Chicago Cubs Rumors

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

Pitching Market Notes: Ross, Gallardo, Iwakuma, Indians, Chapman, Pirates

The Padres are “progressing” on multiple deals, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, and Tyson Ross is a key piece among their trade chips. Rosenthal adds that trading him would be considered a concession on the 2015 season, and while that’s likely, it’s certainly possible that the Padres could acquire some MLB-ready talent to make it more even for 2015 purposes than if they went with an all-prospects package. The Padres could add some pieces as well, he notes.

Meanwhile Bob Nightengale of USA Today chimes in on Ross as well, tweeting that executives from other teams are “convinced” that Ross will be dealt. Nightengale says the Cubs continue to push for Ross. (Earlier today, ESPN’s Jayson Stark heard that Ross is Chicago’s top pitching target.)

Here’s more on the trade market for pitching help — starters and relievers alike:

  • The Cubs, Blue Jays and Dodgers are the most aggressive teams pursuing Yovani Gallardo of the Rangers at this time, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Yankees and Giants also have some level of interest, he adds. Gallardo started tonight, and things went poorly; the Yankees knocked him around for five runs in six innings, and he struck out just one hitter.
  • Despite a record that is well below the .500 mark, the Mariners aren’t planning to make right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma available, tweets Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. While other teams have apparently inquired, they’ve been informed that Mariners ownership prefers to keep him. Iwakuma’s value is down after a shaky, injury-filled season, though given his reasonable $7MM salary and track record, I’d imagine he’d draw no shortage of interest if put on the block.
  • Teams are still in touch with the Indians regarding their crop of young pitching talent, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. There’s nothing close at this time, but the Indians remain willing to engage in conversations. To this point, they’ve reportedly discussed Carlos Carrasco with other clubs, and one can imagine that Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer are of interest to other teams as well. Cleveland did bolster its impressive stockpile of young pitching today — albeit with a future-oriented move — acquiring Class-A lefty and former first-round pick Rob Kaminsky from the Cardinals for Brandon Moss.
  • The D-Backs reportedly have an offer on the table to the Reds for Aroldis Chapman, but Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic spoke to a pair of executives (Twitter link) about the asking price on Chapman, with one calling it “high” and the other using the term “ridiculous.”
  • Following today’s acquisition of Joakim Soria to strengthen his bullpen, Pirates GM Neal Huntington told reporters, including Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that he doesn’t plan to acquire an additional starting pitcher prior to tomorrow’s non-waiver trade deadline (Twitter link).

Stark, Crasnick On Mariners, Cubs, Ross, Padres, Chapman

The Mariners and Cubs have had recent trade talks, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter), though he’s yet to ascertain which specific players were involved. The conversations didn’t center around Starlin Castro, Crasnick continues. Clearly, there could be a wide range of targets at play here, though the Cubs have been connected to pitching upgrades in both the rotation and the bullpen.

Some more trade notes from a couple of ESPN’s top reporters…

  • In today’s Rumor Roundup over at ESPN, Jayson Stark writes that other teams view Tyson Ross as the Cubs‘ top trade target. Chicago likes Andrew Cashner but considers him a fallback option, should the price for Ross become too steep. Both Castro and Javier Baez have previously been of interest to the Padres, although Castro’s stock is way down. Stark also reported today that the Cubs are now “aggressively” shopping Castro.
  • From that same piece, Stark adds that other clubs believe Justin Upton, Cashner and Joaquin Benoit are the most likely players to be traded by the Padres, and one particular executive to whom Stark spoke feels it’s “likely” that Craig Kimbrel will be traded as well. In a followup tweet, Stark adds that the number of people who feel Kimbrel will end up with the Yankees is “amazing.” New York already possesses a dominant late-inning duo in the form of Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances. Adding Kimbrel to the mix would give them a trio to rival the three-headed bullpen monster (Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera) that the Royals rode to the World Series in 2014. The Astros, too, like Kimbrel, according to Stark. However, Houston wouldn’t want to take on all of the money he’s owed.
  • Stark also tweets that the Reds are still discussing Aroldis Chapman with teams, but the price remains very high. At this time, the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Giants and Astros are all in the mix for Chapman, who is earning $8.05MM in 2015 and is controlled via the arbitration process for the 2016 season.

