By Bruce Levine–
ORLANDO, Fla. (CBS) — The Cubs and White Sox should be popular potential trading partners for opposing teams as the GM meetings open here Monday and last through Wednesday.
As rotation members Jake Arrieta and John Lackey and relievers Wade Davis, Brian Duensing and Koji Uehara hit free agency, the Cubs will look to fill the holes through free agency and the trade market. Chicago would like to pursue and sign a free-agent starter, such as right-hander Alex Cobb, early in the offseason. A proactive move like that would give the Cubs more leverage and flexibility when the Winter Meetings arrive in December and as players establish their value on the open market in the coming weeks.
Free agency will be a key means for the Cubs to beef up their bullpen, and right-hander Brandon Morrow and left-hander Jake McGee are two names they’re already being tied to. The Cubs’ closer situation is murky, as Davis could well leave in free agency. And in-house closing candidates Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Wilson lost their command late in the 2017 season, Wilson to the point that he was left off the National League Championship Series roster.
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein has acknowledged that the Cubs must be prepared to deal from the 25-man roster to fill their needs, and they have a surplus of young position players. Another catch is that the Cubs must be cognizant of not spending bad money this offseason with a star-studded free-agent class looming after the 2018 season.
“We knew this offseason would be challenging,” Epstein said in his end-of-season press conference. “That said, there may be more opportunities next offseason. We have to find a way to balance those two things. The goal is to create a really high floor for this organization. The off years, you may win in the upper 80s and sneak in as a wild card. The great years, you win 103 like in 2016 and a World Series.”
The rebuilding White Sox will listen to offers for first baseman Jose Abreu and outfielder Avisail Garcia, both of whom are coming off outstanding offensive seasons. Both are under team control through 2019.
Abreu will make in the vicinity of $18 million in 2018 after he goes through the arbitration process this offseason. Garcia should check in around $7 million or $8 million. Money isn’t an issue for either player in the mind of the White Sox, whose have few long-term payroll commitments after 2018 other than the five years left on shortstop Tim Anderson’s original six-year, $25-million deal that also includes two team options on the back end of it. Right-hander James Shields ($21 million salary in 2018, $11 million of which is picked up by the Padres) and reliever Nate Jones ($3.95 million salary) come off the books after 2018.
It’s likely the White Sox will have a payroll around $70 million or less in 2018, so they’ll have no qualms about paying Abreu and Garcia or flipping them for younger talent under longer contract control that better fits the rebuilding timeline.
“We are going to have the same approach we have had the last year-plus,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “When opportunities present themselves to acquire pieces and add to the talent of the core we have accumulated, we will continue to pursue on those opportunities and convert on as many as we can.”
The GM meetings typically serve to grease the wheels on player movement for later in the offseason, but this year’s event could be one of the most proactive in years.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.