Chicago Cubs Rumors

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

Sanchez’s Latest: Martinez, Fox, Arroyo

Just over two weeks remain in the current international signing period, which will come to a close on June 15. Following that will be a roughly two-week dead period before July 2 marks the kickoff of the the 2015-16 international prospect signing period. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez recently penned a piece looking at some changes at the top of the international signing class, and he also has a second piece centering around a particularly interesting player in the upcoming June draft. A few highlights…

  • Cuban prospects Eddy Julio Martinez and Yadier Alvarez have vaulted to the top of the upcoming July 2 class of international prospects, joining Bahamian shortstop Lucius Fox in Sanchez’s Top 3 prospects. Martinez is technically eligible to sign during the current period, Sanchez notes, though a deal would have to come together quickly in order for that to become a reality. Some scouts have made the lofty comparison of a young Andruw Jones when evaluating the 20-year-old Martinez, according to Sanchez. He lists the Cubs, Yankees, Angels, Blue Jays, Nationals, Rockies, Tigers, Dodgers, Giants, Reds and White Sox as teams that have shown interest in Martinez. It should be noted that the Angels and Yankees would only be able to sign Martinez in the current signing period, as they incurred maximum penalties in 2014-15 for soaring past their allotted bonus pool and will be unable to sign a player for more than $300K. The Cubs, on the other hand, are ineligible to sign him during this period but could do so in the 2015-16 period, as their penalty for exceeding their 2013-14 bonus pool will then have been served. The Dodgers are the favorite to sign Alvarez — Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel has previously reported that they’re believed to have an agreement worth as much as $16MM waiting to become official after July 2 — and have been aggressive on the Cuban market, adding Pablo Fernandez and Hector Olivera for a combined sum worth more than $70MM.
  • The Dodgers, Rangers, Reds, and Giants are among the teams most frequently connected to the 18-year-old Fox, Sanchez hears. McDaniel reported a little over a month ago that Fox had been declared a free agent and could sign in the upcoming period, and he’s since noted that the Cubs, Dodgers and Rangers were serious players for Fox. Fox tells Sanchez that he’s added about 15 pounds of muscle in the past year, which he feels has dramatically improved his game since appearing in the Perfect Game and East Coast Pro showcases last year. (Fox attended American Heritage High School in Florida for two years before returning home to the Bahamas and petitioned to be declared an international free agent.)
  • In the second piece linked above, Sanchez looks at the curious case of right-hander Octavio Arroyo, who was expected to be selected out of San Diego’s San Ysidro High School somewhere in rounds 15-20 in the June draft. However, Arroyo was recently deported to Tijuana, as his family incorrectly filled out his paperwork when moving him to the United States to live with his grandparents, both of whom are United States citizens. “The plan was for my grandparents to adopt me and get my paperwork, my residency,” Arroyo told Sanchez. “But I was denied. I don’t know why. I was told we filled out the paperwork wrong. We tried for three years, but I never got it.” Arroyo crossed the U.S./Mexico border multiple times while knowing that his paperwork had been rejected, and he was detained and deported in an attempt this spring. He’s still, however, eligible for the draft, but it’s uncertain whether or not he’ll be granted a work visa by the U.S. government. If no team selects him, Arroyo could sign as an undrafted free agent or sign with a Mexican League club, who could then sell his rights to a Major League team, Sanchez writes.

Cubs To Release Phil Coke

The Cubs have placed Phil Coke on release waivers, tweets SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. Coke will become a free agent on Thursday afternoon once he clears waivers, and six clubs have reached out to Coke’s camp, according to Cotillo. Coke had been designated for assignment back on May 19.

The 32-year-old Coke signed a minor league contract with the Cubs this offseason and earned a guaranteed $2.25MM salary when he made the club’s roster. However, Coke’s tenure with the Cubs didn’t produce fruitful results, as he yielded seven runs on 14 hits and three walks (two intentional) in 10 innings with nine strikeouts. The resulting 6.30 ERA was hardly appealing, though FIP (3.54), xFIP (2.94) and SIERA (2.63) all showed more optimism regarding his small sample of work.

Coke’s velocity still checked in at a healthy 93 mph, and his 63.6 percent ground-ball rate was certainly a positive factor as well. Prior to his deal with the Cubs, Coke was most prominently connected to the Rangers, though there were also rumors linking him to the Royals and Marlins, among other clubs. Given the amount of teams consistently looking to add bullpen depth throughout the course of the season, Coke’s live arm will likely draw interest on the free agent market.


