Chicago Cubs Rumors

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

NL Notes: Davis, Ramirez, Ervin

Ike Davis will return to Citi Field Monday, but the Pirates‘ first baseman isn’t concerned about his return to Queens, MLB.com’s Tom Singer writes. “Truth is, it’s not something big to me,” Davis says. “Just gotta do it, go and try to beat the Mets.” After a rough ending to his career in New York, Davis has played well since the Mets traded him in mid-April for reliever Zack Thornton and a PTBNL — he’s hitting .295/.391/.421 so far for Pittsburgh. Here are more notes from around the National League.

  • Cubs infielder Mike Olt is a fan of new Triple-A Iowa player/coach Manny Ramirez, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune writes. The two played together last season at Triple-A Round Rock in the Rangers organization, but the connection goes back further than that — Olt says Ramirez tossed him a ball when an 11-year-old Olt was sitting in the upper deck at Yankee Stadium and Ramirez was playing outfield for the Red Sox. Olt says Ramirez remembered the incident, since he doesn’t usually throw balls into the stands.
  • Reds outfield prospect Phillip Ervin attributes his struggles in 2014 to self-imposed pressure after being a first-round pick and receiving a $1.8MM bonus last season, C. Trent Rosecrans writes for Baseball America. Ervin, 21, is hitting .209/.271/.302 in 203 plate appearances for Class A Dayton, a level at which he hit well in a handful of games near the end of last season. “You want to just impress people, put up the numbers for the fans, and you always hear stuff,” says Ervin. “I feel like sometimes I try to do too much just to keep other people happy rather than just go out and have fun.”

Cubs Sign Manny Ramirez As Triple-A Player-Coach

The Cubs announced that they have signed Manny Ramirez to a minor league deal to be a player-coach at Triple-A Iowa.  Ramirez is represented by Praver/Shapiro, as shown in the MLBTR Agency Database.

While Manny is not and will not be a fit on the Cubs major league roster, we do think at this stage of his life he’s a nice fit as a mentor for some of the young talented hitters we have in the organization,” Epstein said in the press release.  “Manny will coach full-time and play part-time in a limited role that does not take at-bats away from our prospects. If he shows there is still some magic in his bat, perhaps he will find his way to the major leagues and help another team, but that is not why he is here. We are thrilled that he wants to work with our young hitters and make a difference.

Ramirez, who turns 42 this week, last appeared in the Majors in 2011, when he made 17 plate appearances for the Rays and was then served with a 100-game suspension for PED use.  The suspension caused Ramirez to briefly retire, but he returned and served a reduced 50-game ban after signing a minor league deal with the A’s before the 2012 season.  Ramirez spent 2013 playing in Taiwan and for the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate.


Cafardo On Samardzija, Blue Jays, Price, Rodriguez

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looks at the 20 biggest disappointments of the 2014 season so far.  Near the top of the list: the Rangers unfortunate rash of injuries.  Texas will be without Prince Fielder for the rest of the season and Jurickson Profar‘s status is up in the air as well.  In total, the Rangers have had 14 players land on the disabled list, twice as many as any other team.  More from Cafardo..

  • Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija is being watched more than any pitcher by major league scouts. Among those watching are the Blue Jays, who are more convinced than ever they can win the AL East if they obtain a top starter like Samardzija. Meanwhile, one major league scout tells Cafardo that Toronto is still insistent on not giving up Drew Hutchison.
  • There’s some concern about David Price‘s performance this season when it comes to Price, including a 3-mile-per-hour dropoff in velocity in recent outings, but one AL GM doesn’t believe the Rays will have trouble getting what they want in a deal.  “Unless there’s a reason to believe he has something wrong with his shoulder, pitchers have ebbs and flows with velocity throughout a season,” said the GM. “Price will be fine.”
  • The Pirates designated Wandy Rodriguez for assignment last week and they won’t find a deal for him if the medicals are too bad, but the feeling is that some team will take a chance.
  • If new Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa starts hiring people in Arizona, Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque could be brought aboard for a front office role.


