Chicago Cubs Rumors
After the Rakuten Golden Eagles made the long-awaited decision to post ace Masahiro Tanaka, the posting period opened this morning. Any team that is willing to pay his former club a posting fee of $20MM will have the right to negotiate with Tanaka over the next 30 days (a full refresher on the new rules can be found here). Tanaka's posting period comes to a close on Jan. 24 at 4pm CT, meaning that there could be as many as 700 more hours of drama, rumors and speculation regarding his ultimate destination. Here are today's Tanaka-centric links...
- MLB.com's Richard Justice writes that teams see Tanaka not as a seven-year deal but rather as an investment to make an immediate impact that could yield a spot in the 2014 playoff picture. The Yankees would like to make an offer to close the bidding process before it truly begins, writes Justice, but several other teams likely feel the same.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that while Tanaka's new agent, Casey Close, does not have Scott Boras' public reputation of bargaining hard, he does have that reputation within the industry. Close is no stranger to large deals, as he represents Derek Jeter and Zack Greinke among others.
- Sherman also runs down a list of eight teams that he feels to be the Yankees' most serious competition for Tanaka: the Dodgers, Angels, Red Sox, Phillies, Rangers, Cubs, Diamondbacks and Mariners.
- In a piece for FOX Sports, Gabe Kapler writes that he spoke to one Major League GM who thought Tanaka would sign for something in the six-year, $105MM neighborhood (not including the posting fee). Kapler feels that Tanaka's age and the potential bidding war will up the price to something in the range of seven years and $125MM (plus the $20MM posting fee). He also cautions that Tanaka is far from a sure thing and will need to display impeccable command of his fastball or add some movement to it in order to flourish in the Majors.
- Troy Renck of the Denver Post can't imagine Tanaka signing for anything less than $100MM (Sulia link).
- The next 30 days will tell us if the Dodgers are hitting their spending limit -- self-imposed or otherwise -- or if their lack of big spending thus far in the offseason has merely been as a result of waiting for Tanaka, writes Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times. Hernandez notes that the team already has five players under control through 2017 and would like that number to rise to seven with extensions to Clayton Kershaw and Hanley Ramirez.
WEDNESDAY, 3:32pm: Tanaka's posting will begin Thursday morning and be completed by January 24th at 4pm CT, a source tells Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (on Twitter). Teams can place their bids - up to $20MM, of course - starting tomorrow morning (link).
TUESDAY, 9:50pm: Rakuten Golden Eagles president Yozo Tachibana announced that Tanaka will be posted, according to a tweet from Sankei Sports tranlsated by Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter links).
9:23pm: The Golden Eagles will announce momentarily that Tanaka will be posted, according to Jim Allen of Kyodo News (on Twitter).
5:35pm: The Rakuten Golden Eagles have decided to post star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, according to reports from Japanese outlets Sponichi (link) and Nikkan Sports (link). It's a turnaround from reports last week that indicated the Golden Eagles were leaning against allowing Tanaka to make the jump to MLB.
One MLB source tells David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com (on Twitter) that he believes the Cubs will not be outbid for Tanaka's services. Convincing Tanaka to come to Chicago, however, could prove to be problematic, according to that source. "This is exactly type deal that Theo [Epstein and] Jed Hoyer will be all in on. However, will Tanaka say no to the [Yankees, Dodgers, and others]? Not sure he will," the source told Kaplan (link).
Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com (Twitter link) adds that the Angels and Diamondbacks - who have been quite vocal about their fondness of Tanaka and overall need for a frontline starter - should also be in the mix for his services. Tanaka being posted also means good news for other free agent pitchers who have been in a holding pattern as clubs have waited for the top domino to drop.
Rakuten was planning a record NPB offer for Tanaka - roughly $7.7MM USD - but that's significantly less than what he's expected to get from an MLB club. One GM recently told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that Tanaka was certain to receive a deal worth more than $100MM if posted.
Per the Sponichi report, team President Yozo Tachibana acknowledged that the process is moving into its final stage. When asked if the team was set on a decision, Tachibana said, "Yes, it looks that way ... We're completing the final procedures."
It seems likely that the Golden Eagles have been dragging their feet in large part because of the reduced posting fee that they would receive under the new system. While the Japanese clubs holding the rights to predecessors such as Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish saw major financial windfalls, the new system caps Rakuten's maximum posting fee at $20MM.
Special thanks to Aaron Steen for his Japanese translation.
Jeff Samardzija doesn’t have Twitter and he doesn’t check MLBTradeRumors, but he knows his name has been thrown all over the web in trade rumors, writes Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com. The soon-to-be 29-year-old pitcher hears the questions all the time, but he's not so sure that he's on his way out of Chicago.
“This is strictly just a feel, (but) I don’t think it’s as dire as what it’s all being made out to be,” Samardzija told Mooney in a sit-down interview. “I understand things need to be written and stories need to be put on paper. But I think if you look at the whole picture, it’s been pretty mild with everything that’s going on. They’re listening and that’s what any team would do on any player. I just feel like there’s still that common ground of what we both want to do.”
