If you felt a little warmer Friday, that's because the Hot Stove came to town, in a big big way.
ITI has learned from a source close to the Cubs that free agent shortstop Raphael Furcal and the Cubs have all but finalized a deal that will bring the shortstop to Chicago for the next five years, with a mutual option for a sixth year. The source told ITI that the deal could pay Furcal as much as $100 million including the sixth year and "significant performance bonuses" that included winning a batting title, the stolen base title, and a bonus if he plays in 150 games for each of the first three years of his contract.
The news that Furcal was coming to the North Side would have easily been enough, but our source also had one more juicy bit of info.
The Cubs might make one more deal that could give them arguably the greatest infield in the history of baseball.
The rumor goes that the Cubs are close to finalizing a seven player deal with the Texas Rangers that would bring Alfonso Soriano and Kevin Mench to the Cubs in exchange for Jerome Williams, Todd Walker, and three minor leaguers, one of whom is believed to be right hander David Aardsma, and another shortstop Ronny Cedeno. According to our source the two clubs have agreed on which players would be dealt, but what is holding it up is exactly what kind of deal Soriano will want in Chicago.
He would likely command a deal similar to Furcal's, and while his addition would solidify the infield, and first four spots in the batting order, there are questions about whether or not the Cubs would be willing to shell out a pair of $100 deals in two weeks to two players.
Still, if Jim Hendry were to pull this off, the Cubs would, once again, become the favorite to win the NL Central, and probably the World Series. With the addition of Bobby Howry and Scott Eyre, the bullpen appears to be shored up, and if the Cubs were able to sign Furcal and land Soriano, suddenly Felix Pie, even rushed, in center field doesn't look so bad, since he would likely be hitting eighth, with little to no pressure to produce.
The Cubs lineup, even with Pie and fellow youngster Matt Murton in it, would almost certainly be one of the most feared in the NL. Furcal, Soriano, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Mench, Murton, Barrett and Pie.
Be afraid, be very afraid. The only obvious weakness would appear to be the lack of a left handed bat in the middle of the order, but a quality, older, cheaper, left handed hitting corner outfielder could provide that at least some of the time, and it might not matter. Yes, the starting pitching will remain in question as long as perennially injured Kerry Wood is still penciled into the rotation, and the trading of Williams would nix one of the top options for temp duty during Wood's inevitable time on the shelf, but the opportunity to assemble a lineup like this comes rarely (unless you're the Yankees).