him.  GM Jim Hendry had to take back a terrible pitcher on one of baseball's worst contracts, but he managed to save $5MM in acquiring Silva and cash from the Mariners.  The whole mess reflects poorly on the Cubs, with Hendry making this dubious claim about Bradley: "No one could have really predicted how it turned out."  The toxic clubhouse situation with Bradley forced the Cubs to subtract a .378 OBP in exchange for a two-year, $16MM commitment to Silva.

The Cubs then took the often-regrettable route of signing the best available free agent to fit their need, choosing Byrd out of a weak free agent center field market.  Will the Cubs be happy paying a 34-year-old Byrd $6.5MM in 2012?  They have to hope this is another Mark DeRosa signing: a contract that looked high at the time but paid off because DeRosa kept getting better.

The Grabow signing was painful.  If that's the going rate for a southpaw reliever with control problems, find another solution.  On the other hand I liked the Nady pickup.  He should be one of the game's better reserves, and will be used heavily.

The success of the Cubs' rotation may hinge on Ted Lilly's health and Randy Wells' sophomore campaign.  A midseason acquisition may be necessary.  Same goes for the bullpen, where the big additions were Grabow and Gray.  Angel Guzman's shoulder injury is a major blow, though not an unpredictable one given his injury history.

The Cubs enter their first season under new ownership with an array of bloated contracts and question marks, plus key players unsigned beyond 2010.  This might be Hendry's last chance to get it right.


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63 Comments on "Offseason In Review: Chicago Cubs"


bobbybaseball
5 years 5 months ago

Dead on Tim. New ownership seems more concerned with Wrigley Field than the product on the field…just like the Trib.

thebigdog
5 years 5 months ago

… and just like most Cubs fans.

mlbellen
5 years 5 months ago

Right, because the only “true” baseball fans are Red Sox and Yankee fans..

bobbybaseball
5 years 5 months ago

Why was my comment removed? I didn’t say anything offensive!

Jay18
5 years 5 months ago

Not so much…. where do you see that the new ownership is more interested in Wrigley than ‘the product on the field’??

Jay18
5 years 5 months ago

Not so much…. where do you see that the new ownership is more interested in Wrigley than ‘the product on the field’??

bobbybaseball
5 years 5 months ago

I know it’s only been a short time, so it’s a small sample size, but so far all you hear them talk about in interviews are how they’re fixing up Wrigley Field and I see them raiseing prices and wanting to build a triangle building and remodel all of the suites.

Look, Tom Ricketts may be a fan, but he’s a businessman first and foremost. He knows he has a cash cow in Wrigley and he also knows that the fans will go there no matter how the team performs.

Again, this may be unfair since he inherited a huge payroll full of mostly crap, but I just never hear him talking about wanting to win the world series.

5 years 5 months ago

Aaron Miles will never be considered a notable loss.

Guest
5 years 5 months ago

I agree.

This Cubs should have traded Felix Pie for Brian Roberts way back 2007 when they had the chance.

LaxMan21
5 years 5 months ago

agreed

bobbybaseball
5 years 5 months ago

McPhail wanted more than just Pie back then.

lefty58
5 years 5 months ago

If the Cubs don’t start off very strong, they should strongly consider trading D.Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Fukodome, Zambrano, Lilly and see if they can force Soriano into one the trades at the deadline. They would have a chance to completely rebuild with youth and rid themselves of countless millions in contracts of aging players.
It won’t be popular, but will give them a much better chance of competing in the shortest amount of time. They’d take in a ton of young talent for those players from contending teams.

crunchy1
5 years 5 months ago

I have to agree. This is the last year on a rapidly closing window for the Cubs. If that window slams shut by the trade deadline, they should begin purging guys who won’t be part of their future 2-3 years down the road. All of the guys listed fit that category though Soriano is untradeable and Z is the guy I feel that is least likely to waive his no trade clause. Lilly, Lee and possibly Ramirez should seem agreeable to a trade considering their contracts are expiring anyway. All 3 have value and should bring in some worthwhile prospects to go along with their rapidly improving farm system. If the Cubs play this right, they could be right back in contention in 2-3 years.

