Opening week is finally upon us as many teams are in the final processes of choosing their 25 man rosters. The Cubs already have their 25 man roster set, which features a mixture of veterans and young players. The common theme associated with the 2011 Cubs is youth movement. This figures to be the season where the Cubs take a long look at some of the young players to gauge just how good they can be at the major league level. A few prospects that could see time in the majors this season are Brett Jackson, Jay Jackson, Chris Carpenter, Trey McNutt, and possibly Josh Vitters as a September call-up. Those prospects are expected to be a big part of the Cubs’ future, which could arrive as early as 2012. Couple that with the fact that the Cubs will have a lot of money coming off the books at the end of the season, and now you may be looking at the Cubs to burst onto the scene next season. However in order to make room for the aforementioned prospects and any free agent signee next winter, the Cubs will have to clear up some spots on their 25 man roster. Here is a look at several players on the current 25 man roster that may not be back next season.
- Aramis Ramirez
Perhaps the biggest player that may leave the Cubs after the 2011 season is Aramis Ramirez. But, that may not necessarily be a bad thing for the Cubs. The Cubs hold a $16 million option for Ramirez in 2012. Or they could buyout the final year of Ramirez’s contract for $2 million. At this point it appears that the Cubs will elect to buyout the final year of Ramirez’s contract.
But that does not mean that Ramirez will not return next season. If the Cubs do buyout the final season of Ramirez’s contract, the two sides will likely try and negotiate a new one or two year deal. Because at this point it does not seem like Ramirez will be worth the $16 million owed to him if the Cubs were to pick up the option.
Whether or not Ramirez returns next season, may depend heavily on what Josh Vitters does in the minor leagues this season. After an impressive camp with the Cubs, Vitters left Cubs’ manager Mike Quade with restored confidence in the 2007 first round pick. If Vitters takes the necessary steps on offense this year, he could very well be ready to take over the third base position in 2012. If not, then the more likely it is that Aramis Ramirez will be the the 2012 third baseman for the Cubs.
- Carlos Pena
The Cubs are hoping that Carlos Pena can rebound from a 2010 season that saw him hit .196, the worst in the majors among players who had over 400 at bats last season. With the exception of the 2 home runs he hit this Spring so far, Pena has gone unnoticed in the Cubs lineup. The book has been out on Pena since last season, and the beginning of Spring Training this year. As long as teams continue to put the exaggerated shift to the left on defense, Pena will continue to struggle to put up any type of an average this season. Also it should be noted that for the past four seasons, Pena’s hitting line (AVG/OBP/SLG) have been on the decline along with his run production.
I do not expect Pena to be back with the Cubs next season, as I really think the Cubs just intend to tread water with Pena at the first base position until Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder hit the free agent market after this season.
- Marlon Byrd
Before I get into specifics, just note that I am big supporter of Byrd as the Cubs center fielder. But if the Cubs are going to keep with their youth movement that they started last season with Starlin Castro and Andrew Cashner, Byrd’s time with the Cubs may be coming to a close.
Many scouts around baseball and officials within the Cubs organization have stated that Brett Jackson may be on the same pace that Starlin Castro was on last season. Meaning come May or June, Jackson may be patrolling center field for the Cubs. Which means that Byrd would be pushed out of a starting position with the team. There is a belief that Byrd may shift over to right field, but that does not seem very likely. Tyler Colvin is a big part of the Cubs youth movement, and it is likely that he will be the full-time right fielder by June at the latest. With Colvin in right field, the idea of Byrd playing everyday in right field would not be a likely scenario.
There were whispers throughout the off-season that the Cubs were quietly shopping Marlon Byrd in anticipation of Jackson’s arrival, and those whispers may grow louder if Jackson gets off to a hot start in the minors. Needless to say, this could very well be the last season that Byrd spends with the Cubs.
- Carlos Zambrano
As long as Carlos Zambrano is a member of the Chicago Cubs organization, the trade rumors involving the big right hander will never cease to exist. The Cubs would have loved to traded Zambrano last season leading up to the trading deadline, or even during the off-season. But whether it be because Zambrano has a no trade clause in his contract or the fact that he is still owed at least $35.8 million over the next two seasons, the Cubs have been unable to pull off a trade involving Zambrano.
With a plethora of starting pitching prospects appearing to be ready for the major leagues, the Cubs may increase their efforts to trade Zambrano at some point this season or during the off-season. Even though Zambrano does have a no-trade clause, general manager Jim Hendry has proven that he is capable of convincing players to waive their trade restrictions. If put in the right situation, I’m sure Zambrano would be willing to accept a trade.