Chicago Cubs Rumors

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

Cubs Claim Drake Britton, Designate Gonzalez Germen

The Cubs have claimed lefty Drake Britton off waivers from the Red Sox, the club announced. Fellow reliever Gonzalez Germen has been designated to clear roster space.

Britton, 25, has been productive at the big league level over the past two seasons in fairly limited action. In 27 2/3 total frames, he owns a 2.93 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. He did have a rough go of things at Triple-A Pawtucket last year, however, posting 58 1/3 innings of 5.86 ERA ball.

The game of musical roster spots continues for Germen, who has now been on four 40-man lists since mid-December. The 27-year-old righty should have a decent chance at earning a big league bullpen slot once he does settle in somewhere for camp.


Yoan Moncada Market Notes

With the evening’s news that prized young Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada is free to sign, additional information has begun to roll in. It isn’t hard to see why he has generated so much attention. As Ben Badler of Baseball America explains, Moncada may not have quite the certainty of an otherwise generally comparable prospect such as Corey Seager, but could reasonably be valued in the same range as — and, indeed, ahead of — a young player as heralded as Miguel Sano. That would make Moncada one of the best dozen or so pre-MLB properties in the game.

Here’s the latest:

  • Moncada is expected to sign soon, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, although he does have workouts scheduled with individual teams through the middle of this month. The list of teams he has already worked out for does not appear to have been expanded upon from prior reports, with Sanchez noting (via Twitter) that the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, Giants, Rangers, Rays, Tigers, and Brewers have all had private looks.
  • With Moncada now eligible to sign, and a long stretch remaining before the July 2 market flips over, Badler tweets that the Cubs and Rangers are probably out of the mix. Moncada could still theoretically wait to sign with one of those teams — each of which is currently prohibited from paying all but relatively small international signing bonuses for blowing their allotment in past seasons — but that seems rather unlikely.
  • Some clubs believe the Dodgers are a “strong favorite” to add Moncada, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney tweets. Los Angeles has made no secret of its intention to pursue the talented 19-year-old.
  • Another expected front-runner, the Red Sox, have remained fairly tight-lipped about Moncada, as Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reports.
  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski confirmed that his club had expressed interest and held a workout for Moncada, but otherwise would only acknowledge that Moncada is a talented player, as James Schmehl of MLive.com reports.

Quick Hits: Betemit, Prospects, Cuba, Indians

Free agent infielder Wilson Betemit has received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for amphetamine usage, the league announced. Betemit, who turned 33 in November, is currently a minor league free agent. He struggled through 453 plate appearances with the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate last year but is a lifetime .267/.332/.442 hitter in the Majors.

Here are some more notes around the game:

  • The latest top-100 prospect list is out, with MLB.com’s team providing its view of the game’s best young talent in both a list and articles from prospect gurus Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis. MLB.com still sees Byron Buxton of the Twins as the game’s best prospect, placing him above Kris Bryant of the Cubs by a narrow margin.
  • That sort of prospect ranking could increasingly become populated by Cuban ballplayers if changes in diplomatic relations go as far as might be imagined. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez provides an interesting take on that possibility, providing some quotes from notable Cuban ballplayers who are in Puerto Rico for the Caribbean Series.
  • Of course, some of the very best players never receive the recognition of a top prospect. According to Sahadev Sharma, in a piece for FOX Sports, the Indians have been notably excellent at trading for (and developing) high-level big league talent that came unadorned with significant prospect pedigree. Among the team’s recent finds are Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, and Yan Gomes. That handful of players led the way for Cleveland last year, accounting for a remarkable 24.8 fWAR.


Quick Hits: Workman, Ogando, Rockies, Loria

Twins outfielder Byron Buxton is the top prospect in baseball, per MLB.com’s top 100 prospects. The Cubs have two prospects in the top five – Kris Bryant (second) and Addison Russell (fifth). The Dodgers have three in the top 13 – Corey Seager (seventh), Julio Urias (eighth), and Joc Pederson (13th). The Cubs and Twins are the two teams with five prospects in the top 50. Here’s more news from around the league.


