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Two the of Chicago Cubs’ big priorities this winter are at first base and in the bullpen, and the team is expected to look at a familiar face for the latter, and a new face for the former.

With a payroll budget that figures to leave little room for big-shot free agents, indications are that general manager Jim Hendry is focusing more on the likes of lefty-hitting Nick Johnson — if the medicals look good enough — for first base and is keeping an eye on former Cub Kerry Wood’s status for a possible bullpen job.

The Cubs’ offseason priorities are adding a starting pitcher, a right-handed reliever and a first baseman.

Hendry, who is in Arizona for the team’s annual organizational meetings in preparation for the GM meetings later this month, would not comment on his interest in Wood or any other potential targets.

”Everyone knows I have a wonderful relationship with Kerry, and that will be a life-lasting one,” he said. ”But to get into specifics now … would be foolish.” CHICAGO SUN-TIMES.

We’ve already discussed Wood a fair bit. The primary question is whether the Cubs can squeeze the $4 or 5 million he’ll cost into their budget, while still finding a fit at first base. If so, he’ll be a Cub again.

Speaking of first base, this is the first we’ve heard about the Cubs looking at Nick Johnson. Reader KB is probably on the floor in a gleeful seizure just thinking about the OBP machine being on the Cubs, but Johnson comes with obvious limitations. Health, as noted, is the big one – in the last four seasons combined, he’s played just 192 games. Yo. He’s 32 and coming off another surgery, this one on his wrist in May. As the Cubs learned with Derrek Lee, a wrist injury can forever change a player’s effectiveness at the plate.

When healthy, Johnson’s a solid defensive player who is going to get on base. Despite hitting just .167 last year, he still put up a massive .388 OBP. For his career, he’s got a .401 OBP and .443 SLG. That’s not quite as much power as you’d like out of first base, but for the huge OBP, I know I’d certainly take it. Last season may have been the first year in Johnson’s decline, but if not, he can be counted on to put up those same numbers, albeit in 50 or 60 games.

Another in the plus column? Johnson will come cheap: he made just $5.75 million last year with the Yankees, who declined a 2011 option for just $5.5 million. Given the injury history and the uncertainty of future performance, Johnson is likely to get a deal like Xavier Nady’s last year – a couple/few million guaranteed, and more on top if he plays enough.

While Adam Dunn and Adrian Gonzalez may be the preferred options, Nick Johnson could prove a cheap, effective stop-gap, so long as the Cubs don’t count on him for 162 games.

  • art

    my opinion is, sign Woody, that allows Cashner to start, take a long look at Archer and carpenter next spring, forget experience. talent when rebuilding comes first ahead of experience bad guys…….forget N. Johnson, he brings nothing but if’s…………somewhere I read that the Cubs were thinking of signing Reed Johnson to platoon with Fukudome. hmmm, that leaves Colvin for 1B. why not? for 1 year, he needs a little sharpening of the strike zone, right now he’s better than N. Johnson……………….in 2012 the Cubs will have the money to go after A. Gonzalez, if they really want him. you move Colvin to RF, Jackson in CF, and trade for or bring up some kid for LF. anything in 2012 is better than Soriano, bench him or release him. a good GM goes after Gonzalez, a bad GM like Hank will stick with Colvin at 1B, and go for a Nady type for RF and stick with Soriano in LF.

    • Kevin G

      I love ur Sign Woods and have Cashner Idea!

  • Bric

    Realistically, we should probably pencil in Johnson as starting at 1st for the Cubs next spring. I was looking through Hendry’s deals the last couple of years and they are rediculiously small tme, so I guess we can forget about him pulling a deal for A. Gonzalez.. Also, given the statements of Ricketts since last May we know he’s not going to approve another big contract unless it guarantees a playoff spot. Even a Brewer fan knows that Dunn can’t do that so we can forget that option. What’s left? Nick Johnson as a stop gap.
    P.S. it’s funny how many players Hendry has traded away that have ended up with World Series rings. Guys that were left for dead here… Fontanot, Eyre, Mitre…Kinda makes you think.

  • Kevin G

    I think they are looking at Johnson as a backup 1B. So everyone calm down.

    • Bric

      Maybe, similar to Nady. But then who do you see starting?

  • Kevin G

    Well, Gonzalez is going to be traded. Hoyer met with Gonz agent and it does look like they are not come to an agreement. So, he would look good in a Cubs uniform.

  • art

    they are not going to sign a starting and back up 1B. makes no sense, waste of money. another thing, Quade recently said the reason Colvin didn’t play 1B this year, was he didn’t want to mess up a good thing, meaning Quade’s Cubs playing so well. he preferred trying 1B next year. so if Fukudome stays and they sign Reed Johnson to platoon with him as has been rumored recently, Colvin would play 1B with Johnson as back up. that makes more sense.

    • Kevin G

      What if they go the trade route? Then it makes sense then right?

