Chicago Cubs: Free agency

Lester could make sense for Cubs in '15

July, 3, 2014
Jul 3
10:18
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs are in need of top-of-the-rotation pitching in the coming years, so why not call Boston Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester, who likely is headed to free agency this winter?

[+] EnlargeJon Lester
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesJon Lester has made at least 31 starts in each of the past six seasons.
Lester was a longtime favorite of the Cubs' current front office when Theo Epstein ran the Red Sox for a decade. Epstein signed him to a five-year extension worth $30 million in 2009 which included a team option for $14 million for this season. Now, at age 30, Lester likely will be a free agent for the first time in his career.

"They always treated me with the utmost respect and class," Lester said this week of Epstein and the front office. "I have nothing but good things to say about them."

Lester wouldn't comment specifically about the Cubs, but it's been well reported that a new deal with the Red Sox doesn't seem imminent. The Cubs might open their purse strings for a player such as Lester, who's reportedly already turned down a four-year, $70 million extension from Boston. That offer seems way below market value.

"If you're in that position you do your homework," Lester said about free agency. "Obviously, there's the familiarity with those [Epstein] guys. That's kind of predicting the future and possibly be putting a foot in my mouth which I don't want to do."

Lester is 9-7 this season with a 2.92 ERA. He's made at least 31 starts in each of the past six seasons since becoming a full-time big league player and beating cancer in 2006-2007. That kind of durability is going to be attractive to teams, although no one knows what his asking price is or what the market for him will look like.

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The Cubs reportedly offered Jeff Samardzija five years at $85 million, so maybe a deal could get done with those kinds of numbers. But more than likely it would take much more. The Cubs might go higher if they believe in him as an ace, something that's in question with Samardzija.

"Watching them and looking at them it seems like they are pretty close to being there," Lester said of the Cubs. "Maybe one or two players away from putting it together."

Lester had only good things to say about Chicago adding his wife "never misses that trip." He also knows that Cubs fans are "fanatical."

"They do such a good job no matter who it is, they make it attractive to go there," Lester said. "Next year or two will be good for them. I know what (Epstein's) able to do."

Cubs could still to add to pitching staff

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
1:58
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs' search for their No. 1 starter of the future continues after they lost out on the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes, but they still need to field a starting staff for 2014.

They've made it pretty clear they won't replace Tanaka with one of the remaining big name free agent pitchers, including former Cub Matt Garza. Not unless one falls into their lap. So where do they turn?

Internally, the Cubs have Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta as mainstays. Justin Grimm, acquired last season for Garza, could be an option as could 2013 Cubs minor league pitcher of the year Kyle Hendricks. Lefty Chris Rusin is leftover from last year as well. But like any team, five, six or even seven starters aren't enough in this day and age. So expect a minor signing to compete with those names.

A source familiar with the situation says the Cubs won't be re-signing Scott Baker, who threw well for the Cubs the final month of the season after rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He's moving on. Former Cub Paul Maholm is available as is Jason Hammel, who pitched for the Baltimore Orioles last season. Both have been linked to Chicago.

The hole Tanaka leaves is bigger in the coming seasons when the Cubs hope to compete for the playoffs. They have time to find that ace, it just means 2014 is shaping up to be another rough year.

Offseason questions: Who's the manager?

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
3:47
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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With the conclusion of the World Series begins the official offseason for Major League Baseball, though the Chicago Cubs' winter started the day after their year ended with the firing of manager Dale Sveum.

Undoubtedly, hiring his replacement is the first order of major business.

Boston Red Sox coach Torey Lovullo's credentials may never be better, as his team just completed a worst-to-first scenario. As of Thursday afternoon, Lovullo had not been contacted by the Cubs, but it’s been only hours since he helped his team win the World Series. Things on the managerial front should move fast now that the baseball season is over.

If the Cubs don’t hire a manager by the end of the next week, they’re bucking up against their timeline of doing so by the general manager meetings, which take place Nov. 11-13 in Orlando, Fla. Expect final interviews and a decision in the coming days as owner Tom Ricketts and president Theo Epstein are to meet fans in a question-and-answer session next week at the Bank of America Theatre in Chicago. Having a manager in place would eliminate plenty of queries.