5 years 5 months ago

My fear is that the Cubs have easily the easiest early schedule in MLB. A good start could perhaps be a false indicator of an entire year’s performance, and so what you are saying might not happen because of this.

crunchy1
5 years 5 months ago

Yikes. The worst case scenario for the Cubs isn’t a 90 loss season. It’s a season where they win another 83 games and stay in contention long enough to trade prospects for relievers. Then, after the season, believing there is still hope for next year, re-signing veterans to big contracts, and delaying a much-needed re-building effort. That would be the definition of a nightmare season for me.

studio179
5 years 5 months ago

Something tells me the long term vet contracts are not going to be the norm anymore. That does not mean they won’t sign them. Just not to the type of deals we have seen in the past. Everyone has to keep in mind those deals were signed because Kenney, Hendry and Co. were trying to make the team look attractive to sell in a different economy. While it will take a couple years to really get a feel for the Ricketts and how they run the Cubs, I think the early & mid 2000’s way of doing business is gone. They seem to want to focus on the farm system (as do other teams) more in the future. We’ll see. You might be right about this year though. I hope not. Hendry’s job is on the line. If the team starts well, he might pull some deal that hurts down the road. Hopefully, the positive reports that has come from the farm do not get delt away. Certain guys are safe, but there are quality guys beyond the much hyped names.

crunchy1
5 years 5 months ago

Good point. Most of us forget that prior to the Soriano-DeRosa-Lilly-Marquis offseason frenzy, the Trib was often criticized for *not* opening up their huge wallet. We had to settle for mid-level acquisitions like Jacque Jones and under the radar signings like Ryan Dempster. I think you’re right in that the Cubs won’t be returning to their big spending ways…though I can still see them overpaying for average guys like they did this offseason. Well, at least as long as Hendry is still here…but at least those kind of deals don’t hurt you as badly, especially if you’re filling in multiple spots with low cost, homegrown talent.

Ricky Bones
5 years 5 months ago

Not that I would ever defend Hendry, but let’s also not forget he was put into power to spend wildly after MacPhail refused his orders by the Tribune brass to up the payroll following their disastrous 2006 season.

crunchy1
5 years 5 months ago

Another good point. We all know the Trib suddenly opened up the checkbook when they were preparing to sell the team. They were desperate for a winning season and a marquee name…enter Soriano, the top free agent on the market. You could easily see some suit saying, “Do whatever it takes to sign him…” The guy was probably doing what he was told; a newly empowered GM isn’t going to refuse orders the way a veteran, respected executive like McPhail could and did. Hendry deserves blame for a lot of things, but I’m not sure he should get 100% blame for the 2006 spending spree. Nice job by the Trib, they upped the value of the franchise and didn’t have to worry about the long term damage caused by those short-sighted moves. They walk away wealthy and debt-free and leave Hendry to take all the heat. It’s too bad for Cub fans that the Tribune was better at making money than they were at building an organization with any chance of sustained success.

Ricky Bones
5 years 5 months ago

The piper will come calling for the Trib soon enough. Print media in on their last legs.

Guest
5 years 5 months ago

I’m going to have to agree 100% with you on this. The last thing we want is Hendry pulling a Drayton McLane and keeping his players because he simply just likes them.

bobbybaseball
5 years 5 months ago

I would too but I doubt that the Cubs could move Soriano in any deal. Big Z, sure, to a big market team like the Mets perhaps, and I’m sure Ramirez would have some value on the trade market tho he has to be healthy. Still, he can opt out of his deal after this year, I believe, so even that one is not a sure thing. Hendry has really left us with a flaming bag of garbage.

Ricky Bones
5 years 5 months ago

Zambrano’s a pretty decent pitcher. Why would the Mets be interested in such an acquisition?

bobbybaseball
5 years 5 months ago

I think you answered your own question Ricky – he’s a pretty decent pitcher. Plus, the Mets need rotation help badly and you would think that Omar Minaya would be trying to save his job. They are one fo the few clubs who could afford Big Z’s salary.

Ricky Bones
5 years 5 months ago

(sarcastic)

Ethanator99
5 years 5 months ago

I think Ramirez could easily be traded. The others, not so much. I could see the Mariners interested in him if they’re in it this year.

crunchy1
5 years 5 months ago

There is always a market for solid lefty starters like Lilly. And I could think of a few teams that wouldn’t mind a good defensive and offensive first baseman like DLee for the stretch run, starting with Boston and Seattle. Sure they’ll go for A-Gon first, but Lee is a nice short term pick-up for a team that needs offense without sacrificing any defense.

