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lukewarm stoveThere was a time, several months ago, when the free agent pitching class after the 2014 season looked like it had the potential to be stacked. Clayton Kershaw, Homer Bailey, Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, Justin Masterson, James Shields, and a handful of other potentially interesting arms, too.

And then there was a time, maybe about a month ago, when it looked like the free agent pitching class after the 2014 season was going to be decimated by extension mania. Kershaw was locked up, and then so was Bailey. Lester kept saying publicly how much he wanted to stay in Boston and would take a hometown discount to do it, and Masterson made the Indians a hometown offer of his own. The Tigers cleared a bunch of salary, and seemed pretty much set to extend Scherzer. The class was looking like it would be 33-year-old Shields, and a bunch of maybes. Not exactly what you’re looking for if you’re the Cubs, who’ve rolled over money into the next offseason, and who project to be very pitching-needy in the coming years.

But then Masterson and the Indians couldn’t get a deal done, and the Tigers announced that they couldn’t reach an agreement with Scherzer. The class was once again starting to look decent.

Might it now be just about as full as we could have ever hoped it would be?

Despite public acknowledgements that everyone wanted to get a deal done, and despite a willingness to negotiate throughout the season (so don’t assume this is the end of discussions), the Red Sox and lefty Jon Lester have yet to come to an agreement on an extension. Moreover, the Red Sox’s offers so far have been strikingly low.

Jeff Passan and Ken Rosenthal report that the Red Sox’s extension offer to Lester was just four years and $70 million. Not only did Lester reject the offer, Rosenthal reports that he will no longer negotiate with the Red Sox during the season. If true, Lester will be yet another quality arm on the free agent market for the Cubs – OK, and other teams – to explore starting in November. (For his part, Lester didn’t deny the Rosenthal report, but did tell Gordon Edes that it doesn’t mean he’s out of Boston for sure. “Things can definitely change,” he told Edes.)

Outside of a blip in 2012 (and it wasn’t even that bad), Lester has been a consistently very effective starter, routinely in the 4-win, 3.50-FIP range. In this market, assuming there aren’t any health concerns, a 31-year-old lefty with those numbers probably gets a five-year contract with ease. The Reds bought out Homer Bailey’s free agent years in the $19 million per year range, so that’s probably about where you’d expect Lester negotiations to begin. Five years and $100 million is probably going to be one of the early estimates.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the obvious front office connection here, given that the Cubs’ crew are the guys who originally developed and extended Lester with Boston. How that kind of thing plays out in free agency, and whether it matters much, I can’t really say for sure. I think it depends on the player and the specific relationships at play. Suffice it to say, the Cubs’ front office knows the guy well, and, if he reaches free agency, they’ll do some due diligence.

Depending on the development of young players on the big league roster and prospects in the minors, the Cubs may or may not be in an ideal position to spend big on pitching this offseason. I don’t mean for these free agency discussions to suggest to you that the Cubs absolutely will be involved in upper tier pitching free agency. Instead, I think it’s important to point these things out now, because it will be nice for the Cubs to have options. They’ll have the money, the need, and (probably) the protected first round pick. That’s all I’m saying.

  • BenW

    The problem is Masterson is looking awful. I know it’s SSS, but really, this reminds me of him two years ago. Given what he will get in FA, I’m not sure the Cubs should be in on him.

    • Isaac

      I’ve always viewed Masterson as infinitely hittable. Don’t want him.

  • Chad

    I like everything you said there Brett. I don’t know how much money the cubs will have to spend next year, but I would love to get Scherzer and Shields or Lester and Shields, or really any combo that starts with Lester or Scherzer (or BOTH!!!!!!!!)

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    I read something today that hadn’t occured to me before. And that is that the Cubs trade Shark for the prospect haul and then resign him as a FA in 2016. The way he is pitching now I doubt that he would have trouble getting a nine figure contract in FA.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That’s pretty much the fan hope with every player the Cubs trade away. It’s just not something that actually ends up happening.

      Maybe Samardzija is a special case because of his connection to the area and the timeline of competitiveness … but, I’m just saying: if the Cubs trade him, don’t get your hopes up that he’ll ever come back.

      • VillageofJustice Gabe

        I agree with Brett. Chances are slim. Wasn’t the same said about Dempster and Garza?

        • ssckelley

          Honestly I think Dempster would have, in fact I think he would come out of retirement if the Cubs offered him a contract. But I don’t think the feeling is mutual.

          I think Samardzija would resign with the Cubs if given a big enough contract and a no trade clause, which is what he is asking for now. The farm system is full of young talent, if the Cubs did trade Sammardzija I hope they get MLB ready talent in return.

  • Jon

    Who says no?

    Cubs get
    Jason Heyward
    Lucas Simms

    Braves get
    Jeff Samardzija
    Jorge Soler

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That’s the kind of trade I’d love to see the Cubs make on a Samardzija deal *IF* they’re going to trade him (and it’s particularly relevant that you post this here, because this is the way the Cubs could pick up a bat they can’t get in free agency, and then could sign an arm or two in free agency to replace Samardzija).

      As for that particular one, it’s pretty fair in my eyes; the real problem is Soler’s contract.

      • Jon

        Wouldn’t Soler’s contact appeal to a team like Atlanta given the cost control? Or have recent events clouded Soler’s future too much?

        • http://bleachernation.com woody

          If he wasn’t injury prone it might be different.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          I think Brett means Soler can opt into arbitration. If Soler does very well he could get very expensive for the Braves, and they may not want to take on that somewhat nebulous financial risk.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Soler makes guaranteed millions (not lots of them, but millions) each year of control. Compare that to your average prospect who makes tens of thousands in the minors, and then $500K for three years in the bigs, and it’s a huge difference to a team like the Braves.

