Chicago Cubs Rumors

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

Heyman’s Latest: Bryant, Upton, Rays, Leake, Soriano, Polanco

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is said to be “ready to reach out to [Kris] Bryant soon to determine his mindset” on whether or not a grievance should be filed against the Cubs for holding him in Triple-A to start the season, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in his latest Inside Baseball column. Heyman notes that the union could file a grievance on Bryant’s behalf even without his consent, though that’s unlikely. The issue at hand, of course, would be whether or not Bryant was clearly one of Chicago’s 25 best players and the demotion was made purely for service time implications. (Chicago bought an extra year of control over Bryant by stashing him in the Minors for all of eight games/11 days). Heyman points out that it would be difficult to an arbitrator to rule in Bryant’s favor, as there’s no precedent for this type of grievance. Players in similar situations have historically been hesitant to file a grievance, he adds, because it would be a contentious way to begin a relationship with a team to which a player will be tied for the next six-plus years. A “Cubs connected person” called the notion of a grievance “laughable” when asked by Heyman. However, the points that Bryant was recalled on the first day the team could add him while still delaying free agency and slotted directly into the cleanup spot could make a case that the club had an understanding of his value, Heyman writes. From the union’s perspective, it’s understandable that they’d have interest in preventing this type of situation in the future, even if it’s a long shot.

More highlights from a lengthy Heyman column…

  • The Padres don’t yet view Melvin Upton Jr. as a throwaway piece and will use him as an occasional outfielder and pinch-runner, Heyman writes. He also looks back on Upton’s original five-year, $75.2MM pact and notes that it’s one of the worst contracts in recent history, particularly given the fact that the next-highest offer was believed to come from the Phillies at somewhere in the $40MMs.
  • The league’s investigation into the Rays‘ allegations of the Cubs‘ tampering in the Joe Maddon saga could come to a close as soon as next week, per Heyman. MLB was still interviewing people as recently as last week, but to this point there “is believed to have been no smoking guns found.”
  • The Reds never approached right-hander Mike Leake about a contract extension this offseason, and the free-agent-to-be is said to be a bit hurt not to have been contacted. Leake’s not a front-line starter, but he’ll hit the open market heading into his age-28 season and currently sports a 3.56 ERA in 427 1/3 innings dating back to Opening Day 2013. A third straight season of 190+ innings and an ERA in the mid-3.00s should position him for a nice contract, especially considering the fact that half of his starts have come in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
  • Multiple teams have worked out Rafael Soriano, and while he’s on the Tigers‘ radar, there’s also been some contact with the Mariners. Heyman adds the Pirates, Indians and Dodgers as “logical suitors,” though I’d imagine the Pirates and Indians in particular would have some payroll constraints, depending on the asking price of agent Scott Boras.
  • Heyman echoes ESPN’s Buster Olney in speculating that the Dodgers could make a run at extending Howie Kendrick, noting that the Dodgers love Kendrick both on the field and in the clubhouse. He also notes that the Dodgers are impressed with Alex Guerrero‘s bat and may coming around on him as a passable option at third base or in left field, though the team is already well-stocked at each position.
  • The Pirates and Gregory Polanco may have come as close as about $1MM on agreeing to a seven-year contract, Heyman hears. The biggest holdup was over the three club options on the deal, which ranged from $11-13MM, and when the team would have been required to exercise them.
  • Though recent reports have indicated that John Lackey hopes the Cardinals will approach him about an extension, Heyman writes that it’s not a likely scenario. St. Louis likes its pitching depth and the young starters in line beyond those in the 2015 rotation.
  • The Orioles asked the Blue Jays for both of the team’s first round picks from the 2014 draft — right-hander Jeff Hoffman and catcher Max Pentecost — in exchange for the ability to hire EVP/general manager Dan Duquette as their new president, according to Heyman.