For his part, Samardzija says that he wants to stay with the Cubs. While some might be discouraged by the team's recent struggles, he says he wants to help build a winner in Chicago and look back on the leaner years and smile.
Samardzija is aware that there are non-baseball factors that can play into his future with the Cubs, but he says he's not actively thinking about that. The Cubs are pushing to renovate Wrigley Field in order to increase their revenue, but they can't get underway just yet over fear of litigation from the rooftop owners from outside the park.
As for the contract negotiations with the club, Samardzija feels as though everything has been cordial and professional, even if there's a noticeable gap that needs to be bridged. The right-hander would argue that his 214 strikeouts across 213.2 innings in 2013 is just the beginning of what he can do. The Cubs, meanwhile, would point out that even though he's still on the right side of 30, there's extra mileage on his arm thanks to his Notre Dame football background. Theo Epstein also has a policy of not giving out no-trade clauses, which could also affect talks.
Multiple industry sources believe the Cubs will let the free agent market play out and see what happens with the top pitchers, including Masahiro Tanaka, before pulling the trigger on any Samardzija deal. In the interim, Samardzija has been working out at the new Cubs complex in Mesa, Arizona.
“[I'm there] every day, man,” Samardzija said. “I figure if they need to get a hold of me for something, that’s the best place to be. I can still get in the doors – as of now – and I still get the free coffee. So everything’s all right.”
Crain, 32, spent the last three years as a setup man for the Cubs' cross-town rivals. He posted an 0.74 ERA with 11.3 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 36 2/3 innings for the White Sox in 2013, although he suffered a shoulder injury in June and missed the rest of the season. The White Sox traded him to the Rays in July, but he did not make an appearance for Tampa Bay.
FOX Sports' Jon Morosi tweeted last week that Crain was deciding whether to take a one- or two-year deal. A one-year deal presumably might be attractive to Crain as a way of proving his shoulder is healthy before hitting the free-agent market against next season.
The Astros have reportedly shown interest in Crain, as have the Rockies. The Cubs agreed to a contract with Jose Veras last week with the intention of making him their closer, so Crain would likely continue to work in a setup-type role if the Cubs were to sign him.
The Orioles announced that they have claimed right-hander Liam Hendriks of waivers from the Cubs. The Cubs claimed Hendriks just days prior after he was designated for assignment by the Twins to make room for Phil Hughes on the 40-man roster.
The soon-to-be 25-year-old ranked sixth and seventh on the Baseball America's Top 10 Twins prospects lists from 2010-11 and has a solid minor league history. The Australian righty has a 3.61 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 254 career innings at Triple-A and a career 2.99 ERA in the minors as a whole.
Hendriks has been unable to put it together in three Major League stints, however, as evidenced by his bloated 6.06 ERA in 156 innings. He's averaged 5.8 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in those 156 frames to go along with a below-average 40.4 percent ground-ball rate. Hendriks barely averages better than 90 mph on his fastball, leading to too much hard contact when it's in the zone, as evidenced by a 23.3 percent line-drive rate from his opponents that has helped bloat his career BABIP to .330.
After claiming Hendriks, the Orioles now have 39 players on their 40-man roster.
The Cubs have claimed right-hander Brett Marshall off waivers from the Yankees, according to MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo (on Twitter). Marshall was designated for assignment last week when the Yankees made the signing of Carlos Beltran official.
Though he made a trio of relief appearances at the big league level in 2013, the bulk of his season was spent in Triple-A where he posted a 5.13 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 in 25 starts. He ranked sixth among Yankees prospects just one year ago, drawing praise for having the best changeup in their system. In 2012, Marshall posted a 3.52 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 158 1/3 innings at Double-A Trenton. Still just 23 years old, he's young enough to give the Cubs reason for optimism.
In today's Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo makes the case for Braves pitcher Tom Glavine to earn induction into the Hall of Fame. For his part, Glavine said he would be thrilled to go in with Greg Maddux and Bobby Cox. “Bobby Cox had the biggest influence in my career and probably the second- or third-biggest influence in my life,” Glavine said. “Greg was a dear friend, and just being around him made me better. I learned so much. We talked so much about pitching and situations, and hitters. I couldn’t have asked for a better teammate and influence on my career. To have three of us together like that would be incredible, and Smoltzy next year.” More from today's column..
- One of the reasons the Phillies haven’t been able to find a buyer for Jonathan Papelbon is his drop in velocity. Papelbon, who was regularly 95-96 in his Red Sox days, fell to 91-92 and sometimes less last season. “That was a red flag for me,” said an AL scout. “He didn’t look like the same guy. Whether that was physical or he just didn’t have the adrenaline flowing with a bad team, I don’t know.”
- Kevin Youkilis' one-year deal could be worth up to $5MM and is apparently more than he could have received anywhere in MLB. The Yankees had some interest, but at a lower price. The Indians, Giants, and Rays also had interest at one time. Back problems limited Youkilis to 28 games last season with the Yankees, and he simply couldn’t convince the masses he was healthy.
