Cubs will have free-agent holes to fill

Cubs will have free-agent holes to fill

CHICAGO -- It will be a busy offseason for the Cubs, who not only have some holes in the roster to fill but also spots on manager Joe Maddon's coaching staff.

Chili Davis and Jim Hickey join Maddon as the new hitting and pitching coaches, respectively. Dave Martinez, who had been at Maddon's side since 2008 as his bench coach, was named manager of the Nationals.

Chicago repeated as National League Central champs and reached the postseason for the third straight year in 2017 only to lose to the Dodgers in five games in the NL Championship Series.

Free agents are now able to sign with a new team, so let the bidding begin. What's ahead for the Cubs?

Hot Stove tracker

Free agents: Righties Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis, Koji Uehara and John Lackey; lefty Brian Duensing; outfielder Jon Jay; catchers Alex Avila and Rene Rivera.

Arbitration-eligible players: Righties Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm, and Kyle Hendricks; third baseman Kris Bryant; shortstop Addison Russell; infielder Tommy La Stella.

Lackey's two-hit performance

Biggest potential free-agent loss
The Cubs don't have pitching depth in their system, and they will miss Arrieta, who was 68-31 with a 2.73 ERA in 128 starts over five seasons with the Cubs. One of the reasons they were eager to acquire Jose Quintana is that he's under contract through 2019. Lackey, who turned 39 on Oct. 23, may retire. Davis was the Cubs' third closer in as many seasons, and he was nearly perfect with 32 saves in 33 chances. Carl Edwards Jr. has been mentioned as a possible closer, but is he ready for the job in '18?

Potential free-agent targets
In a perfect world, Arrieta and Davis would return on team-friendly contracts. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has made it clear he'd like to have both back. But baseball is a business. The Cubs, loaded with young position players, will likely look at trade options more than the free agents on the market. Last December, they acquired Davis from the Royals for Jorge Soler and signed free agents Jay, Duensing and Uehara. Could the Cubs pursue a high-priced free-agent pitcher? Said Epstein: "I wouldn't rule it out completely, and I wouldn't rule it in. I would just say it's not our preferred method."

Davis' two-inning save

Wild-card scenario
Is this the year the Cubs part with some of their young talent? When the Cubs were ousted from the postseason by the Dodgers, Epstein indicated that now may be the time to sacrifice some of their position-player depth to address the team's needs. Even though the Cubs have done well the past two seasons, there is still a budget and Epstein would prefer to not have to commit to a monster-sized contract for a free agent. Both Javier Baez and Russell are talented shortstops. Could the Cubs deal one of them?

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.