GM for the Day: Chicago Cubs

Having the longest drought in professional sports only brings hope, but when you have new ownership and snatched Theo Epstein from the Boston Red Sox, you’d think that it would bring giddiness to Chicago.  There are reasons to be excited, but only if Epstein and the Ricketts Family makes a big splash this offseason.  The team is in need of a third baseman (somewhat) and a first baseman after Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez have filed for Free Agency.  So this is what they have in-house right now for their 25-man roster:

2 Catchers: Geovany Soto and Koyie Hill

1B: Bryan LaHair

2B: Darwin Barney

3B: Jeff Baker

SS: Starlin Castro

LF: Alfonso Soriano

CF: Marlon Byrd

RF: David DeJesus

Bench: Blake DeWitt (2B/3B), D.J. LeMahieu (2B/3B), Tyler Colvin (OF), Tony Campana

Starting Pitchers: Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Carlos Zambrano and Casey Coleman

Relief Pitchers: Carlos Marmol, Jeff Samardzija, Sean Marshall, Andrew Cashner, Marcos Mateo, James Russell and John Gaub

Bryan LaHair is a 29-year-old Minor League superstar, having only played in 65 games at the Major League level.  He could be a nice stopgap at first if the Cubs went after someone next year, but they are going to want to grab Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols since there won’t be a class featuring the likes of these two for a long, long time.  LaHair can handle LF, too, so not all is lost.  Jeff Baker was a slugger at Clemson that hasn’t really lived up to that since being drafted by the Rockies, but he hasn’t really received a chance.  There could be worse options than to let him take over at third, but D.J. LeMahieu is also an option there as a Sean Burrough-like high-average-no-pop-3B.

The Cubs need to do a couple of things.  They need to decide if they want to obliterate the hearts and souls of their arch-enemy Cardinal fans and make a huge offer to Albert Pujols, or if they’re going to get the younger 1B superstar in Fielder with the same kind of offer.  The team can’t go wrong and there has been some debate as to who of the two would be the best long-term answer due to age and conditioning issues.  If you look at the Cubs lineup right now, they could use the left-handed bat of Fielder.

Third base is an interesting case.  There are rumors that Jeff Baker could get moved or non-tendered, opening up the spot for LeMahieu or another signing.  Giving Baker the job and paying him $2 million or less in arbitration would give LeMahieu, just 22, more time to work on driving the ball or getting used to third more since he was primarily a 2B in the Minors.  Another guy who hasn’t had the chance to play full-time could split third with Baker if the Cubs were to sign Wilson Betemit.  Betemit can still play multiple positions and as a switch hitter, he would be useful off the bench.  He has had 644 at bats since the start of 2009 and has 47 2B, 21 HR, 92 RBI and an .821 OPS.  If Baker falters, Betemit gets the job, while filling in at 1B, DH during interleague play and possibly an occasional, albeit very occasional, appearance at 2B for Barney.

The Cubs will probably re-sign Kerry Wood in the bullpen and that worked out nicely last season, when Wood signed at a discount and a 10.1 K/9 and a 3.35 ERA in a healthy season and 55 appearances.  With Carlos Zambrano’s status to ever put on a Cubs uniform still uncertain, the team should probably look to Free Agency for an arm.  They could use a left-handed pitcher, since Casey Coleman is bringing up the back of the rotation, but they could also put Andrew Cashner in the rotation and go cheap after the huge signing of Fielder.  Want to see something interesting…Oliver Perez on a Minor League contract.  He didn’t embarrass himself in Double-A last year (he shouldn’t have since he is now 30) for the Nationals, posting a 58/27 K/BB in 75 2/3 IP with a 3.09 ERA, but he is staying fresh by pitching in relief in the Mexican League right now.  He would be another cheap, low-risk, high-reward arm for the Cubs.  If he hits and Zambrano isn’t excommunicated, Coleman (who posted an ugly 6.40 ERA over 19 games and 17 starts) could spend more time in the Minors.  I think Perez could and he is worth a short look, at least.

This is the final 25-man roster:

2 Catchers: Geovany Soto and Koyie Hill

1B: Prince Fielder

2B: Darwin Barney

3B: Jeff Baker

SS: Starlin Castro

LF: Alfonso Soriano

CF: Marlon Byrd

RF: David DeJesus

Bench: Wilson Betemit (1B/3B), Bryan LaHair (1B/LF), Tyler Colvin (OF), Blake DeWitt (2B/3B)

Starting Pitchers: Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Carlos Zambrano and Oliver Perez

Relief Pitchers: Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood, Andrew Cashner, Jeff Samardzija, Sean Marshall, James Russell and Marcos Mateo

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