The MLB free agent frenzy is only hours away from starting. As, free agents can begin to negotiate with all 30 MLB teams at 12:01AM Sunday Morning. This figures to be a make or break offseason for Jim Hendry, considering that many feel he may be in his last stand as General Manager for the Chicago Cubs. However, listening to Hendry you would think that the Cubs are only 3 or 4 solid additions away from being right back into contention for the National League Central. The Chicago Cubs figure to add a first baseman, a starting pitcher, and a veteran reliever this winter. The big question going into the Hot Stove season, is how much flexibility does Hendry Have? With, Chairman Tom Ricketts admitting that they are shifting funds from the major league payroll to the player development. This will force Hendry to be creative this season, as he tries to improve the team. The Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan lays out the Cubs projected off-season plan as they head into free agency. Let’s take a look, and analyze the plan that the Chicago Cubs have for the winter.
- First and Foremost, Sullivan states the obvious when he says the Cubs are going to have to trade Kosuke Fukudome before they make a prominent offer to one of their targets. Considering that Fukudome is owed $13.5MM for the last remaining year on his contract, Hendry may have a hard time trying to move him. But, we are talking about the same guy that was able to move the horrendous Milton Bradley contract last off-season. I would imagine a team like the Padres, Red Sox, or Phillies may have interest in Fukudome.
- The top priority for the Chicago Cubs this off-season in their minds is finding a prominent power hitting first baseman. Despite a report from the Sun Times saying that the Cubs did not have the money for Adam Dunn, Sullivan insists that the Cubs have Dunn at the top of their list. But, the question still remains whether or not he is going to fit in the Cubs budget. While Dunn is a prolific power hitter, hitting 35+ home runs in his past 7 seasons, he may be too much of a liability on Defense to warrant the Cubs giving him a 3 year/$40MM contract. Sullivan mentions that if the Cubs fail to acquire Adam Dunn, they will turn their attention to Aubrey Huff, or Victor Martinez. Huff had a very good year with the World Series winning Giants, hitting .290/.385/.506 with 26 home runs, and 86 RBI’s. However, reports have it that Huff may return to the Giants. Meanwhile, Victor Martinez is a natural catcher that also has the ability to play first base. With the Red Sox this past season, Martinez hit .302/.351/.493 with 20 homers and 79 RBI’s. Considering that Huff may go back to the Giants, I feel that Martinez is the best option for the Cubs. Unlike Dunn, Martinez is a good overall hitter, a better fielder, and would come at a cheaper price, somewhere around $8MM-$10MM for 3 years.
- The Chicago Cubs also will look to add a starting pitcher this winter. Considering that they already have the top two spots in their rotation filled with Dempster and Zambrano(He is not going to get traded), the Cubs are in the market for #3 starter that is a veteran innings eater. According to Sullivan, the Cubs will probably be interested in Jon Garland, who is a former first round pick of the Chicago Cubs. Garland hinted at wanting to come to the Cubs last offseason, so he probably still has the interest in playing for them. With the San Diego Padres this season, Garland went 14-12 with an ERA of 3.47. The number that probably most impresses the Cubs about Garland is that he typically goes for 200+ innings in a season. Garland declined his $6.5MM option with the Padres, so look for him to be in the market for a multi-year deal around $8MM.
- The Chicago Cubs also are hoping to land a veteran reliever this winter. Their initial hope is that Kerry Wood will be willing to come back on a lesser role and a reduced rate. Wood would be an ideal fit for the Cubs, considering his veteran presence and leadership qualities. However, it remains to be seen what his intentions are for next season.
If the Cubs succeed in their plan that they have laid out, they probably will be in line to contend next season. However, as mentioned above, Hendry will have to be creative in order to add all these pieces. Moving Fukudome will go a long way in helping the Cubs. Plus, you have to think Hendry may do his patented “back-loading” of a contract.