Improving this roster?
A majority of what I write is often centered on how the cubs' roster could be managed more actively or aggressively, but I will be the first to admit that a good amount of the trades I throw out there are either overzealous or borderline ludicrous. I enjoy looking at different ways the team can improve, but I will make a concerted effort to dial it down a touch by only offering up the more sensible ideas that roll through my brain from now on.
Improving the cubs roster at this point is no easy task. There are few openings on the 25 man roster, players are still in the mix who are out-of-options, and payroll is inching towards its limit.
However, I see one additional move that could be made to improve this roster. Its a move that is sensible and realistic, but its one that is also a sure-fire way to improve the teams' roster heading into the 2009 season. The move I am suggesting is that the cubs consider adding a solid catcher to the roster to backup GeoSoto, one that is perhaps capable of contibuting more to the team than Paul Bako.
No team in baseball can avoid carrying a backup catcher on their 25 man roster, so it should be viewed as a viable role on any team. Geovany Soto started 133 games behind the plate in 2008 for the cubs, where most would argue that he could have used more time off than what he got to remain healthy throughout the entire season. So the cubs' backup catcher should be prepared to start roughly 30-45 games this season, which is approximately one quarter of the season. So my suggestion is basically to sign the best catcher they can to man the position, even if its someone that wouldn't necessarily be viewed as a backup. By finding a better backup I think it gives the team the confidence to use that player more often thus providing Geo with more regular rest. Soto had an amazing rookie campaign taking home ROY honors, but he had flashes of playing MVP-caliber baseball. Those MVP flashes of Soto will only be seen when he is healthy, and bringing in a solid backup would only help promote keeping Soto healthy. An idea such as this could even facilitate Soto working his way onto the field defensively at 1st or 3rd base to give Aramis or D-Lee rest while also giving Geo the day off behind the plate. Last season Soto's lowest batting average and lowest number of games played by month were each seen in the final month, where having a better backup could help to keep him healthy and fresh down the stretch.
There are 2 names that I will mention as options to fill this role; Ivan Rodriguez & Javier Valentin. Rodriguez would be the first choice, but also the hardest to acquire. Pudge would likely require the most cash, have the biggest issue with playing time, and come with the most competition to acquire his services. But if those issues can be resolved, then Pudge is well worth consideration for a spot on the cubs' roster. He brings leadership, WS experience, a solid bat, and above average defense; while this opportunity could potentially be welcomed by Pudge at this stage in his career. Javier Valentin is the man I would consider second. Valentin provides a veteran presence along with being a solid switch-hitter, and he also would come at a much lower cost than Pudge. The addition of either guy wouldn't be the most talked about move of the offseason, but it would be one that could greatly improve the health and performance of Chicago's biggest rising star - Geovany Soto.