With the James Shields signing situation in the past, “the offseason” is mostly in the rearview now. Yes, there are other potential moves to be made – dealing Welington Castillo and/or a starting pitcher like Travis Wood or Edwin Jackson, for example – but those are more likely to be Spring Training deals. That is to say, the Cubs may have to wait out other teams’ internal evaluations/injury developments before being able to pull the trigger on the right trade. And if those trade opportunities don’t develop, well, then, it’ll be fascinating to see how the organization deals with the extreme rotation glut, and the possibility of carrying three catchers to start the year.
- The Cubs’ late-in-the-game Shields pursuit is still drawing attention, with a write-up from Ken Rosenthal standing as one example. Rosenthal mentions that the pursuit could be telling of the Cubs’ preference for not signing another Jon-Lester-like contract next offseason (I’m not sure that’s ever the preference), but he also says that signing Shields wouldn’t necessarily have taken the Cubs out of that market next year. For me, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the Cubs being willing and able to swoop in late on Shields and offer upwards of $60 million (reportedly a $20 million average annual value (“AAV”), which may have been the highest AAV he was offered)) is a great sign for the organization’s financial flexibility in the near-term. Not only because it confirms they definitely have the room to make a significant addition at midseason and/or next offseason, but also because I really doubt the Cubs make that offer to Shields if they know it absolutely precludes them from adding at midseason and/or next offseason. So, if you want to start dreaming about the Cubs adding a really significant offensive free agent (if necessary) and a really significant pitching free agent next year, I don’t think you’d be crazy to do so. (Here’s hoping, though, that some of the flexibility is used up before then … because the Cubs were competitive in 2015 and decided to make a big addition midseason.)
- I don’t want to get too far down the post-2015 rabbit hole when it comes to pitching arms – so much about what the Cubs will or won’t do depends on a dozen things that will play out over the course of this season – but I think it’s important, just like last year, to track whether the top pitchers are or aren’t going to sign extensions. This is the time of year that it tends to happen, and I’m sure at least a couple of the Price-Zimmermann-Cueto-Greinke-Samardzija-Fister-Latos-Porcello-etc. crew will extend before all is said and done. One of those guys – Rick Porcello, who’ll be just 27 next year and is a personal favorite among the free agent class – doesn’t sound too eager to re-up with his new team in Boston just yet. We’ll see what happens with the rest. Frankly, given the volume (I didn’t even mention guys like Ian Kennedy, Yovani Gallardo, Mike Leake, Hisashi Iwakuma, and so on), some of these gentlemen would probably be wise to sign a deal sooner rather than later.
- Of course, signing a big-timer isn’t the only way the Cubs could add another front-end starter. There’s also Cole Hamels, who remains untraded, and his GM Ruben Amaro believes that will still be the case when Spring Training gets underway. That’s what he told ESPN’s Jayson Stark, who reports that the Phillies are in contact with teams about Hamels even now, but the sense remains that they will eat no money to make it happen, and want to “win the deal” to trade their 31-year-old lefty ace. My bet is that the Phillies have decided to roll the dice on Hamels being healthy and effective through the first half of the season – a game the Cubs have played a few times before, sometimes with great success (Samardzija) and sometimes without (Garza, the first time) – and try to get a big haul at the Trade Deadline. Who knows? Maybe the Cubs have a need and get involved then. (Oh, and that big list of free agents? We’ll see how many of them are on the market come July, too.)
- Hamels might not be the only pitcher the Phillies deal, as they’d also consider moving lefty Cliff Lee. Stark indicates that the Phillies may try and move Lee, 36, in Spring Training if he shows he’s over the elbow issues he had last year. In addition to those elbow issues, money is a serious impediment to moving Lee (who was still a stud when healthy). He’s owed $25 million in 2015 and $27.5 million in 2016 if he reaches 200 innings in 2015. Alternatively, that $27.5 million can be a team option for 2016, with a $12.5 million buyout. In other words, you might be getting just one year of Lee for $37.5 million. If he does show he’s healthy, though, and you consider that Stark says the Phillies are looking for a catcher (and Dave Kaplan has connected the Phillies to Welington Castillo), you start wondering if maybe the Phillies and Cubs could work something out, if the money made sense. I know it sounds a little crazy, and I’m completely speculating here. But it would be a short-term fit, and, again, would fit if the money makes sense. The Phillies would have to eat serious dollars (while taking on Castillo and Wood or Jackson; maybe getting a marginal prospect or two in the process), and Lee would have to show he was 100%. Just something to think about.
- The Tigers could find out today how long they’ll be without Victor Martinez, which could then dictate a move before the season starts. Although Martinez is mostly a DH, not a catcher, the Tigers have – at least internally – discussed the possibility of making a move for Dioner Navarro, one of the primary catchers on the market together with Welington Castillo. (UPDATE: Just as I click publish, the Tigers announce that Martinez’s knee surgery was successful, and it sounds like they’re expecting he’ll be back on the quicker end of the scale, just four to six weeks.)
- This isn’t really tied to anything directly, yet, but it’s worth noting for future discussions:
There is anger among the teams that Major League Baseball permitted Max Scherzer's deal to have such a high percentage of deferred money.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) February 10, 2015
- And this is an international free agent (i.e., a youngster eligible to sign starting on July 2) to whom the Cubs have been connected:
Big day at the MLB showcase for Dominican outfielder Starling Heredia. Strong kid with a big arm, loud contact in BP and the game.
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) February 9, 2015
- The Cardinals bought out Jon Jay’s final two arbitration years for $10.975 million, total (Jerry Crasnick). Jay, who will play next season at age 30, has been one of those vintage, quietly very useful players for the Cardinals for years, posting WARs of 1.2, 2.5, 3.6, 1.8, and 2.5 since he first came up.