Hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend. We are ready to resume our coverage as things should start heating up.
It is early in the offseason but so far the Cubs are attacking one area of concern with vigor -- MLB ready pitching depth. The Cubs consider themselves pretty lucky that they didn't have to delve into their minor league depth -- especially since that, other than CJ Edwards, the Cubs really didn't have a lot of pitchers healthy and ready to contribute at the MLB level last year.
They're not counting on getting that kind of luck again. They've stocked up on pitchers, especially those who can miss bats. Their roster is now up to 38 and the Cubs have yet to add a starting pitcher or a center fielder. Right now it would seem the Cubs will fill at least one of those holes via trade. But the Cubs have added both SP and RP depth as they head into December. That depth is as follows...
- Pierce Johnson, RHP (added to 40 man roster)
- Drew Rucinski RHP (signed to minor league deal)
- Ryan Cook, RHP
- Andury Acevedo, RHP
- Jeff Leaathersich, LHP
- Spencer Patton, RHP
- Rex Brothers, LHP
None of those names are going to get Cubs fans excited, but the Cubs are more concerned with being able to rotate in quality arms should their regular pitchers get hurt. Last year they got by with late season pickups such as Trevor Cahill and Clayton Richards. They also traded for Yoervis Medina, who is still on the roster. The Cubs also still have Edwards, Richards, and Zac Rosscup. They've stockpiled a lot of talented arms who are all are still in their prime years, but all are also unproven, so the Cubs are hoping that they can catch lightning in a bottle with at least a couple of these additions. It may even give them some flexibility if they feel confident enough that one or more of these bullpen arms can step in right away.
The Cubs haven't given up a whole lot to acquire this depth. They've traded 2B Frandy De La Rosa, who is a talented but raw player at a position of great depth. Wander Cabrera is an intriguing LHP, but there are still a lot of things that have to happen -- will he fill out and get stronger? Will he develop his curve ball? Can he learn to throw a change-up? He's the kind of pitcher a lot of organizations have -- good velocity, projection --and it if all comes together they can become good prospects. For the Cubs it's worth the gamble given an increased urgency to win now and the confidence they can replace a low level minor leaguer through the draft or IFA signing period.
If we're optimistic, we'll say the Cubs are set to go big because...
a) they have saved their payroll and prospect currency
b) they only have two roster spots left and they haven't yet landed an impact player
The Cubs have been linked often to John Lackey lately. They've also been tied to Jeff Samardzija, Alex Gordon, Jason Heyward, and David Price among others.
The Jays may have signaled that they are losing confidence in Price returning, despite David Kaplan reporting earlier this week that Toronto was his preference. They just signed J.A. Happ and now have 5 starters in Happ, R.A. Dickey, Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, and the recently acquired Jesse Chavez. That would seem to make the re-signing of Price much less urgent. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have indicated they intend to outbid the field for Price -- and by a wide margin. Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe is speculating they will surpass the $200M mark to sign him. After losing out on Jon Lester to the Cubs, the Red Sox may be anxious to recover those top of the rotation innings and with a new man in charge in Dave Dombrowski, an aggressive GM who has shown a willingness to spend on a free agent pitcher what the previous front offices have not, they certainly have to be taken seriously.
The signing of Happ by the Blue Jays may mean that Toronto has been priced out. The same may hold true for the Cubs, whom I believe would like to have Price but not on those terms. I also believe they expected the price to reach those heights before the offseason even began, so they are fully prepared to move forward regardless of what happens with the ace lefty. It appears that while we cannot rule the Cubs out on signing Price, it will have to be on the condition that he will take less money -- perhaps significantly less -- to sign with Chicago than with Boston.
The fact the Cubs have just two roster spots left tells me that they intend to fill at least one of the remaining needs via trade, probably pitching, The Cubs would have to deal at least one player off the 40 man roster to fill out their remaining wish list. The other option would be to move a pitcher like Yoervis Medina, Dallas Beeler or Eric Jokisch off the roster now that the team has acquired significant pitching depth.
It has been a slow offseason in terms of free agency to this point. J.A. Happ is the first significant free agent to sign so far, but I think the flood gates are about to open. The winter meetings begin on Dec. 7th until the 10th, but don't be surprised if the Cubs make at least one significant move before then.
Stay tuned, things are about to get interesting.
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