With all eyes trained on free agent left-hander Jon Lester, who reportedly has a six-year, $138 million offer in hand from the Chicago Cubs, general manager Jed Hoyer is still keeping all options open heading into the Winter Meetings in December.
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"“We have a list of guys that we like as free agents, a list of guys we like in trade,” Hoyer said in a recent interview on 87.7 FM The Game. “We’ve been pretty clear about the areas we want to improve. We want to strike out less, we’ve got to get on base more, we have to get more left-handed, and we need starting pitching. Those are the key areas we want to address."
The Cubs have largely been quiet, apart from their hiring of former Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, who joined Chicago on a five-year pact after opting out of his deal with the organization he helped shape for the better part of a decade. The team was in the running for catcher Russell Martin, who ended up inking a pact with the Toronto Blue Jays instead for some $20 million more.
Lester, who has been named repeatedly as the team’s top target this offseason, is set to meet with more teams this week after sitting down with the San Francisco Giants on Monday, and despite perceptions of fans, the team is not in a holding pattern awaiting the veteran’s decision.
"“We have that list of guys, and there’s no one domino, two dominoes, three dominoes that need to fall for us to start doing it.”"
Other options could include former Detroit Tigers ace Max Scherzer, as well as free agent right-hander James Shields. If the Cubs choose to rely on their deep farm system, trades for pitchers like the Philadelphia Phillies’ Cole Hamels are in the realm of possibility, although the feasibility of such a deal has been questioned by many.
Last season, the Cubs once again dealt away nearly half of the starting rotation near the July trade deadline, this time sending Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for the A’s’ top prospect, shortstop Addison Russell, as well as Billy McKinney, an outfield prospect, and right-hander Dan Straily. The trade left the rotation in a patchwork-style array for the remainder of the second half, with Jake Arrieta breaking out and emerging as the staff ace.
Outside of potential free agent targets, which could include Hammel and right-hander Justin Masterson, who is looking to rebuild his value after a down year. However, Chicago is targeting more than just players, saying the team will talk to Maddon about his former bench coach, Dave Martinez, who also left the Rays. He was not named a finalist for the team’s managerial vacancy, and opted to leave the organization.