The Chicago Cubs were never believed to be a serious contender to sign Japanese starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto but with Jed Hoyer's trip to Japan in September, it seemed that the Cubs would get an obligatory mention whenever Yamamoto's free agency was discussed.
The Cubs likely took themselves out of the bidding before Yamamoto's asking price exceeded $300MM and it's likely that there was no meeting between the 25-year-old starting pitcher and the team.
There is a belief, however, now that Yamamoto has signed, that the Cubs will begin their off-season in earnest. The Cubs were among the teams listed in The Athletic (Subscription Required) when Stephen Nesbitt and Chad Jennings broke down where teams would pivot to next.
Rather than pursuing reigning National League Cy Young Award Winner Blake Snell on a long-term contract, the suggestion in The Athletic was that the Cubs would shift their focus to acquiring a starting pitcher that is under team control. The two pitchers mentioned specifically were Shane Bieber of the Cleveland Guardians and Dylan Cease of the Chicago White Sox.
Cease has two seasons of team control remaining while Bieber is a free agent after the 2024 season.
At this point in their respective careers, Cease has more of an upside in terms of being an ace at the top of a starting rotation. There has been a belief that the White Sox are asking for four organizational Top-10 prospects and Jon Heyman mentioned on Friday that the Baltimore Orioles or Cincinnati Reds may be more willing to meet that price.
In terms of value, Bieber remains an ideal target for the Cubs. Bieber is no longer the ace that he once was and with one season of team control remaining, the price from the Guardians should not be that steep.