Chicago Cubs Rumors

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

Quick Hits: Anthony Carter, KBO/NPB, Salary Inflation

Anthony Carter‘s deal with the Cubs is a split contract, Steve Adams of MLBTR reports on Twitter. Carter will earn at a $575K rate for time spent at the big league level, per Adams, who recently reported the righty’s signing with Chicago.

Here are a few more notes from a quiet Christmas Day:

  • Over at Fangraphs, Bradley Woodrum breaks down the next potential wave of talent from Asia. The KBO and NPB each have a variety of interesting players, and Woodrum provides context for their recent statistical achievements wile discussing their possible translation to the big leagues.
  • Writing for FOX Sports, Lewie Pollis presents a theory for the rise in player salaries. The influx of money into the game only means so much, argues Pollis, who cites to the economic notion of the “winner’s curse.” In essence, because the winning bidder for each free agent generally has the most optimistic view of that players’ likely future output and almost always outbids every other team, the overall spending environment is likely to overstate the actual number wins available for purchase in the market. In large part, says Pollis, the issue boils down to the fact that clubs overrate their own informational and analytical advantages against the rest of the league.

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Minor Moves: Gomes, Stewart, Wallace, Crosby

With a rash of waiver claims today, several players made it through without being added to another club’s 40-man. The Angels announced that outfielder Shawn O’Malley cleared waivers and was released. Meanwhile, the Athletics have outrighted righty Fernando Rodriguez to Triple-A after he cleared, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Indians lefty Nick Maronde has cleared waivers, been assigned to Triple-A, and received an invite to big league camp, per Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer (via Twitter). And the Dodgers announced that outfielder/first baseman Kyle Jensen was outrighted to Triple-A.

Here are the day’s further minor moves:

  • The Rays announced that right-hander Brandon Gomes has cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Durham. He will be invited to Major League Spring Training. The 30-year-old Gomes found himself designated for assignment last week following the Wil Myers trade.
  • Infielder Ian Stewart has joined the Nationals on a minor league pact, Matt Eddy of Baseball America tweets. As Eddy notes, Stewart seems to be a solid match for a Nats’ roster that currently features all right-handed-hitting infielders (if you count Danny Espinosa, who currently sits atop the depth chart at second and is a much better hitter from the right side than the left). Soon to turn 30, Stewart — not unlike Espinosa himself — has failed to maintain the promise of prior MLB seasons, but has shown significant power capability in the past. Stewart will receive $800K in the bigs plus a possible $350K in incentives, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets.
  • The Padres have signed first baseman Brett Wallace to a minor league pact (via Eddy, on Twitter). Like Stewart, Wallace was once a highly-valued prospect. But the 28-year-old has yet to end an MLB campaign with an above-average hitting line, and he does not offer the kind of defensive value that lets his bat play. That said, he could still have some upside remaining and will provide San Diego with a depth piece at a position of need.
  • The Red Sox agreed to terms with lefty Casey Crosby (again, via Eddy). Per Eddy, Crosby landed amongst the Tigers’ top thirty prospects seven times. The oft-injured 26-year-old only received three big league starts in Detroit, however, and continued to have control issues after being converted to relief last year at Triple-A.
  • 28-year-old outfielder Adron Chambers will head to camp with the Cubs, Cotillo tweets. After seeing minimal playing time at the big league level from 2011-13 with the Cardinals, Chambers spent last year at the Triple-A level with the Astros and Blue Jays. Over 206 plate appearances, he slashed a rather typical .283/.351/.411 in the highest level of the minors.
  • The Reds have added several more minor league signings, also via Cotillo. In addition to the previously-reported signing of Ivan De Jesus, Cincinnati has locked up outfielder Jermaine Curtis and righty Nathan Adcock. Curtis, 27, managed only a .675 OPS at Triple-A last year for the Cardinals, and will be looking for a fresh start after spending his entire professional career in that organization. The 26-year-old Adcock has thrown 104 MLB innings over the last several years, mostly in relief, working to a 3.86 ERA in that stretch.
  • The Twins have made a series of additions, per a club announcement (via Dustin Morse, on Twitter). Among them are outfielder Wilkin Ramirez and second baseman Jose Martinez. The former is a 29-year-old who has called the Minnesota organization home since 2012. Last year, he put up a .262/.305/.368 line at the highest level of the minors. Martinez, soon to turn 29, slashed .276/.345/.372 at Triple-A last year with the A’s.

