The Cubs COULD be unterrible in 2012.

The Cubs COULD be unterrible in 2012.

Last week, guest author Bradley Woodrum suggested the Cubs should trade anyone over the age of 27, including Geovany Soto and Matt Garza, punt the 2012 season, and attempt to build a dynasty for 2014 or so, and beyond.

The commenters have done a great job handling one of Brad's crazier suggestions -- that is, sending Starlin Castro back down to Iowa for the sole purpose of delaying his entry into the salary arbitration process. But since his post has gone up, I've been back and forth over whether this team should be completely blown up or not. 
So rather than make a decision, I'm going to take my best shot at filling out rosters for the Cubs' most competitive teams possible for 2012 and 2013, based on both available free agents and the expected development of our minor leaguers. You tell me how much better the team could be, and then we'll decide if Soto, Marshall and Garza should be traded or not.
My 2012 roster, after the jump.

Off the top of my head, only nine of the Cubs' current 25 players are guaranteed spots on next year's team: Soto at C, Castro at SS, Soriano in left, Marmol and Marshall in the bullpen, and Garza, Dempster, Zambrano, and Wells in the rotation. Obviously there have been a ton of trade rumors about Demp or Z possibly being moved, but I think their 2012 salaries, along with Soriano's, will prevent any of those three players from being dealt.
Another guy that I think should be brought back is Kosuke Fukudome. Fuk's gotten a bad rap in the past three years as a late-season flamer outer, but check out his pre- and post-All Star OPS numbers over the course of his career: .784 OPS in the first half, .773 in the second half. He's also an on-base machine, with the best eye on the team by far. He's not worth the 4/48 he got when the Cubs first signed him, but I'm sure he'd like to stay in Chicago, and it helps that he already knows how to play right in Wrigley. If he were willing to take a two-year deal for $10MM-$15MM, I'd re-sign him.
On the other hand, Marlon Byrd has to be traded, basically as soon as he regains his health and shows he can still play. One of the Cubs' few nearly-ready minor leaguers is a center fielder, and while Brett Jackson should not be rushed into the majors, that does mean the Cubs should trade Byrd away for whatever they can get. It might be a reach to suggest Jackson will be ready to start in center on Opening Day 2012 (.265 AVG in AA this year -- with a .386 OBP, however), but it sure seems like he'll be ready at some point early on in the season.
Do DJ LeMahieu and Blake DeWitt suck? Possibly. But they also might be good. LeMahieu isn't ready to hit major league pitching today, but he also hasn't been completely overwhelmed, managing a .273 average in his short stint with the club. He also had a .492 slugging in AA before his call-up, along with a .358 average. He's also just 22 years old, so there's definitely room for him to grow, which he will do later this season once he's sent back down to Iowa. DeWitt is not Aramis Ramirez, but he's also just 25, and it looks like he'll have a chance to prove himself down the stretch. Slot those guys in for 2B and 3B for now.
That leaves first base. Despite his poor defense, give me the 28 year old vegetarian, Mr. Prince Fielder, over the rapidly aging Albert Pujols. Does anyone know how much money he wants? Maybe $25 mil for eight years? It sure seems like he'll be a pretty good hitter for a pretty good while. And if all he has to do is stand there at first...
So here's your 2012 lineup:
9 - Fukudome
5 - DeWitt
6 - Castro
3 - Fielder
2 - Soto
7 - Soriano
4 - LeMahieu
8 - Jackson
Rotation: Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Randy Wells
Bullpen: Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall
The two most obvious places that team could be upgraded would be at 2B and 3B, but it's up to you whether you prefer Kelly Johnson or Wilson Betemit to what we have now.
In 2013, the best-available free agent hitters will be outfielders: Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Angel Pagan (remember him?!), BJ Upton, Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn, and Carlos Quentin. Still not a lot of help for the infield, though (Freddy Sanchez? Macier Izturis?).
That said, there's a ton of free agent pitching hitting the market that offseason, including: Scott Baker (club option for $10mil), Matt Cain, John Danks, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Shaun Marcum, Anibal Sanchez, Jonathan Sanchez, and Jered Weaver. So take the $33 million you were paying Demp and Z, and pick your two favorites from that bunch.
So what do you think? Deal Soto, Marshall, and Garza? Or see what happens with our farm over the next 18 months? 

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  • ...But all signs point to them BEING terrible. What about upper management as part of this discussion?

  • In reply to MSEB0814:

    Sure seems like Ricketts likes Hendry. We'll see I guess.

  • Very optimistic. But let's be honest here -- this team isn't going to compete until the truly broken pieces are removed. I can't quite understand why so many are infatuated with Geovany Soto. He is really not a great catcher. He doesn't call a good game like, say, Damian Miller or Paul Bako once did, and he's done nothing but dramatically decline since winning ROY in '08. I'm not saying Bako or Miller are great, but they did handle a pitching staff better than most Cubs catchers have.

