I originally started this for a website I was going to write for, but have since changed my mind and decided to post it here. It hasn't been edited or fact checked, and there may be multiple spelling and grammatical errors. You have been warned.
I've not been shy about my man-crush on Masa Tanaka, while others are quick to drool over Robinson Cano, Jacoby Elsbury, or even Shin Soo Choo. The market may crush our dreams and force the Cubs to look to cheaper alternatives to fill the roster. This may be the more prudent strategy(one that many here have advocated, even during the rebuild). The Red Sox proved it could work, and I expect the rest of the league's teams that are capable, to follow suit. Short years, higher AAV, and more incentive laden deals are becoming more popular, and could be the norm this offseason. Here is a list of guys I think could fit the Cubs needs in this regard.
Curtis Granderson NYY Granderson will be 33 next year and may receive a QO from the Yankees, so he might not even be available. He is from Chicago, went to school at UIC, and has expressed past interest in coming to play in Chicago. If he can be signed on a 2-3 year deal for under 15 million per, he could be the middle of the order bat the Cubs have been lacking since Soriano departed. The likelihood is low, but I think he would be a huge addition the Cubs. He brings leadership, experience, and pop. I think his defense could become a plus if he moves to LF.
Jason Vargas LAA Former 2nd round pick who has become an innings eater. Aside from a blod clot this past year, and minor surgery to remove bone spurs early in his career, he has been healthy. A groundball pitcher who logs lots of innings and doesn't walk a ton of batters. He could get 3-4 years for as much as 8-10 million per, which would be a value if he improves at all moving to the NL if he remains healthy and pitches to his previous levels
Jesse Crain TB Crain is an interesting guy who I have been reading about as a potential closer option. As a middle reliever he is likely to be overpriced, but could bring value when considering his role versatility and that he is returning from an arm injury. He has a very good K rate which has only gotten better since he stopped overusing his slider. I think he would be a great option for the Cubs to consider as their closer.
Edward Mujica StL Mujica dropped off the map after being one of the top closers in baseball for much of the year. Turns out he had arm fatigue and a few injuries, but was a gamer and stuck it out to try and help the Cards. Bad for both of them, possibly good news for the Cubs. If he can return to form under a discounted or incentive laden contract, Mujica could be music to Cubs fans ears who have been looking for a consistent closer for as long as I can remember.
Joe Smith Indians After they cut Chris Perez, I see the Indians going all out to try and retain Smith, but he is such a tantalizing option that I had to include him. Sidearm guys are getting more and more rare and Smith has some of the best stuff among them. Depending on what they decide to do with Pestano and others, Smith could get a look at closer, with Cleveland or elsewhere.
Brian Wilson LAD I want to preface this by saying that I am not a fan of Brian Wilson and his behavior off the field, but that has nothing to do with how he pitches. He looked full recovered with the Dodgers at the end of the year, and looked very good in the playoffs. He could easily claim a closer role somewhere if he decides to leave LA, and the Cubs could be in play if they spend on the bullpen.
Roy Halladay Phi What a fall from grace it has been for Philly and Roy Halladay has been the perfect example of that downfall. Age, injury, and ineffectiveness have caught up with the former ace. Whether he can recover remains to be seen, but he will be available after Philly refuses to pick up his 20 million dollar option. He could be a nice gamble on an incentive laden contract. It's likely that Philly gives him that deal, but the Cubs will technically have a shot at him if the want him.
Kurt Suzuki Oak All of the noise about Saltalamacchia and McCann gives me pause because I thought Castillo had a good season and improved dramatically behind the plate. I would much rather see the Cubs get a solid backup if Navarro cashes in elsewhere. Suzuki seemed to have returned to form back in Oakland after a dismal run in Washington. He has a good arm, and is above average with his defense and game calling. He also has a good batting eye and has been a patient hitter. I would love to see the Cubs add him.
Mark Ellis LAD But, but, but, Darwin Barney, gold glove. Barney was awful at the plate last year and with the rest of the lineup being what it is, the Cubs can't afford to have awful production from 2nd base again next year. Ellis is a solid defender and healthy improvement over Barney at the plate. He could also fill in at first and third and as a righty bench bat/fill in, and he won't cost a lot. The Dodgers thought 5 million was too much, if the Cubs could land him for less, I think he provides plus value.
Brian Roberts Bal
Grady Sizemore FA
Colby Lewis Tex All three are injury prone, which may be a large understatement. Roberts is probably a non-starter since Showalter likes him so much, but he could be a nice gamble pickup, plus Obsessive Brian Roberts watch. Sizemore has big time potential, but can't stay healthy. Lewis is a proven postseason performer that Texas is likely to retain.
Kevin Slowey Fla He has had some rough patches, but he could be the Cubs perfect buy low candidate of the offseason. His advanced numbers are pretty good, and his pitching style plays well in Wrigley. He doesn't walk very many people, which I really like, and he would probably come very cheap. Possibly a Scott Feldman type deal. I would prefer him to the rumored interest in Bronson Arroyo.
Boone Logan NYY
Eric O'Flaherty Atl Both are outstanding lefty relievers. O'Flaherty may have pitched his arm off in Atlanta, and might not be healthy enough to make a meaningful contribution next year. He is only 29 though, and has been outstanding for a few years now. Logan is healthy, and pitches for the suddenly "cash strapped" Yankees. If they are truly cutting salary, Logan could be signed away. If the dollars don't go to high, he could shift Russell back to his most effective role in the bullpen.
Others that I like, but don't want to write about: Omar Infante, 2b; Brennan Boesch, OF; AJ Peirzynski C (blech); Casey McGehee 3b/1b; Jhonny Peralta SS/LF?; David Murphy LF; Jeff Karstens SP; James McDonald SP
Nothing flashy, and no video game trades, but I think adding a few of the right guys off of this list could push the Cubs to playoff contention, or at least make them entertaining enough to keep us happy until the kids start invading Wrigley.