Cubs Aggressively Attempting To Move Starlin Castro

The Cubs are aggressively shopping shortstop Starlin Castro, reports Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. Chicago is “trying to include” him in “any deal” with other clubs, per the report.

Chicago has long been rumored to be considering a move involving the up-and-down 25-year-old infielder. Castro was told yesterday by manager Joe Maddon that he did not need to worry about being dealt, but as Bruce Levine of CBSChicago.com reported, it was never clear that Maddon’s words were meant as any kind of assurance going forward.

It has previously been reported that the Cubs discussed Castro with teams like the Phillies and, more recently, the Padres. Chicago is reportedly looking hard at adding pitching, with at least some interest in more controllable pieces (such as Tyson Ross), though it’s unclear at present where the team is most focused in its efforts to strike a deal.

It’s also somewhat hard to read how other teams will value the still-young, up-the-middle player. At times, his contract — which has four years and $38MM left after this year (plus an option) — has looked like an asset. But now that he’s in the midst of a second disappointing campaign in the last three years (.237/.271/.305 over 406 plate appearances in 2015), that deal looks more like a reasonable risk than a great value.



Pitching Notes: Teheran, Karns, Ross, Giants

We just checked in on Yovani Gallardo, who may or may not be dealt before the deadline. Here’s the latest on the starting pitching market, which was one of many topics covered in today’s podcast with Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca.

  • Despite reportedly being prepared to deal Alex Wood to the Dodgers, the Braves are still listening on Julio Teheran, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports (Twitter links). He suggests, however, that the club may just be hoping for an overpay rather than actively shopping the young righty.
  • Given their starting depth, the Rays have indicated a willingness to listen to offers on right-hander Nate Karns, Passan reports on Twitter. Karns is already 27, but has ample team control and has emerged with 115 innings of 3.37 ERA pitching this year.
  • Padres righty Tyson Ross is “drawing intense interest,” Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. The AstrosBlue JaysCubs, and Dodgers are all in the mix, says Heyman, and Houston could be the “at the forefront” of efforts to pry him away from San Diego. Notably, many of those clubs are also viewed as prime contenders for David Price. Heyman further breaks down Price’s market in an article today.
  • The Giants are also said to be looking into a run at Price after falling short in a “late push” for Cole Hamels (per Rosenthal, on Twitter). GM Bobby Evans says he doesn’t foresee the club parting with players from the team’s current everyday lineup in any deals, as Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com tweets. But the Tigers do like several of San Francisco’s minor league arms, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets, which could make them plausible pursuers of the ace lefty.

Latest On Padres: Baez, Kimbrel, Deadline Strategy

2:15pm: The Padres have engaged in at least some discussions with the Cubs regarding young infielder Javier Baez, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Chicago is said to be pursuing pitching, and we heard last week that they had exchanged ideas with San Diego.

Meanwhile, the Friars seem increasingly likely to hold onto Craig Kimbrel, reports Heyman. The team lost a significant suitor when the Nationals got Jonathan Papelbon, and San Diego has been unable to convince the Yankees to give up shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo in a deal.

11:40am: The Padres continue to explore a wide array of options on this year’s trade market, though they’ve yet to make a move. Multiple reports suggest that the team is still weighing its ultimate approach, perhaps considering major moves while also preparing for a more modest sell-off.

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com hears that rival teams expect San Diego to be “super active” and pursue a “huge deal” of some kind (via ESPN.com’s trade deadline page), with the team said to be considering deals on controllable rotation pieces such as James Shields, Andrew Cashner, and even Tyson Ross.

[RELATED: Rangers Discussing Ross, Cashner With Padres]

The inclusion of those names on the market could even reduce the Phillies’ leverage with regard to Cole Hamels negotiations, executives with other clubs tell Stark. The Phillies, of course, are said to be asking teams with interest to get their bids in on the lefty today.

