In recent years, the week leading up to the Winter Meetings has been almost as fertile for transactions as the week of the Meetings, itself. Things can move fast, particularly with a tight-lipped front office like the Cubs now have. Keep up with the latest with Bleacher Nation on Facebook and on Twitter. On to the stove…
- Former executive turned commentator Jim Bowden recently said the Cubs “have been very aggressive with a wide range of free agents and have been in on trade talks with at least a dozen clubs,” which is unsurprising given the new front office blood, and the commensurate change in philosophy. But Bowden adds, “what’s been interesting is, for a club that struggled so much in 2011, the conversations have not been limited to long-term solutions, but rather, they’ve included everyone from prospects to one-year stop-gap players.” Bowden’s take jives with seemingly conflicting rumors – trading Garza? signing Buehrle? trading Soto? signing Fielder? – as the Cubs are undoubtedly exploring all avenues to improve the team both in the near and long term. As I’ve said repeatedly, there is nothing intrinsically inconsistent with the idea that the Cubs could trade Matt Garza, on the one hand, and still work hard to put together an improved big league team in 2012.
- Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, who has been killing it this offseason, has a long piece on the upcoming free agency binge, as the Winter Meetings approach. In it, he discusses the expected funneling of would-be amateur dollars into big league payrolls after the implementation of the new CBA. He can’t decide whether that extra money will mean players want to sign quickly, hoping to cash in before the broader implications of the CBA are more fully understood, or whether they’ll wait longer than usual, hoping the market it set at an inordinately high level. I can’t decide either, but, whatever the case, I wouldn’t be surprised to see free agent salaries increase markedly over the next few years – starting this Winter.
- In the same piece, Passan speculates that the changes could increase the chances that the Cubs pony up for a big-time free agent like Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols (the latter of whom Passan says is “100 percent certain” to return to the Cards, an executive told him). He notes the Cubs among the list of Mark Buehrle’s suitors, too – but guesses a healthy four year, $60 million price tag on the reliable near-33-year-old lefty. Joe Cowley also has the Cubs in on Buehrle, whom he says the White Sox originally believed they could re-sign on a two-year deal. Oops.
- A relatively generic MLB.com piece also ties the Cubs to Pujols and Fielder…
- …but Buster Olney says neither is a great long-term fit for the Cubs. Pujols, because of his age. Fielder, because of his suspect defense. I’m with Olney on Pujols, but I’m keeping an open mind on the Cubs’ possible pursuit of Fielder. On Fielder, Olney says Fielder is a better fit for an AL team who could DH him in the later years of the deal (duh). What the point implies is that offers from AL teams could come in a bit heavier than offers from NL teams.
- Jon Heyman notes that the Blue Jays are open to moving 24-year-old first base prospect David Cooper, who’s blocked by Adam Lind (query why any team would consider Adam Lind to be “blocking” anyone, but whateves). Before you go leaping on Cooper, keep some things in mind: he’ll be 25 in February, his 2011 season was his first good offensive minor league season since 2008, and that 2011 season came in the PCL, where everybody had a great offensive season. He’s interesting, but, even if the Cubs talk to the Blue Jays about, for example, Carlos Marmol, Cooper probably isn’t enough.
- Phil Rogers says Cuban prospect, Jorge Soler (the 19-year-old studly counterpart to 26-year-old Yoenis Cespedes), is expected to sign soon. By my reading of the new CBA, the spending limits on international amateurs doesn’t kick in until next year. If so, young Mr. Soler is going to get paaaaaid.
- Taiwanese 26-year-old lefty Chen Wei-yin can be a free agent as of December 1, and a number of MLB teams are expected to check in on him. He could be a nice risk at four years and $20ish million after tearing it up in Japan. As a true free agent, Chen wouldn’t cost a posting fee – just a contract.
- The Marlins continue their high-end free agency tour, bringing in CJ Wilson for a visit today.
- A lot of rumors lately about Reds’ young hitter, Yonder Alonso. The Reds are reportedly making him available for a closer or a number two starter, but I’m not sure I see a fit with the Cubs. Alonso is a first baseman – and a first baseman only – and there is a vast debate about just how good his bat could be. Unless you’re convinced it’s going to be well above average, it’s hard to justify giving up a talented pitcher for him, given his otherwise limited skill set. I also have a hard time seeing the Reds trading in division, with the Cubs. So, could I see a Marmol/Alonso swap making some superficial sense? Yes, though my guess is that, if the Reds even considered the deal at all, they’d want the Cubs to kick in some cash or a low-level prospect.
- The Tigers have checked in on Aramis Ramirez. His name has been surprisingly absent from most rumors, but that doesn’t mean he’s a risk to accept the Cubs’ offer of arbitration, even though it could land him a one-year, $16 million deal.