The Chicago Cubs off-season can still be salvaged. That is not to say that the Cubs’ off-season was ever lost. But with the front office already letting Aramis Ramirez walk out the door, trading away reliever Sean Marshall, and seeming to be not enthused with the idea of signing free agent first baseman Prince Fielder; many fans are bracing for a rebuilding year for the Cubs during the 2012 season. On top of that, you have the increasing chances that starting pitcher Matt Garza will be traded at some point this off-season. But that is not to say that the Cubs can still make a move or two that moves the team from the rebuilding phase to the cusp of contention. Fielder would certainly do that for the Cubs, but it seems unlikely that the team will sign the former Milwaukee Brewer.
While Fielder has certainly garnered most of the attention from the national reporters, there is one player or prospect I should say that is going under radar. Reason being that prospect has yet to play a professional baseball game for any major league baseball organization.
That prospect, of course, is Cuban outfielder Yoennis Cespedes. The expectation is that Cespedes will be granted citizenship in the Dominican Republic this week. This step has always been considered as the pre-cursor to Cespedes being officially declared as a free agent in major league baseball. At 26 years of age, the belief is that Cespedes will be heavily coveted. The New York Yankees, Miami Marlins, Boston Red Sox, in addition to the Cubs are all believed to be the main-bidders in the Cespedes sweepstakes. Cubs’ president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer, and vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod visited with Cespedes and his representatives during the final week of November. The Cubs have yet to spend any significant dollars this season–the one exception being the 2 year, $10 million contract that David DeJesus signed. Meaning the team should have more than enough room financially to fit Cespedes into their payroll. The latest projection is that Cespedes will receive a contract that surpasses $60 million. In addition to Cespedes, the Cubs are also interested in Jorge Soler, who is another Cuban outfielder.
Most scouts and talent evaluators believe that Cespedes is major league ready, while Soler, 20, may need some seasoning in the minor league system before contributing on the major league level. Looking at the Cubs outfield picture, the team has Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, and DeJesus as the current starters in the outfield. Epstein and Hoyer have desperately tried to trade Soriano but have found no takers. Though, it should not be ruled out that the Cubs could release Soriano at some point during Spring Training. But in recent weeks, the Byrd trade rumors have gained steam. Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago reported on his Saturday morning radio show, “Talking Baseball”, that there is good chance that Byrd will not be with the Cubs come opening day. Both the Red Sox and Washington Nationals have shown an interest in Byrd.
If Byrd is in fact dealt at some point this off-season, that would seem to clear a spot for Cespedes to play center field. Though, the Cubs’ top prospect Brett Jackson also is projected as a center fielder. The likely scenario if the Cubs sign Cespedes is for Cespedes to play center field, then have Jackson platoon with Soriano in left field upon his ascension to the major leagues.
Cespedes is considered by many to be a five tool outfielder, and has been billed by some as the best prospect to come out of Cuba in a generation.