Chicago Cubs Rumors

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

Cubs Acquire Fernando Rodney, Designate Brian Schlitter

The Mariners announced that they’ve traded right-hander Fernando Rodney to the Cubs in exchange for cash considerations (Twitter link). Lefty Zac Rosscup has been optioned to Triple-A, while righty Brian Schlitter has been designated for assignment, according to an announcement from the Cubs, which states that either a player to be named later or cash will head to Seattle in the deal.

Fernando Rodney

Signed to a two-year, $14MM contract prior to the 2014 season, Rodney served as the Mariners’ closer all last season and for parts of the 2015 campaign as well. However, while he worked to a strong 2.85 ERA with 10.3 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a 48.6 percent ground-ball rate in 2014, Rodney imploded in 2015, totaling a 5.68 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 4.4 BB/9 and a career-worst 1.4 HR/9 rate. Those struggles ultimately led to the 38-year-old being designated for assignment over the weekend. Rodney is owed about $1.49MM through season’s end as part of that $14MM pact.

His 2015 struggles notwithstanding, Rodney enjoyed a late career resurgence from 2012-14, posting a 2.21 ERA in 207 2/3 innings. The Cubs will hope they can bring out some of that form to help what has been an up and down season for the team’s relief corps. The team is currently without Jason Motte, Neil Ramirez and Rafael Soriano, each of whom is on the disabled list, so Rodney will provide manager Joe Maddon with another veteran relief arm. Maddon, for that matter, is quite familiar with Rodney, having managed him in 2012-13 when Rodney posted a record-setting 0.60 ERA in 74 2/3 innings. While Rodney’s velocity isn’t as strong as the 96.3 mph he averaged over the course of those two seasons, he’s still averaged a very healthy 94.8 mph on his heater this season. Because he’s been acquired prior to Sept. 1, Rodney will be eligible for the Cubs’ postseason roster.

Schiltter, 29, has been up and down with the Cubs over the past six seasons after debuting as a 24-year-old back in 2010. The former 16th-round pick didn’t appear in the Majors from 2011-13 but resurfaced to deliver 56 1/3 innings of 4.15 ERA ball with 5.0 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9. He’s totaled only 7 1/3 innings with the Chicago ‘pen in 2015, though, allowing six runs on 12 hits and a pair of walks with four strikeouts. Schlitter does have an outstanding 1.09 ERA in 41 1/3 Triple-A innings this season, though that seemingly pristine mark comes with just 7.0 K/9 against a troubling 5.0 BB/9.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


NL Central Notes: Baez, Tucker, Marshall, Santana

Javier Baez is “definitely on the radar screen” for a September call-up with the Cubs, manager Joe Maddon tells Kevin Van Valkenburg of ESPN. Van Valkenburg chronicles the lengthy and difficult season for Baez, who dealt with the painful loss of his sister, Noely, early in the year and later broke his finger sliding into second base at Triple-A. The injury “might have been the best thing that ever happened” to Baez, Triple-A manager Marty Pevey tells Van Valkenburg, as his approach was much improved after taking some time away from the game, and he looked to have made some “veteran adjustments.” Van Valkenburg’s column provides readers with an excellent, in-depth look at Baez’s journey from childhood in Bayamon, Puerto Rico to his high school days in Jacksonville, Fla., to his 2014 debut and 2015 season, all while giving a look at the personal and family struggles he’s dealt with along the way. It’s well worth a full read.

Here’s more from the NL Central…

  • Pirates top shortstop prospect Cole Tucker will miss the remainder of the season, and possibly most of next season, the Pirates told reporters, including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Twitter link). Tucker, the 24th overall pick in the 2014 draft, underwent surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder and will be sidelined for 10 to 12 months. Tucker batted .293/.322/.377 with a pair of homers and 25 steals in 73 games at Class A.
  • Reds left-hander Sean Marshall has been throwing off a mound every three days throughout the month of August and hopes to pitch again before season’s end, writes MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Marshall had his second shoulder surgery on May 20 this year and has not taken a big league mound all season. He has, in fact, only thrown 24 1/3 innings over the entire life of the three-year, $16.5MM extension he signed prior to the 2013 campaign. Marshall tells Sheldon he’s been throwing 35 to 40 pitches per session, including curveballs, in addition to playing long toss. Marshall, a free agent at season’s end, would benefit from getting into games and displaying some form of health in the final month of the season.
  • The Brewers have already gotten a look at Domingo Santana in all three outfield positions, and manager Craig Counsell said for the time being, that’s the best way to get him regular at-bats, per the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Todd Rosiak. Moving forward, the Brewers have three corner outfielders for two spots — an issue I touched on in yesterday’s MLBTR Mailbag — but Counsell isn’t worried about a potential logjam at this time. “I don’t think we need to figure that out right now,” said Counsell of determining Santana’s long-term position. “I think what’s important is that he starts getting experience just facing big-league pitching and being in big-league games.”

