The Chicago Cubs have 5 specific areas they need to address before next season. Those areas are Starting Pitching, Bullpen, Bench, CF or RF, 3rd base. Here are 26 players the Cubs should look at via free agency with the hopes of signing 7 of them. I will break down why the Cubs should target those specific players and my picks. These players are not in any specific order and all players follow Theo’s way of doing things (No Josh Hamilton, BJ Upton, or Grienke here).
Starting Pitching: Possibly the biggest need for the Cubs and could become a bigger need if they deal Garza. But for now we are assuming the Cubs will hold onto Garza and look to add two starters via free agency.
1. Joe Blanton- Not the sexiest name but he does get the job done. Blanton is known as a work horse that eclipsed 175 innings every year since 2005 except for in 2011. He owns a career 4.37 ERA, is a decent strikeout pitcher, only 32 years old, and he is going to be Paul Maholm affordable with the robust amount of starting pitching available in 2013. This is a good Theo guy.
2. Kevin Correia- Much like Joe Blanton; Correia is not a known name but he is a solid pitcher. Not the work horse Blanton is but could come at a cheaper price. Also just 32 years old he owns a 4.54 ERA in 10 seasons. He is going to be very affordable so he does have that going.
3. Scott Feldman- More of household name is Feldman for his work in the playoffs (good and bad). Feldman is only 29 years old but has not been as consistent as Blanton and Correia. Feldman has an option of $9.2 million but it is likely to be declined. Feldman has been in the tough AL west his entire career so a move to the NL could be good for him. The cost of him is going to be interesting but I do not think he will be out of the Cubs reach.
4. Francisco Liriano- This guys is the definition for low risk/high reward. Liriano was once the ace of the Twins staff and apart of the solid 1-2 combo with Johan Santana but those days have faded. Liriano still owns a respectable 4.40 ERA over 7 seasons and his recent troubles make Liriano maybe the most affordable out of the bunch. The move from AL to NL could bolster his numbers and he definitely follows the “Theo Way” mold.
5. Shaun Marcum- He will cost the Cubs more money than they may want to spend but he does have good numbers with a 3.76 ERA of 7 season and will turn 31 going into 2013. He maybe too expensive but he is a player they should be targeting.
6. Ervin Santana- Another guys who could break the Cubs bank depending on the market but a target never less. Santana also has spent his career in the AL west so a move to the NL could help his numbers as well. Only 29 years old he could end up the steal for a team like the Cubs. Santana has a career 4.33 ERA in 8 seasons and has pitched 200+ innings in 4 of them. Why would the Cubs want Santana? Well take a look at his interleague stats. 26 games started, 166 IP, 149 SO, 12-8, and with a 3.85 ERA. Those are pretty good stats.
7. Joe Saunders- A 31 year old lefty who just pitches well in both leagues. He owns a 4.15 ERA over 8 seasons is has been close to 200+ innings pitched since 2008. He is also going to be a little more pricey than Feldman or Liriano but cheaper than Santana and Marcum.
8. Carlos Villenueva- This is a guy the Cubs could sneak under the radar and nab. Carlos will be 29 years old in November and owns a 4.16 ERA in 7 seasons. He has pitched both out of the pen and in the rotation so he has that going for him as well. He has plus pitches and is known to strike out a few guys with 571 SO in 657 innings.
Bullpen- The Chicago Cubs need some stability in their bullpen and I feel adding two established inexpensive players to their pen would make them better now and pay off by the deadline as well.
1. Brett Myers- 32 year old Brett Meyers is still proving he can pitch and would be a welcome addition to the Cubs pen. He is a guy with closer and starter experience and sports a 4.20 ERA in 11 seasons. In 2012 he netted a 3-8 record with a 3.31 ERA and 19 saves. He is going to cost but the money toward a guy like Myers would pay off.
2. Ryan Madson- He never got off the ground because of arm troubles with the Reds but in 2011 he had a 4-2 record 2.37 ERA. The Reds are likely to buyout his contract and with Madson coming off an injury he could be a low cost/high reward player for the Cubs.
3. Matt Capps- He is only 29 years old and has closing experience in both leagues. He could provide the Cubs with good stability for a low cost.
4. Ramon Ramirez- Pitched with Boston back in 2009-2010 and owns a career 3.32 ERA. A guy with some closing experience and would be dirt cheap and only 30 years old.
5. Mark Lowe- Another good pitcher at 29 years old. He has a 3.94 ERA in 7 seasons all spent in the AL West.
6. JP Howell- Has a 4.42 ERA with the Royals and Rays but had a 3.04 ERA in 55 games for the Rays this season. He is only 29 years old and should be considered a major target for the Cubs.
