Chicago Cubs Rumors

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

NL Central Links: Bryant, Cueto, Burnett

Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is baseball’s best prospect, as per Baseball America’s newly-released list of the top 100 prospects in the game.  Since being drafted second overall in 2013, Bryant has put up an extraordinary .331/.431/.673 slash line and 58 homers in 832 minor league plate appearances, which includes an 1.036 OPS in 297 PA at the Triple-A level last season.  The Cubs placed six players on the top 100 list overall, including four in the top 19 (Kyle Schwarber at #19, Jorge Soler at #12) and two in the top three, as shortstop Addison Russell was ranked in the #3 spot.

Here’s the latest from around the NL Central…

  • There’s nothing new to report” about Johnny Cueto‘s extension negotiations with the Reds, agent Bryce Dixon told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer in a text message. Dixon said in a text message.  “Johnny’s excited for camp and optimistic about the season and wants to be a Red, so nothing’s changed on our end.”  Cueto reiterated to reporters today that he wants to stay in Cincinnati but is focusing on his Spring Training preparations rather than contract talks.
  • If the Reds can’t extend Cueto before he hits free agency next winter, the question then becomes whether the team will be competitive enough to avoid having to trade Cueto before the July deadline, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince writes.
  • A.J. Burnett made it clear to Pirates GM Neal Huntington that he only wanted to pitch for the Bucs next season, which almost made their negotiation “odd,” Huntington tells FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.  Burnett declined a $12.75MM player option with the Phillies to sign a one-year, $8.5MM deal to return to Pittsburgh, and finding the appropriate dollar figure was difficult.  “The last thing we wanted to do was insult him,” Huntington said. “At the same time, every dollar we can save in every contract we can re-allocate to another player who can make us deeper, a better club.  It was almost a little bit more challenging to approach that negotiation vs. a negotiation where you know you’re competing against prior comparable contracts or other players on the market.”  Also in the piece, Burnett talks to Rosenthal about how he missed his Pirates teammates and how he decided that 2015 will be his last season.
  • In other NL Central news from earlier today on MLBTR, Pedro Alvarez won his arbitration case against the Pirates, and the Cardinals and John Lackey haven’t made any headway on a new contract.

Central Notes: Youkilis, Liriano, Murphy, Tigers

Recently-retired veteran Kevin Youkilis will be joining the Cubs as a special assistant, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports on Twitter. The connection will be obvious for many: Youkilis rose to prominence and made most of his impact on the field playing for former Red Sox GM and current Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.

Here’s more from the central divisions:

  • Pirates starter Francisco Liriano held talks with the Red SoxTwinsAstros, and Royals before re-signing with Pittsburgh, the lefty told Dan Zangrilli of 93.7 The Fan (Twitter links). Kansas City went as high as $36MM over three years, said Liriano, who ultimately took home $39MM from the Pirates. Interestingly, Liriano noted that he felt the qualifying offer did not significantly hinder his market.
  • If Brandon Moss and Nick Swisher prove their health this spring, outfielder David Murphy (or another roster candidate) will likely need to be dealt before breaking camp, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes. It may be hard to find a taker without eating a good bit of Murphy’s $6MM salary, should that come to pass. For now, this remains an interesting story to watch over the coming months.
  • While the Tigers do have some worrying signs in their large contracts and low-rated farm, they are not yet facing the kind of difficulties that the Phillies have found, Mike Petriello of Fangraphs writes. If nothing else, Detroit still looks to be legitimately competitive at present, and has time to prepare for a soft landing when its window does finally begin closing.

Quick Hits: MiLB Deals, Announcements, Prospects

In a fascinating piece for FOX Sports, former big leaguer C.J. Nitkowski discusses his experiences looking for minor league deals. Nitkowski says that he often took it upon himself to look for the best opportunity, considering all aspects of the possibilities he could unearth to get the best shot at making it onto an active roster.

Here are some more notes from around the game:

  • Agency Sosnick Cobbe Sports has announced the addition of agent and general counsel Adam Karon to its nameplate. The firm, which represents big leaguers such as Josh Johnson and Jay Bruce, will now be called Sosnick, Cobbe & Karon.
  • In another announcement, the Phillies say they have promoted Michael Stiles to the position of executive VP and CEO. Per the release, Stiles will operate in the business and general administration realm. Stiles had already been said to be in charge of the day-to-day business affairs of the organization back when Pat Gillick had yet to have the interim label removed from his title of president.
  • Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has released his list of the game’s top 200 prospects, along with worthwhile breakdowns of the players that made it. Working from that list and applying valuations to the ranked players, colleague Dave Cameron presents a ranking of the most valuable farm systems in the game. Baseball Prospectus has also issued its own organizational rankings in recent days, so be sure to check those out as well. Both sites agree on the top four teams — the CubsTwinsRangers, and Dodgers – though Fangraphs ranks them in that order while BP prefers the Los Angeles farm to that of Texas.