Soxball
5 years 5 months ago

Problem is the “great” Jim Hendry gave all the players above no trade clauses. He is a terrible GM that needs to be fired if the Cubs want a shot.

studio179
5 years 5 months ago

Yep. I have to agree with a Sox fan here. Even if Hendry wanted AND had deals for these guys, they would likely envoke their no trade clauses he gave them.

Guest
5 years 5 months ago

Jim Hendry is always trading players for prospects who never play at the Major League Level, signing players to massive untradeable contracts, getting fans excited about seasons that never go the Cubs way, and not acquiring players when he has the chance to. There has to be some positvite thing happening for Cubs fans and Cubs players soon. We’ve been waiting 101 years and we just need to win!

If Jim actually got Brian Roberts and Jake Peavy when he has the chance…We might be talking about the Cubs winning the division instead of the Cardinals or the Reds. I’m going to have to take the Reds.

LaxMan21
5 years 5 months ago

we all wish hendry wouldve pulled the trigger on roberts and peavy. having a line-up of Theriot, Roberts, Lee, Ramirez, Fukudome, Soriano, Byrd, Soto would be a killer line-up and a rotation of Z, Peavy, Lilly, Dempster and Wells would probably be the best rotation in baseball.

Ricky Bones
5 years 5 months ago

Don’t forget being arrogant & indignant when called out for questionable signings such as Bradley & Gregg.

jwsox
5 years 5 months ago

I fully agree that if they are out of it by the dead line or at least close to out of it, more than likely in 3rd behind the cards and either the brewers or surprising reds. I feel they wil try to have a fire sale, but the problem is a lot of those players have no trade clauses. And some of those players will say no no matter what like big Z. But i could see them trying to unload alot of them onto contenders to get them to say yes. Soriano simply isnt going anywhere HUGE contract with too many years left, Full No trade, and On the down side of his career no one will take his contract

Guest
5 years 5 months ago

I don’t think anybody will take Soriano and his contract.

Bernaldo
5 years 5 months ago

I don’t think the Cubs would “take in a ton of talent” for the players you mentioned. While all of them have value, they are on or very near their the downside of their careers and have either big contracts or are nearing free agency. Most contenders already have productive players at 1B and 3B so I am skeptical that Lee or Ramirez would yield that much. Good luck “forcing” Soriano into a deal unless the Cubs agree to pay almost all of his remaining salary.

mlbellen
5 years 5 months ago

Dislike.

LaxMan21
5 years 5 months ago

kind of hard to trade all those guys when pretty much all of them have no-trade clauses, haha.

but if the cubs fall out of contention, i can see them trying to trade lee for some good prospects as long as his value is high. they could need to get a good 1st basemen prospect in return though cause idk if hoffpauir or lahair can be a full time first basemen.

in my dreams they would trade fukudome so that Colvin can have a shot at right field, and in the coming years, brett jackson and josh vitters come up too. i cant wait to see those guys if they can come up and produce like they are said too

Ricky Bones
5 years 5 months ago

The first part is a good idea, but they are stuck w/ Soriano for the duration. Nobody will take on that contract.

5 years 5 months ago

If the cubs are good this year, it won’t be because of any moves that were made this offseason. When Hendry failed to unload Bradley at the winter meetings, they tried to play catch up all winter and overpaid for mediocre talent. Seriously, 25 mil for Byrd Grabow and Nady?!? Cmon!

crunchy1
5 years 5 months ago

This offseason was the product of previously irresponsible offseasons. On one hand, the Cubs didn’t make any stupid long term deals at huge money but that may only be because budget constraints sapped their ability to spend money foolishly. You get the sense they are just treading water this season and hoping that they get healthy, productive rebound years from Soriano, Soto, Ramirez, and Zambrano to make one last run before they start purging contracts and bringing in the kids.

cubnation
5 years 5 months ago

I’m ok with the purge/rebuild that you all speak of, however I fear that the bulk of our fan base (the average joe that is uninformed) would lash out preventing such moves. We need to start thinking about the future NOW. Especially if we are just scraping by at mid season

avgjoe07
5 years 5 months ago

There’s no way you can alienate this fan base. They traded fan favorites Sosa, Wood, Derosa and people kept coming to games and buying jerseys. The issue is that a big market team always plays for the here and now. You are asking a top 5 payroll team to make a bottom half payroll move, and while I agree with it, it’ll never happen.

