Cubs and Nationals no longer pursuing Brandon Webb

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The market for free agent right-hander Brandon Webb is finally starting to take shape.  Teams are moving in and teams are moving out as negotiations begin to turn serious.

We told you earlier today that the Yankees are “monitoring” the 31-year-old starter.  According to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, the Cubs and Nationals are not.  At least, not anymore.

Stark’s source says that Webb is down to two teams: the Rangers and a “mystery” club from the National League Central — either the Pirates, Cardinals, Astros, Brewers or Reds.

Webb is expected to decide on a landing spot either next week or during the first week of January.  He hasn’t pitched in a major league game since the opening of the 2009 season, but he won a Cy Young Award just four years ago and posted a 3.30 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 34 starts in 2008.  On a contract with a low-base salary and a few million dollars in performance-based incentives, he’d make a fine risk for any starter-needy club.

Nick Williams has been trying to sell Jake Arrieta on the Phillies

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CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that Phillies outfielder Nick Williams has been working out daily with free agent starter Jake Arrieta in Austin. The right-hander, who won the 2015 National League Cy Young Award, still remains teamless with spring training less than a month away. Williams has been trying to sell Arrieta on joining the Phillies.

Williams said of Arrieta, “He loves it here [Austin]. He has told me he likes working with young guys. I’m like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I’m not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I’m not really in his position.”

On GM Matt Klentak’s hunt for pitching help, new manager Gabe Kapler said, “The pursuit is very real. I have a lot of trust that we’ll either go in [to spring training] with a new toy or we will pass on the opportunity because we’re better off giving this collection of pitchers a really healthy look because we thought that we could go acquire that piece a little bit later on this season or in the offseason next year.”

Arrieta, who turns 32 years old in March, went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA and a 163/55 K/BB ratio in 168 1/3 innings last season with the Cubs. The Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers have been linked to Arrieta this month.

Presently, the Phillies’ starting rotation figures to include Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez along with some combination of Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Mark Leiter, and Jake Thompson. Arrieta would certainly amount to a big upgrade in the starting rotation and could make the Phillies a more attractive landing spot for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, who become free agents after the 2018 campaign. The Phillies are expected to be in the mix for either or both players.