The Cubs have re-signed Reed Johnson to a one-year contract. The contract is pending a physical. No word yet on the amount he was signed for, but I’m sure it’s under $2 million. As a back-up, Johnson had a fantastic season last year for the Cubs. He hit .309/.348/.467. His wOBA was .354 and he was worth 1.2 fWAR and 1.2 rWAR in 266 plate appearances.
The Cubs outfield is getting crowded. David DeJesus was signed earlier this offseason. Marlon Byrd is returning for his final year of the contract. Alfonso Soriano has 3 years remaining on his. The Cubs also have Tony Campana on the 40-man roster who has a chance to make the team out of spring training. A year or two away is Matt Szczur who is also on the roster and then there’s the Cubs top prospect Brett Jackson who is very close to MLB ready, if not ready right now.
Clearing some space in the outfield brings up the more important news, which is that David Kaplan is hearing from several baseball sources that the Cubs are more likely than ever to undergo a complete and total rebuild.
After speaking with several baseball sources over the past few days I am hearing that a complete and total rebuild of the Cubs is more likely than ever to take place during the remainder of the off-season. I have confirmed that Sean Marshall is definitely on the block and he is well aware of that fact. The latest speculation has Marshall going to the Reds but those same sources do not believe that a deal for left-handed starter Travis Wood is as close as has been portrayed.
However, Marshall along with several other players on the Cubs roster are all being shopped as Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and company look to maximize their value as they look to completely overhaul the team. In speaking with a current major league executive from outside Chicago who would only speak with me on the condition of anonymity he was brutally honest in evaluating where the Cubs are right now.
“If you are completely honest about the current roster that Theo and Jed inherited I don’t see more than a handful of pieces that a championship type team would want to have on their roster. Garza, Castro, Marshall, perhaps Marmol if they can get his wildness under control, and maybe another bullpen piece or two and that’s about it,” he told me.
And by the time they are able to contend Marshall and Marmol will be relatively old for a reliever and Garza will cost a shitload of money. It’s too bad the Cubs don’t have a couple more Garza’s they could trade to add some elite talent to their farm system. The reality is that even if they trade several of their players, they’re not going to get all that much in return. Matt Garza has a lot of value. He probably has even more value than his trade surplus value would indicate. The same is probably true of Sean Marshall. Other than that, though, the Cubs just don’t have a whole lot. Geovany Soto has struggled in odd numbered years, but has two years remaining at below market price. He’s never going to be the excellent catcher we thought he might be, but he could be useful to any team needing a catcher.
Carlos Marmol probably doesn’t have that much value. He’s due $16.8 million over the next two seasons. That’s about what he’ll provide in value so unless the Cubs are willing to eat some of the contract they can’t expect much in return. The Cubs won’t get anything but salary relief for Alfonso Soriano and the amount they save may be minimal. They won’t get much of anything for Carlos Zambrano or Ryan Dempster. Randy Wells might bring something useful in return, but useful is about it. The same is true of Marlon Byrd.
A complete and total rebuild sounds wonderful, but it’s not like the Cubs are going to be selling that many valuable pieces. When Matt Garza is your most valuable trade piece you just aren’t going to replenlish an already weak farm system with much of an upgrade.