Meanwhile, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Padres GM A.J. Preller could “take a more measured approach” in selling than he did in compiling assets over the winter. San Diego wants “substantive” value in its deals, per the report.

Efforts to move Shields have not resulted in promising offers of yet, says Lin, and he could become an August trade piece. And while San Diego is indeed discussing both Cashner and Ross, it seems hesitant to part with them. There is some belief within the organization that larger-scale moves could wait for the winter.

The club does still appear likely to move its short-term assets, per the Union-Tribune. There is still at least some possibility, though, that it will hold onto Justin Upton and make him a qualifying offer, with talks not yet having produced a substantial enough return, though it seems rather likely that something with come together on the slugger. Other pieces fairly likely to be dealt include Ian Kennedy, Joaquin Benoit, and Will Venable.


Cubs Designate Mike Baxter

The Cubs have designated outfielder Mike Baxter for assignment, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune tweets. The club needed roster space for Ben Rowen, who was called up today.

Baxter, 30, put up a .246/.348/.263 slash in his 66 big league plate appearances this year. His stint with Chicago marked his sixth straight season with at least some time in the majors, though he’s only compiled 489 total turns at bat (with a cumulative .664 OPS).


Impact Of Clippard Deal: Beane On A’s, Latest On Zobrist

Earlier today, the Mets added a late-inning relief arm in Tyler Clippard. That move did not come as a major surprise, but it nevertheless created a ripple effect for the two teams involved, as well as the rest of the market.

  • Most notably, perhaps, Athletics GM Billy Beane indicated in his comments on the deal that the team could continue to build up lower-level prospect depth in its summer trades, as MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports“The Houston Astros have done a really good job of spending the last three or four years really creating a dynamic farm system,” said Beane, “and now they’re starting to reap the rewards of that. If we’re ever going to compete, we’re probably going to have to take a somewhat similar approach and at least make sure we’ve got young players that are coming through the system that will be here for a few years.” Oakland acquired younger players in both the Clippard trade and the earlier swap involving Scott Kazmir, marking something of a departure from the team’s winter moves (to say nothing of its win-now acquisitions last summer).
  • The Mets had been working on a deal with the Athletics that would have delivered not only Tyler Clippard, but also Ben Zobrist, Adam Rubin of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. But the clubs honed in on the reliever alone after New York went out and got Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. That, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean that the Mets are out on Zobrist, though adding a pair of versatile pieces in Uribe and Johnson could lessen heir need.
  • Meanwhile, the Mets have clearly positioned themselves as buyers, and are still looking at corner outfield bats. As we also covered in that link, the Athletics seem uninterested in parting with controllable pieces like Josh Reddick — despite their apparent decision to load up on high-ceiling youngsters.
  • Zobrist will likely be the next player dealt away from the A’s, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. She sees the Royals and Nationals as the possible front-runners for his services. Oakland has drawn wide interest in the utility man extraordinaire, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, with almost every contender having checked in on him. Joining Kansas City with active interest, per the report, are the PiratesYankees, and Cubs. We’ve heard no shortage of other clubs mentioned in recent weeks as well, as Zobrist’s MLBTR timeline attests.
  • While the Mets are earning plaudits in some circles for adding a quality pen arm without dealing away any top prospects, prospect analysts say that the return for Clippard might be better than many realize. Keith Law of ESPN.com writes that he’d rank Casey Meisner as the organization’s sixth-best prospect, just behind a touted group of names, giving him a #2 starter ceiling. That’s far too much to give up for a few months of a reliever who has not been pitching at an elite level this year, Law argues. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs is not quite as high on Meisner, but still tweets that he sees him as a solid return for Oakland.
  • Clippard becomes the second shoe to drop on the relief market, following the Cardinals’ acquisition of Steve Cishek. Check out MLBTR’s round-up of the relief market. We’ve heard rumblings on star Padres Craig Kimbrel today, and there are plenty of other high-end arms that could change hands.

