Chicago Cubs Rumors

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

Cubs Notes: Baez, Russell, Schwarber

Two of the NL’s top clubs begin a three-game series today at Wrigley Field when the Cubs host the Nationals.  Beyond just sharing impressive records, ESPN.com’s Ken Woolums notes that the Cubs have gone about their rebuilding process in a manner similar to how the Nats have reconstructed their roster prior to their current run of two NL East titles in the last three seasons.  Here’s more on the Cubs…

  • Javier Baez has a .944 OPS in 99 Triple-A plate appearances this season, yet ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers wonders if the former top prospect can find playing time with the Cubs no matter how well he’s hitting.  Baez has been splitting time between second base and shortstop in the minors, though the Cubs are obviously set at both positions with Addison Russell and Starlin Castro.  Of course, questions remain about Baez both defensively (he already has 11 errors, nine at short) and offensively (he has 24 strikeouts in his 99 PA, and nine walks) and thus the Cubs could decide he’s expendable; Rogers notes that shifting Baez between two positions could be an audition for other teams just as much as it has to do with his development.  That said, Rogers also observes that the Cubs are under no pressure to swing a deal now and have plenty of time to figure out how to best deploy their numerous young talents.
  • Rogers hears from league sources that the Cubs have repeatedly turned down offers for Russell and have no interest in trading him.  If Chicago does decide to move a notable middle infielder, then, it would have to be Baez or Castro.
  • Kyle Schwarber is another prospect who has often been rumored to eventually change positions, though Cubs director of player development Jaron Madison tells Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register that Schwarber will remain a catcher.  “With all the work he’s done in the offseason and spring training and big league camp, and going into this year and what he’s done so far this year, we’re more certain than ever that he’s going to stay behind the plate long-term. We’re committed to that right now,” Madison said.
  • Madison discusses several Cubs minor leaguers within that same piece, including Baez.  The team doesn’t have any plans to use Baez at any positions besides second and shortstop for now, Madison said.  There has been some speculation that the Cubs could make room for Baez by moving him to third and shifting Kris Bryant to left field, though Baez has never played the hot corner in his pro career and Bryant has only three innings under his belt in left.

Minor Moves: Parker, Cerse, Bell, Ryan

Here are the latest minor transactions, with the newest moves at the top of the post…

  • The Cubs re-signed right-hander Blake Parker to a new minor league contract, team director of player development Jaron Madison tells Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register (Twitter link).  Parker was released by the Cubs earlier this month.  The righty posted a 3.68 ERA, 10.4 K/9 and 3.54 K/BB rate over 73 1/3 innings out of Chicago’s bullpen from 2012-14, but he’s been limited to only 3 1/3 Triple-A innings this season due to an elbow injury.
  • The Red Sox have officially signed second baseman Yoilan Cerse, according to Baseball America’s Matt Eddy.  MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reported earlier this month that the Cuban second baseman was close to a minor league deal with Boston.
  • Also from Eddy, the Padres released third baseman Josh Bell.  The 28-year-old signed a minor league deal with San Diego in February but has yet to see any action in 2015.  Bell appeared in 100 games with the Orioles and D’Backs from 2010-12 and has since played in the minors with the White Sox and Yankees, as well as spending 2014 in the Korean Baseball Organization.
  • The Yankees moved shortstop Brendan Ryan from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL and also optioned righty Branden Pinder to Triple-A.  Both moves created 25-man roster space to accommodate newly-promoted southpaw Jacob Lindgren.  Ryan suffered a calf injury during Spring Training and isn’t expected back in action until early June.

NL Notes: Price, Mets, Cubs, Frias, Upton

The struggling Reds are hosting this year’s All-Star Game, but the possibility of bad P.R. shouldn’t prevent them from dismissing manager Bryan Price, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Rosenthal notes that owner Bob Castellini likes Price and Jocketty and is wary of an upheaval before the break. But the Reds have played poorly lately, and Price’s occasional bursts of odd behavior (including an infamous profane tirade against the media a few weeks ago) raise questions about whether he’s well suited for the job. The organization has third base coach Jim Riggleman, Triple-A manager Delino DeShields and perhaps roving instructor Barry Larkin as potential replacements. Here’s more from the National League.

  • The Mets have lots of talented young pitching and the Cubs have terrific young position players, and MLB.com’s Jim Duquette proposes several trades the two clubs might make. By far the wildest one (and one Duquette fully acknowledges is vanishingly unlikely) is Matt Harvey for Kris Bryant. The Mets and Cubs’ respective fan bases have pinned their hopes heavily on those two players, so such a trade would be nearly impossible, but it’s fun to think about. The sense here is that the Mets would easily be getting the better of such a deal — Bryant’s bat is rare, to put it mildly, and Harvey is three years closer to free agency and probably also more of an injury risk.
  • Carlos Frias‘ poor performance Sunday shows why the Dodgers are likely to pursue outside starting pitching help, Anthony Witrado of ESPN Los Angeles writes. Frias gave up ten runs, including two homers, over four innings against the Padres, more than doubling his ERA. Frias did pitch reasonably well in four starts before that, but there’s no doubt the Dodgers’ rotation situation is somewhat uncomfortable, due to injuries to Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy.
  • The Padres haven’t performed as well as they’ve hoped, but Justin Upton has been terrific, and the team needs to do everything it can to keep him, Matt Calkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. The Padres’ new ownership did well to open its wallet last winter, but it must continue to show it’s serious about winning. Of course, keeping Upton won’t be easy to do — Upton currently tops MLBTR’s 2015-2016 Free Agent Power Rankings.
  • Cardinals lefty Marco Gonzales will miss a start with Triple-A Memphis on Monday with pectoral muscle tightness, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com writes. Gonzales dealt with the same injury earlier this season. Gonzales hasn’t yet pitched in the big-leagues this season, but as Langosch points out, he’s a key part of the Cardinals’ rotation depth, especially given Adam Wainwright‘s absence.


Cubs Return Anthony Varvaro To Red Sox

The Red Sox announced that pitcher Anthony Varvaro has been returned to the club. The right-hander was designated for assignment by the Red Sox in late April and claimed off waivers by the Cubs days later.

Varvaro, it turns out, has a torn right flexor tendon and will undergo surgery Tuesday ending his season, reports Cormac Gordon of the Staten Island Advance.com.

The tendon is partially torn off the bone, but the elbow is stable otherwise,” the 30-year-old told Gordon. “I was worried I might need another Tommy John surgery. That’s not the case. This is the best possible outcome.

Rehabilitation is expected to last six months, so Varvaro could resume throwing in November. The Red Sox say they were unaware of how severe the injury was, so both clubs agreed that it “would be appropriate to return Varvaro to the Red Sox for placement on the disabled list in accordance with the major league rules.”

The Red Sox designated Varvaro for assignment on April 29th and the Cubs claimed him off waivers on May 3rd.  Three days later, the Cubs DFA’d Varvaro and subsequently outrighted him.

Varvaro posted a 2.74 ERA with 6.5 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a ground-ball rate near 48 percent with the Braves from 2012-13. With the Red Sox this year, Varvaro appeared in nine games and totaled 11 innings. The five runs he surrendered aren’t particularly concerning, but his velocity was down from an average of 92.5 mph in 2014 to 91.1 mph in 2015. That, combined with the 14 hits and six walks he yielded in his 11 innings, likely aided in his swift exit from the Boston organization.  Now, for the time being, he’s back in Boston.


NL Notes: Cueto, Lester, Nieuwenhuis

Reds ace Johnny Cueto will miss his start Sunday with elbow soreness, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. Raisel Iglesias will start in his place. The Reds say Cueto’s soreness is not serious. “He pitched in Kansas City without any trouble,” says Reds manager Bryan Price. “In the days following … his [soreness has] been lingering a little longer. He’s our workhorse. He probably could pitch tomorrow if we had to have him.” An extended absence would, obviously, be a serious blow to the Reds. Cueto came in second in NL Cy Young balloting in 2014 while leading the NL in innings pitched (243 2/3), batters faced (961) and pitches thrown (3,659). Those are very crude measures of a pitcher’s injury risk, but an elbow issue is surely at least worth watching for a pitcher coming off such a high-impact year. Cueto is, of course, a free agent after the season. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • After a poor first month of his $155MM contract with the Cubs, Jon Lester is feeling more comfortable, Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com writes. “You definitely don’t want to be one of those guys that at the end of it you look at it as a bust,” Lester says. “You want everything to just fall into place. But sometimes that’s not the case. Sometimes you have take a few beatings to get back to doing the things that you’re used to.” After posting a 6.23 ERA in April, Lester now has a 1.85 ERA in May after pitching seven strong innings against the Diamondbacks yesterday.
  • The Mets are still seeking to trade outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York tweets. They designated Nieuwenhuis for assignment earlier this week, and his situation should be resolved by next weekend. Getting anything of value will likely be difficult — Nieuwenhuis had a terrible time in 40 plate appearances this season, hitting .079/.125/.132, and he’s out of options.

Draft Notes: Jay, Kaprielian, Cubs, Bloodlines

The lack of clear front-line talent at the top of this year’s draft means there’s plenty of uncertainty, as John Manuel’s latest mock draft for Baseball America demonstrates. Manuel has the Diamondbacks choosing a new name with the top overall pick: that of Illinois lefty Tyler Jay. That would be a surprising selection, given that Jay is relatively small and a reliever, but many scouts believe he’s capable of starting, and one scouting director tells Manuel that Jay has terrific stuff and an easier delivery than Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer, another potential No. 1 overall pick. Here are more quick notes on the draft.

  • Cubs president Theo Epstein watched UCLA righty James Kaprielian in Oregon last night, FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel tweets. The Cubs have the No. 9 overall pick. McDaniel notes that Kaprielian is attracting interest from other top-ten teams as well. MLB.com notes that Kaprielian throws a good changeup and likely projects as a mid-rotation type of pitcher.
  • This year’s potential draftees includes Mariano Rivera, Jr., son of the great Yankees closer, Paul Casella of MLB.com writes. The Yankees took the younger Rivera in the 29th round last season, but he headed back to Iona for another season and became the MAAC Pitcher of the Year. He should be drafted significantly earlier in 2015. Several other draft prospects also have pro baseball bloodlines, including outfielder Kyle Tucker (the brother of Preston Tucker of the Astros), outfielder Daz Cameron (Mike Cameron‘s son) and infielder Ke’Bryan Hayes (the son of Charlie Hayes).

Heyman’s Latest: Hamels/Jays, Lucroy, Baez, Correa, Alvarez

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has published the latest installment of his weekly Inside Baseball column, and he kicks it off by reporting that the Blue Jays have inquired on Cole Hamels. However, Heyman hears that Hamels was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause to allow a trade to Toronto, which is a blow for both clubs. The Jays desperately need help in both the rotation and the bullpen, and the Phillies, Heyman notes, would love to get their hands on young pitchers with the upside of Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris. The Blue Jays have a bit of financial leeway after going with inexpensive options at second base, center field and left field, and Heyman writes that the Blue Jays are expected to look at other potential front-line starters this summer as they become available. (He speculatively mentions Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir, though neither’s available just yet.) Additionally, Heyman notes that Blue Jays manager John Gibbons’ job is safe, as GM Alex Anthopoulos has a strong relationship with the skipper and recognizes that the team’s problems are roster-related and shouldn’t be pinned on Gibbons.

Some more highlights from the column, though it’s worth a read in its entirety…

  • The Braves are said to be disappointed in the play of Christian Bethancourt, even from a defensive standpoint, and recently inquired with the Brewers on Jonathan Lucroy. However, Atlanta executives were told by the Brewers that Lucroy isn’t available at this time. That the Brewers wouldn’t trade Lucroy isn’t a shock; he’s owed a very affordable $4MM in 2016 with a $5.25MM option for the 2017 season, so even if the team can’t quickly right the ship, he’d still have enormous trade value at the 2016 trade deadline. More interesting, to me, is that the Braves would so quickly look for an upgrade over Bethancourt and that they’re acting somewhat as buyers. Lucroy, of course, could be called a long-term piece that would be around to help the team when its rebuild is closer to completion. However, acquiring him would surely require the sting of parting with some of the key components of that rebuild.
  • Some rival execs feel that the Cubs are willing to part with Javier Baez and Dan Vogelbach in trades, in part because each was drafted under the previous administration and is not held in as high a regard by the new front office. Each player comes with issues, however, as Baez is trying to cut down on his swing and improve his contact skills, while a scout described first baseman Vogelbach as a “30 fielder” to Heyman (in reference to the 20-80 scouting scale).
  • There are members of the Astros‘ field staff that want to see Carlos Correa with the team right now, but Houston will likely keep him in the minors for another month or so in order to lessen the risk of Correa achieving Super Two status. I’ll add that the Astros will have a more legitimate claim that Correa still needs minor league time than other teams in similar situations have had in the past. Correa is still just 20 years old and has only nine games of experience at the Triple-A level, though he’s continued his brilliant work at the plate there, hitting .326/.362/.558 with a pair of homers. Also of interest to Astros fans — or to fans of teams needing outfield help — the Astros are on the lookout for starting pitching upgrades, and outfield prospect Preston Tucker “seems to be available.” Tucker recently made his MLB debut and has a .963 OPS through 34 plate appearances to go along with a strong minor league track record.
  • Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez has been pitching for years with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, according to Heyman. Some have described it as a “90 percent tear,” but he’s been able to pitch effectively in spite of the issue. Alvarez wouldn’t be the first to pitch through a UCL tear; Ervin Santana and Adam Wainwright are both recent examples of pitchers who pitched for many seasons with partially torn UCLs. Wainwright ultimately underwent Tommy John, though Santana’s is said to have healed and is no longer an issue. In another Marlins-related note, Heyman hears that pitching coach Chuck Hernandez is “under the microscope” with both Jarred Cosart and Steve Cishek struggling greatly in 2015.
  • Brewers starters Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza have little trade value due to their 2015 struggles, but Lohse’s lesser financial commitment and superior clubhouse reputation give him more value. The team is reluctant to trade not only Lucroy, but shortstop Jean Segura as well. The Brewers are a bit more open to dealing Carlos Gomez than that pair, as Gomez is closer to free agency (he’s controlled through 2016).
  • The Mets remain reluctant to trade any of their top arms, as they’ve seen on multiple occasions how quickly Tommy John surgery or other injuries can thin out a club’s depth. (Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz have all had TJ in their careers.) The Mets are also not rushing to find a shortstop, but they have indeed been “all over the map” in terms of trade possibilities with the Cubs.
  • Coco Crisp‘s neck injury is apparently quite serious, and there’s a fear that the oft-injured Athletics outfielder will ultimately require surgery that could bring his season to an end.
  • The Blue Jays would still like to extend both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but there have yet to be serious discussions with either slugger’s camp. Both players are controlled through the end of the 2016 season.

Cubs Among Teams Showing Interest In Rafael Soriano

Seeking to upgrade a relief corps that has struggled at times this season, the Cubs are among the teams to have kicked the tires on free agent right-hander Rafael Soriano, reports Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago. Last week, Jon Heyman reported that the Cubs “may consider” Soriano at some point down the line.

Soriano, a Scott Boras client is training and facing live hitters in the Dominican Republic at this time, Mooney writes. Boras told reporters yesterday before the Cubs hosted the Padres at Wrigley Field that some teams are seeing him for the second and third time. “I think Soriano could help about 10 teams now,” Boras told reporters. “…Teams are reaching out. We’re pretty close to structuring a deal for him.” The Cubs aren’t quite motivated or desperate enough to pay top dollar for Soriano, Mooney hears.

Still, it’s not difficult to see why the Cubs would have some form of interest in a bullpen upgrade — particularly one that wouldn’t cost the team any prospects. Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and lefty Zac Rosscup have all pitched reasonably well this season, but beyond that group, there’s been little stability. Phil Coke has already been designated for assignment. Jason Motte‘s ERA is 5.17, and his peripherals aren’t much more encouraging. Edwin Jackson rattled off six scoreless appearances to open the season, but he’s surrendered five runs in his past 1 2/3 innings (spanning three appearances).

The listed relievers are the only ones who have thrown even 10 innings this season for a Cubs bullpen that has cycled through 12 relief options (13 if you include catcher David Ross throwing an inning of mop-up duty). James Russell has looked solid since re-signing with the Cubs shortly after his release from Atlanta, and the return of Justin Grimm from the disabled list is expected to be a boost. The loss of Neil Ramirez, though, is a blow to the bullpen, and the result of the unit’s collective effort has been a 4.20 ERA.

As Mooney notes, the Cubs have tried to fix the problem by bringing Russell back and designating Coke, and the team traded Welington Castillo to the Mariners in exchange for hard-throwing right-hander Yoervis Medina. That sequence would seem to indicate that the Cubs are indeed trying to upgrade their ‘pen, but the question that remains is whether or not Soriano would be an upgrade.

The Marlins recently expressed interest in Soriano but backed off rather abruptly, with followup reports indicating that their interest dissipated not due to financial reasons, but because evaluators didn’t feel that Soriano was an upgrade over the team’s internal options. Late in the offseason, ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote that some scouts felt that Soriano’s stuff evaporated late in the season, which was the reason for his drastic decline at season’s end. Though Soriano’s 3.19 ERA and 59-to-19 K/BB ratio in last year’s 62 innings look solid, he wilted in the second half, registering a 6.48 ERA.

The bullpen was one of many Cubs-related issues that Mooney discussed with Jeff Todd in a guest appearance on yesterday’s MLBTR Podcast.


Cubs Notes: Baez, Bryant, Russell, Maddon, Castro

Earlier today, Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago appeared with host Jeff Todd on this week’s edition of the MLBTR Podcast, and the two discussed a variety of Cubs topics, from the Welington Castillo trade to Starlin Castro and the team’s rotation. For Cubs fans (and others) who have already checked that out, though, here are a few more notes on the team that sits four games back in the NL Central and currently leads the Padres 3-0…

  • Infielder Javier Baez has hit well at Triple-A this season, posting a .296/.375/.423 batting line in 80 plate appearances, but there doesn’t seem to be any rush to get him back to the big leagues at this time. Via David Kaplan of CSN Chicago (on Twitter), GM Jed Hoyer said that the Cubs “…want to take our time on Javy Baez. He is playing well, but we want to let him continue to keep working right now.” Addison Russell has seen most of the time at second base, where many thought Baez would play this season. After some early struggles, Russell has settled in and is hitting .273/.333/.455 over a 22-game stretch.
  • Speaking of Russell, agent Scott Boras, who represents both Russell and Kris Bryant, praised the Cubs organization prior to tonight’s game, writes Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. Boras feels that both Bryant and Russell have “dramatically” improved since joining the team, leading him to praise the organization’s developmental techniques. Boras said that his main gripe in Spring Training was that he wanted Bryant to know that his fate wasn’t pre-determined (presumably, that is, to know that he wouldn’t be reassigned to minor league camp at the end of Spring Training). He also praised manager Joe Maddon for his communication skills and work with young players. “Joe Maddon is a talent,” said Boras. “He’s very good at giving the players a focus at a variety of levels of their careers. And that has a lot to do with why they’re performing so well in their careers.”
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports feels that the Cubs should think twice before considering a trade of Castro. Rosenthal spoke to a number of Castro’s teammates as well as Maddon, assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske and president Theo Epstein — all of whom feel that the 25-year-old has made strides in terms of maturity, preparedness and defense this season. Rosenthal notes that with $37MM owed to Castro from 2016-19, his contract is highly affordable as well. Of course, Castro has struggled at the plate early this year, as even after a pair of singles tonight he’s hitting .272/.304/.346, which translates to a wRC+ of just 76 (24 percent worse than the league average).

Podcast: Bruce Chen Talks Retirement; Patrick Mooney On Cubs

Longtime MLB veteran Bruce Chen joins the show to talk about his decision to bring an end to a distinguished career after throwing more than 1,500 big league innings over 17 seasons. Though he ended his career with the Indians, Chen saw action with eleven big league teams — most prominently, the RoyalsOrioles, and Braves. The consummate crafty lefty, Chen has a fascinating story both personally and as a ballplayer.

Jul 22, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Bruce  Chen (52) throws a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY SportsAlso hopping on with MLBTR is Cubs beat writer Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago, who stops by to discuss the team’s most recent moves and to break down how things are shaping up for the trade deadline.

This episode comes to you courtesy of DraftKings.com, who invite you to use promo code “MLBTR” for a free shot at playing fantasy baseball for cash prizes!

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