Alfonso Soriano Rumors
6:39pm: Soriano tells reporters that the Cubs contacted his agent to tell him that the Yankees had interest, but since no deal is close, there has been no discussion of waiving his no-trade clause. Soriano hasn't spoken directly to the Cubs front office and is "open to anything" trade-wise, though he wants to make sure he'll still be able to play every day on a potential new team (all links are to the Twitter feed of Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times). The Yankees are the only team that has made contract with Soriano's agent, so they may be his only trade option (via Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune).
1:48pm: In an interview with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio (audio link), Cubs GM Jed Hoyer called reports of a deal being near "very premature." Hoyer adds that there is "nothing close at all."
The Cubs have discussed Soriano with multiple teams, and Hoyer and Epstein plan to fly to Arizona to speak with the outfielder in order to gauge his interest in the teams that have inquired about him.
10:31am: A Cubs source tells Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune that the two sides are indeed negotiating a Soriano trade, but a deal is not close at this time. The conversations to this point have been closer to preliminary, according to Sullivan, though he notes that both sides appear motivated to get something worked out.
8:11am: The Cubs scouted 24-year-old Triple-A right-hander Chase Whitley over the weekend, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Whitley has a 3.52 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 38 1/3 innings this season.
Sherman adds that right-handed relief is one area where the Yankees feel they're deep in young. In addition to Whitley, they have Preston Claiborne and Shawn Kelley at the Major League level and prospects Dellin Betances, Danny Burawa and Tommy Kahnle on the way.
7:47am: The Cubs likely consulted with Soriano before engaging in serious discussions with the Yankees, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal adds that Soriano recently told FOX Sports that he would accept the right deal to the right team. His article also has quotes of high praise from teammate David DeJesus and manager Dale Sveum about the 37-year-old Soriano's work ethic.
1:10am: The Yankees and Cubs are nearing a deal that would send Alfonso Soriano to the New York, according to George A. King III of the New York Post. Soriano is owed roughly $24.9MM over the remainder of his contract (roughly $6.9MM in 2013 and $18MM in 2014), and King reports that the Cubs would pick up the majority of the remaining tab in exchange for a mid-level prospect.
Soriano, 37, would be joining the team with which he broke into the Major Leagues back in 1999. The Dominican native played with the Bombers from 1999-2003 before being traded to the Rangers along with Joaquin Arias for Alex Rodriguez. In 378 plate appearances for the Cubs this season, Soriano is batting .256/.286/.471 with 17 home runs.
Soriano, of course, would have to waive the same no-trade clause that he enacted a year ago when the Cubs attempted to trade him to the Giants. Cubs president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer have been exceptionally busy of late, with the Cubs trading Matt Garza to the Rangers earlier today. They also traded Scott Hairston to the Nationals and Scott Feldman to the Orioles earlier this month.
Alfonso Soriano of the Cubs is on the Yankees' radar as a possible trade target, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. If any deal were to take place, though, it might not happen in July, since the $25MM remaining on Soriano's contract means he's sure to pass through waivers in August. Soriano has a full no-trade clause, but says he will consider a trade to a contending team. Wittenmyer writes that the Yankees view another Cubs outfielder, Nate Schierholtz, as more of a platoon type.
- The Nationals shouldn't be buyers at the trade deadline, the Washington Post's Thomas Boswell writes. The Nats are now 48-50, and are now seven games back of the Braves in the NL East, as well as seven games back of the Reds for the second Wild Card. Boswell points out that their chance of making the playoffs is less than 20 percent, and for a team in that position, the value of a rental player like Matt Garza or Ervin Santana is questionable. Boswell argues that even if the Nats acquire a player who is also under contract for 2014, like Jake Peavy or Yovani Gallardo, they need to do so mostly because those players can help next year, not because they can help down the stretch this season.
- The Angels are now ten games back of the Athletics in the AL West, and it looks like they should sell at the trade deadline, FOX Sports' Jon Morosi tweets. (Note that Morosi isn't predicting the Angels will sell, only saying that they should.) If the Angels were to sell, Erick Aybar and Scott Downs are two players they could trade, Morosi writes. Aybar is in the first year of a four-year, $35MM deal, and he's hitting .287/.305/.388 as the Angels' starting shortstop. Downs, who is in the last year of a three-year, $15MM contract, has a 1.32 ERA, albeit with a more pedestrian 6.9 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9.
