While I honestly do not believe the Cubs season is over (as hard as that is to believe), they do only have a .5% chance of making the playoffs according to baseball prospectus which leads me to my next posting for the future. I am going to attempt to walk through what I believe the Cubs goal will be going into the 2012 season. While the free agent signings and trades are purely speculative it is what I think the Cubs need to do to be successful. The Chicago Cubs will have anywhere between 70-90 million to spend next season alone on free agents and contract extensions depending on what Ricketts decides to give the Cubs to make them successful. The number I will be working with is 80 million because it is right in between both. So here is what I see-
Players to let go because their contracts expire after the season (should be noted that these players could be traded at the deadline as well)
Dempster- Encourage him to decline his player option and find more money elsewhere.
Ramirez- Do not exercises his option and I will tell you why later.
Pena- He was just looking for a one-year deal and the Cubs have their eyes set on a bigger bat for 1st.
Grabow- A lefty specialist being paid like a set-up closer will likely go at the deadline.
Johnson- Will leave at the deadline, not likely to be back with the Cubs next year because of the depth in the outfield.
Fukudome- Has been productive for the Cubs but not what they paid for. It will be his last year for the same reason Johnson will depart.
Smardzija- Not as effective if he decides to approve a trade he is gone otherwise the Cubs will just let him walk after the season.
Doug Davis- Enough said.
Rodrigo Lopez- Same
Koyie Hill- His time has come to an end
Players that you would want to trade but it won’t happen
Carlos Zambrano- Unless it is to the White Sox (or Yankees) I do not see him approving a trade but Z has proven to change his mind as much as he changes his underwear. Trading him would provide the Cubs with more money to spend on potential free agents but because of the money and declining K rate he will remain a Cub until the end of his contract.
Alfonso Soriano- Hitting is declining, power declining, health declining, bad fielder, aging, and owed 54 million over the next 3 season with a no-trade clause. He could still be dealt because we did see Vernon Wells and Alex Rios both traded and both were deemed unmovable.
Players that could be traded either at the deadline of before the 2012 season
Marlon Byrd- With the play of players like Campana and expected call up of Brett Jackson, Byrd could be on the move. Depending on how he does the rest of the season of course and how he bounces back from injury as well.
Blake DeWitt- The Cubs are already showcasing him and have several younger players chomping at the bit to get to Chicago so he is expendable. The Cubs will likely hold onto him unless someone overpays in prospects for him.
Jeff Baker- He can smash lefties and can play various positions, this is one guy that is either going to be traded at the deadline or play next season with the Cubs because of his current trade value. I really hope if the Cubs do move Baker it is for a similar bounty that they received for DeRosa.
Randy Wells- A strong second half could prove a valuable trading chip for the Cubs either at the deadline or during the offseason.
Geovany Soto- The Cubs will use him to acquire an impact bat on the team plus I think the Cubs will focus more on defense than offense behind the plate.
Player to resign for next season
Kerry Wood- Sign him to a larger deal this year because you have the money to do so. I see the Cubs signing him to a 2 year 12 million dollar deal then likely to retire after that and stay with the team in some capacity.
Player they will add via trade
David Wright- He is rumored to be shopped and more likely this offseason rather than before the deadline unless he heals quickly. While Wright is owed a good amount of money it is not bad for superstar potential. Wright is owed 15 million in 2012 and has a 16 million dollar club option for 2013 that includes a million dollar buyout but that is only pertained to the Mets. The Cubs would basically be using the money they would have used to retain Aram on Wright. The Cubs will also be trading for Wright at a perfect time. Coming off a down year and an injury they are not likely to overpay in prospects. I think if the Cubs sent Geovany Soto, Tyler Colvin, Randy Wells and maybe a prospect like Ryan Flaherty or Josh Vitters to the Mets they would send David Wright to the Cubs and maybe even along catching prospect Josh Thole. Either way if the Cubs replace an aging, injury prone, power outage third baseman like Aramis with a 28 year old defensive minded third baseman that can hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases I think they should. Not to mention having the option to lock him up long term as well.
Free agents they should sign
Prince Fielder- I know I am going to get ripped by the “Albert Pujols to Cubs” group but as I continue I may sway some of you. Prince Fielder is report looking for “Teixeira” money and teams are likely to offer more along the lines of “Ryan Howard” money. So I have the Cubs signing Fielder to a 6 year deal worth 165 million with mutual option for the 7th year. Now the important thing to know is Hendry liking to backload contracts which will help the 28 year old Fielder because it will allow the Cubs to spend less in 2012 so they can afford other impact free agents. Another thing that benefits from this potential 7 year deal is he will be 35 at the end of the deal which is starting the decline of baseball players unless you are Barry Bonds. I fully expect the Cubs to sign Fielder to a large contract but will only make 19 million in 2012.
CC Sabathia- The Yankees and all of baseball look for him to opt out of the 4 year 92 million left on his contract to get a nice payday. Much like the Cubs do with Fielder they will backload the contract and give him close to the money and years he is looking for. 5 year 135 million with a player option for the 6th year. The Cubs will entice Sabathia with the Wright trade, Fielder signing, the benefit of being back in the NL where he dominated, and the prospect of bring the first World Series to the Cubs in over 100 years. The Cubs will also backload Sabathia’s contract and he will start off the 2012 season making 24 million and increase each year.
