Offseason Outlook: Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are at a crossroads this offseason, as they seek a new GM and face the temptation of adding more big free agent contracts.

Guaranteed Contracts

Contract Options

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Free Agents

The Cubs were a $134MM disaster in 2011.  Despite all their spending the team hasn't reached the playoffs since '08.  This summer they fired longtime GM Jim Hendry, whose teams made the playoffs in three of nine seasons.  Owner Tom Ricketts seeks a more analytically-inclined GM to craft the roster.  His other criteria include a commitment to player development and a track record of success.  Ricketts has pledged silence during the ongoing search, but reports suggest he's initially targeting current GMs such as Theo Epstein and Andrew Friedman.  The job security of Mike Quade is in question as well, as a new GM may want to hire a new manager.

The new GM will have to spend free agent dollars wisely, which was often a problem for Hendry in recent years.  A steady payroll for 2012 could give the Cubs a hefty $40MM to work with in 2012 salaries.  The possibility of a quick turnaround tempts Ricketts, who referenced the Diamondbacks' success in a recent interview.  The D'Backs were fairly restrained in free agency last winter, but the Cubs are in a position to throw around some cash in the coming months.  The potential areas to upgrade are plentiful, with openings at the infield corners, right field, the rotation, and in the bullpen.

The Cubs may have to make a concession at third base.  The opportunity to re-sign Ramirez — easily the best free agent third baseman available — to a below-market contract hasn't motivated them, and the team's offense will suffer without him.  The first base market is appealing, with superstars Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder options to take up more than half of the Cubs' payroll flexibility.  With such a clear rotation need, though, the Cubs could lower their sights at first base and re-sign Pena or pursue Michael Cuddyer.  Cuddyer's versatility could be a nice match for the Cubs, who have openings at all his positions.

The Cubs appear intent on unloading Zambrano, whose performance is probably worth a few million dollars to some team.  Chone Figgins could be a reasonable target given the Cubs' third base vacancy and the limited options at that position, though the Mariners would have to be willing to take another potential head case from the Cubs.  Assuming Dempster returns, he'll join Garza and Wells in the rotation.  If a quick fix is the goal the Cubs would be best-served by shopping in the high-end section of the market: C.C. Sabathia, C.J. Wilson, or Yu Darvish.  On the other hand, signing any of the potential $100MM+ players this offseason would hardly break the Cubs' cycle of piling on burdensome contracts.

I can't picture the Cubs slashing payroll given their attendance and rabid fanbase, but I'm also not convinced they're going to come away with Pujols, Fielder, Sabathia, Wilson, or Darvish.  With so many needs, the Cubs could easily spread their surplus among four or five veterans.  Other big-market teams have shown an ability to contend and improve the farm system simultaneously, a strategy the Cubs appeared to finally initiate with a slew of over-slot signings in the June draft.


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53 Comments on "Offseason Outlook: Chicago Cubs"


3 years 10 months ago

I have to go throw up now.

mmontice
3 years 10 months ago

Although still a surprise coming into the 2011 season, the Diamondbacks had many budding stars/high caliber players already somewhat tested at the MLB level in Upton, Kennedy, Hudson, Putz, Montero and Young (had a down season this year).  Guys like Collmenter were a surprise so I have to leave him out.  There’s more near-term help on the way too in Goldschmidt, Bauer and Parker (possibly others too).

Assuming Aramis is gone, going into next year the Cubs have Garza, Castro and Marshall coming off good seasons (yep, that’s it), and possibly one high level minor leaguer (Jackson) who can make a big impact.  Everything else is keeping your fingers crossed they bounce back or hopeful minor league prospects at low levels.

While there is always a possibility of a 1 year turnaround, a lucky season or huge leaps in prospect progress, the Cubs current situation just doesn’t match what the Diamondbacks had going into the 2011 season unless multiple huge signings are made to fill so many different holes.  That sounds awful and is just a repeat of the past 5-7 years.

3 years 10 months ago

The Cubs do have a terrible farm system. Hendry sucked at drafting

3 years 10 months ago

the Cubs actually have a pretty good farm. Hendry turned some very promising prospects into Matt Garza and they still have Brett Jackson, Trey McNutt, and Ryan Flaherity.  Granted a majority of the Cubs prospects are young and still in the lower levels of the minor leagues(Reggie Golden, Aaron Kurcz, and Chris Rusin for example), I still feel that they have a very legitamate farm system

3 years 10 months ago

so you’re saying all of their prospects are in the rays organization. They need to draft the best pitcher available and not wreck him

mmontice
3 years 10 months ago

Why draft the best pitcher available when you can reach 4 rounds or ~130 picks to get one?

aaron b
3 years 10 months ago

Hayden Simpson’d

BlueCatuli
3 years 10 months ago

Dillon Maples

asovermann
3 years 10 months ago

Actaly Fuld Guyer and Chirinos are nothing special just hak ju lee who plays SS which we are set at, we really didnt give up all that much

mmontice
3 years 10 months ago

McNutt had a very uninspiring year.  Until that is changed, I cannot consider him a promising prospect.  He is at most still somewhat interesting.  I understand he had blisters and what not, but across the board, his numbers were below average.

