Chicago Cubs Rumors

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

Braves Acquire James Russell, Emilio Bonifacio

3:38pm: ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers tweets that the Cubs are sending cash to Atlanta as well. It will be about $1MM going to Atlanta, tweets Wittenmyer.

3:33pm: Wittenymyer tweets that a minor league catcher is headed to Chicago. Peter Gammons tweets that Chicago receives Victor Caratini from Atlanta.

3:24pm: The Braves have acquired left-hander James Russell and utilityman Emilio Bonifacio from the Cubs, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (on Twitter).

James Russell

Russell, 28, has posted a 3.51 ERA with 7.0 K/9, 4.3 BB/9 and a career-best 40.9 percent ground-ball rate. While he’s picking up more grounders than ever, Russell has also shown the worst command of his career — a trend he will hope to correct with the Braves. Russell has typically handled left-handed hitters pretty well, but the opposite has been true in 2014; right-handed batters have a meager .364 OPS against Russell, while same-handed batters have an alarming .295/.358/.525 batting line against him. In his career, however, lefties have batted .240/.276/.416 against Russell. He is earning just $1.9MM in 2014 and is controlled through 2015.

The switch-hitting Bonifacio, 29, had a solid debut season for the Cubs before being included in the trade. He’s hitting .279/.318/.373 with a pair of homers and 14 steals (in 20 attempts). Defensive metrics have liked his work at second base, third base and in center field this season, though his career marks aren’t as strong.

Bonifacio had an interesting offseason, as he was tendered a contract by the Royals and agreed to a $3.5MM salary before being released (and subsequently paid only a portion of his still non-guaranteed deal). The speedster latched on with the Cubs in Spring Training and played well, though he’s spent a portion of the year on the disabled list.

As for Caratini, he was a second-round pick by the Braves in 2013 and ranked as the organization’s No. 7 prospect on MLB.com’s midseason top 20 list. The 20-year-old Caratini has batted .279/.352/.406 in 87 games at Class-A this season. He’s a switch-hitting catcher who also plays third base. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com feel that he’s a good enough defender to handle either position, but clearly he would have more value behind the dish. Though Callis and Mayo praise his defense, they feel that his bat is a better tool.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Cubs Moving Closer To Bonifacio Trade

TODAY, 12:04am: Also in on Bonifacio as of this morning were the Pirates, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

11:13am: There is plenty of action on Bonifacio, who is being pursued currently by the Orioles, Giants, and Mariners, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN.com.

Bonifacio is a backup option for the Mariners, along with Chris Denorfia, tweets Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Seattle prefers to add Alex Rios or Ben Zobrist.

YESTERDAY, 8:12pm: It does not appear that the Giants are going to acquire Bonifacio, according to a tweet from Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.

6:42pm: The Royals are not yet close to adding Bonifacio, tweets Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star.

5:48pm: The O’s are not in on Bonifacio, tweets Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, who hears that the versatile fielder could be returning to Kansas City. Needless to say, that would be an interesting turn of events: Bonifacio finished well last year with Kansas City, was tendered a contract, agreed to a salary to avoid arbitration, and was then released before the start of the season.

5:14pm: At present, the Giants, Orioles, and Reds are all in play for Bonifacio, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

4:50pm: Bonifacio has been told to be prepared for a deal today, tweets Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.

4:42pm: Bonifacio is indeed not in the lineup, with manager Rick Renteria saying it was “prudent” to hold him out, according to Rogers (Twitter link).

2:50pm: The Cubs are getting close to trading Bonifacio, tweets Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. Levine tweets that Bonifacio is not in tonight’s lineup, which could obviously signal that a deal is nigh. Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle hears that the Giants have been scouting Bonifacio all week, but the asking price for the impending free agent is said to be high.

2:32pm: The Orioles are Giants are considering Cubs utility man Emilio Bonifacio as a trade option, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney.  Bruce Levine of 670 The Score adds the Royals, Mariners, and Reds as three more potential suitors (All Twitter links).