Latest On Hector Olivera, Yoan Moncada

We already took a peek in this morning at the Cuban market, but the news keeps coming. Here’s the latest on the two most touted position players available (or soon to be):

  • Two executives who spoke with Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons indicated that the market for Hector Olivera looks rather strong (Twitter link). One predicted that Olivera would attain a $45MM to $50MM guarantee, while the other (from a team with interest) guessed that the 29-year-old infielder would reach the $65MM to $70MM range. We have heard reports of Olivera seeking that kind of guarantee, but it is interesting to see that some big league front office people see it as a likely outcome.
  • We heard earlier today that the Dodgers continue to have interest in Olivera and would plan to use him at third if they end up signing him.
  • Yoan Moncada remains most likely to sign with the Yankees or Dodgers, Ben Badler of Baseball America writes. The Padres are the third most likely landing spot, in Badler’s estimation, with the benefit of having not apparently made commitments that would need to be broken with next year’s July 2 class. Also still in the mix are the Red Sox and Tigers. Of course, the level of interest in the latter two teams, especially, remains unclear. In particular, Detroit is “not that serious” about going after Moncada, per Tony Paul of the Detroit News, who adds via Twitter that the team has not been in contact lately with Moncada’s camp.
  • Notably, however, Badler adds that the Cubs and Rangers are “not out of the race” and are being aggressive in their pursuit of Moncada. Both teams would need to convince him to wait until July 2 to sign, which seems unlikely at this point.

AL East Notes: Wieters, Romine, Maddon, Alvarez

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is one of ten high-profile free-agents-to-be to watch during the 2015 season, writes Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com. The backstop is working his way back from midseason Tommy John surgery, but he could be available for a designated hitter role by opening day. He was in the midst of a breakout at the plate before he was waylaid by injury. Ringolsby profiles nine other potential free agents including Wieters’ teammate Chris Davis. Here’s more from the AL East:

  • Yankees backup catcher Austin Romine has reported to camp 15 pounds lighter, reports Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News. The former prospect will compete with John Ryan Murphy. Last season, it appeared Murphy was above Romine on the team’s depth chart. However, Romine is out of options, which could give him the upper hand in laying claim to the backup job. If not, backup catchers are always in demand around the league.
  • Cubs manager Joe Maddon thinks the Rays are in a good position to compete, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Maddon says the biggest challenge for new manager Kevin Cash is to form relationships with the club’s veterans. Tampa Bay also has a new look entering 2015 – they made seven trades involving 30 players. Maddon identified the outfield as the biggest question for the franchise.
  • Dariel Alvarez could be the first Orioles prospect to reach the majors this season, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. The club believes he’s “one of the best-kept secrets in the minors.” Manager Buck Showalter wonders why Alvarez doesn’t appear on prospect lists. The 26-year-old hit .306/.330/.472 with 15 home runs in the upper minors last season.

Central Links: McCutchen, Zito, Albers, Herndon

The expensive costs of youth travel leagues are an obstacle to attracting young talent to baseball, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen writes in a piece for The Players Tribune.  The full scholarships provided by college basketball or football make them more appealing sports than the long, usually financially-unrewarding path to the majors that the vast majority of prospects face — McCutchen himself admits that, were it not for an ACL tear when he was 15, he would’ve likely pursued NCAA football and not been a big league star today.  He argues that kids from low-income families need more entry points into the game, with one possible solution being a new system similar to the academy program for international prospects.

