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The General Manager meetings are underway in Orlando, and Chicago Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry is already hard at work. His primary focus is first base, where he’ll consider a bevy of free agent options, as well as a (hopefully) active trade market.

There are options. Among the free agents on the market are Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche, Lyle Overbay, Lance Berkman, Paul Konerko, Carlos Pena and Aubrey Huff. And they’re all a little different.

“Obviously, somebody who plays first base at this level has to be able to swing the bat,” Hendry said. “You have a combination of guys who are real good hitters, and some guys are good hitters and better defenders. Some guys are real good hitters and maybe not as good defenders.

“The more [options] the better because if you look at it, it’s probably a position where there’s enough people available to go with the teams that need someone at that position,” he said. “That always factors into it too, supply and demand. There are a lot of clubs who have real good first basemen and I’m sure there are three or four others like us looking for one.”

Hendry also is talking to teams about matchups for possible trades, saying there has been more conversations about that than in years past.

“Usually at this time of year, people are trying to get out of the gate and sign that quick free agent,” he said. “I thought a lot of guys were interested in seeing if there were matchups on trades right away, which I think would be good for us. To get better, we’re going to have to make a trade or two and hopefully do well with that. I was encouraged by that kind of dialogue [Monday].” cubs.com.

Hendry’s final quote suggests (thankfully) that the Cubs are going to be patient this winter at first base, rather than doing what they’ve done in the past – that is, set the market with a quick and early signing.

Given the depth of the free agent market at first base, particularly in the middle tier, the Cubs would clearly be best off waiting things out, and settling on whoever’s left after the turn of the year. That also buys the Cubs some time to continue doing diligence on Adrian Gonzalez. If the trade never happens, the Cubs can sign a guy on a cheap one-year deal, resign themselves to hoping for the best, and then come out both barrels blazing in free agency next year.

As a side-note: why is Derrek Lee’s name never mentioned? He’s a free agent who’s likely to come cheaply. Is it because of the thumb surgery (he’s supposed to be ready in time for Spring Training)? Is it because the Cubs traded him away? Is it because his production fell off? It seems strange that he’s not even mentioned as a possibility.

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