Prince Fielder should be the main free agent Theo & Co attempt to sign (threeballwalk.mlblogs.com)
We’re on to Phase 3 of the offseason to-do list and it involves acquiring new players and the consideration of moving Starlin Castro to a new position. Julie Dicaro at A League of Her Own made my job a bit easier by already compiling a list of the 2012 Class of Free Agents. Take a gander and then read below as I break down the possibilities for each position. If the Cubs were to acquire all new players via free agency, these would be some good options:
Current Cub - Geovany Soto
Prospects – Dioner Navarro, Chris Snyder
The 2012 class of catchers is either old or overpriced. The Cubs still think highly of Geo Soto and will most likely keep him for the time being. I have made it known that Soto has the most difficult time with the curveball as it is the pitch that strikes him out the most (usually looking). Chris Snyder is appealing but his contract is not. Dioner Navarro doesn’t really have that much of an offensive upside, but he does have his youth going for him. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Geo back.
Current Cub – Carlos Pena (but he is a free agent as well)
Prospects – Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Michael Cuddyer, Jorge Cantu
The prospects are listed from highest value to lowest. Obviously any team capable of handling Pujols from a fiscal standpoint will want him. I would like to see Prince Fielder in a Cubs uniform as he has age on his side and his age could justify a long-term contract. Then you have Pujols wanting a ludicrous 10-year contract where he would likely retire at 42. If I’m Theo, I’m making a run at Fielder and if it doesn’t work out, then I just plug in Bryan LaHair at first and see what he can do. Basically, it’s between Fielder and LaHair in my mind.
Current Cub – Darwin Barney
Prospects – Bill Hall, Kelly Johnson, Aaron Miles (just kidding)
Despite people’s criticism of Barney, the guy gets on base and he does well in the clutch. I don’t foresee the Cubs making second base a priority and as you can see, the free agent field for second base isn’t that appealing. Count on Darwin Barney starting at second in 2012.
Current Cub- Starlin Castro
Prospects – Jose Reyes, Yuniesky Betancourt, Jimmy Rollins
Starlin Castro is still young and will continue to make errors, but you have to wonder if he would do well at a different position. Castro’s ability to play elsewhere should be addressed, especially with a 2012 class such as this one. If the Cubs opt for LaHair at first, the Cubs could use the money intended for Fielder and really strengthen their infield with Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins. Maybe Castro could move to third base or perhaps an outfield position. It’s definitely worth exploring in a rebuilding phase such as this one.
Current Cub- None (Aramis Ramirez is leaving via free agency)
Prospects – Jorge Cantu, Greg Dobbs, Andy LaRoche,
The names don’t really jump off the page. It will be hard to find a replacement for Aramis Ramirez as the Cubs have a weak fraternity of third basemen just as the Bears have a weak fraternity of starting QB’s. The next Cub to set up at the hot corner will have to prove himself by stepping out of A-Ram’s shadow. The Chicago Cubs can either hand that burden over to a free agent who may not really understand the lack of legacy or they can test out Starlin Castro. Also, it should be noted that while the Cubs can go with Bryan LaHair at first, they can also try Josh Vitters at third base. I think it’s more likely to see Vitters at third than Castro or a random free agent.
Current Cub- Alfonso Soriano
Prospects – Ryan Ludwick, Conor Jackson, Jonny Gomes, Josh Willingham, Travis Buck
Of course, the most plentiful class will be overlooked because of Soriano’s pathetic contract. Ryan Ludwick would be my choice to replace He-Who-Swings-At-Anything-He-Sees. If the Cubs stuck to Phase 5- “Permanently Bench Alfonso Soriano”, we wouldn’t be in this predicament. Unfortunately it’s looking like we’re stuck with him for a few more years.
Current Cub – Marlon Byrd
Prospects –Nate McLouth, Coco Crisp
I love the way Marlon Byrd plays, but if anyone were to replace him, it should be Grady Sizemore. And of course, as I wrote this, Sizemore agreed to return to the Indians with a one year contract. There goes that idea. Expect Byrd to be traded or back in Center with his avian brethren, the seagulls.
Current Cub – Tyler Colvin
Prospects – Ryan Ludwick, Carlos Beltran, Cody Ross, Michael Cuddyer
I don’t see the Cubs addressing right field as a priority and they will likely see what Colvin is made of when given a full season to work with. Expect Colvin to get most of the work in right in 2012.
Current Cubs – Dempster, Garza, Wells, (Zambrano?)
Prospects – Mark Buehrle, Bruce Chen, Aaron Cook, C.J. Wilson, Brad Penny, Roy Oswalt, Zach Duke, Chris Young, Brandon Webb, Joel Pineiro
The rotation will be the main focus and the Cubs still have Cashner and Samardzija to consider for starting spots. There are a lot of tasty options in the free agent class though. Buehrle, C.J. Wilson and Roy Oswalt will be expensive and probably won’t come to the Northside. Brandon Webb is coming back from an injury and could warrant a Comeback Player type of award. Don’t expect big names to join the rotation, that way you can be pleasantly surprised if Theo & Co. pull something off.
Current Cubs – Marshall, Mateo, Carpenter & other miscellaneous minor leaguers
Prospects – Octavio Dotel, Brad Lidge, Scott Linebrink, Todd Coffey, Kerry Wood
I think our bullpen is decent, but you can never have enough reliable relievers. The only reliever we might “acquire” is if Kerry Wood re-signs with the team. We’ll most likely acquire more relievers if we trade Carlos Marmol, which leads me to….
Current Cub- Carlos Marmol
Prospects – Heath Bell, Matt Capps, Francisco Rodriguez aka K-Rod
Remember last year when the Bears had the opportunity to knock the Packers out of playoff contention if they had just beaten them in the last week of the season? Do you also remember when the Cubs had the opportunity to knock the Cardinals out of playoff contention if they had just beaten them in the last weeks of this past season? Well, neither the Bears nor the Cubs won and both the Packers and Cardinals went on to win respective championships. Who’s to blame for letting the Packers in the playoffs? The Bears team as a whole. Who’s to blame for giving the Cardinals an opportunity to make the playoffs? Carlos Marmol.
Carlos Marmol is erratic, inconsistently reliable and his WHIP (Walked Hitters per Innings Pitched) is horrible. However, he still has a decent amount of value and can be traded for prospects or other players. Losing a game on a walk-off wild pitch is almost unforgivable and I wouldn’t mind seeing another closer take over. If the potential replacement has a habit of walking the lead-off hitter, second hitter and third hitter before he escape-artists his way out of the ninth inning, then no, don’t sign him. If the potential replacement has a decent track record and a low WHIP, then yes, give him a shot.
So there it is. If I had to project the 2012 Cubs starting roster and rotation, this would be it:
C- Geovany Soto
2B- Darwin Barney
SS- Starlin Castro
3B – Josh Vitters
LF- Alfonso Soriano
CF- Marlon Byrd
RF- Tyler Colvin
P – Dempster, Garza, Wells, Cashner, Samardzija and Zambrano rejoining the team in late May
Let’s hope I’m off base and Theo & Co provide a more appetizing team.
Who do you think the Cubs should go after in free agency? Let me know in the comments section.
Brian Tarman is a RedEye blogger. If you’re interested in reading even more about the Cubs and other topics, head over to Brian Tarman’s personal blog, The Clark and Addison Street Journal. Also, follow him on Twitter- @TarmanBrian.