Cheap Seats

Chicago Cubs might be fishing in the same talent pond as the St. Louis Cardinals

Ken Rosenthal reports that a lot of folks think that former Boston Red Sox ace Jon Lester will sign with the Chicago Cubs over the winter as the Wee Bears try in earnest to move their rebuilding program to a higher gear.

It could make the off-season interesting if the Cubs start throwing around a bunch of cash to try to convince players who claim that winning is the most important thing that money is also nice.

Since the St. Louis Cardinals trade of Allen Craig and Joe Kelly for John Lester, I have been suspicious that the Redbirds' move was made with an eye toward 2015 as much or more as it was planned to try to help the team make the playoffs this season.

Why? Because the trade of Craig helped clear the decks of financial obligations at a time when there are several high profile free agent pitchers set to hit the market and a couple of MVP type position players could find themselves on the trading block.

The Cardinals desperately need a right handed bat with pop for the middle of the order. So they traded Craig, a guy who fits that bill perfectly when healthy? They sort of have to go out and find a replacement, it would seem.

Could that be the long-rumored Troy Tulowitzki deal? Or might the Cardinals be willing to part with Oscar Taveras if it was in exchange for a guy like the Miami Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton.

It's conspicuous that, while making a couple of deals for major league starting pitching that St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak managed to hold on to the top prospects in the Cardinals farm system that so many of his peers covet.

But the Cubs rumor underlines the idea that it might not be so easy for the Redbirds to get what they want without a fight. Chicago, although farther away from contention, has patiently stockpiled talent while waiting for a chance to compete. The teams with the guys the Cardinals might like to have don't care about anything more than getting the most talent in return for the players they jettison.

And when large market teams with a history of spending like drunken sailors wade into the free agent market, that doesn't bode well for teams like the Birds, either.

With teams across baseball reaping the benefits of a new national TV contract, this is going to be an interesting hot stove league season. Not only will there be more money to spend than there was in the past. But the weak free agent crop of 2013-14 should put clubs in the mood to shop.