Chicago Cubs Rumors

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

Quick Hits: Headley, Russell, Cubs, Rockies, McCarthy

The Blue Jays and Padres continue to discuss a Chase Headley trade, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. His colleague Ken Rosenthal adds that some within the Jays organization think that the team’s most acute need is a hitter, rather than a starting pitcher. In late June, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the Blue Jays had interest in Headley and that the Padres would be willing to deal him. Here are more notes from around baseball.

  • The Cubs dealt Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel early in the trading season, and for a package based around a position player, because Addison Russell was too good to pass on, David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune writes. “There was no pitcher available even close to the caliber of player that Addison Russell is,” says team president Theo Epstein.
  • The Cubs now have a top-notch collection of hitting prospects, but don’t have nearly as much pitching. They believe, however, that they can use that to their advantage, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. It’s hard to find hitters in today’s low-offense environment, and the Cubs have plenty of them. “If you look at the way the game is going, the batter-pitcher dynamic has shifted in recent years dramatically in favor of the pitcher,” says Epstein. “So there are more effective pitchers out there right now than there are position players.” The Cubs also feel they can compensate for their lack of pitching by acquiring a top-of-the-rotation starter within the next couple of years. Epstein also seems to allude to the possibility that the Cubs will make trades for pitching in the future.
  • A pair of Rockies are making their 2014 debuts with rookie-level Grand Junction, Patti Arnold of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports (Twitter links). Former Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt, who’s working his way back from an elbow injury, pitched a scoreless inning today, striking out one and walking one. Also, Kyle Freeland, the No. 8 overall pick in this year’s draft, will make his pro debut on Wednesday.
  • The Diamondbacks placed now-Yankees pitcher Brandon McCarthy on waivers six to eight weeks ago, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets. That means anyone could have claimed him and assumed the remainder of his $9MM salary for 2014. No one bit.
  • Red Sox first-round pick Michael Kopech will be represented by MVP Sports Group, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweets.

Cafardo On Bryant, Russell, Twins, Peavy, Mets

Cubs executive Jason McLeod sees flashes of Troy Glaus in top prospect Kris Bryant, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. “Definitely 40-home run power,” says McLeod. “There’ll be some strikeouts, but he has a great eye at the plate. He’ll take his share of walks and work the count.” Bryant, last year’s second overall draft pick, continues to dominate after having been promoted to Triple-A Iowa, hitting .364/.432/.773 in 74 plate appearances there. Here’s more from Cafardo.

  • One reason Addison Russell made sense for the Cubs in the Jeff Samardzija deal, Cafardo suggests, is that Russell is unlikely to stick at shortstop, meaning that he won’t be blocked by Starlin Castro and/or Javier Baez.
  • The Twins‘ best trade chips could include Josh Willingham and Kendrys Morales, Cafardo writes. Willingham could make sense for the Red Sox or Royals.
  • Some NL teams could show interest in starter Jake Peavy if the Red Sox are willing to eat some of the remainder of his 2014 salary.
  • Daniel Murphy could make sense for the Giants if the Mets decide to deal him. AL East teams could have interest in Bartolo Colon, and the Mets might be able to get at least some talent in return if they elect to trade him. The Mets are trying to decide if they can make enough noise in the second half to keep players like Murphy and Colon, Cafardo writes.

Quick Hits: Samardzija, Viciedo, D-Backs, Byrd

Jeff Samardzija couldn’t be happier to be joining the A’s, writes MLB.com’s Jane Lee.  “Billy asked me how I felt,” said Samardzija. “I was supposed to pitch today, so I’m a day past my due date to pitch. I’m chomping at the bit. I don’t think there’s any better way to get acclimated than to do it on the mound. It was a no-brainer for me, and I look forward to it.” Here’s more from around baseball.



Reactions To A’s-Cubs Trade

For weeks now, the baseball world has been waiting for the Cubs to line up trades for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.  Last night, Theo Epstein & Co. killed two birds with one stone and packaged both together in a deal with the A’s.  In return for two of the most talked about pitchers on the trade block, the Cubs received top prospect Addison Russell, outfield prospect Billy McKinney, and pitcher Dan Straily.  Here’s a look at some of the reactions to the blockbuster deal.

  • MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes (on Twitter) says the Cubs are taking an interesting approach by stockpiling top position player prospects and putting off acquiring pitching.  Dierkes can see Straily providing Travis Wood-like value for the Cubs since teams pay big money for innings from a No. 4 type (link).  Meanwhile, the deal makes the rest of the trade season kind of anticlimactic for Cub fans after their two best trade chips were moved on the Fourth of July (link).
  • Before pulling the trigger on the deal with the Cubs, the A’s discussed a swap involving Russell with the Rays for David Price, writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. However, nothing ever materialized on that front.
  • The Yankees exchanged proposals with the Cubs on both Samardzija and Hammel, but could not compete with Russell’s inclusion, tweets FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
  • In a separate tweet, Rosenthal reports the A’s don’t intend to flip Hammel because they will need him to win the AL West.
  • ESPN’s Keith Law writes in an Insider piece (subscription required) the A’s and Cubs both significantly impacted their franchise, albeit with different timelines in mind.
  • The early word is the Cubs are not looking to make any moves from their shortstop stockpile as the Mets have nothing brewing with Chicago and the Yankees have checked but to no avail, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter links).
  • Moneyball isn’t about on-base percentage or any one statistic, it’s about exploiting what is over- or under-valued and prospects are over-valued at present, writes Sherman. However, he notes (link) Javier Baez and Russell are big guys who might not stay at shortstop, so Starlin Castro may still be the Cubs’ long-term guy.
  • The A’s may have made themselves the favorites for 2014, but the Cubs ultimately may have won the deal, writes CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman.  “He’s Barry Larkin with power,” one rival baseball executive said of Russell.
  • The loss of Russell, in particular, could end up haunting the A’s, whose current shortstop Jed Lowrie is a free agent after this season, but GM Billy Beane has never been afraid to take an unconventional route, writes Rosenthal.
  • Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle echoes Rosenthal and adds the trade may point towards an extension for Lowrie and this wouldn’t be a bad time to do it.
  • The trade demonstrates Beane’s burning desire to win now and now could be his only window for winning a World Series, according to MLB.com’s Jane Lee.
  • Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com calls this trade fascinating because of the guts it took to swing such a deal between two men (Epstein and Beane) who defy convention for the way the game of baseball changes.
  • The Cubs signed Hammel to a one-year, $6MM deal in late January and in July he has netted them one of the five best prospects in baseball, notes Passan (via Twitter).
  • Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron (via Twitter) is usually against trading great young talent, but likes the trade for the A’s since present wins have so much value to them right now.  Of course, he likes the swap from the Cubs‘ perspective, too.
  • Mike Petriello of Fangraphs writes the trade is a win-win for both the A’s and Cubs, but the real winner could be the Rays, who just saw two of the top available starting pitchers dealt while only one contender benefited increasing the demand for Price.
  • Addison Russell (Twitter link) is excited to be joining forces with Kris Bryant.
  • Billy McKinney called the A’s an “amazing and classy organization” and is “excited to start and (sic) new chapter in the Cubs organization” (Twitter links).
  • Dan Straily also tweeted his appreciation of the A’s organization, but is looking forward to beginning the next chapter of his career with the Cubs (Twitter links).

Edward Creech contributed to this post.


Theo Epstein On Trading Samardzija, Hammel

Yesterday, the Cubs set off fireworks in the baseball world when they agreed to send Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics for top prospect Addison Russell, outfield prospect Billy McKinney, and pitcher Dan Straily.  In a conference call earlier today, Cubs President Theo Epstein spoke fondly of both starters and thanked them profusely for their effort while in Chicago.  Samardzija will be under contract with Oakland through 2015 but Hammel will hit the open market after the 2014 season.  I asked Epstein if he might circle back to the 31-year-old whom he signed to a reasonable one-year, $6MM deal earlier this year.

You know, Jason left a great impression while he was here, but he’s an Oakland A now,” Epstein said.  “We just wish him well with Oakland all the way through October.

While word of the trade leaked out late last night, the deal between Chicago and Oakland was actually agreed to mid-afternoon yesterday.  A’s GM Billy Beane first reached out to Epstein “about a month ago” to let him know that they wanted to be aggressive this year, particularly in acquiring pitching, and asked him to keep the A’s in mind when it came to Samardzija and Hammel.  Epstein quickly realized the two clubs didn’t match up “one-for-one” in a deal involving Samardzija and Russell, but they managed to expand the deal in yesterday’s talks to something that worked for both sides.

Russell is one of the top prospects in baseball and gives the Cubs a nice return for their pitchers, but Epstein is hopeful this will be the last time they find themselves on this side of a summer deal.

We thought a lot internally as we went through this process that we hope that this is the last year that we’ll be obvious sellers at the deadline.  And, nothing would make us happier than aggressively adding to the big league team and enhancing chances for a World Series,” Epstein said.  “We repeated to ourselves that this type of move is not something that we want to do.

