In the comments today, we were talking about the 2014 Cubs thanks to a post by Myles. I mentioned that I would not be surprised to see Arismendy Alcantara make the team out of spring training. I still think it’s more likely he starts in AAA Iowa, but it won’t surprise me. I didn’t see the Cubs spending much, or anything at 2nd base, or the rest of the infield for that matter. In response, Uncle Dave had a really good comment worth re-posting in an article of its own. Here it is.
I’d agree that they’re more likely to go for a high-cost impact bat in the outfield rather than the infield, simply because they don’t have a whole lot coming up through the system in the outfield over the next couple of years. Ellsbury or Choo would be great, but I wouldn’t count out a flier on Chet Granderson if they’re just trying to buy time until the kids start showing up.
Still, I don’t think that they break camp counting on anything from Olt or Alcantara next year, and you’re likely to see them sign a lesser name to give them options over the kids and/or Barney and Valbuena. Kelly Johnson comes to mind, as he’s a guy who could slot in at second, or move to be the long end of a platoon with Lake or some other RHB out in left if one of the young infielders does pan out, or maybe Ryan Raburn if you’re looking for a 2B who can also caddy for Schierholz (though he’d be a buy-high based on his performance this year in Cleveland).
I like the flexibility they have on the roster right now. Valbuena can give you a decent glove at second or third and at least get on base occasionally, which allows for the freedom to call up either Alcantara or Olt. Lake can find at-bats in either the outfield or the infield, if that’s your thing. DeJesus can play anywhere in the outfield, which makes it easier to find a fourth or fifth outfielder who can give you something, whether that’s a guy with a glove in center or a guy with a bat in left. It seems like making good moves with free agents should be easier without the burden of trying to hammer a square peg in a round hole.
I’m actually pretty optimistic about the lineup for next season. Add an impact bat, one breakout from Castro or Rizzo, and erase the black hole at second and you’re squarely on the right side of average.
The pitching seems like it’s in decent shape too. You’ve already got three established starters, some interesting pieces at the back end of the rotation to sort through for the rest of this year, and a few pleasant surprises in the bullpen. I know that spending real money on relief pitchers is like buying a new car, in that you lose half of its value the minute you drive it off the lot, but if you put a plus guy at the top of the bullpen, the rest of the guys get bumped down a slot and start to look pretty good. (I’d be pretty comfortable with Strop and Russell in the 7th-8th inning slots, for example, and your Blake Parkers and Brian Schlitters look OK at the back end of the pen). If you add another starter and an impact relief arm, I’d even go so far as to call the pitching staff good.
It seems like you could add an impact outfielder, an upgrade in the infield, a mid-rotation starter and overpay for an impact reliever like Grant Balfour for $40-50MM or so all-in, and you could get most of those guys on deals of three years or less, and given what the payroll looks like right now that seems possible. It gives you a bridge to the impact talent that is coming up in 2015 and beyond without robbing you of the flexibility to fill in where that talent fails in the future.
I like it. Let’s do it.