In between (finally!) cleaning up the science lab at school, trying to find a mortgage company that would give us a favorable deal (wow, responsibility!) and waiting for Santa to arrive, I was also keeping an eye on the twitters to see what else would happen. It seems that the Padres have decided to step off the gas for a moment and the other teams in MLB may follow suit with just a few days until Christmas, which gives us a bit of time to do a reset.
John at Cubs Den wrote a wonderful article on how the Cubs were now "re-molding" the team. I agree with the principle behind that article, and it's funny that we're looking at how to mold a team since Andy and I had discussed a while back how the Oakland A's messed with the formula a bit too much in adding talent without any concern as to how those pieces would gel together, which may have ultimately led to their demise in the postseason (they also had to deal with injuries and a really bad slump so there's that, too). As an aside, I believe that it is possible to continue working on parallel fronts to acquire talent while re-molding the team.
I think it is fair to say that we are on board with the Cubs re-molding the team into a contender, but we can disagree as to how they're doing it, which is the major reason why we're astounded by the Miguel Montero trade and the hard-line attitude to grab David Ross even though we're behind Welington Castillo as a backstop. However, as I noted in my previous entry, there is a plan in place (I mean, there has to be, right?), the guys in charge are smart and deserve our trust, and we'll just have to wait and see. Maybe it does make sense to improve framing to help the Cubs' pitchers be more comfortable attacking the zone. Maybe it does make sense to help prevent an extra run here or there because David Ross is good at making Jon Lester awesome. Who knows? All we hope is that the team that's build for 2015 and beyond gels, and doesn't turn into whatever happened to last season's A's.
As the Cubs re-mold, then, it's interesting to note that the 40-man roster is still full and David Ross isn't officially announced as a signing yet, although Jason Motte was and is now listed on the roster. Altogether, the Cubs have 22 rostered pitchers, 4 catchers, 9 infielders and only 5 outfielders. We're still about two months away from spring training and more than three months from opening day 2015, so of course this is likely to change around a bunch, but I take a look at the current roster and I'm just thinking of all the tradeable or dumpable players. Keep in mind that while nobody is truly untouchable, there are certain guys who are more likely to be traded than others if we try to think logically.
Rotation-wise, I guess we can pencil in that Jon Lester guy, Jason Hammel, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks. There are any number of guys who can hold down the #5 spot, but I almost feel like the Cubs can surprise and find something in either trade or as a buy-low signing. Brandon Beachy comes to mind as a reclamation project, but he's coming off another Tommy John surgery so naturally there are red flags flying there. Also, it's entirely possible the Cubs look to trade Edwin Jackson's now-albatross-y contract and maybe Travis Wood.
In terms of the bullpen, the conversation keeps turning to the Cubs' need for lefty specialists. Left-handers on the roster include Felix Doubront, Eric Jokisch, Joseph Ortiz (aka Joe), Zac Rosscup, Tsuyoshi Wada and the aforementioned Travis Wood. Whoever isn't optioned or in the rotation could stick around as lefty relief, and there are bargain bin guys available on the free agent market still. I can see any number of fringe relievers being traded, outrighted, or released to accommodate an upgrade or something that molds better with the 2015 club.
As noted, David Ross agreed to a deal but hasn't been officially announced yet, so he's not on the roster. A spot needs to open up, and the easiest way is to trade Welington Castillo. However, Beef is a valuable commodity with his track record, age and the remaining club control, so I feel like he's likely to return someone(s?) who will be major-league ready. Ross could take the spot of one of the extraneous relievers on the roster even if Beef is traded.
There are also a large number of infielders on the roster, some of whom could probably play outfield in a bind (Arismendy Alcantara, for example). I feel like they can try to stash Shane Peterson, who was recently claimed, but they have to make some decisions on Mike Olt and Christian Villanueva, who both have only one option year left (h/t The Cub Reporter). Luis Valbuena may also eventually become a trade candidate given his apparent value (depending on if other teams see that value as well to help the Cubs push the trade along).
The outfield will most likely have Jorge Soler. The other four guys on the roster now? I'm not sure how that will work out, but another need the Cubs have is a veteran outfielder, possibly a righty to platoon with Chris Coghlan or a lefty bat to break up the right-handed-heavy Cubs lineup so far. Matt Szczur is also running out of time as 2015 is his last option year, so if the Cubs aren't confident he can stick at the MLB level, he may also be a trade candidate.
The roster, again, is full, and at some point the Cubs will have to make room for this guy named Kris Bryant and maybe even Addison Russell. This is in addition to the spot that must be opened up for David Ross, whatever MLB-ready pieces come back from a Welington Castillo trade, and maybe new relief pitching or outfielder signings. The news may be slow now leading up to Christmas, but I'm sure it'll pick up soon afterwards as the Cubs are pushed to "re-mold" their 40-man roster.