CHICAGO -- As expected, Jacob Arrieta and Wade Davis both rejected the Cubs' qualifying offers on Thursday, although the team was expected to stay in contact with both pitchers' agents about a possible return.• Hot Stove TrackerBecause both players rejected the qualifying offer, the Cubs now are assured of compensation
CHICAGO -- As expected, Jacob Arrieta and Wade Davis both rejected the Cubs' qualifying offers on Thursday, although the team was expected to stay in contact with both pitchers' agents about a possible return.
• Hot Stove Tracker
Because both players rejected the qualifying offer, the Cubs now are assured of compensation picks in the 2018 Draft if either player signs with another team. The Cubs' compensatory picks would come after the Competitive Balance Round B.
The qualifying offer this year was $17.4 million. Arrieta made $15.637 million in 2017; Davis $10 million. Arrieta and Davis were two of nine players who received qualifying offers from their teams.
With that bookkeeping done, the Cubs need to fill Arrieta's spot in the rotation. They've been linked to free agent Alex Cobb, who has indicated he'd welcome being reunited with Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey, who were his first big league manager and pitching coach, respectively, with the Rays. This season, Cobb finished second on Tampa Bay's staff in innings pitched with 179 1/3, posting a 12-10 record and a 3.66 ERA in his 29 starts. He underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in May 2015.
The Rays did make a qualifying offer to Cobb, but he rejected it as well, so the Cubs would lose a Draft pick if they signed the right-hander.
The Cubs have made pitching a priority this offseason, knowing Arrieta, Davis and John Lackey would likely depart via free agency. During the General Managers Meetings this week in Orlando, Fla., Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said this will be a "challenging offseason" to find two starters and a closer.
"There's no doubt pitching is expensive," Hoyer said. "It's expensive in trade, it's expensive in free agency. It's not going to change. That's the market, and we have to figure out a way to fill in the rotation, fill in the bullpen and that's the offseason goal."
One in-house option for the rotation could be right-hander Alec Mills, who was pitching in the Arizona Fall League to make up for missed time during the regular season as he dealt with injuries.
As for the closer, there were reports early this week that the Cubs were pursuing the Orioles' Zach Britton, but it's more likely they will look at free agents such as Brandon Morrow and Addison Reed. The Cubs talked to the Orioles at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in July and found the asking price too high at that time. Plus, Britton will be a free agent after the 2018 season, and if the Cubs have to deal one of their young players, they would prefer to acquire someone they can control for a longer period of time.
"You definitely don't want to make it a habit to give up five, six years of control for one year of control back," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.