Chicago Cubs Rumors
Wally Joyner has left his post as the Phillies' assistant hitting coach, CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury reports. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets that Joyner will head to Detroit, where he'll serve as the Tigers' new hitting coach under manager Brad Ausmus. Joyner served under head hitting coach Steve Henderson in 2013. Salisbury writes that the Phillies will stick with two hitting coaches in 2014. One possibility might be former big-league infielder Mickey Morandini, who managed in the Phillies system at Class A Lakewood in 2013. Here are more notes on coaches and managers.
- Joyner isn't the only Phillies coach heading to the Tigers. Also bound for Detroit is former Phillies catching coach Mick Billmeyer, who will serve as the Tigers' bullpen coach, according to MLB.com's Jason Beck (via Twitter). The Phillies announced in October that Billmeyer's contract would not be renewed.
- New manager Rick Renteria did a five-plus-hour interview with the Cubs while wearing sweatpants, MLB.com's Corey Brock writes. With Renteria recovering from hip replacement surgery, the Cubs -- along with the Mariners and Tigers, with whom he also interviewed -- traveled to talk to him, rather than the other way around. "At that point, I'm just wearing loose sweats," says Renteria of his interview with Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer. "They started asking me different questions: How do you deal with players? How I would handle different situations."
Let's take a look at the latest from the MLB's Central divisions:
- Multiple teams have approached the Indians with interest in Drew Stubbs, Buster Olney writes in an article for ESPN Insiders (sub. req'd). MLBTR's Matt Swartz projected that Stubbs is on track to earn $3.8MM in arbitration this offseason after hitting just .233/.305/.360 in 2013. However, Olney says a salary in that range in today's market is acceptable for a player like Stubbs, who's a strong defender with power and speed and can handle all three outfield positions.
- MLB.com's Jordan Bastian considers a rumored swap of Indians righty Corey Kluber and two minor leaguers for the Angels' Mark Trumbo, which was later shot down by Angels GM Jerry Dipoto. While Trumbo's right-handed power would help the Indians, such a deal undervalues Kluber, who was one of the better starters in the AL for much of 2013, Bastian says.
- Pitching is the highest priority for the Indians this offseason, Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer notes in a reader mailbag column. The Tribe faces the possibility of losing free agents Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir from the rotation, while Joe Smith, Chris Perez, Rich Hill and Matt Albers could all depart from the bullpen.
- A Wednesday night deadline looms for teams to set their 40-man rosters in advance of the Rule 5 draft, and for the Royals, that means deciding who from a list of approximately six players is worth protecting, The Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton says. As Dutton notes, it can be easier to stash an arm than a position player on the 40-man for an entire season, as pitchers can be used in a mop-up role in the bullpen.
- Some have suggested that Darwin Barney may not be long for the Cubs' roster, Carrie Muskat writes in response to a reader question for MLB.com. On the cusp of arbitration after slashing just .208/.266/.303 in 2013, Barney is a non-tender candidate, though MLBTR's Tim Dierkes believes that may be a bit hasty given that Barney's only likely to earn around $2.1MM in his first go at the arbitration process. If the Cubs do decide to part ways with the infielder, Luis Valbuena would be one possible replacement, Muskat says.
Pour a tall cup of coffee and open up a Baseball Reference tab. It's time for this Saturday morning's minor moves, via the Pacific Coast League and International League transaction pages (except where otherwise noted) ...
- The White Sox have signed lefty David Purcey to a minor league deal. The 31-year-old had rejected an outright assignment from the Sox in late October to become a free agent. Purcey made 24 apperances for the Sox's major league club in 2013, posting a 2.13 ERA but walking 6 batters per nine innings.
- The Dodgers signed first baseman/outfielder Jamie Romak to a minor league deal, according to MLBTR's Tim Dierkes (on Twitter). Romak's deal includes a July 1st opt out. The 28-year-old posted a .242/.322/.461 slash line with 22 homers in 134 games for the Cardinals' Triple-A affiliate last season.
- Right-handed reliever Mark Lowe, 30, has signed with the Rays, reports ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). Lowe was battered in just eleven appearances with the Angels last year, but posted a 3.60 ERA across 2009-12 and has continued to notch high strikeout totals while being stashed in the upper minors.
