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David Price to Cubs Looking Like One of the Surer Things of 2016 MLB Offseason

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2015

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher David Price talks during a news conference before Game 1 of baseball's American League Championship Series against the Kansas City Royals on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

For the second consecutive offseason, the Chicago Cubs could land the hottest left-hander on the market.

Nothing is official until the ink's dry, obviously, but right now, fans on the North Side can allow themselves to dream of David Price in a Cubbies uniform.

That tantalizing vision comes courtesy of Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, who reported Friday that "an executive who knows Price says that the Cubs are his first choice."

And ESPN's Buster Olney heard from his sources that the Cubs are "heavy, heavy favorites" to secure Price's services.

Price won't come cheap. He's the top arm in a rich free-agent pitching class and could command north of $200 million.

Kathy Willens/Associated Press

That's a chunk of change, but president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and the Chicago brass proved they were willing to spend last winter when they handed a six-year, $155 million deal to veteran lefty Jon Lester.

Now, once again, they can reel in the top available southpaw. Add Price to a rotation that already includes Lester and right-hander Jake Arrieta, and suddenly a hungry Cubs team that exceeded expectations and streaked to the National League Championship Series looks even more formidable.

Here, let's just stack Price, Lester and Arrieta's 2015 stats next to each other:

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A Trio of Aces
PlayerAgeERAIPSO
Jake Arrieta291.77229236
Jon Lester313.34205207
David Price302.45220.1225
Stats courtesy of MLB.com

Depending on which way voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America lean, Arrieta and Price could both win Cy Young awards on Nov. 18. It'll probably take a bit longer than that to find out if Price is headed for the Windy City, but there are reasons to believe this is more than idle hot-stove speculation.

First, there's the Joe Maddon connection. The bespectacled skipper was Price's manager for six-plus years with the Tampa Bay Rays.

One coach from his past does not equal a guarantee Price will sign in the present. But the old Boston Red Sox connection between Lester and Epstein helped seal that deal, so there's precedent at least.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was Price's skipper for six-plus seasons in Tampa Bay.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon was Price's skipper for six-plus seasons in Tampa Bay.Chris Carlson/Associated Press

Most convincingly, there are Price's own words. If you're still skeptical about his desire to pitch his home games at Wrigley Field, read this quote from All-Star weekend 2014, per MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom:

Winning is absolutely something you want to do. Being a part of something special is also something you want to do. You can take that to a first-place team, or you can take that to a last-place team like the Cubs. With the talent they have coming up, they could be a very special team in a few years as well. That would probably be the coolest city to win a championship in right now.

Turns out, it didn't take the Cubs a few years to become a special team. Their young talent blossomed ahead of schedule. Now, a club with some of the best young power hitters in baseball—Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber—is on the verge of ending the most infamous championship drought in professional sports.

They don't necessarily need Price to get over the hump. Their biggest issue in the NLCS was the New York Mets' flame-throwing pitchers, who exploited Chicago's high-strikeout Achilles' heel. 

But adding a starter of Price's pedigree would launch any club toward the stratosphere. That's why the Cubs will have stiff competition for his services from the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and basically every other club with two nickels to rub together. The price, if you'll pardon the unavoidable pun, will be steep.

Hey, check out Price with some of the aforementioned teams' caps Photoshopped on his head, courtesy of Sporting News:

Sporting News @sportingnews

There's no way David Price stays in Toronto. So, where will he wind up? https://t.co/SkJyKTiviu https://t.co/NoYupxxICq

Inevitable bidding wars aside, Price-to-the-Cubs feels like one of the surer free-agent bets at this early stage. And it is early; we still have the general managers meetings and winter meetings to get through, plus the long, cold slog after that. With so many other ace-level arms dangling—Johnny Cueto, Zack Greinke, Jordan Zimmermann—this market will develop in strange and unpredictable ways.

Don't be surprised, however, if Epstein goes aggressive and makes this happen. He knows as well as anyone that championship windows don't stay open forever. 

As Kyle Thele of the Chicago Sun-Times noted, "Adding Price would likely be the biggest move the Cubs could pull this offseason." This is the time for big moves. The Cubs have an advantage with Price, an inside track, and they should exploit it.

Here's betting they will.

All statistics current as of Nov. 6 and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

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