The Chicago Cubs have not made any splashy signings, mostly picking up bargain bin relievers (which, in the case of guys like Clayton Richard and Hector Rondon, for example, have been okay) and feeling out the market. Friday afternoon, we got some very interesting, albeit not necessarily exciting, news regarding the signing of not-so-popular starting pitcher John Lackey:
Lackey deal with #Cubs is two years, $32M. Pending physical.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 4, 2015
The annual average is slightly more than the qualifying offer that Lackey received from the St. Louis Cardinals (and rejected), which means our fiercest rivals to the south will grab another draft pick (grumble) and the Cubs lose their #28 pick in the first round. They should get a pick back depending on what happens with Dexter Fowler, but my guess is that Fowler has to go elsewhere since the Lackey contract, after he hopefully passes his physical, will allow little breathing room to also pay Fowler what he deserves. In the meantime, this allows us to ponder the 2016 Cubs starting rotation:
I guess they could trade for another “J” but that’s just me being facetious. They could also still attempt to sign Jeff Samardzija to complete the “J” theme, but I don’t think that’s within the realm of possibility now that Samardzija is allegedly receiving $90MM offers (I don’t think he’s worth that much, but baseball is swimming in money now). The rotation as I outlined above seems pretty darned good. We have elite pitching up top, and a solid bridge in Lackey to get to Hammel and Hendricks, who have been valuable in their own right. If the Cubs intend to upgrade, they can now wait for the trade market to pick up in-season rather than having to blow their prospect wad this winter, though that is of course still possible.
Speaking of Dexter Fowler and center field, which is the other very obvious hole in the roster right now, the Cubs are attempting something interesting:
Javier Baez will play CF for Santurce in Puerto Rican League in a few weeks. Doug Dascenzo will work with him.
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) December 4, 2015
Theo: "Makes sense to do it when we have a bit of a hole in CF."
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) December 4, 2015
This is an idea that many of us have bandied around for a while, and would allow the Cubs to keep both Javier Baez and Starlin Castro in the lineup and on defense rather than being forced to trade. They are also no longer forced to spend on Jason Heyward or other outside CF options, and in fact have increased their options some, especially if Baez proves to be a competent defender in center.
The short term of the Lackey contract (which is also good given his age) coincides with the timeline of larger contracts like that of Miguel Montero and Jason Hammel, which come off the books by the time guys like Kris Bryant and Addison Russell are up for arbitration (almost definitely Super Two eligible given when they were promoted). Not having to destroy their finances to buy David Price also means that if they want to, they can now try to extend Jake Arrieta, or see how much they can use to entice a foreign talent like Kenta Maeda after he posts. This is a very good deal for a solid pitcher that works within the context of this organization’s timeline, and the additional benefit of having a super-versatile roster means that they can keep their cards hidden for the time being on whether to also add that center fielder, or just hope that Javy can do it. I think they’ll be creative in checking in on alternatives, though. It seems that for the time being, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have chosen flexibility over immediate impact, though the news today could provide that impact anyway at a bargain.
Apologies for the lateness of this post after news was broken, I was busy trying to teach kids projectile motion with Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary pass. Education is stressful, ha!