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Chicago Cubs Rumors
The Reds have the toughest upcoming offseason of any team, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. They could lose most of their rotation following the 2015 season, they still have big commitments to Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Homer Bailey, and they’re facing dealing with three good NL Central competitors and another in Chicago that could have a very bright future. Sherman suggests the Reds consider trading Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and perhaps Jay Bruce. “We still have a small window,” Reds GM Walt Jocketty protests. “This year is disappointing because of the injuries. From the very beginning, we had 11 DL guys and eight were key. … I feel we still have a small window if the guys come back healthy.” Here’s more from the National League.
- The young Cubs are waiting for Kris Bryant to arrive in the big leagues, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “Yeah, we’re imagining what [Bryant] can do,” says pitcher Kyle Hendricks. “I mean, the whole group together. It’s definitely exciting. You can feel it. Everyone’s talking about it around the clubhouse. It’s just awesome seeing these guys coming up and having success.” There’s already plenty of buzz surrounding Jorge Soler‘s debut, and already plenty of young talent in Chicago, and yet Bryant, arguably the Cubs’ best young player, remains in the minors, where he’s hitting .296/.417/.635 in 283 plate appearances with Triple-A Iowa.
- Padres 2B/3B/OF prospect Cory Spangenberg tweets that he will be promoted to the big leagues. Spangenberg has hit .331/.365/.470 in 304 plate appearances this season for Double-A San Antonio. Spangenberg has often been overshadowed by others from his draft class — he was taken between Javier Baez and George Springer in the first round in 2011. But after a strong fourth pro season, he’s about to make it to the Show.
- With all the exciting young hitters the Cubs are adding, Chicago could be an attractive destination for free agent pitchers, and it’s possible the Cubs could add one big-name pitcher this winter (possibly Jon Lester, who knows Theo Epstein well from Boston) and then another the following year (possibly David Price or a return of Jeff Samardzija).
- The Asdrubal Cabrera trade has worked out well for both sides. The Nationals have gotten a good second baseman, and the Indians have gotten strong shortstop defense from Cabrera’s replacement Jose Ramirez, and they’ve also added Zach Walters‘ power bat.
- If the Angels decline to acquire a starting pitcher because of luxury tax concerns, that would appear to be mostly a “philosophical decision” rather than a financial one. As a first-time offender, the Angels’ actual tax penalties would be minimal, at just 17.5% of the overage. Rosenthal notes, however, that one potential problem the Angels have with some of their potential trade targets (including Bartolo Colon, A.J. Burnett and Scott Feldman) is that they’re all guaranteed salary for 2015.
- One reason the Yankees acquired lefty Josh Outman was that they didn’t want to push top 2014 draft pick Jacob Lindgren to the big leagues, particularly given Lindgren’s workload between college and the pros this season and the fact that he’s not yet on their 40-man roster. As we noted earlier today, Lindgren has dominated in the minors since signing.
FRIDAY: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that 20 teams were in attendance for the showcase.
TUESDAY: Cuban first baseman Jozzen Cuesta and Cuban left-hander Misael Siverio will host a showcase for interested clubs on Friday in Jupiter, Fla., agent Eric Izen of the Legacy Agency tells MLBTR.
The last we heard on the 25-year-old Siverio came back in May when he was declared eligible for free agency. The 25-year-old Cuesta was, at the time, said to be awaiting clearance from Major League Baseball and the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control, but he has since been cleared by both entities and is now eligible to sign with any club. The 6’2″, 220-pound first baseman is said to possess some power and will present a younger alternative to the first basemen on the free agent market.
Reports on Siverio peg the lefty at 5’9″ tall, and while he’s not said to possess an overpowering fastball, he had drawn interest from 10 teams back in May. Siverio pitched in front of several clubs at a showcase in June, and the Yankees, Cubs and Astros were among the teams in attendance, MLBTR has learned.
Siverio posted a 3.24 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 over his career in Cuba’s Serie Nacional – a span of 153 games (75 starts). More recently, he pitched in Mexico this past winter, posting a 2.45 ERA and a 36-to-10 K/BB ratio. His full statistics and some video footage can be seen at ObstructedView.net.
The Mets have placed Daniel Murphy on the disabled list and will recall Double-A second baseman Dilson Herrera to fill his roster spot. The 20-year-old Herrera was the second player acquired from the Pirates (along with Vic Black) in last year’s Marlon Byrd/John Buck trade. In 274 plate appearances with Binghamton this season, he slashed a healthy .333/.401/.544 with nine homers and nine steals. Herrera’s overall numbers this season are quite strong, and his continued development has led some, including ESPN’s Keith Law, to consider him among the game’s Top 100 prospects.
