Hot Stove Daily: Chicago Cubs
By Steve Henson, Yahoo Sports
November 10, 2007
Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason plans of every MLB team before the Dec. 3-6 winter meetings. Our series continues with the Chicago Cubs.
2007 record: 85-77
Finish: First place National League Central, swept by Diamondbacks in NLDS.
2007 opening-day payroll: $100 million.
The Cubs are searching near and far to fill needs in the outfield, starting rotation and bullpen. That's far as in the Far East. They are certain to become a serious bidder for Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, and could go after starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda and reliever Hitoki Iwase as well.
The left-handed hitting Fukudome, who does not have to go through the posting process, could command a five-year, $60 million free-agent deal. No problem for the Cubs, who desperately need a left-handed presence to balance their right-handed slugging trio of Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. That's why signing one of the premier center fielders on the free-agent market – Andruw Jones, Aaron Rowand and Torii Hunter – is less attractive. They all bat right-handed.
The Cubs also need a No. 3 starting pitcher behind Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly, and could use a left-handed situational reliever. Their best trade chip is closer Ryan Dempster, who could be available if manager Lou Piniella believes flame-throwing Carlos Marmol is ready to move from the eighth to the ninth inning.
The uncertainty over ownership reportedly won't stop general manager Jim Hendry from raising payroll to improve the team. The Cubs were vastly improved last season, but also showed down the stretch and in the playoffs that they are not yet an elite team. Hendry won't spend the $300 million he did last off-season, but he has the green light to add an expensive piece or two.
The rapid rise of rookie catcher Geovany Soto fills one glaring need. Perhaps Fukudome would fill another, although the bidding for him could become steep. Kuroda, whose nickname in Japan is "Mr. Complete Game," turned down a chance to sign with the Cubs a year ago, but he can opt out of his current contract with the Hiroshima Carp, and there have been reports that he plans to do so.
There are reasons to believe the Cubs could pursue Alex Rodriguez, and equally strong reasons they probably won't.
The potential economic benefit of signing A-Rod might be greater with the Cubs than any other team, according to author and baseball financial expert Vince Gennaro. Also, Piniella and Rodriguez have a father/son-type relationship that began when Rodriguez entered the big leagues in 1994 with the Seattle Mariners and Piniella was the manager there.
Yet the Cubs have a productive third baseman – Ramirez – under contract through at least 2011. And while signing A-Rod and plugging him in at shortstop to replace the decidedly average Ryan Theriot is a possibility, the consensus among scouts is that A-Rod would lack range at his former position.
Updated on Sunday, Nov 11, 2007 12:13 am, EST