It’s official: the season is over. “Wait ’til next year” is here. Sorry Cubs fans, but there just isn’t anyway around it. The Cubs are seven games back of the Cardinals and six-point-five back from the Wild Card lead. It’s not unheard of for a team to charge back, especially since there are around 40 games left in the season, but the Cubs are not one of those teams. This season has been a waste, one that can be summed up in three words: injuries, bad offfense.
Here’s the real kicker, when you watch the 2009 Cubs limp to the finish line and take an early vacation, only to watch their division rivals try and add another World Series banner to their outfield, understand that you are essentially watching the 2010 Cubs as well.
With the current roster there’s virtually no room for change, even if Cubs fans will be calling for the heads of all three outfielders. For all intensive purposes, I expect your 2010 opening day roster to look like this:
C Geovany Soto
1B Derrek Lee
2B John Baker
SS Ryan Theriot
3B Aramis Ramirez
LF Alfonso Soriano
CF Kosuke Fukudome
RF Milton Bradley
SP Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Tom Gorzelanny
Sure, some of the bullpen will be gone. The Kevin Gregg experiment will officially be over, Carlos Marmol, Angel Guzman and Sean Marshall will be back and there will certainly be some new faces – some veteran, some greenhorns.
But the reality is that’s your opening day roster. Why? First the outfield:
- The Cubs owe Soriano around $90 million over the next five years. Five. If you don’t like how he plays now, all I can say is get used to it. There isn’t a team in the league that would touch his albatross contract even if he didn’t have a full no-trade clause (which he does).
- Fukudome is signed for the next two years (at around $13 million per year) with no trade protection in his contract.
- Bradley still has two years left on his three-year, $30 million contract.
That’s $136 million committed to the outfield. Unless Jim Hendry pulls something rather huge and useful out of his white ass, there’s just no way those players are getting moved. Bradley has the best chance, but I highly doubt that’ll happen before opening day next year.
- 1B & 3B: Lee and Ramirez are staying put. Period. Although, this is Lee’s last year. It would seem a no-brainer that he’s a top priority to be re-signed, but that’ll happen later.
- SS: Same goes for Theriot. Theriot is one of two starters that is home grown talent, and there is a point of pride with every organization to keep those players around. Besides, Theriot has been a consistent, quality starter since nailing down the SS job, and the same can’t be said for other people (I’m looking at you Mike Fontenot)
- 2B: This could be one area where change could occur, but the fact of the matter is there is a dearth of talent at 2B. Orlando Hudson and Placido Polanco are the best two-baggers that will be free agents in 2010, and are they really that much of an upgrade over anything the Cubs have at this point?
- C: There’s no way the Cubs are going to look for a change in catcher after Soto’s year in 2008. Even with this abortion of a season as evidence that perhaps Soto can’t continue to be an offensive powerhouse, 2008 combined with his youth will give him at least one more year behind the plate.
Then there’s the pitching:
- Zambrano is signed through 2013.
- Dempster is locked up until 2012 (If I had money on any pitcher who will plummet in quality similar to what Soriano did this season I’m looking right at Mr. Dempster).
- Ted Lilly is signed through next season (Lee and Lilly are two priority re-signings after next season. But their contracts need to stay down in the number of years since Lee and Lilly are both 33).
- There’s no way Randy Wells isn’t going anywhere after this season’s ROY-level performance.
- Rich Harden becomes a free agent after this season, and I just can’t see him re-signing with the Cubs, especially if Gorzelanny can continue to show that he belongs in the rotation. I like Gorzelanny, he’s a young, left-handed arm that seems to have a good head on his shoulder — why doesn’t he deserve a spot in the rotation next year?
There you have it. Your 2010 Chicago Cubs. Plan your day accordingly.
2010 is going be a watershed year for the Cubs — definitively they will find out whether or not their team can stay healthy and be productive. If 2010 resembles anything like 2009, then there’s just no way the Cubs will be able to compete for a World Series for some time. All things considered, it’s 2010 or bust: and there is some wiggle room to be optimistic. Fukudome has been better this year than last, that trend could continue. Ramirez and Soto will have an opportunity to stay healthy all year. Bradley won’t be under such a bright spotlight and Soriano will bet 6th from day one which should help his production.
2010. 102 years after there last World Series. If they don’t win it then, we all might have to wait another 102 years.