NL Central Notes: Cueto, Gonzales, Schwarber, Baez

After missing his start on Sunday, Reds ace Johnny Cueto underwent an MRI on the injured joint today (as FOX’s Jon Morosi tweeted he would earlier this morning), but agent Bryce Dixon said after the fact that the test revealed no tears or structural damage (Twitter link via C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer). The news is a sigh of relief for all parties involved, as a serious arm injury for Cueto would hurt his standing as one of the top free agents on the upcoming open market, whereas an injury would hurt the Reds’ chance of righting the ship and potentially eliminate their best trade chip should they sell off veteran pieces this summer.

Here’s more from the NL Central…

  • Another NL Central hurler got somewhat worse news than Cueto, as Cardinals left-hander Marco Gonzales has been diagnosed with a shoulder impingement that will sideline him for three weeks, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Gonzales will receive an anti-inflammatory injection in the coming days and has otherwise been prescribed rest to allow the injury to heal. Gonzales will need to alter his workouts and preparation tactics, Goold notes, as they may have had a part in the injury. Gonzales and the training staff will look for areas of weakness in the shoulder that can be improved — a similar endeavor to the one undertaken by Michael Wacha last summer (though the two have different shoulder injuries).
  • Kyle Schwarber‘s name doesn’t get bandied about as much as other promising young Cubs bats such as Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Javier Baez, but VP of scouting and player development Jason McLeod feels that Schwarber has a chance to impact the team in 2015, if necessary (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat). Selected fourth overall in last year’s draft, Schwarber entered the year as a consensus Top 100 prospect (Baseball America ranked him as highly as 19th), and he’s demolished Double-A pitching this year, batting .305/.440/.595 with 10 homers in 166 plate appearances. Said McLeod of the catcher/outfielder: “If there was a need for [Schwarber] to come up here and help this team win later this year, I think he could do it.” Of course, I should note that while I listed Schwarber as a catcher (in at least a part-time capacity), the belief of many scouts is that the lefty slugger will have to move off the position for defensive purposes. The Cubs have continued to give him reps behind the plate in an attempt to maximize the value of his bat.
  • Also within Muskat’s piece, McLeod notes that the team feels that Baez is athletic enough to play in the outfield, though there are no plans to move him there in the works. He also likens righty Yoervis Medina, acquired in the Welington Castillo trade, to Pedro Strop before Strop gained the consistency he’s shown with the Cubs over the past two seasons.


Minor Moves: Paterson, Nash, Parker, Cerse, Bell, Ryan

Here are the latest minor transactions, with the newest moves at the top of the post…

  • Lefty Joe Paterson has reached a minor league deal with the Athletics, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Paterson, who just turned 29, had opened the year at Triple-A in the Royals organization after spending his previous seasons with the Giants and Diamondbacks. He threw 40 1/3 innings of 6.25 ERA ball for Arizona at the major league level. This season, he has tossed 12 2/3 frames at the highest level of the minors, striking out 12 and walking six while permitting eight earned runs.
  • The Astros released 2009 third-round pick Telvin Nash, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports on Twitter. Nash, 24, was repeating Double-A this year and owned a .228/.318/.456 slash with seven home runs over 130 plate appearances. Despite generally excellent power numbers and solid walk rates, Nash has been unable to avoid the strikeout. He has spent most of his time at first or in the corner outfield.
  • The Cubs re-signed right-hander Blake Parker to a new minor league contract, team director of player development Jaron Madison tells Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register (Twitter link).  Parker was released by the Cubs earlier this month.  The righty posted a 3.68 ERA, 10.4 K/9 and 3.54 K/BB rate over 73 1/3 innings out of Chicago’s bullpen from 2012-14, but he’s been limited to only 3 1/3 Triple-A innings this season due to an elbow injury.
  • The Red Sox have officially signed second baseman Yoilan Cerse, according to Baseball America’s Matt Eddy.  MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reported earlier this month that the Cuban second baseman was close to a minor league deal with Boston.
  • Also from Eddy, the Padres released third baseman Josh Bell.  The 28-year-old signed a minor league deal with San Diego in February but has yet to see any action in 2015.  Bell appeared in 100 games with the Orioles and D’Backs from 2010-12 and has since played in the minors with the White Sox and Yankees, as well as spending 2014 in the Korean Baseball Organization.
  • The Yankees moved shortstop Brendan Ryan from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL and also optioned righty Branden Pinder to Triple-A.  Both moves created 25-man roster space to accommodate newly-promoted southpaw Jacob Lindgren.  Ryan suffered a calf injury during Spring Training and isn’t expected back in action until early June.

