What Moves Must the Cubs Make to Contend?
The Chicago Cubs have begun the rebuilding process. Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod reflect the new direction that the Ricketts family wants to take this franchise. While a front-office cleansing is a good place to start, in order to win quickly, free agency must be addressed.
Pitching or hitting? Big bats or sabermetric-friendly players? The front office has a lot of choices to make, and here are the 10 most vital targets for Chicago to pursue, not only for the future, but the present.
It starts at the top, and Mike Maddux has proven his worth as a pitching coach, which is an area the Cubs must improve upon quickly. Maddux took a Rangers squad with an already minuscule ERA, and lowered it. Problem solved for the North Siders.
Mike Maddux's brother is also a member of Chicago's front office, as well as a pretty good pitcher himself; does Greg Maddux ring a bell?
The Maddux brothers can begin to build a rotation that deserves to contend in the National League.
Yu Darvish is more than just an investment on the field; he can increase the footprint of the Chicago Cubs' international exposure. I've already explained how his acquisition is more of a sure thing than most Japanese players, but let's review.
He's 25 years old, hitting his prime, and his numbers haven't fluctuated in the last four years. He would give Chicago a chance to compete, while still being able to develop under the plan of Theo Epstein.
With an eye on the future, why waste money on a player's prime years, when Carlos Pena is an option that you already know his numbers?
28 HR and 80 RBI is something that would be worth $10 million a year, while allowing the future to hone their skills in the farm system. Yes, Pena did hit .175 with RISP, but the 2012 Cubs will struggle to put players on base, as well as in scoring position.
This is a process, and signing a big hitter at first could hurt the franchise in the long run.
These Power Rankings are based off the future, while still contending in 2012. Sizemore, when healthy, is an option for this version of the Chicago Cubs, for the right price.
When healthy, Sizemore is an athletic outfielder with power as well as Gold Glove skills.
Having been injured for the majority of the last two seasons, his price is affordable, and he could be a good fit for a rebuilding Cubs squad.
He's a hot commodity on the free agency market, mainly because he produces year in, year out.
As a career .272 hitter, he'd be a welcome addition to the 2012 Cubs roster, and would be a phenomenal placeholder for Brett Jackson and Co.
Yoennis Cespedes is a Yu Darvish-like acquisition; he produces in the present, while building for the future.
He's a five-tool outfielder that has scouts deeming him the best out of Cuba, perhaps forever.
If Pena is to sign with another squad, then the Cubs' front office needs to spend big on first base, and Prince Fielder is the player they should target. He's a workhorse, having missed 10 games in the past seven years, with production levels remaining steady during that period.
The Cubs would be wasting his prime during the rebuilding effort, but Fielder at even 80 percent is better than a majority of the National League at the position.
CJ Wilson is an enigma for the Chicago Cubs. If they hire Mike Maddux, then it's a natural progression. If they bring Wilson on without familiarity, it could blow up as an awful hire.
Wilson is someone to consider, but unless he has consistency in his coaching staff, it's impossible to predict what he'd do in the National League.
Buehrle is the antithesis of what the Cubs are looking for; at 32 years old, his production is bound to decline, and he would be worthless when Chicago begins to complete.
In terms of current production, Buehlre would give the Cubs another 200 inning workhorse, and allow them to develop not only a bullpen, but players on the starting rotation.
His 2011 salary was ridiculous ($14 million), but would be acceptable for a much lower number.
Leaving Albert Pujols off a Power Ranking would be unfair to his production during the last decade. Unfortunately, unless Fielder, Darvish, Wilson and Cespedes say no to the Cubs' overtures, he is the last option for Epstein and Co.
Pujols does not match the organization's stated plans for rebuilding with youth, and Pujols' age is in question already, so signing a 31-year-old to a nine-digit contract is the exact thing Chicago cannot do.
If he were available for $22 million a year, though...a Cubs fan can dream, I suppose.