Question of the day, Cubs fans: Would you be comfortable with Marlon Byrd in center field and Kosuke Fukudome in right? We’re a long way from that now, but the Cubs will have their eyes on Byrd when he hits the open market later this month. Of course, it would help GM Jim Hendry if he can trade Milton Bradley sooner rather than later, and apparently he’s moving slowly in that direction.
Byrd, 32, had a hitting line of .283/.329/.479 for an OPS of .808 with the Texas Rangers this year, his free-agent season. His OPS-plus was 106. The Bill James Handbook projects Byrd at .279/.340/.438 for an OPS of .778 next season. New Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, also late of Texas, is said to like Byrd, so we’ll have to wait and see.
-- Since someone asked on an earlier blog, I put the question to Jim Hendry as to whether the Cubs would offer a long-term deal to an arbitration-eligible player. The Cubs have not been big players in that area.
"I haven't met with anybody or talked in detail about that, but eventually, for the right guy, if you're confident their health is going to be good and they could be an integral part of your club, it certainly could make sense for a couple reasons,” Jim said. “One, you have a chance to make a deal that's long-term good for the club financially. And obviously, a player that's an arb guy in that category, whether it's his first or second year, is not financially set for life yet, so it gives them some security that if they want to be here, make a fair deal with the club, they're a lot more secure than they were before that. So it's possible. I don't see it happening on a regular basis, but for the right guy, if you really felt good about the whole package, it's certainly a good way to do business for both sides."
Of course, there’s a risk in doing that with pitchers, so we’ll have to see how that plays out for the likes of, say, newly minted closer Carlos Marmol.
-- Speaking of pitching, Jim reiterated this afternoon that he’s comfortable with the in-house options the Cubs have while Ted Lilly spends at least part of April rehabbing from shoulder surgery.
"I think we have a lot of options internally,” Jim said. “You've got Samardzija. You've got Marshall. You've got Gorzelanny. Those are three quality guys, and we feel good about the progress Samardzija made in Mexico, and Gorzelanny did a respectable job when we got him. Marshall's always been our classic bailout guy. Whatever role we need him to do, he's always started the season high fashion. We feel like we've got it covered. And we've got a real good corps coming in the Double-A rotation. A couple of those guys are fast-track guys."
"Teddy's surgery didn't change the way we look at Teddy. If Teddy pitches April 3, great. If it's April 23, that's OK, too."
In Mexico before coming home for the winter, Samardzija was 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 5 starts. His WHIP was 1.25. He walked eight and struck out 22 in 24 innings.
-- The Cubs have used their farm system to make trades in recent years. With several top pitching prospects at Class AA Tennessee and position players such as Starlin Castro and Josh Vitters moving up, I asked Hendry if he’d be inclined to move prospects in trades.
"A lot of guys, you don't want to trade,” he said. “We're in a situation now, as we all know, we'll be mixing and matching this winter more than just trading prospects for a high-end salary guy. That doesn't seem to make much sense right now, where we're at. We've always felt better about the system than given credit for the last few years. That just goes with the territory. When the big-league club had a real good year last year, 'The system was really good because Soto was Rookie of the Year and the starting shortstop (Theriot) was homegrown and eight pitchers were from the system.' And then when you win 83 and you don't make the postseason, then all of a sudden the system stinks. It's not something we worry about. Tim Wilken (scouting director) has done a good job the last three years. You're starting to see the fruits of his work."