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james shields royalsFormer GM and current baseball analyst Jim Duquette took to the prediction game, writing about ten of the top free agent arms on the market, and where they might end up.

Although Duquette doesn’t link the Chicago Cubs to the top arm on the market, Max Scherzer, he does have them as the possible destination for three of the next four starters: Jon Lester, James Shields, and Kenta Maeda.

On Lester, Duquette has the Cubs in the lead, with the Yankees and Dodgers(?) as other possibilities. I find it interesting that the Red Sox are not mentioned, which seems to ignore their upcoming meeting with Lester, or discounts the possibility that a reunion can actually take place. The predicted contract for Lester is the six years most seem to think it’s going to take, but a slightly lower total payout, at $130 million. Yes, that’s a huge amount of money, but I think you’d have to be pretty happy if the Cubs got him on that deal at this point.

After Lester, Duquette looks at James Shields, for whom he lists the Cubs, Red Sox, Yankees, Angels, and Rangers as possible suitors. Again, his prediction on the contract is the years most seem to expect – five – but lighter on the total payout – $90 million. Although Shields will be 33 next year, I really don’t think that’s a bad contract, either. I’m mostly kidding about the following, but: if Lester and Shields signed for these contracts, then technically the Cubs would not be violating Theo Epstein’s recent proclamation that signing two nine-figure starters in the same offseason wasn’t going to happen.

And then there’s Kenta Maeda, about whom we’ve heard very little lately, after his NPB team’s owner suggested the righty might not be posted this year. If he is posted, Maeda will find a relatively crowded pitching market (it won’t be any better next year), and speculation on the possible contract for the slight righty, who doesn’t project as well as Masahiro Tanaka did, is really wide-ranging. Some say he’s a 4 or maybe a 3 in the big leagues, whereas Duquette sees Maeda as closer to a front-of-the-rotation type, and predicts a five-year, $100 million contract, not including the posting fee. If Maeda is posted in a timely manner, I see no reason for the Cubs not to make the maximum $20 million posting bid – it is refundable if the player doesn’t ultimately choose to sign with your team – and see what Maeda is looking for, and how his market shapes up. Whether the Cubs go all out on him, however, depends on how their scouts have liked him over the past couple years, and depends on what the Cubs have been able to do in the offseason to that point.

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