      • Bric

        Don’t misunderstand me, I’m fine with Nick Johnson at 1st for next season (starting or not) as long as it’s for a low money, short term deal. I’ve always liked him. I was happy with the Nady signing, too. Same with Byrd.
        I would be ecstatic if A.G. was traded to the Cubs, I just don’t see it happening because Hendry has grown too fond of the kids he brings in and won’t trade them for an established player (wouldn’t trade R. Hill, Pie, Gaudin, Harvey, Vitters, etc when he should’ve). That’s why in the last couple of years he’s let go of players for basically nothing while going on and spending huge money AND no trade clauses trying to build an team from a bunch of loose screws of other teams. The guy’s lost his balls and his common sense. He’s like a gambler in a casino who’s down big money. He keeps thinking just one big score on the nickel slots and I’ll be a hero again… Ain’t gonna happen. Ricketts is his wife telling him it’s time to go home.

  • Kevin G

    Ok I found out what the Padres are looking for Gonzalez:

    A Middle infielder or 2 that are Major league ready or close.
    We have 2 fits Barney and Flagehtery

    A Centerfielder ML Ready or close:
    We have that 2 Campana or Brett Jackson.

    A top of the line up guy: well Jackson and Campana both fit.

    A corner OFer:

    Colvin

    And maybe a SP:

    Jay Jackson

    We can tot

    • Kevin G

      We can totally get him without killing our farm. I don’t like giving up Brett Jackson and wouldn’t if he give them Colvin.

      • Bric

        There are only 5 guys in the entire Cubs minor league that are legit inpact players at the major league level: Brett Jackson, Colvin, Lee, Archer, and Dolis (maybe Coleman too). The Pads can have any and all of the follwoing: Guyer, Flarety, Barney, Vitters, J. Jackson, Campana, McNutt, Carpenter, etc. but there probably also going to want two of the six referenced above. I would still make that trade. But I doubt Hendry will.

        • Kevin G

          If we can give them a packagve of Barney, Colvin, J. Jackson, and Dolis. I would not have a problem with that and it wouldn’t really hurt us.

          • Ace

            Just doesn’t seem like enough – if I’m the Pads, I refuse to deal unless I’m getting at least one of B. Jackson, Vitters, Cashner, or Archer (and maybe even Castro).

            • Bric

              I agree. If I’m the Pads, I’m looking for an established veteran (Marmol) and at least 1 top prospect (Colvin, B.Jackson, Castro, Cashner, or Archer). If Marmol isn’t part of the deal, count on them asking for any three of these guys. If they can’t find a taker, they just wait until July and will still get a comparable deal from one of the contenders. The onus to make the deal is on the Cubs right now. Again, though, I’d probably still take it.

        • Ace

          I think you’d find the Cubs, right now, think more highly of Carpenter and McNutt than they do of Dolis. The first two have arms nearly as good as Dolis, and they’ve figured out how to use them.

  • art

    interviewed Saturday 11/5/2010 on radio, Cubs beat writer G. Wittenmyer having talked with Cub brass concludes that,

    1. payroll would be about 130-35 mil, even as low as 125 mil.
    2. looking for a starting pitcher to eat up innings, no Lee or top ace type.
    3. no Dunn or big trades. they have no money, at best about 10 mil.
    4. Cashner will stay in the pen in 2011 till he perfects a 2nd & 3rd ML pitch.
    5. they are trying to get rid of Fukudome so Colvin can be their RF’er AND to make room for B. Jackson.
    6. B. Jackson will be the CF’er sometime in 2011. they feel he’s coming on strong. he’ll be given a full shot in spring, hmmm.
    7. asked if they really would move Castro to 2B when the kid comes up in a year or 2. answer was something like, they feel Castro can improve his D at SS, if not the OF is an option. hmmm.
    8. Archer will be here in 2011, sometime if not the start of 2011.

    Quade said late in the year that Castro has to do better on D. soon after he said he’d like him to go to winter ball and work on his D. to me it didn’t sound like he’d bench him as with Soriano. more like a “position move” tone in his voice.

    G. W. also said Colvin doesn’t feel good at 1B, so why move a kid with his athletic skills in the OF to 1B when “anyone” can play there.

    • Ace

      Thanks for the interview notes, art. Brett Jackson getting a look this year, even if Fuk is gone, means that… who sits? Four outfielder rotation?

      I love that the Cubs have “no money.” So much for new ownership putting the money back on the field. eh?

      Hard to see the Cubs moving Castro to the outfield – for one, there isn’t likely to be a spot for him for years, and for another, his bat is not likely to support an outfield position.

      • ed

        It seems like Fuk does well with lots of rest and Colvin is so versatile that a 4 outfielder rotation would work until Jackson shows up. Of course Byrd would make great trade bait if he has another good start to the year, being that he is a proven vet and has a fair contract.

  • art

    Ace, if/when Lee is ready I think Castro will move to 2B. as for whom sits, depends on how Colvin and Jackson play. Colvin has yet to prove he can hit everyday ML pitching, and Jackson may not be ready in April. kinda like they did to Castro last year. I hope he has a hot spring and starts from day 1. and I hope Colvin hits at least 260, in time he’ll get better.

    Ricketts is the one who wants these kids to play, wjich is ok with me.

    so when they both prove they are everyday players, I assume cause of Soriano’s contract, Byrd would sit. may even platoon with Soriano.

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