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Tag:Carlos Pena
Posted on: March 4, 2012 8:29 pm
 

Injury roundup: Howard, Nix, Madson and more

Ryan HowardBy C. Trent Rosecrans

There is no timetable for Ryan Howard's return to the field after he suffered an infection near the site of his Achilles injury, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told reporters on Sunday.

Howard is currently in a walking boot and fighting the infection with antibiotics. Howard will keep the boot on his left leg for the next week to 10 days.

"Once we're comfortable with where the infection is at, we can be more aggressive with his rehab," Amaro said (DelawareOnline.com).

In other injury news from around baseball on Sunday:

• Phillies outfielder Laynce Nix is limited to pinch-hitting and DH roles while he deals with tightness in his hamstring. Nix is expected to be in competition for the Phillies' job in left field, but Philadelphia is being cautious with him. The left-handed Nix is also expected to play some first base in Howard's absence. [DelawareOnline.com]

• New Reds closer Ryan Madson has a "minor" elbow injury and hasn't appeared in either of the Reds' first two spring games.

"He has a little irritation in his arm," manager Dusty Baker said (MLB.com). "The doctor looked at him today. Hopefully he will be all right in the next couple of days."

• David Wright will sit out at least the first two games of the exhibition season with pain in his left ribcage. Wright is still working out with the team, but the team is being cautious.

"We're going to hold him out until he's asymptomatic," general manager Sandy Alderson told reporters. [New York Times]

• Marlins right-hander Anibal Sanchez will rest his shoulder two more days before determining when he can return to the mound.

"I want to make sure everything is fine," Sanchez said (Palm Beach Post). "We're early in spring training, no reason to rush. I want to make sure nothing is bothering me."

He felt soreness in his should after a bullpen on Friday.

• Plenty of injury news from Rays camp -- left-hander Matt Moore threw off the mound for the first time in more than a week on Saturday, and on Sunday said he felt "normal." The left-hander had suffered from a lower abdominal strain and expects to throw again Monday and batting practice on Thursday. He could appear in an exhibition game as early as next weekend. Third baseman Evan Longoria said his bruised right hand should be good enough for him to play Tuesday, if not Monday. First baseman Carlos Pena and DH Luke Scott will take BP on Monday and expect to play as soon as Tuesday, but at least sometime in the coming week. [Tampa Bay Times]

• Giants reliever Dan Runzler will meet with Dr. James Andrews on Monday to get a second opinion on how to treat his strained lat muscle. Runzler's initial diagnosis has him out three-to-four weeks. [San Francisco Chronicle]

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.

Posted on: January 20, 2012 11:30 am
Edited on: January 20, 2012 12:16 pm
 

Carlos Pena agrees to re-join Rays

Carlos Pena

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Carlos Pena is returning to the Rays, CBSSports.com Insider Jon Heyman reports. Pena will make $7.25 million from the one-year deal, according to Heyman. Pena made $10 million from the Cubs last year in what agent Scott Boras called a "pillow contract," which would allow him to have a big year at Wrigley Field and then sign a multi-year deal this winter. That didn't happen.

FREE AGENT TRACKER

Pena, 33, hit .225/.357/.462 with 28 home runs for the Cubs last season. He hit just .196 in 2010 for the Rays, but slugged 28 homers and actually had an OPS+ of 103 despite his low batting average.

Pena played for the Rays from 2007-2010, hitting .238/.368/.516 with 144 home runs in his four seasons with the Rays, finishing ninth in MVP voting in his first two seasons with the Rays and making the All-Star team in 2009.

Last season Casey Kotchman was the Rays first baseman, and while he hit .306/.378/.422 for Tampa Bay last season, he had just 10 home runs. The addition of Pena would add extra pop to the Rays' lineup over the free-agent Kotchman.

Heyman noted the Indians were interested in both Pena and Kotchman. With Pena off the board, Cleveland would be a logical landing spot for Kotchman.

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Posted on: January 16, 2012 6:26 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2012 6:40 pm
 

Yankees might bring back Hideki Matsui

By Matt Snyder

In an interesting twist of fate, the Yankees are going to limit spending. Yes, when it comes to grabbing a designated hitter -- to put in the spot vacated by the now-traded Jesus Montero -- the Bronx Bombers are only going to spend between $1 million and $2 million on a DH, reports CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman.

