There's such a thing as too much optimism and too much Seligian "hope and faith." I hope I'm not so unrealistic as to predict Jim's next moves included a trade of Micah Hoffpauir and Carlos Silva for Grady Sizemore. But the more I've been thinking about CF, the more I've been thinking a trade first mentioned as a dream is possible. Maybe my egg nog's been spiked. But in the holiday spirit, perhaps we can all talk what we'd like to see now that Milton's gone. I'm going to try and make a case for why the following is possible, and you can shoot it up with holes, if you like, or better yet, come up with your own optimistic plan.
The centerpiece of my optimistic off-season is Jim Hendry acquiring Jacoby Ellsbury. When this was first suggested, I agreed that it was a nice idea, but on the outside chance of occurring. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed plausible. Why would the Red Sox trade Ellsbury? There are a number of reasons. First - they value defense a great deal and Ellsbury just posted a horrid defensive UZR score. At -18.3, Ellsbury was even worse than Fukudome last season. In 2008, Coco Crisp posted a defensive season almost as bad and the Red Sox traded him. The Red Sox depth chart has Mike Cameron in LF, but his value in LF is limited. Especially when you consider the question marks in their offense, sliding Cameron back to CF and signing a corner OF bat for LF makes sense, especially when you add the trade bounty from Ellsbury onto the scales. Or consider it from this perspective - in Jeremy Hermida, the Red Sox have a LH OF who projects to hit better than Ellsbury and has more offensive upside - why not trade Ellsbury and play Hermida-Cameron-Drew?
So, an Ellsbury trade makes sense from the Red Sox side if they receive enough in return. And Jim Hendry seems like one of the GMs most likely to give the most in return. Jim Hendry overpaid for one year of Juan Pierre, valuing Juan's classic lead-off man abilities enough to pay more than any other GM at that time. Since then, Hendry's offensive philosophy appears to have changed, increasing his appreciation of OBP - but Ellsbury offers that increased OBP. Ellsbury is the perfect combo of what Hendry appeared to value in the past and appears to value now - OBP and gaudy speed. In addition to innate reasons why Hendry would overpay for Ellsbury, the Cubs' particular situation cries out for a CF, a LH bat, a lead-off man, a cheaper player, a younger player, and OBP to help replace what was lost with Bradley. Jacoby Ellsbury fits all of those things.
I won't predict what we'll pay in prospects, but I predict it will be significant and probably enough to elicit justifiable grumbling here. The cost in young talent, however, will leave us with more cash to spend this year. I expect the top free agent target, with Ellsbury in the fold, will become Ben Sheets. He will be a better risk than Harden, with nearly as much reward offered. The Cubs will lose Capps to the Nats, but be glad for some late season bargains, including Kelvim Escobar and Randy Winn. Kelly Johnson will be a late signing and win the 2B job in spring training, giving Fontenot a last minute trade. If Rudy J can get Winn's RH swing back together, he'll replace Fuld as Dome's platoon partner. Otherwise, he'll give much-needed rest to Soriano and Dome v. RHP, as well as smart base-running from the bench.
Lineup v. RHP - Ellsbury CF; Fukudome RF; Lee 1B; Ramirez 3B; Soriano LF; Kelly Johnson 2B; Soto C; Theriot SS
Lineup v. LHP - Ellsbury CF; Fuld RF; Lee 1B; Ramirez 3B; Soriano LF; Baker 2B; Soto C; Theriot SS
Additional Bench - Hill C; Winn OF; Blanco SS (Baker backs up 1B)
Opening Day Rotation - Zambrano, Dempster, Wells, Gorzelanny, Sheets
Bullpen - Marmol, Escobar, Guzman, Grabow, Marshall, Parisi, Silva
When Lilly comes back, we'll have been able to evaluate all of Gorz, Parisi, and Silva, dumping the least effective.