Chicago Cubs Rumors

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

Cubs Designate Mike Olt For Assignment

The Cubs have designated infielder Mike Olt for assignment, the club announced. His roster spot was needed for the acquisition of Austin Jackson, which Chicago also made official.

Olt, 27, has never regained his trajectory after topping out as a prospect that rated as high as 22nd on league-wide rankings. In the midst of a disappointing 2013 season, he was dealt to Chicago as part of a package deal that sent righty Matt Garza to the Rangers. Vision issues were noted as a cause for concern at the time, and Olt has dealt with a right wrist fracture more recently.

Last season represented Olt’s first real opportunity at the big league level, in spite of that rough 2013, but he did not make the most of it. Over 258 plate appearances, Olt swatted 12 home runs but slashed just .160/.248/.356 while striking out an even 100 times.

Nevertheless, another team will likely be glad to take a shot on Olt’s upside. He’s always been regarded as a potentially solid defender at third base and has shown plenty of pop in his right-handed bat. And despite his struggles in relatively scant action at the big league level, Olt has hit will at Triple-A over the last two years. In 246 turns at bat there this season, he’s slashed .273/.346/.477.


Cubs Acquire Austin Jackson

6:26pm: The deal is now official, with the Cubs making an announcement.

6:20pm: Chicago will cover $1MM of Jackson’s remaining salary, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. The Mariners will pay the $430K or so of obligations otherwise left on his deal.

5:04pm: The Cubs have agreed to acquire outfielder Austin Jackson from the Mariners, Shannon Drayer of 710 AM ESPN in Seattle reports (Twitter link). Jackson had reportedly cleared revocable trade waivers, and by adding him today, the Cubs will have the option of utilizing him on their post-season roster.

A player to be named later and a $211,100 international signing slot will reportedly head to Seattle in the deal. Chicago also obtains cash to offset some of the remainder of Jackson’s $7.7MM annual salary.

Aug 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Seattle Mariners center fielder Austin Jackson (16) runs the bases after hitting a two RBI home run during the second inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Already set to hit free agency after the season, Jackson will end his disappointing tenure in Seattle earlier than had been planned. He was acquired with high hopes last summer in the three-team David Price deal, with the Mariners sending Nick Franklin to the Rays to add the center fielder from the Tigers. Needless to say, things have not worked out for the player or the team.

At the time, Jackson was putting up slightly-above-average offensive numbers in Detroit. But he’s been significantly worse with the M’s, slashing just .257/.297/.343 over 684 plate appearances between this year and last. Jackson has contributed only eight home runs in that span as his power has fallen off, and he’s been caught 11 times on steal attempts while successfully taking 26 bags.

Jackson remains an approximately league-average defender up the middle. And at just 28 years of age, he still holds at least some promise of more given his quality early-career production. Between 2010 and 2013, Jackson racked up 18.9 rWAR with a .278/.344/.416 cumulative slash, a solid power/speed mix, and defensive ratings that ranged from good to excellent.

Mariners interim GM Jeff Kingston explained that there was relatively little interest in the veteran this month, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times notes on Twitter. While there had been an outside chance that the club would hold onto Jackson and make him a qualifying offer, that is no longer an option with the mid-season trade. That seemed at least plausible given Jackson’s age, but it seems that Seattle decided against the risky move and chose instead to get what it could for him now.

For Chicago, Jackson represents another right-handed-hitting outfield option as Jorge Soler deals with an oblique injury, though it’s worth noting that he traditionally carries fairly neutral platoon splits. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Jackson can play in center, but he seems unlikely to take much time from the switch-hitting Dexter Fowler, who traditionally performs better against left-handed pitching. While Jackson is still owed about $1.43MM of salary this year, at least some of that obligation will remain Seattle’s responsibility.

MLB.com’s Greg Johns first suggested an international slot may be involved (via Twitter), as to which Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter) and Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times (also via Twitter) provided details. Divish first reported that a PTBNL was part of the return (on Twitter) provided details. 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Extension Candidate: Jake Arrieta

In the midst of a second straight exceptional year, Cubs starter Jake Arrieta appears likely to sign a big contract at some point, whether that’s an extension with the Cubs or a free-agent deal following the 2017 season. The Cubs, however, have not begun extension discussions with Arrieta (as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times recently reported) and it’s not clear whether they’ll do so. Arrieta is already under team control for two more seasons, and the Cubs might feel that adding additional pitching talent this offseason is a higher priority than signing a pitcher they already have.

USATSI_8706115_154513410_lowresIf the Cubs did want to sign Arrieta, they would have a tough task ahead of them, though perhaps not an impossible one. Via CSNChicago.com’s Patrick Mooney, agent Scott Boras strongly suggests Arrieta won’t be cheap, comparing him to Max Scherzer and arguing that Arrieta’s relatively low innings totals (he’s pitched 740 1/3 in his career) make him a good bet to age well. Arrieta’s arm is “kind of ideal for the free-agent dynamic,” Boras says. But Arrieta himself said last season that he would be interested in staying in Chicago and that he wouldn’t ask for an “astronomical amount of money.”

