Chicago Cubs Rumors

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

Jon Lester Rumors: Friday

The Cubs, Red Sox, Giants and Dodgers are believed to be the top four suitors for Jon Lester, who reportedly isn’t expected to make a decision prior to the beginning of next week’s Winter Meetings. We’ll keep track of today’s Lester rumors here…

  • Ryan Dempster, who joined the Cubs‘ front office today, has been in contact with Lester and talked up how great it is to pitch with the Cubs, writes ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers. A source familiar with the Lester negotiations told Rogers that reports indicating a $130-140MM offer from the Cubs are actually low. Lester is expected to top $150MM, Rogers writes, and if a team “blows past” that number by adding a seventh year or bidding $160-170MM, Chicago is likely to bow out of the race.

Ryan Dempster Joins Cubs’ Front Office

The Cubs announced today that Ryan Dempster has signed a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Cubs organization and will now join the team’s front office as a special assistant to president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.

Per a team press release, Dempster’s responsibilities will include working with pitchers in Spring Training, visiting the club’s minor league affiliates during the season, evaluating amateur players leading up to the 2015 draft and going on pro scouting assignments as well.

Dempster sat out the 2014 season due to physical issues and a desire to spend more time with his family — a decision that included him forfeiting his $13.25MM salary from the Red Sox. He then reportedly retired as a player in early October. Most of Dempster’s 16-year big league career was spent with the Cubs, and he’ll now be tasked with returning that franchise to prominence.


Jon Lester Rumors: Thursday

Here’s the latest on Jon Lester, whose market appears to be heating up dramatically after the Dodgers joined the sweepstakes yesterday:

  • The Dodgers could blow the Red Sox out of the water if they wanted to, writes Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. With their financial resources, it’s hard to outbid L.A. for a player they really want. That said, the Dodgers reportedly hired their All-Star executive team to help trim costs. Of course, a Lester signing could also serve as protection for when Zack Greinke exercises his opt out clause following the season.
  • Barring any additional mystery teams, the Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, and Giants appear to be the final bidders for Lester. While the Giants tend to be viewed as an also-ran, don’t count them out, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy has met with Lester, and the club has the necessary money after missing out on Pablo Sandoval. All four clubs have a lot to offer.
  • Lester is unlikely to sign prior to the Winter Meetings, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. With four clubs vying for his services, it makes sense to take time making a decision.


NL Notes: Martinez, MacDonald, Upton, Giants, Stauffer

Former Rays bench coach Dave Martinez, who left the organization after he was not selected as a finalist for their managerial opening, has joined the Cubs‘ coaching staff, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). Martinez will assume the familiar role of serving as Joe Maddon’s bench coach, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports. That the well-respected Martinez wasn’t named a finalist in Tampa’s managerial search surprised many. He’s previously interviewed for other managerial gigs and is widely considered to be have a chance to manage in the Majors someday. Heyman also notes that Brandon Hyde, who was expected to serve as bench coach on what was a full Cubs staff, will be re-assigned, but the team is expected to move him to a significant role.

A few more notes from around the National League…

  • The Braves announced today that former Padres vice president/assistant general manager Chad MacDonald will join the front office as a special assistant to president of baseball operations John Hart. MacDonald, according to the release, will be involved in all facets of Atlanta’s scouting efforts, including international, amateur and professional scouting. He’s previously served as the Mets’ director of scouting and both the assistant director of scouting and director of international scouting for the Diamondbacks.
  • Interest in Justin Upton has increased since the Braves signed Nick MarkakisHeyman tweets. ESPN’s Jayson Stark hears that the Braves have fielded more than a dozen calls on Upton, who is considered by many to be the best available bat on the trade market (Twitter link). Atlanta is still in no hurry to move Upton, Stark adds.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, meanwhile, tweets that it’s still possible the Braves will trade Evan Gattis and hang onto Upton in order to at least position themselves to collect a draft pick should Upton depart following the 2015 season.
  • The Giants‘ priorities at the Winter Meetings (and beyond) are third base and starting pitching, tweets Rosenthal. The team is in need of a left fielder but feels that Juan Perez, Gregor Blanco and Travis Ishikawa are all capable of handling the position. They’re not ruling out signing a free agent outfielder, but that priority has taken a back seat to the rotation and the hot corner.
  • The Padres are one of a number of to reach out to free agent righty Tim Stauffer, tweets Jeff Saunders of the San Diego Union Tribune. The 32-year-old Stauffer, formerly the fourth overall pick in the draft, posted a 3.50 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 64 1/3 innings (three starts, 41 relief appearances) for the Friars this past season. Friar has worked as a reliever in recent seasons but hurled 185 2/3 innings of 3.73 ERA ball for San Diego back in 2011.

