Cubs have lots of holes to fill as GMs gather
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With Jeff Samardzija anchoring the Cubs pitching staff, and more youngsters in the system that need seasoning, look for the Cubs to sign a starting pitcher this winter toround out their staff next spring.
The last five-and-a-half weeks consisted of an exhaustive search by the Cubs for a new manager.
Those same five-and-a-half weeks seemed exhausting to a fan base that is beginning to show signs of restlessness even as many of those same fans profess to be all-in with team president Theo Epstein's long-term plan.
Guess what? That was the easy part, as the Cubs came away with Rick Renteria as their dugout boss.
Now begins the real fun.
The meat of the off-season gets under way this week at the annual general managers meetings in Orlando. Epstein, who was the point man during the managerial search, will attend the meetings as will GM Jed Hoyer.
The GM meetings are the first big event of the hot-stove season, with the bigger winter meetings happening next month, also in Orlando.
Much of what goes on this week will be technical in nature, as GMs are briefed on developments within the industry. But there will be plenty of time for interaction between GMs and with the many player agents who attend these meetings.
Few deals actually get done at the GM meetings — same for the winter meetings in recent years — but the groundwork often is laid for either trades or free-agent signings. Epstein, Hoyer and Renteria also must put their heads together on hiring a coaching staff.
The Cubs have plenty of holes to fill on the field, as you might expect with a team that lost 101 games in 2012 and 96 this year. Here is a quick look at several areas the Cubs need to address.
Rotation: The Cubs have a top three of Travis Wood, Jeff Samardzija and the massively disappointing Edwin Jackson, whom the Cubs signed to a four-year, $52 million deal last winter. Late in the season, the Cubs gave starts to Jake Arrieta, Chris Rusin and Scott Baker, who was coming off Tommy John surgery and is now a free agent.
Samardzija's name has come up in trade rumors, but he cannot become a free agent until after the 2015 season, and the Cubs still need someone to take the ball every fifth day, as Samardzija does enthusiastically.
Epstein and Hoyer likely will look to sign or trade for at least one starting pitcher this winter as they wait for the young arms in the minor-league system to mature.
Closer: With Kevin Gregg likely gone through free agency, the job now belongs to Pedro Strop, who got some closing time near the end of the year. Kyuji Fujikawa was supposed to be the guy after the Cubs signed him out of Japan last December, but he is on the mend from Tommy John surgery.
The Cubs may try to obtain a veteran in case Strop shows signs in spring training that he's not the guy.
Third base: Long term, this spot looks just fine, with Kris Bryant getting off to a running start after being taken with the second overall pick in June.
But the Cubs will have to figure out something short term after using a cast of what seems like thousands at third base last season.
Mike Olt, whom they obtained from Texas in the Matt Garza trade, seems the logical choice, especially if he can rebound from a dreadful season in Triple-A. Luis Valbuena is arbitration-eligible, but he's best suited as a utility man, not as an everyday player. Keep an eye on Christian Villanueva, whom the Cubs said might be the best defensive third baseman in the system. He hit 19 home runs at Class AA Tennessee this season.
Outfield: After the trade of Alfonso Soriano to the Yankees in late July, the Cubs were short of offensive pop from the outfield. Nate Schierholtz, a dependable right fielder, did most of his producing on offense in the first half. The Cubs re-signed Ryan Sweeney and have youngster Junior Lake in the fold, but a proven veteran figures to be on the priority list.
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