- 2 Ace Starting Pitcher or 1 Ace Starting Pitcher and 1 Quality Starting Pitcher
- A Left Handed Relief Pitcher.
- A Starting Catcher or a defensive Back-Up Catcher
- A quality Center Fielder
- Figure out the Edwin Jackson situation
- Joe Madden?
If the Cubs decide to go all out on pitching then they should sign Jon Lester and Max Scherzer. I believe Scherzer is an ace, but not at the level of Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez or Adam Wainwright. Scherzer is still an ace. He strikes outs 10 per game and doesn't walk to many. His ERA and hit rate went up in 2014 but would probably go back down in the National League. And as the number 3 for the Cubs, the opposing teams will dread facing the Cubs.
As for Left Handed Relievers it should be a pretty easy choice. If the Cubs want to spend more money then sign Andrew Miller. If they want to spend less, sign Zach Duke. Both Pitchers exploded at top of the line lefties. Andrew Miller proved however that he can get anyone out, not just lefties. I'd pick Andrew Miller over Zach Duke, but wouldn't complain if the Cubs got Duke instead.
There are really only two catchers on the market that the Cubs should go after. Either Russell Martin or David Ross. Russell Martin would push Welington Castillo to either backup or trade bait. I'd prefer backup just incase Martin got hurt. Martin is a plus offensive and defensive catcher that look like he was back in his prime in 2014. As for David Ross, he his still a plus defender and in the words of A.J. Pierzynski "Like another coach". David Ross isn't much of a hitter anymore, but his work ethic and ability to teach is why he'd be a good backup. Welington Castillo's defense would increase dramatically because he's already above average. Plus having Ross for Spring Training would help draft pick Kyle Schwarber, who the Cubs want to have behind the plate.
There aren't many quality Center Fielders on the Free Agent market this year. The best is Denard Span, but the Nationals have a club option on him. I don't believe they will pick it up however. He is a plus lead off man who bats from the left side and the Cubs need left handed hitting. I don't believe the Cubs should sign him though. I think the cheaper, more powerful choice of Colby Rasmus is who they should sign. Anthony Rizzo is the only left handed power bat in the Cubs lineup. Adding Rasmus and batting him sixth or seventh would fit perfectly. I am worried about a bounce back now that Bill Mueller has resigned as hitting couch, but maybe the Cubs will bring in Manny Ramirez who received rave reviews from the minor leaguers.
As for the Edwin Jackson situation I see two options. One being find a bad contract to trade him for. Like engaging in talk with Braves for B.J. Upton again. That would get rid of Jackson and solve the right handed outfield bat search. The other move would be to release him all together. That would obviously cost an arm and a leg but the Cubs can afford it. There is the option of giving him to the Yankees because they seem to like bad contracts.
The final issue to work out is whether or not to bring in Joe Maddon. Rick Renteria wasn't a bad manager last year. Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Jake Arrieta all re-emerged as stars under him, but Travis Wood and Javier Baez regressed under him. He also has a laid back attitude that helps calm the players. Joe Maddon however has brought the Rays from awful to contender almost every season he managed them. I feel if they can bring in Maddon and move Renteria to bench coach they will be close to perfect. You add Manny Ramirez as assistant hitting coach and it will be perfect.
As for the internal players. Send Arismendy Alcantara back to AAA and keep Bryant there as well. Obviously promote Addison Russell to AAA. Keep Kyuji Fujikawa. Keep Javier Baez and Jorge Soler at the Major League level. Start Luis Valbuena at third base to start the season. Use Kyle Hendricks as the their number four starter. Send Mike Olt to AAA and keep him there until September call ups. That way he'll have a full season to adjust to his eyes and work on his swing. And do not non tender Wesley Wright or Ryan Sweeney.
I'd also like to lay out the beginning of the season line up.
- Chris Coghlan LF
- Starlin Castro SS
- Anthony Rizzo 1B
- Jorge Soler RF
- Javier Baez 2B
- Colby Rasmus CF
- Russell Martin C
- Luis Valbuena 3B
My verdict is that the Cubs will grab a wildcard spot and when Mike Matheny screws the Cardinals like he always does, the Cubs can grab 1st place. I don't think they can move passed the NLCS, but making the playoffs is the main goal next year.