Heyman also notes that won't be enough to get Carlos Pena and probably can't grab former Yankee Johnny Damon either. One guy they could probably afford? The 2009 World Series MVP, Hideki Matsui. And Heyman reports there has been some contact between Matsui's representatives and his former ballclub.

FREE AGENT TRACKER

Matsui is 37 and coming off easily the worst season of his career. He hit just .251/.321/.375 with 12 homers and 72 RBI in 141 games. He's definitely on the downside of his career, but he hit well for the Angels in 2010. Plus, playing half his games in Oakland last season sure didn't help matters. He hit a dreadful .236/.323/.340 at home.

Also to consider, if the Yankees do sign Matsui, the differences in how the home parks play will be significant. Being a left-handed hitter, Matsui would benefit greatly from playing half his games in Yankee Stadium -- a venue that is really easy on lefties and where he's hit 17 home runs in 299 career regular-season at-bats.

Further, the Yankees know Matsui can deal with playing in New York and is familiar with many of the current Yankees.

So, yes, this move would make perfect sense for both sides.

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Posted on: December 21, 2011 12:35 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 6:13 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Texas Rangers

Mark Teixeira

By C. Trent Rosecrans


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

The Rangers are in an interesting position in the franchise's history -- no longer a middle-of-the-road team, the Rangers have turned themselves into one of the game's biggest players. The team has reached the last two World Series with a mixture of homegrown players (Ian Kinsler, C.J. Wilson, Alexi Ogando), savvy trades (sending Mark Teixeira to Atlanta for a haul that included Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz, plus the deal with the Reds getting Josh Hamilton) and big-ticket free-agents (Adrian Beltre). It's tough to argue with the results, as the Rangers have positioned themselves into becoming one of the top teams in baseball and don't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Lineup

1. Ian Kinsler, SS
2. Craig Gentry, CF
3. Mark Teixeira, 3B
4. Carlos Pena, 1B
5. Travis Hafner, DH
6. Edwin Encarnacion, 2B
7. Laynce Nix, RF
8. John Mayberry, LF
9. Taylor Teagarden, C

Starting Rotation

1. C.J. Wilson
2. John Danks
3. Derek Holland
4. Colby Lewis
5. Ryan Dempster

Bullpen

Closer - Joaquin Benoit
Set up - Darren Oliver, Nick Masset, Scott Feldman, Jesse Chavez, Yoshinori Tateyama
Long - Tommy Hunter

Notable Bench Players

Ivan Rodriguez will be in discussion for the Hall of Fame when his career ends, but he's now a backup catcher and could be a good one. You have a pair of first baseen in Justin Smoak and Mitch Moreland who aren't going to strike fear into too many pitchers, as well as two outfielders probably better defensively or as pinch runners in Jason Bourgeois and Scott Podsednik.

What's Good?

The rotation is deep -- in addition to the five listed, you could also throw in R.A. Dickey, Aaron Harang and Edinson Volquez. And while there's no real shut-down closer, there are some very good bullpen arms, and the list above doesn't include Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Danny Herrera.

What's Not?

Besides Kinsler and Teixeira, the lineup is suspect. And the defense is worse. The outfield is kind of a hodgepodge, while the infield is a disaster with only Carlos Pena playing in his usual position. While Teixeira hasn't played third base since his rookie year in 2003, Kinsler has never played shortstop, nor has Encarnacion ever played second base -- but there just wasn't a whole lot of options. The outfield doesn't have the likes of Hamilton or Nelson Cruz to help out, either.

Comparison to real 2011

Would this team wind up in World Series? Not bloody likely. The pitching is fine and even maybe an slight upgrade to the team that won the American League pennant again in 2011, but that lineup is demonstratively worse. The Rangers were third in baseball in runs and second in OPS, and without Hamilton, Cruz, Mike Napoli, Michael Young and Beltre, this squad isn't going to do anything close to that. Teixeira is a good player -- and Pena could put up big homer numbers in that ballpark -- but those losses from the real squad are just too much to overcome. This team is maybe a .500 squad, at best, and that's only because of the depth in the pitching staff.

Next: St. Louis Cardinals

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Posted on: December 8, 2011 10:52 am
Edited on: December 8, 2011 11:06 am
 

What's next for the Cardinals?



By Matt Snyder


DALLAS -- A Cardinals legend is leaving St. Louis and headed to Los Angeles, as Albert Pujols has signed with the Angels. For many, the main question here is, where do the Cardinals go from here?

There are several moving parts. Let's sort through them.