- The Dodgers have heavily scouted Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez recently, Danny Knobler of CBS Sports reports. Milwaukee also has two other veteran relievers in Mike Gonzalez and John Axford, and Knobler notes that the Tigers and Red Sox have also been scouting the Brewers. Still, the Brewers might opt not to trade any of their relievers before the deadline.
- The Yankees have signed left-handed pitcher Artur Strzalka, Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues notes (via Baseball America's Matt Eddy). Strzalka is the first born-and-raised Polish player ever to sign with a Major League team. As Axisa notes, one likely purpose of this signing is to help the Yankees establish themselves as bidders for talent in a new part of the world.
We're less than two weeks away from the non-waiver trade deadline, and with the rumor mill heating up, here's the latest out of the AL West...
- Angels lefties Jason Vargas and Sean Burnett aren't likely to return before the trade deadline, tweets Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. The duo could return shortly after July 31, however. Both southpaws would have been attractive July trading chips, as Vargas is a free agent at season's end, and Burnett is on the first year of an affordable two-year, $8MM contract.
- Larry Stone of the Seattle Times writes that Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge are in a tricky position. The duo will likely be judged based on the team's record, which would be better if they hang onto Kendrys Morales, Joe Saunders, Raul Ibanez and the rest of the team's trade chips. However, that also does little to build for the future, leading Stone to say that they could be in a lose-lose situation.
- In addition to their talks with the Cubs regarding Matt Garza, the Rangers are also seeking a right-handed bat, GM Jon Daniels told reporters today (including Todd Wills of ESPNDallas.com). Alex Rios and Alfonso Soriano "have been mentioned as possible acquisitions," according to Wills, who adds that the Rangers aren't yet ready to give Manny Ramirez a chance at the big league level.
- From that same piece, Daniels adds that the Rangers aren't panicking over Nelson Cruz's connection to the Biogenesis scandal.
Trade rumors continue to swirl around the Cubs' Matt Garza, but his teammates would like to see the Cubs extend him, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports. "It’s hard to find pitchers like that because he’s always there for us," left fielder Alfonso Soriano said. However, an AL GM told CSN Chicago's David Kaplan recently that there's probably not much to recent rumors that the Cubs are exploring an extension for Garza. "I'd be stunned if he is a Cub August 1," the executive told Kaplan. Some more North Siders notes..
- Soriano is the subject of a lot of trade talk himself, but he's not thinking about the rumors, according to Sullivan. "If they want me to stay here, I stay here. But if they don’t want me to, the door is open. I’ve had a good time. I just play one day at a time and enjoy my time," the former All-Star said.
- Soriano's recent surge, in which he's hit .381 with six homers and four doubles in 10 games, has drawn new attention from contending teams that are looking for offense, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Soriano, who has a full no-trade clause, turned down a potential trade to the Giants last year, but he indicated during the Cubs' recent road trip that he may be more open to more teams this summer. "For sure, if somebody asks for me, they have to be a contender for the playoffs," Soriano said. "A good city, I guess ... But I don’t want to think about it. Just see what happens."
- Cubs manager Dale Sveum's decision to use James Russell for the third consecutive day in Monday's blowout win over the White Sox may have been to showcase the lefty to "the many" scouts in attendance, Sullivan also reports. Sullivan notes that the Red Sox are seeking to fill the void left by recently injured left-hander Andrew Miller. Though the Cubs aren't attempting to trade Russell, they aren't deeming any player untouchable in their summer sale, Sullivan says, citing an anonymous source.
- The Cubs could also move catcher Dioner Navarro, who's performed well above expectations since signing a one-year deal in the offseason, writes Sullivan. Navarro's already clubbed eight homers this year after never hitting more than nine in any previous season. Together, Garza and Navarro could be "a perfect package deal," Sullivan imagines. Navarro, who serves as a mentor to catcher Welington Castillo and has just 128 plate appearances, concedes that he'd like to return to a full-time role.
