Chicago Cubs Rumors

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

Cubs Sign Jason Motte

DEC. 22: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets the breakdown of Motte’s incentives structure: Motte will receive $250K for appearing in 60 games and another $250K for appearing in 65 games. He also has incentives for games finished, as he’ll earn $250K for each of his 50th through 59th games finished.

DEC. 19: The Cubs have officially announced the signing of Motte to a one-year deal.

DEC. 15, 6:44pm: The deal comes with $2.5MM in achievable bonuses, Levine tweets.

5:32pm: Motte gets a $4.5MM guarantee, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports (Twitter links). Motte has incentives based on games finished, Passan adds.

5:18pm: The Cubs have agreed to a one-year deal with free agent reliever Jason Motte, Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com reports on Twitter. Motte, a 32-year-old righty, is represented by ACES.

Motte had a nice run with the Cardinals as one of the game’s better back-end relievers. Over 2010-12, he tossed 192 1/3 innings of 2.43 ERA ball with 9.5 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9. He moved into the team’s closer role in 2012, locking down a league-leading 42 games.

But things took a turn when Motte was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery. A long recovery period kept him out until the 2014 season, when he also missed time with a lower back issue. All said, Motte only appeared for 25 innings last year, struggling to a 4.68 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9.

More troublingly, perhaps, ERA estimators were down on Motte’s work last season: FIP (6.49), xFIP (4.58), and SIERA (4.25) all saw Motte as a below-average contributor. He was hurt significantly by the long ball, giving up a 20.0% HR/FB rate and a whopping 2.52 HR/9 that ranked second-to-worst in all of baseball among relievers who threw at least 20 frames.

He will look for a rebound in the same division, moving to a Cubs team that has some live young arms at the back of the pen. Motte should slot in as a setup option, but perhaps his experience in the closer’s role provides some measure of protection if Hector Rondon cannot repeat his strong effort from a season ago.


Outrighted: Bawcom, Villalona, Roach, Watkins

Here are today’s minor moves and outright assignments from around the league…

  • Mariners right-hander Logan Bawcom, who was designated for assignment last week, has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma, tweets Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. The 26-year-old posted a 4.93 ERA with 6.3 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 45 2/3 innings at Triple-A in 2014.
  • The Giants announced that they have outrighted first baseman Angel Villalona off the 40-man roster to clear a 40-man spot for Sergio Romo, whose two-year deal was made official earlier today. Villalona, 24, once ranked as a Top 100 prospect but struggled at Double-A this season, hitting just .227/.290/.381 with 10 homers. Villalona is a lifetime .254/.311/.422 hitter in the minor leagues and has had his share of off-field issues in addition to recent on-field struggles. As Kevin Fagan wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009, Villalona was connected to a murder investigation in his native Dominican Republic, although he was never convicted.
  • Right-hander Donn Roach and infielder Logan Watkins have cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A by the Cubs, tweets Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. The pair was designated for assignment last week when the Cubs claimed Ryan Lavarnway and Shane Peterson off waivers. Roach, 24, pitched 30 1/3 innings of 4.75 ERA ball for the Padres in 2014, and the 25-year-old Watkins hit .246/.269/.338 in 68 plate appearances with the Cubs.

McDaniel On International Bonus Pools

A number of teams are expected to break the bank on international talent next July, writes Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs.com. Due to international spending restrictions, teams that spend more than 15% above their allotted pool may not ink any international free agents for over $300,000 in the following two signing periods. However, there is growing consensus within the industry that an international draft will be implemented when baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement is re-visited after the 2016 season. If a draft is put in place, teams will have only two years to live with the current arrangement.

McDaniel’s sources have suggested that as many as 10 teams may blow past their limit when the next signing period begins on July 2. The Cubs, Blue Jays, and Phillies will “almost definitely” exceed their respective pools. As McDaniel notes, plans will likely be affected by verbal commitments as we get closer to July. Additionally, the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Angels have greatly exceeded their budgets during the current signing period, meaning they will be penalized during the next two periods.

If there truly are only two more years before a draft is implemented, then teams have an interesting “strategic choice.” At least four clubs – possibly five pending the outcome of the Yoan Moncada bidding – will be handicapped. More will spend heavily next summer, making themselves ineligible for big signings in 2016. If enough teams are aggressive, it could be advantageous to wait until 2016 for a spending spree. McDaniel also points out that the penalized teams are mostly those who usually spend a lot on international talent.

