The Cubs suck. They're an old, overpaid, boring team, and there's very little to like about the entire organization. They have some unmovable contracts, some tough to move contracts, and a lot of shitty players. Still, I think I could get them back in the race soon. Here is how I would do it (all moves will be put in bold):
1. Addition by subtraction - They need to try to find a way to get rid of just about any player that other teams are interested in. The problem is, nobody has much interest in their players, but there are ways to get creative to possibly dump some guys.
A. Try to package Fukudome with Ted Lilly in a trade; I feel like there are opportunities with the Tigers or Angels, but the perfect fit for this deal is the Mets. Not only do the Mets desperately need the starting pitching help, but Fukudome would actually be a solid contributor for them as they need the outfield help and could use him for his marketability towards the Japanese fans. Now, since we're dumping Fukudome on them, we either have to take back a ton of money or not get much in the way of value in return. The Mets are filthy rich, so we're going to let them deal with taking on the money, and we'll take a couple low level prospects. I would look at a guy like Brad Holt who has been atrocious this year with an ERA over 10, but a guy with good velocity that might be effective in the bullpen. Also, if we could get Ugueth's kid Juan Urbina, that'd be a solid haul. Since I'm an idealist, I'll say the Cubs throw in $3 million and get both of them.
The Chicago Cubs trade Ted Lilly and Kosuke Fukudome and $3 million to the New York Mets for minor league prospects Brad Holt and Juan Urbina.
B. Derrek Lee has got to go. As long as Lee picks it up a little bit, the Cubs should be able to get something for him, and that should be good enough. This is something that may have to wait for an injury to a team in the playoff race. I'd like to be super optimistic and say Albert Pujols goes down to a fractured labia, but I need to be slightly more realistic. Is it really that hard to imagine a world where Troy Glaus gets hurt for the Braves? I think not. So the Braves make a deal for Derrek Lee by giving up Cody Johnson, a former first round pick who can't make contact to save his life, but he's got light-tower power. Chances of him figuring it out are minimal, but at least he'll be fun to watch in the high minors.
The Chicago Cubs trade Derrek Lee to the Atlanta Braves for minor league prospect Cody Johnson.
C. Try our best to get something for Carlos Silva. This is something that may happen in the offseason, but still has potential for before the trade deadline or even in August since I don't think anybody will claim him on waivers for fear of having to take his whole contract. I can't think of a contender that would take a chance on Carlos Silva, because if they're contending, they're probably a well run team (or already stacked with pitching like the Giants). So why would a non-contending team trade for Carlos Silva? To protect young arms. And who has the most valuable young arm out there? The Washington Nationals. They signed Jason Marquis just so he could suck up innings and for the first time in his career, he's failed. The Cubs can throw in the $5.5 million that the Mariners are giving them for next year which means the Nationals would only be on the hook for two months of his salary this year and $6 million the following year. That definitely has value for them. They're not going to give up their future for it, but at least the Cubs can scrounge up something. How about A.J. Morris who was the ace of Kansas State's staff in 2009, and is doing alright in High-A right now. That seems reasonable.
The Chicago Cubs trade Carlos Silva and $5.5 million to the Washington Nationals for minor league prospect A.J. Morris.
2. These guys aren't going anywhere - There are some guys that Cubs fans are probably wondering why they are still on my hypotethical Cubs team. It basically means that nobody would want these guys, or that this is the worst possible moment to trade them off.
A. Alfonso Soriano - Nobody is taking that contract, and he can be a good outfielder for the Cubs. He's not an All-Star, but he's above average and since he's an athletic guy, he should be able to at least be near average through the remainder of his contract.
B. Carlos Zambrano - Although the contract isn't completely unmovable, it'd be pretty tough to move and just about impossible right now. If the Cubs move him now, they'll have to swallow a lot of that contract and it will be counter productive. Zambrano is not going to go back to being a world beater, but he can be a solid starter. Piniella is probably gone after this year so his problems with him shouldn't be a big deal. Plus in my plan, Z will be happy to know that he's a part of the starting rotation. I'm not counting Z out yet, so he's staying with the Cubs.
C. Aramis Ramirez - The good news about A-Ram is he's done this before. He looked like an absolute stud when he was 23 and destroyed the ball for the Pirates, then he had a God awful age-24 season. Is it more dangerous when he's 32 going on 33? Of course it is, but he was fantastic in 2009 when he was healthy. He has the ability to provide a goood on-base percentage while slugging near .500. He's only guaranteed to be under contract through 2011, so if he sucks again, the Cubs can pay him $2 million and part ways. I still think he'll bounce back.
As a recap, here is what the 2010 Cubs starters (I'm not worried about the bench and bullpen) will look like after these trades have been made.
Starting Position Players
C - Geovanny Soto
1B - Xavier Nady
2B - Ryan Theriot
3B - Aramis Ramirez
SS - Starlin Castro
LF - Alfonso Soriano
CF - Marlon Byrd
RF - Tyler Colvin
1. Ryan Dempster
2. Randy Wells
3. Tom Gorzelanny
4. Carlos Zambrano
5. Thomas Diamond/Andrew Cashner
Everything is pretty simple outside of the fifth starter where I'd like Diamond and Cashner to piggyback each other and pitch about four innings each every fifth day. Diamond is coming back from Tommy John surgery and Cashner is a young power arm, so keeping their innings somewhat down would probably be a good call. They both have a chance of being a big part of the future.
I'm going to stop right there. Tomorrow, I'll I talk about what the Cubs need to do in the offseason to be successful.
P.S. Here's a crazy Iowa State video: