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Chicago Cubs Rumors
As Ernesto Frieri was en route to the Pirates after being traded by the Angels, he ran into a familiar face at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, writes MLB.com’s Tom Singer. “I’m waiting for my next flight, so I just went to a bathroom to wash my face. First thing, I look at this guy washing his hands next to me,” said Frieri, “and I thought, ‘I think I know this guy.’” He was right – that guy was Jason Grilli, the reliever for whom he had been traded hours earlier. Anyone who has been in the colossal O’Hare Airport can appreciate exactly how unlikely this chance meeting was. Here’s more from the AL and NL Central..
- A year and one day ago, the Cubs traded Scott Feldman to the Orioles rather than waiting until the July 31st deadline was closer. This year, while there are plenty of scouts watching the Cubs, General Manager Jed Hoyer isn’t positive that we’ll see a similarly timed move this year. “Last year it really came together,” Hoyer said, according to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. “Baltimore was so determined to get a starter. You can always tell when teams have a feel for what we’re looking for. Ultimately, sometimes it takes a deadline to make deals. People get a lot more serious with each day that gets closer to the deadline. It probably works both ways. I don’t think you ever go into July thinking you’re going to make deals early, but sometimes it can come together.”
- Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have sent at least ten scouts to watch the Cubs since September and several sources tell Gonzales that they have followed Jason Hammel just as closely as they have followed Jeff Samardzija.
- We saw a bunch of international signings on July 2nd, but Twins VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff says they aren’t in a rush to spend. “Right now the biggest issue is early committing,” Radcliff said, according to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “It just doesn’t make sense. You’re talking about 15- and 16-year-olds. You’d think you’d want more time to figure it out and have more people see the players, but people are just throwing their money out there and locking them up earlier and earlier. I think we’re all still figuring it out.”
For those weighing a foray into baseball operations, the Brewers have posted two opportunities that may be worth a look: baseball systems developer and baseball systems architect. Here’s the latest out of the NL Central:
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin says that the club is not looking to make any significant acquisitions, reports Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. “Right now, if we stay healthy, I don’t see a major need,” said Melvin, who said that there has been “very minimal activity” around the league to this point. McCalvy says that the bullpen seems the most likely area for an upgrade, though even that is far from a certainty. Otherwise, Melvin downplayed the likelihood of action, even for a veteran bench piece: “I don’t know what you would do. You’re not going to change Rickie [Weeks] and Scooter [Gennett]. You’re not going to change [Lyle] Overbay [and Mark] Reynolds. One piece, maybe, but it’s got to be somebody who can play center field. I don’t know where [a player in the mold of 2011 acquisition Jerry Hairston] would play if we had him now.”
- The Cubs may be closer to contention than was once thought, thanks to a surprisingly promising set of current MLB starters, writes Rob Neyer of FOX Sports. With an emergent Jake Arrieta — who once again made a serious go at a no-hitter last night — and a host of hitting prospects knocking on the door, Neyer wonders whether Chicago might be better off holding onto Jeff Samardzija and aiming to enter 2015 as a dark-horse contender.
- Whatever the Cubs do with Samardzija and Jason Hammel — the latter of whom seems particularly likely to be dealt — there is little chance that they will part with Arrieta, who has blossomed in his new environs. As Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com writes, Chicago looks to have done well to add Arrieta (along with Pedro Strop and cash) in exchange for Scott Feldman one year ago tomorrow. For his part, the righty says (in colorful terms) that he is just happy to be throwing well after a difficult stretch with the Orioles, as Paul Folkemer of PressBox notes on Twitter.
- Two of the game’s most promising second-half turnaround possibilities play for the Pirates, according to Dave Szymborski of ESPN.com (Insider link). Szymborski names Francisco Liriano and the recently-acquired Ernesto Frieri in listing the players most likely to turn it on after the All-Star break.
In his latest column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reminds everyone why experienced foreigners like Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka and White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu are considered eligible for Rookie of the Year awards. Of course, players like Abreu and Tanaka come with years of professional experience, but they still have to make a significant transition when it comes to the move to MLB, both professionally and culturally. Here’s more from Rosenthal..
- High school left-hander (and first overall draft choice) Brady Aiken reportedly arrived in Houston last Monday, which would indicate that an agreement was close, but a week later nothing has been announced and neither side is saying why. The holdup, Rosenthal says, bears a resemblance to the delays that occasionally occur in free agency when players fail physicals and teams try to rework deals. If indeed Aiken failed his physical, the Astros would have the right to offer him 40 percent of his signing bonus value, according to the new draft rules that were negotiated into the collective bargaining agreement in 2011. Of course, this is just speculation on Rosenthal’s part and only the parties involved know whether there is any kind of issue with Aiken’s physical.
