Are the Chicago Cubs Ready To Contend in the Playoffs?

Christopher Bremner@bremquestCorrespondent IJanuary 20, 2009

It has been an interesting offseason to say the least. 

Though Chicago Cubs fans have been less than excited about the moves made thus far, and are still awaiting that patented last minute Jim Hendry move. 

Jim Hendry has been a tremendous help to the Chicago Cubs who, before he arrived in 2002, looked as though they belonged in Double-A ball. 

He got to work immediately, firing Don Baylor and subsequently bringing in names such as: Dusty Baker, Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Nomar Garciaparra, Greg Maddux, Lou Piniella, Alfonso Soriano, and Milton Bradley, to name a few. 

While his acquisitions have had their ups and downs, Hendry has shown the desire to improve. But have the Cubs improved at all this offseason?


The Good

Ryan Dempster (17-6, 2.96 ERA in 2008) was signed to a four-year deal on November 18. He was a rock in the rotation last year, and should help hold the staff together for the next few seasons.

Milton Bradley was one of the most sought after sluggers of the offseason. However, many teams were hesitant to sign the outfielder due to his hot temper and injury history. 

Last season, Bradley hit .321 with 22 home runs, and 77 RBI. The Cubs signed the slugger on Jan. 8. 

Reed Johnson batted .303 with six home runs, 50 RBI, and 21 doubles in 109 games.  Add his acrobatically stellar defense, and he is a great keep.


The Bad

Neil Cotts went 0-2 with a 4.29 ERA in 2008.  On Dec. 12, Cotts signed a one-year deal with Chicago.

Chad Gaudin finished 2008 with a 4.40 ERA, and owns a career 4.45 ERA in six seasons. Gaudin’s appearances were limited last year due to back injuries. On Dec. 12, Gaudin was signed on for the 2009 season.

Aaron Miles is a solid utility player, but will never put up power numbers like Mark DeRosa.  Miles hit an impressive .317 in 2008; however had only 31 RBI, and had a lowly four home runs.

Luis Vizcaino is a 34-year old relief pitcher with a lifetime 4.24 ERA. Not a bad acquisition I suppose, but not a fair trade for Jason Marquis.

Kevin Gregg was signed to take the place of Kerry Wood. Gregg is a career 4.00 ERA pitcher, and without a doubt a downgrade at closer, assuming Carlos Marmol doesn't seize the role.


The Ugly

Mark DeRosa had a career year in 2008, batting .285 with 21 home runs and 81 RBI while playing virtually every position on the field, and excelling at them. He is truly a rare find in the Major Leagues.

On Dec. 31, he was traded for one mediocre Double-A relief pitcher, and two unknown low minor leaguers.  A+ move...for Cleveland. This move better somehow involve Jake Peavy.

Kerry Wood has had a rocky career, and seemed to finally find a comfort zone in the bullpen. Wood desperately wanted to stay a Cub for the remainder of his career and was even willing to take a pay cut to stay.

However, on Nov. 13, he was released to free agency and later signed on with the Cleveland Indians.

Joey Gathright is not good. He has a career batting average of .263 with 96 RBI and 1 home run...after five years!  On Dec. 13, the Cubs signed him to a one-year deal.

Garrett Olson, unless trade bait for Jake Peavy, may be one of the worst acquisitions yet.  He is 10-13 and owns a career 6.87 ERA. On Jan. 18, he was signed as a Cub.

Jim Edmonds will not return to the team, who with his one-year stay on the Cubs, batted .235 with 20 home runs, 50 RBI, while playing game-saving defense in 111 games.

A few bad breaks here and there and the Cubs are setting themselves up for a season in which could end up looking like the 2004 season, a season with high expectations, and great numbers...on paper. 

The Cubs stayed relatively healthy in 2008, with only a few short DL stints that proved insignificant due to the strong play by utility saviors like Mark DeRosa, as well as decent pitching from guys like Jason Marquis.

This offseason, it seems all the Chicago Cubs have done is turned their team into a high-risk ballclub, adding some below-average arms and mediocre bats. 

Additionally, the Cubs are overloaded with high-risk injury players like Soriano, Rich Harden, and now Milton Bradley. 

With the current Cubs roster, they are still the team to beat in the National League.  However, they are not as good as they were last year. 

If they add Jake Peavy they will have upgraded their roster, but without his addition they have not improved a great deal in the offseason.

The Chicago Cubs do not need a whole lot of work in order to be a contender in the playoffs.

However, they have definitely taken a step backward rather than a step forward with their moves thus far. 

Let’s just hope that the one crucial move everyone has been waiting for is still around the corner.


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