Cubs fans would have a lot to celebrate if I could pull this off.
In mid-October, I was challenged by a friend/reader to rebuild the Cubs. It’s not as if that is a new concept to me, seeing that I’ve played this game on PlayStation, PlayStation3, XBOX and XBOX 360 many times before. However, the catch was to do it fairly, so not to take advantage of dumb computer GM’s that don’t appreciate young talent.
Starting Point: The Cubs’ Opening Day payroll was $134,809,000, and I was given the opportunity to bump the payroll to $150 million after negotiating out of the original $145 million projection.
When building this team, my goal was to patch some holes with long-term solutions without spending too much money. It was a difficult task, and one that will likely go unrewarded.
When you're done, I'd appreciate your criticisms in the comments section. Thank you. And without further to do, the 2010 Cubs, as pieced together by yours truly using The Hartwig Plan.
1) Milton Bradley: To trade or not to trade?
For a guy who hit .257/.378/.397 in 2009, you wonder why his name is being thrown around in trade rumors. Oh, that's right, he's batshit crazy. The most logical place for Bradley to land is in Texas, where he would be reunited with Rangers manager Ron Washington and the designated hitter position.
In return, the Cubs would acquire right-handed starting pitcher Kevin Millwood, who is slated to make $12 million in 2010, which will be the last year of his contract. Obviously, the Cubs would either have to chip in a prospect or cash to make up for Bradley's 2011 season, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.
Millwood went 13-10 with a 3.67 earned run average in 31 starts. He and Rangers management seemed to be at odds toward the end of the '09 season as he came closer to reaching contract escalators for a team that was out of the playoff push and was looking to save money in the process. A one-year stint in Chicago could benefit Millwood and the Cubs, while Bradley's return to the heart of the Texas line-up just might be what the doctor ordered for Crazy Uncle Milton.
2) John Grabow: long term deal, arbitration, or not?
This one is too easy, it doesn't need a lengthy explanation -- especially since both sides are inching toward a deal. Jim Hendry should put a two-year offer worth $6 million on the table. If it isn't accepted, you take Grabow to arbitration. And if he signs elsewhere, collect your draft picks and use them wisely.
3) Who's on second? Jeff Baker, Mike Fontenot, Aaron Miles or somebody entirely different?
Neither Mike Fontenot nor Aaron Miles could start for my rec league softball team. Jeff Baker is the top candidate if the Cubs do not bring someone in from the outside.
I plan on signing Chone Figins to a three-year deal and placing him at second base. His speed at the top of the order adds a dimension the Cubs haven't had in a long time -- if ever.
4) Do you make room for Jake Fox on this team somehow or do you look to trade him?
Jake Fox is a serviceable player, but is more suited for the American League. I would trade his bat for a hard-throwing bullpen arm. In an attempt to find a team looking to fit my criteria, I found the Boston Red Sox, a squad that could use a right-handed thumper opposite of David Ortiz. In return, I ask for righty Manny Delcarmen.
5) Which positions are in most dire need of an upgrade?
The Cubs need help at second base, in the outfield and in the bullpen. For the solutions to those problems, read the upcoming transactions.
6) Name three (or more) free agents you’d consider, at a price.
- Sign 2B Chone Figgins to a three-year deal worth $30 million. 10: $8MM, 11: $10MM, 12: $12MM. The Cubs need to add speed at the top of the order, and even though he slumped in the playoffs, I think Figgy is a game-changer at the top of the order.
- Sign P Ben Sheets to a one-year deal worth $6.5 million (plus incentives: $200K first day on active 25-man roster, $50K for making NL All-Star team, $75K for NLCS MVP, $100K for WS MVP, $100K for finishing in the top three of Cy Young voting, $40K per day on active 25-man roster from July 15-October 3, $100K for NL Comeback Player of the Year. Sheets missed all of 2009 and is a perfect candidate for rotation insurance. He's familiar with the NL Central and has a proven track record of being nearly un-hittable at times. Maybe pitching half of a season would do him good.
- Sign P Billy Wagner to a one-year deal worth $7 million (plus incentives: $50K for making NL All-Star team. $75K for NLCS MVP, $125K for Rolaids Relief Man, $100K for NL Comeback Player of the Year). Wagner will be out to prove himself on a make-good, one-year deal.
- Re-sign P John Grabow to a two-year deal worth $6 million. 10: $2.75MM, 11: $3.25. Cubs get Grabby -- again.
