Chicago Cubs Rumors

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

Minor Moves: Arguelles, Rays, Lorick, Lopez, Rockies

Here are the day’s minor transactions from around the league…

  • Baseball America’s Matt Eddy delivers a series of recent releases. You can check his always-useful Twitter feed for the full run, but the highlight is probably the Royals‘ release of lefty Noel Arguelles (Twitter link). A high-profile signee out of Cuba back in 2009, the 25-year-old was hit hard in Double-A last year after switching full-time to a relief role. He was brought as a minor league free agent, but Kansas City has apparently seen enough.
  • Eddy also tweets that the Rays have parted ways with two of the team’s seven supplemental first-rounders from 2011, shortstop Brandon Martin and outfielder James Harris. Both players are still just 21 years of age, but neither has mastered the lower minors or even reached the High-A level.
  • The Cubs have released left-hander Jeff Lorick, per the team’ transactions page. The 27-year-old Lorick was a 20th-round selection back in the 2009 draft and spent the 2014 campaign (his age-26 season) at Double-A Tennessee, where he worked to a 4.52 ERA in 63 2/3 innings of work. Lorick struggled as a starter in the Class-A Advanced Florida State League in 2011, but he’s always missed a good number of bats when working as a reliever. However, he’s also walked more than four hitters per nine innings and has yet to reach the Triple-A level.
  • The Marlins have released second baseman Alfredo Lopez, also via the team transaction page at MLB.com. The 25-year-old batted .216/.298/.263 at Double-A in 2014 and had spent most of the 2015 spring working in Minor League camp. Lopez has hit well in the lower minors (.300 average, .384 OBP in Class-A Advanced) but stalled in Double-A and has very limited experience at the Triple-A level.
  • The Rockies released outfielders Jared Simon and Brian Humphries as well as infielder Matt Wessinger, per the MLB transaction page. Simon, a 2010 sixth-round pick, and Humphries, a 14th-rounder in 2011, each spent last season with Double-A Tulsa and OPSed south of .700. Wessinger is perhaps the most notable, as he was a fifth-rounder as recently as 2012, but he batted just .214/.278/.295 at Class-A Advanced in 2014.

NL Central Notes: Bryant, Kang, Reds, Cardinals

Cubs president Theo Epstein said yesterday that he’s never taken a Minor Leaguer and put him on an Opening Day roster with zero prior big league experience, but super-prospect Kris Bryant feels like he could be the exception to that rule, writes ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers“I look at it as ‘Why not me?” Bryant said on Friday. “I think I’m the type of guy that can go out there and do it. I’ve made it a point of mine to come out here and show them that I can.” Bryant, of course, is the talk of Spring Training with nine homers and a ludicrous .406/.472/1.313 batting line in 36 plate appearances. The Cubs, though, can delay his free agency by a full season if they keep him in the Minors for a bit less than two weeks to open the season. While Cubs management and ownership naturally insists that any decision would be baseball-related as opposed to business-related, it seems likely that Bryant would be recalled early in the season once the year of team control is gained.

More from the NL Central…

  • Jung-ho Kang has struggled to a .111 average in Spring Training thus far, but Pirates GM Neal Huntington is still planning on bringing the Korean infielder north with the club to open the season, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We’ve seen some really good things,” Huntington told Biertempfel in regard to Kang.
  • Chris Dominguez, Brennan Boesch, Ivan De Jesus and Irving Falu are all competing for the Reds‘ final bench spots, writes MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, and each has performed well in Spring Training. Manager Bryan Price also noted that the rotation isn’t yet settled. Anthony DeSclafani, Jason Marquis and Raisel Iglesias are all in the mix for the final two spots, and Price explained how his club is looking beyond statistics to determine who will fill those roles. In general, he spoke very highly of DeSclafani, so it seems likely that he’ll be in the rotation to open the year.
  • Cardinals GM John Mozeliak spoke with Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (subscription required/recommended) about his tendency to hang onto young pitching and his deviation from that process by trading players such as Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins to land John Lackey and Jason Heyward“Believe it or not, even though in these deals it appears like we’re giving up the control factor, we felt they were fair deals for both sides,” said Mozeliak. “Put it this way: We understand the risk.” Mozeliak went on to discuss the increased importance teams now place on prospects as opposed to the 1990s and early 2000s, noting that cost control has become an increasingly large factor in trades. The Cardinals, Goold writes, have an in-house algorithm and scouting process to assign dollar values to players, which they use in free agency and in trades. Said Chairman Bill Dewitt, Jr.: “Our model is value-based, and what we want to do is get value back for value given. Because there is always opportunity to use resources to acquire talent.”

