The off-season for the Chicago Cubs this winter is a rather unique and unusual process to the team’s fan-base. Throughout the Jim Hendry regime, the Cubs’ front office was very open in telling what there plan for the 0ff-seasons were thus allowing fans to anticipate the signings that Hendry eventually finalized. But with Hendry’s regime being victim of culture change at Wrigley Field, and Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer taking over the Cubs’ baseball department, the off-season experience this winter for Cubs is something that Cubs’ fans have yet to experience. For the first time in a long time, the Cubs’ front office are keeping their operations close to vest with little known about the direction that Epstein and Hoyer want to go in for the 2012 season.
On one hand there are rumors that the Cubs are willing to trade starting pitcher Matt Garza this winter, with the Texas Rangers being the most recent team to have discussions with the Cubs regarding Garza. But then rumors surface that the Cubs may have pursued Mark Buehrle and C.J. Wilson before the pair of pitchers signed with their new teams. If one were to speculate on the direction that the Cubs want to follow for the 2012 season, the best scenario would be to say that the Cubs want to rebuild but still contend in the division. With Albert Pujols no longer in the National League Central division, the St Louis Cardinals may not be on the level that they were when the team won the World Series this past season.
Another first baseman that is likely to improve the Cubs’chances of winning the National League Central division is Prince Fielder. Fielder is not expected to return to the Milwaukee Brewers, and if that is the case, the Brewers may struggle replacing the power production that Fielder brings to any lineup he is in. But Fielder leaving the Brewers may have a greater impact than Pujols leaving the Cardinals, mainly because there appears to be a good chance that Fielder will sign with the Cubs.
On the surface, the Cubs seemed to have a quiet week at the winter meetings in Dallas this past week. However that is not how general manager Jed Hoyer saw it. Hoyer believes the Cubs had a productive time at meetings suggesting that the team could finalize deals in the coming weeks that were a result of conversations had with various agents and teams this past week in Dallas. One conversation that Epstein and Hoyer had this week was with MLB super-agent Scott Boras. Boras represents Cubs’ free agent first baseman Carlos Pena, but on a larger note, Boras also represents Fielder. Unlike the Cubs’ conversations with Dan Lozano,the agent for Albert Pujols, it is widely believed that the Cubs are serious bidders for Fielder’s service. Joel Sherman, of the New York Post, reports that most executives view the Cubs as the most likely landing spot for Fielder. Whoever Sherman’s go-to executives are they seem to be credible, as it was Sherman who first reported–through talking to executives–that Epstein would be leaving the Red Sox organization for the Cubs.
There are two reasons why the executives told Sherman that Fielder will sign with the Cubs: the first being that Epstein wants to make a “statement sign” in his first year as Cubs’ president of baseball operations, and the other being that the Fielder is “one of the few bona-fide sluggers” who will be available over the next few years. Quickly running through the list of potential 2013 free agents, James Loney is the only first baseman of any significance to be on the market after the 2012 season.
If the key for the Cubs’ front office is to focus on the future, then Fielder would seem to make sense. Through the process of preparing for the future, the Cubs’ front office should realize that over the next couple of season there will not be an impact first baseman available that has the same Caliber that Fielder has. While the knock on Fielder is that he is best suited for the American League rather than the National League, his power display is something that the Cubs can not overlook. Fielder has a career line of .298/.424/.579/1.003 with 11 home runs in 49 games at Wrigley Field. Then add in the fact that Fielder is only 27, and the Cubs would have found their left-handed hitting run producer for the next five or six seasons.
Fielder and Boras are likely seeking a seven or eight year deal worth north of $2oo million, but if the Cubs’ offer Fielder a six year deal worth $150 million, it may be easy for Fielder and Boras to overlook the fact that the deal is not for seven or eight years.