Remaining Concerns the Chicago Cubs Must Address in the 2013 Offseason
As Chicago prepares itself for its first major snowstorm of the season, members of the Ricketts family and the front office prepare to make the trip to Orlando for next week's winter meetings.
Jealous much? Thought so.
Many topics will be addressed and decided on at the meetings, from the future of instant replay to the fate of free agents around the league.
Like every franchise, the Cubs also have many topics to address. The team has already begun to make moves, including the signing of free-agent reliever Wesley Wright and the acquisition of Kansas City Royals catcher George Kottaras.
Let's take a look at some remaining questions for the Cubs in the 2013 offseason.
Who Will Replace Keith Moreland as the Cubs Radio Color Commentator?
Last month, Cubs radio broadcaster Keith Moreland announced that he would not return to the booth next season after three seasons in the booth. "Zonk" cited his desire to spend more time with his family in Texas as his reason for putting the microphone down.
Sources have said that the search has been narrowed down to former Cubs Todd Hollandsworth and Ron Coomer, who both have broadcasting experience.
A decision is expected to be announced during the winter meetings.
What Will Happen to Wrigley Field and Wrigleyville?
The only thing messier than the Cubs' play on the field in 2013 was the political drama between the Cubs, Wrigleyville residents and Chicago politicians.
Each day seems to bring new revelations and battles to the table. Most recently, the Cubs received permission to push back the right field wall and add more advertising to the area, an idea that has not been received positively by the residents of Wrigleyville.
The political standoff needs to stop, and stop now. Wrigley is going to change, whether fans and Wrigleyville residents like it or not. Enough of the power battle and more of the handshaking. Then again, Chicago politics are just as ugly as the play of the Cubs.
Should the Cubs Trade Darwin Barney?
Despite having another stellar season of defense, Darwin Barney struggled mightily at the plate, hitting just .208 in 141 games.
Barney's future with the team remains uncertain, especially with the possibility of others such as Luis Valbuena or Donnie Murphy taking over for Barney once third base becomes occupied by one of the Cubs multiple third base prospects.
After a season that saw him hit just .208, Barney's trade value will not be anything spectacular. However, it may be in the Cubs' best interests to dump Barney off for some pitching and to allow for young players such as Arismendy Alcantara or Luis Valbuena to get some time at second base soon.
What Should Be Done with Javier Baez?
Ranked as the Cubs' No. 1 prospect and No. 9 overall in the MLB, shortstop Javier Baez has a lot of expectations on his shoulders. Baez has played quite well in the minors and may join the club in 2014.
Although a shortstop, Baez can also be converted to second base to replace Darwin Barney and to allow shortstop Starlin Castro to remain at short.
Theo Epstein has already said that Baez will see a lot of time at shortstop in the spring and may also see some time at other positions, including second base. Bruce Levine of WSCR in Chicago tweeted that second base may be Baez's by June.
How Can Pitching Be Improved?
Pitching is perhaps the most important aspect of the Cubs needing attention. The Cubs bullpen was atrocious in 2013 and will need to be drastically improved. The team has already made an addition by signing left-hander Wesley Wright. Wright had a 3.69 ERA in 70 games last year with the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays.
Wright is a key addition for the team as he becomes only the second lefty in the Cubs bullpen along with James Russell.
Reliever Arodys Vizcaino could also be a good contributor for the Cubs, pending a healthy return. After missing the 2013 season thanks to Tommy John surgery, Vizcaino has played in the Dominican instructional league and has hit 98 mph on his fastball.
The Cubs need to continue to make pitching moves. Reports have surfaced that the Cubs have offered starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija a five-year, $55 million deal, via D.J. Short of Hardball Talk. The Cubs also may be contenders to land Japanese free agent Masahiro Tanaka.