Who gets the Boot?

Posted by Lionel on July 6, 2009.
UPDATED 4:23 CT-The Cubs avoided making three moves by placing David Patton on the D.L., but I was 2 for 3 anyways. Sam Fuld and Kevin Hart are headed back to Iowa.

With ReJo, ARam, and Guzman slated to return to Wrigley tonight, who is most likely headed out of Chicago? Let's take a look:

Jeff Baker-That anyone even mentioned his name is ridiculous. Baker is out of options, so the only way the Cubs would get to keep him is if they sent him through waivers. Why would JH trade for a guy, only to put him on waivers 3 days later? The Cubs added Baker for versatility, not for 3 days of bench warming.

Sam Fuld-Look, the kid's got spunk. There's no doubt about that. And yes, he's leading the team in hitting, at .364. And he's played a more than solid OF. But...he's basically taking ReJo's spot. The Cubs haven't played with 5 true OF's since they traded Joey Gathright, and Lou never used Gathright when he had him (14 AB's in 20 games played over 6 weeks).

Andres Blanco-Andre White is the kind of guy you'd have on your team as the late-inning defensive replacement in the 80's. But it isn't the 80's. Blanco's hitting .225 and has the 2nd lowest OPS among all position players still on the 40 man roster. He could stay or go; he's out of options, so again, the Cubs would need to get him through waivers. Then again, you'd have to wonder if teams are desparately seeking defensive replacements. He could also stay until Aaron Miles returns.

Micah Hoffpauir and Jake Fox-It's just easier to discuss these two at the same time. Both have options, but it's highly unlikely both would be sent down. Hoffpauir has the advantage in being left-handed, but Fox has the advantage of being able to play third. Hoffpauir has been mired in a terrible slump (8 for 47 since the calendar hit June 1), but the Cubs may see the need to get Fox consistent PT at the 3-sack to make him more a reliable backup.

Mike Fontenot-Remember when the Cubs traded DeRo and JH said they did so in part to get lil Mikey more AB's? Well, he's had those AB's and has shown that that wasn't the right move. Fontenot is hitting .236 and has lost PT to Fox and Blanco. Because Fontenot was with the Big Boys all of last year, he actually still has options left. He has made his case to stay by amassing 7 hits in his last 4 games.

Kevin Hart-Hart was just called up 2 weeks ago. He has an impressive 1.59 ERA, with the one earnie coming off a solo HR, but Lou can't like the 5 walks in 5 and 2/3 innings pitched. Hart struggled at the beginning of the season, which may have been the reason we hadn't seen him earlier, but given the fact he has options, he would be the easiest to move.

Jeff ND-Samardzija was called up even more recently than Hart, but is making his second tour with the Cubs this season. He pitched a scoreless inning against the Pirates, but gave up 2 on the 4th of July to the Brew-Crew. Like Hart, he was starting in Iowa and the Cubs have been reluctant to call him up so he can work on second and third pitches, because they still project him long term as a starter. His contract may dictate whether he stays or goes, given that he makes $2M/year.

David Patton-There has been talk that it's time to end the David Patton experiment. He has a 5.63 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP on the year and he pitches roughly once per week. But despite the high overall ERA, Patton has a respectable 3.52 ERA after the first month of the season. The bigger question is whether the Cubs are going to continue to hold on to him through the rest of the year or whether it's time to cut bait and go with the young arms they have in the system.

My Predictions

I think Sam Fuld is the most likely to get sent down out of all these options. Sure, he was great for those two days. But the Cubs brass needs to be honest with itself. Fuld isn't going to supplant any of the starters and the Cubs have a more successful (long-term) option in Reed Johnson. The Cubs have 5th outfielder options in Baker, Fox, and Hoffpauir.

As for the other spot, it's really up in the air. Most experts think that Fox's bat and ability to play the 3 sack will keep him in the Bigs. While Fontenot has struggled, his back came around of late, and I think Lou likes him enough to keep him. Plus, of the group, lil Mikey's ego would take the biggest hit if sent down, and while the Cubs aren't in the ego business, they could lose him forever if he gets demoted. I think the Cubs are leaning towards Hoffpauir, because they have a thunder stick off the bench and because Blanco can keep the bench warm until Miles returns. With ARam back, the need for sticks shouldn't be as great as a gloveman.

I think it's really a toss up with the relievers. Hart's 5 walks in 5+ IP would make him the leading candidate. But if the Cubs see Jeff ND as a long term starter who needs to work on certain pitches, he isn't getting that experience in the Bigs as a reliever. And I wouldn't think they have plans to keep Patton and be a contender, but they've held on to him this long and the Cubs 'pen hasn't been overworked. So, I'll have to guess and say Hart.

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