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.