Here are some more links from around the league…
- The Orioles have continued to be active on the waiver wire despite the fact that they’ve yet to make an August acquisition, executive vice president Dan Duquette tells Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. The O’s have been on the hunt for a left-handed hitting infielder but have come up empty in their search, Connolly writes.
- While the Mariners very much want to make the playoffs, team president Kevin Mather tells Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune that the M’s weren’t “going to sell [their] souls for a one-game Wild Card opportunity” by mortgaging the future at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Mather characterizes the acquisitions of Kendrys Morales, Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia as “strategic” but “not crazy.” The team held onto top prospects Taijuan Walker and D.J. Peterson as well as young lefty James Paxton.
- Cubs president Theo Epstein told reporters, including ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers, that the team will have the financial wherewithal to add to the payroll in the coming years due to its young core. Epstein said he never looks at one offseason and decides that he has to get something done that year, but he expects to add impact starting pitching from outside the organization in the next 18 to 24 months.
- Victor Martinez would like to play for “a few more years” but thinks he’ll be out of the league by the age of 40, he tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Morosi spoke to Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who offered lofty praise for his DH, calling him the most prepared and focused hitter he has ever encountered. Morosi looks at the weak DH situations that many teams around the league have and wonders if the 35-year-old Martinez can fetch something in the neighborhood of Carlos Beltran‘s three-year, $45MM contract from last offseason.
The 22-year-old Soler entered the season ranked as a consensus Top 50 prospect in all of baseball, and while a pair of hamstring injuries has limited him to 61 games, he still ranked 28th on the midseason edition of Keith Law’s Top 50 prospects list over at ESPN.com. Soler has obliterated Rookie-level, Double-A and Triple-A pitching to the tune of a .338/.432/.687 batting line, belting 14 homers, 23 doubles and two triples in just 234 plate appearances.
Law called Soler a “monster if he can just stay on the field,” praising his “electric” bat speed and plus-plus raw power in his midseason scouting report. He also noted that Soler had the offensive ability to profile as a top-10 prospect, but his troubles staying on the field prevented him from being ranked any higher than 28th overall. Additionally, he points out that Soler has the arm and athleticism to profile as an average or better defensive right fielder.
Soler becomes the next elite Cubs prospect to make the jump to the Major Leagues, joining shortstop/second baseman Javier Baez and second baseman/center fielder Arismendy Alcantara. Baez has played second base since his recall (a spot vacated by the trade of Darwin Barney), while Alcantara has shifted to center field. Presumably, Soler will be playing right field at the Major League level, as he has throughout his minor league career.
Soler has already made plenty of headlines in his career, as the Cuban phenom inked a nine-year, $30MM contract with the Cubs back in 2012 just days before the collective bargaining agreement’s new rules on international signings kicked in. Had Soler signed after those rules, as a 20-year-old from Cuba, he would have been limited to a $2.9MM signing bonus.
Soler is guaranteed $2MM in 2014 after earning $1MM in 2012 and 2013. He will earn $2MM in 2015 before his salary rises to $3MM in 2016 and 2017. Soler is technically slated to earn $4MM annually from 2018-20, but his contract allows him to opt into arbitration once he is eligible. The contract, of course, seems light when compared to the contracts signed by Jose Abreu and Rusney Castillo, but keep in mind that Cespedes was 26 when he signed his deal and Abreu was 27.
Because of Soler’s guaranteed contract, the Cubs needn’t worry about service time considerations or Super Two status like they would need to with top prospects such as Kris Bryant and Addison Russell. Additionally, his Major League deal meant that he was already on the 40-man roster, so the Cubs don’t need to concern themselves with clearing a 40-man spot.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Pirates will send top prospect Gregory Polanco back to the minor leagues today, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). However, Polanco’s demotion is likely to be relatively short-lived, as the 22-year-old could rejoin the team as soon as next Monday, when rosters expand. Polanco got off to a blazing start to his MLB career, but he’s cooled significantly since that time. He’s hitting .241/.308/.349 on the season as a whole, but he batted just .219/.276/.337 from July 1 through present day. Rosenthal tweets that Jose Tabata is expected to get the call to replace Polanco for the time being.
Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…
- Though the Cubs have been making headlines by stockpiling high-upside young talent, the success of 33-year-old left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada is making the organization consider him as an option beyond the 2014 season, writes the Chicago Tribune’s Fred Mitchell. “He is pitching very, very well. There are decisions that have to be made. He certainly has put himself in a good position,” manager Rick Renteria tells Mitchell. Wada, who signed a minor league deal this offseason, pitched to a 2.77 ERA in 113 2/3 Triple-A innings this season, and he’s continued his success in the Majors. Since being promoted, Wada has turned in an outstanding 2.56 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 37.8 percent ground-ball rate in 45 2/3 innings. Sabermetric ERA estimators FIP (3.55), xFIP (3.61) and SIERA (3.50) all feel that while he’s been a bit fortunate, he’s still been highly effective.
- Speaking with Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Twins GM Terry Ryan clarified a comment that he made last week in which he suggested that manager Ron Gardenhire would return in 2015. Ryan explained that his comment was made off the cuff, without any consultation, and that no one’s job — including his own — was guaranteed in 2015. Twins owner Jim Pohlad did state last fall that Ryan’s job as GM was his for as long as he wanted to remain GM, but “everybody’s got a breaking point,” Ryan said to Miller. “I would never hold Jim Pohlad to that statement, because it wouldn’t be fair to him. We’re losing way too many games here for anybody to put that kind of faith in anyone.”
- White Sox general manager Rick Hahn appeared on the Mully and Hanley show last Friday and said that his staff is pleased with the results of the 2013-14 offseason, and he expects to be active in free agency this offseason. Hahn also sang the praises of top pick Carlos Rodon, saying that he’s even more advanced than the team had anticipated, and his transition to pro ball has been nearly seamless. Hahn did downplay, to an extent, the rumors surrounding a potential September callup for Rodon: “…ultimately the decision to bring him up or not bring him up is going to be about what’s best for his long-term development. We’re going to have to be real cautious before we decide just to bring him up and run him out there in big league games this year.”
While news of Cuban ballplayer Rusney Castillo continues to dominate the news cycle, the human trafficking side of Cuban imports also made headlines. Eliezer Lazo entered a guilty plea in connection to the smuggling of over 1,000 Cubans, including Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin, reports Curt Anderson of the Associated Press. The article covers some of the sordid details involved in this human trafficking case.
- In related news, a lawsuit brought against Martin by a Mexican baseball academy associated with Lazo will likely be dropped as a result of the criminal case. The Estrellas baseball academy alleged that Martin agreed to pay them up to 35% of his major league contract, but Martin only paid $1.2MM of his $15.5MM deal.
- The Braves and Cubs discussed a proposal that would have sent Edwin Jackson to Atlanta in return for B.J. Upton, writes Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports. The deal would have served as a straight swap of albatross contracts. The sides apparently weren’t close to finalizing a trade but could re-open talks over the offseason. It appears this was probably the rumored trade first reported on August 9.
- In what is likely to become an ongoing “will they, won’t they” story, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer speculates about moving on from Ryan Howard. The club currently has Darin Ruf taking the occasional start in left field while Howard blocks his playing time at first base. Philadelphia seemingly needs to decide which of three players possess the higher upside – Howard, Ruf, or left fielder Domonic Brown. Given Howard’s age, 34, and rapidly diminishing numbers – he had a .678 OPS before today’s home run – it’s fair to wonder if Howard should be the odd man out. Corner infield prospect Maikel Franco could also figure in the mix before long.
- We at MLBTR seek to find answers for the pressing questions such as “Does Rusney Castillo know Jay-Z?” Castillo, who is represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports and Brodie Van Wagonen of CAA, does indeed know the mogul, according to the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber.
The Mets have long been on the lookout for a shortstop, but while many have speculated on the possibility of a trade with the Cubs or D’Backs, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that the team will take a look at an under-the-radar Cuban shortstop in the coming days. Roberto Carlos, a 28-year-old Cuban defector, is in the Dominican Republic and garnering attention from the Mets. Carlos left the Cuban National team in 2012 and defected to America, but he is believed to have “slipped through the cracks” because he did not initially seek representation after defecting. The switch-hitting Perez last batted .339 with four homers for the Cuban National team in 2012, Puma writes, and he did have a brief stint in independent ball last season. Carlos, who until recently played under his full name of Roberto Carlos Ramirez, batted .357/.394/.425 in 293 plate appearances between two indy league clubs. He didn’t homer, but he did go 19-for-24 in stolen base attempts.
Here are some more Mets-centric links as we head into the weekend…
- Also from Puma’s piece, while the Mets weren’t involved in the Rusney Castillo sweepstakes, the money required to sign him wasn’t the reason, according to GM Sandy Alderson. “I think it’s a matter of there might be some scouting differences of opinion, and kind of where we are and what we’re going to do in the immediate future, so there are lots of issues involved,” said the Mets GM. “We scout [the Cuban market], so it’s not as if we’re not aware of what is going on. It’s not like we’re not aware of who is out there.”
