“We will have financial flexibility,” Hoyer said. “We’ve been diligent to make sure we do have flexibility and we’re efficient going forward. We’ll obviously be active in the free agent market. That’s a big part of our research and work now is evaluating free agents. We have some money to spend and we’ll focus on it heavily.” – Jed Hoyer
The Cubs currently have about $69 million on the books for 2013. This includes the players under contract, estimated salaries for arbitration eligible players, auto-renewals and the 15 on the 40-man roster who aren't on the active roster. Their 2012 payroll was about $108 million, which was down considerably from 2011. It's entirely possible the Cubs may bump up the payroll back to where it was prior to this season, but realistically speaking we should probably expect it to remain at or below $110 million.
If they plan to spend $110 million they have about $40 million to spend. What could they spend it on?
I would guess the Cubs feel confident behind the plate with Welington Castillo despite the numbers of errors he's made this year (7). These are the teams who have made 7 or fewer errors from behind the plate: Angels (7), Rangers (7), Reds (6), Twins (6), Phillies (6), Blue Jays (6), Braves (5) and Cardinals (5). Those teams have had an average of about 1200 chances and they've made no more errors than Castillo has while having only 347 chances. Cubs catchers as a group are near the bottom in just about every defensive statistic.
Castillo is likely to provide better than replacement level production and possibly be as good as a league average player so I just don't see the Cubs going out and spending money on this position.
They won't at 1st base, 2nd base or SS either. Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro will be in the Cubs infield in 2013. Most of the infield will remain unchanged from this past year with the exception of Castillo taking over for Geovany Soto.
The Cubs have tried to trade Alfonso Soriano and found only the Giants who were interested. Soriano exercised his no-trade rights to prevent the trade and it's not likely the Cubs will find another taker. At this point Soriano is better than what most people give him credit for, but that's a huge committment to make. The Cubs will probably continue to try to move him, but Soriano will be selective in which team he would be willing to be traded to. Odds are he's the Cubs left fielder in 2013 and probably in 2014.
David DeJesus could play CF or RF, but he'll be playing one of those positions.
That leaves 3rd base and CF. These are the two positions the Cubs will more than likely to look to add through free agency. Josh Vitters has had a miserable season and Brett Jackson strikes out way too much. I wouldn't say that the Cubs have turned the page on either of them. They could get another chance, but it's likely both will be back at AAA next year and it's even possible one or both could be traded this offseason. Thoyer has shown no attachment to former 1st round picks by Jim Hendry.
If the White Sox don't exercise Kevin Youkilis' 2013 option for $13 million I could see the Cubs signing him to a 2 or 3 year deal. Whether or not the White Sox will exercise it is anybody's guess. It's a safe bet that Youkilis won't be worth that much money, but Kenny Williams doesn't mind throwing money away. David Wright is the big name free agent at this position, but there's no way the Mets don't exercise his $16 million option considering Wright is in the middle of one of the best seasons of his career.
There are two other free agens who might be a little interesting: Placido Polanco and Mark Reynolds. Polanco only has a $5.5 million option and while he's nowhere near as good as he once was, I could see that being exercised. Mark Reynolds will look like a contact hitter compared to Brett Jackson and I can't imagine his option would be exercised.
The Cubs could target a CF or a RF. There are a couple CF who intrigue me. Michael Bourn is enjoying his best season (fWAR and rWAR). I honestly have no idea how much money it would take to acquire this guy, but the improvement he'd add to the Cubs defense would be tremendous. He's about average at the plate, but fantastic defensively. I still think defense is undervalued so I don't think he'll command the type of contract that his past WAR suggests he should. If the Cubs can grab him for an under market contract I would love it. I also think they'll have interest in him.
The other is BJ Upton who I think the Cubs will have interest in too. He's not going to get the contract that Bourn will. Upton is the better hitter, but not by all that much. Especially when you think back to Upton's age 22 season and how he was a future superstar. That never happened, but he's still an above average player. His defense is below average.
There are a bunch of other outfielders available who you could put in RF and move DeJesus to CF, but I think the Cubs would prefer to keep DeJesus in RF.
The Cubs rotation is a box of mess. It can't be covered in depth in this article. Someone should start a blog about the bag of shit Cubs rotation. It would be a full time job. There are a few good starting pitchers available that you can check out here. Fortunately for the Cubs, most of those are better than Justin Germano, Chris Rusin, Chris Volstad and Jason Berken.