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Levine: After James Shields Chase, Could Cubs Pursue Cole Hamels?

By Bruce Levine-

(CBS) The Cubs made a strong run at pitcher right-hander James Shields before he decided late Sunday to sign a four-year deal worth around $75 million with the Padres. Cubs brass made an offer that included three years and a vesting option, sources confirmed.

Other interested clubs were notified late Sunday night by Shields' agent, Page Odle, that his client was off of the market. Shields, 33, has been one of the most durable and productive pitchers in the game since 2007. He has racked up the most innings pitched since 2010 and the second-most since 2007.

The Cubs being a part of the process until the end was somewhat surprising, considering they had spent $175 million on two pitchers in free agency this winter. Chicago signed left-hander Jon Lester to a six-year, $155-million deal and right-hander Jason Hammel to a two-year, $20-million contract.

The aggressive style of Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer point out two obvious traits going forward. The Cubs will continue to go after the best pitching talent in baseball. More importantly, to support that idea, money from ownership won't be an issue when quality players are made available.

The question now becomes, will the Cubs continue their pursuit of great pitchers?

Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels remains on the trading block. The Cubs would be one of the teams that could absorb the $98 million left on his contract. With a deep farm system in place, Chicago could supply the younger talent that Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is seeking in return for his ace.

The 31-year-old Hamels is considered one of the top 10 pitchers in baseball. He has a career 108-83 record with a lifetime 3.27 ERA. The Cubs have shortstops to spare for a team that moved its iconic shortstop in veteran Jimmy Rollins in the offseason, and catcher Welington Castillo could also be of interest to Philadelphia in a multi-player deal between the two clubs.

Chicago has potentially four young shortstops who are major league-ready or will be soon. Starlin Castro is the incumbent starter for the Cubs, while Javier Baez, Addison Russell and perhaps Arismendy Alcantara all could start in the big leagues at shortstop in the future. Alcantara is also viewed by some as a super-utilityman.

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

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