The Cubs off-season is just eight days old and the rumor mill is already heating up. The front office’s focus has reportedly been on Joe Girardi while searching for other qualified managerial candidates if Girardi decides to stay in the Bronx. But once Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer hire a new manager and the coaching staff is in place, the attention will turn to improving the big league roster.
The Cubs are looking to add pitching this off-season and are expected to address bullpen that showed improvement at the end of the season but still has several holes to fill.
Could the Cubs pull off a trade to add a front of the rotation starter? Or will the Cubs go the free agent route to add a starter or two? And, will the Cubs try to add a catcher this off-season through free agency?
Catching and Welington Castillo
One of the weakest areas in the Cubs’ system is behind the plate. The Cubs have very little catching depth in the system behind Welington Castillo and what is there is not really big league ready.
Many think Dioner Navarro played himself out of Chicago with the career year he put together backing up Welington Castillo. Navarro did not play the last game of the season and was held out so he could finish the year with a .300 average. Navarro ended up with a .300/.365/.492 slash line that included seven doubles, 13 home runs and a .856 OPS in 89 games.
According to a report from Patrick Mooney, the Cubs will be exploring upgrades at catcher this winter. The Cubs are trying to “collect more left handed bats, boost their on-base percentage and add lead by example veterans to the clubhouse.”
Some think the Cubs will spend on “one impact free-agent” this winter and they might have room on the payroll for either Brian McCann or Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The Braves and Red Sox could offer McCann and Saltalamacchia qualifying offers which would cost the Cubs their second round pick, and draft money, if they were to sign either player.
And remember, as Mooney pointed out, Theo Epstein once traded for the Red Sox’s backstop.
The Cubs are thought to be very high on Welington Castillo and he is said to be part of the team’s core moving forward. Castillo was one of the bright spots for the big league team this year and he worked hard all season on his defense with Mike Borzello.
Joel Sherman reported the Cubs could be one of the possible suitors for David Price this off-season. The Rays will likely try to move Price this winter the same way they did Matt Garza before the 2012 season and James Shields last year.
The Cubs were mentioned several times by nine executives that Sherman questioned as which teams they felt would be suitors for Price. The executives feel the Cubs match up with Tampa due to the fact “they are deep in position prospects.” Plus, Derek Johnson was Price’s pitching coach at Vanderbilt and Sherman alluded to Johnson’s relationship with Price could help the Cubs sign him to a contract extension past the 2015 season.
According to a report from Nick Cafardo, the Cubs could be one of the teams interested in signing Bronson Arroyo this off-season. Arroyo thinks his time in Cincinnati is over and is looking for a three-year contract. Arroyo told Cafardo he does not feel the Reds are in position to give him what he is looking for, in terms of a contract. Arroyo thinks he will still be effective pitching into his late 30s.
Arroyo turns 37 in February and posted a 14-12 record in 32 starts this past season with a 3.79 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP.
Theo Epstein claimed Arroyo off waivers from the Pirates in 2003 then traded him to the Reds in March of 2006 for Wily Mo Pena.
Arizona Fall League
The AFL begins on Tuesday and for those that missed Tom’s preview of the Cubs’ prospects participating in the Arizona Fall League this year can click here. The Mesa Solar Sox open their season in Glendale at the White Sox-Dodgers’ facility against the Desert Dogs.
Carrie Muskat reported Jorge Soler will be in right field for most of the Solar Sox’s games while Matt Loosen and Dallas Beeler are in Mesa’s starting rotation. Lendy Castillo and Armando Rivero will pitch out of the pen.
Kris Bryant is expected to spend time at third base and in the outfield while Albert Almora should see quite a bit of playing time in centerfield. Infielder Wes Darvill is on the taxi squad and will be available on Wednesday and Sunday.
News and Notes
According to a report from Carrie Muskat, Daniel Bard and Mat Gamel are working out at the Cubs’ facility at Fitch Park. Bard is expected to throw off a mound on Tuesday.
Tim Buss, the Cubs’ strength and conditioning coach, will spend three weeks in the Dominican Republic in November working with Starlin Castro.
Kyuji Fujikawa threw a baseball for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery in June. Fujikawa was limited to throwing a tennis ball prior to Monday. Fujikawa has been at the Cubs’ facility since his surgery rehabbing in hopes of being ready to pitch next season. According to a report from Carrie Muskat, Fujikawa has set a goal to be ready to pitch in 2014.
Theo Epstein gave Dale Sveum a good reference when the Royals called prior to hiring him to be part of Ned Yost’s coaching staff. According to Paul Sullivan, Epstein and Sveum shook hands and hugged before Sveum left Wrigley Field last week. Sullivan also reported that Epstein and Sveum have spoken since his firing nine days ago.
Arodys Vizcaino is scheduled to throw batting practice on Tuesday and if everything goes well he will pitch in Instructional League games on October 15 and October 18. Vizcaino could pitch in Winter Ball if everything goes as planned in the Instructional League.
Chang-Yong Lim returned home on Monday and said he was pleased with the way his elbow responded after a second Tommy John surgery. Lim focused more on his recovery than the results. Lim would like to be the Cubs’ closer next season.
Mike Olt has been working out at the Cubs’ facility at Fitch Park.