      • Orval Overall

        Braves say no in a heartbeat. Has no one noticed the fantastic start to the season Ervin Santana has had? 0.64 ERA, 10.9 K/9 through two starts. If the premise of the question is that the Braves are so desperate for pitching they’d give up Heyward to get it, I don’t see that happening as long as their Santana gamble is paying off.

        Yeah, it’s just two starts. But the supposed knock on him was teams not wanting to pay after a career year. If he finishes with another year comparable to last year, he’ll almost certainly be one of the top 3 guys in this class (after Scherzer and Lester, IMO, but before Masterson or Shields).

        Oh, and the funny thing is – for just a 1 year, $14 million commitment, the Cubs could have had Santana on their roster and either (a) extended him at a possible discount, (b) flipped him for prospects more valuable than this year’s second round pick, or (c) tendered him a QO and converted this year’s second round pick into a late first round pick next year.

        • Jon

          Santana didn’t fit plan

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Set aside the Samardzija piece of this for a moment.

          It’s two starts for Santana. Let’s ease up on dreaming of all the riches he could have provided the Cubs if only they’d had the foresight to sign him (and he’d had the interest in signing with the Cubs and not the Braves … or any other team).

          • Orval Overall

            Well to be fair, it’s two starts plus all of last season. The knock on him was that we didn’t want to pay for pitching after a career year, because his performance probably would not match the contract. Early returns being of limited value, it’s still *something* that Santana has come out of the gates looking very much like the pitcher he was last year in KC.

            And this isn’t just dreaming. Go back 2 months and you’ll find lots of people arguing that we should have taken advantage of a clearly depressed marketplace for Santana, Garza, and/or Jimenez. The early returns look good for 2 of the 3.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              I was saying that, too – that’s not the dreaming I’m talking about.

              I’m talking about the dreaming ahead – to a world where Santana pitches this well for three months, not two starts; where he doesn’t get hurt; where he can be traded for more than the value of a second round pick. (And where he was interested in signing with the Cubs on the same kind of one-year deal he gave the Braves. (In the real world, he wasn’t.))

    • DarthHater

      “Who says no?”

      Brett likes the idea, so it’s pretty much a certainty that Kyle will say no. :-P

      • Kyle

        Braves say no and laugh.

        • Chad

          Same thing I do when I read your posts! Ha

          • Kyle

            The difference being in their case they’d be right.

        • cubzfan

          Agreed. Because they are trying to compete now, and Heyward is more difficult to replace than even a very good starting pitcher.

        • YourResidentJag

          Orioles say we’re in it to win this year and we’ve got lots of young pitching.

          • Brocktoon

            If they’re in it to win it, they probably should’ve done more than trade away their closer and sign Cruz and Jimenez this offseason.

    • Karl Groucho

      Braves pretty easily say no imo. Soler’s not much better of an asset than Sims (if at all) and Heyward is a much nicer piece than Smardja. Maybe they’d get desparate if their ML pitching situation gets even more injury-riddled, but as of now they’ve got the second-lowest RA in the NL with Minor to return in the not-too-distant future.

      And it’s not as though they have some OF glut…this team is trotting BJ Upton out there everyday.

    • Edwin

      Braves say no. They trade a 4-6 WAR OF for a 2-3 WAR starting pitcher, and trade away their best prospect for Soler, which is probably a downgrade in terms of prospect value. They also end up taking on more salary.

  • http://kempfintl.com pfk

    Good to know that at least they will be out there. My concern, if I’m one of them, is the quality of team they will be joining. If 2015 looks like another punt season and they deal Samardzia for minor leaguers, it could be a tough sell. This is why I think it is imperative for the Cubs bring up some of the young talent by mid season – to demonstrate that the Cubs will indeed be a very competitive ball club and it would be great for Mr. Pitcher to be a part of making history.

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      I don’t think you need to worry about if there will be a sell off mid-season. This whole season is about identifying which players we build around going forward. Presently it’s looking much better that Rizzo and Castro will be those building blocks. I would say that Kalish, Lake and Olt are the three guys that have uncertain futures and will need to prove that they can provide better play and value than those player in the pipeline. IMO Ruggiano and Sweeny are just roster fillers. Schierholtz is almost certain to be moved. I don’t know where Valbuena will be next year as I see him as a very valuable bench player for a contender since his defense is good and he hits from the left side. The guys I expect to be moved are Hammel and Shark and Schierholtz. I would love to see Jackson moved if for nothing more than salary relief. I think we will have guys in the system that can perform better than him. For me the two guys I am watching is Olt and Alcantara. If Olt really steps it up and looks like the long term solution at third then it seems that Baez could be a permanent fixture at second base. In that case I could see Alcantara being groomed for a role like Bonafacio is playing this year. And I have to wonder if Bonafacio might bring a prospect back or do they want to keep him to provide that veteran in the club house? Anybody not named Rizzo, Castro or Castillo are for sale in my opinion.

      • http://kempfintl.com pfk

        I’m not worried about a mid-season sell off. I’m sure there will be deals made such as you’ve mentioned. I’m more worried about the Cubs impressing people with their young talent in August and September. Then they can make a good case for, “See, the plan is working and you should get on board for a great ride into Cubs history.” Of course talks but all things being equal, a pitcher will want to go to the team with a good chance of being a winner.

      • Head and Heart

        I’m not really sure Olt needs to step it up anymore at this point. He just needs to continue to do what he has done so far. His OPS is 13th in the majors for third baggers with at least 20 PAs. And that’s with a BB rate at 3.1% and a BABIP at .222

        I would suspect as he starts to get more regular playing time his walk rate will increase. Of the guys in front of him in the OPS rankings 5 have a BABIP over .400 and only Kelly Johnson and Todd Frazier have a BABIP under .300

        I know it’s early and obviously there are plenty of caveats here including the biggest one being the small sample size and a very wind aided home run the other day at Wrigley. But I think Olt looks like he can post an OPS over the course of this season that is at or above .800 which should easily be top 10 for third basemen in the majors. Now whether he does it or not is to be determined obviously. And if Olt OPSing over 800 and playing above average D is enough to move Bryant to the oufield I am not sure.

