The traditional hot stove season has yet to begin for the Chicago Cubs, but the front office will likely take these next couple of weeks highlighting the players to target to fill several holes that are currently on the Cubs’ active roster. The talk for much of the past week has been circled around the starting pitching market. The Cubs figure to be in the market for starting pitching this winter, and the team could add two free agent starting pitchers this winter. Beyond the starting pitching position, the Cubs also will have holes to fill at the third base position and in the outfield.
The search for the Cubs’ 2013 opening day third baseman could be a lengthy one. Josh Vitters will be starting the season with the Iowa Cubs, Ian Stewart will be non-tendered, and it would not benefit the Cubs to have Luis Valbuena as their starting third baseman to begin the 2013 season. Valbuena earned the trust of Cubs’ manager Dale Sveum during the 2012 season, and the veteran infielder could find himself back with the Cubs as a reserve. The third base free agent market is relatively weak this winter, though, the Cubs may pursue Kevin Youkilis.
Third base is not the only position that the Cubs will look to address this off-season. The Cubs also currently have an opening in their outfield. At the end of the 2012 season: Alfonso Soriano, Brett Jackson, and David DeJesus were the starting outfielders for the Cubs with Dave Sappelt, Bryan LaHair, and Tony Campana serving as reserved outfielders. Soriano and DeJesus likely will begin the 2013 season with the Cubs despite any trade interest that might surface in either outfielder. LaHair, who was the Cubs’ starting right fielder for short period of time this season, likely will move on from the Cubs’ organization. Sappelt and Campana likely will serve as reserve outfielders for the Cubs next season. As for Jackson, Cubs’ President Theo Epstein informed the outfielder that he will begin the 2013 season with the Iowa Cubs. Meaning the Cubs will likely be in search for another starting outfielder this winter.
The free agent market for outfielders is rather bleak behind Josh Hamilton and B.J. Upton. Hamilton likely will be priced out of the Cubs’ ideal range and the same could be said about Upton, who is looking to bounce back from a down season in 2012 despite hitting 28 home runs. Not to mention, Upton is not the ideal fit for the philosophy that the Cubs are trying to implement with their organization.
One free agent outfielder that would seem to fit with the Cubs direction and may come at a reduced rate is Cody Ross. Ross spent the 2012 season with the Boston Red Sox and some could contest was one of the more prominent run producers for the Red Sox this season. In 476 at bats this season with the Red Sox, Ross produced a slash line of .267/.326/.481/.807 to go along with 22 home runs and 81 RBIs. Ross has indicated that he would like to remain with the Red Sox, but it is unclear on whether or not the Red Sox are intent on finding a way for the outfielder to return in 2013.
The 31 year old Ross is capable of playing all three outfield position, and is beginning to learn the first base position. Ross could add some offensive production to the Cubs in addition to some added offensive protection for the likes of Anthony Rizzo, Alfonso Soriano, and Starlin Castro. Epstein’s first signing last winter was for DeJesus, and his first signing this winter could be for another outfielder that would add value to the Cubs in Ross.