- D’Backs outfielder and fan favorite Gerardo Parra might be among the least likely in Arizona to be traded. With A.J. Pollock and Mark Trumbo on the disabled list, a trade of the 27-year-old would leave the club short on experienced outfielders. It’s also unclear how much Parra would bring back in a trade. Parra is making $4.85MM in his third year of arbitration and amounts to little more than a platoon player, given his career .586 OPS against left-handers. Third baseman Martin Prado, earning $11MM per season through 2016, is another player the D’Backs might opt to keep, even though he has struggled at the plate as well. Second baseman Aaron Hill, meanwhile, is expendable given their surplus of middle infielders.
- It would be surprising if the Dodgers traded an outfielder considering the recent injury woes of Carl Crawford, Joc Pederson, and Andre Ethier.
- The Tigers didn’t re-sign Joaquin Benoit last winter because they didn’t want to pay him closer money, but he still makes sense for them as a mid-season pickup. The Padres reliever, who turns 37 in July, is owed about $3MM this season and $8MM next season with an $8MM team option or $1.5MM buyout for 2016.
- Jake Arrieta probably has the best stuff of any Cubs starter right now but, of course, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel are more likely to be traded since Arrieta is under club control through 2017. Lefty Travis Wood, meanwhile, could be an extension candidate once the Cubs complete their rotation selloff.
The Cubs begin a series at Fenway Park tonight, getting back in action following a rare Sunday off-day. The club played a doubleheader on Saturday in order to keep Sunday free for Chicago’s Pride Parade, which could’ve created a traffic jam in the Wrigleyville area had the Cubs been playing as originally scheduled. MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat takes a look at the history of Sunday baseball, and passes along the historical note that the Cubs were off on a Sunday for the first time since 1932.
Here’s the latest from the north side of Chicago…
- Theo Epstein denied rumors that he will leave the Cubs after his contract expires following the 2016 season, he tells Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. While some speculate that Epstein has been upset at the lack of Major League resources he’s been given by the Cubs, he “insists he will be here as long as the Cubs want him,” Sullivan writes.
- Two scouts aren’t impressed by Darwin Barney‘s bat, telling Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune that while Barney is a good fielder, “if he can’t hit in the National League, what makes anyone think he can hit in the American League?” Barney has only slashed .198/.243/.284 in 174 PA this season and could be non-tendered if he can’t improve at the plate. Gonzales feels Barney’s time with the Cubs is probably nearing an end, though it could come via a trade if he can hit enough to get a look from another team.
- Also from Gonzales’ reader mailbag piece, he expects the Cubs “to wait as long as possible” for the best offer before trading Jeff Samardzija or Jason Hammel. He thinks Samardzija might even not be moved until the offseason if necessary, though this would lessen this trade value as a new team would only have him under contract for the 2015 season.
- The Cubs haven’t gotten much production out of their veteran outfielders, and Gonzales expects maybe one (at most) of Nate Schierholtz, Justin Ruggiano, Ryan Sweeney, Chris Coghlan or Ryan Kalish to be back next season and Chicago will look for more veteran upgrades. Since Sweeney is owed $2MM for 2015 and the others are all on one-year or minor league contracts, I’d suspect Sweeney is the favorite to return, though $2MM isn’t so large an amount that the Cubs couldn’t eat it if necessary.
Here’s the latest from the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo:
- With David Price of the Rays on the trading block, Cafardo asks Brewers GM Doug Melvin about the process of trading, or trading for, a top starting pitching. Melvin has been on both sides of that process, having traded Zack Greinke and having acquired Greinke and C.C. Sabathia. Melvin says he would have been willing to trade Greinke within the NL Central, but for an extra charge. “I had teams within the division asking for him, and my approach to that is this: I had no problem doing it, but I had to get a little extra if I was going to do it. And that’s what I told them,” he says. Even assuming that’s the Rays’ policy too, though, it isn’t clear there’s a great matchup between them and any other AL East team. The Blue Jays are one possibility, but Cafardo writes that they seem to be more interested on a lower-tier starter like Jason Hammel of the Cubs.
- A source tells Cafardo, “You could argue that Hammel is the most sought-after player, positional or pitcher, in the trade market right now.”
- This season, the Pirates are likely to pursue a starting pitcher and a reliever, but not an offensive player.
