BOCA RATON, Fla. – The Cubs will go big-game hunting, planning to sit down with the agents for David Price, Zack Greinke and Jordan Zimmermann during this week’s general manager meetings in South Florida.
The Cubs are in information-gathering mode for essentially all the top pitchers in a deep class of free agents and scheduled to meet with Price’s agent, Bo McKinnis, on Wednesday at the Boca Raton Resort and Club.
The Cubs will gradually begin to find out how much Price really wants to come to Chicago, play for Joe Maddon and try to win the franchise’s first World Series since 1908.
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein already dismissed the idea of signing two players to nine-figure contracts this offseason. And Price figures to be using Max Scherzer’s seven-year, $210 million contract with the Washington Nationals as a reference point.
[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]
Given those payroll restrictions, the uncertainty surrounding the next TV deal and Jon Lester being guaranteed at least $20 million on average across the next five seasons, you have to wonder if the Cubs are worried about having so much money tied up in two pitchers on the wrong side of 30.
“Our job is to deal with now – and then also deal with the future,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. “We have a really bright future for a long time and we’re always thinking about how commitments for today will impact us down the road.
“There’s a natural inclination to sort of look at the top of the free-agent market – and there’s great players there – (but) we have to think about the entire market (and) ways to get better at every tier.
“Because, yeah, I do think there’s a risk of becoming inflexible.”
That’s where Greinke’s athleticism, repertoire and feel for pitching could come into play if the Cubs believe he’s a good long-term bet.
Greinke – who went 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA during his age-31 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers – recently opted out of a contract that would have guaranteed him $71 million across the next three years.
The Cubs have also touched base with Jeff Samardzija’s camp, trying to see if a reunion would make sense after Shark rejects the qualifying offer, knowing he will do exponentially better than a one-year, $15.8 million deal, even coming off such a disappointing season with the White Sox.
The Cubs got many looks at Johnny Cueto when he pitched for the Cincinnati Reds, but they don’t have the right-hander very high on their list after an inconsistent performance with the Kansas City Royals during their World Series run.
The Cubs could also upgrade their rotation by trading from their surplus of hitters, adding more depth to the pitching staff and shortening the game with extra power arms out of the bullpen.
“There are going to be guys who get top dollar,” Hoyer said. “But there’s also going to be places where you can be creative and find value. I think we’ve done that really well in the past. And now that we’re a competitive team, we don’t want to get away from that.
“The best teams continue to try to find value in different places and (get) creative in ways to round out their team. If you just get to a point of being competitive – and then rely on the free-agent market for everything – I think there’s a danger in that.”