One of the ways the front office is expected to add pitching to the Major League roster this winter is through free agency. There are four starting pitchers that are viewed as realistic possibilities to sign with the Cubs.
Two of the four have won Cy Young Awards and are finalists again this year. One is as a top of the rotation starter but not an Ace and the fourth, a veteran that fits better toward the back of a rotation on a contending team.
The Cubs are seen as the favorites to sign David Price while being consistently linked to three other free agent starters in Zack Greinke, Jordan Zimmermann and Jeff Samardzija. The Cubs met with the agents for all four starters during the GM Meetings and started the process. It is unknown at this point if any free agent visits have been scheduled.
Joe Maddon told the Tribune he is eager to help recruit free agents if the front office asks. Maddon is supposed to talk to Theo Epstein this week and get an update on where the Cubs stand.
While the wait continues to see which direction the front office goes, here is how each of the four starters performed this past season and what it may cost the Cubs to sign them this winter.
There is mutual interest between the Cubs and David Price. The front office reportedly wants to sign him and he would like to pitch for the Cubs and Joe Maddon. Price is going to be expensive but would add another proven starter to Maddon’s rotation that has a history of completing 200-plus innings while avoiding the disabled list.
Price’s numbers are off the charts. And he is one of the true Aces in the game. Price is one of three finalists for the AL Cy Young Award after posting a combined 18-5 record in 32 starts between the Tigers and Blue Jays with a 2.45 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 2.78 FIP. Price allowed 70 runs, 60 earned, on 190 hits with 47 walks and 225 strikeouts in 220 1/3 innings.
In parks Price did not call his home stadium this past season, he was 11-2 in 16 starts with a 2.05 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. Price gave up 32 runs, 25 earned, on 90 hits with 29 walks and 110 strikeouts in 110 innings.
Price has completed 200 or more innings in five of the last six seasons while recording 200 or more strikeouts in four of the last six years.
David Price is not tied to draft pick compensation. The Blue Jays could not make a qualifying offer. Price will pitch a majority of the 2016 season at 30 years old (Aug. 26, 1985) and is likely looking at a seven-year contract. Jim Bowden, who is very good at predicting free agent contracts, has Price signing for seven years and $213.5 million ($30.5 million AAV).
Most think Zack Greinke will stay on the West Coast and either re-sign with the Dodgers or ink a contract with the Giants. Greinke will go with the money and to the highest bidder among the National League teams. Multiple reports have stated Greinke wants to stay in the NL so he can hit.
The Cubs are viewed as an option for Greinke if they do not land David Price. And like Price, Greinke is a true Ace and will continue to be paid like one.
Greinke had an incredible season with the Dodgers that put him in the running for the NL Cy Young Award. Greinke was 19-3 in 32 starts with a 1.66 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 2.76 FIP. Greinke allowed 43 runs, 41 earned, on 148 hits with 40 walks and 200 strikeouts in 222 2/3 innings.
Outside of Dodger Stadium, Greinke was 9-2 in 15 starts with a 1.88 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. Greinke allowed 24 runs, 22 earned, on 70 hits with 23 walks and 97 strikeouts in 105 1/3 innings.
Unlike Price, Greinke has pitched in the Senior Circuit and will not have to learn the league or the parks. Greinke has made four starts at Wrigley, a place he did not care for when he pitched in the Brewers rotation, and is 0-2 with a 8.10 ERA and 1.75 WHIP (20 runs, 18 earned, on 29 hits with six walks and 25 strikeouts in 20 innings).
Zack Greinke just turned 32 (Oct. 21) and is looking at a five- to six-year contract. Bowden has Greinke signing a six-year, $186 million contract ($31 million AAV).
The Cubs talked to the Nationals about Jordan Zimmermann last winter. The extent of those discussions is not believed to have gotten as far as the Sun-Times reported at the time. The Cubs like Zimmermann and he reportedly has interest in signing with the Cubs.
Zimmermann is not to the level of David Price and Zack Greinke but would still slide in behind Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta rather well in the Cubs rotation. There are concerns about Zimmermann, who is coming off a down year.
Zimmermann did not miss any time and made his 30 or more starts for the fourth straight year. Zimmermann was 13-10 with a 3.66 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 3.75 FIP. In 201 2/3 innings, Zimmermann allowed 89 runs, 82 earned, on 204 hits with 39 walks and 164 strikeouts.
In 14 road starts, Zimmermann was 5-6 with a 4.87 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. Zimmermann gave up 48 runs, 44 earned, on 97 hits with 15 walks and 69 strikeouts in 81 1/3 innings.
Zimmermann has spent his entire career in the National League and his numbers against NL Central teams are not good, plus he’s 0-3 in four career starts at Wrigley with a 4.91 ERA and 1.36 WHIP (15 runs, 14 earned, on 28 hits and six home runs with seven walks and 21 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings).
Jordan Zimmermann turns 30 in May (May 23) and he rejected the Nationals qualifying offer. It will not take the same level of commitment to land Zimmermann as Price or Greinke but he will likely sign a five- to six-year deal. Jim Bowden predicted Zimmermann would ink a six-year, $120 million contract ($20 million AAV).
Things went south for Jeff Samardzija this past season after a trade from Oakland last winter landed him with the White Sox. Multiple reports throughout the year pointed to Samardzija and Don Cooper not being on the same page. Their inability to see eye to eye led to bad mechanics and many feel the reason, along with the White Sox defense, for the horrible numbers Samardzija put together during his free agent season.
The Cubs and Samardzija are reportedly interested in a reunion. Samardzija has a very good relationship with Chris Bosio. And despite the year he had with the Sox, the velocity was still there and no one feels he’s on the down side of his career or hurt.
In 32 starts last season, Samardzija was 11-13 with a 4.96 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 4.23 FIP. Samardzija allowed 122 runs, 118 earned, on 228 hits and 29 home runs with 49 walks and 163 strikeouts in 214 innings. Samardzija has made at least 32 starts and 210-plus innings in each of the last three years.
Samardzija made 16 starts outside of The Cell and was 6-5 with a 4.61 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Samardzija allowed 60 runs, 56 earned, on 110 hits and 12 home runs with 24 walks and 75 strikeouts in 109 1/3 innings.
The Cubs’ former fifth round pick (2006 draft) obviously knows Wrigley and the league well. Samardzija turns 31 in January (Jan. 23, 1985).
Of the four starters, Samardzija would be least expensive to sign. The White Sox made him a qualifying offer in which he rejected and despite his reported willingness to sign a one-year contract, many think he will receive a multi-year deal. Bowden has Samardzija signing for four years and $62 million ($15.5 million AAV), a lot less than the extension the Cubs offered him two years ago.
Of the four free agent starters the Cubs have been linked to the most, David Price is the only one that did not receive a qualifying offer.
While the front office has said losing its first round draft pick will not keep them from signing a free agent this winter, it is really hard to see this regime forfeiting more than one pick in next June’s draft. The Cubs will receive a compensatory pick when Dexter Fowler signs with another team, but not selecting a player until the second round would not fit in with The Plan. The Cubs are focused on winning now and also have to keep an eye on the future.