Cubs Munching on Reliever Salary

Posted by Lionel on April 23, 2009.

The Cubs are expected to DFA Luis Vizcaino today and call up Jeff ND to take his spot in the bullpen. If they are unable to trade him, they will be eating over $4M in salary. Add Gaudin's salary, and the Cubs have already dropped $6M to guys no longer playing baseball in the Cubs organization. But let's take a trip back to see how JH got himself into this mess...

Before free agency began, it looked like Marmol would close, Jeff ND would be the setup guy, with Gaudin, Cotts, Wuertz and possibly Marshall in the 'pen, with one open spot for Guzman, Ascanio, Hart, etc. to try to grab (with Guzman the clubhouse leader given his status as out of options).

The first move JH made was to acquire Kevin Gregg. Alright, move Jeff ND into the 7th spot, Marmol and Gregg battle for 8th and 9th duties, and eliminate the open 'pen spot. Then the Cubs traded cash for Rule V Pick David Patton. Fine. He can come in, try but not win a big league spot, no big deal. All this time, though, there were discussions as to whether the Cubs would tender a contract to Gaudin, who was due around $2M. This surprised me a little, because I thought Gaudin was OK and he'd be better when he was fully healthy this year. They tendered him for $2M.

Then comes trade/payroll dump central. DeRo is the first to go, but the Cubs get Jeff Stevens in return, and we're told he's MLB ready and could compete. A week later, Marquis gets traded for the Rockies trash, Luis Vizcaino. While the addition of Vizcaino makes the bullpen over-capacity, the now-open starter spot makes it a wash. Two weeks after that, Felix Pie is dumped for a couple of pitchers, including Garrett Olson, who were told is MLB ready and could compete. Most of us believe that he's really being added to trade for Jake Peavy.

10 days later, Olson is traded, but instead of getting Peavy, the Cubs get Aaron Heilman. We are told he'll compete with Marshall, Gaudin, and Jeff ND for the 5th starter's spot, and based on the length of time that's passed since the Peavy discussions were serious, it looks like that'll happen. Heilman makes the bullpen officially +1.

To make that +1 disappear, the Cubs trade Michael Wuertz, who was out of options. But even then, you still had Angel Guzman who you were going to lose.

And when Guzman and David Patton pitched well in the spring? That meant someone had to go (Gaudin) and Jeff ND had to be sent down. But it still handcuffed the Cubs. There wasn't a single member of the 'pen who could be sent to the minors without clearing waivers.

I'm all for building a strong bullpen, but JH really screwed around too much. I think you should always have the ability to send down one or two of your relievers. The Cubs can do that now, but at a cost of $6M. And if they aren't able to trade Vizcaino, the Cubs traded a serviceable Jason Marquis for nothing but a $4M dollar expense.

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