Five years ago today, the Brewers acquired CC Sabathia from the Indians for Matt LaPorta, Rob Bryson, Zach Jackson, and a player to be named later. The PTBNL turned out to be Michael Brantley who hit a pair of homers, including the game-winner, and drove in a career-high five runs in the Indians' 9-6 win over the Tigers this afternoon. Brantley, who has matched his career-best with seven home runs on the season, has become the headliner in the deal for the Indians as LaPorta has been a disappointment and is no longer on their 40-man roster, Bryson is struggling with an ERA over 11 at Double-A Akron, and Jackson is now in the Royals organization. Sabathia, meanwhile, was so dominant during his short tenure as a Brewer he led the NL in complete games (seven) and shutouts (three) while posting a 1.65 ERA during 17 regular-season starts. Sabathia used that platform to sign a record seven-year, $161MM contract with the Yankees. Will there be a similar blockbuster deal between MLB Central Division teams in 2013? Here's the latest:
- With Ricky Nolasco becoming a Dodger, the trade rumor spotlight will now shine brightly upon the Cubs' Matt Garza. The Nationals have kicked the tires on the right-hander, but talks have not progressed to the point of a formal proposal being exchanged, a person familiar with the situation told Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. The Nationals, who already have scouted Garza this year, have long had an interest in acquiring Garza engaging in a "not insignificant" pursuit of him in 2011 before the Rays shipped him to the Cubs.
- Alfonso Soriano has increased his trade value thanks to five home runs and 13 RBIs in his last eight games, writes ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine.
- Jake Peavy will continue his rehab from a fractured rib with a simulated game Tuesday after reporting normal soreness from a 53-pitch bullpen session Friday, reports Scott Merkin of MLB.com. If healthy, Peavy could be dealt before the Trade Deadline. "We'll see how it plays out," Peavy told Merkin. "I'm open to anything and I'll do everything I'm asked to do. If that's staying here, I'll be happy to do that. If that means to move, then that's something we'll address and be OK with when that time comes."
- The Cardinals are conducting a low-key search for a starting pitcher and, if healthy, Chris Carpenter could be that starter bringing the club confidence, energy, and swagger during the dog days of the schedule, writes Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "They’re going to evaluate me," Carpenter said. "Is my stuff good enough? Am I good enough to fit in and move one of these guys? If not, be honest, tell me and move on."
- Scouts from the Tigers, Cardinals, and Orioles were on hand for the Brewers-Mets game today, tweets MLB.com's Adam McCalvy.
- Last night, MLBTR's Jeff Todd highlighted the Trade Deadline options for the Indians.
The Chicago Blackhawks recently bought the Stanley Cup back to the Windy City, but it seems awfully unlikely that either of Chicago's baseball teams will catch fire and add a World Series title to the city's list of sports championships. Both the Cubs and White Sox are seemingly looking ahead to 2014, as you'll see in this collection of Chicago baseball news...
- Cubs president Theo Epstein tells reporters (including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune) that there is an even-money chance the Cubs will make a deal before the All-Star break. “Judging by the amount of calls that are going on, and the number of pieces we intend to have available and the number of opportunities that might present themselves for us to get better, yeah, I’d say 50-50,” Epstein said.
- Also from Sullivan's item, the Red Sox have sent top scout Gary Hughes to follow the Cubs while the team is on the west coast. Sullivan considers it likely that the Cubs will ask for two or three of Boston's top prospects in any significant deal given Epstein's familiarity with the Red Sox farm system.
- Alfonso Soriano recently received consecutive days off and said he's open to ceding playing time to some of the Cubs' younger players down the stretch, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. That said, Soriano didn't dismiss the idea that getting less playing time would induce him to waive his no-trade clause and go elsewhere before the deadline. “I don’t think about it. Let’s wait and see if that happens, and I’ll think about it,” Soriano said. “I don’t want to put my mind on something that hasn’t happened yet. The front office has their job, and I have my job.” Soriano had posted a .704 OPS heading into today's play and the 37-year-old is owed approximately $27MM between now and the end of the 2014 season.
- If the White Sox do intend to become trade deadline sellers, general manager Rick Hahn told reporters (including MLB.com's Scott Merkin) that he doesn't intend to make his club's intentions public. Hahn hopes the Sox can get back into the pennant race but "we aren't going to delude ourselves, and we're not going to wishcast our performance this year. We're going to respond to our performance to date and make adjustments when the time calls for it."
- Hahn said that the White Sox would be looking for "high-impact, premium talent" at middle infield positions, center field and the starting rotation if they did dip into the trade market. While Hahn is willing to listen to offers on any player, "that doesn't mean that some players [aren't] extraordinarily difficult to acquire." It was reported earlier this week that the Sox were open to dealing anyone besides Chris Sale and Paul Konerko.