- The Cardinals signed third baseman Scott Moore, a thirty-year-old who has thrived at Triple-A but has yet to have a real shot in the bigs. Last year, over 485 plate appearances in the Oakland and San Diego organizations, he hit .271/.353/.448 with fourteen long balls. In his most extended MLB action, a 2012 stint with the Astros, Moore hit a more-than-respectable .259/.330/.448 with nine home runs in 228 plate appearances.
- Right-hander Jim Miller is back with the Yankees on a minor league pact after making just one MLB appearance last year, an ill-fated inning-and-a-third that resulted in three earned runs. The 31-year-old had been a solid member of the A's pen just one year prior, however, as he registered a 2.59 ERA in 48 2/3 innings for Oakland. Miller did flash a 13.1 K/9 rate during his 63 1/3 Triple-A innings last year, a somewhat intriguing mark given his manageable walk rates. Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com had the news first on Twitter.
- Lefty reliever Will Startup will stay with the Tigers after he notched a 3.41 ERA in 58 Double-A innings last year. Startup reached Triple-A as a 21-year-old back in 2006, but before joining Detroit had landed with the Sugar Land Skeeters in 2012.
- The Giants have inked two righties to minor league deals, bringing aboard Jason Berken and Daryl Maday. Berken, 29, has thrown in 110 MLB games, including 28 as a starter, and recorded a 5.36 ERA over 248 2/3 innings. He spent last year at the White Sox' Triple-A affiliate, where he managed a 3.80 ERA in 161 innings -- all as a starter -- and posted 6.5 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9. Meanwhile, at 28 years of age Maday has yet to see San Francisco, but will continue to keep the dream alive in the Giants system. He has bounced between Double-A and Triple-A since 2008, and now serves primarily as a reliever. Last year, Maday notched a cumulative 4.17 ERA in 49 2/3 innings, with 7.1 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9.
- The Pirates signed first baseman Miles Durham and catcher Francisco Diaz to minor league deals. At age thirty, Durham has spent his entire career in the Pittsburgh organization, other than a brief Independent League stint, and apparently served as a player-coach last season. Dia, 23, has all the markings of a light-hitting backstop (two career home runs in 1,115 plate appearances), though he has reached base at a productive clip in the low minors.
- Longtime Yankees farmhand Walter Ibarra has agreed to play short in the Cubs organization on a minor league pact. The 26-year-old reached Triple-A for the first time last year. Known for his defense, Ibarra failed to himpress with a cumulative .276/.308/.367 slash across 212 Double-A and Triple-A plate appearances in 2013.
- And the Nationals have reached agreement with a player by the name of Josh Johnson -- not the starting pitcher, but the middle infielder and third baseman who has been in the Nats' system since 2010. Last year, playing at both of the two highest minor league levels, the 27-year-old Johnson put up an impressive .293/.390/.458 line in 300 trips to the plate. He was especially impressive in his short time at Syracuse, where he had a .924 OPS and was a perfect six-for-six in stolen bases in just 111 plate appearances. Washington also added catcher Sean McCauley to the fold on a minor league pact. The 24-year-old was brought back to professional baseball by the Nats last year in a coaching capacity after losing his career to injury.
- The Rangers have signed righty Zach Russell away from the Cards' system. The 24-year-old reliever topped out with a brief Double-A stint last year, but struggled there.
We've heard a lot today on the Twins' interest in acquiring starting pitching, with two of the market's top arms -- Ricky Nolasco and Matt Garza -- both being mentioned as realistic targets. The club is willing to hand out as many as five years in a deal with a starter, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports via Twitter. Minnesota is definitely interested in both Nolasco and Garza, he adds, though that isn't to say it would necessarily go to five years on either or both. Here's more on the starting pitching in baseball's central divisions:
- Though he says he understands the business logic that could force him to be traded, Tigers ace (and newly-minted Cy Young winner) Max Scherzer told MLB Network's Jim Bowden (on SiriusXM) that he hopes that does not occur. Scherzer said that he and agent Scott Boras had indicated to Detroit that he was "open to" an extension, but acknowledged that "no actual dialogue has been talked or anything like that." Ultimately, said Scherzer, he will "see how the business game works out and whether or not we go down that path."
