Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

david priceThe time when free agents can actually negotiate and sign with new teams has not yet arrived – that’s midnight tonight – let alone the real meat of the offseason, which grills up on the hot stove over the course of the next three months. But that didn’t stop the David Price-Cubs rumors from escalating rapidly.

Long connected to the Chicago Cubs for obvious reasons – including his own admission that winning it all with the Cubs would be the “coolest” – Price is the top arm on the free agent market this year, and he’s going to be an attractive target for all teams with a little money to spend. Michael profiled Price yesterday, and it’s impossible to read the piece without dreaming a little bit about how nice Price would look in the Cubs’ 2016 rotation.

But, of course, there are two hurdles to that dream becoming a reality: the cost, and the interest. On the former, we know that Price will probably command upwards of $200 million, and it’s debatable whether that’s the best use of the Cubs’ resources right now.

On the latter, though – Price’s interest – Ken Rosenthal today reports something we’ve been thinking (hoping?) for a while: “An executive who knows Price says that the Cubs are his first choice.” Rosenthal adds that two other agents for top pitchers are predicting that Price goes to the Cubs, which could be bluster, but it could also be their legitimate expectation that the Cubs won’t be a landing spot for their own clients. Of course, Rosenthal rightly emphasizes that it’s all just talk until it comes time to actually get a deal done, and Price is going to be heavily sought-after by a number of big-market teams. (That all comes from Rosenthal’s early offseason primer piece, which you’ll want to check out.)

If it’s true that Price’s top choice is the Cubs, that is of non-zero value. Let’s be quite clear that having the top contract offer is still likely to be the decider for almost all free agents, but not having to “sell” a guy on coming to your team is sometimes the difference in not having to go well over the top of the next highest offer, and/or is sometimes the difference in not getting the guy at all. If the Cubs want Price and are willing to make a serious offer, then Price wanting to come to the Cubs matters a great deal. In other words, if Rosenthal’s report is true, this is really good news.

There’s also a report from Buster Olney, who hears from rival evaluators that the Cubs are “heavy, heavy favorites” to sign Price. The connection between Price and the Cubs – the need, the resources, the manager – is obvious. What will take a little time to suss out is whether these expectations by other teams and agents are simply a matter of dot-connecting, or whether there’s much more there.

I expect we’ll find out very soon as the courting process begins.

To that end, make sure you’re following BN on Twitter and liking it on Facebook to keep up with the latest this offseason.

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