Tuesday, September 15, 2009

News From The Ballpark

As the Cubs on field actions are only mildly interesting, Paul Sullivan spends the bulk of his game article discussing front office baseball. Tom Ricketts, despite not yet closing on the sale, is not only helping shape the 2010 on-field Cubs, he's following the system of Andy MacPhail: Tell everyone in advance what you are going to do via leaks to the media. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss:

Now that Hendry is assured of returning in 2010, he'll have to decide which players to bring back. Dempster, who signed a four-year, $52 million deal last winter, is assured of returning. Zambrano, who signed a five-year, $91.5 million deal in August 2007, is not.

Despite the fact that Zambrano has a full no-trade clause, the Cubs plan on shopping him this off-season, sources said, believing he'll waive the clause to go to the right team, as Jake Peavy eventually did when the Padres consummated a deal this summer with the White Sox.


While he has won only eight games this season, been on the disabled list twice and was suspended six games for "inappropriate and violent actions," the Cubs think they can find a taker, shed the contract and get some quality players in return.

First piece of news: Hendry is coming back. Not terribly unexpected given the money he's owed and the debt that will tie up the Cubs. But certainly a problem if his boss remains Denny Crane Kenney. The past shows that Jim Hendry cannot develop a farm system. Furthermore, his fix to the 2006 disaster of a team he put together was spend the then-unknown Tom Ricketts' money. The fix worked. That fix cannot be applied to the 2010 Cubs as the money will be tied up in salary increases to Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, and Milton Bradley. Hendry cannot be allowed to fly solo anymore.

But the second piece of news was the trial balloon floated of trading Carlos Zambrano. Now, this does make sense from certain angles. Big Z is one of the highest paid players on the team. His money is locked in for several years and Ricketts could use that money. And, he's one of the few high salaried guys that could actually bring prospects back in a trade.

The subtext of this news being floated is really this: Payroll will be going down in 2010. The reason Zambrano's name is being discussed in trade talks is that, of the big money guys the Cubs would like to unload (Soriano, Milton Bradley, Fukudome - the entire outfield!), none of them can be traded without the Cubs eating a significant amount of the salary owed to them. The same is not true of Zambrano.

Despite Big Z not being as good a pitcher as he was a few years ago, not being as durable as he was, and now with a history of talking back to Lou Piniella, someone would take his full salary. Trading Zambrano would probably save the Cubs more in 2010 than dumping all three of Bradly, Soriano and Fukudome would in the same year.

The game stories bear watching going forward as that's where the 2010 news is going to be made.

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