Central Notes: White Sox, Dozier, Baez, Madson

If all the high-profile moves the White Sox have made this offseason don’t work out, the organization plans to be “nimble” in trying to contend in 2016 and beyond, GM Rick Hahn tells MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. “Knock on wood, given the young players that we have in the organization now and the ones we have coming and players under control for the next several years, I don’t think that what happens in ’15 is going to cause us to take a significant step backwards in terms of that plan,” says Hahn. “It just may have us reallocate assets to future seasons so that we can get back on track quickly.” That might suggest that the White Sox could trade someone like Jeff Samardzija, who is eligible for free agency after 2015, if the team doesn’t contend this summer. That stands to reason, of course, although it’s somewhat rare to hear a GM describe contingency plans in a year in which his team is expected to contend. Here’s more from the Central divisions.

  • Twins infielder Brian Dozier‘s new extension contains a few potential bonuses, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Dozier can make $100K for winning and MVP or World Series MVP award, plus $25K for Gold Gloves or All-Star appearances.
  • The Cubs haven’t yet decided whether Javier Baez will make the team out of camp, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com writes. “You put your present and future hat on. In the present tense, there has to be some adjustments made at the plate; future tense, I can see all those things coming together,” says manager Joe Maddon. Baez hit nine homers in 229 big-league plate appearances last year, but struck out in 41% of his plate appearances. As Tim Dierkes noted in today’s Offseason In Review post on the Cubs, Baez is part of a hazy middle infield picture in Chicago.
  • Royals reliever Ryan Madson says he has an opt-out at the end of Spring Training, but he hasn’t thought about exercising it, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. Madson, who has not appeared in the big leagues since 2011, is simply enjoying getting back to pitching after years of injury troubles.


Ricketts, Epstein Defend Handling Of Kris Bryant

Scott Boras’ recent comments regarding the likelihood that the Cubs will not promote his client Kris Bryant for Opening Day have added fuel to a debate that has gone on for years about when top prospects should be promoted, and how (or whether) clubs should weight service-time issues. (Bryant, of course, has added fuel of his own by hitting nine home runs in 32 Spring Training appearances.) Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein both commented on Bryant and Boras today.

  • Ricketts spoke at a luncheon in Chicago Wednesday and defended his team’s right to promote players at its discretion, writes Phil Thompson of the Chicago Tribune. Boras, Ricketts said, has “the right as a fan to express his opinions. He has the right as an agent to represent his client. But we have the right as a team to make the player personnel decisions.”
  • President of baseball operations Theo Epstein said that promoting players for the first time at the start of a season isn’t his usual approach regardless of service-time questions, via David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com. “I can say this: This is my 13th time putting a team together at the end of spring training and I have never once put a young prospect on an Opening Day roster when he had to make his major league debut,” said Epstein, who added that his approach with young players when he was GM of the Red Sox was to allow them to start their season in the minors and “get in a good rhythm” there before being promoted. Epstein suggested that the timing of a player’s big-league debut is important, and that having a player debut on Opening Day, when bad weather and lots of press attention are significant factors, might hurt the player.

Offseason In Review: Chicago Cubs

The Cubs made multiple splashes this winter, spending big to bring in Jon Lester and Joe Maddon while also rounding out their rotation and adding a new starting catcher and center fielder.

Major League Signings

  • Jon Lester, SP: six years, $155MM.  $25MM mutual option for 2021 with a $10MM buyout.  Guaranteed with 200 innings in 2020 or 400 in 2019-20.  Full no-trade clause.
  • Jason Hammel, SP: two years, $20MM.  $12MM club option for 2017 with a $2MM buyout.  May void based on 2016 performance.
  • David Ross, C: two years, $5MM.
  • Jason Motte, RP: one year, $4.5MM.
  • Tsuyoshi Wada, SP: one year, $4MM.
  • Chris Denorfia, OF: one year, $2.6MM.
  • Jacob Turner, SP: one year, $1MM (club option exercised).
  • Total spend: $192.1MM.
  • Joe Maddon, Manager: five years, $25MM.