Here’s the latest from around the NL and AL Central divisions…


Minor Moves: Rosenberg, Troncoso, Borbon

Here are some recent minor league transactions, all from Baseball America’s Matt Eddy unless otherwise cited…

  • The Dodgers signed right-hander B.J. Rosenberg to a minor league contract.  The 29-year-old owns a 5.72 ERA, 8.3 K/9 and 1.73 K/BB rate over 56 2/3 career innings, all with the Phillies from 2012-14.
  • The Dodgers also signed Ramon Troncoso, bringing the right-hander back for a second stint with the club. Troncoso posted a 3.92 ERA, 2.07 K/BB rate and 6.4 K/9 over 197 1/3 relief innings for L.A. from 2008-11, highlighted by a 2009 season that saw him notch a 2.72 ERA over 82 2/3 IP.  He last appeared in the bigs with the White Sox in 2013 and Troncoso spent last season with the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate.
  • The Orioles re-signed outfielder Julio Borbon to a new minor league deal.  After being picked off the Cubs roster in the minor league Rule 5 draft last winter, Borbon hit .288/.342/.356 with 34 steals in 44 chances over 512 plate appearances for Triple-A Norfolk in 2014.  Borbon, the 35th overall pick of the 2007 amateur draft, last played in the majors with the Cubs in 2013 and he owns a career .272/.318/.347 slash line over 863 PA with Chicago and Texas.
  • The Reds re-signed catcher Lou Marson.  The 28-year-old first joined the Reds on a minor league deal last May but was limited to just seven Double-A games due to injuries.  Marson slashed .219/.309/.299 over 882 career PA for the Phillies and Indians between 2008-13.
  • The Cubs re-signed longtime farmhand Jonathan Mota.  The infielder has spent his entire 10-year pro career in Chicago’s farm system, posting a .258/.317/.362 career slash line.

Latest On Cuban Market

With the crop of six-year service time free agents thinning noticeably, attention has turned to the fascinating group of players readying to sign after leaving their native Cuba. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has been among the most active observers on this still-developing segment of the market, and delivers a host of interesting information in his latest post on the subject.

While I recommend a full read of his work, here are some highlights:

  • Hector Olivera is the lone name who figures to have immediate impact. (Fellow middle infielder Jose Fernandez reportedly remains in Cuba after having been thought to have left with intentions of seeking a MLB deal.) McDaniel agrees with Baseball America’s Ben Badler that Olivera has the potential for immediate impact, but says there are significant doubts about his long-term prospects. For one, Olivera’s medical history is not just limited to sports injuries, but includes a significant case of thrombosis. Then, there is the fact that Olivera’s age cannot be confirmed with certainty and even some indications that scouts are questioning why he is “fatigued earlier in workouts than an athlete of his size, strength and age should.”
  • Ultimately, McDaniel concurs with Badler that Olivera is seeking and could obtain a $10MM+ annual guarantee. But McDaniel cautions that he expects it to run over just two or three seasons (with an outside chance at a fourth guaranteed year) with options and incentives included.
  • The other name making noise at the recent international showcase was Cuban righty Yadier Alvarez, who McDaniel has in the mid-to-upper 90s with a plus slider and promising change. The rest of the package checks out for his age, with McDaniel saying that Alvarez’s raw talent and progress to date is on the same level as the very best high school arms entering the draft. Alvarez expects to have him ready to sign in the next month or two and does not seem inclined to wait for the market to turn over on July 2nd, which would mean the Cubs and Rangers would not be eligible to sign him. (Should he wait to sign, Alvarez would lose the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, D’backs, and Angels as potential suitors.) While this particular market is in the very earliest stages of development, McDaniel says that Alvarez is plainly superior to Yoan Lopez, who just got a $8.25MM bonus from Arizona.
  • McDaniel also provides an update on 21-year-old infielder Andy Ibanez, who is seemingly no longer showcasing. That could mean that he is in the process of (or will soon be) sorting through offers. While the demand side of the equation is hard to peg in his case, McDaniel says he expects one of the bonus-busting teams listed above to land him at a potential cost of between $5MM to $12MM.
  • The most exciting name out there remains Yoan Moncada. Though there is not much new to pass on in his case, Badler does present some video of Moncada’s past plate appearances against several notable young arms. One executive tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links) that the bidding on Moncada could reach nine figures in terms of total investment (given the near-100% tax for signing him). Rosenthal also says that the Moncada case may be a catalyst for debate on the issue of how amateur rights are secured.

Minor Moves: Herndon, Bell, Germen, Guillon, Rapada

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

  • Righty David Herndon has signed a minor league deal with the Brewers, Adam McCalvy of MLB.com tweets. The 29-year-old, who is trying to reach the bigs for the first time since 2012, has been significantly limited by injuries over the last several seasons. Over 117 total MLB frames from 2010-12, Herndon owns a 3.85 ERA with 5.8 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9.
  • Third baseman Josh Bell has signed a minor league deal with the Padres, agent Josh Kusnick announced on Twitter. Formerly a top prospect with the Dodgers and one of the top 40 prospects in baseball (per Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus), Bell spent much of last season in Korea, hitting .267/.345/.433 with the LG Twins. Those numbers are a near-mirror image of his career line at Triple-A, where he’s batted .267/.355/.451 in 1402 plate appearances.
  • Right-hander Gonzalez Germen has cleared outright waivers and been assigned to Triple-A Iowa by the Cubs, tweets the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales. Germen, who has been designated for assignment a stunning four times this winter, will finally know which organization he will be a part of come Spring Training. He’ll be invited to Major League camp, per Gonzales.

