Chicago Cubs Rumors

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

Latest On Cubs’ Rotation Targets

9:21pm: The Nationals and Cubs have not exchanged names and a deal is unlikely, tweets Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.

8:04pm: The Cubs are engaged with discussions with the Nationals to acquire right-handed starter Jordan Zimmermann, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Talks are serious enough that the sides have exchanged names that would be involved, with at least one top young middle infielder likely to be part of the package.

Importantly, per Wittenmyer, Chicago would want to be able to ink Zimmermann to an extension in order to pull the trigger. The Relativity Baseball client is set to hit the open market after this season. He’ll earn $16.5MM in his final year of arb eligibility, after agreeing to a back-loaded two year deal to avoid arbitration last year.

Zimmermann reportedly rejected a five-year, $85MM contract proposal from the Nats last year, and his value has only risen. Zimmermann, 28, threw to a 2.66 ERA over 199 2/3 frames in 2014, striking out 8.2 and walking a league-low 1.3 batters per nine. And that campaign brought him one year closer to free agency, reducing his risk and increasing his leverage in talks.

Zimmermann is, of course, not the only pitching option being pursued by Chicago. Wittenmyer says that Jon Lester is still a possibility, and the club is also chasing the kind of high-upside, high-risk arms it has in the past. Justin Masterson is one of those, per Wittenmyer, who says the righty could be amenable to a low-cost, one-year deal to rebuild his value. Per Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (via Twitter), the team has had talks with Masterson, though nothing is close. Lefty Brett Anderson is another possibility, according to the Sun-Times report.

From the Nationals’ perspective, there is obvious appeal in the Cubs’ bevy of interesting, controllable middle infielders. Washington has an opening at second and has said it is interested in acquiring a shortstop option both for depth purposes and to provide an alternative to Ian Desmond, if he cannot be extended. Wittenmyer says the team feels comfortable with its staff even without Zimmermann, though I expect a free agent addition would be forthcoming if an arm is dealt.

While it is far too soon to speculate as to the pieces that might be included in a trade, the Cubs have several possible candidates that could be dangled. Starting shortstop Starlin Castro is signed to an attractive, yet pricey contract. And then there are heralded youngsters Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, and Addison Russell.


Red Sox Notes: Sandoval, Lester, Farrell, Bradley

Here’s the latest on the Red Sox:

  • An executive with another team says that Boston is “all-in” on third baseman Pablo Sandoval, reports Gordon Edes of ESPN.com. GM Ben Cherington discussed the team’s interest with reporters today. “We’ve met with several [agents], including [Vasquez], and had good constructive conversations with a lot of guys already,” he said. “All those conversations will continue. I don’t expect anything to happen this week, or maybe in the near term. This may play out. I expect many [conversations] to continue over the next few weeks.”
  • Cherington says that the Red Sox have no hard and fast rule against giving long-term deals to slightly older starting pitchers, Edes reports. “It’s never been a hard policy,” he said. “We’ve made exceptions, and I’m sure there will be another exception. It’s a case-by-case thing.” As for Lester, specifically, Cherington said that he is “interested in having a conversation with him” and has some added comfort level given the team’s familiarity with Lester. “We need to add to our rotation,” Cherington added. “He’s obviously a known commodity, a proven guy in our market. He’s of obvious interest.” Both Cherington and fellow GM Jed Hoyer of the Cubs foresee a slow-developing market for starters, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets.
  • The Sox are open to discussing a contract extension with manager John Farrell before the start of the year, reports Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. As things stand, Farrell is under contract for 2015 with the club holding an option for another year.
  • Boston still sees Jackie Bradley Jr. as a future everyday center fielder, Cherington tells Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. After a productive season in the field and sub-par campaign at the plate, the 24-year-old has perhaps lost some of his luster, though that could be in part due to expectations that raised wildly last spring. “I do think there are some teams that think of him that way — as they should,” Cherington said. “We think of him that way. We don’t know on what date that will happen, but we certainly still think of him that way — as an everyday-caliber center fielder.”

