Chicago Cubs Rumors
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.
Utilityman Ryan Roberts has opted out of his contract with the Cubs and will become a free agent, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The 33-year-old has spent time at second, third, and the corner outfield in his MLB career.
Though he has put up a few very strong seasons, Roberts has been underwhelming over the last two campaigns. Last year, with the Rays, he hit .247/.295/.377 in 173 plate appearances. Of course, Roberts looks like a more attractive possible bench piece when one considers his versatility and the fact that he is still capable of doing damage against lefties. In 87 trips to the plate against southpaws last year, he put up a .305/.345/.500 line with four home runs.
The average value of a Major League Baseball franchise is now $811MM, a rise of nine percent from 2013 that can be largely attributed to an increase in TV revenue, according to Forbes Magazine's Mike Ozanian. For the 17th straight year, the Yankees (worth $2.5 billion) top Forbes' annual valuation of baseball's franchises. The Dodgers ($2 billion), Red Sox ($1.5 billion), Cubs ($1.2 billion) and Giants ($1 billion) also hit the ten-figure mark, while the Rays had the lowest value at $485MM. The Mets, Marlins and Astros were the only three franchises who saw their values drop from last year's Forbes rankings.
Here's some more news from around baseball...
- Starlin Castro says he's open to moving from shortstop to accommodate star prospect Javier Baez, CSN Chicago's David Kaplan reports. "If I need to move positions, I'm OK with that," Castro said. "If he is on our team and him being there helps the team win, then I am fine with that. I just want our team to win. That's it." There had been speculation that Baez would see time at second base at Triple-A this season in preparation for a position switch of his own, though Cubs manager Rick Renteria stated that Baez would play short in the minors. Widely considered one of baseball's top prospects, Baez has a .903 OPS in 916 minor league PA and hit even better during the Cubs' Spring Training camp this year.
- The Mets' inability to find a trade partner for Ike Davis last winter means that the club is now in the awkward situation of finding playing time for both Davis and Lucas Duda at first base, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Neither left-handed slugger hits southpaws well, so while Josh Satin will start against lefties, Davis and Duda will have to divvy up the starts against right-handers.
- Astros manager Bo Porter said today that the club's top waiver claim priority was keeping them from finalizing the rotation, and general manager Jeff Luhnow went into more detail with reporters (including Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle) about his team's examination of the waiver wire. "I will tell you that these days we’re meeting every day at least once...probably twice, and we get input from the staff and do our research," Luhnow said. “This is the time of year with clubs setting their 25-man roster in the next couple days that every other guy that’s out of options comes available, and we’re going to look at it seriously because it’s a way that we can fill the team.”
- The Rangers, Athletics, Rockies, Angels and Diamondbacks all made notable moves this offseason that could prove to be mistakes within a few seasons or even in 2014, opines ESPN's Jim Bowden (Insider subscription required). Colorado might've broken even in Bowden's eyes, though, since the Rockies are also on the good end of one of those "backfire" transactions.
- When a number of scouts, managers and other baseball personnel were asked “Were there any young players you watched and said, ‘this guy has a chance to be a star?’” by Peter Gammons, the name most often cited was Carlos Correa. The Astros shortstop headlines the top 10 list, though Cubs fans will be excited to know that Kris Bryant, Baez and Albert Almora all cracked the top seven.
The Cubs have requested release waivers on catcher George Kottaras, reports Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com (via Twitter). He had been picked up for cash from the Royals earlier in the offseason, and would have been owed $1.075MM for the coming season.
The 30-year-old backstop had a .180/.349/.370 line in 126 plate appearances last year. He has a lifetime mark of .214/.324/.406. For what it's worth, the Oliver projection system actually likes Kottaras to be an above-average MLB regular if he was given a full season of plate appearances.
12:24pm: The transaction was actually a waiver claim by Texas, reports MLB.com's Carrie Muskat (on Twitter). The Rangers will take on Murphy's $825K salary. Meanwhile, for the Cubs, prospect Mike Olt, who was acquired from Texas last year, could be headed for an Opening Day gig.
