With the Chicago Cubs in rebuild-mode, their offseason is just about complete, although another couple moves may be on the horizon.
Looking to improve on an incredibly poor 101-loss season in 2012, the Cubs have made a few moves this offseason, inking pitchers like Edwin Jackson, Scott Baker and Scott Feldman to contracts. They also signed Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa to a contract to bolster their bullpen.
While they're not expected to compete just yet, Chicago is trying to improve this offseason.
It's next offseason, however, that could be a big one for the Cubs. Players like Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Wellington Castillo will have had another year of seasoning and the Cubs could be much closer to being a .500 ball club. If Baker can regain his 2011 form and Jackson can power his way to a nice season, Chicago could be much closer to contention than expected.
That said, they would still need another bat or two to really compete and at least one more reliable arm in their starting rotation.
So who could they choose to pursue to help speed up their rebuild after next season?
Corey Hart, RF
The outfield is a big need for the Chicago Cubs.
Heading into 2013, it appears as though the starters in the outfield will be Nate Schierholtz, David DeJesus and Alfonso Soriano.
With the Cubs rebuilding, it's not that big of a deal, but next offseason presents a great opportunity for the Cubs to pick an outfielder or two to help the team become more competitive. Corey Hart is one such option.
Hart is an ideal candidate in next year's field for the Cubs because he can hit and occupy a corner outfield position. He wouldn't be blocking top prospects Albert Almora or Matt Szczur. Thus, Chicago could sign Hart to a four or five-year deal and still have room for both of their top outfield prospects.
Hart's ability to produce would also be welcome to the Cubs' lineup, as he has averaged 29 home runs and 83 RBIs in nine seasons. Hart has, 2012 aside, been one of the better defenders in the league from the outfield as well. Keep in mind that in 2012, Hart played the majority of his games at first base.
Snagging one of the Milwaukee Brewers' better players via free agency would be the cherry on top of a Corey Hart signing.
Jason Vargas, SP
With Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson being the only notable starters the Cubs have locked up beyond next season, making a play for the southpaw Jason Vargas could result in a nice signing for the Cubbies.
It would give the team the left-handed starter they could use and, if the team can resign Matt Garza, Vargas would be a great third or fourth starter in Chicago's rotation.
Vargas has thrown for 200 innings or more in both 2011 and 2012, and missed that mark by just 7.1 innings in 2010. His ERA is consistently in the 3.70-to-4.30 range, which would give the Cubs a solid back-of-the-rotation arm moving forward.
He'd also fit in with the rebuilding plan, as he shouldn't cost as much as guys like Dan Haren or Roy Halladay, who are also set to hit the market next winter.
Joel Hanrahan, CL
Hanrahan is no stranger to rebuilding teams.
Hanrahan has spent the past few years with the perennially rebuilding Pittsburgh Pirates and is now with the Boston Red Sox.Should he opt to test free agency next season, Chicago would be wise to pick up the 31-year-old closer.
He has saved a combined 76 games in the last two seasons, registering an ERA below 2.75 in each of those two seasons.
The bullpen is another department Chicago needs to improve in, especially with their current closer Carlos Marmol a free agent after the 2013 season.
Hanrahan would be a more-than-worthy replacement.
What do you think? Who would you like to see the Cubs go after next offseason? Will they make a major splash to jump-start their rebuild efforts? Sound off in the comments section below.
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