    Soriano is another one that is a complete waste. He has no ability to hit for average anymore, and his speed and defense are atrocious. Too many RBI situations fall on him no matter where in the order he hits, and he has absolutely no clutch ability. The only thing he can be counted on to do is flail at sliders in the dirt.

    As for LaMahieu, I'm not at all impressed. He can't hit and his defense has been pretty poor too. Granted, he'd be a second option behind Darwin Barney, but that's not saying much.

    It's going to be awhile for the Cubs. The losing culture is another thing that is hard to overcome. At this point, the veterans don't care and the young guys will only be polluted by such behavior.

  • In reply to GDarkow:

    Like him or not, Soriano is going to be around for another few years yet. He won't be worth his $19 million salary, but he's not completely washed up yet. He still has enough power to be helpful.

    I see itll be hard to convince you to like Soto, but take another look at LeMahieu's numbers -- he's only 22!

  • AJ.....Great evaluation on Fukodome. He is our best defensive outfielder, can throw runners out at 2b or at home plate. His obs is good & his endurance has improved. He takes walks better than anyone we have on the team. He comes to play everyday, he never complains, & treats baseball as a business. Great assessment as if you would sit him down & cut his salary by 50% as you suggested, I think he would stay & never be a problem. Why Hendry is pushing this is beyond belief.

  • In reply to kingdomusa:

    For the right price, I think he remains a good fit for this team, which is really lacking in patience. Thanks for the kudos!

  • In reply to kingdomusa:

    ...I wish Mark Cuban was the one who purchased the Cubs.

  • In reply to MSEB0814:

    ^ THIS. The dude is a wizard.

  • In reply to MSEB0814:

    Here's the deal: The Cubs are in a really weak division overall. So, year, the playoffs are almost always within reach. However, I think management lacks the vision necessary for long-term, sustainable success -- I'm talking year-after-year playoff runs.

    Booting one or two seasons helps more towards a successful long-term plan. I think we Cubs fans get hung up on the drought that we're willing to buy one championship at the cost of 100 more losing seasons.

    Yeah, the Cubs COULD compete in 2012 (though there are just so many weaknesses it would require a slew of upgrades or career years), but that is only a minor issue in my mind.

  • In reply to MSEB0814:

    I like the optimism, not sure the Cubs can get by with DeWitt and LeMahieu at 2b and 3b, though. I'd actually like to see LeMahieu get some more time in the minors to see if he can develop more patience and power. It's not like his defense is high caliber either.

    The Cubs probably need to upgrade 3B as well -- or hope that the light bulb goes on for Josh Vitters the way it did for Mike Moustakas last year. Another guy to keep your eye on is Ryan Flaherty, who has played some 3rd and is already showing both patience and power at AA (.306/.381/.551), though I think it's more likely he'll be like a Mark DeRosa type supersub when he comes up, but he's outperforming Vitters so far.

    I don't agree with Brad as far as Castro, but I do agree the Cubs shouldn't be in a hurry to build a winner for 2012 -- even if they sign Fielder. Maybe I'll write my own counterpoint on my blog on this one later today.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Here's a link to my counterpoint on how the Cubs should build...

    http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/cubs-den/2011/06/the-cubs-should-build-to-winfor-2013.html

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Definitely important for LeMahieu to get some more work in at Iowa. And I'm with you that I'm not sure if DeWitt is the answer at 3B; only problem is there isn't much available in free agency in 2012 or 2013, so yeah, we'll need to get lucky within our own system. Vitters is still really young, and we just drafted a 3B with our first pick this year, so we'll see what happens.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Marquez Smith is another guy who could be the 3B next year. He's 26, but he's got a .353 OBP at Iowa, and he hit 20 MiLB HR last season (17 in Iowa). Probably not great shakes, but the free agent options are grim, and Vitters should continue to get development time, in the hope that with enough MiLB plate appearances, he won't bust.

  • In reply to sep484:

    Smith is a good under the radar guy. Could be a stopgap solution. I'm disappointed in his power production this year but he's been a decent hitter. Flaherty is getting up there in age too. I think he just turned 25 today.

    Take them both to camp in 2012 and let them duke it out!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Which aging, mediocre prospect will head North with the big league team?!?! CATCH THE EXCITEMENT.

  • In reply to sep484:

    Ha! Not too exciting..I admit, but I think Flaherty has a chance to stick for the long haul as a versatile bench player and lefty bat off the bench.

  • In reply to sep484:

    Wow this might actually work, it means we can maybe see some good games.
    let's get our Tickets and support them !

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