Sorry for the invective down below, and maybe I’m just blind Cubs fan, but I can’ resist letting this go.
I think Phil Rogers is on the ball and pretty good, but this is crap, and while I don’t think the pen is very good and may hold the team back as well, this is crap.
When Lou Piniella’s first Cubs team went to the playoffs, it featured a bullpen that included $15.3 million in relief talent — a figure that easily could have been $20 million if Kerry Wood hadn’t been a post-surgery bargain that season. The steady drain of experience since then has been telling, hurting the Cubs a year ago and this season making it hard to take them seriously in their attempt to catch the Cardinals.
Since the end of 2007, the Cubs have shifted Ryan Dempster from the bullpen to the rotation, lost Wood, Bob Howry and Kevin Gregg to free agency ad traded away Scott Eyre, Michael Wuertz and Aaron Heilman. The only experienced reliever they’ve added in that time who is still around is lefty John Grabow.
Somehow, none of these pitching trades nor the Mark DeRosa deal has brought any pitching help (although lefty John Gaub has the arm to develop into a long-term big-leaguer). The Cubs came to camp thin and have had that situation exposed by Angel Guzman’s shoulder injury.
General manager Jim Hendry has been known to pull rabbits out of hats, but March isn’t the best time to stock your shelves. The choices available include signing an out-of-work veteran like John Smoltz or trading for one of the few available arms on the market. You’d have to pay heavily in terms of talent for the likes of Jason Frasor, Heath Bell, Brad Ziegler or Wood or take a financial risk for somebody like the White Sox’s Scott Linebrink.
My take: When the Cubs had Howry, Gregg, Eyre, Heilman and even Wuertz, they were crap. Crap. How do you get good pitching in return for crap? Even Wuertz sucked when he was in Chicago. And Wood sucked last year for the Indians. Yes, they are thin in the pen, but it’s not because they let too many good arms go. None of those arms were good. None.
And the Cubs shelled out huge money for Eyre and Howry and prospects for Gregg. If you follow sabermetrics at all, all the analysts say to go with young and cheap arms in the setup roles to save money for your club. Statisically, paying huge bucks for relievers is a waste of resources. Yes, they need to get a little lucky with some guys. But all teams do. What, should they have given the three-year deal to Brandon Lyon like the Astros? Anybody who knows baseball knows that was the worst deal of the offseason. I’m not saying they’ll be good or the pen will be anything other than a disaster. But it’s not because the Cubs let Heilman, Gregg go and moved Demps (and starting pitching is, um, kinda important).
This is stupid.