Chicago Cubs Rumors
For those who are visual-minded baseball fans, the Los Angeles Times has an interactive graphic that allows users to see a side-by-side comparison of two teams' salaries on a position-by-position basis. After you're finished checking out what that looks like when you compare the Astros to the Dodgers and Yankees, here's more from around the league...
- "The handwriting is on the wall" that Brian McCann will be playing for a new team in 2014, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Heyman opines that the strong play of Evan Gattis have given the Braves, who typically operate with a payroll around $90MM, the flexibility to let McCann walk.
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told MLB.com's Bill Ladson that he's approached Jordan Zimmermann's agents at SFX about the possibility of a contract extension. We heard earlier in the offseason that the Nats were interested in a long-term deal, but this is the first report of the team beginning negotiations.
- ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the Cubs and Rangers also bid aggressively on Hyun-Jin Ryu this offseason but were blown out of the water by the Dodgers' $25.73MM bid (Twitter link). The Cubs bid $15MM and the Rangers bid $18MM, per Olney.
- Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN examines what has become a strong Twins farm system, highlighting under-the-radar prospects Josmil Pinto and Jorge Polanco. Mackey also spoke with former Twins skipper Tom Kelly about the improvements top prospect Miguel Sano has made defensively at third base.
Today's minor moves:
- The Phillies signed left-hander Greg Smith, assigned him to Double-A Reading and released outfielder Ronnie Welty to create roster space, according to Reading Fightin Phils' director of PR Eric Scarcella (Twitter links). Smith, 29, was twice traded with Carlos Gonzalez -- first to the A's for Dan Haren and second to the Rockies for Matt Holliday. The LSU product has a 4.51 ERA in 229 1/3 big league innings. The Phillies originally acquired Welty at the end of Spring Training in a swap of minor leaguers with the Orioles. The 25-year-old has a career .281/.356/.464 batting line but hasn't climbed higher than Double-A.
- Orioles righty Zach Clark cleared waivers and was outrighted to Double-A, announced the team (via Steve Melewski of MASNSports.com). The 29-year-old had been designated for assignment on Saturday to open a 40-man roster spot for Freddy Garcia. Signed as an amateur free agent in 2006, Clark has spent his entire career in the Orioles' organization and made his big league debut with last Wednesday's relief appearance against the Mariners.
- Yankees righty Cody Eppley cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A, tweeted Daniel Barbarisi of the Wall Street Journal yesterday. The 27-year-old had been designated for assignment on Friday to open a 40-man roster spot for Preston Claiborne. Eppley did a nice job keeping the ball on the ground in 46 frames for the Yankees last year.
- Three players currently reside in DFA limbo: Ezequiel Carrera and Mike McDade of the Indians and Jonathan Sanchez of the Pirates.
- The Cubs are expected to call up outfielder Ryan Sweeney today and option Dave Sappelt to the minors, reports MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. The Cubs will need a 40-man roster spot for Sweeney, so it appears someone will be designated for assignment today.
Today is Cinco de Mayo, a celebration of Mexican heritage, pride, and culture. The holiday traces its roots to the Battle of Puebla in 1862 where the undermanned Mexican army defeated the French, regarded as having the world's premier army at the time. More than 100 Mexican nationals have played Major League baseball, including Cardinals' lefty Jaime Garcia and Brewers' righty Marco Estrada. The pair squared off against each other at Miller Park this afternoon in the first-ever matchup between two Mexican-born starting pitchers on Cinco de Mayo and the 37th such meeting overall (per the Brewers via the Elias Sports Bureau). Garcia was masterful scattering eight hits across eight innings in the Cardinals' 10-1 victory. Estrada, meanwhile, channelled the French army allowing eight runs and six hits while issuing a career-high five walks (two with the bases loaded). Adding insult to injury, Chorizo lost the Sausage Race (h/t Adam McCalvy of MLB.com via Twitter). Por otras partes en béisbol:
- Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com believes Angels manager Mike Scioscia needs a fresh start and proposes the Dodgers as the most obvious possibility. Rosenthal notes owner Artie Moreno would recoil at the idea of Scioscia managing the crosstown rivals, but the Angels would be better for it if they could obtain a significant player or two in a John Farrell-style trade.
- Indians outfielder Michael Brantley hasn't heard anything about contract negotiations and that's by design, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes. "Once the season starts, it's time for me to concentrate on baseball," Brantley said. "I don't need distractions like that. If my agents have anything going on, they'll get in touch with me."
