We know there’s a ton of work left to be done with the Cubs rebuild, and we know it all can’t be accomplished in one offseason.
The first phase of the rebuild draws to a close in roughly one month, which has included everything from Team Theo reshaping the club through player trades, waiver-wire moves and a revamping of the front office.
The main goal for next season, of course, is beginning Phase 2 of the process, which starts, first and foremost, with fielding a more competitive team–and by competitive I mean a team void of 90 or more losses.
The Cubs have four areas of critical need entering the offseason: 1.) A quality fourth starter. 2.) Quality bullpen arms. 3.) A third baseman 4.) A center fielder.
THE FOURTH STARTER
I’m assuming Matt Garza will remain a Cub through the offseason and return as the staff Ace. Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood follow Garza with a combination of Brooks Raley and Chris Rusin, among others, as the fifth starters.
Justin Germano would suffice, but is far from a lock, and notice I didn’t mention the return of winless Chris Volstad. Lord help us if that happens.
Speculation is the Cubs will target a mid-range starter the likes of a Paul Maholm–a younger, more affordable veteran with a big league track record. If the Cubs can find, and sign, a guy like a Maholm, that’s actually not a terrible rotation.
All indications are Carlos Marmol will be back as the team’s closer. James Russell is a lock, and I’d count on Manny Corpas being invited back as well. Shawn Camp would also be ideal, but he’s likely to field better offers from more competitive clubs this winter.
Aside from these three, however, that’s a sizable hole to fill in the bullpen, one I speculate will be filled with more project-players and retreads (ie: Corpas & Camp) to go along with the unknowns of Jeff Beliveau, Lendy Castillo, Rafael Dolis, Michael Bowden, Alex Hinshaw, Scott Maine, Marcos Mateo, Blake Parker, Arodys Vizcaino, Alberta Cabrera and Casey Coleman. (SMH).
CENTER FIELD & THIRD BASE
The more we watch Brett Jackson and Josh Vitter the more clear it becomes both are still green in their development. Unless something clicks for either in the final 38-games, I wouldn’t be surprised if both started 2013 back in Iowa.
Outfielders are always easy to come by in the offseason, and with Wrigley playing as such a small center field the right option shouldn’t be hard to find–at least defensively. Finding a productive bat is the difficulty.
Third base is more precarious. If we assume Vitters isn’t ready for the start of next season, incumbent Ian Stewart may still remain one option. Guys like Super Joe Mather and Luis Valbuena are nice fill-in players, but neither should be counted on as full-time starters. And it’s worth noting the free agent crop at third base is thin at best.
If you’re like me you probably just let-go a huge sigh, leaned back in your chair and put your hands behind your head. But, I guess we should at least be thankful the first phase is nearly out of the way.
There’s still plenty of pain and suffering to endure, and that’s not including the final month of the regular season. Here’s to looking forward to Phase 3.