The 2009 Free Agent Preview, Part 2 - Available Players of Interest
Jim Hendry has always surprised us. Whenever we'd think that he couldn't possibly make a trade to drastically improve the team, he'd step up and do it - and rarely for the player that had been on our radar. When Cubs fans were looting the car of Todd Hundley, Jim shipped him off to LA for Karros and Grudz. When Cubs fans were clamoring for Vinny Castilla, he grabbed Aramis Ramirez. When Cub fans were sure that the Cubs would lose Ramirez to free agency - twice - he brought him back. He shocked us with Soriano and awed us - at the time - with Fukudome.
The Cubs this off season have some very interesting needs. Directly, they need an improved bullpen. Last year's pen did the trick, but it was not a strength going into the playoffs. Additionally, although they led the NL in runs last year, I think most of us would agree that the Cubs offense was missing something in the NLDS. The short answer is that they were missing the ability to score runs. The long answer is that the team lacks that player who can pick them up when losing and deliver an Epic Home Run, or double, or even seeing-eye single.
In terms of how the Cubs can find that guy, maybe it'll be through a trade, maybe it'll be through free agency. There aren't a whole lot of talented hitters available. But as promised, we'll take a look at some of the free agents - or possible free agents - who might help the Cubs this year.
In short, the team arguably needs somebody in the middle IF, a RF, and MR's.
Second Basemen of Interest
Orlando Hudson - A one-time All Star, Hudson's biggest possible contribution to the Cubs would be his glove. Hudson has won the Gold Glove Award the past 3 seasons for Arizona. He also has a respectable bat, moderate base stealing skills, and a patient eye at the late. I could be completely wrong, but I'm betting he'll rake in $7 5 to 8 million a year next season.
Shortstops of Interest
Raffy Furcal - He was mostly injured this year, but he came back just in time to burn the Cubs. Furcal is a good shortstop who can also serve as a legitimate leadoff hitter. He's never won a Gold Glove, but I've yet to hear anything bad about his defensive skills. Although he was hurt most of the year, he could easily command $10 million + this off season.
Center/Right Fielders of Interest
Rocco Baldelli - Baldelli may wind up in Tampa again, and he's an interesting case regardless. He appears to be suffering from a muscle disease of some kind, although he is striving to overcome it. If Tampa lets Rocco go, he might be an interesting choice off the Scrap Heap Pile, assuming the Cubs don't really rely on him to do anything.
Adam Dunn - Don't let us fool you. Dunn is hardly a right fielder. He's mostly a defensively shoddy, strike-out prone super slugger. I'm not sure if Dunn would really help the Cubs, but he does hit a ton of homeruns. More to the point, he's batting .283 in his career at Wrigley Field with 23 homers in 217 at bats. If the Cubs are willing to pay what will likely be $12-$15 million for him, Dunn could bring some offensive force to the North Side.
Middle Relievers of Interest
Ok, this topic actually requires a preface. I have a personal theory that the Cubs should never, ever pursue a free agent middle reliever over the age of 33. I think that once a reliever hits that age range, it becomes incredibly difficult to determine if he'll still play at a competitive level. However, as Howry and Eyre showed us, it is possible to sign a reliever who's 32 or 33 and to get a few good years out of him.
Jeremy Affeldt - 30, LHP - Affeldt has strung together 2 good years in a row as a reliever, but his career numbers aren't great. What are good are his strikeout totals (80 in 78.1 IP last year) and a sub-2 ERA outside of Cincy. He will probably land a 2 or 3 year deal for 3 to 5 million a season.
Joe Beimel - 32, LHP - Beimel has had 3 very successful seasons as a major league lefty reliever, although some of that can probably be attributed to playing in LA. Beimel will probably net 3 to 5 million a season in any kind of contract.
Juan Cruz - 30, RHP - This former Cub was once valued by fans as much as Zambrano. Since then, the Cruz Stock has plummeted, and Carlos now walks around with a top hat and monocle. He has shown to be a reliable middle reliever, though, and he'd be fun to have back in Chicago if only for Carlos to have somebody to laugh at. I'd offer 2 years plus an option for $3 million a year.
Dennys Reyes - 32, LHP - His last 3 seasons have been good ones, although I'd consider him questionable. Actually, I just realized something. The vast majority of relievers are lefties. Maybe Hendry will go into one of his OCDish "must acquire [blank]" phases and sign them all. 2 years, 2.5 million per year.
Thoughts and analysis
If the Cubs are indeed expanding payroll this season, we have to take into consideration a few things. Like, for example, a return by Dempster means probably an extra 5 million taken away from the coffers, minimally. Chances are, Jim will have to make a few trades to clear roster space. If Dempster returns and makes 8-10 million in the first year of his deal, then Marquis must go. If the Cubs are going to pursue Hudson, Furcal, and Dunn, then they will probably need to trade DeRosa and Theriot - hopefully for some talented young middle relievers.
However, the point I made at the start of this is still valid - Jim Hendry tends to surprise us. I'm sure he will find a way to upgrade the team, and he'll probably make at least one major move. More to the point, he'll probably do it in a way that none are expecting. Like perhaps through a trade.
Tomorrow, we'll take a look at players who might get dealt. Here's a preview: one of 'em ain't Derrek Lee.