- Victor Martinez wants to stay with the Tigers. One potential hitch as he heads toward free agency, though, is that the Tigers will have to figure out how long Miguel Cabrera will be able to play defense until Detroit needs to move him to DH.
Cubs executive Jason McLeod, who’s also a candidate for the Padres’ open GM job, discusses drafting and player development in a wide-ranging interview with Fangraphs’ David Laurila that also addresses McLeod’s past in the Red Sox organization. McLeod says that one of the biggest challenges in drafting is weighing riskier high-school players against college players who are closer to being finished products. “It was ‘I can’t pass on this toolsy high school upside guy? The risk is big – it’s huge – but how can I pass? If I do, people will say I was too conservative, that I was too scared to make that pick because of the potential downside,‘” McLeod says, saying that he’s still haunted by the Red Sox’ decision to pass on high-schooler Chase Headley in the 2005 draft. Here are more notes out of Chicago.
- The Cubs are open to keeping players like Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel if they have a dramatic (and unlikely) season turnaround, Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald writes. “I said the other day, if we want to win 15 in a row, we’d definitely be open to it,” says Theo Epstein. “Sometimes it’s more important why you’re playing well than if you’re playing well.”
- With Samardzija and Hammel likely to be dealt in the near future, the Cubs will likely continue to depend on lefty Travis Wood, Brian Sandalow of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Wood, who now has a 4.52 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 95 2/3 innings in 2013, suddenly looks like a part of the Cubs’ future, despite arriving in a relatively minor deal in 2011.
- Infielder Darwin Barney hasn’t hit much lately, so his future is murky, but ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers writes that Barney wants to stay in Chicago. “We all hope that our future is here,” says Barney. “We want to be here when things turn around. I think we can see that things slowly are.” Barney has hit .205/.256/.295 in 168 plate appearances this season.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes that the Cardinals should not overpay to acquire David Price from the Rays by parting with Oscar Taveras. Rosenthal points to the decline of offense around the league and the rarity of controllable sluggers in opining that Taveras is too valuable a commodity to lose. He also notes that the Cardinals aren’t typically big spenders, but adds that the team could create room for Price’s remaining $7MM and roughly $18-20MM 2015 salary by electing not to re-sign free agents such as Jason Motte and Pat Neshek, as well as non-tendering arbitration eligible players such as Peter Bourjos. While St. Louis could put together a formidable package headlined by Carlos Martinez, he also notes that a team like the Dodgers could top such a package perhaps by including prized outfielder Joc Pederson.
Price’s name — and the names of several others — will be hot topics over the coming month. Here’s the latest on the pitching market…
- The Angels are interested in Price but don’t have the prospects to acquire him, Rosenthal reports (Twitter links). He adds that Cubs hurler Jason Hammel is on a long list of alternative options for the Halos. Rosenthal also reports that the team would like to acquire left-handed relief, though landing a starting pitcher would allow them to use Hector Santiago in relief.
- In his daily blog post (subscription required/recommended), ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that several teams are looking at alternatives to the market’s two big-name starters — Price and Jeff Samardzija. Several clubs are interested in pulling off a deal similar to the Tigers’ acquisition of Doug Fister from the Mariners back in 2011. As such, the Diamondbacks are receiving interest in Wade Miley, and Padres righty Tyson Ross could become a target as well. Controllable arms like Miley and Ross will be highly appealing to rival clubs, as any team can afford them — regardless of payroll. He adds that the D’Backs and Padres might be years away from contention anyhow, and at that point, Miley and Ross will have become expensive via arbitration.
- Later in his post, Olney writes that the Giants will have a tough time lining up for a Price trade, as their 2015 roster is full of holes that will need to be filled – namely at third base, left field and second base. Price’s 2015 salary would prevent them from addressing their many needs, as would a Samardzija acquisition, albeit to a lesser extent.
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports looks at three factors that will impact the Cubs’ ability to maximize their return on a Samardzija trade: Many contenders are hurting more for offense than pitching in 2014; interested parties will have Price as an alternative and may prefer to surrender more talent for the longer, more impressive track record; and Samardzija is seen by some GMs as unlikely to sign an extension regardless of setting. One interested GM confidently told Heyman, “No one’s going to extend him. He’s hitting free agency,” noting that Samardzija’s agency, Frontline Athlete Management, has a history of taking clients to the open market (e.g. Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, Mike Hampton).
