Winter Meetings Day 2 Preview: Cubs could get creative at 3B, Rule 5 trade an option

Winter Meetings Day 2 Preview: Cubs could get creative at 3B, Rule 5 trade an option

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.


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  • My initial reaction to Manny Parra is NO. I feel like I was always happy when he'd be pitching against the Cubs with Milwaukee. Didn't seem very effective, but I might be choosing what I want to remember.

  • In reply to Diggs:

    No doubt he's been awful. Just wondering if he's a project they can fix. Good arm, natural talent.

  • John
    Did you get my DM?

  • In reply to WickitCub:

    Will check it out now...

  • In reply to WickitCub:

    That would be interesting. Lots of options with Texas, could be a match there.

  • I like this thinking much better than the "Bourn free-spending desperation fix". Why waste money now. We can see where we are going, and so can every analyst. Let's not screw it up with ill conceived wasteful spending like a drug fix. A guy like Keppinger is 31, but at least he could fill a utility role if signed for 3 years. But Bourn or some other FA which locks out a prospect long term is just stupid. I lost some respect for Bowden after hearing him rant about this Bourn idea.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    I've never put too much stock in Bowden's rumors. I think he puts his own GM thinking cap on and says things based on what he would do. I think it's very different than what Theo would do.

  • I wouldn't be opposed to the Cubs taking flier on the Japanese infielder and giving him a shot to play some 3rd. Considering the lack of talent available there right now, he might be one of the best options they have.

  • In reply to supercapo:

    Would be a solid defender, some OBP skills. Hit well in the NPB but as we know that doesn't always translate.

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    Is Fukudome on Theo's payroll as a recruiter? Like the idea of a good glove /high OBP for a reasonable salary.

    A little off-topic....What are the odds that Soriano completes contract in Cubs uni? He is not blocking anyone until maybe Soler in mid 2014. I would be in no hurry to trade him.

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    In reply to Louie101:

    I think the bigger gamble with Soriano is that his legs cause him enough problems to not be productive or limit his ability to play the OF even more. It's best if they can to trade him this offseason before that happens and he becomes untradeable. It would also be good for him to have a shot at the playoffs because he's not going to get that here in the next 2 years.

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    In reply to Just Win:

    Sori might be a good fit to return to the Yanks. With Arod out for half the season and Swisher gone, they could use his power. In LF and in their timeshare at DH, they could protect his legs a little. If the Cubs package him with Marmol to set up Mo, they could ask for Gardner, Joba and an A ball pitcher or 2. Oh and send them 15-20 mil.

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    I wouldn't be surprised if the Cubs bring in another Japanese player to help Fujikawa make the transition. It doesn't have to be a starting player.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Me too.

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    Ichiro the mystery RF they keep talking about?

  • In reply to Louie101:

    I thought about that. Good defender, which Cubs like. He likes the big market. Maybe Cubs signing of Fujikawa helps.

  • In reply to Louie101:

    I would love that.

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    Unfortunately Ichiro developed a rep as being pretty selfish. Might be tough to coach.

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    A defense first guy at 3rd wouldn't be too bad for me. Though if that happens I'd like to see any offensive-minded outfielder added to the mix.

    here's a question I think about quite often. Let's just say cubs fill in the holes at 3rd and the outfield. Let's say we have a scenario at midseason where guys like Jackson, Vitters, and Watkins are all raking. What happens with then those three and the guys they are trying to replace? We saw Rizzo simply take over the position and push Lahair to the bench. Can we expect the same here or different?

    I'd like to see those guys and also the AAA starters like Vizcaino and Cabrera graduate this year and for that to happen a lot of guys need to be cleared out. This is all on a best-case-scenario mindset.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I like the idea of getting Escobar. He'd be a tremendous upgrade over the pu pu platter the Cubs are currently running out to third and I assume he'd be fairly cheap to acquire.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Cubs reportedly in on him. Makeup questions but should be a standout defensively and he has more bat than most of the options.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    If those guys are ready and playing well, then yes I think you put them into the lineup and trade the stopgaps you've put in those positions.

  • Here's a nice vid for Hiroyuki Nakajima if anyone's interested. Might want to mute it. :D

    Crazy leg kick at times, but other than that not a bad swing, and man that defense. Even though he may end up not having enough pop for third, I think the D and the high OBP skills will make up for it and I hope we land him. I hear at least Oakland and the Yankees are interested too though.

  • I don't dislike Nakajima's all around skill set. And a move to third makes a ton of sense. But as we've seen, batters from Japan in general don't transition well to the MLB. But at the right, non-Fukudome price, why not? I think we could expect him to turn out to be a good OBP guy and situational, team hitter; think Iguchi in his first two years with the White Sox (though he was at second base).

    He is a free agent, so no posting fee, but the Yankees did half-heartedly try to get him thru posting last year. With A-rod out the 1st half and Jeter getting fragile, you'd have to think they are in on this. Even as they try to hold back on payroll.

    I think, overall, the pitching talent is better here in Japan, and I am more excited about Fujikawa.

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    How about Marmol to Boston for Saltamacchia? Move Saltamacchia to 3b?

    Or to Cinci for Drew Stubbs?

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    Nothing like a great Japanese pop song to be irritating as anything at 4:40 am. The leg kick seems like a bit much facing MLB pitching. I did notice the one very short clip of him facing Darvish and he struck out. There just doesn't seem to be a strong enough positive track record for players coming from NPB, other than Ichiro the hitters don't seem to pan out well. Frankly, I don't see anyone any better than Stewart out there, although Escobar (bad clubhouse guy?) could be someone, albeit with only moderate OBP skills. Surely Marmol has to be worth something. What about someone like JJ Hardy (still no OBP, but power and has been a better than 2 WAR for career) SS? Sori + cash since Machado is pushing JJ?

  • I like the idea of Marmol for Saltamacchia. One things for sure Marmol will not be playing for the Cubs next year.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Good riddance to bad control.

  • If selecting a player in rule V draft for another team, and subsequently trading the player, is the prospect that is netted in return staying with the Cubs subject to the Rule V player staying with his new ML club all season like other Rule V players? IE can the cubs protect the prospect acquired in a trade for a Rule V drafted player if the drafted player does not stick with the team with whom they traded and is then returned to his original club?

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