Minor Moves: Hendrickson, Baxter, Perez

Here are today’s minor moves from around the game.

  • The Orioles have agreed to terms with Mark Hendrickson on a deal that includes a Spring Training invite, Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com tweets. The deal is presumably of the minor-league variety. The tall lefty last pitched in the big leagues with Baltimore in 2011, and he’s now 40 and has a 5.03 ERA with 5.1 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in parts of 10 big-league seasons. He is, however, coming off a good season with the independent York Revolution, posting a 1.54 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 52 2/3 innings of relief. The O’s also reportedly have interest in hiring Hendrickson as a coach when he’s done playing.
  • The Cubs have signed corner outfielder Mike Baxter, Matt Eddy of Baseball America writes. Baxter, best known for his stints with the Mets in 2012 and 2013, has a career .225/.331/.342 line in parts of five seasons. He spent most of 2014 with the Dodgers’ Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate, batting .289/.365/.439.
  • The Rangers have signed lefty Juan Perez, Eddy writes. The 36-year-old Perez did not pitch in 2014, but he was effective coming out of the Blue Jays’ bullpen the previous year, posting a 3.69 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 in 31 2/3 innings with a fastball that reached into the mid-90s. Before that, Perez had pitched in brief stints with the Pirates, Phillies and Brewers.

Quick Hits: Prospects, Viciedo, Cuba, Coffey

It is prospect season yet again, with various evaluators releasing their latest breakdowns of the brightest young players in the game. Baseball AmericaBaseball Prospectus, and Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs are working through the systems on a team-by-team basis for the time being, while MLB.com is going position-by-position at present. ESPN.com’s Keith Law (subscription links) has now filed a new top-100 list as well as organization rankings. Kris Bryant and his club, the Cubs, rank atop Law’s respective boards.

  • The Phillies should take a flier on Dayan Viciedo, argues CSNPhilly.com’s Corey Seidman. While there are some barriers to such a move, and reasons against it, Seidman says that there is enough upside left in the 25-year-old that Philadelphia ought to roll the dice.
  • In another update on Yoan Moncada and the general situation of Cuban ballplayers, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports that the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) does still issue the “specific licenses” that MLB has required Cubans to obtain before they are cleared to sign. Since it appears that such players would already be able to sign pursuant to a “general license” (more on that here), Badler suggests that MLB-related requests may be receiving a lower priority that extends the delay.
  • Free agent reliever Todd Coffey has interest from five or six club and may be nearing a deal, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. The 34-year-old has not seen big league action since 2012, but put up intriguing numbers last year at Triple-A in the Mariners organization.

Central Notes: White Sox, Twins, Baez

Members of the White Sox are excited about GM Rick Hahn’s high-profile offseason, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com writes. “They were busy, worked hard and instilled confidence in the guys that were here,” says Adam Eaton. “It kind of credits (us) that ‘This is a good base, this is the time to stretch it.’” For a 73-89 team, the 2014 White Sox had a lot go right, including excellent performances from starters Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, along with an exceptional rookie season from Jose Abreu and good contributions from Eaton and Alexei Ramirez. Now they’ve added Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche and Zach Duke to that talent base. “You go from not expecting anything or not knowing what to expect to now you expect quite a bit and expect success,” says Eaton. Here’s more from the Central divisions.

  • The Twins believed they had completed two trades that ultimately fell through this offseason, as the players they wanted were traded to other teams, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN reports (Twitter links). Wolfson says he wondered if those trades might have involved Jeremy Hellickson (who went to the Diamondbacks) or J.A. Happ (who headed to the Mariners), but was told no in both cases.
  • New Cubs manager Joe Maddon traveled to Puerto Rico to see Javier Baez play winter ball, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat writes, citing a report from the Puerto Rican paper El Nuevo Dia. “He’s trying way too hard,” says Maddon. “I want him to back off. The last thing I want him to do is try to impress me tonight. … I said, ‘Hit a couple singles and, above all, I want to see you smile.’” The 22-year-old Baez’s underwhelming 2014 debut (.169/.227/.324 in 229 plate appearances) was understandable given his youth, although he’ll probably have to improve his strikeout rate before he can make an impact in the big leagues. He’ll compete for a spot in the Cubs’ infield in Spring Training.

