Daniel Shoptaw of C70 At The Bat asked me to answer a few Cubbie questions in preparation for his annual Playing Pepper Series which takes a look at all the other teams around MLB. You can read more on this series by visiting www.cardinal70.com.
DANIEL’S QUESTIONS FOR BULLPEN BRIAN:
1) What was your opinion of the Chicago offseason?
2) Will Carlos Pena be able to adequately compensate for the loss of D-Lee?
3) Can Carlos Zambrano still regularly be a dominant force on the mound?
4) Is there a Cubs prospect that will make a significant impact this season?
5) What is your prediction on Chicago’s record and divisional finish?
BULLPEN BRIAN’S ANSWERS:
1.) Jim Hendry’s had a strong offseason. He addressed all three of the Cubs’ major needs starting with Carlos Pena, the left-handed hitting first baseman. Then signing Kerry Wood, the quality bullpen arm, and lastly, trading for Matt Garza, a solid No.3 starter. Even better, Hendry’s done all this for around $16-million.
2.) Signing Carlos Pena is a good move for the Cubs. No question Pena struggled offensively last season, but I think he’ll bounce back. The guy’s exactly what the Cubs were looking for at first base: good glove and a left-handed stick with power. Pena is also a good clubhouse guy, not to mention, a 10-year vet who’s played on winning teams, and played in the postseason. That’s the kind of experience the Cubs need in its young dugout. And that’s about the best you can do short-term to replace a Derrek Lee.
3.) Carlos Zambrano remains a dominate force on the mound. The problem, however, is he’s an equally destructive force off the mound. His failure to mature as both a person and a player has worn me thin. I never have, and never will, believe Zambrano’s many claims of ‘change.’ The man’s a ticking time bomb I wish Hendry would trade away. Doesn’t mean ‘Z’ won’t be a huge force for the Cubs this season, just saying I’d be okay without him.
4.) I don’t believe any prospects will make a significant impact like Starlin Castro did in 2010. The best potential candidates would have been Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee and Brandon Guyer. All three, however, were dealt to Tampa Bay in the Matt Garza deal.
5.) I hope I’m wrong about this, but I look for the Cubs to improve only nine games to (84-78) and a third place finish in the NL Central.