Chicago Cubs Rumors
The Cubs will likely continue to discuss trading starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija to the Diamondbacks, ESPN's Buster Olney tweets. It now appears unlikely that the Cubs will sign Samardzija to an extension, so with only two years remaining before he hits free agency, it makes sense that a rebuilding team might look to trade him.
After pitching in relief in 2011, Samardzija has emerged as a solid starter in the past two seasons, posting a 4.34 ERA in 2013, but with 9.0 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9. If the Cubs were to deal him, he ought to be able to return good young talent. The Cubs did consider dealing him at last year's trading deadline, but they were reportedly asking a lot. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman wrote then that if the Cubs were unable to sign Samardzija in the offseason, a winter trade would be likely.
The Tigers officially announced Brad Ausmus as the 37th manager in franchise history during a press conference today. Ausmus, who agreed to a three-year contract with a club option for 2017, confirmed Gene Lamont will return as bench coach and would have been his first choice even if he wasn't already on staff. Lamont, who signed a two-year deal to stay in Detroit, has ties to Ausmus as he coached him during his playing days with the Astros. Tigers President/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski downplayed Ausmus' lack of managerial experience saying he "was born to manage" and cited Joe Torre and Dusty Baker as examples of skippers who succeeded without previous managerial experience. Dombrowski also acknowledged he wanted to interview former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin, but the Michigan alum declined. In other news on the managerial search front:
- The Cubs had been vetting Ausmus for weeks but decided they needed an experienced teacher, tweets David Kaplan of WGN Radio and CSNChicago.com.
- In a second tweet, Kaplan reports Padres bench Rick Renteria is the front runner but the team is considering interviewing Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo.
- The Cubs will indeed interview Lovullo, most likely early this week, tweets FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal.
- No team, including the Cubs, has formally requested permission from the Red Sox to interview Lovullo or any coach on their Major League staff for a managerial position, a source tells Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (via Twitter).
- The Mariners are beginning the second round of interviews this weekend with former Mariner Joey Cora one of the finalists, according to MLB.com's Greg Johns. Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon will also be one of those second interviews, a source told Johns in a second report. A's bench coach Chip Hale will receive a second interview, as well, and the Mariners hope to have a new manager in place by the end of the week, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Besides Cora, McClendon, and Hale, five others are known to have interviewed with GM Jack Zduriencik: Ausmus, Renteria, Giants bench coach Ron Wotus, Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach, and ex-Mariner catcher and current broadcaster Dave Valle.
Big changes are in store for the Cardinals' roster, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. In the bullpen, Strauss lists John Axford and Edward Mujica as two players who are unlikely to return next season, while David Freese, Pete Kozma and Carlos Beltran could be gone on the position player side. Let's run through the latest from around the NL Central:
- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold provides a postmortem on the Cardinals' season in a radio interview with 101Sports.com.
- St. Louis brass have yet to decide on whether they'll try to re-up with Beltran, though parting ways with the outfielder would allow them to start Allen Craig in right field, as the club would like to do, Goold says. Such a move would also open a spot for outfield prospect Oscar Taveras, while Matt Adams could get regular time at first base.
- The Pirates must address holes at first base and right field this winter, and will probably also look to acquire a starter, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. Brink profiles several options that are available in free agency, including James Loney at first and Corey Hart in right.
- MLBTR's Steve Adams examined departing Pirates first baseman Justin Morneau in an entry in our Free Agent Profile series earlier today.
- Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times rounds up the current state of the Cubs' managerial search, reporting that the club expects to have hired a skipper sometime around the end of the week.
New Nationals manager Matt Williams says that the club has "some things we can refine" but is not in need of fixing, he said upon his introduction today. Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington has a fine breakdown of the proceedings, including Williams' stated emphasis on improving the club's defense and increasing its aggressiveness on the basepaths.
