Chicago Cubs Rumors


Minor Moves: Asencio, Bocock, Ely, Martinez, Blanco

Here are today's minor moves and outright assignments from around the league...

  • Jairo Asencio has signed with the KIA Tigers in the Korean Baseball Organization, MyKBO.net tweets. The Orioles acquired the 30-year-old righty from the Brewers all the way back in March, using him for just 2 1/3 innings this year. Asencio has a career 5.34 ERA in 43 big league appearances, but has been much better at Triple-A, where he's pitched to a 2.56 ERA across 165 games.
  • The Royals announced that they have signed infielder Brian Bocock and outfielder Johermyn Chavez to minor-league contracts. The 28-year-old Bocock has 38 big league games on his resume and last appeared in the majors in 2010 with the Phillies. He has a career .226/.297/.309 minor-league line. Chavez, 24, has never appeared in the big leagues. He's hit .261/.340/.438 in nearly 3,000 minor-league plate appearances. The Bocock deal was originally reported by Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish on Twitter.
  • The Red Sox have signed pitcher John Ely and re-signed Miguel Celestino to minor-league deals, WEEI.com's Alex Speier reports. Ely, 27, missed most of 2013 due to Tommy John surgery but had a strong year in Triple-A in 2012, posting a 3.20 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 168 2/3 innings for Albuquerque. Celestino, 24, posted a 6.12 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 for Double-A Portland in 2013.
  • The Pirates have signed utilityman Michael Martinez to a minor-league deal, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweets. Martinez, 31, hit .300/.352/.407 for the Phillies' Triple-A Lehigh Valley affiliate in 2013. He also picked up 40 plate appearances at the big-league level.
  • The Diamondbacks announced that they've signed veteran catcher Henry Blanco to a minor-league deal with a spring training invite. Earlier today, Arizona was reportedly close to signing Blanco, who hit .142/.228/.246 with the Blue Jays and Mariners in 2013. Blanco, 42, played with the Diamondbacks in 2011 and 2012.
  • The Cubs announced that they have signed outfielder Ryan Kalish to a minor league deal with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Kalish, 25, was originally drafted by the Red Sox when Cubs president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer were with Boston.
  • The Cubs have also signed catcher John Baker to a minor-league deal with a non-roster invite, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune tweets. The light-hitting Baker played briefly with the Padres in 2013, and also appeared in Tucscon (Padres) and Albuquerque (Dodgers) in Triple-A.
  • The Tigers outrighted infielder Dixon Machado to Triple-A Toledo, according to an MILB.com release. Machado hit .215/.264/.295 with Class A+ Lakeland in 2013. The Tigers designated him for assignment last week.

Charlie Wilmoth and Aaron Steen contributed to this post.



AL East Notes: Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles

While the Yankees have spent big to bring Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran into the fold, the club continues to carry major holes in its infield and rotation, Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi writes. That the Yankees will need to acquire an impact free-agent starter to contend is a consequence of their failure to develop their own superstars, he says. Morosi ranks the Bombers' rotation as the AL East's third-best as things currently stand. Here's more out of the division:

  • Alex Rodriguez says he's confident he'll be manning third base for the Yankees next season, ESPN reports. "I'm preparing as always, working hard," Rodriguez told reporters in Spanish. The Bombers would be off the hook for A-Rod's $25MM salary in 2014 if his suspension is upheld, but the 37-year-old still has impact potential. If he's allowed to play, Rodriguez will relieve GM Brian Cashman of the need to find a third baseman in a free agent market that just saw the Dodgers give two years and $15MM to Juan Uribe
  • The Yankees' interest in Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney could pick up following the Royals' four-year, $30.25MM deal with Omar InfanteBruce Levine of 670thescore.com tweets. Levine says the two teams have previously discussed Barney, who's considered a strong defender but hit just .208/.266/.303 in 2013.
  • Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway is aware of talks to eliminate home-plate collisions, but he'd prefer the rule to remain as it is, Tim Healey writes for MLB.com. "I've talked to a few of the other catchers, and I think that in general we all want to see [the rule] the way it is," Lavarnway said. "We think that [home-plate collisions are] a part of the game."
  • The A.J. Pierzynski signing appears to call Lavarnway's role with the 2014 Red Sox into question, Healey says. Pierzynski and David Ross are expected to handle Boston's catching duties next season.
  • The Orioles will struggle to keep Rule 5 draft selection Michael Almanzar on the 25-man roster for the entirety of 2014, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. Like fellow Oriole Danny Valencia, Almanzar is limited to the infield corners and hits right handed. Almanzar has a .250/.302/.373 line in six minor-league seasons.



