Cubs intend to improve for 2013, will focus "heavily" on free agents

Cubs intend to improve for 2013, will focus "heavily" on free agents
Would Edwin Jackson come back to Chicago..but on the north side?

I've speculated in past articles that the Cubs will try and improve their pitching staff and perhaps third base through free agency.  Yesterday, Hoyer said the following,

“We will have financial flexibility. We’ve been diligent to make sure we do have flexibility and we’re efficient going forward. We’ll obviously be active in the free agent market. That’s a big part of our research and work now is evaluating free agents. We have some money to spend and we’ll focus on it heavily.”

It appears that the Cubs aren't going to sit back passively while the team hits rock bottom.  In my article, I talked about pitchers like Carlos Villanueva, Anibal Sanchez, Scott Baker, and a few of you have convinced me that Shawn Marcum could be part of that equation as well.  Patrick Mooney of CSN mentions those same names while Doug Padilla takes it a step further and thinks the Cubs may pursue bigger names like Edwin Jackson and perhaps Dan Haren and Ervin Santana.  There has been speculation that the Angels will not pick up the options on the latter two.  I wouldn't rule that out. I think it's something the Cubs would consider, but likely only if it were a 2 year deal -- and certainly no more than 3 years.

Santana, 29, has had an off year, but his peripherals have been pretty steady, and the Cubs may be able to buy low. I'm a little wary of Haren, who has seen his velocity steadily decrease and now sits around 88-89 mph.  He's not the same pitcher he was 3-4 years ago.  I'm not saying the Cubs shouldn't consider signing the 32 year old, just that he can no longer be considered a front line starter and shouldn't be compensated as such.  What he does do is throw strikes, something that should appeal to both Dale Sveum and the Cubs front office.  He's probably a solid #3 these days.

Edwin Jackson, 29, is intriguing because his combination of a mid 90s fastball, nasty slider, and steadily improving control (2.63 walks/9 IP).  He could be something more than a mid-rotation guy.  What Jackson has sought unsuccessfully is some stability.  Perhaps a 3 year deal might be enticing, even at a lesser annual salary.

Shawn Marcum, 31, is an oft-injured pitcher with lesser raw stuff than the players mentioned above.  He has been successful, especially in the NL Central, so he remains an option as well, particularly on an incentive-laden short term deal.

The speculation is that the Cubs will go after these kinds of pitchers but they won't go after big name stars like Zack Greinke.  Whomever they decide to pursue, and possibly sign, it's apparent that the Cubs are not satisfied with sitting back passively and losing.  They'll be active when it comes to acquiring talent and trying to improve the club through any and all available avenues.

“All the money will go back into the team in one form or another,” Hoyer said, “whether it’s things that can help us in the future, whether it’s free agents, whether it’s keeping money aside for the next free-agent class.

“All the money that baseball operations as a whole is given is always going to go back to the club.”

It should be a fun offseason as we'll see the Cubs active in their pursuit to improve the ballclub -- and we should frequently hear the Cubs in conjunction with some of the better mid-level free agents available, particularly starting pitching.

Filed under: Free Agency


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  • Maybe I'm being a downer, but I don't expect the Cubs to be going after the 'big names" like Greinke. I see the Cubs going after 1B level free agents as opposed to 1A level free agents.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    I don't think you're being a downer. It'd be a shock if they pursued someone like Greinke, but it wouldn't surprise me if they look at these 2nd tier guys very closely.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Second tier guys don't prove much. My take on the post and subsequent comments is that they need someone to complete a starting staff that at the moment only consists of Jeff Samardzija. (No one knows Garza's real status at the moment).

    Then, when you get to names like Edwin Jackson, that was fungible White Sox/Toronto trade fodder, but maybe he is worth something after a stint as a #3 to #5 starter with the Nats (only 9-10 on a division leading team).

    Getting a 100 loss team down to 88 isn't going to make that much difference.

  • In reply to jack:

    Maybe not, but a team like Oakland has shown that you don't need to put together a rotation of stars to improve. If you have 5 guys who will give you a shot every night, good defense, and just enough offense, things can get better in a hurry.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    In that Jackson was essentially only a serviceable filli-in when Peavy couldn't perform, I doubt it, if that's the best the Cubs can get.

    Doesn't hit me as much different than saying "plug in Orlando Hudson when Morel suddenly became physically unable to perform."

  • In reply to jack:

    I'm not sure if this is trolling but that's an extremely loose association. You're grouping guys you see as "fill-ins" regardless of talent and history of production. Moreover, Jackson's numbers and stuff indicate he's far more than a fill-in. There's no useful comparison between Jackson and a guy like Brent Morel.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    May not be head to head, or stat wise.

