I probably should take the time to tag every single player who switched teams this offseason, but that would be ludicrous and a bit of a time-waster, so I'm gonna just link you to MLBTR's Week in Review and leave it at that. Among the transactions, of course, were the following:
- Jason Hammel came back to town.
- Miguel Montero became a Cubs, woow.
- Jon Lester decided he liked Chicago.
The Cubs aren't done yet, as they were rumored to be looking for at least one more starting pitcher and maybe some outfield help. There's this prevailing thought process that the Cubs may go after David Ross as Lester's personal catcher to back up Montero, which would free up Welington Castillo for a trade if they're not going to carry three catchers (which honestly doesn't make much sense if none of them can stand at corner infield or outfield). There's also the problem with the money, as I predicted this past summer that the Cubs wouldn't be willing to go much past a $50MM payroll increase, but with new TV deals on the horizon and the ballpark in aggressive renovation (with a Jumbotron this spring, yay!), there may be money to spend yet. (Note: Someone on the Twitters I was talking to said that the ABC WLS-TV would pay more in their 25 game slate than the entire WGN deal of 60 or so games did last season, so that takes care of the budget shortfall. I can't find that conversation now for some reason but I think we can do the math ourselves.) I think we can reasonably assume a hard cap of around $15MM left to spend for this offseason.
Let's tackle this one step at a time:
Item 1: Forfeiting the Draft Pick
I believe that Theo Epstein was pretty transparent when he (and possibly Jed Hoyer) said they weren't going to dole out multiple 9-figure contracts this year. Obviously not all free agents will cost that much, but let's think about the other issue: the qualifying offer. Of the 12 free agents who declined the qualifying offer (that's all of them, again), here are the guys who haven't signed yet:
The Cubs were obviously willing to forfeit their second round pick when they made a strong bid for Russell Martin before the Blue Jays blew that out of the water. I don't think they are in play for Scherzer or Shields now that they have Jon Lester. Melky Cabrera remains a possibility, but I feel like they were only willing to give up that pick for Martin. Let's pretend these three gentlemen are out, then. The good news is that the rest of the field won't be attached to any draft pick compensation, so there are many options still out there.
Item 2: Starting Pitching
Looking at MLBTR's list, I can see a few guys that would be interesting should the Cubs decide that their in-house stash of #5 starters isn't enough.
- There's Brett Anderson, who is young, left-handed, and is an interesting buy-low candidate who still has a ton of potential if he'll stay healthy. There's also potential for Brett Anderson to be a bit of an asshole, though, so I'm not sure I would be too disappointed if the Cubs let this opportunity slip by.
- Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen both underwent multiple Tommy John surgeries and were non-tendered by the Braves. Both were solid pitchers when their ligaments were still attached, so again, buy-low opportunities within.
- Brandon Morrow falls into this category as well, but the Padres were among numerous teams that have offered him an incentive-laden contract. I think the Cubs need to continue making these types of offers even after the failed Scott Baker experiment.
- Other guys, like Jake Peavy, Ryan Vogelsong, Eric Stults, Randy Wolf etc. could be useful, but they're on the "old" side and the Cubs would have to see whether these guys are willing to just play to play or if they want to score one last payday.
Item 3: The LOOGY
I think the Cubs are all set with right-handed power arms in the bullpen. What they may need is a lefty reliever. Any number of the six lefties on the Cubs 40-man roster (prior to Jon Lester's addition) could serve that role, but here are some options they could look at as a supplement:
- Craig Breslow had a horrible 2014 campaign but was outstanding the previous season when the Red Sox won the World Series, and pretty solid before that. Might be good to gamble a couple million on a bounceback season.
- Tom Gorzelanny, the former Cub, has shown he can spot start and be a reliever.
These guys would come relatively cheap, it's just a matter of how many years they'd be willing to take. I wouldn't sign them for more than two years each.
Item 4: Outfield
Unless you're just oblivious, the Cubs have a lot of infielders, specifically middle infielders. So many middle infielders that one of them (Arismendy Alcantara) plays center field. So many middle infielders that the Mets keep drooling over Starlin Castro and Addison Russell. The Cubs could use another outfield bat, though.
- Everyone keeps talking about Jonny Gomes as a good clubhouse guy and as a lefty-masher. A platoon in left field with Gomes and maybe Chris Coghlan could be pretty effective.
- Dabynsky talked about Colby Rasmus once upon a time.
- In my previous blog, I suggested bringing back Emilio Bonifacio, a switch-hitter who can play just about every position on the diamond. He isn't as red hot as his April 2014 suggested, but the versatility and switch-hitting could be very useful on the Cubs just as it was last season.
- Despite his defensive goofs in the playoffs, Nori Aoki has the types of attributes that the Cubs could use as either a platoon or bench bat. He should also come relatively affordably.
- This is way out of the box, but if the Cubs are looking for veteran leadership...Ichiro Suzuki is still available, and he does want to play.
I'm still trying to figure out whether I want to splurge on the Cubs Convention or not, but if I do, these are a few of the names other than the obvious candidates I'd like to see signing autographs in January. Keep in mind that we're basing a lot of the Cubs' 2015 success on projectability and promise, but there's a reason many intelligent baseball minds out there think that Chicago is a force to be reckoned with in the near term.