Of course, if Arrieta were to ask for an astronomical amount of money, he’d be more likely to get it now than he was then. He finished ninth in NL Cy Young voting in 2014 and has followed up that breakout season with an even better one, pitching more innings per start and posting a career-high ground-ball rate (53.9%) while maintaining his strong peripherals (9.2 K/9, 2.2 BB/9). He currently ranks first in the league in wins (16), second in ERA (2.22) and fourth in strikeouts (178), setting him up for a huge raise on his $3.63MM salary through the arbitration process this winter.

Finding precedents for an Arrieta extension is difficult. Extensions for pitchers who are already arbitration eligible frequently only buy out arbitration seasons and do not delay free agency, as with recent extensions for Lance Lynn, Jordan Zimmermann and Mat Latos. (It’s certainly possible that the Cubs could sign Arrieta to a two-year deal in a similar mold, but that wouldn’t change much about his future with the organization.) Wade Miley gave up a year of free agency eligibility in his recent deal with the Red Sox, although Arrieta is obviously a much better pitcher. Matt Harrison‘s $55MM deal with the Rangers is probably the clearest comparable for Arrieta, particularly given that Harrison was coming off his first arbitration season and made a salary similar to Arrieta’s ($2.95MM). Arrieta is also better than Harrison was, though, and Harrison’s deal is almost three years old.

Using Harrison’s deal as a potential precedent is tricky for another reason, too. Harrison was only 27 at the time of his deal and figured to have another shot at a significant payday even after it was over. Arrieta is older, and if he were to agree to a long-term deal now, it would likely be the only significant multi-year contract of his career.

Then you have to factor in the escalation in salaries of starting pitchers since Harrison’s extension. Homer Bailey received a nine-figure deal from the Reds, and his best seasons prior to the deal were nowhere near as good as Arrieta’s last two. Bailey was a year closer to free agency than Arrieta is, but given the raise Arrieta is likely to receive this offseason, he could easily make $20MM-$25MM total in his last two years before free agency eligibility anyway. Beyond that, he could credibly ask for $20MM per season, and that might even be slightly undershooting it. Rick Porcello‘s four-year, $82.5MM deal with the Red Sox strongly suggests Arrieta ought to be worth more than $20MM a year, even though Arrieta doesn’t have youth on his side as Porcello did.

A five-year deal for Arrieta, then, could get close to the $100MM mark, and a six-year deal could push past the nine-figure mark. It seems unlikely that Boras would settle for anything less than five years, and probably even six, given that signing an extension that delays free agency by only a year or two likely wouldn’t provide Arrieta with enough of a financial incentive to put off seeking a big free-agent contract.

There’s also the problem of how a five- or six-year deal would work for the Cubs. A five-year deal would still be on the books in 2020, by which point the Cubs look somewhat likely to be dealing with significant arbitration raises for key younger players like Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, and others. They will probably also wish to extend at least some of those players. They’ll also likely still be dealing with the contracts of Jon Lester, Anthony Rizzo and any pitcher they sign this offseason.

That isn’t to say that a deal for Arrieta would be impossible. It seems likely that the Cubs’ budget will be significantly larger in 2020, with more money coming in from a new TV deal. If it is, the fuss over whether they can afford Arrieta might end up being mostly irrelevant. But, given that they already control Arrieta through his age-31 season, could be in line for a draft pick if he signs elsewhere, and that Boras is surely highly curious about the free-agent market, perhaps it isn’t surprising that the two sides haven’t struck a deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Quick Hits: Scully, Harang, Profar, Kirby

Legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully has announced his intention to return for the 2016 season. He expects it to be his final season as a broadcaster, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. It will be his 67th season in the booth. As Sportsnet Stats tweeted earlier today, Scully has announced games involving A’s manager Connie Mack (born 1862) and Cubs shortstop Addison Russell (born 1994). He’s likely to see a couple even younger players including Julio Urias (born 1996).

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Phillies starter Aaron Harang was not claimed on waivers, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. As Heyman notes, Harang has a 7.09 ERA since the All-Star break. He has about $1MM remaining on his $5MM contract and is a free agent following the season. The Cubs and Pirates are among the contenders in need of rotation depth, but it’s unclear if either team would view him as an upgrade over internal options. It doesn’t seem as though the Phillies could acquire much more than some financial relief or a non-prospect in a deal. As such, a trade may be unlikely.
  • Former number one prospect Jurickson Profar could work his way back onto the Rangers roster, writes Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The 22-year-old is rehabbing from multiple shoulder injuries. He won’t play the field this fall. However, he could help the club after rosters expand as a pinch-hitter or runner while working directly with the major league training staff.
  • Brewers prospect Nathan Kirby is likely to undergo Tommy John surgery, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The 40th overal pick of the 2015 draft led the University of Virginia Cavaliers to the 2015 World Series. An undisclosed medical issue -presumably the elbow issue – led the club to reduce the lefty’s signing bonus from $1.545MM to $1.25MM. Kirby will miss the entire 2016 season.

