With free agency opening up and teams around Major League Baseball making option decisions, there have been a number of tidbits that tangentially touch on the Chicago Cubs…

  • The Yankees locked up CC Sabathia by adding another year and $30 million to his already ample contract ($25 million in 2016 and a vesting option for 2017 with a $5 million buy-out). There was little doubt that Sabathia, who was afforded the opportunity to opt out of his contract this weekend, was just angling for more dough from the Yankees. Still, he’s theoretically an arm off the market – a market in which the Cubs could have been active.
  • Speaking of pitchers, the Pirates declined a $9.75 million option on lefty Paul Maholm, who was effective last year (3.66 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) after a disappointing 2010, but whose season ended on the DL with a shoulder strain. There are fears that he may not be able to come back as the same player next year, but, if the Cubs are willing to take a chance, Maholm is a guy they could look at.
  • Jose Reyes is a free agent, and is not expected to be re-signed by the Mets until other teams make their offers. The 28-year-old shortstop is looking for a deal ranging from four years and $50 million up to six years and $100 million. For my part, anything in that range is unappetizing. Reyes battled repeat hamstring issues last year – a contract year in which he put together the best season of his career – and saw his speed decline alarmingly when he came back from those issues. An overrated defensive shortstop, Reyes could theoretically join the Cubs and push Starlin Castro to second or third base. Maybe his bunt-single-pull-me-from-the-game shenanigans on the last day of the season (to ensure himself the batting title) is sticking in my craw, but Reyes is simply not a player in whom I’m interested – unless he wants to shock the world and take a reasonable two or three-year deal.
  • The Indians and Braves set the market on how much you can expect to save when dumping an old, ineffective, overpriced player on another team. Namely, the Braves got 33 cents on the dollar for dumping 38-year-old Derek Lowe on the Indians (Braves are paying $10 million of his $15 million 2012 salary, and receive a marginal, 23-year-old High A-ball prospect). It’s hard to compare across players, but it’s certainly not bad news for the Cubs, who are looking to dump both Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano.
  • The Indians also made a couple of options decisions of possible relevance to the Cubs. First, they picked up pitcher Fausto Carmona’s $7 million option for 2012, instead of paying him what he’d earn in arbitration. The Cubs had interest in Carmona last year before opting for Matt Garza, but that was under the Jim Hendry regime. Whether Epstein/Hoyer would consider making a move for the now reasonably-priced Carmona (and whether the Indians would consider moving him) remains to be seen.
  • The other possibly relevant decision – the Indians passed on ultra-talented, oft-injured outfielder Grady Sizemore. He’s 29, and will probably land with a team on a cheap, one-year deal, hoping to re-prove himself. Depending on what happens with the Cubs’ current outfield makeup, Sizemore could be just the kind of player the new Cubs’ brass would like to take a chance on. Consider this, if the Cubs get him on a one-year, $4 million deal, and he blows up, the Cubs can offer him arbitration after the season and pick up a couple draft picks for their trouble – all without “clogging” the outfield for the future. The only problem? Sizemore has played only 104 (crappy) games in the last two years.
  • CubFan Paul

    i’ve missed the Lukewarm Stove pieces

    a Right Field platoon of Sizemore & Reed Johnson would be sweet; B.Jax in Center; & Marlon Byrd in Left would be more than competitive

    • JulioZuleta

      It is never good to go into a season planning on platooning guys. Reed Johnson is one of my favorite players, and he caught lightening in a bottle this year, but he is not a major league regular. Also, that’s not much power coming out of right (a power position). Cosider an outfield of that platoon, Jackson and Byrd, along with a powerless infield. I know it’s going to be a long year, but still, there might not be a guy that hits 20 homers on the team.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Planned platoons seem to be something that sounds excellent on paper, but never seems to work out in practice. Not sure why.

  • Cliffy

    WEEI has spent past 20 minutes weighing the pro’s and con’s of Red Sox signing Grady Sizemore. They seem to conclude he would be a good fit for the right price.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      For me, I just couldn’t see guaranteeing him more than $4 million. The injury concerns are huge, and the lack of production of the last two years are ample, as well. I’d love for the Cubs to take a cheap shot on him, though.

      • Frat Rat

        Brett, I’d argue to pay even less but throw in heavy incentives. The guy turns 30 (think 35 with current drug testing) this year and hasn’t played more than 106 games since ’08…………..

    • Kyle

      I think I’ve heard fans of half-a-dozen teams eyeing Sizemore now. Players who were good relatively recently but bad even more recently are really in fashion right now.

  • luke

    i like sizemore to play left or center. what do you think about trading for David Wright? i would the Cubs to pick up Aaron Hill also to play 2nd. i think this would be a great opening day line up.
    1.castro s/s 2.Hill 2nd 3.Fielder 1st 4.Wright 3rd 5.Lahair RF 6. Jackson CF 7. Sizemore LF 8. Soto c.
    What do you think Brett? could this happen?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Can’t see the Cubs adding both Wright and Fielder in the same off-season – that’s a lot of money for a team with a rough pitching staff. And Wright would cost prospects the Cubs probably don’t want to give up for a one-year player. Also, I don’t think folks believe LaHair can play RF.

