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.

  • Dustin

    Could be a long night for you Brett

  • Dustin S

    Not going to let myself get excited yet, but I would like this one. He has a good whip the past couple of years, and he’s a versatile swing guy between the pen and starting. His main knock is stamina. From what I’ve read of his history it doesn’t look like he has had luck starting an entire season. My guess would be 150 innings and 15 starts at most. But from what I remember of him he has pretty decent stuff usually.

    He also seems like a pretty nice guy http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=25299301.

    • Dustin S

      Also btw I could see the FO thinking to go after Jackson now since he’s kind of an innings eater to offset Villanueva probably not starting 25 games. Then lean on Jackson more when Villanueva needs to skip a start or is in the pen.

  • Blublud

    If the Cubs were allegedly in on both Villenueva and Sanchez, then why would they not be in on both Villenueva and Jackson. I got a feeling they are using them both to lower the price then they will sign both.

  • nkniacc13

    So if they sign Villanueva that makes them have to clear 2 spots on 40 man right?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yes. Him and Schierholtz.

  • Ryan

    So: Garza
    Baker (if healthy)
    Wood? Villanueva? Fieldman?

    I would be rooting for Wood. Fieldman, no way. Either way I think Shark i going to step up to a solid number two. All that rotation is missing is an ace (which is a pretty big thing, but still).

  • Jason

    Yeah, right…we’ve heard this story before…I’ll believe it only when he actually pitches a ball for the Cubs.

  • Jimmy James

    i’ve played this game before……..must stop watchin BN for a couple of hours so it can get sorted out

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      You would be doing yourself a mighty favor (says the first writer to ever suggest folks stop reading his site).

      • Jimmy james

        Haha, couldn’t do it

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Get out of here! Save yourself!

  • Matt

    Fun fact: the ” Ba dum Ching” is called a rimshot. So you could just write “Rimshot!”

    …and nobody would get it at all. 😛

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yeah, I know what it’s called. I like onomatopoeia.

      • Matt

        Two thumbs up.

  • Vince

    All I want is for the Cubs to trade Garza, Soriano, and Marmol– and get good returns on each. Might never happen though…

  • Muck

    NOBODY TWEET A SINGLE DAMN THING ABOUT THIS. It’s the new curse. We are the Cubs anyways.

  • bluekoolaidaholic

    Go team Thoyer!
    I decided not to get excited any more about the Cubs’ off season.
    Damn, here I go again with the blue koolaid.
    Get’em both, then if we got a little magic and maybe an awesome season from a couple of borderline guys…………. aw hell, see what I mean?
    Here we go again.

  • Muck

    Holy crap I just realized how good our rotation would be if we got both of them. LIke Garza, Jackson, Samardzija, Villanueva, and like either one of the Scotts. Thats pretty solid if you ask me

    • Muck

      And if we did get both we could probably afford to trade away Garza. And if we get both the market for pitchers goes down and Garza’s value goes up. Wooooooh

  • wingit

    Well at least they aren’t named Scott…

  • Blublud

    Phil Rogers just tweeted that they were close on villenueva, but wanted jackson too.

  • Vince

    Well I just checked Matt Garza’s twitter and he hasn’t welcomed anybody to the Cubs today, which means that we might still sign somebody!

    But what if we sign Villanueva and Jackson, and then they tweet that they’re excited to join Garza in the Cubs rotation? Will that mean that Garza is on his way to Texas?

  • Vince

    Also, this could replenish the Cubs’ stable of pitchers named Carlos back to two (the right number in my opinion). Remember that it was reduced to one when Zambrano left town. The only worry in my mind is that Marmol may still be traded. Any other Carlos’s out there?

  • nkniacc13

    I just hope that they don’t end up selling low to create room if they are trading anyone especially Garza. I igure that they will have to eat a bunch or $ in any marmol or soriano deal but I hope they atleast get something of quality in either if they do make those moves.

  • Carew

    I guess the Cubs really, really want the problem of having too many solid pitchers

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Best. Problem. Ever.

      • GoCubs

        Completely agree. And if they want to trade for a true #1 next year having a couple major league pitchers at reasonable deals to include in the trade certainly helps.

        • Carew

          The master plan is revealing itself…

  • nkniacc13

    I wonder if Rosairo will be a roster cut last in first out?

