Chicago Cubs Rumors
The Cubs' rare visit to Yankee Stadium this week led to some introspection about how the Cubs have kept a modest payroll during their rebuild, while the Yankees responded to a non-playoff year by splurging on several major free agents. It was only a few years ago, however, that the Cubs themselves were a big free agent target, and C.C. Sabathia talked to reporters (including Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times) about his interest in coming to Wrigley Field during the 2008-09 offseason. Wittenmyer reports that Sabathia let Cubs managment know, via his friend Derrek Lee, that he wanted to sign with Chicago that winter. Of course, Sabathia instead signed with the Yankees and the rest is history.
Here's the latest news about both the Cubs and White Sox...
- Jeff Samardzija feels a responsibility to the players' union to strive for a big contract, the Cubs righty tells CSN Chicago's Patrick Mooney, and he doesn't seem to be a fan of some of the multiyear deals being signed by pre-arbitration pitchers around the game. "Personally, numbers and money don’t really drive me. What does drive me is protecting and setting up the players behind me, the future generations, so that I’m not signing any of these crummy early deals for seven or eight years," Samardzija said. "When you’re hitting your prime and you’re hitting free agency — like it’s supposed to be done — then that’s the way it sets up for guys behind you. I definitely have a responsibility to the players that are younger than me and approaching arbitration or approaching free agency to keep the numbers where they should be."
- The Cubs need to accept that paying a high price for an ace pitcher is the cost of doing business and thus sign Samardzija to an extension, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune opines.
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer appeared on the Kap & Haugh radio show to express his belief that the Cubs will soon once again become a popular landing spot for players. "Theo [Epstein] and I have no concern guys will want to play here from around baseball when we get this turned. We’ll be a destination for guys," Hoyer said (quote from David Kaplan's Twitter account).
- Hoyer, Epstein and the White Sox scouting director attended a recent start from East Carolina right-hander Jeff Hoffman, ESPN's Keith Law tweets. The Sox and Cubs pick third and fourth, respectively, in the June amateur draft and Hoffman is expected to be an early choice off the board --- Baseball America recently ranked Hoffman fifth on their list of draft prospects.
- Chris Sale carried some red flags in the 2010 draft but the White Sox are enjoying the fruits of taking a chance on the southpaw with their 13th overall pick, Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan writes. Sale's status as "the player with no comps" made many teams worry that he couldn't handle a starter's workload, let alone become an ace.
ESPN.com's Jim Bowden took a look back (Insider link) at his free agent predictions to see where he hit and missed. Most of his accurate guesses came on players who signed early, while the opposite holds true of those that he was off on. By far the biggest difference among actual and estimated deals came with Ervin Santana, who Bowden had tabbed for a five-year, $75MM deal but ultimately signed for a lower AAV and just one season.
As we join the rest of the game in celebrating the legacy of Dodgers great Jackie Robinson, here's more from the National League:
- Padres starter Josh Johnson, who is struggling to overcome a right forearm strain, will visit Dr. James Andrews for an assessment, reports MLB.com's Corey Brock. According to a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the team is increasingly concerned that Johnson may require his second Tommy John surgery. GM Josh Byrnes said that, at this point, he is "not sure" if Johnson will be able to throw for the club this year, but that the team hopes to "know more next week." Johnson's one-year, $8MM deal with San Diego includes a conditional $4MM club option for next year that is triggered if the righty makes less than seven starts.
- With a farm system full of top-end talent in the field, the Cubs are focused on adding to a group of arms that may be too lightly regarded, writes Gordon Wittenmyer for Baseball America. "Our arms are probably a little bit underrated," said president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. "That said, we need at least twice as many of them as we have now. But I think we’ve done a nice job through the last couple drafts and, especially, through some trades adding to that reserve." But that does not mean that Epstein is content with the talent he has brought together. "We need to keep pounding it," he said. "Every trade we make, we try to get an arm. Every time we have a draft pick, we look closely at the best available arm who we can add to the organization."
- Meanwhile, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said today that the team is focused on upgrading Wrigley Field rather than taking a shot at a suburban ballpark, even if that might be more financially advantageous, the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com). He also said that the club was focusing on the overall development of its international prospects, not just teaching basic English but working to address broader educational needs.