The next order of business will be dealing with free agents. The Cubs have four of their own: pitchers Scott Baker, Kevin Gregg and Matt Guerrier and catcher Dioner Navarro.

After a career year, a source familiar with the situation says Navarro is already drawing strong interest from other teams to be their No. 1 catcher. That means the prospects of the popular Navarro returning to the Cubs are slim.

(Read full post)

Epstein says no to free agency

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
8:54
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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MILWAUKEE -- It should come as no surprise but just in case you weren't sure, don't expect the Chicago Cubs to be major players in free-agency come this offseason.

Team president Theo Epstein says they simply aren't ready to add in that way.

[+] EnlargeEpstein
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesCubs president Theo Epstein says it isn't likely the team will pursue any players of major impact during the offseason.
"I don't think we're going to get where we need to be through free agency for the short term," he said Tuesday.

The Cubs signed pitcher Edwin Jackson to a four-year, $52 million deal last winter so clearly Epstein isn't completely opposed to it. But the Cubs aren't ready to win and that means they aren't ready to identify free-agent needs.

Actually, the needs are too many to identify in just one area.

"Given the needs that we have, and where we are, and the likely price tags on the market I don't think we're going to have the ability to add multiple impact pieces in free agency," Epstein said.

Epstein indicated there won't be extra revenue coming in from any Wrigley Field renovation just yet -- but that isn't the major issue here. Unless something falls into their lap, the Cubs are going to add when they are ready to win. It makes sense.

"That would be nice if we could find the right guy and the right contract," Epstein said of obtaining a leadoff man. "It may be in the cards for us, but we have to be prepared for the fact it may not."

In other words, the Cubs aren’t going to go all out for a free agent. Epstein dismissed any notion of back-loading contracts for fear it could hamper the Cubs when they're ready to win. Flexibility is the key for the organization, and with so many prospects on the horizon, they need to know who's going to make it and who's not -- and then act accordingly.

"It is a very viable and sometimes attractive way to add talent," Epstein said. "Right now, given our situation on a lot of different fronts, it's not a cure to our ills."

Eventually, new revenues from the Wrigley renovation will be real and the Cubs will have a better idea of their specific needs as they get closer to winning as an organization. At that point there will be no excuses for not striking a deal with the right player. Just don't expect it for 2014.

"We're not necessarily in a position to do that," Epstein said.

Not yet, at least.

Cubs in running for Cuban pitcher

July, 18, 2013
7/18/13
4:33
PM CT
By Enrique Rojas
ESPNDeportes.com
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Cuban sensation Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez could be pitching in the majors very soon, his agent told ESPNDeportes.com.

Read the entire story.

Cubs court two at once, land Edwin Jackson

January, 2, 2013
1/02/13
6:59
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- This offseason the Chicago Cubs identified Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson as the two free-agent starting pitchers who best fit their criteria.

Sanchez and Jackson were talented enough to help the team improve in the present, but they were also young enough to be part of their future core.

The Cubs only wanted to add one pitcher though.

(Read full post)

Cubs announce Jackson deal

January, 2, 2013
1/02/13
12:44
PM CT
By ESPNChicago.com
ESPNChicago.com
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs announced the signing of pitcher Edwin Jackson and will introduce him at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Read the entire story.

Jackson could fill two needs for Cubs

December, 21, 2012
12/21/12
3:45
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Edwin JacksonBrad Mills/US PresswireEdwin Jackson has pitched at least 189 2/3 innings in each of the past five seasons.
The Chicago Cubs veered from their recent conservative path by signing free agent pitcher Edwin Jackson to a four-year, $52 million deal on Thursday, according to sources.

It's the first contract longer than two years they've given out this offseason. Is Jackson the next Cy Young award winner? Probably not. After all this will be his eighth team since 2003. But Jackson has always had decent stuff. Last year he went 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA for the first-place Washington Nationals.

