- Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- As the Chicago Cubs lay the groundwork for their offseason, don't expect major dollars to be spent -- unless of course they land Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka -- as their rebuilding plan simply doesn't call for it yet.
Even a signing from last winter like Edwin Jackson probably won't be repeated as that may have been ahead of schedule.
But that doesn't mean the Cubs won't take some steps. They'd prefer a younger starting pitcher who isn't brought in just to be flipped at the trade deadline. A pitcher they can take a chance on by buying low as that player attempts a return to prosperity, like Phil Hughes of the New York Yankees or Josh Johnson of the Toronto Blue Jays. Both are reclamation projects but are young enough to survive a rebuild if they can pitch.
In the outfield, a source says Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nate McLouth is on their list, although he's drawing interest from several clubs and there is speculation he wants to play for a winner. McLouth is at least the type of player the Cubs could use. He's a veteran who can provide some leadership while taking some attention and pressure away from their young players.
Finding a closer may not be a priority, but it's needed. A backup catcher will be of need if Dioner Navarro gets paid the way he would like to. Kurt Suzuki or Gerald Laird are two names that have come up for the Cubs.
Then there are the trades. They're in the incubation stage.
"We're closer because we've had those discussions," general manager Jed Hoyer said Wednesday from the GM meetings. "We flushed out some ideas that aren't going to work. We've been approached about some ideas that we'll go back and think about more. In that regard we're closer. I don't think you come here expecting to get deals done."
Having said that, the Cubs don't want to wait around as some of these second-tier players find homes.
"You have to be thoughtful and deliberate but you can never be too deliberate because guys go off the board," Hoyer said.
Hoyer admitted outfield, starting pitching, relieving and catching have been the focus so far. The Cubs seem set in the infield with either what they have on the big league roster now or coming up from the minors soon enough. Unless a starter is traded, they have four for 2014: Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta. At some point they'll have to find a true No. 1 starter. Who will be the Cubs' Adam Wainwright or Clayton Kershaw? Could Tanaka be a realistic possibility?
For now, the Cubs will fill some holes with the hope of hitting on a player or two who can stick around. Maybe even more than making talent a priority they need to replace some veteran leadership, at least among position players.
The offseason is just beginning, but the Cubs' plan for the future is deep in the works.