The Cubs made a big splash at the beginning of 2012 by trading for former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and bringing in former Padres GM Jed Hoyer. Between the two, there is a lot of baseball knowledge and a lot of success at building home-grown players. The Cubs having a 2012 payroll that exceeded $100 million is a testament to how bad the ownership and management was before the trio of Ricketts, Epstein, and Hoyer came to town was. The Cubs are coming off of three straight losing season, including a 101 loss campaign in 2012. They also have the small ordeal of apparently going quite a while since their last World Series. As such, this rebuilding team has holes to fill, but the question is how much does the team have to spend?
With new ownership, it is hard to tell if the Cubs still $110 million to work with or if the Ricketts group is more interested in shedding payroll a bit. If $110 is the magic number, then the Cubs could have approximately $30 million to use this offseason.
The Cubs already brought in Dioner Navarro to serve as a backup to Welington Castillo. Castillo looked usable last season and the fact that the Cubs spent small money on Navarro could be a sign of trust in Castillo. The rest of the infield is set as youngsters Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney, and Starlin Castro join veteran Ian Stewart in a very solid defensive infield. Rizzo is a well-rounded hitter, Castro gets on base and has a load of speed, and Stewart has tremendous power potential. The Cubs are well-suited to stick with this quartet, especially since they cost the team less than $10 million combined.
In the outfield, Alfonso Soriano and David DeJesus are locks. Soriano is one of the last two really bad contracts doled out by old management, but he was productive in 2012, so the Cubs may be interested in holding on to him for his offense and greatly improving defense. Soriano was arguably the best defensive left fielder in the National League last season. If the team does decide to move him, though, they will probably have to eat a large portion of his contract. With no standout prospects at left field, it makes more sense to pay him to play for the Cubs instead of paying him to play for another team. The big question in the outfield is Brett Jackson. Jackson has struggled with strikeouts at every level, but has a good power bat and can draw a walk. His low average/solid power combination with the ability to amass steals makes him comparable to Chris Young. Because the Cubs don't have much better options at outfield until Jorge Soler is ready, it makes a lot of sense to let Jackson work on his control against major league pitching.
With the exception of Dioner Navarro, the Cubs have a bench that is completely made up of league-minimum players. If they have money to spend, they could afford to bring in some low risk guys on smaller contracts to not only provide more depth, but to challenge their current crop of role players for their bench spots. Currently, the Cubs don't have any positional battles, which can lead to stagnant play.
The Cubs have already brought in Scott Feldman and Scott Baker as reclamation projects for the rotation. I think they spent a little too much money for guys that don't have a tremendous amount of upside aside from moving from the AL to the NL. At any rate, the two moves did answer their largest question - the rotation. I think they should bring in a few more guys on minor league contracts to protect themselves from slumping pitchers. Matt Garza is a strong option with ace potential, but the other four members of the Cubs Opening Day rotation are anything but locks to have productive seasons.
Due to being made up of primarily young hurlers, the Cubs bullpen is incredibly hit or miss. They almost swung a deal to move Carlos Marmol to the Angels for Dan Haren, but backed out when they saw Haren's physical. The move shows the Cubs lack of trust in their so-called closer and I don't think that was the last phone call they made about the wild hurler. If the team does move Marmol, they could be on the market for a closer, since they don't have any good internal options. The bullpen is actually the area that is most in need of retooling for team, as the team had the league's worst pen last year and didn't have any standout performers. Moving Marmol for a bench bat and entering the market for some fresh blood could do this team a lot of good. Ultimately, I think the Cubs fans are in for another disappointing season, but with solid management and a step up in play from their young core, the Cubs could conceivably be a surprise team in 2013.
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