TODAY: Though Chicago is pursuing a starter, the team has no interest in “pay[ing] a premium price for a rental,” tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. There are several different ways to interpret that, of course: it could mean that the club prefers to go after controllable assets, that it is looking more at mid-tier arms, or just that it won’t part with its best young talent in a rental deal (but still might be involved).
Levine’s careful to note that while the Cubs have expressed preliminary interest, eight or more teams are likely to kick the tires on Price, in the event that the Tigers do indeed decide to trade him. (Multiple reports have expressed doubt that the former Cy Young winner will actually be moved.) The Tigers are reportedly considering a sale of Price, Yoenis Cespedes and other free agents to be, such as Joakim Soria, Rajai Davis and Alex Avila.
The connections between the Cubs and Price are many. The majority of Price’s career has come with the Rays, and Cubs manager Joe Maddon was Tampa Bay’s manager for every single one of those contests. Cubs top decision-makers Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod long watched Price terrorize the AL East when they filled executive roles with the Red Sox. Price is also more than familiar with bench coach Dave Martinez, who followed Maddon from St. Petersburg to Chicago.
Chicago has the minor league talent to entice the Tigers to part with Price, but the question will be whether or not Epstein & Co. want to part with premium young players for two-plus months of Price. The thought of a playoff rotation consisting of Price, Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta is enticing, but the Cubs would need to make it to an actual playoff series before that becomes a reality. The Cubs are nine games back in the NL Central with two teams to leapfrog, so as it stands, their best chance of reaching the NLDS would be via one-game Wild Card playoff. Paying the steep price of acquisition for Price when their postseason hopes still ride on a one-game playoff may not be the way in which the front office prefers to operate.
The Cubs have been linked to Cole Hamels, but he’s a long-term piece that could help them in 2015 and beyond. Price is the first pure rental of note — at least among pitchers — to whom the Cubs have been linked. Previous reports have indicated that the team hopes to add another top-flight pitcher for the 2016 season, but that end may ultimately be achieved by trading for a someone controlled beyond this season or by investing heavily in free agency for a second straight winter. The interest in Price is indeed notable, but as Levine notes in writing that the Cubs won’t trade their very best prospects, “proper perspective of him being a two-month rental is needed.”