  • Edwin

    The more pitchers that end up in FA, the better. Although I’m not sure Lester fits what the Cubs are looking for.

    • blars82

      Because of age or something else?

      • Edwin

        Combination of age, talent, and how much it might cost to get him, as well as where the Cubs end up going into the 2015 offseason. Depending on how things end up with Samardzija, whether Castro and Rizzo actually do take those steps forward, and how the farm system progresses should effect how aggressive the Cubs are in adding wins this upcoming offseason.

        Lester is definitely a pitcher the Cubs will take a look at, but he’s not a slam dunk. I could see them passing on Lester, in certain situations.

        • Brocktoon

          Yep, I’d be shocked to see the Cubs go close to 20M on him or any of the pitchers available besides Scherzer.

  • blars82

    I know that with free agent hitters, the FO wants guys under 30 and in their prime. With pitchers, is that target age a little higher? I’m really a little confused on everything with Samardzija. The Cubs seem to have plenty of position players but need pitchers, but they’re going to trade their best pitcher for a couple of position players? Just pay the man his money and be done with it. Trading him for a couple of minor leaguers doesn’t seem like a great move. What would have been wrong with Samardzija and Cashner at the top of the rotation for the next 5 years?

    • BT

      So, just to be clear, you don’t know what Samardzija is asking for, you don’t know what the Cubs are offering him, and you don’t know what the Cubs could possibly get back in a trade for him, but you’ve already made up your mind that they should simply pay him “and be done with it”? What if Samardzija is asking for 175 over 5? What if he is asking 300 over 7? What if the Cubs could get Buxton and Sano for him?

      Obviously none of those are going to happen, but the idea that any of us know what the obvious “best” route to take is, without knowing any of the parameters of said route, is just silly.

      • blars82

        That is true, I don’t know what they’re offering and what he’s asking for. We all kept hearing 5 years, $55M for him (Cubs offer). But we’re talking 5 years, $100M for Lester based on Brett’s article? I know that the situations are different, but you’d think if you got him for somewhere in between those two amounts then that’d be a good price for a #2 starter in my opinion. So basically, I don’t get why they want to trade Samardzija for minor leaguers and then sign Lester or Masterson for $20M/season.

      • Brocktoon

        What if the Cubs are offering 8Y/8M? We don’t know the exact parameters, but we’ve got a decent framework. Throwing out those numbers and those trades add nothing.

    • DarthHater

      The Cubs are not likely to succeed at extending Samardzija. But if they don’t, they will come in second. So there’s that. :-P

    • JasonP

      If Jeff Samardzija was consistently what he’s been so far this year, then yes it makes all the sense in the world to extend him.

      If he gets rocked for stretches of time as he did after the all-star break last season (16 GS, 5.47ERA, 5.19FIP, in 100.1 IP), then you sign him if he’s willing to be paid like a number 3 or 4 starter. There’s no way that what Samardzija has done screams lock this guy up no matter the cost. Catching TDs at Notre Dame, having a competitive attitude, local ties and flashes of brilliance don’t make him a can’t lose player or a cornerstone of the franchise.

      Quite frankly, his 2013 looks close to Edwin Jackson’s 2012, maybe a touch worse. Offer shark the same 4yrs/$52mil.

      • Brocktoon

        If Jeff Samardzija was consistently what he’s been so far this year we wouldn’t want to pay him what he’s worth on the open market, just like now.

        • Tommy

          I think if you said over his career you might be closer to right than saying what he’s been this year. He’s been pretty outstanding so far this year other than the win/loss column, and we all know that doesn’t really mean much when it comes to how well a pitcher has performed. His WHIP is 1.05 so far this year, and I’m pretty sure if the Cubs thought he could maintain that through an entire year he’d be getting what he’s asking for.

          That being said, I don’t think any of us think he’s going to maintain a 1.05 WHIP for the year.

          • Brocktoon

            If Samardzija maintained the numbers he has now, he’d be asking for a hell of a lot more than he is now.

  • mjhurdle

    Everyone please brace yourself as the crowd of usual subjects rushes from the ‘See, Cub r the dumbz because none of those pitchers will even make FA!!!” side of the room to the “ya, oh well, i look forward to the Cubs coming in second on them!!” side.

    Don’t want anyone getting caught up in the rapid position switching.
    As always, please do NOT approach anyone making said transition. These posters are often hurt and vulnerable from having to switch opinions yet again. They will often react aggressively, even to well-intentioned contact.
    Please stay back, and allow them to become comfortable in their new positions. Once they are comfortable and feeling secure once again, it will be safe to approach as normal.

    That is all.

    • Karl Groucho

      Thanks for the tips!

    • DarthHater

      “Once they are comfortable and feeling secure once again, it will be safe to approach as normal.”

      Nah, they are never comfortable, never feel secure, and never safe to approach. And, after all, we wouldn’t really want them any other way, would we?

    • Kyle

      It’s not a position “switch” to point out one of several obstacles to the “It’s OK, we’ll buy all the FA’s we need next year!” crowd’s proposed plans, and then later point out a different obstacle.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Just to be clear, you guys are both exaggerating each side’s actual position for effect, right?

        • Kyle

          Am I ever not?

    • YourResidentJag

      It’s probably not so smart to sign most, if not all, of the FA SP with the deals these FAs are getting and their age. SO….

  • TK

    Why do people refuse to accept reality? FORGET free agency! With few exceptions, the FA market has clearly transformed into the ugly landfill of the untalented, washed-up, lame, cheaters, and clubhouse cancers. It is not where you want to look when planning your future. Anything worthy that makes it to FA is clearly the exception. That rarity should be treated as a pleasant surprise; however the crazy bidding wars that will ensue should not be. It’s pointless anymore to even speculate your teams future with any serious consideration to the FA market for players of significance.