- Meanwhile, Boras acknowledged that GM Dave Dombrowski would likely "invite a number of people to come in and look at all of his diamonds," referring to Detroit's most attractive trade assets. "But in the end I don't think Dave is in the business of anything other than what Mr. Illitch's goal is, and that is to win a world championship," Boras continued. As he further explained, Dombrowski could be discussing Scherzer with other clubs in part to guage his value and to see how those teams value their own players.
- Royals starter James Shields says that he has not had any talks with his club about an extension, ESPN.com's Jim Bowden reports via Twitter. Shields, who is in the last year of his deal, did say that he is open to exploring a new contract that would keep him in Kansas City. Having dealt recently-anointed AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers to get Shields, one would think that GM Dayton Moore will at least make an attempt to secure his services beyond 2014.
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer indicated that the club has talked about an extension with starter Jeff Samardzija, David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com reports via Twitter. "We've had discussions with Samardzija because we like him and want to keep him," said Hoyer. "We'll see where things go. We like hearing he wants to be here." Hoyer's comments seem to make an extension for the 28-year-old seem more plausible than we've recently heard. Absent a new deal, Samardzija will hit the open market before the 2016 season.
- The Cubbies' GM also emphasized that the front office was not going to change its approach to placate anxious fans Kaplan also tweets. "We will not hit the fast forward button on our plan simply because people are impatient," Hoyer said. "It will make it worth it in the end."
Here are today's minor moves, all via Matt Eddy of Baseball America (links to Twitter) unless otherwise noted ...
- Middle infielder Jeudy Valdez will join fellow former Padre Aaron Cunningham in moving to the Cubs organization, reports Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 24-year-old, who has posted double-digit home runs and steals in each of the last four seasons, does not receive a Spring Training invite in the deal.
- The Marlins have signed shortstop Juan Diaz to a minor league deal. Eddy calls the 24-year-old a possible diamond in the rough.
- Righties Juan Gonzalez and Justin Souza have inked minor league pacts with the Dodgers. Gonzalez is a 23-year-old who just transitioned to the bullpen, where he put up a 2.14 ERA -- driven by a large drop in his career walk rates -- in 46 1/3 innings thrown for the Rockies' Double-A affiliate. Cotillo first reported the Gonzalez signing (via Twitter), nothing that he received a lot of interest. Souza, meanwhile, is a 27-year-old bullpen arm coming off of a 4.58 ERA over 55 innings pitched between the Double-A and Triple-A outposts of the Tigers.
- The Red Sox have reached minor league deals with lefty Tommy Layne and shortstop Mike McCoy. In his age-28 season, Layne put up a 4.50 ERA over 46 innings for the Pads' top affiliate in Tucson, but posted a 2.08 ERA in 8 2/3 big league innings (though he registered just 6.2 K/9 against 5.2 BB/9 in his 14 outings). McCoy has played in over a season's worth of MLB games, though spread over four years of brief apearances. His career triple-slash is .190/.273/.256 over 380 plate appearances.
- The Diamondbacks have signed minor league free agents Danny Dorn, an outfielder, and Mark Thomas, a backstop. Dorn is a 28-year-old fresh off a .258/.335/.460 campaign in 565 Triple-A plate appearances at Toledo. Thomas is known as a defensive whiz behind the dish, but hit just .151/.195/.274 in 202 plate appearances last year for the Rays' Double-A squad in his age-25 season.
- There are a host of new minor league deals out of Cincinnati, with the Reds inking lefty Lee Hyde, second baseman Rey Navarro, outfielder Mike Wilson, and catchers Rossmel Perez and Max Ramirez. Hyde, a 28-year-old former fourth-round pick, returns to the Cinci organization after a 1.98 ERA campaign in 54 2/3 innings spent mostly in Double-A. Navarro and Perez just played their age-23 seasons at Double-A. Wilson registered a sightly .300/.368/.472 slash in his age-thirty season at Triple-A in the Padres' organization. And Ramirez had a poor season at 28 years of age after putting up two straight better-than-.800 OPS years at the Triple-A level.
- Heading to the Rockies as minor league free agents are lefty Pedro Hernandez, righty Nate Striz, and second baseman Rafael Ynoa. Hernandez washed out of Minnesota after getting bombed in twelve big league starts, though he was much more effective in the minors and is still just 24. Striz just turned 25, but has only thrown three innings above the High-A level. At 26, Ynoa is coming off of a series of campaigns in which he's just topped the .700 OPS level at Double-A; the former Dodger farmhand gets on base at a solid clip, though, and has stolen a decent number of bags (though he's also been caught at a troubling rate).
