Climbing Out of the Canyon – Part 5
The Cubs are the last squad left in my 2007 preview of the NL Central. St. Louis (Part 1), Houston (Part 2) and Cincinnati (Part 3) failed to impress meit seems as if an overachieving Pirates squad could hang with those teams. Milwaukee (Part 4) was a different story; they got better in the off-season. And Chicago?
Dusty Bakers Cubs finished at 66-96 in 2006, 17.5 games back of the Cardinals (and one back of the Pirates). But $297,550,000 later, they’re a new team. Their Hot Stove transactions, according to ESPN:
ADD: Lou Piniella, manager; Mark DeRosa, IF; Cliff Floyd, OF; Ted Lilly, SP; Jason Marquis, SP; Alfonso Soriano, 2B/OF; Daryle Ward, 1B/OF; Neil Cotts, RP
DROP: Juan Pierre, CF; Josh Hamilton, OF; David Aardsma, RP; Freddie Bynum, OF
Included in that nearly $300m total is Aramis Ramirez, who was retained to play third base; Henry Blanco, the backup catcher; Wade Miller, a rotation filler; and Kerry Wood, a setup reliever.
Jim Hendry opened up the pocketbook and bought himself a contender. The lineup he’ll run out on Opening Day:
1. Soriano, CF
2. DeRosa, 2B
3. Ramirez, 3B
4. Lee, 1B
5. Barrett, C
6. Floyd/Jones, RF
7. Floyd/Murton, LF
8. Cedeno, SS
Zambrano, Hill, Lilly, Prior and Marquis should start the year in the rotation. The bullpen won’t be spectacular, but Cotts, Wuertz, Howry and Eyre should be able to get the ball to Dempster with the lead. After that, it’s anyone’s game.
There’s not a ton to talk about here. Hendry took a Yankee-like approach and got results. There are questions, yes. Will Soriano be a capable center fielder until Felix Pie is ready? Was DeRosa’s 2006 a fluke? Will Prior and Wood be healthy enough to excel? Which Jason Marquis shows up? All things considered, though, the Cubs seem to be the paper champions.
Both editions of the Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable will discuss the NL Central this week. Monday you’ll hear from our regular panelists, and Thursday we’ll be graced again with celebrity outsiders. Everyone will rank the division from top to bottom and tell you which teams might surprise.
I’ll preview the Pirates before camp breaks for Opening Day.