Thursday, December 9, 2010

Digesting the Peña signing and where we go from here

Now that I have had a day and night to think over the Peña signing, I am not nearly as disgusted by it as I was when I woke up yesterday.

Don’t get me wrong, I still believe this was the wrong move…but with the news that $5 million will be deferred until 2012 made it seem a little more palatable. I know deferring a contract is just, for the most part, stupid, but considering how much money comes off the books after next season (Grabow, Ramirez, Samardzija, Fukudome, Silva), if they are going to try to take a chance on a player like Peña, this was the best way to go about it.

The idea of possibly fixing Peña’s swing and then having him play for a different team in 2012 while he is being paid $5 million by the Cubs is a little disgusting, but we are living in disgusting times.

So where do the Cubs go from here?

Shortly before the Cubs held a press conference for Carlos Peña, news started coming out that the Cubs were making a stab at getting Matt Garza from the Rays. Garza, as some of you may remember, threw a no-hitter in July (and was nearly perfect giving up only one walk). He has a career ERA of 3.97. I’m a bit surprised by the fact that the Rays would give up this kid, but he tends to be somewhat inconsistent and they have people in their system to replace him on their staff.

Whatever team gets Garza (we know the Brewers are interested as well) will have him under their control for another 3 years. Projections I’ve seen say that he’ll probably get $6 million for a salary this year in his second year of arbitration eligibility. If the Cubs were to get him, it would be a good test for new pitching coach, Mark Riggins, to see if he can get some consistency out of this kid (as if he doesn’t have his hands full enough as it is with Carlos Zambrano).

With this rumor, two questions need to be asked…

The first question: Who would the Cubs give up to get Garza? This is a good question. We all know that Fukudome is on the trading block and he might fit in with the Rays…but Tampa Bay seems to be shedding salary right now. Fukudome is being paid a ton this year, so you’d have to figure that the Cubs would eat some of that salary if he goes down to Florida. With only one year left on K-Fuk’s contract, the Rays, on the other hand, might be willing to take this one time hit. Along with that, the Rays will probably want a prospect or two. I don’t know the Rays all that much and don’t know what their immediate needs are, but it’s possible that the Cubs would be willing to part with Tyler Colvin and/or Josh Vitters.

The second question: Why are the Cubs so desperate to add another starting pitcher? Don’t they have enough starting pitching right now? I really don’t understand this. Whether it’s Brandon Webb, Matt Garza or any other pitcher, unless the Cubs were to make a stab at Cliff Lee, I don’t see that adding another starting pitcher would accomplish all that much for a team that potentially has 7 to 8 serviceable starters already.

The answer to this, in my opinion, is exactly the same as the answer to why they signed Carlos Peña: They are making a desperate stab at trying to contend this season by making risky moves.

One of the most frustrating things for me as a Cubs fan, outside of the fact the team hasn’t won the World Series in a bazillion years, is the fact that they never go through a true, full scale rebuilding process. I know this is difficult with fans demanding an immediate winner, but the result of this has been teams that are hacked together to make a single run at a title instead of sustained success.

Another component of this is to willingness to turn over parts of roster, even if some of those players are still productive. Why did the Cubs wait so long to trade Derrek Lee? Why aren’t they considering trading Marlon Byrd or Ryan Dempster now? The Cubs tend to hold on to players too long…young and old. What’s the point of bringing in Matt Garza if you don’t make room for him on the roster by getting rid of a veteran whose best days are behind him? Garza would replace Tom Gorzelanny or Thomas Diamond…what’s the point of that? If the Cubs want to get younger, you do it by replacing veterans!

Replacing a 27 year old Gorzelanny with a 26 Garza does nothing…especially in a year when the team is rebuilding.

Expect to hear more from me about the idea of trading Ryan Dempster…but until then, the Winter Meetings are over and we will wait to see what Holiday presents Jim Hendry has for us.