12/04/09 12:00 AM EST
Shopping Bradley tops Cubs' agenda
Center fielder, vet reliever biggest needs for North Siders
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Center fielder: Lou Piniella wants to move Kosuke Fukudome back to right field, which creates an opening in center. In a perfect world, the Cubs will find someone who could lead off and play center. Curtis Granderson has been mentioned as a possibility in a trade, but reports have the Tigers asking for prospects such as highly regarded Starlin Castro. The player the Cubs want to move is Milton Bradley. The Cubs don't seem as concerned about having a balanced right-left mix in the lineup, which was the focus heading into 2009.
Right-handed reliever: Lefty John Grabow is the only veteran in the 'pen, and the team is eyeing a right-handed setup pitcher to help bridge the gap to closer Carlos Marmol. Newly acquired Jeff Gray will be in the mix, but he's only 28 and doesn't have much experience in late innings. Others to choose from include Angel Guzman, Esmailin Caridad, Justin Berg and Jeff Stevens. They don't have much experience either. This will be the first time Marmol, 27, heads into spring with the job. After taking over for Kevin Gregg this year, Marmol went 11-for-11 in save situations. He did walk 65 in 74 innings, however, so they need a backup.
Second baseman: As of now, Jeff Baker is the leading candidate to be the starter on Opening Day. Baker, acquired from the Rockies for a Minor League pitcher in early July, did bat .305 with the Cubs, but he's more valuable as a utility player. If Mike Fontenot can get back on track, he's another option, but if the Cubs can upgrade here, they will.
OF Bradley: The Cubs did hire Bradley's former hitting coach, Rudy Jaramillo, and the team's new owners, the Ricketts family, say they're making some changes in the clubhouse. That won't be enough to erase the negative vibe Bradley brought to the team. He is owed $21 million over the next two years, and the Cubs say they've had interest. GM Jim Hendry is limited in what he can add to the roster until he subtracts the switch-hitting outfielder. The Cubs had been concerned about Bradley's health, but that was never really an issue with the 31-year-old outfielder.
1B/LF Micah Hoffpauir: On Thursday, the Cubs sent Jake Fox and Aaron Miles to the Athletics for three players. The move gives Fox a chance to play. Hoffpauir is like Fox, only he's left-handed. He can play first and corner outfield, but those spots are taken on the Cubs. Hoffpauir would help an American League team at DH.
OF Tyler Colvin, SS Castro, RHP Andrew Cashner, RHP Casey Coleman, RHP Chris Carpenter, SS Darwin Barney, RHP Blake Parker, 3B Josh Vitters: Colvin got a taste of the big leagues when he was called up in September, and could be close. Castro, 19, has been on the fast track and didn't disappoint in the Arizona Fall League. If he's ready, the Cubs could move Ryan Theriot to second.
Big contracts they might unload: OF Bradley, $21 million through 2011; LF Alfonso Soriano, $76 million through 2013
Arbitration-eligible: 2B Baker, LHP Neal Cotts, 2B Fontenot, LHP Tom Gorzelanny, RHP Angel Guzman, RHP Marmol, LHP Sean Marshall, C Koyie Hill, SS Theriot
Payroll summation: Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has said there will be a slight increase in 2010 from the '09 payroll of $135 million. Hendry is limited because of the $119 million plus committed in long-term contracts to players such as Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster and Kosuke Fukudome. That's why moving Bradley is key. It would give Hendry some wiggle room.
"We're in a year where if our budget is approximately the same area it's been in the last 12 months, then we have to maximize the opportunities and be creative and make some trades, and that's what we feel like we're doing," Hendry said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.