This has been a forgone conclusion for awhile now, but Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez have both officially declined the Cubs’ offer of salary arbitration. As a result, the Cubs will receive two compensatory draft choices between the first and second rounds. Until the rest of the off season has finalized we cannot say for sure where exactly those picks will be, but I think we can safely expect the Cubs to have four of the top fifty picks.
Ramirez will definitely be joining a new team for 2012, likely on a multi-year deal. Once Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder finally sign, he will likely be the best available hitter on the market. Teams ranging from Milwaukee to Anaheim have been linked to the third baseman, but it is too early to say for sure where he will wind up.
Pena could still return to the Cubs, but I would be surprised to see that happen. Pena is a good defensive first baseman with plenty of power. He will be eagerly sought after by many teams who miss out on the Pujols / Fielder sweepstakes, with the notable exception of the Cubs. Pena has indicated that he would like to return, but the Cubs are unlikely to spend the amount it would take to land Pena on a player his age.
If the Cubs can’t land one of the very top-tier first baseman, they will almost certainly look to trade for a young first baseman. Gaby Sanchez, Justin Smoak, Ike Davis, and Logan Morrison have all been mentioned as possibilities. Alternatively, the Cubs may yet try out internal options such as Bryan LaHair or Josh Vitters in 2012. Either way, the odds of Pena returning are looking fairly slim.
Under the new CBA, the amount the Cubs can spend on their 2012 draft picks will be limited, but the allocated dollars should be sufficient to land some high level talent. It is much to early to start projecting who that talent will be, but with the 6th pick in the first and second rounds along with two picks in between those rounds, next summer’s draft should be a good one for the Cubs.