Chicago Cubs Rumors
2:14pm: Bonifacio will make $2.5MM, plus a possible $425K in incentives, if he makes the Cubs out of spring training, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets. Bonifacio therefore will not make a league-minimum salary, as had previously been reported. Including the $574K Bonifacio will receive in termination pay from the Royals, his Cubs deal could pay him up to the $3.5MM he orginally would have received had he stuck with Kansas City.
10:53am: The Cubs have agreed to terms with infielder Emilio Bonifacio, Grupo Telemicro's Ildefonso Urena tweets. The agreement is for a minor-league deal, ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers reports. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that Bonifacio had Major-League offers from other teams, so it appears likely that he believes he will make the Cubs out of spring training. Bonifacio is represented by Kinzer Management Group.
The Royals had previously avoided arbitration with Bonifacio, signing him to a one-year, $3.5MM deal, but they designated him for assignment when they signed Bruce Chen, meaning they only had to pay a fraction of that $3.5MM salary. Bonifacio subsequently cleared release waivers, and became free to sign wherever he liked.
Bonifacio, 28, hit a relatively .243/.295/.331 in 461 plate appearances with the Blue Jays and Royals last season, but he can play second and third base and any outfield position, and he contributes good value on the bases. He also played shortstop semi-regularly as recently as 2011. Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney struggled last season, so Bonifacio could provide insurance at second if that happens again. He could also serve as a bench player.
The Reds announced today that right-hander Mat Latos had minor surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. He's scheduled to return to his regular throwing program in 10 days (Twitter links). MLB.com's Mark Sheldon writes that Latos injured the knee a couple of days ago when he slipped while playing long-toss. Latos also had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow back in October, Sheldon adds. Though the club does not seem overly concerned, it remains uncertain whether or not Latos will be ready for Opening Day. Here's more from the NL Central...
- Fellow Reds hurler Homer Bailey says that he is still in extension talks with the club, the Cincinnati Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans reports. Even with an arbitration hearing scheduled for February 20th, Bailey said that the sides "haven't really talked one-year that much, it's been primarily multi-year." It was recently reported that, though talks continued, Bailey and the Reds remain far apart.
- For another extension candidate, Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, the reported gap in negotiations may be generating some friction, as Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. "The emotional attachment I have to this organization, a lot of times you just give the benefit of the doubt," said Samardzija. But, he added: "The more this process goes along, the more I realize it is a business and that only goes so far."
- Samardzija painted a picture of a negotiation process in which both parties fully understood the others' position, but are seemingly unwilling to give in. "If there wasn't a gap, we would have signed," said Samardzija. "But both sides are justified. It's not like anyone is asking for some outlandish concept. I understand where they're coming from, and they understand where we're coming from. That's really all there is to say."
- Meanwhile, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says that the team kept some of its off-season powder dry, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports. "In the two previous off-seasons, we've spent every dollar available to us," said Epstein, "and this is the first winter where we ended up keeping some in reserve to be used on players [that are] hopefully prime-age, impact-type players down the road. It gives us a bit of a leg up as we look toward next winter or an in-season move that might make the present and the future better." Epstein went on to discuss how those funds could be put to use. "Rather than just spend the money to spend it," said Epstein," if we can book that and have it available to us to sign that international free agent who comes along in the summer or to acquire a player in a trade who carries significant salary but fits for the long term, or to just start out next off-season knowing we can be a little more aggressive on the guys we really want early because the money will be available to us, that made more sense than spending the money now just to spend it."
- The Pirates have heard some complaints about their failure to spend significant money this off-season, but the club seems unconcerned, reports MLB.com's Tom Singer. "Payroll does not equal playoff," quipped GM Neal Huntington. Having decided against making any big splashes, the Bucs will look to replicate last year's success by once more getting contributions from homegrown talent. "We are really excited by where we can get to with some of the younger players we'll see in this camp," said Huntington. "The challenge is knowing when they will be ready, because when they get here, they will have to help." Manager Clint Hurdle said that the organization "will always rely heavily on developing our own talent," placing Pittsburgh among half of the league in that respect. "You have to anticipate change and get ready for change," said Hurdle. "We have created a culture of opportunity and manning up."
