Chicago Cubs Rumors
It was on this day in 1887 that Grover Cleveland Alexander was born in Elba, Nebraska. "Old Pete" spent the first eight years of his career with the Phillies and the last 12 with the Cubs and Cardinals, but Alexander was one of baseball's dominant arms no matter where he pitched, amassing 373 wins (the third-most in history) and a 2.56 ERA over his epic career. Alexander helped the Cards to their first World Series title in 1926 by recording two complete game victories during the Series and also earned a save for his 2 1/3 hitless innings to close out Game 7.
Here's the latest from the NL Central...
- The Cardinals didn't trade from their surplus of pitching depth over the offseason, a decision that looks wise to MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince given the uncertainly over Jaime Garcia's shoulder problems. Several of the Cards' young arms are still new to the majors and the club doesn't want to make moves until they know what they have.
- Though Scott Rolen hasn't officially retired and is "simply inactive at the moment," he tells MLB.com's Paul Hagen that he is enjoying his time with his family. The long-time Reds and Cardinals third baseman recently made an appearance at the Phillies' Spring Training camp, and Cincinnati is interested in hiring Rolen as a guest instructor.
- Javier Baez could be the top prospect most likely to switch positions, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo opines. The Cubs shortstop is still a work in progress in the field but his bat could be Major League-ready as soon as this season. Since the Cubs already have Starlin Castro at short, Mayo suggests that Baez could play third and Kris Bryant (another top Chicago youngster) could shift to the outfield.
- ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers, meanwhile, thinks Baez could possibly end up at second base. Rogers discusses Baez, Jeff Samardzija trade rumors and several other Cubs topics as part of a reader chat.
- Speaking of Samardzija, we can't count him amongst our readership as the Cubs right-hander tells CSNChicago.com's Patrick Mooney that he's avoiding MLB Trade Rumors and Twitter in order to shut out the trade speculation and focus on the upcoming season. “You concentrate on doing your job," Samardzija said. "You can make as many excuses for yourself as you want. But when it’s all said and done, that doesn’t fly. Your numbers are your numbers. Your record is your record.”
With extension talks still at a stalemate, the Cubs could still potentially deal top starter Jeff Samardzija before the start of the season, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Two sources said that was a strong possibility, while another rejected the idea that trade talks were in progress.
It has been nearly a month since the 29-year-old's name has seen the pages of MLBTR in reference to trade chatter. While he avoided arbitration with Chicago in the interim, both player and club have given recent indication that the sides are somewhat entrenched in terms of a longer deal.
With only one premium starter (Ervin Santana) still on the market, the Rays seemingly likely to open the year with David Price in their rotation, and Homer Bailey now not even a theoretical trade candidate, an opportunity could conceivably arise to get solid value for Samardzija. Surely, the likelihood of a deal would rise if the team does not believe it can get him to sign a new deal at a palatable price, though a mid-season move might still be a preferable strategy. Fueling the sense that a trade could still be in the works, says Wittenmyer, is the fact that manager Rick Renteria has declined to name Samardzija the Opening Day starter, saying that "so many things can happen over the course of the spring that I'm not going to lock myself in."
The Brewers shipped out reliever John Axford to the Cardinals at last year's trade deadline, bringing back young righty Michael Blazek. Milwaukee has been impressed with the 25-year-old, with manager Ron Roenicke saying he profiles as a late-inning arm, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentine. Meanwhile, after being non-tendered by the Cards and signed by the Indians, Axford hopes to continue learning from his brief stint in St. Louis. As MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports, his former club informed him that he'd been tipping pitches, and Axford hopes that correction -- along with regained velocity -- will allow him to return to his peak form.
Here are more stray notes from around the game ...
- Another trade deadline mover, Mike Olt of the Cubs, has shown substantial improvement in the eyesight issues that plagued him last year with the Rangers, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times. Though his prospect stock has fallen in the meantime, all that matters to Olt is maintaining his health. "As long as I'm healthy," he said, "I know that I can do what I was capable of."
- Reliever Jason Frasor explained that he elected to re-sign with the Rangers for the simple reason that he likes playing for the club, reports Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com. "Free agency isn't that great for middle relievers," he said. "I never wanted to be the kind of guy that bounced around from team to team as middle relievers often do with one-year deals. I found a place I really, really liked. ... I think I was the first [free agent] to sign [this offseason]. I just didn't feel it was worth it to try to scrape out maybe a little better contract ... ."
- One free agent who faces a much more open-ended market is former ace Johan Santana. As Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports, Santana has fielded interest from at least three American League clubs. The 34-year-old is hoping to be ready to take the mound in a big league game in June.
