Forecasting the Cubs offseason: Fielder, Pitching, Trades, Garza

Forecasting the Cubs offseason: Fielder, Pitching, Trades, Garza

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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  • I hope they don't acquire any mid-aged high priced players.
    No contracts over 3 years, unless the players is young.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I don't think you'll have to worry about that. A long term contract to an aging player is the last thing we can expect the Cubs to do.

  • Having the 6th pick in the Rule V draft this should be an easy way
    to acquire a player. Is it worth keep a player on the roster all
    season? Lets hope they can find a steal out there.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Finding a rule 5 pick worth keeping is rare. Finding one that will make a significant impact is rarer still. It's an option but the Cubs will find more useful guys through free agency and trades.

  • I am excited to see what happens over the next few weeks. More so because of the change in philosophy, than anything else. The Soriano signing, an aging start who is signed to huge money well past their prime, is a great example of the types of moves that we shouldn't ever see under Theo's watch. They will build a team that can compete quickly (maybe 2013-2014) but that also has the financial flexibility to add whatever pieces are needed as the season goes along. That is a huge departure from what we have seen with the Cubs over the last few decades.
    While I think that signing Fielder would be a good move for them, I can't see them ever giving him (or anyone else for that matter) the 8+ years he is said to be asking.

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    In reply to supercapo:

    I don't think Fielder will get the 8+ he's seeking, and for that reason I think the Cubs have a real shot at getting him. I can see a six year deal with team/vesting options for years 7-8. He'll be 33 by the end of a six year deal and the Cubs will have tough time not seeing the value of a power hitting lefty with great plate discipline and high OBP that is on the right side of 30. The major roadblock is his size and how quickly that will lead to his decline.

  • In reply to MichiganGoat:

    I couldn't agree more. I would be absolutely shocked if he received an 8 year deal, Boras certainly knows how to ask for the moon. Considering how few teams we have heard of being in on Fielder, it wouldn't surprise me to see him get settle for 4-5 years, in hopes of scoring another huge payday afterwards. I can certainly see the Cubs getting involved once the expectations come back to reality a little bit.

  • In reply to supercapo:

    There's no way the Cubs go 8 years on Fielder. If the Cubs get him it will be for 5...maybe 6 years. No more than that. If he wants more than that, which is likely, then he'll have to sign elsewhere.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah - I think the Cubs will be more "in on" Fielder than some think, but I can't envision a scenario where they go to eight years. Frankly, I think any NL team would be crazy to go north of six years.

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    In reply to Brett:

    Fielder will be lucky if can get 6/150M and I think he'd agree to 5/130M

  • In reply to Brett:

    Agreed and my guess is that the Cubs feel the same way. Making contact early is the key in case the scenario unfolds where Fielder finds himself having to consider a shorter term deal than he envisioned. If the years drop to 5-6 then I think the Cubs will be significant players -- and they can say they showed interest from the beginning.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly, and here is why having a top FO becomes a huge advantage

  • Love this kid Peter Bourjos. Would be a great leadoff hitter for years to come with fine defense I believe. And he is only 24. Seems like the Angels have a logjam in center with Trout obviously ready to play now. What would it take to get Bourjos?
    And if Brett Jackson pans out, could move him to a corner spot and you have to young OF's with huge upside. By the way, a guy I know said Jackson is filling out unbelievable, turning into an elite looking athlete. If he can just hit big league pitching.
    Have you looked at any other rule 5 possibles. How about the 7 foot pitcher the Angels have, van Loeck?

  • Was just talking about Bourjos. I like the idea of adding that kind of speed, defense, and athleticism in CF. Jackson will have to move to LF which diminishes his offensive value, but he'd be an outstanding defender there. It would go a long way toward making this a more athletic team that Epstein/Hoyer envision.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    As for Rule 5, I'll definitely dig for some more names as the date gets closer.

