There are at least two obvious positions of need on the Cub offense heading into 2013; third base and center field. Shortstop and first base are the only positions where the Cubs are conceivably set for the foreseeable future, with catcher not far behind, assuming Welington Castillo can turn into an average performer. So while we wait for Brett Jackson to fix his swing and Josh Vitters to stop swinging at everything, who will be talked about as Cub targets?

Not Josh Hamilton, that’s for sure. He’s asking for 7 years, $175M? Good luck Josh.
Not Michael Bourn either. He may even get a contract in excess of $80 million. He doesn’t seem like the type of player the Cubs would sign long term; now or in the future.
Here are a few names Cub fans will be debating on in the near future:

Third Base
Kevin Youkilis  -  Age: 34 (for the 2013 season)  -  Bats/Throws: R/R
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(wRC+ Find out about it here)

Youkilis is coming off the worst year of his career, but he still maintains good enough control of the strike zone and enough power that despite a .235 batting average, he was still able to be an average offensive player. He’s not as good defensively as he was a few years ago, but few 33 year olds are. The .268 BABIP might lead one to think his slash lines will improve, but it also came with a career high in groundballs, so it can’t all be attributed to balls not finding the holes in the defense.
He won’t be a .950 OPS guy again, but I can see Youk as a 260/360/450 hitter in the next couple years. As long as he doesn’t require a 3 year contract, Youkilis would be a great acquisition for the Cubs. If he keeps declining, it’s only a short term deal. If he maintains 2012, he’ll be a trade candidate for a long term asset. If he bounces back to 2010 and 2011 numbers, he can be worth quite a bit more.

I’d sign him for a year, two years max, with the idea of trading him to a contender. But with the lack of third base options on the free agent market, I could see him getting better money/years from a contender in need…like Philly.

Outfield
B.J. Upton  -  Age 28  -  Bats/Throws: R/R

I think BJ is going to get a pretty sweet deal, so will likely not be an option, but it won’t stop us vocal fans from debating the decision.
He’s never lived up to the hype, but has been a pretty good player and may even be underrated because we all expected much more.
As he’s aged, he has become more aggressive at the plate, which has increased his K’s and decreased his BB’s, while boosting his power. He could be a consistent 25 HR, 30-40  SB, good defensive centerfielder while hitting 250/325/450 but an outside shot to see him post .900 OPS’. He has that potential.
But we’re 4000 plate appearances into his career and over his last four seasons, he’s hit 242/316/420. Should we still be talking about potential?
Andre Eithier just received 5 years and $85 million…I’d rather have BJ Upton, but even so, I don’t think the bidding goes that high. Nevertheless, I can’t see the Cubs investing $15M per season on a player with a .316 OBP over the last four seasons.

Nick Swisher  -  Age 32  -  Bats/Throws: B/R

While I’m betting we hear fans clamoring for Upton, I don’t think there will be much interest in Nick Swisher. But Swisher’s last four seasons show what a productive player he’s been in New York: 268/367/483, averaging 26 HR’s a year. He can’t play center and he can’t run like Upton, but he’s more productive on offense and will likely come at a lower cost. Will that cost be low enough for the Cubs and would they move DeJesus to center for him? I don’t think so.
I’m guessing Swisher gets 4 years, $48/$56 million. Because of his age and his position, doesn’t sound like a Theo/Jed target, but I think the team signing Swisher will get more bang for their buck than the team signing Upton.

Shane Victorino  -  Age 32  -  Bats/Throws: B/R

Now we’re getting into the players that I can see the Cubs focusing on. Victorino is coming off his worst year, which means he’s the proverbial “buy low” candidate. Is he declining to 4th outfielder status? Can he bounce back to his .350 OBP days?
If he can be had for a two year contract, he’s the type of player the Cubs will sign to find out the answer. The thing about Victorino that worries me is his hitting against RH pitching, where he’d get 70% of his plate appearances. If he starts out slow, his number will look pretty bad overall and would be hard to trade. Start out hot, with that .350 OBP and good outfield defense, and he could easily turn into a hot trade commodity.
Three years would be one too many. If the Cubs could get Victorino on a 2 year deal, he would be a solid gamble.

Angel Pagan  -  31  -  Bats/Throws: B/R

Similar to Victorino, but lacks the home run power. And while I worry about Victorino’s splits against right handed pitchers, Pagan is the opposite, which actually might make him a better piece to improve the offense.
He’s a year younger and is coming off a better year with the bat than Victorino has, and teams put more weight on the recent performance, so it’s likely that Pagan will get that third year guaranteed. We’re not talking about a large chunk of money, but I don’t see the Cubs committing to three years with Pagan, due to the limited upside. You really can’t expect much more than what he did in 2012; 288/338/440.
If both players were to get 3 years, $30 million, I think Pagan is the better value. But I’d take Victorino if he can be had for a year less.

Melky Cabrera  -  Age 28  -  Bats/Throws: L/L

Time for more BABIP talk. Most people will attribute Cabrera’s 346/390/516 line this year to his PED use. I disagree. If you regress 2012’s unsustainable .379 BABIP down to his career norm, .309, you’re looking at a .070 point reduction across the board, bring his line to 276/320/446 which is more reflective of his true talent. His BB% was in line with his career rate, same for his K%, and he hit more groundballs than ever, so I have a feeling his 2012 line will be the most obvious fluke of any free agent’s line. (And people will use this as proof that his 2012 numbers were due to PED’s)
Despite the career best slash line, with the PED suspension Melky may be looking at a 1 year deal to reestablish his value. If that’s the case, he’s an ideal acquisition.
Yeah, he took some PED’s. He paid the penalty. It’s over. You have to look at him as a commodity, and this is a great low risk, high reward commodity….exactly what Theo/Jed will be looking for, and, I am thinking, #1 on their outfield target list, assuming the number of years is only 1 or 2.

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