- Speaking of Konerko, the veteran slugger said yesterday that he was just focused on recovering from a back injury rather than being traded. Today, Konerko told Merkin that he would judge potential deals on a case-by-case basis. "I've been here 15 years, and if that's the way it's going to go with this team, it's pretty lucky to really have one time out of 15 years where [getting traded has] been an issue," Konerko said.
- From earlier today on MLBTR, ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine reported that the Giants, Diamondbacks and Rangers were a few of the teams scouting White Sox outfielder Alex Rios. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal also opined that Rios would be a perfect fit in right field for the Pirates.
We're just under six weeks away from the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. At this point, many teams are still attempting to determine whether or not they're buyers or sellers, and the addition of a second Wild Card in each league has made that a longer process than it was in the past. However, ESPN's Buster Olney has spoken to rival evaluators who have said that the Cubs are "open for business" and ready to sell (ESPN Insider required and recommended).
The Cubs are 13 games below .500 and 17 games out of first place in the National League Central as of this morning, so their stance is a clear one. Nate Schierholtz, Kevin Gregg, Scott Feldman, David DeJesus (when healthy), Alfonso Soriano, James Russell and Matt Garza are the names that figure to be on the trading block as the Cubs field calls, writes Olney. His piece also includes much more info on potential matches for the Cubs and which divisions may be the first to become active on the trade front.
My take on the Cubs' situation: Being the first team to sell pieces has its advantages and disadvantages. Obviously, the Cubs will have more teams to work with at this juncture. Early in the trading season, with so few teams ready to declare themselves sellers, buyers will have few other places to turn. Trading for a player like Garza or Feldman right now would give the acquiring team an extra few starts from the pitcher they're trading precious prospects for. Acquiring a position player in late June as opposed to late July could mean an extra 20 to 30 games out of that player.
On the flipside of the coin, teams may not be as desperate right now as they would be in the final hours leading up to the deadline. Oftentimes, big deals go down with just hours or minutes to go before the trade deadline, as teams have decided that one final push is worth the risk. Recent examples of July 31 blockbusters include both Hunter Pence trades, the Ubaldo Jimenez trade and the White Sox's acquisition of Jake Peavy. Each of these deals included high-profile prospects being exchanged for star-caliber players, though obviously not all of them worked out.
Injuries can also occur in the next month that would make buyers out of teams who are currently not looking. Conversely, one of the Cubs' trade chips could incur an injury, which would leave president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer one less piece to work with.
Selling pieces early takes away some of the "desperation" leverage from the Cubs, but it also will likely increase their number of suitors, creating more competition for their players. Epstein and Hoyer will have to determine how to walk that line over the next several weeks as they look to build toward the future.
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer was on Buster Olney's podcast for ESPN today; here are some highlights.
- The Cubs' bullpen sports a 4.26 ERA, 13th in the National League. Hoyer knows it needs to get better, and espoused his philosophy: "A big part of it is drafting power arms and having a surplus and inventory of those kind of guys. Usually you draft starters in the draft, and a lot of the best relievers are failed starters and I think you have to really do that year after year after year. I think that's how you end up with a good bullpen. Going out in the offseason and deciding, OK, we're going to spend money on the bullpen, that's a total fool's errand." Hoyer splurged on Kyuji Fujikawa for two years and $9.5MM this offseason, and he's having Tommy John surgery this month.
- Regarding the Cubs' inability to draw walks, Hoyer said, "We've got to change up the whole culture. The culture of the Cubs was always, swing early in the count, walks were never something that was emphasized. It's a really slippery slope, you don't want to have a bunch of passive hitters on your team. At the same time, walks are indicative of a good approach at the plate, and we don't have that. We've tried to bring in hitters...Rizzo has a good approach at the plate, DeJesus is excellent, Nate Schierholtz, Valbuena's a good on-base guy. But a lot of the guys we inherited have struggled with that adjustment, and something we have to keep on pounding away at. We've said, if guys we inherited aren't going to do that, we have to find other people because we're just not going to win baseball games if we don't get on base more."