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades And Claims

Notable Losses

Luis Valbuena, Dan Straily, Justin Ruggiano, Carlos Villanueva, Wesley Wright, John Baker, Ryan Kalish, Zack Godley, Jeferson Mejia, James McDonald, Kyuji Fujikawa

Needs Addressed

Manager Joe Maddon surprised the baseball world by opting out of his Rays contract in late October, a clause triggered when top executive Andrew Friedman jumped to the Dodgers.  Cubs manager Rick Renteria was fired a week later.  In a statement on Halloween, Cubs president Theo Epstein explained he made the difficult decision to be loyal to the organization rather than being loyal to Renteria, who had been expected to manage the Cubs in 2015.  Maddon’s deal with the Cubs was announced hours later.

The Rays contend Maddon opted out after talking to the Cubs, and MLB is investigating the Cubs for tampering.  In February, new Commissioner Rob Manfred said a decision regarding that charge will be made prior to Opening Day.  Aside from perhaps strained relations between the two clubs, it’s difficult to imagine the Cubs suffering any penalty of consequence even if they are found guilty.  The series of events feels a little dirty, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports put it, but in the end, the Cubs now have one of the best-regarded managers in baseball.

After declining a $5MM option on Wada, the Cubs inked him to a non-guaranteed deal worth $4MM.  The 34-year-old showed promise as a back-rotation option in a small sample of 13 starts in 2014, and the cost was minimal.  Travis Wood was also retained, with an arbitration contract worth $5.685MM.  He’s consistently shown the skills of a 4.40 ERA pitcher.  With Wood a borderline non-tender candidate and Wada potentially ticketed for Triple-A to start the season, it’s fair to ask whether the Cubs could have found a better way to spend nearly $10MM.

Also in November, the Cubs picked up La Stella in a trade with the Braves.  Though GM Jed Hoyer insisted the move wasn’t a precursor to anything, La Stella fits nicely as a replacement for Valbuena, who was traded in January.  We’ll look at that trade under the Deal Of Note section.

The Cubs had a functional catcher under control in Welington Castillo, but clearly felt that was an area to upgrade.  They kicked off their offseason with a pursuit of Russell Martin, by far the best available option.  The Cubs ended up finishing in second on Martin, though there’s no evidence they got close to the five-year, $82MM deal he signed with the Blue Jays.

Though it was thought the Cubs were in the Martin market rather than the catching market, they executed on Plan B by acquiring Montero during the Winter Meetings.  With a minimal cost in prospects, the acquisition was akin to signing Montero to a three-year, $40MM free agent deal (the amount remaining on his contract).  The Montero and Ross acquisitions suggest a conscious effort to improve the team’s pitch-framing, an area in which Castillo rates poorly.  Veteran leadership was also a factor.

Still, there’s a reason a willingness to take on Montero’s contract was most of what was needed to acquire him – the 31-year-old hit .237/.324/.358 over the last two seasons and makes more than $13MM annually through 2017.  In Montero, Wood, Motte, Denorfia, and Ross, the Cubs took on almost $58MM in commitments to five players who weren’t very good in 2014.

The Cubs also brought Hammel back as the Winter Meetings began, locking in their secondary rotation piece at a lower than expected price.  It was thought that Hammel might command a three-year deal, but perhaps he was just motivated to return to Chicago.  The Cubs had reportedly looked at Justin Masterson as an alternative; he signed a one-year, $9.5MM deal with Boston.

MLB: Chicago Cubs-Photo Day

The Winter Meetings was also the site of the Cubs’ biggest winter splash, as they completed their tense pursuit of Lester with the largest contract in franchise history.  The lofty $155MM price tag matched expectations, and after years of conserving payroll, the Cubs can certainly afford it.  The Cubs need their new ace to be a workhorse, a trait that’s missing from the team’s other projected starters.  Any deal of this magnitude and length for a starting pitcher carries a lot of risk, but the Lester signing addressed the team’s biggest need without sacrificing young cornerstone players or a draft pick.

Also in December, the Cubs picked up Motte on a low-risk deal to complement their bullpen.  The former Cardinals closer will be two years removed from Tommy John surgery in May.  The Cubs’ bullpen could be deep if Motte rediscovers his 2012 form.

