The Cubs didn't get a deal done as of this writing, but we learned a lot about what to expect. It isn't much different than our original preview. It also mirrors what we talked about on our "Rebuilding the Cubs" article.
The Cubs have 3 roster spots open for now and will lose one once Kyuji Fujikawa signs, probably on Friday. They seem to be looking at 3 major needs. But don't expect them to pick up big names. Theo Epstein specifically mentioned the non-tender market.
“I like the timing- non-tenders coming right before the Winter Meetings. It’s the right thing to do for the players and the clubs, to move the (non-tender date) up a little bit and give the players a real market opportunity.”
5 things to keep an eye on
- A bullpen arm, probably a lefty. If were talking non-tenders, than Manny Parra stands out to me, as we mentioned before. He has the best stuff and has some connection to the Cubs coaching staff, particularly manager Dale Sveuem and pitching coach Chris Bosio. The Nats have two potential LHP for the bullpen in John Lannan and Tom Gorzelanny. Lannan could serve as rotation insurance as well.
- The Cubs "may have to get creative" when filling the 3B void and may have to go with a platoon. If so, Luis Valbuena looks to be the long end of the platoon with the Cubs finding someone to spell him against LH pitching. Mark Reynolds is a non-tender guy but the Cubs seem to be leaning toward defense. Indians 3B Jack Hannahan is another, more defensive-oriented option. The Cubs have also shown interest in FA Jeff Keppinger, who is solid at 3B. Placido Polanco and Brandon Inge are also RH, good defensive 3Bs. But it may not necessarily be a "natural 3B.
"[We might have to] rely on players who haven't held down that position over 150 games in the big leagues or rely on a platoon or rely on someone who is more of a middle-of-the-field player who can provide plus defense over at third," Epstein said Monday on the first day of the Winter Meetings. "There are not a lot of obvious fits of everyday third basemen in trade or free agents available right now. When that happens, you don't throw in the white towel but try to be creative to piece it together."
- The Cubs then may look at middle infielders who can make the transition and play good defense at 3B, even if their bat might not quite play there. There are everyday players like Stephen Drew available through FA, or someone like Yunel Escobar available through trade. Escobar is more likely because Drew would have to agree to switch positions. A FA darkhorse, a guy the Cubs were interested in signing last year is 29 year old Japanese IF Hiroyuki Nakajima. Like the Cubs recent signing from Japan, Kyuji Fujikawa, He's a SS by trade but some think he's a better fit at 2B or 3B. Nakajima hit .311/.382/.451 in the NPB last year with 13 HRs. The line is also close to his career marks, though he has slugged .474 for his career with a high of 22 HRs.
- The Cubs aren't set on signing a CF, reasoning that David DeJesus could play there if they feel they can get better value with a RF. There are some FAs who could add some power while providing steady corner defense. Scott Hairston and Cody Ross come to mind. Non-tender candidates include Ryan Sweeney, Nate Schierholz, and Ben Francisco.
- This is a deep Rule 5 draft but Paul Sullivan says don't rule out the possibility that the Cubs could pick a player for another team and trade him for a prospect. That could save them a spot on both the 25 and 40 man rosters while still adding a piece for the future. I've mentioned that there are some very good hitting prospects who are probably best suited for the AL, or at least a team that needs a 1B. Could the Cubs select one and trade them to a team looking for hitting such as the A's, Orioles, or Mariners? Just speculation.