      • EQ76

        That lineup seems to contradict what the new regime is aiming to do.. hard to imagine taking that many risks, especially on often injured guys..

        I say go after Fielder or Pujols and offer a reasonable deal (not 10 years), make Sizemore an incentive heavy, reasonable contract, and go after a guy like Maholm, solid 4 or 5 guy who can eat innings and keep you in the game..

        a few more good moves here and there and we could be good to go.

  • Ian Afterbirth

    Sabathia may be an arm off the market, but it’s also an arm that the Yankees won’t be competing with us to replace. Let ’em pay him big bucks and leave the good deals to us.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Very good point.

  • ACS

    Prince hitter 5 years 150 mil our new 1b.
    sorry at 2b
    Barney at short
    Castro at third
    Campana in left
    Jackson in center
    Lahair in right
    pudge at catcher
    Koyie hill
    Reed johnson
    Grady sizemore or less
    Arron hill

  • TC

    I know he is (rather inexplicably) a Type A FA, but would there be any chance that the Cubs go after Kelly Johnson as a long term replacement at 2B? Lemahieu is still a ways away, and Barney is just league average, and we’d have a lefty power bat at second, which would be nice.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      30 next year, decent bat, decent glove. I think he’s going to get a longer contract than the Cubs will be willing to give. He’d certainly be an upgrade, though.

    • Kyle

      I like Johnson, but I think we have too many gaping holes to be spending money and losing draft picks to upgrade 2b, which could also be the only position on the infield where we have above-average defense next year.

  • Cubbie Blue

    Brett, ever since Aramis has decided to go into free agent market, I have heard and seen Numerous David Wright rumors saying “Would Epstein pursue Wright”. I have also seen in a article on ESPN by someone (forgot his name) but he’s in the boston globe saying the Cubs will make a serious run for David Wright? would you like to see the Cubs pursue him, now that ARAM is gone?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’m not finding that David Wright article. Most Cubs-Wright rumors at this point are not sourced, they’re simply a “hey, the Cubs just lost Aramis Ramirez, and hey, the Mets might shop David Wright” kind of connection.

  • nonesuch

    I like considering moving Castro to 3rd. I have doubts as to whether he’ll ever be a good defensive SS. I know he’s young, but a team’s strength depends on good defense up the middle and I’m not getting warm fuzzies @Castro playing like Shawon Dunston defense for the next several years. I think he’s got the athleticism and arm to move to 3rd, can he be a power bat? He may end up being a 3 hole hitter, anyway. That way the Cubs can develop, sign or trade for a true defensive SS. Not saying Reyes is answer, probably not.

    • Kyle

      It’s way, way, way too early to give up on Castro at SS. He’s going to turn 22 next season. He’s got the tools, but he made too many errors (29 this year). But that’s completely normal for a 21-year-old SS.

      Ozzie Smith at 21 was still in college and at 22 made 28 errors in 63 games in A-ball.
      Derek Jeter at 21 made 29 errors at AAA.
      Heck, at 21, even Ryne Sandberg made 15 errors at AAA in 117 games.

      The error totals are likely to come down as he gets older. If they don’t, then you think about moving him to 3b. But that’s something you do at 25, not 22.

      • nonesuch

        I’ll concede it’s too early, on the other hand, while he takes his lumps -the team suffers from his defense. Before HJ Lee was traded for Garza I thought the move should be considered (knowing Aram wasn’t for long). but Furcal or Reyes or another option may be out there. Question: is the future upside of Castro at SS worth the considerable growing pains for the present? I’m not so sure…

        • Kyle

          Yes. Especially considering the difference between your average replacement 3b bat and your average replacement SS bat.

          His bat more than makes up for his defense already, so you can easily deal with the growing pains.

          • Jim

            Agree with Kyle on this. Plus Theo has already commented (sorry can’t find the article or bullet) that he wants to work with Castro and if he can improve his defense, he is more valuable at SS because of his bat. Theo also mentioned the growing pains of Jeter and how Castro is younger at similar points in their ML career.

            You also have to consider that Baez may be moved to third at some point. Though he is far from the majors at this time, Castro will still be young when Baez is ready.

        • Jason

          Yes – don’t move Castro from SS – teach him how to play there and in 20 years, we’ll be watching his HOF induction speech.

          Despite his defensive woes, he was still the third best player on our team. He is helping us much more than he is hurting us.

          • hardtop

            who were number one and two? in my mind he was far and away our best player? he has sick range, especially when he’s paying attention: a good manager and a couple years and he’ll be better than average.