East Notes: Yankees, Barney, Marlins, McGehee

The latest from the AL East..

  • The Yankees may have interest in Darwin Barney of the Cubs, tweets Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com.  The two sides have discussed the second baseman in the past and talks have been renewed in the wake of Omar Infante's agreement with the Royals.  Barney had a down year in 2013, posting a .208/.266/.303 line in 501 plate appearances.
  • Meanwhile, the Marlins are looking for a third baseman and are intrigued by free agent Casey McGehee, who played in Japan this year and led his team to a championship, writes Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.  Back in October, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet reported that McGehee was seeking a return to MLB.  The 31-year-old hit .289/.371/.512 with 27 home runs in his first season with the Rakuten Golden Eagles.  Wilson Betemit, who lost 2013 to injuries, has also been discussed as an option.  Miami wants a third baseman with versatility, and McGehee and Betemit both fit the bill. 
  • Despite a little talk about other teams interest in Brian Roberts, he hasn’t been mentioned very often by the Orioles in the last few weeks, writes Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
  • Rays infielder Tim Beckham, the top pick in the 2008 draft, will miss a good chunk of the 2014 season after suffering an ACL tear, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.  He would have been a long shot to make the Opening Day roster but he likely would have seen action if Tampa Bay needed depth or had an injury to a middle infielder.



Cubs Sign Ryan Roberts

The Cubs announced that they've signed infielder Ryan Roberts to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Roberts is represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council.

The 33-year-old Roberts batted .247/.295/.377 with five homers in 173 plate appearances for the Rays in 2013. Though he hasn't matched a strong 2011 season that saw him post a .249/.341/.427 line with 19 homers and 18 stolen bases, Roberts remains a solid defensive player with some pop in his bat. He has experience at second base, third base and in the outfield corners. Roberts does most of his damage against left-handed pitching, as evidenced by his .261/.341/.444 line against southpaws.



Cubs Claim Liam Hendriks

The Cubs have claimed right-hander Liam Hendriks off waivers from the Twins, reports La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (on Twitter). Hendriks had been designated for assignment last week to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Phil Hughes.

Hendriks, still just 24 years old, makes for a nice buy-low option for the Cubs. The 25-year-old ranked sixth and seventh on the Baseball America's Top 10 Twins prospects lists from 2010-11 and has a solid minor league history. The Australian righty has a 3.61 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 254 career innings at Triple-A and a career 2.99 ERA in the minors as a whole.

Hendriks has been unable to put it together in three Major League stints, however, as evidenced by his bloated 6.06 ERA in 156 innings. He's averaged 5.8 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in those 156 frames to go along with a below-average 40.4 percent ground-ball rate. Hendriks barely averages better than 90 mph on his fastball, leading to too much hard contact when it's in the zone, as evidenced by a 23.3 percent line-drive rate from his opponents that has helped bloat his career BABIP to .330.

In their most recent write-up of Hendriks (prior to the 2011 campaign), Baseball America noted that Hendriks had the ceiling of a No. 3 starter if he could continue to keep his fastball down in the zone to pair with a solid slider and above-average changeup.



Blue Jays Notes: Rasmus, Samardzija, Anthopoulos

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos spoke with reporters at the conclusion of the Winter Meetings today.  Sportsnet.ca's Ben Nicholson-Smith (in two seperate pieces) and the Toronto Sun's Bob Elliott have the highlights of Anthopoulos' talk, as well as a few other hot stove items...