7) Name three (or more) realistic trades that could improve the Cubs.
- Cubs trade RF Milton Bradley to Texas Rangers for P Kevin Millwood. Bradley returns to Texas, where he had his best year under manager Ron Washington. The Cubs get Kevin Millwood, an expiring contract that serves as some insurance in case Ted Lilly doesn't return as soon as expected. The Cubs would pick up $6MM of Bradley's $10MM remaining contract in 2011 after Rangers chip in $1MM of Millwood's 2010 salary.
- Cubs trade Ps Jeff Samardzija, Jeff Stevens, SS Ryan Theriot and OF Tyler Colvin to Detroit Tigers for Curtis Granderson. The idea for this trade stems from this blog I wrote after reading this news story that suggested the Tigers could possibly trade Granderson. I think it's a steep price for the Cubs, who give up a pair of quality young arms, an up-and-coming outfielder and a more-than-serviceable (especially by Detroit's standards) middle infielder, all while clearing up $36.75MM of salary. (And yes, it ushers in the Starlin Castro era at shortstop)
- Cubs trade UTIL Jeff Fox to Boston Red Sox for P Manny Delcarmen. The Cubs don't have a position for Fox. The Red Sox have an abundance of bullpen arms. Fair trade?
I accomplished all of my goals going into this thing.
- Get rid of Crazy Uncle Milton? Check.
- Re-sign Grabby? Check.
- Acquire speedy second baseman? Check.
- Add bullpen arms? Check.
- Pick up rotation insurance? Check.
- Bring in center fielder that is actually good at playing center field? Check.
- Inject anabolic steroid? Um. Un-check?
Alright, so I didn't do it all. The Cubs are still missing a power-hitting left handed bat, but I think Granderson can get back to the days of 20 homers, 20 doubles and possibly 10-15 triples even though Wrigley is far from a triples park. Some of his gap doubles might turn into home runs at Wrigley. Just keep him away from lefties (.183 BA in 2009) and Lou Piniella's offense will be fine.
Your 2010 team should look a little something like this:
C - Geovany Soto - $575K
C - Koyie Hill - $475K+
1B - Derrek Lee - $13MM
2B - Chone Figgins - $8MM (signed via free agency)
SS - Starlin Castro $402K
3B - Aramis Ramirez - $15.75MM
IF - Aaron Miles - $2.7MM
IF - Andres Blanco - $400K
LF - Alfonso Soriano - $18MM
CF - Curtis Granderson - $5.5 (acquired via trade)
RF - Kosuke Fukudome - $13MM
OF - Sam Fuld - $402K
UTIL - Jeff Baker - $415K+
SP - Carlos Zambrano - $17.875MM
SP - Ryan Dempster - $12.5MM
SP - Ted Lilly - $12MM
SP - Kevin Millwood - $11MM (acquired via trade)
SP - Ben Sheets - $6.5MM
SP - Randy Wells - $402K
SP - Tom Gorzelanny - $433K+
RP - Billy Wagner - $7MM+ (signed as a free agent)
RP - Carlos Marmol - $575K+
RP - Sean Marshall - $450K+
RP - Angel Guzman - $422K+
RP - John Grabow - $2.75MM (re-signed via free agency)
RP - Esmailin Caridad - $400K
RP - Manny Delcarmen $476K
In: Chone Figgins (free agent), Billy Wagner (free agent) Ben Sheets (free agent), Curtis Granderson (traded from Detroit), Manny Delcarmen (traded from Boston), Kevin Millwood (traded from Texas)
Out: Milton Bradley - $9MM (traded to Texas), Jake Fox $402K (traded to Boston), Ryan Theriot - $500K (traded to Detroit), Jeff Stevens $400K (traded to Detroit), Jeff Samardzija - $2.5MM (traded to Detroit), Aaron Heilman - $1.625MM (non tendered), Neal Cotts $1.1MM (non-tendered)
You're everyday line-up: Granderson (CF), Figgins (2B), Lee (1B), Ramirez (3B), Fukudome (RF), Soriano (LF), Castro (SS), Soto (C)
All for the low, low price of $151,420,000. This team wins a division as constructed, right? Alright, well, I went over the budget by a million -- it's not as if the Cubs aren't gonna raise ticket prices anyway.
So, how did I do? Is there anything you would do differently? Was I fair? Comments go in the comments section. Duh.