Thursday, November 11, 2004

Cubs Off-Season Guide Part IV of VI

The Bullpen's turn and although we all want a major overhaul, you're going to see that it's virtually impossible with our current contracts. I'm going to format this a little different and not really go into each guy and look at the bullpen more as whole unit.

Committed contracts
LaTroy Hawkins - $3.5 million, player option for '06 at 3.5 mil plus playing incentives
Ryan Dempster - $2 million
Mike Remlinger - $3.8 million
Joe Borowski - $2.3 million

Arbitration Eligible
Kyle Farnsworth - 2004 salary was $1.4 million

So depending if you go with a 7 or 6 man bullpen and if they end up offering Farnsworth arbitration, the Cubs need to fill anywhere from 1-3 spots. Now everybody wants us to sign an established closer after the Hawkins debacle. but I'm telling you the cubbard is bare people.

Available FA's are:
Armando Benitez
Troy Percival
Billy Koch (sometimes I make myself laugh)
Robb Nen (assuming he's actually healthy)
Bob Wickman (if we were getting the 2002 version but um no)
Dustin Hermanson (I suppose he quallifies as a closer)

Benitez would be a respectable pickup but we have other roles to fill and I just don't think we have the money. Percival I'm telling you is damaged goods. He's lost a good 4-5 miles off his fastball, his K rate is in a massive decline and he's a flyball pitcher which is something you don't want in Wrigley. Taking a flyer on Nen isn't the worst idea I ever heard but I'm haven't heard anything about him yet this offseason.

I have heard rumors about the following group as possible trades: Eric Gagne, Danny Baez, Danny Kolb & Shawn Chacon.

Who wouldn't want Gagne but the rumor is it would cost us one of our big 3 (Wood, Prior or Zambrano) and well that's a bad idea. Tampa is shopping Baez, no word on if the Cubs are interested, the Kolb rumor I came across at The Cub Reporter that the Cubs discussed it at an organizational meeting and although his K/BB rate is atrocious(1.33 career) as well as his K/9 rate(5.57 career), his extreme groundball nature(3.11 G/F career) could be useful if we put together a bench of good late inning defensive replacements. Shawn Chacon is a nightmare, even outside of Coors field.

So what should we do? What almost every other team does to find a closer and that is find someone who isn't a closer. 99.9% of all closers did not start their careers as closers. Awhile back I posted these guys at some potential trade options (none of which I know are available):

B.J. Ryan 3.49 K/BB 12.62 K/9
Brendan Donnelly 3.73 K/BB 12.00 K/9
Juan Rincon 3.31 K/BB 11.63 K/9
Mike Gonzalez 9.17 K/BB 11.42 K/9
R. Betancourt 4.22 K/BB 10.26 K/9
A. Otsuka 3.35 K/BB 10.13 K/9
S. Linebrink 3.19 K/BB 8.89 K/9

But anyone who can dominate in the late innings meaning a K/BB rate over 3.00 and a K/9 rate over 9 can probably be a closer. Do we need to go down the list of teams who found closers from within or by taking a chance on someone else's junk.
Okay here we go...

Joe Nathan
Brad Lidge
John Smoltz
Eric Gagne
on and on and on

See where I'm going....anyway I don't know who the closer will be next year but I'm guessing it's not a big name Free Agent.

Our other concern is to fill the hole that Kent Mercker's departure should leave us and that's a legitimate lefty out of the pen. Remlinger does not qualify cause he's actually better against righties than lefties (I wish Baker knew this) and although I'm not sold that a team needs one, having one is something Dusty Baker needs otherwise we'll see more of Remlinger in that siutation. Steve Kline is the best option out there but it looks like the Yankees want him. Our very own Will Ohman might be a good choice as well.

My best guess at next year's bullpen:
Mike Remlinger
LaTroy Hawkins
Joe Borowski
Ryan Dempster
Will Ohman
Kyle Farnsworth
John Leicester, Todd Wellemeyer or Mike Wuertz

Not the overhaul we're hoping for and when I summarize this whole off-seson guide, you'll see we DO NOT have the money to do much here. Farnsworth might get traded but most of his peripherals say he should be a good pitcher and he has been 2 out of the last 4 seasons. As for the closer unless a trade brings us one, I think we have to hope either Borowski finds his 2002-2003 form or Dempster can somehow find the touch(although his atrocious walk rate frightens me terribly and he may actually be our 5th starter).