This Chicago Cubs blog is inspired by the Trib ads in the 80s called Tales from the Upper Deck, which featured one of my heroes and die-hard Cub fan, Mike Royko.
I spent a great deal of my time up in Aisle 424 of Wrigley Field with other Cubs season ticket holders from 1998 to 2010. We mainly talked about the Cubs or baseball, but we also delved into other topics on occasion. Though many of us have given up our Season Tickets now, we still get together to talk baseball and discuss the continuing failure of the Chicago Cubs to win a World Series in our lifetimes.
Tales from Aisle 424 usually resembles the occasionally insightful, mostly snarky, and nonsensical rants of me and my summer family (and it usually comes back around to the Cubs).
I spend a good amount of time ripping on Chicago sportswriters who spend inordinate amounts of their time writing dumb things just to get a reaction (which I then provide because I'm an idiot). So today, I thought I'd point out something by one of the Chicago writers that I actually enjoy reading.
Today, the Daily Herald's Bruce Miles put up a blog post about the various players that the Cubs could be looking to move if they become "sellers." I know Jim Hendry doesn't like labels, but Lou doesn't mind looking at a big pile of steaming horse manure and calling it what it is.
2B Ryan Theriot. The Riot has had a bad year. His line currently is .277/.315/.309 and his WAR is –0.1. The walk rate is 4.8 percent, and the ISO is a microscopic .032. If the Cubs don’t trade him, they’re likely to non-tender him this fall. Theriot could be serviceable to somebody, but the rate of return isn’t going to be high - maybe a middling A-ball player.
Theriot had more value as a shortstop last year than he does as the main part of a platoon at second this year. At this point, it might be worth having Ari Kaplan crunch the numbers to see if he wouldn't be more useful as a semi-cost-controlled utility player (he'll be back to arbitration next year and his arguments to be higher paid didn't get any stronger this year). I definitely don't want him as a major part of any Cubs team, but his versatility on the middle infield could be handy to have on the bench.
C Geovany Soto. I’m not saying the Cubs are shopping Soto. In fact, I think they’d be crazy to do so, as he’s been one of their most productive, and underutilized, assets. His line is .281/.406/.473. The wOBA is .390. The walk rate is 17.5 percent. The ISO is .193. The WAR is 2.1. Soto will be arb-eligible for the first time this winter. To me, he’s the kind of guy you build around. On the other hand...
...One of the few times GM Jim Hendry “sold high” in a trade was with Mark DeRosa. You could get a similar return for Soto.
I've said before that the only "untouchables" on the roster are Castro, Colvin, and Cashner, but Soto is one where I would need to get a decent return to move. He's still young enough to build around if you get on with it. He's always seemed coachable, and he has no problems handling some big egos on the pitching staff. A young staff may need some of that leadership on the field. Plus, for whatever reason, Lou doesn't really like Soto and keeps playing Koyie Hill more than I think most people would like. A new manager could very well move him up in the lineup where his hitting numbers suggest he should be, and he could improve even more next year.
LHP Ted Lilly. Teddy Ballgame isn’t Cliff Lee, but he’d certainly be attractive to a contender out there. There are some red flags, as pointed out by David Golebiewski, who writes on fangraphs.com: “…There are concerns about his waning ability to fool hitters.”
Lilly has pitched better than his 3-7 record. The ERA is 3.76, and the WHIP is a solid 1.10. The K/9 is down to 6.17. The BB/9 is 2.12. The HR/9 is 1.45, a little on the uptick. Lilly’s BABIP is .249, but because he’s a flyball pitcher, the BABIP might not creep as close to .300 as it might for other pitchers, but it still figures to rise in the final two and a half months. Lilly’s FIP is 4.62. He has 10 quality starts and a WAR of 0.9.
I’m sure the Cubs could move him; other teams have to love the guy’s competitiveness.
