Harden's option: Check. Hendry's extension: Check. Kerry Wood's future with the Cubs: eh, Check...Ryan Dempster: 4-year-52 Million check.
With the Cubs having officially taken care of their own in-house business, it's now time to be active players in the free agent market. I could sit and talk about how good it was that the Cubs got Dempster back, but this is a.) not a surprise and b.) was always the right move to make.
That means it's time for left-handed power-hitting outfielder check.
While the Peavy check(?) is still in the works (depending on who you talk to), the priority has got be signing that lefty, preferably a power-hitting outfielder.
My personal choice would be Mariners' outfielder Raul Ibanez. The question marks are if he'd be willing/able to play right field and if the Cubs could give him the coinage to do it. He's a great fit averaging .280-.300 over the last 6 or so years with about 25 home runs and he's played for Lou Piniella before. That said, with the Mets, Phillies and Dodgers all in the mix, he's going to find the ideal situation and it'd be tough for the Cubs to land him. Yankees' outfielder Bobby Abreu is a similar situation.
One low-cost option that has recently come up is Royals utility man Mark Teahen. He strikes me as a younger Jim Edmonds--that is, Jim Edmonds as he plays now, only this guy is younger...yeah. That to me sounds like a cop out, not a solution. Teahen I think would only make it more confusing in that mess of an outfield, especially if Soriano should spend any more time with his good friend DL next season.
Apparently the Cubs have re-opened a chapter out of 2006 and expressed interest in Rafael Furcal. I don't know how this would play with the Cubs infield, but someone with his speed is certainly a welcome addition.
Payroll right now is holding the Cubs back a bit, so unfortunately it's hard to say the Cubs could land any of the big free agents. One step would be to get rid of Jason Marquis. To that, I say, good luck.
I guess let's hope we can write a big enough check.