It's the Offense, Stupid

Jim Hendry heads to the general managers meetings and begins in earnest his search for a left-handed hitter to help balance a lineup that was so right-handed that the Dodgers didn't have a left-handed pitcher face them at all in the playoffs.

It was hard to envision this scenario a few months ago. Right fielder Kosuke Fukudome was supposed to solve those problems, and it looked as if he were on the way to doing that with a fast start.

However, Fukudome faded badly beginning in June, and he found himself benched at times down the stretch.

Hendry said the Cubs are confident Fukudome can regain his touch, but the Cubs aren't taking any chances.

In the past, Hendry had shown interest in Seattle outfielder Raul Ibanez, only to have the Mariners tell him "no deal." Now that Ibanez is a free agent, the Cubs may take a look. They'll explore other avenues, as well.

Hendry has used the GM meetings in the past to lay the groundwork for deals that happened in the following weeks or at the winter meetings. Expect him to follow that path again in search of not only a left-handed bat, but also some bullpen help.

NOTES, QUOTES

--It's possible Fukudome could find himself in center field next year and as a platoon player with Reed Johnson, an arbitration-eligible player the Cubs plan on bringing back.

Much will depend on whether Hendry is able to land a left-handed batter, especially one who can play right field. The Cubs like Fukudome's defense in right, so they're hoping he can show in spring training that he has made the necessary adjustments at the plate. It does not appear the Cubs want CF Jim Edmonds back.

--Don't look for 1B Derrek Lee to be traded. Lee has a complete no-trade clause in his contract, and the Cubs point out Lee took less money to stay with them in exchange for no-trade protection. Lee's on-base numbers were good (.361 OBP), but his slugging percentage (.462) was fueled largely on 41 doubles, as his homer output fell to 20.

--1B/OF Micah Hoffpauir will go to spring training with a chance to win a spot on the big club as a backup to 1B Derrek Lee and as a reserve outfielder and pinch hitter. The Cubs don't appear to have interest in bringing back 1B/OF Daryle Ward as a pinch hitter. Hoffpauir played in 33 games with the Cubs and batted .342 with eight doubles and two homers. At Class AAA Iowa, he had 25 homers and 100 RBIs in just 71 games. He is only average as a fielder.

--The Cubs lost INF Casey McGehee on waivers to the Milwaukee Brewers. McGehee, a 2003 Cubs draft choice, played in nine games with the big club this year, going 4-for-24 (.167). He didn't figure into the club's long-term plans.

--Once-promising RHP Billy Petrick was outrighted to Class AAA Iowa. Petrick appeared in eight games for the Cubs in 2007 before his shoulder bothered him. He pitched at Class A Daytona this year and was never a factor.

BY THE NUMBERS: 37 -- That's where the Cubs' 40 man roster stood at the end of the World Series as Hendry prepares to add a free agent or two.

HE SAID IT: "I'm looking forward to it, maybe more so than the last couple. It'll be nice to talk to a lot of the GMs to see what their appetites are going to be with free agency and possibly trades. We feel like we've got some excess in areas that might help us in areas we need to get stronger." -- Hendry, on the general managers meetings.

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