Restoring the rosters: No. 24 – Chicago Cubs

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
The teams couldn’t be much more different, but the two Chicago squads come in back-to-back in this set of rankings.
Rotation
Carlos Zambrano
Ricky Nolasco
Kyle Lohse
Randy Wells
Jon Garland
Bullpen
Carlos Marmol
Kerry Wood
Scott Downs
Angel Guzman
Michael Wuertz
Sean Marshall
Renyel Pinto
Guzman gets the one asterisk in the whole set of rankings. Technically, he was signed by the Royals, but he had his contract voided before ever pitching for one of the team’s affiliates.
If I were giving credit for all of the talent developed by a club, the Cubs would have to rank higher on this list. However, I’m more ranking the 25-man rosters and that just doesn’t give the team credit for it’s wealth of pitching depth. Whereas guys like Kyle Snyder, Buddy Carlyle, Brett Tomko, Glendon Rusch, Tim Dillard and Tim Stauffer have made previous rotations in these rankings, the Cubs have seven legitimate starters and additional borderline guys. As a matter of fact, their second 12 would likely best the Reds’ first 12.
Jamie Moyer
Todd Wellemeyer
Dontrelle Willis
Rich Hill
Sean Gallagher
Juan Cruz
Kyle Farnsworth
Jerry Blevins
Will Ohman
Justin Speier
Jeff Samardzija
Sergio Mitre
From a quantity standpoint, only the Dodgers really compare. The quality of the group can be argued about, but Zambrano and Nolasco is a very good one-two punch and that bullpen, with five legitimate eighth- and ninth-inning guys, rates as perhaps the best any team has produced.
So why do the Cubs come in 24th?
Lineup
CF Kosuke Fukudome
SS Ryan Theriot
C Geovany Soto
1B Eric Hinske
LF Jake Fox
RF Micah Hoffpauir
3B Casey McGehee
2B Brendan Harris
Bench
OF Felix Pie
SS Ronny Cedeno
OF Sam Fuld
2B/OF Eric Patterson
C Jose Molina
You have to feel a lot better about the long-term prospects of Fox, Hoffpauir and McGehee than I do to consider that to be a legitimate lineup. Actually, the defense is bad enough that I’d prefer to live with Pie in center and push Fukudome to right and Hoffpauir to the bench. Hinske in left field and Fox at first base might also be a preferable arrangement. The pitchers are going to be frustrated regardless.
Oddly enough, of the 13 position players listed above, Pie was the only one particularly highly regarded as a prospect. Fukudome was bought and Theriot and Soto were never expected to turn into the players they are now.
At least it’s a better group than the Cubs would have boasted a couple of years ago. Corey Patterson can’t even make the squad, though he was considered as an alternative to Fuld.
Summary
An inability to develop hitters has forced the Cubs to pay for offense and in many cases they’ve overpaid. It’s a real shame that the wealth of pitching talent and big payrolls have combined to produce just one NLCS appearance and no World Series appearances during the decade. Unless that changes this year, the new ownership should seriously consider replacing GM Jim Hendry.

Miguel Cabrera has two herniated discs in his back

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Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera underwent an MRI which revealed two herniated discs in his back, MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports. With six games remaining in the season, if Cabrera plays again, it will be as a designated hitter.

The back issues shed a lot of light on Cabrera’s uncharacteristically subpar season. He’s batting .249/.329/.399 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI in 529 plate appearances this season. He carries an adjusted OPS of 92, which is eight points below the league average and 14 points below his previous career low set in 2003 with the Marlins.

Cabrera, 34, is signed through 2023 and is owed a minimum of $192 million through the end of his contract.

MLB managers weigh in on anthem protests

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No other Major League Baseball player has taken a knee during the National Anthem since Athletics’ catcher Bruce Maxwell‘s protest on Saturday night. The demonstration was sparked by President Donald Trump’s call for the boycott of the National Football League and the firing of any player who chose not to stand during the anthem. The comments drew harsh criticism from many NFL players, coaches and owners and more than a few in MLB have also lended their support. There is still one game left to play on Sunday, but it’s unclear whether any of Maxwell’s league-mates will show their solidarity by refusing to stand as well.

Given a baseball culture that tends toward conformity more often than not, it seems unlikely. But it’s something league managers are prepared for — even if they don’t all agree with the demonstrations themselves.

White Sox’ skipper Rick Renteria specifically addressed Maxwell’s protest on Sunday, speaking to the league’s policy of inclusivity:

None of the White Sox knelt prior to their series finale against the Royals. Neither did members of the Pirates or the Cardinals, though St. Louis manager Mike Matheny and Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington both weighed in on the situation.

Matheny called the president’s comments “hurtful” and, like the Cubs’ Joe Maddon, appeared content to leave the decision to protest up to each player.

The Pirates, meanwhile, took a firmer tone. “We appreciate our players’ desire and ability to express their opinions respectfully and when done properly,” GM Huntington told Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When done appropriately and properly, we certainly have respect for our players’ ability to voice their opinion.”

Just what the Pirates consider “appropriate and proper” protocol was left up in the air, and club president Frank Coonelly offered no further insights in a separate statement to the press. Setting strict parameters for players to voice their opinions kind of puts them in a gray area, one they’ll have to clear up should someone elect to protest in the days to come, either with a bent knee and a hand over their heart or in some other fashion.

Equally ambiguous were comments from Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts, who claimed to oppose the movement for personal, if misguided reasons, but also respected the right of his players to make an “educated” statement in protest.

The Indians’ Terry Francona took what was perhaps the most balanced approach of the entire group:

“It’s easy for me to sit here and say, ‘Well, I think this is the greatest country in the world,’ because I do,” Francona told MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “But, I also haven’t walked in other people’s shoes. So, until I think, not just our country, but our world, until we realize that, hey, people are actually equal — it shouldn’t be a revelation — and the different doesn’t mean less. It’s just different. We’ve got work to do.”

These may all be moot points. Maxwell may be the only player to formally protest Trump’s comments, despite the good intentions of his teammates and fellow players around the league. Others may feel too ambivalent, threatened or uncomfortable to protest what the A’s catcher referred to as a “racial divide,” especially in a way that is routinely perceived as unpatriotic.

Even if the protests made by NFL players and Bruce Maxwell fail to gain momentum, however, the underlying issues they speak to are not going away anytime soon. Here, then, is where MLB managers can help foster a more inclusive environment throughout the league, not only by showing respect for a player’s decision to stand against racism but by actively partnering with those who do so. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start.