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After tearing down organization, Hoyer ready to rebuild

Outfield first concern for Cubs

Published: Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 11:50 p.m. CDT
(Phil Velasquez)
MCT Team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer spent their first year in power of the Cubs overhauling the team and the system. Now, they'll start to rebuild the club after a 101-loss season.

Like any 101-loss team, the Cubs have a few holes to fill.

And after spending their first year tearing down the building, Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod head to the general managers meetings in Palm Springs, Calif., on Tuesday to lay the groundwork for the rebuild.

Of the five areas of concern, the outfield spot may be the hardest to predict. The Cubs are seeking an athletic outfielder to play center field, primarily, but won't rule out a corner outfielder.

"We would like to add a good defender," Hoyer said. "The ability to play multiple spots out there is important. And. ... the more we can get left-handed, the better, though I wouldn't say that criteria is a must [in an outfielder]."

Hoyer said David DeJesus played well in both right and center but added "the more we push him into center, the more we deplete that."

The A's Coco Crisp fits Hoyer's description. But the Cubs probably would have to trade off some youth to get him.

A switch-hitting center fielder who has 88 stolen bases the last two seasons, Crisp spent 3 years playing in Boston, from 2006-08, when Epstein was the Red Sox GM. Crisp is owed $7 million in 2013, with a $7.5 million option in '14. The A's acquired Diamondbacks center fielder Chris Young after the season, and have a crowded outfield picture.

Josh Hamilton, the prime free-agent outfielder, is too risky, health-wise, and way too expensive. Torii Hunter would be a dream signing but figures to sign with a contender. Melky Cabrera is an interesting option and one Hoyer wouldn't comment on. Cabrera led the National League in hitting before a suspension for violating the league's PED policy. Would Cubs fans accept an admitted juicer, even if he came relatively cheap?

The other four key areas for the Cubs:

Starting pitching: Dan Haren and Randall Delgado are in Epstein's fantasy rotation — two starters who might have been Cubs if not for the social media site that prematurely spread word of their imminent arrivals via trades. Neither came to the Cubs, and Haren won't be in the Cubs' picture now.

But there are a few quality starters on the market, including Anibal Sanchez, Shaun Marcum and Joe Saunders. Whether they'd want to sign with a rebuilding club is the challenge for the Cubs' brass.

Third base: The Cubs say they're still undecided on bringing back arbitration-eligible Ian Stewart, who missed much of the season following wrist surgery after a poor debut. The Cubs still will look for a third baseman, with Josh Vitters headed to Triple-A Iowa and Luis Valbuena a platoon player.

Relief pitching: Carlos Marmol discovered the hard way the Cubs believe he's dispensable. Still, Marmol, James Russell and Michael Bowden seem to be the only relievers assured of a role. The Cubs will try to re-sign Shawn Camp, but if he gets a generous offer elsewhere they won't go overboard to keep him. Arodys Vizcaino could be ready to close by midseason, and signing a free-agent risk like Ryan Madson is a possibility.

Role players: The Cubs could use a veteran backup to teach Welington Castillo how to handle his pitching staff more assertively. And while Dave Sappelt has a reserve outfielder's job waiting, the Cubs did miss the presence of a veteran role player for the bench when Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker were dealt.

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