Cubs, Emilio Bonifacio Agree To Minors Deal

The Cubs and Emilio Bonifacio are in agreement on a minor league contract, tweets Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. The 30-year-old switch-hitter was recently designated for assignment and released by the White Sox, with whom he had signed a one-year, $4MM contract this winter.

Bonifacio struggled greatly with the White Sox in 2015, hitting just .167/.198/.192 in at plate appearances and missing time on the disabled list due to a left oblique strain. By signing with the Cubs, he’ll return to the team with which he’s had the most recent success in his career. Bonifacio spent most of the 2014 season with the Cubs and batted .279/.318/.373 with a pair of homers and 14 steals.

Bonifacio has been inconsistent throughout his career, but the overall result of his efforts in the Majors is a .259/.316/.337 batting line with 13 homers and 165 stolen bases (in 213 attempts). Bonifacio’s speed is his greatest asset, and that could come in play for the Cubs in September, when he could potentially serve as a late-inning pinch-running option. Bonifacio stole at least 26 bases each season from 2011-14, including 30 steals in just 64 games back in 2012.



Minor MLB Transactions: 8/24/15

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • The Cubs have signed outfielder Quintin Berry to a minor league deal, Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com reports on Twitter. Berry, 30, has seen minimal MLB time since being a regular contributor to the 2012 Tigers. He’s put up a .266/.337/.369 slash over just 341 total plate appearances in the majors. But Berry has swiped 25 bases in that span, and his live legs carried him into action in two consecutive World Series. Over 426 turns at bat this year at the Triple-A level with the Red Sox organization, Berry racked up 35 steals but slashed just .228/.329/.287.

Cubs Place Jorge Soler, Jason Motte On DL

The Cubs have placed right fielder Jorge Soler and right-hander Jason Motte on the disabled list due to a strained oblique and a strained right shoulder, respectively, tweets Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com. In corresponding moves, infielder Tommy La Stella and left-hander Zac Rosscup have been recalled from Triple-A, he adds. Levine also tweets that Soler might be out for a month.

The loss of both players thins out the depth of a surging Cubs team that currently sits 6.5 games back from the division lead but has a six-game lead on the Giants for the second Wild Card spot in the National League. While the injuries may not be a significant detriment to the Cubs’ Wild Card chances due to their fairly substantial lead, the Cubs surely would prefer the pair to be healthy and in a good rhythm entering a potential playoff game or series.

Soler, 23, has had a rather disappointing absence of power this season but is hitting a respectable .265/.325/.385 with seven homers on the season. His contributions in 2015 have been about replacement-level when factoring in sub-par defense in right field, but the upside Soler brings (which he displayed in his first taste of big league action in 2014) is greater than that of his replacements. For the time being, the Cubs can use a platoon of Chris Denorfia and Chris Coghlan in right, with La Stella filling in at second base when Coghlan is in the outfield.

The 33-year-old Motte enjoyed a nice first half of the season (in part due to a .240 BABIP), but he’s worked to a 6.00 ERA in the second half (with his BABIP swinging wildly in the other direction — .385). Inconsistencies aside, he’s totaled a 3.91 ERA with 6.3 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 30.3 percent ground-ball rate. Those numbers are a far cry from his best days with the Cardinals in 2011-12, but his absence will nonetheless thin out a bullpen that is already without injured righties Rafael Soriano and Neil Ramirez.

If the Cubs do wish to make an outside addition, there are a handful of relievers that have cleared waivers, though each has his flaws (hence the clearing of waivers). Jonny Gomes is one veteran outfielder that has already cleared waivers. Any player acquired prior to Sept. 1 would be eligible to play in the postseason. The Cubs, however, may simply elect to stay the course until Sept. 1, when expanded rosters will give them the opportunity to bring up additional internal reinforcements.


Rosenthal’s Latest: Utley, Angels, Zobrist, Zimmermann, Giants, Execs

In his latest notes column for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal looks at the failed attempt to acquire Chase Utley made by both the Angels and Cubs. Anaheim “blew it” by not adding Utley, opines Rosenthal, as the Halos had more playing time to offer than the Dodgers but didn’t pull the trigger on a deal despite only having acquired “complementary hitters” in July. (That seems harsh, as there’s no guarantee that the current iteration of Utley is anything more than a complementary piece himself.) As for the Cubs, they initially showed interest while Utley was still hurt, but Utley wasn’t comfortable being traded while on a rehab assignment, says Rosenthal, so the Phils waited to put him through waivers. By the time he returned, Howie Kendrick had been hurt in L.A., creating a match with the Dodgers.

