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Sometimes the hot stove flicks on full blast in the wee hours of the morning. I love this time of year.

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Chicago Cubs are indeed pursuing both big-time free agent first basemen, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols. The former has been suspected for a while, but the latter was assumed not to be the case.

It seems, as I’ve guessed, the dramatic changes to the CBA may require changes to the Cubs’ rebuilding plans. And those changes may include a need to lock down a big bat right now. From Rosenthal:

[T]he Cubs also are acknowledging two emerging realities – a dwindling number of sluggers available in future free-agent markets, and the restrictions on spending in the amateur draft under baseball’s new collective-bargaining agreement.

New Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have made it clear that they intend to rebuild the team. However, the Cubs are indeed showing interest in both Pujols and Fielder, major league sources say.

Pujols, 31, is nearly 3½ years older than Fielder, but sources say the Cubs are more willing to go long-term with Pujols, who is the better defender according to advanced metrics. Some teams, concerned by Fielder’s body would prefer him on a shorter, high-dollar deal.

By signing one of the two, the Cubs would ensure that they are set with a premier slugger as they try to return to prominence in the NL Central.

Rosenthal earlier reported that the Nationals had made Prince Fielder their number one target this Winter, so it’s possible that things are escalating quickly with big name free agents. By the way, Rosenthal is off on the ages (assuming reported ages are correct) – Pujols is four and a half years older than Fielder, not three and a half.

The reasons for signing Fielder (to the exclusion of reasons against signing him) were discussed here yesterday, and now it sounds like the same kind of review may need to be conducted for Pujols. Until this report from Rosenthal, very few believed Pujols was a realistic target for any team not named the Cardinals, let alone a realistic target for a Cubs’ organization expected to rebuild.

Landing Pujols would seem an extremely tall (and expensive) task. Pujols is a Cardinals lifer, who hails from the St. Louis area. The Cardinals have reportedly offered Pujols as much as nine years and $210 million to return to the team, and the belief is that, if any competing bid is going to sway him, it will have to beat the Cardinals’ offer by tens of millions of dollars.

For my part, assuming the Cubs are set on trying to land one of the two, and unless the Cubs are willing to blow off the doors on a four or five-year offer to Pujols (say, $30 million per year), I’d probably prefer Fielder over the life of a deal longer than that. On the balance, even considering the weight and defensive issues, Fielder strikes me as more likely to perform well at the tail end of a six, seven, eight-year deal than Pujols.

  • http://www.strandedcub.wordpress.com Brandon

    “Until this report from Rosenthal, very few believed Pujols was a realistic target for any team not named the Cardinals, let alone a realistic target for a Cubs’ organization expected to rebuild.

    Landing Pujols would seem an extremely tall (and expensive) task. Pujols is a Cardinals lifer, who hails from the St. Louis area.”

    Replace “Pujols” with “Epstein” and “Cardinals” with “Red Sox.”

    We heard essentially the same thing a couple months ago.

    • ReiCow

      I’d rather have Theo for a 10 year deal than Pujols, though…

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I definitely don’t rule anything out after that.

  • Mike Foster

    Pujols? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

    Then again, he plays well for 6-8 years, we win 2 WS and he goes into the HOF as a Cub, Hmmmm, that could be pretty sweet, LOL.

    • jstraw

      He’d still go into the Hall as a Cardinal.

  • Mike F

    There are several reasons this shouldn’t be shocking. They are really in need for a bridge big bat as a bridge while the farm system is rebuilt. One of the toughest things to get is an MVP type bat that lifts the team. They really haven’t had one in a long time. Pujols provides power, ability to move runners and contact. That’s rare for a big bat. He works counts and is disciplined.. And bluntly, I’d give him 6 or 7 years before I would ever give Boras and Fielder that kind of money. Fielder could eat himself out of the league like his daddy did, so I think they would be smart to be very careful there. Either way, neither player is like Soriano. To think that both could go for maybe at or near the Soriano contract, all this time later, brings into how relevant all the major league teams comments were when he was signed. I think the way this is shaping up, whoever signs Albert, unless the market suddenly takes off will be viewed much differently than Hendry and the Cubs were when they went out of LF for Soriano.

  • Mike F

    One more thing. I expect them to try to be very active. Trades are by definition very hard to make. They happen less frequently. Something else to consider, teams are very cautious about trading with GM’s who they fear might be smarter. So I don’t think lots of deals for Veterans is likely. And indeed, whether the Cubs can make deals will depend largely on who they are willing to give up, and maybe more importantly who they might not.

