Chicago Cubs Rumors
The Mets surprised some observers when they gave outfielder Chris Young a one-year, $7.25MM contract to kick off their offseason. However, they weren't the only club with interest. Young says that the Cubs, Giants, Royals, and Red Sox all reached out to him, but the Mets were aggressive, tweets Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. Here's a look at the latest out of the NL East..
- Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post makes the case for the Nationals to go after Robinson Cano. Some would argue that the Nats should go after a similarly high-impact player that will fill an actual hole for them, but Kilgore says that such a player may not come along for Washington in today's landscape.
- In today's inbox, a reader asks Joe Frisaro of MLB.com if there's a possibility that Dan Uggla could return to the Marlins this winter. Frisaro doesn't see the second baseman coming back to Miami since his cost and declining numbers over past two seasons raise red flags. Besides that, bringing him back would block Derek Dietrich and/or Donovan Solano from playing second.
- The Marlins announced two additions to their baseball operations staff. Mike Berger was named Vice President/Assistant GM while Jeff McAvoy will take over as the new Director of Pro Scouting.
3:12pm: The Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan tweets that the Cubs will send cash to the Royals for Kottaras, who will compete for the backup job in Spring Training.
Kottaras, 30, hit .180/.349/.370 in 126 plate appearances for the Royals in 2013. Kottaras has outstanding plate discipline and power for a catcher, as evidenced by his career 14 percent walk rate and .192 isolated power mark. He struck out in 33.3 percent of his plate appearances in 2013, however, and has whiffed at nearly a 23 percent clip throughout his career.
The Athletics have reached a new lease agreement with O.Co Coliseum that runs through December of 2015, according to an Associated Press report (via ESPN). The A's will pay $1.75MM in each year of the lease. Here are some more links pertaining to baseball's western divisions...
- The Mariners are pursuing both Nelson Cruz and Carlos Beltran, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN. He wonders -- as many do -- whether or not Seattle will appeal to major free agents, as they've had difficulty luring top hitters there in previous years.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports definitively writes that the Mariners are interested in Mike Napoli (he'd received conflicting information earlier in the month). Rosenthal also notes the difficulty that the Mariners have had in luring top free agents such as Josh Hamilton and Prince Fielder but notes that Seattle could simply overpay to land their free agent targets. Two separate sources called the Mariners "desperate," and as Rosenthal notes: "Desperate teams spend money. Desperate teams are capable of just about anything." Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury are also on the team's wish list, says Rosenthal.
- Also from Rosenthal, the Angels learned that Peter Bourjos didn't have enough value to land them the controllable young starting pitcher they coveted on the trade market, and so they elected to use him to fill another hole -- third base. While many in the media have pegged the deal as a win for the Cardinals, Rosenthal writes that the common perception of Bourjos' value may not line up with the actual perception among teams.
- Lastly from Rosenthal, the Diamondbacks know what it would take to land Jeff Samardzija from the Cubs, but their fear is that if they pounce too soon on a deal, they could miss out on a bigger value later in the offseason. The Angels aren't a fit for Samardzija, Rosenthal adds, because the Cubs want young pitching in exchange for Samardzija.
- The Dodgers' biggest risk in weighing Matt Kemp trades isn't deciding to hang onto him and finding out he's no longer an MVP-caliber player, opines Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports. Rather, the biggest risk facing the Dodgers is learning that Kemp indeed still is that player, but finding out by seeing him prove it in a Mariners, Red Sox or Rangers uniform. Brown feels it's in the Dodgers' best interest to hang onto Kemp.
- Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that the Angels' acquisition of Fernando Salas and Joe Smith could make Kevin Jepsen a non-tender candidate.
Teams have inquired on Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija and the Blue Jays are putting together a package of young players to try to land him, a source tells Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com (on Twitter). For his part, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos didn't deny that he has discussed Samardzija with Chicago in an interview with Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (on Twitter). Even though Anthopoulos is looking into starters, he insisted that he has yet to make an offer to anyone (link).
