Cubs will chase top free-agent pitchers
In the most #shocking rumor of the offseason, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are reportedly determined to add an elite starting pitcher to front a rotation that already features Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. Paul Sullivan and Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune confirmed what most already suspected this weekend—that the Cubs will join the Dodgers and other big-market clubs in pursuit of Zack Greinke and David Price, the top arms on the market, and second-tier starters like Jeff Samardzija.

While Price was traded midyear and thus is ineligible to receive a qualifying offer, Greinke opted out of his contract and did get the $15.8 million tender from the Dodgers. Assuming he does not ink a new deal in Los Angeles, Greinke would cost his next employer its highest unprotected draft pick. For the Cubs, who finished at 97-65, that’s pick no. 28, a relatively small price to pay in the grand scheme of things, considering both the righty and the lefty could command a $200 million investment.

By opting out, Greinke, who turned 32 in October, forewent $71 million over three years for what almost certainly will be his final opportunity to cash in big. Price is more than two years younger and figures to be in line for a longer-term deal than Greinke. He’s worked at least 211 innings in three of the last four seasons.

The Cubs currently have $81.5 million in guaranteed payroll obligations for 2016, but that excludes significant arbitration raises for Arrieta and Chris Coghlan, along with Travis Wood and Pedro Strop, who are heading into their third season of eligibility, and closer Hector Rondon, who’ll go through the process for the first time. According to MLB Trade Rumors’ estimates, Arrieta, Coghlan, Rondon, Strop, and Wood will add a little less than $30 million to the books, for a total of about $110 million.

Chicago’s Opening Day payroll was $120.3 million in 2015, and they most recently reached $140 million in 2011. If either Greinke or Price is heading to Wrigleyville, the franchise payroll record is likely to fall come next spring.

Mets in the market for second-tier outfielders, submarine relievers
With Yoenis Cespedes potentially departing in free agency, the Mets will need to secure outfield help if they’re to defend their National League pennant. Newsday beat writer Marc Carig heard from club sources over the weekend that while the likes of Cespedes and Jason Heyward could prove too rich for the Mets’ blood, a slew of less-expensive players is already in their sights.

Specifically, Carig believes that the Mets like Dexter Fowler, Gerardo Parra, and Denard Span more than they do Colby Rasmus and Will Venable. Fowler and Rasmus were given qualifying offers; Span—who played in just 61 games last year—was not. Parra and Venable, who changed teams in the middle of last season, were ineligible.

While four of the five should enjoy a healthy offseason, Span will spend it recovering from late-season surgery to repair the labrum in his left hip. He’s expected to sit out 4-6 months after going under the knife in September, so the higher end of the timetable could cost him most of spring training. Span turns 32 in February and is likely in the decline phase of his career, but he’s also just a year removed from a 5.7 WARP campaign, and could wind up a bargain if he makes a speedy recovery.

In other Carig-delivered Mets news, former Rangers and Orioles reliever Darren O’Day is on their radar, too. O’Day has long been one of baseball’s most reliable and best setup men—and he actually got better in 2015. The righty upped his strikeout rate to 31.9 percent, the first time he’s cleared the 30-percent bar, and shaved his walk rate to 5.5 percent, his lowest since 2012. O’Day should be one of the most sought-after relievers on the market.

Some team, somewhere, submits $12.85 million posting fee for Byung-ho Park
Korean website Naver Sports reported Friday that the Nexen Heroes, employers of first baseman Byung-ho Park, had accepted a $12.85 million posting fee for the right to negotiate a major-league contract with him. Since then, writers nationwide have been scrambling to reveal the team that submitted the winning bid. And so far, all they’ve come up with is the clubs that did not.

Among the teams for which the 29-year-old could be a fit, all but a few have been ruled out. The Rockies, Pirates, and Cardinals are among those that have not been eliminated from contention, as far as the Twitter universe is concerned. Conversely, the Red Sox—despite confusion Saturday stemming from a Jeff Passan tweet about the Nexen Heroes’ “working agreement” with them—are out.

The winning club will be announced today, one way or another, so insiders are now in a race against the clock to beat MLB to the punch.

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