According to Chris De Luca of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cubs' plans this winter involve a heavy focus on Japan. As you already know, they're all over Kosuke Fukudome, Hiroki Kuroda, and Kaz Matsui.
Another name to add to the list: lefty closer Hitoki Iwase. The Cubs have reportedly heavily scouted Iwase and Kuroda. The Cubs' closer situation is wide open, with Ryan Dempster moving to the starting rotation.
De Luca also reports that the Cubs will inquire on head of the class free agent starter Carlos Silva. Silva shares an agent with Carlos Zambrano. No one expects Silva to come cheaper than four years, $40MM. The Cubs showed last year that they were willing to invest that kind of money in starting pitching. Their efforts may be bolstered by their success in importing Ted Lilly from the AL.
Also, a possible trade could be developing with the Rays. Tampa Bay is looking to add a shortstop, but the free agent crop is already down to just David Eckstein, Cesar Izturis, and the wild card Alexei Ramirez. Eckstein isn't the defensive-minded the guy the Rays covet, and he'd be too expensive anyway. Marc Topkin names four possible trade targets for the Rays: Erick Aybar, Ronny Cedeno, Chin-Ling Hu, and Brent Lillibridge. The Cubs are known to have interest in Carl Crawford. The two parties might have a starting point in Cedeno, but quality pitching like Rich Hill and/or Carlos Marmol would have to be added to the package.
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