DALLAS — The Cubs’ pursuit of a top-line starter took President Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer to Dallas on Monday to meet with free agent Yu Darvish, according to multiple reports.
Darvish, 31, is considered one of the top two starters on the market, along with Jake Arrieta, and is likely to command one of the biggest deals of the offseason.
The Cubs were interested in Darvish when he came over from Japan in 2012 but were outbid by the Rangers.
Darvish went 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA in 31 starts in 2017 with the Rangers and Dodgers but suffered through a dismal World Series in which he went 0-2 with a 21.60 ERA in two starts.
The Cubs are looking at several starting options, including free agent Alex Cobb, who worked with new pitching coach Jim Hickey in Tampa. Arrieta remains a long shot as his price tag may still be too high for the Cubs. There has been little movement in the market for the top free agents, though the Cubs’ trip to see Darvish suggests the pace is picking up.
Deal with Cishek finalized
CHICAGO — The Chicago Cubs finalized their $13 million, two-year contract with side-arming reliever Steve Cishek.
The 31-year-old right-hander gets $6.5 million in each of the next two seasons under the agreement announced Saturday. His 2019 salary could escalate by up to $1 million: $250,000 each for 30, 40, 45 and 50 games as a pitcher next year.
Cishek had a 2.01 ERA and a 3-2 record in 49 relief appearances this year for Seattle and Tampa Bay, which acquired him on July 28. He joins a rebuilt Cubs bullpen that also includes fellow right-hander Brandon Morrow, who finalized a $21 million, two-year contract on Tuesday.
The Cubs announced the deal on Saturday. Cishek posted on Twitter: "I've had go Cubs go playing in my head since Thursday... thankful for this opportunity and beyond thrilled to be a Cub!"
Cishek is 24-28 with a 2.73 ERA and 121 saves over eight seasons.
His eight-year major league career started with the Florida and Miami Marlins from 2010-15. He was traded to St. Louis in July 2015, became a free agent and signed a $10 million, two-year contract with the Mariners.
Yelich, Realmuto unhappy
Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto, the Marlins’ two best remaining position players, are unhappy with new ownership’s decision to trade Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon.
But while the Marlins are willing to listen to trade offers on any player, they are not actively shopping either Yelich or Realmuto at this time, according to a source.
Realmuto has made it clear to the Marlins that he would prefer to play elsewhere, as Sirius XM’s Craig Mish first reported Monday.
Yelich, according to a source, is also unhappy with the Marlins’ direction but wants to speak to management about their vision in the coming days before deciding whether to ask for a trade, according to a source.
The source said Yelich is unhappy not only because the trade dramatically diminishes the chance of the Marlins winning in the next couple of years, but also because he is good friends with Stanton, Ozuna and Gordon.
Yelich plans to weigh what the Marlins tell him before informing them of his preference. But it would take some major persuading to ease Yelich’s concerns.
Trade helps cut costs
NEW YORK — The Los Angeles Dodgers brought their projected 2018 payroll under the $197 million luxury tax threshold with the weekend trade that sent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, oft-injured starting pitchers Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy and infielder Charlie Culberson to the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Matt Kemp.
Los Angeles will send Atlanta $4.5 million by May 1 as part of the trade announced Saturday, cutting its 2018 payroll for tax purposes by $25 million to about $181 million while increasing its 2019 payroll by $20 million.
The Dodgers rid themselves of three guaranteed salaries from next year's tax payroll that totaled $49,554,483: Gonzalez at $22 million, Kazmir at $15,554,483 and McCarthy at $12 million. Los Angeles acquired Kemp, a $20 million charge, along with the $4.5 million cash transaction.
That leaves Los Angeles with a projected luxury tax payroll that includes $122,969,286 for 10 signed players; an estimated $26 million for eight players eligible for salary arbitration; an estimated $10 million for the rest of its 40-man roster; $14,044,600 for benefits; and $8 million for the two cash transactions involving Kemp, including a $3.5 million charge for the December 2014 trade that sent him to San Diego. Los Angeles must pay the Padres $600,000 on the first of each month from April through August and $500,000 on Sept. 1.