• As far as first base, the Cardinals already had a backup plan. Lance Berkman can shift right back to first, where he's best suited defensively anyway. This eliminates an awful defensive hole in the outfield, though it is obviously a defensive downgrade at first base, as Pujols is one of the best in the game. It was very unlikely the Cardinals would pursue Prince Fielder or even a lesser free agent first baseman like Carlos Pena before we knew about the Allen Craig injury. With the injury, do the Cardinals get hasty and go large after Fielder? It doesn't seem like a good bet, but we do know the Cardinals had a truckload of money they were about to spend and now haven't been able to do so. So feel free to speculate away.

MLB Winter Meetings
• It's entirely possible this changes the landscape for free agent shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Multiple reports had Rollins close to signing with the Phillies, but instead his agent didn't meet with them Wednesday night. Interestingly enough, Rollins' agent is Dan Lozano. Yes, the same Dan Lozano who represents Pujols. And the Cardinals have a need at shortstop ... and for a leadoff hitter. They were said to be interested in Rollins a bit ago, but obviously all efforts were focused on Pujols until Thursday morning. He's gone now, though, so we may very well see Rollins get a nice offer from the Cardinals. Maybe even a panic-type deal. There is still a feeling Rollins is headed back to Philly, but the Pujols signing very much affects the market for the All-Star shortstop.

• In the outfield, the Cardinals now have a predicament. They were set to go with Berkman, Jon Jay and Matt Holliday. If Pujols left, Berkman would slide to first base and Craig would become the everyday right fielder. The problem is, Craig is likely out until May. And you never know how players will bounce back from knee surgeries. What if there are setbacks? So this poses a big problem. It looks like it's Skip Schumaker in right, for now, and there isn't really much better the Cardinals can do -- assuming their free agent focus turns to Rollins, which I fully expect.

• One last thing, we have to remember the Cardinals are getting back a healthy Adam Wainwright. They won the World Series last season without their ace. And now he's back. So the starting pitching will be improved.

And it better be, because the Cardinals just lost the best player of the last decade.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 25, 2011 11:00 am
Edited on: October 25, 2011 4:49 pm
 

Free-agent position rankings: Top-heavy 1B

Fielder, Pujols

By Evan Brunell


For all news, check out the CBSSports.com free agency tracker.

The first-base crop of free agents is extremely top-heavy, boasting the best player in the game in Albert Pujols. Even without Pujols, the first-base list would still be star-studded, as 27-year-old Prince Fielder is also hitting the market and should command a sizable deal. However, after that, it drops off significantly, and by the end of the top 10 list, we're looking at someone who hit .194.

Pujols1. Albert Pujols: What more can you say about Pujols that hasn't been said already? He's the best hitter the 21st century has seen, and he may hold that mantle for quite a while. Pujols may be 31, but that shouldn't stop him from commanding a hefty contract given his strong bounceback after starting the year poorly, plus his dazzling defense. There's been a lot of talk about Pujols' failings in dealing with the media, but neither Pujols nor whichever team he ends up with will care much about his approach to the media. The team will care about homers. Pujols will care about money and winning. The media is just a sideshow.
Potential teams: Cardinals, Cubs, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Mariners, Nationals, Orioles, and because they have money: Yankees, Red Sox

Fielder2. Prince Fielder: Fielder is four years younger than Pujols, but he'll struggle to match what Pujols gets -- not just because Pujols is an elite, once-in-a-generation hitter (which, admittedly, Fielder could become), but because there are conditioning issues with his weight that lend comparisons to a late-career breakdown like Mo Vaughn. However, the lefty has appeared in 485 of a possible 486 regular-season games over the last three years, so it's hard to get too worked up about it. He's going to have a robust market and may even sign in advance of Pujols.
Potential teams: Same as Pujols -- Cardinals, Cubs, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Mariners, Nationals, Orioles, and because they have money: Yankees, Red Sox

Cantu3. Carlos Pena
: Pena can hit balls a long way. It's too bad he can't make contact regularly. But there are far worse first-baseman one could have, and getting a 30-homer player with strong defense and leadership skills is something most teams will kill for; Pena will get a healthy contract this year wherever he ends up. Whichever teams lose out on Pujols and Fielder will gun for Pena, so his market figures to be late-developing and it may be into January before he signs anywhere.
Potential teams: Cubs, Dodgers, Rays, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Orioles, Indians, Twins

