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For those looking for an election night diversion …

  • The GM Meetings are underway, but all is quiet on that front. As Jed Hoyer said, we likely won’t hear too much in the way of completed deals this week, but we are likely to hear some rumors in the vein of “the Cubs have spoken to the Red Sox about Alfredo Aceves.” That’s just an example, by the way. Though, I mean, the Red Sox are considering moving Aceves, and he could be an interesting rotational conversion for the Cubs at a relatively low cost.
  • We have every reason to expect that free agent salaries are going to continue the upward trajectory they started last offseason when the new CBA was announced. That agreement’s shifting of dollars from the amateur side to the big league side, coupled with exploding TV deals, have opened up tremendous amounts of money to be spent on free agents, if teams are willing. That’s expected to happen. That said, Buster Olney points out that some MLB executives were surprised to see guys like Edwin Jackson, Angel Pagan, Torii Hunter and Mike Napoli not receive $13.3 million qualifying offers from their teams. The lack of an offer suggests, in those players’ cases, a fear that they would accept – which, at that level of money, would seem a reasonable risk, given the draft pick compensation that accompanies a rejection. Each of those four is expected to command a multi-year deal, so why the lack of an offer? Might we be overestimating the amount they’ll receive? If so, might a guy like Edwin Jackson be on the table for the Cubs?
  • Speaking of which, Jon Heyman and an anonymous “expert” projected the contracts for the top 42 free agents, and the results were surprising. Players potentially relevant for the Cubs include B.J. Upton ($65 to $70 million over five years), Anibal Sanchez ($65 to $70 million over five years), Edwin Jackson ($36 million over three years), Ryan Dempster ($33 million over three years, or $25 million over two), Brandon McCarthy ($20 to $22 million over two years), Shaun Marcum ($20 million over two years, or a hair over $10 million for one), Dan Haren (same as Marcum), and Scott Baker ($6.5 million for one year). To me, those numbers all seem a little low, but when you consider the lack of qualifying offers, maybe salaries for the non tip-top guys will not explode as expected. I’ll tell you one thing: if Anibal Sanchez signs for five years and $65 million and the Cubs don’t get him, I will lose my stuff. That is a contract that is easily, easily worth out-bidding.
  • Similarly, Jerry Crasnick surveyed a handful of executives to ask them a variety of free agency questions. It’s always an interesting read, even if little of it directly implicates the Cubs. Those executives believe that Sanchez is, by far, the second best pitcher on the free agent market.
  • Patrick Mooney looks at the Cubs’ offseason signing plan, and how the Cubs will “sell” free agents on the “opportunity” of playing for the Cubs (which means the chance to be part of the team that finally does it, or, more likely, the chance to get a starting spot where you might not otherwise find one). Theo Epstein, quoted in the piece, likes to point to Paul Maholm as an example of why guys will want to sign with the Cubs, which is really interesting, given than Maholm is the poster child for the Cubs signing guys they can “flip.” From Epstein: “I think Paul Maholm would tell people he’s really glad he signed here, that he got a little bit of help. He got an opportunity and his career took the next step here. Even though he was traded, I think he feels good about his Cubs experience and would come back here in a second if he had the opportunity.” That makes me wonder: are the Cubs up front with guys they’re targeting as flip candidates? We joke about the whole “sign with us and we guarantee you’ll be on a contender come August … because we’ll trade you to one!” thing, but maybe there’s actually something there? Maybe some players actually do find that to be an attractive pitch?
  • Believe in 2015

    Should be an exciting next couple days for the Cubs!

    Everyone watch the election also :-)

  • die hard

    Hyun-Jin Ryu, Starting Pitcher….worth a bid

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Entire post on him earlier today.

  • North Side Irish

    I would take McCarthy, Baker, Marcum, or Jackson at those prices…but I’d be pretty nervous about McCarthy and Marcum. Jackson would at least eat innings and take some of the pressure off the bullpen. If Baker is healthy, he would be a steal at that price, and if he’s not, it’s a one year deal.

  • brian

    You have to be out of your mind if you think 5 years 65-70 mil ISNT enough for Anibal Sanchez. The guy was 9-13 last year. Just cause he had a nice postseason doesn’t mean he’s proven he can be a stud pitcher. Guarantee he goes for 10mil per year or less when it’s all said and done.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’ll be kind and say only that I didn’t consider his postseason performance at all as a part of my calculus.

    • brian odonnell

      a pitchers record is about the worst way possible to judge a pitcher. plus he played 2/3 of a season w/ the marlins.

    • Cyranojoe

      What Brian said. Dang, dude.

      • Cyranojoe

        By which I mean “brian odonnell”, not OP Brian. Win-Loss record, really?

        • brian

          None of his other numbers are anything special. Someone PLEASE explain how hes worth 5 years and 70+ million, because I don’t see anything that shows he’s worth that.

  • EDWARD HANSEN

    Brett, I love the way you write its concise and easy to absord, been a cub maniac for 50 yrs so when someone feels the way you do about our team its fun to read.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks for that, Edward.

