Is the Cubs first base job really settled yet?

This isn't going to be about Prince Fielder, so maybe this isn't the kind of post some were expecting, but as it stands right now, the Cubs really only have one candidate for first base, and that's Bryan LaHair.  Now we have heard Theo Epstein talk about how much he likes LaHair and is eager to give him a shot, and that may well be, but is he confident enough to not have any kind of backup plan?

That would not be Theo-esque at all.

The Cubs have depth at just about every position, whether it's at the major league level or at AAA.  In the outfield, you have top prospect Brett Jackson to go with trade acquisition Dave Sappelt and the recently signed Reed Johnson and Joe Mather.  There's plenty of depth in case something should happen to any of the big league starters or bacukps.   In the infield, Epstein has quietly picked up Jeff Bianchi and Edgar Gonzalez to provide insurance behind MLB utility men Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt.  The Cubs have 3 MLB ready catchers behind Geovanny Soto in  Jason Jaramillo,  Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo.  And we already know about the depth Theo has built in the rotation-- plus he has added to an already deep bullpen with good arms like Lendy Castillo, Manny Corpas, and Casey Weathers.

So what about 1B?  Who's there to backup LaHair if he falters?

The Cubs have some interest in some younger, starter quality 1B out there and have inquired on current and former top prospects like Mike Rizzo, Justin Smoak, and Ike Davis.  Considering the Cubs lack any real young assets to trade, obtaining one of those players will prove pretty difficult.  I like those players as much as the next guy, but it's not like the Cubs have a farm system brimming with a lot of upper level talent and it seems unlikely those teams would be willing to deal for veteran trade chips like Carlos Marmol and Geovanny Soto.  As much as the Cubs are interested in obtaining those kinds of players, their options are limited as far as what they can offer in return.

So who else is available out there?  The Cubs may have to look at the next tier down.  Some names that have been floated  include Kyle Banks from San Diego. Mark Trumbo of the Angels, and Mitch Moreland from Texas, but those players would likely be expensive and may not provide a big enough upgrade to justifiy dealing good prospects/players.   A source of mine also mentioned a few lesser known names, who might fit better in terms of cost in Chris Carter of the Oakland A's, Ryan Wheeler of the Diamondbacks, and Lars Anderson of the Boston Red Sox.

Chris Carter started with the White Sox organization and was traded to the D'Backs for Carlos Quentin.  He was shipped to Oakland later in the Daren Haren deal.  Carter has excellent power to all fields and good plate discipline.  He rated as the A's #2 prospect in Baseball America following the 2010 season. He has some serious flaws, however, with the primary one being the ability to make consistent contact.  He's also an adequate defender at best.  He has struggled mightily in two short stints in the majors, failing to hit .200 each time while striking out in nearly 1/3 of his plate appearances.  According to prospect maven John Sickels, Carter's stock may be dropping.  That might make him available in a trade.

Ryan Wheeler doesn't have the kind of upside that Carter does, but he may be easier to obtain.  The Diamondbacks have two similar, but more highly rated prospects in Matt Davidson and Bobby Borchering.  Wheeler is a good hitter with a solid approach at the plate, but he doesn't possess the power that Carter does.  He's also an average defender at best, though he is also capable of playing an adequate 3B as well.  He played AA and in the AZ Fall League last season and, if acquired by the Cubs, my guess is that he'll play at AAA, splitting some time between 3B and 1B.

Lars Anderson was once a highly thought of prospect in the Red Sox organization, ranking #4 as recently as 2010 in BA.  Epstein, Hoyer, and McLeod all have very obvious ties to him.  The downside is that he's been a disappointment since breaking out in 2008 at High A ball with a .317/.408/.513 line and 13 HRs.  He has an excellent batting eye and, despite his size (6'4"), he has more doubles power than home run power.  In fact, some scouts attribute his struggles to trying to hit more HRs.  Defensively, he's an average defender.

So even though Bryan LaHair has the inside track, it's very likely that the Cubs will add another first baseman who, at a minimum, could provide the Cubs with some depth.  First base is the only position the Cubs haven't addressed this offseason, and it's a pretty safe bet that they'll take care of that sometime in the near future.