7. Sean Burnett- This guy has been nothing but consistent with a 3.58 ERA over 6 seasons in the National league. This season with the Nationals he had a 2.38 ERA in 70 games.
Bench- The Cubs do not need a lot of help off the bench with their farm full of ML bench players but they do need more versatile players.
1. Mark DeRosa- We all know him and love him but now on the downslide of his career the Cubs maybe able to nab on a one year deal or even a minor league contract.
2. Ty Wiggington- He hit .235 this year with 11 homers and a .314 OBP with the Phils. He would be more expensive but would provide the Cubs with good power and versatility off the bench.
3. Jeff Keppinger- A guy every team would want to have to fill in or come off their bench is the 33 year old Jeff Keppinger. In 2012 with the Rays he hit .325 with a .367 OBP 9 homers in 418 Abs. He will come with a price but it will be money well spent. The Cubs need a guy who can backup SS but Keppinger does more than that. He has played RF, LF, 3rd, SS, 2nd, and 1st so he is a guy the Cubs will target.
CF or RF: Theo announced today that he expects Brett Jackson to start in Iowa which means the Cubs could go with in house options of Sappelt or Campana to fill in for RF or CF but they are still going to need more. Theo and Jed will be looking for an athletic outfield so no Carlos Lee or Jonny Gomes but must be a guy not looking for a multi-year deal like an Upton or Victorino.
1. Ryan Ludwick- He can only play the corner spots but he provides the Cubs with some right handed pop. He is 34 years old and will likely be extremely cost effective for a guy who hit .275 with 26 homers 80 RBI and a .346 OBP. He should be a fall back option.
2. Angel Pagan- He knows Wrigley well and is only 31 years old so he has that going for him. He is going to cost more money than Ludwick but could look for a similar deal to what DeJesus got. He hit .288 with a .338 OBP with 15 triples, 8 homers, and 29 SB.
3. Cody Ross- He would be my pick but unfortunately it seems the Red Sox are working out an extension for him to keep him in Boston for the next couple years.
4. Ichiro Suzuki- 39 year old Suzuki is finally free from Seattle and hit NY running by hitting .322 with a .340 OBP 5 homers and 14 SB in 67 games. A true leadoff hitter is something the Cubs need and he would provide the Cubs with great defense in the OF. Whether he would come to Chicago is another story.
5. Tori Hunter- Can a 37 year old Tori Hunter still handle the OF on a regular basis? I think so. Since Tori is at the end of his career I expect he would want a two year deal similar to what DeJesus got. I expect the Cubs to oblige since he hit .313 with a .365 OBP 16 homers and played a 134 games in the outfield.
6. Grady Sizemore- Grady is 30 years old, a 2 time gold glove winner, and 3 time All-Star but has not played since 2011 and has not played a full season since 2008. So he would be a low risk/high reward player. He made 5 million last season and is likely to not even see half of that in 2013. He could be a nice gamble for the Cubs.
3rd Base: The Cubs need a solid 3rd baseman for the next 2 or 3 years; period!
1. Scott Rolen: Now 37 years old and on the downslide his career Rolen is not as coveted as he once was. The Cubs could easily get him for minimal money and years loaded with incentives. Rolen has been struggling with injury but he will not be asked to play every day with Valbuena on the squad. He hit .245 with a .318 OBP and 8 homers. He is still very solid defensively and exactly what the Cubs are looking for.
2. Kevin Youkilis: This seems like a sure thing to me. Kevin has a good relationship with Jed and Theo and the Cubs are in need for a 3rd baseman for the next couple years. Youkilis may want to go to a contender but it will be hard to find one unless it is with the White Sox. Youk is rumored to be looking for a 2 year deal totaling around 15-18 million dollars which might be a little more than they want to spend. Youk hit .235 with a .336 OBP in 122 games this past season while belting 19 homers. The change to the NL could really help Youk revive his career and he could be a part of a contending team when the Cubs deal him at the deadline.
If the Cubs were to address all their need through free agency (which I don’t expect) I think they would add 7 players out of the 26 listed. Here are the players I would chose following Theo’s way of doing things-
Starting Pitching: Ervin Santana and Francisco Liriano
Bullpen: Brett Myers and JP Howell
Bench: Jeff Keppinger
CF/RF: Tori Hunter
3rd base: Kevin Youkilis
Here is what I feel the 25-man roster would look like for the Cubs:
- DeJesus CF
- Barney 2b
- Rizzo 1st
- Hunter RF
- Castro SS
- Youkilis 3rd
- Soriano LF
- Castillo C
- T. Wood
- E. Santana
Until Next Time….