    But it sure is if that's the extent that Cub management is willing to extend itself to try to have a team that will reverse this year's attendance loss in the near future until Jed's players finally make the big leagues.

  • In reply to jack:

    Are you suggesting they should sign a big name star so that they can make fans happy?

    That seems to me more the MO of Hendry and the Trib, especially the Trib, who were more concerned with profit than building a strong organization.

  • Sorry for the prelude on this earlier john.

    Some news:
    Mike Brenly ‏@mikebrenly

    Congrats to my boy @WatkinsLogan for being named cubs minor league player of the year! Proud of you roomie #nextstoptheshow

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I saw that tweet, but it's not official as far as I know.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Chicago Cubs ‏@Cubs
    #Cubs today named IF Logan Watkins and RHP Nick Struck as the organization’s Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively.

    Does this make those two "Locks" on the 40 man for rule 5 purposes in your mind? I don't know much about Struck, but a guy who wins 14 games out of 24 starts in AA has to have a place on a team starved for SP like we are....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Just saw the Carrie Muskat tweet a few minute ago. Well-deserved for those two. Watkins is a lock anyway. I think it says something about the organization that they chose an OBP guy over an RBI guy in Justin Bour or Greg Rohan.

    I think Struck is a pretty good bet to get protected. I can't imagine he wouldn't be taken at his age, production, and solid stuff.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I read that to mean they selected a legit "prospect" doing the right things, vs an "organizational guy" doing the right things....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    More along the lines of their specific approaches. I'll get into that in an article later. I've written it, but will wait a while to publish.

  • Through FA and pitchers released or not offered a contract there
    will be enough to pick from. No pitchers over 32 and no contracts
    over 3 years (only if under 30)

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I'm pretty sure they won't sign older players to long term contracts. Doesn't seem like that's part of their plan.

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    In reply to emartinezjr:

    I highly support this and have from the start. No more contracts past 3 yeas for anyone on the wrong side of 30. Especially pitchers. The only possible impact guys who fit that mold that are under 30 are
    Brandon McCarthy
    Edwin Jackson
    BJ Upton
    Anibal Sanchez
    Francisco Liriano

    The problem is I see all of those guys will end up getting.overpaid by another team especially in the years department. Too many albatross contracts around baseball because teams gave too many years and paid for past performance. Look at John Lackey.....and Barry god....

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    If they signed 2 of those 4 SP's, I'd be very pleased. I'd also like them to entertain the thought of Upton. $$$ aside, they do not have an OF'r in his class before Almora arrives. Given that we'll be lucky to get two everyday OF's out of Almora/Soler/B-Jax/Szczur/Ha/Sappelt, etc... There's a spot for him. Though it may be early for the likes of him @ Wrigley.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I definetly agree on upton! If you are talking about Bossman Jr and not justin upton. I think he is what the cubs hope bjax will be and I don't see bjax ever producing like bj upton except for the strikeouts. The cubs have money and an pay him and he is only 28 so still will be in prime when the cubs are contending.

  • Which pitchers from both the 25-man and 40-man rosters should
    not be with the Cubs next year. If no one claims them then maybe they can stay in AAA

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I've talked about those guys in recent articles. I think that the Cubs would bring a few of them back on a minor league contract if they are able to do so.

  • greinke, jackson, sanchez, mccarthy, liriano, kuroda and probably peavy are going to either be too old, too expensive or in some cases both for the cubs this winter. obviously by too expensive, i dont mean that they cant afford a player, just that theyre going to be priced too high to be considered as a buy low opportunity.

    that leaves us with: saunders, correia, marcum, villanueva and then a few guys whose option wont be picked up or they will be non tendered contracts.

    of this group i really like marcum and villanueva. marcum is most likely going to be looking for a make good contract, so 1 year at 10 mil with a 15 mil club option should probably get that deal done. hes done well against the nl central, and will be looking to show teams that hes healthy. villanueva is also intriguing as he is only going to be 29 at the beginning of next season and has a pretty fresh arm. i think a 2 year 14 mil$ contract with the second year being an option would be a nice deal for both sides.

