With the winter meetings for Major League Baseball starting up next week Monday, there are many subjects on the table of the Chicago Cubs. Seemingly everyday there is something new popping up in the news about the Cubs, whether they are rumors about who the Cubs are reportedly interested in perusing in free agency, what veterans the Cubs are looking to trade off the team or the signing of new Cub, and starting right fielder, David DeJesus. Then, we have the never ending saga of Carlos Zambrano, as well as the “Golden Era“ vote for the Hall of Fame tomorrow, which includes the late great Ron Santo. These are the topics I will cover over the next few days, as there is far too much to go over in one single blog. The winter meets possess the possibility of being a key turning point in the direction the Cubs plan on taking not only for this season, but for the years to come. While one would think that all these tidbits of news seemingly appear to be separate articles, they are all intertwined with one another.
Earlier this week, the Cubs signed DeJesus to a two year contract worth a total of $10 Million dollars over two years. He will make $4.5 Million in each 2012 and 2013 with a buyout of $1.5 Million. His contract also has a team option worth $5 Million for the 2014 season. Many speculate that DeJesus will be the leadoff hitter fort the Cubs going forward, which frees up Starlin Castro to hit second in the order or possibly even in the three hole in the lineup.
While the aging veteran is coming off of a career worst .240 batting average, DeJesus is a .284 career hitter. Last year, which saw him also drop to another career low .6 WAR (usually averages at least 3 WAR per year) is being said to be a result of coming off a thumb injury which ended his 2010 season. There is no reason to not to believe that he will have a bounce back year and return to his career averages.
What this signing means though, is there is likely another move or two coming involving the outfield. Right now most of the speculation surrounds the Cubs talking with several teams about trading Alfonso Soriano. Obviously this is a task that will not be easy, nor will this be cheap. I know that I have said this several times, but the only way the Cubs are able to trade Soriano is if they are willing to eat a hefty majority of the remaining $54 Million remaining of the final three years of his contract. Not an impossible task, but a very large pill to have to swallow if you are Tom Ricketts. I do not care how much money you have, $54 Million is a hell of a lot of money. The good thing though, Ricketts has reportedly told Epstein that if he needs to eat a contract that he has his blessing. That could very well mean that Soriano will no longer be a Cub heading into 2012.
Another possible trade candidate is Marlon Byrd, who is currently blocking young prospect Brett Jackson in center field. The reason why his name is brought up, is because he plays center field, where Jackson plays. Originally, I was under the impression that Byrd would shift over to right field to make room for Jackson’s arrival. The signing of DeJesus however squashed that idea. If one of them is traded though, Jackson will more than likely be our starting center fielder next year with either Soriano or Byrd in left field. This would be due to the fact that Jackson lacks the preferred power of a corner outfielder, not that Byrd has the desired power either. There is also a chance that both could be moved if the right offer comes up.
A third possible reason behind the signing of DeJesus though, is that Epstein knows that either Jackson or Tyler Colvin might be put in the compensation package that is still yet to be decided for our new General Manager. Amazing that this has not been resolved yet, and even more amazing that the Boston Red Sox gave up their trump card so easily by allowing Epstein to leave before a deal was settled. Oh well, their stupidity is our gain.
The only thing we do know, is the signing of DeJesus is simply just the first domino to fall. There will be other moves made by the Cubs in reaction to this move. The only questions that remain are the who, where, why and when. Something tells me we will not have to wait too long at all!