Chicago Cubs Rumors


Central Notes: Braun, Cubs, Masterson, Kipnis, Gomes

Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun is again dealing with a thumb injury that hampered his swing in 2013, according to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. Braun and the team's doctors thought the extended rest between his suspension and the offseason would heal his thumb. That was the case early in Spring Training, as he was pain-free, but as spring wore on, Braun began to again experience numbness in his right thumb. Because he cannot feel the thumb, he's unable to tell how tightly he is gripping the ball when throwing, leading to bruising and blisters on the digit. The root of the problem appears to be a damaged nerve, which can be corrected via surgery, but Braun says he doesn't want to think about that alternative now, as the recovery would not be quick.

More links pertaining to baseball's Central divisions as we gear up for a weekend of baseball early in the 2014 campaign...

  • The Cubs are exploring the idea of selling minority ownership shares as a way to help finance the stadium renovation, multiple sources tell Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com. The team is looking at selling a non-controlling interest, though no official decision has been reached. The potential sale wouldn't impact president of business operations Crane Kenney or president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, who are both locked into long-term contracts. While the deal may be perceived negatively by some, Mooney points out that the Giants and Cardinals list 30 principal owners while the Cardinals have 15 investors, and both are considered to be well-run franchises. Any sale would need to be approved by Major League Baseball, Mooney adds.
  • Earlier today, the Indians signed second baseman Jason Kipnis to a six-year, $52.5MM extension. At the press conference, GM Chris Antonetti told reporters that there's no "either/or" situation with Kipnis and Justin Masterson (MLB.com's Jorda Bastian reporting on Twitter). The club still has the financial flexibility to make something happen with Masterson, should talks re-ignite. The similarity between Kipnis' guarantee and Masterson's reported three-year, $51MM proposal may have led to some speculation prior to Antonetti's comments.
  • Bastian also tweets that the Indians have been trying to extend Kipnis since he had just 69 days of service time; in other words, Cleveland has been pursuing an extension for their second baseman since the completion of the 2011 season. Kipnis batted .272/.333/.507 with seven homers and five steals in 150 plate appearances in his big league debut that year. The deal was wrapped up on Sunday but not announced until today, he adds.
  • Fangraphs' Jason Collette looks at how Yan Gomes went from being "the other guy" in the trade that netted the Indians Mike Aviles to becoming the recipient of a six-year, $23MM extension. Gomes was never afforded a chance to catch everyday in the Blue Jays' minor league system because of their depth at the position. Collette calls the contract the "inverse of all free agent deals" as it rewards Gomes for his future production rather than past laurels. He also wonders if the new rules regarding home-plate collisions made the extension more palatable, as there is now less long-term risk with catcher extensions.



Minor Moves: Rapada, Gimenez, Cabrera, Taylor

We'll keep track of the day's minor moves here:

