Chicago Cubs Rumors

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

Minor Moves: Dan Johnson, Daniel Schlereth

Here are some of the more notable Minor League transactions from around the league over the past week, courtesy of Baseball America’s Matt Eddy

  • The Reds have released veteran first baseman Dan Johnson from Triple-A Louisville, per Eddy. Cincinnati acquired Johnson from Houston in Spring Training, and while the 35-year-old showed his typically discerning eye at the plate (10 walks vs. nine strikeouts in 40 plate appearances), he also picked up just three hits in 29 official at-bats for a .069 batting average. Johnson picked up 48 PAs for the Blue Jays last season and is a lifetime .236/.337/.409 hitter in 1604 PAs at the Major League level. Former Cubs/Red Sox right-hander Chris Carpenter (not to be confused with the former Cy Young winner of that same name, of course) was also released by the Reds after allowing 12 runs in 6 2/3 innings with Louisville.
  • After being released by the Tigers, left-hander Daniel Schlereth has signed a Minor League deal with the Cubs. Schlereth hasn’t appeared in the Majors since 2012 with Detroit, and his best season came in 2011 when he worked to a 3.49 ERA with 44 strikeouts against 31 walks in 49 innings.

Cubs Claim Anthony Varvaro Off Waivers

The Cubs have announced they have claimed right-hander Anthony Varvaro off waivers from the Red Sox. To clear a 40-man roster spot, the Cubs have designated left-hander Joseph Ortiz for assignment.

Varvaro, who was designated for assignment by the Red Sox Wednesday, has appeared in nine games (11 innings) this year allowing five earned runs while striking out eight and walking six.

Ortiz has spent the entire season at Triple-A Iowa making eight relief outings and notably has struck out only one batter in 10 2/3 innings. The Cubs claimed the 24-year-old off waivers from the Rangers last October after he spent most of the season recovering from a January 2014 motorcycle accident. Ortiz made his MLB debut with Texas in 2013 (his only stint in the Majors) posting a 4.23 ERA, 5.4 K/9, and 2.0 BB/9 in 44 2/3 innings (32 games).


Cafardo On Hamels, Rays, Red Sox

The Phillies are “waiting with open arms” to find the right trade for at least one of their big-name veteran players, a major league official tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.  That list of big names, of course, includes ace Cole Hamels, though Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley could also be moved, Cafardo writes.  Amaro recently told reporters that he’s willing to eat part of Hamels’ contract in a trade if necessary, and that could help bring about a deal for the Phillies.  More from today’s column..

  • Major league sources tell Cafardo that the tampering investigation brought by Rays owner Stuart Sternberg against the Cubs for their hiring of Joe Maddon was reopened when Sternberg objected to the original verdict.  In the end, however, it was found that there was no tampering in the negotiations.
  • Marlins GM Dan Jennings thought he had trade possibilities for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was designated for assignment last week. He’s currently in the 10-day limbo period in which he could be traded, claimed, or put on waivers.
  • Scouts are still waiting for Red Sox outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig to bust out and it appears Boston is going to play him more to boost his trade value.  Cafardo notes that Craig has historically hit well in the month of May.
  • The Red Sox are trying to create roster versatility by using players at different positions. Shortstop Deven Marrero is the team’s latest experiment after seeing time at second base. One NL scout isn’t so wild about the concept. “He’s a terrific athlete so he’ll do well at the other positions, but this is the type of guy where you know he’s a terrific shortstop so why mess around with that?” said the scout. “He’s got high confidence as a shortstop and now you’re reducing that confidence level by making him play positions he’s not used to.


NL Central Notes: Brewers, Lutz, Edwards

The Brewers‘ decision to designate Luis Jimenez for assignment was mostly the result of Jimenez’s poor fit for the team’s current situation, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports. The team had hoped to use Jimenez as a late-inning defensive replacement for the aging Aramis Ramirez, but there turned out to be few situations in which he came in handy. “Unfortunately, we thought the season would go differently so far and I would use him in a different role,” says manager Ron Roenicke. “Because we’re always behind, his role hasn’t become important.” Here’s more from the NL Central.

  • The Reds have announced that outfielder/first baseman Donald Lutz has had Tommy John surgery after sustaining an elbow injury last week. The 26-year-old Lutz was hitting .190/.292/.262 in 48 plate appearances for Triple-A Louisville and struggled in brief stints with the Reds in 2013 and 2014, although he’s generally hit for good power in the minor leagues. He remains on the Reds’ 40-man roster.
  • The Cubs are having pitching prospect C.J. Edwards (a key component of the 2013 Matt Garza deal) begin his season in the bullpen, Gordon Wittenmyer writes for Baseball America (subscription-only). The Cubs still could use Edwards as a starter in the future, however. “We certainly in no way, shape or form have given up on him as a starter, but we also realize we’ll probably have to manage his innings a little bit this year,” says GM Jed Hoyer. Edwards pitched only 53 2/3 innings last season while dealing with a shoulder issue (although he added 15 innings in the Arizona Fall League), and his innings will be limited again in 2015. Having him begin his season in the bullpen will allow the Cubs to determine later in the season whether to move him back into a starting role. Edwards has struggled so far at Double-A Tennessee, striking out 11 batters but walking ten in 9 2/3 innings.