    You gotta draft em, grow em, & trade for em. That is the game now. Accept it.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Much of that is true (though minus the anger-tinted color), but free agents will still exist. They’ll still be signed. They’re still part of the process and, incidentally, The Plan.

      To say “forget” free agency goes way too far.

      • TK

        Actually, for “us”, yes we should forget it. The org has made it pretty clear that we will not see any significant boost in payroll for a few years. So if a guy like Lester actually did make it to FA, the cost, due to the all-out shark frenzy, will be much higher than we can pay. (That is considering freed money from guys like Soriano.). Also, as important as draft picks are these days, the logic behind signing a significant FA is very questionable. By that time the FA will be even more degraded. The FO gets all of this. Thats why they went nuts in latin america last year. Yes, we should forget the FA market, unless we are looking for more sign-n-flips.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          “The org has made it pretty clear that we will not see any significant boost in payroll for a few years.”

          That’s simply not true. As I’ve written, the biggest jumps aren’t likely for a few years yet, but *if the Cubs decide it’s a good use of fund*, they could have a ton to spend this coming offseason:

          http://www.bleachernation.com/2014/03/28/the-quiet-importance-of-rolled-over-funds-how-much-could-the-rebuild-be-impacted/

          • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

            I wonder how much overlap there is between the “WHY DIDN’T WE SIGN ANY FREE AGENTS!!!!” group and the “LAKE AND OLT AND THE KIDS NEED TO PLAY EVERYDAY!!!!!” group.

            • Kyle

              Lake can be sent down tomorrow and I guess I can live with Olt as the short end of a platoon.

              • ssckelley

                Despite all the contact issues Lake has he is 3rd on the team with a .864 OPS. Can we wait until this comes down before shipping him off to Iowa?

                • Kyle

                  We can. We probably will.

                  But hot streaks beyond peripherals exist only in the past. Never bet on them going forward.

                  • ssckelley

                    As long as over half his hits keep going for extra bases we might be able to live with his peripherals..

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      Somehow, that doesn’t strike me as the most probable of scenarios!

          • Kyle

            They won’t decide that.

            They’ll decide to spend a lot of money if

            a) It’s the last piece of an otherwise stellar team (it won’t be)
            b) It’s one of those super-rare pre-prime or early-prime FAs (I don’t believe there any).

            • TK

              I agree with that. But at the same time, your #2 (no jokes please) would bring with it the situation much like the Tanaka sweepstakes where we likely will not have quite enough spending $$$ to outbid NY, BOS, LA, LA, and even Seattle.

              So the odds of us finding anything in the FA market any time soon are similar to me winning the lottery any time soon.

              This is why I scream my head off for these kids to get plenty of PT . . . its gonna have to come from within. Saying we’ll just sign the FA’s we need in a couple years just is not a wise plan. Thats the old way & its safe to say that we’ve proven several times over that it just don’t work in todays game.

          • TK

            I haven’t read that article now (Im relaxing after long day and thats too much work), but only days ago several major outlets QUOTED Tom Ricketts himself discussing where the money will be going in the next few years . . . Renovations. He was bery clear that FA players do not come close to producing the $30 – $40 mil per year return that the renovations will and therefore are not likely in our near term future. He was very clear that those renovations will be the priority, NOT high dollar FA’s. He made clear that wants the perpetual returns to commence so they can help stop the slide. He’s going the smart, safe way . . . staying the course. After all, if he goes out and increases the payroll by $30 mil and we still suck, that could be the end for the Ricketts’ as Cubs owners.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              When you have some time, I’d encourage you to read that article. Might offer you a different perspective.

              Also, the money Ricketts was talking about is money received from selling a portion of the team. Entirely separate issue. Annually, there will always be a baseball operations budget – and the Cubs are far under that budget this year.

              • Pat

                That’s if he is able to sell a portion of the team. This isn’t the first time they tried to sell minority shares. They proposed a similar scenario when they were preparing to buy the team, but apparently didn’t get enough, or any, takers.

                While that sounds ridiculous (many rich people would like a share of a sports team), keep in mind that both times they have talked about selling non-voting shares. People with that kind of money don’t usually buy second class commodities.

                • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

                  Eh, they are talking to the millionaires out there that want to act fancy. It’s not too hard to find 10 folks with enough money that want to be able to tell everyone they own the Cubs.

          • CubbieBubba

            …except it might be true. We’ve been hearing the same story for a while now, and if they don’t have the free agents they like this year, rolling over again is the same thing as not spending for a few years.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              … except this is the first year they’ve rolled over, as clearly explained in that article.

      • TK

        BTW, wasnt meant to sound angry. Sorry if it came off that way. I get excited and passionate about the Cubs.

        • Tommy

          Why are you so angry, TK! GEESH!

    • TK

      That does not include international signings.

  • Mr Gonzo

    If Arrieta emerges, I’d love to see the Cubs lock up Shark and sign Scherzer. That gives you a 2015 rotation of: 1) Scherzer 2) Shark 3) Wood 4) Arrieta 5) Young talent emerging from the farm: Hendriks/Jokish/Edwards/Johnson/etc. #tradejacksonforgatorade

    • Chad

      That would be great. I want Scherzer and another arm. The arm could easily be Shark. Even if Arrieta sets up as the 4 and has a little consistency issues that is ok. The top 3 would be really good. In your scenario do you move Jackson to the pen?

      • Mr Gonzo

        If they can’t trade Jackson, the pen would make sense, logistics-wise. But he may not even be good enough for the 2015 pen…

        • Brocktoon

          Is this a preemptive, “Look how improved the bullpen is, that’ll save 10 games on its own” for 2015?

  • cubfanincardinalland

    Would you not take shark over any of those guys next year. Extend Jeff. He’s good.