  • Todd

    I’m having a change of heart on how I’d like (more like wish) the Cubs to approach free agency. I would love to see them sign Greinke and two “lottery ticket” type pitchers. I seriously doubt they’d sign Greinke but if they did and then continued to add young, price controlled position players the next two seasons, his contract wouldn’t hurt their ability to sign next year’s ace pitcher. I just don’t want the Cubs to make a playoff run with a staff full of 2-3’s. To seriously push for a World Series, I feel they need two pitchers that are better than Garza/Samardzija.

  • Todd

    I would add that, if they plan on drafting at least one of those two pitchers then I can’t see them being World Series contenders for at two years, probably three.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    At those prices, sign me up for Sanchez, McCarthy, and Marcum for sure. I’d be tempted to toss an offer at Upton as well.

    • CubFan Paul

      Upton’s walk/OBP skills kind of scared me. I like him but I’d rather maybe try to acquire Peter Bourjos.

    • gutshot5820

      I like all three of your picks too. They would not handcuff the cubs in the future and would be valuable pieces if we are not contending. In fact, I would go further and add more dollars per year but not extend the actual years of the contract.

    • Cedlandrum

      Upton is a tough one. If you look at some of his peripherals you could say o.k. he is worth it, but when you look at others you are left scratching your head and running for the door. I honestly don’t think it is a wise investment. I think Jackson will exceed his numbers in the near future. So pay a flawed player a ton or pay a flawed player little. I take option 2.

    • willis

      Yeah I would go after all three of those arms, in hopes to land two of them. The club can afford them, and there is NO ready pitching not named Shark, Garza, and Maybe wood. That would be huge, and even smart.

      • CubFan Paul

        i think they’ll sign 3 pitchers at least for the rotation. i got a feeling Liriano, Scott Baker, & Marcum are locks, all signed to 1-3yr tradeable contracts

        Vizcaino & Wood would start the year at AAA and if Garza doesnt sign a Danks-like extension (5yr $65M) he and whoever of Lirano/Baker/Marcum can be traded in Juy

        • willis

          You have no idea how happy it would make me for the team to sign three established arms.

  • http://bleachernation frank hutch

    What are the chances hellickson actually becomes available? And what could the cubs realistically offer with any chance of getting him?

  • bbmoney

    All those pitchers in that 3rd paragraph should be on the cubs radar at those prices/should be signed by the Cubs at those prices. And I’m not a guy that thinks they need to/were planning on dropping a lot of cash yet this year.

    none of those contracts have any real potential to hold a team like the Cubs back in the future.

  • John (ibcnu2222)

    How much of a difference is there between a pitcher with a 113 ERA+ and one with a 100 ERA+?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Generally (it’s not technically this, but there’s crazy math involved, and this is close enough), on the ERA+ scale, 100 is average, and wherever you fall above or below is how much better or worse you were than average, on a percentage basis. So, in your example, the pitcher with a 113 ERA+ was 13% better than league average.

      (Technically, that isn’t quite right, but it’s very close to 13% … if you wanted it to be precise, you use ERA-, and then that method works, but I’ve gone far afield now.)

  • william

    i would like to see mccarthy ,haren, liriano who i think would fit perfict with the cubs plus is a good lefty when on i also wouldnt mind seeing melky come in on a one year congtract with insentives if he performs and stays out of trouble or if they can trade for coco or ellsbury without having to give up to much for to get i could see in a ellsbury trade one of the firstbasemans involved vogalbach,ridling,or bour

  • cubchymyst

    I’d like to see the cubs fill their 2 rotations spots with 1 possible flip pitcher and 1 pitcher they plan to keep for 3-4 years. So Sanchez or Jackson would be a good sign for the guy to keep for 3-4 years (this will help keep the starting rotation from being truly awful the second half if they trade Garza and the flip pitcher at the deadline). Does anyone remember why Jackson didn’t get a longer deal last year, is it a personality problem?

    • Melrosepad

      If memory serves, he was rep’d by Boras at the time and they were shooting for a 4 year but never got it, so they went with the 1 year from the Nats (pretty sure they had a 3 year from Pitt on the table, but not 100%). This way he could try to up his value.

  • JR

    I am not sure Heyman has an exact idea of what he’s talking about about but is $20 to $22 million over two years for McCarthy the Cubs buying low on that dude? Considering he’s gimp constantly, no thanks. I had in my head from your previous article about McCarthy Brett something like 1 yr 3million or 2 for 5 million.

  • Mr. Gonzo

    It would be intriguing to see the FO get a little creative and look into moves like TB’s Hellickson for A. Soriano, lots of cash and a low prospect. At 25, Hellickson could be a permanent piece to the puzzle…

    • willis

      I’m down with that. I’m afraid though the package requested would be more than they would want to give up (which, like for a quality starting pitcher, who cares?). I don’t think I’d deal one of our top three for him, but I could see that being the asking price initially. But yeah, may as well kick the tires on what they want. He would be a HUGE get.

  • Ben Peoria Cub’s Fan

    I believe that the Ray’s rumor Hellickson with all the years of control for many reasons. First and foremost they think his stock has never been higher. They can sell high on a pitcher with years of control. You will not get that for Soriano and a meh prospect. Think Latos less a little. This is the Ray’s way.