  • Blublud

    Brett, Im not so sure about the injury. Are we certain Faldman was promised a starting job. Maybe they see Wood as the 2nd Lefty in the pen. Right now, we only have 2 sure starters, Garza and Shark. Jackson would make 3. That leaves Feldman, Baker, Wood and Villanueva to duke it out. If say Baker and Villanueva wins, and Feldman and Wood goes to the pen, Our whole pitching staff is starting to look legit 1-12.

  • Kevin

    If the Cubs are worried about the health of Garza and Baker, Villanueva makes sense but to throw big money at Jackson wouldn’t. I think they are preparing to deal garza when proven healthy or the talks with Samardzija didnt go well and we could be looking to deal him

  • JoeyCollins

    Well no tweet confirmation from Garza yet so im still optimistic.

  • Vince

    Anybody think Vizcaino will be in the rotation at some point this year? Or the ‘pen?

    • nkniacc13

      I would say pen if at all. i expect cubs to limit his innings in 2013

    • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

      My best guess is not at all. He’ll be at an innings limit and really hasn’t pitched much above AA. A full year at AAA wouldn’t hurt him at all.

      • Vince

        I like the sound of that. I’d rather the Cubs be overly cautious with him. Given that we are not very likely to contend this year, I would predict that they take their sweet time with him too.

        • nkniacc13

          I wouldn’t be shocked that in 2014 Iowa has a starting rotation of Vizciano and Rodon

          • Good Captain

            If Rodon is in AAA and isn’t on a rehab assignment, he’ll likely be reclaimed by the Indians I would suspect.

            • nkniacc13

              He options left. After this coming year he could be optioned and still be cubs property. Its the same thing that they are doing with Castillo

  • morgan

    if 2 out of the 4 pitch good, we could get some solid propects in return, with the price of what starters are going for, PLus if we were going to sign Sanchez we might as well resign Garze to long term deal, theres not going to be a better option out there, unless you trade young talent

  • Don

    Cubs sign Jackson, JP Howell, and Villanueva. Then trade Soriano, Marmol, Wood and
    Vitters to Detroit for Castallanos and minor league pitcher.

    • #1lahairfan

      You wish.

    • Voice of reason

      I would also ask for cabrera.

      I mean we are giving them soriano.

      I might even ask for one of their stud starters and cabrera and every other person you proposed.

      Wait, with marmot in there I would want their stud catcher, too.

      Now that seems more like an even deal.

  • nkniacc13

    The things I like about these 1 or 1+ option deals are 1. if they don’t work out not a real big issue. 2. They could get a decent return in a summer trade and 3rd they don’t block anyone coming up like Vizciano or Loux

  • #1lahairfan

    Trade Scenario:
    Rangers are running out of SP options on the market.

    Cubs trade
    Matt Garza on an extension, Carlos Marmol, Alfonso Soriano, and all of Soriano and Marmol’s salary.

    Rangers Trade:
    Derek Holland and Martin Perez/Cody Buckel if they don’t have to pay all of Sori’s and Marmol’s contracts

    • Carew

      could we take out either Perez or Buckel and add Olt

      • #1lahairfan

        Why is every one so high on Olt right now? We have a lot of third base options in the system.

    • MichiganGoat

      That’s a fun dream but that kind of trade would never happen and I don’t like the return

      • #1lahairfan

        Explain why you do not like this return. And anyone else who thinks this is a bad return.

  • miggy80

    I’m going to shovel now. Hope something gets done by the time I get back.

    • Lou

      Where are you that it’s snowing already?

      • miggy80

        I’m done………. oh a little closer

        Lou I’m down in AAA (Des Moines) .

  • calicubsfan007

    Again, I am waiting for the press conference and the handshake before I squeal. Media has let me down before, wish they were all as reliable as Brett.

    • Rizzo44

      POTENTIAL SQUEAL!!!! lol

      • calicubsfan007

        @Rizzo: Hahaha. Nice! (=

        • Rizzo44

          Lol remember that Brett put that about the Sanchez signing? Good stuff…

  • Muck

    Lets see if we can beat the response numbers and update numbers from the Anibal post last week.

    • MichiganGoat

      Not likely

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        In large part because a lot of folks aren’t letting themselves obsess about this one (plus Jackson) quite as much after that letdown. Rightly so, I think. (Not that I can stop myself from obsessing…)

        • http://www.worldseriesdreaming.com dabynsky

          I would also say unless there is some major EJax news this post is mostly about a nice upside signing, but nothing out of the ordinary for what Theo and co have been doing.