Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

jason heyward cardinalsIt seems Chicago Cubs fans weren’t entirely irrational when they made the mental connection between the David Price signing and Jason Heyward. Although there’s no explicit overlap there – it’s not as if the Cubs were a final bidder for Price – it just felt right to talk about one potentially massive financial commitment after another, who had previously made sense as a Cubs target, had signed with another team. By yesterday, I was feeling pretty all-in on Heyward.

And, today, Ken Rosenthal’s latest has a significant section dedicated to the Cubs’ efforts to fill their hole in center field, and, yes, Jason Heyward’s name comes up.

You’ll want to read Rosenthal’s article for the whole context, because it’s not entirely about Heyward. Indeed, Dexter Fowler is still a possibility (and, on the whole, an attractive one, I’d add), and Rosenthal also mentions an outfielder who came up in rumors yesterday, Jake Marisnick. The Astros’ glove-first center fielder would be a very interesting target, even if you thought the bat wasn’t going to come along. The thinking, though, at least according to Jerry Crasnick, is that the Astros are angling to use Marisnick in a package to pick up some pitching. So, then, the Cubs might not be the right fit.

Circling back to Heyward, Rosenthal says rival executives believe Cubs President Theo Epstein has “long admired” Heyward. But, for the Cubs to add Heyward, Rosenthal believes, they’d first have to trade for a low-cost starter to address their rotational hole(s) without breaking the bank financially.

Rosenthal’s mention of the Cubs and Heyward isn’t the only one in the wake of the David Price signing, and, indeed, he’s not the only one linking up the Cubs’ pursuit of Heyward to their ability to be cost-effective in the rotation. Buster Olney also discusses it in his latest column on the after-effects of the Price signing, noting that the Cubs could now go after Heyward if they’re able to pick up the pitching they want on the trade market without spending too much cash.

Knowing what we know about the Cubs’ ability to spend right now, I think that’s generally correct, though I do believe with some other financial maneuvering – including a creative, backloaded contract structure with Heyward – it’s possible that the Cubs could add both Heyward and a free agent starter from the mid-tier (though not someone like Jeff Samardzija if his most recent rumored numbers are even close to accurate). Indeed, your absolute dream offseason probably has the Cubs landing Heyward, a mid-tier starter who slips through the cracks a bit and doesn’t break the bank, and then pulling off a trade for another starter.

But let’s be quite clear: the price tag on Heyward could conceivable soar to utterly absurd levels, and the Cubs simply may not be able to make it work at this time. That would be unfortunate, what with the rarity of a perfectly-fitting 26-year-old position player on the free agent market, but it would also be understandable. The Cubs’ success in 2015 was incredible, and things look good for 2016, too – but that doesn’t change the fact that there will not be maximum financial flexibility for at least a couple years yet.

I suspect that we’re going to see pitching remain the broader market focus this week – Zack Greinke could sign very soon, and unleash a pitching wave from there – with the position players taking over at the Winter Meetings and beyond.

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