Bryan LaHair Rumors
The Yankees completed a sweep against the Nationals on Sunday afternoon in Washington D.C. with a 4-1 victory. The win marked New York's third consecutive sweep of three games or more for the first time since 1998. With the Yankees taking three from the Nationals, the Reds (7-5) are now the lone MLB team with an all-time winning record against the Bronx Bombers. Here's the latest from around the majors...
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has already conceded his interest in acquiring a right-handed bat before the non-waiver trade deadline, but any potential move hinges on the health of Victor Martinez, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. “The possibility (of Martinez returning) exists in a strong enough fashion that you have to give it some thought, but I don’t really know where that stands – and I don’t know that we will know until July,” Dombrowski said in an interview Sunday morning. “We may get Martinez and (Al) Alburquerque back. Those would be two pretty good acquisitions, and our bullpen actually has pitched pretty well in recent times.”
- ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports (via Twitter) that the Dodgers are not interested in Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair but are talking with Chicago about right-hander Ryan Dempster. Los Angeles may want to reconsider its stance as LaHair has a slash line of .297/.380/.560 as compared to .261/.322/.368 for the Dodgers' first basemen.
- According to calculations by Baseball America, the Red Sox will face increased penalties from MLB if they continue spending at their current pace to go 5% over their draft budget as pointed out by Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal. When a team exceeds its budget by 5% or less, it is penalized by paying 75% on the amount over the threshold. Teams that go over by 5 to 10% are mandated to pay a luxury tax of 100% on the excess spending and forfeit their next first round draft pick.
The Cubs, who rank 14th out of 16 NL teams in runs scored, announced that they replaced hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo with minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson. Here are some more Cubs-related notes and rumors...
- President of baseball operations Theo Epstein confirmed that the Cubs are ready to start trading players to improve the organization's future, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports (on Twitter).
- Jim Bowden of ESPN.com examines the rosters of potential sellers, including the Cubs. Most scouts believe Bryan LaHair has legitimate late-blooming power like Nelson Cruz and Jose Bautista, according to Bowden.
- Some executives believe Ryan Dempster could be traded early, perhaps even before the All-Star break, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). The Dodgers are interested in Dempster, who is in the last year of his contract.
- An American League exec likes the looks of Dempster, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports (on Twitter). "He's pitching well and he'd give you a good character guy/leader," the person said.
- David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution lists off a number of reasons why the Braves may not pursue trades for veteran pitchers like Dempster this summer. The new collective bargaining agreement could impact the Braves’ interest in making a deal, and Kris Medlen gives them an additional internal candidate for the rotation.
Let’s not let the day’s biggest story -- that the Cubs will sign Jorge Soler to a nine-year deal worth $30MM -- overshadow some other notes and rumors from around MLB. Here are the latest links...
- Yahoo’s Jeff Passan checks in on the players heading toward free agency, noting that the stock for players such as Adam LaRoche, Melky Cabrera and Andre Ethier is way up.
- Derrek Lee would be open to returning for the “right opportunity,” Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter). The Pirates could be interested in re-signing Lee, who joined the team in a midseason trade last year.
- Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster and Bryan LaHair are all in play as the trade deadline nears, Rosenthal notes (on Twitter). The Cubs could look to supplement their core of young players by dealing established Major Leaguers for controllable players this summer.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has a new Full Count video up. Let's recap...
- Teams looking for rotation help should call the Diamondbacks about Joe Saunders. Arizona wants to get top prospect Trevor Bauer into their rotation, but right now there's just no room.
- The identity of the Padres' new owner will not be known before August, leaving the front office to make its own call on Carlos Quentin prior to the trade deadline. They could keep him and make him a qualifying offer after the season (entitling them to draft pick compensation), though they'd be gambling on future payroll before knowing the new owner's plans. The safest move could be trading the outfielder.
- The Cardinals will wait to hear more about Chris Carpenter's status before making a move for a veteran starting pitcher in the wake of Jaime Garcia's shoulder injury. St. Louis wanted Jeff Francis badly, but the timing wasn't right; Garcia appeared to be healthy when Francis hit the market.
- The Pirates have inquired about a number of corner infield bats, including Kevin Youkilis, Chase Headley, and Bryan LaHair. Some of those targets are more realistic than others, plus the trade market has yet to really materialize. There are far more buyers than sellers, though Pittsburgh has the pitching depth to swing a deal.
6:31pm: Castro is "first on the list of players [the Cubs] won't trade," according to a team that recently spoke to the Cubs, reports Danny Knobler of CBS Sports. Knobler also says the Cubs have told teams that they will cover as much as $45MM of the approximately $48MM remaining on Soriano's contract if the outfielder is moved (Twitter link). At least one team has already expressed interest in Dempster, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney.