Put it all together, and it’s increasingly clear that clubs are unconcerned about the international bonus pool. While small market clubs may be loathe to pay excessive taxes (100% on overages), those theoretically get passed onto the player via a lower signing bonus. In my opinion, if most of the big spenders are excluded from the marketplace in 2016, then we could see some nontraditional sources of big bonuses.



Cubs To Sign David Ross

The Cubs have agreed to a two-year, $5MM deal with catcher David Ross, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Reports emerged earlier today suggesting that the veteran was headed to the Padres, but indications are that he is in fact set to join former teammate Jon Lester in Chicago.

Ross, a client of Sports One Athlete Management client, will add yet more veteran leadership behind the plate for the Cubs. He will slot in alongside the recently-acquired Miguel Montero, providing a right-handed-hitting complement. Chicago also added another former Red Sox backstop today in Ryan Lavarnway, who was added via waiver claim.

Before joining the Red Sox in 2013, Ross spent four years as the reserve option for the Braves. He slashed a robust .269/.353/.463, but never made more than 200 plate appearances in a given season. Ross has fallen back to a .650 OPS over the last two seasons in Boston, over 287 plate appearances. Defensively, Baseball Prospectus did not value Ross’s work very highly last year.

In the aggregate, then, there are plenty of questions about Ross’s abilities moving forward. But he does have a rather high established ceiling for a backup catcher, and obviously is one of the game’s most respected elder statesmen at this stage of his career.


Cubs Claim Shane Peterson, Ryan Lavarnway

2:05pm: The Cubs announced that they have also claimed Ryan Lavarnway off waivers from the Dodgers.  To make room on the 40-man roster for the pair of moves, right-handed pitcher Donn Roach and infielder Logan Watkins were designated for assignment.

The 27-year-old Lavarnway .283/.389/.370 in 257 plate appearances for Triple-A Pawtucket in 2014. He has a strong minor league track record as a hitter, with a .375 career minor league on-base percentage, and could potentially help a team in need of a right-handed bat for its bench.  His stint with the Dodgers was brief and he has traveled quite a bit in the last month.  Lavarnway was DFA’d by the Red Sox just prior to his cup of coffee with Los Angeles.

12:38pm: The Cubs have claimed outfielder Shane Peterson from the A’s, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).


Minor Moves: Carter, Lowe, Rivero

Here are today’s minor transactions, with the newest moves at the top of the post…

  • The Cubs have agreed to a minor league contract with right-hander Anthony Carter, MLBTR’s Steve Adams reports (Twitter link).  The deal contains an invitation to the team’s Spring Training camp.  Carter, 28, has a 4.59 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 2.61 K/BB rate over 680 1/3 career IP in the Padres, Red Sox and White Sox farm systems.  He spent most of the 2014 season in Japan, posting a 3.97 ERA over 45 1/3 relief innings for the Nippon Ham Fighters.
  • The Mariners announced the signings of right-hander Mark Lowe and infielder Carlos Rivero to minor league contracts.  Lowe originally pitched for Seattle from 2006-10 and the veteran spent 2014 in the Indians’ organization, a season that included an outright assignment to Triple-A and a 3.86 ERA over seven Major League innings.  Rivero was originally claimed by Seattle off waivers from the Red Sox in November, and he’s rejoining the M’s after being non-tendered by the club earlier this month.  Rivero made his Major League debut last season, appearing in eight games with Boston.

Quick Hits: Braves, Ross, Cabrera, Kang, Aoki

The White Sox, Yankees and Astros have spent heavily on relief help this offseason, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick wonders if they’ll end up regretting their expensive contracts for veteran relievers. “In the last couple of years we’ve lost a lot of games late in the eighth and ninth inning,” says White Sox manager Ventura. “After a while you sit there and think, ‘We have to have somebody who can come in and do this.’ Everything has its risks — and this is one of them — but we’re pretty confident we got a guy [David Robertson] who we can put in the bullpen and be a leader.” The reason for all the spending on players like Robertson, Zach Duke, Andrew Miller, Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek isn’t so much that teams are trying to emulate the Royals‘ ferocious 2014 bullpen, Crasnick suggests. Rather, it’s more that teams are loaded with cash and pitchers like Robertson and Miller are very good. Here are more notes from around the Majors.

