Chicago Cubs Rumors

Chicago Cubs trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

NL Central Notes: Martin, Huntington, Brewers, Cubs

As a former player, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly can relate to what Cubs prospects Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara are going through, writes David Just of the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s just a time factor with the young guys,” Mattingly said. “They can look good right away, and the next year they come out and it doesn’t look good. Or they can look kind of shaky and figure a lot of it out. So time is going to tell.” As a youngster, Mattingly got off to a slow start with the Yankees, hitting .278 with a .326 on-base percentage in his first 98 games during the 1982 and ’83 seasons. He then led the American League in hits, doubles, and batting average in 1984.

Here’s the latest from the NL Central:

  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington says re-signing catcher Russell Martin is a priority for the franchise, tweets Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We are going to try to do everything we can to keep Russ,” said Huntington. “We’d love nothing more than to have (Martin) in a Pirates uniform.
  • Huntington, however, reiterated the Pirates will not veer from their financial philosophy. “We’re going to continue to have to pay guys for what we believe they’re going to do, and not what they’ve done,” said Huntington (as quoted by MLB.com’s Stephen Pianovich). “The bigger markets certainly have luxury to be able to extend much beyond comfort levels to pay an extra year or two, to pave over prior mistakes with more money.
  • Brewers GM Doug Melvin does not “think there’s a need to go out and try to get another starter” and will instead focus on offense this offseason, reports MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. The Brewers are all but certain to pick up the $13MM option on Yovani Gallardo, McCalvy opines.
  • The Brewers‘ biggest offseason decisions will be the infield corners and whether to exercise Gallardo’s option, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a recent chat. The Brewers will consider both internal and external options at first base, but Haudricourt notes finding productive first basemen is easier said than done.
  • In a separate piece, Haudricourt writes Rickie Weeks is nearing the end of his tenure with the Brewers (his $11.5MM option isn’t expected to be exercised), but the team’s senior member in terms of service time is not thinking about 2015. “I’ll worry about that when the time comes,” Weeks said. “I’m still with the Brewers right now. That’s the way I look at it.
  • What we’d really like is to have a bunch of really good baserunners,” is what Cubs manager Rick Renteria told reporters, including MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat, when asked about the club’s 2015 wish list.

NL Notes: Cubs, Arrieta, Pirates, Revere

The Cubs top the list of teams who could improve substantially in 2015, Richard Justice of Sports On Earth writes. That was probably an easy call, given the amount of young talent the Cubs have on the verge of making an impact. Justice also lists the Mets (who are set to re-introduce Matt Harvey into a strong core of young pitching), Red Sox, Marlins and Astros as teams who could take big steps forward. Here’s more from the National League.

  • The Cubs haven’t had any formal extension discussions with emerging star Jake Arrieta, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Cubs president Theo Epstein says he doesn’t see extending Arrieta as “a pressing matter.” Arrieta, meanwhile, says he doesn’t want an exorbitant amount of money, but expresses confidence that he can continue posting excellent numbers. He’ll also be eligible for arbitration this offseason, so it’s no surprise that, as Wittenmyer notes, Arrieta is in “no rush” to sign a long-term deal.
  • The Pirates‘ 82nd victory in 2013 was an important moment, but on Thursday, the arrival of the Bucs’ second straight winning season felt unimportant, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. “Eighty-two no longer should be celebrated at some point in early to mid Sept., it should be an expectation,” Sawchik writes, noting that the Pirates have a strong core of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Gerrit Cole, Neil Walker and Gregory Polanco (along with Josh Harrison) and one of baseball’s better collections of minor league talent.
  • The Phillies could have a revamped outfield next season, given that they could deal Marlon Byrd and/or give up on Domonic Brown. The team is also hoping for more from Ben Revere next season, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes. Revere has hit .309 so far this season, but his minimal walks and power have led to an on-base percentage of .326 and a slugging percentage of .367. Manager Ryne Sandberg hopes Revere will hit for more power. “I think that should be the next thing for him is to hit 35 to 40 doubles in the season, hit in the gaps,” says Sandberg. “[T]here is no reason that shouldn’t translate into games and certain situations with certain pitches.” Revere has been in the big leagues for parts of five seasons and has shown little power-hitting ability, however.