    Loek van Mil is a prospect with good stuff. He's improved but still struggles with command. He's too much of a project. Hoyer seemed to indicate he likes guys with good control, K/BB ratios and van Mil doesn't fit that description right now.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Why would LF diminish Jackson's offensive value? There is a decent chance that he will be at least average offensively for the position as he matures, and he will certainly be above average defensively if someone like Bourjos were to push him there. It's possible the total package could be well above average.

    To split off on a tangent, how do you see that lineup unfolding with the possibility of Bourjos and Jackson in the same outfield. Does Jackson hit first and Bourjos second, or Bourjos first, Castro second and Jackson somewhere further down.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    His offensive value will diminish. The standard for offense in LF is higher than CF. I do agree that he can make up for part of that overall value by being well-above average defensively and still be an above average LF'er overall.

    It's going to depend on what other players they acquire but of those 3, I think I'd start with Bourjos leading off because he's more of a known value as well as a faster player. If Jackson proves to be a better OBP guy, that could switch down the line. Jackson could also eventually bat in the 3 hole if he shows sufficient slugging combined with OBP skills. It's still too early to know what kind of MLB player he'll be. It's certainly going to be nice to have that kind of offensive flexibility in a player. Jackson and Castro, because of their wide range in offensive skills, will give the Cubs options.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    ive never understood why players at the corners are expected to have more power and hit more home runs. if i was running a team id want 3 cf caliber players playing the outfield, rotating them every series or so to save their legs and avoid injuries, id probably have them hit 1,2 and 8 in the order. then id have my 1st and 3rd basemen be my power hitters filling the 4 and 5 spots in the order. id have a guy with moderate power who hits for average that plays second or short (i.e. castro) hit 3rd, and then let my catcher and in this case second basemen fill the 6 and 7 spots.

    obviously there are cases where a catcher would hit 4th or 5th, but i think for the most part ive made my point.

    defense in the outfield is a very underrated thing and i think most cubs fans realize this after watching soriano make a fool of himself in left field for a half decade

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Run production is half the game and LF, RF, and 1B are the least demanding defensive positions so you can afford to sacrifice some defense to get a better bat in there. These players don't have to cover much ground, they tend to be bigger, sometimes slower. You can't get away with putting those kind of players at CF, SS, or other more highly skilled positions. Ideally you want a guy who can do everything like Barry Bonds did, but those players are rare.

    In Soriano's first 2 years, his positive impact on offense far outweighed his negative impact on defense. It's a balancing act and if you're getting a guy who's producing far more runs on offense than he's giving up on defense, then he's an asset for you. It's only once Soriano stopped being productive that his defensive inadequacies started looming larger.

  • I'm looking forward to the next 1-3 weeks. Can't wait to see what
    hidden gems Theo and Co. and uncover for us. Castro and maybe
    Garza should the only untounchables from the 40-man roster.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Picking up value on the small deals will be a key factor as far as overall strength but the Cubs undoubtedly need impact players too. Right now, that's just Castro and Garza.

  • in terms of fielder i think we should offer 4 years 25 mil (with a possible club option/buyout for a 5th year), thats a huge contract and it gives him another run at a huge contract at age 31. my only problem with giving him 5 or 6 years is that if he is in decline by then our team will be ready to win and he'll be pulling us down (aka soriano all over again). by giving him 4 years at a huge salary we will be giving him exactly what theo talked about, a contract for projected future performance not past.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    I'm sure the Cubs would take that type of deal in a heartbeat. Other teams are very likely to top that. He's still pretty young and if he stays in shape, he can still be an asset in 5-6 years. If not, at least you're only stuck with 1-2 decline years at the end instead of the 4 (including last year) that we got stuck with on Soriano. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out. As has been mentioned, he's not going to get those 8 years and it will be interesting to see how competitive it gets once it drops down in to the 5-6 year range.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    i agree, but all im saying is that it makes a ton of sense for an american league team to give prince 5,6 years because once his defense(which is already not stellar) goes into decline they can make him their dh, the cubs dont have that option and for a team that will be valuing defense going forward it really doesnt make sense to give him more than four years.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Absolutely. I can easily see an AL team going that extra year or two to get a deal done. If anyone goes 7 years, it'll certainly be an AL team. But I don't see that happening. I think in the end it's going to be 5 or 6 years and I wouldn't be surprised if there is an NL team or two in that mix. If a team wants Fielder, it'll have to gamble that he can stay healthy and agile at the end of the contract to play 1B without being a complete liability. Either that or hope that he builds enough surplus value in the first 4 years to make the deal worthwhile overall.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I can also see a team giving him a 6 year deal with the ability for him to opt out after 4 or 5, giving him a chance to earn another huge payday if he still is producing at an elite level.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Good point. Sounds like something Boras would want added in.

