The Chicago Cubs are coming off a season their fans will never forget. During the regular season they were the only team to win over 100 games in 2016, as they finished with a 103-58 record. This was good for first place in the NL Central, as well as the one seed in the National League entering the playoffs. The Cubs would go on to run the gauntlet in the playoffs, winning the World Series to become the champions of baseball.
Now they enter the offseason with high hopes moving forward. The team is loaded with talent, and is set up for a solid run for years to come. They are also a team with few holes, and have already started to fill them. With center fielder Dexter Fowler a free agent, the team signed Jon Jay to a one year deal to platoon with Albert Almora Jr. in center field.
Now with the Winter Meetings nearly upon us, let’s take a closer look at where the Cubs stand moving forward.
Positions of Need
Closer/Bullpen: The team’s only true weakness comes in the form of their bullpen. During the World Series, it was clear Aroldis Chapman was the only reliever manager Joe Maddon had any faith in to get big outs. Now Chapman is a free agent. So not only is the team in need of a closer, but also a few arms to get them to the ninth inning as well.
5th starter: Overall the Cubs have an extremely strong starting rotation. Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta make up one of the best one-two punches in MLB. Kyle Hendricks emerged on the scene in 2016, and has solidified himself as a top three arm for the team. Then there is gritty veteran John Lackey, who pitched solid in his first campaign for the Cubs. But after that, the team is without a fifth option. The team does not need a big name, but simply someone who can eat some innings while being an average arm.
Bullpen: The relief market is absolutely loaded this winter. Given money should not be a major issue for a club coming off a World Series championship, paired with their need for pen help, none of the top options can be ruled out. Aroldis Chapman is the clear top name out there, and a reunion is certainly possible. Behind him there are Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon, who will offer expensive, but cheaper than Chapman options. If the team prefers to go the trade route, Wade Davis and A.J. Ramos provide the likeliest of options.
But the team will be after more than a big name closer. Someone like Greg Holland, who was a dominant closer before missing all of 2016 could be an option to close or become an eighth inning man. Dan Hudson and Sergio Romo could also be a few names the club could look to add to help bolster their depth.
Starting Rotation: As I mentioned earlier, the team does not need to look for top end names. Given they will be looking for lower level guys, the free agent market is the more likely route for them to pursue. Keep an eye on names like Doug Fister, Jon Niese, Scott Feldman and C.J. Wilson. In other words, someone who can be had for cheap, but can be servicable to round out the rotation.
Possible Trade Pieces
Miguel Montero: The most likely player to be dealt from the Cubs this winter will be Miguel Montero, as he no longer holds a starting slot thanks to the emergence of Willson Contreras behind the dish. Montero enters the final year of his deal, and he can be turned into some pen help, or maybe that fifth starter. Teams like the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox could all represent potential trade partners.
Jorge Soler: With a team so loaded with young talent, someone has to get squeezed out of the picture. With center field likely occupied by Jay and Almora, Heyward in right and Schwarber in left, Soler does not have a spot. When the team decides to bench Schwarber for defense, it has plenty of other options, and Soler is certainly expendable. He could easily become a key piece to land the team a solid bullpen or starting arm.
One Bold Prediction
The team will trade Soler and other prospects to the Kansas City Royals in a deal for closer Wade Davis. With Soler expendable, and the teams big hole in the pen, it would only make sense to use him to get a big name closer instead of dishing out major free agent dollars. The Marlins do not need outfielders, but the Royals could use some young players like Soler. It is a great match-up.
And be sure to check out all of our Winter Meetings coverage here at INSC! You can check out more team previews and other MLB Winter Meetings pieces here!
So what do you think? What will the Cubs do during the Winter Meetings? Tell us in the comments!