12:16pm: The Rangers have acquired infielder Donnie Murphy from the Cubs, reports ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). Presumably, Murphy will serve as the fill-in for Jurickson Profar while he rehabs.
Murphy, 31, saw the most extensive action of his career last season, posting a surprising .255/.319/.530 line in 163 plate appearances. Over parts of eight years in the bigs, Murphy has accumulated a .215/.280/.405 line in 803 trips to the plate.
11:43pm: The Rangers are scouting the Cubs, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reports, and perhaps not just because of Kottaras. The Cubs also have infielders Darwin Barney and Donnie Murphy. The Rangers like Barney better, Sullivan writes.
4:50pm: In the wake of Soto's injury, the Rangers are considering acquiring George Kottaras of the Cubs, Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com tweets. Kottaras currently projects to back up Welington Castillo in Chicago, but the Cubs are reportedly considering rostering John Baker instead. Kottaras, 30, hit .180/.349/.370 in 126 plate appearances for the Royals last year. In response to Soto's injury, the Rangers have already signed Chris Snyder to a minor-league deal.
The Rangers also looked at Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks today, Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel tweets. As Haudricourt notes, Weeks' $11MM salary could be an impediment to a trade. Weeks hit .209/.306/.357 in 399 plate appearances with the Brewers last year.
12:08pm: Texas has checked in with several clubs with catching depth, including the Yankees, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com. Though Francisco Cervelli may be available, Olney says that there does not appear to be a fit between those two clubs.
10:50am: The Rangers have had trade talks in a bid to add depth at catcher and/or second base, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. The expected starters at those two spots -- catcher Geovany Soto and second baseman Jurickson Profar -- are each expected to miss ten to twelve weeks to open the year.
While it would be pure speculation to guess at possible trade partners in this kind of scenario, we can look at the available free agent pool for other alternatives. With the list growing as final roster decisions are made, Texas could look to players like Tony Abreu, Ronny Cedeno, or Cesar Izturis for the middle infield. Meanwhile, available catching options include recently-released players like Ramon Hernandez, Chris Snyder, and Yorvit Torrealba.
Of course, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wrote yesterday, it could be that the greater concern is with the state of the rotation. That is all the more true now, with this morning's report (via Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News) that ace Yu Darvish will miss his Opening Day start and undergo an MRI to determine the cause of his stiff neck.
Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.
Here are today's minor moves:
- The Rangers have released righty Armando Galarraga, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reports (via Twitter). The 32-year-old of near-perfect-game fame had a 3.64 ERA in 121 Triple-A innings last year. In spite of the rash of starting pitching injuries in Texas, Galarraga never got a chance to throw in an MLB Spring Training game.
- Just one day after releasing him, the Cubs have re-signed lefty Tsuyoshi Wada, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Wada was originally signed as an Article XX(B) free agent, and it appears that club and player merely used the release and re-sign as a procedural mechanism to reach different terms.
- The Cubs have also released another reliever in Chang-Yong Lim, tweets Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Lim, 37, had already been re-assigned to Triple-A. Lim's contract was sold to the Samsung Lions of South Korea's KBO, tweets Gonzales. In six MLB games last year, he threw 5 innings and allowed three earned runs, walking seven and striking out five. He was solid in his first run at the Triple-A level after coming over from Japan, throwing 22 1/3 innings of 1.61 ERA ball with 9.7 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9.
New Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski is virtually the peer of special advisor Jason Varitek -- the two are only four years apart in age. But Pierzynski has still sought out Varitek's advice this spring, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. "He’s one of those guys, he came before me, so you kind of always looked up to him," Pierzynski says. "To be able to be in the same organization and be able to talk to him and learn things from him, it's huge. You can always get better and he was one of the best, so anything he can bring to the table to help me I’m definitely going to take and use." Here are more notes from the American League.
- The Indians have told starting pitcher Aaron Harang, who had been competing for their fifth starter job, that he won't make the team's 25-man roster, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets. Harang has the ability to opt out of minor-league deal on Monday.
