Chicago Cubs Rumors
In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe checks in with GMs, players, writers, and scouts to help run down the best coaches in baseball. On his list of bench coaches who are managers in waiting: Brad Mills of the Indians, Torey Luvullo of the Red Sox, Larry Bowa of the Phillies, Tim Flannery of the Giants, and the Brewers' Jerry Narron. More from today's column..
- The Pirates probably won’t go after a pitcher if A.J. Burnett retires. Right now, Pittsburgh is looking for a full-time first baseman and would use the money that would have gone to the veteran toward that end. Cafardo also notes that the Orioles could be a "wild card" in the situation since Burnett lives in Baltimore.
- While the bids of the other teams are still unknown, one GM threw out the following figures in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes: Yankees $155MM, Cubs $120MM, Diamondbacks $120MM, Dodgers $119MM, White Sox $100MM, Astros $100MM.
- The Diamondbacks were head over heels for Tanaka, but the fact they weren’t on one of the coasts and they were in a smaller media market worked against them.
- Scott Boras doesn't represent David Ortiz, but he tells Cafardo that he feels for them. Boras sees some similarities between the Red Sox star and his own client Kendrys Morales. Morales is seen by most clubs as a DH rather than a first baseman which is hurting his value. Boras argues that Ortiz is the featured power hitter in Boston's lineup as a DH and believes that Morales can also provide value in that role.
- There had been some talk that Daisuke Matsuzaka might go back to Japan to pitch, but the possibility of breaking into the Mets’ rotation with Matt Harvey out intrigued Matsuzaka enough to fight for a spot.
- The Giants have been through a lot with Pablo Sandoval and even if he has a good season, this could be Pablo Sandoval's last in San Francisco. Sandoval will be a free agent following the 2014 season.
Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told fans at TigerFest today to expect a different style of Detroit baseball now that he's completed his offseason retooling of the club's roster, Jason Beck of MLB.com writes. "We'll play better defense. We'll score from first or second on base hits or extra-base hits more than we have in the past," Dombrowski predicted, while noting that the 2014 Tigers won't have as much power as some of his previous teams. "It's a different type of club. … What you try to do is give your club a chance to win a world championship every year," the GM commented. Here's more late-night MLB links:
- Other comments from Dombrowski at TigerFest implied that the Tigers won't pursue Nelson Cruz, Beck reports. While smaller, depth-oriented signings are possible, Dombrowski said he'd be "surprised if we made any major moves."
- Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki says he's ready to step into a leadership role for the club now that Todd Helton has retired, Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports.
- Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune offers an early look at how new Cubs hitting coach Bill Mueller will go about addressing the team's offensive struggles.
- Tom Krasovic of U-T San Diego rounded up scouts' comments on the seven-player trade that saw Padres utilityman Logan Forsythe shipped to the Rays. "I would say San Diego gave up some fringe quantity that Tampa has probably liked a lot in the past for better quality," one scout offered. Another labeled minor-leaguers Matt Andriese and Jesse Hahn as "the two biggest X-factors in the trade."
- U-T San Diego's Bill Center grades the Padres' offseason moves, assigning an "A" to the Joaquin Benoit signing.
There were no new developments today relating to Matt Garza, who looked to have a deal in place with the Brewers yesterday before an unidentified snag held things up. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel provided some updates from the inside, however, reporting that a source said negotiations were "ongoing." When asked whether there were any new developments, GM Doug Melvin told Haudricourt "nothing yet."
Here are a few bits of information elsewhere on the current free agent pitching market:
- Bronson Arroyo and the Dodgers have had discussions since Masahiro Tanaka chose not to sign with Los Angeles, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The level of interest remains uncertain, Heyman notes.
- The Angels have "a bit" of interest in Arroyo but are also content to take their current group to Spring Training, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Angels acquired Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs this offseason to join Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards in the rotation.
- It's been a different type of offseason for the Angels this year, writes MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez, noting the patience and restraint the team has shown on the free agent market. Gonzalez notes that the Angels aren't interested in Matt Garza at the $13MM AAV he would receive in his near-deal with the Brewers, as it would push them up against the luxury tax threshold. He lists Arroyo, Jason Hammel, Chris Capuano, Scott Baker and Paul Maholm as potential rotation options that would leave some cushion between Anaheim's payroll and the luxury tax.
- With a lot of starters still available on the open market, there are plenty of teams that have yet to fill up their slate of rotation candidates. Joining the O's and Jays among the clubs that are looking for starters are both of Chicago's two franchises, according to Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com (via Twitter). Levine indicates that the Cubs are looking over the list of remaining free agents, but he does not say whether the White Sox have any interest in open-market players.