Cubs Legend Ernie Banks Dead At 83

Hall of Fame infielder Ernie Banks has passed away at age 83, as has been widely reported. “Mr. Cub” suited up for 19 campaigns in his career, never calling a park other than Wrigley Field home.

That intense identification with one of the game’s iconic teams, along with Banks’ renowned honor and affability, are what make him one of the true legends of the sport. Banks may have best encapsulated his own spirit with his famous tribute to the pure joy of playing baseball: “Let’s play two!”

Needless to say, Banks was also a supremely talented ballplayer. He started his big league career in 1953 with a cup of coffee at age 22, established himself as a fixture the following year, and did not stop until age 40. Along the way, he won two MVP awards and appeared 11 times in the All-Star game.

From 1954 through 1961, Banks manned short for the Cubbies, missing little more than a handful of games and averaging nearly seven wins above replacement annually. His peak came in 1958-59, when he hit 92 total home runs, slashed .308/.370/.605, and took home those two most valuable player nods despite playing for losing ballclubs. Though he ceded some bottom-line value when he shifted to first beginning in 1962, Banks remained one of the game’s most-feared power hitters for much of the next decade.

Banks’s statue already stands outside of Wrigley Field, depicting a simple, straightforward batting stance that does not conjur the power and grace sought after in most effigies. You have to look a bit closer to understand why this particular likeness was chosen: Banks is forever smiling.


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Cubs Claim Gonzalez Germen From Rangers

The Cubs announced that they have claimed righty Gonzalez Germen off waivers from the Rangers. Germen had only just been acquired by Texas, after previously being dealt from the Mets to the Yankees following a DFA.

Needless to say, the 27-year-old has covered some ground this offseason in rather a short period time. (He was first designated by the Mets in mid-December.) But the wide interest in his services bodes well for his prospects at receiving another big league opportunity.

Germen saw regular time in the Mets bullpen in each of the last two seasons, compiling a 4.31 ERA in 54 calls from the pen. He delivers an average fastball of 92.9 mph and generates a good number of whiffs (8.9 K/9), but has less-than-perfect control (4.2 BB/9) and does not generate many ground balls (36.8%).


Cubs, Dexter Fowler Avoid Arbitration

The Cubs and outfielder Dexter Fowler have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $9.5MM, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). As MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker shows, Fowler had filed at $10.8MM, while the club countered with an $8.5MM figure. His $9.5MM salary falls $150K shy of the midpoint of those figures and is $500K north of his $9MM projection from MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.

Chicago acquired the 28-year-old Fowler (29 in May) this offseason in exchange for infielder Luis Valbuena and right-hander Dan Straily. Fowler spent just one year in Houston, where he batted .276/.375/.399 with eight homers and 11 steals. Another season of his characteristically high on-base percentage (career .366) should position him well as a free agent heading into his age-30 campaign next winter.

Fowler figures to be the Cubs’ everyday center fielder in 2015, although defensive metrics such as Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved suggest that he’s perhaps be better off in a corner spot — likely left field, given the sub-par marks that his arm receives. Despite those defensive shortcomings, Fowler has been plenty useful throughout his career, as evidenced by a lifetime .271/.366/.419 batting line. He’s walked at better than a 13 percent clip over the past two seasons and cut his strikeout rate to roughly 21 percent in that time as well, so he should be a nice boost for a Cubs team that had the worst strikeout rate (24.2 percent) in all of Major League Baseball and finished with the game’s third-worst team OBP (.300).