Of course, the addition of Russell gives the Cubs something of a glut at shortstop on the surface.  However, even with Starlin Castro at the big league level and two top-100 prospects in Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara waiting in the wings, Epstein says no one will be changing positions right away.

The nice thing about having impact players who are athletic, can play in the middle of the field, and can hit is that it gives you options.  You can never have too many shortstops and you look around baseball and you see some of the best outfielders in the game came up as shortstops and the same for the best third basemen and second basemen.  We feel that Baez is a shortstop but we’re also comfortable that he can play second base or third base or outfield if he has to.  Addison Russell has versatility to play all over the infield, Bryant can also go out to right field with a relatively smooth transition, Alcantara can play shortstop or second base or be one heck of an outfielder…They can all fit on the field together,” said the Cubs president, who went on to say the acquisition of Russell had “nothing to do” with Castro.

Ultimately, the Cubs feel you can never have too much of a good thing and they have a plan in place to make sure everyone is utilized.  Of course, as Epstein himself said, there also figures to be plenty of trades in the club’s future.


Athletics Acquire Jeff Samardzija And Jason Hammel

JULY 5: The Cubs have officially announced (via Twitter) the trade confirming the team will receive a player to be named later as part of the deal. The A’s meanwhile tweeted the final piece will either be the PTBNL or cash.

JULY 4: The Athletics have agreed to acquire pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Top prospect Addison Russell is heading to Chicago in the deal. Fellow prospect Billy McKinney and pitcher Dan Straily will also go to the Cubs, reports ESPN.com’s Keith Law (via Twitter).

MLB: New York Yankees at Chicago Cubs

Though initial reports indicated that another team could be involved, the final deal is a two-way swap, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Talks were said to be serious earlier tonight, per reports from Rosenthal and Morosi. There are conflicting reports as to the final piece of the deal (if any): Law (Twitter link), Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter), and Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter) have reported that a PTBNL or cash will go to the Cubs, while Morosi tweets that no additional piece is involved.

The swap represents an aggressive move from an Oakland team that has paced the rest of the league all year long, but which had questions in its rotation and has often been stymied in the postseason. While the club has cruised to a league-best .616 winning percentage, backed by a +129 run differential that is far and away the best in baseball, it is being chased by two clubs (the Angels and Mariners) that rank 2nd and 3rd in the game in run differential. In Samardzija and Hammel, GM Billy Beane filled two rotation needs in one stroke. The former promises to add another top-of-the-rotation arm to the staff, both this year and next, while the latter will provide depth and solid innings as a reasonably-priced rental. Even better for the small-budget A’s, neither player will break the bank. And the team with the best record in the game arguably now firmly stands as the favorite to prevail in the American League.

Samardzija will add to the top of a rotation that has delivered a stellar 3.34 ERA, but which owns peripherals (3.90 FIP, 3.84 xFIP) that paint a somewhat different picture. More importantly, perhaps, are the question marks that accompany the team’s top three hurlers: staff ace Sonny Gray is up to 111 innings but has never thrown more than 182 1/3 in a season as a pro; the emergent Jesse Chavez (103 innings) is about to pass his career high in innings pitched; and Scott Kazmir has a well-documented injury history. Samardzija is earning a modest $5.35MM in his second (and second-to-last) season of arbitration eligibility. Though his excellent 2.83 ERA (8.6 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, and 52.5% groundball rate) through 108 frames will warrant a significant raise next year, he surely projects to deliver significant excess value over his contract. While a run at an extension seems unlikely from Oakland, the team could always flip him next year if circumstances warrant or ultimately make him a qualifying offer.

Hammel, meanwhile, is a sturdy option to bolster the Oakland staff down the stretch. Looking further down the line at the club’s prior options, Tommy Milone has a relatively low ceiling and has outperformed his peripherals this year, Dan Straily‘s minor league numbers largely match the ones that got him demoted (and ultimately dealt), Drew Pomeranz is injured, and Josh Lindblom has just six big league starts to his credit at age 27. Signed to a one-year, $6MM contract entering the season, Hammel owns a solid 2.98 ERA in 102 2/3 frames. Since joining the Cubs, he has returned to striking out better than eight batters per nine, as he did in his excellent 2012 campaign. Unlike that season, however, when Hammel registered a 53.2% groundball rate while walking 3.2 per nine, his success in 2014 has come from limiting the walk (1.84 BB/9) even as his percentage of grounders has dropped to 40.5%. He was probably the most attractive, mid-level, pure rental arm available.