NL Notes: Upton, Ross, Hundley, Lackey, Cards

The Braves have already received attractive trade proposals for outfielder Justin Upton, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets. With several free agents off the board, a deal could come together soon, per Sherman, possibly during the upcoming Winter Meetings. The team’s addition of free agent Nick Markakis would appear to increase the odds of the club dealing Upton and/or Evan Gattis, though its final course remains unclear.

More from the National League:

  • The BravesCubs, and Padres are among the teams pursuing free agent catcher David Ross, along with the incumbent Red Sox, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The 37-year-old Ross rates among the game’s most respected veterans.
  • The Rockies have expressed interest in free agent backstop Nick Hundley, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports on Twitter. Were the team to add Hundley or another option, it would likely deal Wilin Rosario, Crasnick adds.
  • Though John Lackey is under contract at league minimum for 2015, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak will meet with his representatives at the upcoming Winter Meetings to discuss “possibly reworking” that deal, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports on Twitter. It is not entirely clear what manner of modification could be contemplated, though one would expect that St. Louis would only be interested in a proposal that added a reasonably priced season or two to the 36-year-old’s deal.
  • The Cardinals have promoted Chris Correa to become the club’s new scouting director, Langosch reports. The club had an opening arise recently when Dan Kantrovitz left to become an assistant GM with the Athletics.

2014-15 National League Non-Tenders

Major League clubs have until 11pm CT tonight to tender contracts to players for the 2015 season. We’ll run down the list of National League non-tenders here, and update it as reports come in. Remember that you can track all of the action using MLBTR’s Non-Tender tracker, and we offer a full list of non-tender candidates (in the estimation of MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes). Also important for reference is the set of arbitration salary projections from MLBTR and contributor Matt Swartz. Click here for an explanation of the process, and be sure to check out this piece featuring some interesting observations from Tim regarding non-tender considerations.

  • The Rockies have non-tendered lefty Kraig Sitton, the team announced.
  • The Pirates have non-tendered Gaby Sanchez and Chaz Roe, the club announced. Sanchez was in DFA limbo.
  • The Cardinals will non-tender Daniel Descalso, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. That move seemed rather likely, as MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reported last night.
  • Lefty Wesley Wright and catcher John Baker have been non-tendered by the Cubs, the team announced. Wright certainly qualifies as a surprise, as the 29-year-old was solid for the Cubs and was projected to earn just $2MM.
  • The Reds have non-tendered righties Logan Ondrusek and Curtis Partch, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports.
  • Meanwhile, the Giants have tendered all arb-eligible players contracts, Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News reports on Twitter.
  • The Mets have announced that Eric Young Jr. has been non-tendered, ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin tweets.
  • The Braves have dropped the biggest non-tender news of the day thus far, releasing Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to the open market. Otherwise, the only teams announcing to this point have decided to tender all of their players.
  • There will are no non-tenders to report for the Diamondbacks, who have announced that they have tendered contracts to all eligible players (via MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert, on Twitter).
  • The same holds true for the Marlins, per MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro (Twitter link).
  • The Nationals have announced that they have tendered contracts to all ten eligible players, per Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com (via Twitter). Washington had previously agreed to avoid arbitration with one other player from the packed class (Kevin Frandsen).

Braves Have Not Made Offer To Jon Lester

Jon Lester, the top free agent without a qualifying offer attached to his name, continues to be one of the most talked-about players on the market. He’s been linked to the Cubs, Red Sox, Braves, Giants and Cardinals of late, and things only figure to pick up for Lester as next week’s Winter Meetings approach.

