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- Cubs Expected To Pursue Ben Zobrist
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Earlier, we discussed a report from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times indicating that the Cubs will be players if Ben Zobrist is marketed. In that piece, he also discusses the team’s need for pitching. Chicago is “in the mix” for Rafael Soriano and could also be interested in Diamondbacks lefty Oliver Perez. Discussing the team’s summer plans, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein hinted that the club will be looking hard at additions — as Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago said he expected on last week’s MLBTR podcast. “We’re trying to balance short- and long-term interests,” said Epstein. “But we’re in a situation [in which] we have a fairly competitive team right now, and we have some needs. So you don’t ignore that. You keep it in mind. But at the same time you can’t just go out and unilaterally add.”
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo indicated that he believes the club can get by with internal options like Michael Taylor and Tyler Moore while Jayson Werth recovers from a fractured wrist, as Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. The left-handed-hitting Clint Robinson could also see time. My own guess is that another lefty bat could be acquired if the right player becomes available, but that the team will not be aggressive unless the need becomes more apparent. It’s worth recalling, too, that Matt den Dekker is still available at Triple-A, with Nate McLouth still a possible candidate to return later in the year.
- Stephen Strasburg left tonight’s start for the Nationals after just five batters. As Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com reports (Twitter links), Strasburg is said to have suffered a left trap muscle issue of some kind. The righty, who has struggled uncharacteristically, said that his neck tightened up so much that he had trouble turning his head. While it does not appear that there is any concern with arm issues, Strasburg’s general difficulties and neck and back issues are certainly an increasing problem for him and the club.
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak says he does not have any retrospective qualms over his acquisition of outfielder Jason Heyward, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. Heyward has shown some signs of life after a rough start, but the outstanding early performance of Shelby Miller stands in stark contrast at present. “I think whenever you make those kind of deals, there are reasons behind it,” Mozeliak explained. “And at the time, we felt that we had to do something. Not only looking at how we want this club to be put together, but we did not feel like there might be any other opportunities that would meet the type of criteria we’re looking for.”
- Though he has not yet been evaluated, injured Diamondbacks catcher Tuffy Gosewisch says a radiologist that looked at the MRI on his knee believes he may have a torn ACL, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweets. Certainly, that would mean a disappointing end to the year for the 31-year-old, who has struggled at the plate in his opportunity at a starting role. Arizona has called up recent signee Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who will presumably take a good portion of the time behind the dish.
- Several Giants players have upcoming opt-out dates, Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News writes. Righty Kevin Correia can become a free agent on the first of June, while third baseman Casey McGehee can opt out on June 5.
The Cubs are expected to pursue a trade for Ben Zobrist of the Athletics this summer, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Zobrist recently returned to action after missing time for knee surgery.
Zobrist, who just turned 34, has played all over the diamond in his career, registering stellar defensive marks at numerous positions. In recent years, he’s spent most of his time at second base and the corner outfield, though he played at short quite a bit earlier in his career. Of course, Zobrist has also consistently delivered well-above-average production on offense, with a career .264/.354/.429 batting line.
All said, Zobrist has been one of the ten most valuable all-around position players in the game since the start of 2011. He is still a bargain with only a $7.5MM salary this season, though he’ll hit the open market after the year.
A trade would, of course, render Zobrist ineligible for a qualifying offer, and Oakland will surely be looking for a return that exceeds the value of a compensatory draft pick if it decides to move him at the trade deadline. That is no sure thing, as Wittenmyer notes, as Oakland still hopes to get back into contention.
From the Cubs’ perspective, adding Zobrist would make obvious sense, though that can be said of many other teams as well. The veteran thrived under skipper Joe Maddon when both were with the Rays, and he’d offer the team ample flexibility while deepening its lineup. While Chicago has enjoyed strong production at many spots in the everyday lineup, its bench has been underwhelming.