On the other side of the equation, by combining their two top trade chips, the Cubs managed to pick up one of the game’s truly elite prospects in Russell. Many will question the “need” for another shortstop for a club that already has Starlin Castro (and his long-term extension) at the major league level with two top-100 prospects (Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara) in the upper minors. But president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer will gladly add the top-end prospect piece now and figure out any logjams in the future. (If all of those players work out, of course, top-100 middle infielders make for useful trade chips — as this very deal demonstrates.)

The other two pieces in the deal also hold value for Chicago. McKinney, 19, was taken 24th overall in last year’s amateur draft. He owns a .241/.330/.400 line in 333 plate appearances this year at High-A. Of course, while he was widely considered the club’s second-best prospect, he is a ways from the big leagues and does not appear on any league-wide top-100 lists.

Straily, 25, is a bounceback candidate who could provide innings for the Cubs rotation in the near future, though he is headed to Triple-A to start. After logging 152 1/3 innings of 3.96 ERA ball last year (with 7.3 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9 and a 36.4% groundball rate), Straily struggled to a 4.93 mark in his first 38 1/3 frames in 2014. In spite of largely equivalent peripherals, a tendency to the long ball sidetracked the righty. Since being demoted, he has posted good strikeout numbers at Triple-A (as he has in the past), but has nevertheless scuffled to a 4.71 earned run average through 63 frames to date.

From a broader perspective, this deal takes two prime starting pitching targets out of play for the rest of the market. And it delivers them to a club that might not ultimately have made such significant additions. The many clubs angling for rotation pieces will now have less readily available stock to pursue, which could raise the price for the top remaining arms.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. 


Cubs, Athletics In Serious Talks On Hammel And/Or Samardzija

The Cubs and Athletics are in serious discussions regarding a major swap that would deliver Chicago starters Jason Hammel “and/or” Jeff Samardzija to Oakland, report Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Top Oakland prospect Addison Russell has been discussed, according to the report.

Needless to say, a deal involving both Hammel and Samardzija would represent a stunning early turn in the market. The pair of Cubs hurlers has long been rumored to be among the best arms likely to change hands over the summer. But both were expected to have many suitors, some (but not all) of which would likely overlap.

Though Hammel is expected to bring back some value, there is little doubt that Russell would only be involved if Samardzija was also on his way to Oakland. The 20-year-old shortstop is far and away the A’s best-regarded prospect, with a wide consensus that he is one of the twenty best pre-MLB players in the game. ESPN.com’s Keith Law (Insider link) ranked him as the third-best overall prospect coming into the season, lauding his outstanding across-the-board tools, projectable power, elite hands and arm at short, and overall feel for the game.

Indeed, it is arguable that Russell would be too great a return even for Samardzija. On the other hand, it is difficult to see the A’s landing Samardzija (or any other starter at or above his level) without including Russell. The fall-off in the A’s system comes fairly quickly. Billy McKinney is the team’s consensus second-best prospect, but he (like much of the rest of the organization’s best talent) has yet to advance above High-A ball and does not rate amongst the game’s best-rated young players.

For the A’s, the addition of at least one starter — if not two — makes a good deal of sense. The rotation has been good thus far, but clearly could benefit from an upgrade at the top and/or depth at the back for the playoff push.

Of course, Oakland could also stand to upgrade its options at second base. As Dave Cameron of Fangraphs notes on Twitter, that is another area where the Cubs could potentially add value in a hypothetical deal. Indeed, Luis Valbuena, Emilio Bonifacio, and Darwin Barney are all capable of manning the keystone. And it is not inconceivable that a deal could deliver a somewhat lesser prospect (or prospects) back to Oakland, in order to balance out the A’s sacrifice of future value. Ultimately, there are many plausible permutations that one could imagine coming to pass.


Minor Moves: Clark, Ayala, Robinson, Sanchez, Janish

Here are today’s minor league transactions, with the newest moves at the top of the post…