Questions Remaining

As James Shields‘ free agency dragged into February, the Cubs got involved in hopes of a bargain.  According to Pat Mooney of CSNChicago.com, “The Cubs made Shields a backloaded offer that started at $60 million over four years. That morphed into a three-year, $60 million concept that included a significant amount of deferred money and a vesting option that would still cap the overall value at less than $80 million.”

As with Martin, the Cubs finished in second, but nowhere close to the player’s ultimate contract.  Shields would have gone a long way toward answering the Cubs’ remaining rotation question marks.  Even if Lester’s spring “dead arm” phase turns out to be nothing, none of the Cubs’ No. 2-4 starters (Jake Arrieta, Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks) have ever pitched 185 innings in a season.  The Cubs have also shown continued interest in Cole Hamels.  Such a deal could potentially happen this summer if the Cubs are willing to take the hit in giving up a young potential star.

The Cubs made the wise and expected choice to keep starting shortstop Starlin Castro, as the team’s impressive infield depth behind him has yet to fully arrive.  The long-term look of the Cubs’ middle infield may start to be determined this year, depending on how Addison Russell, Javier Baez, and Arismendy Alcantara perform.  Could Castro be moved this summer?  We have seen that move from Theo Epstein’s playbook once before.  For now, it will be Baez and Castro at second base and shortstop, with Russell potentially ready by midseason.  Alcantara is valuable now in a super-utility role.  The surplus has yet to manifest itself.

The Cubs have more immediate roster issues to address before the April 5th opener.  With no strong offers for Castillo, the team is currently leaning toward opening the season with three catchers (none of whom can play another position).  Epstein says Maddon has been “pounding the table” for three catchers, but it reduces the team’s flexibility if non-catchers need days off.  The versatility of Alcantara, La Stella, and Denorfia would be crucial in a three-catcher scenario.

The Cubs also don’t have enough bullpen spots to retain everyone currently on their 40-man roster.  Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Neil Ramirez, Jason Motte, Justin Grimm, and Phil Coke appear locked in, leaving one spot for Edwin Jackson and out of options relievers Drake Britton and Felix Doubront (assuming Wada goes to the minors or the DL).  The disabled list could solve this logjam, or the Cubs can just release the worst two of the three.

Perhaps the biggest question for Cubs fans is, “When will Kris Bryant join the roster?”  The third base phenom has clubbed nine home runs in 11 spring training games, but the Cubs would lose the ability to control him for the 2021 season if they put him on the Opening Day roster.  Stashing him in Iowa for a few more weeks is the prudent thing to do, even if agent Scott Boras thinks the Cubs are “damaging the ethics and brand of Major League Baseball.” 

I do want to play devil’s advocate to the commonly accepted wisdom that Bryant should not open the season with the Cubs.  Say the Cubs wait until April 15th, meaning Bryant misses out on the bare minimum of eight potential big league games.  Projections suggest the Cubs are sacrificing less than 0.3 wins above replacement in this scenario.  However, I don’t think WAR was meant to be employed this way, and a player with Bryant’s talent could easily affect the outcome of one or two games within eight (or more).  A single well-timed home run can do that.  And the Cubs could easily miss the playoffs by one game this year.  The 2010 Braves opened the season with Jason Heyward and won the Wild Card by one game.  I’d probably cook up a reason to hold off on selecting Bryant’s contract, perhaps health or defense-related, but I don’t think it’s open-and-shut.

Deal Of Note

The Cubs’ January acquisition of Dexter Fowler may have flown under the radar because of Lester.  The trade, which sent Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily to Houston, was a better allocation of resources for both teams.  The Cubs didn’t have a true center fielder on the roster, and mostly because of Bryant, they didn’t really need Valbuena (the game’s 15th-best third baseman by WAR in 2014).  Fowler projects for the highest on-base percentage on the Cubs, and the team thinks it found a way he can improve defensively.  Beyond defensive concerns, Fowler has battled health issues.  But if all goes well, he could be a qualifying offer candidate for the Cubs after the season.

Overview

The Cubs flirted with some huge moves in the 2013-14 offseason, and a year later they finally brought in their big-name manager and ace starter.  Still, they’re keeping a relatively low payroll to start 2015, and probably could have afforded and justified an all-in plunge for Lester, Martin, and one of Shields, Ervin Santana, or Brandon McCarthy.

Second-guessing aside, the stakes are high for the first time in Theo Epstein’s tenure.  The Cubs will be viewed as a disappointment if they don’t make the playoffs.  They appear to be primed for sustained success, but it would be nice to get some actual wins on the board.