Lee4. Derrek Lee
: It looked as if Lee was heading the way of Vladimir Guerrero and the other aging power-hitters as of late after beginning the year in a tough spot with Baltimore. Fortunately for Lee, he got dealt to the Pirates at the trade deadline and that reinvigorated him to the point where he should be able to scrape up a starting job somewhere this winter, although Lee may struggle to land with a top-flight contender. The Pirates would like for Lee to return to the team, but unless the Pirates offer one of the only starting jobs in the game, it's tough to see the righty returning.
Potential teams: Dodgers, Pirates, Rays, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs

Kotchman5. Casey Kotchman
: Kotchman was once a promising up-and-coming first baseman that was part of a Mark Teixeira trade, heading to Atlanta from Los Angeles. That's where his career frayed, and the Red Sox picked him up on a lark. No go. After a forgettable 2010 in Seattle, Kotchman somehow bounced back in Tampa Bay to rake up a .308/.372/.422 line. However, batting average seems to be what's driving Kotchman, and that's one of the least predictive statistics anyone can use. This upcoming season will determine a lot for Kotchman and his future, but no one should invest heavily in him. Unfortunately, after the year he had and with the poor free-agent class, he could haul in a sizable deal.
Potential teams: Rays, Dodgers, Pirates, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Astros, Indians, Orioles

Giambi6. Jason Giambi
: Giambi had a fantastic season as a pinch-hitter for the Rockies, helping to soften the blow when Todd Helton needed out of the lineup. Giambi smashed six doubles and 13 homers in just 152 plate appearances, an absolute wrecking ball off the bench. Who really knows what teams Giambi would sign with, but he'll certainly get plenty of offers to choose from. Wherever he lands, it'll be as a bench player although depending where he ends up, he could be in line to get at least 200 at-bats for the first time since 2009.
Potential teams: Rockies, Yankees, Athletics, Phillies

Overbay7. Lyle Overbay
: Overbay looked cooked as a starting first-baseman, but a resurgence in Arizona after leaving Pittsburgh will help matters significantly, even if he played in just 18 games for the Diamomdbacks. A team desperate for a stopgap at first base could entice Overbay, but it figures that his biggest market will come as a platoon first-baseman. A return to Arizona to mentor and play behind Paul Goldschmidt makes sense. If he wants a shot to start, it'll be with a team that doesn't quite harbor postseason aspirations -- but things have a funny way of working out once options dwindle.
Potential teams: Rays, Orioles, Phillies, Mets, Brewers, Cardinals, Pirates, Astros, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Padres

Gload8. Ross Gload
: Gload, whose career got a late start, has been plying his trade in the NL the last three seasons, primarily as a pinch-hitter for Philadelphia over the last two years. The first-baseman actually led the NL in pinch-hits in 2011, although you wouldn't know it given his poor statistics. Gload should have no problem getting a pinch-hit gig somewhere in the senior circuit this offseason and might even be enticed back to the AL if he can get a decent amount of playing time. Gload and the remaining names on the list could conceivably end up with any team, as their role would fit virtually anywhere as a backup.
Potential teams: Any team

Branyan9. Russell Branyan
: Branyan is a retirement candidate. At age 35, he took a significant step back as his trademark power was missing all year. While his .197 batting average isn't all that far from his .232 career average, that's not why teams kept playing him. No, Branyan got at-bats because of his power, but he only banged five homers and seven doubles in 146 plate appearances all season. Branyan hit 56 homers combined from 2009-10, so teams will still be willing to give him a shot. He could be entering the phase of his career where he hangs on for a few more season as a pinch-hitter in the NL.
Potential teams: Any team

Cantu10. Jorge Cantu
: Cantu's going to have a lot of trouble securing a major-league deal after the awful season he had, appearing in just 55 games for the Padres and hitting .194/.232/.285 before mercifully being released and finishing out the year in the Rockies' minor-league system.  It's quite the fall for the 29-year-old who hit 29 homers in 2008. Over the last two years, Cantu has regressed significantly and will have to play his way onto a team this spring on a minor-league cont
Potential teams: Any team

Others that could be first basemen: Mark DeRosa, Edwin Encarnacion, Eric Hinske, Conor Jackson, Xavier Nady Juan Rivera, Nick Swisher, Josh Willingham.

Free-agent position rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | DH | SP | RP

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: September 29, 2011 10:26 am
Edited on: September 29, 2011 10:37 am
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates

By Evan Brunell

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...