crunchy1
5 years 5 months ago

You have a point but I think the Cubs can do it in waves…and with the usual PR. They’ve already got fans foaming at the mouth for Starlin Castro and even Tyler Colvin. Next year, maybe work in Andrew Cashner and Josh Vitters…after that Brett Jackson and Hak Ju Lee. Sprinkle in some midseason call-ups in between. I agree they probably can’t do a full-fledged fire sale Florida Marlins style, but they can do it in steps while still mixing in some useful veterans. I think the Cubs reluctance to commit to Lou beyond this year is a signal they may be willing to take a step back after next year. If Piniella doesn’t return and the Cubs replace him with Ryne Sandberg, who has been managing most of these kids in the minors, I’ll take it as a sign that the Cubs will cautiously usher in a youth movement.

bobbybaseball
5 years 5 months ago

They can do anything they want and Cubs fans will still flock to Wrigley. Ricketts is a smart guy and I’m sure he knows this.

Rynocerous
5 years 5 months ago

I’m cautiously optimistic. Let’s look at it this way: are the Cubs going to be any worse this year than last? I think one look at the “notable” losses will tell you that no, they won’t be any worse. Will we see bounce-back years from Soriano, Soto, Fontenot, and Zambrano? Maybe, maybe not. But if any of them bounce back and have a productive season, it could easily bring the Cubs back into the 90-win territory and in the hunt for a playoff spot.

I agree with crunchy – at least there were no signings this offseason which will kill the Cubs years from now. Worst-case scenario: the Cubs fail to make the playoffs again, and the Ricketts go in a new direction for GM and manager next year. Our farm system is stronger than it has been in quite a while.

studio179
5 years 5 months ago

“I agree with crunchy – at least there were no signings this offseason which will kill the Cubs years from now.”

Thankfully, it seems the Ricketts set some guidelines this offseason.

Ricky Bones
5 years 5 months ago

It’s more so that the Ricketts are pretty much out of money but same difference.

LaxMan21
5 years 5 months ago

maybe with jaramillo as the batting coach now, maybe he can help soriano, soto, and fontenot get their swing back and produce more

peterk4773
5 years 5 months ago

This will be another rough year for the Cubs and 2011 will be a brand new team. Sandberg instead of Piniella, D Lee gone, Castro and Blanco up the middle, and hopefully a revamped bullpen. I can’t wait for 2011, just wish it wasn’t still 2010.

maddux355
5 years 5 months ago

blanco up the middle? really? the guy hits around 250. his d is solid, i’ll admit that but blanco is not the future. i would also like d lee back for the right price. if he has a year like his last one he’ll want more though. d lee saves games over at first. and as for castro, he looks like the real deal but I fear he has a ten cent zambrano head and will get too cocky too quickly. the best case for the cubs would be to allow Greg Maddux to gm in around 5 years if he wants, that man can scout and teach better than any coach on the Cubs staff. GO CUBS GO!

peterk4773
5 years 5 months ago

This will be a rough year for the Cubs which will lead to a drastically different 2011 team. Piniella out Sandberg in, D Lee gone, Castro and Blanco up the middle, and hopefully a revamped bullpen. I just wish this season were over already. Can’t wait for 2011!

peterk4773
5 years 5 months ago

This will be a rough year for the Cubs which will lead to a drastically different team in 2011. Piniella out Sandberg in, D Lee gone, Castro and Blanco up the middle, and hopefully an added starting pitcher and a revamped bullpen. I just wish this year was over already. Can’t wait for 2011!

doyourhomework13
5 years 5 months ago

Wow. Really. I cant believe this article. I check this site everyday and this is really what you think of the Cubs. Do the homework. Look at the young talent waiting for the big contract guys to get hurt. It probably would help. Sori doesnt have the luxury of playing everyday and not hitting. He will sit or get cut with Fuld, Colvin and Nady waiting. Grabow was on of the best aquisitions to the piching staff cause he is the closest thing they will to having a veteran in the bullpen to help settle a young staff featuring the young wild arm in Marmol. Nady is a good bat but there could be a chance he cant throw. And thats where your stock. How about the young infielders just waiting for the Cubs to bait trades with Font or Baker so Theriot can finally move over to 2nd base and become a gold glover. Aramis and Lee are fine where they are at till Vitters is ready. Hoff just might start hitting again to replace Lee at first. Missing a consistant number 1 starter they will have 2 number 2 guys with Z, Demp, Lilly and Wells. Followed by 4 potential but not great number 5 guys. Who knows with Silva but with his buddy Z on the bench and the double headed monster Maddux, Roschild I think them along with Gorzo, Marshall, Parisi and the Notre Dame boy will be just fine.

