Chicago Cubs Rumors

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

NL Notes: Strasburg, Mozeliak, Boras, Fernandez

Stephen Strasburg left the mound during the fourth inning of today’s Giants/Nationals game with an injury in his left side.  The Nats ace wanted to keep pitching but “given his season, so far, I don’t want to take a chance there,” manager Matt Williams told reporters, including MLB.com’s Bill Ladson.  Strasburg has already had one extended DL stint to recover from a strained left trapezius and he’s been dealing with neck and back soreness all year, which has undoubtedly contributed to his 5.16 ERA over 61 innings (though an ungainly .365 BABIP also hasn’t helped).  Here’s the latest from around the senior circuit…

  • Cardinals GM John Mozeliak tells Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he’s targeting starting pitching depth and a left-handed bench bat.  While the Cards’ rotation has been one of the best in the game this season, it’s also a pretty young staff with some pitchers who have had checkered injury histories, so Mozeliak said he has to “be aware of the potential hazards” and that “my job is to make sure if it doesn’t last, then how do you answer it?
  • Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks the July 2 prospects already signed by the Cardinals (righty Alvaro Seijas and shortstop Raffy Ozuna, both 16 years old) and how the team has evolved its forays into the international market.
  • Scott Boras tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald that he sees no reason why the Marlins couldn’t afford to keep Jose Fernandez, even with Giancarlo Stanton already locked up on a historically large deal.  “With TV rights and the general fund contribution and everything — every club, before they sell a ticket, they’re making $120 million,” Boras said.  “There’s a lot of revenue in this game to pay a lot of players and keep players at home.”  The Marlins believes that Fernandez and Marcell Ozuna both declined to pursue extensions last winter under Boras’ advice, but the agent said that his players make those decisions.
  • Cubs president Theo Epstein cautioned that his team may not make any huge moves at the trade deadline, telling reporters (including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune) that “if you look at the history of teams that go on and play in the World Series, very rarely is it (because of a) deadline deal.  We know what we’d like to do, but we’re realistic about what we might be able to do.”  Epstein also noted that some teams who are solely in the wild card hunt may not favor making a big push just to get into a one-game playoff; while he was “just speaking generally,” Epstein’s comments could relate to the Cubs themselves, who are 8.5 games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central.

Cubs Designate Gonzalez Germen For Assignment

The Cubs have designated righty Gonzalez Germen for assignment and moved infielder Tommy La Stella (oblique) to the 60-day disabled list, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat tweets. The moves clear space on the Cubs’ roster for two new additions, pitcher Clayton Richard (who will start for the Cubs today) and catcher Taylor Teagarden (who will fill in as a backup while David Ross recovers from a concussion).

The 27-year-old Germen pitched six innings of relief for the Cubs this season, allowing five runs while striking out eight and walking five. He’s also pitched 33 1/3 relief innings for Triple-A Iowa this season, posting a 3.78 ERA, 7.3 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9.

Gonzalez’s DFA marks the fourth time since December that he’s been designated for assignment. Following a strong season in the Mets farm system in 2014, he went from the Mets to the Yankees to the Rangers and then to the Cubs within a period of six weeks last offseason.


Draft Signings: Thomas Eshelman, Bryan Hudson

Let’s catch up on some recent draft signings, with slot values via Baseball America:

  • The Astros have locked up second-rounder Thomas Eshelman for a $1.1MM bonus that falls shy of the $1,325,700 slot value, Jim Callis of MLB.com reports on Twitter. Callis calls the righty the “best strike-thrower in NCAA history” — he averaged an unthinkable 0.42 BB/9 over this entire college career, per Baseball America — and indeed much of his value lies in his impeccable control. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs had the highest grade on Eshelman, raning him 54th among draft-eligible players. Other evaluators placed him at or just out of the top 100. MLB.com explained that Eshelman’s fastball hovers in the 90 to 91 mph range, while his offspeed pitches are nothing particularly special.
  • Cubs third-rounder Bryan Hudson receives a well-over-slot $1.1MM bonus, per Callis (via Twitter). The slot value at 82nd overall was just $731K. He’s a tall, projectable righty who rated as high as 71st coming into the draft, with MLB.com giving that grade. Baseball America put him in the 101st slot, noting that Hudson features a good curve and has smooth mechanics for a hurler of his size.


