With the Cubs being swept for the 2nd straight year in the NLDS, you have to ask yourself is it the team, players, management, or what?!?! This team had more pressure on it this year than last year because of the " 100 year" issue and just wanting it so bad to be gone. Well, that is all now in the past and the Cubs can start planning and working toward next year's goal, winning a World Series.
Lets take a look at the Cubs next year-
C- Geovany Soto
1B- Derrek Lee
2B- Mark Derosa
3B- Aramis Ramirez
SS- Ryan Theriot
OF- Alfonso Soriano
INF- Ronny Cedeno
INF- Mike Fontenot
OF/1B- Micah Hoffpauir
OF- Felix Pie
C- Henry Blanco
Expiring contracts after the 2008 season-
This would be more than likely your 2009 Cubs if we did not sign any new players and let our current expiring contract players to leave. The Cubs are obviously not going into the 2009 season like this. Although I feel that there will be not a lot of new faces like we saw the last couple of years, I do think they will make some key additions.
First I am about 75% sure that the Cubs will sign Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood to new deals, in fact I do not think that either of them will test the market. Both have a good relationship with Jim Hendry, the Cubs, and the city of Chicago. I do not see any reason why they would leave considering both have expressed their desire to stay. I expect Demp to get a 4 year deal worth about 50-55 million dollars from the Cubs. I also expect Wood to get a nice deal of 3 years 28 million dollar deal( comparable to Joe Nathan). As far as Ward, Howry, Edmonds, and Lieber, their days as Cubs are over.
After the Cubs sign the players they want to keep from last year, I think its time to give some of the existing player and younger players to new deals. I feel Derosa needs a new deal and Geovany Soto and Carlos Marmol need long term ML deals. Hopefully they can lock them up!
It is hard to determine what the Cubs new owner will want to do this off season, mainly because we do not know who it is. Regardless you know whoever it is will want to make a big impact right away. So I would not be surprised if you hear names like Manny, Peavy(rumored to be traded), McLouth(also rumored), Sabathia, and Sheets.
The areas I feel the Cubs should work on is getting another OF wether it is a platoon partner with Fukudome in LF or Reed Johnson in CF. It could also be an everyday player in RF or CF. They just need an solid consistent bat at one of those positions. Here is a list of potential FA and trade candidates that could fill that void-
Wily Mo Pena
Gary Matthews Jr.
Another area I feel the Cubs should look to upgrade is their bullpen. They need another hard thrower in the pen. Here is a list of good pen guys-
I feel those are really the only two areas the Cubs should really go after guys next year. The rest of the positions they have good talent and depth.
One of the good things about having depth at those positions is that you have the ability to trade away talent to fill other holes. The Cubs have a lot of young chip they could part with, too many to mention. As far as guys on the 25 man roster, I think Ronny Cedeno, Kevin Hart, and Jason Marquis are the 3 players are most likely to be traded next season. Ronny Cedeno is out of options and could be used to land an OFer, Kevin Hart is a decent arm that can be used in another teams rotation or pen, and Jason Marquis is a solid #5 pitcher who can hit, not to mention he is owed 9.875 million. The other thing about Marquis is he is a .500 pitcher with a high ERA, there are better options like Randy Wells, Angel Guzman, Jeff Samardzjia, Donald Veal, and Jose Ceda at a cheaper price. Either one of those three could bring back some good value and be some salary relief in the case of Marquis.
With the 25 man roster how it is, including the new projected contracts for Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood, next years payroll will go from 118 million to 130-140 million next season. That is without adding any potential free agents and trades.
If I was the Cubs I would try to trade for an outfielder rather than throw a lot of money at one. If they are going to throw money at an outfielder they better go after someone who can produce all year and in the postseason. A guy like Manny Ramirez, Adam Dunn, Pat Burrell or Bobby Abreu would be worth throwing at but you loose a lot defensively with all four of those in the outfield. I rather them trade young talent for a Carl Crawford, Reggie Willits, Magglio Ordonez, Nate McLouth, Ryan Spilborghs, or Rocco Badelli. I think adding any of these guys will really improve this team.
As far as the reliever goes I can only see them signing one of the potential free agents I listed. I would really like to see Dan Wheeler or Kyle Farnsworth. Farnsworth would be the most affordable of the two with Wheeler being the best available reliever not named K-Rod.
Either way the Cubs should be able to return to the post season again if they improve on the things I mention above. It should be another fun off season for the Cubs!