CJ Wilson- CJ Wilson will be the best deal in baseball. He is only making 7 million this season and is likely to see more than double that. The Cubs would be more likely to target Wilson over Sabathia because of the price but if Ricketts follows my plan he can make a big splash and get more bang for his buck. Again the Cubs are likely to backload his contract and sway Wilson to the north-side very similar to what they did for Sabathia. I fully expect the Wilson to get money in between Ryan Dempster (4 year 52million) and John Lackey (5 year 82million). I expect him to sign with the Cubs for 5 years 80 million. He will make 15 million in 2012.
Yadier Molina- I was shocked to have learned that the Cardinals will likely decline Molina’s 7 million dollar club option and pay 750K for him to go elsewhere. The talk is that the Cardinals will not have enough money to exercise Carpenter, Wainwright, and Molina along with trying to re-sign Pujols and Berkman who they would like to sign to an extension before the season ends. Not to mention unique arbitration cases with Rasmus and Garcia which factor in the 18 million in arbitration they have to shell out to retain all their young players (figure from MLBTR). Of course being a business Yadier should understand why he let go while the Cubs will be there for him much like they were there for Edmonds. Just like a business I can see Molina going to a place where he can win and offer the most money which the Cubs will do. I can see Molina looking at the potential pitching staff of Sabathia, Garza, Wilson, Zambarano, and a starter to be named later and start drooling. I expect Molina to sign with the Cubs for 4 years 27 million with the first year being paid around 6 million.
Dealing the cash out
With the 4 new free agent signings and the re-signing of Kerry Wood the Cubs will have 70 million to contribute to free agents, the Cubs will also add 15 million to that by trading for David Wright, but they subtract about 6 million trading away Wells, Soto, Colvin, and Vitters/Flaherty. So in total the Cubs would have spent 79 million dollars alone in 2012 which is about on target amount to spend in 2012. With this plan the Cubs can add high profiled free-agents along with incorporating their youth something most successful team do. Is it not impressive how much 79 million can go?
25 man roster
Brett Jackson RF
Darwin Barney 2b
David Wright 3rd
Prince Fielder 1st
Starlin Castro SS
Marlon Byrd CF
Alfonso Soriano LF
Yadier Molina C
Blake DeWitt IF/OF
Josh Thole or Wellington Castillo C
Tony Campana OF
Jeff Baker IF/OF
Bobby Scales IF/OF
Carlos Marmol Closer
There are two areas the Cubs will likely fill internally and that is pen and bench. Although I could see players like Felipe Lopez, Wilson Betemit, or Omar Vizquel getting a small major league deal or minor league deal with an invitation to ST. I think another big hole is the Cubs are without a switch hitter that can play multiple positions which is why I have Bobby Scales making the team.
As you see I also have Thole competing with Castillo for the backup catcher position. Thole presents the Cubs with a better option offensively and batting left handed which also really helps balance out the bench. Although Castillo I think is better behind the plate than Thole; if I were the GM I give Thole the nod as backup catcher.
I also round out my bench by adding speed, versatility, and balance. I think the Cubs will end up not trading the affordable Blake DeWitt and Jeff Baker because they provide the Cubs with two things I mentioned versatility and balance while Campana and Scales provide some good speed off the bench.
As far as the bullpen it looks a lot similar to this year. The Cubs keep the backend much like this year but add a good arm off the DL in Guzman. The Cubs will continue to carry three lefties but put Cashner in the pen after he comes back off the DL.
The other thing in the rotation that I did not address above the Cubs will likely go with top prospect Trey McNutt as their 5th starter. Trey has been on a roll this season but is currently on the 7 day DL. With the top 4 spots in the rotation filled by #1 and #2 starters you can take a chance on the 5th spot in the rotation.
The Cubs lineup looks like a nice balance of speed and power; by adding Brett Jackson at the top of the lineup they now have an actual base stealing top of the lineup guy. They finally get there left-handed power threat in Prince Fielder and one of the best 3rd baseman in the league to hit in from of him in David Wright. The Cubs will still have Soriano starting in LF but I think as the years go by he will play less and less with guys like Campana seeing more playing time.
My dark horse candidate on making the team next season is Matt Szczur, especially if they can find Soriano a new home during the trade deadline.
Some things I know I will hear is by back loading the contracts of these new guys you are causing a dramatic increase in payroll and jeopardizing the future. If you think that you could not be more wrong. After the 2012 season you drop off Marlon Byrd and the 6.5 million he was owed in 2012 and maybe even Zambrano, after the 2013 season you are definitely rid of Zambrano and the 19 million he made in 2013, at the end of the 2014 campaign you can finally say that Soriano is not a Cubs and you drop his 18 million annually. So between 2012 offseason and the start of 2015 the Cubs will drop off 43 million in those players alone. So by back loading the contracts and dropping off the other contracts you are basically coming out even. Thus actually having more money down the road to sign players like Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro to long term deals.
The Cubs in the end are doing what good teams like the Red Sox, Rays, and now even the Yankees are doing; adding impact high profiled free agents to the young core you already have. Looking at this team going into 2012 there will be 14 guys from the 25 man-roster that are either home grown talent or guys who spent significant time in the Cubs system paying their dues. That means only 11 guys on the 25 man roster would be obtained via free agency, it has been a long, long, long time since we saw that on the north side. The Cubs are also finally making the right move by signing impact free agents that are under the age of 32. Not one of the players the Cubs will be signing will be over the age of 31 which lessens the likeliness of the “Soriano Effect.” Yes the Cubs are spending money, yes the Cubs are committing 79 million to just 6 players, but when you have a young core and you spend money wisely you are less likely to see backlash like what Hendry is experiencing now. To me this is the winning formula! By the Cubs doing this successful formula they will obtain what the Yankees and Red Sox have, high expectations and delivering the results fans and management want to see.
What is your take and thoughts???
Until Next Time….