With 2010 already upon us and the countdown to Spring Training already begun, it's time to take a look at the Chicago Cubs offseason so far. And it's a lack of moves that is utterly surprising.
Best move of the offseason:
Undoubtedly, the best move so far this offseason for the Cubs has been the signing of a new hitting coach, Rudy Jamarillo. Jamarillo comes to the Cubs as the former hitting coach of the Texas Rangers. With the Rangers, he helped tutor Mark Teixeira, Josh Hamilton and Mark DeRosa amongst others. Current Cubs Alfonso Soriano and newly signed Marlon Byrd were his students and had a few of their best years while playing there. Sadly, Mark Bradley was also a student of his and had his career year in 2008, the season that got him a 3 year/$30 million dollar deal from the Cubs. More om him later.
Jamarillo is being tasked with the job of trying to turn around the Cubs in 2009 and shape them back into the very good hitting team they were in 2008. One of the projects has to be Geovany Soto. Soto, who was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2008, had a major production drop off in 2009. In 2008, Soto hit .285/.364/.504 with 23 homers, but that dropped to .218/.321/.381 and only 11 homers in 2009. And Jamarillo will be tasked with bringing back that 2008 Soto, which hopefully is the real thing. One thing that the 09 Cubs did better than the 09 Rangers was get on-base, so hopefully Jamarillo doesn't change everyone's ability to draw walks.
Worst move of the offseason:
This is something that most, if not all Cubs fans would disagree with me on, but I believe it was trading Milton Bradley. Besides the fact that we got a terrible, overpaid pitcher in return for Bradley, we got rid of a player who will more than likely have a monstrous rebound season. We it be as great as his 08 season? Probably not. But it probably will be in line with his 03-07 seasons, .289/.380/.470 which are numbers that Byrd, basically his replacement, would be hard pressed to put up. Want more evidence that Bradley will put up those numbers? Between April 28th and September 4th this past season, Bradley's line was .284/.402./443, not far off from those numbers. Sure, Bradley was a malcontent and abrasive. Sure he rubbed Cubs fans the wrong way. He wasn't the cause of the Cubs terrible offensive season, just the scapegoat.
Worst non-move of the offseason:
As painfull as it is for me to say, not moving Derek Lee after the bounce back 09 season will probably prove to be a move the Cubs and GM Jim Hendry will regret. When Aramis Ramirez went down with a separated Shoulder in early May, Lee himself came through and showed how valuable he was. Lee put up a .325/.404/.580 line with 12 homers in 44 games. He alone couldn't carry the team in those games, as the Cubs went 21-23 in those 44 games. And with Lee's contract up at the end of the 2010 season, the Cubs will be at a crossroads. A poor season by Lee would prevent the Cubs from getting anything of value at the trading deadline. A great season might cause the Cubs to overpay for Lee if they plan on keeping him for 3 or 4 more years. Trading him this offseason might have netted the Cubs with a younger first basemen or pieces to use to make a deal for a first basemen who might be on the market, like Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres.
Without picking up a second baseman at this point in the offseason, it hard for me to look at this Cubs team and see great things from it. There are still second basemen out there like Orlando Hudson that can be had, but with budget constraints because of bad contracts handed out by Hendry, the likelihood of them acquiring someone like Hudson seems remote. More than likely we'll have to settle for a combination of Mike Fontenot/Jeff Baker or a cast off such as Luis Castillo to fill that hole. And that makes the Cubs a 2nd place team again. A shopping list of a setup man, center fielder, leadoff hitter and second basemen has netted a 3rd choice center fielder so far this offseason. With the money to spend in the market is getting smaller, anything short of postseason might ultimately cost Hendry his job.