- Puma also tweets that the Mets will work out Pavel Quesada as well, a Cuban third baseman who is said to possess some power. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweeted last month that Quesada worked out for several teams at the Yankees’ facility in the Dominican Republic.
- Zack Wheeler spoke with Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News and said that while he’s aware that the Mets have a perceived starting pitching surplus, he’s hoping to remain with the club rather than end up elsewhere via trade. “I’d like to be here,” said Wheeler. “I know they could use one of (the young pitchers) to get a bat or two, but I’ve been here for the rebuilding. I know it’s part of the game, but I want to be here after the rebuilding. I want to see the results.”
- In an appearance with Chris Russo on the MLB Network (video link), Peter Gammons revealed that the Mets at one point last offseason offered Jon Niese to the Mariners in a trade that would have sent shortstop Brad Miller back to New York (it’s unclear what other pieces were in the deal). The Mets may be happy to have held onto Niese, who has posted a 3.50 ERA in 141 1/3 innings while Miller has struggled to a .199/.273/.326 batting line.
- Gammons also opines that the Mets and Cubs don’t line up well for a trade because the Mets would likely have to part with at least two young pitchers to make a deal, and that would thin out their depth considerably.
There’s still a lot of uncertainty about where Cuban outfielder/second baseman Rusney Castillo will sign, even amongst Major League teams. An executive who has been scouting Castillo for the last month tells Peter Gammons (Twitter link) that “no one knows who’s getting him or which teams will jump in unexpectedly.” Following yesterday’s updates, here’s the latest on the Castillo sweepstakes…
- The Red Sox and Tigers are the front-runners to land Castillo, two sources have told ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes. A decision is expected “no later than the weekend,” according to Edes.
- Castillo privately worked out for the Reds and Mariners within the past week, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports. The late date of these workouts was due to scheduling, Rosenthal notes, and shouldn’t be thought of as a hint that Castillo is favoring either of these two clubs. Six other teams (the Cubs, Giants, Phillies, Red Sox, Tigers and Yankees) have now had Castillo in for a private workout, Rosenthal lists.
- The Red Sox are one of the three teams “most actively involved” for Castillo’s services, Rosenthal reports. Presumably the other two teams are the Tigers and Giants, as Rosenthal cited two days ago.
- “There’s definitely a growing sense” the Cubs will be outbid for Castillo’s services, a source tells CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney. Another source predicts Castillo will receive a contract “much closer” to $68MM (what Jose Abreu received from the White Sox) than $42MM (what Yasiel Puig received from the Dodgers).
- MLive.com’s Chris Iott warns that a number of hurdles will have to be jumped for Castillo to be able to contribute to a team in September. Fans also might want to temper their expectations for Castillo, as while he is expected to be ready for the majors immediately, Iott notes that it would be hard for a contender like the Tigers to just hand Castillo a starting job down the stretch in a pennant race.
Andrew Miller‘s transition from the Red Sox to the Orioles has gone smoothly, Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com reports. “There’s a ton of differences. Things in general match up,” says Miller, for whom the Orioles traded at last month’s deadline. “The winning teams I’ve been on have a nice, loose clubhouse that expects to win.” Miller has pitched brilliantly in his first 7 1/3 innings with the Orioles, striking out 11 and walking three while allowing just two hits and one run. Here’s more from around the AL East.
- Carlos Beltran will see a doctor after feeling something wrong with his elbow while swinging last night, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch tweets. The Yankees scratched Beltran from their lineup tonight. It’s been a rough season for Beltran, who’s hit .233/.291/.416 (weak numbers for a DH/OF with little defensive value) while battling injury in the first year of a $45MM deal.
- Jon Lester is not likely to return to the Red Sox this offseason, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports. Instead, the Yankees and Cubs could emerge as possible suitors. It is, perhaps, no surprise that the Red Sox aren’t considered the favorites to sign him — they just traded him, and reportedly weren’t close in extension negotiations before that. Lester should be able to get a six- or seven-year deal in free agency, Heyman writes, and the Red Sox are likely to consider that to be too risky. Heyman does note, however, that the Red Sox may have been prepared to offer Lester five years and $100MM last month.
- The Blue Jays have promoted top outfield prospect Dalton Pompey to Triple-A Buffalo. Pompey, 21, hit .295/.378/.473 in 127 plate appearances at Double-A New Hampshire. MLB.com ranks Pompey the No. 3 prospect in the Jays’ system (behind Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez), praising his plate discipline and speed.