The thanksgiving holiday has come and gone. These next two weeks for the Chicago Cubs will likely go a long way in determining whether the Cubs will be a team that is rebuilding during the 2012 season, or team that should be able to contend in the National League Central division. Considering that president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer like to keep things close to the vest, there has been little knowledge on what the Cubs’ front office plans to do in order to improve the roster. Though, there seems to be a growing belief that the Cubs are willing to listen on any of their players if the right deal could be made. However, that does not necessarily mean that the Cubs are not going to be able to contend next season. Because in addition to their willingness to trade players on their current roster, there has also been reports that suggest the Cubs could make a splash or two in free agency.
If the Cubs are going to make a significant free agent signing, now would be the time to do so. As the Winter Meetings are only a week away, the Cubs are expected to be one of the most active teams leading up to and through the meetings that begin on December 5th. Epstein and Hoyer already proved that they take these meetings seriously, as during the general manager meetings two weeks ago the pair spoke with a number of free agents in addition to scouting Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, and Dale Sveum was also hired as the Cubs’ new manager.
One of the agents that the Cubs have been in regular contact with is Scott Boras. While Boras does represent Carlos Pena, the belief was that the discussions revolved around free agent first baseman Prince Fielder. There has been no definitive answer on whether or not the Cubs are interested in signing the free agent first baseman. Hoyer did not dismiss the idea when asked about the scenario during Sveum’s press conference. In addition, Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago has been pushing the Fielder speculation for the entire off-season.
There is some question as to how Fielder would fit into the long term plans of the Cubs–or any National League team for that matter. While Fielder is entering what is perceived to be the prime of his career, there is no question that the powerful first baseman does leave a lot be desired while in the field. The other issue is that with Fielder’s stature, a move to the American League seems like the more suitable option for Fielder. Though, there is no question that money talks. Unlike the last couple of off-seasons, the Cubs do have money to spend this winter. The question for the front 0ffice is do they want spend all that money on one player, or divide the money up into several areas in an effort to improve the roster in more ways than one. The current belief is that Fielder may be looking for an eight year, $200+ million contract. Even though Fielder’s power supply would be lethal in Wrigley Field, an eight year contract is risk that the Cubs should not be willing to take.
The Cubs have also been linked to free agent starting pitcher C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle. Wilson is the top free agent starter on the market, and there are many teams that have inquired on the former Texas Ranger. Given that starting pitching is in high demand and Wilson is the top free agent at the position, that has allowed the pitcher and his representatives to be seeking a six year, $100 million contract. If Wilson’s price remains north of $100 million, the Cubs will not be interested in signing the starting pitcher. The Cubs have already balked at Wilson’s asking price, and considering the amount of teams interested, Wilson likely will not be headed to the North Side. Ditto for Buehrle. While the Cubs have had a number of conversations with Buehrle’s representatives, it does not appear likely that Buehrle will be switching sides in the cross-town rivalry. If the Cubs are going to sign a free agent starting pitcher, Japanese ace Yu Darvish would be a likely candidate. Despite some recent uncertainty as to whether or not Darvish would be posted this winter, odds remain that major league baseball teams at some point this winter will have an opportunity to sign the international pitcher.
It would seem that the Cubs are trying to improve their farm system by possibly trading valuable assets this winter, but also trying to build a team that will be able to contend in 2o12. Lets play the hypothetical game and say that the Cubs wind up trading Matt Garza this winter and receive a package of two or three top prospects that are on the verge of being major league ready; lets also suggest that the Cubs do sign one if not two of the players mentioned above–Cespedes and Darvish being the likely options; wouldn’t that put the Cubs in a better position to contend for the 2012 season than they were at the start of the 0ff-season. Nevertheless, the Cubs will likely start to make moves over the course of the next few weeks that have an immediate impact on that roster. Once those moves happen, the picture for the Cubs in 2012 will be much clearer.