Springtime Storylines: is Alfonso Soriano toast?

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Between now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30
teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally
breaking down their chances for the 2010 season.  Next up: The Cubbies

big question: Is Alfonso Soriano toast?

Kind of seems like it, doesn’t it? 109 games in 2008. 117 games last year, in which he hit a measly .241/.303/.423 and stunk up the joint in left field. The contract makes this bad enough — he’s still owed $18 million a year for the next five (!) seasons — but his production isn’t sufficient to carry left field at almost any price. His original promise of power + speed is all gone.  There’s hope in some quarters that pairing Soriano up with Rudy Jaramillo will lead to a resurgence, but Soriano had the two worst years of his prime while under Jaramillo’s care in Texas.

A great bounceback season for him would probably look like fairly
standard left field production: 30 homers a.280 average or something
close to it. Maybe 15 steals.  Nice enough if your leftfielder is a role player, but not the sort of guy on whom you build a
team. Unfortunately, Soriano is who the Cubs are built on, for better or worse, for the
next few years.

So what
else is
going on?

  • More likely candidates for a return to form than Soriano: Carlos Zambrano and Geovany Soto, each of whom reported to camp — altogether now — in the best shape of their lives. Read what you will into spring training stats, but Soto has hit for zero power in Mesa. Zambrano has been more or less himself once you account for the dry air and all of that. Clearly the Cubs need these two fellas to bounce back if they have any hope of competing.
  • So much of the blame for last season’s terribleness was placed on Milton Bradley’s shoulders. He’s gone now, of course, so who will the notoriously sour Chicago media kick around this year?

  • Ted Lilly, Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells form what, on paper, is a decent rotation. Lilly is out to begin the season, however. Assuming no setbacks for him this is clearly the team’s strength.
  • The lineup is obviously the make or break of this team. Last year far too many at bats were given to the likes of Joey Gathright, Aaron Miles, Bobby Scales, Koyie Hill and Ryan Freel. To avoid that, Soriano and Aramis Ramirez will have to be healthy. To build up from .500 Derrek Lee is going to have to maintain his resurgence. Marlon Byrd will have to show that he can handle centerfield and that he isn’t a product of the Ballpark at Arlington, neither of which I’d bet a ton of dough on. Fontenot and Theriot will have to improve. Just a lot of things need to happen.

are they gonna do?

I’m really pessimistic about this team for some reason. I don’t think Derrek Lee has another .972 OPS season in him. I think Soriano is toast. I think Aramis Ramirez’s health is going to continue to be a source of concern. Ted Lilly’s injury scares me. It just seems like way too much to overcome, especially considering that their $140 million payroll doesn’t give them much leeway with which to overcome things. 

Prediction: Fourth place, NL Central, with Piniella calling it a career after this.

here for other Springtime Storylines

Matt Harvey missed a mandatory workout today

Matt Harvey
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Just when Matt Harvey drama seemed to be subsiding, Matt Harvey drama begins anew.

Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Mets starter missed a mandatory workout today at Citi Field. Sandy Alderson had no information about why Harvey was gone and Harvey was not excused by the team. Alderson gave no comment.

Just a few minutes ago Harvey showed up and upon getting in front of reporters issued a brief statement with little elaboration:


Because this is New York, you know darn well there will be more to this. We’ll update when it comes out.

Dan Jennings asked to return as the Marlins GM

Dan Jennings
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Dan Jennings‘ tenure as the Marlins manager has not been great and the team is now actively looking for his replacement. But his old job is there waiting for him if he wants it, reports Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald: Jennings has been asked to come back as the team’s general manager.

Or maybe “asked” is not correct. Team President David Samson said “there’s no decision” for Jennings to make and that he’s still “a signed member” of the team’s front office, reporting to baseball operations president Michael Hill.

Reports last month suggested that Jennings would take a wait-and-see approach regarding returning to the Marlins front office, with hopes of possibly landing a GM job in another organization with greater control than he’s had and will have with the multi-headed Marlins management team. The Mariners, for one, were a team Jennings was said to have his eye on. But that job has been filled and it would not seem like such opportunities have presented themselves to him.

So: it would seem a good bet that Jennings is back upstairs with the Marlins soon. Because the Marlins fully expect him to be.