All the speculation about Ben Sheets and the Chicago Cubs is purely that -- speculation. Yes, the Cubs like Sheets and Cubs general manager Jim Hendry did talk to Sheets' agent Casey Close at the winter meetings, but in this case where there's smoke there isn't necessarily fire.
At that time, Sheets was looking for somewhere in the area of $7 to $8 million a year. That is certainly a hefty amount considering that he hasn't pitched since 2008 and had right elbow surgery that caused him to miss the 2009 season.
Sheets is a Louisiana native and fits right in with the Cajun philosophy that the Cubs have with Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot. Assistant general manager Randy Bush is also a Louisiana native. All that said, the economics for the Cubs don't appear to allow them to make a big offer to Sheets. It doesn't appear at this point that Hendry has more than a $3 to $5 million allotment to try and fill a bullpen slot, a backup outfielder slot and another starting pitcher.
The most likely scenario for the Cubs will be to make a trade. If they are able to come up with a deal with a team such as the Colorado Rockies or Toronto Blue Jays, they can trade on a dollar-for-dollar basis without increasing their payroll. It would probably take an act by ownership to be able to acquire Sheets, who is looking for a pretty good payday even though he has been on the disabled list almost every year of his career.
This isn't to demean or diminish Sheets' ability. When healthy, Sheets is one of the more dominant pitchers in baseball. The problem is quantifying the amount of time Sheets may stay healthy.