Cubs Acquire Clayton Richard From Pirates

The Cubs have acquired lefty Clayton Richard from the Pirates in exchange for cash considerations, Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald reports on Twitter. Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes on Twitter that Richard appeared to be headed to a big league roster after clearing his locker out at Triple-A Indianapolis.

The impetus for the move was an “upward mobility” clause in Richard’s contract, which created a three-day period within which the Pirates had to offer him to other clubs willing to put him on a big league roster or instead add him to their own roster. Had no team been so willing, then Richard would have remained in Triple-A.

Chicago, obviously, was prepared to give Richard an active roster spot while Pittsburgh was not. Miles adds that Richard will make a start this Saturday for the Cubs.

Richard, 31, was a productive starter for the Padres before shoulder issues derailed his career. In both 2010 and 2012, he put up 200+ innings with a sub-4.00 ERA. He last appeared in the big leagues in 2013, struggling badly before ultimately going under the knife.

Richard appeared briefly in Triple-A last year for the Diamondbacks, but has returned to form at Indianapolis this season. In ten total minor league starts, he’s racked up 62 innings of 1.89 ERA pitching, striking out 4.4 and walking 2.0 batters per nine innings.


Angels Acquire Rafael Lopez From Cubs

3:12pm: Chicago will receive the 120th slot, which carries $149,700 in spending capacity, Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com tweets.

1:56pm: The Angels and Cubs have agreed to a trade that will send minor league catcher Rafael Lopez to Anaheim in exchange for an international bonus slot and left-handed pitching prospect Manuel Rondon, the teams announced. Chicago had designated Lopez for assignment last week.

The 27-year-old Lopez debuted with the Cubs in 2014 and received 14 plate appearances. Lopez picked up a pair of hits in that brief cup of coffee, and he’s had a reasonable amount of success in the upper minors. In 107 games/410 plate appearances at the Triple-A level, Lopez is a .281/.359/.333 hitter and has caught 30 percent of attempted base stealers.  With Miguel Montero projecting as the team’s catcher for the foreseeable future and David Ross signed to a two-year deal, though, there was little hope of Lopez carving out a significant role in the Majors anytime soon. He was on the Cubs’ 40-man roster and has subsequently been added to the Halos’ 40-man roster as well. The Angels announced that Lopez has been optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake.

Rondon, 20, is a left-handed pitcher out of Venezuela that has spent the past two seasons pitching for the Angels’ affiliate in the Dominican Summer League. He worked to a 2.50 ERA with 8.0 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9 in 108 innings at that level over the past two seasons, though he’s not particularly young for the league. This season, Rondon has moved up to he Rookie league in Arizona, where he’s struggled in a small 8 1/3-inning sample, yielding eight runs on 13 hits and four walks with seven strikeouts. He will not turn 21 until next March.

In the past 24 hours, the Angels have added Lopez and right-handers Gaither Bumgardner and Jason Hoppe in exchange for international bonus slots. The Angels are restricted from signing any international amateur for more than $300K after blowing past their budget to sign Roberto Baldoquin last winter, rendering the slots largely inconsequential to them.


Cubs Sign Slate Of International Prospects To Large Bonuses

The Cubs have made a splash early in the international market by locking up a lengthy list of players to significant bonuses. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez first reported the bulk of the signings.

Among the players inked, the biggest bonus goes to Yonathan Sierra Estiwal, an outfielder from the Dominican Republic, who’ll get $2.5MM. He earned the 16th slot on the MLB.com board, which noted that there could be some power in his long frame, while Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs and Baseball America’s Ben Badler ranked him outside the top thirty available players.

