Thanksgiving week is considered the calm before the storm when it comes to the baseball offseason. While we haven't seen the Cubs make any significant on the field moves, the Cubs were very busy during the GM meetings according to ESPN's Jim Bowden. They've talked to a "at least a dozen" teams about trades. They've talked to free agents. They've talked to everyone from Prince Fielder to one-year stopgaps to teams about their prospects.
So what should we expect? Here are my thoughts...
- Bruce Levine seems to think they'll be "big players" for Fielder. I expect the Cubs to consider the possibility, but I don't expect the Cubs to get in a bidding war and overpay for anyone. They may talk to Fielder but they are likely doing it so as not to rule him out as well as to establish contact early. If it turns out that the market is smaller than expected, as has been the case so far, then the Cubs won't be caught with their pants down if Fielder is willing to take a bit less in terms of years. They'll be able to swoop in and offer a deal without looking like a johnny-come-lately.
- The same goes for Mark Buehrle. If he decides to take on a little less to stay in Chicago and go to the NL, the Cubs will be ready. But right now there are 10 teams interested. If Buehrle decides he wants to parlay that interest into a 4 year deal, then I don't expect the Cubs to join the frenzy.
- In the likely event of a bidding war on Buehrle, they may well turn to those one-year stopgaps/flyers Bowden mentioned. With a front office so recently assembled, I'd expect the Cubs to look at familiar names in this scenario. As an example, Erik Bedard was acquired by Epstein last season. He already knows the medical records and has done his homework in other areas. He also tried to acquire Chris Capuano and Bruce Chen. Chen has already re-signed with the Royals, but it's interesting to note that the Cubs were one of the teams in on him.
- By the same token, the Cubs may look to friendly and familiar front offices when it comes to trades. That includes the Angels with Jerry DiPoto, San Diego with Josh Byrnes, and Arizona because of the familiarity recent front office additions Joe Boehringer and Shiraz Rehman have with that organization. Bleacher Nation mentioned a source that talked about the Cubs talking with the Angels about Geovanny Soto and Carlos Marmol. It makes a ton of sense. The Angels are actively looking for a catcher and Soto would seem to be the kind of all-around catcher both GM Jerry DiPoto and powerful manager Mike Scioscia can agree on.
- Staying on the Angels theme, the two teams look like they'd be a match in terms of needs. The Bleacher Nation article mentioned Hank Conger as being involved, which likely means the Cubs may value his defense at catcher more than Mike Scioscia does. His bat there is a potential plus. The Angels, especially if they sign CJ Wilson, will have a pitching surplus. A couple of young pitchers might get squeezed out in Tyler Chatwood and Garrett Richards. Either could interest the Cubs as well as a young position player like Peter Bourjos, who may get displaced by uber prospect Mike Trout. Lots of possibilities and names to throw around in this scenario.
- As I've mentioned before, I don't expect the Cubs to trade Matt Garza. I look at him as that expensive piece everyone comes in to see and ask about, but once they hear the price they'll ask, "Well, what about this other piece?". When the Cubs said they'll listen on everyone, Garza is the guy that gets the other guys into the store, but both the Cubs and potential trade partners will probably find other players that are better fits in terms of what they need and what they are willing to pay. That includes players like Soto, Marmol, Sean Marshall, and other players who could bring back prospects and young MLB players. I'm not ruling out the possibility of Garza getting traded, I just think that unless there is a big change in the market, nobody will want to meet the Cubs asking price.
- Look for the Cubs to announce some additions to the coaching staff this week, but I don't expect them to add any big names. One big name, Ted Simmons, a former top managerial candidate himself, has already been ruled out.
I expect the Cubs to be very active this offseason. With a ton of payroll coming off the books and plenty of holes to fill, nothing and no one can be ruled out at this point. It may have been a slow start but things are about to pick up speed, possibly as soon as tomorrow.
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