The Rundown: GM Meetings Begin Today, Cubs’ Visit with Martin Reportedly Went Well

Free agency began last week, but the General Managers meetings that begin today probably represent the true kick-off to the “hot stove” season. Representatives from all MLB teams will gather Nov. 10-12 in Phoenix to kind of feel each other out.

It’s unlikely that we’ll see any trades or signings going down in the next couple days, but expect a bunch of rumors to pop up. And if this past week has been any indication, expect a lot of those rumors to involve the Cubs.

It’s funny to think back to last year at this time, when Cubs fans showed half-hearted interest in rumors surrounding outfielders Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury. But we all pretty much knew those players would be a long shot. Not surprisingly, the Cubs signed neither player last year.

But this year is a different tale. The Cubs are being heavily linked to two of the top free agents, LHP Jon Lester and catcher Russell Martin.

I’m sure we’ll see more new names popping up in connection to the Cubs as well.

In his GM meeting preview, Mark Gonzales writes that if the Cubs miss out on Russell Martin, they could look at adding someone like A.J. Pierzynski as a left-handed complement to Welington Castillo. What would you think about that, Cubs fans?

Gonzales also mentions Chris Denorfia and Jonny Gomes as outfield options. Denorfia had some good seasons playing in San Diego under GM Jed Hoyer, but struggled in 2014. He would obviously be a 4th/5th outfielder type.

Gordon Wittenmyer’s free agency preview lists many of the usual targets for the Cubs (Lester, Martin, James Shields, David Robertson), but he also points out that many of the typical big-time spenders in free agency may be sitting this year out.

We’ve talked about the Yankees taking a back seat this winter, but Wittenmyer notes that the Angels, Phillies, Dodgers, Rangers and Mets also are expected to back off from spending. You’d have to think this could only help the Cubs, who have plenty of financial flexibility and are looking to add pieces.

Rumor time

* As expected, Russell Martin will reject the Pirates’ qualifying offer, reports  Jon Heyman. According to Heyman, the Cubs’ meeting with Martin went “very well,” and the free agent catcher already has four-year offers on the table. It’s sounding like it could come down to either the Dodgers or Cubs.

* The Phillies will be looking for three top prospects as a return in a Cole Hamels trade, writes Jim Salisbury on Two of the prospects would need to be ready to play right now and the third not far away. I suppose this is where the Phillies should start their talk. But I’m not sure they’ll get what they’re looking for.

* The Red Sox may be more likely to go after a third baseman such as Pablo Sandoval or Chase Headley than a top starting pitcher such as Jon Lester, James Shields or Max Scherzer, according to the Providence Journal’s Brian MacPherson. If that’s the case, the Sox would then focus on 2015 free agent pitchers (David Price, Mat Latos, Jeff Samardzija, etc.). This could be an interesting development. If Boston isn’t in on the top starters this year, and considering the teams Wittenmyer mentioned above backing away from spending, then who is the Cubs’ biggest competition to sign Lester?

* In the same article, MacPherson writes the Red Sox could try to trade for the Cubs’ Luis Valbuena if they miss out on Headley and Sandoval.

* Similarly, Peter Gammons doesn’t see the Red Sox going after Lester or Scherzer (but Shields might be a fit).

* The Dodgers are “aggressively” trying to move Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier, according to Ken Rosenthal. If that’s true, I wouldn’t mind seeing Kemp in Chicago. Rosenthal also is reporting that Francisco Liriano is still debating on whether to accept the Pirates’ qualifying offer.

* Another team out on the top free agent starting pitchers this year? The Diamondbacks (so says GM Dave Stewart).

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