- And staying with the Angels are righty Orangel Arenas, outfielder Julio Concepcion, and shorstop Jimmy Swift. Arenas made it to Triple-A for a brief stint last year at age 24 but was hit hard; Cotillo was the first to report the news of his signing (on Twitter). Concepcion has not moved past low-A ball and is 23 years old. And Swift, 25, was better at Triple-A (.303/.336/.422 in 118 plate appearances) than at Double-A (.259/.291/.367 in 324 plate appearances) in 2013.
The White Sox owe it to Paul Konerko to bring him back for a final season in 2014 if the long-time first baseman wishes to keep playing, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune opines. The Sox would have to release or trade Adam Dunn to make room for Konerko with Jose Dariel Abreu now aboard, and while eating Dunn's contract would be expensive, Sullivan argues that Dunn is already a sunk cost and not worth keeping if it means cutting ties with a franchise icon.
Here are some more items from around baseball tonight...
- Chris Young would like to play for the Astros but the free outfielder didn't say if he'd been contacted by the team, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets. Young, a Houston native, has drawn some level of interest from the Red Sox and Mets this winter.
- Also from McTaggart, LaTroy Hawkins said he hasn't been contacted by the Astros this offseason, though the veteran has other "irons in the fire." The Astros are looking for bullpen help and Hawkins has a connection to Houston, having pitched for the club in 2008-09. As many as seven teams, however, have already shown interest in Hawkins, including the Rockies and Mets.
- Dallas Braden tells Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) that he intends to try out for teams when he increases his stamina. After throwing a perfect game in 2010, Braden made just three starts in 2011 and hasn't pitched since due to a pair of shoulder surgeries. The southpaw elected free agency from the A's following the 2012 season.
- Brian Cashman tells reporters (including The Chicago Sun-Times Gordon Wittenmyer) that he always expected Joe Girardi to return to manage the Yankees, despite the rumors that Girardi would join the Cubs. Wittenmyer believes the Cubs' reported "back-channel communication" to try and woo Girardi "underscored an ongoing disconnect between the Cubs’ baseball and business sides of the operation."
- The qualifying offer may not be the hindrance to some free agents as it appears, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal argues. Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse were last offseason's two infamous examples of how a draft pick compensation tag could hurt a player's market, but MacPherson opines that the Baseball Prospectus PECOTA system projected Bourn and Lohse as worth the contracts they eventually signed with the Indians and Brewers, respectively.
- If the Rockies could somehow get Justin Morneau at a reasonable price, he would make an ideal platoon partner for Michael Cuddyer and Jordan Pacheco, Troy Renck of the Denver Post opines (Sulia link).
- A member of the Yankees baseball operations staff predicts Phil Hughes will sign with an NL West team, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports (via Twitter). The flyball-prone Hughes could be greatly helped by pitching at AT&T Park, Petco Park or Dodger Stadium, though Chase Field or Coors Field aren't good fits. The source says Hughes is a "good fit in Minnesota," and the Twins and Royals are the only teams linked to Hughes so far this offseason.
- Though Tim Hudson is 38 and coming off a nasty broken ankle, a National League talent evaluator still picked the veteran righty as the best risk amongst free agent pitchers who are at least 33 years old, SI.com's Tom Verducci reports. Bartolo Colon, Roy Halladay, Dan Haren and Ryan Vogelsong round out the top five.
Today's news out of the AL and NL Central..
- The Brewers are considering bringing back Corey Hart to fill their first-base need and it appears they may favor him over other first base options like Mets first baseman Ike Davis and free agent Justin Morneau, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. A Brewers person didn't look overly enthused when asked about Davis or Morneau and added that the rumored trade of Norichika Aoki for Davis would not be happening.
- Agent Scott Boras says that he's gotten good interest from a "variety of teams" on client Mike Pelfrey and said the Twins are amongst those clubs, tweets Phil Miller of the Star Tribune. He also claims that Pelfrey holds a multi-year offer.
- The Cubs don’t plan to drop big bucks on a free agent catcher like Brian McCann or Jarrod Saltalamacchia and sources tell Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com they have their eye on a cheaper target: Kurt Suzuki. The Cubs are seeking out a veteran backstop to complement Welington Castillo.