1:45pm: The Cubs are letting teams know that nearly every player except Jeff Samardzija is available in trades, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports. Some teams are already calling the 18-32 Cubs about potential deals.
"We're starting to get some early calls now," president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told Nightengale. "There might be fewer sellers than usual and a lot more buyers. This has a chance to help us. We need core players."
Starlin Castro could be obtained for two impact prospects, according to Nightengale. First baseman Bryan LaHair and starters Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster could also be acquired. The Cubs will contribute cash in a deal involving Alfonso Soriano, who earns $18MM per season through 2014.
Though Epstein's longtime team, the Red Sox, hasn't been a seller for years, Chicago GM Jed Hoyer was trading Major Leaguers for prospects as recently as last summer. He acquired Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin from the Rangers for Mike Adams in 2011 when he was the Padres' GM.
When I described Bryan LaHair as having "quality sleeper potential" in a column for Roto Authority back in January, I certainly didn't expect this. Heading into Thursday's play, LaHair was hitting an absurd .381/.459/.794 in 74 plate appearances as the Cubs' regular first baseman and establishing himself as one of the best stories of this young 2012 campaign. A 29-year-old with just 219 Major League PAs to his name entering the season, LaHair was expected to do little more than keep first base warm for Anthony Rizzo, but LaHair's success has in all likelihood required a shift in the Cubs' short-term plans.
Or has it? LaHair is obviously not going to keep up his Ruthian numbers for the entire season, though his solid power numbers in the minors would hint that he's not going to fall completely off the map. If LaHair regresses even to around an .850 OPS by June, that's still a very solid output, and if he tops that number, even better. If LaHair is still swinging a hot bat by midseason, it would behoove the Cubs to at least test the market to see what they could get for the first baseman.
The obvious question is, why wouldn't the Cubs just hang onto LaHair and move him to a corner outfield spot once Rizzo is called up? Rizzo and his Triple-A slash line of .372/.422/.638 certainly look on pace to be in Chicago by midseason at the latest, and if he can translate even some of that quality to the Majors, then the Cubs would have a nice pair of bats to hit behind Starlin Castro.
The problem could be that the Cubs' preferred trade candidate, David DeJesus, is playing poorly. Teams aren't going to be be willing to acquire a 32-year-old who has a .687 OPS in 2011-12, is owed approximately $9.15MM through the end of the 2013 season and whose traditionally strong corner OF glove also seems to be failing him. Chicago's other corner outfielder, Alfonso Soriano, is set to earn approximately $51MM through 2014. Between Soriano's untradeable contract and DeJesus' lack of form, LaHair is a much more valuable trade commodity than either player and could become the trade chip that the Cubs hoped DeJesus could become.
The Tigers, Dodgers, Phillies and Brewers are just a few of the contenders and would-be contenders that could use a slugging left-handed bat at first, left, right or DH. Suitors wouldn't pay a king's ransom for LaHair since they would also have an eye on his middling career history, but power is an increasingly rare commodity, so teams would definitely give the Cubs some value if LaHair continues to smash right-handed pitching. LaHair would also be under team control through 2018 though since he's already 29, controllability is not a major factor in this case.
Cubs fans will no doubt be upset over the club dealing away the feel-good story in the midst of another sub-.500 year, but Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have stated on many occasions that they're rebuilding the Cubs from the ground up and that 2012 is intended as a rebuilding year. If Chicago can turn a 29-year-old career minor leaguer into a quality prospect or two, that's a better long-term move for the organization than hoping LaHair is a late-blooming superstar like Jose Bautista and can stay an elite hitter until the Cubs are ready to contend again.
Put it this way --- if you asked a Cubs fan even one month ago if they'd be willing to see LaHair dealt for two of another team's top 15 prospects, even the most staunch Wrigleyville dweller would've jumped at that deal. One red-hot outlier of a month (or even a few hot months) shouldn't be enough to alter the Cubs' rebuilding plan.
Here's the latest from the NL Central...
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty is "not even considering" signing Roy Oswalt, reports John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Jocketty also said he is planning to talk with Brandon Phillips' agents about a contract extension for the second baseman at some point during the spring.
- Zack Greinke said "nothing's changed" about his extension talks with the Brewers and didn't want to talk about the subject to reporters today (including Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). Greinke also added that he has no immediate plans to hire an agent.
- The Brewers should wait before giving Shaun Marcum a contract extension, or perhaps they should let Marcum hit free agency next winter altogether, writes Eric Seidman for Fangraphs. "All of [the Brewers] rotation efforts this year should be focused on keeping Greinke, the better and younger pitcher who is more likely to remain among the elite throughout the life of the deal," Seidman writes. Marcum recently said that he'd love to remain in Milwaukee, though the Brewers haven't yet approached him about a long-term deal.
- Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer told Bryan LaHair that the Cubs had no interest in Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, LaHair tells Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. As such, LaHair was able to ignore the rumors and focus on preparing for his first starting job in the big leagues. Over at Roto Authority, I recently looked at the fantasy potential of LaHair and the newly-acquired Anthony Rizzo.
The Cubs agreed to send Carlos Zambrano to the Marlins for Chris Volstad today. The Cubs take on nearly all of Zambrano’s salary, but in doing so they obtain Volstad, a valuable ground ball pitcher who has consistently made his starts since joining the Marlins’ rotation in 2008. He’s arbitration eligible this offseason and under team control through 2014. Before the trade, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein joined 720 WGN in Chicago for an extended interview. Here are some highlights:
- Epstein said Matt Garza is a “top of the rotation type” starter. In general, players like Garza can become long-term assets by signing extensions or becoming trade chips, Epstein said. David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com hears that the Cubs continue asking "for [the] moon" in trade talks about Garza (Twitter link).
- Rules limiting amateur spending in the new collective bargaining agreement won’t necessarily slow the Cubs down. "It just means we have to be better and more accurate with our drafting than the competition," Epstein said.
- Epstein said he'd be greatly disappointed if the Cubs don't re-sign Kerry Wood. Wood signed a below-market $1.5MM deal last offseason but is said to want a market value deal this winter.
- The Cubs expect to start Bryan LaHair at first base. The 29-year-old posted a .331/.405/.664 line with 38 home runs at Triple-A in 2011. He also posted an .885 OPS in 69 plate appearances with the big league club.
- Epstein addressed Zambrano, saying "change needs to happen and change will happen." Not long after the interview, the Cubs agreed to send the right-hander to Miami.
- Epstein explained that some disappointing players can recover from poor seasons to produce again. "It's a game played by human beings and the ability to bounce back is very real," Epstein said.
- The Cubs value Sean Marshall, but felt it made sense to trade him for players who can contribute beyond 2012 (Travis Wood and two prospects), especially since Marshall isn't likely to be tied to draft pick compensation next offseason.
- The Cubs are "very committed" to Carlos Marmol as their closer.
The Cardinals and their fans may still be celebrating Friday's World Series victory, but it won't be long before a pair of the club's most prominent members will face decisions on their futures. Cards president Bill DeWitt III spoke to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports about Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa, two men without contracts for 2012:
"I don't want to prognosticate at all, but in the next week or so we'll hear from [La Russa].... Albert may take a little while, I guess.... Who knows? Maybe we'll get something done in the quiet period (during which teams are only permitted to negotiate with their own free agents). But if you've waited this long, you're probably going to see what's out there."
Here are the rest of the morning's notes and rumors from the NL Central:
- Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is surprised by DeWitt's lack of urgency regarding Pujols, and wonders if it's a good idea to allow the slugger to be wooed by teams who may be more aggressive than the Cardinals.
- Fielding Reds-related questions for the Dayton Daily News, Hal McCoy says it's unlikely that Cincinnati makes a play for Roy Oswalt.
- The Pirates will likely look at second- or third-tier free agents, but they won't make a huge splash this winter, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Biertempfel says the Bucs will be shopping for a catcher, a first baseman, and starting pitching, naming Jason Varitek, Rod Barajas, Jeff Francis, and Chris Young as a few possible targets.
- In a Twitter exchange, Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker and Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus discuss Bryan LaHair of the Cubs and former Pirates outfielder Lastings Milledge, two players being eyed by Japanese teams. Goldstein suggests the Cubs would like to hang on to LaHair, but hears rumblings that Milledge could sign in Japan as early as next week (all four Twitter links).
ESPN's Wayne Drehs has the story of Pat Looney, the man who almost became a scapegoat for Cubs fans in 2003 instead of Steve Bartman. ESPN's Bartman film airs tonight at 7pm central time. The latest on the Cubs:
- Red Sox GM Theo Epstein is unlikely to leave Boston for the Cubs post after a "moment of epic failure," in the opinion of Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
- There's a good chance Carlos Zambrano joins Ozzie Guillen in Miami, writes Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.
- Cubs sources expect the team to reconcile with Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg before next season, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Sandberg managed the Phillies' Triple-A club this year but is said to be open to managing the Cubs with Jim Hendry out of the picture.
- Brewers' third baseman Casey McGehee told the Sun-Times he can relate to Bryan LaHair having to shake off the 4-A label. The 28-year-old LaHair hit .331/.405/.664 with 38 home runs in 523 Triple-A plate appearances this year.