The offseason is here, and as of midnight last night, free agency is officially underway. Teams have submitted their qualifying offer of $15.8 Million to their pending free agents, as you know the lone player to receive this offer from the Chicago Cubs was centerfielder Dexter Fowler. In all likelihood, he will reject this deal and seek a larger multi-year deal elsewhere.
The Cubs have needs, particularly in the starting rotation. If Kyle Hendricks or Jason Hammel have to start game three of any post season series you are going to be in trouble. Thankfully, they have plenty of options this offseason; you can be sure the Cubs will add at least one starter, if not two.
With Fowler (in all likelihood) leaving the team, the Cubs will also need to find a new center fielder. Sure, Kris Bryant could play in center, but you do not want him being the everyday centerfielder. Acquiring more depth by adding a few more bench players would also be beneficial to making the Cubs a more serious threat to not only win the Central, but the entire National League.
We all have our own ideas on who we would like to see the Cubs bring in this off season, and I am no different.
First, the Cubs need to add to their starting pitching depth. There are four big starting pitchers that will be the focal point of all teams this offseason; Jordan Zimmermann, Zack Greinke, David Price and Johnny Cueto. Of course, the Cubs primary target is of course Price. He will not be cheap. We all know the connection Price has with Cubs Manager Joe Maddon, and how he stated last year he would love to win the World Series with the Cubs. Despite the high price tag (rumored to be eight years and $250 Million), he is still my top choice. Price has been an excellent pitcher in the American League his whole career, I cannot wait to see what he is able to do against a National League team without the Designated Hitter.
Of course, there is a chance that bidding for Price may get out of hand and surpass the rumored eight year $250 Million deal leaving the Cubs to look elsewhere. Forget about Greinke, he is going back to the Los Angeles Dodgers. But both Zimmermann and Cueto would be a great consolation prize, and both could be had for what Price would cost by himself. The Cubs could still sign Price and one of these two, but if Price is brought on, John Lackey, Mat Latos or Scott Kazmir would be an excellent number four pitcher. That would mean one of our two would have to go. Hammel could be sent to the bullpen, as they did with Travis Wood this past year or he could be traded. The same could be said about Hendricks, though I do not think he would be too effective coming out of the pen, and could be a very intriguing fifth starter as we have seen spouts of greatness out of him.
The Cubs could also sign a pitcher and trade for a starter or two if things in free agency do not go the way they imagine. Tyson Ross and Carlos Carrasco were hot names for the Cubs at the trade deadline, and I am sure they will investigate them. Could the Cubs theoretically sign two starters and trade for one? Absolutely, but that would not seem too likely; with the depth the Cubs have in the minors and the roster crunch they are facing a trade does look as a certainty.
Another need for the Cubs will be centerfield. On top of my wish list is Jason Heyward. He is a right fielder by trade, but could easily handle center, he is that talented. Along with that talent though, comes a very high price tag, probably somewhere along the lines of eight years and $170 Million. Is he worth that contract? Absolutely, power, defense, youth and if needed he could lead off though that is not his prefered spot in the batting order.
Heyward though is a long shot, and Fowler returning is almost as unlikely. That leaves Denard Span as a target I would to have in my team’s sight. If the Cubs bring in Span to replace Fowler they might not even miss a step, and could very well be cheaper than Fowler as well.
For outfield depth, the Cubs could bring back Chris Coghlan and Austin Jackson. Between the two of them, the Cubs in the outfield would be quite set. However the Cubs have also been connected to Alex Gordon and Justin Upton. I also would not be terribly upset if they look into Yoenis Cespedes as well.
Looking at bench options, one guy I would love to see the Cubs go after is Ben Zobrist. Calling him a bench player though is ridiculous. He is a starter, and if the Cubs make a trade which includes either Starlin Castro, Javier Baez or both, he will be a starter. Though if they do not trade either and sign him, he will still be a starter. With his versatility, Maddon could have him playing near every day which would allow him to rest his regulars more frequently keeping them fresh. Zobrist has played everywhere in his career except pitcher and catcher, though with his getting older I think I would limit him to the four corners. Start four days a week, giving one of your other stars a day off a week is a good idea to keep everyone fresh and in playing shape. Baez then could shuffle between the middle infield giving Castro and Addison Russell routine days off as well. He would be an excellent upgrade over Jonathan Herrera. If they cannot land Zobrist because he wants to stay with the Kansas City Royals(his new daughter’s middle name is Royal) then they will have to look elsewhere.
The bullpen for the Cubs was a hit or miss situation. Sometimes they looked unhittable, other times they might as well have been throwing batting practice. Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop are sure locks to return, Neil Ramirez, Justin Grimm and Carl Edwards Jr. are also candidates to return. That leaves two spots for other players to return to the pen or upgrades in the free agent market. Wood would make a lot of sense, and would be the lone lefty in the pen, something tells me they would want to add a second.
Of course, this is all just a wish list of a few guys I would love to see the Cubs go after. Chances are they will not get them all and might only get one of the seven guys I highlighted.