Bonifacio, 29, is hitting .279/.318/.373 in 298 plate appearances for the Cubs.  The switch-hitter is raking against lefties in this year’s limited sample.  He’s mainly played center field and second base for the Cubs.  Bonifacio is eligible for free agency after the season.


Cubs Acquire Felix Doubront

4:41pm: The Red Sox have announced the deal.

2:17pm: The Cubs have acquired Felix Doubront from the Red Sox, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports first reported (on Twitter) that a deal was close.

The Red Sox will receive a player to be named later in return for the 26-year-old lefty, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. That player will be determined after the Rule 5 draft, tweets Alex Speier of WEEI.com.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox-Game Two

Doubront’s tenure in Boston seemed destined to come to an end after he publicly announced his desire to return to the rotation — with another team, if necessary. After beginning the year as one of the team’s five starters, Doubront was dropped to the pen after posting a 5.19 ERA over ten starts. Things have only gone downhill since, as he has surrendered a .375/.409/.625 line and 11 earned runs to the 45 opposing hitters he has faced in seven relief appearances.

Chicago will hope that a change of scenery prompts a turnaround for a player who is said to have high-quality stuff. (Over 2012-13, Doubront compiled 323 1/3 innings of 4.59 ERA ball as a starter.) He will be arb-eligible for the first time next year, and his price tag should be manageable given his rough numbers this year. In many respects, Doubront is not unlike several of the Cubs’ other recent buy-low pitching additions (both through free agency and trade) — Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, and Scott Feldman come to mind — though he comes with the added benefit of a lower cost and extended, uncommitted control.

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.



Dodgers Acquire Darwin Barney

WEDNESDAY: Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports (on Twitter) that the Dodgers will send right-handed pitcher Jonathan Martinez to the Cubs as the PTBNL. The 20-year-old was enjoying a strong season at Class A in the Midwest League, having pitched to a 3.47 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 106 innings. He did not rank among the Dodgers’ top 30 prospects, per Baseball America.

MONDAY, 5:43pm: MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports that the Dodgers will pay $500K of what is owed to Barney this season (Twitter link).

2:32pm: The Dodgers have bolstered their infield depth and their defense with the acquisition of Darwin Barney from the Cubs, both teams announced. Chicago will send Barney and cash considerations to Los Angeles in return for a player to be named later, according to releases from each team. It was reported earlier today that Barney, who was designated for assignment last week, was garnering trade interest.

Darwin Barney

The 28-year-old Barney hit just .230/.265/.328 in 217 plate appearances with the Cubs this season, but his bat has never been his calling card. Barney consistently rates as one of the best defensive second baseman in the Major Leagues, and this year was no different. His Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games was +15.5, while Defensive Runs Saved pegged him at +7 runs in limited time. Per DRS, Barney has  saved 46 runs over the past three seasons.

Dee Gordon has established himself as Los Angeles’ everyday second baseman this season, so it doesn’t seem likely that Barney will be seeing everyday at-bats with the Dodgers. However, his glove makes him a nice bench piece that the team can use to improve its defense late in games. Barney was drafted as a shortstop and spent more time at short than at the keystone in his minor league career. Despite a lack of experience at the position in recent years, Barney could be used as a replacement if the team wants to either replace the defensively challenged Hanley Ramirez or shift him over to third base late in games.

Barney is earning just $2.3MM this season and is controllable through 2016 as an arbitration eligible player. His bat makes him a non-tender candidate in the offseason, but he will only cost the Dodgers about $804K from here through season’s end.

Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune first reported that the two sides were nearing a trade (on Twitter), and Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweeted that it was a deal. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Cubs would receive a PTBNL in return (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Stark’s Latest: Price, Lee, Lackey, O’s, Yanks, Payroll Limits

Here’s the latest from ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark:

  • The Rays are still holding onto David Price unless and until an offer forces a move. “I’d say they’re kind of where they were all winter,” said a competing executive. “Yeah, they’d trade him. But you’ve got to make it so they can’t say no.”
  • Though both sides explored the possibility, the Cardinals and Phillies did not match up on a potential Cliff Lee deal. With Philly seeking a “major prospect” in return, the Cards ultimately turned elsewhere and added Justin Masterson. While St. Louis seemed the best fit for a pre-deadline deal with Lee, Philadelphia still is looking to see if the lefty can be moved before August.
  • The Red Sox are encountering some skepticism from trade partners that John Lackey will play for the league minimum rate next year, as provided by his contract. Of course, that provision makes up a huge portion of Lackey’s trade value, as he would not only contribute down the stretch in 2014 but looks like a very solid rotation piece at a replacement-level price for 2015.
  • The Orioles seem to be focusing more on adding a reliever at this point than a starter, says Stark. Baltimore has been liked to Neal Cotts of the Rangers and Oliver Perez of the Diamondbacks, neither of whom is a pure LOOGY.
  • In search of bullpen help, the Yankees have inquired into Joaquin Benoit of the Padres, James Russell of the Cubs, and Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies. The club has also checked on outfielders Marlon Byrd of the Phillies and Dayan Viciedo of the White Sox.
  • The Blue JaysBraves, and Royals are telling teams they cannot add significant payroll in a trade, though Kansas City could take on a starter who would slot in place of James Shields next year.

Cubs Nearing Deal For Felix Doubront

The Cubs are nearing a trade for Red Sox left-hander Felix Doubront, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets.


Latest On Royals’ Search For Outfielder

The Royals are in the market for a right-handed hitting bat to play right field, but ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the team isn’t in on Boston’s Jonny Gomes or Minnesota’s Josh Willingham (Twitter links). Additionally, Crasnick tweets that he isn’t sure the Royals view Chris Denorfia and Justin Ruggiano as upgrades over Justin Maxwell, who is hitting well in Triple-A.

The Royals don’t feel that Gomes is capable of handling right field, and the same applies to Willingham as well. (As Crasnick notes, Willingham’s July swoon hasn’t helped his value.) Crasnick hears from one AL executive that the Twins would very much like to move Willingham, but they’re simply not getting much interest at this time.

Gomes, Willingham, and Denorfia are all free agents at season’s end, while Ruggiano would remain under team control via arbitration. The Royals were said at one point to have interest in Marlon Byrd, but a report yesterday indicated that they were backing off both Byrd and Alex Rios. The Royals are on Byrd’s limited no-trade clause, and he’d reportedly like the Royals to guarantee his $8MM option for 2016 in order to waive that clause.

If you’re wondering who else could be available, MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth recently took a look at the trade market for corner outfielders.


Javier Baez Joins Wasserman Media Group

Top Cubs prospect Javier Baez has left KPS Sports and signed with agent Nick Chanock of the Wasserman Media Group, according to Bruce Levine of WSAR-AM radio/670 The Score (Twitter link).

This is the third agency that Baez has been with in the past year, as he began with Jet Sports Management and then joined KPS Sports before this most recent switch. Baez is a consensus top 10 prospect in the Majors based on the recent midseason lists compiled by Baseball Prospectus (#5), MLB.com (#6), Baseball America (#7) and Keith Law of ESPN (#8). The 21-year-old is currently hitting .254/.314/.486 with 19 homers at Triple-A Iowa and has recently been seeing some time at second base in addition to his usual position of shortstop — perhaps preparing him for a potential position change at the big league level.

By joining WMG, Baez will be represented by the same agency that represents a vast number of Major Leaguers, including Yoenis Cespedes, Nelson Cruz, Bartolo Colon, Yasiel Puig, Kris Medlen and Addison Reed. For additional agency info on more than 2,000 Major League and Minor League players, check out MLBTR’s Agency Database. If you see any errors or omissions, please contact us via email: mlbtrdatabase@gmail.com.