We’ll keep track of today’s outright assignments and minor moves from around the league right here…
- The Nationals announced today that they have released right-hander Christian Garcia (hat tip: Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post). Garcia battled back from Tommy John surgery to throw 12 2/3 excellent innings for the Nats in 2012, but he missed 2013 with a partially torn flexor tendon and was once again on the shelf with right shoulder issues. He had posted a 2.75 ERA with a 17-to-4 K/BB ratio in 14 2/3 innings at Triple-A this season.
- The Cubs have released outfielder Casper Wells, Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register tweets. Not long ago, Wells was considered by many to be a valuable platoon bat capable of handling all three outfield spots, but he struggled greatly between three teams last season and was hitting just .197/.290/.230 through 69 plate appearances with Triple-A Iowa this year.
- Southpaw Josh Outman has cleared waivers and accepted the Indians‘ outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (on Twitter). Acquired this offseason in exchange for Drew Stubbs, Outman posted a strong 3.28 ERA in 24 2/3 innings. While that ERA may have caused some to question the move, he walked 16 hitters in that time as well.
- MLBTR’s DFA Tracker reveals a slew of players in DFA limbo, including: Greg Dobbs (Nationals), Jonathan Diaz (Blue Jays), Jamie Romak (Dodgers), Chris Capuano (Red Sox), Brad Snyder (Rangers), Donnie Joseph (Royals), Roger Bernadina (Reds), Jake Dunning (Giants), J.J. Putz (D’Backs) and Evan Reed (Tigers).
The latest from ESPN’s Jayson Stark…
- Phillies ace Cliff Lee threw a bullpen session yesterday and is slated to return around the All-Star break, Stark writes for ESPN.com. Lee’s next step is to throw a simulated game this weekend before heading out on a minor league rehab assignment and returning either just before or just after the All-Star break. Rival teams tell Stark that they expect the Phillies to aggressively shop Lee, and they believe that Philadelphia would eat a significant amount of the remaining $50MM guarantee on Lee’s deal in order to net the right pieces.
- The Tigers, Pirates, Blue Jays and Angels are scouting the Phillies this week, Stark tweets. The Phillies are telling other teams around the league that this week could determine their status as buyer or sellers next month.
- Stark also tweets that he asked an unnamed club official if any teams other than the Cubs are aggressively selling at this point and was told him that in addition to Chicago, the Rays are “definitely open for business.” Stark’s colleague, Buster Olney, reported yesterday that the Rays would deal David Price “right now” if the right offer came along.
Congratulations are in order for Giants righty Tim Lincecum, who earlier today completed his second no-hitter of the division-rival Padres in the past calendar year. “Big Time Timmy Jim” was masterful, yielding just one walk and fanning six Friars on a mere 113 pitches in his historic gem.
Here are some notes from around the National League West:
- Jonah Keri, writing for Grantland, details some of the missteps made by former Padres GM Josh Byrnes but also notes that he was able to buy low on significant pieces such as Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy and Seth Smith. Byrnes’ bigger failures were in evaluating Major League talent, he writes, but even that isn’t San Diego’s biggest problem. Rather, Keri opines, their problems are rooted in poor ownership decisions that have forced the hands of GMs Byrnes, Jed Hoyer and Kevin Towers in the draft, resulting in an abysmal track record in the first round. He adds that current leaders Ron Fowler and Mike Dee have been involved with ownership dating back into the 90s (Dee did leave for a decade but returned last summer) and wonders if relying on some of the same names they have been for decades could “turn out to be a bug, not a feature.”
- We took a look last night at the latest on the Padres‘ search for a new GM. It appears that the first interview will go to former Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest, per a tweet from MLB.com’s Corey Brock. Elsewhere, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provides a full piece expanding upon his report last night regarding possible candidates for the gig. Finally, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the Yankees plan on granting the Padres permission to interview assistant GM Billy Eppler, who is on San Diego’s list.
- The Giants had some interest in adding Jason Hammel when he was available as a free agent, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Morosi suggests that the club’s previous interest could make San Francisco a possible suitor for the Cubs starter at the trade deadline.
- Dodgers middle infielder Alex Guerrero has made significant progress in his recovery from a strange ear-biting incident earlier in the year, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. He is expected to begin baseball activities again soon. The Cuban signee, who was off to an impressive start at the plate in Triple-A, could presumably still figure in the club’s plans this year.
- Earlier today it was reported that Joaquin Benoit and Huston Street of the Padres were garnering serious trade interest, and reports also indicated that the D’Backs are preparing to sell, with Brandon McCarthy in particular drawing interest.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.