Team name: Pittsburgh Pirates
Record: 72-89, 23 games back in NL Central
Manager: Clint Hurdle
Best hitter: Andrew McCutchen: .260/.366/.459, 23 HR, 23 SB, 5.7 WAR
Best pitcher: Joel Hanrahan: 1-4, 68.1 IP, 1.83 ERA, 2.98 xFIP, 61 K, 16 BB, 40 SV

The Pirates entered 2011 knowing that a 19th straight losing season was going to happen. What they didn't know, however, was how badly their hearts would be ripped out of their chest accomplishing the feat. The Pirates have been a non-factor for almost two decades now, and only recently started to turn things around under the stewardship of GM Neal Huntington. While Huntington has improved the team, it's also been set back by a fruitless bounty for trading Jason Bay, and no pitchers really emerging as a bona fide ace.

2011 SEASON RECAP

The Pirates began 2011 by taking the opening game against the Cubs. The team would go on to finish April with a losing record, but it was just 13-15. The club was buoyed by Charlie Morton taking to his new delivery, emulating Roy Halladay, and posting a 3.00 ERA in five starts. Morton kicked into gear in May, though, with a 2.06 ERA in five starts, and so did the Pirates, splitting their games evenly for a .500 month. The best was yet to come, with a 16-13 June that put them on the map. Pittsburgh wouldn't stop winning, reaching seven games over .500 on July 19. That spurred the club to acquire Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee at the trade deadline.

And then, collapse. All that needs to be said is what the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review found from the Elias Sports Bureau:
In the modern history of Major League Baseball that began in 1900, no team has fared worse than these Pirates after holding first place through 100 games. Actually, no team has even come close. The Pirates' 16-40 record down the stretch makes for a .286 winning percentage. Next-worst was the 1977 Chicago Cubs, who went 60-40 to lead their division through 100 games, then went 21-41 for a .339 winning percentage.
2012 AUDIT

The Pirates will enter 2012 staring at the prospect of a 20th straight losing season, and the team understandably wants nothing to do with that. A major priority will be shoring up the rotation. Jeff Karstens and Charlie Morton appear to have pitched over their head and the team has gotten away with surprising health in the rotation as well, something that can't be counted on to repeat as well. On offense, the team has some amount of flexibility, but also needs to count on the core of McCutchen, Neil Walker, Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez to deliver.

Even as motivated as the team is to make upgrades and finish with a winning record, there is always the issue of money, which the team doesn't have in spades. Fortunately, though, the club is committed to less than $10 million in 2012, and only Hanrahan and Karstens figure to make leaps in salary through the arbitration process. Only Evan Meek and Charlie Morton are other arbitration-eligible players of consequence, and they won't earn a significant amount in their first year of eligibility. However, Huntington said 2012 will be about the young players, which makes complete sense. This is a team in the middle of building -- you don't just scrap that entirely. What the Pirates need to do is build around their young players.

FREE AGENTS

Ronny Cedeno, SS (club option)
Ryan Doumit, C
Derrek Lee, 1B
Ryan Ludwick, OF
Chris Snyder, C (club option)
Paul Maholm, SP (club option)