NL Central Links: Cueto, Arrieta, Zarraga, Brewers

In Thursday’s edition of his Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney opines that the Reds should give serious thought to trading ace Johnny Cueto this offseason. Cueto has a no-brainer $10MM club option for 2015, making him a highly affordable and elite talent — an appealing alternative to clubs in win-now mode that don’t want to commit long-term dollars to Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields. The Reds will see Cueto, Mat Latos and Mike Leake hit free agency following the 2015 season, with Aroldis Chapman set to do the same the following year. Those losses, coupled with the rising salary of Joey Votto, give the Reds incentive to create some flexibility and add prospect depth. Olney wonders if the Reds could look to pair Cueto with Brandon Phillips in an effort to free themselves of the $36MM remaining on the second baseman’s deal. Of course, even if a team were to take on Phillips, they’d still likely need to surrender notable prospect value.

Here’s more from the NL Central…

  • Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan looks at Jake Arrieta‘s breakout season through a historical lens, noting that he has the sixth-largest season-to-season K-BB% improvement since 1920 (min. 75 IP each season) and the single largest FIP- improvement in that same span. Sullivan looks at how much more effectively Arrieta has repeated his mechanics with the Cubs, and he also points to the fact that Arrieta has doubled the usage of his hard slider/cutter while moving to the third-base side of the rubber. Both David Ross and Ryan Zimmerman noted that Arrieta, who now busts right-handed hitters inside at a much greater rate, often appears to be “throwing behind you” before his ball breaks over the plate. Whether or not Arrieta is a legitimate ace, the trade that sent him and Pedro Strop to Chicago in exchange for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger looks like quite the feather in the cap of GM Jed Hoyer and president Theo Epstein.
  • The Brewers announced that they have agreed to a new minor league contract with catcher Shawn Zarraga and invited him to 2015 Spring Training. Zarraga, 25, was Milwaukee’s 44th-round pick out of high school in 2007 and enjoyed a strong season at Double-A this year before struggling in his first crack at Triple-A. The Aruban backstop hit .330/.440/.419 in 267 plate appearances with Double-A but just .213/.304/.255 in 57 PA at the top minor league level.
  • In more Brewers news, GM Doug Melvin isn’t happy about the split between his organization and the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Nashville. Melvin told reporters, including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, that he asked the Sounds to let them know if they were considering re-affiliation three weeks ago. The Brewers heard nothing and then saw the Sounds sign a new player development contract with the A’s, which Melvin feels cost the Brewers a chance to pursue an affiliation with what they considered to be an attractive fallback option. The Sounds, McCalvy writes, weren’t pleased with the losing product the Brewers had put on the field in the two seasons prior to 2014.


Multiple Teams Change Minor League Affiliations

As Baseball America’s Josh Leventhal writes, yesterday marked a two-week period where Major League clubs are free to negotiate with available minor league organizations. Major League clubs sign player development contracts with minor league organizations much like players will sign contracts with teams. As such, Leventhal notes that the “affiliation shuffle” is akin to free agency for minor league teams. Leventhal’s article provides more insight behind many of the moves and offers quite a bit of detail for those who are curious to read more about this process.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll see multiple teams sign deals with new affiliates, and MLBTR will keep track of them here for those that are interested …

Triple-A

  • The Giants announced that they have reached a two-year PDC with Triple-A Sacramento (formerly occupied by the Athletics).
  • The Brewers announced that they have reached a two-year PDC with Triple-A Colorado Spring (formerly occupied by the Rockies)

Earlier Announcements

  • Fresno (formerly the Giants’ affiliate) has announced that it has reached a PDC with the Astros.
  • The Athletics have announced that they will be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Sacramento to Nashville (previously occupied by the Brewers).
  • The Dodgers have announced that they will be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City (previously occupied by the Astros).
  • The Rockies announced that they will be moving their Triple-A affiliate from Colorado Springs to Albuquerque (previously occupied by the Dodgers).
  • The Brewers have announced that their Triple-A affiliation with Nashville has been terminated by the Sounds.