    • Chad

      I would not take Jeff over Scherzer or Lester next year.

      • http://bleachernation.com woody

        The thing is that Scherzer is going to be asking for crazy money. Shark can be extended for under a hundred million (I think) so there could be a difference of as much as 50 million or more. Samardzija hs taken positive steps forward in every season and seems to be very near that TOR status judging by the small sample so far. We know that Shark has been durable and has low miles on his arm. Letting him go will be a big mistake IMO, unless we really get some hot prospects in return.

        • Chad

          I like Jeff, and I would like to extend him. I would like to have Scherzer or Lester to go with Shark though, because Shark alone is not enough to make this team a contender. I know there is a big $ difference in Shark and Scherzer, but I think there is a big performance/consistency gap as well. I’d like to have both, but I prefer Scherzer to Shark. Contract and all.

      • TK

        Thats nuts. You are not thinking about VALUE. What you give for what you get. Shark would clearly be the best DEAL. The wisest deal. You are talking MAJOR BIDDING WARS driving the price thru the roof . . . just look at the deal it took to get Tanaka, who never thru a single pitch in MLB!!!!! Oh, and a draft pick?

        The only wise choice is Shark. If can get another one on top of him, then great. But you don’t just let a better VALUE walk in order to break the bank for a guy with much more mileage on his arm, and who will be shifting to a new pitching coach, team, and battery-mates. Thats just silly.

    • another JP

      The clamor to extend Samardzija will continue as long as he pitches well but there’s no chance the Cubs extend him. Shark will refuse to waive his NTC and that’s the deal breaker, plain and simple. Everyone might as well accept that he’s about to be sent elsewhere for prospects and that’s a good move in my book… the return should be excellent.

      • TK

        I think a lot of people are going to feel silly when he gets signed. They really have little choice when you consider the other REALISTIC options & our minor league pitching & the timeline thats guys like Baez and Bryant and Castro and Rizzo will be forcing upon the FO. This is reality baseball. It all has to fit together. They gotta extend Shark.

  • Edwin

    When is Travis Wood a free agent?

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    I’m pissed because it seems as though the game isn’t being broadcast in my viewing area (Northern Indiana). I’ve looked at all the Comcast listings and it isn’t listed. WTF?

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      Whoops! I thought the game was tonight.

      • Chad

        Where do you live in N. Indiana. I’m stuck with Chicago satellite feed in NW Indiana as well.

  • FortyFour

    According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs will struggle to convince FA pitchers to sign here, citing Anibal Sanchez as his top example. I am irritated by this claim because Sanchez was opted for the Tigers before the Cubs took Bryant, before Baez reached as much acclaim, before the trades of Feldman & Garza brought back several productive players and prospects. Tanaka is another example but I think there were other concerns beyond the team’s current competitiveness that made it tough for the Cubs on that player. Levine also thinks that if the Cubs have any hope to land a top FA, they will have to over-pay given how bad their team is presently. I think Bruce is stuck in 2012 and seems to overlook the bright future that the FO will be citing when attempting to land the next quality FA arm. Is Levine right or will the FO succeed in landing a FA arm or two the team needs for next year and beyond?

    • Jon

      After money, players want to win now. Not suffer through a couple of more 90+ loss seasons cause the team “might be good” in a few years.

      • FortyFour

        While it is possible the Cubs may lose 90 + this year, I think they will be done with that type of season for the next several years. They are becoming a deeper team than we have seen and will respond far better after trading any rotation players like Shark or Hammel this year than was the case in ’12 and ’13.

        • Jon

          If they trade Shark and Hammell they may lose 100 games

          • Cyranojoe

            *will.

            No biggie, but I don’t see Wood carrying the team if it’s just him and… uh… yikes, E-Jax would be our #2?

      • brickhouse

        Add in player facilities which are the worst at Wrigley Field. Some day they will start the renovation.

      • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

        Then why in the hell did Cano sign with Seattle?

        • Jon

          Because they outbid everyone else

        • mjhurdle

          because he loves the Pacific Ocean air?
          because he was secretly really into the grunge scene in high school?
          because he is horrible at geography and thought Seattle was in Southern California?

          obviously Seattle’s winning tradition and powerful team that was the clear cut AL favorite for the world series helped.

          All we know is that it was NOT 99.999% based on money, right?

          • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

            The Cubs won’t ever sign a good free agent because they have a cheap owner, will always suck, they have a dumb owner, are never going to be good, have a dumb front office, they have terrible players and haven’t signed anyone in the last 3 years after being at the cusp of contention, their front office is cheap, their prospects will all fail while the Cardinals/Reds/Pirates/Brewers will always have everything break their way and will never spend money because their dumb, broke, cheap owner is dumb, broke and cheap.

            And they suck.

            • FFP

              Didn’t your mother tell you; if you keep crossing your eyes like that, some day they’re going to stay that way.

      • Dustin S

        It is true and it’s why wins this year do matter. If they can improve by ~10 wins over 2013 (preferably more, but it’s a low bar)…then you can go to a FA this off-season and say hey look we’re past the bottom of the rebuilding curve and on the upswing from here. Otherwise it’s tough to go into FA with their hands tied. I do think the front office is great at selling the vision which offsets some of it though. I would have never have guessed them to be in the late running for Tanaka, although who knows if it was just for bidding leverage.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      The other reason why Sanchez is such a bad example is that: 1) the Tigers had just been to the WS that year, and 2) the Tigers did top the Cubs offer in the end. Sanchez wanted to return to the Tigers all along: and it’s tough to blame him.

    • Kyle

      MLB free agents do not give two poops about your first-round draft picks still in AA or AAA.

      • FortyFour

        Agreed but MLB free agents this coming off-season will have seen Baez in Wrigley for a few months barring injury, and possibly a month of Bryant too which may make them give a few poops.