- The Rays' roster battle features several situations where options will play a role, reports Bill Chastain of MLB.com. Among the players who must make the active roster or face a DFA are Chris Archer, Josh Lueke, Jake McGee, Cesar Ramos, Brandon Guyer, and Matt Joyce.
The Mets still have a big hole at shortstop, and Stephen Drew is the perfect player to fill it, ESPN's Jim Bowden writes, suggesting the Mets should offer a deal in the two-year, $22MM range. Bowden argues Drew will help create a "winning environment" that will aid the Mets' core of young pitching. And with the qualifying offer dragging down Drew's market, the Mets are likely to get a deal that they might not get next offseason, when J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie and Asdrubal Cabrera will be available. Here are more notes from the National League.
- Cubs prospect Javier Baez denies rumors that he's looking for a new agent, reports Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Baez became a client of KPS Sports in September. "I don't know how this got started. I'm not sure. But that's a lie," Baez says. "I'm still with my (agency). They're doing a great job."
- The Reds would like to have former star third baseman Scott Rolen back as a guest instructor, Cincinnati.com's John Fay writes. Manager Bryan Price notes that Rolen would likely return in a player-development capacity, and the main obstacle right now is Rolen's commitment to his family.
MLB.com's Mark Sheldon spoke with Reds outfielder Donald Lutz, the first German-developed Major League player. Lutz was called up to the majors in late April, hitting .241/.254/.310 in 59 plate appearances while serving mostly as a bench bat. His lone home run during that time, however, was likely seen by thousands of Germans when a clip of it was broadcast during Lutz's appearance this winter on a late night German talk show. "It was the first time something about baseball was streamed out nationwide to the most viewers," the outfielder said. Sheldon says Lutz could position himself for another callup with a strong Spring Training. Here's more from the NL Central:
- Look for the Reds to be more active on the basepaths under manager Bryan Price, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick writes. Speedster Billy Hamilton should factor heavily into the new strategy, but the Reds also believe 6-3, 220-pound third baseman Todd Frazier could be good for 10 to 15 steals.
- Crasnick tweets that industry sources say Cubs infielder Javier Baez, ranked the No. 5 prospect in the game by Baseball America, may be looking for a new agent. The infielder changed agents as recently as last year, Crasnick notes. MLBTR's agency database shows Baez is currently represented by KPS Sports.
- Cubs pitcher Arodys Vizcaino hit 98 on the radar gun during his first live batting practice session this Spring Training, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com reports. Vizcaino had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and did not pitch at all in 2013, but has ranked as high as No. 40 on Baseball America's top 100 prospects list in the past.
Byron Buxton holds the top position in Baseball America's 2014 ranking of the top 100 prospects in the sport. It's no surprise that Buxton was ranked #1 given that the Twins outfielder was similarly ranked in BA's midseason top 100 last summer. Red Sox infielder Xander Bogaerts, Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (who qualifies for the list despite his long career in Japan) and Cubs shortstop Javier Baez round out the top five.
Here's some more from around baseball....
- Baseball America's John Manuel picks out some of the best and worst rankings from the past 24 years of BA's Top 100 Prospects lists.
- The Braves signed long-term extensions with several core players but only extended Jason Heyward through his two remaining arbitration years. While some believe that this means Heyward's time in Atlanta is limited, MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby writes that "the expectation is that after next season, the Heyward deal can be expanded so that he, too, will be locked up at least through the first year in the new ballpark." Such a deal would require extending Heyward through at least his first two free agent years, which could get very expensive for the Braves if Heyward finally breaks out into stardom, as many have predicted for the young outfielder.
- Padres chairman Ron Fowler told reporters (including Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune) that the club is prepared to raise payroll even further beyond the current $87MM+ projection for 2014.
- In regards to negotiations with Chase Headley on a multiyear deal, Fowler said, “There has been dialogue and we will continue to have dialogue at the appropriate time through the appropriate sources.” Headley recently hinted that not much progress was being made and that talks could be tabled until after the season.
- According to a talent evaluator who has seen Joe Saunders throw, the veteran southpaw could be the "steal of February," the evaluator tells FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link). Saunders posted a rough 5.26 ERA over 183 innings for the Mariners last season. "No one saying he’s a star, but he’s a major-league pitcher," Rosenthal writes.
- The Nationals' acquisition of Doug Fister from the Tigers is the best transaction of the 2014 offseason, as judged by Fangraphs' Dave Cameron. The Fister trade headlines Cameron's list of the winter's top 10 moves.
- Though Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts denied that his club's profits were going anywhere but back into the team, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times wonders why the Cubs' revenues haven't been reflected in the Major League payroll.
- NC State left-hander Carlos Rodon stands alone in his own tier atop ESPN's Keith Law's four-tier breakdown of the 2014 draft's top prospects (Insider subscription required).
