This year was certainly a disaster for the Cubs. The first things I look at when I say that are the terrible record and the equally terrible run differential. The Cubs record is about what the run differential suggests.
Darwin Barney had garnered some interest but the Cubs thought he was too valuable to trade. I don't agree at all, Barney is about 15% worse than an average hitter (wRC+ of 85.) That's not terrible for a second baseman though. Overall he is roughly an average player.
That's in the past now though, so what should the Cubs do for next year?
Stand pat up the middle infield. Barney and Castro will be pretty good, especially if they improve slightly (i.e. learn how to take a walk). If they reduced their swing percentages they would both be very good players instead of a bit above average.
Excercise Aramis' Ramirez's option. A no brainer. No other 3B will be anywhere close to as good, and if things go wrong next year maybe he will accept a trade then and the Cubs will get some stuff in return.
The bullpen is set. Russel has been great as a reliever, Wood, Marmol, Marshall, and even Samardzija has come around. There might even be excess talent here and we could probably trade some for help elsewhere or convert one to a starter. Also Marcos Mateo is good, and Guzzman might be if he ever played. So long John Grabow.
Four starters are set with Dempster, Garza, Wells, and Cashner. It remains to be seen if Zambrano will be back. If not I'd let Samardzija and Marshall both compete for the spot. They both have improved greatly to tbe point where they might be very good starters. They are both effective against righties and lefties. Wood might be an option but only if he wants to. Previously he had trouble going past 60 pitches. There is also a chance Zack Greinke will be available.
I would get rid of Soriano even if you had to pay 75% of the remaining salary. He's still ok but next year and the year after? Matt Murton will be better right now and he should be coming back from Japan next year. Byrd moves to right and promote Brett Jackson from Triple-A to center field. (He is currently mashing)
For catcher, just keep Soto. He's having a down year but he's as good as anybody else. He alternates so next year will be a good year.
That leaves 1B. With Logan Morrison's problems with the management, if the Cubs got him it would be tremendous. If not, Pena is good but terrible against lefties and needs to start platooning. Baker/Pena would be good. Pena is a free agent so he'd have to agree to another 1 year deal. Pujols and Fielder will be available but don't fall for that trap. They will get way more money than they're worth.
So the net change is Brett Jackson called up, Murton in left, and Logan Morrison at first base. This team will be better than the 2011 version, which would have been ok if not for so many injuries. There's no reason 2012 can't be another chance for the Cubs to bring it.