Quick Hits: Springer, Hundley, Barney

Astros outfielder George Springer hit two home runs in tonight’s contest against the Mariners, giving him six for the season. After beginning big-league career with a slow start, Springer is now hitting .250/.333/.438 and is looking very much like the power hitter the Astros likely thought they had at the start of the season. Springer made his debut April 16, but all of his  six home runs have come since May 8. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Catcher Nick Hundley, who the Orioles recently acquired from the Padres, could wind up being a big-league manager, Corey Brock of MLB.com writes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many managers are former catchers. “Of all the guys that come through that you touch as players, there’s a few guys that you jot down as future staff guys. Managers, coaches, instructors, announcers, whatever,” says current Padres manager Bud Black. “Nick tracks toward the field as a future manager or coach.” Brock points out that Nick’s father Tim is an assistant football coach at UNLV.
  • Cubs infielder Darwin Barney has hit badly enough (.175/.250/.250 in 89 plate appearances this season) that he’s approaching a “career crossroads,” Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Barney is still a valuable defensive player, but his hitting might end up getting him traded or moved into more of a straightforward utility infielder role. Barney has played exclusively at second base this season.

MLBPA Concerned About Cubs’ Spending

The players’ union is concerned about the Cubs’ small payrolls, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. A source tells Wittenmyer that the union is worried about the impact of the Cubs’ spending patterns on markets for players. The Cubs had an Opening Day payroll of about $93MM in 2014, down from a high of $144MM in 2010.

The union being concerned about the Cubs’ payrolls does not mean it will take action to address them. Wittenmyer suggests that the only real precedent for intervention by MLB and the union to get the Cubs to increase payroll came in 2010, when the Marlins were forced to agree to spend their revenue sharing dollars on salaries and player development. The Cubs, a big-market team, pay into revenue sharing, which might insulate them from union action.

Speaking generally, as one would expect, we monitor the spending of all Clubs on a regular basis, and if we have concerns we raise them with the Commissioner’s Office,” says the MLBPA’s Greg Bouris.

We also understand the cyclical nature of the industry, but despite the ups and downs franchises face, we strongly believe that the best way to improve one’s bottom line is to invest in Major League talent.”

The Cubs have had four straight losing seasons and appear headed for a fifth. That losing streak corresponds with their drop in payroll. (There are also, however, many other factors in the team’s struggles, including the declines of most of its key players from before the streak of losing seasons began. And despite their recent losing, the Cubs have greatly strengthened their minor-league system.) Sources within the Cubs organization are unaware of any potential action by the union.


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NL Notes: Samardzija, Diamondbacks, Baer

The Cubs should trade Jeff Samardzija now rather than waiting, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale writes. With Samardzija off to a hot start, his value should be at its peak, and the Cubs run the risk of having it drop if they wait. Even with Samardzija, the Cubs are in last place, so he’s unlikely to have a strong impact on their fortunes over the next year and a half unless they trade him. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • With Tony LaRussa in the fold, Kevin Towers’ fate with the Diamondbacks is unclear, but it’s very unlikely that the D-Backs will hold onto manager Kirk Gibson, Nightengale writes. Instead, they could turn to White Sox third base coach Joe McEwing or Cardinals bench coach Mike Aldrete to replace Gibson.
  • Giants president Larry Baer could be a candidate for commissioner, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Baer isn’t saying whether he would be interested in the job, but Shea guesses the outgoing Baer would find it appealing, even though his current job with the Giants means a lot to him as a native San Franciscan. “He’d be crazy to give it up. He’s done a remarkable job in San Francisco,” an MLB source tells Shea.

Rosenthal On Rangers, Cubs, Jays, Utley, Detwiler

Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via two videos on FOX Sports:

