Andrew Bailey could help the Cubs bullpen in 2013.
The Chicago Cubs could draw more headlines for which players they might deal away at the 2013 trade deadline than whomever they might acquire.
The season to come will be the second year of team president Theo Epstein's rebuilding project on the North Side of Chicago. As a result, outfielder Alfonso Soriano and pitcher Matt Garza could both be traded to playoff contenders looking for some middle-of-the-lineup power or an upper-rotation starter.
But the Cubs will obviously be looking to improve and perhaps have designs on not finishing last in the NL Central this year, now that the Houston Astros have moved to the American League.
While Epstein likely won't make any bold, splashy moves at the trade deadline—if he makes a deal—there could be some recognizable names that he pursues to make his team better in the short term. Yet the Cubs will surely also have an eye on the future.
Here are five players who the Cubs could end up looking at later in the year, almost all of whom would provide immediate help while also giving the team something to build with in the seasons to come.
The Cubs need another reliever, especially if Theo Epstein can find someone to take Carlos Marmol off his hands.
Kyuji Fujikawa and his two-year, $9.5 million contract will probably be the closer at some point, if not at the beginning of the season. But the Cubs could use a setup man, one capable of taking over as closer, if needed.
The Boston Red Sox have a surplus of relievers after trading for Joel Hanrahan. Hanrahan has been tabbed as the closer, likely because he's proven to be far more durable than incumbent closer Andrew Bailey.
Yet with Koji Uehara, Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard also on the roster, Bailey looks expendable.
Epstein should call up his old colleague, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, and see what it would take to snap up Bailey. Given his injury history, the Cubs might be able to get Bailey for a lower price. But his two years of arbitration eligibility might allow Boston to ask for a bit more in return.
Bailey pitched in only 19 games last season due to a thumb injury. He compiled a 7.04 ERA with 14 strikeouts and 21 hits allowed in 15.1 innings.
Michael Cuddyer appears to be a man without a position with the Colorado Rockies.
Between assorted oblique injuries and Tyler Colvin's emergence, Cuddyer appears to have been displaced in the Rockies lineup. Colvin filled in nicely when center fielder Dexter Fowler was injured. He then moved over to right when Fowler came back. That bumped Cuddyer from the outfield.
Cuddyer played first base while Todd Helton had season-ending hip surgery. But Helton is expected to start there again this year in what should be the final season of his career.
In light of those developments, does Cuddyer become an extremely expensive reserve with the Rockies? Or, will he be available either during spring training or at the July 31 trade deadline?
Depending on how Brett Jackson progresses in his second major league season, the Cubs could have an opening in their outfield. If Jackson has successfully refined his swing to cut down on strikeouts, he'll start in center field. If not, David DeJesus will likely play there, and there could be a spot for a player like Cuddyer.
In 101 games last season, Cuddyer hit .260 with an .806 OPS, 16 home runs and 58 RBI. There are two years remaining on his contract worth a total of $21 million.
Third base is a question mark for the Cubs.
Josh Vitters has not developed as hoped, especially from a defensive standpoint. Shortstop prospect Javier Baez could be moved there when he's ready for the majors. Jeimer Candelario is a few years away, with rookie league and short-season Single-A tours on his résumé.
Jedd Gyorko appears to be blocked with the San Diego Padres, as the team apparently has no interest in trading Chase Headley. But Gyorko is hitting like a guy ready for a promotion to the big leagues.
In 408 plate appearances with Triple-A Tucson last season, Gyorko hit .328 with a .968 OPS, 24 home runs and 83 RBI.
Gyorko's defense at third base is a concern. But if he hits well, Cubs manager Dale Sveum likely won't be as quick to bench Gyorko as he was with Vitters.
The Cubs might not have the starting pitching available who might interest the Padres. Otherwise, San Diego could very well try to find a spot for Gyorko. But if Theo Epstein has doubts about his third basemen, he should take a shot.
Ideally, the Cubs need a left-handed reliever to go with James Russell in their bullpen.
But those teams that have one aren't too interested in trading them away. The lefties that were available on the free-agent market—such as Jeremy Affeldt, Sean Burnett and J.P. Howell—were rather expensive.
So why not just get another really good right-hander, one who could also help out as closer if Kyuji Fujikawa can't handle the responsibility? (I suppose Carlos Marmol should be included somewhere in this mix as well.)
The Miami Marlins might want to hold onto Steve Cishek since he's under team control for another five seasons. Additionally, Miami might not have anyone suited to replace him as closer if he was traded. But as a reliever who held right-handers to a .185 average and .568 OPS, Cishek is someone who the Cubs should pursue.
Last year, he took over as closer when Heath Bell was ineffective and performed well in the role. Overall, Cishek compiled a 2.69 ERA and 15 saves along with 68 strikeouts in 63.2 innings.
Jose Veras signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Houston Astros in December. Did he do so knowing that there was a good chance that he could be traded if he has success and the Astros can spin him off for prospects?
The 32-year-old right-hander had a fine season for the Milwaukee Brewers last year, posting a 3.53 ERA in 72 appearances. He also struck out 79 batters in 67 innings, providing the sort of strikeout threat that every bullpen needs.
The Cubs could really use a left-hander in their bullpen, and Veras isn't particularly effective against lefty hitters. But he could likely be acquired cheaply at the trade deadline and could be a strong setup man for Kyuji Fujikawa or Carlos Marmol.
While the Cubs won't contend in the NL Central this year, building a stronger bullpen will make a significant difference in how competitive they are throughout the season. Veras wouldn't be a difference-maker, but he could give the Cubs valuable relief innings.
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