- Right-hander Pat Neshek had multiple offers this offseason but chose to sign with the Cardinals because of the chance it presented him to get to a World Series, he told MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch. Neshek said that he is open to pitching for Triple-A and waiting for a spot to open up: "If I have to go down to Memphis, that's fine. There would be no problems from me. From my past experiences, if you do well, you're going to get an opportunity. It might not be right away."
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
McDonald hit the open market in September when he refused an outright assignment from the Pirates. Things never came together for him last year, as he only got six starts and ended up with a 5.76 ERA in 29 2/3 MLB innings. Control was a particular issue, as McDonald ended up with 6.1 BB/9. In 33 Triple-A innings in 2013, McDonald scuffled to a 6.55 ERA.
Nevertheless, McDonald offers tantalizing upside. Over the first half of 2012, he carried a 2.37 ERA with a 3.23 K:BB ratio and allowed opponents to hit just .196/.258/.312 against him. (Of course, those numbers flipped to a 7.52 ERA, 1.34 K:BB rate, and .292/.388/.551 line in the second half.) And though he dealt with a shoulder issue last year, McDonald has otherwise been durable over his professional career.
The Cubs have officially signed free agent starter Jason Hammel to a one-year, $6MM deal. The 31-year-old Octagon client can earn an additional $1MM in incentives.
After posting a strong 3.43 ERA in 2012 season that was shortened due to knee surgery, Hammel failed to repeat in 2013. Hammel had reached 8.5 K/9 and 53.2% GB% in 2012, both of which represent career highs by a substantial margin.
As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes noted in ranking Hammel 48th on his list of the top fifty free agents, Hammel saw a dive in his strikeout and groundball rates and dealt with elbow issues. He ultimately ended up with a 4.97 ERA over 139 1/3 innings in 2013.
Prior to the long DL stints in his last two seasons, Hammel had registered three straight years with at least 170 innings for the Rockies. Though he averaged only a 4.63 ERA in that period, those figures were likely inflated by pitching at Coors Field. He posted successive FIP (3.71/3.70/4.83), xFIP (3.76/3.66/4.65), and SIERA (3.90/3.79/4.85) marks that paint a more favorable picture.
The Cubs had signed only three players to guaranteed MLB deals before landing Hammel, none of whom are starters. Hammel will presumably fill out the club's 2014 rotation, joining Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, and Jake Arrieta to form the regular starting five.
After missing out on Masahiro Tanaka, Chicago had been rumored to be looking to make a value play on a mid-tier starter. WIth recent injury issues holding down his value, Hammel looks to be the same kind of pitcher that the Cubs targeted last year, when they inked Scott Baker (one year, $5.5MM), Scott Feldman (one year, $6MM), and Carlos Villanueva (two years, $10MM).
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports was first to report the signing on January 31st (via Twitter). Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweeted that the deal was for one year and around $6MM. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweeted the final financial terms. Carrie Muskat of MLB.com first tweeted that the deal was official.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Even though most of Alex Rodriguez's 2014 salary will be wiped out by his season-long PED suspension, the controversial slugger's contract is still ranked as the worst in baseball by Grantland's Jonah Keri. Of Keri's list of the 15 worst contracts in the sport, the Dodgers have four, the Yankees, Angels and Braves each have two and the Reds, Rangers, Phillies, Blue Jays and White Sox have one each.
Here are some items from around the baseball world...
- The Reds and Homer Bailey are "still talking" about a multiyear contract, GM Walt Jocketty tells MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. "There has not been a lot of progress, but good conversations anyhow," Jocketty said. Bailey's arbitration hearing is scheduled for February 20 and there is a $2.9MM gap ($11.6MM to $8.7MM) between his demands and the Reds' offer for a 2014 contract. This is Bailey's last season under contract with Cincinnati and the two sides are reportedly far apart on a long-term deal. Sheldon suggests that the Reds will be watching the Indians' case with Justin Masterson, as he and Bailey have posted comparable numbers over the last three years and Masterson is also scheduled to be a free agent next offseason.
- The Pirates offered A.J. Burnett a $12MM contract for 2014, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link). This obviously fell short of the $16MM Burnett received from the Phillies earlier today.