- Addressing the recent comments by the agent of top pitching prospect Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers made clear that he had no intentions of being influenced, as MLB.com's Steve Gilbert reports (Twitter links). "We're going to run our business and not let anybody else dictate how we do our business," said Towers. "I'm a straight shooter, too," he added. "If we felt at the start of the season that this guy was ready he would have been here."
Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, Gordon Wittenmyer opines that the Cardinals should be the model for the Cubs as they work to establish a player development pipeline. The reigning NL champs haven't drafted in the single digits in 16 years, but have continued to find major league contributors in later rounds, including 2013 All-Star Allen Craig. "Anybody can pick out a No. 1 selection and think that’s a great deal," former Cubs GM Dallas Green commented. "But you make 30 or 40 selections [in a draft], and three or four of those guys have gotta play." Here are two more NL Central links:
- Cubs scouts and crosscheckers convened last week to discuss the team's strategy for this year's draft, but the front office isn't ready to narrow its draft board down to a final 25 players, according to GM Jed Hoyer (via a report from MLB.com's Carrie Muskat). Club executives have reportedly been in attendance at recent starts by high school right-hander Tyler Kolek, who has shot up draft prospect lists this spring.
- Bob Cohn of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review profiled Pirates prospect Stetson Allie, who was drafted as a pitcher but is now a first baseman. In just 26 2/3 innings across low- and high-A, Allie compiled a 7.76 ERA and walked 37 batters. He dominated low-A in 2013 as an infielder, however, hitting .324/.414/.607.
Here are a few tidbits from Ken Rosenthal's latest video from FOX Sports:
- There aren't many good third base options available this offseason (Chase Headley is available, and Aramis Ramirez has a mutual option), so retaining Pablo Sandoval makes sense for the Giants.
- Rosenthal wonders if the Pirates could sign either Stephen Drew or Kendrys Morales after the draft in June, at which point they wouldn't have to worry about the draft-pick forfeiture attached to each of them. After a quiet offseason, the Pirates should have the financial wherewithal to pursue a bigger-name player. In a tiny sample size, Jordy Mercer has not hit well so far this year as the Pirates' starting shortstop. The team is currently platooning Travis Ishikawa and Gaby Sanchez at first base.
- Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel are off to good starts with the Cubs, who could trade either player by the end of July. The Cubs dealt Matt Garza and Scott Feldman in-season last year, and Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm the previous season.
- Tyler Thornburg is off to an excellent start out of the Brewers' bullpen, which makes clear why they were unwilling to trade him to the Mets this offseason.
- In a separate video, Rosenthal says that five teams bid upwards of $60MM for Jose Abreu: the White Sox, Astros, Rockies, Brewers and Red Sox. The Red Sox still wanted to keep Mike Napoli, however, which would have meant that Abreu might have started the season in the minors if he had signed with them. Abreu is currently hitting .273/.365/.659 in his first couple weeks with the White Sox.
A pair of intra-division matchups are on tap for the weekend as the Cardinals host the Cubs for a three-game series and the Pirates travel to Miller Park for a three-game set against the Brewers. The Reds, meanwhile, will host the Rays in interleague play and face a tough matchup in Tampa ace David Price tonight. Here's some news from around the NL Central...
- Shelby Miller has struggled in his first two starts of 2014, and as Fangraphs' Dave Cameron explains, Miller's problems began at the end of last season, which explains his near-total absence from the Cardinals' playoff run. An injury could be responsible for Miller's issues, "but this version of Shelby Miller isn’t very good, and unless he flips a switch sometime soon, [the Cardinals are] going to have to start looking for alternatives."
- Carlos Gomez's strong 2013 season and his red-hot start to 2014 has made his three-year, $24MM extension from the Brewers "look like a steal," in the words of Sports Illustrated's Jay Jaffe. Gomez's extension, signed in March 2013, kicked in this season and keeps the center fielder in Milwaukee through the 2016 campaign. As Jaffe notes, it's rare for a player to improve as much as Gomez has after amassing over 1000 PA in the Major Leagues.
