We’re not but a few days into the offseason – not even the REAL offseason when transactions can actually take place – and the Lukewarm Stove is already blazing. I’d apologize for the length, but, I mean, longer Lukewarm Stove is better than shorter, no?

  • Although Alfonso Soriano has received the bulk of the early offseason trade attention, there is another big-contract-having, good-season-having, possibly-value-having player the Cubs could be shopping this Winter: Carlos Marmol. The 29-year-old closer would seem a luxury in 2013 for a team like the Cubs, and Marmol is under contract only through that season – at a steep $9.8 million clip. Like Soriano, Marmol did his best to reclaim whatever value he’d lost in recent years, putting together a solid 3.42 ERA (115 ERA+) in 2012, striking out a healthy 11.7 per 9 (though walking an obscene 7.3). Since returning from a hamstring injury in late May with a directive to use his fastball more, Marmol’s numbers were downright Marmolian: 2.66 ERA in 44 innings, 60 strikeouts, 31 hits, 29 BB. He looked good. So, can the Cubs expect to net anything worthwhile? Eh. Not if they don’t eat almost all of the dollars on his deal. Even accepting his return to form, Marmol is still riding a streak of unpredictability – something no team deems attractive in a prospective closer. And if Marmol becomes a setup man on a playoff team, his value is reduced further. I wouldn’t expect more than a decent (think top 20ish) prospect and some salary relief for Marmol, or possibly a young, flawed, cost-controlled starting pitcher with some upside (think Chris Volstad).
  • Patrick Mooney digs into the Marmol situation a bit more. We’ll be hearing plenty about him this offseason.
  • Luis Valbuena for starting third baseman next year? Dale Sveum says he can see it. “I see him on the team,” Sveum said, per Carrie Muskat. “He’s definitely a quality guy, a left-handed quality utility player who can hit the ball out of the ballpark, give you quality at-bats all the time, catch the ball where he’s at. If we don’t sign somebody, you could definitely see him [at third on Opening Day]. He’s done a heck of a job.” Is it just me, or does that “if we don’t sign somebody” read like “holy sweet baby Jesus, sign SOMEBODY, Theo and Jed.” The Cubs do have an odd affection for Valbuena, who hit .219/.310/.340 in 303 plate appearances, and played decent, unspectacular defense at third base (UZR/150 says he was pretty good). His BABIP was just .260, which was definitely on the low end for his career in the bigs and minors (he’s vaccilated wilds between the .260 range and the .350 range, rarely settling in the middle). If that number is closer to .300, he hits closer to .260/.350/.400, and you start to see some value there, especially considering his negligible cost. But given the Cubs’ lack of upgradable options on the field, do they really want to settle for “some value” rather than “good”? But but, what other 3B options are out there this Winter? You can’t really predict trades (at least not yet), and the 3B free agent market reads “Kevin Youkilis, bunch of crap.” Maybe the Cubs were looking ahead when they mysteriously played Valbuena with extreme frequency in the second half. Maybe they knew he was going to be the best option in a pile of crummy options.

  • Upon the expectation that Brett Jackson will begin 2013 in the minors, and the possibility that Alfonso Soriano will be dealt (to say nothing of the possibility of David DeJesus being dealt), one of the focuses this offseason will undoubtedly be the outfield. To that end, one possible avenue could have the Cubs looking at the Diamondbacks’ crowded outfield picture. They’ve got Justin Upton, Chris Young, Jason Kubel, and Gerardo Parra there all as capable starters, plus A.J. Pollack and Adam Eaton as young up-and-comers looking for a shot. Upton is expected to be shopped, but he’s probably not on the Cubs’ radar given the expected cost. Parra would be a nice addition, offering excellent defense, offensive upside (he’s coming off a down year), and cost-control. The Diamondbacks might look to dump Young after another disappointing season and an ugly contract (it pays him $8.5 million in 2013, and comes with an $11 million team option in 2014 with a $1.5 million buyout), which could make him an interesting flip target for the Cubs, depending on the price. It’s fair to note that Assistant GM Shiraz Rehman and Director of Pro Scouting Joe Bohringer came over to the Cubs from the Diamondbacks, so there may be some extra insight there.
  • Bruce Levine chatted this week, and, although there isn’t much new, he does mention a name we heard about ever so briefly mid-season: Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall. The youngster just turned 24, but hasn’t yet shown a great deal at the big league level in a couple of chances. He was a big-time prospect before last year, though, and projects to have a decent bat and a good glove. It’s hard to imagine that the Indians have already given up on him, especially because of the presence of vet Jack Hannahan. The Indians are a rebuilding club, which should make Chisenhall as attractive to them as he is to the Cubs. Maybe they’d prefer a couple younger, high upside pieces? I doubt this goes anywhere, but you can be assured that the Cubs will be exploring the market for players like Chisenhall all offseason.
  • Also: Bruce thinks the Cubs would take a shot at acquiring Justin Upton. Maybe. Of course, they’d have to wet Upton’s beak – the Cubs are one of four teams on his no-trade list.

  • Bryan LaHair believes it’s 50/50 that he returns to the Cubs or is traded next year. It sounds like he’s hopeful that there’s a team out there that would still view him as a nice, cheap starter next year. I’m just not sure his post-May numbers can be ignored.
  • It sounds like the A’s are going to try and re-sign Brandon McCarthy, who, before he was struck by a line drive in the head, was shaping up to be one of the more interesting possible Cubs targets in the offseason. Now that his future is uncertain (although, he’d had other health troubles that always cast a shadow over his effectiveness and his free agent value), it’s fair to wonder if he’ll want to sign a one-year “prove it” deal with the A’s, since that’s where he’s grown comfortable. Of course, the A’s have developed quite the young rotation in McCarthy’s absence.

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