Just over two weeks remain in the current international signing period, which will come to a close on June 15. Following that will be a roughly two-week dead period before July 2 marks the kickoff of the the 2015-16 international prospect signing period. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez recently penned a piece looking at some changes at the top of the international signing class, and he also has a second piece centering around a particularly interesting player in the upcoming June draft. A few highlights…
- Cuban prospects Eddy Julio Martinez and Yadier Alvarez have vaulted to the top of the upcoming July 2 class of international prospects, joining Bahamian shortstop Lucius Fox in Sanchez’s Top 3 prospects. Martinez is technically eligible to sign during the current period, Sanchez notes, though a deal would have to come together quickly in order for that to become a reality. Some scouts have made the lofty comparison of a young Andruw Jones when evaluating the 20-year-old Martinez, according to Sanchez. He lists the Cubs, Yankees, Angels, Blue Jays, Nationals, Rockies, Tigers, Dodgers, Giants, Reds and White Sox as teams that have shown interest in Martinez. It should be noted that the Angels and Yankees would only be able to sign Martinez in the current signing period, as they incurred maximum penalties in 2014-15 for soaring past their allotted bonus pool and will be unable to sign a player for more than $300K. The Cubs, on the other hand, are ineligible to sign him during this period but could do so in the 2015-16 period, as their penalty for exceeding their 2013-14 bonus pool will then have been served. The Dodgers are the favorite to sign Alvarez — Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel has previously reported that they’re believed to have an agreement worth as much as $16MM waiting to become official after July 2 — and have been aggressive on the Cuban market, adding Pablo Fernandez and Hector Olivera for a combined sum worth more than $70MM.
- The Dodgers, Rangers, Reds, and Giants are among the teams most frequently connected to the 18-year-old Fox, Sanchez hears. McDaniel reported a little over a month ago that Fox had been declared a free agent and could sign in the upcoming period, and he’s since noted that the Cubs, Dodgers and Rangers were serious players for Fox. Fox tells Sanchez that he’s added about 15 pounds of muscle in the past year, which he feels has dramatically improved his game since appearing in the Perfect Game and East Coast Pro showcases last year. (Fox attended American Heritage High School in Florida for two years before returning home to the Bahamas and petitioned to be declared an international free agent.)
- In the second piece linked above, Sanchez looks at the curious case of right-hander Octavio Arroyo, who was expected to be selected out of San Diego’s San Ysidro High School somewhere in rounds 15-20 in the June draft. However, Arroyo was recently deported to Tijuana, as his family incorrectly filled out his paperwork when moving him to the United States to live with his grandparents, both of whom are United States citizens. “The plan was for my grandparents to adopt me and get my paperwork, my residency,” Arroyo told Sanchez. “But I was denied. I don’t know why. I was told we filled out the paperwork wrong. We tried for three years, but I never got it.” Arroyo crossed the U.S./Mexico border multiple times while knowing that his paperwork had been rejected, and he was detained and deported in an attempt this spring. He’s still, however, eligible for the draft, but it’s uncertain whether or not he’ll be granted a work visa by the U.S. government. If no team selects him, Arroyo could sign as an undrafted free agent or sign with a Mexican League club, who could then sell his rights to a Major League team, Sanchez writes.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: 2015-16 International Prospects | Chicago Cubs | Chicago White Sox | Cincinnati Reds | Colorado Rockies | Detroit Tigers | Eddy Julio Martinez | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Lucius Fox | New York Yankees | Pablo Fernandez | San Francisco Giants | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays | Washington Nationals | Yadier Alvarez
The Cubs have placed Phil Coke on release waivers, tweets SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. Coke will become a free agent on Thursday afternoon once he clears waivers, and six clubs have reached out to Coke’s camp, according to Cotillo. Coke had been designated for assignment back on May 19.