    another guy that i want the cubs to look at is jair jurjens. i feel like this idea might be unpopular with people, but the kid is gonna be 27 at the beginning of next season and has had past success. if we sign him to a minor league deal and work with him for a the first few weeks of the season, we might have something. he could make a few spot starts and if he succeeds he could ultimately move into the rotation later on in the year, and its really no risk to us cuz hes on a minor league deal.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    I agree the biggest names are unlikely and that the Cubs may have to dig a little deeper. Not a fan of Jair...past record aside, he has pedestrian stuff, a smoke and mirrors guy whom the rest of the league has caught up with. I would do it on a minor league deal, though, like you said. Nothing to lose there.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    all im saying is that if things work out like i hope they will, the cubs will sign marcum/villanueva, and trade garza, our rotation will most likley look like this to start next season:

    (enter raley, rusin, struck, volstad, jurjens here)

    if jurjens is a part of our 5-9, no one is gonna be upset with that. and if he figures something out and regains form, or something close then weve just added an asset in the form of a minor league deal to a 27 year old who could either bring back future assets or become one himself.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Of that group, I like Villanueva and his upside.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Didn't you say the first group is to old or expensive yet included marcum in the second group? Isn't he 31? Older than Jackson I believe

  • In reply to Joshnk24:

    yes he is older than jackson, but we'd be signing him to a 1 year deal, jackson is gonna want more years and money. plus marcum will only be 31 entering next season, which means he should have plenty left in him. saunders is also older. but will come much cheaper than either marcum or jackson.

  • Anibal Sanchez would be worth throwing the bucks at unless he goes over 12 M a year . 4 yrs 44 M . He is a legit 3 . Shark ,Garza , Sanchez is a really nice top 3 in the NL Central .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I'm a fan of Sanchez. Velo is about average but that excellent change up really plays it up. If the Cubs open with that top 3 then I'd be optimistic about their chances to improve.

  • ps 2 game lead on the Rockies for #2 , lets go Matherites !!!! Its gone too far to settle for the 3rd pick and lesser slot amount now, I want to see a thundering terd of a lineup tonight.

  • Other possiblities via trade are Price and Wade Davis. Just saying.

  • In reply to WickitCub:

    Wade, maybe but pursuing a pitcher like Price is too costly at this stage of development. Theo and Jed would not have made that Garza trade given where the Cubs were at that time, so can't see why they'd want to give up even more to get David Price now after they've worked so hard to replenish the system -- and when they're probably at least two seasons away from contending.

  • fb_avatar

    I'd be surprised to see them move on someone like Sanchez. I think it's too soon for them to project how far out they might be. By midseason next year, management will have a better idea of some of the short-medium term question marks. Next season I could see them making a play for a younger pitcher that they'll have to pay, and if they do, it indicates that they expect some of their young pitching assets to be ready to contribute significantly in 2014. This year if they offer more than two years to any free agent, I'll be surprised.

  • In reply to Kevin Heckman:

    The length of contract is definitely going to be the hang-up on some of these guys and it's easy to see Sanchez looking for, and possibly getting a 4 year deal. I agree that the Cubs may not want to go that far yet at this stage.

  • fb_avatar

    I'm skeptical upon reading and hearing Hoyer's comments about the FA spending, especially the comment about possibly ear-marking money for future FA classes.
    Obviously the team needs to sign some SP's just to be able to represent, but what else would he say to the media after such a terrible showing?
    I also wonder what the available FA pitchers think about joining a team that will most likely trade them if they show anything. Who wants to sign on with a team knowing that it may be only a 4 month stay?
    The "parallel fronts" strategy isn't working at this point.
    I can't help my gut feeling that we'll have to suffer through another 90-100 loss season in 2013 before things really start to improve.

  • In reply to AdolphoPhillips66:

    It wouldn't surprise me if the Cubs have another bad season no matter what they do this winter. I do think they'll sign a player or two, though, probably pitchers.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I think you're right, but the signings may be the pitchers no one else wants to take a chance on. We may be able to better predict Cub signings by scouring the 60-day DL and DFA lists!

  • In reply to AdolphoPhillips66:

    Quite possibly! The way I picture it is the Cubs going after some pitchers who fit their philosophy -- but they won't go try and keep on deals if other teams in "win-now" mode are willing to go a couple extra miles.

    But I do see them willing to extend a little further than last season for the right guy. Not sure that means they will land any of the better pitchers we've talked about, but I think they'll do more than just kick tires on some of these 2nd tier pitchers.

  • In reply to AdolphoPhillips66:

    This what they will just have to do. Still 1 year away from
    spending big money on any FA. Don't want to trade best
    top prospects (except for Upton) Have to wait and see
    what happen to Soriano and Garza before sprint training.

