Cubs bosses Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod are out near Palm Springs, Calif., for the general managers meetings. As we’ve reported a couple of times over the past week, Cubs GM Hoyer said he hopes to advance talks with other teams and with the agents for free agents while out in California.
While meeting with Hoyer last week, the writers heard him say he had been having talks with several clubs already about possible trades. Then came word late last Friday that Hoyer had dealt closer Carlos Marmol to the Angels for starting pitcher Dan Haren. Or not. It seems Marmol jumped the gun on announcing the deal when he told a media member in the Dominican Republic that he had been traded.
The Cubs apparently backed out, reportedly over “medical concerns.” Haren has had back problems. However, in an email to Los Angeles Times Angels writer Mike DiGiovanna, Haren insisted there should have been no “medical concerns.”
“It’s definitely a little frustrating to hear, being as I’ve started all but three games over a nine-year career,” Haren told the paper. “I haven’t heard why exactly they pulled out, but I finished the year healthy and did pretty well down the stretch…I’ve never missed any time because of injury other than the three weeks this year because of my back. When I came back, I had to be cleared by doctors, so obviously, I was healthy.
“As for any other ‘injury,’ I’ve had very minor issues over the years, but nothing significant at all. My arm is in great shape, and physically, I’m in a very good place right now. I’m very, very confident that I will return to form next year.”
As I wrote in the early-edition story of the possible trade, I think it would have been a good one for the Cubs. They need “at least two” starting pitchers, according to Hoyer, and the 32-year-old Haren would have been a nice fit. And if the Cubs are as bad next year as they were in 2012, they could have dealt Haren for prospects around the July 31 trade deadline. As for a closer, the Cubs could have made do with what they have, either re-signing Shawn Camp and using him with lefty James Russell or seeing if one of their young pitchers is ready.
Reports out of Palm Springs indicate the Cubs may be ready to consider a multiyear extension for pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who became the de facto No. 1 starter before being shut down in early September because of concerns about innings pitched. Samardzija, who went 9-13 with a 3.81 ERA in 28 starts this year, is arbitration eligible. If a deal happens, it would not be the first multiyear deal for Samardzija. Former GM Jim Hendry signed Samardzija to a multiyear major-league deal in January 2007 to keep him away from a pro football career.
That seems a lifetime ago, but after this season ended, Samardzija had only 3 years plus 28 days of major-league service time.
"He had a great year, and we certainly hope he's in a Cubs uniform for a long time," Hoyer told reporters at the meetings. "He's a great competitor, the kind of guy teammates really look up to and who has the potential to be a really good leader.”
Hoyer and Epstein also are indicating the Cubs will dip into the free-agent market more so than the trade market for pitching help. There don’t appear to be enough matches for the Cubs, and they don’t have a whole lot to trade for established major-league pitching.
"It's not the type of off-season where we have a ton of fits with 25 of the 29 other clubs," Epstein told reporters. "We'll pursue everything, but realistically, our fits might be narrower this year, (which would) give us more time to focus on the free-agent market. We're going to have a fairly well-defined trade market early because we don't have unlimited assets to deal and we don't necessarily have redundancy at positions in the big leagues or upper levels (of the minor league system)."