Hendry ready to get to work on 2010
General manager convinced Cubs can be better next season
CHICAGO -- Cubs general manager Jim Hendry called the 2009 season "disappointing" but not "disastrous," and will head into the offseason once again trying to figure out a way to improve the outfield's offensive production.
The Cubs fell short in their quest to three-peat in the National League Central and closed the regular season on Sunday against the Arizona Diamondbacks in second place. Chicago will finish with a winning record, but the only games they played in October were the final four of the regular season.
This offseason, the biggest transaction will be the sale of the team, which has taken more than 2 1/2 years to complete. Hendry said being in flux has not hampered his efforts.
"We don't make excuses," Hendry said on Sunday. "We had a high payroll for a couple years. The last eight, nine months [with the parent Tribune Co. in bankruptcy] have been a little different than the first couple years. ... We're just glad to have an end to it. [New owner] Tom Ricketts and his family seem like wonderful people. I know they have a tremendous desire to be the owners for a long time. That's all positive."
Hendry will meet with some of the top scouts the week of Oct. 12 in Arizona to start forming a game plan for the offseason. They won't get a final budget until the Ricketts family is confirmed as owners, which is expected later this month.
"We'll make the club better, that we feel confident about," Hendry said. "Who goes, who stays and who comes in obviously is yet to be determined."
The Cubs will finish far short of the 855 runs scored in 2008, which led the National League and ranked second in the Majors. Part of the problem was the dropoff in offense by outfielders Milton Bradley (.257, 12 homers, 40 RBIs entering Sunday) and Alfonso Soriano (.241, 20 homers, 55 RBIs going into Sunday's finale). Reed Johnson hit .255 in an injury-shortened year, Kosuke Fukudome was batting .259 with 11 homers and 54 RBIs as the Cubs faced off against the D-backs on Sunday.
Bradley is the wild card. Hendry suspended the outfielder for the final 15 games of the season, and the outfielder has two years remaining on his contract. Will he be back in 2010?
"You deal with the cards you have now," Hendry said. "Right now, he's still a member of the Cubs. It'll be a long process trying to get a roster we think is better, obviously, than what we did in the standings this year. Until people come or go, you have to play the cards you have now."
Hendry was expected to try to move Bradley, who is owed $21 million on his contract. Manager Lou Piniella has indicated he'd like another RBI producer as well as some speed. Hendry didn't tip his hand.
"We'll just see how it goes," Hendry said. "Maybe we make trades more than [sign] free agents. First and foremost, we're not here to be critical of our own guys, but we all know we have four, five guys who are used to having better years than they had. The main requirement would be for those guys to be themselves, and I think they'd be the first to admit that."
Beside the outfielders mentioned, catcher Geovany Soto (.220, 11 homers, 47 RBIs entering Sunday) experienced a terrible sophomore slump. Aramis Ramirez missed two months because of a shoulder injury, and will rank second on the Cubs in RBIs.
Then, there's Carlos Zambrano, who was 9-7 with a 3.77 ERA in 28 starts, and was on the disabled list twice.
"He'd be the first to tell you he didn't have the kind of year he wanted," Hendry said.
The rotation is fairly set. Returning are Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly, Randy Wells and Tom Gorzelanny. Carlos Marmol has secured the closer's job. The team has four free agents to be in John Grabow, Rich Harden, Kevin Gregg and Reed Johnson, and Grabow's agent already has talked to the Cubs about staying in Chicago.
"Nobody likes coming in second," Hendry said, "but it's a disappointing year, it's not a disastrous year."
The expectations were a lot higher, especially after winning 97 games in 2008. The Cubs have won two division titles since Piniella was named manager for the '07 season, but have gone 0-6 in the postseason. Hendry felt he tried to address the team's needs by adding more balance with the switch-hitting Bradley. It didn't work.
"I think I did what people [and the media] would expect of me and the great Cubs fans we have [expect] -- I tried to find a solution to get us to the championship level," Hendry said of his moves prior to the '09 season. "Obviously, the things I thought would work better -- [that we'd] hit better than we would, we didn't. At the same time, the day I stop trying to go for the whole thing, I shouldn't be sitting here. In this case, it didn't work as planned."
And, after Sunday, Hendry will get to work on 2010.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.