The Price is Right? Rosenthal Reports Predictions that FA Pitcher Will Sign with Cubs

We’ve got several more hours before MLB free agency officially opens, but the rumor mill is a 24/7 operation. To that end, Ken Rosenthal has been working doubles, stoking the hot stove with all kinds of interesting tidbits. On Friday, he dropped some very interesting info.

Two agents for free-agent starting pitchers predict that Price will sign with the Cubs. An executive who knows Price says that the Cubs are his first choice. It’s all talk until the contract is signed, particularly when the Dodgers, Giants, Cardinals and Red Sox all could be in the mix.

We all know about Price’s admission that winning Chicago would be awesome — I believe he actually said it’d be “the coolest” — and that he is very familiar with Joe Maddon from their time together with the Rays. But what remains to be seen is whether Price and the Cubs will be able to agree when it comes to a big contract. I don’t see the pitcher offering a deep discount and I don’t see the Cubs ponying up what figures to be around $200 million for his services.

Maybe I’m wrong on both counts though. Price and Zack Greinke are going to set the top end of the market for starting pitching, with guys like Jordan Zimmermann, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Mike Leake falling in line behind them. If the Cubs do pursue that huge ticket, it almost certainly rules them out for another FA pitcher or even Jason Heyward (who could also approach $200M).

Should they find a way to come to terms with Price, I think the next logical move would be a trade for young, cost-controlled pitching. What do you think about that, Julie?

Huh, makes sense. But that means means parting with some current pieces from the current roster, along with some decent prospects. As for who they might have on the block, I wrote up something based on another DiCaro report earlier in the week regarding the Cubs’ desire to shop Starlin Castro. Rosenthal echoed that in the same piece featuring the Price info.

Starlin Castro — Cubs: Yielded to Addison Russell at short; now he must yield to Javier Baez at second. The good news for the Cubs: Castro rebuilt his value by hitting well and adapting to second base in the final two months.

Before I go on, I need to take issue with the notion that Castro “must yield to Javier Baez at second.” C’mon, Ken, you’re better than that. Baez has got upside for days, but he’s done little to prove that he’s ready for a full-time starting role. As enticing as it is to think of a fully-formed freak of nature like him playing regularly alongside the rest of the kids, I’m not sure that’s the Cubs’ expectation for 2016.

While 97 wins and eliminating two division rivals from the postseason exceeded the timeline a bit, this Cubs regime is not one to rush anything before its due time. As such, I tend to side with Tommy when it comes to something like that Rosenthal statement being a bit of a plant. After all, driving Castro’s value down could benefit any number of teams looking to do business with the Cubs.

But if we remove what appears to be a misjudgment of the Cubs’ motivation, there seems to be something to the idea that they’re willing to part with Castro, particularly if, say, Carlos Carrasco or Corey Kluber of the Indians were part of the return. Then again, with Franciso Lindor at short and Jason Kipnis at second, Castro wouldn’t seem to be high on their wish list. Perhaps this is where Jorge Soler comes into play.

At only $19.1 owed him over the next 3 seasons though (with 2 more option years at $9M and $9.5M, respectively), Carrasco, who will turn 28 in March, figures to command quite a haul. Cluber is older (30 at start of 2016 season) and more expensive ($35.5 over 4 seasons), but he’s kinda got the leverage of the 2014 Cy Young in his corner. The Cubs aren’t prying either arm loose with just a single player going back in return.

DiCaro later tweeted that the talks involved Carrasco or Danny Salazar, who I hadn’t even considered initially. At only 25 years old, Salazar won’t even be arbitration-eligible until after next season and won’t hit free agency until 2021. It would take a boatload to get that kid out of Cleveland, so the thought that the Cubs would even entertain the thought of going after him never occurred to me.

For now, though, this is all speculation. To paraphrase Rosenthal, it’s all talk until the contracts are signed. But damn if it isn’t a whole lot of fun to follow. Happy free agency, everyone!

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