The Cubs have displayed a knack for striking it big at baseball’s winter meetings, as they did in December 2014 when they signed free-agent left-hander Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million contract.
But after making a pre-winter meetings strike Thursday with the signing of pitcher Tyler Chatwood, President Theo Epstein will try not to get caught up in the “frenzied environment” at the annual gathering that starts Sunday at Orlando, Fla.
“It’s important to remind yourself of that and step back and not get caught up in, especially in a moment, and try to recreate your own decision-making processes,” Epstein said.
Even with the signing of Chatwood that fills the role of the departed John Lackey, the Cubs still need more starting pitching — especially with the likelihood of Jake Arrieta signing for greater riches and security elsewhere.
They wouldn’t mind paying a $20 million posting fee to the Nippon Ham Fighters for Shohei Ohtani. The 23-year-old Japanese star — a right-handed power pitcher and left-handed-hitting outfielder — selected the Cubs as one of his seven finalists, though they are the only one located east of the Mississippi River.
The Cubs would like to re-sign closer Wade Davis, who had 32 saves and a 2.30 ERA last season. But Davis, 32, likely will command a multiyear contract at about $15 million annually. Maddon has handled bullpens with more than one closer, and the Cubs need multiple relievers to replace Hector Rondon and probably Davis.
Epstein said the Cubs have “some financial flexibility” but will keep one eye on building the 2018 team and “one eye on the future as well.”
The latter is important, especially with a robust free agent market next winter likely featuring the likes of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
The Cubs also are putting a premium on control pitchers because their relievers last season walked 264 batters — the fifth-highest total in the National League. That’s why right-hander Brandon Morrow, who has closing experience and walked only 1.9 batters per nine innings with the Dodgers in 2017, is an attractive option. Other free-agent relievers with exceptional control are righty Brandon Kintzler, who has issued 2.2 walks per nine innings over his career, and lefty Jake McGee, who pitched for Maddon and Hickey with the Rays.
Even if the Cubs don’t make another big splash at the meetings, they could lay the groundwork for future deals, as was the case in January 2015 when they acquired leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler from the Astros.
Youngsters Kyle Schwarber, 24, and Ian Happ, 23, could be targets for interested teams as well, with Schwarber potentially helping an American League team in need of a left-handed power hitter and the switch-hitting Happ’s versatility as a second baseman and outfielder making him an attractive option.
Cubs management understood the 2017-18 offseason would be one of their most challenging — and the process could seem nearly as daunting as the quest for consistent contention they started in 2012.
Source : http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/ct-spt-cubs-winter-meetings-pitching-20171209-story.html