Roster Report

Usually a last-place team needs a major overhaul. The injury-plagued Cubs will make some changes, but with some of the players they are hoping will be healthy in 2007, it likely will be a medium-sized shakeup.

BIGGEST NEEDS: With Dusty Baker dismissed, that puts a new manager on top of the team's "to-do" list.

On the field, the Cubs will have to seek out two or three starting pitchers if they don't believe some of their younger pitchers who got their feet wet in 2006 are ready. Carlos Zambrano and Rich Hill appear to be locks, and oft-injured Mark Prior will be in the rotation if he's healthy.

The Cubs also need a little more power in the lineup and may be seeking a power-hitting left fielder if they don't think Matt Murton (.297 with 13 homers and 62 RBIs) can provide it next year.

FREE AGENTS: CF Juan Pierre, RHP Wade Miller, INF/OF John Mabry, C Henry Blanco.

Pierre, the National League's hits leader this year, figures to land a lucrative contract. Blanco's late-season success filling for injured Michael Barrett might make him attractive to suitors.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: LHP Will Ohman, RHP Mark Prior, RHP Carlos Zambrano.

Zambrano, one of the NL's top pitchers, should command top dollar. Prior is coming off another injury-plagued season.

IN LIMBO: RHP Kerry Wood will not have his $13.5 million option picked up for 2007, although he said he hopes to work something out where he can return -- likely as a reliever. 3B Aramis Ramirez has an "out" clause in his contract after this season (the second year of a four-year deal). The Cubs are trying to renegotiate with him, but he may become a free agent.

PROSPECT WATCH: The Cubs brought up several minor-leaguers this season because of injuries, and it appears that LHP Rich Hill and INF Ryan Theriot have the best chance to make the roster in 2007. One of the top position prospects in the minor league system who did not get a call-up was CF Felix Pie. He hit .283 with 15 homers and 57 RBIs with Triple-A Iowa but also had a team-high 126 strikeouts in 141 games. The 21-year-old was reportedly upset that he didn't get a September look, but the Cubs felt he was not ready yet and didn't want him with the parent club if he wasn't going to get playing time.

MEDICAL WATCH:

RHP Kerry Wood (shoulder injury) could return to the team in 2007 as a reliever to ease some of the stress on his oft-injured arm.

RHP Mark Prior (shoulder tendinitis) said he hopes his injury problems will be behind him for 2007.

C Michael Barrett (intrascrotal hematoma) said he hoped the rest during the offseason will allow him to begin spring training on time in February.

SS Cesar Izturis (right hamstring injury) said that if he heals quickly during the offseason, he would consider playing a little bit of winter ball.

LHP Glendon Rusch (blood clot in his right lung) will not be able to pitch in a game until he is off blood-thinning medicine he began taking in mid-September. He said he would be on the medicine at least until March and possibly until September 2007.


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