The Cubs have already targeted free agents and contacted their representatives to express interest. Jed Hoyer believes they will have spoken with executives from every other team before general managers check into an Indian Wells, Calif., resort for their meetings next week. They are getting ready for some action.
The Cubs are in the market for at least two starting pitchers they can plug into their 2013 Opening Day rotation, and they havent yet ruled out Ryan Dempster, who still looks like a long shot to return to the North Side.
I wouldnt over-characterize it and have it be the lead story, Hoyer said Thursday. But listen, he pitched well here for a long time. People in Chicago really respect what hes done here, and they should. Obviously, theres mutual respect there.
The two sides have made preliminary contact and apparently dont have bitter feelings about how it all ended. After a potential deal with the Atlanta Braves collapsed, Dempster waived his no-trade rights minutes before the July 31 deadline and approved a deal to the Texas Rangers.
Not at all, Hoyer said. That was an interesting week in the history of the Cubs and the life of Ryan Dempster, for sure. But at the same time, theres no hard feelings at all. That wouldnt preclude us from bringing him back at all.
There are many other reasons why Dempster probably wont be coming back. He will turn 36 next year and made 14 million last season, when he had his heart set on the Los Angeles Dodgers at the deadline. We probably dont need to start another Dempster Watch.
The Cubs are believed to have an interest in Shaun Marcum, whos coming off an injury-plagued season with the Milwaukee Brewers. But he proved himself before pitching in the brutal American League East and knows the coaching staff here.
Hoyer wouldnt comment on Dan Haren as the Los Angeles Angels explore potential trades other than to say it is an alternative avenue for teams looking for a starter. The Angels have until Friday to decide on a 15.5 million option (with a 3.5 million buyout) on the 32-year-old pitcher.
Philosophically, the Cubs arent opposed to a rental pitcher. They flipped Paul Maholm near the deadline for Arodys Vizcaino, a potential future rotation piece who was one of the top prospects in Atlantas system before Tommy John surgery. As they did with Maholm last winter, they can offer opportunity to a free agent looking to revive his career.
Hoyer said its unlikely the Cubs would wind up settling at four years on a contract this winter. The front office may value a player at those terms, but if thats the case, he may find a more desperate team to make a bigger commitment and drive the price higher.
That pretty much eliminates the top tier of free agents in whats already regarded as a weak class. Anibal Sanchez whos made 30-plus starts in each of the past three seasons and will be only 29 next year probably pushed himself toward the front with a strong playoff performance for the Detroit Tigers.
Were not against long-term deals, Hoyer said. Were not opposed to spending a lot on a player. Its just given where we are, we want to make sure that when we have all our young talent at the major-league level (and) were really ready to go on what we think is going to be an extended run, we dont want to have a bunch of guys that are past-prime that we signed in the past sort of hindering what we want to do.
Were not against committing to a player. We committed a lot of years to Starlin Castro (and) Jorge Soler. We just want to be smart with contract length because so many times you see these players (at) 32, 33 years old and (teams) buying ages 35 and 36.
If youre about to win a title or youre one or two players away at those first couple years of that deal that makes a lot of sense. But if you think your window might be more like those back two years, it does give you a little bit of pause.
The Cubs believe Jeff Samardzija can evolve into a No. 1 starter for October. Theyre optimistic Matt Garza whose right elbow will be examined again later this month will be ready to go by spring training. Theyll also be searching for a third baseman and an outfielder, but whether this winter is a success or a failure will depend on what else they do with the pitching.