They Gone. He Gone! He Gone!! HE Gone!!...
Sitting in the stands during Thursday night's interminable NLDS Game Two 10-3 loss to the visiting Dodgers, I did a little exercise. Thought it might be interesting to predict who, of the current Cubs, won't be on the team in 2009. Here is my list, in order of probability of their departure.
Ronny Cedeno: contract up
Bobby Howry: contract up
Jon Lieber: contract up
Felix Pie: contract up
Michael Wuertz: contract up
Neal Cotts: contract up
Ryan Dempster: contract up
Jim Edmonds: contract up
Derrek Lee: signed through 2010
Kosuke Fukudome: signed through infinity
Kerry Wood: contract up
Cedeno's departure is a near certainty, as is that of Howry, unless the superannuated reliever wants to sign a Triple-A contract for $1.25 and a box of Carr's Water Crackers. Lieber is fat, old, and in the way.
Pie won't ever be a regular for Lou Piniella, and GM Jim Hendry just might elect to dump him while he still has a smidgen of trade value. Wuertz has never been one of Piniella's favorites, even though he has that fine slider; he just can't control his fastball.
Cotts, despite occasional strong performances, isn't any sure thing; I'd expect to see the team upgrade. Dempster, a free agent, might simply ask for too much, and his poor playoff performance will leave a bad taste all winter. If I were the Cubs, I'd weigh the decision to bring him back for three or four years--at top dollar--very heavily.
D-Lee, you say? D-Lee? How could they dump him? Well, let's look at the record. He has hit 22 and 20 homers over the last two years, which ain't enough for a first baseman in Wrigley Field. He hit .317 in 2007, but fell to .291 this year. His .823 OPS is okay, but not great for a first baseman. And he's 33.
Several teams are looking for quality first sackers this winter, and the Cubs' best hitting prospect right now is Micah Hoffpauir, who plays the outfield like a blind warthog in ballet slippers. I'm just sayin' that trading Lee this winter wouldn't surprise me.
Also unsurprising to me is the notion of letting Jim Edmonds walk, but I don't think Jim Hendry will have the guts to do it. Sometimes veteran players come to a new team and give them a boost, a sort of last flicker of the flame, and Edmonds--as well as he hit at times in 2008--seems like the Gary Gaetti of this current Cubs team. For God's sake don't repeat the Cubs' mistake of keeping Gaetti in 1994...if you must keep Edmonds, reduce his workload; he hit very poorly after early August.
As much as most of us would like to see Kosuke Fukudome hung by his thumbs from the tallest flagpole at Wrigley, he probably can't be moved this winter, because he has three years and $36 million left on his contract. What's in store for him? A trip to AAA to sample Des Moines' finest food? Another shot at claiming a full-time job?
I fear that despite the deals to acquire Aramis Ramirez, D-Lee, Harden, etc., Jim Hendry's GM tenure in Chicago may ultimately be judged by the crippling, unnecessary long-term deals he gave to Fukudome, certified mediocrity Jason Marquis, and highly overrated Alfonso Soriano.
Finally, there's Woody. As much as I admire the guy for coming back from his injuries, he really wasn't the best reliever the Cubs had in 2008. Not even close. Will the Cubs pursue Wood and keep Carlos Marmol as a setup guy? And if I were Kerry Wood, would I come back to the team if I wasn't guaranteed the top bullpen job?
Feedback, please...my head is still spinning.