The Cubs’ weaknesses are well known and glaring. They need help in the starting rotation and support in the bullpen.
Their team batting average against lefties was horrible in 2012, as was their overall batting average, on-base percentage, OPS, BABIP and runs scored.
To show any notable improvement in 2013 the Cubs will need to be crafty in their moves this offseason. In some deals they will need to sacrifice average for OBP, and some vice-versa.
There are options in the free-agent market that could resolve some of the pitching and multiple batting issues, and make the Cubs more competitive next year—Jeff Keppinger, Joakim Soria, and Jeremy Affeldt to name a few.
But are there any “quick fix” trade options out on there that would not cause the Cubs to mortgage their long-term plans?
One option to consider for an upgrade in the team batting department at the upcoming December 3-6 Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville is Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox.
There have been numerous reports of the Boston Red Sox being “disinclined” about trading away Ellsbury. Dan Duquette, Jr. notes in his report that this is due to the Red Sox’ belief Ellsbury’s trade value declined after an injury-plagued 2012 season.
If Jed Hoyer has proved one thing, however, when making trades and free-agent signings is he does not let a player’s past injuries have an impact on what he believes their value to be—Arodys Vizcaino, Scott Baker, Barrett Loux and potential interest in Josh Johnson prior to him being traded to Toronto proposed by Bruce Levine.
And when it comes to MLB trades, what a team says and what they actually do are often conflicting.
But trading for Ellsbury this offseason would require the Cubs to give up a MLB roster player to go along with one to three high prospects. To give up that much as opposed to waiting a year for him to become a free agent seems highly unlikely.
There is another reportedly available option that might be a little more enticing: Giancarlo Stanton. Giancarlo made it very clear via twitter he was not happy with Miami’s blockbuster trade with Toronto, thus causing a flood of GM inquiries as to his availability.
Reports already have the Cubs interested in the 23-year old right fielder. However, numerous media outlets have reported that MLB Commissioner, Bud Selig, might be a little weary of allowing Miami to execute another big trade.
To acquire Stanton from Miami, the Cubs would most likely have to include Javier Baez in a package deal along with some of their other top prospects to meet both Miami’s asking price and Bud Selig’s trade clearance. Both of which could prove to be too much.
As talented as Stanton is, would the Cubs be willing to completely alter their organizational plans: The very plans they laid out just one year ago?
One aspect of the potential deal that could push the Cubs toward making the move is Giancarlo Stanton will be under his rookie contract until 2017, but he is arbitration eligible after the 2013 season.
But what could end the deal before its even started is the previously mentioned Selig factor. Deciding what will be necessary to acquire Stanton will not solely be in the hands of the Miami Marlins, but also what Bud Selig deems as acceptable.
After the storm of controversy and fan outcry over the Marlins’ trade with the Blue Jays, Bud Selig will not be too keen to see Miami ship out their lone remaining attraction unless it is a “knock your socks off” sort of deal.
So there you have one trade that will cost a lot for a player who is under contract for only one year, and another that will cost even more due to having to satisfy the Marlins demands and Bud Selig’s requirements.
If the Cubs do decide to trade away some of their rare top prospects for an impact player, in this current era of baseball, it would be more prudent to acquire young quality pitching than young position talent.
The Cubs need to make serious improvements to their starting rotation and bullpen. Luckily for them, this offseason there is a cornucopia of quality free agent relievers.
But options for a frontline starter, the options are few and far between.
Zack Greinke is available, but some reports have him receiving a deal similar to Cole Hamels’ 6 –yr.\$144 million deal which is fine for a standout lefty to stay with the only team he has ever known.
Anibal Sanchez is another option, but I have a feeling that his real market value will be greatly exceeded and he will become a beneficiary of what I have previously called “contract inflation.”
With that being said, there are trade options the Cubs should consider. Bigger options and better options.
Improving the starting rotation has taken an intriguing twist with news surrounding James Shields, Jon Lester and the Kansas City Royals.
The Kansas City Star’s Bob Dutton has reported the Royals have had low-level discussions with the Red Sox about acquiring Jon Lester and the Tampa Bay Rays about acquiring James Shields for Wil Myers—one of, if not the most highly regarded prospects in baseball.
One would have to assume neither of those two pitchers is trade-exclusive to the Royals.
But as interesting the trade possibility of Lester and\or Shields is, there are two far more intriguing trade target options for the Cubs, who just so happen to be teammates with James Shields.
The Boston Herald and New York Post both report Tampa Bay is willing to listen to offers for Jeremy Hellickson and James Shields. But Joel Sherman includes in his NY Post article the Rays will also listen to offers for Jeff Niemann and Matt Moore.
It is hard to believe the Rays would be willing to part with any of these pitchers save James Shields since 2013 will be his age-32 season.
But if the Rays are willing to listen to offers for Jeremy Hellickson (2011 AL Rookie of the Year, 2012 Gold Glove winner) and Matt Moore(a good, young lefty with big game and playoff experience) the Cubs would be foolish not to inquire about what the Rays would request in return; this would also be the perfect opportunity to see what the Cubs have planned for Dan Vogelbach.
If the Cubs could trade for Hellickson or Moore and escape with Javier Baez still in their farm system, that would be a sort of coup.
A possible package of Dan Vogelbach-although I would hate to see him traded, Brett Jackson, Darwin Barney, Albert Almora OR Jorge Soler, Alfonso Soriano, and Carlos Marmol with the Cubs picking up the majority of Soriano’s and Marmol’s contracts along with some other lower rated prospects for Hellickson or Moore and a prospect or two would be the sort of deal most likely made-the Cubs should avoid trading any pitching prospects if at all possible.
There are some interesting options out there the Cubs can consider for quick fixes to their lineup and pitching staff-a lot more than what I have discussed-but at a cost to Epstein and Hoyer’s long-term plans. Will they trade multiple young “potential” players for a single young “proven” player?
Only time will tell. But whatever the Cubs do or don’t do be sure to keep your computer, laptop, tablet, or mobile device locked to BleacherReport.com for further trade related breaking news—especially during the December 3-6 Baseball Winter Meetings.