Double-A

  • The Twins announced that they will be moving their Double-A affiliate from New Britain to Chattanooga (previously occupied by the Dodgers) after agreeing to a four-year term.
  • The Dodgers announced that they will be moving their Double-A affiliate from Chattanooga to Tulsa (previously occupied by the Rockies).
  • New Britain (formerly the Twins’ affiliate) has announced that that it has reached a PDC with the Rockies.

Class-A Advanced

  • Daytona (formerly the Cubs’ affiliate) has announced that it has reached a PDC with the Reds.

Earlier Announcements

  • The Cubs announced that they will be moving their High-A affiliate from Daytona to Myrtle Beach (previously occupied by the Rangers).
  • The Indians announced that they will be moving their High-A affiliate from Carolina to Lynchburg (previously occupied by the Braves).

D’Backs Links: Levine, Ross, Prospects, McKay

Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine has withdrawn himself from consideration for the Diamondbacks’ GM vacancy, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (via Twitter). Levine tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that he had a good talk over the phone with Arizona chief baseball officer Tony La Russa prior to his decision (Twitter link). As of this weekend, it was reported that Dave Stewart, former pitcher and current agent to Matt Kemp (among others), is considered the favorite for the job.

Here’s more on the D’Backs…

  • Cody Ross understood the reason that the Diamondbacks sat him in favor of impressive rookie David Peralta upon his activation from the disabled list, writes Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic. However, now, with Peralta out due to a back injury, Ross is trying to prove himself once again and prove that he belongs on the team in 2015. Ross tells Buchanan that he hopes to remain in Arizona. Given his $8.5MM salary next season and lack of production over the past two seasons, it’d be tough for a new GM to move him anyhow, Buchanan notes.
  • “It took a full-scale collapse to force the necessary organizational reboot, but change is definitely coming in Arizona,” writes Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron in an intro to a colleague Kiley McDaniel’s excellent rundown of the Snakes’ farm system. Cameron feels that there’s far more than one offseason’s worth of work to fix the D’Backs, while McDaniel runs down a list of prospects topped by Archie Bradley, Braden Shipley, Aaron Blair, Brandon Drury and Touki Toussaint.
  • In a second piece, Buchanan writes that last offseason’s hiring of first base coach Dave McKay away from the Cubs has paid significant dividends for the D’Backs. McKay has placed a strong emphasis on improving the club’s baserunning, and the results show in baserunning metrics on both Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus, Buchanan notes. The D’Backs jumped from respective marks of -10.5 runs and -9.7 runs in 2013 to +0.4 runs and -0.5 runs in 2014.

NL Central Notes: Cubs, Castillo, Martin, Bourjos

Cubs catcher Welington Castillo wants to be part of the future in Chicago, but he understands that in order for that to happen he likely has some more improvement to do, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Castillo, 27, is entering his prime-age seasons but doesn’t hear his name mentioned alongside younger core players like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. Castillo specifically mentions that he recognizes the fact that baseball is a business and he can’t assume that he will be in a starting role. Cubs GM Jed Hoyer again said to Wittenmyer that the team plans to add at least one everyday veteran this winter, leading Wittenmyer to speculate on Russell Martin, who would give the Cubs a major defensive boost behind the plate. While catching coach Mike Borzello feels that Castillo is “the best in the business” at blocking pitches, Castillo ranks at the bottom of Baseball Prospectus’ Blocking Runs Added stat and ranks 72nd among 97 catchers in extra strikes via pitch framing (also via B-Pro). Hoyer, however, did give Castillo a vote of confidence: “I really believe in Welly. … He doesn’t get mentioned a lot when we talk about our established young veterans, but he can be in that mix as well.”