    Free agency though, is far more certain, in that if you do your homework, know the individual and have some sense of how he might fit, it should be a known thing. You can’t judge all free agency by people like Soriano or Bradley. Both were signings made in desperation for offense, something Hendry continually failed at despite his talent and ability to find pitchers. In Pujols you have a guy who shouldn’t be available, he’s a talent and great hitter who makes those around him better. In Fielder you have talent and relative age is plus, but he has to keep his weight under control being the major weakness. And there are some fairly attractive arms including a guy like Jackson. The Cubs may have an easier time adding some pieces in free agency than pitching through trades. I’ve always thought the rumors and gossip of pitching trades is unlikely, unless you’re going to trade pitching what little minor league pitching you have.

  • BetterNews

    Really! There seems to be no teams lokoing at at Fielder or Pujols seriously with the contracts they are expecting. Is a “bargain” lurking?

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  • hansman1982

    meh, Theo is just doing to St. Louis what Cashman did to him on Crawford.  Unless you can get him for 3-4 years on a mega-deal (probably would take closer to $40M a year for that short of a contract) I just don’t see the Cubs being all too serious about this.  Then again he could go all Ted Williams on us and post an OPS+ of 150+ until he is 41

    (btw you want to see some insane stats and possibly the most under-rated hitter of all time check out his stats – lifetime OPS+ of 190 and quite a few years over 200 – robbed of at least 150 career HR’s due to military service)

  • http://www.calliopevoices.com EtotheR

    If they could lock down Fielder for four years at $30M…would anyone be in? Just a hypothetical…

    I sort of get the feeling this Pujols stuff sounds more like an agent’s media plant. The Florida offer sounded like a fart in a windstorm…his agent could be trying to build him up to heat up the offer from the Cardinals.

    • BetterNews

      Yes! But Like I said,its not my money. 6 year/200 mil—No way in hell!(PUJOLS)

  • jstraw

    If Theo wants one of these guys, going after both of them simply strengthens his hand. He may have zero interest in one or the other…he still pursues them both. It’s tactical.

  • Deez

    5yrs/$150M w/ an option for a 6th yr at $35M or $17.5Mbuyout…
    I could see this option for either slugger.
    It gives us better options & doesn’t lock us in for more than half a decade “IF” the production is there.
    Any professional sports team guaranteeing a contract over 5 years is putting the mark of the beast on their franchise.
    Do I think we need either Pujols or Fielder?
    Neither will help us in the near term.
    We have “HOLES” everywhere especially in our minor league system + we are pitching deficient.

  • nonesuch

    get ‘em both, what the hay.
    Either one with the right contract would do very nicely. Length of contract is the concern, 6 max for Fielder, 7-8 for Pujols, but nothing of the order of an A Rod contract.
    And pursuing both is the right tact, it can only weaken a division rival in the process and we get a much needed elite slugger. We can make competitive offers, but not (Yankee) outrageous.

    • EQ76

      shoot, just put Pujols back at 3B.. ;)

      • nonesuch

        there ya go. Is it me or are too many fans thinking we’re still a mid-market franchise and have to be frugal? We should be right there with the Phillies in terms of spending.

    • The Other Matt

      Maybe we could platoon them. Play Prince against righties, Pujols against lefties…

  • CubsFanatic

    I’m probably ganna be the lone guy to prefer Pujols than Feilder. I just think he would give us more bang for our buck. I know he will be more expensive, but I think he would be worth the investment. I think hes really the only offensive piece we need. Dump the rest into pitching.

    • nonesuch

      I’m with you on Albert, he’s clearly the superstar with more than just rbi’s (good defense, leadership, and situational hitting, working counts) he’s a more complete player. But, he wants a crazy long deal, the money doesn’t worry me as much as the length. A 10 yr deal? 42 years old when it’s done (if he really is 32).
      Cubs may look at growing the pitching from within, and prospects acquired from trades potentially from Soto, Garza, Marmol, etc.

  • DRock

    I say sign them both and Pujols can play 3rd! Instant contenders next year. We all saw the Cards win the World Series with an average pitching staff (minus Carpenter). Spend all your $ on these 2 guys and let’s break that curse!

    • hardtop

      nah, id rather be cursed than be the yankees.