We’ll keep track of Monday’s Lester rumors here in this post…

  • The Braves did not make Lester an offer after their recent meeting, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The team did not believe it would be able to make a competitive offer given the strength of Lester’s market, O’Brien explains. It would appear that Atlanta is not in the running to land the lefty at this point.

Earlier Updates

  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Cubs have offered Lester $138MM over six years, while the Red Sox have expressed a willingness to go up to $130MM following their initial offer in the $110-120MM range. Lester is meeting with the Giants today and is set to talk to two more clubs this week, per Heyman, who adds that it seems like a long shot that Lester will sign anywhere but Boston, Chicago (Cubs), Atlanta or San Francisco. Heyman adds that Lester would probably need to be willing to take a hometown discount to sign with the Braves (which is where he lives in the offseason).
  • The Giants appear to be the last serious team to meet with Lester, tweets Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com. A $25MM AAV remains very possible for him at this point, Levine adds. Heyman also noted in his piece that Lester could top that milestone.
  • The Giants are meeting with Lester today, reports ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (on Twitter). San Francisco’s final offer to Pablo Sandoval was said to be for at least $95MM over five years, so it stands to reason that the $95-100MM they were willing to spend on Sandoval could be in play for Lester. Of course, that figure is expected to be well shy of Lester’s eventual contract, but the Giants undoubtedly have additional funds beyond the sum that was set aside for Sandoval, especially coming off another World Series victory.
  • WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reports that Lester’s camp would like all of its visits to interested teams to be completed prior to the Winter Meetings (Twitter link).
  • In a second tweet, Olney speculatively handicaps the Lester market with the following ranking: 1. Cubs; 2. Red Sox; 3. Everyone else.

Non-Tender Notes: Wood, Beckham, Mets

Tomorrow night (11pm CT) is the deadline for teams to tender or non-tender contracts to their arbitration eligible players. MLBTR has previously identified a list of non-tender candidates as well as provided projected salaries for each arbitration eligible player of the offseason (courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz). In addition to those resources, you can follow along and keep track of players using our 2015 Non-Tender Tracker. We’ll cover some more of the specifics on non-tendering and arbitration tomorrow (though those who are new to the concept can check out last year’s post on explaining non-tenders), but for the time being, here are some news and notes from a few borderline cases around the league…

  • The Cubs are expected to tender a contract to lefty Travis Wood despite the fact that is coming off a down season, reports ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers. Wood, projected to earn $5.5MM in 2015, posted a 5.03 ERA in 173 2/3 innings. His command regressed (3.9 BB/9) but he did also see an uptick in strikeouts (7.6 K/9). Rogers notes that Wood could still be traded, as the Cubs did bring back a lefty to slot into the rotation in the form of Tsuyoshi Wada. Chicago is expected to pursue multiple starters on the free agent and trade markets this winter, so if they add enough in the way of upgrades, a team may be interested in taking on Wood at a reasonable price.
  • The Angels will tender David Freese and pay him something in the range of his $6.3MM projection but are expected to non-tender Gordon Beckham, Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times writes. However, the Halos will have interest in bringing Beckham back in a utility role on a smaller deal than the $5MM he is projected to earn. Of course, Beckham will be a free agent and can field offers from other clubs, and it’s perfectly possible that in a market that’s light on infielders, another club would offer either a larger guarantee or a starting role.
  • Ruben Tejada ($1.7MM projection) is expected to be tendered a contract by the Mets, but Eric Young Jr. could be cut loose, reports ESPNNewYork.com’s Adam Rubin. The Mets feel they can replicate Young’s production at a lower rate than his projected $2.3MM salary, but replacing Tejada may cost more than his modest projection. Rubin notes that the Mets feel Kirk Nieuewnhuis can be a serviceable fifth outfielder at a fraction of Young’s price. As for a fourth outfielder, they’ll look for a righty bat like Jonny Gomes or Ryan Ludwick. Presumably, either of them could handle left field versus lefty starters, with Michael Cuddyer shifting to first base to shield Lucas Duda from lefties.

