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We know how this dance goes, but here’s what’s being reported …

Jon Heyman says the Chicago Cubs have agreed to terms with free agent pitcher Carlos Villanueva, and Ken Rosenthal says the Cubs are “close” to signing him. I cannot appropriately caution you enough – no signing is official. But these credible reports say the Cubs are very close to agreeing, or have already agreed, with Villanueva on a deal. No word on the terms yet.

The signing, if it goes through, would be the Cubs’ third (possible) starting pitcher signing of the Winter, after Scott Baker and Scott Feldman, and would give them six legitimate starting options. What the signing would mean for the Cubs’ pursuit of Edwin Jackson, if that is still ongoing, remains unclear. Villanueva, 29, was a guy I mentioned back in September as a reasonable target for the Cubs, so the signing doesn’t come as a complete shock.

He is looking for a starting job, so you’ve got to figure the Cubs have some intentions of giving him a shot. He can also work in a swing role, however, as he’s done for the last couple years. Before we hear more, it’s probably not accurate to say he’s definitely being signed as a starter.

Many updates to follow …

UPDATE (6:05pm CT): It’s fair to wonder if Villanueva was a back-up plan to the back-up plan that was Edwin Jackson. His signing gives the Cubs six starters, and it would be hard to convince Jackson to come on board as well, unless one of the Scotts is being displaced from the rotations (seems like a dick move), or Baker isn’t going to be ready until much later in the season than suspected (haven’t heard anything like that), or there are concerns about Matt Garza’s recovery (haven’t heard anything like that), or the Cubs plan to trade a pitcher, or the Cubs plan to use Villanueva out of the pen.

UPDATE 2 (6:10pm CT): I’ve mentioned it before, but since I’m doing the updating thing, I’ll mention it again – for his career, Villanueva has been much better out of the bullpen (3.76 ERA, 1.230 WHIP) than out of the rotation (4.80 ERA, 1.365 WHIP). Then again, the only season in his career where he pitched exclusively out of the bullpen (2010), his K-rate was huge (11.4 per 9), but his ERA was 4.61 and his WHIP was 1.329. This guy is something of an enigma.

UPDATE 3 (6:23pm CT): Another I’m-digging-around-at-the-stats-while-I-wait-on-more-info update – in 2012, as a starter, Villanueva’s advanced stats were really excellent. His K% was 22.9% (good), his BB% was 6.7% (good) (and very good when you put those two together), and his xFIP was 3.97 (good). Add in a 1.22 WHIP, and you’ve got a guy who was a pretty darn good back-of-the-rotation starter in 2012 on just about any team.

UPDATE 4 (6:25pm CT): Gordon Wittenmyer says there “appears to be actual traction” to these reports, and then he made a joke about Villanueva taking the offer back to the Jays. *ba-dum-ching*

UPDATE 5 (6:35pm CT): This time Carrie Muskat provides the authoritative “slow your roll,” tweeting that the Cubs are talking to BOTH Villanueva and Jackson right now, and there is nothing done. This is very interesting because not only does it poo-poo Heyman’s report, but it also suggests the Cubs are either indeed pursuing both Villanueva and Jackson to try and sign both, or the Cubs are playing them off of each other to try and get the best deal from one of them. Seems like the latter is more likely, given the rotation, but I’d be very intrigued if it’s the former.

UPDATE 6 (6:37pm CT): Worth pointing out, by the way, that the Muskat tweet is her confirmed serious interest by the Cubs in Jackson. Obviously we all pretty much believed that was true at this point, but it’s a nice additional log on the fire.

UPDATE 7 (6:39pm CT): Patrick Mooney makes it sound like Villanueva is going to happen, “Cubs working toward finalizing agreement with Carlos Villanueva, to create depth and competition within rotation.” He tends not to say things like that if they’re likely to fall through. Depth and competition are good things, and suggest that no promises have been made. Also a good thing.

UPDATE 8 (6:40pm CT): Oh my, a very interesting tweet from Heyman: “Edwin Jackson is in play for #cubs. #rangers have some interest. #padres stopped at 3 yrs and bowed out yesterday.” Given that Heyman is the one who reported the Villanueva signing, this strongly suggests the Cubs are indeed in on BOTH pitchers. Or Heyman forgot what he said 30 minutes ago and is regurgitating stuff we already knew …

UPDATE 9 (7:01pm CT): Phil Rogers agrees with Muskat that the Cubs are closing in on Villanueva, but it definitely isn’t done. And they are also interested in Edwin Jackson – as in, the Cubs want to sign both.

