The search by the Chicago Cubs for a left-handed bat is targeting Royals outfielder Mark Teahen as a possible solution.
That search figures to intensify in coming days in the wake of Tuesday’s announcement by the Cubs that free-agent pitcher Ryan Dempster has agreed to a four-year deal for $52 million.
Keeping Dempster -- or finding a suitable replacement -- was the Cubs’ top off-season priority. Finding a left-handed bat, which manager Lou Piniella recently cited as the club’s top offensive need, could come next.
The Cubs remain interested in free-agent outfielder Raul Ibañez but are also searching for lower-cost alternatives. Industry analysts predict Ibañez is likely to command a three-year deal for $10-12 million a season.
Enter the Royals.
Discussions stalled earlier this month, in part, because the Cubs’ wanted to hold onto several young players while discussing a possible trade with San Diego for pitcher Jake Peavy if Dempster signed elsewhere.
The Cubs have long coveted outfielder David DeJesus but, failing that, appear open to acquiring Teahen, who projects to make $3 million-plus next season through arbitration or a negotiated deal.
The Royals prefer to keep DeJesus, especially if he can be shifted to left field by acquiring a center fielder. Sources on both sides say talks remain in the initial stages but acknowledge that could change in coming days.
The Cubs want to move Japanese import Kosuke Fukudome, but that’s a tough sell -- to any team, not just the Royals -- because he slumped badly last season over the closing months and is owed $38 million over the next three years.
A more-likely possibility is Felix Pie, a 23-year-old once viewed as a can’t-miss prospect. Pie batted just .223 in 260 at-bats with the Cubs over the last two years after posting strong minor-league numbers.
Pie is regarded as a strong defensive center fielder, which would enable the Royals to shift DeJesus to left. Pie is also out of options and isn’t likely to be eligible for arbitration until after 2010.
The Cubs can also offer shortstop Ronny Cedeno or second baseman Mike Fontenot if the Royals prefer to acquire a middle-infield partner for Mike Aviles.
Cedeno, 25, is eligible for arbitration for the first time after batting .269 last season in 99 games. He has a .252 average in 329 games over the last four years.
Fontenot, 28, won’t be eligible for arbitration for at least another year. He batted .305 last season with nine homers and 40 RBIs in 243 at-bats.