Earlier today, upon word of the Cardinals signing lefty reliever Brett Cecil to a four-year, $32 million deal WITH a no-trade clause, I joked that I suddenly thought it was a lot less realistic that the Cubs would spend what it would take to sign Kenley Jansen.
It was a joke insofar as the Cecil deal definitively made me think the Cubs would be out on anyone else because of it, but it wasn’t a joke insofar as it did indicate that the top of the reliever market would probably be extremely expensive this year, and it was never likely that the Cubs would go nuts on Jansen or Aroldis Chapman.
That said, I have always believed that, given the obvious need for the Cubs in the bullpen and given their proximity to any number of postseason runs, the Cubs absolutely have to at least be involved in the discussions.
And, at most, it sounds like that’s where the Cubs are with respect to Jansen.
A source tells Ken Rosenthal that the Cubs have done “background work” on Jansen, but they are merely doing due diligence, rather than starting a serious pursuit. In other words, it’s the kind of approach you would expect from a team that wants to be in a position to make an informed decision on a player *if* the right deal should present itself, but that doesn’t mean the team is going to go all out to sign a guy early in the offseason. In other other words, if the Cubs are interested in Jansen, the tenor of this report is that they’re interested only if they aren’t paying at the top of the market. And, as we sit here today, it’s hard to see Jansen not getting a huge deal.
This all echoes the front office’s comments about the bullpen at the outset of free agency, though we know they’re never going to out-and-out tell the world that their plans involve spending huge. (Recall, at the start of free agency last year, we didn’t know for sure that the Cubs were going to seriously pursue Jason Heyward or Ben Zobrist, let alone both (and they’d actually been planning to go after Heyward for more than a year).
The Cubs do still have to treat 2017, specifically, as a “go for it” year, given that the constitution of the roster might not necessarily be stronger in 2018 and beyond. Jansen, as an incredible late-inning and multi-inning option would go a long way to plugging one of the few obvious potential holes on the 2017 roster.
Still, the Cubs will have serious financial needs after 2017, what with only Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks under contract in the rotation, raises due for position players under contract, and the young stars approaching huge arbitration raises. Dropping $80+ million on Jansen right now might not be a reasonable use of resources when considering the long game. There’s always a balance of things to consider.
(Bonus Rosenthal mention: the Cubs might want to save some gun powder for Japanese stud Shohei Ohtani if he becomes available in the next couple years. So very yes please.)
We’ll still be keeping tabs on just about all serious reliever rumors, since the need isn’t going away. And we’ll see if the Cubs’ interest in Jansen remains merely due diligence.