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Wade Davis signs record deal with Rockies as Cubs weigh spending on pitching

Staying in touch with closer Wade Davis about a possible return is no longer an option for the Cubs.

Whether signing a closer with a proven ninth-inning track record remains an option for them is doubtful at best. The Cubs still are seeking a frontline starter, and Davis’ three-year, $52 million deal with the Rockies set a record-high bar for the closer market.

The $17.3 million average annual value of Davis’ contract breaks the old record of $17.2 million Aroldis Chapman got when he signed with the Yankees last winter and would seem to put ex-Rockies closer Greg Holland, the top free-agent closer remaining, well beyond the Cubs’ comfort level for a reliever.

Cubs president Theo Epstein historically has been reluctant to pay big-ticket prices for closers. In each of the last two seasons, he traded for elite closers in rent-a-lefty Chapman in July 2016 and Davis a year ago. Davis had one year and $10 million left on his contract.

Wade Davis has reportedly signed a deal with the Rockies.

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Besides, the Cubs already have added back-end bullpen help with the signings of Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek on two-year deals. Morrow, who had a breakout season as the Dodgers’ setup man in 2017, looks like the Cubs’ 2018 closer until further notice.

The immediate benefit to the Cubs in the Rockies’ signing of Davis is the draft-pick compensation they’ll get in return. Because the Cubs made a qualifying offer to Davis — their only All-Star last season — they will receive an extra pick in the June draft, probably between 75th and 85th overall.

However much that helps mitigate the loss of Davis, whose influence on teammates was nearly as important as his performance on the mound, the Cubs’ attention is primarily on a slow-moving starting-pitching market.

Filling out the rotation was the Cubs’ biggest need going into the offseason and remains their biggest need into the new year, even after signing right-hander Tyer Chatwood to a three-year, $38 million deal three weeks ago.

The Cubs are one of several teams that have met with free-agent right-hander Yu Darvish, who is being pursued seriously by the Twins and Astros. The Yankees also have been linked to Darvish in recent days.

The Cubs also have interest in free-agent right-handers Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn and continue to explore trade possibilities for starters and relievers.

They’ve shown less interest in re-signing 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, the other top free-agent starter on the market.

According to multiple reports, Davis’ deal will pay him $16 million in 2018, $18 million in 2019 and $17 million in 2020, with a vesting $15 million option for a fourth year ($1 million buyout).

The Cubs tweeted out a congratulatory note to Davis that included a 2017 highlight montage. He converted 32 of 33 save chances with a 2.30 ERA.

Catcher Willson Contreras also tweeted a shout-out to Davis: ‘‘Wade Davis I’m so happy for you and your family. You are a GREAT TEAMMATE. Thanks for what you did with the Cubs. I’m really proud of you. Love you Brotha.’’


Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com