 

 

 

 

Filed under: Cubs Rumors

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  • fb_avatar

    Marlon Byrd for Lars Andersen?

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Fits a need for both teams. I wonder if they can settle compensation this way.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    You read my mind.

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    Have to agree, John. There's only 1 first baseman on the roster, so an addition is likely. Also, I believe more starting pitching is on the way. The Cubs have too many outfielders as well, so expect a move there.

  • I think they're trying to move Soriano, it just won't be easy because his contract is 3 times as big as Zambrano's. You can bet teams are probably trying to get the Cubs to eat the same amount per year as they did with Z. That would amount to $45, which would be a steal for some teams. That would leave a team paying $9M and Sori could make that value up with one decent season.

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    When the dust settles, I fully expect the Cubs to land Anthony Rizzo from the Pads...He has no position with the acquisition of Alonso and Theo/Jed/John love the guy..I suspect when whenever the Garza deal gets completed, one of those guys gets sent with a current Cubs prospect for him..I wouldn't be surprised if Eric Byrnes is saving him for the Cubs.

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    I don't think his availability is in question. It's just a matter of being able to trade for him. As you said, maybe the Garza deal provides the Cubs with players or at least some prospect depth to be able to pull this off. We'll have to wait and see if that happens.

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    I still can't believe how Jim Hendry consistently ignored that position, even in trades for minor leaguers..It's been obvious for at least 3 years that Lee was getting up there and not one option in the minors..

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    Very true. It seemed like most of the 1B they took were older college players in late rounds. Those guys aren't typically prospects.

  • With all these players out there the Cubs will find one that meets
    there needs at the right price. One at can also play the outfielder
    would be a plus.

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    Yeah, just did a quick count on payroll for 2012. Counting money owed Pena and the 18mil with Z's contract and the projected arb money for the pitcher they got in the trade, Cubs are at $92 mil for 2012.

    There's room there to play with for additions or signing foreign free agents. Maybe Theo is planning on improving the Cuban economy,, lol

  • In reply to Henry Wilfong:

    Henry, I agree with the international market.
    Ricketts has always said after paying for non-baseball expenses the remaining money gets pumped into the baseball team whether its the major league team, draft, or international signings. If the Cubs are under $100mm & aren't making a big FA signing this year, you'd think they would have some room to give a big bonus to Cespedes, Soler, or the or the LH whose name escapes me.

  • In reply to Henry Wilfong:

    I hope so! Would love to get a couple of those players, or at least one of them.

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    Interesting stuff!

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2012/01/orioles-cubs-discussed-alfonso-soriano.html

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Was going to put up a News and Notes piece with Soriano in it. Orioles among teams, but Cubs have really made an effort to deal him.

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    Just read a news flash being reported that Starlin Castro is being questioned in a sexual assault fron last September in Chicago.

    This doesn't look good

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    Here's the link:

    http://www.prosportsdaily.com/articles/sources-cubs-starlin-castro-accused-of-sexual-assault-613835.html

  • In reply to Henry Wilfong:

    Thanks. I heard that as well and was going to put up a quick post on it. Not the kind of news you want to hear.

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    In reply to Henry Wilfong:

    This sounds fishy. What the hell did she and her friend think they were going back to his apartment for? Also, why is this just now coming out?

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    She asked for it? Really? in 2012?

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    In reply to bruno14:

    Maybe she did ask for it with the intention of getting some money out him? I'm not excusing him. If your famous, you gotta be careful, and now that he has been initially accused, he will be an even bigger magnet for women who do these sorts of things, if that is what really happened. Hell, he could be a serial rapist too, but I doubt it.

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    Innocent until PROVEN guilty. No charges filed yet.

  • Very true, Robert.