Cubs Notes: Russell, Baez, Trades, Castillo

ESPN’s Jim Bowden spoke with Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein for the latest installment of his video blogThe GM’s Office. Here are some highlights from the interview (although as usual, the entire interview is well worth your time) and some other Cubs-related notes as the trade deadline approaches…

  • The Cubs had initially hoped to acquire a “can’t miss” prospect that they could “hang [their] hat on” by trading Jeff Samardzija on his own, but the team couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to acquire Addison Russell once Athletics GM Billy Beane said he would include him if Jason Hammel were in the trade as well.
  • If Javier Baez has to move off shortstop due to the presence of Russell or Starlin Castro, the Cubs see him as more of a second baseman than a third baseman. Chicago has played Baez at second base quite a bit following the All-Star break, and Epstein called the transition “seamless.”
  • “Having too many shortstops is never a problem,” Epstein said. “They’re the best athletes, the best defenders, and we’ll find spots for all these guys. … We don’t see it as a problem. We have lots of different ways they can all fit on the field together. Kris Bryant, who’s playing third now, also has the option of going out and playing right field.”
  • Asked about the possibility of trading a lefty reliever such as James Russell in a more minor move (relative to the Samardzija/Hammel blockbuster), Epstein replied: “I think chances are pretty good we’ll make at least one move. We have a number of players, like James, that are under control and that factor into our plans going forward. The threshold to move those players is certainly higher … you’re probably more likely to see a deal for a player who’s eligible for free agency at the end of the season.”
  • Bowden asked it this would be the offseason in which the Cubs delve heavily into the free agent market, to which Epstein replied, “There’s no switch that gets flipped that says now all of a sudden we’re big players in free agency.” As Epstein points out, the Cubs have spent on the free agent market previously, and they made a “very, very significant” offer to Masahiro Tanaka in an effort to bring him to Wrigley Field as well. Epstein emphasized that in free agency, “you have to be willing to walk away,” as it’s too dangerous to be locked in on any player, regardless of the cost.
  • The Cubs had five scouts in attendance at Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo‘s showcase, GM Jed Hoyer tells Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). Castillo’s name continues to generate buzz, and some believe he could fetch a contract similar to that of Yoenis Cespedes or Yasiel Puig.
  • A second tweet from Gonzales contains a short and sweet quote from Hoyer on the team’s approach at the trade deadline: “We’ll be active.”

Central Rumors: Russell, Colon, Burnett, Bonifacio, Pirates

The Cubs are a bit lacking in starting pitching depth following the trade of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, but lefty reliever James Russell suggested one name to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times that could help alleviate the problem: his own name. “There’s still not a doubt in my mind that I could [start],” said Russell, who was drafted as a starter. Russell acknowledged that he may not get the opportunity to start with the Cubs, because they may prefer to keep him in a relief role or because they may trade him this week. He adds that he’s stated his case with the front office multiple times to return to the rotation, and he’d be open to doing so again with another club if they felt he could handle the role.

More from the game’s central divisions …

  • The Royals have at least some interest in both Mets starter Bartolo Colon and Phillies hurler A.J. Burnett, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Martino had noted yesterday that there was no action on Colon. Though it is not yet clear how serious the interest is, the club likes both righties. One major issue for Kansas City, of course, is payroll, and Martino adds that the club may not be in a position to take on the salary (and significant future obligations) owed to Colon and Burnett. New York is said to be amenable to paying $2MM of Colon’s tab, but he is earning $9MM this year and comes with a guaranteed $11MM salary next year. Burnett, meanwhile, is making $7.5MM this year (in addition to a $7.5MM signing bonus) and comes with an option that will likely turn into a $12.75MM player option.
  • Emilio Bonifacio isn’t letting himself worry about the possibility of being traded by the Cubs, but Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago spoke to one NL official who feels that the utilityman would be a perfect last-minute addition on Thursday before the deadline. Rogers notes that if Bonifacio is traded, it could lead to a much-anticipated call-up for Javier Baez, wish Arismendy Alcantara manning center through season’s end and Baez taking over at the keystone. Currently, Bonifacio splits time between second and center.
  • The Pirates remain on the lookout for a left-handed reliever, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Pittsburgh has been rumored to have interest in severable available southpaws, including Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies and Andrew Miller of the Red Sox.

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.