The Chicago Cubs are one those teams that many teams around the league will take an interest during the final weeks of Spring Training. It has been no secret this Spring that the Cubs have a wealth of starting pitchers. In addition to having Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, and Paul Maholm already in their starting rotation, the Cubs have another six pitchers that are viewed as starting pitchers in Jeff Samardzija, Chris Volstad, Randy Wells, Travis Wood, Rodrigo Lopez, and Andy Sonnanstine. It goes without saying that the Cubs are going to have get creative in how they construct the 25 man roster. Obviously, not all of those nine starting pitchers are going to be on the 25 man roster when the Cubs open up the season against the Washington Nationals on April 5. Sonnanstine and Wood will likely start the season with the Iowa Cubs, while Samardzija and Volstad will be the fourth and fifth starting pitchers, and Lopez or Wells will move to the bullpen in a swing-man role.
While the new front office has made starting pitching depth a priority, the team may also look to trade from that area of strength in favor of improving one of the weaker areas on the Cubs’ roster.
Cubs’ general manager Jed Hoyer addressed the media during the Cubs off day on Wednesday, and Hoyer told reporters that the Cubs could make a trade before Spring Training concludes.
‘‘I think every team probably looks at [possible late-spring upgrades],’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘Those conversations will really heat up among teams the last 10 days or so. I wouldn’t be surprised if we made a move. But I also think we have the pieces that we wouldn’t need to.
‘‘We’ll certainly be active in those conversations. I don’t think we’d be doing our job if we weren’t.’’ Chicago Sun Times
The Cubs’ front office may be on the lookout for ”late upgrades”, but it is more likely that the team will look to trade one of their starting pitchers as a way to clear space on the roster. While off-season rumors have kept Matt Garza on the trading block, at this point, it is more likely that the Cubs will look to trade Randy Wells instead of Garza. Wells has pitched this Spring, though, not well enough to outperform Jeff Samardzija or Chris Volstad for one of the final two spots in the starting rotation. There certainly could be a market for Wells. Teams such as the Detroit Tigers, Washington Nationals, and St Louis Cardinals could all be looking to trade for a starting pitcher before Opening Day. Wells will not garner a return that is similar to what the Cubs would receive if they traded Garza, but the Cubs should be able to receive a pair of mid-level prospects for the right hander.
Another area the Cubs may look to trade from is their outfield. From manager Dale Sveum to Hoyer, everyone in the Cubs’ front office knows that top prospect Brett Jackson is ready for the Major Leagues. The issue is that the Cubs’ do not have a spot for him on the Major League roster. Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, and David DeJesus are the three starting outfielders and contract obligations make it likely that those three will receive the bulk of the playing time in the outfield. But the Cubs’ front office is planning to call up Jackson in either May or June. But the Cubs could accelerate that process. Byrd is going to be traded this season, and the Washington Nationals and Boston Red Sox are just two of the teams that have an interest in acquiring an outfielder. The Cubs and Nationals have had previous discussions regarding Byrd, and it would seem that the Nationals will be the eventual match for Byrd and the Cubs. At this point, the Cubs are not close to any trade involving one of their three starting outfielders.
The Cubs will likely make a trade or two between now and Opening Day, and once that trade is made, the roster and direction for the Cubs in 2012 should come into focus.