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter) there's been ongoing trade interest in Nate Schierholtz since mid-season.
- Justin Masterson will listen if the Indians want to approach him with a multi-year offer, writes Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer.
Here's a look at the latest from Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, with all links going to Twitter..
- The Yankees are talking to the Cardinals about a deal for third baseman David Freese, a source tells Feinsand (via Twitter). The Cardinals could theoretically part with Freese since they can move Matt Carpenter to third base and use Kolten Wong at second. Freese, 30, would give the Yankees a solid plan B in the event that Alex Rodriguez's suspension is upheld. Even if the suspension isn't upheld, A-Rod will probably have to play a good amount of DH. Freese hit just .262/.340/.381 with nine homers last season but his career slash line of .286/.356/.427 is much stronger.
- A source says the says Mariners have "no interest" in Jacoby Ellsbury but the Cubs appear to be stealthily waiting in the wings (link). The Cubs are probably targeting 2015 to make a move towards contending but its possible that they'll look to make a splash this winter in advance of that.
- According to Rangers source, the club is working to schedule Carlos Beltran for a visit to Dallas (link). Two other teams are believed to be working on the same thing. Feinsand lists the Yankees, Red Sox, Royals, Indians, and Mariners as the other clubs showing serious interest and notes that they're all AL clubs (link).
Mark Trumbo is the Angels' most wanted player via trade, but the Halos are very reluctant to trade him, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. "He fits us," said someone connected to the Angels. Meanwhile, Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Peter Bourjos and Chris Iannetta also are getting a fair number of trade inquiries, and they could move one of them. Here's more of Heyman's latest..
- One club with interest in Jacoby Ellsbury says that agent Scott Boras has set Carl Crawford's $142MM contract as a benchmark in discussions, Heyman writes. One rival GM who isn't in on Ellsbury argued that Crawford was better and more durable at the time of his deal.
- The Astros, Orioles, Rays, Brewers and Rockies all have checked in on Mets first baseman Ike Davis, despite his awful 2013 campaign, according to Heyman. In the case of Milwaukee, however, they may prefer re-signing Corey Hart instead.
- Heyman suggests that the Marlins and Cubs could discuss a swap of top prospects and officials from both sides agree that they could have something to discuss. The Cubs have high-end position prospects such as Kris Bryant (who may be untouchable), Javier Baez, and Albert Almora, while Miami has a stockpile of strong young arms.
- We learned last week that Ervin Santana's asking price was $100MM and today Heyman hears that agents Bean Stringfellow, Joe White, and Jay Alou are seeking a five-year, $112MM pact. The agents are going around with a book of arguments to support their case, including some comparisons to Dodgers star pitcher Zack Greinke.
- The A's have joined the fray for free agent Nelson Cruz, but the small-market club could run into problems when it comes to dollars and years, Heyman writes. Oakland has been looking for a right-handed-hitting outfielder after declining to pick up the option on Chris Young, but Cruz would be a much bigger splash than anyone anticipated.
The Diamondbacks have interest in trading for Cubs outfielder Nate Schierholtz, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Schierholtz, 30 in February, smacked 21 home runs in 503 plate appearances for the Cubs this year. In an article Sunday, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic speculated on Schierholtz as a possible fit for the Diamondbacks, who were rumored to have an eye on Cubs righty Jeff Samardzija prior to the trade deadline.
With more than five years of big league service time, Schierholtz is arbitration eligible and under the Cubs' control for one more season. Matt Swartz has projected a $3.8MM salary for 2014, a $1.55MM raise on Schierholtz's 2013 base salary. The Cubs inked Schierholtz to a one-year deal in December of last year after he was non-tendered by the Phillies. They were able to offer him the most playing time of his career while making sure he faced left-handed pitching only 13% of the time. He responded with a .251/.301/.470 line as the Cubs' primary right fielder.
D'Backs GM Kevin Towers has talked about his desire to add a power-hitting corner outfielder. Gerardo Parra seems to have one of the team's outfield spots locked down, with Adam Eaton, A.J. Pollock, and Cody Ross also in the mix. Given Arizona's limited payroll flexibility, Schierholtz could hold extra appeal at less than $4MM.