Lukewarm Stove: Santana and Jimenez? 2015 Pitching? Lesser Options?

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Lukewarm Stove: Santana and Jimenez? 2015 Pitching? Lesser Options?

Chicago Cubs

lukewarm stoveI needed some time off from the rumor mill after the Tanaka build-up, disappointment, and aftermath. But, with that market moving decision in the rearview, the rumor mill ticks back up as we move toward Spring Training. So there’s a lot of stuff to discuss …

  • With Masahiro Tanaka on his way to the Yankees, and Matt Garza now officially headed to the Brewers (four years, $50 million with $4 million in achievable incentives and a $13 million vesting option), the Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez markets will play out. Time was, I barely even gave thought to either of these guys as potential options for the Cubs, given the draft pick compensation, the limited upside, the expected contracts, and the Cubs’ likelihood of being non-competitive in 2014. I did like the way Jimenez reinvented himself last year as a dominant starter despite no longer having a high-end fastball, and I could see some attractiveness there. But I never thought it was realistic that his price tag – or Santana’s – would fall far enough to interest the Cubs (and, if it did, wouldn’t virtually every team be interested at that point?).
  • … but that Garza contract has me wondering. There was an assumption that Garza would get the biggest payday of the three, and, although it’s possible that elbow concerns drove his price down, it makes you wonder: if Garza can get only four years and $50 million, are Jimenez and Santana going to have to settle for three year deals? Two years? Jeff Passan hears that Santana was still looking for four years and $60 million as of a week ago.
  • Chris Cotillo reports that the Cubs have “recently inquired” about Santana, and he hears that it is “not impossible” that the Cubs could sign Santana, but I wouldn’t hold your breath. Santana, 31, is a capable righty, and, on the right deal could make sense even for the Cubs. But, like Jimenez, if he signs a short-term deal, the Cubs are essentially throwing that first year away (likely to be the pitcher’s best year, too) in a non-competitive year. It’s always nice to get surplus value in a deal, but with these two guys, the Cubs could capture that value only if they flipped a guy they just signed to a three-year contract. That’s rarely done, and rarely appreciated. That said, who knows? Maybe the Cubs secretly love one of these two guys, and want to have them in the middle of the rotation for 2015/16/17. Unless we hear something solidly connecting these two to the Cubs, however, I’m going to stick with my instinct: too much money for the wrong guys at the wrong time.
  • Speaking of which, with Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, Homer Bailey, Justin Masterson, and James Shields, among others, slated for free agency after the season, perhaps the Cubs would be best served rolling over that Tanaka money into next year. No, not all of those pitchers will reach free agency, and no, they may not offer quite the same package as Tanaka (and, yes, they cost a draft pick). But some will, and if the point was always 2015 and beyond, the “pain” involved in signing a 30-year-old pitcher is slightly reduced, since you’re on the doorstep of contention at that point (in theory). Also, on the draft pick … let’s just say the Cubs are very likely to have a protected pick again next year.
  • You can add Japanese righty Kenta Maeda to the list of 2015 probables, too. The 25-year-old is likely to be posted next offseason, and could be Tanaka-lite, in the same way that Tanaka was Darvish-lite.
  • On the question of which of those options will be extended before they reach free agency, Jon Lester sounds like a lock for an extension after telling the world that he’ll take less money to stay with the Red Sox (must be nice to have a consistently good team with that kind of pull). As for Max Scherzer, he says he’d like to stay in Detroit, but it doesn’t sound like he’s willing to negotiate during the season. It’s hard to see the Reds ponying up for Bailey, the Royals for Shields, or the Indians for Masterson. Throw in the guys that always pop up as quality free agents over the course of their walk year (anyone think, at this time last year, that the two guys we’d be talking about as the best options next to Matt Garza would be Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez? Check out their 2012 stats and get back to me), and there should be ample pitching available to “buy” next year if the Cubs choose to go that route.
  • So, if it won’t be Santana or Jimenez this year, and money is being saved for 2015, how will the Cubs add pitching this offseason? Well, on the cheap, very likely. Jesse Rogers hears that the Cubs won’t be reuniting with Scott Baker, though. That leaves Jason Hammel and Paul Maholm as the less-expensive, back-end options on the market to whom the Cubs have previously been connected. Maholm kind of is what he is, but I still wonder if there’s some upside with Hammel.
  • Ken Rosenthal says the Diamondbacks would be more inclined to revisit talks about a Jeff Samardzija trade than pay free agent dollars to Santana or Jimenez. That’s something of a surprise, given the tenor of prior talks. The real problem with the Diamondbacks as a trade partner is that they’ve already fired several of their bullets this offseason, as far as trades go.
  • The Red Sox recently designated reliever Brayan Villarreal for assignment. I’m not sure how the Cubs would fit him into the equation, but, as a 26-year-old righty who was fantastic for the Tigers in 2012, and who has an upper-90s arm, you at least consider grabbing him.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.