- Washington will maintain its existing coaching staff under Williams, with two exceptions, Zuckerman further notes. Bullpen coach Jim Lett will be replaced with Matt LeCroy, and Mark Weidemeier -- who, like Williams, comes via the Dbacks -- will be added to the staff as a defensive guru of sorts.
- Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks have announced their staff, according to a team press release. Replacing Williams as the third base coach is Glenn Sherlock. The club also promoted Turner Ward to Hitting Coach and added first base coach Dave McKay, who had most recently served in that capacity for the Cubs.
- Even as they watched the experienced McKay leave town, the Cubs welcomed Brad Ausmus to Chicago today to interview for their managerial opening, tweets Bruce Levine. The longtime big league catcher has received plenty of attention this offseason, and now joins a list of six candidates to have had their moment to impress the Cubs' brass, as CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman explains.
- The Mariners are also interested in Ausmus's services, according to a report from Shannon Drayer of ESPN Radio Seattle. Drayer indicates that Ausmus has had an interview already.
- Former Mariner Joey Cora is also a possibility to take the helm in Seattle, says Drayer. He has already given one interview and could be in town right now for a second.
- As the club works to fill its skipper role, it has already quietly jettisoned bench coach Robby Thompson and third base coach Jeff Datz, reports Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. The former was shown the door last week, while the latter was told he could stay on as a scout but wouldn't keep his uniform for next season. The remainder of the 2013 staff is still in limbo.
- The Rangers have brought back Bobby Jones to serve in a coaching capacity that remains to be decided, tweets Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest. Jones has bounced between the bigs and various minor league managing roles in the Texas organization.
John Mozeliak followed an unusual career path that led him to the Cardinals' GM job, Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post writes. Mozeliak's career in baseball began when a connection led to him taking then-Rockies pitcher Bryn Smith on a fly-fishing trip. That led to an invitation to pitch batting practice for the Rockies, and from there, Mozeliak worked his way into baseball operations. He headed to St. Louis in 1995, after Rockies assistant GM Walt Jocketty took the Cardinals' GM job. Mozeliak then took over for Jocketty in 2007 and has since led the Cardinals to one World Series title. Now, of course, they're pursuing a second one. Here are more notes from around the National League.
- Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon says that his team would have made an offer to Jose Dariel Abreu if he were a corner outfielder rather than a first baseman, Newsday's Marc Carig tweets. The Mets could certainly use a powerful corner outfielder, but they also have little stability at first base, where Ike Davis and Lucas Duda were disappointing last season. Wilpon also told Carig the Mets had a "glut" of first basemen, but none of them performed particularly well last year, perhaps with the exception of depth piece Josh Satin. One wonders why these players might have impeded the Mets from making a major signing.
- Wilpon says the Mets have received calls from teams trying to trade for a first baseman, tweets Carig.
- Former Cubs star Carlos Zambrano wants to keep pitching, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports. "He’s playing winter ball and wants to continue his career," says agent Barry Praver. Zambrano, who last appeared in the big leagues in 2012 with the Marlins, pitched in the Phillies system in 2013, but his comeback attempt stalled due to shoulder issues.
An extension between the Cubs and Opening Day starter Jeff Samardzija this offseason "looks like a long shot" according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Wittenmyer's sources indicate that a sizable financial gap exists between the two sides, and neither is confident that said gap can be closed this winter.
Samardzija, 28, completed his first 200-inning season in 2013, totaling a 4.31 ERA with 9.0 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and a 48.2 percent ground-ball rate. His ERA is surprising when considering his K/BB numbers and strong ground-ball rate, and indeed, sabermetric stats such as xFIP (3.45) and SIERA (3.60) feel that he had quite a bit of poor luck on his side.
Samardijza has transitioned from a solid setup man to a reliable rotation piece in recent years. He's racked up 388 1/3 innings in Chicago's rotation since Opening Day 2012 and figures to hold down a spot in their 2014 rotation as well, barring a trade.
