Here in the early goings of the 2008-2009 offseason, it took one day for Jim Hendry to possibly set the tone for what could be an unpredictable couple of months. All he had to do was trade away Jose Ceda for Kevin Gregg and tell the Cubs' faithful that Kerry Wood, a fan favorite, was on his way out.
While Cubs' fans were preparing for the possibility of Wood leaving, I doubt that there were many that thought the situation would come to this conclusion so quickly, if at all. The trade for Gregg may or may not have been the reason for what transpired, but it most likely was the nail in the coffin.
But those moves have been picked apart endlessly since they were announced, so there is no need to elaborate further. There are other moves that need to be made.
I don't think it will come as any surprise to Cubs fans which holes are the most glaring: right field and left-handed hitting. I covered both of these points (to a lesser extent than what I plan to do here) in a previous article. For my thoughts on how to solve the problem internally, consult that article.
Possible Targets in Free Agency
Bobby Abreu, Garret Anderson, Milton Bradley, Russell Branyan, Ben Broussard, Freddie Bynum, Chris Duffy, Adam Dunn, Cliff Floyd, Luis Gonzalez, Ken Griffey Jr., Nathan Haynes, Eric Hinske, Raul Ibanez, Mark Kotsay, Ryan Langerhans, Felipe Lopez, Rob Mackowiak, Paul McAnulty, Laynce Nix, Trot Nixon, Greg Norton, Corey Patterson, Jason Perry, Scott Podsednik, Chris Snelling, Cory Sullivan, Mark Sweeney, Joe Thurston, Jason Tyner, and Brad Wilkerson are all left-handed or switch-hitting free agents with major league outfield experience.
That's 31 players right there, including minor league free agents.
Noticeably missing from this list are Jim Edmonds and Daryle Ward. Since Edmonds is likely retiring and Ward is easily replaced from within, I see no need to include them in this discussion. If there's anyone else I left out, please let me know.
Although I could've sworn that I saw an article stating that the Cubs were not going to pursue Abreu, I have completely failed at finding anything that remotely came close to somewhat resembling even an offhanded comment of some thought that may be interpreted as being something to that effect from somebody that had any link whatsoever to any organization including the name "Cubs."
So what better place to start than with him?
Bobby Abreu is a player that has shown the ability to hit for power, hit for average, steal bases, and play great defense with a cannon arm. He has hit .292 over the past three seasons with an average of about 26 stolen bases and 17 home runs.
His defense hasn't taken that much of a hit either, despite being 34 years old (35 on opening day 2009). He would be a great pickup for the Cubs. But if the Cubs weren't willing to dish out the money to keep Kerry Wood, are they really going to give Abreu an offer that will attract him to the North Side?
Raul Ibanez has hit .292 over the past seven seasons with about 22 home runs per year. But he isn't the best defensive outfielder, since he doesn't always take great routes to the ball.
His strikeout totals aren't all that low and his walk totals aren't all that high. Overall, though, he could be a good fit since he does find ways to drive in runs.
Adam Dunn is not going to dazzle anybody defensively, but "The Tower of Power" can rake and, considering that fall is upon us, perhaps this would be a good time to bring in a player with such skills. The 29 year old has hit at least 40 home runs in each of the past five seasons (exactly that number for the past four) and has accompanied each of those seasons with over 100 walks.
The strikeouts and batting average can be scary at times, but there should be no doubt that he can drive in runs with table-setters in front of him.
Griffey was once one of the greatest outfielders to ever play the game and probably the last true five tool player to date. But he's lost a step or two and his bat is becoming more inconsistent every year.
What I fear most is that his approach is starting to become what Craig Biggio's was toward the end of his career: pull happy. If he's willing to sign a mid-level contract, he could be a very good influence for both the younger and the older players on the team.
Eric Hinske seems to be on his way to a resurgence. The 2002 American League Rookie of the Year hit 20 home runs last year on his way to his second straight World Series appearance. While he isn't a Gold Glove candidate, he can hold his own. Also, he will almost certainly come cheaper than other free agents.
Garret Anderson can still hit for average (.297 and .293 the past two seasons), but hasn't hit 20 home runs since 2003. His walk totals are low and his RBI totals since that 2003 season aren't impressive.
Because of his age, don't expect great mobility in the outfield. Unless he will take a lower salary to be on a winning team with a chance to go to the postseason again, it just doesn't feel like a good move.
The rest of the free agents on my list are either too young (and/or inexperienced) to get a good feel of their abilities, unable to play defensively, haven't played consistently in the outfield in some time, haven't had consistent time in the big leagues for awhile, or are not really the right field type.
Feel free to discuss any names that pop out amongst yourselves.
How About Something Out of Nowhere?
There is one player that could solve the Cubs' problems for the long haul. Let me describe this player for you.
Last season, he hit 25 home runs with 104 RBI and a .278 batting average in 133 games. He also hit 37 doubles, scored 97 runs, and was featured on Baseball Tonight's Web Gems at least twice late in the season.
Although he did pile up a Dunn-like 176 strikeouts, it was due in part to elbow problems that he had throughout the season. He is described as a natural leader that puts forth a consistent effort and has a strong enough arm to play in right field.
Oh, and he'll be 21 years old come Opening Day. Does that sound like something you might be interested in?
His name is Travis Snider (pictured above), and he has been the Blue Jays' top prospect for the past two seasons.
Alright, all but 73 of his at-bats came in the minor leagues, but anyone who has seen this kid hit knows the kind of potential he has.
Since the Blue Jays haven't given him significant time in the big leagues yet, they would have to use his high ceiling as leverage in a trade, which could be easily be countered with an argument about how little he has proven.
I realize that the Blue Jays probably will not want to part with their top prospect, but it's worth a try, right? After all, they do have a bit of a surplus in the outfield, and I'm sure Hendry could find something that the Blue Jays need to offer in return.
If Hendry wants to continue his trend of moves out of left field, this would be a great way to do it.
In the end, whether Hendry does something or not, the Cubs will most likely be fine going forward. Don't underestimate the depth of their farm system and the abilities of the coaching staffs to develop the players further.