Cafardo On Lester, Cespedes, Porcello, Miller

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that some in the Red Sox organization see Xander Bogaerts as a young Hanley Ramirez.  “They are both fun-loving kids who love playing the game,” Red Sox first base/outfield coach Arnie Beyeler said. “I didn’t see Hanley after the Dominican League, but I remember him as a kid who once he got his chance just did things better than everyone else. He ran better, threw better, hit better. It was easy to see that he was going to develop into a very good baseball player. And you see the same things with Xander.”  More from today’s column..

  • Major league sources tell Cafardo that the Cubs are very serious about Jon Lester while the Giants are becoming more serious about him.  Meanwhile, the Yankees are thinking about getting serious about Lester but haven’t committed to doing so.  The Red Sox remain interested but it remains to be seen how far they’ll go.
  • If the Red Sox sign Jon Lester, Cafardo can see them moving Yoenis Cespedes for a No. 2 or No. 3 starter such as Reds hurlers Mat Latos or Mike Leake.  The Reds would have a need for Cespedes’s bat, but they would also probably have a need for shortstop Deven Marrero.  Meanwhile, Johnny Cueto would cost Cespedes and maybe two top prospects, but it would be tempting for Boston.
  • The Tigers could also be a match in a Cespedes deal.  If those talks were to take place, the Red Sox would have more interest in Rick Porcello than Anibal Sanchez.  David Price could be a possibility if the Red Sox whiff on Lester, but that would be costly.
  • It’s strange to some that the Yankees haven’t re-signed closer David Robertson by now.  One rival AL East GM wonders if the Yankees might change direction and go after someone like Andrew Miller, a power lefty, to go along with Dellin Betances.
  • It’s hard to tell whether the Nationals are serious about trading Jordan Zimmermann because they have the resources to sign him and he’s their best pitcher. “It doesn’t hurt to listen,” said one NL executive about GM Mike Rizzo’s strategy. “If you get overwhelmed, you do it. If you don’t, you keep him. Pretty simple, actually.”  Cafardo writes that the Red Sox, Rangers, and Cubs seem to have the pieces to get a deal done.
  • There are teams interested in Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz.  “There’s a lot of talent there that hasn’t come out,” one NL scout said.

Quick Hits: Strop, Samardzija, Rays

Cubs reliever Pedro Strop was in a car accident in the Dominican Republic Thursday, but he didn’t suffer any significant injuries, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports. Strop did require stitches in his left arm, but he is reportedly “doing fine,” according to a team spokesperson. Strop, 29, was a key part of the Cubs’ bullpen in 2014, posting a 2.21 ERA in with 10.5 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 61 innings. Here are more notes from around the big leagues. Here’s more from around the big leagues.

  • The White Sox aren’t the only team interested in Athletics starter Jeff Samardzija, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Four teams contacted the A’s about Samardzija just on Saturday morning. Still, teams might not want to give up top talent for a rental, which is what Samardzija, who is eligible for free agency after the 2015 season, probably would be. Billy Beane likely wouldn’t want to reach agreement on a Samardzija deal and then give his new team a negotiating window on an extension before completing the trade, and Samardzija would probably not be interested in an extension right now anyway. Another potential factor to keep in mind with a Samardzija deal is his team’s ability to extend a qualifying offer after 2015 — his new team would have that ability if a trade were to be completed now, but not if a trade were done during the season. One scenario would be for Beane to wait until Max Scherzer and Jon Lester are off the market to complete a deal.
  • The Rays have already traded three key pitchers from their 2014 staff (Jeremy Hellickson, Joel Peralta and Cesar Ramos), and they’re prepared to listen to more trade offers, although perhaps not always in earnest, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. “We listen on everyone, but in many cases it’s for the comedic value more than anything else,” says team president Matt Silverman. Part of their motivation for being so active early in the offseason (also dropping Jose Molina, utilityman Sean Rodriguez and infielder Cole Figueroa from their 40-man roster in the last ten days) was the need to protect prospects from being taken in the Rule 5 Draft, Silverman says. The Rays added pitchers Jose Dominguez, Matt Andriese, and Grayson Garvin, infielder Ryan Brett, outfielder Mikie Mahtook and catcher Justin O’Conner to their 40-man roster last week.