Friday, May 11, 2012

Steps to Contending Next Year

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
Rafael Dolis
James Russell
Frank Batista
Jeff Beliveau
Michael Bowden
Blake Parker

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...

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

A Look Ahead: 2014 Cubs 25 Man Roster

A look ahead at the possible 2014 Cubs 25 man roster just using what they have right now-
  1. Matt Szczur RF
  2. Brett Jackson CF
  3. Starlin Castro SS
  4. Anthony Rizzo lst
  5. Josh Vitters 3rd
  6. Bryan LaHair LF
  7. Junior Lake 2b
  8. Welington Castillo C
  1. Steve Clevenger C/1st/3rd
  2. Adrian Cardenas IF
  3. Tony Campana OF
  4. Darwin Barney IF
  5. David Sappelt OF
  1. Matt Garza
  2. Jeff Samardzija
  3. Trey McNutt
  4. Travis Wood
  5. Dallas Beeler
  1. Rafael Dolis
  2. James Russell
  3. Blake Parker
  4. Robert Whitenack
  5. Frank Batista
  6. Kevin Rhoderick
  7. Ryan Searle
That would be my system 25 man roster for the 2014 season. I do realize the Cubs will pick up veteran pieces, trade players, release players, extend players and sign high profiled free agents between now and then. But this shows you the Cubs strengths and weakness as a club both currently on the 25 man roster and in the farm system. Their everyday lineup I really like with some current weakness in the farm at 3rd base and 2nd. Junior Lake my grow too big for infield all together so 2nd base seems like a concern to me. The Cubs also have to hope Castillo can put it together in the ML or else we will see Clevenger take that starting job from him. The Cubs are also pretty weak off the bench. Their only legit power hitter would be Clevenger so you know they are likely to pull in a strong power hitter for the bench. The Cubs weakest area is starting pitching in my opinion. Unless some of the young guys starts carving up batters in the minors the Cubs are going to have to address the starting rotation from now and until then. Oddly enough the Cubs biggest strength is solid bullpen arms likely to be ready in the next year or so. Dolis and Russell have shown they can handle the majors and players like Blake Parker and Frank Batista are showing they maybe ready sometime this year. The Cubs have a lot of other good arms left off this list like Chris Rusin, Alberto Cabrera, and even Dae-Eun Rhee. So the relief pitching is strong.
One thing for sure the Cubs minor league youth and talent is incredibly encouraging. Seeing stuff like this on paper gets you really excited for the direction under Theo and Co.
Until Next Time..