Cubs interested in southpaw Lilly
Chicago hopes to strengthen rotation by signing free agent
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs have reportedly made an offer to free agent left-hander Ted Lilly in an attempt to fill one of the vacancies in the starting rotation.
Larry O'Brien, Lilly's agent, told MLB.com on Friday that Cubs general manager Jim Hendry had made an offer but that the two sides were not expected to finalize anything until they meet again in Orlando for the Winter Meetings next week. O'Brien said the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants were also interested in Lilly.
"We're beyond just preliminary discussions," O'Brien said of his conversations with the Cubs. "We've had an offer and we're considering coming back with maybe another counteroffer. I would say that I'm planning on meeting with Jim Hendry down in Orlando next week, but we're also going to be meeting with J.P. Ricciardi with Toronto and a few other clubs."
Hendry was not available for comment.
The Cubs' recent moves, including signing free agents Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Mark DeRosa and naming Lou Piniella as the manager, have made them an attractive team.
"One of Ted's biggest priorities is to get with a club that he thinks he can help get to the postseason and win a World Series," O'Brien said. "With what the Cubs have done, Ted thinks they're looking pretty good."
Left-hander Jarrod Washburn signed a four-year, $37 million deal last December, and the Cubs were believed to have made a similar offer to Lilly, 30.
"I've always pointed to that contract as something that I thought would be something that we should be able to achieve," O'Brien said. "With what Chicago has offered us, and some other conversations that we're having with a few other clubs, I think that number is definitely achievable. Who knows, it might get richer than that."
Lilly was 15-13 with a 4.31 ERA in 32 starts last season with the Toronto Blue Jays, striking out 160 over 181 2/3 innings. The left-hander has averaged 170 innings and 30 starts over the last four seasons, and his 15 wins last season is a career high.
The Cubs are coming off a 66-96 season in which they used 15 different starting pitchers. Right now, the team is counting on Carlos Zambrano, Rich Hill and possibly Sean Marshall for the rotation. Mark Prior, who is rehabbing his right shoulder, could also be in the mix, but Hendry has said one thing he doesn't want in 2007 is to be caught short-handed.
On Thursday, Hendry denied an internet report that said the team had offered free agent Jason Schmidt a three-year, $44 million contract. Hendry has talked to Schmidt's representatives, but no offer was made.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. Jordan Bastian contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.