The Cubs never made the big offseason deal to acquire a starting pitcher that many expected of them, but president of baseball operations Theo Epstein tells Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago that his team will be ready to pounce on a deal should the right opportunity present itself during the season. “We built in a little bit of room for in-season,” says Epstein. “We built in some (budget) flexibility, but I wouldn’t expect a very aggressive winter next year. I think we’ve been open about the fact that we really did two offseasons worth of spending and acquisitions in one winter, knowing that we like the players available this winter more than next winter.” Epstein also tells Mooney that any trade in which he surrenders young talent would have to land someone that fits “both for now and probably for the long-term if it’s going to be a bigger deal.”
Here’s more from the NL Central…
- Brewers lefty Sean Nolin has been officially diagnosed with a UCL sprain and not an elbow strain, GM David Stearns told reporters, including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy (Twitter link). Nolin will rehab the injury for the next six weeks before making a decision on Tommy John surgery. Milwaukee picked up Nolin from the A’s this offseason and had expected to use him in the ’pen prior to his injury.
- Via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt (Twitter link), Stearns also revealed that he had interest in signing right-hander Carlos Torres earlier this offseason upon his release from the Mets. Torres, however, inked a minor league contract with the Braves and headed to camp with Atlanta. While the Brewers weren’t prepared to offer a big league deal at the time, they clearly had a change of heart late in camp, as Milwaukee signed Torres to a Major League pact over the weekend after he opted out of his deal with Atlanta. The Brew Crew can control Torres through 2018 via the arbitration process if he excels in his new environs.
- While many Pirates fans have focused on the losses of Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and second-half surprise J.A. Happ this offseason, Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that not enough emphasis has been placed on retaining an expensive closer in Mark Melancon — a decision that kept a dominant Pirates relief corps intact. Cook spoke to GM Neal Huntington about the decision to hold onto his All-Star closer. “I know first-hand,” Huntington told Cook. “One year I was with Cleveland, we lost more late leads in a month than most teams do all season. I know that’s hard to come back from. That’s a big part of our decision to keep Mark.” Huntington said that he never got any offers to his liking for Melancon this winter and didn’t see many ways to effectively reallocate the $9.65MM Melancon earned in arbitration to definitively improve the 2016 club. Notably, he discussed the loss of Happ and explained that part of the reason the front office felt Happ was so successful was that he was asked to throw more than six innings just once with the Bucs — due in large part to Pittsburgh’s strong bullpen.