Cubs “now the front runner” for free agent Edwin Jackson

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That whole Anibal Sanchez thing didn’t quite work out, so the Northsiders are trying a different route.

According to Jim Bowden of ESPN and Sirius XM, the Cubs are “now the front runner” for free agent right-hander Edwin Jackson, who is also being courted currently by the Rangers. Bowden says the “ballpark” asking price is four years, $52 million.

Jackson, 29, registered a pretty solid 4.03 ERA and 1.22 WHIP across 31 starts this past season for the Nationals, fanning 168 batters in 189 2/3 innings.

In 2011, he had a 3.79 ERA in 199 2/3 frames between the White Sox and Cardinals.

If the Cubs land E-Jax, newly-signed right-hander Carlos Villanueva will presumably be pushed to the bullpen. That would leave a rotation of Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Jackson, Travis Wood and Scott Feldman. And then Scott Baker is expected to be recovered from elbow surgery by May.

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal

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The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.

Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.

Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.