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New rules could speed up Cubs’ offseason plans

The Cubs hope Kyle Lohse doesn’t slow free-agent market. Pitchers figure try cash his deal. | AP

The Cubs hope Kyle Lohse doesn’t slow the free-agent market. Pitchers figure to try to cash in on his deal. | AP

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Updated: December 7, 2012 6:21AM

The Cubs don’t expect to complete any of the deals on their wish list during the general managers meetings, which run Tuesday through Thursday in Palm Springs, Calif.

But because of new rules and deadlines regarding free agents, they seem optimistic they can get things done quicker than usual this winter, and they say they plan to be aggressive.

‘‘It’s a little different than in the past,’’ general manager Jed Hoyer said. ‘‘We always predict how the market’s going to play out, but it’s hard to know because of timing. But I do think the fact that the qualifying-offer stuff will be over fairly quickly could lead to a little bit of a faster market.’’

Hoyer was referring to the new rules regarding how teams qualify for free-agent compensation.

The Type-A/Type-B grading system has been flushed in favor of a simpler, stricter formula: For a team to qualify for compensatory draft picks for a lost free agent, it must offer that free agent a ‘‘qualifying offer,’’ regardless of the position or perceived value of that player.

This year, that qualifying threshold is $13.3 million, and the deadline to tender an offer was Friday, instead of in December.

Consequently, teams made such offers to only nine pending free agents (not surprisingly, the New York Yankees made offers to three players). Those players have until this Friday to accept.

All other free agents are free to sign, from outfielder Torii Hunter and third baseman Eric Chavez to pitchers Brandon McCarthy, Shaun Marcum and Dan Haren.

Most significantly for the Cubs, only two of the players who received qualifying offers were starting pitchers, the Cubs’ biggest focus.

Hiroki Kuroda, a right-hander who turns 38 in February, probably will stay with the Yankees. He isn’t likely to hold up movement in the market even if he doesn’t.

St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Kyle Lohse, 34, on the other hand, is coming off his best season and is likely to seek at least a four-year deal.

Not that the Cubs are interested in Lohse. They just hope he doesn’t slow the market. Pitchers figure to try to cash in on his deal.

‘‘One guy holding out can change a market. There’s no way to anticipate that,’’ said Hoyer, who nonetheless sees the possibility of an unusually active November because of the new rules. ‘‘Any of a certain number of certain variables could throw that off. But it could speed things up because you’d have more information on an earlier date than you’ve had in the past.’’

Like most teams, the Cubs have identified their targets — two proven starting pitchers, a third baseman, an outfielder who can play all three spots and a veteran backup catcher — and have a detailed plan for pursuing them.

‘‘We’ve had a lot of dialogue with teams already,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘And obviously we’ve checked in with a lot of free agents that we’re going to target.’’

NOTE: Dan Plesac will interview for the Cubs’ vacant television analyst position this week. Plesac, a Crown Point, Ind., native and former Cub who is an analyst for MLB Network, will meet with WGN officials and play-by-play man Len Kasper on Thursday. He also will meet with Cubs brass, including chairman Tom Ricketts, on Friday.

Contributing: Mike Hutton

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