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Report: Cubs will make big push for Alex Cobb

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The Cubs are looking for help on all fronts this winter, particularly when it comes to their pitching staff. Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reports that the team is seriously pursuing free agent right-hander Alex Cobb, and while it’s not the first time the two have been linked in offseason rumors, Levine speculates that a deal could happen prior to the Winter Meetings on Monday.

Cobb, 30, rejected a $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Rays last month. He made a successful comeback in his first full season post-Tommy John surgery and is reportedly seeking a four-year deal, which has the potential to keep the Cubs’ core rotation intact for the next 2-3 years. Granted, the righty’s recent history of elbow injuries doesn’t exactly make him a sure thing for any rotation, and the Cubs still appear to be up against several other suitors, including the Yankees. Should they manage to ink him to a contract prior to Monday’s free agent frenzy in Orlando (giving up their second-highest draft pick and $500,000 in international bonus pool money to do so), Levine notes that it could give them some added leverage as they try to secure more pitching depth over the coming week.

Of course, the Cubs’ offseason wish list extends beyond the rotation, especially in the absence of closer Wade Davis. Levine lists free agent right-handers Addison Reed and Brandon Morrow as possible bullpen targets, even as Newsday’s Marc Carig reports that the Mets might try to re-sign Reed in 2018. Morrow, meanwhile, has already drawn interest from the Giants and Dodgers, though he’s expected to command a shorter, cheaper contract than Reed this offseason.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