With the trade that sent Andrew Cashner to the Padres and Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs now over two years distant, R.J. Anderson of Baseball Prospectus takes a look at its background and how it has played out to date. While both players have proven that their talent plays at the big league level, each still comes with questions. Nevertheless, the trade appears to have been quite an equal swap at this point, he opines.
Here's more from the National League:
- The Mets hesitation with respect to shortstop Stephen Drew relates to the team's valuations of him and internal option Ruben Tejada, reports MLB.com's Anthony DiComo. "At the numbers he's looking for," a source told DiComo, "we don't think he's worth it compared to what we have." At this point, a trade of Ike Davis is a more likely outcome than the signing of Drew, says DiComo.
- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said today that a platoon was possible at second base, a prospect that Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times questions. Both Alexander Guerrero and Dee Gordon -- the two likely platoon options -- are converting from shortstop, and each brings lots of uncertainty to the table. Guerrero, the club's most expensive offseason acquisition, has reportedly had some struggles moving to the other side of the bag, but putting his right-handed bat in a platoon role would significantly limit his plate appearances.
- In spite of a resoundingly successful 2013 campaign, Pirates GM Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle will both go into the season without a contractual assurance that they'll be around for another. As Rob Biertempfel of the PIttsburgh Tribune-Review reports, Owner Bob Nutting said today that extensions for the two are not a major priority, though he indicated that he'd be amenable to talks at the right time. "What they've done for the organization in good and bad times really is tremendous," said Nutting, "and I hope they're with the organization for a long time. My expectation is they're going to be critically important pieces of this organization as we go forward."
- Nutting also indicated that the Pirates would still consider giving up a draft pick to sign a free agent, Biertempfel further reports. "Certainly nothing is off the table," he said. "But at the same time, we need to recognize that a first-round draft pick is a meaningful source of talent for a team like the Pirates. We want to be smart and cautious." The Bucs have spoken with first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales, Biertempfel notes, though the extent of the team's interest remains unknown.
FEBRUARY 19: The Reds have outrighted Rodriguez after he cleared waivers, the club announced on Twitter.
FEBRUARY 12: The Reds announced (on Twitter) that they've claimed right-hander Brett Marshall off waivers from the Cubs and designated infielder Henry Rodriguez for assignment. Marshall had been claimed by the Cubs from the Yankees earlier in the off-season.
The 23-year-old Marshall first cracked the bigs last year with the Yankees, throwing just 12 innings (over three relief appearances). He spent his entire prior minor league career in the Yankees system, working exclusively as a starter. Reaching the Triple-A level for the first time last year, Marshall notched 138 2/3 innings of 5.13 ERA ball, with 7.8 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, is a 24-year-old infielder who has seen limited action in two brief stints with the Reds. In 514 Triple-A plate appearances last year, he put up a .274/.319/.335 line. Rodriguez has spent a majority of his time in the minors at second, but has also played third and short.
Homer Bailey and the Reds were said earlier today to be close to a new deal, but nothing had materialized as of this evening. In the latest update, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports that details are still being worked out. GM Walt Jocketty echoed his star hurler's comments, saying that progress had been made. "There are still some outstanding issues," said Jocketty. "Hopefully they get resolved in the next 24 hours or else people are going to have to suit it up and go east." Jocketty was referring, of course, to donning not baseball uniforms but rather the business attire necessary for an arbitration hearing. "It's a lot of little things," Jocketty continued. "The structure of the contract, how it's paid and things like that."
Here's a look at some other potential extension situations shaping up around baseball ...
- Though the threat of an arbitration hearing has been avoided between Justin Masterson and the Indians, those parties could be operating on something of a deadline of their own. Masterson, a comparable pitcher to Bailey in many ways, is also entering his final season of arb-eligibility before hitting the open market. Though Masterson has said he'd be willing to continue discussions into the season, club GM Chris Antonetti says that he would rather keep talks to the spring, tweets MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.
- Another power pitcher, Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, currently stands to qualify for free agency after 2015. As ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers reported today, team president Theo Epstein still hopes a deal can be worked out. On the other hand, his comments echoed some of the sentiment recently expressed by Samardzija, who indicated that the sides had reached something of a stalemate in negotiations. "Sometimes there is going to be a natural gap where a player values himself for what he can do and the team has to factor in a little bit more what he has done," Epstein explained. "It doesn't mean we're tremendously far apart, but if you are apart you kind of table it for another day and we'll see what happens."
