Who’s On First in 2012?

Sweet Lou brings us a guest column on what the Cubs may do at first base in 2012

It will be interesting to see who will be playing first base for the Cubs in 2012. There was talk in recent weeks that the Cubs had an interest in Albert Pujols, but that obviously didn’t materialize. Now that Pujols is headed to California, who might the Cubs turn to to fill the void at first base?

Bryan LaHair appears to be the most likely in-house candidate, with Jeff Baker a close second. I can’t imagine that the Cubs would settle for either LaHair or Baker to start at first base for them in 2012, but anyone paying attention to the Cubs in recent years knows that not everything they do makes sense.

If the Cubs go the free agent route, Prince Fielder is the big name still left on the board. He’s looking for 8-10 years at $20 million-plus per year. That’s a lot of years and money for a guy who many feel will be a DH five or six years down the line.

Could Fielder be had on a four or five year deal? Fielder’s agent Scott Boras says “No way!” but many front office types believe that is going to be how things play out. A four or five year deal for the 27-year old Fielder sounds a lot better for the Cubs (or anyone else that signs Fielder) than a 10-year contract that is almost certain to become an albatross.

In a recent tweet, Peter Gammons opined that the Cubs do not have the cash to pursue Fielder. However, there appears to be ample evidence to the contrary. For instance, if the Cubs were truly in on Pujols and were not just trying to drive up his price, they must have had some money available. Also, it’s highly unlikely that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would have agreed to join the Cubs front office if there was no money for them to work with. I think it’s safe to say that if the Cubs decide they want to pursue Fielder, the money will be available.

Some have speculated that the Cubs will bring back Carlos Pena for another year or two. Pena turned down the Cubs offer of arbitration, but that doesn’t mean he can’t come back as a free agent. He is looking for a two-year deal that will likely be in the $10-$12 million per year range.

Pena had a bit of a bounce back year in 2011. After a horrible year for Tampa Bay in 2010, the lefty hit .225/.357/.462 with 28 home runs and 80 rbi for the Cubs last year. It’s unlikely Pena will ever be a guy who hits for a high average, but over the course of his career, he has been fairly productive.

Another free agent that can play first base is Michael Cuddyer. He has been linked to several teams this off season, but the Cubs have not been one of them. Cuddyer is a versatile fielder who can play first base, second base and right field. He can also fill in at third base in a pinch. The Twins have already offered him a three-year, $24 million contract, and others have speculated that it’s going to take more money to land Cuddyer.

Other free agents include former Cubs Derrick Lee and Xavier Nady, Eric Hinske, Russell Branyan, Casey Kotchman, and Conor Jackson. I have not heard any of them linked to the Cubs nor do I suspect that the JedStein (Hoy-Stein, The Jed, JedStein, Eerie Pythons, Jed-n-Stein, etc.) brain trust has any interest in any of them.

If the Cubs choose to obtain a first baseman via trade, the Angels are suddenly the most obvious trading partner. After signing former Cardinal Albert Pujols, the Angels find themselves with an overabundance of first basemen.

It is a near certainty that 28-year old Kendry Morales will be on the trading block. Morales played in only 51 games for the Angels in 2010 before he broke his ankle in a home plate celebration. The injury required surgery and sidelined the switch-hitter for the entire 2011 season. The Angels have said they are hopeful that Morales will be ready for 2012 spring training, and they are expecting an update on his condition after the first of the year. According to Cot’s Contracts, Morales made $2.975 million in 2011 and is arbitration eligible in 2012.

Mark Trumbo, 2011 AL rookie-of-the-year-runner-up, also appears to be odd-man-out following the Pujols signing. The Angels initially said that they do not plan on trading Trumbo, opting instead to give him a try at third-base. However, that is far from a certainty. Trumbo has never played third-base at the professional level and it is a bit of a leap to believe he could step in as the starter at the hot corner for the Angels next season.

In addition to spending time at third base, there has been talk about Trumbo getting at-bats as the DH and potentially as a corner outfielder. This is a possibility, but the Halos also have to find at-bats for Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter, and Bobby Abreu, all veterans who will be very difficult, if not impossible to trade, as well as hot prospect Mike Trout. In his rookie campaign, Trumbo hit .254/.291/.477 with 29 homers and 87 rbi.

When the Marlins thought they might be getting Pujols, Gaby Sanchez became a prime trade candidate. However, with Pujols going to the Angels, Sanchez likely is no longer on the trading block. Of course, that could change if Miami swoops in and snatches up Fielder. At this point, that appears to be an unlikely scenario.

The Rangers postured in the early off-season saying that they plan on having Mitch Moreland at first base in 2012. However, they appear to be emerging as a top contender for Prince Fielder and there are rumors that the Rangers have discussed a deal with Tampa Bay that would send Moreland to the Rays for rhp Wade Davis. If Moreland is truly available, the Cubs might be interested in talking to the Rangers. In 2011, the 26-year old lefty hit .259/.320/.414 with 16 home runs and 51 rbi.

Are there other likely trading partners out there? Who do you want to see at first base for the Cubs in 2012?

Comments

I don't think it's up to MLB. The ball is in the Fighters court.

As I understand it, the MLB releases the name of the winning bid. Numerous news stories indicated they would be releasing the winning bid's name today.

Then the Hammies indicate whether or not they'll accept the bid. They have till next week sometime to do that.

