By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The Cubs say they aren’t close to any additions, but that could change within hours this time of year.READ MORE: Surveilence Video Shows Moments Leading To The Arrest Of Allan M. Brown, Suspect In Kenosha Police Shooting
General manager Jed Hoyer made the comments on a local Chicago radio show, though he added the next two weeks will reveal much more.
Ask any baseball executive this time of year, and he will tell you the culture of player movement can change in a second — from a contract or trade offered to one accepted.
The Cubs are looking to add at least two starting pitchers to their rotation mix for 2016. Those additions will come through a possible combination of trades and the free-agent market. The rumblings for adding former Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija appear to be stronger now than any time in the recent past. The market for rotation pitchers who are perceived to be anywhere from a No. 2 starter to a middle-of-the-rotation guy has been established over the weekend.
With the signing of Jordan Zimmerman to a five-year, $110-million deal with the Tigers and J.A. Happ to three years and $36 million to the Blue Jays, a median market figure of $15 million to $17 million has been established. This number will be there for the the types of pitchers like Samardzija, Mike Leake and Yovani Gallardo.
Happ’s $12 million-a-year average as a fourth starter helps enlighten us to the world of huge local revenues and escalating payroll figures. They’re telling us the value of what free agent pitchers are today. The fact that starting pitching now has an established $30-million-per-season figure for true No. 1 pitchers and $10 million for veteran No. 5 starters helps the marketplace settle in for 2015-’16 free agent salary figures.READ MORE: 5 Wounded In Mass Shooting In Chatham
All that established, the Cubs are pursuing that middle market and trades for starting help. With a lack of pitching depth in the organization, going after multiple pitchers makes more fiscal sense for the Cubs. If you sign David Price or Zack Greinke to a $200-million, mega-year deal, you could still be short rotation depth.
At the GM meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said the team could add two big pieces, but that would be stretching the payroll budget. The more likely case would be to add a mid-range free agent pitcher like Samardzija or Leake and trade for the other starting pitcher. Conversations between the Cubs and teams like the Padres (James Shields) and Indians (Carlos Carrasco) continue to be a part of that offseason plan.
The Cubs will be able to add an additional $25 million to $30 million to the payroll in 2016. With prior commitments to seven players, they owe $68 million. Another $20 million or so will be set aside for the nine players who are arbitration eligible. The good news is some of the young core position players won’t be making above the major league minimum of $515,000 for the next three seasons.
Back-loading contracts toward the 2020 season and beyond are options for this creative baseball operations group. After 2019, a new local TV revenue deal will likely be amassing close to $200 million a year. That new cash can bring the payroll up without impacting ownership profits in other areas. With huge local TV revenue deals, the value of the 30 MLB franchises and the players’ share of the profits (player payroll) will continue to soar.
Look for the Cubs to try and add a pitcher before the winter meetings begin on next weekend in Nashville.MORE NEWS: Bulls Win Home Opener Against The Pelicans
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.