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    What do you all think of the Blue Jays as a trade partner? They have a need for upper echelon pitching and have been rumored to be looking at closers this offseason. I have to think that Garza and Marshall/Marmol could net some very useful pieces from a young Jays team and farm system.

    Brett Lawrie would solve a lot of problems for the Cubs, giving them a long term answer at 3rd, that could move to 2nd in the event that Vitters or Baez pans out.

  • In reply to Anthony Turowski:

    Blue Jays have outstanding talent to deal, including Lawrie and a top 5 farm system. Anthropolous isn't easy to deal with so you have to be tread cautiously. I would think Marmol would be in play for the Jays but not sure AA willing to pay a premium on Garza. Article in Toronto tried to paint him as a "mid-rotation type". Obviously it's not true but if that term leaked by a source, it indicates to me that maybe they think they can get him on the cheap. That won't happen.

  • Hi John,

    Being the ever growing encyclopedia of baseball knowledge that you are, I'm more than confident you read the Joel Sherman piece on you know who. I'm more than happy with Svuem, but that article did illustrate why I wasn't just doing a dog and pony show for the most accomplished manager available. The guy really has some plusses that people overlook.

    But that's the past. I think this new CBA puts Fielder more in play than I originally would have thought. With a set amount of money going towards the draft, that means more money is earmarked towards things like free agents.

    The other popular stupid notion that's been grinding my gears ( The first being teams hoisting their cast of misfit toys for Matt Garza, which we've discussed before.) is this "Well the Cubs are looking at a 3-5 year rebuild. PLEASE!!!!!!!! Most teams need 3-5 years because they can only spend X amount of resources at the project. The Cubs, however, are not most teams. We can throw 2.5 X resources a year. Maybe even 3 X resources. To extend the whole "build" metaphor, we can hire more workers and buy more supplies than other teams. Thus are deadline can get pushed up.

    I think this team can be .500 (maybe slightly better) and be competitive in 2013. What The Thecrats need to figure out is would the Cubs be interested in a 29 year old Prince Fielder and what would they pay for him if he were a free agent in 2013. If they're one stud player away in 2013 ( a possibility) are they gonna be holed up in Theo's Waveland avenue rooftop Office wishing that someone like Prince was on the market. It might be best if the price gets too steep to just worry about Slaying that Dragon when they get to it. But it might make sense to do the math now and actually consider it.

    I would have said no chance a few weeks ago. But I've been told by overrated movie icons that the world is a fascinating place, and if I blink I might miss it.

  • In reply to felzz:

    I'll have to check out that article.

    I think the 5 year project is overstated too. To me it's more about when the Cubs can have a consistently competitive team with a productive farm system. They can contend as soon as 2013 with some MLB ready additions, especially those that improve defense, pitching, and overall athleticism.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think the Bluejays and the Angels are natural trading partners. Each wants something we have and are expendable ( Marmol and Soto) and each teams has a pretty good farm system. The Bluejays have the far superior system, but I would be shocked if the Cubs did not approach each team, the Angels seem desperate for a catcher and the Toronto seems to like Marmol a lot . This is another no brainer if you ask me.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    I'm okay with the Jays on Marmol but the idea of trading them Garza makes me a little nervous.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    No trade Garza. No!
    The Cubs don't have any proven MLB starters except for him.

    He has to be the first piece of their new rotation. Lock him up, he's still young and we'll need him when we get good.

    Marmol is another thing entirely but...

