Looking at a team that won 97 games, this seams like a bit of an overhaul. That may be true, but it is for good reason. In 2008, with the most potent offense in the National League, the Cubs got swept in the first round of the playoffs.
The reason was easily noticeable. They can't hit hard-throwing right handers. The only power bat they had from the left side of the plate was Jim Edmonds, who had 19 home runs with the Cubs, 20 for the year. Their next big left-handed threat was a bench player, Mike Fontenot.
The second problem was that season-long ace, Ryan Dempster, forgot how to throw strikes in his most important start. Walking seven in four-and-two-thirds, he looked like he couldn't handle the pressure. He said it himself when he said, "I felt like I let the guys down today."
I am not one to put the entire blame on someone. Especially when that someone got them to where they were. Dempster's contribution to the 2008 Cubs would probably get him my vote for team MVP. The fact is, he had a career year, and I do not think the Cubs should rely on another going into 2009.
To get started, I will make my attempt at possible ways the Cubs can make the three wishes happen.
Trading Derrek Lee and Signing Mark Teixeira
Derrek Lee, like a majority of MLB stars, has a no-trade clause. Despite the term "no trade," it is only there to keep these star players from getting traded to places they don't want to go.
While it is likely Derrek would like to stay with Chicago, he would likely waive his no-trade clause, if it was under his terms, a la Jake Peavy. He would almost undoubtedly want to be traded to a team with a chance to win. This takes him out of the running for a straight-up trade with one of the teams (Baltimore and San Diego) I would like the Cubs to deal with.
There are a number of teams that could be looking for a first baseman this offseason. For some, Derrek Lee would be attractive for a couple reasons. First, he will not cost near what Mark Teixeira will. Secondly, like Teixeira, Lee is a fantastic fielder. Third, he is a .300 and 25 HR hitter.
Possible suitors could be: Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox, and the New York Yankees. Three of these teams will be in the running for Teixeira, with the Diamondbacks not likely to make much of a push.
WHY ARIZONA WORKS
The Diamondbacks have a great pitching staff but haven't been able to muster much offense. Their young offensive players are steadily getting better and a professional hitter could help them progress.
Right now, their first baseman is Conor Jackson. Jackson showed signs of what he can be in 2008. He can also play left field. It may be beneficial to move him there for two years and have Derek Lee's presence at first base.
Cubs Get: Gerardo Parra, Billy Buckner, Josh Whitesell
Diamondbacks Get: Derrek Lee, another player could be thrown in, or the Cubs could pay part of his salary.
WHY LOS ANGELES WORKS
If the Angels lose Mark Teixeira, they need someone to fill the void.
Cubs Get: Jordan Walden, Sean Rodriguez, Anthony Ortega
Angels Get: Derrek Lee, another player could be thrown in, or the Cubs could pay part of his salary.
WHY BOSTON WORKS
Boston would like to find a replacement for Mike Lowell at third base. The free-agent market for third basemen are slim. While Kevin Youkilis is a fantastic first baseman, they have already talked about moving him to third, making room for them to pursue Teixeira. Derek Lee would allow them to do the same thing.
Cubs Get: Yamaico Navarro, Stolmy Pimentel, Kris Johnson
Boston Gets: Derrek Lee, another player could be thrown in, or the Cubs could pay part of his salary.
WHY NEW YORK WORKS
The Yankees are not bringing Giambi back, which means they will want to secure the spot. If they can't lure Mark Teixeira in, Derrek Lee could be their next best option.
Cubs Get: Brett Gardner, Jairo Heredia, Edwar Ramirez
Yankees Get: Derrek Lee and Kevin Hart
Now, I am not an expert GM and don't claim to be. I also do not know a whole lot about most minor leaguers, especially outside of the Cubs' organization. These trades would undoubtedly not work as-is, but they are just meant as foundations.
Shortstops are popular in these trade scenarios, for the fact that the Orioles are desperately looking for a one.
If the Cubs could get something like this done, they could then pursue signing Mark Teixeira. Chicago could be attractive to him, for he will have protection in the lineup. He will also know that he is only making the N.L.'s best regular-season team even better from a year ago.
It will likely take a$100m contract to land him, but if the Cubs are serious about winning, they could make it happen, sale or no sale.
It won't be easy, it will be very difficult in fact, but they could make my "First Wish" come true.
Trading for Brian Roberts
After two attempts to try to land Brian Roberts, many people do not think the Cubs can pull it off. The difference is that Baltimore really didn't want to trade him then. They have become more and more open to the idea as each day passes.
The trade of Derrek Lee could help make this trade happen also. If the Cubs could land Sean Rodriguez (LAA) or Yamaico Rodriguez (BOS), they could immediately be thrown into this trade.
If Baltimore would rather have a major-league ready SS, the Cubs could send Ryan Theriot. Sending Theriot would likely mean the Cubs would have to send less of a package of prospects.
A possible package could be centered around Ryan Theriot, Rich Hill, and Jose Ceda. If they would rather have Rodriguez or Navarro, the package could be based around one of them, Donald Veal, and Ortega/Johnson (from possible Derrek Lee trades).
There are so many different combinations when you include in the possible trades from page one. The Cubs would have pieces to get the deal done, it is just finding the right combination. And if they could do that, it would satisfy my "Second Wish" and have them ready to pursue the "Third Wish" .
Trading for Jake Peavy
The third and final piece would be the acquisition of Jake Peavy. Kevin Towers has recently announced that they are concentrating on three N.L. teams at this time. He has also announced that he wants a couple big-league players and a couple prospects.
The Cubs could easily be one of the three N.L. teams. The Braves are said to be his top pick, with the Cubs, Cardinals, Astros, and Dodgers coming in next. It is likely that Towers would rather trade him out of division, eliminating the Dodgers.
The Cubs then figure to have an edge over the Cardinals and Astros for their current two division title streak, and the team is still intact for the most part.
With the Padres wanting to improve their team and not just rebuild, the Cubs could make Mark DeRosa available. While I think DeRosa was maybe the most important position player (along with Soto), I think his value may have peaked. It always poses the question, "can they do it again," when a veteran (or any player for that matter) has a career year.
DeRosa is not too expensive, and could play many positions for San Diego. Mike Fontenot is another option, though the Cubs should keep one of the two. Other players that could interest the Padres are Felix Pie, Donald Veal, Jose Ceda, Kevin Hart, Rich Hill, and Sean Marshall.
Once again, the combinations are endless, depending on if anyone is traded along with Derrek Lee, who is acquired in return along with who is traded to Baltimore.
The fact that Peavy named Chicago as one of the top clubs he would like to be traded to lets it be known that they have a shot. You add in the fact that Atlanta is rumored to be very reluctant about trading young talent, even for Peavy, and the Cubs odds go up a lot.
I believe this is a deal the Cubs could get done with or without the other wishes if they want it badly enough. If we know Jim Hendry at all, I think the "Third Wish" will happen, regardless of the "First" and "Second Wish."