Thu, 12/15/2011 - 6:47pm — Old and Blue

I thought MLB was going to release the Durvish sweepstakes winner this morning. Did the Blue Jays go in so high that Bud said "oh no you don't?"

============================

O&B: The identity of the highest-bidder is supposed to be a secret. All MLB does is notify the NPB club if a bid was received and the amount of the highest bid. MLB does not tell the Japanese team which MLB club extended the highest bid.

Once the player's club is notified (the Nippon Ham Fighters in Darvish's case), the NPB club has four business days to decide whether to accept the bid. If the NPB team accepts the bid, the MLB club that won the right to negotiate with the player has 30 days to sign the player. If the MLB club doesn't sign him, the player returns to Japan for another season and the MLB club keeps the transfer fee. The NPB club gets the transfer fee only if the MLB club signs the player within the 30-day window.

BTW, Yu Darvish will be an unrestricted free-agent after next season, so if he doesn't sign this year he won't have to go through the posting system again next year. He can sign with any MLB club (or he can return to Japan again).

padres released e.patterson

Bring him back to compete for 2nd base job. Surely Can't be worse than what we got offensively over there.

I am sure Eric Patterson can do much worse than Darwin Barney. Were supposed to be getting better talent not worse.

Eric Patterson is just a left fielder at this point. If he could play 2nd, he'd have gotten a lot more PA's by now.

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  • Chapman shouldn't be reserved anymore on 40 man.

    chitownmvp01 37 min 2 sec ago view
  • Interesting split on Heyward according to ESPN. As a CF, his slash line .292/.363/.375/.738. At RF: .212/.204/.300/.604. 21/72 as a CF, 58/273 as a RF.

    He's also been better when batting 2nd, but he had a nice start in the 6 hole, but has slumped ever since. He was heating up before the All Star break, but is only hitting .108 in the 2nd half.

    chitownmvp01 45 min 1 sec ago view
  • When we played the Reds with Chapman, I always thought of it as an eight-inning game. So now other teams have eight innings to try to get a lead against the Cubs. Should be a challenge, assuming three or four Cubs ever start hitting again.

    I don't really try to get to know and like these players personally. I'm rooting for laundry, for the most part. Exceptions might be when a player makes trouble in the clubhouse or in the dugout. (Zambrano and Bradley come to mind. Also Papelbon.) But I don't think Chapman is one of those jerks.

    VirginiaPhil 4 hours 17 min ago view
  • Unfortunately, a pretty good summary. It looks like next year Heyward will be getting yet another batting stance adjustment.

    The recent good news has been Baez. I'm afraid about the next league adjustment on him, though, which is probably right around the corner.

    Bryant I don't worry about too much. Just not seeing the ball well right now. He'll turn it around. Russell's been good with men in scoring position all year and he's 22ish. He'll be fine but next year is likely to be his breakout year.

    Old and Blue 6 hours 20 min ago view
  • If Travis' back-to-back-to-back walks cost Hendricks the ERA title, that would really suck.

    billybucks 15 hours 23 min ago view
  • Edit: "A lifeless loss to a lousy Sox team."

    billybucks 16 hours 6 min ago view
  • This place is a real downer after a loss to the Sox.

    Charlie 16 hours 17 min ago view
  • I expect they will go 5-9 games above .500 the rest of the year. 96-98 wins will win the Division.

    They should have one more 2-3 week hot streak in them.

    However, several players are just "average" for the last month: Zobrist, Ross, Russell, Ceasar. Montero is terrible, plus he cannot throw anyone out. -WAR. Heyward is abysmal at the plate, but a plus in the OF. Still with RISP he has been terrible. KB has not been driving in runs as of late. But Apparently the team is still above average with RISP according to S Sahadev.

    The E-Man 16 hours 23 min ago view
  • I came to that realization tonight. I kept expecting them to play better, but now I realize they aren't going to. They are a .500 team now.
    - They have one reliable starting pitcher. Jake's magic is gone, and it doesn't look like it's coming back. Lester has been lousy recently. Lackey's ERA goes up every time he pitches.
    - Heyward has been dead weight all year. I can't remember a single series where he was a significant offensive contributor. Not one. Great defense, but but if he were hitting .270 with 10 HR and played average defense, the Cubs would be better off.

    billybucks 16 hours 27 min ago view
  • new rule...no one's allowed to throw k.bryant a changeup

    crunch 16 hours 38 min ago view
  • Team is .500 since early May and is playing like a .500 team. Lack of offense seems to be putting a lot of pressure on the pitchers...and they aren't handling it terribly well.

    .500 the rest of the way still may win the division though.

    blockhead25 16 hours 44 min ago view
  • ...i hate espn.

    nothing like settling into a cubs game to get a few minutes cutaway for an ortiz AB in the 6th inning of the det/bos game.

    oh, at least they're doing split screen now...i guess.

    crunch 16 hours 59 min ago view
  • I'm liking this rookie Nathan.

    CTSteve 17 hours 32 sec ago view
  • Richard DFA'd. Meh...

    The E-Man 19 hours 51 min ago view
  • Throwbacks with fashionable cutouts would be a nice touch.

    Charlie 22 hours 24 min ago view
  • The next 2 games are nationally televised. I think we dominate tonight, hitting 3 HRs off Shields. Great night for KB to end HR drought facing HR prone pitcher in one of the most hitter friendly parks in the league.

    chitownmvp01 22 hours 56 min ago view