Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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Say, I haven't done bullet points for a while. What the hell.
If there has been a bright spot this year, it's been the couple of young arms who've come up and shown that, while they may not be up to contributing to a championship squad right now, they look to have the chops to do so down the road. For a team whose aspirations of contention are likely several years away, assuming things go well, knowing that you've got starters who can be a positive part of that, and relatively cheaply, is of tremendous value.
That is, of course, until they start getting hurt. The bad news is, both Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol went down with injuries during their starts this weekend. The good news is, neither suffered an arm injury, and both owies appear to be of the freak variety, Marmol's being a bruise of his hand suffered during an at bat, and Marshall's being a strained oblique.
Naturally, Marshall's is the more worrisome of the two, obliques being the notoriously odd healers that they are, and my big concern is that he could be rushed back, and as a result, suffer a more serious injury as he compensates. I wish I could say I had confidence in the organization's ability to be prudently cautious in these situations, but I think we've all learned better.
The sleeper has awakened, indeed. Aramis Ramirez was appalling in the early going, but this weekend served as a punctuation remark on his recent revival. Since June 1st, he's been hitting .293/.346/.569, which is almost exactly what he hit last year (.297/.354/.569), and right in line with his Weighted Mean PECOTA projection of .293/.356/.540.
The question is, to what purpose? Not that it isn't nicer to watch a ballgame with a real threat of offensive violence on the field, but with the odd out clause in his contract, a significant uptick in his production over the final months of this year increases the possibility that he tests the market this offseason. Would the club re-negotiate an extension to keep him around? Would they let him go? Would they entertain even wackier scenarios?
My fear here is that the worst-case scenario will happen - that Ramirez will walk, and the Cubs get nothing in return - mostly because of a fear to act. Sure, the Cubs have had a long-standing issue at third base that Ramirez capably eliminates, but if he appears likely to vacate the position anyway, the team has an obligation to figure out how to get actual value for him, rather than quavering in a corner, staying clear of any public backlash (after all, if Aramis heads out, he can be spun as greedy, when the real culprit is the inattentive, inactive front office).
There is a real need here for the powers that be to do a thorough assessment of the likely outcomes in this situation, and once assessed, to act boldly. Daring, audacious deeds are the only available option that can turn this franchise around, since as we've already seen, the club's fallback action of standing at attention while a stream of fear runs down their collective leg has proven less than effective.
The Cubs did get something for Scott Williamson, although the value is dubious, and truth be told, by the time we know whether the parts received in the deal were worth anything, we'll have all forgotten where they came from.
Normally, I wouldn't be steamed by a deal like this, after all, relievers aren't the precious commodities that some GMs think they are, so to me, getting anything that has potential value down the road for a bullpen part you don't really need and aren't likely to keep around anyway, is at the very least, solid.
However, we have an example of the power of desperation in the form of the recent Nats/Reds deal that makes me think the Cubs really missed an opportunity. If a couple of relievers and a defense-only shortstop were all it took to nab Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez, what was preventing the Cubs from offering a similar package?
Granted, I have no way of knowing if my proposal would have flown, but I'd think that Williamson plus one of Scott Eyre or Bobby Howry in combination with either Ronny Cedeno or (gasp!) Neifi!, could have gotten something done. Maybe throw in an Aardsma or Wuertz while you're at it.
Okay, so Cedeno isn't defense-only, and Neifi! is a little too defense-only, but you get the idea. The specifics of a proposal aren't important. What matters is that these guys (Kearns and Lopez) were available, would have helped fill some holes in the long and short term for the Cubs, and could have been had on the relative cheap. These sort of opportunities need to be explored and pursued, and while I may not have evidence they weren't, I definitely don't have evidence they were.
But, I sympathize. It's funny how the Nationals can turn a Williamson (Majewski) and a Neifi (Clayton) plus some spare parts into Kearns, Lopez, and a once promising reliever. Yet, Hendry takes our position of bullpen strength and nets us two guys in Single A still trying to decipher the road map to home plate.
With the injury to Sean Marshall, the Cubs will need to keep Greg Maddox to fill out the starting rotation.
Now that Derrek Lee has returned to the disabled list, it looks like Phil Nevin will play out the season as the Cub's first baseman.
Todd Walker has recently made so many costly errors at second base that his value has probably dropped as well. His batting average has dropped to 0.282. I expect he will be traded just to make roster space for Ryan Theriot.
Hendry should learn from these lessons and trade Ramirez while he is hitting home runs and memories of his lethargic play earlier this year are temporarily faded. When Ramirez feels secure with a multi-year contract his performance will be comparable to Adrian Beltre.
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