The Cubs scored more runs than any NL team in 2008, and they gave up fewer runs than any team other than the Dodgers. That’s a recipe for success.
Moreover, it’s not likely that the 2009 Cubs will look much different from the 2008 Cubs. All of the team’s major players are set to return, with the exception of the following free agents:
- SP Ryan Dempster
- CL Kerry Wood
- OF Jim Edmonds
Edwards Edmonds’ emergance as a dependable regular last year was gravy for Chicago, who picked him up after San Diego cut him. He won’t be back.
Wood has been a Cub his entire career, but if he departs Chicago has several capable replacements lined up, most notably Carlos Marmol.
Dempster is the key. He won 17 games in 2008, posted a sub-3.00 ERA and he’s an important part of Chicago’s rotation. All indications are that Dempster wants to stay with the Cubs, but it’s unlikely he’ll give the organization much of a discount. He’s 31. This might be his one chance to cash in and he’s not going to blow it.
Even if the Cubs lose Dempster, they’ll still have Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden and Rich Hill Ted Lilly at the top of their rotation. And that ain’t bad. With Dempster and a healthy Harden, I just don’t see any team competing with Chicago.
Outside of pitching, the only position the Cubs will need to address this offseason is right field. Cubs manager Lou Piniella says the Cubs will move RF Kosuke Fukudome to center field to platoon with Reed Johnson. Fukudome played well over the season’s first three months, hitting .296/.404/.430, but he fell to just .207/.297/.313 the rest of the way. He saved four bases compared to the average right fielder. Moving Fukudome to center will make his lackluster offense more palatable. And it will open up a whole in right field that the team can fill with somebody who can hit. Bobby Abreu has been a popular rumor.
Cubs fans are no doubt a little down on their team after it’s postseason implosion. But I’m a Phillies fan and take it from me: October is a crapshoot. Last year, the Phils got swept by a very mediocre Rockies team that just happened to be on a mission from God. This year, the Phillies brought a very similar team to the playoffs and went the distance.
Chicago can make a similar turnaround. If they make just a few tweaks, like signing Bobby Abreu and bringing back Dempster, they’ll be favorites to win it all.