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.

Giants making Brandon Belt available

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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Giants have made first baseman Brandon Belt available in a trade and says that several teams have expressed interest in him.

Which is kind of weird, really.

Belt turns 31 early next season. He hit .253/.342/.414 with 14 homers over 112 games last year due to a knee injury and time lost to an appendectomy. He has a history of concussions and has averaged only 115 games over the last five seasons. Oh, and makes $48 million over the next three years.

Yes, he could be a very useful player if healthy, but taking on that kind of money, even a part of that money, when many very affordable first base/DH options are out there on the market makes little sense to me. Matt Adams. Justin Bour. Lucas Duda. As good as Belt? No, I don’t think so. But way cheaper and requiring less of a commitment.

But hey, rumors are rumors. Let a thousand flowers bloom.