- MLB.com's Greg Johns tweets that Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik thinks the team is done making "major" additions, but tweaks are still possible. However, semantics could come into play heavily, as manager Lloyd McClendon said the team would still like to add a No. 3 starter, per ESPN 710's Shannon Drayer (Twitter link). New team president and COO Kevin Mather indicated today that the club would have the financial resources necessary to make more additions before the start of the season.
- There are five clubs vying for the services of Hammel, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Hammel is expected to choose a landing spot within a week.
- Swingman Jerome Williams has offers on the table from at least three clubs, Cotillo tweets. He, too, appears to be nearing a decision point.
- Southpaw reliever Tim Byrdak will not be re-signing with the Mets, the reliever tweeted (via Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com). The 40-year-old indicated that the team decided against signing him.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
Here are today's minor moves from around the league...
- The Indians have signed catcher Luke Carlin to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, according to the MLB transactions page. Carlin, 33, spent last year at Triple-A for the Angels. In 156 MLB plate appearances spread ove four seasons, Carlin has a .179/.263/.286 triple-slash.
- The Mariners have inked a minor league deal with righty Mark Rogers, who will receive a Spring Training invitation, the team announced. Rogers, 27, was the fifth overall pick of the 2004 draft and was once the game's 44th best prospect, according to Baseball America. He has been hampered by shoulder issues over his career, but has been strong (3.49 ERA, 9.6 K/9 vs. 3.1 BB/9) in his eleven big league appearances, nine of which were starts. Rogers recently spent time in the Venezuelan Winter League, registering a 5.16 ERA in 22 2/3 innings (with 17 strikeouts but 15 walks).
- The Red Sox have agreed to terms with Scott Cousins on a minor league deal, per ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter). The outfielder is a career .179/.230/.285 hitter in 193 big league PAs but has authored a .276/.337/.422 triple-slash line in parts of four seasons at the Triple-A level. He spent 2013 in the Angels' system.
- Baseball America's Matt Eddy reports (via Twitter) that the Cubs have inked first baseman Lars Anderson to a minor league deal. The former Red Sox top prospect spent 2013 in the White Sox organization but batted just .194/.302/.251 before being released.
- Eddy also tweets that first baseman/DH Shelley Duncan inked a minor league pact with the Diamondbacks. Duncan belted 11 homers in three consecutive seasons for the Indians from 2010-12 but slashed just .182/.287/.309 in a cameo with the Rays in 2013. He boasts an .840 career OPS at the Triple-A level.
- More from Eddy, who tweets that the Dodgers have inked outfielder Trayvon Robinson, second baseman Ryan Adams and righty Mark Pope to minor league deals. Robinson is the most notable of the bunch, as the Dodgers originally drafted him and included him in the three-team Erik Bedard trade with the Red Sox and Mariners in 2011. Robinson, 26, has a .602 OPS in parts of two big league seasons but is a .266/.344/.454 hitter in Triple-A. Adams was a second-round pick by the Orioles in 2006 and has a career .770 OPS in the minors. Pope, a former fifth-rounder of the Padres, thrived in 51 2/3 innings in the independent Frontier League last season, prompting his return to affiliated ball.
- The Orioles have signed infielder/outfielder Scott Savastano to a minor league deal, tweets agent Joe Rosen. The 27-year-old has spent six years playing in the Mariners' minor league system where he's amassed a .282/.360/.406 batting line. The versatile Savastano has recent experience at first base, second base, third base, left field and right field.
Cuban catcher Yenier Bello has been cleared by the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and is now free to sign with a Major League club, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez.
The 28-year-old Bello was cleared to sign by Major League Baseball back on Oct. 1 and has been scouted by as many as 15-20 Major League teams. Sanchez lists the Dodgers, Cubs and Blue Jays as teams that have been connected to Bello, who is said to offer some pop from behind the dish. He batted .274 with 13 homers in Cuba's Serie Nacional in 2011 -- a league in which the regular season is just 90 games long.
It's unclear what type of commitment it would take for a team to land Bello, but doesn't appear to be on the same prospect level as recent Cuban signees Jose Dariel Abreu, Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes and Aroldis Chapman. Because he is older than 23 and has more than three years of professional experience, Bello will not be subject to the international spending limitations laid out in the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement; Bello can sign with any team for any amount. Now that he's been cleared to sign, I've added Bello's name to our 2014 Free Agent list.
The Cubs have avoided arbitration with lefty Travis Wood, according to Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com (on Twitter). The Frontline client receives a one-year, $3.9MM contract that is slightly north of the $3.875MM midpoint between the figures submitted by the two sides.