The Cubs were willing to listen on Samardzija this July, with the Diamondbacks among the most frequently rumored teams to have interest. However, in the end, it was reported that the Cubs never got close to dealing the Notre Dame product and planned to discuss a long-term deal this offseason.
As shown in MLBTR's Extension Tracker, recent extensions for starting pitchers with between four and five years of service time include Matt Harrison (five years, $55MM), John Danks (five years, $65MM), Justin Verlander (five years, $80MM) and Felix Hernandez (five years, $78MM). Five years would seem is likely the target for agents Mark Rodgers and Sam Samardzija (Jeff's brother).
This is my own speculation, but the Danks contract may be the Samardzija camp's floor, as the 3.99 ERA compiled by Danks over his 383 1/3 innings prior to the extension is similar to the 4.10 mark that Samardzija owns over his past 388 frames. While Danks had a slight edge in ERA and control, Samardzija has Danks dwarfed in strikeouts, has a more impressive ground-ball rate and is considered a better pitcher in sabermetric circles.
Wittenmyer spoke with Samardzija's close friend and former teammate Ryan Dempster about the situation, with Dempster noting that Samardzija's strongest desire is to win with the Cubs. Wittenmyer points out that Samardzija has said all along that money isn't the biggest issue for him, but he also cautions that doesn't mean Cubs fans should expect a hometown discount. Samardzija has shown a willingness to go year-to-year at this point, and MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz expects a healthy raise on Samardzija's modest $2.64MM salary this offseason, projecting him to earn $4.9MM after the arbitration dust has settled.
Wittenmyer feels that barring an extension this offseason, Samardzija is certain to be dealt next July, if not this winter. The Cubs control Samardzija through the 2015 season, so dealing him with more than one year of team control left would maximize his trade value.
The World Series continues tonight in St. Louis with the Cardinals holding a 2-1 lead over the Red Sox after Game 3's controversial ending. Even though their season is still in progress, many are already anticipating the Cardinals' offseason needs and shortstop sits atop that list. Earlier today, Troy Tulowitzki's name was mentioned as a possible target. Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post writes Tulo would fit perfectly in St. Louis with the Rockies' haul starting with first baseman Matt Adams and some mix of outfielder Stephen Piscotty, second baseman Kolten Wong and reliever Carlos Martinez. Renck, however, doesn't expect such a mega-deal because Rockies owner Dick Monfort has stated Tulowitzki will not be traded. Elsewhere from MLB's Central Divisions:
- The Cubs will interview Torey Lovullo shortly after the conclusion of the World Series, reports the Chicago Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer. The Cubs have yet to request permission to speak with the Red Sox's bench coach, sources from both organizations tell Wittenmyer.
- Within the same article, multiple industry sources say Padres bench coach Rick Renteria appears to be the favorite to land the Cubs' job.
- The Tigers face the same challenge the Cardinals did two years ago when Tony LaRussa retired, opines John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press. If Dave Dombrowski follows the blueprint of John Mozeliak, Lowe reasons Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon will likely replace Jim Leyland as manager.
- Earlier today, I posted some Indians notes on Chris Perez, Jake Westbrook, and Corey Hart.
Denard Span had been hoping that bench coach Randy Knorr would be promoted to the team's manager, but he tells James Wagner and Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post that he's excited by the hiring of Matt Williams. Right-hander Ryan Mattheus tells the Post duo that he grew up watching Williams as a Giants fan and used to emulate his game in the backyard, so he's particularly excited about the hiring. Here's more on the Nats and the manager/coaching situations from around the league...
- From that same piece, Wagner and Kilgore report that the pitchers are hopeful that the Nationals will retain pitching coach Steve McCatty, the team's longest-tenured coach. Hitting coach Rick Schu, who coached with Williams in Arizona from 2007-09, will remain in the organization in some capacity, even if Williams wants a different hitting coach, GM Mike Rizzo said.
