Saturday, October 29, 2011

Let the Offseason Begin

As much as it pains all Cubs fans to say it... congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals on winning the 2011 World Series. Game 6 will go down as one of the best games in World Series history. I actually enjoyed watching the Cards come back time and time again because it was just such good baseball. Joe Buck's "We'll see you tomorrow night" tribute to his father was perfect.

Now the the World Series is over, what should be an action-packed offseason for the Chicago Cubs begins. The first bit of news was made today as Ryan Dempster decided to pick up his player option for 2012. He will make $14 million in the fourth and final year of his contract.

Theo Epstein is now in place as the President of the Cubs, but there are still many question marks heading into next year. Among them are-

1. Who will manage the team?
There is a chance that Mike Quade will return, but most seem to feel he is on the way out. The Cubs did not pay Theo all that money to keep things the same. Some big moves are likely on the horizon and that will start with a new skipper. Ryne Sandberg, Terry Francona, Bobby Valentine, Tim Bogar, DeMarlo Hale, Rick Renteria and Dale Sveum are among the names being tossed around.

2. Will Ramirez return?
Aramis Ramirez has been a fixture at the hot corner at Wrigley Field since the middle of 2003. Can the Cubs find an upgrade on the market, or will the best option be A-Ram for 2011? Ramirez will leave a big hole in the lineup if he leaves. He has a player option where he can elect for free agency even if the Cubs want to pick up his $16 million team option. Ramirez was quoted saying that he is more likely to want to return now that Epstein has taken over.

3. Which other free agents will the Cubs let go, and which will they bring back?
In addition to Ramirez, Carlos Pena, Reed Johnson, Kerry Wood, Rodrigo Lopez, John Grabow and Ramon Ortiz will all hit the open market. My guess is that Wood and Johnson return while Lopez, Grabow and Ortiz go elsewhere. That leaves Carlos Pena as the big question mark. Theo will have to figure out whether or not there is a better option on the free agent market, because the Cubs do not have much corner infield depth in the system.

4. Which additions will the Cubs make?
There is no doubt that this team will have at least a few new faces come Spring Training. The biggest area of need is the starting rotation. There are three spots up for grabs with only Dempster and Garza penciled in. Randy Wells did not have a good season, but will likely end up back in the starting five none-the-less. Casey Coleman and Andrew Cashner could battle for the No. 5 slot, but the Cubs are in trouble if they do not add at least one middle of the rotation starter. Additions to the lineup will be based on whether or not they decide to keep Pena and Ramirez. The bullpen could also use a few extra arms.

5. Will the Cubs find a way to dump Carlos Zambrano?
Carlos Zambrano's days pitching in a Cubs uniform are likely over. The question is how, not if, he will be moved. The Cubs will search for a trade partner that is willing to take the baggage that he carries with him. After the end of last year, it is unlikely that Z returns to the Cubs, but since there is an overhauled front office there is a chance the he comes back.

The Cubs have until Tuesday to work out a compensation package with the Red Sox, or Bud Selig will step in.

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted all offseason long!

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