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      Castro’s defensive problem is not his range or ability to field the SS position, his problem has always been his throws, and yet many people keep saying move him to 3B.  Why?  Castro’s range is one of the reason he should be kept at SS, he regularly was able to get to ground balls that most SS were unable to reach, BUT he would then try to rush/force an throw to 1B that would result in an error.  When he learns when to throw and when to just hold the ball and especially when he needs to rush a throw vs. take his time (like when a catcher is running vs. a Campana brother).  Moving him to 3B will only impede his progress.

      • Jeff

        The reason that people say that is the same reason that they insist that Campana is the next Rickey Henderson.  They don’t think things through and just rehash whatever thoughts other knee jerk fans say.  You laid out the exact reasons that Castro shouldn’t be moved, but people will still ignore it and say he should play third.   Just a side note; Rey Ordonez was terrible his first couple of years and turned out to be one of the best defensive shortstops around, there is time for Castro.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        That’s all true – but folks are assuming Castro is going to get bigger and bulkier as he ages, thus reducing his range. And the throws from 3rd are a lot easier.

        • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

          If and when he bulks up and gets older then that move makes sense (see Cal Ripken) but for now he needs time to develop as a SS (he has had more time in majors than the minors)

  • cubsklm

    They are going to have try some of these inexpensive deals as short term fixes until the farm is rebuilt. Try to catch some lightning in a bottle.

    I like the Sizemore idea, I like Beltran if we can get him cheap. I like Hill or Johnson at 2b, because they provide some punch.

    The 2012 roster could need as much as a 1B, 3B, SP, and we can’t go into 2012 with the same weak hitting OFs. Plus no legit lead off hitter, 3 4 5 hitter, or team speed.

    That’s why I think Epstein, Hoyer came. The challenge.

    • hansman1982

      I dont think you would want to move Castro to third just yet. his abysmal defense comes from the errors that are caused by his tremendous range, balls that Theriot or Barney probably would be watching go into the outfield. As he matures those errors are going to decrease slightly and it will be nice having him at SS where his bat will be special.

      • JulioZuleta

        When Derek Jeter was 20*, he made 56* errors in single A in 126 games.

  • CDM

    Jon Greenberg just called The Cubs “the most loveable losers”
    AND HEY! the Cubs probabiltiy to win the WS next year is 25-1!:D

  • die hard


    Garza, Buerhle, Dempster, Wells, Coleman, – Starters
    Cashner, Marshall, Russell, Smardzjia, Carpenter, Maine- Relievers

    Package Zambrano and Marmol for prospects
    Retire Wood and Johnson

    • TWC

      die hard, what the hell happened to you?  That lineup is positively … sane.

      • Bails17

        Right!  This is crazy!!  I would keep Wood however, if he wants to come back…for 1.5 mil….he is a great PR guy.

    • Dave H

      Holy crap that might actually work plus gives you the prospects + draft picks from Aram and pena. Maybe even get draft picks in the Z and Marmol deal.

  • Edward Buchanan

    The Cubs need to be very conservative this offseason. The whole reason we suck so bad is because Hendry valued over the hill vets much more than his own prospects. Why can’t we just re-build for a couple years and stock up on prospects? We won’t be relevant until we can build around a couple of core players we develop from our own system. Starlin Castro is a great start, we just need a couple more. Thankfully, Theo seems to understand this, I expect we will have no part of the Pujols / Fielder sweepstakes.

    • Kyle

      There’s a lot of reasons we sucked, but signing FAs wasn’t a big one.

      How does signing an FA (unless that FA involves draft pick compensation, which is a fair point) stop the Cubs from developing prospects?

      As Epstein keeps saying, it’s not an either/or. The major-league club and the farm system work on “parallel fronts,” as he brilliantly put it. We can do *both*.

      From 2002 through 2006, the Cubs’ first round picks were Bobbie Brownlie, Ryan Harvey, (given away to sign LaTroy Hawkins), Mark Pawelek and Tyler Colvin. The best later-round picks have been Sean Marshall (a useful reliever) and Randy Wells (a back-of-the-rotation starter).

      That’s five full years of completely wasted drafts. No organization can overcome that, and that’s what Epstein was brought in to fix.

      In that same five-year period, the Red Sox drafted Jon Lester, Ricky Romero, Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, Ellsbury, Buchholz and Justin Masterson (and I skipped about half-a-dozen other guys who have not been stars at the MLB level but still have contributed more than Tyler Colvin).

      Free agency will always have a place in building a baseball team, and the Cubs don’t need to voluntarily disarm themselves in that area just because Jim Hendry sucked at it. The reason the Cubs have been so bad isn’t because of free agency, it’s because they were absolutely abysmal at drafting and development.

  • necusfan

    I love the lukewarm stove, but could we have a new stove picture this season? That stove is almost identical to one that almost killed me. After closing The Mark II on Western Ave in 1999, I went home and “fell asleep”, only to be woken up by the fire alarm.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yikes! That picture – or one like it (I’ve been looking for a good old timey stove picture where it’s obvious what it is) – will probably be used only for these MLB updates, as opposed to the directly Cubs specific stuff, which will probably have a picture of the relevant player(s).