- The Twins aren't one of the teams interested in Emilio Bonifacio, 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson reports (via Twitter). Bonifacio cleared release waivers and became a free agent earlier today. The Orioles are known to be one of at least nine teams interested in the speedy utilityman.
- Also from Wolfson, a Twins official said that the club "had extensive talks" about Erisbel Arruebarruena but he was judged to be too expensive. The Cuban shortstop agreed to a deal with the Dodgers today that could be worth as much as $25MM.
- The Cubs can afford to be patient in trading Jeff Samardzija, Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan argues, as teams may be more willing to meet Chicago's large asking price once the free agent pitching market thins out and teams get more desperate once the season begins.
- Right-hander Josh Roenicke is drawing interest from a "handful of teams" and could be signed soon, a source tells MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo (Twitter link). Roenicke posted a 4.35 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 1.25 K/BB rate in 62 relief innings with the Twins in 2013 before being outrighted off Minnesota's roster in November.
- Also from Cotillo, right-hander Blake Hawksworth has retired. Hawksworth posted a 4.07 ERA and 1.85 K/BB over 124 games (eight as a starter) with the Cardinals and Dodgers from 2009-11 before elbow and shoulder injuries derailed his career. Hawksworth has taken a job with the Boras Corporation, his former agency.
- Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill discussed the club's recent signing of Carlos Marmol with Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.
- Luis Ayala chose to sign a minor league deal with the Nationals since they (as the Expos) were the franchise that originally signed him and he still has many friends in the organization, the veteran reliever tells Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Several teams were linked to Ayala this offseason but the bidding came down to the Nats, Tigers and Phillies.
Raley has thrown just 38 1/3 MLB innings over the last two seasons, and made his first go at relief in 2013. Previously, Raley had worked almost exclusively as a starter. In 141 1/3 innings at the Triple-A level last year, Raley posted a 4.46 ERA, with 6.0 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9. According to Pitch F/X data (via Fangraphs), Raley throws both a four-seam and two-seam fastball, each of which sit around 89 mph, and also offers a slider, curve, and change. Over his time in the upper minors, Raley has actually shown a relatively minor platoon split, though big league righties have hit him hard.
The Cubs have avoided arbitration with pitcher Jeff Samardzija, signing him for one year and $5.345MM, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets. Samardzija had filed for $6.2MM and the Cubs had proposed $4.4MM, so the final figure comes in just above the $5.3MM midpoint. The two parties were to have their arbitration hearing on Monday. Samardzija is represented by Frontline.
This contract simply avoids arbitration for this season, and does not resolve the possibility of a long-term deal for Samardzija, who is eligible for free agency after 2015. There have also been recurring rumors that the rebuilding Cubs could trade Samardzija, although the most recent word is that, given the continued presence of solid starting pitching options (like A.J. Burnett, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana) on the free-agent market, the Cubs could wait until July to make a deal. Samardzija posted a 4.34 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 213 2/3 innings for the Cubs last season.
Current Cubs president of baseball operations and former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein covered a range of subjects in a fascinating interview on WEEI's Hot Stove Show on Thursday (audio link; transcript). In addition to discussing the two clubs he has headed from a baseball ops perspective, Epstein emphasized the impact of changes to the CBA. The new system has both reduced teams' abilities to reap draft picks from outgoing free agents, Epstein said, and made it difficult to pay for hard-to-sign talent in later draft rounds. Here's more from around the league, including other notable talking points from Epstein:
- Discussing his current club's reported pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka, Epstein noted that the pitcher likely cost the Yankees more in real terms than the team's $175MM contract and release fee commitment, once the collective bargaining tax is accounted for. The signing, said Epstein, "reflects the dynamic that there are many, many teams with lots and lots of dollars to spend and very few places to spend them, very few players who represent sound investments for the dollars."
- "There are lots of teams demanding talented, prime-age players, and supply is really a trickle," Epstein continued. "Fewer and fewer players of that ilk are reaching free agency. ... You're going to see these prices that cause people to shake heads. ... Because of the TV deals, the teams that have them have a lot of money and not a lot of attractive players to spend the money on." Indeed, as I explored earlier tonight, some teams' desires to use free cash to enhance the value of their player assets (i.e., control and contract rights) could result in increasingly robust contracts for some younger players that remain years away from free agency.
