The Chicago Cubs have flexibility. The team has been smart with the moves made this season as they retained John Lackey while keeping things open in terms of contracts. The Cubs can still afford to bring on a marquee contract this offseason as they search through what their needs are. With big pitchers and bats still available heading into the Winter Meetings, the Cubs could be major players in the coming days.
The Cubs still want a starting pitcher while eyeing another bat to bring to the rotation. Trades are on the table along with the option for signing a free agent. According to MLB Daily Dish, Johnny Cueto could still be the intended target on the free agent market if the Cubs are willing to give him the marquee contract that puts him on the same page as David Price and Zack Greinke. Adding Cueto is not a necessity, but would give the Cubs a pitching rotation that puts them on the same page with the New York Mets.
While signing Cueto could be big for Chicago, Jason Heyward would be even better. According to Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com, the Cubs have Heyward on their mind, but would likely make at least one trade in order to clear money for him. That could mean anyone from Jorge Soler to Starlin Castro or Miguel Montero could be on the way out. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein would only say that the Cubs are having conversations about potential deals and they are looking to be active in the winter meetings.
"I think we're making some progress," Epstein said, via ESPN.com. "We've had a lot of conversations. ... Sometimes when you make a trade it opens up the ability to sign a free agent. We've been working with our business side on ways to create a little more room for 2016 within the parameters that we have. I wouldn't rule anything in or anything out."
With around $20-$30 million to spend in free agency this season, getting one trade to then acquire someone like Heyward could be the missing puzzle piece the Cubs need to get back into the playoffs. Interest is high for players like Soler, but not Castro. The Chicago Sun Times reported the Yankees were eying Castro in a deal for Brett Gardner. Those talks fell apart, but the Cubs could revisit them if they fail to land Heyward.
There are also the talks of acquiring Shelby Miller from the Braves. Atlanta wants Soler on a deal or Baez depending on the package. Making that move would clear money and still let Chicago get Heyward. The team has options and flexibility and Epstein plans on taking advantage of it. Atlanta is getting serious about dealing Miller and the Cubs are considered a frontrunner for the move if they offer Baez.
"There's always more trade talk than actually takes place. I think the meetings are going to be pretty wild," Epstein said.