Well, maybe not "gems", but you can find a useful player, as Tampa did last year with Jeff Keppinger.
The Cubs biggest positions of need are OF (specifically CF), SP, RP, and 3B. We'll look at those areas.
- Andres Torres: Once a Cubs farmhand, the former speedy, switch-hitting OF'er had a breakout year in 2010 with the Giants. He has yet to match those offensive numbers but his defense remains stellar. If Torres could hit .260-.270, his patience should bring his OBP up around the .340-.350 level, and he has the good speed to be an asset once he's on the bases. That's a big IF however, Torres is just a .240 hitter for his career.
- Ryan Sweeney: The former top White Sox position prospect, Sweeney hasn't lived up to expectations. He defends well and has average to slightly above average plate discipline, but he hasn't hit for much power. In fact, he did not HR last year and has hit just 2 in the past 3 years combined.
- Mark Reynolds: The slugging 3B is the only one worth consideration other than Ian Stewart, himself. Reynolds is famous for his enormous HR power and his even more prolific strikeout totals. Reynolds has struck out in nearly 1 of every 3 PAs for his entire career. He was at 30% last season. His other weakness is his defense, which is well below average at 3B. He does provide power and is a patient hitter, both of which appeal to the Cubs front office, but they may get overshadowed by the low contact rate and iron glove.
- Jeff Karstens, 30, RHP: Probably the least known but I think he's the best pitcher on this list. He went 5-4 with a 3.97 but sported an impressive 3.38 FIP largely on the strength of a strong strikeout to walk ratio (6.55/1.49). He controls the strike zone, which is what the front office wants. His stuff is bottom of the rotation quality and he's never pitched more than 162 innings in a season, so durability is a concern. But he may be a great fit as a 6th starter. Could fill in until Scott Baker is ready, go to the bullpen and then return to the rotation later in the season if the Cubs have injuries or trade starters.
- John Lannan, 28, LHP: Another 5th starter type. Lannan appeals because he could potentially balance the rotation. The question is whether he would want that swingman role. He's been vocal about his desire to start. He doesn't have the control nor does he miss bats as well as Karstens, but he'll get you a ton of ground balls, so the Cubs good IF defense would help him.
- Jair Jurrjens, 26, RHP: A popular name in Twitterville, I don't share the same sentiment. Jurrjens isn't the same pitcher he was in 2008-2009 when he looked like he was going to be a mainstay in the middle of the Braves rotation. The fastball is down 3-4 mphs and while he was never a big strikeout guy, those rates are falling to abysmal levels, including 3.54 per 9 IP last year. Moreover, Jurrjens doesn't have the pinpoint command you want from your finesse, pitch to contact pitcher. He's young, so maybe he can regain some of the life in his pitches but I wouldn't do more than a minor league deal with spring training invite.
- Mike Pelfrey, 28, RHP: With a little luck and the NY media behind him, Pelfrey may have been a bit overrated when he went 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA two years ago. He also had a nice season in 2008, but was never ever to duplicate those seasons as peripherals and injuries eventually caught up to him. He's a pitch to contact guy with average command, the kind that needs more than his share of luck to put up good numbers. He had TJ surgery and may not be ready until mid-season. S
- Scott Atchison, 36, RHP: Atchison is a bit of a late bloomer with average stuff that plays up because of his good command. He had an excellent strikeout to walk ratio of 6.31/1.58 per 9 IP to go with an outstanding 1.58 ERA. Obviously not a guy you pick up for the long haul, but could patch a hole in the bullpen the way Shawn Camp did last year.
- Manny Parra, 30, LHP: Parra throws hard for a lefty, in the 92-93 range and able to dial it up into the mid 90s. He also has good stuff across the board with a repertoire that includes a slider, curve, and change. What Parra doesn't have is command and it has negated his talent. A couple of things intrigue me about Parra, would he come to the Cubs where he could work with Chris Bosio and secondly, would the Cubs entice him by promising him a shot at starting again? He has enough pitches but the once former top prospect never really was able to put it together.
- Pete Moylan 34, LHP: He was a reliable reliever for the Braves up until missing most of the last two seasons. Would be a steadying influence, but the guess here is that he's staying with the Braves.
- Tom Gorzelanny, 30, LHP: The former Cubs starter has taken well to the bullpen, putting up a 2.88 ERA and striking out nearly 8 per 9 innings. His undoing is that he still hasn't mastered the strike zone with almost 4 walks per 9 IP.
- Brian Wilson, 31, RHP: h/t to Mike Moody on this since I missed him in the first edit. When healthy, Wilson blew hitters away with his power fastball/slider combo. He's a closer in every sense of the word. He has the stuff, he has enough command, and he has a strong mental makeup with just enough kookiness to keep hitters uncomfortable.
I'm intrigued most by Karstens and somewhat by Torres, if nothing else that his floor is as a useful 4th OF'er because of his defense, speed, and ability to switch-hit. The first two bullpen arms are interesting for different reasons. One because he's a savvy vet who could help stabilize the bullpen, and the other, Parra, because he could make a nice impact if he puts it all together. Brian Wilson can't help but be intriguing. He'd add a little fun to what will probably be a tough season and he'd be a prime candidate for a deadline deal, especially when you consider Theo's desire to create value from the closer's role.
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