Here’s more from the NL Central…

  • ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers also has quotes from Hoyer on his desire for veteran leadership, and Rogers wonders if the club would pursue a veteran such as Jonny Gomes to help out in left field. While he notes that Gomes, of course, wouldn’t be an everyday player, “a quasi-starter who has winning experience might be the best option” given the lack of starting-caliber bats at positions of need for the Cubs, Rogers opines. He, too, notes that Martin would be a good fit in Chicago, though.
  • Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette looks at the extraordinary preparation and conditioning that have contributed to Russell Martin‘s brilliant season. Brink spoke to Martin’s coaches and teammates about what he means to the club, with GM Neal Huntington stating that the club is going to do everything it can to re-sign its catcher. Perhaps most interesting, however, is the fact that Brink notes that the Pirates offered Martin a two-year, $17MM deal and a three-year, $21MM deal when signing him prior to the 2013 season. Martin explains to Brink that he didn’t want to sign for three years, because he felt he could improve his stock on a two-year pact, which he has done in dramatic fashion.
  • One veteran scout tells Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Cardinals outfielder Peter Bourjos is the best defensive center fielder he’s seen in 38 years as a scout. Bourjos and Randal Grichuk were acquired from the Angels with the idea that one of them would be the team’s everyday center fielder in 2015, writes Hummel, but Jon Jay‘s solid offense has muddied the picture and left the Cardinals with choices to make. Bourjos has hit better of late, boosting his season batting line to .241/.305/.367, and he drew praise from manager Mike Matheny as well. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cardinals decide to proceed, not only in the next few weeks, but in the offseason as well.

Quick Hits: Hernandez, Castillo, Martin, M’s, Pirates

Left-hander Yasmany Hernandez has left Cuba for an undisclosed third country with the goal of signing a MLB contract, per Diario De Cuba (h/t Baseball America’s Ben Badler). Badler provides a scouting report on the 23-year-old, who led Serie Nacional with a 1.66 ERA this past season. Hernandez will be exempt from international bonus restrictions after pitching five seasons in Serie Nacional, but Badler doesn’t expect teams to show as much interest in Hernandez as fellow Cubans have drawn. Here are more notes from around the game.

  • Badler also recently appeared on the Providence Journal’s Super Two podcast with Tim Britton and Brian MacPherson, where he discussed new Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo. Badler says teams are becoming increasingly receptive to spending big money on Cuban players thanks to the successes of players like Jose Abreu and Yasiel Puig, adding that the added power Castillo demonstrated since leaving Cuba increased his value on the market.
  • Free-agent-to-be Russell Martin would be a great fit for the Cubs, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Signing Martin would involve making a significant financial commitment and giving up on Welington Castillo as a starting catcher, but Martin could help mold the Cubs’ young pitching and provide a strong example for the rest of its young roster.
  • The Mariners will not retain national cross-checker Butch Baccala, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports. Baccala is the scout who sent Jesus Montero ice cream during a minor league game while Montero was rehabbing, seemingly as an insult regarding Montero’s weight. Montero threw the ice cream at Baccala and was suspended.
  • The Pirates had a quiet trade deadline, but they’ve had a strong second half anyway, MLB.com’s Tom Singer writes. In particular, they didn’t complete a trade for a starting pitcher and didn’t improve what appeared to be a weak bullpen. Since then, though, their bullpen has quietly become a strength, thanks in part to the emergence of John Holdzkom, and their offense has papered over any rotation issues. “You’ll get second-guessed no matter what you do,” says Bucs manager Clint Hurdle. “That’s just the nature of the world. So you gotta do what you feel in your gut is right.”
  • The Rays are ready to see what they’ve got in Nick Franklin, who they’re promoting Monday, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. The Rays, of course, acquired Franklin from the Mariners in the three-team deal in which they sent David Price to Detroit. Since the trade, Franklin has hit .210/.288/.290 in 113 plate appearances for Triple-A Durham, although his track record indicates he’s capable of hitting better.
  • Padres assistant director of scouting operations Don Welke, who arrived recently from the Rangers organization along with new GM A.J. Preller, is enjoying his first month with San Diego, Corey Brock of MLB.com writes. Welke and other members of the Padres’ front office are currently in Arizona, where they’re watching Padres prospects play in the instructional league.

