Can the Cubs actually sign Pujols or Fielder?
A Guest Blog By dcgm04
They have enough money coming off the books due to expiring contracts–such as Carlos Silva’s and Kosuke Fukudome’s–that will give them financial flexibility. Plus, if they can shed some other contracts via trades this summer like they want to, then they’ll be in an even better position.
The Cubs would prefer Pujols over Fielder. Even though he is four years older than Fielder (31 to 27) and having a down-year by his standards, Pujols is still considered the best hitter in the game. Also, he is better defensively than Fielder. And aside from ability, Pujols is a bigger draw. By luring away the best player from their No. 1 rival, the Cubs would be in a great marketing position that could really draw in the crowds. With attendance declining at an alarming rate this season at Wrigley, the Cubs front office needs to do something bold to draw the fans back.
The Cubs will be the team most desperate to sign Pujols. A little while ago, ESPN.com ran an article about teams that were in financial trouble. One of those teams was the Cubs, but don’t look for them to cut spending too much. If they cut spending drastically, then the quality of the product out on the field will suffer, which in turn will cause an even further drop in attendance and an even greater loss of money. At this point, the Cubs need to draw fans back to the ballpark, and as previously stated, signing Pujols is the best way to do that, especially if you don’t think you can put a competitive team out on the field next season.
However, the Cubs will be rebuilding. Other than Starlin Castro, the Cubs have no young players that are projected to be above average in the future. They do have some intriguing talent like Darwin Barney and Tony Campana in the majors right now, but it’s too early to tell what can be expected from them long-term. And with the exception of the guys at the back-end of the bullpen (Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood, and Carlos Marmol), the Cubs don’t have good, reliable pitching. Out of the entire starting rotation, only Matt Garza has a good chance to stay in the rotation for the next few years barring a surprise trade. Andrew Cashner could also be in that rotation, but he only made one start until getting injured so it’s difficult to evaluate him as a starter, though his stuff is very good.
As for their farm system, the best position player prospect is outfielder Brett Jackson according to Baseball America. From what I’ve heard he does a little bit of everything well but doesn’t excel at any one area. He could be a solid regular, but most scouts don’t see him as a future star. Matt Szczur is another outfielder they have who was recently named to the USA roster in the Futures Game, but he’s only in his first year of A-ball. As far as pitching prospects go, Trey McNutt is their best and could be a solid number 2 or 3 starter, but he’s still probably two or more years away from making the majors. Robert Whitenack was another pitcher making a name for himself this season by going 7-0 with a 1.93 ERA in 11 starts at Single-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, but he has since been lost to Tommy John surgery.
Rebuilding and the lack of any immediate help from the farm system could affect Pujols’ or Fielder’s decision to sign with the Cubs. As it stands now, I think the Cubs have a better chance of signing Pujols. For one, Pujols has made it clear that he wants to be the best-paid player in the game. He has already refused several times to give the Cardinals a discount, and as previously stated the Cubs are one of the few teams that could shell out that much cash. Another reason is that Pujols already has a World Series ring and Fielder doesn’t. Fielder may be more inclined to sign somewhere that gives him a good chance at winning right away. Pujols may be more content to wait a few years for another opportunity at a championship since he already has one to his name.
There is a good chance that Pujols or Fielder could choose not to sign with the Cubs because they will be rebuilding for some time. If the Cubs want to increase their chances at signing one of these guys, then they need to trade for prospects and eat a few of contracts. Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, and Carlos Pena all have hefty contracts that are hard to move because of the dollars attached to them and the subpar performances of the players. But the players still have value, it’s just less than the value of their contracts. The Cubs need to restock their farm system by trading these guys for prospects. Yes, they will have to eat almost all of the contracts, but by getting prospects it could show Pujols and Fielder that the team will get better in the not-to-distant future.