Cubs Notes: Baez, Russell, Schwarber

Two of the NL’s top clubs begin a three-game series today at Wrigley Field when the Cubs host the Nationals.  Beyond just sharing impressive records, ESPN.com’s Ken Woolums notes that the Cubs have gone about their rebuilding process in a manner similar to how the Nats have reconstructed their roster prior to their current run of two NL East titles in the last three seasons.  Here’s more on the Cubs…

  • Javier Baez has a .944 OPS in 99 Triple-A plate appearances this season, yet ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers wonders if the former top prospect can find playing time with the Cubs no matter how well he’s hitting.  Baez has been splitting time between second base and shortstop in the minors, though the Cubs are obviously set at both positions with Addison Russell and Starlin Castro.  Of course, questions remain about Baez both defensively (he already has 11 errors, nine at short) and offensively (he has 24 strikeouts in his 99 PA, and nine walks) and thus the Cubs could decide he’s expendable; Rogers notes that shifting Baez between two positions could be an audition for other teams just as much as it has to do with his development.  That said, Rogers also observes that the Cubs are under no pressure to swing a deal now and have plenty of time to figure out how to best deploy their numerous young talents.
  • Rogers hears from league sources that the Cubs have repeatedly turned down offers for Russell and have no interest in trading him.  If Chicago does decide to move a notable middle infielder, then, it would have to be Baez or Castro.
  • Kyle Schwarber is another prospect who has often been rumored to eventually change positions, though Cubs director of player development Jaron Madison tells Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register that Schwarber will remain a catcher.  “With all the work he’s done in the offseason and spring training and big league camp, and going into this year and what he’s done so far this year, we’re more certain than ever that he’s going to stay behind the plate long-term. We’re committed to that right now,” Madison said.
  • Madison discusses several Cubs minor leaguers within that same piece, including Baez.  The team doesn’t have any plans to use Baez at any positions besides second and shortstop for now, Madison said.  There has been some speculation that the Cubs could make room for Baez by moving him to third and shifting Kris Bryant to left field, though Baez has never played the hot corner in his pro career and Bryant has only three innings under his belt in left.

NL Notes: Price, Mets, Cubs, Frias, Upton

The struggling Reds are hosting this year’s All-Star Game, but the possibility of bad P.R. shouldn’t prevent them from dismissing manager Bryan Price, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Rosenthal notes that owner Bob Castellini likes Price and Jocketty and is wary of an upheaval before the break. But the Reds have played poorly lately, and Price’s occasional bursts of odd behavior (including an infamous profane tirade against the media a few weeks ago) raise questions about whether he’s well suited for the job. The organization has third base coach Jim Riggleman, Triple-A manager Delino DeShields and perhaps roving instructor Barry Larkin as potential replacements. Here’s more from the National League.

  • The Mets have lots of talented young pitching and the Cubs have terrific young position players, and MLB.com’s Jim Duquette proposes several trades the two clubs might make. By far the wildest one (and one Duquette fully acknowledges is vanishingly unlikely) is Matt Harvey for Kris Bryant. The Mets and Cubs’ respective fan bases have pinned their hopes heavily on those two players, so such a trade would be nearly impossible, but it’s fun to think about. The sense here is that the Mets would easily be getting the better of such a deal — Bryant’s bat is rare, to put it mildly, and Harvey is three years closer to free agency and probably also more of an injury risk.
  • Carlos Frias‘ poor performance Sunday shows why the Dodgers are likely to pursue outside starting pitching help, Anthony Witrado of ESPN Los Angeles writes. Frias gave up ten runs, including two homers, over four innings against the Padres, more than doubling his ERA. Frias did pitch reasonably well in four starts before that, but there’s no doubt the Dodgers’ rotation situation is somewhat uncomfortable, due to injuries to Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy.
  • The Padres haven’t performed as well as they’ve hoped, but Justin Upton has been terrific, and the team needs to do everything it can to keep him, Matt Calkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. The Padres’ new ownership did well to open its wallet last winter, but it must continue to show it’s serious about winning. Of course, keeping Upton won’t be easy to do — Upton currently tops MLBTR’s 2015-2016 Free Agent Power Rankings.
  • Cardinals lefty Marco Gonzales will miss a start with Triple-A Memphis on Monday with pectoral muscle tightness, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com writes. Gonzales dealt with the same injury earlier this season. Gonzales hasn’t yet pitched in the big-leagues this season, but as Langosch points out, he’s a key part of the Cardinals’ rotation depth, especially given Adam Wainwright‘s absence.

