Given all the coveted free agents they’ve landed over the past couple winters, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that the Cubs have some kind of big advantage over other teams. Jon Lester, John Lackey, Ben Zobrist, and Jason Heyward all took less guaranteed money to sign in Chicago because they dug the atmosphere and the chance to win.
And win they did, on the biggest possible stage, though the vibe is slightly different this time around. The competition is different too, as neither the Cubs nor their strategy are novel or cute any longer. Their ascension created enough gravity to cause the tide to rise, bring several ships along with it. One of those belongs to the Texas Rangers, who appear to be hot after many of the same free agents being mentioned as Cubs targets.
Like the Cubs, the Rangers face the reality of replacing a big chunk of their rotation. The mechanics of the respective voids differ somewhat, but it’s interesting that both teams opened the 2017 season with one of the top two starters in the current free agent market. While Texas isn’t expected to seek out a reunion with Yu Darvish — which should have been evident when they traded him — they may be looking at Jake Arrieta.
The titular premise would be super weak if we were just talking about those two starters, but Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News lists several more overlapping names. John Lackey is a native Texan and might be a good fit in what is likely to be his last season. Miles Mikolas spent 2014 with the Rangers and is coming back to MLB after three years in Japan. Grant also lists Jhoulys Chacin, who our Brendan Miller thinks could be a steal, and Michael Pineda, who our Sean Holland likes as a low-risk gamble coming off of Tommy John surgery.
Other than Lackey, whose return Jed Hoyer said the Cubs were “going to talk about,” most of those names are connected to Chicago by little more than speculation. Alex Cobb, on the other hand, has spoken publicly about his affinity for Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey and has even discussed sitting down with the Cubs. But a reunion at Wrigley is far from fait accompli, as Jon Morosi reports.
The Rangers also have had preliminary contact with Cobb’s representatives, according to sources. In fact, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported the club tried to acquire Cobb from the Rays via trade last offseason. The Rangers are in a similar position to the Orioles: They need to acquire multiple starting pitchers in order to challenge for a postseason spot — especially in a division led by the defending World Series champion Astros.
Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram listed Cobb atop the Rangers’ wish list back in early November, reporting that the team actually considered trading for the righty last offseason. Wilson also lists Lance Lynn and Andrew Cashner, two possibilities for the Cubs, among his list of Texas targets.
Though it’s not in keeping with the overall theme here, I do want to pay heed to the Orioles mention in Morosi’s piece. That pull-quote represents the entirety of his talk of the Rangers, as the main thrust was Baltimore’s pursuit of pitching. Plagued by a terrible rotation throughout 2017, the O’s reportedly have their sights set on Cobb and Lynn.
It would appear that the Cubs have a decided advantage over the Orioles, all things being equal, but the gap might not be quite as wide when going up against the Rangers. This isn’t just a matter of which team has the best winning outlook, either. Geography, coaching staff, and overall fit are going to be important to these veteran pitchers as they seek out what could be their final MLB home.
With the GM Meetings behind us, we should start to hear some more legit chatter when it comes to these free agents. And since the Venn Diagram of their targets is basically a single circle, expect to keep hearing the Rangers in the same breath as the Cubs.