UPDATE 10 (7:05pm CT): I said it earlier, but I’ll say it more plainly here: if the Cubs do indeed sign both Villanueva and Jackson (heck, the fact that they want to sign both), you’ve got to wonder about the Baker and Garza rehabs. Baker was supposed to be ready to go in April, and Garza has been throwing and supposedly feeling fine. Maybe they aren’t expected to be ready to go in April after all? Something to consider.

UPDATE 11 (7:19pm CT): There wasn’t too much doubt, but Muskat confirms that the Cubs are going after both Villanueva and Jackson.

UPDATE 12 (7:28pm CT): Cold water from Rosenthal, who says the Indians are also in on Edwin Jackson, and the bidding will go to at least four years (that part was expected, I suppose). At least the Cubs wouldn’t necessarily be bidding against a deep-pocketed, competitive team. Rosenthal says the Indians probably couldn’t get both Nick Swisher and Jackson, so there’s a rooting interest for you.

UPDATE 13 (7:45pm CT): Heyman says the Edwin Jackson bidding is up around four years and $50 million, which is in the area of what I expected. Probably a bit more money, even. As for Villanueva, no one has yet even speculated on the terms. Two years and $10 to $12 million? One year and an option? That’s me speculating.

UPDATE 14 (8:08pm CT): Muskat did a full write-up on these twin rumors, so she’s got some very good sources tonight (she tends not to do full write-ups on these things unless she’s reached a certain level of confidence). It doesn’t add a ton more that we didn’t already hear tonight, but she suggests that the Cubs’ official line on adding two more starters would be concerns about depth in the face of Baker recovering from Tommy John surgery, and Garza recovering from his elbow injury. The Villanueva deal, by the way, is in the “finalizing details” stage.

  • Brian cubs fan

    Maybe cubs will sign Jackson too i remember Kaplan saying on wgn sprots nite when the cubs were in on Sanchez that the cubs wanted both Sanchez and Villanueva so maybe the cubs want both Villanueva and Jackson this time around since the Sanchez one did work out

    • Die hard

      With all moves by Toronto to go for all the marbles why isn’t he part of the plan?

      • Carew

        Because he has pretty much said he doesn’t want to go back

  • Joepoe123

    Could this be intentional leak so Jackson lowers his price(AKA cubs gaining leverage?)

  • emrac

    nice solid signing. Gives us flexibility if he starts or eventually went to the bullpen. Great value good job front office

  • Believe in 2015

    It would be awesome if we could grab Jackson also. You can never have enough depth

  • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

    First, I’ll just get the negative out of the way. He’s a little overrated. He’s a true fifth-starter imo, and not even one who has proven he can get innings. I *really* hope that he doesn’t mean we don’t get Jackson.

    But, he does provide nice depth and he’s useful, so I’m glad he’s coming.

  • cb

    de ja vu?

  • thejackal

    yesssssss i told you all great sigming

  • MaxM1908

    I’ll believe it when I see it. Twice bitten, thrice shy.

    • GoCubs

      Here, here! I’ll believe it when the Cubs front office announces it.

      • David

        I’ll believe it when I see him on the field in April

        • Spriggs

          I’ll believe it after he has Tommy John surgery

          • cRAaZYHORSE

            HA HA

  • nkniacc13

    So they cubs if this signing happens have a rotation of 2 number 2 starters , and 4 number 4/5 starters?

    • Coolbeans

      they would have one #2 (even though Garza is kind of a stretch) a very very skeptical #3 (shark) and four #4/5′s

  • Cubbieswschamps2015

    Set your phasers to skeptical…..I am still laughing about that

  • sar759

    Nice signing better than jackson!!
    now lets get a descent bat for OF

  • Josh

    Jackson should still want to come aboard. I mean it’s not like he wouldn’t make the rotation over these guys. Rotation could be Garza/Shark/ Jackson/Then have Feldman/Baker/Wood duke it out for the final 2 spots with the other getting into the pen and starting with the inevitable injury takes place

  • MightyBear

    Might as well sign marcum and liriano too. If half are good well contend

    • David

      We’re not the Dodgers here…

  • ottoCub

    Sign all the pitchers!!

    • bbmoney

      All the pitchers.

  • JBarnes

    Nice signing…maybe we still go get Jackson because someones taking a chance on Garza? I think it was Cafardo the other day that said Red Sox should go after him still and maybe Rangers are interested. Doubt it but be nice to trade with the Rangers.

    • tobias

      Ellsbury?

