Yesterday, the buzz was all about newly-displaced San Diego Padres’ first base prospect Anthony Rizzo, and the Cubs front office’s connection thereto. With Yonder Alonso taking the reigns at first base for the Padres, suddenly Rizzo was without a job – and the Cubs, among other teams, came a-calling.

But, like, aren’t the Cubs already in pursuit of a certain older, heftier, more certain (and more expensive) free agent first baseman?

Yes, the Cubs are still pursuing Prince Fielder, according to ESPN’s Bruce Levine, who spoke to the matter on his Saturday morning radio show, and wrote an article to the same effect. As I suspected, manager Dale Sveum’s comments that the Cubs hadn’t spoken to Fielder were literally true, according to Levine’s source. The distinction is that the Cubs’ brass has been speaking with Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras, and not with Fielder, himself. Sveum’s comments didn’t really mean much – except that he’s been well-coached by the new men in charge.

But, at the same time that Levine was saying the Cubs remain interested in Fielder (and ESPN’s Eric Karabell was guessing Fielder winds up with the Cubs, as many other members of the national media have guessed), the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Joe Strauss was writing that the Cubs’ interest in Fielder was merely a smokescreen. For what, exactly, Strauss didn’t say.

Throw in yesterday’s Rizzo wrinkle, and it becomes brutally difficult to know just what the Cubs are hoping/planning to accomplish. As usual, it’s virtually impossible to separate fact from concoction, legitimate interest from diversion.

Is it possible that the Cubs’ discussions with the Padres about Rizzo are a mere pressure point, designed to spur Prince Fielder’s camp to action, and to accept a shorter-term deal with the Cubs? Yup. It’s possible.

Is it possible that the Cubs’ pursuit of Fielder is a smokescreen, designed to up his price and pressure other teams/players to make a move with the Cubs? Again, it’s possible.

The truth is known only to a select few, but that doesn’t preclude us from thinking plainly and logically.

By all indications, including Theo’s own words, the Cubs are looking to build for the future. They want to compete in 2012, if possible, but not at the expense of “the future.” Does signing Prince Fielder make sense within that universe? Sure – if he’ll take a shorter-term deal. Does trading for Anthony Rizzo make sense in that universe? Absolutely.

To my mind, the Cubs have a preference out of those two, but it may not be a simple black and white. Fielder for five years may be preferred over Rizzo at a steep trade price. Rizzo as part of a large deal that stocks the team with young pitchers may be preferred over Fielder at six years. To suggest that the truth is as simple as “X is merely a smokescreen for Y” is, to me, both naive and inexact.

I see no reason why the Cubs could not be legitimately interested in, and pursuing, both options simultaneously. Whichever options slides into their acceptable range – Fielder accepts fewer years than he wants, or the Padres accept less for Rizzo (or a larger deal becomes available) – the Cubs will take it.

And if neither falls into that range, they’ll move on to something else.

Without knowing what the other offseason plans are, and what the real offers are, it’s hard to say whether I’d prefer Fielder, Rizzo, or something else. I can see scenarios where I’d greatly prefer Fielder (short-term deal, adding pitching, adding another bat). I can see scenarios where I’d greatly prefer Rizzo (dealing away multiple pieces, stocking up for a run in 2013 and beyond). And, I can see scenarios where neither is an attractive option at the prices being asked.

So much gray.

  • Gcheezpuff

    Maybe the reason we haven’t seen much movement is because the Cubs are in fact the high bidder for Darvish. I mean if the plan is to trade Garza for prospects, possibly trade Marmol, and maybe even Alfonzo & Big Z for a little salary relief, would it be possible to count a $50 Million plus bid as part of the 2012 MLB roster budget… they could possibly back load the Darvish contract so that they could still keep the team under $140 Million in 2012 even with the bid. Maybe this is also why they haven’t offered Woody a contract yet too. Maybe Theo/Hoyer have the freedom to spend however they choose with the budget they have and are waiting to see how much $$ they have left over and who they have to trade to stay within budget after they sign Darvish. If the plan is to build around Darvish and Castro, I could see 2012 as a total rebuilding year as much of the budget would go to the Darvish bid.. If they loose out on Darvish or can’t sign him to a favorable contract, maybe then they look at spending the money other ways (Prince, extend Garza, sign FA pitchers like Maholm or Saunders… etc.) This could explain why they seem to be keeping talks going, but have not really moved on anything of significant cost.