  • If Jeff Baker isn't traded, he's your backup 1B. It will allow the Cubs to rest LaHair and stack the lineup with righties against LHP.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    The Cubs still need organizational depth. Baker is a good short term answer and possibly a part time platoon partner, but do you want him playing there long term if LaHair either flops or gets hurt?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    TBH I don't really care. If I was hoping for any kind of on field success this season, I would be against handing the job to LaHair in the first place. The most important thing this organization can do this season is lose a lot at Wrigley Field, develop it's prospects, get a hoard of new, talented prospects, and prepare for the 2013 season.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    I think that's why we shouldn't expect picking up anyone except a player that could be an asset long term. Any acquisition at 1B is likely to be inexpensive in terms of both $ and prospects. Some of these guys mentioned, like Carter, Wheeler, and Anderson have the potential to provide some cheap depth and have enough upside to be worth taking a chance on -- which would be the same pattern Theo has shown in his other acquisitions.

  • I hope its just a matter of how much of his salary the Cubs are
    willing to pickup. A good low prospect would be a plus.

  • Oh on a totally unrelated, but interesting subject:

    I've been on the Cubs season ticket waiting list twice now. I first registered about 6 years ago, with the hope that my name would be called after I was established and had some coin to drop on the tickets. Last Spring, the Cubs offered me a season ticket package, but I had to turn them down. I added my name to the list again, which had grown to include over 100,000 names, and resigned myself to never hearing that call again. The Cubs called two days ago to offer season tickets. I don't know if it's an error on their part, or if they are burning through their waiting list like wildfire, but it doesn't bode well for the franchise either way.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    That's odd. I would think that if people had the ability and opportunity to get season tickets, they would. Even if the Cubs aren't going to be good this year, the expectation with Epstein is that they eventually will be good -- and season tickets will be impossible to get then.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    $$$$$$$$$

  • Someone please tell me that the Starlin Castro sexual assault charge I heard on the Score this morning will not be true?

  • In reply to apalifer:

    I just put up a couple of links on it on the new piece. For the record, he hasn't been charged at this point.

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    John, I tried posting a link to a MLBR segment First Pitch where Hollandsworth and Memolo talk about what teams would be a good fit for Soriano, but I don't think it posted.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    It probably got spammed. I'll check it out...

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I just approved it. Sorry it took me a while. Got sidetracked for a moment...

  • in regards to the 1b situation, we could always trade byrd to the nationals for laroche (plus 4-5 mil) and a pitcher in low A ball. the nationals system seems to have a lot of pitching in it.

    in regards to soriano, i hope we do trade him to the orioles because they seem to have actual interest. if they want him for 3 mil a year then im going to expect something in return. if they want him for 5-6 mil a year than im expecting a no name prospect and another slot open on the 40 man roster.

    in regards to starlin, it is important to understand that no one knows what happened for sure but starlin and this woman. if it did happen then lets hope that he handles it in the correct manor, and admits to his mistakes. if it didnt happen we have nothing to worry about. there is really else that someone can say but that right now.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Agreed on Castro and Soriano...

    The thing about LaRoche, though, is you probably have to start him an put LaHair at AAA because it's tough to carry two 1B and the Cubs have said they don't intend to use LaHair in the OF. I'm leaning toward taking a flyer on one of the 3 guys I briefly profiled at the end of the article.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    your probably right about that john, i didnt really think of it in that way. i honestly was more focused on the byrd to dc part because i think thats a good fit for us trade wise. do u think a deal involving 2 prospects in A ball for byrd makes sense?

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    I do think that makes sense. I think you have to create some roster space if you trade Byrd because it makes Jackson a more likely possibility -- though I do think he starts the year in AAA.

    By the way..well said on the Castro comment. I think that pretty much sums up my own thoughts.

  • With the trade for Rizzo just announced, 1st base is covered for quite some time now.

  • In reply to JeffK:

    Yep..timing turned out to be pretty lucky on this piece!

  • RE: "And we all know about the depth that Theo has built into the rotation". Their rotation of Garza, Dempster, Travis Wood, and Wells doesn't sound like much depth to me. I'm hoping Theo signs at least 2 of the available Francis, Saunders, and Malholm left-handed trio for this year.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    There's also Volstad and Sonnanstine. Volstad is a better pitcher than Wells at this point. I think they'll get another pitcher or two, but Saunders wants a ridiculous contract (possibly 3 years) for someone who really isn't that good. Maholm also asking for a lot right now. He'll have to come down to get signed by the Cubs, or anybody else for that matter. Francis scares me a bit with his 83 mph fastball.

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