Tuesday, December 06, 2005

picking up the pieces

with hendry catagorically crapping out (as expected) in the furcal sweepstakes, this page feels it is no exaggeration to say that odds are the cubs 2006 season being a winner probably just hit the outhouse. without furcal, it's neifi perez at short -- you can forget cedeno, who simply isn't going to be played everyday by dusty baker short of hendry pointing a gun at his head -- and that spells 2005 all over again.

are things really that bleak?, you may ask. this page says probably yes -- and we're here to examine why.

right field -- when brian giles resigned with san diego, the best possible option for the sheffield corner vaporized while hendry focused on furcal. the cubs are now left with a pool of potential free agent rightfielders that is completely underwhelming; it says everything that jeromy burnitz is probably the best of the lot for the cubs. this has left the cubs to pursue a trade with someone, anyone for a viable lefthanded power-hitting rightfielder -- of which there really are only two possibilities, bobby abreu and aubrey huff.

abreu is a long shot -- the phils are talking about a #1 starter in return, meaning prior or zambrano. the cubs aren't likely to deal either, and rightly, being not nearly so blessed in starting pitching as many seem to want to believe. and the phillies would be right to get so much, with abreu under contract through the 2007 season and being a premier NL rightfielder, so i doubt this can happen.

other candidates being bandied about -- mench, floyd, kearns -- are too horrible to waste words on until they become an unfortunate reality. so this leaves huff -- and make no mistake, cub fans, this HAS to happen and tampa knows it. i'd expect the cubs to unload a bevy of prospects in a deal to get huff. it hardly matters who they are, including rich hill, felix pie and others; 2006 will in all likelihood be a certifiable total loss without huff (or, less possibly, abreu) in right.

but, much as they need huff, the trade being speculated in the trib has a darker side.

center field -- with hendry still swimming toward but gradually drifting away from juan pierre as other bidders intercede, joey gathright has become a possibility as part of the huff deal. this is not a solution that a winning team countenances. whatever his potential -- and it's considerable, imo -- gathright's short career obp is .316 and he has just 22 career at-bats against lefthanded pitching. getting gathright might be an admirable solution to the cubs leadoff problems in 2008, but probably not 2006. a winning team can't install that guy as its everyday centerfielder any more than a klown. and yet hendry would probably rest on those laurels if he could swing the deal.

still, without pierre or furcal, gathright would be at least a promising prospect in center -- and that's something more than the klown will ever be.

shortstop -- with furcal gone and with no other shortstops in the market worth the effort to type their names, hendry here is faced with disaster. neifi perez is not an everyday player on a team that breaks .500, and likely neither is rookie ronny cedeno or any other rookie. the likely trade candidate -- yet another devilray in julio lugo -- is likewise, while better than the extant state of affairs, not a solution that a winning team would countenance.

lugo is not a terrible player a la neifi -- he's far from the strikeout machine that many remember, as time and experience gathered in tampa under lou pinella has taught him to cut down his swing, power and strikeouts in favor of getting aboard and stealing a bag. but his on-base percentage will still likely hover near .340 in any season, and 25 stolen bases would represent a good year. this is an adam-kennedy-caliber offensive player -- importantly, minus the quality glove (lugo's 24 errors would have been the most by any shortstop in the NL in 2005).

so -- in summation -- even if the cubs pull off the deal for huff, gathright and lugo that is currently rumored -- the team still enters 2006 with no centerfielder (short a kenny lofton signing), an average-to-minus shortstop and matt murton in left, where we can all find out finally what he's really made of. hendry isn't done, despite the terrible blow that losing furcal represents, and more moves may enter the picture as he tries to pick up the pieces. but i'm sure this page is not alone in smelling the vapors of desperation that now emanate from clark and addison. the cubs 2006 season is on the ropes, and it's up to hendry to fight his way off of them.

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