NL Notes: Cubs, Taylor, Caminero

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says the team is likely to start the season with three catchers, ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers writes. Having Miguel Montero, David Ross and Welington Castillo all start the season with the team does limit Joe Maddon’s tactical possibilities somewhat, but Epstein says that Maddon supports having three catchers. Having three would also allow the Cubs to be somewhat more flexible in using their catchers to pinch-hit, and would give the team depth in case of an injury. Rogers notes, though, that common sense suggests the Cubs would still consider trading Castillo if the right offer came along, and that the Cubs might be trying to improve their negotiating position by giving the impression they’re not desperate to deal Castillo. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • With Denard Span out with after having core muscle surgery, top Nationals prospect Michael Taylor is making a strong case to be on the team’s Opening Day roster. But there are reasons to wonder about his readiness, Nats Insider’s Mark Zuckerman writes. Taylor is hitting .324/.324/.765 in 34 plate appearances this spring, but he’s struck out 11 times without walking. Taylor exhibited similar issues in his 43 plate appearances in the big leagues last year, and he has limited experience at Triple-A, so sending him there might be best for his development.
  • Reliever Arquimedes Caminero, who the Pirates acquired in a minor deal with the Marlins in February, is very likely to make the Bucs out of camp, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Caminero is out of options and has been very impressive this spring, striking out 12 batters in eight innings with a fastball that reaches into the high 90s. Caminero says the Bucs have helped him improve his delivery. “(They are) just simplifying things that were there that I didn’t notice much and now I’m noticing,” says Caminero. “I’m just going easier in my mechanics. I was trying to throw too hard. … I feel more confident. I’m hitting my target more often.”

NL Central Links: Bryant, Martinez, Pirates

If the Cubs keep Kris Bryant at Triple-A to begin the season, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal believes the MLBPA should file a grievance as a matter of principle.  It would be a mostly symbolic gesture (“The case law overwhelmingly favors the clubs,” according to one of Rosenthal’s sources) yet it would indicate that the players’ union is serious about addressing this service-time loophole when the new collective bargaining agreement is negotiated next year.  It would also be a big-picture show of strength by the union, as some player agents feel that the MLBPA has a bit too lenient on some recent issues.

Here’s more from around the NL Central…

  • The Braves initially asked for Carlos Martinez when they began discussing the Jason Heyward trade with the Cardinals, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.  The Cards refused, just as they’ve steadfastly turned down other trade offers for Martinez in recent years, yet Miklasz wonders why the club is so committed to keeping Martinez but is hesitant to give him a regular rotation job.  Miklasz argues that if the Cardinals have any doubts about Martinez, they might be better served by dealing him now while his stock is still high.
  • Arquimedes Caminero has been impressed scouts this spring, and the Pirates may be forced to put the out-of-options righty on the roster in order to keep him, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes.  Keeping Caminero in the bullpen could force John Holdzkom to start the year at Triple-A, as while Holdzkom has pitched well himself in camp, he still has minor league options.
  • Speaking of the Pirates‘ roster crunch, GM Neal Huntington told Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that a move could possibly be made to address the Bucs’ several out-of-options players.  “We have some guys who are out of options who may be of interest to other clubs,” Huntington said.  “We may make a small trade … or claim somebody on waivers or lose somebody on waivers. We still have some (roster) decisions to make and are always open to improving our talent level.”
  • The Reds have told veteran southpaw Paul Maholm that he won’t be earning a rotation job, though Maholm isn’t yet considering opting out of his minor league deal with the club, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes.  “We still have some time left in camp,” Maholm said.  “I’m trying to pitch and get ready for the season. Those are decisions we have to make at the date that’s set up. Until then, I’m just going to pitch.”  The Reds would have to pay Maholm $100K to retain his services if he’s not going to make their Major League roster, as per his status as an Article XX(B) player.

Cafardo On Roster Size, Cueto, Moncada, Maddon

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe opines baseball needs to expand its roster and suggests a 28-man limit with 25 eligible on game day. MLB spokesman Pat Courtney told Cafardo there have been discussions about roster expansion, but nothing has advanced. There are obstacles with increased salaries and insurances costs, but those issues, according to Cafardo, are outweighed by the 162-game schedule becoming too much for a player’s body to handle. Cafardo also proposes baseball convene a panel of players who avoided the disabled list throughout their careers to determine if there are any patterns to their remaining healthy.