- Jason McLeod, the Cubs' VP of scouting and player development, tells CSN Chicago's Patrick Mooney that though the Cubs' system is somewhat lacking in blue chip pitching prospects, it doesn't mean the Cubs will specifically focus on adding a young arm with the fourth overall pick of the 2014 draft. “We’ve made no secret that we’ve tried to acquire as much pitching as we can....But if you look at our last two drafts, we’ve taken two position players with our first pick, because we felt Albert [Almora] and Kris [Bryant] were the best players at those picks," McLeod said. "That’s how we’re going to approach this draft as well. We’re not going to draft on need. We’re going to draft the guy that we feel will provide that long-term impact for us.”
A look at some of the latest pertaining to the White Sox and Cubs...
- In an ESPN Insider piece (subscription recommended), Paul Swydan writes that White Sox GM Rick Hahn and his baseball operations staff are doing an excellent job with the team's rebuild. The Sox are stockpiling young talent such as Adam Eaton, Matt Davidson, Avisail Garcia and Leury Garcia through trades while spending money on young assets like Jose Abreu and still managing to showcase trade chips such as Alejandro De Aza, Adam Dunn and Alexei Ramirez. They're also not stubbornly clinging to the past by overplaying longtime cornerstone Paul Konerko or the disappointing Dayan Viciedo.
- Cubs top prospect Javier Baez provided a reminder that there's more to minor league development than simply producing on the field, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times. After being called out on a check-swing third strike, Baez was ejected for arguing with the umpire and then got into a dugout altercation with veteran catcher Eli Whiteside. Cubs president Theo Epstein offered this take on the incident: "Players are in the minor leagues to develop physically and fundamentally, and also mentally and emotionally. ... It was not a huge deal, but something he can grow from. It sounds like from the reports we got, teammates were right to call him out, and he handled that the right way. Javy’s a great kid who’s the youngest player in Triple-A, and he has some room to continue to grow. And he will."
- Wittenmyer also reports that while the Cubs are indeed talking about selling non-voting shares to minority investors, that money won't be seen by the baseball operations department. Epstein tells Wittenmyer that the money from such dealings would be allocated solely to renovations for Wrigley Field. Wittenmyer reports that team officials feel the renovations could be completed in four years as opposed to the previously believed five years. Chairman Tom Ricketts estimates an additional $30-40MM in revenue based on the renovations, but it's unclear how that money will impact the team's payroll.
All remains relatively quiet on the compensation free agent front -- as you may have heard, Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales remain unsigned, though each is now freed of the possibility of receiving another QO next year if they sign a one-year deal. While there have been rumblings that Morales could be approaching a contract, specifics remain unclear. Nevertheless, there is still a good bit of motion among some less-heralded names in the season's early going. Here's the latest:
- Free agent catcher Chris Gimenez, recently (albeit briefly) of the Rangers, has standing offers from three teams, reports Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (Twitter links). The Rays, Athletics, and Rangers have all made offers, says Cotillo, while the Cubs also have interest.
- Joel Hanrahan is among the few intriguing relief arms still available, and the righty is preparing for a showcase in a few weeks, according to Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News. The Mets are one of the teams that are expected to take a close look at Hanrahan, says Ackert, while her colleague Andy Martino tweets that the Yankees have also been monitoring the 32-year-old.
- A host of other players remains available, as reflected in MLBTR's list of the 2014 free agents. Among the names that could draw interest are Francisco Cordero, Ryan Madson, Freddy Garcia, Yorvit Torrealba, and Jamey Carroll. Also, of course, several options are still in DFA limbo. Vin Mazzaro of the Pirates is due for action today. Otherwise, Frank Herrmann (Indians), Jeremy Jeffress (Blue Jays), Hector Noesi (Mariners), Pedro Ciriaco (Royals), and Mike Baxter (Dodgers) are all candidates for new homes.
Here are Sunday's minor moves from around MLB:
- The Brewers have released left-hander Will West, per Baseball America's Matt Eddy. West received a 100-game suspension in January after being suspended for 50 games last August. The 21-year-old has now failed three tests for recreational drug use plus another for a performance enhancing drug (amphetamine), according to Eddy. When on the field during his three-year tenure in the Brewers' organization, West had a 5.98 ERA, 8.2 K/9, and 3.2 BB/9 in 105 1/3 innings covering 29 games, including 20 starts.
