- The Cubs announced that they’ve placed outfielder Matt Szczur on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring and selected the contract of outfielder Ryan Kalish to take his place on the active roster. In order to clear a spot for Kalish on the 40-man roster, the club has transferred infielder Christian Villanueva to the 60-day disabled list. Kalish, 28, was long a top-rated Red Sox prospect and is, as such, quite familiar to president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer. Excellent production in the minors has earned Kalish his first taste of the Majors since 2014 (also with the Cubs). In 20 games (70 plate appearances) at the Triple-A level thus far, Kalish is batting a ridiculous .368/.471/.509 with four doubles, a pair of triples, three steals and more walks drawn (10) than strikeouts (nine).
- The Reds have purchased the contract of catcher Rafael Lopez from the Bridgeport Bluefish, the indy league club announced. He’ll head to Triple-A Louisville, providing another depth option for an organization that is filling in for injured MLB starter Devin Mesoraco. Lopez, 28, has only appeared briefly at the major league level. He spent last season at Triple-A in the Cubs and Angels systems, slashing .266/.339/.335 over 246 plate appearances.
We learned recently that free agent righty Tim Lincecum is preparing for a long-awaited showcase on Friday. Once one of the best pitchers in the game, Lincecum has been slowed by a variety of injury and performance issues more recently — including, particularly, hip surgery this past September — and is looking to show that he’s back to full health before signing.
Here’s the latest, with links to the Twitter account of MLB Network’s Jon Heyman unless otherwise noted:
- The showcase will be held at Scottsdale Stadium, the Giants’ spring home, per Heyman. While Lincecum has availed himself of his long-time team’s facilities during his ramp-up, it shouldn’t be supposed that a return to San Francisco is particularly likely. As we’ve covered before, the Giants are said to be interested in Lincecum as a bullpen option, while he’s hoping to find a shot as a starter.
- This particular event was always going to draw more fanfare than a typical bullpen session for a free agent who hasn’t posted a sub-4.00 ERA since 2011, but it appears that it could be made into a bigger spectacle than anyone would have foreseen. ESPN may be on hand to broadcast the outing, Heyman tweets, which would certainly lend an interesting combine-esque quality to the proceedings.
- Beyond the Giants, we heard previously that the Orioles, Padres, and Athletics plan to have a scouting presence on hand. The White Sox, too, will be there, per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link), as will the Angels, according to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (via Twitter). And the Blue Jays will also take a look, John Lott tweets.
- Heyman also adds several more clubs that plant to send eyes (links: 1; 2; 3; 4). The Dodgers, Cubs, Nationals, and Marlins will be there from the National League side of things. And American League teams with at least one scout in the stands will include the Rangers and Astros.
- Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant underwent an MRI this morning which confirmed that his right ankle sprain is mild in nature, writes MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. Bryant is out of the lineup today in favor of Javier Baez and may miss a few games, tweets Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, but the reigning National League Rookie of the Year isn’t expected to require a trip to the disabled list and should be back in relatively short order. Obviously, that’s good news for a Cubs team that has already lost Kyle Schwarber for the season and had to place catcher Miguel Montero on the 15-day disabled list yesterday.
- As we’ve heard recently, the Cubs and ace Jake Arrieta remain far apart in extension talks. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter) says that Arrieta remains focused on securing a seven-year deal, as was the case back in Spring Training, but the team is currently only comfortable with offering the reigning Cy Young winner a four-year extension. That type of deal would run through Arrieta’s age-34 season, whereas Arrieta’s preferred contract length would extend into his age-37 campaign. Dominant as he may be, it’s understandable that the Cubs are hesitant to guarantee both Arrieta such a substantial amount through age 37, especially considering the fact that with free agency about 18 months away and a huge salary already in the bank, Arrieta and agent Scott Boras probably don’t feel the need to offer a considerable discount in terms of average annual value. Beyond that, the Cubs are already paying Jon Lester into his age-36 season, and promising that type of cash to a pair of pitchers into their late 30s is wrought with risk for the team.
- The Cubs have placed catcher Miguel Montero on the 15-day DL to give him a chance to rest his back. Expectations are that Montero won’t be out for long, and he says that he believes the issue stems from a chronic bulging disk, via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter link). Chicago has gone with Tim Federowicz to pair with David Ross for the time being. As Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com tweets, the veteran call-up is likely to get a fair bit of playing time; Ross, after all, has been a career reserve and is in his final season. The 28-year-old Federowicz didn’t see any major league action last year after a four-year run with the Dodgers, but has been off to a hot start at the plate at Triple-A-.
Interestingly, Morosi focuses in on the fact that Reddick is a longtime favorite of Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, and Reddick himself confirmed as much. “[Epstein] told me he would never trade me, either,” Reddick tells Morosi. “Then he left — and I got traded [to Oakland, in December 2011]. I think I was Ben Cherington’s first or second move after he took over.” Morosi notes that Epstein was the Sox’ GM when Reddick was drafted and adds that it’s conceivable that Chicago could seek a corner outfielder this summer on the trade market following Kyle Schwarber’s season-ending injury.
Of course, it should also be noted that it’s still rather early in the season, and the Athletics are sporting an 11-11 record in a tightly contested AL West. In order for a trade of Reddick to even be considered a plausible scenario, Oakland would have to fall behind in the standings by a fairly wide margin, as he’s an easy candidate to receive a qualifying offer following the year. Beyond that, the Cubs have Jorge Soler as an option to pick up the slack in Schwarber’s absence. While Soler is struggling at the moment, he’s also enjoying a career-best walk rate and a career-low strikeout rate; at least some portion of his struggles can be attributed to a .205 average on balls in play, though Soler’s line-drive and hard-contact rates are somewhat diminished this season. It’s certainly plausible that the former top prospect, still just 24 years of age, could turn things around at the plate in short order. Suffice it to say, quite a bit would need to transpire over the coming months for a trade scenario to play out.