AL East Notes: Buchholz, Red Sox Front Office, Hanley, Shapiro, Tolleson

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski says that righty Clay Buchholz is done for the year, as Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald tweets. The new top Boston baseball decisionmaker added that he sees it as an easy call to exercise a $12MM option to keep Buchholz — if he is healthy. That’s an important proviso, of course, though the Sox should have time to assess his recovery before making a final decision.

  • Dombrowski spoke with the press today as he accompanied the Red Sox on the road for the first time, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports. While the offseason is still a ways away, he’s still short on time. “There’s going to be some shortcomings that are just going to fall through the cracks,” he explained. “I can’t see the minor-league clubs; I just don’t have enough time to be able to do that.” Before deciding on any additions or subtractions to his front office group, Dombrowski says, he’s working to get to know his current staff. “You just have to really do your homework to get to know people and to get to know whose opinions you can feel you really trust,” said the incoming executive. “… The people here will know the players better than I will.”
  • While the Red Sox front office composition remains to be seen, one prominent member is already on his way out. Pro scouting director Jared Porter is heading to the Cubs, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com tweets. It’s important to note that, as Britton explains, Dombrowski indicated that at least one front office member was departing (quite possibly Porter) in a move that had already been in the works before his arrival.
  • Dombrowski also touched upon the Red Sox‘ pending move of Hanley Ramirez to first base, as Britton further reports“It just seemed to make sense” to try the veteran out at the position, he explained. “Not that you have to rush it, but it gives us some time to get him out there. I wouldn’t want to say, ‘Let’s wait until spring training and let’s see if he can do it.’ What happens if he can’t do it? You really need to know that more so now.”
  • If the Blue Jays are going to land Indians president Mark Shapiro to fill that role in Toronto, they may well do so in the coming days, according to Joe Vardon of the Plain Dealer. A source says that “closure” on Shapiro’s status is expected in short order. We learned earlier today that Cleveland has authorized him to meet with the Jays.
  • There’s something of an unusual situation brewing between the Blue Jays and infielder Steve Tolleson, who is on the temporarily inactive list at Triple-A, as John Lott of the National Post writes. Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos said that Tolleson “just decided he didn’t want to play anymore,” while Tolleson says he’s injured. The question is whether Tolleson was injured when he was designated for assignment by the club, the argument being that he should (if that was the case) be earning a major league salary from the MLB disabled list.

Heyman’s Latest: Castro, Shapiro, Davis, Anderson, Brewers, Phils

Within his latest Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that displaced Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro has joined Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez as struggling former stars that have cleared waivers. (The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo first reported that Ramirez and Sandoval cleared waivers.) The Cubs had a few trade discussions pertaining to Castro prior to the July 31 non-waiver deadline, per Heyman, and they’ll likely revisit trade talks this winter. As for Sandoval, Heyman hears that there are not active discussions at the moment, although one can easily imagine new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski exploring ways to shed that sizable commitment this offseason.

Some more highlights from Heyman’s latest column…

  • Indians president Mark Shapiro has been given permission to meet with the Blue Jays about their opening, per the report. The veteran Cleveland executive is “believed” to sit atop Toronto’s wish list, and Heyman says there’s an increasing expectation that he’ll end up moving over to the Jays.
  • Chris Davis is in line for a significant payday this offseason, but the Orioles aren’t likely to be the ones writing the check. Heyman hears that two years ago, following Davis’ brilliant 53-homer campaign, agent Scott Boras was eyeing Joey Votto’s 10-year, $225MM contract as a comp. Granted, Davis’ reduced production since that time has almost certainly lowered the asking price, but I personally agree with the assessment of MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes in his latest Free Agent Power Rankings: Davis is in line for a nine-figure contract, which seems beyond Baltimore’s traditional comfort levels.
  • Though some were surprised to see Brett Anderson land a $10MM guarantee from the Dodgers due to his injury history, Heyman hears that the Dodgers may be considering an even more surprising move: extending a qualifying offer to the injury-prone hurler. Anderson, in my eyes, would be a risky candidate for such an offer, but there’s reason enough that the Dodgers could make that call. For one, the team can afford a $16MM investment in an injury-prone pitcher, and Anderson’s worth close to that kind of cash when healthy. Secondly, Anderson’s coming off one of the lone healthy seasons of his career and may see this as his best chance to cash in on a multi-year deal. He could see the only downside as another one-year deal worth $10MM+, meaning he’d be risking around $6MM for a chance at quite a bit more.
  • The Brewers are expected to take “well into next month” in their search for a new general manager and are interested in pursuing non-traditional candidates. We’ve heard several possibilities batted around, and Heyman says he’s heard at least some chatter about Athletics assistant GM Dan Kantrovitz and Red Sox special assistant Jerry Dipoto.
  • While the Phillies could have their own front office changes to make, Heyman says it’s still possible that Ruben Amaro Jr. could not only stay in the organization in some capacity, but keep the GM chair.
  • In a separate piece, Heyman also takes an interesting look at the thirty best deals made over the last year. There’s certainly a good case to be made for his top choice: the Blue Jays’ acquisition of Josh Donaldson.

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.