AJBurnett34 Posted September 19, 2003 Share Posted September 19, 2003 http://www.suntimes.com/output/cubs/cst-sp...pt-kiley19.html PITTSBURGH -- The first inclination is to believe that Cubs general manager Jim Hendry won't make the same mistake as Ed Lynch, who basically stood pat after the team earned a wild-card playoff berth in 1998. It's hard to imagine a restless spirit such as Hendry will sit perfectly still during the offseason and be satisfied with the same group of players next year. Right now, as we wait to see whether the residual effects from Hurricane Isabel wash out today's doubleheader against the Pirates and further cloud the Cubs' playoff dash, it's easy to tick off six players who are unlikely to return. Pitchers Shawn Estes, Dave Veres and Antonio Alfonseca, infielders Eric Karros and Tony Womack and outfielder Troy O'Leary seem almost certain to exit after the season. Outfielder Doug Glanville could be another peripheral player to go. If these players help get the Cubs to the World Series, they will have done their jobs. But it's hard to envision needing them for next season. That would give Hendry wiggle room for his 25-man major-league roster. But there are some interesting what-ifs concerning Kenny Lofton, Randall Simon and Mark Grudzielanek, as well as some intriguing suppositions that shortstop Alex Gonzalez and reliever Kyle Farnsworth could be used as trade bait. Catcher Damian Miller is signed for next season, but after a subpar offensive showing, will the Cubs be satisfied? Backup catcher Paul Bako has played well enough that you can plan on him being back. The Cubs are expected at least to look into signing shortstop Miguel Tejada, who probably won't re-sign with Oakland because of his desire for a lucrative contract. Free-agent-to-be Grudzielanek has played so well at second base that the Cubs might be willing to pay to retain him, but Florida's Luis Castillo and St. Louis' Fernando Vina could be alternatives. Tejada and Castillo will be seeking big money, but Hendry and manager Dusty Baker may have ushered in a new era in which Tribune Co. is willing to pay for success. Baker wasted no time in noting that the Cubs' single-season attendance record could mean an even higher payroll for 2004. Some of Hendry's thinking will be influenced by whether the Cubs reach the playoffs. But it's worth remembering some of the mistakes Lynch made in putting together the 1999 Opening Day lineup. Lynch brought back center fielder Lance Johnson, who was on his last legs and whose infamous blunder in being picked off at first base to end a loss at Arizona ignited a complete club collapse. Johnson and manager Jim Riggleman ended up at odds, and both were out the door at season's end. Lynch also was criticized for thinking aging Gary Gaetti could come back as the starting third baseman after he gave the Cubs a late-season lift in '98. And popular second baseman Mickey Morandini, a front-office favorite in '98, stunned club officials with his rapid deterioration in skills the next season. Like Gaetti, Lofton is an aging player and remained unsigned last offseason until mid-January, when Pittsburgh finally plucked him off the unemployment line for $1.025 million. But if Lofton is mentally prepared to play a reduced role when Corey Patterson returns from a torn left ACL, he would be smart insurance in case Patterson struggles in his comeback. That brings us to Simon, a left-handed batter, as is Hee Seop Choi. Is this the real Simon, the guy with a funky swing who has done more than his share of hitting and turned in some Gold Glove plays at first base? Or would he be a different-looking player over the long haul, the guy the Pirates dumped for peanuts? Do the Cubs keep Simon and trade Choi, who has struggled against major-league pitching? That will be a tough decision for Hendry. If the Cubs get to the playoffs, all these difficult questions will be put on hold. But Cubs fans are going to spend the winter reading Tejada and Castillo rumors. The hot stove will be hotter than ever. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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