  • ty

    Christmas is almost here and so far Theo is re-gifting us with the damn packages held together with ace wraps and sutures.

  • jim

    I am getting very “nervous” waiting for our CUBS
    to do “whatever they are going to do”! I personally
    believe that the LONGER the CUBS wait, the greater
    chance there is of the CUBS ending up as big time
    losers. The ball is in your court THEO. DON’T

    • JulioZuleta

      There’s a difference between procrastinating and waiting out the market. I’ll take a patient approach where they wait things out, finding the best trades and best free agent values, rather than overspending on players that aren’t worth their price tags or that don’t fit out long term plans.

      • MichiganGoat

        Agreed everyone just needs to calm down and allow Theo/Jed to make their moves. For all the complaining fans did about Hendry it’s amusing to see people complain that the Cubs are not doing things like Hendry.

        • MoneyBoy

          Julio and Goat … EXACTLY !!!!

        • hardtop

          i agree with that goat. i was more anxious during the off season with hendry because i was afraid of whatever bonehead signing he might make. thed hoystein never promised big moves, or winning the division in 2012, or anything like that: they promised an attempt at being competitive while building the “right way” for sustained future success. going out and spending all your money on has-beens, never-will-bes, the mediocre but available, and the over priced due to demand will not fulfill any promises. if we signed fielder, i wouldnt be that hurt, if it were for 5 years or less. i would take 6 but it would have to be under 25 mil a year over that duration. otherwise, give me that rizzo kid.

  • J.B. House

    I don’t understand why we would have to give up Garza to get a 22 year old prospect that struggled mightily in is only trip to the majors. If we don’t have someone else they are interested in then keep looking. LaHair had better numbers in the Iowa humidity than Rizzo had in the dry air of Tucson and he did well in Chicago. I m pretty sure in any three way deal we would get screwed especially after seeing the haul San Diego got in there last deal.

    • BetterNews

      We’re not giving up Garza! For Anything.

  • Brian

    What the F*#k is Theo doing. All we have is DeJesus and Stewart. If the Cubs want to compete they better get Yoennis Cespedes, or else we are screwed. Another big move we need, is to get Prince Fielder. Yes he is 999 pounds but he will still get us RBIs and HRs. We just lost Yu Darvish by bidding the lowest amount of money from any team that was in the running for Yu Darvish. And we still havn’t talked to Prince Fielder. Who are we going to get? Rizzo? Ok, he is 22 years old. Woopdee doo. Prince is significantly better then Rizzo. I have never heard the name Rizzo! Yeah thats how good Rizzo is. All he does is hide in a corner of a box while a game is going on, does Sh#t for the team. Also we have no PITCHING. I thought that the cubs were going to get some top notch players this off season, but I guess not because Theo and Tom Ricketts are to cheap to get anyone that is an all star. Come on Cubs.
    Yes this is a 12 year old speaking,

    • Kansas Cubs Fan

      Dude get your head out of the dirt.

  • cubs fan 2011

    Brian the fact that you have not heard of Anthony Rizzo just means you do not know anything about baseball. Anyone true fan who follow the sport knows exactly who Anthony Rizzo is and has known for a few years. For the right deal its a good move, and Fielder at the right contract can be a better deal as well. Let Theo and Jed do their job. I cannot believe you would post what you said about Theo and Jed, you think they just come in and in a month or so make major moves and just turn everything around? Why do you think Fielder has not yet signed? No one is meeting his crazy demands. Are all the other general managers crazy too, I mean — come on dude, get a clue.

    J.B. House, the Cubs are not trading Garza for Anthony Rizzo straight up. Do not even worry about that.