Bleacher Nation recently had a post on the Cubs possibly contending next season which got me thinking if the Cubs were serious about contending in 2013 what are some moves that have to be made to do so?
First some background information for everyone. The Cubs next season will have a payroll of $34.75M before trades, extensions, arbitration, and free agent signings thanks to Cot Baseball Contracts. You have 8 arbitration eligible players but I believe Geovany Soto and Randy Wells will not be the with the Cubs next season so that takes the Cubs down to 6 arbitration eligible players. Arbitration is hard to determine plus I think the Cubs will extend some arbitration eligible players beyond the one year so I will hold off on predicting that right now.
Between now and next season I believe the Cubs will trade or release Alfonso Soriano. I also believe Randy Wells and Geovany Soto will not be apart of the team in 2013. I think Paul Maholm will be good trade bait and Ryan Dempster will also be traded before the 2012 season is up.
As far as looking at the Chicago Cubs needs I think the bench, bullpen, rotation, and an impact bat is needed to compete next season. So lets break them down.
Bench- The Cubs have good versatility on the bench and I think they keep Joe Mather. But I think Jeff Baker and Reed Johnson are gone. Also maybe some starters will become bench players like Tony Campana. I think DeJesus gets traded at the deadline to a contender. So that leaves one righty free agent bench player. Three guys I would target are Tori Hunter, Nick Swisher, or Cody Ross. Cody Ross seems the best fit coming off the bench but I would love to have Hunter or Swisher. They both are likely to get starter roles somewhere. So Cody Ross it is.
Bullpen- The Cubs weakest spot is their bullpen right now but I think some young arms could be ready by next season like Blake Parker, Frank Batista, and even Robert Whitenack. I also think the Cubs could end up trading Marmol and even Wood this season to save some cash. I think Shawn Camp is likely gone as well. Looking at the free agent list I think Jonathan Broxton or Brandon League look like good fits for the closer role. I think we will go with Brandon League.
Rotation- Looking at the rotation I am going to say the Cubs sign Matt Garza to an extension and build the rotation around him. You also have Jeff Samardzija under contract which then leaves 3 spots to be filled. I think one of them will be filled by Travis Wood or another guy not currently with Iowa. I think Chris Volstad will be in Iowa working on things next season, Randy Wells will not be with the team, and Paul Maholm will be traded at the deadline for prospects if he continues to pitch the way he does. That leaves two spots in the rotation to be filled by free agents or trades. I think the Cubs will sign one of the top free agent pitchers. Either Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Colby Lewis, Cole Hamels, Dan Haren, or James Shields are good fits. I think Cole Hamels fits the bill for the Cubs. I think for the other starting spot the Cubs should then make the trade that has been rumored more than once. Trade Geovany Soto and a minor leaguer for 26 year old Wade Davis. Two spots filled.
Impact bat- There are really only 3 areas that the Cubs could add a impact bat via free agency or trade and that is 3rd, 2nd, and outfield. The best free agent 3rd baseman are Mark Reynolds, David Wright, and Kevin Youkilis so it is a pretty weak class. For 2nd base the Cubs have even less options with Kelly Johnson as the headline free agent (assuming the Yanks exercise Cano's option, otherwise he shoots to the top of my list). So that leaves the outfield which I feel will already have two spot taken with Bryan LaHair in LF and Brett Jackson in either CF or RF. This is one area the Cubs could find an impact bat. Three names that jump off the free agent list are BJ Upton, Josh Hamilton, and Curtis Granderson. There has been talk about the Yankees declining Granderson option but I do not see that happening so you have BJ Upton or Josh Hamilton. Both have pros and cons but I think a 4 year deal with Hamilton makes all the since in the world especially since baseball execs think it will be a stretch to get a 5 year deal. You get a good 4 years of Hamilton and not tied down to any more than that 4 years,
Now looking at this above you have to say the Cubs really only made one trade and signed 4 players. But because of the youth that is ready like Anthony Rizzo, Brett Jackson, Steve Clevenger, and the staying power of Bryan LaHair all you have to do is add some peices to contend. After all the moves this is what I see for a 25 man roster (Lots of Lefties)-
1. Brett Jackson CF
2. Starlin Castro SS
3. Anthony Rizzo 1st
4. Josh Hamilton RF
5. Bryan LaHair LF
6. Wellington Castillo C
7. Ian Stewart 3rd
8. Darwin Barney 2b
Joe Mather OF/IF
Adrian Cardenas OF/IF
Tony Campana OF
Cody Ross OF
Steve Clevenger C/1st
1. Matt Garza
2. Cole Hamels
3. Jeff Samardzija
4. Travis Wood
5. Wade Davis
Bradon League CL
Just at a glance you can see the Cubs are extremely left-handed which is why it is hard to decide between a younger, less polished righty in BJ Upton and an older power lefty, dynamic hitter with a sketchy past. You can also see the Cubs have a nice balanced bench with speed, defense, and power. The Cubs rotation would rival many in the National League especially since it is a fairly young rotation. The bullpen has a great mix up of power and guys who can go multiple innings. Adding League provides them with a legit steady closer.
I think another important thing for the Cubs is to lock up some of their players like Starlin Castro, Jeff Samardzija, and Matt Garza. This is important for the future of the Cubs.
If the Cubs are serious about contending next season and not jeopardizing the future doing so this is the best of both worlds. They add two new big contracts in Hamels and Hamilton and a decent contract in Brandon League. Other than that is is arbitration and extending the youth you already have. With this roster you not only built for the present but for the future.
Until Next Time...