Chicago Cubs

Fielder update: Where could the slugger end up?

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Fielder update: Where could the slugger end up?

Prince Fielder talk will not die down until the slugger signs somewhere. That's just the nature of the business.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer may be playing things very close to the vest this offseason, but media members continue to ponder whether the new Cubs front office would be in the market for such a superstar.

Richard Justice from MLB.com had a column today ranking the most likely destinations for Fielder. He had the Blue Jays first, with the Mariners second and the Cubs coming in at third.

This seems like a legit list. As time goes on, I continue to think more and more that Toronto will make a big run at Fielder to try to jumpstart a following north of the border. Either that or acquiring Canadian Joey Votto in some way, either via trade or waiting until he becomes a free agent after the 2013 season.

The Mariners seem possible, but why would the big man want to play in such a spacious park? But, as Patrick Mooney said on the chat for Tuesday's Chicago Baseball Hot Stove show, the Mariners need to do something to keep up in the AL West and their GM was the scouting director when the Brewers drafted Fielder.

Then there's the Cubs.

They may not be ready for the megadeal free agent, as Mooney has been reporting with consistency this offseason. Maybe that will change, however. Or it just could be the ploy Theo and Jed have--exuding a lack of interest just to play things close to the vest. Doubt it, but it's possible.

The Rangers appear to be out of the sweepstakes and the Brewers are officially going in another direction, but, as Justice points out, there are always such teams as the Nationals and Marlins, who were in on big free agents earlier this offseason.

With the recent flurry of signings by the Angels, the Dodgers may want to take back some of the attention in L.A. and corral the superstar even amidst financial troubles and the sale of the team.

Don't forget about the good, old "mystery team" of course. One of those always seems to pop up.

There's still much to be decided. Hopefully it ends soon, but with the holiday and end of the year coming, Fielder and his agent, Scott Boras, may not reach a deal with his new team until 2012.

Breaking down how Cubs look at the Justin Verlander situation

Breaking down how Cubs look at the Justin Verlander situation

Theo Epstein’s embrace-debate management style means the Cubs are constantly running through different scenarios, trying to balance their win-now urges against what should be a very bright future in Wrigleyville.

The financials, the human intelligence and the analytics are all factored into the equation, which leads to this question for Epstein’s cabinet: Is there a point where the Detroit Tigers kick in enough money and the prospect cost becomes so low that Justin Verlander makes sense for the Cubs?

The Cubs haven’t definitively answered that question yet or completely ruled out the idea, a team source said Tuesday, cautioning that the defending World Series champs are still more likely to add a reliever before the July 31 trade deadline than acquire a frontline starting pitcher.

“Always looking to make the team better,” manager Joe Maddon said before a 7-2 win over the White Sox kept the Cubs in a virtual first-place tie with the Milwaukee Brewers. “Always. That’s what a GM and a president does. But I like our guys.”  

Verlander would obviously benefit from a move to the National League and feel energized in a pennant race. The Cubs could rationalize this as an immediate boost and a long-range solution while preparing for a 2018 rotation without Jake Arrieta and John Lackey.

Imagine the buzz from Kate Upton’s fiancée walking into the clubhouse and making his first start at Wrigley Field in a Cubs uniform. Verlander and Upton have been spotted enough times at Chicago Cut Steakhouse that his no-trade power might be the easiest hurdle to clear in a deal of this magnitude.

Verlander’s overall numbers are ordinary this season (5-7, 4.50 ERA, 1.444 WHIP), but trending in the right direction. The Cubs would go into it knowing that they wouldn’t get the same guy who won 24 games and American League MVP and Cy Young awards in 2011.

The Tigers also can’t just give away a franchise icon who finished second in last year’s AL Cy Young voting and has a 3.39 ERA in 16 career playoff starts

The Cubs are trying to see around corners and anticipate what the team will look like in 2018 and 2019 – when Verlander will make $28 million guaranteed each season – and what might be available in trades and on the free-agent market during those transaction cycles. Verlander is also owed the balance of his $28 million salary this season and has a $22 million vesting option for 2020.

Even if the Tigers pay down some of that commitment, that’s still a ton of exposure with a guy who has roughly 2,500 innings on his odometer and will be 35 years old around the time pitchers and catchers report to spring training next season. That’s also when the Cubs will begin the second half of Jon Lester’s $155 million megadeal – for his age-34, -35 and -36 seasons.

After stunning the baseball world with that blockbuster White Sox trade during the All-Star break, Epstein talked about how Jose Quintana’s reasonable contract – $8.85 million next season plus team options for 2019 and 2020 worth $22 million combined – creates room for another star player.

As great as Verlander has been throughout his career, are the Cubs really ready to pour that money back into a player who was born in 1983? And meet Detroit’s asking price in terms of prospects?

And go against the buy-low philosophy that attracted the Cubs to Arrieta, as well as the ageism that makes them reluctant to reinvest in their own Cy Young Award winner? And potentially close off opportunities to sign free agents from the monster class coming after the 2018 season?

Probably not, but the Cubs haven’t shut down the Verlander discussion yet.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs even up Crosstown Series with White Sox

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs even up Crosstown Series with White Sox

Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Jordan Bernfield (ESPN) and Mark Potash (Chicago Sun-Times) join Kap to talk Game 2 of the Crosstown Series.

Later, the group previews Bears camp and what's going on with the Cavaliers.

Check out the SportsTalk Live Podcast below: