Though the offseason may be advancing into its later stages, there is still plenty to discuss on the Chicago Cubs’ front. ESPN’s Bruce Levine held a chat this afternoon to discuss the latest rumors, and the direction of the franchise. Among the highlights:
- Though he hasn’t come too frequently in trade rumors, Marlon Byrd is still likely to be traded at some point, says Bruce. It probably won’t happen until after the Cubs sign Coco Crisp or trade “for a young CF from the Blue Jays” (I believe Bruce is speaking generically here, using the Blue Jays to illustrate a point – but more on that in a couple bullets). Interesting to note: Bruce’s response assumes either that Alfonso Soriano will not be dealt or that Brett Jackson will definitely break camp with the big club, because David DeJesus is the only other set starting outfielder, outside of Byrd and Soriano. That is to say, dealing Byrd wouldn’t be contingent on another move if Jackson was going to start with the big club, and signing Coco Crisp wouldn’t signal a Byrd trade if the Cubs were going to trade Soriano.
- Bruce believes the Cubs are still regularly discussing Prince Fielder with Scott Boras, and even cites a source who tells him that some of those discussions have been “intense.” But, ultimately, Bruce guesses Fielder ends up with the Dodgers. If that were to happen, you have to wonder if the Cubs would go trolling to pick up the James Loney scraps.
- In talks with the Blue Jays, the Cubs are targeting a number of young players in a possible trade for Matt Garza: pitchers Kyle Drabek and Deck McGwire, and outfielders Jake Marisnick and Anthony Gose. Brett Lawrie will never enter the discussions. Sorry.
- Bruce, as I do, sees Geovany Soto as trade bait. He’s coming off a down year, but even Soto’s down offensive year still puts him in the upper half of offensive catchers (and he’s at least average defensively). Given his relatively low contract cost, age (28), and his ability to produce offensively (at least in alternating years, apparently), Soto has a fair bit of value. Because he’s under contract for two more years, the Cubs can afford to see what they have in Welington Castillo at AAA before making a move on Soto, perhaps mid-year.
- Carlos Marmol is someone the Cubs would consider trading, which, like, duh.
- Bruce is uncertain of the Cubs’ ability to land Anthony Rizzo in a trade from the Padres, whom Levine says are looking for pitching. I’m not sure I agree on that- the Padres, I’m told, would prefer to acquire middle infielders, above all else. Even if the Padres were insistent on pitching, I strongly suspect that, in all of their Matt Garza trade talks with teams other than the Padres, the Cubs are at least checking in with the Padres with respect to the prospects being discussed.
- The Cubs will be in on both Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler, as I said this morning. Bruce sees Cespedes getting $45 to $55 million, presumably over six years (though Bruce doesn’t say).
- Darwin Barney is likely to remain the Cubs’ starting second baseman this year, because no better option has surfaced. I’ve made no secret of my opinion on Barney – great, inexpensive utility option, but not a starter on a team with playoff aspirations – but since the playoffs in 2012 seem like a distant dream, I’m fine with Barney keeping the job in the very near term. I’ll even be pulling hard for a shocking break-out season.
- Bryan LaHair has a chance to be the Cubs’ starting first baseman in 2012 … if the Cubs whiff on all their other options.