OFFSEASON FOCUS

There are . The Pirates need to shore up their rotation by bringing in another starter -- and this is on top of Maholm. If Maholm leaves, the wish list grows to two. In addition, the team really needs a better option at shortstop than Ronny Cedeno. He may be able to pick it, but he just can't hit. The team also needs a brand-new catching corps. Other than that, the prudent thing to do is allow this club to grow together.
  • The Pirates need to pick up Paul Maholm's $9.75 million club option. Maholm bounced back from a poor 2010 to post a 3.66 ERA over 26 starts. The 29-year-old isn't a great starter, but if he hit the free agent market, would receive a fairly hefty deal. The Pirates here have an opportunity to keep a vital cog of their rotation for just one more year. The ability to retain Maholm for only one year is worth the premium of a couple more million than he might otherwise get in free agency, as it will allow the team an extra year of evaluation, as well as the opportunity to trade him.
  • Although returning Maholm would seem to stuff the rotation with Maholm, James McDonald, Kevin Correia, Karstens and Morton, the team needs to build its pitching depth and shouldn't feel beholden to Correia to keep a rotation spot warm for him. The top names on the market in C.J. Wilson and Edwin Jackson don't figure to be interested, but there are other mid-rotation starters that would entertain Pittsburgh. Bruce Chen appears poised to get a solid two- or three-year deal from a club after two straight successful years in Kansas City. He's not a sexy name, but he would hold up well in the middle of the rotation and outperform Correia.
  • Decline the team option on Chris Snyder for $6.75 million and resign him. Before Snyder's season ended due to back problems, he was hitting .271/.376.,396. That's pretty good production, and Snyder can work his way back off the bench while giving the club a catcher with some familiarity with Pirate pitchers. The catcher's market in free agency is quite poor, and it's hard to imagine Ramon Hernandez picking Pittsburgh out of his suitors. The team could luck into Rod Barajas, but will most likely have to take a risk and sign someone like Kelly Shoppach or even bring Doumit back.
  • Resign Derrek Lee. This may not be easy to pull off as Lee probably won't want to return, but the Pirates need to try. Lee hit .337/.394/.583 and Clint Hurdle has already said he wants Lee back. Lee can provide veteran presence and leadership on a young team, which it desperately needs to adapt the right frame of mind toward finishing at least 81-81. If Lee won't return, the team should go after Carlos Pena. He's another player with a fantastic reputation who can pick it at first base defensively.. He can't hit for average, but can hit balls a far way.
  • Shortstop is the main area, and the Pirates really need to focus on adding value here. If Marco Scutaro hits the market, Pittsburgh should call him up with a two-year deal and hand him the starting shortstop gig, which would be enough to attract his attention. Given Scoot's hot end to the season, though, he would likely find a better opportunity. Clint Barmes would be a solid acquisition -- a rich man's Ronny Cedeno. (No, Jose Reyes won't happen.) Pittsburgh would be better served to go the trade route and try to find a better long-term option. If the Angels grab Reyes, the Pirates could deal for Erick Aybar, or take fliers on Alexi Casilla or Everth Cabrera. Finding a new shortstop won't be easy, but the Pirates need to do what they can to upgrade the position.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 27, 2011 6:50 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Chicago Cubs

By Matt Snyder

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Chicago Cubs
Record: 70-90, 24 games back in NL Central
Manager: Mike Quade
Best hitter: Aramis Ramirez -- .306/.360/.506, 25 HR, 92 RBI, 79 R, 35 2B
Best pitcher: Matt Garza -- 9-10, 3.35 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 189 K, 191 IP

After the 2008 season, the Cubs were in the middle of a bit of a golden era in the franchise. They had been division champions three times in a six-year span. That isn't saying much for a lot of teams, but this franchise hadn't had that kind of success since playing in the World Series four out of five seasons from 1906-1910. Alas, they were swept in the NLDS in 2008, despite having the best regular-season record in the National League, so general manager Jim Hendry decided to do some tinkering. The Cubs finished just five games over .500 in 2009 before coming in fifth place in 2010 and are currently in fifth again. And Hendry's out of a job, likely to be followed by Quade and some other coaches.

2011 SEASON RECAP

They were 9-8 and tied for first place after the first game of a doubleheader on April 20, but that was the high point in the standings. The Cubs would go on to lose six of seven games and never be a serious threat the rest of the way. They fell to 10 games back on June 4 and never got closer than nine back in the Central from that point forward. They actually moved up to fourth place September 19 for the first time since May 26, but the overwhelming majority of the season has been spent in fifth place, thanks to the lowly Astros. The biggest positives: Starlin Castro is well on his way to being a major-league star, Darwin Barney appears an adequate option at second base, Matt Garza had a good season, Sean Marshall is still great in middle-to-late inning relief and Jeff Samardzija finally doesn't look like a huge bust. The biggest negative is that this appears to be a badly flawed roster with not near enough help on the way from the minors.

2012 AUDIT

This is the toughest assignment of the R.I.P. series, because there's no way to know the direction of the ballclub until a new general manager is hired. The club is not immediately set up to compete, but there's a stipulation: With more than $50 million in payroll falling off before 2012 and even more off the books before '13, the Cubs could decide to be a major player in free agency. The franchise has enough money to grab, for example, Prince Fielder, C.J. Wilson and still have money left over to bolster the bullpen and find a fill-in at third base. On the other hand, many would argue that still isn't enough to make the Cubs immediate contenders in the National League. If the new GM agrees, he might be more in favor of leaving the payroll low for a season or two while building the system with a youthful foundation before pouncing on big-name free agents to fill holes in 2013 or 2014. One thing that should scare fellow franchises in the NL Central if the Cubs choose to spend big in the near future, is that the Cubs are clear of all big contracts except Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Marmol (and Matt Garza likely has a deal by then, too, I'd guess) prior to 2013 and Marmol's off after '13. They have the resources to be the Red Sox of the NL. It's just a matter of if the Cubs can put the correct plan in place, and that all comes down to who chairman Tom Ricketts hires as his next GM.

