Hello BCBers! Well, we've got plenty of time until Spring Training rolls around and there are still many free agents out there on the market right now who have not been picked up. If you're like me, I'm getting a little anxious for a good off season move from the Cubs. The Cubs still have quite a few holes to fill in before spring training starts.
3B - will probably be the most disputed everyday job come time for meeting in Arizona with semi-rookie Josh Vitters and the newly acquired Ian Stewart and factor in Blake DeWitt and Jeff Baker competing for the everyday job. I imagine if there isn't a clear cut winner by April that we will expect some kind of platoon throughout the year. Stewart, much like Tyler Colvin was, is a reclamation part on behalf of the organization. His slash line took nose dives and maybe under the Friendly Confines and Rudy Jaramillo's tutelage he can find his groove. He also would provide a much needed left handed bat in the lineup - though he probably will come nowhere near Aramis Ramirez's power numbers.
2B could also be shored up a bit, too. Darwin Barney, to me, is not an everyday player as last year's numbers floundered along with the glove. I expect DeWitt or Baker could also compete for this job, as well. Maybe Jed & Co. have another option in mind.
1B seems to only have Bryan LaHair at the moment. I believe maybe their is a Prince to claim this throne if the price and length of contract is right.
Backup C - Steve Clevenger and Wellington Castillo are vying for the position but I'd much rather see a veteran take over on days that Soto is off. I don't know why, but Castillo in the times I've seen him, doesn't seem like a major leaguer to me. There are plenty of veterans available on the free agent market whom I think would be worth a minor league contract or at least an invite to spring training.
SS - Starlin Castro is a definite after his hitting last year. Hopefully his defense will drastically improve over the winter. I'd like to see him earn a gold bat and a gold glove soon. He seemed to be pretty durable. Darwin Barney is probably only suitable, in my eyes, as his backup and nothing more, as we could afford to shore up the middle of the infield with a defensive specialist with a better bat.
CF Marlon Byrd will be back in Center and probably platoon late in games with Campana if need be. Hopefully Byrd can find some pop in his bat. Reed Johnson appears to be back on and will also probably platoon here as well if Byrd goes down or needs a day off.
LF Alfonso Soriano. One of Hendry's eyesores of a contract. Although Soriano had a better season this past year. He's nowhere near his slash lines from his Yankees days. He's also a defensive liability. Expect to see Campana & Reed Johnson enter in games in the 8th inning onward in a lot of games this year.
RF David DeJesus is another sort of reclamation project that the Cubs have taken on. He had 2 horrible years in Oakland after bouncing back from an injury. Hopefully the Friendly Confines and a new league will give him some rejuvenation. He'll hit late in the order and give the Cubs a much-needed lefty in an otherwise right-dominated line-up.
Pitching Rotation so far:
1. Ryan Dempster
2. Matt Garza
3. Randy Wells
4. possibly Carlos Zambrano - yes, it seems that Jed & Co. have once again possibly given Z a chance to show some better colors this year. His name has bounced around a bit off and on as trade bait throughout the winter. Florida has been a possibility but it seems they've got alot of money burning a hole in their pocket and they aren't looking for has-been talent. Z has said he's gotten back to work and gotten back into shape. Could it be that Jed & Co. have said that he'll have to earn respect to get back on the team just so they wouldn't condemn him (i.e. make it so that another major league team wouldn't want him in their clubhouse)? If they do trade Z, we'll definitely need another starter to hold out the bottom of this rotation because the remaining choices we have are Andrew Cashner, Casey Coleman, and James Russell.
Sean Marshall could also be here but, for brevity's sake let's say he's still our set-up guy.
5. Yeah. Who's going to fill this illustrious spot? Still alot of free agents available. An innings-eating, solid guy who doesn't go down alot would be awesome to have here. Travis Wood is newly acquired from the Reds in the Sean Marshall trade and will vie for a spot in the starting rotation after a horrible year there. Jed & Theo are also rumored to be in the works for a free agent or two to fill out this role.