Flaherty is a utility player at the MLB level.  You don’t turn around the team in one year or create a consistent winner getting excited about utility players.

The others are still a long way off (Golden) or also not exciting.  Kurcz is a bullpen/mid-relief arm and Rusin is very underwhelming, at least statistically.

asovermann
3 years 10 months ago

See Vogelbach, Maples and Zych from this years draft. Theres alot of promise there.

mmontice
3 years 10 months ago

Everything negative I have referenced is towards the upper levels.  Excluding Zych who could, and I stress could, move fast, Vogelbach and Maples are will start the year at Boise, and be anywhere from 3-5 years away if all goes well.

Nowhere did I rip on the lower levels.  I just said hopeful, which is exactly what 18 and 19 year olds are.

3 years 10 months ago

Pitchers

Jay Jackson
Christopher Carpenter
Nick Struck
Chris Rusin
Trey McNutt
Rafeal Dolis
John Gaub
Robert Whitenack
Scott Maine
Andrew Cashner

Infield

Ryan Flaherty
DJ Lemahieu
Wellington Castillo
Steve Clevenger
Josh Vitters
Marquez Smith

Outfield

Brett Jackson
Reggie Golden
Jae-Hoon Ha
Matt Szczur
 
These are some honorable mentions. You should really do some research before saying stuff that you don’t know about.

Lunchbox45
3 years 10 months ago

There are about 20-25 teams who could put a better list together, so not really sure what you’re trying to say.

3 years 10 months ago

No, not really I don’t know what you’re trying to say.

Lunchbox45
3 years 10 months ago

cubs rank between 20-25 in farm system rankings, depending on which source you use.

imachainsaw
3 years 10 months ago

and if you do your research on these players, you can understand why those evaluations are outdated.

Lunchbox45
3 years 10 months ago

so all of the 2011 analysis are outdated?
i’ll go with your word, instead of you know, actual research. 

3 years 10 months ago

Pitchers

Jay Jackson
Christopher Carpenter
Nick Struck
Chris Rusin
Trey McNutt
Rafeal Dolis
John Gaub
Robert Whitenack
Scott Maine
Andrew Cashner

Infield

Ryan Flaherty
DJ Lemahieu
Wellington Castillo
Steve Clevenger
Josh Vitters
Marquez Smith

Outfield

Brett Jackson
Reggie Golden
Jae-Hoon Ha
Matt Szczur
 
These are some honorable mentions. You should really do some research before saying stuff that you don’t know about.

frejus98119
3 years 10 months ago

how about figgins for soriano and cash?

3 years 10 months ago

I really like the idea of a Chone Figgins for Carlos Zambrano swap. It really takes me back to the Carlos Silva for Milton Bradley swap, and why shouldn’t it? The deals include two guys named Carlos, and two head cases! Zambrano makes 18M in 2012, and Figgins makes 17M from 2012-2013. Both players have unlikely vesting options. The deal would likely send the M’s into 2012 without any other major upgrades, and another year to play the kids. Which would be hard to sell to 2012 ticket buyers. However it would set the team up nicely to spend during the 2012-2013 offseason. For the Cubs, it would allow them about an extra 9M in player payroll for the 2012 season. As an M’s fan I say get it done Jack!

3 years 10 months ago

Zambrano is going to the Marlins though

3 years 10 months ago

M’s rotation pending off season

Felix Hernandez
Carlos Zambrano
Michael Pineda
Jason Vargas
Blake Beaven/????????

Cubs positioning pending off season

C- Geovany Soto
1B- Prince Fielder/ Carlos Pena/ Albert Pujols
2B- Darwin Barney
3B- Chone Figgins
SS- Starlin Castro
LF- Alfonso Soriano
CF- Marlin Byrd
RF- Tyler Colvin/ Bryan LaHair

They still look ugly

IdontknowwhyIpostonforums
3 years 10 months ago

And the M’s could DH Z and probably get an upgrade to their offense.

chico65
3 years 10 months ago

I’m just stunned that someone would take a chance on Zambrano, even if the Cubs are picking up the entire tab plus kicking in some replacement gatorade machine $.  Seriously, what on earth can these GMs be thinking?

Though on second thought baseball has had guys like Belle, Dykstra, and Cobb…so I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised. 