    Riggins was totally incompetant and Marmol could have far greater value if someone not utterly clueless about his mechanics had a crack at fixing him.

    IMO, trading him before this happens is a mistake.

  • In reply to eaton53:

    I agree. Frankly, I don't understand the eagerness to trade Garza. Front line starters are a rare commodity and the Cubs can afford him. If someone is going to give us a boatload of talented MLB ready players then I suppose you'd listen, but nobody is going to do that.

    Marmol is more replaceable but he's still cheap, young, and talented. The Cubs would need to get something good in return.


  • In reply to felzz:

    Thanks Felzz...I'm not sure I buy his argument that you need a big personality in a big town. Boston won two WS titles with a laid back manager. Joe Torre didn't do too badly in NY either.

    Bobby V was also Lucchino's pick, not Epstein or Cherington. I don't like the dynamics of a power hungry president, a powerful manager, and a new GM stuck in between. Opens the door for a lot of meddling and too much power taken away from the person who should be making the personnel decisions. Sorry, I'm just not convinced he's the right GM for that situation. I could be wrong and maybe Boston needs a whole new dynamic. We'll see. Boston was a very good team for most of the season last year, especially considering they didn't have enough pitching. Let's see if Bobby V helps get them over the hump.

  • What if the Cubs gave Fielder a 5-6 year deal, without a no-trade clause, and kept it in the back of their minds to look to deal him after about 3-4 years, especially if VogelBomb or another prospect looks legit?

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    That's an option. The catch is he has to be playing very well to deal him if he's making anything close to $25M. And if he's playing very well and your team is contending, it's tough to do

  • thank you for the article. glad to see someone in the city writing creative, new, and different Cubs material.

  • In reply to Cubs8ball:

    Your welcome! Thanks for kind words.

  • I'm totally behind Cubs8Ball, John. I don't know how long your blog has been going, but I have thoroughly enjoyed it since I started following a couple months ago. Your analysis' keen focus on organizational strategy is very timely for the sea change that is this off-season. Thank YOU, sir.

    While we're talking about trading Sean Marshall (who is certainly a valuable trade-chip) I haven't seen you address whether there's any thinking that Marshall could be given an opportunity as a starter this year. You have to believe the guy has been patiently waiting for that opportunity to arise. The Cubs have said they need a lefty starter, and Marshall has proven that he can be effective against righties.

    And I wish people would stop talking about a long-term rebuilding process. I believe that putting the right coaches in place before spring training can make a huge difference in itself. Add to that some young players hoping to prove themselves, maybe a free agent or two, and the team looks much better already. And with a little pitching depth, the Cubs can sidestep things like the Cashner-Wells injuries, which proved catastrophic for the team's hopes of competing last year.

    I'll be ready to win in 2012.

  • In reply to SaberToothed:

    Your welcome and thanks for reading!

    We've talked about Marshall starting but it's mostly been casually in the comments section. Might be a good idea to delve into it a bit deeper. At a glance, it seems to me it depends on how good a starter the Cubs think Marshall can be. Prior to his success as a reliever, his stuff was often viewed as back of the rotation level. If that is still the case, the question for me then becomes where is he more valuable? The Cubs can pick up a lefty bottom of the rotation guy in the bargain bin like Capuano or Bedard, while replacing the top set up lefty set up man in the game wouldn't be as easy.

    Now..if your scouts think he can be a #3 type starter then it's a whole different story. At that point, you really have to consider making that switch.

    I look at the rebuilding process as somewhat separate from competing next year. Epstein and Hoyer are looking to rebuild the organization into one that can contend while also being self-sustaining. And by that I mean a farm system that creates a steady stream of talent to the big leagues and keeps the team from having to buy multiple free agents every year. That's the ultimate goal and to build that will take about 4-5 years.

    However, that's not to say the Cubs can't be a competitive team as soon as next season simply by improving the pitching and defense then perhaps adding a bat or two. I think the Cubs can compete and perhaps contend very quickly with the right moves, good health, and a little luck. But to build a consistent top notch organization from top to bottom will take a few years.

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