Mets Inquired On Jimmy Rollins

A Mets trade for Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is “not happening,” a source tells Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.  Rubin says such a move is not on the Mets’ radar due to the $120MM owed to Tulo through 2020, as well as the prospect cost of “two or three blue-chippers.”  More from Rubin:

  • The Mets spoke with the Phillies about acquiring Jimmy Rollins, writes Rubin.  Rubin adds, “The pursuit since has been dismissed because Rollins does not want to leave Philadelphia.”
  • The Mets are unenthusiastic about the available free agent shortstops, and plan to go the trade route to fill the position.  The Diamondbacks, Mariners, White Sox, and Cubs are viewed as viable trade partners.  Andy Martino of the New York Daily News says “it has been difficult, if not impossible” for the Mets and Cubs to agree on the value of Starlin Castro.  Meanwhile, Martino says Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox only emerged as a possibility within the past week.  Martino’s early read has the White Sox seeking the Mets’ top young starters and the Mets pitching their veterans.
  • If the Mets are unable to acquire a shortstop, or go with a defense-first type like Didi Gregorius, they are likely to retain second baseman Daniel Murphy, writes Rubin.  If they get a shortstop who can hit, Murphy is more likely to be dealt if the Mets get a sufficient offer.  Rubin expects the Mets to wait on Murphy until after resolving their shortstop situation.
  • The Mets seek a veteran lefty reliever to complement Josh Edgin in their bullpen.  They are also seeking a backup infielder, unless Wilmer Flores is bumped to that role.
  • The Mets will also consider trading Dillon Gee, Jonathon Niese, or Bartolo Colon.


Epstein On Offseason, Lester, Bullpen

“It’s probably the first time agents can come into our suites without having to look both ways to make sure no one sees them coming in,” joked Cubs president Theo Epstein in talking to reporters last night at the GM Meetings in Phoenix.  He added, “We’re no longer the runt of the litter, I guess.”  More on the Cubs as they embark on what seems likely to be their most active offseason since 2006-07…

  • Epstein further explained, “We have a couple of the most important currencies in the game: some payroll flexibility and some good young players.  So it opens up a world of possibilities and makes it more fun.”  The Cubs are known for the game’s best stash of position player prospects, and their commitments for 2015 will likely come in not much over $50MM.
  • Epstein commented on his previous relationship in Boston with free agent lefty Jon Lester, saying, “Free agents in general, they’re going to make good decisions for themselves and for their family and try to find a place where they can win and be comfortable and find a contract that works for them.  To the extent that relationships help reassure players about those different factors, then (our relationship is) relevant. It establishes a comfort and trust. But beyond that…he’s going to have his pick.”
  • Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune also has Epstein’s thoughts on adding a reliever to put together a shutdown bullpen, as was on display in this year’s World Series.  As Sullivan writes, the bullpen doesn’t seem to be a priority for the Cubs, and Epstein is careful to draw conclusions based on the Fall Classic.
  • In his talk with reporters yesterday, Epstein made multiple mentions of “the next 15 months,” suggesting he’s got an eye on the 2015-16 free agent class as well.

Braves Notes: Upton, Gattis, Harang, Hart

The Blue Jays, Brewers, Cubs and Indians are the four teams on Justin Upton‘s revised no-trade list, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi reports (via Twitter).  Upton’s contract allows him to block deals to four teams per year, and since his deal is up after the 2015 season, there have been whispers that Atlanta could explore trading Upton this winter.  One team notable by its absence on this year’s list is the Mariners; when Upton was with the Diamondbacks, he vetoed a deal that would’ve sent him to Seattle in January 2013.  Here’s some more from the Braves camp…

  • President of baseball operations John Hart denied a Joel Sherman report that the Braves were shopping Evan Gattis, calling it “absolutely inaccurate.”  Hart told the media (including David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) that “we are coming in with the idea that we don’t have to trade anybody.  We have not made a call (to see if a team is interested in any player). We have received calls on people; we haven’t had any conversations yet.”
  • Hart said the Braves will look to add starting pitching this winter, though they’ll look at the “B tier and down” rather than any of the big names on the free agent market.  If Atlanta did acquire a higher-caliber, it would likely be in a trade.  “Money could be freed up; there’s a lot of different dynamics there,” Hart said. “But from where we sit today, that would be the sort of level that we would be looking at.”
  • The Braves could be interested in re-signing Aaron Harang, though Hart said the team will wait to see how Harang’s market develops.  In a Free Agent Profile of Harang, MLBTR’s Zach Links predicted the veteran righty would find a two-year, $14MM deal this winter.