      • JBarnes

        Could make sense but I’d like to see a trade with Texas more I think. Try to get one of their higher pitching prospects and maybe Olt too.

  • TheRiot2

    Seems to me the Cubs could lead all of MLB in experienced MLB starters :). I’d rather we get a few proven hitters as well as adding all the starters.Maybe Jed and Theo have a deal in the works for Garza bringing back OLT to play 3rd. base which imo could lead to grabbing E. Jackson,Hahah even i’ve got to admit nobody can read what direction the FO is going.

    • RickyP024

      I agree, but I truly think an organizational rebuild starts with the rotation and the depth of the staff as a whole. None of these guys are going to contend for the Cy Young, but it’s a hell of lot better than what we had last year. And if 1 or 2 of them happen to have good years, they can be swapped at the trade deadline. I really like what the FO has going on right now.

    • gutshot5820

      I agree with you on this one. Feel that Theo has a laid the groundwork for a trade with Garza. If he snags Jackson, bye bye garza, Hopefully for Olt and decent pitching prospect. If you add Bourn, it will at least be a decent team to watch.

      • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

        Matt Garza is going to get eight figures in arbitration and was last seen ending his season with an elbow injury. I’d be stunned if anyone traded for him in the offseason.

        • gutshot5820

          Why do you always have to ruin everything with your common sense?

  • MightyBear

    Good nickname for him brett, “The Enigma”

  • Bigg J

    So is this goodbye to Garza?

    • nkniacc13

      I doubt it until near the end of ST at the earliest unless someone comes along and offers a package without prof of health

  • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

    One of the PSD insidery guys said that speculation inside baseball is that the Cubs are pursuing both Villanueva and Jackson because Garza’s rehab is not going well.

    • RickyP024

      This might be a dumb question, but what does PSD stand for?

      • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

        Pro Sports Daily. The Cubs forum there has a couple of guys who have proven themselves to have inside-MLB (and even inside-the-Cubs) contacts by breaking news before it happens.

        • RickyP024

          Oh very nice, thanks man.

        • gutshot5820

          Yea, they were predicting both Jackson and Vill even when we were talking about Sanchez. Plus, they were talking about a few more relievers including Howell. The cubs want to go all in on the pitching staff. Never heard about Garza rehab not going well. Hasn’t Garza been tweeting that his rehab is going great? I would imagine if it wasn’t, the FO might ask him to stop tweeting about the rehab.

          • Spriggs

            The insiders there are really overrated. Which is why I’m here

    • JBarnes

      Really hope that not true

    • JBarnes

      Really hope thats not true

      • JBarnes

        My bad on the double post…and this one too.

  • Chef Brian

    It’s just too soon. I don’t think I’m ready to love again. Jk, Solid signing, if we can net Jackson we will have pulled off a very minor coup.

  • Rizzo44

    Not believing it until he’s shaking hands with Jed and holding up a jersey lol…

  • GoCubs

    You bring up his stats and I’m guessing that many of those numbers are against the AL east teams. Bring him to the NL and those numbers should get better.

  • cRAaZYHORSE

    At this point i am confidant that the Cubs are trying to avoid a HUNDRED loss back to back season. When and if the Cubs Sign Villanueva he will be given a shot at the starting rotation and he can glides into the bullpen when needed as well. This is the only reason to sign Villanueva to have insurance at both the bullpen and starting rotation. This guy will be easy to flip for fringe raw prospects if can put a productive early season.

  • http://bleachernation.com Ramy16

    Then maybe should trade Garza for something before we get nothing!

  • Carew

    Getting sorta excited

  • Dustin

    Hopefully they sign both…I’m sure Garza/Feldman/Baker all miss games this year

  • nkniacc13

    Hey the cubs AAA staff might actually be decent this year.

  • http://Bleachernation.com Frank

    Would be great if its an addition to Jackson. I view viilenueva as a long reliever or a spot starter. A good depth move. Jackson is an innings eater. Even if all of these guys are great,we still need offense!!!!

  • Ryan

    I really want the Cubs to go after Shaun Marcum. The guy is a solid number 4 starter and his ERA+ has been great the past three years. Villanueva seems more like a swing man.

  • OJ

    What in the hell?

    It’s being reported the Cubs are still in on Edwin Jackson. Carlos Villanueva walked away from Toronto cause they couldn’t guarantee him a starting job so I’m assuming the Cubs did offer him that.

    If we also sign Edwin Jackson, some guys will be forced into the bullpen but you have to figure they are planning something else? Spring training trade of Garza? Something seems off…

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