International Notes: Fox, Diaz, Sierra

Here’s the latest on a trio of intriguing international prospects…

  • The Cubs, Dodgers and Rangers are all interested in Bahamian shortstop Lucius Fox and scouts consider the three teams to be the “biggest threats” to sign the 17-year-old prospect, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel reports.  Since many teams have already planned out their budgets and made unofficial agreements to prospects for the 2015-16 international signing period, a player like Fox (who is projected to receive a bonus of at least $1.5MM) is perhaps more likely to land with a team like the aforementioned trio who have money to spend and are aggressive enough to surpass the spending pool limit.  The Giants, Padres and Reds have also been linked to Fox but are seen as less likely to spend as freely as Chicago, Los Angeles and Texas.
  • Yusnier Diaz, an 18-year-old outfielder, has left Cuba and is looking to play in the majors, Ben Badler of Baseball America reports.  The 6’1, 185-pound prospect has plus speed and a plus arm and Badler praised his hitting tools, though he feels Diaz’s right-handed swing is a bit long.  Diaz is subject to international spending pools, and since he is unlikely to secure permanent residence in another country by the May 15 deadline, he may not be able to sign until the 2016-17 international signing period opens on July 2, 2016.  Any team that exceeds its pool limit in the 2015-16 signing period is therefore probably out of the running for Diaz, as such teams are prohibited from signing any of the next year’s class for more than $300K.  The Angels, Diamondbacks, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees are already under this penalty until the 2017-18 signing period.
  • Also from Badler, he provides some background on Cuban righty Yaisel Sierra, who isn’t subject to the bonus pools but is still several months away from gaining the necessary clearance to sign with a team.  Sierra can throw all his pitches (including a 96mph fastball and a slider) from various arm angles, though the 23-year-old is still a bit unpolished.  “Between his stuff, pitching style and history of control problems in Cuba, Sierra has a lot of similarities to Reds right-hander Raisel Iglesias, with Sierra having more size but Iglesias better performance in his final year in Cuba,” Badler writes.

NL Central Notes: Brewers, Cubs, Castro, Pirates

Here’s the latest from the NL Central…

  • The Brewers are off to a terrible start, and Fangraphs’ Mike Petriello opines that the club might not be able to turn things around given injuries, a lack of starting pitching depth and the few players who are performing well are due for regression.  Petriello suggests the team erred by taking one last run at a playoff berth and now they’ll have a tough time rebuilding immediately due to a lack of both quality prospects and obviously tradeable veterans.
  • The Cubs have been drastically overhauled by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, as Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper illustrates just how starkly different the team’s roster is today than it was just four seasons ago.
  • Addison Russell‘s promotion to the Cubs‘ Major League roster could lead to even more whispers that Starlin Castro could (or even should) be traded, yet Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times disagrees.  Castro is off to a strong start in 2015 and seems to be ever-improving, not to mention his youth (he’s still just 25) and team-friendly contract.
  • Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer underwent tests yesterday to confirm that he suffered nothing more severe than a bruise after being struck in the chest by a Matt Garza fastball when squaring to bunt, writes MLB.com’s Tom Singer. Jung-ho Kang will again start for the Bucs at shortstop today, and GM Neal Huntington again defended the decision to keep Kang on the roster despite a lack of consistent at-bats. “Ten plate appearances, on top of 30 in Spring Training, is an awfully quick rush to judgment in our mind,” said Huntington. “…There would be nothing gained by having him play in the Minor Leagues. The best way for him to get used to hitting Major League pitching is to hit Major League pitching, albeit in a limited role.


Cubs Promote Addison Russell

The Cubs have announced that top infield prospect Addison Russell has been promoted to the Majors.  To create roster space for the 21-year-old, Arismendy Alcantara has been optioned to Triple-A and Mike Olt has been transferred to the 60-day DL in corresponding moves.  Russell, usually a shortstop, will play second base, where the Cubs have struggled this season.

USATSI_8461249_154513410_lowresRussell was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Athletics. He hit a combined .295/.350/.508 at the Class A+ and Double-A levels in 2014, spending part of the year in the Athletics’ system before they shipped him to Chicago as the key to the Cubs’ side of the Jeff Samardzija trade. He had been hitting .297/.308/.432 for Triple-A Iowa in a 39 plate appearances this season. Baseball Prospectus ranked Russell the No. 2 prospect in the game heading into the 2015 season, while Baseball America ranked him No. 3. MLB.com placed him at No. 5, praising his offensive game and noting that he’s received comparisons to Barry Larkin and Miguel Tejada.