  • In light of Prince Fielder‘s injury, the Rangers could pursue free agent Kendrys Morales, although they will not do so until after the draft, since that would require them to lose a pick. If they fall out of contention, they could trade Alex Rios or Joakim Soria, either of whom could become free agents if the Rangers don’t pick up their 2015 options. They could also consider dealing Elvis Andrus, given their depth of young middle infield talent.
  • When the Cubs and Blue Jays discussed a Jeff Samardzija deal this offseason, the Cubs asked for Drew Hutchison plus either Aaron Sanchez or Marcus Stroman, Rosenthal reports. Especially in retrospect, that would have been a steep price to pay — Hutchison has been terrific in the Jays’ rotation so far this year, and while Sanchez has struggled with walks at Double-A New Hampshire, Stroman continues to look like a top prospect. The Jays are not likely to pursue Samardzija again this summer.
  • All signs indicate that the Phillies will not trade Chase Utley: Utley can veto any trade, he signed an extension last August, and GM Ruben Amaro tells Rosenthal that an Utley deal isn’t going to happen.
  • The Astros are not interested in trading pitchers Dallas Keuchel or Collin McHugh, both 26-year-old pitchers who are having surprisingly strong seasons in Houston’s starting rotation.
  • The Nationals could trade Ross Detwiler, a potential starter who’s currently in their bullpen. He’s currently earning $3MM in his second year of arbitration eligibility. (Detwiler is currently struggling with a 5.24 ERA with 13 strikeouts and 13 walks in 22 1/3 innings. That means the Nationals aren’t likely to get much for him.)

West Notes: Arenado, Rangers, Giants, Astros, A’s

Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado left this evening’s game with a left mallet finger fracture, the club announced on Twitter. The injury occurred to his left middle finger, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Team trainer Keith Duggers said that the best case is a four to six week layoff, though he’d be out longer if surgery is necessary, tweets Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. Last year, Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro was able to play through a similar injury after missing just six games, but his featured only tendon damage and was not accompanied by a fracture. (Moreover, as Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News notes on Twitter, Scutaro still required surgery, and playing through the pain contributed to an injury to another finger.) For now, at least, Colorado will call up Josh Rutledge to take Arenado’s place on the active roster.

Here’s more out of the game’s western divisions …

  • The Rangers‘ incredible injury difficulties are no reason to panic, argues MLB.com’s Richard Justice. While the Athletics are well out in front of the division, Texas is hovering around .500 and is far from out of the Wild Card race. The team is fortunate to have an obvious replacement on the open market in Kendrys Morales, says Justice, and should seriously consider signing him. Otherwise, the club can still look for help from a series of young players — Justice mentions Luke Jackson, Alec Asher, and Alex Gonzalez — who can be asked to make the jump to the bigs earlier than expected.
  • That opinion is not shared by a pair of ESPN.com writers. Keith Law (Insider piece) says that the club should be able to acquire Morales for a song, but would be better suited by cutting their losses on the year. In addition to pending free agent relievers Joakim Soria, Neal Cotts, and Jason Frasor, Law says that the club could consider shopping Alex Rios and even star third baseman Adrian Beltre. Buster Olney joins with that general sentiment, writing (via Insider) that deciding to retool for next year would give the club a chance to free up some payroll space and add some young talent back into the system.
  • In the same piece, Olney suggests that the Giants could potentially make sense as a trade partner with the Cubs for pitcher Jeff Samardzija. San Francisco has been aggressive in dealing prospects for veterans in the past, notes Olney, and could add Samardzija with the hoping of eventually extending him (much as they did with Hunter Pence).
  • In a lengthy piece on the Astros‘ front office, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle provides details on the contract discussions that took place with third baseman Matt Dominguez and outfielder Robbie Grossman. The club offered Dominguez $14.5MM over five years in a contract that would have given the team two option years. Meanwhile, Grossman was made an offer of $13.5MM over six years, again with two options tacked on.
  • The key to the Athletics‘ success this year has been achieving true depth, assistant GM Farhan Zaidi said in an interview with Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca“Whether it’s fatalistic or not you always think two injuries ahead,” said Zaidi. “You have a five-man rotation, but we always like to have seven or eight starting pitchers that we feel we could put in the mix if we needed to and still be able to compete.” The club builds in injury risk into its internal projection model, says Zaidi, who notes that manager Bob Melvin plays a role by maintaining contact with players at Triple-A throughout the season. Discussing the team’s propensity for exchanging players, Zaidi said that Oakland “tend[s] to be pretty targeted in players that we go out and try to trade for.” That means the club must also be willing to see a player find success in his new destination. “When you’re really targeting specific guys, rather than having teams approach you about players, you have to be willing to be aggressive and maybe overpay talent-wise to get the guy that fits your specific need,” he explained. Be sure to read the piece for plenty more great information.

