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.
Carlos Zambrano
Ricky Nolasco
Kyle Lohse
Randy Wells
Jon Garland
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?
CF Kosuke Fukudome
SS Ryan Theriot
C Geovany Soto
1B Eric Hinske
LF Jake Fox
RF Micah Hoffpauir
3B Casey McGehee
2B Brendan Harris
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.
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.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.

Marlins announcer Tommy Hutton was let go because he was “too negative”

marlins logo wide

We heard earlier this week that Marlins television analyst Tommy Hutton was let go after 19 seasons on the job. By all accounts, he’s well-liked and respected, so it smelled a little fishy with a team that has owner Jeffrey Loria calling the shots. Well, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald was told by a source close to the Marlins that Hutton was let go because he was “too negative.”

Jackson was also able to get in touch with Hutton, who provided some details about how things went down.

“I know there were times I was negative, but I thought those times were called for,” he said. “Ninety percent of what I said was positive. I tried not to be a homer, but you could tell I wanted the Marlins to do well.”

After being told that his salary wasn’t a factor in the decision, Hutton suspected that his candid, blunt analysis might be the impetus for his ouster.

So after learning his fate on Monday, he asked that question – whether they thought he was too negative — to both a Fox producer (at a meeting at Starbucks) and the Marlins’ vice president/communications (by phone).

He said the question was met with silence by both executives.

“I couldn’t get a yes or a no,” he said.

Hutton said there were three incident in recent years where he was told the Marlins were uncomfortable with something he said. He disclosed one example where he was exasperated at the ballpark’s dimensions after former catcher John Buck flew out to the warning track for the final out of a game. He was told by a Marlins vice president after the game that Loria prefer he not talk about the ballpark’s dimensions. Of course, the team is moving in the fences this winter.

To be clear, Hutton said he was told it was a “mutual decision” between the Marlins and FOX to let him go, but Jackson’s source hears that the concern about his “negativity” came from the team.

Hey, do you know the best way to prevent “negative” talk about your team? Fielding a winning baseball team without a dysfunctional ownership and front office. Crazy idea, I know, but it could be cool?