As the 2011 season comes to a sad close, as always, optimistic Cubs fans begin to dream about next year. This year's first baseman free agent market leaves us no shortage of signings to dream about. Let's look at what to expect from the Cubs at first base for the 2012 season. From the extremely expensive to the dirt cheap and every aging veteran looking for their last deal in between.
Think back to the “Hug Heard Round the World.” Jim Hendry’s embrace of the Cardinal’s first baseman before a game at Wrigley Field sparked much speculation that Albert Pujols was making his way to the windy city for 2012. Well, now Hendry is gone and Chicago’s chances of landing this year’s largest free agent are gone. The Cardinals would have to be insane to let the face of their franchise leave at the peak of his career. They’ll cave, if only for the opportunity to sell Pujols jerseys for the next 30 years.
Batting .299 with 38 home runs, and 120 RBIs, Prince Fielder is about to get paid. He’s stated publicly that his return to Milwaukee is doubtful, but I doubt the Cubs are going to dig deep enough into their pockets to get him.
The price was right in 2011 at $10 million, but thanks to Carlos Pena’s 28 home runs and 80 RBIs he’s due for a raise in 2012. Look for another team to offer him a multi-year deal at slightly above that.
Tyler Colvin struggled to develop in 2011 due in part to sharing right field responsibilities with Kosuke Fukudome and Jeff Baker. He has played some first base time for the Cubs in the past. Look for an outside chance of the Cubs spending spring training evaluating Colvin at first if they’re not convinced that Bryan LeHair is ready.
I predict Bryan LaHair as your 2012 Opening Day first baseman. He batted .288 in 20 games with the Cubs in 2011. In the minors he was voted the MVP of the Pacific Coast League, putting up a .331 average with 38 home runs and 109 RBIs. A solid spring training will land him the job. So, let’s hope he doesn’t end up in Japan next year like Micah Hoffpauir.