  • The Mariners have signed lefty Clay Rapada and added him to the roster at Triple-A Tacoma, according to Rainiers announce Mike Curto (on Twitter). Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune first reported (via Twitter) that Rapada was working out for the team. The left-hander has a 4.06 ERA in 94 big league innings but has never been able to hold down a consistent big league job despite dominant numbers against left-handed hitters; Rapada has held lefties to a minuscule .164/.255/.231 batting line in his career. However, righties have roughed him up at a .345/.464/.611 clip.
  • Catcher Chris Gimenez has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Round Rock, according to the Dallas Morning News' Evan Grant (Twitter link). Gimenez, who has been outrighted previously, has 72 hours to accept or reject the assignment. He was claimed off waivers by the Rangers last week but quickly designated for assignment when the club promoted Daniel McCutchen to the Majors.
  • The Cubs have outrighted reliever Alberto Cabrera to Triple-A after he cleared waivers, reports Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). The 25-year-old righty was designated on Saturday. 
  • Outfielder Michael Taylor has cleared outright waivers and been assigned to Triple-A, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 28-year-old will take up residence in Sacramento for the fifth straight year since joining the Oakland organization.
  • Brian Bogusevic has accepted an outright assignment from the Marlins, reports Cotillo (via Twitter). Bogusevic, a 30-year-old outfielder who was acquired over the offseason for Justin Ruggiano, could have elected free agency since he has previously been outrighted.
  • The Red Sox have released outfielder Scott Cousins, Cotillo also tweets. Cousins, 29, has seen bit action in parts of four MLB seasons. The news was first reported yesterday by Mike Andrews of SoxProspects (via Twitter). According to Andrews, longtime minor leaguer Juan Carlos Linares was also among the players cut loose from the Boston system.
  • Pitcher Armando Galarraga is working on securing a visa after receiving an offer from the Taiwanese club Brother Elephants, his agent tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Cotillo tweeted earlier this morning that the former big leaguer was close to a deal to move to Taiwan. In 542 career MLB innings, Galarraga has a 4.78 ERA  with 5.7 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9.
  • Outfielder Dave Sappelt has been released by the Phillies, tweets Cotillo. Sappelt himself said on Twitter that he appreciates the club carrying him while undergoing offseason surgery. The 27-year-old has seen limited action in three big league seasons.
  • The Astros have outrighted reliever Raul Valdes to Triple-A, according to the PCL transactions page. Though he lacks an extensive MLB track record at age 36, Valdes still has an intriguing recent stat line and looks to be a good bet to see time in Houston at some point. His ERA was a ghastly 7.46 last year, but he put up 9.5 K/9 (against just 2.1 BB/9), good for a 3.10 SIERA. Valdes posted numbers more line with those peripherals in 2012 and even during limited action this spring.
  • Likewise, Hiroyuki Nakajima has been outrighted to the top affiliate of the Athletics, also via the PCL transactions page. The move is not surprising, given that Nakajima had only been added to the 40-man in the first place to fill it up to allow for the team to designate Taylor for assignment, according to a report from John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group (via Twitter).

Steve Adams contributed to this post.



Cubs To Sign Joel Pineiro

The Cubs have agreed to terms with right-hander Joel Pineiro on a minor league contract, according to  Hiram Torraca of El Nuevo Dia in Puerto Rico (Spanish Twitter link). The Puerto Rican veteran will spend 10 days in extended Spring Training before reporting to Triple-A Iowa, per Torraca. Pineiro is a client of the Wasserman Media Group.

Pineiro, 35, hasn't appeared in the Major Leagues since 2011 or the minor leagues since 2012. He inked a minor league deal with the Orioles last offseason after shoulder surgery cut his 2012 campaign short. Pineiro spent some time rehabbing with the club, but he was released midway through the season without getting into a game. Earlier this offseason, Pineiro was said by MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez to be attempting a comeback.

Pineiro experienced success with the Mariners early in his career, posting a 3.29 ERA with 6.4 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 481 1/3 innings with the team from 2001-03 -- his age-22 to age-24 seasons. He scuffled over the next several years, however, and ultimately found himself released by Seattle.

After a brief stop with the Red Sox, Pineiro became one of the many pitchers to experience a career resurgence under the tutelage of Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan. Pineiro pitched to a 3.49 ERA in 214 innings for the Cardinals in 2009 and led the league with a stellar 1.1 BB/9 rate (which helped offset his low 4.4 K/9 clip). That performance helped him land a two-year, $16MM contract with the Angels, and while he maintained his strong performance in 2010, he struggled again in 2011 and hasn't been back to the bigs since.

For his career, Pineiro owns a 4.41 ERA with 5.4 K.9, 2.5 BB/9 and a strong 49.2 percent ground-ball rate thanks to his sinker. Chicago's rotation currently consists of Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel and Carlos Villanueva, with both Jake Arrieta and James McDonald on the disabled list. A strong performance for Pineiro at Triple-A could get him some consideration for starts later in the season in the event of further injuries or trades of current rotation members such as Samardzija or Hammel.



Cubs' Epstein: No More Public Discussion Of Samardzija

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said today that he will no longer publicly address the team's plans regarding top starter Jeff Samardzija during the season, reports Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Speculation has spun all offseason between the possibilities of a new deal or a trade of the 29-year-old hurler, who is under team control for two more years.

"We talked about it early in spring training," Epstein said before today's game. "We indulged the questions. Right now we're just focused on the games and just going out and winning." Going on to discuss the team's general approach, Epstein indicated that the club would be cognizant of its place on the win curve in considering its options. 

"All contracts collectively form a market and you have to be aware of the market and operate in the market when you're in free agency, and it affects everything you do, to a certain extent. But we have to make smart decisions for our situation, for the situation we're in now and the situation we're going to be in in a few years."