Earlier Moves

  • Reds left-hander Ismael Guillon has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A, reports MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon (on Twitter). Guillon was designated for assignment when the team signed Burke Badenhop over the weekend. Guillon, who turns 23 years old today, has been a mainstay on Cincinnati’s Top 30 prospects list (per Baseball America), topping out at No. 9, but he’s struggled to a 4.82 ERA over the past two seasons at multiple Class-A levels. Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel recently ranked him 21st among Reds farmhands, noting that one scout called him a “pull your hair out” type of guy due to his wild inconsistencies.
  • The Giants have signed lefty specialist Clay Rapada to a minor league contract, reports Baseball America’s Matt Eddy (via Twitter). Yankees blogger Robert Casey first reported the news recently on Twitter. Rapada, 34 in March, has just two Major League innings over the past two seasons but has an excellent track record of dominating left-handed hitters. He’s held opposing lefties to a .164/.255/.231 batting line in 257 big league plate appearances, but righties have tattooed him at a .345/.464/.611 clip. Rapada held lefties to a .639 OPS in Triple-A last season, but righties got to him for a 1.134 OPS.
  • Third baseman Nick Delmonico, who was released by the Brewers last week, has latched on with the White Sox on a minor league deal, tweets Eddy. If Delmonico’s name looks familiar, it’s because he was the player the Brewers received from the Orioles in exchange for Francisco Rodriguez in 2013. Formerly one of Baltimore’s top prospects, Delmonico was suspended last summer for amphetamine usage. The 22-year-old has yet to climb higher than Class-A Advanced, where he is a .241/.332/.417 hitter in 500 plate appearances.
  • Eddy also tweets that the Red Sox have signed right-hander Jess Todd — not to be confused with MLBTR scribe Jeff Todd — to a minor league contract. Todd, originally drafted by the Cardinals, was traded to the Indians alongside Chris Perez in return for Mark DeRosa back in 2009. Now 28 years of age, Todd has little MLB experience (28 1/3 innings) but does boast a strong track record at Triple-A, where he’s worked to a 3.62 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 380 1/3 innings.

Latest On James Shields & The Padres

James Shields‘ four-year, $75MM contract with the Padres became official yesterday, and more details about the signing continue to become public. Here’s the latest…

  • Page Odle, Shields’ agent, discussed his client’s free agent experience with FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, saying that Shields’ market only really started to come into focus over the last three weeks. “I don’t know why it took so long for his market to develop. We had some early conversations with teams. We had one offer early. It didn’t come together. That team moved on,” Odle said. “Then there were teams we were talking to that ended up making trades. And I’m sure that probably changed a few of the scenarios. His market really didn’t start to develop again until after the first of the year, where we started getting calls and started having more sincere discussions with teams.”
  • As you might expect, Odle disagreed with some executives’ claims that he “overreached” with his demands for Shields. “There was no set dollar amount that James had to have. Do we think he is one of the better pitchers in the game? Absolutely. If statistics and what you do in your career matter, then James has that on his side,” Odle said.
  • Shields was rumored to have received a five-year, $110MM offer from a team earlier this winter, yet Odle said those reports were “completely inaccurate and a fabrication.” The right-hander never insisted on a five-year contract, as “we had scenarios talking to teams in the three-year, four-year and five-year range from the start….We were having all kinds of talks, talks with vesting options, talks about club options. This thing settled into a four-year deal with an option. There was never a demand that it had to be five years.
  • Odle never expected to discuss a six-year contract, and no such deal was proposed in any negotiations.
  • The Cubs were the other finalists for Shields’ services, the righty confirmed himself in an interview with on 1080AM radio (hat tip to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune). Shields noted his choice came down to “two great managers” — his new skipper Bud Black and Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who Shields enjoyed playing under when the two were in Tampa Bay.
  • While living in nearby Rancho Santa Fe played a part in his decision to sign with the Padres, Shields said he was ultimately impressed by the club’s busy offseason and their desire to get back into contention. “They had that win-now mentality. They want not only to win now but win the next four, five years,” Shields said.