Another $2MM will go to countryman Aramis Ademan, a shortstop, whose signing was first reported by Ben Badler of Baseball America with Sanchez adding the cash value. Badler placed him within his top dozen players, explaining that he offers more in the way of solid promise than huge upside. A contact hitter with minimal power and uninspiring speed, Ademan shows promise as an on-base threat and is a smooth, competent fielder at short with solid arm strength.

Also checking in with seven-figure bonuses were Venezuelan shortstop Yonathan Perlaza ($1.3MM), Panamanian catcher Miguel Amaya ($1.25MM), and Dominican corner infielder Christopher Martinez ($1MM). All of those players earned top-thirty billing in at least one of the above-linked rankings. Sanchez adds that righty Yunior Perez is also going to Chicago for $600K.

Tally up those deals, and the total outlay stands at $7.65MM. That’s more than double the club’s $3,230,700 total pool allocation (via Baseball America), meaning that the Cubs will sacrifice the ability to hand out any $300K+ bonuses for the next two years and incur a 100% tax on its overage. The club could still trade for some additional spending slots to offset some of those penalty fees.


East Notes: Encarnacion, Jays, Yankees, Niese

Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion achieved ten-and-five rights yesterday, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports. It once seemed quite unlikely that the now-32-year-old would ever establish himself enough to earn a no-trade clause, as Davidi explains. Toronto can control Encarnacion next season with a $10MM club option, but his future beyond that remains unclear. “I like this city, I’d love to stay here but it’s not my choice,” said Encarnacion. “They have to decide what they’re going to do, if they’re going to sign me or not. I’m open to be here and to stay here in Toronto.”

Here’s more from Toronto and the rest of the east:

  • All indications are that Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos “has been busy trying to make something happen for a while now,” writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Toronto may be willing to give significant value for a truly high-quality player that makes a perfect fit for the club’s overall situation, says Davidi, much as it did in signing Russell Martin and trading for Josh Donaldson. That being said, it seems unlikely that Anthopoulos and Co. will part with its best young talent for a pure rental, the report suggests.
  • Anthopoulos tells reporters that the Blue Jays nearly pulled off two trades in May, but has not come as close since, as Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star reports (Twitter links). The GM added that he’ll consider moving prospects for rentals if the price is right, noting that he discussed a deal last summer involving young players Kevin Pillar and Sean Nolin.
  • he Yankees are in a solid position right now, but need to address three pressing questions, Joel Sherman of the New York Post argues. First, the club need to decide whether and when it will pull the struggling CC Sabathia from the rotation, and whether it will replace him with an outside addition (Sherman suggests Jeff Samardzija as a viable option). Another veteran, outfielder Carlos Beltran, has produced at the plate but not in the field, and Sherman wonders whether he could be a trade option for the Angels to plug in at DH. And New York must also decide how much it is willing to cough up to add the versatile Ben Zobrist, per the piece, if and when he’s made available by the A’s.
  • Meanwhile, across town, the Mets are in no rush to deal Jon Niese, writes Newsday’s David Lennon, who explains that the club still needs innings from him given limitations on its younger starters. Of course, Niese (and his salary) could ultimately be part of a deal — whether to add a bat or future assets. But as things stand, it does not appear that there is much momentum towards any kind of trade. Indeed, per Lennon, the Mets have not even had “serious conversations with two teams (Cubs, Dodgers) that reportedly have interest in the lefty.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Padres, Niese, Cubs, Jays

Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via a video at FOX Sports:

  • At 36-40, the Padres have considered buying as well as selling at the trade deadline. They could pursue a shortstop and left-handed hitter if they buy. If they sell, they could consider dealing Justin Upton, James Shields and Craig Kimbrel. Upton is the only one of the three who’s eligible for free agency after the season, though, and the Padres might not want to tear down entirely, since they’re hosting the All-Star Game next year.
  • The Cubs have considered dealing for Mets left-hander Jon Niese, although they might also aim higher. The salary remaining on Niese’s current deal (he’ll make $9MM next year, plus a $500K buyout or $10MM option in 2016) might also be a slight obstacle to trading him.
  • The Blue Jays are interested in pitching, but also perhaps in outfield help. Acquiring an outfielder would help the Jays to keep top young player Dalton Pompey in the minors — he’s currently hitting very well for Double-A New Hampshire after struggling in both the big leagues and in Triple-A this year.
  • Former Padres manager Bud Black could be a possibility for the Braves if they eventually decide to replace Fredi Gonzalez. Black worked for the Indians front office when current Braves GM John Hart was in Cleveland, and Braves president John Schuerholz traded for Black all the way back in 1982, when Schuerholz was GM of the Royals.