- Also from Eddy, the Cubs have released outfielder Mitch Maier. Maier, drafted by the Royals with the 30th overall pick of the 2003 amateur draft, spent 2013 with the Red Sox's Triple-A affiliate and posted a .310/.431/.451 line, though he only received 137 plate appearances due to a wrist injury. The 31-year-old, who signed a minor league deal with the Cubs last December, hasn't appeared in a MLB game since 2012, but has slashed .248/.327/.344 during his six-year career, all with the Royals. Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com tweets Maier is recovering from surgery and will be ready to play in three months.
- The Tigers have released left-hander Wil Ledezma, reports James Schmehl of the Detroit Free Press. Ledezma, who inked a minor league contract with the Tigers in March, last saw MLB action in 2011 with the Blue Jays, but made 26 relief appearances (covering 30 2/3 innings) for NPB's Chiba Lotte Marines in 2013 good for a 3.23 ERA, 6.5 K/9, and 3.8 BB/9. Over the course of his nine-year MLB career with the Tigers, Braves, Padres, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Pirates, and Blue Jays, the 33-year-old has a mark of 5.40 ERA, 6.4 K/9, and 4.5 BB/9 over 192 games (including 45 starts) and 396 1/3 innings.
- With the Dodgers' designation of Mike Baxter for assignment earlier today, there are now eight players in DFA limbo, per MLBTR's DFA Tracker: Baxter, Vin Mazzaro (Pirates), Eduardo Nunez (Yankees), Jeremy Jeffress (Blue Jays), Hector Noesi (Mariners), Pedro Ciriaco (Royals), and Frank Herrmann and Preston Guilmet (Indians),
Veteran outfielder Darnell McDonald announced his retirement from baseball late last night via Instagram. McDonald re-signed with the Cubs on a minor league deal in December, but he has instead decided to call it a career.
"After playing [15 years] professionally I'm humbled to announce that I'm hanging up my spikes. When one dream ends a new one begins. BIG thanks to everyone that has helped me fulfill my dream of playing in the show," the 35-year-old wrote.
McDonald posted a career .285/.353/.453 slash line against left-handed pitchers at the Major League level. The Colorado native spent the bulk of 2013 at Triple-A Iowa, where he slashed .236/.307/.346 in 294 plate appearances with four homers. He was solid in the bigs as well, however, hitting .302/.351/.434 with a homer in 57 PAs. McDonald will be remembered mostly for his time with the Red Sox, but he also saw big league action with the Orioles, Twins, Reds, Yankees, and Cubs.
Cubs owner Tom Ricketts says that the team is considering selling minority shares in order to raise cash for Wrigley Field renovations, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports. "Any time you're looking at privately financing a big project like this, you're going to look at all your different sources of potential financing," Ricketts says. "We're going to take a look at whether or not it makes sense to bring in outside investors." Here are a few notes on what that might mean.
- Warren Buffett is one potentially interested investor, Mike Ozanian of Forbes.com reports. Both Ricketts and Buffett have connections to the city of Omaha -- Ricketts was raised there, and Buffett was once a minority owner of the minor-league Omaha Storm Chasers.
- The selling of minority shares of the team is unlikely to change the team's current approach to payroll, at least for the next several years, Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com reports. The Wrigley Field renovations will generate more cashflow for the team "in perpetuity," Ricketts says, and so the team is more focused on investing there than investing in particular seasons or players, the effects of which are more temporary.
- Minority owners could bring valuable perspective to the Cubs, GM Jed Hoyer tells the Chicago Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer. "The other two organizations I’ve been in had a ton of minority owners. In a lot of ways, some of those guys added expertise from a business or from their careers that was helpful in other ways," Hoyer says. Hoyer does not address the question of how selling minority shares would affect the team's rebuilding process.
- The Cubs' TV deal with CSN expires following the 2019 season, and Cubs fans might have to wait until then to get a big boost to the team's payroll, Wittenmyer writes. "We’ll see," says Ricketts. "I mean, we’ll know a lot more about what our media-rights options are as the year goes forward. I’m not really sure."