Closer: Carlos Marmol - he's got alot of control issues to work on, but again we've said that his entire career. His BB/K ratio is still one of the best in MLB, though it fell off last year.
Sean Marshall was excellent in this role here. His big hook and his cool composure in tight situations makes me like him in this role. He's also a great lefty. I know little of Chris Carpenter's stuff and Marcos Mateo has always been awful when I've seen him. Maybe a right handed hold-maker off the free agent block for cheap would be a good sign here, too. I'd also really, really like to see Kerry Wood come back for one more go. Now that Marshall is off the market here, we have to sign Kerry Wood back or our middle and late innings look as shaky as a newly birthed horse trying to stand on its own four legs.
Free Agents available as of December 22:
1. Prince Fielder 1B - He makes alot of sense for the Cubs as they don't have a true power hitter in their line-up any longer. However, after Pujols' deal with Anaheim, he's probably expecting a lengthy high-dollar contract. If the Cubs can get him to sign on shorter terms with options and back loaded incentives after he turns 30, then maybe this might not be a bad deal. This topic will be hotly debated until he inks a deal.
2. Yu Darvish - Another hot stove topic that's been much debated. The Japanese import could also make alot of sense for the Cubs as they don't seem to have a true "ace" in their rotation. Posting a bid for this imported gamble could be the Cubs biggest bright spot or let down of the winter. 3. Carlos Beltran OF- He's really too old and doesn't fit Jed & Co's ideas of the future. Consider him gone possibly to an American League team to prolong his career.
4. Roy Oswalt SP- a short-term deal that's affordable could give the Cubs a another much needed starter if they were to spring for Oswalt, despite his stuff getting more hittable.
5. Ryan Madson RP- great reliever, Cubs already have theirs unless they decide to trade him.
6. Edwin Jackson SP- he's an inning horse and was a big part of the Cardinals come back in the latter part of the year last year. He'll be seeking a long-term deal. Could he be Door #3 if Oswalt and Darvish go elsewhere? I really hope not.
7. Hisashi Iwakuma SP - He left the A's and went to Japan last year. He's a wild card and a huge gamble. I doubt the Cubs will go after him. However, if the Cubs get Darvish, could Iwakuma sign a contract for less money just to play with him? Food for thought.
8. Carlos Pena 1B - Despite his batting average, Pena did just as he was supposed to last year and provided a little pop but a whole lot of strike-outs. Could the Cubs spring for another one or two year deal with him if the price is right?
9. Javier Vazquez SP - He posted a huge comeback in the second half of the season last year. Would he be worth taking on as a possible fourth or fifth starter?
10. Jason Kubel - He's an outfield power hitter and he's left handed. Hmm. He doesn't fit anywhere in the Cubs needs right now but that could change.
11. Paul Maholm SP - Rumor is that he's in talks for a contract with the Cubs at the moment. He has a high groundball rate that's perfect for the short porches of Wrigley. He had trouble with his shoulder last year. If the Cubs ink him, could he be another Rich Harden? or could he incur a multi-year deal that puts the Cubs rotation back as one of the best in the business?
12. Coco Crisp CF - He's one of the last true centerfielders left in the game. He reminds me of Willie McGee, except for Crisp's inability to hit a baseball.
13. Tsuyoshi Wada - another Japanese import that's trying to stake a legacy in the MLB. Probably a West Coast team will field him, but again another rotation for the Cubs should the choose to take a road they haven't travelled before.
14. Joel Piniero SP - the Cardinals had him a few years ago and he was iffy in, always very manic in his starts. With a bum shoulder and a loss of velocity, I'd tell Jed & Co. to pass on this rotation option.
15. Johnny Damon OF/DH - he'll stay in the American League and play a few more years so he can make the Hall of Good.
16. Francisco Cordero RP - If Kerry Wood decides not to comeback and we're not so sure about Marmol. He's older but he's still pretty good and would be a fine closer or even set-up guy if you move Marshall to the rotation.