Cubs Designate Rafael Lopez For Assignment

The Cubs have announced that they’ve designated catcher Rafael Lopez for assignment. The move clears space on the Cubs’ 40-man for righty Donn Roach. To clear space on their active roster for Roach, the Cubs have optioned righty Yoervis Medina to Triple-A Iowa.

The 27-year-old Lopez earned a spot on the Cubs’ roster late in the 2014 season by hitting well at Double-A Tennessee and holding his own at Iowa, and he collected 14 big-league plate appearances last year. His hitting has failed to progress thus far this year, however — he’s currently batting .276/.333/.340 at Triple-A, with no home runs in 176 plate appearances. The depth Lopez represents is also less crucial than it was a year ago, with Miguel Montero and David Ross in the big leagues and Kyle Schwarber as another potential option.


International Notes: Rankings, Spending, Alvarez, Guerrero

The 2015-16 international signing period kicks off in six days (July 2), which will lead to significant spending from clubs all around the league in an effort to bolster their farm system. The Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Angels and Diamondbacks will each be ineligible to sign a player for more than $300K due to vastly overshooting their league-assigned international bonus pools in the 2014-15 signing period. Meanwhile, the Cubs and Rangers will be back in the game after being similarly restricted in the 2014-15 period due to excessive spending in 2013-14. Both teams are expected to again be aggressive, though it’s the Dodgers who are rumored to be the most aggressive team on this year’s international market. Here are some notes on this year’s class of July 2 players…

  • Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has released an excellent sortable prospect board with scouting reports, video, projected bonus information and the likeliest landing spot, with information on 69 different international prospects (not all info available for all prospects). McDaniel currently projects the Dodgers to spend $27.05MM on the international market, though that number could grow, as it’s not clear where every prospect is going to land yet. That $27.05MM figure, by the way, comes out to more than $50MM after factoring in the 100% luxury tax they’ll pay for exceeding their $2,020,300 pool by more than 15 percent (pool info via Baseball America).
  • In addition to the Dodgers and Cubs, the Royals are expected to blow past their international spending limit as well, writes McDaniel in a separate piece. No one figures to match the Dodgers, though, who are “so recklessly signing whichever player they want for whatever number it takes that teams are openly wondering what top Cuban player they won’t sign during this period,” McDaniel notes. It’s currently tough to peg the market for top Cuban outfield prospect Eddy Julio Martinez, but the Dodgers should be considered the favorite for all Cuban players due to their hyper-aggressive approach, McDaniel adds. He also looks ahead to the 2016-17 market, touching on top names such as Kevin Maitan and Abraham Gutierrez.
  • Baseball America’s Ben Badler spoke to six scouts about top international prospects Yadier Alvarez (link) and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (link). Alvarez’s name has been on the pages of MLBTR for months, as the Cuban righty is said to be the top international pitching prospect on the market thanks to a fastball that reaches 98 mph and the makings of a wipeout slider and an above-average changeup. Badler looks at his sudden emergence from obscurity and gets the takes of scouts who praise him, but also those who view him as a future reliever. As for Guerrero, scouts feel that he has the best combination of hitting ability and power in this year’s class, but he’s already a thick player with a so-so arm, leading to questions about his defensive placement down the line. Alvarez is believed to have a bonus of $16MM+ waiting from the Dodgers, whereas the Blue Jays have long been believed to have a deal with Guerrero (McDaniel pegs the value at $3.45MM).