With the Cubs completing their highest priority on their task list by signing center fielder Marlon Byrd on Thursday, they now look to improve their bench and pitching staff before the season begins.
Jon Garland– According to ESPN Chicago baseball insider Bruce Levine, the Cubs have had discussions with Garland, about coming in and being the Cubs 5th starter. Garland, once a Cubs farmhand, went 11-13 last year with a 4.01 ERA. With Garland being able to pitch 200 innings in a season, he would be a nice addition to have to the Cubs rotation. But I question if the Cubs are really going to sign a starter, since they already have Sean Marshall, Tom Gorzelanny, and Jeff Samardzija as possible starters. So by signing a free agent pitcher, one would think that at least one of those three I mentioned could be made available.
Jose Contreras, and Ben Sheets– The Cubs continue to have conversations with the agents of both Sheets, and Contreras. Contreras is looked upon as a possible swing starter/reliever for the Cubs, but don’t the Cubs already have one of those in Carlos Silva?. Sheets, on the other hand would probably become the teams 4th or 5th starter. Sheets is looking to make $8MM-$12MM yearly, and with the injury concerns that come along with Sheets, I find it hard to believe that a team will give him that high of a salary, considering he missed all of the 2009 season.
Bench– With the Cubs having a strong presence of right handed hitters in their lineup, they are looking to add a left handed bat to their bench to try and balance it out. Reed Johnson still could be brought back by the Cubs as a fourth outfielder, but he currently has had discussions with the Yankees. The Cubs also have talked to the Rockies about Ryan Spilborghs, but he would not really provide balance as he is a right handed hitter. Currently the Cubs bench consists of catcher Koyie Hill, 1B/OF Micah Hoffpauir, 2B Jeff Baker, SS Andres Blanco, and OF Sam Fuld. I still think the Cubs are going to have a problem at second base if they do not add one, because Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker are both good role players, but they are not good everyday players.
Bullpen– Levine thinks that the Cubs will probably “pad out” their bullpen over the next couple weeks, indicating that it will likely be via trade instead of free agency. The Cubs continue to be interested in Blue Jay reliever Jason Frasor, who was 7-3 last year with a 2.50ERA. If acquired he would likely be the Cubs primary right handed set up man, and likely pitch in the eighth inning. He throws mainly a fastball as over the course of his career he has thrown 65%-75% of time he was mound, and it usually reaches around 93MPH. The Cubs need another veteran in their bullpen, because it would be risky to go into the year with a bullpen that consists of many young and inexperienced arms, with the exception being Carlos Marmol, and John Grabow.
Also check out the Cubs All decade team, by Michael Green at the BlueWorkHorse .