bobbybaseball
5 years 5 months ago

What? Sori will get cut, are you nuts? They wouldn’t even cut Bradley and look how bad they wanted him to go away. The truth is that, outside of Castro, who is not yet 20, the Cubs don’t have much in the way of major league ready players coming from the system. Vitters won’t take a walk to save his life, Colvin and Fuld are extra outfielders, etc. The Grabow contract was horrible. Hoff can’t hit curves and he’s not a prospect, he’s like, what 30 years old? If he replaces D-Lee, we’re in serious trouble. Lilly is a FA after this season. Samardzija should have stayed with football. Man, are you ever off the mark, drinking the Cubbie koolaid. And you have the audacity to bash Tim? You are the one we should be saying “wow” to…

Ricky Bones
5 years 5 months ago

And this, my friends, is the prime example of a Cubs fan.

jwsox
5 years 5 months ago

how and why does hendry have a job, the cubs have not been truly able to do anything past the 1round of the play off because of hendrys ridiculous contracts on players that simply cant stay healthy and simply cant stay calm and collected in BigZ(if he does not get it together soon he will go down as one of the biggest disappointments in baseball ) The man should have been fired years ago

bobbybaseball
5 years 5 months ago

Amen brother. What Hendry has done with a $140 million dollar payroll is rediculously bad.

Ricky Bones
5 years 5 months ago

All very true but let’s not forget the Cubs as a whole have only won a single playoff series in over a century, not just during Hendry’s tenure.

bobbybaseball
5 years 5 months ago

Of course, but previous Cubs GMs were known to be bad (except Dallas Green) while Hendry, having done better than the others, seems to fly under the radar a bit.

LaxMan21
5 years 5 months ago

there will be a whole different cubs team 2-3 years from now. Ryno will be the manager, and Maddux will possibly be GM or if not, i would love to see him be the pitching coach.
and u got Castro, Colvin, Jackson, and Vitters who will probably be the everyday players in those 2-3 years

coup
5 years 5 months ago

$140 million? As a Padres fan I hope you’re not counting on my sympathy. That figure is unreal. And you still don’t win anything. No offense.

Ricky Bones
5 years 5 months ago

Trading Fox was a lame move. The guy is a professional hitter. He doesn’t have a natural defensive position so just find him a place to stand & work with him. Soto hasn’t been good since he got off the juice & weed (neither of which I care about so I’m not trying to take the conversation in that direction, just saying if it’s not broken don’t fix it).

“The toxic clubhouse situation with Bradley forced the Cubs to subtract a .378 OBP in exchange for a two-year, $16MM commitment to Silva.”

That OBP number is meaningless & being a Chicago guy who was able to watch that train wreck unfold Tim should know this.

Yeah, the Cubs did nothing this off season, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. They are hamstrung by the horrid contracts already on the books & the Ricketts family overextending themselves during the team’s purchase. Until the albatross contracts are off the books, the Cubs will not be a competitive team in the Central.

studio179
5 years 5 months ago

Yeah, not this Cub fan, either!

However, it is too early to say the new owners are more worried about Wrigley than what’s on the field. There is a long list of reasons to debate. But they have to worry about Wrigley. They have to squeeze ad money from an old, crumbling park that is about 97% capacity yearly. More revenue has to come from somewhere. The spring training facility issue is another point. The Cubs are the biggest draw in Arizona, yet have an older, not as nice facility the team needs to attract players as well as better provide for fans. They are only taking advantage of their marketing power…supply/demand. Same at Wrigley. They have to improve the park for players, fans and media. They have to keep pouring resources into the farm and player developement. All this, plus win now. I want a winner as bad as the next guy. They have to do so much all at once that it is overwhelming no matter who bought the team. New ownership better take what they said they will do seriously. The bad part for guys like you, me and so many other Cub fans is we have to wait yet longer to see if their plan works out. Believe me, it’s frustrating and I know you are only venting. I don’t blame any Cub fan. We have heard it all from all sides too many times in the past. Unfortunately, all we can do is wait and see.