      • DRock

        I’d rather be a winner than a loveable loser…don’t care how it happens. Just make it happen!

        In Theo We Trust. He will take us to the Promised Land. (no way we get both, but we do need one of them to play first and I don’t care which one- just so we don’t go too crazy with the contract). Thank God Hendry is not GM right now!!!

      • DRock

        This is the problem with too many Cubs fans. We are too scared of being like “the Yankees” or the “the Red Sox” or “the Cardinals” so we accept being a cursed loveable loser team. I however do not accept being a loveable loser and wish the Cubs would do things that winning organizations do. There is nothing loveable about losing.

        Getting Epstein is a start, but we need some real players now.

        • nonesuch

          Hear! Hear!

        • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

          There is a difference between being a winning franchise and throwing money round blindly.

          Can Pujols still play third? If his age is an issue for his offense, why would think it wouldn’t be an issue at one of the most demanding defensive positions on the diamond? I’d rather sign one of the two… and the right one of the two… than risk having a $25 million dollar pinch hitter on my bench.

          Now… which one is the right one? That’s the quarter of a billion dollar question.

          • nonesuch

            I don’t think anyone was seriously suggesting both be signed. Either could be the right one within the proper contractual framework. We can and should be competitive with any offers out there for either one. (unless Nationals go nuts)
            Again, Epstein will probably be wise with FA dollars but why do we always have to be so scared of spending big money. Just because of Hendry’s Soriano, Bradley, Fukudome, Zambrano busts? He didn’t know what he was doing with those signings or just maybe he was under directive to make those contracts happen. Regardless, we need to simultaneously build from within and think big on FA as well as outside the box. The time for bold changes has not ended.

            • DRock

              Exactly, nonesuch.

          • Dougy D

            Throwing money around? Like Soriano or Fukudome? Let them sign someone with the money from all of the BS advertisements on the walls (freakin’ under armor logos on the doors and signs behind homeplate for christ’s sake! whatever happened to the sanctity of Wrigley Field?). I wouldn’t be terribly disappointed if they had both, but we all know that Pujols isn’t going to play for the Cubs and that we will pay way too much for Fielder.

        • hardtop

          i dont want the cubs to be losers forever… but you’re implying that buying championships is the only way to win. thats silly. a couple free agents compliments to a deep team of young system developed studs is far more appealing way to win. It also allows for repeated short and long term success, where the paid for world series contender requires that you spend outrageously every year or go back to ground zero.
          theo talked about building the organization for sustained success and instilling a culture of winning. buying free agents to win one championship and destroying the clubs short term future is not how theo envisions the future of the cubs… and thats fine by me.

          • nonesuch

            I don’t see it as an either or situation. People talk about how we’re in rebuilding mode or about how we need to win now at all costs. Others describe acquiring FAs like they’re icing on the cake. We can be competitive now and still build for the future and signing a FA like Fielder or Pujols won’t negate anything the farm system does.
            The Red Sox (formerly under Theo) didn’t buy championships (ala ’97 Marlins) or develop all their players in-house. Even the Yankees have a quality farm. The Cubs culture needs a re-think of winning now and building sustained success. That’s the gist coming from Theo and co. and the fans should start raising expectations to what Theo envisions.

            • hardtop

              i was referring to signing both fielder and pujols. i thought that was the topic of the original comment to which i replied. its so far removed now, i cant even keep track. i’m not against signing free agents although, i do think the timing of the big signings is somewhat critical. i personally dont like fielder or pujols for the cubs right now. i think either of them could help the cubs win some games, maybe even a championship, but due to the nature of the market at this time, and keeping in mind the cubs greatest needs, , im not crazy about them. if they sign fielder for a relatively sane deal, i certainly wouldnt complain. id complain heavily if they signed fat albert.

              • nonesuch

                I would agree timing is important but that time could be now. We won’t have the Yankees, Red Sox or Phillies bidding against us. With Ramirez gone and Pena we do have a need for an rbi producing 1B. I also agree that pitching and defense are foundations of success and so it can be viewed that paying top dollar for 1B is a luxury. But, trading a Marmol, Marshall even a Soto could net some top notch pitching prospects. Our bullpen is solid and Cashner or Shark could still end up being surprisingly good starters in next year or two. The pitching market ain’t so hot: C.J. Wilson or Mark Buerhle. So I’d say trade for pitching, sign an elite slugger and see what happens next year.
                Are you sure anti-Cardinal bias isn’t affecting your opinion on AP?

