Excitement is the word of the week, and it is likely an understated feeling for most Cub fans. A lot of action took place in signing new Cubs skipper Joe Maddon. I am excited for what Maddon brings to the clubhouse, the development of players, and in-game management. Like Renteria, Maddon speaks fluent Spanish, a must these days, and players love playing for him. Maddon’s signing signals a new phase that the management is ready to contend.
Despite the demolition and remodeling of parts of Wrigley Field, Maddon’s signing should come with a new banner that says, “Now Open for Business.” It is a signal to fans and free agents alike. While money is the biggest incentive to sign anyplace in the MLB, the idea of playing for Maddon is an extra incentive. By hiring Maddon, the Cubs took on a new identity this week for 2015.
The Cubs released a press statement yesterday on the whole process. To me, the process was a little strange but Theo put a spin on it, although I don’t think he needed to. Most fans understand that Maddon is a huge upgrade from Renteria. While Renteria had his upside (good clubhouse, player development), he also lacked what I think are good managerial skills including managing a pitching staff, particularly bullpen overuse, and over managing hitting situations. I do not feel sorry for Rick Renteria in the slightest; he will be handsomely paid for the next two years, even if he does not accept another job – which he likely will. He knew the risk in taking a manager’s job, although I don’t think he thought it would end the way it did. He will get paid…and paid well.
I think the organization will be better off in the long run for hiring Maddon. With a new identity now in tow, the organization will parade Maddon in front of the media on Monday at 2:00. I will be teaching a computers class followed by taking one of my dogs to her final doggie class so I won’t get to see it live. The DVR has already been set for the opening press conference. On Thursday, I will be on the Larcher and Lorensen Sports Show on Blog Talk Radio (@LarcherLorensen) to discuss the signing, the press conference, free agency, and hopefully, the unspoken parade of pitching coming at Myrtle Beach and South Bend. To me, the presser on Monday should be the first of many media days this off season.
The Cubs have had their eye on this offseason for a while. The Soriano contract albatross is gone and the Cubs only have $38-40 million committed to salaries for next year. The free agent pickings for pitchers are plentiful while the outlook for outfielder help is anything but optimistic.
With a mostly young team making the minimum, the Cubs have money to spend. Lester tops that list. The Cubs could get another starter like Brandon McCarthy (my 2nd pick after Lester – McCarthy had a 2.89 ERA in 14 starts for the Yankees in the second half), Jason Hammel, Brandon Morrow, or Justin Masterson, I don’t see the organization losing a draft pick on James Shields or Max Scherzer whose signings come with compensation picks, in the Cubs case, a second round pick.
I do think the Cubs could go after two more arms for the bullpen. Lefty Andrew Miller was filthy this year. The 6’7” southpaw was dominating down the stretch for the Orioles with a 1.35 ERA in 25 games. The other pitcher the Cubs could go after is righty Luke Gregerson formerly of San Diego and Oakland. The 6’3” righty was solid for the A’s this year with a 2.12 ERA in 72 games. If the Cubs sign two starters, I think they only go after one reliever. Miller will have the higher price tag because he is lefty, and more than likely, he is the preference of the Cubs front office.
The Cubs also made a few roster moves this week by opening up the 40 man roster and doing some shuffling. Josh Vitters, Ryan Kalish, and Chris Valaika cleared waivers and were sent to Iowa’s roster. Pitchers James MacDonald and Kyuji Fujikawa were released while Carlos Villanueva became a free agent. A decision has yet to be made on pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada. With Ruggiano and Sweeny expected to be added to the 40 man from the Dl this next week, the roster stands at 39. Several moves still have to be made before the Rule 5 draft later this month. CJ Edwards will be added to the 40 man as he is rule 5 eligible. Space for free agents will also be made.
Cuts to the roster could include C John Baker and P Blake Parker. I would like to see the Cubs lose Edwin Jackson, and maybe even Travis Wood, but I don’t know if you can get much for them other than taking on a bad contract. I know the Braves have been mentioned in the past as having an interest in Jackson, but I don’t see the Braves trading the Cubs anything. As for Wood, I think he will stay even as a reliever.
I think the Cubs will continue to get younger with position players while adding veteran pitching and bench players. I don’t see the Cubs trading any of their young minor league assets at all this winter or even next summer. Addison Russell, to me, is an untouchable asset along with Bryant and CJ Edwards. By the middle of the summer, you might know more of what you have and I would expect a trade or two then. Until then, the identity of the team will be built around the ability of Maddon to mix the large numbers of young players with the veterans they acquire this winter.