Chicago teams dominate Day 1 news at Winter Meetings

BY Ken Rosenthal • December 9, 2014

The Winter Meetings are rapidly turning into a Chicago story.

The White Sox did their part Monday, closing in on a trade for Athletics right-hander Jeff Samardzija and reaching agreement with free-agent closer David Robertson on a four-year, $46 million contract, according to major-league sources.

The Cubs could be next if they sign Jon Lester — and barring a late change, the free-agent left-hander will decide Tuesday between the Cubs and Giants, sources tell Fox Sports.

In addition, the Cubs are working on a trade for Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero, and — if they get Lester — could pursue a big bat in an attempt to accelerate their revival, sources say.

In case you’re wondering, this is the way big-city, high-revenue teams are supposed to act. Both the White Sox and Cubs see a window of opportunity, though the White Sox are operating with perhaps greater urgency by taking on Samardzija in his free-agent year.

Either way, it’s refreshing to see both clubs back in business.

Samardizja gives the White Sox a right-handed complement to lefties Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. Robertson and free-agent lefty Zach Duke will improve the bullpen. And free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche will provide necessary left-handed balance to the lineup.

The acquisition cost for Samardzija -- infielders Marcus Semien and Rangel Ravelo, right-hander Chris Bassitt and catcher Josh Phegley -- was not steep. The White Sox might find it difficult to extend Samardzija, who is going to want free-agent money in a market that is about to rise with Lester’s new deal. But they can at least make Samardzija a qualifying offer to ensure draft-pick compensation, and — in the absolute worst-case scenario — trade him in July.

The White Sox can manage all this because they entered the offseason with only about $48 million in commitments, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. They still could try to get one more bat, an upgrade over Dayan Viciedo in left field, to further boost their offense.

The Cubs aren’t as mature a club, but already this offseason they’ve traded for second baseman Tommy La Stella and brought back free-agent righty Jason Hammel on a two-year deal. Lester would be their long-term ace if he signs, Montero their veteran catcher for the next three years if he arrives in a trade.

On the other hand, if the Cubs fail to land Lester, they might slow down some rather than bid even more for free-agent right-hander Max Scherzer. The class of free-agent pitchers next offseason could include lefty David Price and righties Jordan Zimmermann, Zack Greinke and Johnny Cueto. As of this moment, few expect the Cubs to contend in 2015.

No matter. Those who know Cubs president Theo Epstein best says he’s operating with the same edge and showing the same competitive fire that he displayed in his days with the Red Sox. The consensus in the industry is that for the Cubs, it’s only a matter of time.

The White Sox are back. The Cubs are getting there. Good for Chicago. Good for the game.



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