One key point that emerged out of the two sides' discussions to date was that there is an apparent gap between the team's current valuation of Samardzija and his belief in where his market value will lie after the season. Though he has shown impressive strikeout ability, Samardzija failed to convert that into consistent results last year, finishing with a 4.34 ERA in 213 2/3 innings. He is off to a good start in 2014, as he tossed 7 innings of shutout ball, allowing just five hits and striking out three while walking two batters.

An earlier version of this post passed on an incorrect interpretation of Epstein's comments, which had indicated that the Cubs would not discuss a contract extension during the regular season. Gonzales has clarified his report, indicating that Epstein's comments were meant to address his intentions regarding future public comment on the club's plans regarding Samardzija. 



NL West Notes: Cashner, Padres, Rockies

This evening, Andrew Cashner of the Padres pitched six strong innings against the Dodgers, striking out five and allowing just one run in the first 2014 MLB regular-season game to take place on American soil. That led FOX Sports' Jon Morosi to wonder (via Twitter) who would ultimately win the trade that sent Cashner to the Padres and Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs. That's a question that might not be resolved anytime soon. Early on, the Cubs looked like the likely winners after Rizzo put together an excellent .285/.342/.463 season in 2012, leading to a $41MM extension early in the 2013 season. Rizzo had a disappointing 2013 season, though, and Cashner, with his terrific fastball and strong 2013 season, may be emerging as one of the National League's better young(-ish) starting pitchers. Here are more notes from the NL West.

  • The Padres have about 30 percent of their payroll on the disabled list, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. That includes Carlos Quentin ($9.5MM), Josh Johnson ($8MM), Cameron Maybin ($5MM) and Cory Luebke ($3MM). Of course, in Johnson's case, the Padres were well aware he was an injury risk before they signed him. "With Johnson, we thought the risk was worth it. That’s what we’re going to do from time to time and we have to," says Padres Executive Chairman Ron Fowler. "To balance things, we have to take some risks that other teams don’t have to take."
  • The rising salaries of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez might make 2014 their last season as Rockies teammates, Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post writes. "I want to play my entire career with CarGo, but of course I think about how it might not happen. I thought it would be the case with (Matt) Holliday, and it didn't work out," says Tulowitzki, who will make $16MM in 2014 before his salary increases to $20MM in 2015. Gonzalez will make $10.5MM in 2014 and $16MM in 2015. The Rockies say, however, that they won't need to trade either player.



Added To The 40-Man Roster: Sunday

The rosters for Opening Day were officialy submitted this afternoon. Several minor league signees have won jobs with their clubs and earned 40-man roster spots. Here are today's additions:

  • The Rangers announced they have purchased the contract of infielder Josh Wilson. After designating Adam Rosales for assignment and placing catcher Geovany Soto on the 60-day disabled list, there remains one opening on the Rangers' 40-man roster.
  • The Diamondbacks announced they have added right-hander Daniel Hudson to the 40-man roster and promptly placed him on the 15-day disabled list as he recovers from his second Tommy John surgery. The 27-year-old signed a minor league deal with the Diamondbacks last December.
  • The Cubs announced they have purchased the contracts of right-hander Brian Schlitter and catcher John Baker and placed right-hander James McDonald on the 60-day disabled list. The Cubs' roster now stands at 40. 



NL Notes: Montreal, Phillies, Epstein, Kottaras, Braves

Baseball was back in Montreal yesterday, with the Mets and Blue Jays squaring off at old Olympic Stadium. Of course, its former occupant -- the Expos -- now plays its games in Washington, DC. It is good to see the ballpark filled once again with fans donning caps featuring the team's classic logo. Jared Diamond and Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal take a look at the latest on the possibility of baseball landing back in Montreal on a more permanent basis. Here are some notes from the National League:

  • The Phillies are easing into their use of analytics, as a supplement to traditional scouting writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. But statistical analysis has already informed several decisions, such as the signing of Roberto Hernandez. "Our scouts and our analytics people looked at the middle-of-the-road, back-end starters," said GM Ruben Amaro Jr., "and we felt like he would be a good choice for us." Philadelphia likes his ground-ball rate and believes his sky-high HR/FB% will come back down to earth. The team also hopes to join the trend of utilizing shifts.
  • In a lengthy profile of Cubs president of baseball ops Theo Epstein, ESPN The Magazine's Tim Keown writes that the 40-year-old is full of optimism about his organization's direction. One key change in Chicago has been the flow of information, which has been modernized under Epstein's direction. "The currency of the draft is information," Epstein says. "Scouting information, statistical information, makeup information, medical information. In each of those buckets, we have to drill deeper if we want to have an advantage." And while some of the strategic maneuvering to secure draft picks is now no longer possible, Epstein says that does not change the other key input in acquiring young talent. "Now you're left only with how well you can scout," he says. "It's gone from strategy and scouting to just scouting."
  • One veteran that the Cubs probably had higher hopes for is catcher George Kottaras, who was released on Wednesday. The 30-year-old has a handful of suitors, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com, and is trying to decide on the best opportunity.
  • The Braves are not only hoping to do something new with their planned ballpark, by building it in conjunction with a mixed-use development, but will buck the trend of putting new baseball parks downtown, writes Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The piece offers a nice discussion of the preliminary plans, which include designing the park's exterior in a "transparent" manner that will allow it to remain integrated into the overall development project.



Cubs To Designate Alberto Cabrera For Assignment

The Cubs will designate Alberto Cabrera for assignment, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (via Twitter). Cabrera lost the competition for the last bullpen slot to Brian Schlitter.

The 25-year-old has thrown 27 2/3 MLB innings over the last two years, all in relief, and posted a 5.20 ERA. He has split his time in the minors in recent years between starting and relieving. Signed as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2005, Cabrera has spent his entire career in the Cubs organization.



Minor Moves: Duncan, Manzella, Russell, Rauch

Here are today's minor transactions, with the newest moves at the top of the page...

  • The Diamondbacks have released first baseman Shelley Duncan, shortstop Tommy Manzella and right-hander Adam Russell, Matt Eddy reports (via Twitter).  All three players signed minor league deals with the Snakes during the offseason.  Duncan had a .606 OPS in 64 PA with the Rays in 2013, while Russell and Manzella last appeared in the majors in 2011 and 2010, respectively.
  • The Royals released veteran reliever Jon Rauch, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets.  Rauch, 35, signed a minor league deal with K.C. in January.  The right-hander posted a 7.56 ERA in 16 2/3 IP with the Marlins and a 2.89 ERA in 9 1/3 IP for the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate last season.
  • The Nationals released infielder Mike Fontenot.  The veteran last played in the Majors in 2012, spending last season with the Rays' Triple-A affiliate and then signing a minor league deal with Washington in January.  Formerly a staple of the Cubs infield, Fontenot has a .265/.332/.401 line over 1586 career PA with the Cubs, Giants and Phillies.
  • The Cardinals outrighted Joey Butler to Triple-A Memphis.  Butler, 28, made his Major League debut last season by appearing in eight games for the Rangers, following six years in the Texas farm system that saw him post a .291/.375/.442 slash line with 72 homers over 3036 PA.  The outfielder was claimed off waivers by St. Louis in October.
  • The Brewers released outfielder Greg Golson, who had been signed to a minor league contract in January.  Golson appeared in 40 Major League games with the Phillies, Rangers and Yankees from 2008-11 and has playing in the minors ever since.



Added To The 40-Man Roster: Thursday

Between now and Opening Day, several minor league signees will win jobs with their clubs and earn 40-man roster spots. Here are today's additions:

  • As expected, the Mets have added lefty John Lannan to the 40-man roster, Newsday's Marc Carig tweets. The longtime starter is expected to work out of the pen for the first time in his career after serving exclusively as a starter for 148 games between 2007-13.
  • Jason Bartlett will make the Twins as a reserve infielder and center field option, tweets Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The 34-year-old had previously agreed to bump back his opt-out date. Though he has played exactly one MLB game at a position other than shortstop (a single 2004 appearance at second), Bartlett will apparently see some time in the outfield. He finds himself in position to break camp after taking just 98 professional plate appearances over the last two seasons.
  • 25-year-old outfielder Ryan Kalish will make the Cubs Opening Day roster and be added to its 40-man, tweets Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com. It was reported yesterday that the same was true of utilityman Emilio Bonifacio, per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). Chicago has two open roster slots, so no corresponding move would appear to be necessary. As Rogers notes, third baseman Mike Olt will also be on the active roster to start the year.









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