FREE AGENTS

Aramis Ramirez, 3B (mutual option)
Carlos Pena, 1B
Reed Johnson, OF
Ryan Dempster, SP (player option for '12)
John Grabow, RP
Jeff Samardzija, RP (club option for '12 and '13)

OFFSEASON FOCUS

Where to even begin? This roster is a mess. First of all, I'd listen to offers for everyone except Starlin Castro. That doesn't mean you have to trade guys like Barney, Marshall or Soto, but you never know if the return might work with the game plan of the new GM. Let's sort through some of this and see what can be done short-term with the eyes on the future. My goal would be to contend in 2013. If it happens in 2012, that's just gravy.
  • Get Prince Fielder. He's 27 and incredibly durable (has never played less than 157 games in a full season). He'd then be the anchor for the Cubs for the foreseeable future, even if it takes a few years to build around him and Castro. Also of importance, if you bat Castro second and Fielder third, Castro's strike zone woes become less an issue (though he has walked more times than he's struck out in September, so it's getting better already).
  • Give Andrew Cashner one last shot to stay healthy in the rotation and also see if Samardzija can be successful as a starter. Having a rotation of Garza, Dempster, Randy Wells, Cashner and Samardzija won't be winning any championships, but Dempster is gone after 2012 and there'd be plenty of money to go after free agents. By then, they Cubs will know if they need just one guy or up to four with Garza. And the list of free agent starters after next season could have some big names -- assuming they aren't granted contract extensions -- like Matt Cain, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Shaun Marcum and James Shields.
  • Read the riot act to Carlos Marmol. Considering the Cubs likely can't contend in 2012 and Marmol is signed through 2013, he has one year to fix himself. Marmol has blown an MLB-high 10 saves (he's tied with Jordan Walden). You can't count on closers to be perfect, but let's say Marmol only blew four saves, which is a very reasonable percentage. The Cubs would be 76-84, which isn't awful at all considering some of the injury issues and poor roster construction.
  • Give Bryan LaHair a shot in right field. LaHair is 28, so he's hardly a prospect, but it's possible he's a late bloomer like Ryan Ludwick or Jayson Werth. LaHair had 38 home runs, 109 RBI and a 1.070 OPS in 129 Triple-A games. He's hitting .309/.391/.545 in 19 games for the Cubs this season. Again, the eyes are on 2013 here, so if he flames out as many expect, you can address the position next offseason. But he's at least earned the chance to get an extended look in the bigs.
  • If the Cubs do fall out of contention in 2012, Marlon Byrd needs to be traded at the deadline and prospect Brett Jackson can then take over in center field. If Jackson is deemed ready earlier in the season and LaHair doesn't pan out, Byrd could be moved to right. 
  • I'd personally bring back Aramis Ramirez for two or three years, assuming the Cubs don't have to break the bank. The last thing they need is another albatross contract, so if he's demanding something like four years and $50 million, it's time to move on. But if it's reasonable, it makes sense to keep him. He's only 33 and has shown has can still swing the bat. He's got to have two to three years left of above-average production at third base. Prospect Josh Vitters had completely fallen off all prospect rankings prior to this season, but rebounded with a decent showing in Double-A this season (.283/.322/.448 with 14 homers, 81 RBI and 28 doubles) and he's still only 21. In two years, the Cubs will have an idea if he is going to be the next third baseman or not. If not, they can look outside the organziation or perhaps someone in the farm system will have emerged. Keeping Ramirez is a natural bridge to when it comes to that.
And there's a lot more, too, but those are the big ones.

The main thing here is the hire a new GM that puts the main focus on building the minor-league system. That way in a few years free agency won't be the only avenue to fill out a winning ballclub. Remember, people complain about the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies in free agency, but lots of players -- Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels and several others were developed from within the respective systems. The Cubs have been terrible at developing their own in recent years and leaned on trades and free agency to bail them out. It needs to be a combination or everything will eventually fall apart like it did this season. From there, they can start to think about breaking a faux-curse and easing the pain of the legions of true fans.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com