The Cubs, of course, also recently promoted another top prospect, Kris Bryant, to play third base. The timing of Bryant’s promotion caused controversy due to the perception that the Cubs delayed his arrival so that they could control him for another season. Russell’s promotion could conceivably attract similar criticism, although he has less experience at Triple-A than Bryant and has not been nearly as dominant at that level. If anything, the Cubs could easily have postponed Russell’s promotion until June, which would have prevented him from being a Super Two player. If he sticks in the big leagues now, he will likely receive that designation, becoming arbitration-eligible for the first of four times starting in 2018 before becoming eligible for free agency following the 2021 season.

Nonetheless, Russell gives the Cubs yet another top young talent to go along with Bryant, Jorge Soler, and young veterans Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. The Cubs’ future has looked very bright for quite some time, and now, with a team loaded with excellent young players and off to a strong 7-5 start, that future seems to be coming quickly.

Russell’s promotion was first reported by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Quick Hits: Wilson, Rodon, Detwiler

The Dodgers released closer Brian Wilson back in December, but he’s apparently kept himself busy, recently playing Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn in a live reading of Major League as the Los Angeles County Museum Of Art. Grantland’s Dave Schilling reports that the flamboyant Wilson dressed for the event in an ’80s Indians uniform and imitated Charlie Sheen’s delivery while reading for the part. Here are more quick notes from around baseball.

  • Agent Scott Boras was critical of the Cubs for their handling of the timing of Kris Bryant‘s promotion, but he has no such complaints about the White Sox promoting Carlos Rodon at a similar point in the season, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com writes. Of course, the two situations are different — Bryant had a full year in the minors after being drafted and had significant time in Triple-A before reaching the Majors, whereas Rodon, who the White Sox picked third overall last June, had neither. And Boras says that he likes that the White Sox plan to be conservative with Rodon’s innings. “The Bryant situation and Carlos’ situation are very different because of the innings issue,” says Boras. “Because of the idea that frankly, you really want this process to get a foundation to it for a pitcher rather than building — because there’s no repetition in amateur baseball that prepares you for what Major League pitchers have to go through.” The White Sox are having Rodon begin his big-league career in the bullpen, much as they did with Chris Sale.
  • Ross Detwiler has struggled to a 10.95 ERA through his first three starts with the Rangers, but manager Jeff Banister plans to stick with the slumping southpaw, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Detwiler feels he’s found a flaw in his delivery while watching video of Sunday’s start that will allow him to return to form. The Rangers picked up Detwiler in a trade that sent Chris Bostick and Abel De Los Santos to the Nationals this offseason, but his initial results are clearly not what the team expected.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Redmond, Cubs, Harvey, O’s, White Sox

It would be foolhardy for the Marlins to fire manager Mike Redmond this early in the season, opines FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal in his latest notes column. Redmond is well-respected among the industry, Rosenthal notes, and he cannot be blamed for the fact that Henderson Alvarez is injured and Mat Latos has struggled so greatly. (Latos’ diminished velocity is likely a significant culprit in that regard.) Rosenthal writes that owner Jeffrey Loria needs to realize that the unstable culture he creates by cycling through managers so willingly is part of the problem in Miami.

A few more notes from Rosenthal’s latest column…

  • In the video atop his column, Rosenthal notes that Cubs top prospect Addison Russell has begun playing some second base and may eventually get a look there in the Majors. However, because he is their best defensive shortstop, Russell may eventually push Starlin Castro to third base and Kris Bryant to the outfield, or his arrival may lead to a trade of Castro.
  • Rosenthal writes about former Mets GM Omar Minaya’s decision to draft Matt Harvey with the seventh pick in the 2010 draft. The team had been deciding between Harvey and Chris Sale, but the Mets, like many other clubs, had some reservations about whether or not Sale would last as a starter. Minaya became convinced of Harvey after watching him in an April start at the University of Miami, though as Rosenthal notes, others in the front office/scouting department, including Marlin McPhail, Rudy Terrasas and Bryan Lambe all played large roles as well. Interestingly, Rosenthal adds that the White Sox were thrilled to get Chris Sale at No. 13, as they feared the Royals would select him fifth overall. Kansas City instead selected Cal State Fulelrton infielder Christian Colon.
  • Delmon Young told the Orioles that he wanted to regain some of his lost athleticism, and so the team had him work extensively with outfielder-turned-executive Brady Anderson in Spring Training. Young was the first to the clubhouse every day during Spring Training and is now has the fastest 10-yard dash time on the Orioles, per manager Buck Showalter. Rosenthal also notes that Everth Cabrera told the O’s that he knew advanced metrics pegged him as a below-average defender, and he expressed an interest in improving in that area. Baltimore is working with Cabrera to correct a tendency to retreat with his hands and “baby” the ball, as Rosenthal put it.
  • The White Sox weren’t as successful in upgrading their catching position as they’d have liked, but for the time being, they’re content with Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto. Rosenthal notes that while Welington Castillo is widely believed to be available, the Sox and Cubs rarely make trades.

