Heyman: Cubs Low on Arrieta and Cobb, Saving for Harper, No Offer for Cain, Mystery Team on Cole?

We’ve reached the point of the offseason at which we’re reporting on reports that reports were improperly reported. Or something like that. My point is that the slow trickle of news has combined with a perpetual thirst to create an unintelligible echo chamber, the cacophony from which can be deafening. Lucky for you, my metaphorical earplugs make it all sound like so many wire brushes, so I’m able to distill a little salience from the mess.

Okay, so that’s a little over-the-top, though I do think there’s something to be said for kind of putting the various rumors together like pieces of a puzzle. Or perhaps it’s better to think of it like a game of three-card monte or one of those animated attention grabbers they play on every video board at every sporting event ever. You know, the one where there’s a ball under a cup or hat or whatever? I’m just saying that all the reports are distracting, but you can maintain a semblance of true north if you pay attention.

What we’re left with, then, is an attempt to discern the solid thread rather than the aberrant frayed strands. And that’s why I found Jon Heyman’s most recent Inside Baseball MLB Notes worthwhile; the Cubs information wasn’t so much revelatory as it was reinforcing. Included in the Cubs section were nuggets on Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, Bryce Harper, Lorenzo Cain, and Gerrit Cole.

I’m going to try to shoot through these quickly, since that’s what Heyman does and I really need to get better at preventing my inner voice from spilling out all over the page and making these columns run long. Did I just do it there? Sorry.

Throughout the whole process, we’ve heard that the Cubs were biding their time. They’ve gone low with their offers to Arrieta (4/$110M) and Cobb (3/$42M), so we can pretty much assume that they did the same for Darvish. Still, they’re among his final six teams as of last check. And that number has apparently dropped to five following a report that Darvish turned down a seven-year, $160 million offer from the Yankees.

I don’t believe for a second that the Yankees deal was actually on the table, but I suppose anything is possible. Any truth to the rumor means the Cubs are absolutely out on Darvish, as their general frugality this winter has kept them from going beyond four years on any offers. Some of that may be a matter of not wanting to pay for diminishing returns, some may be about keeping cash in the coffers.

Heyman cites a rival who thinks, as many do, that the Cubs are saving up for Harper next winter. I have no doubt that’s a part of the equation, as is the idea that throwing $27+ million at Arrieta or Darvish could prevent them from pursuing any big free agents in future years, let along the biggest of them.

Which brings us to the rumored pursuit of Cain, which is a drum Bruce Levine has been banging like Todd Rundgren over the last week or so. As much as I respect Levine’s connections and nose for a lead, I have been crazy dubious of this idea from the start. Heyman put the smack down on the report that Cain has received multiple three-year offers, saying the veteran outfielder “wouldn’t entertain anything like that.” That’s good because, quite frankly, I think it’d be dumb as hell for the Cubs to sign him.

Though it’s not included in the Cubs section, there’s a brief note further down regarding Gerrit Cole. In case you missed it Wednesday, the Pirates pitcher, who came to fame when he gave up a home run to Kyle Schwarber that ended up in the Allegheny River, was embroiled in some shifting trade rumors. After it was reported by multiple sources that he was on the verge of being dealt to the Astros, Cole was suddenly doing nothing of the sort.

The thought at the time was that Darvish may have complicated things, but that doesn’t really hold water based on a variety of factors. Maybe it was the Astros’ reluctance to include their top prospects, or maybe it was the emergence of a mystery team. That could actually be the Cubs, who’ve been connected to Cole this winter, though Heyman is quick to admit it’s simply a hypothesis and is not confirmed. I still have a hard time reconciling the idea that the Cubs could realistically get the young, cost-controlled righty from their division rivals.

So if we run this all back to make sure we’re all following that same card or cord (sorry, I’m too lazy to go back and follow the muddled analogies I presented earlier), I think we can further galvanize some of what we’ve already learned to this point. Wait, what exactly is that? I’m glad you asked.

First, the Cubs are very willing to wait out the market on the top pitchers, perhaps even to the point of watching all three of their main targets sign elsewhere. This isn’t purely a matter of being cheap, nor is it a function of feeling entirely secure in their current roster. No move is made beneath a vacuum-sealed bell jar and a deal for one of the top two pitchers would likely close doors down the road that Theo Epstein and Co. would just as soon leave open.

We can also reasonably assume that the Cubs were/are not in on Lo Cain. If they’re going to spend big on a position player, he’d damn well better be able to hit at the top of the order. Cain can’t do that, nor can he settle for a three-year deal.

The overarching theme continues to be that the Cubs are just turning every stone, to the extent that they’ve gotten their tweezers out and are examining large grains of sand at this point. But will they end up spending a day lounging at the beach or getting tossed by the waves? We should find out soon enough.

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