30 Teams in 30 Days: Chicago Cubs Roundtable

Cubs

Our guest bloggers is Matt Seybold from The Sporting Hippeaux again.

Question 1 – How important was the Milton Bradley trade?

Jeff: HUGE — I don’t think the clubhouse cancer that is Milton Bradley can be understated –“Addition by subtraction” should just be renamed “Milton Bradley” — However, Carlos Silva, who the Cubs got from Seattle, certainly isn’t the answer on the bump, either — I don’t expect Silva to be much of a consistent contributor, but just not having Bradley around will invariably help guys like Fukudome, Theriot and Nady.

Eugene: Agreed. Bradley out of the club house instantly makes this team better. I’m surprised that he was signed in the first place, because of his outburst history and having a strong personality as a manager. At the beginning of the season, no one could have said that they didn’t see a conflict arising between Lou and Milton; it was common sense.

I also think that Silva will be released by the end of spring training.

Matt: I actually strongly disagree. The Cubs made a mistake in signing Bradley, but by more or less giving him to Mariners, they’ve re-doubled their blunder. Very little about their offseason makes any sense. They signed Rudy Jaramillo seemingly for the express purpose of working with Bradley, then traded Bradley for Carlos Silva, a pitcher who should never make another major-league start and gets paid EVEN MORE than Bradley. I honestly don’t believe in the logic of addition by subtraction and I also don’t believe in trading players at the nadir of their value. The Cubs outfield situation remains pathetic (although I have modest hopes for Xavier Nady) and Bradley has more upside than anybody in the current rotation (with the exception of Soriano). There was at least a slim chance that Bradley could be a contributor on a contending team, perhaps even a major contributor. There is zero chance that Carlos Silva can.

Jeff: Great points, Matt — no question the Cubs gave up a lot in terms of on-field productivity…..but team chemistry is so important during that 162 (or more, if you’re good) game season — I think the Cubs just got to that point that every team gets to with him….he just ain’t worth it — how else could you explain them taking on the toad that is Silva and his price tag?

Didn’t Bradley get hurt once arguing with an ump?? I’m just saying…..

Question 2 – Will Alfonso Soriano bounce back?

Jeff: Clearly, his best day are behind him, but a 40 HR season isn’t out of the question — he would strike out a ton and have to hit around .250 to do it, however….to be a more useful player for the Cubs, he needs to be somewhere much closer to .300 (and strikeout only half-a-ton) and in that 28-32 HR range — and that is exactly what I expect Lou to get out of him.

Chih-Hsun: Anyone who goes to the cubs is on a downhill career path. Honestly, who goes to the cubs to win? (Ha-ha, sorry I had to throw that in there)

Daniels: Soriano’s going to be 34 this year and has drastically declined since he turned 30. I’ll play the odds and assume that he’s pretty much done. Once guys turn fragile and start becoming a DL mainstay, they don’t really bounce back. Good thing he’s making $18M/year until he turns 38. Strange that he’s always left out of the conversation when writers talk about how every guy who moves from the AL to the NL immediately becomes Babe Ruth.

Trent: Soriano gets a bit of a bad rap and part of that is what Seybold pointed out: he was hitting leadoff but is a player that should be anywhere but the top of the order now. If they put him in a position where he can hit for power, 30 homers is a reasonable expectation. .300 might be a bit of a stretch, but put him somewhere around .275-.280 and have 30 homers and maybe 80-90 RBI. Anything above that and you could label it a bounce back year.

Jeff: .300 would be a miracle!! Somewhere close to it is realistic, I believe…..like in that .285-.290ish range

Daniels: .300 for Soriano is an enormous stretch. He’s done it exactly once and it wasn’t even his 40/40 year. Free swinging, high strikeout guys don’t age well. As soon as they lose a split second of reaction time, they fall off a cliff. I’m not saying that’s necessarily going to happen to Soriano this year, but that’s the rule more than the exception. It’s not like he’s going to suddenly learn plate discipline in the off-season.

Question 3 – Do the Cubs need an upgrade in the middle infield?

Matt: I’ve got a post going up this week speculating as to the Cubs plans for Starlin Castro. Last week, Moises Alou, who managed Castro in the Dominican Winter Leagues, told MLB Network he believed Castro would be in the majors by the end of this year (even though he is currently just 19-years-old). There’s no doubt that Starlin is the shortstop of the future in Chicago (at least, if everything goes as planned), which explains why Jim Hendry resisted the temptation to pursue free agents like Orlando Hudson and Placido Polanco during the offseason. Ryan Theriot will move to second, a position he’s more suited to, and the Cubs will improve dramatically, defensively at least.

I doubt the Cubs will make the move on Opening Day. I think Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker have six to eight weeks to prove they can indeed be a productive platoon (their numbers prior to ’09 suggest they’re capable of it). If not, we’ll get our first look at Castro around the All-Star Break. I think, like Elvis Andrus, he won’t hit for much power when he arrives, but, unlike Andrus, he’s hit for a high average at every level and can probably be expected to be at least a .280-.290 hitter as a rookie.

Daniels: They could, but you should be able to survive with one of your middle infielders being a poor hitter. The Cubs’ last season had a myriad of problems, but Mike Fontenot’s lack of hitting ability wasn’t the biggest one. That said, if they can get an equally good defensive shortstop that is not an automatic out, there’s no reason you wouldn’t do it. I can’t claim any knowledge of the Cubs’ minor league system so I’ll defer to those with knowledge of Starlin Castro.

Eugene: As a division rival of the Cubs, I like the middle infield. Theriot isn’t a shortstop, so there is always a liability there (see 2006-2008 Aaron Miles at short). He’s much better suited at second, which would keep Fontenot out of the line up. Starlin Castro could be the answer, but it depends on his spring performance.

Question 4 – How will the Cubs finish this year?

Matt: Alas, this is the most dangerous question for a Cubs fan. This is still pretty much the same team who EVERYBODY chose to win the division (and even the pennant) in 2009. Healthy seasons from A-Ram, Zambrano, Soto, and the Fonz would be enough to put them right back in the hunt. So, of course, I’ll be cautiously optimistic when I’m hanging out with my buddies drinking Old Style on Opening Day, as usual. By July, however, my Cubs game ritual will probably involve sitting alone in my apartment with a bottle of Wild Turkey and trying to work up the nerve to prank-call Steve Bartman, as usual.

My “objective” prediction is more or less a repeat of last season: third place, behind the Cards and Brewers (though not necessarily in that order), with a record around .500.

Jeff: I see the Cubbies finishing 2nd in the division to St Louis, double digits back of wild-card contention — and remember kids, ‘CUBS’ stands for Completely Useless By September.

Eugene: I see them in second or third, depending on how Milwaukee plays. It will also depend on health, as Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Soriano are all getting older and more fragile.

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