- The Brewers previously explored extension talks with young shortstop Jean Segura, but those discussions did not lead anywhere. The club remains interested, but as MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports, nothing has occurred in the interim. "We're always open to [extension talks]," said GM Doug Melvin. "We've locked up some, some we didn't. We didn't get Prince [Fielder]. We offered him a deal earlier on to buy into free agency, but it just depends what players want. Not a lot of them want long-term deals that will take away free agency, and we like to get deals that have at least a year of free agency if we can."
- Another promising young shortstop, the Braves' Andrelton Simmons, has watched as three youthful teammates inked long-term deals in recent deays. As David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes (link behind paywall), Simmons is keeping his eye on the field but would be interested in a new contract. "I'm just focused on playing," said Simmons. "If it happens, great. I love Atlanta. So hopefully something gets done. But you never know." As O'Brien points out, uncertainty remains in Simmons' arbitration value. Not only does it remain unclear whether he will qualify as a Super Two (he has 1.125 years of service time), but his immense defensive value may not translate into commensurate arbitration earnings. Of course, another defense-first shortstop -- Elvis Andrus of the Rangers -- was able to ink a shorter-term, early-career deal (at three years of service) and then land another, much greater extension just a year later.
- The Giants have at least two worthy extension candidates. The first and more pressing, third baseman Pablo Sandoval, is entering his final season before hitting the open market at age 28. But the sides are currently not engaged in talks, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Cotillo notes that today's physical could have a bearing on how things play out. Sandoval, who at times has seen his conditioning questioned, has made some waves by slimming down entering camp this year.
- A different sort of urgency is shaping up with regard to Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, who is scheduled for an arbitration hearing bright and early tomorrow. As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, though discussions are presently focused on Belt's 2014 salary (the sides stand far apart at $3.6MM and $2.05MM), GM Brian Sabean says he remains interested in exploring a longer-term deal. "We like the player," said Sabean. "We think he's one of the up-and-coming players in the National League and we want to hold onto him. But first things first." What Sabean seems to mean is that Belt's future earning capacity through arbitration is very much tied to the divergent filing figures submitted by each side.
- Indeed, Belt would stand at the same starting point as fellow Super Two first baseman Eric Hosmer (who agreed to a $3.6MM price with the Royals) if he wins his hearing. That would set both players on a potentially higher arbitration trajectory than that of another young first bagger, Atlanta's Freddie Freeman, who just inked a monster extension to avoid arbitration in his first of just three seasons of eligibility. Freeman had filed at $5.75MM, with the Braves countering at $4.5MM; both Belt and Hosmer could easily land in that realm with another big year. As I recently explained in discussing the impact of the Freeman deal, Belt and Hosmer could potentially look to Freeman's eight-year, $135MM contract as a target -- though it remains to be seen, of course, whether their employers would go to that level.
Extension season is unquestionably upon us, with several notable deals going down in recent days. What else might be forthcoming? Last year, between February 17th and April 4th, major league clubs committed a cool $641.4MM to extend nine players over a total of 45 years.
We just took a look at the latest on Chase Headley and the Padres, who seem at a standstill as the third baseman approaches his walk year. Yesterday, we heard that the Reds and Homer Bailey could be approaching a lengthy new deal. Here are some more notes on potential extension situations around the game:
- The Red Sox have yet to initiate extension talks with Jon Lester, the lefty said today. As Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports, however, Lester remains unconcerned. The 30-year-old indicated that he was willing to talk through the season. "If it's something we do get done in Spring Training, great," said Lester. "If it's not, I think you have to take everything as it comes. If that involves going through the season still talking or getting it done early, you have to play it by ear." He also made clear that he stands by earlier statements that he hopes to reach a deal to stay in Boston, but did not promise a breezy negotiation. "I'm not going to go back on what I said," Lester explained. "I said what I said from the heart and I mean it. We'll see where it goes from there. We've still got a long way to go. It's going to be a tough process."
- Justin Masterson and the Indians are making final preparations for their arbitration hearing on Thursday, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. But Masterson -- who will become a free agent in 2014 if he does not reach a new deal -- indicated that he was still hoping to talk out of the adversarial process. Though apparently aimed at his 2014 salary, rather than long-term possibilities, Masterson's comments were interesting. "We're seeing if it's possible if we can make something happen before we leave [for the arbitration hearing]," said Masterson. "We're trying to see if we're being too stubborn or not. We're trying to be smart and reasonable. We're definitely moving a little bit here and there to see what can happen."
- After posting a breakout year just in time for his first season of arbitration eligiblity, Cubs hurler Travis Wood says that he has had little dialogue about an extension, reports Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (subscription link). After landing a $3.9MM contract to avoid arbitration, it does not sound as if Wood is expecting further discussions before the start of the season. "We'll see what happens," said Wood. "I would love to stay here, but right now we've got to get focused on spring and get ready for the season."