3 years 10 months ago

Moneyball where Billy Beane made the yankees give them free soda

gunsnascar
3 years 10 months ago

“I’m just stunned that someone would take a chance on Zambrano, even if
the Cubs are picking up the entire tab plus kicking in some replacement
gatorade machine $.  Seriously, what on earth can these GMs be thinking?”
They are thinking  if we have a very defensive team with a high scoring offense he could win 20 + games for 5-10 mil this year or trade a worse contract for carlos ZAMBRANO..

3 years 10 months ago

Carlos Zambrano winning 20+ games? No.

chico65
3 years 10 months ago

I also can’t believe that “Figgins” and “reasonable” were used in the same sentence.

3 years 10 months ago

Figgins was once a good player and still is, but age and his contract are why people are on his case

aaron b
3 years 10 months ago

Does a .484 OPS constitute a “good player”?

bigpat
3 years 10 months ago

Is the Milton Bradley/Carlos Silva money officially off the books now or did that deal end last season? It’s always a nice bonus when you get freed up from that dead money. 

3 years 10 months ago

What the Cubs should do is put Big Z at 3B and see what kind of numbers he can put up offensively.

onemanwolfpack
3 years 10 months ago

hahahahahaha

3 years 10 months ago

Quick!  Call Bud Selig and tell him forget about moving the ASTROS to the American League and getting the DH!

onemanwolfpack
3 years 10 months ago

bottom line is they need to spend the $….they are a big market team….they don’t have to wait for prospects to develop and fill the roster….sure let a few of them here and there come up and play like castro and barney…but sign the proven players and show them the $…..year after year we as loyal fans pour into wrigley, eat out hot dogs, drink our beet and root on a below .500 team….we give ricketts the $…he needs to give it back to us in the way of a WS championship!

John DiRienzo
3 years 10 months ago

go away, Hendry

WrigleyTerror37
3 years 10 months ago

send Big Z to Miami for Nolasco and 2.5MM

Andy_B
3 years 10 months ago

you can’t be serious.  More like Zambrano to Miami for a worthless A ball player, Miami gets about 10 million.

Andy_B
3 years 10 months ago

you can’t be serious.  More like Zambrano to Miami for a worthless A ball player, Miami gets about 10 million.

WrigleyTerror37
3 years 10 months ago

send Big Z to Miami for Nolasco and 2.5MM

Andy_B
3 years 10 months ago

Cubs fans, would you do this deal just curious,

Hamels and Jon Mayberry Jr.

for Starlin Castro and Carlos Marmol

I’m not a fan of either teams, but it seems like a deal that could benefit both teams.  

BlueCatuli
3 years 10 months ago

Hell no!

WrigleyTerror37
3 years 10 months ago

NO i wouldn’t do that deal if u said Doc instead of hamels. 
Face it The cubs future is Starlin. Now im all for trading marmol, but that deal doesnt match up for the cubs.
Sure cubs would have 2 aces but no Defense, (or offence) if Castro leaves. 
Side note, cubs have enough Out Fielders, no need for another #4 OF. and why would the cubs help out the phillies, imo they are the Yankees of the NL!! 

3 years 10 months ago

*Dominic Brown instead of John Mayberry but then again SS is a premiere position and when you have a high level talent like Castro its kinda hard to trade that.

Andy_B
3 years 10 months ago

Cubs fans, would you do this deal just curious,

Hamels and Jon Mayberry Jr.

for Starlin Castro and Carlos Marmol

I’m not a fan of either teams, but it seems like a deal that could benefit both teams.  

slider32
3 years 10 months ago

The Cubs will have to over pay for Wilson and Darvish because the Yanks and Sox will be bidding on them, the next tear pitcher or a trade will be their best bet. Castro for Shields would be a good move.

texcubnut
3 years 10 months ago

Carlos Zambrano is going nowhere.  He will be with the cubs in 2012.

3 years 10 months ago

No need to worry, Jeimer Candelario will save us…

3 years 10 months ago

Cubs Area of Concern #1: Catching. Soto is an average back-stop at best, and ESPN has him ranked near the bottom. Trade suggestion: Since the Yanks have Russell Martin in the fold, Jesus Montero waiting in the wings and a need for pitching, Cubs should gauge interest in sending an experienced arm (Coleman, Berg, Russell, Samardzija, etc.) to the Bronx for Gary Sanchez or Austin Romine.

$3081341
3 years 10 months ago

Hell at this point I’ll take both Big Z & Soriano for Figgins, maybe throw in Ichiro while your at it. Boy wouldn’t that be nice. 

3 years 10 months ago

This is why as a Mets fan i’m not as worried about our future as say Cubs fan should be because they have it way worse right now and other Mets fans should agree with me honestly…

nycub
3 years 10 months ago

Yeah, because the Mets are definitely heading toward the World Series next year