Heyman’s Latest: A-Rod, BoSox, Bryant, Ventura, Gordon, Duda

In this week’s edition of his Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports begins by looking at the contentious courtroom showdown that stands between Alex Rodriguez and as much as $30MM worth of home run milestone bonuses. As Heyman notes, people on all sides of the case have reasons to dislike A-Rod. Rodriguez filed a lawsuit (that was eventually dropped) against the MLBPA, and he parted ways with agent Scott Boras more than six years ago. The Yankees’ reasons for resenting Rodriguez are obvious, as are those of the league, with whom Rodriguez battled to reduce a 212-game suspension to a still-significant 162 game ban. Heyman looks at the arguments that can be made by both sides as well as the potential fallout once the situation is finally resolved.

Some highlights from the latest edition of Heyman’s newest weekly column…

  • Though the Red Sox aren’t blinking when it comes to trade talks with the Phillies regarding Cole Hamels, one rival GM considers Boston the favorite. The Phillies quite like center field prospect Manuel Margot, and Boston does have other nice pieces. Heyman notes that one scout actually expressed concern to him about Mookie Betts‘ ability to hit the ball on the outer half of the plate, but the Sox remain steadfast in their refusal to part ways with Betts.
  • The Cubs aren’t concerned with a potential grievance being filed against them on behalf of Kris Bryant. Rather, their main concern is trying to find a way to extend him beyond his current allotment of team control. Heyman hears that Cubs are already considering trying to make him a Cub for life, though he also notes that it’s a bit early for those discussions.
  • White Sox skipper Robin Ventura signed an extension of an unreported length prior to the 2014 season, and Heyman now hears that Ventura is under contract through the 2016 season. The contract length is said to be of little importance to ChiSox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who loves Ventura.
  • The Royals plan to try to do “whatever they can” to retain Alex Gordon beyond the 2015 season. The 32-year-old Gordon’s $12.5MM player option has increased to $13.25MM based on performance escalators, per Heyman. While Gordon has implied that he will exercise the option in the past, it’s exceptionally difficult to envision him merely picking up the option rather than trying for a highly lucrative multi-year deal. The Royals never felt they had a great shot at retaining James Shields, but their hope with Gordon is that the career Royal and Nebraska native might be easier to retain. Heyman adds that while the club is interested in trying to extend Salvador Perez beyond the 2019 season, those talks aren’t likely to come until after the season.
  • Juan Uribe is off to a decent start with the Dodgers, but the hot play of Alex Guerrero and the addition of Hector Olivera in Spring Training could eventually lead to Uribe becoming available on the trade market. Uribe’s at hasn’t lined up with his previous seasons to this point, but he’s hit a perhaps surprisingly strong .293/.333/.435 dating back to Opening Day 2013.
  • Rival executives are anxiously anticipating a Brewers fire sale following the club’s awful 5-17 start to the season, Heyman hears. One exec listed Carlos Gomez, Khris Davis, Jean Segura, Gerardo Parra, Kyle Lohse and Francisco Rodriguez as players who will draw interest, noting that Jonathan Lucroy is probably untouchable, while Matt Garza and Ryan Braun are somewhat overpriced.
  • The Mets were trying for a three-year extension that contained a club option and would’ve guaranteed Lucas Duda a bit shy of $30MM. I’d imagine that with Duda could end up the beneficiary in that scenario, particularly if he can sustain the increase in his walk rate and the more notable decrease in his strikeout rate.
  • Multiple Yankees people have shot down the notion that the team would pursue Hamels when asked by Heyman. One replied that the team is “not looking” at Hamels, while another wondered if Hamels is still a legitimate ace or more of just a big name.