Cubs, Padres Talked Castro; Cubs Not In On Shields

8:57pm: In their conversations with the Padres, the Cubs have been focused on Ross, per a Rosenthal tweet. As he notes, that isn’t exactly surprising. The 28-year-old has been rather excellent dating back to 2013, and comes with two more seasons of control. There’s a good argument to be made that his contract is the organization’s single most valuable asset.

As Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier today, a wide variety of teams have interest in Ross, including the Blue Jays, Astros, Dodgers, and Rangers.

8:02pm: Whatever other talks the teams may have had, Chicago is not making a run at Shields, Buster Olney of ESPN.com tweets.

7:35pm: The Cubs have had discussions with the Padres regarding shortstop Starlin Castro, Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports report on Twitter. San Diego does not look like a traditional buyer, but as noted in MLBTR’s overview of the shortstop trade market, the team makes sense as a future-oriented acquirer at the position.

Castro is still just 25, though he’s playing in his sixth big league season. He is owed $37MM over the next four seasons and can be controlled with a $16MM option in 2020 ($1MM buyout).

That contract once looked like an asset, but after a second rough campaign in three years, it looks more like a reasonable risk. Castro owns a .233/.268/.302 slash over 399 plate appearances, which falls well below his roughly league-average career output. He’s generally regarded as a mediocre defender at short, and metrics suggest he’s slightly to firmly below average in that department.

It’s not clear what kind of deal would be considered, but San Diego has a number of players who could hold appeal to the Cubs. Morosi suggests the possibility of a swap of James Shields, which holds at least some plausibility (as a starting point, at least) since both are owed significant future money and could arguably be better fits for the current needs of the other club. But he gave no indication that there is anything to that idea other than his own analysis.

Looking at the San Diego roster for other pieces that could be intriguing to the Cubs — whether or not as part of any deal involving Castro — the rotation certainly seems the place to focus. We’ve heard plenty in the past about the need for a rotation addition in Chicago, and both Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner are younger, controllable pieces that have been mentioned as possible trade pieces. On the rental side, Ian Kennedy should hold some appeal and could also be a theoretical fit for Chicago. Outfielder Will Venable and reliever Joaquin Benoit are two more pending free agents that could make sense.

Should the Cubs make a major move, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has explained that it would likely be for a controllable piece. (Via ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers; links to Twitter.) While the team is entertaining rental options, it seems unlikely to pay a steep price to add a premium player that will hit the open market after the season.

“If we do something on the bigger end, it will involve players that will help us beyond this year,” said Epstein. “If we do something on the smaller side, it will probably be more for a rental. And if we do nothing, it will be because we couldn’t find anything rational that we could actually do.”

As for as larger possible moves go, we’ve heard the Cubs linked to Cole Hamels of the Phillies at various times. Per Morosi, via Twitter, the team is only on the “periphery” of the Hamels market at present.


Cubs Release Edwin Jackson

JULY 27: Jackson has been officially released, tweets MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat.

JULY 19: The Cubs have designated Edwin Jackson for assignment, tweets Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. The club has recalled reliever Rafael Soriano in a corresponding move.

Coming off of a four-season run in which he carried a 3.98 ERA over 812 2/3 frames, Jackson signed a four-year, $52MM contract with Chicago prior to the 2013 campaign. That move constituted the first real indication that the Cubs were prepared again to open their wallet.

As things stand now, Jackson hits DFA limbo while still owed the balance of his $11MM salary this season along with $11MM next year. That makes for a total future commitment of $15.63MM, per Wittenmyer.

Rather than serving as a sturdy number three or four option for the now-contending club, as might have been hoped, Jackson entered this year as a marginal roster candidate after posting a 6.33 ERA in 2014. The Cubs moved Jackson to the bullpen, and he has been better in a long relief capacity, carrying a 3.19 ERA and 6.68 K/9 against 3.48 BB/9. His velocity has also jumped back to 94.2 mph.