- It's not true that the Jim Hendry regime ignored walks and OBP til the very end, however. The Cubs led the NL in walks in 2008, when they won 97 games. They spent big money on Kosuke Fukudome prior to that season because of his approach at the plate, and signings like Milton Bradley and Carlos Pena were of a similar mindset. Regarding Hoyer's comment about "guys we inherited," Starlin Castro, Welington Castillo, and Alfonso Soriano all have walk rates below four percent this year. Then again, so do Schierholtz and Scott Hairston. And at .334 in his Cubs career, Rizzo hasn't been an OBP machine either.
- Though Hoyer suggested the team will replace low-OBP players, shortstop Starlin Castro (.294 this year) isn't considered part of the problem. "He'll figure out the on-base thing," said Hoyer, who says Castro is "just in a slump right now."
- If there was any doubt, it sounds like the Cubs will be trade deadline sellers once again. "If you are in a situation where you're not going to compete that year, and you have players that aren't signed for the next year, you're doing a disservice not to acquire young players at that time," said Hoyer. The Cubs' impending free agents include Matt Garza, Scott Feldman, Carlos Marmol, Dioner Navarro, Shawn Camp, Kevin Gregg, and Ryan Sweeney, while David DeJesus has a club option for 2014. Hoyer noted that the draft is a line of demarcation, after which teams start talking trade in earnest.
- The Cubs convinced Feldman to sign by offering an opportunity. "We told him flat out this winter when we recruited him that he'd be in the rotation and we'd try to give him as many starts as possible," said Hoyer, who admitted being able to offer that kind of opportunity is one of the few nice things about being in a rebuilding situation.
- Though the Cubs have "never really been in a huge hurry to move" Alfonso Soriano due to his positive clubhouse influence, Hoyer admitted, "At some point, it may make sense." Hoyer feels that Soriano might welcome a trade for a chance to get a ring. Hoyer said Soriano, who has a full no-trade clause, has not given the Cubs a list of teams, preferring to take it on a case-by-case basis. Back in February, Soriano told reporters there were "six or seven" clubs he's named to the Cubs as acceptable trade destinations, teams in the "east or center."
- The Cubs pick second in Thursday's draft, and Hoyer noted, "We've really made a concerted effort not to let that #2 pick derail the rest of the draft." The Cubs have narrowed their list down to four college players, thought to be Mark Appel, Jonathan Gray, Kris Bryant, and Colin Moran. Tomorrow or even on draft day, Hoyer and company will whittle their list and take the best player on their board that doesn't go to the Astros first overall.
- How have Hoyer and Cubs president Theo Epstein done since taking over in fall 2011? Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald judges their major moves.
While Alfonso Soriano shot down a trade that would have sent him to the Giants last year, he may be more open to a deal if it presents itself this season, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.
"Yeah," Soriano said when asked if he's more likely to consider waiving his no-trade rights than he thought he might be a few months ago. "But it depends on them. It depends what the team wants. A chance to win, that's the most important thing. But it depends on the front office. It's not on me."
Soriano is hitting just .262/.291/.399 this season and will make $18MM this year and next, so he doesn't appear to be a particularly attractive trade target. Depending on how much salary the Cubs are willing to absorb, however, a team might be willing to trade for him, hoping for something more along the lines of last year's peformance, when he hit .262/.322/.499.
Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.
Ken Rosenthal's new video for FOX Sports offers a variety of trade tidbits on the Cubs, Brewers and Marlins.
- Matt Garza of the Cubs makes an intriguing trade candidate, but Rosenthal says that one can't rule out the possibility that the Cubs will keep Garza and extend him a qualifying offer at the end of the season, hoping to collect draft-pick compensation. Scott Feldman might also be traded, but Rosenthal notes that his peripherals indicate he has been lucky so far.
- Alfonso Soriano has only one year left on his eight-year, $136MM contract, which could make him a more attractive trade target than in years past, Rosenthal notes, but Soriano also has a no-trade clause, allowing him to control his destination.
- The Brewers, meanwhile, have fewer trade options, Rosenthal argues. Corey Hart is hurt, Rickie Weeks is in the midst of a poor season, and Aramis Ramirez is owed $16MM in 2014 and has a $4MM buyout on his mutual option the following season. The Brewers will be "reluctant" to trade Yovani Gallardo, whose contract carries him through next season and gives the Brewers an option on his services in 2015.
- The Marlins have received calls on relievers Steve Cishek, Ryan Webb and Mike Dunn, Rosenthal reports.