        • Kyle

          It won’t.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Do they give one poop? Half-poop? A squirt?

        • Kyle

          Depends on if they’ve eaten Mexican lately. But it’ll be hard to prove causation over spurious correlation.

    • Brocktoon

      No FA ever has signed with a team because of their prospects.

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      Sanchez is a terrible example. He had zero intention to sign with the Cubs and his agent only brought the Cubs into the conversation to bump the price up for the Tigers. He was signing with the Tigers from day one, the Cubs were simply used to obtain the contract he wanted from Detroit.

  • Ivy Walls

    All things considered before anyone goes drooling over the idyllic FA pitcher (me it is Lester followed by Scherzer), Cubs must close this stadium deal and start tightening up their long-term revenue stream. They then can start commanding the FA market smartly. Players know this. Second they have start producing impact players out of the system. It has got to start at 2B this year and then someone in the OF. Third they will trade Samardz and it could be more than promises and prospects for this bona fide, though the Garza deal seems like a steal. Cubs need a big LH bat in the OF, there are only a few and then that might start adding some runs. I think Lake is being groomed for a deal. He reminds of the plethora of OF’ers Atlanta had good but not great OF’ers.

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      I have to think that outside of the loyal and gullible cubs fan base all of this prospect porn isn’t overwhelming anyone. Every team has a few hot prospects that they hype to the fan base. I think Trout and Harper are the exceptions to the rule. I think realisticly Baez and Bryant will need a year at the big league level to sort everything out. Certainly any top notch FA pitcher is worried about two things. Money first, and post season appearences at a close second.

  • Jon

    Geiger just hit another HR. How come we don’t talk about him more?

    • Kyle

      No position and the bat isn’t all that projectable.

      But we’re talking about him right now, so that’s something.

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      You didn’t see the thread this morning.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      No idea. I gave him the full Prospects Progress treatment in December, and he cracked the Top 40 at #32. He’s a quality hitter lurking solidly in the third tier of hitting prospects for the Cubs.

      He’s off to a good start, but I wouldn’t get too excited just yet. Let’s see how he does when Double A pitchers find the holes in his swing and he has to adjust.

  • roz

    Apparently Albert Almora either passed out on the field or his nose wouldn’t stop bleeding. Either way, he’s been taken out of the game.

    • roz
    • Jon

      Kris Bryant is the last of the big 4 standing. God hates the Cubs

    • roz

      Daytona Cubs twitter account says he never passed out, just had a nose bleed that wouldn’t stop.

      https://twitter.com/daytonacubs/status/455861068464947201

    • Spriggs

      Time for Brett to roll out a “God’s Wrath”

      • jp3

        Time to overreact, now who would trade 2 of the 4 + other parts for David price or Stanton?

        • Kyle

          Which two?

          Probably not for Price, because all pitchers are bad risks forever.

          I’d trade any two that weren’t Baez for Stanton.

          • Voice of Reason

            I’d trade baez WAY before Bryant.

        • Voice of Reason

          Why would you give up 2 top notch prospects for price? Then after you trade for him you have to sign him to a monster contract. AND, on top of all that…. he missed a number of starts last year with arm trouble.

          Forget price. Cubs will never meet what the rays will ask in return.

          • jp3

            It was actually just an example in price. They were 2 names we’ve heard a lot about but I was probably one of the posters that didn’t want to trade any of the big four (-sloer, I’ve never been a big fan) but I’ve changed my toon bigtime. I think I’d least like to trade Bryant though he’s going to K a lot, with Baez. I imagine at the big league level there will be a lefty between he and Baez breaking up back to back HRs and back to back whiffs. I think I’d trade any 2 for Stanton (or another top bat option). I really like Almora but man that guy can’t stay healthy either.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    It is obvious that the Cubs are going to have to over pay to get any TOR type FA next year. I would think that the Tanaka bidding proved that. The Yankees over paid to get their man and that was to play in New York the media capital of the world. That’s why we should sign Shark ASAP, because there aren’t other interested parties involved driving up the bidding. So is it really the no trade clause that is going to sink this deal? If I was running the show I would lockup Shark and Wood both, before the price of poker goes up. Stack another FA on top of that and we have three guys that put you in the win column consistently. Like I said earlier these TOR free agents aren’t buying all the hype. None of these prospects have done squat at the big league level. The only thing that could change that anytime soon would be for Baez and Bryant to make a significant impact this year at the MLB level, and currently neither one dominating at their respective levels.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      It is hard for anyone to dominate this early in the season, but with that caveat aside, what more do you want from Bryant?

      He’s slugging .621, has a wRC+ 203, and is walking in 18.9% of his plate appearances. If that’s not dominance, I don’t know what is.

      Free agents won’t sign with the Cubs because of him, though, regardless of how they define dominate. They’ll sign because the Cubs put the largest number on the contract offer, or they’ll sign elsewhere. History makes it pretty clear that money is the overwhelmingly most important factor in signing free agents.

      • http://bleachernation.com woody

        Luke I wasn’t raggin on Bryant or Baez I was simply trying trying to say that as Cubs fans during these lean times, more emphasis has been devoted to hyping the top prospects than what I believe is normal in order to keep fans interested when we have another less than stellar club. My whole point is that I don’t think that Scherzer or any big name FA is going to buy into that at this point. Unless that player has a prefence to live near home or for whatever reason he is probably going for the money. Regardless of how well Bryant and Baez do at whatever level this year, realistically it will probably take a full year in the bigs, hopefully in 2015 before they are kicking ass and taking names. I think Trout and Harper were an anomoly and probably outliers in the normal course of a young player coming into the league. I hope I have to eat those words, but that’s the way I see it. I am encouraged by the way RR has these guys playing this year, but to me it’s certain that two fifths of the starting rotation won’t be there in August. Truthfully I don’t see the Cubs doing anything in 2015 either if they don”t get Shark signed.

        • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

          “Truthfully I don’t see the Cubs doing anything in 2015 either if they don”t get Shark signed.”

          That would only be true if they decided to trade Shark.

          • http://bleachernation.com woody

            And they probably will.

          • Brocktoon

            I find it a near impossibility that Shark breaks camp with the Cubs next year without an extension. His value will drop as he would no longer have compensation tied to him, and obviously, you’d be getting 3 months of him vs. a full season.

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      “It is obvious that the Cubs are going to have to over pay to get any TOR type FA next year. I would think that the Tanaka bidding proved that. The Yankees over paid to get their man and that was to play in New York the media capital of the world.”

      I think every free agent EVER has proven that. 97% of the time they sign for the most money they can get.

      Just because the Cubs weren’t willing to go beyond the Yankees doesn’t mean anything other than they didn’t want to spend that much for Tanaka. Every year top free agents go to unlikely places and every year we say “THEY SIGNED FOR HOW MUCH????”

      • http://bleachernation.com woody

        I have often wondered if it’s really neccesary to have one of the top five or so pitchers in baseball in order to win it all. I think a rotation deep with guys of the same caliber as Shark and Wood could get the job done if you had a good bullpen. Maybe Arietta gets there this year and maybe not, but I don’t see anybody in the system with lights out stuff except Viscaino and possibly Edwards. Right now we have a weak offensive club that is showing more promise than last year. Until we get that situation resolved I have my doubts about how effective any pitcher can be without run support. I say that when you have a group of guys scoring a lot of runs that you then look for that guy to be the ace.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Well, given that only one of the top 5 xFIP pitchers (Wainwright) from last year even threw an inning in post-season, obviously not! (Only four of the Top 10 did, too, and the top Sox pitcher, Lackey, scored 26th.)

          Ultimately, what mattes is net production. A staff of solid but unspectacular starters can hold the opposition down to below league-average OPS: the Sox pitching OPS (0.710) was 7th in the AL, which was a shade below the league average of 0.724. However, to win like that, you have to have a great offense: the Sox OPS of 0.795 was #1 in the AL. That gave them a net OPS of 0.085, which means an expectation of 99 or 100 wins. So, obviously the Sox could have won without such a stellar offense: if the team OPS had been only 0.755 (still damn good!), then we would have expected 90-91 wins, which usually gets you into post-season. However, winning comfortably with solid-but-unspectacular pitching obviously is tough.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Was anyone able to watch CJ Edwards start today? Wondering how he looked. Stat line for the day was: 5.0 IP, 5H, 3R, 3ER, 1BB, 7K, 1HR. Looks like a solid performance, but was wondering if he got high in the pitch count and thats why he only lasted 5innings

    • Kyle

      He didn’t get knocked out of the game in the fifth or sixth, if that’s what you are asking.

      He was a bit shaky early and left one out over the plate for a huge solo HR. The other two runs came on balls finding holes. He got better in his last few innings.

    • Jon

      5 innings is his standard day at the office

  • Jr 25

    Izturis of Toronto just went down for 4 to 6 months time to trade Shark and Barney for Sanchez and others.

    • Voice of Reason

      Barney??? Nobody wants that bum.

      Shark…. yes

  • Jon

    Just saw Shark on the Dan Patrick show (replay). He’s as good as gone. Clear as day he’s sick of the losing and tanking seasons

    • Jason P

      Yeah, I saw that too. He began his answer to the “will you be back” question with some variation of “Depends on how this year goes”. That’s not good. He also went on to say he realizes he’s already in his prime, and while he’d love to stay with the Cubs, winning is his #1 priority.

      To be honest, I don’t blame him. This is what happens when you purposefully lose games. So they’ll trade him, shrug their shoulders and move the timeline back to 2017.

      • BT

        Or he realizes the Cubs aren’t going to pay him, and he wants to get paid.

        • Jason P

          That too, but I truly believe he’d take a hometown discount if the Cubs were good. He said in the same interview if the Cubs were good an extension would already be done.

          • KHRSS

            If they wont be able to keep a top of the rotation guy(if he lives up to his potential) because they don’t win games how will they get FA’s to sign.

            And this doesn’t take into account the fact that they really don’t want to spend money.
            The timeline is now 2017-19.

  • Brocktoon

    http://www.csnchicago.com/cubs/cubs-vs-yankees-look-inside-tanaka-bidding-war

    FO puts all their eggs in the Tanaka basket while thinking all along they weren’t going to get him.

    • BT

      Yes, they put all their eggs in the Tanaka basket because he was the only free agent that fit what they were trying to do. There were no other baskets for them to put eggs in. This has only been discussed about a trillion times on this board. Despite the fact that the Yankees were at least as desperate as the Cubs, but with a bottomless checkbook, the Cubs still made a run at him.

      • Brocktoon

        You’re going to have to explain to me how Ellsbury didn’t fit what they were trying to do.

        People have said, it’s not their fault they wound up doing absolutely nothing all offseason because they thought they’d get Tanaka. They didn’t think they were getting Tanaka. They intentionally passed on the offseason.

        • danimal8

          He is an aging speedster with a terrible contract

          • Brocktoon

            Ellsbury is freakin 30 years old and coming off a 5.7/5.8 WAR season and averaged 4.1/5.4 WAR season the last 3 years, that including an injury plagued 2012.

            If every 30 year old is too old and every one signing for more than 15M is a terrible contract then we will be terrible for fucking ever.

        • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

          It is interesting that “team officials” predicted Tanaka would go to the Yanks/Dodgers but he got a direct quote from Theo.

          Either way, I see a lot of confirmation bias in your statement here.

          With the Cubs this year it was either you passed on some decent players who got meh contracts while holding out for a long-shot or you go in on those decent players with even more meh-ier contracts.

          • Brocktoon

            What are you implying? That the “team officials” aren’t reliable? That there would be a scenario where Theo would come out and say, “yeah, we knew we didn’t have a shot at Tanaka?”

