The Rundown: James Shields Reportedly Interested in Cubs, LHP Drake Britton Claimed From Red Sox, Castillo to Be Traded Before Spring Training?

After the Cubs signed free-agent ace Jon Lester in December, most people figured they were done on the starting pitching front.

That may not be the case.

David Kaplan is reporting that the Cubs are “kicking the tires” on RHP James Shields, and that Shields would be interested in playing for Joe Maddon (a former manager of his in Tampa).

Well then.

Shields entered the offseason as one of the top three free-agent starters, in addition to Lester and Max Scherzer. He has been loosely linked to the Cubs at times, but not so much post-Lester signing.

I’ve always been a fan of Shields, and love the idea of slotting him into what would be a formidable Cubs rotation. I do worry a bit about his age (33) and previous workload, but I’m confident he has another couple of productive years left in him. And he’d be another nice veteran presence.

Shields has a career 3.72 ERA (3.77 FIP), and has pitched at least 200 innings in every season since 2007. As long as this signing doesn’t prevent the Cubs from signing one of the big free agents next year (e.g., David Price, etc.) then I’m fully behind this idea.

I still wouldn’t say I feel particularly confident it will happen, however. Shields’ price has dropped so naturally the Cubs would test the waters. But so would a lot of other teams, I assume.

This report could merely be “yeah, the Cubs would be interested at the right price, but he’s likely to go somewhere else for more money.” I’d say that’s the most likely scenario.

Cubs pick up another Red Sox pitcher

The Cubs have claimed LHP Drake Britton off waivers from the Red Sox. Britton had been designated for assignment last week after Boston signed reliever Alexi Ogando.

To make room for Britton, the Cubs DFA’d the recently-acquired RHP Gonzalez Germen. That 40th spot on the roster continues to spin.

I have a feeling (but who knows) that this will be the last attempt in the waiver game for the Cubs. They could use some left-handed bullpen options, and Britton would provide that.

He has had success, albeit brief, pitching in relief for the Red Sox (2.93 ERA in 27.2 innings). There aren’t a lot of sure things coming out of the ‘pen from the left side.

Zac Rosscup will likely be around, but he’s unproven. Other options include Joe Ortiz, Eric Jokisch, and lefty starters that don’t make the rotation, such as Felix Doubront and Tsuyoshi Wada.

Other notes

* David Kaplan expects the Cubs to trade catcher Welington Castillo and possibly LHP Travis Wood before Spring Training. He mentions the Phillies having interest. It has been expected that the Cubs would part with Castillo once they signed backup David Ross. Let’s hope the patience pays off for the Cubs.

* The Spring Training broadcast schedule has been announced . Fans will be able to experience 30 of the 33 games either via television, radio or Internet radio. Ten of the games will be shown on TV, so set your DVR.

* According to Jon Morosi, the Cubs are close to signing lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano to a minor-league deal. He’s 38 and probably would be a long-shot to make the Cubs, even taking into account the lack of left-handed relievers.

* Utility man Logan Watkins has torn his Achilles tendon, he tweeted yesterday. Tough break for a guy who has been fighting for a few years now to make an impact with the Cubs. I’m not sure he would’ve had a crack at the 25-man roster, but it’s sad news nonetheless.

* Jeff Sullivan from FanGraphs has a different kind of Kris Bryant article. This one focuses on what might be Bryant’s one weakness: contact rate. When Bryant makes contact, he does great things. And he also takes walks. But his contact rate was below 70 percent in Double-A and Triple-A last year (high-70s is the norm), and we’re not sure how it will translate to the Majors. Sullivan does offer hope: some players have gone on to drastically improve their contact rate, such as Mike Schmidt and Aramis Ramirez. Hopefully Bryant will be in that same boat.

* Former Cub RHP Carlos Villanueva has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Cardinals. I enjoyed Villanueva’s time with the Cubs, and thought he was a really standup guy. At least that’s how he came off, anyway. I’m glad he has moved on, but I’m sorry that I’ll have to root against him now.

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