ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers has penned a column on the status of the Cubs’ targets in free agency at present. To this point, the team hasn’t given any indication that a pursuit of either Zack Greinke or Johnny Cueto is a possibility, leaving David Price as the sole top-tier arm that the Cubs could be expected to pursue, Rogers writes. The Cubs’ Plan B in terms of free-agent pitchers focuses on Jeff Samardzija at this point, according to Rogers, and sources tell him that the team is also in the mix for Ben Zobrist. Signing Zobrist would all but ensure a trade of Starlin Castro, but of course, there is widespread interest in Zobrist, who is one of the most popular free agents on this year’s market. Rogers lists Jason Heyward as a perhaps speculative target but notes that president Theo Epstein has pointed out in the past how young the game is getting, and Heyward, 26, would indeed fit into the Cubs’ youth movement in terms of position players. I’d imagine that signing Heyward would create further trade speculation surrounding Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber, though Rogers doesn’t indicate that Heyward is a top target of the Cubs as things presently stand, so much of that speculation would be putting the cart before the horse.
Here are a few more notes pertaining to the Cubs…
- CSN Chicago’s David Kaplan hears that the Cubs are active on many fronts at this point but still doesn’t believe that the Cubs will be significant players for Price or Greinke (links to Twitter). Kaplan hears that the Cubs are currently active on the trade market and are also in touch with the representatives for Samardzija, Mike Leake and John Lackey. Unsurprisingly, the Cubs’ highly touted farm system has many names that are in high demand as the team explores the trade market for starting pitching. Any of Samardzija, Leake or Lackey would give the Cubs a strong third starter to slot behind Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester in the rotation.
- Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune writes that the difference between this winter and last offseason for the Cubs is that Epstein & Co. can now sell prospective free agents on the allure of joining a contender rather than preaching patience and trust that the rebuild will deliver a winning club. Epstein also explained to Sullivan a number of non-monetary incentives that the Cubs pitch to players, including the team’s new clubhouse and the programs the Cubs have set up for the families of players to enjoy upon relocating to Chicago. “Just little things behind the scenes we do that really impact the lives for our players’ families they may not be aware of,” said Epstein. Of course, as Sullivan notes, those factors alone probably won’t outweigh the difference between tens of millions of dollars, but they could help tip the scales in Chicago’s favor should they make a similar offer to another club for a free agent target.
- Epstein noted today that the club’s early-offseason moves haven’t been without their importance, as Rogers reports. “Depth is underrated, especially in the winter,” said Hoyer. “Everyone will write out lineups in the offseason and they don’t focus on bench, they don’t focus on the bullpen, they don’t focus on guys in Triple-A that are going up and down. Over the course of six months, those are the little moves that make a huge difference.” But Hoyer made clear that more impactful transactions are coming in the near term, with the organization prepared to adapt as the market explodes. “You have to stay nimble and know things will come at you that you might not have expected,” he said. “Some team will throw an idea at us that we never thought about.”