Cubs ace Jake Arrieta believes he will get a six- or seven-year deal if the Cubs don’t extend him before he becomes eligible for free agency following the 2017 season, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale writes. “If we don’t work out a deal here, and I go to free agency, I will get six or seven years. No doubt about that,” Arrieta says. “I’d like to stay in Chicago, but if they don’t want me, somebody will.”
Arrieta’s comments appear consistent with reporting surrounding extension talks between him and the Cubs this past offseason, and they suggest there continues to be a wide gulf between player and team about the length of a potential deal. In early March, Jon Heyman reported that Arrieta was seeking seven-plus years, while the Cubs wanted to sign him for a shorter duration. In his latest article, Nightengale notes that, according to Arrieta’s agent Scott Boras, the Cubs weren’t willing to offer more than three or four years. Boras emphasizes that the two sides remain far apart.
“It’s like being in a museum and seeing contemporary art on one side, and the Mona Lisa on the other,” says Boras. “We’re both in the same museum. We both agree that the art is great. But we’re in two different hallways.”
The 30-year-old Arrieta, meanwhile, notes that free agent aces in their early thirties (such as David Price and Zack Greinke) have received six- or seven-year deals on the open market. Nightengale also notes that Arrieta currently has less wear on his arm than many pitchers his age, having only pitched 826 1/3 innings in the big leagues.
If Arrieta reaches free agency without signing an extension, he will only recently have turned 32 by the time his new deal begins, so Greinke (who is currently 32) seems like a reasonable comparable. Greinke has a longer track record of success than Arrieta currently does, but Arrieta’s current level of dominance (which has already resulted in a no-hitter this year after a brilliant stretch run in 2015) would appear to be more than enough for him to cite Greinke as a comparable pitcher. There is, however, risk in waiting to get to the point where he can cash in as Greinke did — Arrieta is currently only signed to an arbitration-avoiding $10.7MM deal for 2016.
- Lefty Phil Coke will head to Triple-A for the Yankees after his rights were acquired from the indy league Lancaster Barnstormers, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports on Twitter. Coke, 33, has bounced around quite a bit in recent years and was most recently released by the Braves during spring camp. He appeared in the majors last year with the Cubs and Blue Jays, allowing eight earned runs with 12 strikeouts and five walks (two intentional) over 12 2/3 frames.
- The Cubs have released right-hander Jonathan Pettibone from his minor league contract, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reports. Chicago signed the former Phillies right-hander to a minor league pact back in February in hopes that he’d be able to return to health following a pair of shoulder surgeries in 2014 and 2015. Pettibone last appeared in the Majors in 2014, but it was 2013 that he looked the part of an intriguing long-term piece in the Phillies’ rotation. That year (his age-22 season), Pettibone logged 100 1/3 innings with a 4.04 ERA, 5.9 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a 49.4 percent ground-ball rate in 18 starts at the Major League level.
- Orioles fans may want to avert their eyes for this one, as Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune recaps how the Cubs targeted and acquired Jake Arrieta from Baltimore as part of a four-player trade in July 2013. Arrieta was disagreeing with Orioles coaches and struggling to harness his stuff, yet a trio of Cubs scouts convinced Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer that Arrieta was well worth the risk. The rest has been history, as that trade (Arrieta and Pedro Strop for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger) is looking like one of the most one-sided trades in recent memory.
- On the heels of Jake Arrieta’s second no-hitter for the Cubs, Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com takes a look back at the deal that brought the star righty to Chicago along with reliever Pedro Strop in the summer of 2013. With Baltimore looking to bolster its rotation for a playoff push, the Cubs parted with half a season of Scott Feldman to acquire two controllable pitchers who have paid out handsomely since the swap. “We had scouted Jake extensively,” said Cubs GM Jed Hoyer. “We had done a lot of makeup work on him. We did the same thing on Strop. At that time, we just needed to get power arms onto our team.” Of course, as Hoyer acknowledges, the club didn’t expect anything like what Arrieta has delivered; as he puts it, “what [Arrieta’s] done is obviously exceptional.”
Jason Heyward received a bit of a rough welcome back to St. Louis today, as he appeared there for the first time since leaving the Cardinals for the rival Cubs. But that didn’t seem to bother him; as he told reporters, including MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat (Twitter link): “If somebody boos me here, that means they weren’t happy to see me leave. I’m glad people weren’t happy to see me leave.” He’s already covered his decision to move on to Chicago in some detail, of course, but the occasion offered a chance to revisit the winter market once again. As Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, Heyward ultimately spurned the Cards not out of any failure to see eye-to-eye on a contract, but because he had found another spot he preferred. “It came down to Chicago was really where I would like to be at the time,” Heyward said. “… I feel like [the Cardinals] had every intention of keeping me here. They said that. And they followed that through with their actions. It didn’t come down to contract. Whether it was the opt-out, whether it was the full no-trade (clause), or what have you — it came down to taking the opportunity to be where I wanted to be and for the first time in my life having the choice.”
- Cubs catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber is set for surgery this week on his injured left knee, Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com was among those to tweet. It’s already clear that he’ll miss the entire season with ACL and LCL tears, but a broader recovery timeline remains unknown and will presumably depend in part upon how the procedure goes.