Cole Hamels Rumors: Thursday

Here’s the latest trade buzz about Phillies lefty Cole Hamels

  • “The Cubs have continued to touch base with the Phillies” about Hamels, sources tell Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.  The likes of Kris Bryant or Addison Russell are “unquestionably off the table,” yet Chicago has enough prospect depth to get the Phillies’ attention.  Whether it’s Hamels or another notable arm, Wittenmyer expects the Cubs to target starting pitching at the trade deadline.
  • The Red Sox have long been connected to Hamels in trade talks, and while those rumors have primarily swirled around Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe notes that the Phillies also “like” Sox youngsters Jackie Bradley, Deven Marrero, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson and possibly others.  The Phillies have been insisting on Swihart or Betts in any Hamels deal and the Sox have been firm that neither player is being traded.  Also from Cafardo’s mailbag piece, he feels Boston should add an ace but thinks the team will give Rodriguez or Johnson a shot in the rotation before they make a major trade to upgrade their pitching.
  • Of course, there is no evidence that the Phillies will trade Hamels (or Jonathan Papelbon) any time soon, if at all.  GM Ruben Amaro said as much to MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, noting that “I have no mandate to trade players. These are not financial deals. These are baseball deals. That’s the beauty of the flexibility our ownership group is giving us. This is really about doing baseball deals. We don’t have to move money.”

MLB Finds No Tampering By Cubs In Maddon Hiring

Major League Baseball has announced that it will not discipline the Cubs in relation to the team’s hiring of former Rays manager Joe Maddon. Tampa Bay had asked the league to look into whether Chicago had tampered with Maddon prior to his departure from the club.

Maddon was at the helm of the Rays for nine campaigns and had a year left on his contract heading into the offseason. But when GM Andrew Friedman left for the Dodgers, a provision in his deal was triggered which gave Maddon the opportunity to opt out of his own contract. Though only one big league team had an open managerial spot at that time (the Twins, who were already well on their way to hiring Paul Molitor), Maddon exercised the clause.

Speculation turned quickly to the Cubs as a landing spot, despite the fact that they had hired skipper Rick Renteria just the year prior. Chicago ultimately fired Renteria, who had two years left on his contract, and signed Maddon to a five-year, $25MM deal.

In short order, Tampa Bay asked the league to open an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Maddon’s departure — specifically, whether he might have had communication with Chicago before deciding to opt out. While a decision had been expected by Opening Day, the league took its time in making its determination. “The investigation produced no finding of a violation of Major League Rule 3(k),” the announcement ultimately concluded.


Heyman’s Latest: Bryant, Upton, Rays, Leake, Soriano, Polanco

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is said to be “ready to reach out to [Kris] Bryant soon to determine his mindset” on whether or not a grievance should be filed against the Cubs for holding him in Triple-A to start the season, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in his latest Inside Baseball column. Heyman notes that the union could file a grievance on Bryant’s behalf even without his consent, though that’s unlikely. The issue at hand, of course, would be whether or not Bryant was clearly one of Chicago’s 25 best players and the demotion was made purely for service time implications. (Chicago bought an extra year of control over Bryant by stashing him in the Minors for all of eight games/11 days). Heyman points out that it would be difficult to an arbitrator to rule in Bryant’s favor, as there’s no precedent for this type of grievance. Players in similar situations have historically been hesitant to file a grievance, he adds, because it would be a contentious way to begin a relationship with a team to which a player will be tied for the next six-plus years. A “Cubs connected person” called the notion of a grievance “laughable” when asked by Heyman. However, the points that Bryant was recalled on the first day the team could add him while still delaying free agency and slotted directly into the cleanup spot could make a case that the club had an understanding of his value, Heyman writes. From the union’s perspective, it’s understandable that they’d have interest in preventing this type of situation in the future, even if it’s a long shot.

More highlights from a lengthy Heyman column…

  • The Padres don’t yet view Melvin Upton Jr. as a throwaway piece and will use him as an occasional outfielder and pinch-runner, Heyman writes. He also looks back on Upton’s original five-year, $75.2MM pact and notes that it’s one of the worst contracts in recent history, particularly given the fact that the next-highest offer was believed to come from the Phillies at somewhere in the $40MMs.
  • The league’s investigation into the Rays‘ allegations of the Cubs‘ tampering in the Joe Maddon saga could come to a close as soon as next week, per Heyman. MLB was still interviewing people as recently as last week, but to this point there “is believed to have been no smoking guns found.”
  • The Reds never approached right-hander Mike Leake about a contract extension this offseason, and the free-agent-to-be is said to be a bit hurt not to have been contacted. Leake’s not a front-line starter, but he’ll hit the open market heading into his age-28 season and currently sports a 3.56 ERA in 427 1/3 innings dating back to Opening Day 2013. A third straight season of 190+ innings and an ERA in the mid-3.00s should position him for a nice contract, especially considering the fact that half of his starts have come in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
  • Multiple teams have worked out Rafael Soriano, and while he’s on the Tigers‘ radar, there’s also been some contact with the Mariners. Heyman adds the Pirates, Indians and Dodgers as “logical suitors,” though I’d imagine the Pirates and Indians in particular would have some payroll constraints, depending on the asking price of agent Scott Boras.
  • Heyman echoes ESPN’s Buster Olney in speculating that the Dodgers could make a run at extending Howie Kendrick, noting that the Dodgers love Kendrick both on the field and in the clubhouse. He also notes that the Dodgers are impressed with Alex Guerrero‘s bat and may coming around on him as a passable option at third base or in left field, though the team is already well-stocked at each position.
  • The Pirates and Gregory Polanco may have come as close as about $1MM on agreeing to a seven-year contract, Heyman hears. The biggest holdup was over the three club options on the deal, which ranged from $11-13MM, and when the team would have been required to exercise them.
  • Though recent reports have indicated that John Lackey hopes the Cardinals will approach him about an extension, Heyman writes that it’s not a likely scenario. St. Louis likes its pitching depth and the young starters in line beyond those in the 2015 rotation.
  • The Orioles asked the Blue Jays for both of the team’s first round picks from the 2014 draft — right-hander Jeff Hoffman and catcher Max Pentecost — in exchange for the ability to hire EVP/general manager Dan Duquette as their new president, according to Heyman.