- The Yankees are willing to eat part of Ichiro Suzuki's $6.5MM 2014 salary in the right trade, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes. No deal appears to be imminent, however. Ichiro, who hit .262/.297/.342 with the Yankees in 2013, does not have a starting role this season.
- Orioles manager Buck Showalter says "vultures" are interested in his team's out-of-options players, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes. "I know a lot of vultures are lurking around with our out-of-option guys. We've got quite an attendance here," Showalter says. "I get a list of the scouts every day, and if anything, it's gotten more. We had 17 here the other day." Two weeks ago, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes noted that the Orioles' out-of-options players included Edgmer Escalona, Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter, Troy Patton, Nolan Reimold, Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, David Lough, Brian Matusz, Steve Pearce, Francisco Peguero and Josh Stinson. Obviously, the Orioles are in no danger of losing someone like Davis, and Escalona and Peguero appear likely to start the season on the disabled list. But the Orioles will have to make decisions about players like Pearce and some of the pitchers. The team recently designated another out-of-options player, Kelvin De La Cruz, for assignment.
- "I thought way too short term with the Garza deal last year. That one's got a chance to haunt us and haunt me," Rangers GM Jon Daniels told Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic in reference to his trade with the Cubs. Daniels gave up C.J. Edwards, Mike Olt, Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez for Garza. Olt could soon make an impact in the big leagues, but it's Edwards and Ramirez who might turn out to be the keys to the deal -- Edwards was terrific down the stretch last year for Class A+ Daytona, and Ramirez has pitched well in spring training after posting a terrific strikeout rate in Double-A last season.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Here are today's minor moves from around the league.
- The Cubs have released pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweets. The Cubs signed him to a minor-league deal in December. Previously, Wada had been signed to a two-year deal with the Orioles, although he missed almost all of his first season due to injury and pitched only in Triple-A the following season, never appearing in a big-league game.
While there haven't been any extension talks (and won't be) between the Royals and James Shields, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that it's not completely out of the question for Shields to re-sign their ace this coming offseason. However, in order to do so, the team will need to make the postseason, he adds. Royals executives have said that they might take a loss this year due to the team's record payroll, but they also believe that a postseason run could push them into the black, according to Heyman. That type of turnaround could keep them in the bidding to retain Shields, who will hit free agency entering his age-33 season.
Here's more on baseball's Central divisions...
- Close to 25 scouts were on-hand to watch Jeff Samardzija's start against the Mariners yesterday, writes Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com. According to Levine, the Blue Jays had three scouts present to watch the Cubs' Opening Day starter, including director of pro scouting and former Cubs GM Ed Lynch.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington tells Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he is not interested in making a trade for a backup catcher despite the injury to Chris Stewart (Twitter link). That suggests that Tony Sanchez will open the season as Pittsburgh's secondary backstop.
- Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette looks at the Pirates' bullpen surplus, wondering if a trade of Vin Mazzaro or Bryan Morris (neither has minor league options remaining) is on the horizon. Brink writes that right-handers Stolmy Pimentel and Jeanmar Gomez (both also out of options) will open the season in the bullpen, leaving Morris and Mazzaro as logical trade candidates.
- The Twins have named former first-rounder and top prospect Kyle Gibson their fifth starter, reports La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. That means that out-of-options starters Scott Diamond, Sam Deduno and Vance Worley are out of luck. Deduno will start the season in the bullpen, while Worley has already been placed on outright waivers (the expiration of those waivers has come and gone, but there's yet to be a report on his status). It's unclear at this time what Diamond's fate will be.
- Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma is trying not to focus on trade rumors surrounding his name, he tells Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Strauss speculates that with the decision to option Tyler Lyons to Triple-A Memphis, GM John Mozeliak could look to acquire a long reliever via trade.
- Other news from the game's Central divisions today included the Tigers' acquisition of Andrew Romine from the Angels as well as the news that flamethrowing setup man Bruce Rondon will be the latest victim of Tommy John surgery. Also, Indians minor league signee David Aardsma was granted his release.