FanPost

My thoughts on the roster and plan for the offseason




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Let me start by saying - this is my offseason plan, but I am adhering to some of the guidelines / strategies that have been put into place by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. They announced that Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters will begin the year at AAA. I think this makes sense, especially considering it follows the same path of Anthony Rizzo this past year. Rizzo played some in 2011 and struggled – and although he had a good spring, he began the year at AAA. He was then called up during the season and had success. I think Jackson and Vitters could have some success following that blueprint. I believe the Cubs are looking to 2015 as the year they are serious contenders. So my plan will follow these guidelines: free agents will only be signed if they will still be around and productive in 2015, or if they help bridge the gap to 2015 without stunting the growth of the talent already on the roster that could be available to contribute by 2015. I also think that the Cubs are a year away from signing any big name free agents, but I do think they will and should be very active in the free agent market this winter.

CATCHER

Welington Castillo should be the starter – he is 25 now and projects to hit about 270 with 15 HR and 60 RBI (270/15/60) – he is a definite building block and present and future starter. Steve Clevenger should be the backup – he has been a career 300 hitter in the minors and bats left handed, which makes for a great backup catcher off the bench. Anthony Recker offers minor league depth. This is one of the areas the Cubs need the least attention in the offseason.

INFIELD

Anthony Rizzo is the 1B and should be a potential 300/30/100 guy every year. Darwin Barney had a great defensive year at 2B and showed potential with the bat – hitting over 300 at home. He should end up as a 270/10/50 guy year in and year out – which is pretty good considering his glove. Starlin Castro is the SS and had an all star season. He is only 22 and should end up a 300/20/90 type player every year. There is a ton to like about those first three, but 3B is totally up in the air. I do believe Josh Vitters still has a chance to be a very good 3B in this league, but last year showed he is still a long way off, he should spend most of next year at AAA. Luis Valbuena spent the most time at 3B last year and could figure in this year at that spot. I think he would make a great utility infielder who can play all 4 spots and supply some pop off the bench from the left side and also play great defense. I think Ian Stewart is one of the real wild cards for the Cubs next year. He is arbitration eligible and the Cubs could opt to non tender him. I believe that would be a mistake. I think he has short term potential, plus he’s hits left handed and has some pop. I like him as one half of a platoon for the Cubs at 3B. I think he could go 250/20/60. I like free agent Jeff Keppinger as the right hand complement in the platoon. He can also play all 4 IF positions, which will make him valuable off the bench and should go about 280/6/35. He also is insurance and could play the whole season at 3B – he hit 325 in over 400 plate appearances for the Rays last year. His deal should probably be around 2 year 8 million (2yr/8mil). Adrian Cardenas and Junior Lake supply further minor league depth.

OUTFIELD

Last year was a great one for LF Alfonso Soriano – not only did he stay healthy, but he was productive in the middle of the lineup. The Cubs would love to trade him and get out from under his contract, but I don’t think that will happen. I think everybody would be happy with 260/30/90 from him. David DeJesus was the RF this year and looks to play RF or CF for the Cubs next year as well. He had a decent season, but I look for him to do much better in his second season in the National League. I don’t think 280/12/60 from the leadoff spot would be a stretch for him next year. The big question next season is who will be the other OF? Bryan LaHair was an All-Star for the Cubs but had no place to play in the second half. He could be the everyday RF or a platoon RF or a big bat off the bench. I think those questions could depend on Dave Sappelt, who played well in a short stint and could be the everyday CF. Or he could platoon with LaHair. I think one of them will step up in spring training and I like the prospect of either one of them playing or a platoon with both players. As for depth, I am not a big Joe Mather fan, so I would be in favor of bringing back Reed Johnson on a 1yr, 1mil deal. Speedster Tony Campana adds minor league depth, as does Brett Jackson.

STARTING PITCHING

Jeff Samardzija looks to be the present and future ace of this staff. He could be a potential 20 game winner in his second full season of starting in the major leagues. The number 2 is Matt Garza. He had some injury issues but had a 391 ERA and a 118 WHIP in 18 starts. The Cubs could give him a big extension or could trade him during the year if they could get a Gio Gonzalez like package for him near the trade deadline. The only other sure starter on the staff is LHP Travis Wood who had a 427 ERA and a 120 WHIP in 26 starts. Chris Volstad did not have a great year, but is only 26 and has shown some potential. He is arbitration eligible and I believe the Cubs should take a flier on him – as he could at least add depth if Garza is dealt later in the year. With all due respect to the rest of the pitchers that started for the Cubs this year, they either weren’t ready or were garbage – Chris Rusin being the lone exception. Rusin is left handed, has potential, and will supply some decent minor league depth. My opinion is that the Cubs lost over 100 games this year mainly because they did not have enough starting pitching depth with the injury of Garza and the trades of Maholom and Dempster. That needs to change next year. The Cubs should sign 2 of the following free agents: Hisashi Iwakuma – who is 31 and had a 316 ERA and 128 WHIP in 30 games (16 starts) / Gavin Floyd – who is not yet 30 and had a 429 ERA in 29 starts / Carlos Villanueva who is 29 and had a 416 ERA and 127 WHIP in 38 games, 16 starts / Shaun Marcum who is 30 and had a 370 ERA in 21 starts / Joe Saunders who is a southpaw and 31 and had a 407 ERA in 28 American League starts. The Cubs could be tempted by some more established and pricier free agents, as well as some older more experienced ones, but I believe that these 5 will be affordable, offer potential, and not have the Cubs pigeon toed in a couple years from now when they are ready to dole out some serious cash in free agency.

RELIEF PITCHING

The Cubs actually have some pretty decent pieces in place. I look for closer Carlos Marmol to have a bounce back year and return to his dominant form – he just turned 30 and struck out 72 in 55 innings. I also like lefty James Russell – who won 7 games and had a 325 ERA. I also think the Cubs have something in Michael Bowden – who had a 295 ERA in 32 games for the Cubs – he has great stuff and could be a key cog in the 2013 bullpen. Shawn Camp is a free agent and although he is about to turn 37, I think the Cubs should re-sign him. He proved very durable in the pen for the Cubs and is a dependable guy down there. Those 4 make a great start and I think the Cubs have some arms already on the roster to fill it out. The following should duke it out in spring training for the final 3 spots: Jeff Beliveau who is a lefty, Alberto Cabrera who has great stuff, Lendy Castillo who throws high 90s, Rafeal Dolis who has closer experience, Arodys Vizcaino who came over from the Braves, or Vostad or Rusin if they don’t make the starting staff.

What does everybody think?

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of SB Nation or Al Yellon, managing editor (unless it's a FanPost posted by Al). FanPost opinions are valued expressions of opinion by passionate and knowledgeable baseball fans.

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