As it stands, Samardzija is set to hit the open market prior to the 2016 season. Most reports throughout the 2013 season indicated that an extension would be tricky, but GM Jed Hoyer indicated recently that he has had discussions with the 28-year-old, making a new deal seem more plausible than it has in the past.
The Blue Jays are far from the first club to be linked to Samardzija and the Nationals and Diamondbacks are two of the more recent clubs with rumored interest. The Cubs hurler posted a 4.34 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 2013 and his xFIP of 3.45 suggests he was stronger than his ERA shows.
We'll keep tabs on the day's minor moves here:
- The Royals announced a series of minor league signings, including for third baseman Brandon Laird, outfielder Paulo Orlando and right-hander Wilking Rodriguez. Laird, 26, is the younger brother of Gerald Laird and joins the Royals from the Astros, where he received major league playing time in 2013. Orlando, 28, is re-upping with the Royals after six seasons in the organization. The 23-year-old Rodriguez will transition to the Royals after seven seasons in the Rays' farm system. He has a career 3.90 ERA, mostly as a starter, but has never reached Double-A.
- Matt Eddy of Baseball America has updates on a number of clubs' minor league signings. Among those with MLB experience (with links to Twitter): The Rockies will return Bobby Cassevah and Matt McBride, and have added righty Greg Burke. Headed to the Tigers is righty Jhan Marinez, while Gorkys Hernandez and Edinson Rincon will stick with the Royals organization. The Phillies have brought back shortstop Andres Blanco. And the Dodgers inked utility infielder Brendan Harris. Other clubs with new signings include the Orioles, Reds, Marlins, White Sox, and Athletics.
- The Cubs have signed outfielder Casper Wells, according to a tweet from Eddy. The team also added righties Paolo Espino and Carlos Pimentel, along with shortstop Jeudy Valdez. Wells got 102 plate appearances with three different clubs last year, posting a meager .126/.186/.147 line that is perhaps understandable given his constant movement and scant playing time. In 2012, over 316 plate appearances with the Mariners, Wells was good for a .228/.302/.396 slash.
- In addition to bringing back righty Benino Pruneda and catcher Jose Yepez on minor league deals, the Braves have added former Phillies backstop Steven Lerud, tweets Eddy. Lerud appeared in nine games for the Phils between 2012-13. At Triple-A last year, he had an interesting .217/.353/.311 line over 219 plate appearances, as he drew nearly as many walks (35) as he had hits (39).
- Cutting ties with a major international acquisition, the Nationals have released righty Yunesky Maya, Eddy tweets. Washington saw little return on its $6MM investment in Maya, who had been outrighted off of the club's major league roster early in the 2013 season. After struggling in two brief call-ups in 2011-12, Maya's last stint with the Nats was even more regrettable. In his only MLB appearance of the 2013 season, Maya retired one batter in the bottom of the tenth before surrendering a walk-off home run to Pablo Sandoval.
- The Cubs have released outfielder Dave Sappelt, tweets Eddy. As Eddy notes, Sappelt was one of the pieces -- along with lefty Travis Wood and second baseman Ronald Torreyes -- picked up by Chicago in the deal that sent Sean Marshall to Cincinnati. The 26-year-old Sappelt has a .251/.301/.343 slash line in 274 plate appearances spread over the 2011-13 seasons. He has spent most of his time in Triple-A over that time frame, and posted a sub-.700 OPS in each of his two years at Iowa.
We'll keep track of today's minor moves here. All news is courtesy of the MLB.com transactions page, unless otherwise noted.
- The Cubs signed infielder Chris Valaika to a minor-league deal with a spring training invite, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports (on Twitter). Valaika hit .219/.261/.344 in 70 plate appearances with the Marlins last season.
- The Cubs signed free agent catcher Eli Whiteside to a minor league contract. The 34-year-old spent last season with the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate and hit just .187/.242/.280 in 67 games. Whiteside, who last appeared in the majors with San Francisco in 2012, owns a career .215/.273/.335 slash line across parts of five seasons.
- The Yankees signed third baseman Zelous Wheeler to a minor league contract. Wheeler split time between the Orioles' Triple-A and Double-A affiliates in 2013, posting a .275/.354/.414 batting line.
Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.
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."