International Notes: Fox, Diaz, Sierra

Here’s the latest on a trio of intriguing international prospects…

  • The Cubs, Dodgers and Rangers are all interested in Bahamian shortstop Lucius Fox and scouts consider the three teams to be the “biggest threats” to sign the 17-year-old prospect, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel reports.  Since many teams have already planned out their budgets and made unofficial agreements to prospects for the 2015-16 international signing period, a player like Fox (who is projected to receive a bonus of at least $1.5MM) is perhaps more likely to land with a team like the aforementioned trio who have money to spend and are aggressive enough to surpass the spending pool limit.  The Giants, Padres and Reds have also been linked to Fox but are seen as less likely to spend as freely as Chicago, Los Angeles and Texas.
  • Yusnier Diaz, an 18-year-old outfielder, has left Cuba and is looking to play in the majors, Ben Badler of Baseball America reports.  The 6’1, 185-pound prospect has plus speed and a plus arm and Badler praised his hitting tools, though he feels Diaz’s right-handed swing is a bit long.  Diaz is subject to international spending pools, and since he is unlikely to secure permanent residence in another country by the May 15 deadline, he may not be able to sign until the 2016-17 international signing period opens on July 2, 2016.  Any team that exceeds its pool limit in the 2015-16 signing period is therefore probably out of the running for Diaz, as such teams are prohibited from signing any of the next year’s class for more than $300K.  The Angels, Diamondbacks, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees are already under this penalty until the 2017-18 signing period.
  • Also from Badler, he provides some background on Cuban righty Yaisel Sierra, who isn’t subject to the bonus pools but is still several months away from gaining the necessary clearance to sign with a team.  Sierra can throw all his pitches (including a 96mph fastball and a slider) from various arm angles, though the 23-year-old is still a bit unpolished.  “Between his stuff, pitching style and history of control problems in Cuba, Sierra has a lot of similarities to Reds right-hander Raisel Iglesias, with Sierra having more size but Iglesias better performance in his final year in Cuba,” Badler writes.

NL Central Notes: Brewers, Cubs, Castro, Pirates

Here’s the latest from the NL Central…

  • The Brewers are off to a terrible start, and Fangraphs’ Mike Petriello opines that the club might not be able to turn things around given injuries, a lack of starting pitching depth and the few players who are performing well are due for regression.  Petriello suggests the team erred by taking one last run at a playoff berth and now they’ll have a tough time rebuilding immediately due to a lack of both quality prospects and obviously tradeable veterans.
  • The Cubs have been drastically overhauled by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, as Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper illustrates just how starkly different the team’s roster is today than it was just four seasons ago.
  • Addison Russell‘s promotion to the Cubs‘ Major League roster could lead to even more whispers that Starlin Castro could (or even should) be traded, yet Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times disagrees.  Castro is off to a strong start in 2015 and seems to be ever-improving, not to mention his youth (he’s still just 25) and team-friendly contract.
  • Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer underwent tests yesterday to confirm that he suffered nothing more severe than a bruise after being struck in the chest by a Matt Garza fastball when squaring to bunt, writes MLB.com’s Tom Singer. Jung-ho Kang will again start for the Bucs at shortstop today, and GM Neal Huntington again defended the decision to keep Kang on the roster despite a lack of consistent at-bats. “Ten plate appearances, on top of 30 in Spring Training, is an awfully quick rush to judgment in our mind,” said Huntington. “…There would be nothing gained by having him play in the Minor Leagues. The best way for him to get used to hitting Major League pitching is to hit Major League pitching, albeit in a limited role.