- The Astros have dropped Erik Bedard from the starting rotation and need a starter for Friday's game against the Rangers. MLB.com's Brian McTaggart doesn't sense the Astros are in a rush to start the service clock of top prospect Jarred Cosart, who is 3-0 with a 2.63 ERA and 9.5 K/9 in 27 1/3 innings for Triple-A Oklahoma City. Cosart's next scheduled start is tomorrow night.
- Cubs manager Dale Sveum told reporters, including Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald, Carlos Marmol's status remains unchanged a day after he failed to retire any of the three batters he faced (two walks and one HBP). "Obviously he had a bad outing and couldn’t throw strikes," said Sveum. "Like I said he’s one of the seven guys, and he’s got to pitch, and we’ll get him back out there in some fashion. You can’t hide people. They have to pitch." Marmol pitched a perfect sixth inning today.
- Matt Garza will pitch his second minor league rehab start tomorrow for Triple-A Iowa, writes Carrie Muskat of MLB.com. Garza, number seven on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, is scheduled to throw three innings.
For those of you still up watching the epic Giants-Dodgers game unfold tonight, here are a few final notes from today:
- Assessing the Phillies' front office performance this past offseason, Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer leaves litle doubt as to his stance. He writes (via the Miami Herald) that the Phillies built their 2013 team "on the precarious hope that their aging veteran starters would pitch well and that their aging everyday players would regain their productivity. Around that central theme, the front office sprinkled journeymen and prospects who might be good enough if everything else went right." While the Philadelphia sits only three games under .500, that record has been built on a 9-3 mark against the Mets and Marlins. Unfortunately, opines Ford, there is little that the team can do at this point, especially as the team lacks impact minor league talent ready to help the big league club. With a turnaround always at least possible given the team's starting pitching corps, and with trade value difficult to maximize at this point in the year, Ford says that all the Phillies can do is continue down the path they have chosen and continue to hope for the best.
- In yesterday's matchup between likely first-round pitchers Mark Appel of Stanford and Trevor Williams of Arizona State, it was Appel that came up out on top, writes Keith Law of ESPN (on Insider). Law came away impressed with all of Appel's three primary pitches, along with his athleticism and mechanics. He noted that the Astros and Cubs scouts in attendance likely felt the same. Those two clubs, of course, possess the first two picks in the upcoming amateur draft.
- The prospective class of 2014 free agent starters is beginning to look deeper, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Heyman points to recent solid starts from Dan Haren, Jason Vargas, and Phil Hughes. While Heyman also notes that Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum have settled down since their less-than-promising beginnings to the season, both were roughed up again in their latest outings. With more question marks than sure things among the best rotation options in the 2014 market, pitchers like Haren, Vargas, and Hughes have a lot of room to improve their market positioning over the course of this season. Haren, a 32-year-old one-time ace, has battled through an abysmal early-going to register two consecutive starts that were more reminiscent of his former dominance. The 30-year-old Vargas has buttressed his case as a solid innings-eater, going deep into his last three games and maintaining a 3.72 ERA over 38 2/3 innings. And Hughes, still just 26, has steadily improved all year since returning from injury, most recently tossing an eight-inning, four-hit, nine-strikeout, no-run gem against the Athletics.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tells Andrew Kahn that his favorite scoop was his early reporting on the Angels' discussions with Albert Pujols. A tip of the cap to Metsblog for the link to the Rosenthal interview. Michael Baron discussed (and generally concurred with) Rosenthal's opinion that the Mets will not be contenders until at least 2015, in spite of the team's promising young arms. Here are a few more notes from around baseball:
- Reid Brignac says he is grateful to the Rays organization for sending him to the Rockies before spring training, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The infielder says that he "could see the signs right in front of me" that he was a longshot to make the Tampa Bay roster. With a full spring to prove himself, Brignac managed to make an infield-heavy Rockies opening day roster. While Brignac has only seen 42 plate appearances, and has slugged just .324 in his limited opportunities, he has been able to get on base at a .325 clip.
- Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart has been optioned to Triple-A, making his demotion official. Toni Ginnetti of the Chicago Sun-TImes quotes Cubs manager Dale Sveum as saying that Stewart is in the minors "as a triple A player now," with Cody Ransom and Luis Valbuena being the Cubbies' third base options. Stewart struggled mightily at the top level of the minors while rehabilitating a strained quad. Still just 28, Stewart has failed to return to the level he reached during his promising 2009-10 seasons, when he showed 20-home run power at a young age. Meanwhile, the Cubs still have little to show for their investment in the former first-round pick, who barely cleared the Mendoza line last year. In addition to paying Stewart over $4MM over the last two seasons (after non-tendering but re-signing him this offseason), the Cubs gave the Rockies Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu to acquire him.