Cubs Sign David Ross

The Cubs announced today that they have signed catcher David Ross to a two-year contract. Ross will reportedly earn $5MM over the life of the deal, including a $500K signing bonus and identical salaries of $2.25MM in each of the contract’s two seasons.

Ross, a client of Sports One Athlete Management client, will add yet more veteran leadership behind the plate for the Cubs and be reunited with friend and former teammate Jon Lester. He will slot in alongside the recently-acquired Miguel Montero, providing a right-handed-hitting complement.

Before joining the Red Sox in 2013, Ross spent four years as the reserve option for the Braves. He slashed a robust .269/.353/.463, but never made more than 200 plate appearances in a given season. Ross has fallen back to a .650 OPS over the last two seasons in Boston, over 287 plate appearances. Defensively, Baseball Prospectus did not value Ross’s work very highly last year.

In the aggregate, then, there are plenty of questions about Ross’s abilities moving forward. But he does have a rather high established ceiling for a backup catcher, and obviously is one of the game’s most respected elder statesmen at this stage of his career.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the deal (on Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted the salary breakdown.



Brewers Claim Shane Peterson From Cubs

The Brewers claimed outfielder Shane Peterson off waivers from the Cubs, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy tweets. That move fills Milwaukee’s 40-man roster for the time being.

Peterson has emerged as a popular name for clubs that have an open roster spot, as this is his second transaction of the offseason. The 26-year-old is coming off of a .308/.381/.460 campaign (625 plate appearances) at Triple-A with the Athletics.


Orioles Claim Ryan Lavarnway, Release Quintin Berry

The Orioles have claimed catcher Ryan Lavarnway off waivers from the Cubs, Baltimore announced. Outfielder Quintin Berry was released to create roster space.

Lavarnway has been one of the most frequently-moved players of the offseason, bouncing around several times since the Red Sox exposed him to waivers. Once one of the game’s most exciting prospects, the backstop’s huge power seemingly disappeared in recent seasons. But he has yet to have a full chance at the big league level and has continued to achieve excellent on-base figures at Triple-A.

Berry, 30, received 330 plate appearances with the Tigers back in 2012, slashing .258/.330/.354, but has not figured large on a big league roster since. Over 432 plate appearances at Triple-A last year, he slashed .285/.382/.367 while adding 25 stolen bases.


Cubs Claim Mike Kickham From Giants

The Cubs have claimed lefty Mike Kickham off waivers from the Giants, San Francisco announced (per a tweet from Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News). Kickham was exposed to outright waivers to clear a roster spot for the signing of Jake Peavy, per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (on Twitter).

Kickham, 26, has been knocked around in limited MLB experience over the last two seasons. But he continues to put up solid numbers in the PCL as a starter. Last season, he tossed 148 1/3 Triple-A frames, carrying a 4.43 ERA and 7.9 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9.

For the Cubs, Kickham represents a southpaw relief option as well as possible starting depth. Chicago has players like Felix DoubrontTsuyoshi WadaZac Rosscup, and Eric Jokisch potentially available as lefties in the pen, but will go without several of last year’s primary LOOGY arms.


Cubs Sign Jason Motte

DEC. 22: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets the breakdown of Motte’s incentives structure: Motte will receive $250K for appearing in 60 games and another $250K for appearing in 65 games. He also has incentives for games finished, as he’ll earn $250K for each of his 50th through 59th games finished.

DEC. 19: The Cubs have officially announced the signing of Motte to a one-year deal.

DEC. 15, 6:44pm: The deal comes with $2.5MM in achievable bonuses, Levine tweets.

5:32pm: Motte gets a $4.5MM guarantee, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports (Twitter links). Motte has incentives based on games finished, Passan adds.

5:18pm: The Cubs have agreed to a one-year deal with free agent reliever Jason Motte, Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com reports on Twitter. Motte, a 32-year-old righty, is represented by ACES.

Motte had a nice run with the Cardinals as one of the game’s better back-end relievers. Over 2010-12, he tossed 192 1/3 innings of 2.43 ERA ball with 9.5 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9. He moved into the team’s closer role in 2012, locking down a league-leading 42 games.

But things took a turn when Motte was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery. A long recovery period kept him out until the 2014 season, when he also missed time with a lower back issue. All said, Motte only appeared for 25 innings last year, struggling to a 4.68 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9.

