The offseason – for 27 teams, at least – has officially arrived, and it could be a particularly active one for the Chicago Cubs. Theo Epstein spoke the one thing we know for sure the Cubs will do (going after starting pitching), but there likely be a considerable volume of tweaking, adding, reducing, and possibly some blockbuster moves. With the Cubs now smack-dab in the middle of a competitive window, the front office will take great care to maneuver this offseason both to improve the 2016 team and prepare against potential regression. You cannot assume each young player will be better than – or even as good as – they were in 2015, and you definitely cannot assume the kind of good health the Cubs had, overall, during the season.
So, then, as we head into the offseason (free agency opens five days after the conclusion of the World Series), let’s start checking in on the rumor mill …
- With minor league pitching coordinator Derek Johnson departing for the Brewers, you knew the mentions of David Price and the Cubs (Johnson was Price’s pitching coach at Vanderbilt) would follow:
Derek Johnson coached @DAVIDprice14 at Vandy. Cubs have heavy interest in adding a star arm. Price/Greinke at top of their list.
— David Kaplan (@thekapman) October 22, 2015
With @thekapman's news that Derek Johnson going to MIL as coach, a David Price link out for the Cubs. Was Price's pitching coach at Vandy.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 22, 2015
- That said, I never really bought the connection as a huge decider in the first place. For one thing, it almost always comes down to money, anyway. For another thing, a former college coach (Price was in college nearly 10 years ago) who was the minor league pitching coordinator is probably not going to have that much interaction with a big league member of the rotation. For still another thing, the Cubs’ manager and bench coach were the guys in charge for many more recent years when Price was pitching in Tampa Bay. That is to say, if connections matter, the Cubs still have plenty.
- It remains to be seen, by the way, just how seriously the Cubs will pursue Price, who will start tonight for the Blue Jays as they try and stay alive in the ALCS. I have no doubt whatsoever that they will explore a marriage. I do have doubts, however, that committing $200+ million to a single arm over the age of 30 (when the Cubs also already have nine figures tied to Jon Lester) is the best use of the Cubs’ resources right now. Price is freaking awesome, and could be awesome for a long time. There’s no question there. It’s just that the free agent pool is exceptionally deep and intriguing this year.
- Bruce Levine writes about the possibility that the Cubs could trade from their positional youth to acquire an impact starter, and specifically mentions the Indians’ interest in Jorge Soler, something that also came up in rumors around the Trade Deadline. If you recall during the final day flurry, there were rumors of the Cubs’ interest in Carlos Carrasco (though Levine mentions Danny Salazar in his piece – he’s younger, still has upside, but hasn’t been as dominant as Carrasco), and there definitely could be a conceivable match there at some point in the future. Some things to keep in mind on Carrasco, though: he’s been a late bloomer (he’s already 28), he was put on the DL with shoulder discomfort in August (though he did come back to finish out the year), and he does not have a super long track record of high-level success. That said, he’s extremely cost-controlled, can be incredibly dominant, and is the type of pitcher for whom you’d be willing to entertain dealing a huge upside positional player.
- On that point, in general: if and when the Cubs make a deal for a cost-controlled impact starting pitcher, you’re not going to like what they had to give up. Accept that fact now, and you’ll feel much better if and when it happens. Every guy who will come up in rumors from the Cubs’ side – Soler, Javy Baez, and Starlin Castro figure to be the biggest three, based on value and positional redundancy – comes with a litany of reasons why you wouldn’t want to trade them. And, indeed, maybe the Cubs shouldn’t, as we know they can all be accommodated and help the Cubs win. But, if they want to land cost-controlled, already-established impact pitching, the price of poker is very high.
- Other names that came up at the deadline that you should probably keep an eye on for this offseason: Julio Teheran, Alex Wood (though his K rate dropped alarmingly in 2015), Andrew Cashner, and Tyson Ross. I also think, yes, you’re going to see many rumors connecting the Cubs and Mets.
- Pretty sure you’re about to see Cuban free agent pitcher Yasiel Sierra blowing up the rumor mill very soon, because the guy looks like a beast. He’s a 25-year-old, hard throwing, apparently polished pitcher in his prime. Yes, please. Here’s more from a recent performance at Baseball America. Sierra is not subject to IFA restrictions, so he’s just a true free agent (meaning that the Cubs, who have already blown out their spending pool on the IFA side for this period, wouldn’t have any kind of advantage). Any team could be in on him, and I’m sure many will be.