If there's any spot that will see a big difference in the Cubs' lineup on Opening Day, it's that infield's right side. While Starlin Castro and Aramis Ramirez are as locked-in as it gets on the left, Blake DeWitt is still a question at second, along with the void at first that was left by the departure of Derrek Lee.
There have been a number of potential candidates named as to who could fill these voids, primarily at first base. However, with the payroll expected to be a little tighter than last season, the Cubs are expected to look more at trades to upgrade, rather than spend money on free agents.
While names like Adam Dunn and Adam LaRoche are still possible targets, a trio of new names have come up in the discussion as the Cubs look to bolster their right side of the infield.
Much of the recent chatter has revolved around San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Now, I know the Padres are a small-market team, but I've never fully understood why they're so hell-bent on trading the San Diego native.
Gonzalez has emerged as one of the premier offensive first basemen in the league, hitting at least 30 homers in four straight seasons, while playing his home games at notoriously pitcher-friendly Petco Park. While his ticket out of town is all but punched, he's most often been linked to the Red Sox and White Sox, though the Cubs are reportedly interested in the Pads first sacker.
MLBTradeRumors also mentioned that Gordon Beckham may be available, listing the Cubs among the interested parties. Beckham had a very impressive rookie year, hitting .270, but his glory on the South Side was short-lived. He spent much of the 2010 season below the Mendoza Line, though he did scorch through the last couple of months of the season, driving his average up to over .250.
While a trade for Beckham wouldn't solve their first-baseman woes, the Cubs could still elect to go with a lower-tier guy like Nick Johnson, which would be a huge upgrade over a DeWitt/Micah Hoffpauir combination.
What exactly it would take for the Cubs to get either of these guys remains to be seen. The White Sox have been reluctant to trade Beckham, who by all accounts could be a future All-Star. Gonzalez is going to cost multiple top prospects, and most likely would require much more than it would take to get Beckham.
On the free-agent front, Victor Martinez is a name that hasn't been mentioned as often, but one that the Cubs still could be interested in. V-Mart has repeatedly said that he wants to catch, which would be difficult with Geovany Soto re-establishing himself behind the dish, but he may find more value as a first baseman.
As with the majority of the first basemen the Cubs are looking at, his appeal is more his bat than his glove. The former Indians and Red Sox catcher hit over .300 with 20 big flies in 2010. Still, I have a hard time seeing Martinez demanding significantly less than Dunn on the market, which would allow the Cubs to sign him.
Let's face it, the Cubs farm system is nowhere near the league's best—like Boston, who could have the best shot at a trade for Gonzalez. They'd have to pull some prospects together and trade most of what they have as far as real value, before extending Gonzalez's contract becomes an issue following the 2011 season.
It's going to be a very interesting winter.