All said, there’s good reason to believe that Jackson still possesses a major league arm, and he’s likely to get another shot in relatively short order. But he has delivered nothing close to the value his salary demands, and it’s inconceivable that another team will grab him off the wire. Assuming that Jackson clears waivers, rejects an outright assignment, and hits the open market, the Cubs will only be lined up to save (at most) the pro-rated portion of the league minimum salary this year and next.

Chicago, then, is all but certain to remain on the hook for most of the $15MM and change remaining on Jackson’s deal. For the over fifty million invested, the team received a composite contribution of 347 innings of 5.37 ERA pitching (with 7.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9). The empty $11MM hit that Jackson represents for 2016 is hardly crippling, but does represent a notable impediment to an organization that seems likely to be tabbed with big expectations next year.

While the Cubs might otherwise have had cause to hold onto Jackson, the team has also been utilizing another deposed starter — Travis Wood — in a long relief role. Of the two, Wood is younger, cheaper, and has performed better (2.59 ERA in 17 relief appearances). As such, Jackson was viewed as expendable despite solid numbers.

Interestingly, Jackson’s contract has served as something of a template for several starting pitching deals struck in the ensuing offseasons. So far, none of those signings — Ricky Nolasco & Ervin Santana (Twins), Matt Garza (Brewers), Ubaldo Jimenez (Orioles), and Brandon McCarthy (Dodgers) — has really worked out as hoped, though there’s plenty of time left for assessment.

Soriano, meanwhile, was signed as a free agent on June 12 for a pro-rated $4.1MM with $4MM in incentives. He’ll serve to further bolster an increasingly deep Cubs bullpen. Jason Motte has filled in as the team’s closer in recent weeks, but it stands to reason that Soriano could factor into the late innings too.

The 35-year-old languished on the market after an up and down 2014 campaign. But he ultimately joined the Cubs last month on a deal that will pay him the pro-rated portion of a $4.1MM annual salary (plus incentives).

Since joining the organization, Soriano has yet to allow an earned run over seven minor league appearances. In 630 career innings, he has racked up 207 saves, a 2.85 ERA, 9.09 K/9, and 2.80 BB/9. Soriano spent most of the 2014 season as the Nationals closer before giving way to Drew Storen late in the season. He has 27 or more saves in five of the last six seasons.


Latest On Cole Hamels

4:42pm: The Rangers and Dodgers have emerged as the likely favorites to land Hamels, multiple sources tell Jayson Stark of ESPN.com.  The Phillies continue to discuss Hamels with at least four other teams – the Cubs, Yankees, Giants and Red Sox – but those teams don’t match up as well as Los Angeles or Texas, according to a source who spoke with Stark.  Sources also told Stark they would be surprised if a trade was completed before Tuesday.

3:13pm: The Yankees are exploring deals for all of the major available starting pitchers, but they’re not inclined to move top prospects or take on lots of salary to acquire Hamels, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets.

12:10pm: The Phillies and Rangers remain in dialogue about a Hamels trade, but nothing is “close” at this time, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter) hears from sources.

9:52am: “Industry sentiment” has the Rangers as the favorites for Hamels, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets.  Texas has long-term motivation for acquiring Hamels, the prospects necessary to swing a deal, and the hurler can’t block a trade to the Rangers.

9:48am: Momentum is building towards a Cole Hamels trade, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets.  Offers for the Phillies ace have improved since Hamels’ no-hitter and teams are now asking for less money and offering better players, sources tell Rosenthal.

At this time, Rosenthal hears (link) that the five teams with the most recent interest in Hamels (in no particular order) are the Cubs, Dodgers, Rangers, Yankees, and Giants.  The Red Sox, who are eager to win in 2016, have been connected to Hamels, but they are absent from Rosenthal’s top five.

On Saturday, Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi reported that the Yankees have asked about Hamels, but their interest does not appear to be much more than due diligence at this time.  The Astros also scouted Hamels’ Saturday start and while they were undoubtedly impressed with his performance, they are not amongst the top five teams according to Rosenthal.