Looking ahead to the 2012 Chicago Cubs they have numerous things going for them. They are subtracting themselves of a ton of contract money, that have young talent that will likely see the Big Show this year and some that will see it to start of the 2012 season, and they will have money to spend on free agents. Going into 2012 the Cubs will only have 62.5 million committed not count arbitration raises of course. The Cubs also have player, club, or mutual options for Aramis Ramirez ($16M club with $2M buyout), Ryan Dempster ($14M player), Carlos Silva ($12M mutual with $2M buyout), and Jeff Samardzija (has unknown club option). I can see the Cubs interested in bring back Aramis Ramirez but not exercising his club option. I would hope Ryan Dempster would be extended or at least exercise his player option. With Carlos Sliva and Jeff Samardzija I do not see the Cubs bringing either back.
The Cubs will likely go into 2012 looking to fill their infield and pitching. There has been talk about Castro moving to 2nd or 3rd base when top prospect Hak-Ju Lee is deemed ready so their needs would change based on when Lee gets the call and where Castro moves to. The Cubs are most definitely going to need to fill the void at 1st base and this is the off-season to do so. The Cubs are very fortunate to have the young talent they do in the outfield with Brandon Guyer and Brett Jackson near ML ready because the outfield market is less than desirable. They also have inexpensive and experienced back stop Geovany Soto and two prospects in the minors named Castillo and Chirinos that will fill that void for years to come. Pitching is not necessarily a need but with the addition of an ace or two (depending on whether Dempster is back) this rotation could be a mix of vets and young studs. With all that said the Cubs maybe poised to make a huge and I mean HUGE splash in free agency after the 2011 season. Here are potential fits for the Cubs in the 2012 free agent class- (Bold represent some sort of an option)
Albert Pujols- If he becomes a free agent he IS the Cubs top priority.
Adrian Gonzalez- Did not sign an extension with the Red Sox, the Cubs want him. He is a close #2.
Prince Fielder- Here is a big bat for first and number 3 on my list.
Nick Swisher- Don’t laugh! The versatile Nick Swisher is a switch hitter that can play all three outfield positions well along with 1st base where he clocked 236 games over the past 5 years. Has hit over 20 homers every year since 2005; with 29 in 2009 and 2010. Not to mention he is only 31 years old.
2nd base (Depending on Castro and Lee)
Robinson Cano- Likely will not see free agency. If he does the Cubs should label him has a top target even ahead of Prince Fielder.
Rickie Weeks- It would be hard to not to sign Weeks. He plays great defense and hit 29 bombs last season. If he lands on the free agent market the Cubs need to put him on the short list of FA top targets.
Brandon Phillips- The guy plays stellar defense has a really good bat. Not a top choice but would be a heck of an addition to the infield and lineup.
Aaron Hill- It is hard to come by 20+ homerun 2nd baseman. His glove won’t wow you but his homers will.
3rd base (Depending on Castro and Lee, or Aram)
Jose Bautista- The only one I can justify putting on the list besides Aram. Signing him will depend on what he does this year after his 54 homer campaign.
Aramis Ramirez- We know what he can and can’t do. He can hit but only when he is healthy and unfortunately he can’t stay healthy.
Grady Sizemore- I know I said our outfield is set but a Grady Sizemore only come around every so often. If the Cubs can somehow dump Soriano an outfield of Colvin in LF, Sizemore in CF, and Brett Jackson in RF would be pretty sweet. Not to mention having Marlon Byrd coming off the bench. Of course all of that hinges on how he does coming back from injury. In 2008 he had 38 SB, a .375 OBP, 33 homers and 90 RBI. If he can come close to those numbers the Cubs should have him on their wish list.
Starting Pitching (I will just list these in order of top targets for pitching)
Brandon Webb (if he comes back like I think he will)
Having said all this, the Cubs could go make some moves this season that change the route they go in free agency. The could end up trading Chris Archer and Hak-Ju Lee for Garza which would deplete middle infield but fill the need for a top of the rotation pitcher. The Cubs could also become seller at the deadline and trade guys like Dempster, Zambrano, Aram, and others which could impact the off-season as well.
The Cubs defiantly have options going into next season and some of them will cost a ton of money because they have a ton of talent. It should be a really fun off-season for the Cubs and could really be the make or break off-season for the Cubs for years to come.
That’s my story and I am sticking to it!