  • The Braves continue to explore potential trades involving Justin Upton and Evan Gattis, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports (Twitter links). The Braves have spoken about Upton and Gattis with five teams Wednesday, and continued to consider ways to include B.J. Upton or Chris Johnson in trades involving Justin Upton or Gattis. The Padres had previously looked like a potential destination for Justin Upton, but it would appear that their agreement to acquire Wil Myers today rules them out as a potential trade partner, at least for now.
  • Free agent catcher David Ross is deciding between the Red Sox, Cubs and Padres, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes. Meanwhile, lefty reliever Craig Breslow has spoken to the Red Sox and Cubs. Ross has played for the Red Sox, of course, and has a history with Jon Lester and Theo Epstein of the Cubs (although his signing with the Cubs would likely result in, or come as the result of, a trade of Welington Castillo). The Padres are in the process of trading both Yasmani Grandal and Rene Rivera, but are also in the process of acquiring Ryan Hanigan and Tim Federowicz, so it’s unclear where Ross would fit in.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera has drawn interest from the Giants, Athletics, Mets, Cardinals and Twins, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Heyman writes that Cabrera could play second base or third base as well as shortstop, although there have been rumblings that Cabrera prefers to play shortstop or second base only, and not third. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle would be surprised if the A’s are interested, as they’ve never shown interest in Cabrera in past years despite up-the-middle needs (Twitter links).
  • Those same five teams have asked about Korean middle infielder Jung-ho Kang, although the Athletics and Mets are downplaying their interest, Heyman tweets. A’s GM Billy Beane has stated on the record that reports of his club’s interest in Kang are inaccurate. Kang was posted earlier this week.
  • Heyman lists the Orioles, Reds and Mariners as possibilities for Nori Aoki, with the veteran outfielder potentially receiving two to three years at $7MM-$8MM per year. Aoki had previously been connected to the Orioles and Reds, with the Orioles mostly interested in him as a backup option. Heyman reported last week that Aoki was looking for a three-year deal. Earlier this offseason, we at MLBTR guessed he would receive two years and $16MM.

Minor Moves: Tuiasosopo, Beal, Partch

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

  • The Orioles have announced the signings of outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo and righty Jesse Beal to minor league deals. (They also formally announced the signing of reliever Chaz Roe, which we already noted last week.) Tuiasosopo, 28, was a productive role player with Detroit in 2013, but he spent all of 2014 in the minors, batting .240/.357/.379 in 487 plate appearances for two International League teams. Beal, 24, is re-signing with the Orioles after posting a 3.48 ERA, 7.8 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 41 1/3 innings for Class A+ Frederick in 2014.
  • The Cubs and Athletics have completed the summer’s Jeff Samardzija / Jason Hammel / Addison Russell trade between the clubs with the Athletics sending cash instead of a player to be named later, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat tweets.
  • The Giants have signed reliever Curtis Partch to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. The Reds non-tendered the 27-year-old Partch earlier this month after he posted a 4.75 ERA, 10.3 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9 in 47 1/3 innings for Triple-A Louisville last season. Partch’s fastball regularly sat in the mid-90s in parts of two seasons with the Reds, but he’s never had sustained success at the big-league level.

Blue Jays Sign Ryan Kalish

The Blue Jays have announced a minor league deal with outfielder Ryan Kalish. The 26-year-old gets an invitation to big league camp this spring.

Kalish spent most of last year with the Cubs after making the roster out of camp, putting up a .248/.295/.347 line in 130 plate appearances at the major league level. He carried a .726 OPS in 319 Triple-A plate appearances on the year. While neither of those batting lines looks to be a huge endorsement for Kalish’s future prospects, it is important to bear in mind that Kalish was working back from serious shoulder and back surgeries and did prove that he could return to a high level of play.

The Jays will presumably consider Kalish in a reserve outfield role, perhaps expecting that he will ultimately serve as minor league depth.


Mariners Acquire Justin Ruggiano

The Mariners have reached a deal to acquire outfielder Justin Ruggiano from the Cubs, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Righty Matt Brazis is going to Chicago in return, the clubs announced. Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports first reported the possible match on Ruggiano.

Though the 32-year-old, right-handed-hitting Ruggiano is not the kind of top-end power option that Seattle was said to be seeking, he is certainly useful in his own right. Last year, he put up a .281/.337/.429 slash in 250 plate appearances, making two of three years in which he has been a solidly above-average bat. He has strong career numbers against left-handed pitching and could be used in a platoon role. MLBTR and Matt Swartz project a $2.5MM arbitration payday for Ruggiano this year.

Brazis, meanwhile, is a 25-year-old righty who reached the Double-A level last year after a solid effort at High-A. At the upper level, he tossed 33 innings of 1.64 ERA ball with 9.3 K/9 versus 2.7 BB/9.