Way-Too-Early Offseason: Who are the New Faces?
Last week, I took a look at some familiar faces that might end up leaving the Cubs between now and opening day on March 29 in Miami. The other side of that coin is that some new faces (or maybe not so new) end up joining the team, whether by trade or free-agent signing. This is the part that always seems harder to figure out, and doesn’t always get resolved until spring training gets underway (or longer). So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some folks that there may come to a hot stove rumor list near you.
Jake Arrieta: This would fall into the not-so-new face side of things. Obviously, the Cubs need starting pitching this offseason–there’s only 3 for-sure starters right now on the roster in Quintana, Lester, and Hendricks–and re-signing Arrieta is the sort of thing we would probably all be happy with. However, we can’t lose sight of the fact that he’s a Scott Boras client, is going to be looking for more years than anyone is probably comfortable with, not to mention dollars. The Cubs tendered a qualifying offer, ensuring that if he goes elsewhere, they’ll get an extra draft pick. I don’t see it happening, but the longer the free agent process plays out, the louder the rumors will get.
Alex Cobb: There has already been some word coming out that there have been talks with Alex Cobb’s people, and he doesn’t seem to be a likely get for the Cubs unless the market doesn’t develop well. The Cubs reportedly won’t go more than 4 years, where Cobb (like Arrieta) is looking for 5-plus. He figures to be a less-expensive get as compared to Arrieta, but with that comes a step down in quality from Arrieta–his 3.66 ERA (and accompanying 4.16 FIP) and 1.22 WHIP from 2017 don’t look that great.
John Lackey: NO. Just no.
Zach Britton: A possible short-term closer solution that could come the Cubs’ way from Baltimore, for the low low price of $11.4M or so. That figure could vary depending on the quality of player the Cubs were able to offer back, but given that the farm system isn’t in the greatest of shape–not one of the Cubs Top-10 prospects according to Baseball America are in the overall Top 101 (they made an error, so the list is one larger than normal)–they probably won’t be able to offer a package that would give any sort of real salary relief.
Shohei Otani: The Nippon Ham Fighters player has been posted, and should be making his way to the majors next year. His landing spot is a big question mark and probably will be for some time. The Cubs could be a landing point for him–pitchers who rake is a bit of a Cubs thing–but the new convoluted IFA system makes things a bit wonky. Not many teams have a large amount of IFA money, and the Cubs are a bit hamstrung in that regard. I think he’d be a fun one to have around, but bear in mind that the Cubs’ last effort to import a big-name player from Japan didn’t work out too well.
Giancarlo Stanton: The biggest links for Stanton and his monstrous contract so far are St. Louis and Boston. I don’t see the Cubs realistically pursuing him–unless they can offload Jason Heyward’s contract, because having 75% of your annual salary load in the outfield is not a good idea. But, I do see them getting involved so far as to interfere with St. Louis’ efforts to land him, by potentially pricing them out of the trade market for Stanton (but maybe not so far as to knock Boston out of the running). It’d be a dirty trick, but I don’t think the brain trust are necessarily beyond doing that to a division rival.
I’m sure there will be a plethora of other names that come up as the rest of the offseason moves on, some that will be shocking and others probably not much so. With the GM meetings starting tomorrow, I’m sure things will heat up a bit, but…it is still mid-November. Don’t expect things to heat up for a while yet.