The Cubs managed to get Carlos Pena for only $5 mil this year ($5 mil deferred until 2012) and stole Kerry Wood for $1.5 mil. Factoring in arbitration raises though, they only have a few mil left to work with, so what are the rest of the possibilities for the Cubs offseason? In this article I’ll look at free agent possibilities and later will look at trade possibilities:
The position players all look set and will probably break down to 13 people:
Starting lineup: Castro, Colvin, Byrd, Ramirez, Pena, Soriano, Soto, Dewitt
Bench: Fukudome, Baker, Barney, Hill
As always, no great leadoff options and Hill’s offense is nonexistent. Having said that, Fukudome makes a more than capable backup in case Soriano continues his 3 year decline or Colvin suffers from the sophomore slump. I like Baker in a platoon at 2B with Dewitt but not crazy about Pena playing everyday as he’s always struggled against lefthanders….an average lineup at best, unless Ramirez rounds back into a 110-RBI threat in his contract year.
Possibilities: Not much affordable that’s still out there since the Cubs already missed the boat on a couple of possibilities. SF only paid $1 mil for Pat Burrell to come back and I would’ve offered $2.5 to make him the right-handed part of a RF-platoon. They could still go out and get Reed Johnson back for $1.2 mil to spell Tyler Colvin against left-handed pitchers and provide late-inning defense for Soriano. In the infield, what about Cristian Guzman as a superutility player and right-handed platoon option? He does have a .329 avg and .816 OPS against left-handed pitching the last 3 years, so you could play him at 2B and Jeff Baker at 1B for 6 innings until the other team’s bullpen comes in.….if Bill Hall can get $3 mil, I might offer this to Guzman only if the club can’t afford to get anybody else on the roster. Otherwise, might offer Mike Lowell $1 mil to be the platoon 1B option and bat off the bench.
Current Grade: C
Starting rotation: Zambrano, Dempster, Silva, Wells, Gorzelanny
Say what you will, but Zambrano managed to turn around his season once he was back in the rotation for good, and Dempster has continued to surprise me by throwing great innings for a 3rd consecutive year. Wells and Gorzelanny are average starters for the back end and Silva’s always an injury risk.
Possibilities: I see Casey Coleman getting lots of average fill-in innings once again. Although I’d prefer having a low-base guy like Brandon Webb or Chris Young waiting in the wings, I see them signing for more with other clubs….if you can’t get either of them, Kevin Millwood’s stock has never been lower so you could probably get him for just $2 mil plus incentives….this might all change if Andrew Cashner looks good as a starter during spring training and unfortunately I don’t see them trading Silva now while the free agent market looks as bad as it does for teams looking for pitchers….
Current Grade: C+
Bullpen: Marmol, Marshall, Wood, Grabow, Cashner, Samardzija, Maine
The late innings look good and I expect Grabow to bounce back as a decent middle reliever (although a really expensive one at $4.8 mil…..) This is Samardzija’s last year and the club is paying him $3.5 mil so I expect him to get his final shot at a bullpen spot in spring training. Scott Maine impressed down the stretch last year so lets hope he doesn’t turn into another pumpkin like Esmailin Caridad and Justin Berg did this year after their 2009 stretch runs……
Possibilities: This is the one area where I think the Cubs will probably make their remaining moves. Middle-relief is thin again and they could probably use a left-handed specialist. I might offer Joe Beimel $2.25 mil annually to fill that role, and if he turns the club down offer $1.5 to Lance Cormier. Strangely, Cormier is a right-hander who has been better against left-handers, with a 3-year OPS-against-lefthanders of .686. Brian Fuentes, Octavio Dotel, and Jon Rauch will probably all cost $4 mil or more, so I would take a flier on Takashi Saito. Strangely, this guy continues to fly under the radar but there have been few relievers in the last five years that have been as good as this guy if you really crunch the numbers. He’s terrific against left-handers and even better against right-handers. Many teams will try to lowball him with incentive-laden deals due to his advanced age and injury concerns, but I would offer a deal guaranteed to blow away the competition: 1-year, $3.5 mil guaranteed, with vesting option for 2012 based on innings pitched.
Current Grade: C+
Final free agent possibilities:
Player Role Contract
Reed Johnson 4th OF against LH pitchers 1 year, $1.2 mil
Mike Lowell 1B against LH pitchers and RH bat bench 1 year, $1 mil
Kevin Millwood 5th starting pitcher 1 year, $2 mil guaranteed
Joe Beimel LOOGY relief specialist 2 years, $2 mil in 2011
Takashi Saito right-handed relief, 7th inning 1 year, $2.5 mil with $1 buyout
Total cost in 2011: $8.7 mil
Ultimately, the everyday lineup and starting rotation still aren’t great but the bullpen and bench are a little better. That might be all we can hope for this offseason before some of the big contracts (Ramirez, Fukudome, Silva, Grabow, Samardzija) come off the books after 2011…