Trading Ted Lilly is where Hendry has to find a GM in the league who loves intangibles that is actually in a position to win. Ted's next salary is almost assuredly going to pay him more for his past performance with the Cubs rather than what he actually does for his next employer, so any team that wants him will either be trading for a rental or won't mind overpaying a bit to have Ted's "bulldog" attitude in the clubhouse.
1B Derrek Lee. I don’t think he’s going anywhere. He’s got 10-5 rights and the no-trade. But he gets us back to the question of whom he could help. Lee’s line is .230/.327/.370. He’s got a .312 wOBA. The ISO is .273, and the BABIP is .327.
Get used to it, folks. Lee is probably worth more in the compensation picks he would bring than anything another team would give up to get him this year. You know how sometimes an old pet that has been showing its age suddenly has a burst of energy like it was 10 years younger, but then dies shortly after? Think of Derrek Lee's 2009 season like it was his last burst of energy.
RF Kosuke Fukudome. He could be helping his value while getting some productive playing time of late. From what I’ve been told, it might be easier for Hendry to mix and match in the off-season, much as he did with Milton Bradley. Fukudome’s line is .266/.362/.440. The wOBA is .351, and the WAR is 0.9. Even though Fukudome has been one of the biggest disappointments of the Hendry regime, somebody might bite.
Kosuke is the one piece from which Hendry still might be able to squeeze a bit of value. The man managed to get value for Todd Hundley and Milton Bradley, for crying out loud, so surely he can get something for a mediocre hitter with decent defensive skills and isn't a pain-in-the-ass in the locker room.
Closer Carlos Marmol. I’m sure there will be a rumor or two, but I don’t trade him. He became arb-eligible for the first time this year, and he’s one of your young assets. Marmol’s K/9 of 17.04 is ridiculous. The 5.98 BB/9 is down from last year. The WHIP is 1.18, which is way down from last year. I don’t trade him.
Here is where Bruce and I disagree. I love how good Carlos Marmol is. You know what carlos Marmol and White Castle have in common? A slider that will make you crap your pants. He's that good. So why do I want to trade him?
My problem with guys like Marmol is that they have a very short shelf-life. That herky-jerky motion of his is going to catch up with him, or he'll lose a little velocity or motion on it and it will become a hittable pitch. The consistent closers are the guys that seem to have that one simple pitch that they can locate wherever they want and get guys out. The catcher could yell out to Mariano Rivera that he wants him to throw a cut fastball, and not only would it surprise absolutely no one, but the batter still wouldn't be able to hit it.
Marmol's slider is like that right now. You can know it's coming and you are not going to hit it without getting lucky. I just don't think that is going to be true with him for as long as it has been true with Rivera. Combine that with his walk rate and you get a guy who is going to start giving up runs at a much higher rate and it might be sooner rather than later.
My fear is that just as the Cubs retool and get all the other pieces in place, Marmol will be declining and blowing leads and they'll have to scramble to find a closer again. I'd rather they get the crapload in return that they can get for the unhittable Marmol of today, but that's just me.
LF Alfonso Soriano. Four years to go on an egregious contract. Anything can happen, but he seems virtually untradable.
He's not a clubhouse cancer so the best course is to close our eyes and pray he continues to be decent as he has been this year and not an offense-sucking hole in the lineup as he was last year. The Cubs should have a rabbit's foot giveaway as a promotional day next year so we can all rub them and wish.
RHP Carlos Zambrano. The bad contract, not the no-trade, is the biggest obstacle. We’ll see what happens when Big Z comes back from the anger-management sessions.
Zambrano is Hendry's newest untradeable piece that absolutely has to be traded. With the amount of money and years still due to Zambrano, coupled with his various emotional issues, this could be harder to accomplish than moving Milton Bradley for anything of value, and we didn't think that was even theoretically possible.
I still don't even know why people trade with Hendry anymore. Say what you want, but he generally gets the better end of the trades he makes. If only he knew how to manage his roster and budget so he didn't have to resort to smoke and mirrors to make most of his trades.