The Cubs Have A Bench Spot Open. Who Should They Sign?

As it appears today, the Cubs have 12 of their likely 13 position player slots accounted for. The eight starters will be: Geovany Soto, Derrek Lee, Jeff Baker, Ryan Theriot, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd and Kosuke Fukudome.

On the bench you'll find Koyie Hill, Mike Fontenot, Andres Blanco, Sam Fuld, and...

... well, so far that last spot is undetermined. The Cubs recently signed ex-Mariner minor leaguer Bryan LaHair to a minor league deal, but he's basically Micah Hoffpauir redux, and that didn't work out so well last year.

So who should the Cubs look at for that final bench spot? The photo above gives you one clue as to who this post is about; follow me past the jump for more on him, and two other choices.

Russell Branyan showed prodigious power in the minor leagues -- he hit 40 HR in low A ball in 1996, 39 combined between high-A and Double-A in 1997, and in 1998 hit 16 in only 163 at-bats in Double-A. But he also struck out. A lot. About one-third of his plate appearances ended in K's, and he never really walked enough to make up for that. Plus, he didn't really have a position, so he got shuttled around to seven different teams (the Brewers twice) before finally having a pretty good year for the Mariners last year.

He still doesn't really have a position -- he can play 1B and 3B passably, and a bit of outfield (though he hasn't played there much since 2006). He's also had some back trouble, and is now 34 years old.

But he might be a useful addition -- he's got that lefty power bat that Lou slobbers over, and for the right price he could back up 1B, 3B, play an OF game here and there (he couldn't really be worse than Hoffpauir), and hit a few home runs.

Xavier Nady has the same injury worries -- he missed almost all of last year after having Tommy John surgery. Younger than Branyan -- he's 31 -- he's a good outfielder and could back up all three outfield positions. He had a very good year split between the Pirates and Yankees in 2008, hitting .305/.357/.510 with 25 HR and 97 RBI and an OPS+ of 127.

And finally, there's our old pal Reed Johnson, still unsigned. For those who worry about Reed's back problems -- a legitimate concern -- remember that the bulk of the time he missed in 2009 was due to a broken foot he suffered when he fouled a ball off of said foot, not because of the back. We know that Reed rakes against LHP -- .313/.378/.463 career, an .841 OPS, nearly All-Star level, in over 1000 PA -- and he'd be a fine platoon partner with Kosuke Fukudome in right field. Johnson already knows the team and organization and ballpark and is popular among Cubs fans, though the latter isn't necessarily a reason to sign anyone.

I'd be happy with any of these three as the final bench player for 2010. Each has his own strengths that could help the Cubs. Obviously, the team doesn't appear to have much payroll flexibility, so the "right price" for any of them would be important.

In the words of many here: GETITDONEJIM.

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