Monday, December 28, 2009

Rumor Roundup: Cubs Still Have a Lot of Work to Do

The Chicago Cubs have a lot of holes and needs right now. Jim Hendry, who has done nothing except dump Aaron Miles, Aaron Heilman, Jake Fox, and Milton Bradley this offseason, needs to get to work. Maybe Jim learned a lesson when he over-payed for guys early in the winter last year, but he cannot wait too long as he has already lost out on many of his targets. The Chicago Cubs need to have an active next month and a half, because right now there are still many areas that need improvement and added depth. Earlier I updated my projected Cub Opening Day roster. Tonight, let's go through some of the areas the Cubs need help, and take a look at the latest rumors...

Right now, the 40-man roster consists of 5 outfielders: Alfonso Soriano, Sam Fuld, James Adducci, Tyler Colvin, and Kosuke. You can forget Adducci, Colvin showed some promise but will likely start the year at AAA, and Fuld is a 4th outfielder at best. Soriano and Fukudome have shown inconsistency and injuries over the past few seasons, so you cannot count on them to start each and everyday for you. Most likely, both of them will either suffer an injury or go through a slump at some point in 2010. So the point is, the Cubs need to add outfielders (note the plural). Phil Rodgers says that the "Cubs aren't blown away by any of the outfielders on the free agent market." He speculated that Fernando Perez, a speedy Rays outfielder who is recovering from shoulder surgery, "would be an interesting gamble". Perez would cost the Cubs a top prospects according to NBC Sports. Marlon Byrd, Rick Ankiel, and Scott Podsednik remain options according to Rodgers. Reed Johnson could still resign with the Cubs. Carrie Muskat has told us that the Cubs like the way he plays, but are concerned about his ability to stay healthy. Last week I had a numbers breakdown that compared Johnson with other Cub outfield candidates. The other new and interesting Cub outfield rumor comes from Bruce Levine. Mr. Chicago Baseball says the Cubs have had talks with the Rockies about a trade that would bring Ryan Spilborghs to Chicago to replace Reed as the 4th outfielder. Spilborghs has good defense and plays all 3 outfield positions. In an article separate from the one where he wrote about Perez, Phil Rodgers (who is sometimes accused of making up rumors himself) reports that the Cubs would "immediately make an effort to land Jacoby Ellsbury" to fill their center field/leadoff hole if the Red Sox end up with Holliday or Bay. Rodgers goes on to say that this scenario helps explain why the Cubs have been so patient in studying their outfield options. Ellsbury would cost the Cubs a major prospect package. Phil listed Josh Vitters, Hak-Ju Lee, Andrew Cashner, and Jay Jackson as guys that could be included. The Cubs are also rumored to have interest in Johnny Damon. Dave O'Brien reports that Melky Cabrera (who was acquired from the Yankees last week) could be used as a trade chip. Jon Heyman tweets that if the Braves consider trading him, they should contact the Cubs, who'd love him for center field. In addition, David DeJesus could be an option. The Cubs have spoken to the Royals about DeJesus. Levine reiterated that Byrd and Podsednik remain 1-2 on the outfield list.

Pitching Depth
Sure, the Cubs have Carlos Zambrano, Randy Wells, Ted Lilly, and Ryan Dempster all returning, but with Harden gone via free agency and Lilly starting the season on the DL, there are two spots open in the rotation to start the year going into Spring Training. I'd like to see more than one good year out of Wells before you can count on him, and Big Z is never a sure thing. Although overal the rotation is solid, the bullpen is not. Carlos Marmol is the closer, he had good stuff but his control is a question mark. John Grabow and Angel Guzman are the only other guys that you know will be in the pen right now, and after that there's four question marks. So for two rotation spots and four bullpen spots we have Carlos Silva, Mike Parisi, David Patton, Jeff Samardzija, Tom Gorzelanny, John Gaub, Esmalin Caridad, Mitch Atkins, Jeff Stevens, Sean Marshall, Justin Berg, and Arismendy Mota all in the mix in Spring Training. On problem: will hese guys pitch well? The big Cub rumor on the pitching side going around today was that the Cubs have had talks with Jose Contreras' agent about the possibility of the former White Sox hurler to pitch for the Cubbies in 2010. The veteran right hander would "bring a certain amount of protection for the team, considering the unknown status of rehabbing lefty Ted Lilly" according to Contreras could be in the rotation until Lilly returns and then would be moved to the bullpen. Kiko Calero is also still on the Cubs' radar for the bullpen. The Cubs had to move on to other options for the bullpen after they lost out on former Pirates closer Matt Capps who signed with the Washington Nationals just before Christmas. The other Cub pitching rumor is that Carlos Zambrano could be available. Jon Heyman tweeted tonight that the Yankees "definitely had talked to the Cubs about Zambrano, who appears eminently available." Big Z has a no-trade clause, and right now it doesn't seem like it would make sense for the Cubs to trade him unless they get an ace pitcher back. Some rehab guys like Ben Sheets are on the Cubs radar. The Cubs are talking with Ben Sheets. Carlos Silva could also be a major factor in the rotation.

Middle Infield
Not a lot of rumors related to the Cubs middle infield to report. Carrie Muskat told us a few days back that the Cubs are fine with going into the year with Andres Blanco, Jeff Baker, and Mike Fontenot as the second baseman. We've heard a lot about Starlin Castro this winter. Castro could be ready for the big leagues at some point in 2010. At the start of the year, Theriot is expected to be the short stop. Former Cub infielder Mark DeRosa is close to signing a 2 year $12 million deal with San Fransisco. Felipe Lopez, Orlando Hudson, and Kelly Johnson are among the free agent middle infielders that make sense for the Cubs. Orlando Cabrera could be an option if the Cubs are willing to move Theriot to second.

The Cubs are also in need of a solid pinch hitter.

Well that's it for tonight, lots of great stuff to come in the next few days!

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