The Chicago Cubs payroll for the 2011 season is expected to remain flat, with that being said, General Manager Jim Hendry will have to be creative in order to improve this team for the 2011 season. Instead of being big players on the free agent market, the Chicago Cubs are expected to be one of the most active teams on the trading market. According to Bruce Levine, ESPN Chicago, the Cubs are focusing on trading for Adrian Gonzalez this winter.
Considering the small market that the Padres are in, they do not have the financial capabilities to offer Gonzalez a long term deal worth $20MM per season. Which is why the team is expected to trade Gonzalez sometime between now and the trading deadline.
Dave Cameron of FanGraphs believes the Padres should trade the all star first baseman this winter. Cameron argues that Gonzalez’s value will never be higher, and the Padres run the risk of Gonzalez getting hurt during the season and diminishing his trade value. For the Cubs sake, I tend to agree with Cameron’s thoughts. Because, I think it would be more beneficial for the Cubs to acquire Gonzalez during the winter, then during the season. Because, the Cubs would be risking being outbid by a team who is desperate for his services to make a playoff run.
Adrian Gonzalez is everything the Chicago Cubs need going forward into the future. Not only is Gonzalez 29, but he has 30+ home runs in each of his past 4 season, and has driven in more than 100+ runs in each of his past 4 seasons except 2009 when he had 99.
Another appealing factor from Adrian Gonzalez is the fact that he is only going to make $5.8MM next season, which is his last contract year. However, if the Cubs do acquire him, they would work out a long term extension with him. Gonzalez is said to be looking for $23MM per season, and with $38MM coming off the books for the Cubs next season, the Cubs are in a good position to afford him.
The question now becomes, What are the Cubs going to have to give up in order to trade for Gonzalez? Well, as it is right now, the Padres are probably going to receive 3-4 top prospects from whatever team that trades for him. From what I know, I can tell you that both Starlin Castro and Andrew Cashner are untouchable and will remain with the Chicago Cubs for the foreseeable future.
However, there is a strong chance that the Chicago Cubs begin their package with Josh Vitters. For whatever reasons, the Chicago Cubs were never high on what they saw from Vitters over the last few seasons. Vitters was essentially a non factor in the Cubs system this past season, as he only played in 68 games (hitting .223) at the Double A level before he got injured. As Luke mentioned earlier today, Vitters’ AFL numbers are not too impressive, despite the strong .436 slugging percentage. But, the Padres did have interest in Vitters when the Cubs were close to trading for Jake Peavy. Granted, that was under a different General Manager.
Next, the Chicago Cubs probably will have to give up both Jay Jackson, and Chris Archer. Both appear to be really close to being ready to play in the major league, with Archer having the higher ceiling. Archer really burst into the spotlight this off-season when he dominated the Cuban National team when he was part of team USA. Archer went 8-2 for the Double A Smokies while having an ERA of 1.80. He also has an impressive 9.1/9 career k ration for his five years in the farm system. Meanwhile, Jay Jackson sort of fell off the map this year with the Iowa Cubs. Jackson had a record of 11-8 with an inflated ERA of 4.63. This was really the first year that Jackson has struggled so far in his 3 seasons withing the Cubs farm system. However, Jackson flip flopped this year between being a starter an being a reliever, which could have led to his struggles. But, the fact that these are still two highly promising prospects, probably will interest the Padres.
With a package that already consists of Vitters, Archer, and J. Jackson it his highly debatable whether or not the Cubs will have to include a 4th prospect. Because while the Cubs are already sending their two of their top pitching prospects, their still is the strong chance that the Red Sox will have an equally competitive offer.If so, the Cubs may overpay and throw in Chris Carpenter, who is another one of the Cubs top pitching prospects, to entice the Padres to take their offer.
Some may argue that the Cubs are mortgaging their future by trading for Gonzalez. But, my answer to that is Gonzalez provides the Cubs with a much better future than any of these prospects would. Because, by the time that either of those 3 or 4 prospects will have a major impact on the Cubs, the Cubs will presumably be like the Yankees. Meaning, they will have loads of money each year to spend on free agents.
Considering, that the Cubs are focusing on a Gonzalez trade, I would take that to mean that they probably will not have their first base vacancy resolved any time soon. On the chance that the Cubs do not acquire Gonzalez, Levine notes that they will turn their attention to Carlos Pena, Lance Berkman, or Adam LaRoche.