Wood, who turns 27 in two weeks, enjoyed a breakout season for the Cubs in 2013 when he posted a 3.11 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in an even 200 innings. That performance netted him his first All-Star nod, though his so-so K/BB ratio and extreme fly-ball tendencies -- Wood's 44.5 percent fly-ball rate was third among qualified starters -- lead ERA estimators such as xFIP and SIERA to peg him for a 4.50 ERA going forward.
As shown in MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker, Wood filed for a $4.25MM salary, and the Cubs countered at $3.5MM. Wood, who has three years, four days of service time will be eligible for arbitration twice more before hitting free agency following the 2016 campaign. Mooney adds in a separate tweet that he hears Wood's preference is to go year-to-year with the Cubs rather than discuss a long-term deal.
With Wood's case resolved, the Cubs will turn their focus to settling with second baseman Darwin Barney, outfielder Justin Ruggiano and righty Jeff Samardzija, each of whom exchanged figures with the Cubs last week as well.
Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs took a stab at evaluating Grady Sizemore, who signed yesterday with the Red Sox, but ultimately concludes that there is too much uncertainty to make a projection reasonable. Here are some more notes on Sizemore and another notable signing from yesterday:
- The Reds offered a big league deal to Grady Sizemore and expected to land him, tweets Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. "He changed his mind," GM Walt Jocketty told Sheldon.
- Discussing his decision to sign with the Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka expressed excitement with joining the game's most historically prominent club, the Associated Press reports (via the New York Times; video available via MLB.com). "They gave me the highest evaluation and are a world famous team," said Tanaka, who said his goal is to win a World Series in pinstripes.
- One oft-mentioned concern with Tanaka was his heavy usage in Japan. Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker posted Tanaka's actual pitch counts from last season, which he found in an Isao Chiba article from Shukan Baseball. Last year, the hurler threw 2,981 pitches over over 211 innings in 27 starts, or 109.7 pitches per start last year. (He also threw one inning in relief.) For reference, Clayton Kershaw -- who is less than a year older than Tanaka -- has exceeded 3,000 pitches in each of the last five seasons (last year, 3,428) while averaging around 104 to 105 pitches per start in his last four campaigns.
- The Cubs' final offer to Masahiro Tanaka was for six years and $120MM, a source tells Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com (Twitter link). That amount does not include the $20MM release fee.
- Chicago was competitive in terms of years and dollars, a source tells David Kaplan of CSN Chicago and WGN Radio (Twitter link), but the Cubs refused to include an opt-out after four years. That position certainly seems to make sense from the perspective of the rebuilding Cubs, especially, since much of the allure of Tanaka is in his ability to deliver value at the back end of his contract.
The Masahiro Tanaka saga has come to an end in record-setting fashion. Earlier today, Tanaka agreed to an enormous seven-year, $155MM contract with the Yankees that contains an opt-out clause after the fourth season. Tanaka's $155MM guarantee is the second-largest in history for a free agent pitcher (the largest for a right-hander) and is also the second-largest pitcher contract in history in terms of new money guaranteed. The Tanaka buzz is unlikely to die down in the next couple of days, as pundits dissect the contract and what it means for the Yankees and the free agent market. Here's a look at some of the early reactions to and fallout from the Yankees' staggering investment...
- New York GM Brian Cashman discussed the deal from the team's perspective in a conference call today, and MLBTR's Zach Links reported on the highlights.
- ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the Yankees' internal sense is that this concludes their pursuit of major free agents this offseason (Twitter link).
- It's little surprise that the team with the biggest need and one of the two biggest revenue bases from which to draw wound up landing Tanaka, writes ESPN's Keith Law (Insider required). Law feels that Tanaka will be one of the 20 to 25 best starters in Major League Baseball in 2014 and notes that the opt-out clause works to the Yankees' advantage, in a way.
- SB Nation's Rob Neyer writes that while Tanaka is a significant upgrade for the Yankees, it's hyperbolic to suggest that this signing will change the balance of power in the American League.
- The Cubs were the runner-up in the Tanaka sweepstakes, according to David Kaplan of CSN Chicago (Twitter link). Ultimately, the fact that they're not ready to win in 2014 ended their chances, he elaborates.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Yankees separated themselves, but not by a wide margin. The Dodgers, Cubs, White Sox, Astros and Diamondbacks were all involved in the end. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, all teams that participated in the second round of bidding had to come in above the six-year, $120MM level.
- Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com reports that the seventh guaranteed year is what separated the Yankees from the rest of the pack (on Twitter). According to Kaplan (via Twitter), other factors "trumped the possibility of more money," including the influence of Ichiro Suzuki and Hiroki Kuroda and the attractiveness of playing for the game's highest-profile franchise.
