Baseball’s Winter Meetings officially kickoff Monday in Orlando and the Cubs are reportedly looking to add relievers, at least one starter, an outfielder and players to round out the bench to the roster.
But the big noise around the Cubs during the coming week will be about two starting pitchers … one Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are listening to offers for and one the front office is waiting to see if he becomes an option to sign.
The Cubs have maintained their desire to lock Jeff Samardzija up to a long-term contract, but Samardzija’s camp has not accepted multiple offers from the Cubs which leaves the front office with only one option with him. On the Masahiro Tanaka front, the Cubs, along with all of baseball, is playing the waiting game on whether or not he will be posted this winter.
And are the Cubs thinking about signing Shin-Soo Choo to fill a need at the top of the lineup?
It appears Jeff Samardzija is not going to sign a contract extension any time soon, at least according to multiple reports. Samardzija rejected a three-year, $27 million offer last year and multiple offers this year. According to Bruce Levine, Samardzija turned down a five-year, $55 million deal earlier in the off-season and another offer that is believed to have been slightly higher.
The Cubs would have to get back young pitching in return in any trade for Samardzija. While no one knows if the young position players in the system will reach their projections in the majors, the Cubs’ system lacks near Major League ready starting pitching.
The Mariners seemed focused on trading for David Price at this point but could also get in the mix for Samardzija if they cannot acquire Price. The Diamondbacks, Blue Jays and Orioles have been thought to be the most aggressive for Samardzija to this point in the off-season. Jim Bowden also mentioned the Angels and Braves as possible trade partners for Samardzija, but the Angels lack pitching in their system and do not appear to match up for Samardzija unless a third team was involved. As for the Braves, how many starters has Atlanta traded over the years that has worked out for the other team?
Jeff Samardzija is one of four National League starters that pitched at least 200 innings with at least 200 strikeouts last season. The other three were Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee and Adam Wainwright. Samardzija has value and the Cubs will not give him away if they are unable to sign him to an extension.
If the Blue Jays make a deal for Samardzija, players like RHP Roberto Osuna, LHP Daniel Norris and LHP Matt Smoral might be in the talks. The Tribune indicated discussions with the Diamondbacks might include LHP Tyler Skaggs, 3B Matt Davidson and OF Adam Eaton.
It is unknown at this point if the Rakuten Golden Eagles will make Masahiro Tanaka available when the new positing system is announced next week. Jon Paul Morosi reported Friday night the new MLB-NPB posting system remains on track to be announced in the coming week according to his sources.
Multiple teams are waiting to see if Tanaka is posted this winter, and if he is, teams figure to lineup with $20 million checks in hand for the right to negotiate a deal with Tanaka.
The Rakuten Golden Eagles are not happy about the proposed posting system that would cap the fee at $20 million. The Japanese team was planning on at least three times that amount and they question if the $20 million posting fee is a fair price for him.
Ben Badler reported the Golden Eagles have put a high priority on convincing Tanaka to stay in Japan but if he wants to pitch in the Major Leagues “they would like to let him leave.” Badler pointed out that regardless of how unhappy they are if Tanaka wants to leave they are expected to post him.
The Rakuten Golden Eagles control Tanaka’s rights for two more seasons and if he is not posted this winter he might chose to wait until he is a true free agent (winter of 2015) according to Badler’s report. And while the Golden Eagles are not thrilled with the $20 million posting fee, if Tanaka does not post this winter and elects to not be posted next off-season then the Golden Eagles could walk away without anything for Tanaka.
Relievers, Starters, Outfielders and Bench Help
The Cubs are looking to add arms to the pen and the starting staff and a veteran outfielder to the roster. Several of the names the Cubs had been connected to this winter have fallen off the board. But there are many players that remain available that the Cubs could sign to fill holes on the roster.
The Cubs filled a need last week when they signed LHP Wesley Wright to a one-year deal. Wright is penciled in as the second lefty in the pen with James Russell.
