When the Cubs claimed Cole Hamels off waivers last week, the baseball world took that as a good indication the Cubs have the finances to add a top of the rotation starter this off-season and will be a player in the free agent pitching market. And according to a report from Patrick Mooney, the Cubs are prepared to make a nine-figure investment in a frontline pitcher that could start game one of a playoff series at Wrigley Field.
With the position playing prospects pushing their way to the big league club, the front office is expected to focus on adding pitching to the team and to the organization over the next 12-24 months. But there are a couple of top of the rotation starters that will hit free agency at the end of this season that many expect the Cubs to try to sign to lead the rotation going forward.
The Cubs are expected to target Jon Lester this winter. And according to a report from Ken Rosenthal, “Some of Lester’s former teammates already project that he will end up with the Cubs, reuniting with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. The Cubs, by claiming Hamels, showed that they have the money to make such a move happen.”
Lester would not cost the Cubs a draft pick, or the assigned slot money for the second round pick, and the front office “would rather sign free agents than trade away their best prospects” according to Cafardo.
Jon Lester has not hurt his stock since the trade with Oakland. Lester is 2-0 in two starts with a 1.72 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP (12 hits, three walks, 11 strikeouts, 15 2/3 innings) with the A’s and signing the 30-year old southpaw will not be cheap.
The Cubs interest in Cole Hamels could continue in the off-season. Nick Cafardo reported Sunday that the Cubs, along with the Rangers, Red Sox, Dodgers and Angels, are seen as “major players” for Hamels in the off-season.
The Cubs and Phillies could not agree on a package of prospects for Hamels before the negotiating window closed and by the front office claiming Hamels it kept Ruben Amaro from possibly dealing him to another team and taking away a chance of trading for him in the off-season.
Due to the amount owed to Cole Hamels (four years and $96 million) plus the cost to acquire him, the Cubs will likely focus on a starter that would only cost them a long-term contract and the risk associated with signing any pitcher to a big contract.
According to Nick Cafardo, Max Scherzer will be on the Cubs radar this winter. Scherzer hits the open market this winter after turning down big money from the Tigers last off-season, six years and $144 million. Scherzer’s numbers are still good, but not to the level of his Cy Young season of a year ago, and Scott Boras is his agent, so it will cost the Cubs more to sign Scherzer than the contract he rejected from the Tigers. Plus, Detroit will make Scherzer a qualifying offer and attach draft pick compensation to him.
The Cubs current front office drafted Justin Masterson when they were calling the shots in Boston. And according to a report from the Sun-Times last month, the Cubs have had internal discussions about the former Indians starter that was traded to the Cardinals.
Masterson is obviously not at the level of Jon Lester, Max Scherzer or Cole Hamels, but if he’s healthy his numbers figure to improve in the National League, despite the way he’s pitched in two games for St. Louis since the trade.
Like Jon Lester, Masterson is believed to be high on the Cubs list of starting pitchers that will be available this winter, but he’s not the top of the rotation starter many feel the front office will try to sign, or trade for, in the off-season.
Other Pitching Rumors
The front office is already working on the off-season and the team has scouts making sure their reports are up to date on players in their areas. The Cubs must be as prepared as possible in case one of the other 29 teams call and making sure the reports are current before the minor league season wraps at the end of the month is key for the winter. According to a report by Jeff Joyce (The Front Office, MLB Network Radio) passing on information from Andy Martino of the NY Daily News, the Cubs sent two scouts for Noah Syndergaard’s start last Thursday and the Cubs have been paying extra special attention to the Mets’ Triple-A team, the Las Vegas 51s, where Noah Syndergaard is currently pitching.