  • Right after Theo signed on with the Cubs he made a statement- that there's no quicker way to emabarass yourself in MLB than to have a shortage of starting pitching talent. Cubs are not the KC Royals, and as long as they are not blocking the development of someone, then they will add to the roster with Maholm type signings. The expectation will not necessarily be to contend but to play competitive ball and not embarass the organization, the way the team has done in stretches the last 7 weeks. It really doesn't take that much in our division to contend, let alone be competitive. Consider that if we had a league equivalent 3rd baseman this year, and if we kept Dempster and Maholm for the whole season, we could have probably been within the reach of .500. It just doesn't take that much to get respectable, if you have a decent sized budget.

  • In reply to Cuyler:

    Good memory. I think the Cub will try to put together a staff year after year that, at worst, will keep you in ballgames.

    I think the lineup and defense will be solid next year. It's just a matter of getting some decent pitching. I really do think they'll take a step forward next year, but I'm looking at 2014 as the year when we really start seeing a difference -- and hopefully the playoffs by 2015.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Cuyler:

    You're right about being competitive with Demp/Maholm and a legit 3B. In hindsight, and I hope I'm wrong, but with the deadline deals the Cubs didn't acquire even one impact player. Vizcaino may be but it's hard to label him that after coming off TJ surgery. Others picked up may be serviceable but not what should have been expected.
    I know Demp kind of screwed the team with his actions, but you'd like to think they'd get at least one impact player when giving up proven talent like Demp/Maholm/Johnson/Soto (and I'm not even throwing in Colvin/LaMahieu for nada.)
    Hopefully two years from now the trades will look much better!

  • Don't want o burst anyone's bubble here, but this is a real bad Free Agency class.....and the players agents will want big time $$$$$ due to lack of stars and the supply and demand issue..... I doubt major players will sign for two years or less. I also doubt if Theo will over spend on sub par players. Most of the free agents that the Cubs will sign will be ones with health issues. Sanchez, Jackson, Santana and other pitchers will get over paid by some warm climate or playoff bound team.

    Stop drinking the Blue Kool Aid people........Can't rebuild this team in one season.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    I don't think anyone's drinking Blue Kool Aid here. They're going to get a couple Maholm type signings and be a better team than the pathetic product of the last 7 weeks. They're not going anywhere next year, but they're not going to be the team you're seeing right now either.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    I didn't get the impression that people think they're going to rebuild everything in one season. Maybe they're talking about improving but few, if any, expect the Cubs to completely turn things around next year. Improvement certainly isn't out of the question. In fact, we should probably expect it.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to CubsTalk:

    No one on this site is drinking the cool-aid! Haven't read a single post where the expectation is to win next year. For me it's all about seeing some progress, even in the slightest measures. That's my frustration as I can't say I've seen improvement in any of the youngsters since Aug. 1st with the exception of Beef Welington.
    Len & Bob were just talking about the improvement they see from Colvin & LaMahieu from last year with the Cubs. It may be just motivation from your former team, but those guys look like long-term pieces for the Rockies. LaMahieu has driven the ball consistently in this series. John points out Colvin's splits, but I suspect most players break out that way.
    I'd like to know what this FO sees as acceptable payroll once the team is a contender. Bottom line is they're going to have to spend big to contend annually even if the farm is producing.

  • fb_avatar

    Also looks like they'll miss their goal of avoiding 100 losses!
    Big picture is why is 100 losses such a big deal for a team that hasn't won in 105 years?

  • In reply to AdolphoPhillips66:

    I think it's more the player trying to motivate themselves to win down the stretch. It doesn't mean much to me. Looks inevitable at this point.

  • Theo does not want the 100 loss tag under his regime, especially his first season............ But that can be easily forgotten when Theo, Ernie and others raise a Cubs World Series flag........Can all agree that 2015 is a safe bet for the next Cubs playoff series?.......Have we hit bottom? this time next year, we should know.....if the Cubs are at the same point next year at this time, how many would of you will start to blame Dale?...or Theo?.........time to move on from the Colvin / Stewart trade.....some of you talk like it was a Lou Brock trade all over again............I do believe Stewart will be put on a milk carton soon.....anyone see him lately?............Cubs pitching getting hammered again....I can't take this much longer...........I picked a bad week of stop sniffing glue.............I do not understand why Selig o.k. this Greenberg one day contract with the makes the integrity of making a team roster a joke now.......who will be next? is a shame that Mario Mendoza never got his average over .200...............Yes, some of you drink way too much Blue Kool is nice to know the future prospects, but some of the fans spend way too much time analyzing players who may never get past Double A ball.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Stream of conscientiousness, works so well
    But what to think of it, pray tell?
    "A la Recherche du Cubs Perdu...."
    --Sure you're still not sniffing glue?

