"There's always next year." The theme of the Cubs for the last 100 years is still being said after the Cubs were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. General Manager Jim Hendry will have to make some decisions this offseason on not only how to get back to the playoffs but how to get to the World Series in 2009.
The Chicago Cubs roster will look very similar next year with most of the team signed thru 2009. Here are the Cubs upcoming free-agents:
Catcher- Henry Blanco- He hit .292 with 3 HR's and 12 RBI's. Known mostly for his defense, he has a team option for 2009. He won't be asked to start with ROY candidate Geovony Soto. But he is a wily veteran who has value as a defensive back up catcher. The Cubs should pick up his option this offseason.
First Base- Daryle Ward- Mostly played as a pinch hitter had a down year batting only .216 with 4 HR's and 17 RBI's. With the emergence of Micah Hoffpauir, Ward is pretty much expendable as a left handed pinch hitter. The Cubs should let Ward walk.
Center Field- Jim Edmonds- He was a spark-plug for the Cubs this year, but he is 39. He is leaning toward retiring. If he decides he wants to keep on playing I say the Cubs should re-sign him to platoon in CF again. He hit .235 with 20 HR's and 55 RBI.
Starting Pitcher- Ryan Dempster- He had a great year this year. He went 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA. He emerged as the Cubs #2 pitcher this year. The Cubs would be wise to re-sign him.
Starting Pitcher- Rich Harden- Harden was a great mid-season pick up this year. He has a team option that the Cubs will likely pick up. Though he is injury prone he was 10-2 with a 2.07 ERA.
Relief Pitcher- Kerry Wood- He did an above average job this year as the Cubs closer. The Cubs should and most likely will re-sign him after saving 34 games and having an ERA of 3.26.
Relief Pitcher- Bobby Howry- He did not have a very good this year and he is getting up in age, 35. He had an ERA of 5.35 with a record of 7-5. With the emergence of Jeff Samardzija, Howry is expendable.
This off-season there is a fairly weak off-season market. With the struggles of Kosuke Fukudome in Right Field and with a lack of lefties in the line-up, I think the Cubs should go after Bobby Abreu. He is a patient hitter and is an average right fielder. He hit .296 with 20 HR's and 100 RBI's with a .371 OBP. The rumors are that he wants a 3 year deal this might be a little too much to ask from this 34 year old. But I think if the Cubs could sign him to a 2 year deal it would be a good investment. He would bring a left-handed power hitter into the line-up with a solid OBP.
With Lou Piniella signed thru 2010 this would be his possible depth chart for next year. Like I said before it will look very similar to this year. Here's a look at the 2009 Cubs:
Catcher- ROY candidate Geovony Soto will return next year as the Cubs starting catcher. He is one of the league's most exciting young catchers. Henry Blanco's team option should be picked up and he will return as the back up catcher. He will have both a defensive and veteran prescence.
First Base- After an improved 2008 season Derrek Lee will be back as the starting first baseman. Though his power has diminished he still has gap power, and he plays gold glove defense. If the Cubs let go Daryle Ward, Micah Hoffpauir will step in as the back-up first baseman who can also play some Right field and will be called upon to pinch hit late in games.
Third Base- Aramis Ramirez will return as the starting third baseman. He is the Cubs main source of Power, and he has shown some patience this year and should improve his plate patience next year.
Shortstop- Ryan Theriot who hit .307 this year will return as the Cubs starting short stop. He is a pesky player similar to David Eckstein. He plays average defense and finds ways to get on base. Ronny Cedeno will back him up he can play shortstop and second base and is a valuable bench player.
Left Field: Alfonso Soriano will man Left field in Wrigley Field next year. He is an average left fielder with an above average arm. Though not the prototypical lead-off hitter he is comfortable their. He will look to rebound from his sub-par playoff showing.
Center Field: If Jim Edmonds decides not to retire him and Reed Johnson will platoon in Center field. Jim Edmonds is a power hitting lefty will Reed Johnson is a grind it out righty. With the weak free-agent market they will have to make do and hope that Felix Pie can finally breakout in CF.
Right Field: With the addition of Bobby Abreau this would send Kosuke Fukudome to the bench as a 4th outfielder. Bobby Abreu would make the Cubs offense better. Kosuke Fukudome would be a valuable defensive sub, and if he can become a more consistent hitter, he could pinch hit and fight for playing time in center field.
Starting Pitchers: Carlos Zambrano will comeback as the Cubs ace and look to lead the Cubs back to post season play. Rich Harden will look to stay healthy and continue his dominance with the Cubs. Ryan Dempster will look to continue with his success from this year as a starter. Ted Lilly will be a great #4 pitching option and will most likely be the only left-hander in the rotation. He was 17-6 with but will look to lower his ERA of 4.09. Jason Marquis will look to round out the Cubs rotation.
Bullpen- Once again Kerry Wood will try to stay healthy as the Cubs closer. Carlos Marmol who is one of the premiere set-up men in the league will look to hand the ball off to Wood.
This is the 2009 Line-up as I see it.
- Alfonso Soriano- LF
- Bobby Abreu- RF
- Derrek Lee- 1B
- Aramis Ramirez-3B
- Jim Edmonds-CF
- Geovony Soto- C
- Mark DeRosa-2B
- Ryan Theriot- SS
- Carlos Zambrano
- Rich Harden
- Ryan Dempster
- Ted Lilly
- Jason Marquis
Spot Starter- Sean Marshall
Set-up Man- Carlos Marmol
Closer- Kerry Wood
This should be a very long and interesting off-season for my beloved Cubs. There won't be to much action but it sure will be interesting to see what moves Jim Hendry will make.