WTNYSeptember 26, 2003
Chicago Cubs
By Bryan Smith

Jim Hendry did everything and anything he could to the Cubs this year, but in reality, 2004 is their year. In the last 95 years, there hasn't been as good of a time as now for the Cubs to make a run. Hendry doesn't have much to do, but there is unfinished business.

First, Sammy Sosa will be back. You might here that he is "testing the waters" or stuff like that, but he ain't moving. Corey Patterson will be back next season, although Kenny Lofton did a great job filling in. Aramis Ramirez is a great candidate to have a breakout 2004, he's hit 15 homers in only 219 at-bats with the Cubs. Forty to fifty home runs from Aramis' bat is quite possible. Randall Simon will likely be retained, as Dusty doesn't want to bring Hee Seop Choi out there every fifth day. While I doubt it will happen, the Cubs could send Choi and Cruz to the Expos for Vazquez.

What should happen is Miguel Tejada. Alex Gonzalez isn't getting it done at shortstop, and the team could probably throw him into some deal. Tejada would be a big right-handed bat, and give Sammy Sosa protection he's never had. Second base is a hole, and the team should probably re-sign Mark Grudzilanek. Picking up his option is stupid, but he's done great in a Cubs' uniform and probably should return. Although, that would make him the de facto leadoff man. The team will look into signing Fernando Vina instead, since he has leadoff experience.

The rotation is pretty set. Mark Prior will be the ace, and like I said yesterday, flirt with an ERA under 2.00. Kerry Wood will have another big season, now that he's firing that slider for strikes. Carlos Zambrano will further his development, and put up ace numbers. Matt Clement should revert back to 2002 form, since he'll have time to get over all his little injuries. Juan Cruz is quite capable in the fifth slot, and is simply holding on until Angel Guzman is ready.

The bullpen needs some work. Joe Borowski is more of a middle relief/set-up type, and the team should get a closer. Eddie Guardado would give the Cubs the option of a platoon closer, bringing in Guardado vs. lefties, and Borowski to face right-handers. Or, look for the team to look to re-sign Rod Beck. He loves Dusty Baker, and loves Chicago. He'd get to fight for the closer spot, although he may be bitter about not making the team out of Spring Training. The only other possibilities are Ugueth Urbina and Tom Gordon. Look for the team to sign another right-hander, someone of the Jason Grimsley variety as well. With a little help, this team could breeze through the NL Central, and possibly end the near-100-year-losing streak.