INDIAN WELLS, Calif. Theo Epstein envisions the Cubs grinding out at-bats like those Boston Red Sox teams that stretched games past the four-hour mark and played deep into October.
The president of baseball operations has mentioned how the biggest negative surprise hes found in the organization since taking over almost 13 months ago was the embedded and institutionalized lack of plate discipline on the North Side.
But the player once hyped in Moneyball as The Greek God of Walks is not viewed as a match right now.
The Cubs are interested in Kevin Youkilis, but expect him to go beyond their price range and ultimately sign with a team much closer to contention, according to a source familiar with the organizations thinking.
Youkilis certainly noticed how the White Sox played second fiddle in Chicago, even as a team that hung onto first place well into September.
The Cubs sold almost three million tickets during a 101-loss season and wont have trouble filling up the bandwagon again if they can rebuild at Wrigley Field. They need some veteran leadership and have a huge hole at third base. But that doesnt make them unique among the teams huddled up on Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency resort in Indian Wells, Calif. The general manager meetings are about sorting through options and there arent many good ones at third base.
Its a challenging position to fill in this day and age, general manager Jed Hoyer said. We really are excited about our third-base depth in our system.
So the Cubs feel good about Josh Vitters, Junior Lake, Christian Villanueva, Jeimer Candelario and, maybe, Javier Baez if hes ultimately blocked by Starlin Castro at shortstop. But they need a short-term solution while waiting for one of those players to break through.
Casey McGehee who had his best season (23 homers, 104 RBI) in 2010 while working with Milwaukee Brewers hitting coachfuture Cubs manager Dale Sveum could be a buy-low free agent.
McGahee wasnt the same player last season, hitting .217 with nine home runs and 41 RBI in 114 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees, but the Cubs are looking for guys who could have bounce-back seasons.
Hoyer said the Cubs could go with a platoon at third base, and Sveum is high on Luis Valbuenas overall game. They continue to gather more medical information on Ian Stewart, who hasnt started baseball activities yet after undergoing wrist surgery last summer. They likely wont make a decision until the Nov. 30 tender date, and its hard to imagine Stewart getting a guaranteed contract.
Youkilis is the biggest name out there among third baseman, and hes being marketed as someone who can also play first base, which doesnt do much for the Cubs with Anthony Rizzo stationed there for the next decade.
Youkilis wound up finishing with 19 homers and 60 RBI after a midseason trade from Boston to the South Side. He won two World Series rings with the Red Sox and knows how to handle playing in a big market.
Youkilis is said to be on good terms with Epstein after their time together at Fenway Park. But a contending team that sees Youkilis as a finishing piece will almost certainly be more aggressive than the Cubs this winter.
A season that began with Bobby Valentine questioning Youkilis physical and emotional investment in the game ended with the Red Sox manager getting fired. It will lead into an offseason where the third baseman should cash in and get the last laugh.