More troublingly, perhaps, ERA estimators were down on Motte’s work last season: FIP (6.49), xFIP (4.58), and SIERA (4.25) all saw Motte as a below-average contributor. He was hurt significantly by the long ball, giving up a 20.0% HR/FB rate and a whopping 2.52 HR/9 that ranked second-to-worst in all of baseball among relievers who threw at least 20 frames.

He will look for a rebound in the same division, moving to a Cubs team that has some live young arms at the back of the pen. Motte should slot in as a setup option, but perhaps his experience in the closer’s role provides some measure of protection if Hector Rondon cannot repeat his strong effort from a season ago.


Outrighted: Bawcom, Villalona, Roach, Watkins

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

  • Mariners right-hander Logan Bawcom, who was designated for assignment last week, has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma, tweets Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. The 26-year-old posted a 4.93 ERA with 6.3 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 45 2/3 innings at Triple-A in 2014.
  • The Giants announced that they have outrighted first baseman Angel Villalona off the 40-man roster to clear a 40-man spot for Sergio Romo, whose two-year deal was made official earlier today. Villalona, 24, once ranked as a Top 100 prospect but struggled at Double-A this season, hitting just .227/.290/.381 with 10 homers. Villalona is a lifetime .254/.311/.422 hitter in the minor leagues and has had his share of off-field issues in addition to recent on-field struggles. As Kevin Fagan wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009, Villalona was connected to a murder investigation in his native Dominican Republic, although he was never convicted.
  • Right-hander Donn Roach and infielder Logan Watkins have cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A by the Cubs, tweets Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. The pair was designated for assignment last week when the Cubs claimed Ryan Lavarnway and Shane Peterson off waivers. Roach, 24, pitched 30 1/3 innings of 4.75 ERA ball for the Padres in 2014, and the 25-year-old Watkins hit .246/.269/.338 in 68 plate appearances with the Cubs.

McDaniel On International Bonus Pools

A number of teams are expected to break the bank on international talent next July, writes Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs.com. Due to international spending restrictions, teams that spend more than 15% above their allotted pool may not ink any international free agents for over $300,000 in the following two signing periods. However, there is growing consensus within the industry that an international draft will be implemented when baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement is re-visited after the 2016 season. If a draft is put in place, teams will have only two years to live with the current arrangement.

McDaniel’s sources have suggested that as many as 10 teams may blow past their limit when the next signing period begins on July 2. The Cubs, Blue Jays, and Phillies will “almost definitely” exceed their respective pools. As McDaniel notes, plans will likely be affected by verbal commitments as we get closer to July. Additionally, the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Angels have greatly exceeded their budgets during the current signing period, meaning they will be penalized during the next two periods.

If there truly are only two more years before a draft is implemented, then teams have an interesting “strategic choice.” At least four clubs – possibly five pending the outcome of the Yoan Moncada bidding – will be handicapped. More will spend heavily next summer, making themselves ineligible for big signings in 2016. If enough teams are aggressive, it could be advantageous to wait until 2016 for a spending spree. McDaniel also points out that the penalized teams are mostly those who usually spend a lot on international talent.

Put it all together, and it’s increasingly clear that clubs are unconcerned about the international bonus pool. While small market clubs may be loathe to pay excessive taxes (100% on overages), those theoretically get passed onto the player via a lower signing bonus. In my opinion, if most of the big spenders are excluded from the marketplace in 2016, then we could see some nontraditional sources of big bonuses.


Cubs Claim Shane Peterson, Ryan Lavarnway

2:05pm: The Cubs announced that they have also claimed Ryan Lavarnway off waivers from the Dodgers.  To make room on the 40-man roster for the pair of moves, right-handed pitcher Donn Roach and infielder Logan Watkins were designated for assignment.

The 27-year-old Lavarnway .283/.389/.370 in 257 plate appearances for Triple-A Pawtucket in 2014. He has a strong minor league track record as a hitter, with a .375 career minor league on-base percentage, and could potentially help a team in need of a right-handed bat for its bench.  His stint with the Dodgers was brief and he has traveled quite a bit in the last month.  Lavarnway was DFA’d by the Red Sox just prior to his cup of coffee with Los Angeles.

12:38pm: The Cubs have claimed outfielder Shane Peterson from the A’s, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).