Finally, after two articles selling it, we proudly present to you our official, One Guy's Opinion on Free Agents Who Might Help The Cubs, Possibly, Part 1™.
Originally, I intended to present an overview of hitters and pitchers in this article. Then this puppy ballooned to 1000 words, and my mind went numb from looking at pages of statistics. Part 2 will follow on Wednesday, October 31st. I'm sure you'll be waiting with baited breath.
First and foremost - let's take a look at the needs.
Needs of Cubs
- Alcohol to numb the pain
- A 2B and 3B who can hit (sorry, Defensive Titan Darwin Barney)
- Outfielders who can defend and hit
- Lots of pitching
- A time machine to blast back to 2002 and hunt down Jim Hendry before he can ruin everything
Please note that this might be wrong, but I am basing the list of available players on the website MLB Trade Rumors. Maybe some of these guys are resigned and they didn't update their database.
2B - Robinson Cano - 30 years old, a former gold glove winner, an offensive juggernaut, Cano is exactly the kind of player who the Cubs might want to target. Unfortunately, the Cubs are going to be competing with a lot of players, even if they have the money/desire. Not to mention, Cano is going to almost certainly break the "no more than 4 years" rule, as he will surely seek - and receive - a 6 year deal. Is he a game changer who's worth the money? Maybe. But even with a cash-friendly ownership and a go-getter GM in Jed Hoyer, Cano is probably out of reach.
2B - Kelly Johnson - 31 years old, Johnson has a lot of pop and little stop. (i.e., hits homeruns, but little else, and fields as if his glove has a terminal hole within it.) He's about the only other viable second base option on the market, but, despite Darwin's inability to hit as though his life depended upon it, Johnson is not a better second baseman.
Second Base Conclusions
If the Cubs want to be bold, they should offer a pile of money to Cano. If that fails, then they need to hook Darwin Barney up to an HGH injector and hope that he hits a little more effectively in 2013, while focusing their time on other positions of need.
3B - David Wright - 30 years old and possibly the best third baseman in the game. He's defensively solid, he can hit, and he's testing the market. Not to mention, Wright is used to playing for a scrutinous market, and he might therefore be more suitable to handle Chicago fans and media. Wright will certainly command a lot of money, just like Cano. The fanboy in me would love to see the Cubs nab both, no matter how ridiculously improbable. (Note: realistically, they'll nab neither. Still, it's fun to fantasize, amiright?)
3B Kevin Youklis - 34 years old, Youk is maybe an Epstein favorite who may serve as an alternative if nothing else works. Realistically, he's too old, suffers from decreasing returns, may have a really terrible attitude, and is defensively equitable to a wet cardboard box. But he's got to be better than Luis Valbuena.
Alternatively, there's always Scott Rolen.
Third Base Conclusions
The Cubs should probably hope, against all odds, that Vitters will find his missing talent in time to start at third next year for the team. But when has hope ever helped the Cubs?
CF Grady Sizemore - actually, on second thought, Grady is more fragile than an internet blogger's ego. Let's take a pass.
CF B.J. Upton - 27 years old, Upton is kind of a paper tiger. He has power, speed and defense, but he connects to the ball about as often as Rob Deer used to. He's probably not really worth much more than the 7 million he earned in 2012, but he will likely command more than that on the free agent market. Still, with respect to Tony C., he'd be a dramatic improvement for the Cubs.
CF Angel Pagan - 31 years old and currently in the World Series, Pagan will probably earn a much smaller contract than Upton next year, although he is, overall, a better player. And to think he used to be a Cub! At this point Angel is enjoying year 7 of a respectable major league career, and he has a glove on him to boot. I would fully support the pursuit of Pagan, so long as the contract didn't exceed 3 years plus an option.
CF Michael Bourne - 30 next year, Bourne might actually be the hottest CF commodity on the market. This is another guy with great speed, who has the ability to hit and defend. Bourne would be a great compliment to any team and, because he isn't quite as flashy as Upton, might not earn quite as much as BJ in the coming years. He's definitely worth a look.
Center Field Conclusions
I admit that there's a part of me that would love to see Tony Campana lead the league in stolen bases even while being totally mediocre in every other way. And yet, this feels like an area in which the Cubs have a legitimate shot at improvement, assuming they aren't willing to give Brett Jackson a fair shot. Perhaps the team could consider nabbing Pagan and, if Jackson earns it in Spring Training, platooning Angel in right with DeJesus ... or giving him RF outright.
RF Cody Ross - 32 years old next year, Ross is a journeyman outfielder who tends to hit respectfully while never exceeding expectations. Ross posted an OPS of .807 in Boston last year, while hitting 22 homeruns and driving in 81 RBI for the Sawx. He's certainly not a star, but would be an adequate hole filler while the Cubs look to improve by bigger leaps and bounds in future off-seasons.
RF Nick Swisher - 32 years old next year, Swisher was the Yankee equivalent to Ross, albeit one who is somewhat more recognized for his successes. Swisher has a career OPS of .823, has hit between 21 and 35 homeruns since 2005, and posts a respectable 3.5 WAR. Which means, in all likelihood, that he will earn more than the 10.25 million that New York paid him in 2012. Compare that to Ross's 3 million as a Red Sox... is the extra 2 Wins Above Replacement worth the extra 7 million?
Right Field Conclusions
I'm leaving out a couple of "potentials" due in part to their age and disposition. Torii Hunter is a free agent. Hunter grew up worshiping Andre Dawson (making it easy to surmise that he was a Cub fan) who, for some strange reason, has no desire to play for the Cubs. Another alternative is the 34-year-old Ryan Ludwick, who had a .877 OPS for the Reds last year. Still, none of these choices are outstanding. If the Cubs did pursue a free agent right fielder, I'd probably push hardest for Ross. His numbers are comparable to Swisher, he's way cheaper, and it would give the Cubs more financial flexibility if they need to make moves later in 2013. Or, as I mentioned alternatively, the Cubs could take a look at affordable free agent Angel Pagan, give Brett Jackson a chance to succeed, and move Angel to RF to share the spot with David DeJesus, who is under contract for 2013 with an option for 14.
In other words, there are no game-breaking choices here.
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