The Chicago Cubs were one of the worst teams in the MLB during the 2012 season. They finished at 61-101, the second-worst record in the majors.
After four straight years of missing the playoffs, Chicago will be looking to make major upgrades for 2013. Former Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein joined the Cubs a year ago to become the team’s president. He won two championships with Boston, and will likely be looking to make a big splash in the offseason.
Giancarlo Stanton could be that big splash. According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Cubs have made inquires about acquiring the Miami Marlins outfielder. The Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Red Sox have also expressed interest in Stanton.
Stanton is one of the best young players in the majors. The 23-year-old finished second in the National League with 37 home runs. He drove in 86 runs and hit .290, all while playing just 123 games. If he had been healthy, Stanton could have been a legitimate MVP candidate.
The Marlins might not be openly shopping Stanton, but their recent trades have teams looking into the availability of the outfielder. Miami recently sent shortstop Jose Reyes, catcher John Buck, outfielder Emilio Bonifacio and pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle to the Toronto Blue Jays. The Marlins didn’t get any established major league stars in return, and are looking to cut payroll.
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Chicago may be lacking in major league talent, but they likely have enough in the minor leagues to get a deal done. Miami was reportedly blown away by Toronto’s offer and felt compelled to make the deal. If the Cubs do the same, the Marlins might send them Stanton.
Acquiring Stanton would bolster the Cubs roster, but also allow them to make other moves. Entering his fourth season, he isn’t signed to a lucrative contract. Any deal involving Stanton and the Cubs would almost certainly involve Javier Baez, a shortstop who turn 20 next week, and is the No. 25 prospect in the minors, according to Baseball America. Outfielder Brett Jackson could also figure into a possible trade.
Aside from acquiring a star hitter, Chicago will also be looking to bolster their pitching staff. The Cubs pitchers, especially their relievers, were a major reason for their struggles in 2012. Chicago’s bullpen ERA of 4.49 ranked them 27th in baseball.
The Cubs explored trading closer Carlos Marmol to the Los Angeles Angels for Dan Haren, but the deal fell through. Marmol had his troubles, allowing 1.54 base-runners per inning, and losing his job for over a month. Chicago is looking to replace him with a more reliable option.
Kyuji Fujikawa is one of the most coveted free agents on the market. The closer has pitched his entire career in Japan, but is looking to try out his game in the United States. He was dominant in his final six seasons in Japan, registering 202 saves and a 1.36 ERA.
Cubs management has reportedly met with Fujikawa, who is looking for a multi-year deal. He is not under contract in Japan, so Chicago doesn’t have to bid other teams for the right to talk to the pitcher. The Los Angeles Dodgers, L.A. Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Orioles are the Cubs' main competition to sign Fujikawa.
Chicago will likely also look to add an infielder in free agency. The Cubs might have the weakest infield in the majors. First baseman Anthony Rizzo is their top returning infielder. He had 15 home runs and 48 RBI in 2012.