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?
BRADSBEARD: I haven't noticed any new rule or a change in the interpretation of an existing rule happening in Advanced Instructs, I don't know what rules will be tested in the AFL, although almost all recent rule changes and new interpretations of existing rules (the home plate collision rule, replay, time clock between innings, et al) do get their start in the AFL.
AZ Phil: I've heard that the AFL will be testing out a new force out rule that would affect break-up plays (like the Utley play). Have you heard anything about this new rule and any details about it? Are they testing it out at the advanced instructs as well?
Pretty sure I already know the answer to this, but since I will be in NYC next week I want to confirm... If the Cubs were to advance to the NLCS, the winner of LAD/NYM would have home field based on being a division winner (as opposed to Cubs by virtue of better record), correct?
CUBSTER: This "hammy" is on the other leg I heard last night. See you at the ballyard today young man!
Oh what do you know, Cubster? Go back to your day job.
--- Ducks, puts on Cardinals cap, runs.
Russell had a severe hamstring last year while with the A's system, forcing him to miss the first half of 2014. I've even wondered if his injury last year was a component of Billy Beane putting him on the trade market. He was quoted saying that last year's injury was a 10 out of 10 when it happened. Last night he said his hamstring soreness was a 1/1.5 out of 10. Hamstring injuries are tricky though, so I'd expect the medical team to be overly cautious here.
...I want to reinforce the observation that there was no sea of red in the crowd. The usual Cardinal fans roaming the stadium were few and far between.
Also, almost every 2 strike pitch brought the fans to their feet. Good for those in knee rehab.
"1st team hit hit 6HR in a game in the postseason." rises above obvious...i checked it with the official fact-finding commission of Douche, Douche, and Douchestein. they agreed with you, but they're a bunch of f'n douches so who cares?
btw, the cubs are 2-1 in the post-season series.
I should be able to watch the game on the NFL replay app, whatever that thing is called. I've got it on my iPad. This is the first year I haven't forced myself to somehow watch every game - no I take that back, last year was - in quite some time. Last year was so unbearable, no pun intended.
You make some good points about Cutler, and I was a holdout defender of Cutler for a long time. I gave up on him a bit after one too many dumb interceptions, but last year doesn't count. Trestman was the worst coach in Bears history.
Nice little reportage there!. I think you're older than me. Considerably older. Maybe several generations. Working out is so essential, especially as age kicks in, isn't it? I still lift weights, and so I'm confident that when I get to be at the hip breaking age, mine won't be a statistic. But I have a ways to go for that to be a concern.
What was impressive to me is that the Cubs won despite poor base running, several defensive miscues, Russell leaving due to injury, Arrieta having an off game and getting knocked out early, and Rondon giving up 2 runs in the 9th. If they can win a game like that...
I was there too. The crowd was absolutely electric. People were standing for every big and semi-big moment, from the first inning on. It felt incredibly strange and exhilarating to see the Cubs (the Chicago bleepin' Cubs!) score playoff insurance runs on the Cardinals. What a game. One to remember.
14 in attendance. What's the record for attendance in the fall? I guess I should ask what the record attendance listed is in one of your recaps.
I was there too, with my grown son. This is my miracle year-- I rose to the top of the season ticket list after eight years, completely unexpectedly, and my wonderful wife agreed to put the ticket fee on the emergency credit card. The whole point of course was that the Cubs were going to be good this year, and then for a while, so to get season tickets with the guaranteed shot at the postseason was incredible timing. We got to the remote lot at 4:10 after stopping at Nhu Lan for our usual banh mi sandwiches, only to find the lot full, way earlier than normal.