          • Brocktoon

            And what’s the endgame here? Now in this offseason they either sign meh contract(s) or kick the can further down the road? So they’ve just delayed contending by at least a year for no reason.

            “Meh” is pretty charitable about the reaction around here to every contract longer than 2 years, so what does it really matter.

      • Kyle

        What they are trying to do is so absurdly narrow that it’s going to probably cost the Cubs several more years of missing the playoffs.

    • ClevelandCubsFan

      Money quote: “If there are good players out there and we are the high bidder, we’ll sign him right now…. If there are free agents out there worthy of it — and it looks like there may be — then we’ll be aggressive on those guys.”

      Sounds like they’re looking at the 2014 FA class of pitchers, too.

      • Kyle

        Their definition of “worthy of it” won’t include most of those pitchers.

        • KHRSS

          They won’t have enough to pay Shark to keep on losing for 4-5 years but they can pay Jacksoon $12 millon a year to put up numbers Villanueva or Rusin could put up.

    • spearman

      Crazy Quote

      “We’re a really fortunate team to have the resources we do,” Kenney said during the media scrum afterward. “We hear the fans. They would like to see improvement at the major-league level. That improvement’s going to come, but it’s going to come through the system.”

      I sure hope they don’t miss on this farm system. Damage is being done to the product. Sooner or later these kids have to learn how to win.

      • FFP

        Fortunate to have the resources–a business man rarely gets to say something so true.

        Hear the fans — well, that depends on what your definition of “hear” is. see Theo on ‘noise’ and ‘cookie’

        Improvement at the major league level is going to come ‘through the system’ — OK, this IS a ‘crazy quote’ . This last part could drive a commenter to libel. For now let me just say I don’t believe Cubs reveal baseball ops plans via their *current* business ops dude. (And if this quote is right, there will be a meeting to review structural organization, power, and the media. It will be short.)

        • FFP

          Strike my last part of the last part. I should have read the quote in the context of the Mooney piece first. The Crane quote is from January of this year. (I thought it was new grist.) Sorry Crane.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      “FO puts all their eggs in the Tanaka basket while thinking all along they weren’t going to get him.”

      Which totally makes sense, right? How stupid they are! I just can’t believe how much smarter I am than them with so much less information!

      • bbmoney

        It’s so obviously true I don’t even know why we’re discussing it anymore. I’ve just taken it as fact I suppose…..I mean there’s literally no team ever that’s been really truly “in” on a player that has been outbid by the Yankees. That’s never happened.

        • bbmoney

          Ever.

        • Brocktoon

          You realize I was working off the Mooney piece where it cited team officials saying they thought all along New York or LA were getting him right?

          • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

            So if you think something isn’t going to happen…just give up? I mean no point in hoping that you can do that thing. Just give up, it’s pointless.

            I wonder what your outrage would look like had the Cubs not pursued him and anonymous team sources coming out saying they thought they had a small chance on him?

            • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

              Now let me guess your response to my question:

              “Well, we would have gotten a different free agent so it would have been fine.”

            • Brocktoon

              Nope, not my point, my point is they weren’t exactly blindsided by this offseason. They consciously chose the Tanaka route, knowing that it would very likely leave them empty-handed.

          • bbmoney

            Perhaps I’ve attributed to much to your “thinking they wouldn’t sign him” bit.

            As I see it, it could go one of two ways. One: If you mean they knew there was a chance they wouldn’t sign him, perhaps a good chance they wouldn’t. Well then no shit. There are other teams bidding, so I guess i’m not sure why Mooney or you bother pointing that out….again….two months later. Two: And much more interestingly, if you’re implying they knew they had no chance from the start and wasted everyone’s time making an effort, or better yet appearing to make an effort….well then YEAAAAHHH for Diehardian conspiracy theories.

            Either way, I’m mostly just sick of pointless bitching about it whether or not equally pointless articles are written about such theories. Especially when said articles are written after said player has made two starts.

          • gocatsgo2003

            I don’t understand the outrage — why is it not perfectly acceptable for the front office to arrive at a contract offer that they think is correct ($120MM over 6 years without an opt-out), but also realize that someone like the Dodgers or Yankees is likely to make a more significant offer (that turned out to be $155MM over 7 years with an opt-out)?

      • Brocktoon

        Can you elaborate an actual point here?

        • Brocktoon

          I mean I’ve got less information than Rueben Amaro has too, guess I retract all criticism of him, and for that matter anyone who has ever worked in a front office or as a manger.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            Good. Let that be your last comment, then.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          The point is pretty plain on its face. The implication that the Cubs spent their entire Winter saving for, and planning for, Tanaka, all the while knowing for certain that they could not get him, is absurd. It is believed only by people who want to believe ridiculous things that make the front office/ownership look bad.

          There is a world of difference between guessing that Tanaka is going to go to the Yankees or Dodgers – like pretty much all of us did (probably including the front office – and believe you have NO shot at him, and fapping around all Winter anyway.

          Why am I even wasting this response? I think this might be the last one you get.

  • ncsujuri

    Extend Shark, sign Scherzer, draft Rodon

    2015 Rotation Scherzer, Shark, Wood, Jackson, Arrieta
    2016 Rotation Scherzer, Shark, Rodon, Wood, Arrieta

    I like it!

    • gocatsgo2003

      Yeah… probably going to go 0-3 on that one.

    • Jon

      That’s a bid modest. I would also include trading for Giancarlo.

    • J. L.

      You know what’s the sad part? Not only it’s very unlikely we could pull all of this off, but I’m not even sure these rotations would be very good.

      • Brocktoon

        A rotation with Scherzer, Shark, and Wood heading it would be pretty damn good.

        I don’t buy Arrieta and counting on Rodon in 2016 seems optimistic, but you’re off to a good start with those 3.

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