Hopefully we have all recovered nicely from yesterday’s food indulgences and will survive today’s shopping outings. I’m not one for any sort of Black Friday shopping (I think I have gone out maybe once or twice, but never early in the morning), but I think it would be interesting to make some predictions about what I think the Cubs will ultimately end up doing this offseason to shore up their roster for the 2016 season. I expect that the hot stove will heat up significantly after this holiday, so this is probably the last chance to make these kinds of predictions. This will probably be an interesting post to look back on when spring training starts.
Samardzija is coming back
I reviewed my thoughts on this last Friday, so I’ll let you go back and read that if you didn’t catch it last week, but I think this is happening. There’s no mistaking that this news will prompt an array of reactions, but I want to go on record as saying that I’m good with it. I think Jeff Samardzija can be had for pretty cheap and I expect that he can perform much closer to his 2014 numbers than what he did last year. His role would be as a back end of the rotation starter, and with our expectations set accordingly there’s probably no reason for angst over this.
Zimmermann, not Price
In my post on Wednesday, we saw that David Price becoming a Cub is looking increasingly unlikely, so the question becomes about who the Cubs might sign otherwise. Maybe this is going out on a bit of a limb, but I would not be surprised to see the Cubs add both Samardzija and Jordan Zimmermann. If they do that, what I consider the most glaring weakness from the 2015 season is likely resolved about as nicely as you can. Again, if Samardzija is used as the number four starter, that is a pretty nice looking rotation. For the record, I would like to see Kyle Hendricks maintain his spot in the rotation, but as our number five.
If not Zimmermann, then cost controlled trade
Predicting trades is about as difficult as anything as well as one of my social media pet peeves (don’t propose hypothetical trades on Twitter, people, just don’t), so I tend to shy away from it, especially as it comes to specifics. That said, it is already being reported that the Cubs have been in pretty robust trade talks this offseason, including ones for Tyson Ross of the Padres (story here). The Cubs have also had talks with the Indians that go back to July, reportedly centered around some kind of Jorge Soler for Carlos Carrasco deal. The other member of the Cubs young offense who is an appealing trade target for other teams is Javier Baez. Given the current middle infield situation, I have to expect that either Baez or Starling Castro gets traded – speaking of which, did you see this rumor?
But for the sake of making an actual prediction, I think we say good bye to Baez this winter. I am a huge fan of his, so I am not hoping for this by any means, but I think an athletic, defensively talented middle infielder with the potential to hit as many as 35 home runs in a season is going to be too enticing for other teams to ignore. Where he lands, I would be completely guessing, but I’ll take a stab just for fun: I predict Baez goes to Atlanta in a trade that brings back Shelby Miller or Julio Teheran.
All of this, of course, happens only if Zimmermann is not signed. Whatever does happen, I fully expect that the Cubs will add two starting pitchers this winter, and not just one.
Center field? Not Heyward
I would also like to go on record as saying that I don’t think Jason Heyward joins the Cubs this offseason, simply because I think he might be too expensive for their tastes and that other teams would probably outbid them anyway. Where does this leave things then? Because I don’t expect that the Cubs are going to spend a lot of money on a hitter, Denard Span or even Gerardo Parra feel like more likely possibilities. In fact, it would not surprise me to see the Cubs underwhelm in this aspect of free agency and sign someone like Parra. They have the offensive firepower to match anyone, so the concern here is really to bring in a reliable defensive centerfielder (which will be especially important if Kyle Schwarber and Soler are manning the corners), and Parra looks like an intriguing option. In fact, the more I look at him, the more I like this idea. He’s a strong defender who can really play any spot in the outfield, but he has ample experience in center. He’s a perfectly decent hitter with a career OPS of .730 who could slide in nicely near the back of the lineup.
So that’s what I expect will happen. Samardzija, maybe Zimmermann, a trade that sends Baez for Ross or Carrasco, and Span or Parra coming to play center. Let me know what you think.
THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY
2007: The Cubs re-signed free agent Kerry Wood to a one-year, $4.2 million deal which includes additional incentives for finishing games. The 30-year fragile former right-handed starter, who turned down multi-year offers from other clubs to stay with Chicago, will be given an opportunity to become the club’s closer.