  • The Brewers have signed first baseman Matt Clark to a minor league deal, the club’s player development department announced on Twitter. Clark had been hitting .297/.380/.498 at Double-A for the Mets before he was released recently. He will take the roster spot of Hunter Morris, the club’s tenth overall prospect coming into the year (per Baseball America), who was DL’ed after breaking his arm.
  • Veteran righty Luis Ayala has been released by the Blue Jays, according to the International League transactions page. The reliever had been working at Triple-A. As MLBTR’s Zach Links reported at the time of the signing, Ayala did not have the right to opt out of his deal. Though he worked to a 2.90 ERA with 5.8 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9 over 31 innings last year for the Braves, Ayala has not had an opportunity to throw in the bigs yet this season. Through 17 innings at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, he owns a 5.29 ERA (7.4 K/9, 3.2 BB/9)
  • The Braves officially acquired minor league right-hander Andrew Robinson from the Astros in exchange for cash considerations or a player to be named later, as per a Houston media release.  Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reported yesterday that the trade was imminent.
  • The Cubs released left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports (Twitter link).  The Cubs signed Sanchez to a minor league deal in December but the southpaw has been injured for most of the season and only pitched 2/3 of an inning for Triple-A Iowa.  After being traded from the Giants following the 2011 season, Sanchez’s numbers ballooned to the tune of an 8.73 ERA over 78 1/3 IP with the Royals, Rockies and Pirates in 2012-13.
  • The Royals have signed infielder Paul Janish to a minor league deal, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link).  Janish opted out of his previous minors deal with the Rockies on Tuesday.  Janish provided some good defense but only a .572 OPS in 1206 PA with the Reds and Braves from 2008-13, and he spent all of his season with Triple-A Colorado Springs.
  • The Blue Jays have released outfielder Brett Carroll, as announced via Twitter by the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons.  Carroll posted only a .438 OPS in 63 Triple-A plate appearances after signing a minor league contract with the Jays in February.  Carroll appeared in 173 games with the Marlins from 2007-10 and had cups of coffee with the Brewers and Nationals in 2011-12 before spending 2013 with the Pirates’ Triple-A franchise.

Cubs Sign Sixth-Rounder Dylan Cease

The Cubs have signed sixth-round draft pick Dylan Cease to a contract with a $1.5MM bonus, MLB.com’s Jim Callis reports (via Twitter), which far exceeds the $269.5K slot price attached to the 169th overall pick.

Cease, a high school right-hander, had committed to attend Vanderbilt in the fall, yet the large bonus is still somewhat surprising given that he will undergo Tommy John surgery later this month.  The Cubs also went well above slot in handing out seven-figure bonuses to fourth-rounder Carson Sands and fifth-rounder Justin Steele, as the team had extra draft pool money available after going almost a combined $1.75MM under slot to sign first round pick Kyle Schwarber and second-rounder Jake Stinnett.

In pre-draft prospect rankings, Cease was rated 48th amongst all draftees by ESPN’s Keith Law, 76th by MLB.com and 77th by Baseball America.  The BA scouting report says Cease needs to improve on repeating his breaking pitches and he has something of a rushed delivery, but the young righty’s fastball has touched 98mph and his curveball has potential to be an above-average pitch if he can be consistent with it.


NL Central Links: Brewers, McCarthy, Alcantara, Cubs

The Brewers won’t announce their signing of Dominican shortstop Gilbert Lara yet due to the fact that they’re expecting a change to their international bonus pool, reports Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes (Twitter link). Teams can acquire additional bonus money as long as they’ve yet to exceed their bonus pool, so it appears they’ll try to land some additional slots before making the Lara deal official. The two sides reportedly agreed to terms on a $3.2MM signing bonus yesterday, but the team has made no statement. Milwaukee has a bonus pool just north of $2.6MM, per Baseball America.

Here’s more out of the NL Central…

  • Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes that the Pirates have some interest in Brandon McCarthy and wonders if the team could sell high on Vance Worley by flipping him to the Diamondbacks as part of a McCarthy deal. He notes that sabermetric ERA estimators such as xFIP love McCarthy despite an unsightly ERA, while Worley’s strong ERA isn’t sustainable. Sawchik opines that even if the two can’t be traded directly for one another, acquiring McCarthy and slotting him into Worley’s spot would improve the team’s roster.
  • Cubs GM Jed Hoyer offered high praise for top prospect Arismendy Alcantara to Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald. Hoyer wouldn’t comment on whether or not Alcantara would see the Majors this season but noted that he’s underappreciated due to the big reputations of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Albert Almora. Alcantara is hitting .310/.350/.546 with 10 homers, 11 triples, 22 doubles and 20 steals, and that strong play has “opened [the Cubs'] eyes,” in Hoyer’s words.
  • Rooftop owners in Chicago have agreed not to sue the Cubs if the team adds just one video board and one advertising sign in the outfield, according to a report from Ameet Sachdev, Jared Hopkins and Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune. The team’s most recent vision for the upgrades had a video board and five signs as well as other renovations to Wrigley Field.