- One player that seems suitable for an attractive, long-term investment is Yoenis Cespedes of the Athletics. Fresh on the heels of today's extension of teammate Coco Crisp, Cespedes said that he, too, hopes to ink a new pact, tweets John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. The 28-year-old slugger, who still has two years remaining on the deal he signed out of Cuba, said that he hopes to play for the A's for his entire career. Of course, given his relative youth, upside, and high profile, Cespedes figures to command a much higher price than the $22.75MM over two years just given to Crisp. It remains to be seen whether the A's will be willing to dangle a sufficient guarantee to get a deal done.
- Turning back to the aforementioned Tanaka, Yankees GM Brian Cashman told ESPN Radio today (via ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand) that the club views its new acquisition as "a really solid, consistent number three starter." Cashman noted that, though the club scouted Tanaka extensively, uncertainty remains as to how he will transition to the big leagues. "If we get more than that," Cashman said, "all the better. He's got a great deal of ability."
- Two arbitration hearings took place today, after none occurred last year. Andrew Cashner of the Padres and Vinnie Pestano of the Indians both made their cases to their respective panels. Cashner and the Padres are quite close in filing numbers ($2.4MM against $2.275MM), while Pestano ($1.45MM) and the Indians ($975K) left a larger absolute and relative sum to chance.
- Glancing in at MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker, 16 cases remain unsettled as hearings begin to take place. By my count, just over $23MM remains at stake between the player filings ($79.325MM total) and team counters ($56.15MM). Only the Indians, with Justin Masterson, Michael Brantley, and Josh Tomlin (in addition to Pestano), have more than one outstanding arbitration case.
Barney, a client of CAA Sports' Joe Urbon, filed for a $2.8MM salary last month, with the Cubs countering at $1.8MM. The $2.3MM settled upon by the two sides is the midpoint between those two figures and is just slightly north of the $2.1MM salary projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
Barney further established himself as an elite defensive second baseman in his age-27 season last year, posting a +15.5 UZR/150 and a +11 mark per The Fielding Bible's Defensive Runs Saved metric. However, his stellar glove is the more or less the sole source of his value to the team. Barney has batted .232/.283/.330 over the past two seasons with the Cubs, including a .208/.266/.303 line in 2013. He did walk at a career-high clip (6.5 percent) in addition to tying his career-best in homers (seven) and providing some value on the basepaths last season.
With Barney's case resolved, the Cubs' lone candidate for a hearing is ace Jeff Samardzija, as shown in MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker. Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago wrote last week that it wouldn't be a surprise to see the two sides head to a hearing.
Joey Votto is well known not only for his massive, ten-year contract, but also for being one of the game's most dedicated and thoughtful hitters. He is also known as a reserved presence, making his lengthy interview with Lance McAlister of Cincinnati's 700 WLW well worth a listen (hat tip to the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay.) Among other things, Votto dismissed the concept of lineup protection, but says that he did see noticeably better pitches when speedster Billy Hamilton got on base in front of him last year. His favorite stat? wRC+. Touching on roster construction and player evaluation, Votto said that he values all aspects of the game, and finds it is telling that both of last year's World Series contestants featured well-rounded rosters of well-rounded players. Here's more from the NL Central:
- After missing all of 2013 due to arm injuries, Pirates prospect Rinku Singh tells MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom that he is working on his arm strength and still plans to reach the Major Leagues. Singh, 25, famously won a pitching reality show in India in 2008 and subsequently signed a minor league deal with the Bucs. The story of Singh (and Dinesh Patel, the reality show runner-up) will be told in the upcoming film Million Dollar Arm.
- The Cardinals lost a number of notable relief arms and could be lacking some depth, Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. Gordon lists several minor leaguers who could emerge in Spring Training and be in the bullpen on Opening Day.
- The Cubs are unlikely to participate in a "bidding war" for Korean hurler Suk-min Yoon, reports Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. Though Chicago saw Yoon pitch along with multiple other teams, it sounds as if the club's interest is heavily conditioned on price.
- The Brewers are "kicking tires" on several free agent relievers, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (Twitter links). Milwaukee is waiting for the asking prices to come down. Two names that Haudricourt wouldn't be surprised to see added are ex-Brewer Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Marmol, who is a good friend of Aramis Ramirez.
MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post