This week really is the best time of year, as today marks the start of Winter Meetings. All 30 Baseball General Managers arein Lake Buena Vista, Florida with the hope of improving their team for the 2011 season. According to Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago, the Cubs will be active but limited at this week’s Winter Meetings. However, the Cubs still hope to come away from the Winter Meetings with a new first baseman, and a new starting pitcher in the mix for the 2011 season. Let’s break down what this week has in store for the Chicago Cubs.
Who’s Being shopped?
Ideally, the Chicago Cubs would love to move Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, and Alfonso Soriano. Realistically, Hendry will probably spend most of his time this week trying to find a taker for Kosuke Fukudome.
The Cubs really aren’t in a position with Fukudome, as they were in with Milton Bradley last season. Because, Fukudome could very well be back with the Cubs next season as a fourth outfielder. However, the fact that Fukudome is making $13.5MM in his final year is the reason that the Cubs are looking to trade him, and save money.
If a team is willing to take half of the remaining $13.5MM on Fukudome’s contract, then the Cubs will probably make the deal with that team. If the Cubs are going to get anything back for Fukudome, it probably will be a player who has a bad contract.
The Return of Trader Jim?
Jim Hendry is known around baseball and throughout the media as having a preference for trades over free agent signings. With the free agent market looking bare, the consensus is that Hendry will spend a lot of time trying to work out trades this week. Given the fact that Hendry has always been against negotiating in through the media, we do not really know who on other teams the Cubs are interested in. But, over the past weeks, the Cubs have in deed been linked to a few trade candidates.
According to Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald, the Cubs have discussed trade possibilities with several teams for a first baseman. We can automatically count the Padres as one of them in regards to Adrian Gonzalez, who has officially been dealt to the Boston Red Sox, despite not having a contract extension. Also, the Cubs probably have talked to the Dodgers about James Loney, even though it appears the Dodgers do not want to trade him at this point. Besides those two, it is hard to imagine who else the Cubs have talked to. We do know that Rangers First Baseman Chris Davis, may be a Cub in the near future.
Another thing that Hendry mentioned, is that a lot of teams are looking to trade strength for strength. Meaning since the Cubs have a wealth of Starting Pitchers, they may trade one of their starting pitchers for another starting pitcher, who they feel is better than the one they are giving up. A name to watch is Tom Gorzelanny, who could be a trade candidate.
Free Agent Targets
The Cubs have had a patient approach when it comes to the free agent market. This approach has made the Cubs lose out on targets such as Erik Bedard, Aaron Harang, and Lance Berkman (Even though the Cubs did make an offer to Berkman for $8MM, Berkman did not want to defer the money). Despite the Cubs patient approach, they still appear to be interested a few free agents to possibly fill their need for a first baseman and a starting pitcher.
Along with Carlos Pena and Adam LaRoche, the Cubs have been in contact with free agent first baseman Lyle Overbay. While Carlos Pena is the Cubs top choice, his asking price is still a bit high. Considering that his agent is Scott Boras, that is not a surprise. If Pena does not lower his demands, then I’m sure the Cubs will pass on the career .241 hitter. I’m not really thrilled with either Adam LaRoche or Lyle Overbay, but of the two, I would prefer to have LaRoche.
The Cubs are still focused on trying to add former aces Brandon Webb or Jeff Francis to their rotation. Both are coming off of injury plagued seasons, Webb has not pitched since opening day of the 2009 season. The Cubs scouted Webb earlier this 0ff-season, and he topped off at 86. Typically the Cubs like to sign guys like Webb, coming off of an injury, because just look at Ryan Dempster, Wade Miller, and Chad Fox when the Cubs originally signed them. If the Cubs can not sign Webb or Francis, then it is expected that they will move Andrew Cashner to the rotation.
The Chicago Cubs are also looking for a veteran reliever, however that is not as high on their list as adding a first baseman and a starting pitcher. The Cubs remain interested in Kerry Wood, who is in line for anywhere between $5MM-$8MM next season. Although Wood is exactly what the Cubs are looking for, he may not fit into their budget. However, Jim Hendry is holding out hope that Wood is willing to take a discount in order to come back to the Cubs.
As you can see, the Cubs have a busy week this week as they look to improve their team for the 2011 season. I’d expect the Cubs to make at least one trade this week, and I’m not sure if they will make a free agent signing. Nonetheless, get ready for a crazy week of rumors as the Winter Meetings begin today.