Cubs Return Anthony Varvaro To Red Sox

The Red Sox announced that pitcher Anthony Varvaro has been returned to the club. The right-hander was designated for assignment by the Red Sox in late April and claimed off waivers by the Cubs days later.

Varvaro, it turns out, has a torn right flexor tendon and will undergo surgery Tuesday ending his season, reports Cormac Gordon of the Staten Island Advance.com.

The tendon is partially torn off the bone, but the elbow is stable otherwise,” the 30-year-old told Gordon. “I was worried I might need another Tommy John surgery. That’s not the case. This is the best possible outcome.

Rehabilitation is expected to last six months, so Varvaro could resume throwing in November. The Red Sox say they were unaware of how severe the injury was, so both clubs agreed that it “would be appropriate to return Varvaro to the Red Sox for placement on the disabled list in accordance with the major league rules.”

The Red Sox designated Varvaro for assignment on April 29th and the Cubs claimed him off waivers on May 3rd.  Three days later, the Cubs DFA’d Varvaro and subsequently outrighted him.

Varvaro posted a 2.74 ERA with 6.5 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a ground-ball rate near 48 percent with the Braves from 2012-13. With the Red Sox this year, Varvaro appeared in nine games and totaled 11 innings. The five runs he surrendered aren’t particularly concerning, but his velocity was down from an average of 92.5 mph in 2014 to 91.1 mph in 2015. That, combined with the 14 hits and six walks he yielded in his 11 innings, likely aided in his swift exit from the Boston organization.  Now, for the time being, he’s back in Boston.


NL Notes: Cueto, Lester, Nieuwenhuis

Reds ace Johnny Cueto will miss his start Sunday with elbow soreness, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. Raisel Iglesias will start in his place. The Reds say Cueto’s soreness is not serious. “He pitched in Kansas City without any trouble,” says Reds manager Bryan Price. “In the days following … his [soreness has] been lingering a little longer. He’s our workhorse. He probably could pitch tomorrow if we had to have him.” An extended absence would, obviously, be a serious blow to the Reds. Cueto came in second in NL Cy Young balloting in 2014 while leading the NL in innings pitched (243 2/3), batters faced (961) and pitches thrown (3,659). Those are very crude measures of a pitcher’s injury risk, but an elbow issue is surely at least worth watching for a pitcher coming off such a high-impact year. Cueto is, of course, a free agent after the season. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • After a poor first month of his $155MM contract with the Cubs, Jon Lester is feeling more comfortable, Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com writes. “You definitely don’t want to be one of those guys that at the end of it you look at it as a bust,” Lester says. “You want everything to just fall into place. But sometimes that’s not the case. Sometimes you have take a few beatings to get back to doing the things that you’re used to.” After posting a 6.23 ERA in April, Lester now has a 1.85 ERA in May after pitching seven strong innings against the Diamondbacks yesterday.
  • The Mets are still seeking to trade outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York tweets. They designated Nieuwenhuis for assignment earlier this week, and his situation should be resolved by next weekend. Getting anything of value will likely be difficult — Nieuwenhuis had a terrible time in 40 plate appearances this season, hitting .079/.125/.132, and he’s out of options.

Draft Notes: Jay, Kaprielian, Cubs, Bloodlines

The lack of clear front-line talent at the top of this year’s draft means there’s plenty of uncertainty, as John Manuel’s latest mock draft for Baseball America demonstrates. Manuel has the Diamondbacks choosing a new name with the top overall pick: that of Illinois lefty Tyler Jay. That would be a surprising selection, given that Jay is relatively small and a reliever, but many scouts believe he’s capable of starting, and one scouting director tells Manuel that Jay has terrific stuff and an easier delivery than Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer, another potential No. 1 overall pick. Here are more quick notes on the draft.

  • Cubs president Theo Epstein watched UCLA righty James Kaprielian in Oregon last night, FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel tweets. The Cubs have the No. 9 overall pick. McDaniel notes that Kaprielian is attracting interest from other top-ten teams as well. MLB.com notes that Kaprielian throws a good changeup and likely projects as a mid-rotation type of pitcher.
  • This year’s potential draftees includes Mariano Rivera, Jr., son of the great Yankees closer, Paul Casella of MLB.com writes. The Yankees took the younger Rivera in the 29th round last season, but he headed back to Iona for another season and became the MAAC Pitcher of the Year. He should be drafted significantly earlier in 2015. Several other draft prospects also have pro baseball bloodlines, including outfielder Kyle Tucker (the brother of Preston Tucker of the Astros), outfielder Daz Cameron (Mike Cameron‘s son) and infielder Ke’Bryan Hayes (the son of Charlie Hayes).