He has been plagued by inconsistency his whole career but he is still better than much of the options for the Cubs, and at least he represents a willingness by management to do something to improve the team now as well as potentially the future. Until now, it was mostly only about the future and that's represented in all the one- and two-year deals they've given out as well as the quantity of prospects they've acquired.

(Read full post)

Cubs announce deal with OF Schierholtz

December, 21, 2012
12/21/12
2:55
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs announced the signing of free-agent outfielder Nate Schierholtz to a one-year deal on Friday.

The announcement comes after an agreement was reached at the winter meetings in Nashville earlier this month.

Schierholtz, 28, hit .257 with eight doubles, five triples and six home runs in 114 games between the San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies last season. He's expected to compete for playing time in right field.

Terms of the deal were not released, but a source close to the situation said Schierholtz will be paid $2.25 million with a chance to make more in performance incentives.

Source: Cubs, RHP Villanueva agree to deal

December, 20, 2012
12/20/12
11:18
AM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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Carlos VillanuevaGetty ImagesCarlos Villanueva made 29 starts for the Blue Jays the past two seasons.
The Chicago Cubs and free agent right-handed pitcher Carlos Villanueva have agreed to a two-year contract, pending a physical, according to a major league source.

Villanueva, 29, was a versatile pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays last season, appearing in 38 games and making 16 starts. He was 7-7 with a 4.16 ERA overall and posted a 3.24 ERA in 22 relief appearances, holding hitters to a .211 batting average.

Villanueva, who made $2.27 million last season, will either go into the Cubs rotation or be a part-time starter and long reliever. Villanueva, who spent parts of five seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, becomes insurance for rehabbing starters Scott Baker and Matt Garza.

Sources told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney that the Cubs are close to signing Edwin Jackson to a four-year, $52 million deal, further bolstering the rotation. Jackson would join a group of starters that include Jeff Samardzija, Garza, Baker, Scott Feldman, Travis Wood and Villanueva.

Korean reliever Lim says he has Cubs deal

December, 13, 2012
12/13/12
2:54
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Korean reliever Lim Chang-yong said he has agreed to terms on a contract with the Chicago Cubs, but he is not expected to pitch until the 2014 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

Read the entire story.

Cubs to use Fujikawa as set-up man

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
3:47
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Kyuji FujikawaAP Photo/M. Spencer GreenKyuji Fujikawa takes a look at his new baseball home, Wrigley Field, on Friday.
CHICAGO -- New Chicago Cubs reliever Kyuji Fujikawa has 220 career saves in Japan, but he will start spring training as the set-up man with Carlos Marmol as the closer.

But that doesn't mean things won't change as the season begins.

"I have experience being a set-up guy and also as a closer," Fujikawa said through a translator during a Friday press conference to announce his two-year, $9 million contract that includes a vesting option for 2015. "It's not up to me where I throw. It's up to the manager and the team. I still think I have room for growth as a pitcher. That's what I'm going to be looking forward to, following the orders from the manager and the club."

(Read full post)

Cubs announce deal with RP Fujikawa

December, 6, 2012
12/06/12
6:58
PM CT
By ESPN.com news services
ESPNChicago.com
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The Chicago Cubs agreed to a deal Thursday with Japanese relief pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa.

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Source: Cubs bring back 3B Stewart

December, 6, 2012
12/06/12
4:00
PM CT
By ESPN.com news services
ESPNChicago.com
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Third baseman Ian Stewart is returning to the Chicago Cubs, a baseball source told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick on Thursday.

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Sources: Cubs, Dempster talk contract

December, 5, 2012
12/05/12
7:54
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The agent for free agent pitcher Ryan Dempster has had conversations with the Cubs about a possible return to Chicago, according to major league sources.

Read the entire story.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jason Hammel
WINS ERA SO IP
8 2.98 104 108
OTHER LEADERS
BAA. Rizzo .281
HRA. Rizzo 23
RBIA. Rizzo 53
RA. Rizzo 65
OPSA. Rizzo .907
ERAJ. Samardzija 2.83
SOJ. Hammel 104