NL Central Links: Hamels, Cards, Cueto, Reds

The Cubs weren’t included on Cole Hamels‘ updated 20-team no-trade list, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (Twitter link).  The Cubs are known to be looking for top-of-the-rotation arms this winter, and the remaining four years/$96MM on Hamels’ contract would cost Chicago less than what it would take to sign a top free agent starter like Max Scherzer or Jon Lester.  On the other hand, the Cubs would have to give up multiple top prospects to obtain Hamels from the Phillies, so they could prefer to just keep their young talent and spend extra to sign a free agent ace.  The Red Sox are thus far the only team known to be on Hamels’ no-trade list.

Here’s more from around the NL Central…

  • Right field has sadly become an offseason concern for the Cardinals due to Oscar Taveras‘ untimely death, GM John Mozeliak told MLB.com’s Jen Langsoch.  “I think it certainly leaves that position in question,” Mozeliak said. “Clearly internally, we have [Randal] Grichuk and potentially [Stephen] Piscotty to fill that spot. I would also say that it does now force us to explore other options, whether it’s the free-agent market or the trade market….I’m not saying it’s a must, but I also think we need to be prudent and make sure that we understand what that landscape looks like.”  The Cards will explore both short-term and long-term options in RF, Mozeliak said.  Out of respect for Taveras, Mozeliak waited a week after the outfielder’s passing to begin making calls to agents and general managers, Langosch writes.
  • The Reds “are listening” to offers for their starting pitchers but ace Johnny Cueto seems the least likely to be moved, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.  Cincinnati would probably have to be “absolutely overwhelmed” to deal Cueto, Heyman writes, as the team plans to contend in 2015.
  • Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan also hears that Cueto is unlikely to be traded, though rival executives tell Passan (Twitter link) that the Reds are willing to discuss trading Mat Latos and Mike Leake.
  • The Reds are “at [a] fascinating crossroads,” FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes in a series of tweets.  If the Reds deal Cueto, they might as well deal Aroldis Chapman too as part of a rebuild, Rosenthal opines.  Attendance and the fact that they’re hosting the All-Star Game could make 2015 a bit of a “buffer” year for the Reds, though Rosenthal points out that the team might not want to rebuild in a season when they’re hosting the Midsummer Classic.  Back in September, I explored Cincinnati’s trade options with their rotation members in a Trade Candidates piece.
  • Major League Baseball has opened an investigation into whether or not the Cubs tampered with Joe Maddon when he was still under contract with the Rays, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports.  The Rays asked MLB to investigate last week.  “There was no tampering whatsoever,” Cubs president Theo Epstein told reporters (including ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers).  “I’d rather they investigate so we can clear our name and move on from this quickly. We’re giving our full cooperation and we welcome it.”

Ten Teams Showing Interest In Torii Hunter

At least ten teams have reached out to express interest in Torii Hunter, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today, and the free agent’s most aggressive suitors are in the very familiar AL Central. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals, Twins, Tigers, Cubs, Giants, Rangers and Mariners have all shown some early interest in Hunter (Twitter links). Hunter’s preference is to remain in Detroit, he adds, but his fate may be tied to that of Victor Martinez, as the Tigers likely can’t re-sign both.

Though Hunter turns 40 next July, he still enjoyed a productive season at the plate in a fairly pitcher-friendly home environment, hitting .286/.319/.446 with 17 homers in 586 plate appearances. His defensive game, however, appears to have slipped as Defensive Runs Saved pegged him at -18 runs and Ultimate Zone Rating agreed (-18.3).

Given his age, I’d think Hunter’s priority would be signing with a team he expects to contend in 2015 rather than maxing out his contract or perhaps making a sentimental return to his former Minneapolis stomping grounds.


NL Notes: Reds, Stanton, Cubs, Mets

The Reds could improve considerably in 2015 simply by getting the most out of their current roster, writes Richard Justice of MLB.com. With four starting pitchers a year from free agency, GM Walt Jocketty has the difficult decision to “hold ‘em or fold ‘em.” He could take one more shot at the postseason by luring a Michael Morse-type player, or he could begin the rebuilding process now. The market for his soon-to-be free agents could help him make the decision.