2015 Vesting Options Update

The state of next year’s free agent class will be impacted by whether or not players with vesting options in their contracts achieve the necessary playing time to trigger those conditional options. As we near the end of the season, here’s a rundown of these players and their progress toward triggering their options …

  • Nick Punto, Athletics: Punto has a $2.75MM club option that will automatically vest if he spends fewer than 30 days on the disabled list, assistant GM David Forst told reporters at the time of the signing. Though Forst did add that there are other ways for Punto’s option to vest, the health route is no longer available. Punto was only activated yesterday — ten days into the September active roster expansion — after going on the DL on August 3rd. If the option doesn’t vest, the A’s have the choice of picking him up at $2.75MM or buying him out for $250K.
  • Rickie Weeks, Brewers: Weeks has an $11.5MM option that won’t be vesting, as he would have needed to total 600 PA in 2014 or 1,200 PA in 2013-14 and finish the season healthy. He has just 255 PAs on the season, so he’ll fall well shy of that mark. Weeks will also fall shy of reaching 400 PAs, which would have entitled him to a $1MM buyout of his option.
  • Jimmy Rollins, Phillies: Rollins’ option vested earlier this year when he reached 1,100 plate appearances over 2013-14. (He has also made 600 trips to bat in 2014, an independent basis for triggering the provision.) That clause, however, also required that he not finish the year on the disabled list, and Rollins left yesterday’s game with a hamstring injury. Word is that Rollins should be able to return, but with just three weeks left even a minor setback could well end his season. Nevertheless, Philadelphia would need to go out of its way to place him on the DL at this point, with active rosters expanded. And, in any event, the option would still vest if a mutually agreed-upon doctor deemed Rollins ready to start the 2015 season.
  • Dan Haren, Dodgers: Haren needs 180 innings to trigger a $10MM player option for the 2015 season. Heading into his scheduled outing this evening, he has already notched 162 frames. Haren should be in line for at least three more starts (including tonight’s) before the end of the month, and maybe another depending upon how the club approaches the last few games of the year. Having averaged 5.79 innings per start on the year, it will be incumbent on Haren to pitch his way to the option — especially in the midst of a playoff race and backed by a well-stocked bullpen.
  • Mike Adams, Phillies: Adams’ $6MM club option for 2015 would have vested with 60 innings pitched in 2014, but he’s obviously not going to get there with just 17 2/3 innings in the tank. Adams has thrown just 42 2/3 innings in his season-and-a-half with the Phils, and it seems highly unlikely that the team will pick him up at $6MM given his injury troubles. He should, however, be an attractive buy-low candidate given his general success when on the field.
  • Rafael Soriano, Nationals: Soriano’s $14MM club option vests with 120 games finished over 2013-14. While that always seemed a longshot, any realistic hope was snuffed out when Soriano lost his closing gig to Drew Storen, the man he replaced when he signed on with Washington. Whether or not Soriano makes it back into the 9th inning role over the next few weeks, he now sits at 104 games finished over the last two seasons, making it all but impossible for him to trigger the vesting provision. With the Nationals all but certain to decline their club option on Soriano, he should make for an interesting free agent to watch.
  • Kyuji Fujikawa, Cubs: The Cubs hoped that Fujikawa, one of the best relievers in Japanese history, would help to fortify their bullpen when they signed him to a two-year, $9.5MM contract in the 2012-13 offseason. Instead, both player and team received a hefty dose of bad luck when Fujikawa needed Tommy John surgery after just 12 innings last season. He has a vesting option based on games finished, but the 33-year-old has made it back for only 10 1/3 innings in 2014 and surely won’t be crossing that (unreported) threshold.
  • Sean Burnett, Angels: Burnett’s $4.5MM club option vests if he appears in a total of 110 games between 2013-14, but like Fujikawa, he’s been plagued by injury and has no chance of that happening. Burnett has appeared in just 16 games total over the past two seasons and underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year. The Halos will certainly be paying the $500K buyout on his club option.
  • Scott Downs, White Sox: Downs had a $4MM vesting option that would have vested with 55 appearances, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported in June (via Twitter). Though he appeared to be headed in that direction earlier in the year, the White Sox cut bait with Downs and his then-6.08 ERA. He owns a 3.55 mark over 12 2/3 innings with the Royals — who signed him to a separate, minor-league deal — and has now thrown in 53 games, but the vesting clause is now a moot point.