Minor Moves: Gonzalez Germen, Ryan Dennick

Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around MLB:

  • The Cubs have announced they have purchased the contract of right-hander Gonzalez Germen from Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs optioned outfielder Matt Szczur to Iowa and transferred right-hander Jacob Turner to the 60-day disabled list to create room on the 25-man and 40-man rosters, respectively. German, who was claimed by the Cubs on waivers from the Rangers in January, did not allow a run in his four appearances (4 2/3 innings) for Iowa while striking out five. The 27-year-old posted a 4.31 ERA, 8.9 K/9, 4.2 BB/9 in 54 relief outings for the Mets over the past two seasons.
  • The Dodgers have outrighted left-hander Ryan Dennick to Double-A Tulsa, per the club’s transactions page. It has been a whirlwind week for the 28-year-old who was claimed by the Dodgers off waivers from the Reds and then designated for assignment two days later.
  • Per MLBTR’s DFA Tracker, Grant Balfour (Rays), Todd Redmond (Blue Jays), and Xavier Cedeno (Nationals) remain in DFA limbo.

Central Notes: Francona, Bailey, Bryant

Indians manager Terry Francona relates an entertaining story about contracts and signing bonuses that goes back two generations, via Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer. Francona’s father, former big-league outfielder Tito, was trying to get a better deal from the Tigers in 1958, telling team GM John McHale he needed more money because his wife was pregnant. “That’s not my problem,” McHale responded. The baby, of course, was Terry, and McHale was president of the Expos 22 years later when they picked him in the first round of the 1980 draft. Tito acted as Terry’s agent and negotiated a $100K bonus. He then called McHale. “Remember when my wife was pregnant and I wanted a raise,” he said. “Well, that baby is Terry and he just cost you $100,000!” Here’s more from the Central divisions.

  • The Reds have reinstated starter Homer Bailey (elbow) from the disabled list and optioned reliever Pedro Villarreal to Triple-A Louisville, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. Bailey’s start against the Cardinals on Saturday will be his first since last August. Bailey pitched reasonably well in 2014 when he was available, and he’s in the second year of a $105MM contract, so the Reds will depend on him to be productive yet again.
  • Cubs Triple-A infielder Chris Valaika is confident Kris Bryant will be successful in the big leagues, although he’s undoubtedly facing a new challenge, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat writes. “Everything’s escalated, the media presence doesn’t go away, and the game is crisper — it’s the big leagues for a reason,” says Valaika. “Those guys are the best of the best. They find a weakness and they exploit it until you close that hole. He will make adjustments, they will find a new one, and he will close it again.”

Quick Hits: Bryant, Cubs, Hamilton

The Mariners were a trendy pick to win big in 2015, but so far they’re off to a weak start.  For his part, manager Lloyd McClendon thinks that all of the team’s tough losses will help prepare them for later on in the season.

Like I told the guys the other day, and this is real important: Everybody’s giving the American League title, the pennant, to the Seattle Mariners, and we’re going to hoist the trophy, we’re going to the World Series. And yeah, that’s great,” McClendon said, according to MLB.com’s Doug Miller.  “But in between, there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears, some heartaches, some adversity that you’ve got to go through, and you’ve got to be built for it. And you’ve got to handle it. And if you’re lucky, in the end you’ll be able to hoist that trophy.”

Here’s more from around the majors..

  • Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com spoke with Cubs execs about what went into their decision to draft Kris Bryant No. 2 overall in 2013.  “It was clear [that Bryant, Stanford pitcher Mark Appel, and Oklahoma pitcher Jonathan Gray] were going to go in the top three. As an organization, we knew we needed pitching but philosophically we felt like taking hitters at the top of the draft was the safer bet. Also, at picking at No. 2 it was hopefully our one shot at picking that high in the draft. Going hitter was safer,” GM Jed Hoyer explained.
  • Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com attempted to peg what kind of impact we could see Bryant make in his rookie year for the Cubs.  Mayo writes that he’s undoubtedly ready to make his mark at the big league level and, unsurprisingly, scouting directors raved about his overall upside. “He’s an exceptional player and talent,” one director said. “He has the chance to be one of the top hitters in baseball over the next 10 to 15 years.”
  • Angels bench coach Dino Ebel and manager Mike Scioscia had dinner with Josh Hamilton on Wednesday night and Ebel told reporters, including Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (via Twitter), that the meeting “went well.”  It remains to be seen how the Hamilton situation will play out in the wake of owner Arte Moreno’s comments.

Should Kris Bryant Have Been On The Cubs’ Opening Day Roster?

Cubs fans have been anxiously awaiting the debut of Kris Bryant since he began obliterating the upper levels of the Minor Leagues in 2014. The No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft, Bryant batted a Herculean .325/.438/.661 with 43 homers between Double-A and Triple-A last season. Unsurprisingly, he ranked as the game’s top prospect according to Baseball America and ESPN’s Keith Law, while MLB.com ranked him second and Baseball Prospectus ranked him fifth.

Bryant’s video-game-esque 2014 numbers prompted some, including agent Scott Boras, to advocate for a September call-up of the phenom. Bryant wasn’t on the 40-man roster at the time, though, and he never did receive the September call-up. In fact, even after Bryant hit a ridiculous nine home runs in just 40 Spring Training at-bats, he was reassigned to Minor League camp and began the season in Triple-A.

The Cubs maintain that the reasoning was for Bryant to work on his defense, and even today they’ve told reporters that Bryant would not have been recalled were it not for the fact that both Tommy La Stella and Mike Olt are on the disabled list. While that may be the case, it’s impossible to ignore that as of today, there are 171 days of the regular season remaining, which means Bryant will fall one day shy of accumulating a full year of Major League service time. In other words, by stashing Bryant in the Minors for the first 12 days of the season, the team has delayed his free agency by one season. Had Bryant broken camp with the club, he’d have been eligible for free agency following the 2020 season, but he’ll now have to wait until after the 2021 campaign.

Of course, it’s not all bad news for Bryant. He’ll now qualify for Super Two status, meaning that he’ll be arbitration-eligible four times, rather than three. By the time Bryant is in his final year of arbitration eligibility (his seventh in the Majors), he could be earning more than $20MM, if he lives up to expectations. He may still take home less in the 2021 season than he would have had it been a free agent season, but he won’t be hurting from a financial standpoint. (It should also be noted that Bryant received a $6.7MM signing bonus out of the draft, so he’s already been compensated quite well without so much as an inning in the Majors.)

Boras and many Cubs fans (and baseball fans in general) have denounced the Cubs’ tactics, stating that a team telling its fanbase that it is doing everything it can to win should bring the 25 best players north to open the season, regardless of service time. Others have noted that the Cubs are far from the first team to manipulate service time in this manner, and that there’s certainly something to be said for trading 10 games of Bryant’s rookie season for a full year of control in his prime. Just yesterday, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes examined 11 top prospects who broke camp with their team, finding that by and large, the year-one benefit of roughly 10 extra games almost never outweighed the long-term negative of losing a full year of team control. (Jason Heyward was perhaps one notable exception, Tim found, as the Braves squeaked into the playoffs by just one game, and Heyward had a stellar rookie season.)

Detractors will say that the Cubs will rue the decision if they miss the postseason by a single game, and they can point to the fact that Chicago third baseman have batted a dismal .148/.233/.259 to begin the season. Supporters will point to the long-term gain of controlling Bryant’s age-29 season and the fact that many other clubs have acted in a similar fashion in the past. All of that said, let’s see where MLBTR readers come down on the issue…