Given the results of the last, say, 103 years, baseball’s Winter Meetings have been the most exciting time of the year for fans of the Chicago Cubs. Given the new regime that has taken over the Cubs front office this fall, this year should prove to be no different.
Even before the meetings get underway, there have already been plenty of trade rumors involving the Cubs, from both sides of the coin, whether they’re current Cubs that the team could seek to deal, or possible trade and free agent targets that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer could pursue.
The Cubs made their first acquisition of the Epstein Era last week, when they signed David DeJesus to a two-year contract. That settles their situation in right field, while opening up other questions regarding the Chicago outfield.
Two of the names that have come up quite often in trade rumors are Alfonso Soriano and Marlon Byrd.
Soriano’s struggles as a Cub are well-documented. He’s been one of the biggest free agent busts that the game has ever seen, and the Cubs would love to unload a streaky hitter that can’t field and can’t run. The biggest issue with that, however, is how much money the Cubs will be willing to absorb in order to send him off to another team, presumably in the American League.
Byrd is a guy that many had pegged as a candidate to find his way out of Chicago before last year’s trade deadline. Byrd has been a great presence in the clubhouse, is a solid hitter, and a very good defender, but there doesn’t appear to be a lot of room for him in the Cubs’ future plans. There are plenty of teams looking for a dependable veteran in the outfield.
It’s almost a certainty that at least one of the two will be gone. With DeJesus in right and top prospect Brett Jackson likely to break onto the scene next season, it will be interesting to see how the outfield shapes up. We should have a good idea of how that will look by the time the meetings are over.
As far as position players go, Tyler Colvin and Geovany Soto are two more names that have popped up. With DeJesus signed and Jackson coming up, there appears to be even less room in the outfield for Colvin than there was last year. His name has been mentioned in rumors, mainly in connection with Colorado’s Ian Stewart.
The market for Soto isn’t as big as it was a week ago, with both Anaheim and Toronto acquiring catchers. Still, there are plenty of teams that could be looking for a catcher with the offensive potential of Soto, but whether or not the team is really going to seek to deal him remains to be seen.
Cubs pitchers shouldn’t feel safe in the next couple weeks, either. Matt Garza‘s name has come up more often than any other Cub in recent weeks, with the declaration that the Cubs would listen on anyone on their roster. There have been conflicting reports as to how willing the Cubs are to deal Garza, but I think it would take a package of epic proportions to pry him away from Wrigley Field.
Carlos Marmol and Carlos Zambrano have also been mentioned, with the latter being the less likely of the two. Marmol converted just 34 of 44 save chances last year, and had an ERA over four, but should still fetch good value out there from a team looking for a closer (Anaheim, Boston). Zambrano’s numbers from last year hardly make up for the headache he brings to a locker room, on top of the fact that his contract would prove very difficult to get rid of. Unfortunately, it looks as if the Cubs are stuck with Z for the moment.
More important than the players that the Cubs are willing to deal are the several areas of need on this Cubs roster. Along with needing to figure out their outfield situation, the Cubs will seek to find a first baseman, a third baseman, positional depth, and pitching. Lots of pitching.
Rumors have already started circulating as to who the Cubs are looking to acquire to play the hot corner next season. As of right now, the Cubs and Padres appear deep into talks regarding Chase Headley. That’s a deal that’s sounding more and more realistic as the days pass. It’s just a matter of who the Cubs could send to San Diego. Ian Stewart has also been mentioned as a possible target.
The picture at first base isn’t as clear. Sure, the Cubs have been connected to Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, but how likely are they? Could they bring back Carlos Pena? Does a youngster (DJ LeMaheiu/Bryan LaHair) get a shot? These are questions that should be answered at the Winter Meetings.
There’s no doubt that the tallest task that Epstein and Hoyer are facing is rebuilding the Cubs pitching staff. They’ve made no secret of the fact that their focus this offseason will be on pitching, both in the rotation and in the bullpen.
As it stands right now, the rotation will feature Garza (assuming he’s not traded), Ryan Dempster, and likely Zambrano. Randy Wells is also likely to be in the mix if he’s not dealt. As far as the rest of the staff, James Russell, Jeff Samardzija, and Sean Marshall are all locks in some form, while Kerry Wood should be signed any day now.
After the Cubs (thankfully) missed out on Chris Capuano, they are looking for a lefty to add to the rotation. Erik Bedard is a potential target. Theo acquired the injury-prone pitcher when he was with Boston last year. Joel Piniero is another candidate. Assuming he posts within the next couple of weeks, Yu Darvish is another potential target for the Cubs.
As you can see, there is plenty of action to watch for at the Winter Meetings. Theo and Hoyer figure to be fielding and making calls rapidly, as they attempt to send this franchise in the right direction. With an emphasis on youth and pitching, it’s going to be an interesting time in Dallas for Theo and the gang.