Heyman’s Latest: Hamels/Jays, Lucroy, Baez, Correa, Alvarez

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has published the latest installment of his weekly Inside Baseball column, and he kicks it off by reporting that the Blue Jays have inquired on Cole Hamels. However, Heyman hears that Hamels was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause to allow a trade to Toronto, which is a blow for both clubs. The Jays desperately need help in both the rotation and the bullpen, and the Phillies, Heyman notes, would love to get their hands on young pitchers with the upside of Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris. The Blue Jays have a bit of financial leeway after going with inexpensive options at second base, center field and left field, and Heyman writes that the Blue Jays are expected to look at other potential front-line starters this summer as they become available. (He speculatively mentions Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir, though neither’s available just yet.) Additionally, Heyman notes that Blue Jays manager John Gibbons’ job is safe, as GM Alex Anthopoulos has a strong relationship with the skipper and recognizes that the team’s problems are roster-related and shouldn’t be pinned on Gibbons.

Some more highlights from the column, though it’s worth a read in its entirety…

  • The Braves are said to be disappointed in the play of Christian Bethancourt, even from a defensive standpoint, and recently inquired with the Brewers on Jonathan Lucroy. However, Atlanta executives were told by the Brewers that Lucroy isn’t available at this time. That the Brewers wouldn’t trade Lucroy isn’t a shock; he’s owed a very affordable $4MM in 2016 with a $5.25MM option for the 2017 season, so even if the team can’t quickly right the ship, he’d still have enormous trade value at the 2016 trade deadline. More interesting, to me, is that the Braves would so quickly look for an upgrade over Bethancourt and that they’re acting somewhat as buyers. Lucroy, of course, could be called a long-term piece that would be around to help the team when its rebuild is closer to completion. However, acquiring him would surely require the sting of parting with some of the key components of that rebuild.
  • Some rival execs feel that the Cubs are willing to part with Javier Baez and Dan Vogelbach in trades, in part because each was drafted under the previous administration and is not held in as high a regard by the new front office. Each player comes with issues, however, as Baez is trying to cut down on his swing and improve his contact skills, while a scout described first baseman Vogelbach as a “30 fielder” to Heyman (in reference to the 20-80 scouting scale).
  • There are members of the Astros‘ field staff that want to see Carlos Correa with the team right now, but Houston will likely keep him in the minors for another month or so in order to lessen the risk of Correa achieving Super Two status. I’ll add that the Astros will have a more legitimate claim that Correa still needs minor league time than other teams in similar situations have had in the past. Correa is still just 20 years old and has only nine games of experience at the Triple-A level, though he’s continued his brilliant work at the plate there, hitting .326/.362/.558 with a pair of homers. Also of interest to Astros fans — or to fans of teams needing outfield help — the Astros are on the lookout for starting pitching upgrades, and outfield prospect Preston Tucker “seems to be available.” Tucker recently made his MLB debut and has a .963 OPS through 34 plate appearances to go along with a strong minor league track record.
  • Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez has been pitching for years with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, according to Heyman. Some have described it as a “90 percent tear,” but he’s been able to pitch effectively in spite of the issue. Alvarez wouldn’t be the first to pitch through a UCL tear; Ervin Santana and Adam Wainwright are both recent examples of pitchers who pitched for many seasons with partially torn UCLs. Wainwright ultimately underwent Tommy John, though Santana’s is said to have healed and is no longer an issue. In another Marlins-related note, Heyman hears that pitching coach Chuck Hernandez is “under the microscope” with both Jarred Cosart and Steve Cishek struggling greatly in 2015.
  • Brewers starters Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza have little trade value due to their 2015 struggles, but Lohse’s lesser financial commitment and superior clubhouse reputation give him more value. The team is reluctant to trade not only Lucroy, but shortstop Jean Segura as well. The Brewers are a bit more open to dealing Carlos Gomez than that pair, as Gomez is closer to free agency (he’s controlled through 2016).
  • The Mets remain reluctant to trade any of their top arms, as they’ve seen on multiple occasions how quickly Tommy John surgery or other injuries can thin out a club’s depth. (Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz have all had TJ in their careers.) The Mets are also not rushing to find a shortstop, but they have indeed been “all over the map” in terms of trade possibilities with the Cubs.
  • Coco Crisp‘s neck injury is apparently quite serious, and there’s a fear that the oft-injured Athletics outfielder will ultimately require surgery that could bring his season to an end.
  • The Blue Jays would still like to extend both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but there have yet to be serious discussions with either slugger’s camp. Both players are controlled through the end of the 2016 season.