The baseball Winter Meetings begin tomorrow in what is called The Happiest Place On Earth, a Disney resort in Orlando, Florida.
Only time will tell if the meetings will bring happiness to Cubs fans. Instead of more agonized handwringing over the players the Cubs did not sign or acquire over the last couple of days, I thought I'd give you a chance here to discuss the needs the team has and who they might acquire to fill those needs.
One of those might be free agent 1B Adam LaRoche, who had a down year (.788 OPS after being over .800 four straight years) even though he drove in 100 runs. He strikes out a lot -- but then, so does that entire Diamondbacks team. He'd be a relatively inexpensive stopgap at first base, if signed for only one year.
Instead of trying to make an entire 25-man roster, let's look at the players who appear to be guaranteed a spot on the Opening Day roster in 2011. Even some players who were tendered contracts last week aren't absolutely locks to be on the team. You may not agree with all of these selections, but here's how I see it, given players currently on the 40-man roster and not considering any possible trades.
Catcher: Geovany Soto
Infield: Blake DeWitt, Jeff Baker, Starlin Castro, Aramis Ramirez, Darwin Barney
Outfield: Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, Kosuke Fukudome, Tyler Colvin
SP: Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny
RP: Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall, Andrew Cashner, John Grabow
That's 19 players, which would leave six openings -- more if some of the players the Cubs would probably like to trade (Fukudome, Silva) can be dealt. There's a first baseman needed -- right now, LaRoche is a possibility, as is Chris Davis, who could be acquired from the Texas Rangers. I've got five starting pitchers listed, but Casey Coleman and possibly even Chris Archer could be considered for the rotation if a deal could be made.
A backup outfielder or two is necessary. Will Sam Fuld make the team again? Should the Cubs go with 11 pitchers to give them more bench flexibility? (I would, but managers today don't seem willing to do that.) The Cubs could use a veteran relief pitcher; obviously, Kerry Wood fits the bill, but he may be too expensive to bring back to the North Side.
Will the Cubs make a Rule 5 pick who will get significant playing time in spring training and possibly stick with the team? The last three picks -- Tim Lahey, David Patton and Mike Parisi -- were all basically a complete waste of time and roster space. This year, I hope the Cubs say "pass" when their turn comes up in this draft on Thursday morning. The only recent Rule 5 pick who had an impact on the Cubs (and don't say Josh Hamilton here, please) was Randy Wells, who was taken in 2007 by the Blue Jays, pitched in one game for them, and then returned to the Cubs.
We haven't heard many rumors attached to the Cubs and that is likely because Jim Hendry doesn't like to negotiate in the media, which I'm sure his fellow GM's appreciate. Let's hope he's got several good deals up his sleeve this week.