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Status: Starting Eight
by alex ciepley
I'm enjoying watching the playoff action from my comfortable perch in Eliminated Early Central. I've been hanging around all week with my buds, the Giants and Padres, and have recently been joined by the Twins, Dodgers, Angels. I'm really hoping the Astros swing by later today.
While I wonder if Phil Garner can somehow figure out a way to blow game five against Atlanta, here's a quick look at the current status of the everyday guys on the Cubs.
Catcher Michael Barrett: I'm vastly confused as to his status entering the offseason. I've consistently thought that he is not a free agent, but Barrett has just completed his sixth year in the bigs, which would normally allow him out of the cage. I think the crux of the matter lies in his 2000 season, when he was optioned down to Ottawa for a month; you have to be on the roster for a full 162 games for it to count as one of your six years. If I'm right, it would make Barrett's 2005 season his walk year, not this year. It's all so confusing.
In any case, it seems highly likely that Barrett, a favorite of Hendry's, will be back next year. He may even be signed to a multi-year contract.
First Base Derrek Lee: Lee is Cub property for at least the next two seasons, having signed a three-year contract last offseason.
Second Base Mark Grudzielanek: The Cubs have a $2,500,000 option on Grudz, with a $250,000 buyout. The Cubs will not have both Grudzielanek and Walker next year, so they'll have to decide if they want one, the other, or neither.
Todd Walker: Walker is a free agent. If he is re-signed, he will—unlike this year—be designated the starting second baseman.
Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra: Nomar is a free agent, and speculation is that the Cubs aren't particularly keen on even trying to sign him. Whether or not these rumors are true, it certainly is no slam dunk that he'll be back with the team next year.
Third Base Aramis Ramirez: Many Cubs fans have been prone to minor panic attacks this season, thinking that Aramis and his breakout season will leave this offseason via free agency. No fear: he's not a free agent. Yes, the contract he originally signed with the Pirates is now finished, but he has one more year of arbitration left. Just as Hendry did with Kerry Wood and Derrek Lee last offseason, I'd expect Aramis to be offered a three- or four-year deal that buys out his final (expensive) year of arbitration.
Left Field Moises Alou: The Cubs have an $11,500,000 option on Alou for next year. That's not going to happen. Instead, the Cubs will buy out the remainder of Alou's contract (at a cost of 2 million buckaroos, I believe). Whether or not they sign (or even try to sign) him at a reduced rate this offseason will depend on Alou's asking price, the Cubs' desire to bring back Monsieur Whine, and the available goodies at the market.
Center Field Corey Patterson: "Strikeout", as John Hill referred to him in the comments a while back, will be back. His salary should get a bit of a bump, but he's not gonna be expensive yet (nor should he be).
Right Field Sammy Sosa: 2005 is the last guaranteed year on Sosa's contract unless he gets traded, in which case the new team automatically is stuck with covering a souped-up version of Sosa's 2006 salary. The general impression is that Sosa is being shopped this offseason, due to both his shenanigans off the field and his lackluster performance on it. It seems like his contract would make Sosa virtually untradeable; I'm guessing he's back in Wrigley next year for one final tour with the Cubs.