We don't expect the Cubs to sign many big name free agents and I'm fine with that. Not because the Cubs don't need them, but because there really isn't a whole lot out there worth pursuing -- at least not at the expected costs.
The Cubs are saying to expect minimal use of free agency. As we've stated, we don't think it's so much because of a lack of funds, but because it's an inefficient, short-sighted way to build a team. Epstein says something similar here,
"I don't think we're going to get to where we need to be through free agency for the short term, honestly," Epstein said. "Given the needs that we have and where we are, and the likely price tags on the market, I don't think we'll have the ability to add multiple impact pieces in free agency.
"We're going to have to take a multi-dimensional approach to changing things," Epstein said. "We won't solve our problems through free agency. It's a very viable and sometimes attractive way to add talent and to be a great organization you have to do it from time to time. Given our situation on a lot of fronts, it's not the cure for our ills."
The one free agent that still makes the most sense is Masahiro Tanaka, who will be in his prime as the Cubs expect to become contenders. He also won't cost the Cubs any players or comp picks. We wrote about Tanaka here.
The Cubs offseason in free agency may look more like what we wrote about in this previous article.
Free Agency Notes:
Keep checking back as we'll update if there is any interesting news to update.
UPDATE 5:02: One source told me he thinks it would take 2 of Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Tyrell Jenkins and then Peter Kozma (to fill in until Javier Baez is ready to take over at SS) to pry Baez loose.
UPDATE 3:56: MLB Radio (h/t Michael Caldwell) that the Cardinals are looking at a shortstop and sources speculate they will ask the Cubs about Starlin Castro. It's enticing to think about because of all the young power pitching in the Cardinals system, both in at the major and minor league level. I was able to confirm that the Cardinals would indeed be interested (why wouldn't they be?) but I don't have any other info at this time. The problem, as always, will be matching up value. It seems the Cardinals may be looking to buy low, but it's worth noting the rumor is they offered Carlos Martinez for Alexei Ramirez. Castro is younger and more talented. I'm a huge fan of Castro but if they can get 2 top young SPs in return, it's worth listening. Bear in mind that the report is highly speculative and we should expect the Cards to be interested in a SS like Castro. If it is even true, it's probably just due diligence on their part. On the other hand, while the Cubs don't want to trade Castro, they don't have any untouchables.
Nothing to get too excited about at this point one way or the other. Remember the Diamondbacks inquired on Castro last year and they quickly hung up when Epstein stated what it would take to get them to listen. I expect something similar to happen here.
- Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew have already received a combined 11 calls from teams, so the competition will be tough for those few free agents that are available. The word is that the Cubs have interest in Ellsbury because he adds a few elements that they lack, but they can probably put to rest any hopes that they can get him at a discount. Interestingly, Drew, Ellsbury and Mike Napoli are getting qualifying offers, according to Jon Heyman. The QO amount this year is $14.1M.
- More On Ellsbury from MLB Trade Rumors via ESPN's Buster Olney:
According to Olney, Boston offered Ellsbury an extension that fell just shy of $100MM following his runner-up finish in the 2011 AL MVP voting. Agent Scott Boras countered with a $130MM proposal, and the two sides weren't able to strike a deal. Last winter, the Sox again tried to extend Ellsbury, this time for something in the neighborhood of B.J. Upton's five-year, $75.25MM deal with the Braves (Ellsbury had a down season in 2012, hence the decreased offer).
Now, Ellsbury is primed to hit free agency, and reports have indicated that Boston may not go far beyond $100MM to retain him. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes opined recently that the question shouldn't be whether or not Ellsbury crosses the $100MM barrier, but rather whether or not he can reach $150MM. According to Olney, the Rangers and Mariners will be two of the most aggressive teams on the Ellsbury market this winter.
- We also heard yesterday that Nelson Cruz is getting a qualifying offer. I wasn't a huge fan of bringing him to Chicago, but the QO and loss of comp pick all but eliminates him from consideration.
- Remember Chris Perez? He's the Indians closer who was the main source of quotes when it came to criticism of Manny Acta in the clubhouse, blaming him for not giving speeches and motivating the team. Perez has been released at just 28 years old after an off season. He had some success in the past (ironically under Acta) and it's possible the Cubs take a flyer, but I'm not sure he's a guy they want in the clubhouse. More importantly, his velocity has been decreasing of late.
- Speaking of building...Theo Epstein may be trying to build a winner in Chicago, but he isn't yet done helping build champions in Boston, according to Jon Heyman. Epstein won't talk about it but he had a major influence on the current Red Sox roster, including hitting hero David Ortiz and Game 6 winner John Lackey. He also helped prepare current GM Ben Cherington for the job.
- We wrote about Almora earlier today but there is still some national buzz about Kris Bryant. Peter Gammons via Baseball America speaks to a scout who gives his report/grades and some video. Link is insider only but scout gives above average grades for hitting (60), power (70), and arm (60).
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