By Bruce Levine-
PHOENIX (CBS) — Beginning in late summer and moving forward, the Chicago Cubs have been in of both passive and aggressive attack mode.
Recently, the Cubs have had face-to-face talks and conversations with agents for catcher Russell Martin as well as pitchers Jon Lester and Jason Hammel, sources confirmed. Russell met face-to-face with the Cubs last Thursday. He was joined by his Chicago-based agent, Matt Colleran.
Hammel signed a one-year deal with the Cubs last winter and was traded to Oakland last July. He told CBSChicago.com of his intentions as he approached free agency again in 2015.
“I loved my time with the Cubs,” Hammel said in late September. “Would I came back to them again? You bet I would consider that. From Theo (Epstein) and Jed (Hoyer) down, they treated me with respect and honesty the whole time I was there.”
Epstein and Hoyer have money to spend and people to convince they are serious about winning this season and beyond.
“We are going to be the second-youngest team in the league next year, and we are going to try to win the division,” Epstein said Monday in Phoenix at the GM meetings. “We need to make it clear that even though we will continue to develop, we also want some accountability for winning.”
The Cubs have relayed message in conversations and video in Arizona.
“The club sent out a nice video voiced over by one of their broadcasters to agents and free agents,” one of the agents talking seriously to the team said. “In the video, they show all of the core young players in action, lots of views from the new ballpark in Mesa and the Dominican complex they built two years ago. They went all-out to show us they are the team of the future. Very impressive.”
Adding new manager Joe Maddon to the mix is a part of the recruiting that the Cubs are portraying after three years of crash, burn and rebuild.
“We hope are message is clear — even before we signed Joe, we made it clear we were about trying to win the division now,” Epstein said. “Hopefully, it gets their attention.”
It won’t be all about free agents for the Cubs. Epstein said all along that some of his good young players will eventually be used to fill holes in the club via trade.
“We are certainly open to make trades,” he said. “In the long run, trades can turn out better than free agency. The reason is, you are trading for younger players usually than the ones you get in free agency. You are targeting players you want to acquire, rather than taking what is available in free agency. We know we will be in free-agent market, but you can make mistakes holding on to your own players too long.”
A veteran bullpen arm and left-handed hitting are areas the Cubs want to address this winter in addition to nabbing a top-end starter.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.