With flat payroll, Cubs eye Gonzalez trade

Adrian Gonzalez is strong enough from the left side even for Wrigley Field's stiff winds. AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts stated last week that the team’s payroll will remain flat. Knowing that, the Cubs' front office will be targeting the trade market as a way to improve on a disappointing 2010 season.

Like many teams, the North Siders have had their eye on San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who can become a free agent after the 2011 season.

The small-market Padres know they will not be able to afford the $15 million-$20 million per season that Gonzalez will demand as a free agent next November. That being the case, deciding when to trade their best player will be the key to the Padres’ structure in the near future.

San Diego picked up Gonzalez's $6.2 million option for 2011.

Gonzalez had surgery on his right shoulder in late October to repair his labrum. He’s expected to be 100 percent by spring training.

The Cubs would love to add Gonzalez. The fact the 29-year-old slugger hit 30 home runs or more in four consecutive seasons in cavernous Petco Park makes teams like the Cubs and Red Sox believe he’d be a 40-HR hitter in their parks. Historically, Wrigley Field has been a black hole for left-handed pull hitters due to wind conditions. Gonzalez is a perfect hitter for Wrigley, because he hits with power to all fields.

The Padres must decide if they can part with Gonzalez, a San Diego native, this winter. If they do, they would lose the marketability of a local product who helps them sell tickets.

The Red Sox have been trying to trade for Gonzalez for the last two seasons, and the Padres probably would have done that last year if they hadn't led the Western Division for most of the season. Gonzalez is the team’s only legitimate RBI threat.

In order to trade for Gonzalez, if and when the Padres are ready to do so, teams will have to be ready to part with 3-4 of their top young players. In the meantime, the Cubs will be talking to the agents for the top left-handed hitting first baseman in the free agent market in order to find out what the market will be.

Washington first baseman Adam Dunn will be asking in the range of three-years, $40 million, a contract the Cubs will not be able to afford. The Cubs will look at Tampa’s Carlos Pena, the Yankees Lance Berkman, Arizona’s Adam Laroche, the Yankee’s Nick Johnson and possible short-term free-agent solutions if a trade for Gonzalez is not feasible.