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Cubs not ready to pay for Price

At the All-Star Game, Tampa’s David Price said Chicago “would be the coolest city to win a championship in right now.” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer feel the same way, which is what enticed them to join the Cubs.

On Monday, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal wrote that the Cubs should pursue Price and deal some of the team’s top prospects for the pitcher. The Cubs do need starting pitching, but they are not contenders this year, and most likely not in 2015 either. How does Hoyer feel about the rumors?

“I don’t really pay attention,” Hoyer said Monday in a radio interview on The Game 87.7. “There are going to be a lot of rumors about our players and our acquiring good players because of the good talent we have in the Minors. I think we’ll be lumped into the rumors. We just sort of ignore them.”

The Cubs got a jump on the market by dealing Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel on July 4 to the Athletics for a package of prospects, including talented shortstop Addison Russell, who hit two home runs Sunday, including a grand slam, and finished with six RBIs at Double-A Tennessee.

The Cubs do have depth at middle infield in the Minor League system. But there also are no guarantees as to how the prospects will develop, and when they’ll be ready. Hoyer would not comment directly on the Price talk; it’s the Cubs’ policy not to discuss other teams’ players.

– Carrie Muskat

Starlin Castro rumors

The Cubs have plenty of depth as far as middle infielders go, and fans often ask what the team is going to do with all of them. According to FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi, other teams are inquiring as well. Morosi said the Cubs’ Starlin Castro has drawn some trade interest. But Morosi says sources tell him the Cubs do not plan on moving the shortstop before the Trade Deadline. Castro is in the second year of a seven-year, $60 million contract with the Cubs. Javier Baez did move from shortstop to second base on Thursday for Triple-A Iowa, and was expected to play there a little more regularly, according to manager Marty Pevey. The Cubs also have talented infielder Arismendy Alcantara, and acquired shortstop Addison Russell in the trade with the Athletics. As of today, Castro is the starting shortstop.

“The nice thing about having impact players who are athletic and can play in the middle of the field and can hit is that you have options,” Theo Epstein said when the Cubs acquired Russell. “You can never have too many shortstops. If you look around baseball, you see some of the best outfielders in the game came up as shortstops, some of the best third basemen in the game came up as shortstops, some of the best second basemen in the game came up as shortstops. Heck, some of the best first basemen in the game came up as shortstops.”

– Carrie Muskat

7/8 A’s wanted Cubs’ Valbuena, too

According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Athletics tried to get the Cubs to include Luis Valbuena in the deal that eventually netted Oakland both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. The A’s wanted Valbuena as a potential upgrade at second base. But Rosenthal says the Cubs are reluctant to trade him because he’s controlled through 2016. Valbuena is earning $1.7 million this season.

Valbuena has a slash line of .256/.339/.420, and has hit five home runs with 22 RBIs. He’s started 44 games at third, 17 at second.

– Carrie Muskat

1/16 Cubs and Tanaka

Could Masahiro Tanaka pick the Cubs? According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs are “pushing hard” for the Japanese pitcher. Rosenthal also reports the Angels, Yankees and Dodgers are involved with the right-hander. The White Sox have confirmed that they met with Tanaka and his agent in Los Angeles. Tanaka, 25, was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 212 innings last season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, who posted the right-hander for a $20 million fee. The bidding for Tanaka will end at 4 p.m. CT on Jan. 24.

– Carrie Muskat

12/11 Cubs and Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija’s agent was expected to meet Wednesday with Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, at the Winter Meetings. It’s more a chance for the two to touch base. The Cubs would like to extend Samardzija, but he will be a free agent after the 2015 season and is most likely to politely reject their offer. The right-hander has been the subject of trade rumors, and if the Cubs do not deal him now, they could move Samardzija at the Trade Deadline in July.

The three-way trade between the Angels, the Diamondbacks and the White Sox may have had an impact on what the Cubs do with Samardzija. The Cubs were believed to be looking at lefty Tyler Skaggs as part of the package for the right-hander, but Skaggs was sent to the Angels.

One team that could be in the market for Samardzija is Toronto. The Blue Jays have gotten inquiries on right-handed pitchers Marcus Stroman, 22, and Aaron Sanchez, 21, and also are trying to move Colby Rasmus, 27, a left-handed hitting outfielder. Rasums batted .276 in 118 games with the Blue Jays last season, hitting 22 home runs but also striking out 135 times. Stroman was 9-5 with a 3.30 ERA at Double-A New Hampshire, striking out 129 over 111 2/3 innings, and Sanchez compiled a 3.34 ERA in 22 games at Class A Dunedin, striking out 75 over 86 1/3 innings.

– Carrie Muskat

12/9 Cubs, Nationals talking

The Cubs are looking for bullpen help and one name they are believed to be interested in is Nationals’ right-hander Drew Storen. In four seasons with the Nats, the right-hander has a 3.40 ERA in 232 games. Last season, he appeared in 68 games, finished 20, and averaged 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Storen, 26, was a first-round pick in 2009, and is arbitration eligible for the first time. His best season was 2011 when he totaled 43 saves and posted a 2.75 ERA over 75 1/3 innings. The Nationals are interested in finding some help for the bench and looking for a young, versatile player in return.

