My first thought when looking at the Cubs' current roster is that they need better starting pitching and middle relief. Fortunately for them they have a wealth of it in the minors with some impressive arms that have had statistical success.
Chris Archer is absolutely filthy in high A ball down in Peoria this year. He could figure in to next season's rotation, and is sure to be promoted either to the big club in September, or double, or Triple-A Iowa replacing a call-up.
Rafael Dolis was a kid who was already considered this last camp for a bullpen spot and has a power arm. He is starting now, but will probably be installed as a pen guy.
We've seen what Andrew Cashner can do. The kid's stuff is unquestioned. It's always a good thing to have a guy who can reach 100 MPH on the gun. It's just a matter of what direction they want to go with him, either as a starter or in the pen. If he's in the pen, he will be a closer. You don't have an arm like that in the pen for long relief, or even setup.
That would mean the Cubs have an asset in Carlos Marmol, who should catch a fair price on the trade market to hopefully get that corner infielder the Cubs desperately need.
Trey McNutt is another kid who's been absolutely filthy! He's 20 and in high A ball, but I wouldn't be shocked to see him up midway through the season in 2011.
Jay Jackson is another candidate to be in the rotation, and has No. 2 type stuff who at 22 appears ready, and will undoubtedly be a September call up.
Dae-Eun Rhee appears to have recovered nicely from Tommy John surgery, and had a solid year in high-A ball Dayton. He will will also be a year further removed from the surgery. He may be another year or two away, but can figure into a possible trade package this offseason.
Esmailin Caridad is another promising power arm for the pen with his 97 MPH fastball who we have seen already.
Other names like Marcos Mateo, David Cales, Casey Coleman, and Thomas Diamond could play a part in 2011 as either factors on the Cubs staff or as trade assets.
This isn't even counting this years draftees. I went off Baseball America's list of top 30 prospects compiled back in February.
Maybe Carlos Zambrano pitches well now after being re-installed in the rotation to be showcased as part of an offseason trade package. He has the pedigree. Hopefully he can recapture what he was before he signed that lucrative deal.
Despite the promising young arms mentioned, and the great depth, the Cubs will need to have a legitimate top of the order starter for this rotation. Whether it be Zambrano re-installing himself as the clear ace of the staff, a trade acquisition, a free agent, or an emerging youngster, this team is clearly short a true ace and needs one desperately.
Than you have some really interesting positional guys. Josh Vitters has struggled and is now injured, but he's only 20 and has the pedigree. There's still hope for him to turn into that power-hitting third baseman the Cubs are hoping he does turn into.
Brett Jackson makes Marlon Byrd a possible trade asset, or the Cubs can let Lee go, put Tyler Colvin at first, and move Byrd to right field while putting Jackson in center field.
Speaking of which, if the Cubs don't re-sign Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez could go to first, but then they would have to move an outfielder or two to make room for Jackson, who looks ready for the majors. I also don't like whats in our system, or in free agency at third base. Ryan Flaherty is a kid who might work out at third, but he's had a hard time with his recent promotion to Tennessee in his 23 games there. The kid has that pop you look for from your corner infielders though.
The Cubs do have a wealth of assets to trade. They have all those arms I mentioned, as well as Geovany Soto. With the way Robinson Chirinos has hit, it may be worth dealing Soto for other assets we don't have on the roster, or ready to jump to the majors from the minors. Chirinos was actually declared best defensive catcher in the system by Baseball America.
Wellington Castillo is another guy who could be a good backup while shedding Koyie Hill's ridiculous $900,000 salary. Soto is proven, and would be highly coveted if he became available. His value is way up there right now too. I know it would be hard to deal a young productive catcher, but desperate times require desperate measures.
I haven't even mentioned Hak-Ju-Lee, who may or may not figure on this team sometime next season like Starlin Castro did this season. He appears to be the answer at shortstop and the leadoff spot for years to come. Imagine a middle infield defensively of Lee and Castro at the top of the order for the next 10 years-plus. Suddenly the Cubs' future doesn't look so bad.
The Cubs appear to be stacked in the minor leagues. If the Cubs promote star prospects, trade some other assets, and make a few shrewd free agent acquisitions (not to mention a manager who can work with it), they can turn this around in a big way next season.