Where Are They Going, Part IV

On to free agent targets, or should I say, rumors about free agents the Cubs might be targeting:

The Cubs

Kerry Wood-Will the Cubs/Wood marriage continue? It seems as though it might, but the Cubs don't seem to be making it priority #1. Maybe Wood's agent told them that he wanted to go into the open market before making any decisions. In any case, it appears that we won't have a decision soon, as you would expect K-Rod to set the market and Wood to fall in line after that. The Mets are among the teams that have Wood on their radar. I know the Cubs feel confident in sliding Marmol into the closer's role if Woody leaves, but I would much rather see a Marmol/Wood back end of the rotation that relying solely on Marmol.

Ryan Dempster-I think if you googled Dempster's name right now, you'd get a bunch of stories about Peavy, because it seems that every article that mentions Peavy mentions Demp. The reason? Everyone wants to know whether the Cubs can afford Demp and Peavy. That said, the Cubs have been trying to get Dempster to sign before their exclusive negotiating rights end tomorrow. Dempster certainly seems content in Chicago, so it may come down to whether the Cubs are willing to offer the 32 year old a fifth year on his deal and/or whether Dempster is willing to give the Cubs a "hometown" discount. Many teams are hoping the Dempster deal doesn't go through, including the Blue Jays, who see him as a replacement to A.J. Burnett, and would be welcoming back to Canuck country.

Henry Blanco-The Cubs declined Blanco's option, but stated they were interested in him coming back. According to Geo Soto, he expects Blanco to be back. I wasn't a huge fan of Hank White when he was seeing serious PT two years ago and the Cubs signed him to the 1 year plus an option deal, but Hank White proved me wrong this year. He managed to hit .292 despite starting only 28 games for the Cubs. He seems to be an positive tutor to Geo Soto, so I would have to say that I would welcome him back now. I haven't heard a rumor of anywhere else he'd land.

The Pitchers

Derek Lowe-Lowe is one of the more interesting free agents, in my opinion. He will turn 36 in June of next year, but had his lowest ERA since 2002 and his lowest WHIP of his starting career. Some would say those are contract year numbers, and while that's true, he went 14-12 with a 5+ ERA in his last year in Boston. Given his age, he isn't going to fit in the upper echelon of FA prospects (CC, Dempster, Burnett), but probably falls just below there. The biggest issue with him is the number of years he's seeking. The biggest stat he has to negate his age is his durability; he's started 32 games or more in each of the 7 years he's started. While I don't want to see the Cubs go out and throw 4-5 years at this guy, if they can't re-sign Dempster, I hope Lowe's on their short list.

Andy Pettitte-While the world thinks that either Pettitte with either re-sign with the Yankees or not re-sign at all, it has been reported the Cubs have inquired as to whether he'd be interested in coming to the North Side. Pettitte is a year older than Lowe (he'll turn 37 next June), but probably wouldn't be looking for the long-term contract that Lowe is seeking. Like Lowe, Pettitte is durable; going 33+ starts in each of the last 4 years. But playing in the AL, Pettitte's ERA has been over 4 each of the last three years, and was over 4.50 this past year. If the Cubs wanted a Lefty for a year, they could pursue Pettitte, but I doubt Pettitte heads anywhere but back to New York. The 'Stros are being courted to sign Pettitte and the Cards have been the same inquiry as the Cubs.

Position Players

Rafael Furcal-Furcal was putting up MVP type numbers last year...until early May, when he got hurt. By the time he came back, it was late September. He just turned 31 last month, so he has a few good years left in him. But the rumor doesn't have the Cubs pursuing him, rather he has stated he is interested in the Cubs. Presumably, the Cubs could use the switch-hitter to leadoff and either put him at second or move The Riot back to second, moving DeRo to RF. But signing Furcal poses the same problem as signing Brian Roberts...while it would allow Lou to move Sori down in the order, it doesn't provide the lefty power bat in the middle of the lineup. Add to that the fact that Lou seemed content in keeping Sori in the leadoff spot based on his comments yesterday, I just don't see this move happening.

Mark Kotsay-Kotsay would probably be a CF platoon with ReJo, and Kosuke would remain in right. He missed a month of the season last year and was traded from Atlanta to Boston in a waiver deal. He hit a solid .289 for the Braves, but ground into 13 DP's in just over 300 AB's. Kotsay isn't much more than a guy who can hit for some average and plays a solid center (he can play right too, as he did for Boston at year's end). Again, Kotsay doesn't add the power bat the Cubs are looking for.

Raul Ibanez-Ibanez's name has popped up a couple of times when the Cubs have been looking, so some scout in the Cubs organization must be high on him. For those who don't follow baseball in the Pacific Northwest, Ibanez has been a seemingly been lifer for the Mariners, although he actually spent 3 years in K.C. The 36 year old will turn 37 in June, but can still hit. 23 HR's, 43 doubles, and a .289 BA last year, his fourth consecutive 20+ HR season. The biggest knock on Ibanez is his defense...he's committed 11 errors in the last two years, and he hasn't played RF since 3 games in 2005. Given that they say right field in Wrigley is one of the hardest OF position's to play, it will be a question of whether Lou is willing to sacrifice defense for offense.

Bobby Abreu-A Cubs source has already said Abreu is going to be too expensive for their taste, but Abreu is younger, faster version of Ibanez. He will turn 35 before the start of the season. His numbers stack up against Ibanez: 20 HR's, 39 doubles, and a .296 average. He can steal, he is patient at the plate, and he is durable. But Abreu's showing signs of wearing down; his 22 bags last year were his lowest total in a decade. Ditto for his 73 walks. His 14 GIDP's were the highest of his career. Abreu's numbers would be a huge addition to the middle of the Cubs lineup, but I would be really concerned with what seems to be a sharp decline in his skills.

Adam Dunn-If you've heard Ibanez's name mentioned before, you've heard Dunn's name mentioned about 40 times. The biggest difference between all the previous times and now is that he is no longer part of the Cincinnati Reds organization. The Big Donkey celebrated his 29th birthday earlier this week, making him far and away the youngest player the Cubs are rumored to be pursuing. And who wouldn't want a guy who's HR numbers for the past 4 seasons look like this: 40, 40, 40, 40. Actually, he hit 46 in 2004, but that didn't look as cool. However, in adding the Big Donkey (which I think is the second best nickname in MLB, behind Travis "Pronk" Hafner), you also get to add 165+ K's to your lineup and a career .247 hitter. But with the fear of giving up one of those 40 dingers, you also get pitchers who walk him about 100-120 times a year, giving him a highly respectable .381 lifetime OBP. All those who hate the batting average, the Big Donkey is your poster boy. But Dunn may be the most inept of all at playing the field (the baseball field, although he is married), playing OF with about a .960 fielding percentage. Some experts already have Dunn penciled in as the Cubs RF next year, and his Baseball-Reference page is hoping he's heading to the North Side as well.

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