The Cubs are looking for a closer. So far this season, they’ve added lefty Wesley Wright to the bullpen, although that deal has not been officially announced. Wright still needed to take a physical to complete the deal.

– Carrie Muskat

12/6 Jeff Samardzija and Cubs

The Cubs are still hoping to lock up Jeff Samardzija to a long-term contract. You’ll hear Samardzija’s name mentioned a lot next week during the Winter Meetings as teams seeking a starting pitcher try to pry the right-hander away from the Cubs. Where does the team stand in talks with Samardzija?

“I’m not going to provide a running play by play,” Theo Epstein said Thursday. “It’s in the same place it’s been. There’s mutual interest [to get something done]. The situation sometimes makes things tough.”

Samardzija has made it clear he wants to stay with the Cubs, but is under team control for two more seasons and will be a free agent after 2015. Considering the salaries starting pitchers are getting these days, he may decide to wait. He’s coming off his first 200-inning, 200-strikeout season.

– Carrie Muskat

12/4 Cubs sign Wesley Wright

The Cubs added another left-handed reliever to the bullpen mix on Wednesday, signing free agent Wesley Wright to a one-year deal believed to be $1.425 million. Wright, 28, was non-tendered by the Rays on Monday. He posted a combined 3.69 ERA in 70 games for the Rays and Astros this past season, striking out 55 over 53 2/3 innings pitched.

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale first reported the deal. Major League sources confirmed it, pending Wright undergoing a physical.

In his career, Wright has held left-handed hitters to a .231 average compared to .266 by right-handed batters.

Wright announced the signing himself by changing his Twitter profile @realweswright to say he’s now a relief pitcher for the Cubs.

The Cubs were looking for bullpen help, and especially another left-hander to help southpaw James Russell, who ranked 10th in the National League in games (74). Chicago is still shopping for a closer to replace Kevin Gregg, who is a free agent.

– Carrie Muskat

12/4 Jeff Samardzija – UPDATE

During an interview Wednesday night on Chicago Sports Talk Live, Theo Epstein said the chances of Jeff Samardzija being in the Cubs Opening Day rotation are “pretty good.”

Samardzija has been the subject of trade rumors since July, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick wrote Wednesday that the Cubs will do some “serious listening” at the Winter Meetings to teams interested in trading for the right-hander.

In the show Wednesday night on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, Epstein repeated that the Cubs are hoping to sign Samardzija to a long-term deal. The pitcher is arbitration eligible.

“He’s our best pitcher and I’m really bullish on his future,” Epstein said on the Comcast SportsNet Chicago show. “He’s a guy who is a difference making starting pitcher for a long time.”

Epstein did say they want to get the most out of their assets, and although one way is a contract extension, another way is to trade that player for “mulitiple young impact assets.”

“With Jeff, I still have the belief that he can be the guy, he has the exact makeup we’re looking for,” Epstein said.

Samardzija is under team control for two more seasons, has shown that he’s durable, he’s a power pitcher, and he’s only 28 years old. The Cubs would have to be blown away by a package to deal Samardzija, who is arbitration eligible and projected to get a $4.9 million in 2014. Many teams looking for starting pitching consider him to be a better alternative than the free agent pitchers still on the market.

What could influence the Cubs decision on whether to part with Samardzija is if they can fill that spot in the rotation with Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. According to a report on Wednesday, Japanese baseball officials are willing to accept the $20 million maximum bid, which would be part of the new posting rules. Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for Rakuten this season.

Stay tuned. The Winter Meetings get underway Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

– Carrie Muskat

12/3 Could Cubs bid for Tanaka?

According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Yankees and Dodgers are expected to be the most aggressive in pursuit of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka when the posting system is finalized. Major League officials and the Japanese league are still working on details.

Sherman said executives from two clubs expect the Cubs to be in the mix as well, with one saying they will be “really aggressive.” Sherman notes that the Cubs have several impact position players (Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora) but not enough pitching.

Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer have been involved in the posting process for Japanese players before. They were with the Red Sox when they gave $51.1 million posting fee to land Daisuke Matsuzaka. If the Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers and Red Sox are in pursuit of Tanaka, it will be expensive.

The posting fees are still to be resolved. According to Sherman, MLB officials have been trying to lower the fees transferred from their teams to Japanese teams as part of the process to gain negotiating rights. The Rangers paid the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters $51.7 million posting fee to get Yu Darvish, then signed him to a six-year, $60 million contract.

MLB has a current proposal that involves a limit of $20 million, Sherman writes.

Why is Tanaka so highly regarded? Tanaka, 25, was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 28 regular season games with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, that’s why.

– Carrie Muskat

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