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Cubs unlikely to go on free-agent spending spree

Cubs second baseman DarwBarney tags out Marlbaserunner Emilio Bonifacio trying steal third inning Miami Marlins-Chicago Cubs game Wednesday July 18

Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney tags out Marlin baserunner Emilio Bonifacio trying to steal in the third inning of the Miami Marlins-Chicago Cubs game Wednesday July 18, 2012 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 20, 2012 12:00PM

Cole Hamels ? Zach Greinke ? A big free agent hitter?

Even with more than $38 million coming off the books in three expiring contracts alone after this year, don’t count on the Cubs bolstering its fledgling core with free agents to try to compete again by next year — no matter what manager Dale Sveum , or fans paying some of the highest ticket prices in baseball might want.

“Sometimes that works out for you; more often than not it doesn’t,’’ team president Theo Epstein said Wednesday. “If you get tempted and you get impatient and you try to solve your problems in free agency, there’s always a price to pay. And usually it happens pretty soon thereafter toward the end of those deals.

“Free agency’s definitely a nice way to add talent to the organization without giving up talent,’’ he added. “But you cannot make an organization that way. We have a lot of steps ahead of us that we need to take care of before we’re in a position to add a finishing piece or two through free agency.’’

The organization-building mantra preached since last fall by Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer has always suggested a long-term process to get to a “foundation of sustained success’’ through a farm-system focus.

Since then they’ve repeatedly made it clear they consider the farm system they inherited worse off than perceived going in.

Despite their status as one of the game’s high-revenue teams, along with the fact they get massive payroll relief through no longer paying for Carlos Zambrano , Ryan Dempster and Marlon Byrd next year, they’re not ready to spend that money on 2013.

That doesn’t mean they won’t kick tires again in the free-agent market. Just think more Paul Maholm than Cole Hamels , more David DeJesus than Josh Hamilton .

“We’ll always look to free agency,’’ Epstein said. “But if we sat around and drew up a plan and had free agency as the answer to most of our problems, we’d be on a fool’s errand there.”

Soler debuts

Outfield prospect Jorge Soler, the Cuban free agent the Cubs signed this month to a nine-year, $30-million deal, makes his professional debut Thursday for the Cubs’ rookie-level club in Arizona.

Soler, who will bat as the designated hitter in his debut, hasn’t been assigned a level to finish the season or given a timeline, Epstein said.Soler’s roommate in Arizona,

Albert Almora — the No. 6 overall pick in last month’s draft — is further behind and needs more hitting work before making his debut, Epstein said. 

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