  • Marlins GM Dan Jennings says contract extension talks with Giancarlo Stanton are ongoing, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). There is no time table on the talks. In Justice’s article, he mentions the Cardinals as a possible fit for Stanton is extension talks with Miami fizzle.
  • We’ve heard everything when it comes to the Cubs and their place in the free agent market. GM Jed Hoyer showed part of his hand recently, reports Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. The club would like to add some veteran leadership with Hoyer saying: “maybe a player in the starting lineup, maybe a bench player, maybe someone in the bullpen, maybe someone in the rotation.” That’s a lot of maybe’s, but the idea is that a veteran presence in each role can help the youngsters improve and develop character. Rogers has more comments from Hoyer that are well worth a read.
  • The Mets need to answer three questions at the GM Meetings, opines Mike Puma of the New York Post. Assuming the club isn’t satisfied with Wilmer Flores, the shortstop market must be gauged. A trade with either Chicago team might be the way to go. Outfield is another area of concern, with only Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson scheduled for regular roles. Lastly, GM Sandy Alderson should measure interest in Daniel Murphy.

NL Notes: Stults, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Liriano

The Padres decision to designate left-handed pitcher Eric Stults for assignment was based on finances rather than performance, writes Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Per MLBTR’s Matt Swartz, Stults was projected to earn about $4.6MM via arbitration after a season in which he posted a 4.30 ERA and 17 losses. Stults, 35 next season, represents a solid depth piece at the back of a rotation due to durability and decent stuff. However, the Padres are in need of offensive help and have plenty of pitching. The rotation is already filled without Stults, and Sanders names another five pitchers who can serve as additional depth. The cash savings will ostensibly be applied to the offense, and it’s possible Stults will return to San Diego on a lesser contract.

  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart spoke with MLB Network Radio on a variety of topics. Arizona won’t be in the market for the top three free agent pitchers according to Stewart (tweet), but they may be more involved on Kenta Maeda (also Twitter). As for top prospect Archie Bradley, Stewart would like to see him get more seasoning at the Triple-A level before reaching the majors (via Twitter).
  • While Cubs GM Jed Hoyer downplayed the possibility of a “supercharged offseason” yesterday, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times believes they are poised for a spending spree. He figures they have $70MM in available payroll. The Cubs have an “acquisition window…through the 2015-2016 offseason,” so we shouldn’t expect all of that money to be used this winter. Howover, several of the biggest market clubs like the Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, and Phillies are trying to be cost conscious this offseason, which makes now a good time to strike on top players.
  • Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano is still considering his qualifying offer and “several options,” tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. That could hint to a possible multi-year contract offer from the Pirates or other clubs, although that’s just my speculation. MLBTR’s Steve Adams covered Liriano’s free agent profile earlier this week and ultimately estimated a three-year, $40MM deal.

Poll: Who Will Sign Russell Martin?

Earlier today, we learned that free agent catcher Russell Martin will meet with four teams – the Cubs, Pirates, Dodgers, and Blue Jays. In fact, he’s already met with Chicago. Other clubs may become involved in the bidding, but this is the initial group upon which to focus. Martin’s price is expected to soar due to a dearth of catcher talent on the market.

Initially, it appeared that the Pirates might pull out all the stops to re-sign Martin. The club is thin at catcher with Tony Sanchez and Chris Stewart occupying the top of the depth chart. While the need for Martin is obvious, the ever-increasing rumored cost might push them out of the market.

The Cubs and Dodgers are a better financial fit, since we know both teams can afford Martin at any reasonable cost. They have a decent internal options – Wellington Castillo for the Cubs and A.J. Ellis for the Dodgers – so they’re not desperate for a backstop in the same way as the Pirates. The Cubs recently dismissed a well-regarded manager to hire Joe Maddon, so a similar move at catcher is easy to picture. The Dodgers are supposed to be more financially responsible with Andrew Friedman at the reins. We’ll see if and how that affects their pursuit of Martin.

From the outside, the Blue Jays look like a dark horse candidate, although catcher has been an area of concern since they traded away prospect Travis d’Arnaud. Dioner Navarro and Josh Thole are currently under contract to man the position, but neither player is close to Martin’s talent level.

Of course, the infamous mystery team could rear its head. A few clubs who could conceivably join the fray include the Angels, Tigers, RangersMariners, White Sox, and Nationals.