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.

The Nationals have inquired about Kris Bryant

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The Washington Nationals, fresh off signing Stephen Strasburg to a $245 million deal, are now turning their attention to their third base hole. Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that they have made inquiries to the Chicago Cubs about trading for Kris Bryant.

Emphasis on the word “inquiry” because it’d be premature for the Cubs to trade Bryant at the moment, even if they are reported to be considering the possibility.

Bryant and the Cubs are awaiting word from an arbitrator about Bryant’s years-old service time grievance. If Bryant wins, he becomes a free agent after the 2020 season. If the Cubs win they control him for two more years. The team may or may not choose to trade him in either case as they are reportedly trying to cut payroll, but the price for him will vary pretty significantly depending on whether or not the acquiring club will receive one or two years of control over the former MVP.

For Washington, this would be a means of replacing free agent third baseman Anthony Rendon. Or, perhaps, the inquiries are a means of creating a tad more leverage for the Nats as they talk to Rendon’s agent about re-signing him.

Which, in the past, the Nats said they could not do if they also re-signed Strasburg, though I suspect that’s just posturing too. They may not want to spend big money to keep their World Series core together, but they can afford it. They’re going to see, I suspect, an eight-figure uptick in revenue by virtue of being the defending World Series champs. They are poised to receive a significant payout as a result of recent rulings in their own multi-year dispute with the Orioles and the MASN network. They are, of course, owned by billionaire real estate moguls. All of that taken together means that, if they choose to, they can bring back Rendon. Assuming he chooses to come back too.

But, if that doesn’t happen, they appear to be giving themselves options at the hot corner.