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Levine: As Cubs Seek Free-Agent Pitcher, Alex Cobb Seems Like Best Bet

By Bruce Levine--

(670 The Score) -- As currently constructed, the Cubs may feel plenty confident that they're good enough to win a third straight National League Central crown in 2018.

Then again, with St. Louis and Milwaukee still rumored to be interested in adding new pieces, Chicago also may not want to take any chances.

That's why the Cubs continue to be interested in free-agent starters Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb. The market has yet to be defined in terms of years or dollars for any of the three. The Cubs would be willing to bring Arrieta, who turns 32 in March, back on a four-year deal in the range of $110 million, USA Today has reported. Darvish has one offer that's five years in length, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick has has reported, though it's unclear which team that is.

The Cubs met with Darvish, 31, in Dallas on Dec. 18, but little else transpired between the parties in the ensuing weeks. On Jan. 10, Darvish confirmed in a tweet that the Rangers, Yankees, Cubs, Astros, Twins and a mystery sixth team were in the mix. Since then, the Astros appear to have left the sweepstakes upon trading for Gerrit Cole, while the Brewers have emerged as a Darvish suitor.

Both Arrieta and Darvish are believed to be seeking five- and six-year contract offers.

Late Monday evening, discussions between the Cubs and Darvish had renewed, with the AP reporting they were in "active talks." The details and extent of those talks were unknown.

Cobb remains the most likely addition for the Cubs because he'd be a safer financial commitment. At one point in December, it appeared he would sign a three-year deal worth roughly $45 million. That all changed at the Winter Meetings. With the marketplace unestablished, his representatives have asked for four guaranteed years in the $70 million range, according to reports.

Cobb, 30, is younger than Arrieta and Darvish and with 700 career innings hasn't had the career workload of the other two. Arrieta has logged 1,161 innings, and there's some concern about his downtick in velocity. Darvish has logged 832 1/3 innings in the big leagues after throwing 1,268 1/3 innings playing professionally in Japan.

Cobb also has a quality relationship with Cubs manager Joe Maddon and new pitching coach Jim Hickey from their days in Tampa Bay.

"I love Alex Cobb and so does Hick," Maddon said at the Cubs Convention. "If you folks get to work with him, you will love him too. He is a man's man and very highly accountable. He is really good. I don't think it is any more complicated than he wants the best deal he can get. God bless him, he should."

The Cubs have added right-hander Tyler Chatwood on a three-year, $38-million deal in free agency and solidified the bullpen with the additions of Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek and the retention of lefty Brian Duensing. The Cubs also signed left-hander Drew Smyly, who's recovering from Tommy John surgery and could join the bullpen late in the 2018 season.

Chicago has flexibility with left-hander Mike Montgomery, who can serve as the team's No. 5 starter or long man in the bullpen.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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