Rumors have been swirling around the North Side of Chicago since free agents have been able to sign with teams on November 4. Multiple reports have indicated the Cubs have interests in big-name free agent targets such as Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, and Russell Martin.
On the afternoon of November 12, speaking to the Comcast SportsNet’s Patrick Mooney, Theo Epstein shot down talks of the Cubs targeting two top-of-the-market starting pitchers, stating, “People predict that we’re going to sign two top-of-the-rotation starters who both require nine-figure contracts. That’s not happening.”
Theo: "People predict that we’re going to sign 2 top-of-the-rotation starters who both require 9-figure contracts. That’s not happening."
— Patrick Mooney (@CSNMooney) November 12, 2014
While it was always unlikely, many Cubs fans dreamed of both Max Scherzer and Jon Lester joining Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, and Tsuyoshi Wada in the Cubs’ opening day pitching rotation. With those dreams killed, fans can start looking at more realistic options such as a Lester/Hammel or Scherzer/Masterson duo.
With so many mid-level contract starters available – Jason Hammel, Justin Masterson, Francisco Liriano, Ervin Santana, Jake Peavy, and Brandon McCarthy – it may be worth it to target two of those pitchers instead of dumping $100+ million on a starter coming off a career year.
Although it’s not as enticing as signing a top-tier pitcher, even signing two of the players previously mentioned would be a huge upgrade for the Cubs.
Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson, the two starters most likely to lose their jobs, sported 5.03 and 6.33 ERAs respectively in 2014. Every one of the mid-level free agent starters could put up better, more consistent numbers for a team that is hungry to compete next season.
The Cubs won just 23 of the 58 games started by Wood and Jackson combined in 2014. If they win just 31 of those 58 games – a very reachable 31-27 record – the Cubs would have finished .500. Any combination of two starters that are available this offseason could easily accomplish that, if not better, making the team at least a NL Wildcard contender next year.
Free agency may not be the only way that the Cubs are looking to add pieces this offseason. Multiple trade rumors have been making their rounds throughout sports media.
One of the rumors is that the Cubs are shopping one of the San Diego Padres’ top three starters – Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, and Ian Kennedy. Trading for the one of those three may cost a hefty price in prospects, but the Cubs certainly are not lacking in that department.
#Padres continue to listen on three best starters – Kennedy, Cashner, Ross —as they look for offense. All different levels of club control.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 12, 2014
Another potential trade may involve the Washington Nationals and Jordan Zimmerman. According to Chicago-Sun Times, the Cubs were in talks with the D.C. team. However, Mike Rizzo, the Nationals’ GM publicly denied that the two teams were involved in trade talks.
Lastly, a rumor that has been circulating since before the trade deadline is that the Cubs are making a run at Philadelphia Phillies’ left hander Cole Hamels. If any of these potential trades do come to fruition, acquiring Hamels would certainly demand the highest price.
The Hamels trade would be very difficult to work out. After all, with so much pitching talent emerging on the free agent market next season, would Epstein be willing to trade a handful of the Cubs’ top prospects in order to secure one of the baseball’s best pitchers? My guess would be no, but only time will tell.
The multitude of options for the Cubs’ this offseason will be sure to keep baseball’s spotlight cast onto the North Side of Chicago throughout the 2014-15 offseason. No matter which pitcher/s the Cubs end up landing, it should be one of the most exciting offseasons in recent memory for fans of the club.
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