Chicago Cubs Rumors

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

Cubs Looking For Starting Pitching, Lefty Outfield Bats

The Cubs have had more talks about acquiring starting pitching than they have position players, though they would also like to add a left-handed hitting outfielder if the price is right, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi reports.

Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks have all posted good to excellent results as Chicago’s top four starters, though the fifth spot has been a problem area.  Tsuyoshi Wada has been effective when healthy but the southpaw is currently on the DL for the second time this season, while Travis Wood struggled in seven starts.  Clayton Richard was acquired from the Pirates on Friday and threw a quality start on Saturday, though it’s hard to see Chicago counting on Richard as a stable option.

It’s possible the Cubs could target a big name on the pitching market, as Morosi writes that the team hopes to have an ace in the fold by the start of next season.  To this end, the Cubs would prefer to acquire a pitcher under contract beyond this season (i.e. Cole Hamels) rather than a rental like Johnny Cueto, as if they get their top-of-the-rotation arm now, that would save them having to spend more time and money pursuing the likes of David Price in free agency this winter.

Morosi cites the Brewers’ Gerardo Parra and the Padres’ Will Venable as “two names to watch” as possible Cubs targets for their outfield need.  Either would spell the switch-hitting Dexter Fowler against right-handed pitching.  Fowler carried a tough .232/.308/.379 line into today’s action thanks in large part to a .660 OPS in 281 plate appearances against righties (but a healthy .833 OPS in 55 PA against lefties).  Given the abundance of right-handed starters in the NL Central, a righty-mashing bat is a clear need for the Cubs.

Shortstop has become another problem area, as Starlin Castro‘s below-replacement level season (-0.3 fWAR entering today) makes Morosi wonder if Chicago would consider getting a veteran middle infielder to pair with Addison Russell.  The problem is that Castro has minimal trade value right now given his poor performance and the roughly $41MM owed to him through the 2019 season.


Minor MLB Transactions: 7/5/15

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league.

  • The Braves acquired left-hander Mitchell Lambson from the Astros, Bryant-Jon Anteola of the Fresno Bee reports (Twitter link).  Lambson was a 19th-round pick for Houston in the 2011 draft who has posted strong minor league numbers in five pro seasons: a 2.79 ERA, 9.9 K/9 and 4.34 K/BB rate over 242 relief innings, including his first taste of Triple-A ball this year.
  • The Cubs have signed righty Ben Rowen to a minor-league deal, the Iowa Cubs have announced. Rowen had previously been in the Orioles organization until opting out of his contract. Rowen had posted a 2.41 ERA with 1.4 BB/9 in 37 1/3 innings with the Orioles’ top two minor league affiates. His strikeout rate (5.8 K/9) was a bit low, but he has a strong history of inducing ground balls. The 26-year-old came to the Orioles from the Dodgers as part of the two teams’ curious trade involving reliever Ryan Webb.
  • The Athletics have outrighted first baseman Nate Freiman to Triple-A Nashville, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. They had designated him for assignment on Thursday. The 28-year-old Freiman hit .218/.269/.448 in 93 plate appearances with the A’s in 2014 and has struggled greatly in 129 plate appearances with Nashville in 2015.
  • The Blue Jays have outrighted righty Todd Redmond to Triple-A Buffalo, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm tweets. They had designated him for assignment earlier this week. Redmond has pitched a total of 16 innings for the Jays so far this year, and he’s been designated for assignment and then outrighted three separate times. The 30-year-old has a 4.25 ERA, 7.9 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 171 1/3 career big-league innings in parts of four seasons with the Blue Jays and Reds.

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.