There have been so many rumored names on the Cubs' "Wish-List" this winter. Most of these names have been rumored by people that had no hard facts to back it up, others have been reported by Jim Hendry.
If the Cubs want to win the division, there is not much they have to do. As of today, it is rumored that they are about to get a deal done to bring Ryan Dempster back for four years at a little over $50 million. If they were to ink this deal, they could a stay stagnant the rest of winter and almost certainly go in to 2009 as the National League Central favorites.
They are showing that this is not good enough. Just being in trade talks with the Padres has shown the baseball world, that division titles are not good enough for the Cubs anymore.
Nobody is satisfied being a "Lovable Loser" any longer.
Now, as a Cubs fan it is hard for some to realize that while the Cubs aren't unloading, pursuing some of these players means that others will have to go. If they do not go, they will not see the field as much, even though Lou uses his bench well.
The following are five moves the Cubs should and very well could make.
1. Re-Sign Ryan Dempster
Reports today (Nov. 18) have said that the Cubs and Dempster are very close to getting a deal done. He went 17-6 last year with a 2.96 ERA and was undoubtedly the Cubs most consistent starter in 2008.
Is unknown whether he can repeat his 2008 success, but he may be the best option out of the free-agent crop. His price tag is believed to be a bit above $50 million for four years, but I also believe this is a discount for the Cubs. It was initially believed that Dempster could demand around $10 million more over the four years.
The signing of Dempster would solidify their rotation. Even if he has a drop-off, he is likely to be well above average for a No. 3 starter, with Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harden clear favorites for the top two spots.
This moves Lilly, another above average No. 3 starter, to the fourth spot. Lilly would undeniably be one of the best No. 4 starters, if not the best, in the National League.
2. Sign Free Agent Bobby Abreu
I was not too fond of this when I first heard the Cubs were interested. As I think about it more, it seems Abreu would be a nice fit in Chicago. He is not a prolific home run hitter and never has been, but he does have pop.
In 2008, he had exactly 100 runs scored and 100 runs batted in. He had 20 home runs and 22 stolen bases. His career OBP is .405, though the past two years he has been at .369 and .371.
In the field, he is not the Gold Glove winner he was in 2005, but he is still adequate. With the Cubs center-field platoon of Reed Johnson and Kosuke Fukudome, it is less important that he can cover a lot of ground.
When it comes down to it, he will not make the spectacular long run catches, but he will not make errors either.
3. Acquire Brian Roberts or Rafael Furcal
My first choice would be Roberts, but Furcal would also be a nice fit. In my opinion, either one would play second, leaving Theriot at short. This would give the Cubs a bona fide leadoff hitter, and a high contact, low-strikeout guy in the two hole.
Having a combo of Roberts/Furcal and Theriot would set up the middle of the lineup nicely.
This also allows you to move Soriano into the three hole, where I believe he would blossom. He could still steal 25 bases, but he would be a threat to hit 40 home runs and drive in 130 RBI.
4. Continue Pursuit of Jake Peavy
Due to the fact that the Cubs are near a deal with Dempster, this trade becomes less and less important. There is not much to say about this acquisition that is not obvious.
Bringing Peavy in would move everyone in the rotation down, making it look like this:
1. Jake Peavy
2. Carlos Zambrano
3. Rich Harden
4. Ryan Dempster
5. Ted Lilly
The rotation would probably not be set up this way, but when ranking the starters talent wise, this is how I would go, with an argument between Zambrano and Harden. Either way, the rotation would be sick.
5. Sign Free Agent Eric Hinske
He is an ex-Cub, but he would be a nice fit on the bench. He can play 3B, 1B, or corner outfield and hits from the left side. In 2008, he hit 20 home runs in only 95 starts, 133 games total, in which he had 381 at-bats.
His versatility could allow Chicago to matchup and give guys critical days off. This is something the Cubs didn't have last year. To do this, they had to keep DeRosa, a right-handed hitter, in the lineup to give Lee or Ramirez a day off.
DeRosa wasn't bad, but Hinske would allow them to add an important lefty against tough right-handed pitchers.
While DeRosa can fill in at these spots also, Hinske would give the Cubs that lefty off the bench to replace Daryle Ward. This isn't going to be awful expensive either, so he definitely won't break the bank.
(See Page Three for the Cubs' Lineup Possibilities.)
- 2B - Brian Roberts or Rafael Furcal
- SS - Ryan Theriot
- LF - Alfonso Soriano
- RF - Bobby Abreu
- 3B - Aramis Ramirez
- 1B - Derrek Lee
- CF - Kosuke Fukudome or C - Geovany Soto
- C - Geovany Soto or CF - Reed Johnson
- Mark Derosa
- Mike Fontenot
- Eric Hinske
- Reed Johnson or Kosuke Fukudome
- Koyie Hill
- Jake Peavy
- Carlos Zambrano
- Ryan Dempster
- Rich Harden
- Ted Lilly
- Neal Cotts
- Angel Guzman
- Kevin Gregg
- Chad Gaudin
- Jeff Samardzija
- Jeremy Papelbon
- Carlos Marmol
I bat Fukudome in front of Soto only because of him batting left-handed. When Johnson is in the lineup, I would bat Soto seventh and Reed eighth.
The Cubs most definitely need another left-handed pitcher in the bullpen. I listed Jeremy Papelbon because he is an in house option. His BB/K ratio is not very good, though.
All in all, this bullpen would have a chance to be very dominating. One strength is that Guzman, Samardzija, and Papelbon could all pitch three or four innings if needed.
In conclusion, if the Cubs went into 2009 with this roster, I think they would be one of the top teams. With so much offseason left, it is hard to tell what teams will look different by April, but this team on paper looks very, very good.
I guess we will just have to wait and see how creative Jim Hendry gets.