  • Anthopoulos didn't say whether or not he'd recently discussed a contract extension with Colby Rasmus, who is eligible for free agency next winter.  Rasmus has raised his value after a big 2013 campaign, though Anthopoulos noted that larger-market teams like Toronto had the luxury of waiting before locking players up.  "We don’t mind paying a little more to be sure we get a little more information," Anthopoulos said.
  • Rasmus' name reportedly emerged in trade talks for starting pitching.  While Anthopoulos noted that "no one is untradeable," he also added that "for us to move an everyday position player and feel like we can get better, that would be hard to do."
  • The Cubs are asking for Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and a third prospect from the Blue Jays for Jeff Samardzija, Elliott reports.  Anthopoulos recently said he was constantly being asked about Stroman and Sanchez, the Jays' top two pitching prospects, in possible deals.
  • The Blue Jays have been approached by teams looking to add power hitters.   "The one thing we have is power and there’s not a lot of power on the market and the free-agent prices don’t work....We haven’t lined up anything,” Anthopoulos said.
  • The Jays have three starting pitchers targeted and Anthopoulos says a fourth pitcher could also be in play.  “We’re not going to close the door on the fourth,” the GM said. “The fourth is a little more challenging, but I think there could be a domino effect with the fourth if we do some other things.”
  • The signing of Tomo Ohka adds another knuckleballer to the organization and Anthopoulos hinted that the team may add more knuckleballers to prepare their catchers for the challenge of handling R.A. Dickey.  “To be honest, we’ll look to add some more guys if we can....We may look to get some other guys that we think can be guys to convert," Anthopoulos said.
  • The Jays are looking to add an international free agent, Nicholson-Smith reports, so the trade of Rule 5 draft pick Brian Moran to the Angels for $244K of extra space under the international spending cap helped Toronto prepare for this potential signing.  The Blue Jays attempted to acquire international cap space from the Phillies earlier this winter but were turned down.



NL East Notes: Papelbon, Braves, Samardzija, Nats

Trading Jonathan Papelbon wouldn't solve much for the Phillies at this point, opines Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com. Seidman runs down a possible scenario in which the Phillies ate $6MM to move Papelbon, noting that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. would then still try to sign a replacement. Names like Grant Balfour and Joaquin Benoit could cost upwards of $10MM per season anyhow, meaning the Phillies may not even save much money should that scenario play out. Papelbon will have more value to teams at the trade deadline when fewer quality options are available, writes Seidman. Here's more from the NL East...

  • David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets that the Braves have approached some of their young stars about extensions over the past two years but felt they'd have to overpay to get something done.
  • O'Brien also runs down the Braves needs on the heels of a quiet Winter Meetings, noting that they're optimistic about re-signing Eric O'Flaherty. Atlanta is still pursuing a veteran bench bat -- O'Brien mentions Eric Chavez -- and are still interested in Jeff Samardzija. The Braves may be considered the favorites to land Samardzija at this point, says O'Brien, noting that payroll constraints will likely preclude them from pursuing David Price.
  • After adding to their rotation, bench and bullpen, the Nationals will now turn their focus to extending Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Should the Nats be unable to extend Zimmermann, they may be forced to consider trading him this time next season, one source told Kilgore.
  • Nate McLouth spoke to former teammate Adam LaRoche (whom he called one of his favorite teammates ever) and asked what the Nationals clubhouse was like before deciding to sign there, writes Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. McLouth doesn't hold ill will toward the Orioles for not retaining him.



Marlins, Cubs Swap Ruggiano For Bogusevic

The Marlins announced that they have traded outfielder Justin Ruggiano to the Cubs for outfielder Brian Bogusevic.

Ruggiano, who turns 32 in April, wasn't able to repeat a breakout 2012 campaign that saw him bat .313/.374/.535 with 13 homers and 14 steals in 91 games for the Marlins. The Texas A&M product slipped to a .222/.298/.396 batting line in 2013, though he did continue to show plus power and speed; Ruggiano posted career-bests in homers (18) and stolen bases (15) in a career-high 472 plate appearances.

Bogusevic, set to turn 30 in February, batted .273/.323/.462 in 155 PAs for the Cubs in 2013. He's a career .236/.313/.370 hitter in 773 trips to the plate, suggesting that he's unlikely to continue that trend. However, like Ruggiano, he can play all three outfield spots. Defensive metrics have been more kind to Bogusevic than Ruggiano, and Bogusevic is not yet arbitration eligible. Ruggiano, on the other hand, projected to earn $1.8MM this season (per MLBTR's Matt Swartz). Essentially, the Marlins improved a bit defensively and saved some money at the expense of some right-handed pop.



NL Central Links: Walker, Alvarez, Cards, Rule 5

Let's round up a few morning updates from around the NL Central....



NL Central Notes: Cubs, Cards, Weeks, Carpenter

We've already passed along several of Scott Boras' more newsworthy comments from Wednesday's scrum with reporters in Orlando, but one of the superagent's most notable barbs was reserved for the Cubs. Boras likened Chicago's rebuilding process to a lollipop that takes all day to dissolve, suggesting that a major-market team should be retooling more rapidly. Although team president Theo Epstein wasn't surprised by Boras' remarks, he declined to shoot back.

"We’re not going to get into a war of words with Scott other than to say the folks who work for the Cubs probably have a better understanding of our situation than he does," Epstein said, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Here's more from around the NL Central:









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