- The notion that Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol can build up any trade value is preposterous, tweets David Kaplan of CSN Chicago. Marmol was yanked in the eighth inning today after allowing two walks and hitting a batter, which led to two runs to break open a tie ballgame. After today's implosion, Marmol has more walks than strikeouts after throwing 11 2/3 innings.
Here's a look at the latest edition of Full Count from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports..
- Chase Headley is probably going to be traded by the July 31st deadline. The Padres plan to spend the next two months determining whether they can lock up the third baseman long term, but there are two problems with that. For starters, Headley says he doesn't want to talk about a new deal during the season. Secondly, it would be surprising to see San Diego crack $100MM to keep him. Headley probably wants a better hitting environment and to play for a better team. Meanwhile, there's no shortage of teams that would like to add him as Rosenthal says there could be at least a dozen clubs in the market for a third baseman, including the Dodgers, Cubs, and White Sox.
- If Mike Napoli stays healthy and continues producing, the Red Sox first baseman will build his case for a multi-year deal in free agency. Of course, Boston reduced their three-year offer to Napoli to one-year after learning he had a condition in both hips. However, he's taking MRIs every three months to keep tabs on it and if the tests show that his condition is improved or stable, a team might be willing to extend a longer offer, especially since he's playing first base rather than catcher.
- Josh Johnson is the Blue Jays' most obvious trade candidate but if the season becomes a train wreck, they'll have the ability to move virtually any player. Jose Reyes is the only player signed beyond 2015 while most players on multi-year deals are signed at affordable prices and no one has a no-trade clause. Brandon Morrow might be an interesting name as the club has lots of young pitching coming. Of course, the Blue Jays have to fall out of things before considering such a move.
- It's bad enough for the Angels that shortstop Jean Segura is blossoming into a star elsewhere, but they've also traded away an entire rotation's worth of talent in recent years. The Halos sent Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs to Arizona for Dan Haren, Donn Roach to San Diego for Ernesto Frieri, and Johnny Hellweg to Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke deal. On top of that, the Angels weakened their farm system by giving up their first and second round picks last year for Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson and their first round pick this year to ink Josh Hamilton. Their top pick last year was No. 114, this year it'll be No. 59.
Cardinals closer Jason Motte will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery on Monday, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louid Post-Dispatch (on Twitter). Edward Mujica has filled in admirably as the team's closer in his absence, but the Cardinals will likely be the subject of many relief rumors as the trade deadline draws near. Here's more out of baseball's Central divisions...
- Earlier today, Goold tweeted a link to a story that he wrote nearly two years ago, chronicling the long, difficult process of signing top prospect Carlos Martinez. Martinez, who was promoted to the Majors this morning, had originally been signed by the Red Sox, but that deal fell through due to questions surrounding his documentation. Martinez, whose mother died before his first birthday, was going by the name given to him by his uncle who raised him -- Carlos Matias. The Cardinals tirelessly searched for school records and his mother's death certificate to prove his identity, at which point he adopted her last name once again.
- Cubs prospect Juan Carlos Paniagua is in a similar predicament to the one Martinez initially faced, writes Baseball America's Ben Badler. The U.S. Consulate is currently requesting school records and identification documents of Paniagua's siblings before issuing him a work visa.
- The Twins still have two weeks to make a decision on right-hander Tim Wood, tweets Phil Miller of the Star Tribune. Wood is on a rehab assignment but appears healthy at this point. However, he only looks "so-so" according to Miller, and Minnesota's bullpen has been a strength early in the season. Because Wood is on the 40-man roster and out of options, he'd have to be exposed to waivers to be sent to Triple-A at the end of his rehab stint.
- We also learned earlier today that the minor trade which would have sent Mark Teahen from the D-backs to the Reds fell through due to an issue with Teahen's phsyical.
Earlier today, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts presented his plans for a $300MM renovation on Wrigley Field and made waves when he said that the club may have to move to a new park if certain requests are not met. After his presentation, Ricketts told David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com that his focus is still on making things work at Wrigley. "We also need to generate the revenue we need to compete as a franchise," Ricketts added. "There has been some question as to whether or not we can put up a revenue generating video board and signage in our own outfield and if we can't then at some point we've got to look at other options. But I don't think it's now. We really believe that we are going to be able to work this out and move forward." Here's more from around baseball..
- Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet looked at potential infield trade targets for the Blue Jays. BN-S suggests that Brendan Ryan of the Mariners and Alex Gonzalez of the Brewers are among those that could make sense for Toronto.
- High school shortstop Riley Unroe is seeing his stock soar as he was viewed to a fifth-to-seventh round talent but could now find himself going as early as late in the first round and in the sandwich round, at worst, writes Allan Simpson of Perfect Game. Keith Law of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req'd) recently wrote that he personally sees Unroe as a third round talent but wouldn't be surprised to see him go higher.
- Despite their $148MM payroll and World Series expectations, it no longer seems like a fluke that the Angels are struggling, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. The Halos snapped a four-game losing streak earlier today to bring their record to 10-17.
The Twins have plenty to be excited about following the hot starts of top prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports in his first Prospect Heat Check column. Passan spoke to 20 GMs and executives, with one AL evaluator telling him that "Sano is exploding," and adding that the 20-year-old looks to have improved at third base. Here's more on the Twins and more from baseball's Central divisions...
- Former Tigers reliever and current Twins setup man Casey Fien sympathizes with the trials that his former roommate Casper Wells has gone through early this season, writes John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press. Fien recalls Spring Training of 2010, when he went from the Tigers, to the Red Sox, to the Blue Jays and back to the Tigers in the span of a month. Wells was with four organiations in April.
- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts presented his plans for a $300MM renovation for Wrigley Field today, and Fran Spielman and Stefano Esposito of the Chicago Sun-Times have the highlights. Ricketts caused controvery by stating that if the Cubs are unable to receive the outfield sign space they need (among other requests), they would have to consider moving from Wrigley Field. Ricketts went on record as saying the Cubs need "to run a business like a business and not a museum."
- David Kaplan of CSN Chicago tweets the following Ricketts quote from his presentation: "We anticipate increasing spending on the baseball side as soon as we know what we can do with this plan."
- USA Today's Bob Nightengale praises Brewers GM Doug Melvin for insisting that the Angels include shortstop Jean Segura in any return for Zack Greinke last July (Twitter link). Segura entered play Wednesday hitting .367/.418/.567 three doubles, three triples, three homers and seven steals.
Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner feels that the January 2012 trade that sent him to San Diego (with Kyung-Min Na) for Anthony Rizzo and Zach Cates was good for him and for Rizzo, Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. "I think it was a trade that certainly worked out well for both players involved," Cashner says. "The pitcher got to move to a pitcher’s ballpark. The hitter got to move to a hitter’s ballpark."
Rizzo, meanwhile, feels there wasn't a place for him in San Diego. "As soon as they traded for Yonder Alonso, I don’t think I was in the Padres’ plans," he says. "I can understand it. Yonder was probably better suited to Petco Park than I was." Rizzo had a strong season with the Cubs in 2012, while Cashner has struck out 19 batters in his first 19 1/3 innings in 2013 while showing off mid-90s velocity. Here are more notes from around the National League.
- The Phillies face "major questions," Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci writes. Pitchers Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay will cost the team $64.5MM in 2013, but it's questionable whether the rest of the roster can support them, Verducci argues. Big expenditures on those three pitchers, plus star veterans Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, meant the Phillies had to build a cheap outfield, says Verducci. The biggest problem in the outfield so far this season, however, is that Domonic Brown and Ben Revere have struggled. Those players aren't highly-paid, but they also aren't on the roster merely because they're cheap. Revere posted 3.1 wins above replacement in 2012, and Brown was a highly-regarded prospect. "We have a lot of guys in the outfield who have never done it over a full season and are starting to get older, as far as being considered young players," a Phillies employee says.
- Jim Thome, who played for the Phillies and Orioles in 2012, is hoping to return to baseball later this season, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. "He still thinks he can play," says Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "He misses the game. Baseball is his identity. That’s all he’s done for 20-some years or so. He's kind of having a hard time adjusting."
- Before a strong start today against Reno, top Mets prospect Zack Wheeler was struggling to adjust at Triple-A Las Vegas, John Harper of the New York Daily News writes. Mets fans are waiting for Wheeler to join the big-league rotation. "Obviously I want to be up there, but you can’t think about it because it will distract you, take your mind off what you’re trying to do down here," Wheeler says. Wheeler currently has a 4.80 ERA. Las Vegas is one of the toughest places to pitch in the minor leagues, however, and the fact that he's allowed a few too many runs there might not mean Wheeler isn't ready for the Majors, especially with 10.8 K/9 so far this year.