The Cubs would like to add at least one more arm to the back of the pen. If Spring Training began today, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon would begin camp as the primary candidates to close games when the season began. But since pitchers and catchers do not report to Mesa until Feb 13, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would like to add at least one arm to the backend of the pen.
The Cubs have been connected to both John Axford and Joba Chamberlain in the last 48 hours. And while those names do not have the same fanfare as they once did, the Cubs are looking for relievers they can give opportunities to that would not only help the team but also help the player moving forward.
Scott Baker is believed to be on the Cubs’ list. The front office would like to bring him back. But the other starters the Cubs were linked to by the mainstream media are no longer available … with one exception.
The Cubs appear to be targeting Masahiro Tanaka and according to Bruce Levine the front office is saving payroll space to sign him. Tanaka would fit the Cubs’ building process but will not come cheap. The Cubs would not only have to overpay Tanaka to keep him out of the Bronx but they will have to sell him on signing with the Cubs.
Nate Schierholtz, Ryan Sweeney and Brian Bogusevic are currently on the Cubs’ roster and would figure to be on the field in Pittsburgh on Opening Day if Clint Hurdle hands the ball to Gerrit Cole. There are rumblings the Cubs could trade Schierholtz this winter, but as the roster is currently constructed the front office would like to add a right handed hitting outfielder to the mix.
Junior Lake is the only righty on the 40-man with big league experience in the outfield. Josh Vitters, if he is still with the team, will be given a chance to win a bench spot this spring as the Cubs’ fifth outfielder and backup at first base and third base.
The Cubs have not been connected to any right handed hitting outfielders this winter … other than the minor league deals they handed out to Darnell McDonald, Aaron Cunningham and Casper Wells.
Could the Cubs be in on Shin-Soo Choo? Bruce Levine reported on Saturday morning that he is being told the Cubs are interested in Choo and have spoken to his representatives about signing him. Choo will not come cheap and will not only cost the Cubs their second round pick and slot money but also around seven years and $150 million. The Rangers, Astros, Orioles, Tigers, Mariners and Red Sox are among the many teams that have been connected to Choo this winter.
The Cubs’ front office is looking to build a team and an organization similar to the one in St. Louis. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are looking for versatile players for the bench that will give Rick Renteria as many options as possible.
The Cubs new first base coach spent time with David Kaplan on Wednesday night and discussed his new position with the Cubs.
Eric Hinske is looking forward to the new chapter in his life. He knew it was time to walk away from the game but wanted to stay in baseball and took a job as a Major League scout with the Yankees prior to interviewing for the Cubs’ job.
Hinske explained that Theo Epstein texted him and asked him to interview for the first base coach job. Hinske met with Rick Renteria and was hired four days later. Hinske is thankful for the “awesome opportunity” that the Cubs have given him. The Cubs were looking for a coach that could relate to a younger player. Hinske knows he can and explained he feels like he has been a coach for the last six seasons.
Eric Hinske was not only drafted by the Cubs but he grew up a Cubs’ fan. Hinske’s grandfather was an even bigger Cubs fan and was extremely happy when Hinske was drafted by the Cubs. Hinske told a story about his first big league camp in which Bill Mueller was the Cubs’ third baseman and showed him a lot about playing third. Hinske is just excited to be back with the organization.
News and Notes
During an interview on MLB Network Radio on Saturday, Scott Feldman told Jeff Rickard and Mike Stanton that after struggling in Spring Training and early in the year, Chris Bosio really helped him out and was able to get him back on track. Feldman spoke highly of the Cubs’ pitching coach.
The Cubs’ Major League payroll could reach the $100 million mark this winter according to Bruce Levine. The team has about $60 million committed right now according to Levine (players under contract, plus automatic renewals) and even with seven arbitration eligible players unsigned the teams would have enough in the budget to sign both Shin-Soo Choo and Masahiro Tanaka.