Draft Links: Top 200, Rodon, Cubs, Aiken, Nola, Beede

Baseball America has expanded its 2014 Draft Database to include the Top 200 names on the board, with high school left-hander Brady Aiken topping the list, followed by high school right-hander Tyler Kolek, NC State left-hander Carlos Rodon, high school catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson and Evansville left-hander Kyle Freeland. The list of names and video on each player is available for free to the public, while scouting reports require a subscription that is highly recommended for draft enthusiasts.

Here’s some more draft-related news…

  • In BA’s latest Mock Draft, Rodon is now projected to slide to the White Sox with the No. 3 pick. As John Manuel explains, there is some concern over Rodon’s usage at the end of the season, including the decision to allow him to return to the mound after a 75-minute rain delay. NC State did not use him on three days’ rest with its season on the line in its final game, either. Manuel spoke to one executive who said, The $6 million question is whether or not he is athletic enough to start long-term. Some guys think he is, but other guys aren’t so sure and think he may wind up a reliever. It just seems like there isn’t a $6 million player in this draft.” BA’s latest mock draft is available to the public without a subscription.
  • Within that mock draft, Manuel notes that president Theo Epstein was part of a Cubs contingent that scouted Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost in last weekend’s Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament. If Rodon doesn’t fall to the Cubs at No. 4, the team could sign Pentecost to a money-saving deal that would allow them to spend more in the later portions of the draft. BA’s current projection is for that very scenario to play out.
  • Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reported last night (via Twitter) that Astros GM Jeff Luhnow attended Aiken’s most recent outing on Monday before heading to Japan with director of pro scouting Kevin Goldstein.
  • BA’s Aaron Fitt writes that Louisiana State right-hander Aaron Nola is “clearly college baseball’s best pitcher” and feels that he should reach the Major Leagues relatively quickly after being drafted. Fitt recaps Nola’s most recent start, noting that his fastball sat 95-96 mph when he got into a first-inning jam then settled in at 92-94 mph through the eighth inning. He also features a 79-81 mph slider that gives right-handers fits when thrown inside and an 83-84 mph changeup that generates grounders versus lefties. Nola has dominated the nation’s best conference for two years running, writes Fitt. He is universally regarded as a Top 10 pick in the upcoming draft.
  • From that same piece, Fitt reports that at least five GMs were on-hand to see surefire first-rounder Tyler Beede (Vanderbilt) turn in an underwhelming performance. Beede’s command issues have caused his draft stock to slip this season, and he did little to help that perception with his latest outing. Though he set down the first seven he faced, he opened the fifth inning with three straight walks. After escaping unharmed, he opened the sixth with a walk and would later hit a pair of batters to open the seventh.
  • ESPN’s Keith Law tweeted yesterday that the White Sox were in heavy on Nola’s start in the SEC Tournament, as Kenny Williams Jr. and owner Jerry Reinsdorf were on-hand to watch his outing. On a similar note, 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson reports that the Twins had VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff and top national crosschecker Tim O’Neil on-hand for Nola’s start (Twitter link).

Minor Moves: Joe Gardner, Max Ramirez

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…

  • Right-hander Joe Gardner has signed a minor league deal with the Cubs and been assigned to Double-A, where he will make his season debut on Saturday, his agents at Sosnick/Cobbe Sports announced (on Twitter). The former Indians and Rockies farmhand was a part of the 2011 trade that sent Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland. He began the season with the Atlantic League’s Lancaster Barnstormers where he fired five shutout innings with a 7-to-1 K/BB ratio. Gardner, a former third-round pick, twice ranked inside his team’s Top 30 prospects, according to Baseball America, who most recently noted that his low three-quarter arm slot makes him tough on right-handers.
  • The Reds have released former top catching prospect Max Ramirez from their Triple-A affiliate in Louisville, according to the International League’s transactions page. The now-29-year-old Ramirez was 10-for-52 (all singles) with Louisville though he also managed to draw an impressive 16 walks in 68 plate appearances, making for a rather peculiar triple-slash of .192/.382/.192. He has a career .269/.348/.407 batting line in 470 games at Triple-A but hasn’t reached the Majors since 2010.