Pessimism Cat: The Cubs 2011 Offseason, Holistically

George Sr., having never heard his charges listed consecutively in one sitting, panicked and ran with great intensity.

-Arrested Development, "Beef Consomme"
Today, MLBTR released their "Offseason in Review" for the Chicago Cubs. The opening lines of the summary rightly reflect the ADD approach the Cubs have used lately (much to the frustration of Will and myself):
The mandate for Cubs GM Jim Hendry this winter: turn a bloated fifth-place team into a contender for 2011 despite limited payroll flexibility. The Cubs were in sell mode last summer, but Hendry switched back to a win-now approach this offseason...
By our estimation, Hendry has done a great job of bringing a 5th place team into contention for 4th place. Getting Matt Garza, Carlos Pena, and Kerry Wood were dandy moves, but Garza and Pena are replacing decent players (Ted Lilly and Derrek Lee) and Wood has been an average reliever over the past two seasons.

The net result is not 1st place -- not even 2nd place.

The Cubs could very well get lucky and -- who knows -- Fernando Perez will steal 60 bases and force the Cubs to trade Marlon Byrd so Perez can get playing time, Carlos Zambrano will finish in contention for the Cy Young award, and no one will put the shift on Carlos Pena.

Now, I'm not against an Albert Pujols signing, but I also do not think the slugging first baseman would nearly solve our multifaceted mediocrity. If the Cubs are going to be contenders, it is going to necessitate a cohesive, long-term strategy, not a yearly shifting of gears.

But I don't see it happening.

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  1. That looks like my cat! Except, mine doesn't wear sunglasses very much and he's pretty optimistic about the Cubs. He's not a bright cat.

  2. Ha! That's actually Will's cat, Payton. And she does wear sunglasses.

  3. Already asked this to an extent on ACB, but what would you say to a plan to sign Albert first and build around him later? He sells tickets, money = better players and better player development (draft + whatever), win/win?

  4. You know, that's one of the hardest things for us outsiders to comment on -- the question: "How much does player X bring in?"

    I've heard many times how Ichiro is the Mariner's main source of income, how the Yankees really wanted to resign Matsui just because of the extra cash he brought in (via the Japanese market), and so on. But still, no organization has ever released specifics on the matter, so it is merely our best guesses.

    So, honestly, I can't comment very well on the matter, but if the Cubs are able to produce a legitimate amount of income from Pujols jerseys and ticket sales, then that actually defrays the cost of his contract.

    Still, I don't like the idea of signing Pujols because it to me signifies the continuation of a broken long-term plan. Even if signing Pujols did leave sufficient cash to build a young team, it seems unlikely this team would be capable of doing so.

    The Cubs seem to do well with the big signings (the obvious high-value signings, such as Soriano and Derrek Lee and Carlos Pena), but seem nearly incapable of nailing the small-to-mid-sized ones (Kosuke Fukudome, Milton Bradley, Jeromy Burnitz).

  5. It bothers me whenever I hear someone suggest that the Cubs are nothing more than a 4th- or 5th- place team, given that this is basically the same core group of players that decimated the National League three short years ago. Something went afoul in the 08/09 off-season -- perhaps the departure of contributors like Edmonds and DeRosa, the replacement of Wood with Gregg, and the disappointing '09 performance by Bradley -- but whatever it was, the Cubs haven't seemed to be able to recover from it. Why that is, though, I can't tell, because much of the team remains from the dominant '08 run.

    The main differences: Lee has been replaced by Pena. Theriot is gone, DeWitt is in. Marmol and Wood have switched roles. Lilly and Marquis are gone, Garza and Silva are in. Other than that, you've got pretty much the same core: Soriano, Ramirez, Soto, Dempster, Zambrano, etc. Sure, everyone's older, but that's countered by the emergence of Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin.

    To me, '08 and '11 seem like very equivalent teams. Is that fair? Or is that just my eternal "this is our year" optimism talking?

  6. @Anon: I'd say they close to equivalent in names, but not talent.

    2008 Soriano was a different animal than 2011 Soriano. Injuries have sapped his speed on the base paths and turned his power pedestrian.

    2007 Lee and 2011 Pena will be very different too. Though I have high hopes for Pena, 2007 Lee was something else (.400 OBP seems unlikely for 2011 Pena).

    Also, looking at the Cubs in a vacuum greatly undervalues the other teams in the division. While the Cubs team has succeeded in getting older, the Reds and Cards and Brewers have consistently upgraded their teams.