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