Diving into the depths: Chicago Cubs

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.

Rotation
1. Ryan Dempster
2. Matt Garza
3. Carlos Zambrano
4. Randy Wells
5. Carlos Silva
6. Andrew Cashner
7. Todd Wellemeyer
8. Braden Looper
9. Casey Coleman
10. Thomas Diamond
11. Jeff Samardzija
12. Jay Jackson
13. Chris Carpenter
14. Trey McNutt

The rotation should be a strength if Silva can perform like he did last year and stay healthy. There is some pretty reasonable depth around, too. Since Cashner didn’t pan out as a setup man last year, I’m guessing the Cubs will have him return to Triple-A to work as a starter. If things go well, he could be a big factor in the second half of the season.

Bullpen
1. Carlos Marmol
2. Kerry Wood
3. Sean Marshall
4. John Grabow
5. Marcos Mateo
6. Esmailin Caridad
7. James Russell
8. Andrew Cashner
9. Jeff Samardzija
10. Braden Looper
11. Angel Guzman
12. Todd Wellemeyer
13. Scott Maine
14. Thomas Diamond
15. Justin Berg
16. Jeff Stevens
17. Polin Trinidad
18. Jeff Beliveau
19. Rafael Dolis
20. John Gaub
21. Scott Rice

The Cubs decided against spending to upgrade their pen, and they only ended up with Wood because he passed up bigger offers to return to Chicago. I like Mateo’s chances of being useful, but beyond the top four, there shouldn’t be any locks for the pen. … Being out of options probably won’t help Samardzija, since his big contract would seem to guarantee that he’ll clear waivers unless he pitches well enough to earn a spot on merit.

Catcher
1. Geovany Soto
2. Koyie Hill
3. Max Ramirez
4. Welington Castillo
5. Chris Robinson

First base
1. Carlos Pena
2. Tyler Colvin
3. Bryan LaHair
4. Scott Moore

Second base
1. Blake DeWitt
2. Jeff Baker
3. Scott Moore
4. Augie Ojeda
5. Darwin Barney

Third base
1. Aramis Ramirez
2. Jeff Baker
3. Bobby Scales
4. Scott Moore
5. Augie Ojeda
6. Darwin Barney

Shortstop
1. Starlin Castro
2. Darwin Barney
3. Augie Ojeda
4. Matt Camp

Baker hit .350/.395/.550 in 140 at-bats against lefties last season, so the Cubs should go with a strict platoon at second base. … Barring an acquisition, the newly signed Ojeda will likely battle Barney for the last spot on the Cubs bench. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Cubs to grab Cristian Guzman or Julio Lugo as another middle-infield option.

Left field
1. Alfonso Soriano
2. Tyler Colvin
3. Fernando Perez
4. Reed Johnson
5. Lou Montanez

Center field
1. Marlon Byrd
2. Tyler Colvin
3. Reed Johnson
4. Fernando Perez

Right field
1. Kosuke Fukudome
2. Tyler Colvin
3. Reed Johnson
4. Brad Snyder
5. Fernando Perez

The Cubs failed to move Fukudome in an effort to free up money and playing time for Colvin, so he’ll probably start in right field against right-handers, at least early on. Colvin, who figures to get more work at first base this spring, will be the top backup at four spots. He’ll probably end up with more at-bats than Fukudome if he keeps hitting like he did last season.

2017 Winter Meetings Preview

Craig Calcaterra
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — The baseball world has descended on the Swan and Dolphin Resort at Disney World for the 2017 Winter Meetings. There’s a lot of work to be done.

The two biggest names on the market — Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton — have found new homes, but so far only 33 of baseball’s 249 free agents have signed, almost all of them minor. Still looking for a home: Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jake Arrieta, CC Sabathia, Lorenzo Cain, Wade Davis, Lance Lynn, Greg Holland and many, many more. In early November we ran down the top free agents, position-by-position, to help you get a jump on who is available and what your team is looking at as it seeks to fill its needs.

It’s not just players looking for homes this week, however. It’s teams looking to make up for their failures in the Ohtani and Stanton derbies. The Cardinals and Giants both went big to get Stanton and came up empty. The Giants were likewise in Ohtani, but no dice. Baseball’s worst team in 2017 is obviously willing to spend some money to improve, and now they will look elsewhere to spend it. The Red Sox weren’t in on those two, but since it’s biggest rival landed Giancarlo Stanton, GM Dave Dombrowski will no doubt be kicking the tires hard on J.D. Martinez or Eric Hosmer to try to keep pace. The Mariners acquired a lot of international pool money in their quest for Ohtani, but they could still use a starting pitcher or two, so perhaps they may look at, say, Jake Arrieta? Lance Lynn? Yu Darvish? Well, they should, but who knows if they will.

Despite the sheer number of available free agents, this is a thin free agent class in terms of talent. That means that, for a team to improve significantly, they may be better served by making a trade. The Marlins already traded Stanton, but their fire sale does not seem to be over. Could they deal the newly-acquired Starlin Castro? Christian Yelich? Marcel Ozuna? Bet on yes, and bet on any team wishing to spend prospects instead of free agent cash to take what Miami is unloading. Other potential trade candidates: Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, Rays starter Chris Archer and third baseman Evan Longoria and Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler.

Trade deals and free agent negotiations take place behind closed doors at the Swan and Dolphin. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press. This year there are six new men at the helm: Dave Martinez in Washington, Mickey Callaway with the Mets, Gabe Kapler — Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager — in Philly, Alex Cora in Boston, Aaron Boone with the Yankees and Rob Gardenhire with the Tigers. I’ll be in the scrum for a lot of these guys — they do them two at a time so I can’t see everyone — and will let you know if they say anything fun. Or if any of them slug me for saying that they’re ugly.

Outside of the transactions and the Hall of Fame stuff, we have the more mundane Winter Meetings business. Indeed, the vast majority of the people at the Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings. The big one everyone is talking about this offseason is the possibility of a pitch clock.

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected are, but here’s a good place to start your research on that. If your team takes someone in the draft, the most important thing to know is that he’ll either be on the big league roster all year or he’ll have to be returned to his original team. Well, they could be stashed on the disabled list with phantom injuries so they won’t have to be returned, but no team would ever do that, would they? Perish the thought.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene down here at Disney World, bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event.