Some more highlights from the column…

  • As others have noted, the Angels‘ GM opening is a tough sell to prospective candidates because Arte Moreno is more involved than the average owner, and Mike Scioscia has more power than the average manager. One rival general manager described the Angels’ GM role to Rosenthal as such: “You take all of the beatings (from Moreno) and you’ve got no power (due to Scioscia).” Jerry Dipoto resigned from his post this summer due to reported clashes with Scioscia.
  • The Blue Jays tried to trade for Ben Zobrist, but the Athletics‘ asking price was Matt Boyd plus other pieces, Rosenthal hears, which was too steep for GM Alex Anthopoulos. Boyd was ultimately one of three pieces used to acquire David Price from the Tigers.
  • Rosenthal reports that the Giants are likely to pursue right-hander Jordan Zimmermann as they look to bulk up their rotation this offseason. However, he notes that the Wisconsin native may prefer to return to the Midwest. Zimmermann ranked eighth on the most recent edition of MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings, though he’s had a couple of rough starts since then.
  • The Giants may also consider attempting to unload the final year of Angel Pagan‘s contract this winter. Pagan is slated to earn $10MM next season in the final season of a four-year, $40MM contract after playing in just 167 games from 2013-14 and struggling at the plate in 102 games to this point in 2015. San Francisco could use Gregor Blanco in center field in the event that they’re able to move Pagan.
  • The recent trend of teams promoting an assistant GM to GM and a current GM to president (as the White Sox and Giants have done) could continue this offseason as teams try to prevent their top AGMs from departing for GM vacancies elsewhere, Rosenthal writes. The Rangers could promote Thad Levine to GM (and presumably elevate Jon Daniels), for instance, and the Cardinals could promote Mike Girsch (presumably promoting GM John Mozeliak as well). And, should Mark Shapiro end up with the Blue Jays, the Indians could bump Mike Chernoff to GM and make Chris Antonetti president (Cleveland previously did his by moving Shapiro from GM to president and Antonetti from AGM to GM). Levine, Girsch and Chernoff could all attract interest from other teams this winter.

NL Central Notes: Epstein, Morse, Jimenez, Brewers

Even with salaries for top executives continuing to rise, Theo Epstein is still a long-term fit for the Cubs, Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago writes. “I am committed to the Cubs and could not be happier,” says Epstein, who is signed through 2016. “As for an extension, there are a lot more important things going on right now in the organization. We just haven’t gotten around to it. I am sure we will at an appropriate time.” Epstein’s Cubs are in good position to win a Wild Card spot, and he’s in the penultimate year of a five-year, $18.5MM contract. That’s a lot for an executive, but perhaps not for one with Epstein’s track record. Andrew Friedman’s contract with the Dodgers, for example, is almost twice as large, at $35MM.

Here’s more from the NL Central:

  • Michael Morse headed from the Marlins to the Dodgers and then on to Pittsburgh in an unusual series of transactions last month, but he’s happy to be with the Pirates, Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com writes. “The Dodgers did me a great favor. They told me they had to designate me, but they said they would find a good place for me,” says Morse. “I’m happy to get an opportunity with a team headed in the right direction.” The Dodgers designated Morse for assignment after taking on his contract in the Mat Latos – Alex WoodHector Olivera trade, then shipped him to Pittsburgh in exchange for Jose Tabata. Morse is off to a good start with the Bucs, reaching base in 11 of his first 24 plate appearances.
  • The Brewers view the trade of Neal Cotts to the Twins as an indirect swap for Cesar Jimenez, tweets Tom Haudricourt of MLB.com. Milwaukee claimed Jimenez from the Phillies about half a day before dealing Cotts to Minnesota. GM Doug Melvin pointed to pointed out that Jimenez, 30, has two additional years of club control. The Brewers will at least receive cash from the Twins if not a player (tweet). The two players are actually reasonably comparable in all ways except major league experience. In 429 and 2/3 innings, Cotts has a 3.96 ERA, 8.63 K/9, and 3.96 BB/9. Jimenez isn’t too far off those rates with a 4.15 ERA, 6.27 K/9, and 3.93 BB/9 in 84 and 2/3 innings.
  • Melvin also discussed the possibility of additional waiver trades, writes Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. “My gut feeling is it’s probably tough,” says Melvin of further trading. Milwaukee has put about 20 players through waivers. In most cases, the claiming team doesn’t even engage in a trade discussion – they’re just blocking a deal to another club.

NL Central Notes: Cubs, Brewers, Bourjos

The Cubs have backed out of their $1M deal with Dominican third baseman Christopher Martinez due to an unknown problem with his physical, Baseball America’s Ben Badler writes. The Cubs made Martinez a new offer of $50K, but he rejected it. Martinez was one of a huge number of high-profile signings for the Cubs in the international signing period that began last month. As Badler notes, this isn’t the first time a noteworthy contract with an international signee has fallen apart due to health concerns — the Blue Jays, for example, rescinded an $800K deal with Venezuelan infielder Luis Castro in 2012, and Castro later signed with the Rockies. Here’s more from the NL Central.