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    2015 sound about right.

    As for prospects, it's still baseball and developing prospects is a huge factor with successful teams. It's a silly question. We follow it because we like it. Or some of us do. Why do we follow the Cub when they may never win a World Series? Why did we follow them this year even though they weren't going to make the playoffs? Why do we care what Welington Castillo does if he won't ever make the Hall of Fame? Where do you draw the line?

    Wasn't a fan of Adam Greenberg getting that AB, but it doesn't bother me either. I don't think it hurts anyone as long as nobody needs to be cut from the roster to make room.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Mendoza was actually a career .215 hitter. I remember our announcers talking about how it should be changed to the Ueker line since he was exactly a career .200 hitter. I'd sign that petition.

  • They'd have to buy really low on Santana to be interested imo. He's got an ERA of nearly 5 and has given up a major league leading 36 homers. Not in line with the groundball inducing type pitchers they seem to think play well at Wrigley.

    I'm glad they're focusing on starting pitching though. We got our best return at the trade deadline from Dempster and Maholm. Pick up a couple starting pitcher potential trade chips to fill out the rotation behind Garza, Wood and Samardzija. Every offseason, rinse and repeat till we're ready to compete.

  • John I've got a sleeper for you, Pittsburgh's Jeff Karstens. He probably won't be tendered and could be a Maholm type steal from Pittsburgh.He'll be cheap too.

  • In reply to kevie:

    Not a bad idea. I think the Cub will definitely look at some non-tenders.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And Karstens has really good control. More of a finesse guy, but at least he's a finesse guy who throws strikes and can occasionally miss a bat or two.

  • A couple of people were talking about BJ Upton. I don't see the Cubs being interested in him. He is a younger version of Soriano only not as good. Soriano had better power, hit for better avg, similiar speed and struck out less often when he was in his prime. Upton would have to be an exceptional defender and increase his HR totals to make up for low BA, OBP and high K rate. Upton averages 160 K's per season, Soriano has only been above 130 four times in career getting a ton of AB's as a leadoff hitter. Cubs front office want guys who make more consistent contact. Even at his advanced age Soriano has had a better year then Upton. I can't believe I am talking Soriano up at this point because I hated the contract from day one.

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    I really don't know why some of you guys are so worried about the Cubs giving the extra year or over paying a few million to get a Good pitcher to sign w a 100 loss team? Is the extra money they are paying these players coming out of your bank accounts? Are the monies they save in free agency contracts going to go towards lower ticket prices and concessions?

    If they aren't going to sign another middle of the order hitter to protect Rizzo and Soriano ( assuming he stays as someone needs to protect Rizzo or we may hurt his development)

    If they could sign a pitcher like Edwin Jackson ( 3 yrs is not going to get it done unless its for close to 45-50 million) He's an innings eater, and that's what this rotation needs. He isn't an ace, but he can slide in and fight Garza for that spot. Jeff S needs to just keep developing, no need to give him the added pressure of being the only pitcher capable of throwing 200+ innings.

    Give Edwin Jackson 5 years 65-70 million and an option year w a buyout if that's the only way.

    Sign someone like Scott Baker, Shawn Marcum, Liriano, Santana, McCarthy or someone else coming off injury or poor production for 1 year and give them a incentive laden contract to get more years + $$$

    Rotation of

    Jackson, Garza, Smardija, Wood/Vizcaino/Rusin and 1 of the guys above and this team has a formidable rotation and ready to compete in this division.

    Then have Theo use his "magic" and fill in the pen and bench with some sneaky signings.

    Watch out NL Central !!

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    It's more about timing and tying up money later when the Cubs are truly ready to win. If they need to pay Edwin Jackson 15 m or so the last two years, they could wind up with a Soriano situation where they are stuck paying him and unable to unload if he doesn't work out. It may not be the best time to take that sort of risk.

    We've seen bad contracts take down the Cubs and most recently the Red Sox of this year.

  • I wonder if any pitchers over here in Japan are entering their free agent years. Iwakuma has been serviceable for the Mariners, at $1.5m.

    The posting system - buying guys like Darvish early from their Japanese team and then negotiating a contract - is too expensive, but there is the occasional serviceable starter or very good reliever had for a reasonable 1 or 2 year deal.

    I'll look into this more as the Chicagoan based in Tokyo.

  • In reply to TokyoCraig:

    Cool. Looking forward to hearing some good names. Thought the Cubs should have pursued Chen last season but I understood the injury concerns.

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