Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have said it time and time again and it is well-documented the front office would like to add one, if not two starting pitchers to the Cubs roster this off-season. And if the Cubs were to add two starters, one would be a top of the rotation-type arm and the other would be a second-tier free agent starter that would give the team depth at the backend of the rotation.
But could the Cubs sign two of the three big name free agent starters this winter as Nick Cafardo reported?
“Whether it’s this off-season or next, the Cubs are going to start making a splash. There’s already talk within the industry of the Cubs possibly going after Max Scherzer and Jon Lester.” Nick Cafardo stated that while the Cubs “wait a year for their young hitters to develop, having those guys in the fold will be a huge step.”
Free agency is quickly approaching and the Cubs primary off-season target is getting ready to hit the market. The Oakland A’s are not expected to try to keep Jon Lester and cannot make him a qualifying offer. So after the last out of The World Series, whether that is Tuesday or Wednesday night, the Cubs front office will be able to officially talk to Jon Lester.
As soon as Lester did not sign the Red Sox reported four-year, $70 million offer, the connections were made that the Cubs would be in the mix for Lester when he hit the open market. And the noise only got louder once Lester was traded to Oakland and removed any draft pick compensation that Boston could have tied to him.
The Cubs had scouts at several of Lester’s starts at the end of the season and are expected to be aggressive in their pursuit of the southpaw.
Jon Lester is viewed as ‘Plan A’ for the Cubs this winter, even to the point the front office might be willing to slightly overpay for him in order to keep their second round pick in the draft or the prospects it would take to pry Cole Hamels from the Phillies.
Jon Lester has reportedly done his homework, even asking teammates what it is like to pitch for the Cubs. And several of his former teammates said during the season they felt Lester would sign with the Cubs.
Jake Peavy, who could be a fallback option for the Cubs, recently told the Sun-Times that Lester is interested in the Cubs.
Not only does Jon Lester check several of the boxes for the Cubs (top of the rotation-type arm, veteran leadership and impact talent from outside of the organization), but it is believed that Lester is “open-minded about his future” and he might be a little more patient with the Cubs process since he already has two World Series rings.
The Cubs have the payroll flexibility to sign Jon Lester, even if it meant committing at least $20 million per year to land him.
Nick Cafardo has been consistent in reporting the Cubs interest in Max Scherzer. Cafardo reported in early August that Scherzer was on the Cubs’ radar.
Max Scherzer will be extremely expensive to sign for whichever team lands him this off-season. And knowing how Scott Boras works, Scherzer will spend a majority of the winter waiting for the biggest contract possible. Scherzer turned down a six-year, $144 million offer from the Tigers and will hit the market. Detroit will make Scherzer a qualifying offer and tie draft pick compensation to him.
Scherzer cannot sign with a team other than the Tigers until the sixth day after the conclusion of the Fall Classic and he has 12 days after the Series to accept or reject the $15.3 million qualifying offer. Scherzer is in line for a huge payday and should receive the biggest contract this winter. If the Cubs signed Scherzer it would also cost the second round pick, plus the allotted slot money, in the 2015 draft.
Max Scherzer put together a good follow-up to his Cy Young season. Scherzer was 18-5 in 33 starts with a 3.15 ERA, 2.85 FIP and a 1.18 WHIP. In a career-high 220 1/3 innings, the 30-year old (July 27) allowed 196 hits with 65 walks and a career-high 252 strikeouts.
Even with the Yankees not expected to be involved in the bidding for Lester or Scherzer, signing either pitcher will not be cheap, plus the Cubs will be taking on a huge risk with a long-term contract for a starting pitcher.
If the front office is “trying to set a foundation piece in the rebuild at Clark and Addison” as Patrick Mooney reported last month, signing both Lester and Scherzer would not only accomplish that goal but build several floors as well.