If there are a couple of things the Cubs lack in their system, it's a sure thing starting pitching prospect and LH hitters. Mauricio covered a possible 2014 lineup which shows how far the Cubs still have to go. I put up a future lineup but that was more of an illustration of how athleticism gives the Cubs plenty of options than it was a literal prediction of what team the Cubs will field 2-3 years from now.
But one thing that was missing from either lineup other than Anthony Rizzo was a sure thing long term player who could hit from the left side, though Ryan Sweeney and switch-hitting Arismendy Alcantara are also possibilities.
A trade is always an option and the Cubs may run into a situation where they have some depth at key positions, particularly around the infield. But if the Cubs aren't ready to give up prospects, there is always the 2015 free agent class. Of course, we don't know how many of these names will make it that far, but looking at the free agent contracts this year, it wouldn't surprise me if more than a few free agents want to test the waters next offseason.
Aside from a potentially better class, the Cubs should be in better position to spend next year. The timing is so much better. We've gone over why the Cubs shouldn't give up a 2nd round pick for a pitcher or player who will be at their peak while the Cubs continue their rebuild. We've also discussed how players signed to multi-year big money deals don't hold as much trade/flip value because of how much money teams need to take on and thus, how much value they will lose on the back end of those deals.
If the Cubs can take a step forward next year and make real progress, then they may well want to add players whose best contributions may come in the next 2-3 years.
Here is a list of starting pitchers and left-hand hitters that could fill in nicely...
- Brett Anderson
- Homer Bailey
- Johnny Cueto
- Josh Johnson
- Clayton Kershaw
- Jon Lester
- Justin Masterson
- Max Scherzer
- James Shields
Whether or not the Cubs get Masahiro Tanaka, there are plenty of options potentially available after the offseason. It's likely some of these players never make it to free agency, most notably Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer, whose respective teams will likely pull out all the stops to sign them. Jon Lester may be a long shot as well since Boston certainly has both the resources and the motivation to hang on to him.
Even without them, there are interesting options, particularly from the left side. Brett Anderson will still be in his prime and the youngest pitcher on this list, but he will be looking to put up a healthy season heading into his free agent year.
The Reds have two major SP free agents and so far have shown some difficult in their ability to re-sign their players. They managed to hang on to Joey Votto but have had to let Shin-Soo Choo go and are currently trying to trade Brandon Phillips, perhaps to free up money to retain Homer Bailey and/or Johnny Cueto.
Bailey's age makes him interesting as he will be 28 years old when he hits free agency. Once more of a thrower than a pitcher, Bailey has learned the art of pitching in recent years while retaining the good stuff that made him such a good prospect to begin with. He's a potential fit on a team looking long term. Cueto will also be just 28, though injuries last season make him a bigger question mark at this point.
The Cubs have shown interest in Justin Masterson in the past and like Lester, Masterson was once a 2nd round pick of the Boston Red Sox (who says the Cubs front office should dump 2nd round picks?). Both pitchers will be toward the back end of their prime (Lester will be 31 and Masterson will be 30 in the 2015 season), but the Cubs may be close enough to take advantage of those first 2-3 years of the deal by then.
Shields is a bit older (he'll be 33 for 2015 season) and I don't see him as a primary target for the Cubs next season, but he could be on the radar if the Cubs feel they're a year or two away.
- Chase Headley
- Nick Markakis
- Colby Rasmus
- Brett Gardner
It isn't a large list but all are potential fits because they have the athleticism and the solid to good plate discipline the Cubs want in their future lineups.
The name that stands out to me here is Colby Rasmus but he could be a bit overvalued because of an unsustainably high .356 BABIP last year. For whatever reason, Rasmus tends to experience wild fluctuations in his BABIP numbers which have resulted in a very uneven career so far. A league average type .300 BABIP to go with his career averages of a 9% walk rate and an ISO just below the .200 mark, would result in about a .250/.320/.440 type season. Couple that with well above average defense in CF and he should have the value of an above average regular.
Chase Headley turns 30 in May and could fit in at 3B with Bryant moving to the OF and Baez staying somewhere in the middle infield. He's an athletic player as well and could move to the OF, where he played early in his career. That athleticism will probably allow him to remain productive later into his career, not to mention it's a fit with the Cubs philosophy.
Brett Gardner could be the poor man's Jacoby Ellsbury. He'll be 31 heading into free agency so he'll be a bit older but speed players tend to retain value. He could provide speed and OBP at the top of the order and good defense in LF.
Nick Markakis production has declined precipitously since signing a 6 year/$66M contract following his breakout 2009 season. Much of that decline, oddly enough is with his defense. Markakis has remained an above average offense player during the contract but his defense has been substantially below average. That poor performance in the field has made him a fringe average starter over the past 5 years. Markakis is a more athletic player than his defensive performance would lead you to believe, so if the Cubs could fix his defense perhaps they can get a bargain in what will then be a 31 year old Markakis.
This year may not have been the year for the Cubs to spend big on free agency for the reasons stated at the beginning of this piece, but additional revenue, progress in 2014 from their core players, and top prospects nearing the big league leagues may give the Cubs more incentive to spend next year on a starting pitcher and/or LH hitter in what should be a stronger FA class.
Filed under: Uncategorized