- The Dodgers wanted Tanaka, but drew a financial line, reports Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. As Dilbeck explains, the team does have financial limitations that it intends to abide by. "We went as far as we thought we could go," said GM Ned Colletti.
- For the White Sox, GM Rick Hahn says that reports of the team's efforts to land Tanaka largely seemed "accurate," reports Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. Ultimately, however, Hahn says that the money reached a level that the club was not comfortable reaching. The resources that the club would have used to sign Tanaka remain available for a similarly attractive opportunity in the future, Hahn said, but he does not see any in the current market. (Links to Twitter.)
- MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports that the Astros' offer to Tanaka exceeded $100MM. McTaggart adds that GM Jeff Luhnow, owner Jim Crane and seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens were among the Astros contingent that went to meet with Tanaka in Los Angeles.
- Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona was told that the Diamondbacks would not pursue other free-agent starters if they missed out on Tanaka, as the front office believes the asking prices to be too high (Twitter link).
- The Blue Jays were involved initially on Tanaka, but had "no way to compete" once it became clear that he would command seven years, reports John Lott of the National Post. Toronto had been willing to pay the $20MM fee, but was only interested in going to five years on the contract, Lott says. The team was also troubled by the opt-out clause, Lott tweets. Toronto figures to be among the most active teams on remaining free agent starters.
- Angels GM Jerry Dipoto told reporters, including MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez, that his team was never very involved with Tanaka and did not make a formal offer (Twitter link). As Gonzalez further explains, the Halos will instead either try to fit Matt Garza within the team's approximately $15MM of 2014 budget space or hunt for a good deal from amongst the cheaper open-market options.
- The Tanaka signing caps a nice run for Casey Close and the Excel Sports Management agency, notes Darren Heitner of Forbes. With an estimated 4% take, those two contracts would deliver a total of $14.8MM to the agency. Heitner notes also that Excel has worked out several notable deals with the Yankees in the past, given its representation of Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira. With its latest run of big contracts, says Heitner, Excel will surely climb the Forbes agency valuation chart.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
After losing out on Masahiro Tanaka, the Cubs remain interested in adding rotation depth, likely in the form of a relatively minor signing, reports Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com. Chicago will not be in the market for one of the top remaining free agent starter, such as former Cubbie Matt Garza, unless a golden opportunity arises.
Neither is the club interested in bringing back Scott Baker, Rogers adds. According to Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (via Twitter), the Mariners and Indians are more likely landing spots for the 32-year-old righty. The Cubs signed Baker to a one-year, $5.5MM deal last year, but Baker was only able to make three starts after a long Tommy John rehab.
Chicago has been linked to other mid-tier starting options, Rogers notes, including Paul Maholm and Jason Hammel. Both pitchers would seem to fit the mold of the club's rotation signings from last year, which included Baker, Scott Feldman (one year, $6MM), and Carlos Villanueva (two years, $10MM). Internal candidates for the club's final rotation spot, according to Rogers, include Justin Grimm, Kyle Hendricks, and Chris Rusin.
The Masahiro Tanaka clock is ticking, and the right-hander has until Friday to agree to a deal with his first Major League team. Recent reports have indicated that the Cubs are emerging as one of the favorites, but their status as a losing team could stand in the way of landing Tanaka. Yesterday it was reported that Tanaka could agree on Tuesday or Wednesday this week in order to give his new club time to perform the necessary physical and paperwork to make things official. We'll keep track of today's Tanaka-centric links here...
- Whichever club is chosen by Tanaka should know by at least the end of the day Wednesday, tweets David Kaplan of CSN Chicago and WGN Radio. That way, explains Kaplan, the club has time for "additional medicals."
- The Blue Jays "are not among the teams in consideration" for Tanaka, says Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star. But Toronto is definitely involved in adding a free agent starter from what Griffin calls the "next tier" of starting arms, and is willing to sacrifice a second-round pick to do so. (The Jays' two first-round choices are protected.)
- Industry source believe that the Cubs will outbid the field in terms of years and dollars in order to land Tanaka, tweets Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com. Levine adds that at this point, no team knows how much its competitors have bid.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports writes that the Cubs may need Tanaka more than the Yankees or Dodgers, but he doesn't feel that Tanaka is interested in coming to America to pitch for a losing club. He feels Chicago would have to overpay in order to land Tanaka, which he says is not the Ricketts family's style. The Dodgers present the best set of circumstances in terms of available money, proximity to Japan, weather, a competitive team and a pitcher-friendly environment, Morosi writes.
- Over the weekend, a rival executive told MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo that he believes the Astros met with Tanaka, though he is unsure whether or not they made a formal offer (Twitter link).