- A.J. Hinch and Rick Renteria will receive second interviews for the Cubs' managerial vacancy, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Cubs will conduct an in-person interview with Eric Wedge on Tuesday but have already spoken with him on the phone, Rosenthal adds.
- Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo is on the list of managerial candidates for the Tigers, Mariners and Cubs, as pointed out most recently by Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Lovullo tells James Schmel of MLive.com that he is indeed interested in being a manager, but obviously his sole focus at the moment is on the World Series. According to Schmel, the Tigers' list of candidates currently includes Lovullo, current third base coach Tom Brookens, current bullpen coach Mike Rojas and former big league managers Manny Acta and Dusty Baker. Lloyd McClendon and Tim Wallach have already interviewed.
As the World Series shifts to St. Louis this weekend, here's the latest from around baseball...
- The Indians "would love" having Ubaldo Jimenez back on a one-year, $14.1MM qualifying offer contract (with an option for 2015) but not on an expensive long-term deal, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer says on a podcast with Chris Fedor. Tim Lincecum's two-year, $35MM contract from the Giants has put the cost of pitching out of Cleveland's range for Jimenez, who the Tribe feel has been too inconsistent to merit a multiyear commitment.
- "There is so much money in the game, free agency is crazy," an anonymous GM tells Peter Gammons (Twitter link). The GM also believes Lincecum's deal will end any chance of Jimenez returning to Cleveland and that Jacoby Ellsbury will earn a contract worth more than $100MM in free agency this winter.
- MLBTR's Tim Dierkes, meanwhile, thinks Ellsbury's eventual contract could approach the $150MM threshold (Twitter link).
- There is at least one mystery candidate on the Cubs' short list of potential managers, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Rick Renteria, Torey Lovullo, A.J. Hinch, Manny Acta and Dave Martinez have already been connected to the job and Eric Wedge is the latest candidate to be scheduled for an interview. As to the identity of the unknown candidate, Wittenmyer says it isn't Sandy Alomar, Mike Maddux, Jose Oquendo, Don Mattingly, Jim Leyland or any of the Cubs' current coaching staff.
- NC State left-hander Carlos Rodon headlines the list of the top 30 prospects of the 2014 amateur draft, according to ESPN's Keith Law and Christopher Crawford (Insider subscription required). Rodon is considered the favorite to be the first overall selection in June and the Astros are already looking at him.
Earlier today it was reported that the Nationals will hire Diamondbacks third base coach and five-time Major League All-Star Matt Williams as their new manager. Though an official announcement has yet to come, it wouldn't be surprising to see the team wait until after the World Series in accordance with MLB's preference for teams not to distract from the World Series (as pointed out by Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington). Here's the latest on managerial vacancies and coach hirings from around the league...
- The Royals announced that they have named former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu as their Major League bench coach and promoted Mike Jirschele from Triple-A Omaha manager to Major League coach. Wakamatsu will also work as a special instructor for catchers. Jirschele, the Royals note, led the Storm Chasers to their second Pacific Coast League title of the past three seasons in 2013 (All Twitter links).
- ESPN's Keith Law points out (via Twitter) that Williams is a minority owner of the Diamondbacks and will have to sell his share in order to take the job with the Nationals.
- The Cubs will interview former Mariners manager Eric Wedge for their managerial vacancy next week, the MLB Network's Peter Gammons said on 670AM The Score in Chicago this morning (h/t: Gordon WIttenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times).
- The White Sox will hire Todd Steverson as their Major League hitting coach, according to MLB.com's Scott Merkin. Steverson, who will soon turn 42, has served as a minor league manager and hitting coach in the A's organization as well as Oakland's Major League first base coach. Merkin offers past quotes from Steverson, who talked about the importance of controlled aggression in the box and the dangers of being too passive at the plate.
- Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reported yesterday that Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon interviewed for the team's managerial vacancy (Twitter link). Crasnick later appeared on 105.1 radio in Detroit and spoke with host Matt Dery about McClendon's candidacy, revealing that the interview lasted four hours (audio link).