2009 MLB Preview: #4 Chicago Cubs

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Offseason Movement: The Cubs were seemingly hosed by the Indians in a trade that sent ultra-utility player Mark DeRosa to Cleveland in exchange for minor league pitching prospects Jeff Stevens, Chris Archer and John Gaub, none of which were viewed as top 10 prospects in the Tribe’s organization. But maybe one of those youngsters will emerge as a quality arm down the road and DeRosa’s contract does expire at the end of the season so at least the Cubs got something for him. Chicago also added volatile outfielder Milton Bradley, reliever Kevin Gregg and pitcher Aaron Heilman, who will move to the bullpen after losing out to Sean Marshall this spring for the Cubs’ fifth spot in the rotation.

Top Prospect: Josh Vitters, 3B
This club is loaded with quality prospects, including reliever Jeff Samardzija, shortstop Ryan Flaherty and outfielder Tyler Colvin. But Vitters appears to be the best of group, with his excellent plate approach, outstanding hand-eye coordination and natural swing. Thus far in Single-A, Vitters is hitting .357 and slugging .529 in 70 at bats. At only 19, he still has a ways to go before he’ll make his big league debut, but Vitters appears to have quite a future ahead of him.

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Free Agency Officially Begins

Folks, your head could spin if you read all of the news and rumors about players possibly changing teams or getting big free agent money from their current or new team. So for today, we’ll focus on the big names that has everyone excited about….

CC Sabathia—The Yankees are expected to make a huge offer to the best pitcher on the market, and, well, would you expect anything less from the Steinbrenners? CC had made his desire clear that he wants to pitch in the National League and preferably on the west coast (ahem, Dodgers), but you can bet he will have a hard time turning down the $140 million offer from the Yanks. Yes, you just read that correctly. Oh, but don’t count the Angels or Mets out of the mix yet.

Manny Ramirez—It’s hard to figure if the Dodgers will make their pitch for Manny or CC first, but they if they decide Manny and Scott Boras want too many years in the deal, the team may just offer that money to Sabathia instead, who would love to pitch at Dodger Stadium in 2009 and beyond. Manny may not have to change residency though, as the Angels are reportedly interested, especially if they lose Mark Teixeira as expected.
The Mets may also make a play, but they need to shore up their pitching before adding another bat.

Francisco Rodriguez—The Angels are crazy for letting this guy walk, but maybe they just don’t think he’s worth mega-bucks at this point. Plus, the one time the guy decided to blow a save was in the postseason. The Mets seem like a likely fit, but they are not likely to pay K-Rod and his agent what they want either, and are rumored to be pursuing Brian Fuentes instead.

Mark Teixeira—The latest rumor has the Red Sox signing Teixeira as well as former Sox pitcher Derek Lowe. Would that make the Sox instant favorites in the AL? Well, the way the Rays played last season, you can’t really say that. Money doesn’t buy pennants anymore. But it would make the Sox significantly better, and that’s really saying something.

Kerry Wood—The Cubs did not pick up Wood’s option, making him a free agent. Again, the Mets have to be interested, don’t they? Yes, but the Mets are concerned about Wood’s injury history, so they are weighing all of their options, including a possible trade for the White Sox’ Bobby Jenks. Meanwhile, the Cubs picked up Kevin Gregg from the Marlins in a trade on Thursday and Gregg could possibly be Chicago’s closer in 2009.

Here are some other free agents likely to be signed quickly…..AJ Burnett, Randy Johnson, Trevor Hoffman, Ryan Dempster, Rafael Furcal. We’re just getting started folks!

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