The free-agent signing period has yet to even officially kick off — that will happen after midnight ET tonight, when the five-day, exclusive negotiation window between free agents and their current teams expires — but there are already plenty of rumblings connecting David Price to the Cubs. Earlier in the week, ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote (Insider subscription required) that “some rival evaluators consider the Cubs to be the heavy, heavy favorites” to land Price. And, earlier today, FOX’s Ken Rosenthal noted that he spoke to a pair of agents that represent some of Price’s competitors on this year’s free agent market, both of whom expect him to land with the Cubs. Rosenthal also spoke to an exec who knows Price and believes the Cubs to be the lefty’s top choice. All of this, of course, is highly preliminary in nature. It’s difficult to peg the Cubs as any kind of favorite when the team cannot yet negotiate with his agent, Bo McKinnis, in earnest and when the rest of the league hasn’t been granted a chance to persuade Price, either.
Here’s more from the NL Central…
- Though he’ll have a new title and role, longtime Milwaukee exec Gord Ash will remain with the Brewers, GM David Stearns told reporters, including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. Ash had been the club’s assistant general manager since 2002 but will now work in an advisory/pro scouting role with the team instead. Stearns added that the club’s search for a new farm director is ongoing, adding that the search has been narrowed considerably since it began.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington revealed to reporters, including Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that right-hander Casey Sadler underwent Tommy John surgery in October and will miss all of the 2016 season. Sadler made just one big league start for the Pirates in 2015 though he chipped in 10 1/3 innings in 2014 as well. The 25-year-old sinker-baller’s injury does deplete the Pirates’ rotation depth, however. The Pirates will be without Brandon Cumpton in 2016 due to shoulder surgery, Brink notes, and Nick Kingham remains on the shelf after undergoing TJ surgery himself in May. Sadler has a 3.53 ERA in 211 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level.
- Brink spoke to Huntington for a second column, and the GM tells him that the Pirates have expressed interest in re-signing left-hander J.A. Happ. “We’ve had discussions about his interest in coming back,” said Huntington. “We’ve expressed to him that we have interest in having him come back.” Happ enjoyed the best stretch of his career following a last-minute trade from Seattle to Pittsburgh before the non-waiver deadline, logging a 1.85 ERA with career-best 9.8 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 rates in 63 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, a source tells Brink that the Pirates have not had any discussions with the representative for their other late July acquisition: right-hander Joakim Soria. The former Royals/Rangers/Tigers closer figures to be one of the more attractive relief options on the open market this winter and could cost more than the Pirates care to pay.