The 2009 season for the Chicago Cubs has not gone exactly as planned. Injuries, power outages, suspensions, “lack of fire”, you name it, it’s gone wrong for the Cubs so far this year.
One bright spot for the team this season has been midseason call-up Jake Fox. In 23 games over his two stints with the big league club this season, Fox has hit .317 with 3 HR and 12 RBI. Prior to his callup, he was lighting up AAA Iowa, with obscene stats of .409 BA, 17 HR and 53 RBI in just 45 games. The only knock on Fox is his defense. He has performed decently well playing 3B, LF and RF this year, but he is best suited as a designated hitter.
With Aramis Ramirez scheduled to return from the disabled list on Monday, and the Cubs paying Alfonso Soriano and Milton Bradley far too much for them to sit on the bench (despite their play), Fox appears to be headed to the bench, or potentially even back to AAA.
Too much offense is a good problem for the Cubs to have, but it won’t fix the issues with the bullpen. The Cubs called up Jeff Samardzija from AAA, sending down right-hander Jose Ascanio. While Samardzija shows promise, his 8.10 ERA during his first stint in the majors this year is part of the reason the Cubs are near the bottom of the league when it comes to the ‘pen.
The Cubs bullpen ERA is currently 18th in the league at 4.07. In addition, their K/BB ratio is 1.48, good for 27th in the league, and their WHIP is an ugly 1.50, tying them for 25th in the majors. In addition, the pen is suffering from a bit of overuse. Closer Kevin Gregg has worked on consecutive days nine times, and primary setup man Carlos Marmol has done it 15 times already this year.
The final issue with the Cubs bullpen is imbalance. After spending the majority of the offseason trying to put a lefty-righty balance into the lineup, GM Jim Hendry has a bullpen with just one left-hander, former starter Sean Marshall. The Cubs are in sore need of a lefty specialist who can work for one batter or one inning, so manager Lou Piniella is not forced to use Marshall in matchup situations. This problem has cost the Cubs a few games, including last Saturday against the rival White Sox.
In this writer’s humble opinion, the Cubs have a surplus of hitters, including one without a position, and a need for a left-handed bullpen arm. Jake Fox has been great so far for the Cubs this year, but at the same time, his trade value might never be higher this season than it is right now.
The Cubs should obviously wait to make sure that Aramis Ramirez is fully recovered and able to play everyday before even thinking of making a trade like this. However, it might not be such a bad idea for Jim Hendry to start working the phones to see if there are any lefties available. American league teams should certainly have an interest in Jake Fox.