The 32-year-old Coke signed a minor league contract with the Cubs this offseason and earned a guaranteed $2.25MM salary when he made the club’s roster. However, Coke’s tenure with the Cubs didn’t produce fruitful results, as he yielded seven runs on 14 hits and three walks (two intentional) in 10 innings with nine strikeouts. The resulting 6.30 ERA was hardly appealing, though FIP (3.54), xFIP (2.94) and SIERA (2.63) all showed more optimism regarding his small sample of work.
Coke’s velocity still checked in at a healthy 93 mph, and his 63.6 percent ground-ball rate was certainly a positive factor as well. Prior to his deal with the Cubs, Coke was most prominently connected to the Rangers, though there were also rumors linking him to the Royals and Marlins, among other clubs. Given the amount of teams consistently looking to add bullpen depth throughout the course of the season, Coke’s live arm will likely draw interest on the free agent market.
After missing his start on Sunday, Reds ace Johnny Cueto underwent an MRI on the injured joint today (as FOX’s Jon Morosi tweeted he would earlier this morning), but agent Bryce Dixon said after the fact that the test revealed no tears or structural damage (Twitter link via C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer). The news is a sigh of relief for all parties involved, as a serious arm injury for Cueto would hurt his standing as one of the top free agents on the upcoming open market, whereas an injury would hurt the Reds’ chance of righting the ship and potentially eliminate their best trade chip should they sell off veteran pieces this summer.
Here’s more from the NL Central…
- Another NL Central hurler got somewhat worse news than Cueto, as Cardinals left-hander Marco Gonzales has been diagnosed with a shoulder impingement that will sideline him for three weeks, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Gonzales will receive an anti-inflammatory injection in the coming days and has otherwise been prescribed rest to allow the injury to heal. Gonzales will need to alter his workouts and preparation tactics, Goold notes, as they may have had a part in the injury. Gonzales and the training staff will look for areas of weakness in the shoulder that can be improved — a similar endeavor to the one undertaken by Michael Wacha last summer (though the two have different shoulder injuries).
- Kyle Schwarber‘s name doesn’t get bandied about as much as other promising young Cubs bats such as Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Javier Baez, but VP of scouting and player development Jason McLeod feels that Schwarber has a chance to impact the team in 2015, if necessary (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat). Selected fourth overall in last year’s draft, Schwarber entered the year as a consensus Top 100 prospect (Baseball America ranked him as highly as 19th), and he’s demolished Double-A pitching this year, batting .305/.440/.595 with 10 homers in 166 plate appearances. Said McLeod of the catcher/outfielder: “If there was a need for [Schwarber] to come up here and help this team win later this year, I think he could do it.” Of course, I should note that while I listed Schwarber as a catcher (in at least a part-time capacity), the belief of many scouts is that the lefty slugger will have to move off the position for defensive purposes. The Cubs have continued to give him reps behind the plate in an attempt to maximize the value of his bat.
- Also within Muskat’s piece, McLeod notes that the team feels that Baez is athletic enough to play in the outfield, though there are no plans to move him there in the works. He also likens righty Yoervis Medina, acquired in the Welington Castillo trade, to Pedro Strop before Strop gained the consistency he’s shown with the Cubs over the past two seasons.
Here are the latest minor transactions, with the newest moves at the top of the post…
- Lefty Joe Paterson has reached a minor league deal with the Athletics, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Paterson, who just turned 29, had opened the year at Triple-A in the Royals organization after spending his previous seasons with the Giants and Diamondbacks. He threw 40 1/3 innings of 6.25 ERA ball for Arizona at the major league level. This season, he has tossed 12 2/3 frames at the highest level of the minors, striking out 12 and walking six while permitting eight earned runs.
- The Astros released 2009 third-round pick Telvin Nash, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports on Twitter. Nash, 24, was repeating Double-A this year and owned a .228/.318/.456 slash with seven home runs over 130 plate appearances. Despite generally excellent power numbers and solid walk rates, Nash has been unable to avoid the strikeout. He has spent most of his time at first or in the corner outfield.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.