5 Missing Pieces the Cubs Could Still Add This Winter
With spring training just around the corner and the new year being rung in, it feels like the MLB offseason is over. However, for the Chicago Cubs, like most other teams in the league, there is still some work to be done. Even though the bulk of Chicago's offseason moves have likely already been made, it will still look to improve its 2015 roster.
What moves the front office manages to pull off over the next month and a half will largely help determine if the Cubs are just an improved team or a contender in 2015. Here are some holes they could look to still fill as well as players who could fill those holes.
There's no doubt about it: The Cubs' rotation is starting to look pretty darn good. However, it does still have a few question marks. Kyle Hendricks went on a tremendous run last season, going 7-2 with a 2.46 ERA in 13 starts, but hasn't proved he can be successful for a full season.
The fifth starter spot is also up in the air, with Travis Wood's name coming up in trade talks, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Additionally, other options such as Tsuyoshi Wada and Jacob Turner are largely unproven pieces.
So, while going into the season with their current rotation would be pretty solid, the Cubs could potentially decide they'd like to make their rotation even deeper.
The Candidate: RHP James Shields
If the Cubs did end up landing Shields, they could immediately be considered contenders in the National League. However, don't expect this to happen. That's because he's projected to get a five-year contract in the neighborhood of $100 million, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
Spending this much money on top of the money they devoted to Jon Lester already would go against the slow and steady approach the Cubs front office has taken to the rebuild so far. If it starts drinking the Kool-Aid and decides it wants to go all out in 2015, though, perhaps it will go after Shields.
Certainly, Shields would give the Cubs one of the deepest rotations in baseball with a projected Nos. 1-5 of Lester, Shields, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel and Hendricks. Don't expect it, but if the Cubs land Shields, they're announcing to the rest of the league that they're ready to win right now.
The Cubs already recently signed outfielder Chris Denorfia to add depth to their outfield, but the team may not stop there. Getting more outfield depth and giving themselves some good platoon options could really benefit them. Of course, if they do add another outfielder, they will likely have to get rid of veteran Ryan Sweeney—otherwise they would have too many outfielders in the mix.
The Candidates: Colby Rasmus, Jonny Gomes
Both of these outfield options could pay dividends for the Cubs in two very different ways.
Gomes would give the team another veteran presence in the clubhouse, and he would be a guy who could preach a patient plate approach to the young, free swingers of the Cubs. There's a chance the Cubs front office could find that just as valuable as someone who has a prominent presence in the lineup.
Rasmus, on the other hand, would give the Cubs another platoon option in addition to Denorfia. He would likely platoon with Arismendy Alcantara, who struggled against left-handed pitching last season. By getting two platoons set in the outfield, the Cubs and manager Joe Maddon, who utilizes platoons as much as anyone, could turn five decent outfielders into three very good ones stat-wise.
Here's an example of that (based on 2014 stats):
|Player||BA vs. RH||BA vs. LH||Overall BA|
By playing Alcantara against lefties and Rasmus against righties, their production, based on 2014 stats, would be a .237 average. That's much better than either of their individual batting averages, which makes this a perfect example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
Obviously, this isn't great output regardless, but Rasmus provides some pop to the lineup, as he hit 18 home runs last season in just 346 at bats.
The Cubs have already bolstered their improved bullpen from a season ago, but they could still make it even better. After adding 2012 NL saves leader Jason Motte to the back end of the bullpen that already contains the likes of Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon, the Cubs now have some great late-game options.
However, there are a few guys still out there who could really make the bullpen a strength in 2015 and beyond.
The Candidates: Francisco Rodriguez, Casey Janssen
Both of these former closers could either step into the closer role or a setup role with the Cubs. Both would also give the Cubs one of the best bullpens in the league. Neither would be cheap, but both would be worth the price tag to give the Cubs a shutdown pen.
Here are the projected contracts of Rodriguez and Janssen, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports:
Rodriguez: Two years, $14-18 million
Janssen: Two years, $11-12 million
Both of those players are affordable for top-notch relievers, and the Cubs would be foolish not to at least consider adding one of them to their bullpen. Combined last season, the two saved 69 games. That could translate to a lot of saves for the Cubs or just another arm that helps close out games in the late innings.
All 2014 statistics come courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.