NL Notes: Stanton, Wright, Braun, Lester

The Marlins plan to offer Giancarlo Stanton a deal that would make him the highest-paid player in team history, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported back in August that Miami would try to lock up its 24-year-old star for the long term, though the team was not necessarily optimistic of reaching agreement. For his part, Stanton tells Nightengale that he is willing to hear offers, but still wants to see “some progression moving forward.” “It will be interesting to hear what they have to say when the time comes,” he said, “but right now, I’m not worrying about it. I mean, we’re still in this season. When this season is over, then we can start thinking about 2015.”

Here’s more from the National League:

  • Mets third baseman David Wright will be shut down for the rest of the year but is not expected to require surgery on his left shoulder, Adam Rubin of ESPN.com reported (via Twitter) on in advance of a team announcement. The club says that Wright has experienced persistent inflammation in his left shoulder, which may go some way to explaining his uncharacteristically average .269/.324/.374 slash this year. The star 31-year-old is owed $107MM over 2015-2020.
  • Ryan Braun of the Brewers has seen his ongoing thumb issues expand to become a broader problem with his right hand, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Though surgical options have been explored, it was determined that none seemed sure enough to warrant the risk. Since a hot start, Braun has seen his numbers dwindle and then fall off a cliff of late. He is still owed $12MM on an earlier extension next year before his five-year, $105MM pact kicks in starting in 2016.
  • Left-handed starter Jon Lester makes sense as a free agent target for the Cubs, argues Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com. He is young and sturdy enough to warrant a significant investment, says Rogers, though Chicago can also choose to forego an overpay given the number of solid arms that could be had on the open market in 2016.

West Notes: A’s, Samardzija, Astros, Diamondbacks

The Athletics made several errors in their approach to mid-season roster reconstruction, opines SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee, but trading away Yoenis Cespedes was not one of them. Overvaluing Jeff Samardzija, failing to improve at second, and giving up Addison Russell were all front office mistakes, says Brisbee, though much of the team’s recent poor play can be chalked up to some combination of bad luck and injury.

  • Samardzija said he expects to reach free agency in November of 2015, according to Bruce Levine of WSCR-AM (on Twitter).  Though Oakland obviously attributed significant value to controlling him next year at a below-market salary, giving up Russell to do so, it is hardly surprising to hear that an extension is not in the works. Samardzija went on to say that he is open to both the Cubs and White Sox as a free agent and indicated that the city of Chicago is still a priority for him (link).
  • The Astros‘ coaching staff is in limbo thanks to their managerial opening, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.  Houston likes its current coaching staff and when figuring out who their next skipper will be, they’ll have to also decide how much they value the staff and whether it’s worth getting rid of coaches they like to accommodate a new manager.
  • Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa has several avenues to pursue in his GM search, writes Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic.  Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque and agent Dave Stewart have been heavily tied to the job and both have a history with La Russa.  Meanwhile, if La Russa truly wants to “beef up” his analytics department, Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler should garner strong consideration.