  • The Brewers are only beginning their search for a GM to replace Doug Melvin, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. It’s unclear at this point if they will hire someone within the organization or from outside it, and any speculation is premature at this point.
  • The Cardinals have had a string of injuries in their outfield, but Peter Bourjos remains glued to their bench, as Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com writes. Even with Jon Jay, Randal Grichuk and Matt Holliday out, and with Jason Heyward dealing with a minor injury, Bourjos hasn’t played much, with the team lately favoring Tommy Pham in center. Pham had been hitting well for Triple-A Memphis. “[We are] seeing if we can catch a little lightning from what he was doing in Memphis, and that does create a tough situation for Bourjos to get going,” says manager Mike Matheny. With Bourjos still on the big-league roster, he hasn’t had as many opportunities to get in a groove. He’s hitting .214/.312/.329 this season, and as Langosch notes, he hasn’t had a hit since July 19.

Heyman’s Latest: GMs, Castro, Gomes, Hosmer

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com looks in depth at the still-developing front office market. There’s “no evidence” that the Mariners went after Dave Dombrowski, he says, and it remains entirely unclear what Seattle will look to do over the next several months. Likewise, there are a number of dugout swaps that could go down, per Heyman, who says as many as ten skippers are “on the hot seat.”

The piece is loaded with analysis and notes, but here are some of the most notable bits of hot stove information:

  • Cubs infielder Starlin Castro was placed on trade waivers recently, though it’s not yet known whether he’s cleared. Castro has shifted to a utility role for Chicago and is still owed $38MM, but is obviously a significant talent and is just 25 years old. While the Cubs now seem determined to go with Addison Russell at short in the near term and the long term, an August trade of Castro still seems unlikely.
  • Braves outfielder Jonny Gomes has cleared waivers and can freely be dealt. He’s playing on a $4MM salary this year and can be controlled in 2016 through a $3MM option. The 34-year-old doesn’t have a terribly impressive overall batting line, and has seen his power output drop, but is still slashing .231/.409/.385 against opposing lefties.
  • The Royals are “starting to think about” approaching Eric Hosmer to discuss an extension. He is already signed to a $8.25MM salary next year, and has one more year of arb control thereafter. Buying up additional years will not be easy or cheap for Kansas City: Hosmer is in the midst of a breakout .315/.379/.484 campaign, is just 25 years old, and is a client of Scott Boras.

Quick Hits: GM Turnover, Williams, Zduriencik, Prospects

Baseball has experienced intense turnover in its front offices of late, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today notes in a column today, and there could be more to come. Nightengale cites Ruben Amaro Jr. of the Phillies, Jack Zduriencik of the Mariners, and Walt Jocketty of the Reds as candidates for dismissal. The frequency of change represents a “new state of the game,” argues Nightengale.

  • The Mariners could end up bringing in White Sox president Kenny Williams to head its front office, Nighengale reports. But Williams may also be in the running to become the new president of the Blue Jays. Reds special assistant Kevin Towers also increasingly seems to be an option for Seattle, Nightengale adds on Twitter.
  • Zduriencik says that he pays no heed to the rumor mill, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. Though he’s aware that there is chatter that he could be vulnerable, the Mariners general manager explains that he can’t let that affect his work. “I’ve got eyes,” said the seven-year veteran GM. I can see what’s going on here. I know what has not worked and what should be working and isn’t. For me to focus on any outside distractions (is non-productive).” Zduriencik stressed that he still believes in the talent base he’s compiled, explaining: “I think when you start to piece it together, there are things we need to do going forward, but I do think that there are some really solid pieces there.”
  • Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs provides an overhauled, mid-season look at the game’s best prospects. He breaks down a series of different prospect classes. One of those is his list of the game’s premium pre-MLB players, which is made up of the 26 names who separated themselves from the pack. The usual suspects sit atop that list, but there are some quick-rising players as well, including shortstops Orlando Arcia (Brewers, #8), Franklin Barreto (Athletics, #14), and Trea Turner (Nationals, #15), outfielders Bradley Zimmer (Indians, #21) and Gleyber Torres (Cubs, #23), and Rays lefty Blake Snell, who shot all the way up to the 16th slot. McDaniel also lists the year’s newly-emerging prospects, the newly-professional crop of players added over the summer, and the impressive list of young players who no longer qualify as prospects.
  • Ben Badler of Baseball America takes a closer look at one such swiftly-rising prospect, Nationals outfielder Victor Robles. The 18-year-old drew the attention of the organization because of his quick-twitch athleticism and high energy, and the club’s $225K bonus has paid out amply so far. It’s a lengthy piece, but well worth a read for any prospect hounds or Nats fans.