17. Rich Harden SP - the Cubs have been down this road before. I don't think they'll travel it again.
18. Casey Kotchman 1B - maybe a lowball replacement for Pena if the Fielder deal falls through?
19. Jason Marquis SP - He's old. He eats innings like the Cookie Monster eats cookies. His strikeout rate sucks and inevitably has one crappy inning every game. However, he might be a cheap option for a #4 or #5 guy in the rotation.
20. Hideki Matsui DH/OF - He'll stay a DH for probably a team like Baltimore or Cleveland.
21. Bartolo Colon SP - Old, overweight, and over-hyped. I'll pass.
22. Ryan Ludwick OF - He played well in St. Louis and not so well out west. Maybe a return to the Central Division would do him good? He doesn't fit with the Cubs but could possibly fit somewhere on one of our division rival's teams.
23. Darren Oliver RP - How old is this guy? He's left-handed and well, old.
24. Chad Qualls RP - He's never returned to form. He'll probably take a lesser deal to stay in pitcher-friendly Petco.
25. Brad Lidge RP - He's lost his velocity and will probably become a set-up guy for the rest of his career.
26. Hiroki Kuroda SP - A casualty of one of the big financial fiascoes in baseball, he'll be 37 on opening day. He has a high groundball rate and walks few and could be a good low ball option to plug the #4 or #5 starting rotation gap the Cubs have now that they have cap room. His age though doesn't make a whole lot of sense for the Cubs, but if they need to rebuild while some young guys get some work and still want to contend, if the price and term is right, why not?
27. Andruw Jones OF/DH - fat and old. If he looked more like his young Atlanta self that stole bases and hit for power, he would be a viable option but that was over a decade ago.
28. Wilson Betemit 3B - bad bat, bad defense. He's a second stringer in a large market and a starter for a small market team on the rebuild. Just no.
29. Matt Murton OF - He's a curiousity to me. I think he's worth a minor league invite if (and that's a big if) we trade or dump Soriano before the spring.
30. Derrek Lee 1B - a sentimental favorite of mine. Would I like to see him at first again for the Cubs? My heart says yes, but my mind says no. He did rather well in Pittsburg after they tanked late in the season. He's 36. He's served his time. He'll probably go out as a lame duck starter on a 1-2 year deal somewhere. However, I'd like to see him back with Chicago one last time just for sentimentality. Call me Hendry.
31. Jeff Francis SP - a left-handed, innings eating starter that could fly in on the cheap. Just what I've been recommending all along. I say the Cubs should ink him for a 2 year deal around $3 million - about what they gave up in the Sean Marshall trade in salary. Give him some performance bonuses or an option for a 3rd year if he performs above his norm.
32. Kosuke Fokudome OF - Do I even have to mention him here? Terrible sign by past regime. Though he's maintained a career .300 OBS, he's still as inconsistent as a knuckleball at the plate. This is a case where my sentimentally is nonexistent.
33. Kevin Millwood SP - If Francis isn't signed, Millwood would be another low low low ball option for a final starter. He's a control pitcher that gets ground balls. His age and his lack of overpowering stuff though wouldn't fit with the Jed/Theo plan of things. He spent most of last year at Triple-A. Maybe he's worth a non-roster invite if he doesn't get signed by the time Spring Training hits.
34. Vladimir Guerrero DH - This guy still hits the ball like nobody's business, but his uses as an everyday player are long gone. Expect him to hang around in the American League and get at least a minor league deal if not retirement.
35. Raul Ibanez OF - He's a poor man's version of what Xavier Nady was for the Cubs several years ago. I don't think the Cubs are going to purse him at all.
*on a side note Kaplan and a few other AP/MLB writers seem to think that Jed & Co. are going to "blow up" the Cubs in the coming months by possibly dumping Soriano, Zambrano, Dempster, Soto, and Garza. All names have been swirled in the toilet bowl of trade rumors. Anyone's imput on this idea is interesting although I know its been discussed ad nauseum here. I think it's worth taking another look at given our recent acquisitions.