                • hardtop

                  probably has a minor, subconscious, affect. i dont like him, the cardinals, or his gay hairdresser doppelganger.
                  his age and the size and longevity of the contract that he’ll demand are the main considerations. he’s not worth that to this team, not even for a world series, which he couldn’t provide on his own anyway.

                  in my opinion, the cubs arent ready for a run, even with big bat and a pitcher. id like them to sign someone to throw the ball and, like i said, if fielder could come in around 25 mil, i’d be okay with that gamble too. but, they way i see this shaking out, we’re a long way off from fancy rings, so im also thinking they could pass on some silly price tags at this time.

                  isnt there an expression like: “strike while the irons ho…, not immediately following a 20 games under 500 season, a total management overhaul, and only one decent draft in years” yeah im pretty sure that how that old saying goes ;)

                  i get your point, you could be right… we’ll see.

    • Jeff

      Pujols did play third base coming up in the minors…………

      • Dougy D

        And played third and left field at the pro level fairly well.

        • BetterNews

          Please!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • JasonB

            If Albert Pujols could still play 3B everyday, he’d be playing 3B everyday.  Players move to 1B as they age for a reason.

            • BetterNews

              Jason—Yes, because they can’t move around quickly, can’t dive for a ball anymore and make a stretch at first sound like a woman giving birth.

  • hardtop

    if theo/jed ink a deal with poo-hole for more than 5 years i will be the next die hard in my skepticism and dislike of this front office… ill be die hard-on. theo talked about the history of the cubs in his press conference: if the part of the history he is planning on carrying into the future is signing old guys on the decline to huge long term contracts that will handicap the team for years?… well, i can do with out that part of our history. im confident theo is smarter than this. we need to build the team the right way for sustained success. a 33 years old with a couple good years left i the tank yet on an 8 year contract, is not going to make that possible.

    • Lou

      I agree with your sentiments on Puljos but not Fielder.

  • http://dailybigten.com TJ

    I read this at first to mean they were willing to sign them both!

    • BetterNews

      That is funny!!!!

  • Andy

    Just nitpicking, but I believe Pujols is from Kansas City, about 4 hours west of St. Louis.

    I hope the Pujols talk is just to drive up the price the Cardinals would have to pay. I would not feel comfortable going over 6 years for either player.

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  • Barney S

    If the Cubs signed both Pujols and Fielder, there might be a big enough What Up-quake that it would satisfy more women then me!
    Now on a serious note, I know it won’t ever happen, but it’s fun to talk about it if it did. Would you put Pujols at 3rd and Fielder at 1b? If you move Pujols from 1b you lose a proven Gold Glove at 1b. But you could always pull a Babe Ruth and just put Fielder in RF or Pujols back in LF.
    Anyway, to all you idiots who think signing these two guys is the “Yankees” way, you need to get your head out of your ass. Would you rather go another 103 years without winning or rack up 27 championships. The only reason we hate the Yankees so much is because they’re always winning, and everyone is jealous of the kid who can hit home-runs. Now we could be that kid, I would love to have everyone hate us because we’ve won the WS 30 times. But we’ve got to win them first! And there is no way in hell we’re going to win them with 25 players from our farm system. You have to go out and get the big players when they’re available. Because no organization is going to produce 25 All Stars from their own farm system in a given year

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  • die hard

    Ive suggested this before but given this latest rumor, its timely to repeat that Theo may have payback on his mind for the pasting he took when snookered by Cashman into over bidding for Crawford. Cashman feigned interest and Theo bit hook line and sinker. Nothing wrong with forcing Cards or Brewers to borrow to match whatever salary they fear Theo may offer. Love it!!! Go Theo!!!

  • Nick Nesler

    We all love this time of year so keep the posts coming. I think im gonna go ahead and spend all the money that just came off the books! Lets rebuild and keep it fun. The most recent figure I saw was around 58 mill.

    CF- Jackson
    LF- The Blazzing Cigar, add 9 mill through FA
    SS- Castro
    1B- Fielder, add 24 mill through FA
    RF- Byrd
    2B- DJ
    3B- Vitters
    C – Castillo

    Garza
    Buhrle, add 14 mill through FA
    Darvish, add 11 mill through FA
    Demp
    Wells

    Trade Marmol, Soto, and eat some of sori’s contract for prospects

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