Cubs need another front-of-the-rotation starter
Originally Published: November 9, 2007By Phil Rogers | Special to ESPN.com
The beauty of Lou Piniella's first season in Chicago lies in the eye of the beholder.
GM: Jim Hendry
Manager: Lou Piniella
'07 record: 85-77, 1st NL Central
'07 payroll: $99.9M, 8th MLB
Runs scored: 752, 8th NL
Runs allowed: 690, 2nd NL
OPS: .754, 8th NL
ERA: 4.04, 2nd NL
Fielding percentage: .984, T-6th NL
Primary needsRight fielder: Piniella mixed and matched all season in right, finishing the year with a platoon featuring Cliff Floyd and Matt Murton, both of whom are better suited for left. The position was problematic all season. A left-handed-hitting regular would be a fine addition. Front-of-the-rotation starter: When the Cubs went to the playoffs in 2003, they had Mark Prior, Kerry Wood and Zambrano -- three potential No. 1s -- in the mix. Lilly and Hill did a good job but there's a big drop-off behind Zambrano, who wasn't a sure thing himself. Left-handed reliever: Scott Eyre was a first-division set-up man in 2006, the first year of his three-year contract, but he didn't earn Piniella's trust last season. He can be a useful part, but an upgrade would be nice.
Free agentsRHP Kerry Wood, RHP Steve Trachsel, LF Cliff Floyd, C Jason Kendall, 1B Daryle Ward and LF Craig Monroe. In the picture: The Piniella-Alex Rodriguez connection is the elephant in the room with the Cubs. It doesn't make a lot of sense to add a fourth right-handed power hitter to a team that will pay Soriano, Lee and Ramirez a combined $40 million next season but the Cubs hit only 151 home runs last year, finishing 11th in the NL. Until Rodriguez signs elsewhere, this bears watching. The Cubs will study the available free-agent center fielders and could make a run at Japanese right-hander Hiroki Kuroda.
Trade baitRyan Dempster: Marmol seems poised to move into Dempster's spot at the end of games, and Howry is available if Marmol has an allergic reaction to late-inning tension. There's one year left on a contract for Dempster, who could be moved into the rotation or a different role in the bullpen if he's not traded.