The Lukewarm Stove continues to take on a decidedly “offseason” flavor, as the Cubs plod toward the end of the 2012 season …

  • Dale Sveum was recently asked about his expectations for the offseason. Specifically, does he think the Cubs will be adding pitchers to the big league rotation? “Yeah on a realistic basis you’re looking at seeing who’s out there and then it could be more than that,” Sveum said, per Doug Padilla. “Whatever resources we have to spend sometimes and you go from there, but there is obviously some pieces that we have to put together and the more competition and the more you have the better off you’re going to be.” I doubt the Cubs add any big name type pitchers, but I similarly doubt – quite strongly, actually – that they’ll open 2013 without at least a new face or two in the rotation. But, if you read between Dale’s lines, when asked if he thinks his bosses will go after pitching in the offseason, he’s answering, “OMG YES MOAR PLEEZ KTHXBYE.”
  • Nick Cafardo thinks that teams who were considering Alfonso Soriano midseason this year really missed the boat by not getting a deal done. He cites a “talent evaluator” for that opinion, and suggests that Soriano could still be a quality middle-of-the-order bat for most teams, while playing adequate left field. That sound you’ve heard over the last month is the market for Soriano’s services this Winter expanding. The Cubs, should they wish to move Soriano for a prospect and a little bit of salary relief, will probably have options.

  • Doug Padilla talked Cubs this week, and among his thoughts: (1) The Cubs won’t bring in a veteran center fielder in the offseason to compete with Brett Jackson for the job in 2013 – in other words, while they might bring in a veteran 4th outfielder, the center field job is Jackson’s; (2) I like Doug, but I think he really flubbed a question about the types of free agent pitchers the Cubs will pursue this offseason (Doug says the Cubs will be looking for “guys who are young and about to break through,” which, like, so is every team ever; the Cubs, in free agency, will be looking for middle tier starter types who could rebound and provide trade value mid-season – I think Doug was thinking about trades, in which case, yeah); (3) Doug doesn’t expect ticket prices to drop in 2013 (which would, I think, be a pretty tough sell given the last two years and the expected 2013 team (I’m not saying the Cubs are doing the wrong thing rebuild-wise, but you have to be sensitive to the wallets of your fan base – there is a breaking point)); (4) 2014 is the probably the earliest we see the Cubs kicking the tires on “big name” free agents; (5) Doug sees the “dream” future infield as Anthony Rizzo at first, Javier Baez at second, Starlin Castro at short, and Junior Lake at third (Lake’s defense at third would have to be pretty awesome to justify that – I could just as easily see the Cubs dreaming about Christian Villanueva at third, or Baez there with someone like Roni Torreyes at second); (6) trading Soriano in the offseason is still a tall task given the artificial restrictions his no-trade rights place on the market (no team in the West save for the Dodgers, no rebuilding teams); and (7) Matt Garza likely starts 2013 with the Cubs.
  • Bruce Levine also chatted, and … (1) He thinks the Cubs could make Jeff Samardzija an extension offer this Winter, though no deal is likely given Samardzija’s three remaining arbitration years (I’d say the limited track record as a starter – albeit a good one – and the fact that he’s already got quite a bit of cash in his pocket are the bigger reasons you won’t yet see an extension); (2) Bruce spoke to three different scouts about Javier Baez, all of whom saw him as Major League ready within a year and a half (which I take to mean mid-2014), which is pretty awesome, given that he’ll be just 21 at that time; (3) All three scouts, by the way, see Baez as capable of handling shortstop in the big leagues; (4) Bruce suggests the Cubs try to get their big league players to participate in a 10-ish day minicamp before the holidays in the offseason (in the Dominican Republic, perhaps? Pretty nice facilities being built there … ) to work on things like pitch selection (yes!) and small ball philosophy (hmm); (5) Bruce agrees with Doug, and says he’d be shocked if Brett Jackson is not the Cubs’ starting center fielder on Opening Day 2013; and (6) Bruce reiterates that he gets the sense from the Cubs that they view Luis Valbuena as a potential future contributor (in the sense that they need to give him at bats now to continue developing him).
  • Ben Nicholson-Smith also did some chatting over at MLBTR, getting a jump on the offseason. No overt Cubs bits, or even obviously connectable Cubs bits, but it’s always interesting to survey the broader rumor landscape. Makes for a more informed offseason. His prediction for Josh Hamilton? Nine years, $215 million. Before you scream that he’ll never get that much, keep three things in mind: (1) Hamilton is easily the top free agent in a really weak class; (2) every year we think the biggest contract handed out is ridiculous, and yet it keeps happening – at some point, that stops being “ridiculous” and starts being “normal;” and (3) I think salaries are going to keep trending up in the wake of the new CBA and the rash of extensions. I think Hamilton tops out at eight years, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get eight years and $180 to $200 million, which is really insane if you think about it.

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