    • Mr. Gonzo

      That is a good point. Do you think that a more legit prospect or two like Lake, Vitters or Struck packaged with Soriano and cash could help sway the Rays’ way?

      • bbmoney

        Is there actually a Hellickson rumor out there?

        I look at the guys underlying numbers and I just don’t want him. He’s a prime example for regression. He doesn’t miss enough bats and he walks too many guys. It just seems like a smoke and mirror show. If he can do it for a couple more years then maybe I’ll be convinced he’s just a guy that can beat the odds, but to me, it’s not worth the risk that he’s one of the few guys that can consistently outperform what the underlying stats say they should be doing.

        • bbmoney

          He did cut down on his walks last year, but to clarify he still walks too many guys for the number of guys he strikes out. He ranked 75th out of 91 in the MLB last year in K/BB ratio for guys that threw at least 160 innings. And that’s with an improved walk rate from 2011.

      • AB

        Lake, Vitters, and Struck are pretty much the definition of meh prospects

        • Cedlandrum

          They are not meh prospects, nor are they elite. Lake and Vitters are not cornerstone to a trade, but they are the second player with upside that teams like. So for example the cubs want a player like Hellickson.

          They would maybe take Baez as the cornerstone with Lake as the high upside bottom of the top 10 prospects and another guy like a Underwood who is also high upside.

          • Boogens

            You’re logic and example is sound although I beieve that Underwood can’t be traded within the first year of his time with the team.

            • Cedlandrum

              You are right and I know I was just offering an example.

          • AB

            Semantics.

            You’d have to include Baez and probably another guy from the Cubs top 10 to get the Rays even talking.

            .

  • Jeremy

    So a lot of the rumored/perdicted FA salaries have BJ Upton getting 5 years/65-70 million. If that’s all it is, I hope were in on him. That’s an ideal salary for him.

    Hell Grienke is predicted to get 6 years/117 million which isn’t bad either if it turns out that way.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’d be interested at both of those salaries, even considering the Cubs’ plan. (The possible exception is if the Cubs don’t like Upton as a player, which I could understand.)

      Which is to say, I think they’ll get more. Especially Greinke. A lot more.

      • Jeremy

        To me, Upton is the exact type of player the Cubs should go after this offseason. He’s entering his prime and still has some upside while playing a premium position. At that price, he has a great probability of outperforming his contract. Plus, Upton could be considered a long term piece and he doesn’t block any other OF spots in the future. When Almora is ready he can move over to LF or we can look to trade him.

        I’m also not convinced that the price will get driven up on Upton. Based on the teams involved (Phillies, Nationals, Reds, Braves) I’m not sure if they can drive the price up at all to a point where the Cubs wouldn’t be interested.

        Grienke, I agree. He will get much more then that.

  • MightyBear

    I’d like to see the Cubs sign Scott Baker. I think he could do well and is the cheapest, shortest contract mentioned. Low risk, high reward.

    • Mick

      You may get your wish, the Cubs actually offer Baker a great opportunity to sign a 1-year deal, rehab the first part of the season, get some July starts to build up his stamina, and then get flipped to a contender. Pitching well for a contending team, as demonstrated by Anibal Sanchez, will help his next contract sky-rocket. I know the Twins are VERY interested in re-signing him but if his demands get too great the Twins may have to use his money on a starter that will pitch the entire year instead. The word on the street is that the Twins are trying to structure an extremely incentive-laden contract for Scott but that they’re still far apart on the total dollar figure.

  • http://www.opportunity.org Seamhead

    WSCR (consider source and take large grain of salt) was reporting this morning that the Cubs were interested in signing Youkilis.

    Not sure why Youkilis would be interested in Cubs, especially considering his other likely options in this 3B market, or how the Cubs could sign him to a “flippable” contract.

    McCarthy and Marcum are reported to be their top two pitching targets.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      When the White Sox declined his option, I said there was no way the Cubs wouldn’t kick the tires on Youkilis, at a minimum. No reason not to. Still think he can get a better deal elsewhere.

      http://www.bleachernation.com/2012/11/01/options-decisions-and-the-cubs-youkilis-reynolds-soria-feldman-braden/

    • Spriggs

      Not a big Marcum fan…
      What would be the big reason not to target Edwin Jackson?

      • DocPeterWimsey

        People might be scared of Jackson because of his high HR total (23) last year. However, his GB rate was good: over 47%. So, his HR:FB ratio must have been unusually high. GB rates do carry over from one year to the next, whereas HR:FB ratios do so only weakly, and not at all once you adjust for home ballparks.

        His downside is other teams looking at the same numbers: I’ll bet that the Yankees, Sox, etc., will be hot on his tail, which will up the $$ and years.

  • Big Daddy

    I saw where the Braves may non-tender Jurrjens. He seems like a cheap bounce back option. I wouldn’t mind seeing him in Cubbie blue. He is no more risk than Marcum or Mccarthy and should come really cheap.

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