The Chicago Cubs are still in the market for a first baseman. Barring an unforeseen change of circumstances, a three way trade that would send Matt Garza to a third party while the Cubs’ received Anthony Rizzo from the San Diego Padres does not seem to be a likely scenario. The Cubs are interested in trading Garza, but it seems that the Toronto Blue Jays may be interested in a straight up deal with the Cubs rather than involving a third team in a trade. Having said that, the Cubs could still pursue Rizzo. Though, the Cubs would have to come up with a package of prospects that have equal value to Garza. The issue is that the Cubs do not have those prospects, thus making a trade for Rizzo unlikely at this point.
While the national media has not eliminated the Cubs from the Prince Fielder sweepstakes, it seems unlikely that the Cubs are going to land the 27 year free agent first baseman. Unless the Cubs are working on a trade that has not been rumored yet, the front office is likely looking at veteran free agent first basemen that fit the mold of the other off-season acquisitions. Both Ian Stewart and David DeJesus are players that have had success, but are looking for bounce-back season after a poor showing with their respective teams in 2011.
One option that Cubs’ fans should be familiar with is Derrek Lee. Lee, of course, spent nearly seven seasons with the Cubs from 2004 through 2010. The Cubs traded Lee during August of the 2010 season. At 36 years old, Lee is not going to be long-term fixture at the first base position. Rather with the Cubs looking to mix and match their major league roster for the 2012 season while the front office’s primary focus is on re-tooling the farm system. In addition to the sentimental factor of allowing Lee to retire as a Cub, Lee would seem to be a fit for the Cubs’ major league team in 2012.
After struggling at the beginning of the 2011 season with the Baltimore Orioles, Lee showed signs of his former self after being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 101 at bats with the Pirates during the final months of the 2011 season, Lee hit .337/.398/.584/.982. Not to mention that Lee is one of the better defensive first basemen in the game today. Another underlying factor would be the attitude that Lee would bring to the clubhouse. Considering Epstein has interest in bringing Jason Varitek as a backup catcher in order to improve the clubhouse chemistry, it would make sense for Epstein to be interested in Lee for the same reason. Not to mention that with the Cubs expected to undergo a youth movement this season, Lee would be a good veteran to have in the clubhouse for the younger players to seek mentoring from.
Not to mention that looking over the Cubs’ projected lineup that figures to include Geovany Soto, Darwin Barney, Ian Stewart, Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, and David DeJesus; it seems fairly clear that the Cubs are going to lack power. Lee does not have the same 30 home run power that he once possessed earlier in his career, but it is not out of the question to think that Lee can still hit 20 or 25. If Lee stays on the free agent market through January, then Epstein and Hoyer should seriously consider signing the veteran to a bargain deal. After all, I would imagine that Lee would be interested in returning to the North Side.