In other items from Cafardo’s Sunday Baseball Notes column:

  • According to one GM, Johnny Cueto “will get a Max Scherzer deal” if the Reds right-hander can put together a 15-20-win season. Cueto ranks fifth on MLBTR’s 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings list.
  • The Yankees were given the opportunity to top the Red Sox‘s $31.5MM offer to Yoan Moncada, but declined. “We scouted him extensively for years,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. “I feel we put him through the highest level of scouting and medical evaluation. I just wasn’t comfortable offering what we actually offered ($25MM), let alone going any higher.
  • For now, the Red Sox will play Moncada at second base, but his eventual position will depend on Boston’s needs in the next couple of years.
  • The tampering allegation made by the Rays over the Cubs‘ hiring of Joe Maddon is still alive.
  • The Red Sox are showcasing Jemile Weeks, likely ticketed for Triple-A, as a super utility player and may be able sell fairly high on him with the Tigers one of the teams in the market for such a player.

 


Central Notes: Eaton, Henderson, Perez, Jackson, Wood

Today’s biggest transactional news came out of Chicago, as the White Sox continued to set the stage for the future by extending outfielder Adam Eaton. The 26-year-old expressed plenty of excitement for the new deal, though it sounds as if he did not quite enjoy the process that it took to reach agreement, as Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com tweets“I didn’t sleep much,” said Eaton. “Very stressful. I don’t know how the other side felt. It was long.”

Let’s have a look at a few more notes from the central divisions:

  • Former Brewers closer Jim Henderson was reassigned to minor league camp today as he continues to show slow progress in his return from shoulder surgery, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports. Henderson has been throwing his fastball at about five to ten miles per hour below his peak mid-to-upper-90s offering from recent seasons.
  • Fellow righty Corey Knebel has also been shipped to the minor league side of camp by the Brewers, writes McCalvy, leaving Chris Perez, Tyler Thornburg, and Rob Wooten to battle over the final pen role. Perez is in camp on a minor league deal and has Article XX(B) protection, meaning that the team will either need to put him on the active roster, pay him a $100K bonus in the minors (and give him a June 1 opt-out date), or release him. The other two players still have options.
  • Cubs skipper Joe Maddon says he is talking with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein about a creative means to fit both Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood on the 25-man roster, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat tweets. Jackson is in the midst of a substantial free agent contract, while Wood is out of options. A transaction would be necessary should either player not make the club out of camp.

NL Central Notes: Iglesias, Cubs, Tabata

Raisel Iglesias is about to debut in the Reds rotation, a process that began when Reds scout Mark Snipp watched Iglesias pitch in Mexico, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports. Iglesias was taller than the Reds had heard he was, and had a good curveball and slider. The Reds were willing to commit $27MM to Iglesias because they viewed him as a starter, while other teams figured he would be a reliever. That marked the Reds’ second high-profile signing of a Cuban pitcher in recent years, the other being Aroldis Chapman. “In both cases, we probably went further (financially) than we thought we would go,” says GM Walt Jocketty. “But we have absolutely zero regrets.” Here’s more from the NL Central.

  • Even if your team is rebuilding, it’s important to have the right veterans, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein tells MLB Network Radio (via the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich, who connects the Cubs’ efforts to rebuild to those of the Astros). “When you have a young team, we were the youngest team in baseball last year, and probably will be again this year, it can get really rudderless and lost in a hurry if you don’t have the right veterans around,” says Epstein. “[P]eople … mock that sometimes because it’s hard to quantify but it’s real.” Last year’s Cubs team prominently featured thirty-something players like John Baker, Nate Schierholtz, Justin Ruggiano and Edwin Jackson even though most of the season focused on trades of veterans and the development of young players.
  • Outfielder Jose Tabata wouldn’t mind if the Pirates traded him, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. “I want to be in the big leagues, whether it’s here or somewhere else,” says Tabata. “If somebody else gives me an opportunity and the Pirates trade me, that’s OK. I want to stay here, but we’ll see what happens.” In 2011, the Pirates signed Tabata to a long-term deal that has not worked out, and the two years and $8.75MM remaining on that deal will likely be an impediment to any trade, especially since Tabata hit a mere .282/.314/.333 in 186 plate appearances last year and is no longer even on the Pirates’ 40-man roster.