- Lyle Overbay's market is lukewarm right now and he'll likely be a January tack-on for someone. Cafardo predicts he'll wind up as a backup or a low-cost option for a team such as the Orioles or Indians.
- The Mets and agent Scott Boras have discussed parameters but no firm numbers for Stephen Drew and right now, it looks like GM Sandy Alderson is sticking with Ruben Tejada. There’s always the Yankees, but Drew has never played anywhere but shortstop and Derek Jeter doesn’t appear to be moving to another position. The road, for now, is still leading back to the Red Sox.
- Agent Scott Boras scoffs at the notion that the market for Kendrys Morales has dried up due to the draft pick compensation issue. Cafardo says that at some point a team such as the Orioles may give it up to have a superb hitter in the middle of their order and cautions to never underestimate Boras.
- Mark Mulder is looking for a minor league deal with incentives if he makes the major league club. He's worked out for the Giants, Padres, Diamondbacks, Angels, and Phillies over two sessions and the second session he improved his velocity from 88 to 92 mph. The Red Sox have inquired on Mulder, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2008, but probably won’t pursue him. Back in late November, Giants GM Brian Sabean indicated that he wouldn't be in on Mulder since he's seeking a big league deal.
- Even with the Yankees' declaration that Brett Gardner won’t be traded, they would listen to the right deal.
- It's a big surprise that agent Scott Boras couldn’t get Tigers owner Mike Ilitch to outbid the Rangers for Shin-Soo Choo since they have a need for a leadoff hitter. The Tigers are apparently continuing to commit to Austin Jackson at the top of the order and hope his game smooths out.
- The Rays and Cubs want at least three very good players for David Price and Jeff Samardzija, respectively, whether they're major league-ready or top prospects.
Starlin Castro claims that stress related to an ongoing legal dispute in the Dominican Republic has affected his on-field performance for the Cubs, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports. A coach at a baseball school in the Dominican is suing Castro, contending that a contract the shortstop's father signed when Castro was an amateur entitles the academy to a portion of his Major League earnings. The affair has had a "direct impact on his duties as a professional ballplayer, leading to one of his worst-ever statistical performances," Castro's countersuit states. While the 23-year-old played in 161 games last season, 2013 saw him slump to a .245/.284/.347 line. The 2014 season will be the second of the seven-year, $60MM deal Castro signed inked with the Cubs in 2012. Here's more from around baseball's Central divisions:
- Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer thinks the Indians can still add a couple of players to their roster, but they'll come via trades or minor league signings.
- A Twins official tells Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter) that he doesn't see the club getting in on free agent bats Stephen Drew and Nelson Cruz. Minnesota has money to spend but the draft pick compensation that is required to sign them is an issue.
- Longtime Brewer Corey Hart took out a full-page ad in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel to thank the city for its support, Big League Stew's Mark Townsend notes. Hart is headed to Seattle after agreeing to a one-year deal with the Mariners that reportedly guarantees him $6MM.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is fighting to prevent millions of dollars from being seized from his bank accounts, Juan Perez Jr. and Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune report. When Castro was 16, his father allegedly signed a contract promising three percent of Castro's big-league earnings to a baseball academy in the Dominican. When Castro signed his $60MM contract in 2012, the academy claimed Castro owed it $1.8MM. Dominican law states that twice that figure be frozen until the matter is resolved, so Dominican authorities have frozen $3.6MM. Castro's lawyers, meanwhile, are fighting for that $3.6MM to be unfrozen, and they're also asking for $5MM in damages. They claim that the academy did not have the right to percentage of Castro's extension. Castro was just 16 when the agreement was with the academy was reached, and he signed the big contract with the Cubs after he turned 18. Castro's father didn't have the right to sign away his earnings past age 18, Castro's attorneys argue. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- There were high expectations for Theo Epstein when he became president of the Cubs, and Andy MacPhail faced similar expectations two decades ago, CSNChicago.com's Patrick Mooney reports. MacPhail served as president and CEO of the Cubs from 1994 through 2006. Like Epstein, he preceded his tenure in Chicago by winning two World Series titles as a general manager (with the Twins). Like Epstein, MacPhail planned the Cubs' resurgence around young talent, although it didn't work perfectly in MacPhail's case, partly because of the Cubs' struggles to keep pitchers like Kerry Wood and Mark Prior healthy. "We weren’t the luckiest birds in the world, health-wise, with our starting pitchers. But most people forget – I think we had a better won-loss record in ’04 (89-73) than we did ’03 (88-74). So we were kind of building towards it," MacPhail says.
- Grant Balfour says he told Orioles executive Dan Duquette what he thinks about the O's backing out of his two-year deal with them, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. "I called Dan Duquette and told him, 'I’ve played in this league for 10 years, I deserve to be treated with respect and you did not treat me with respect.'" Balfour says. "'Two well respected physicians said I am completely healthy – because I am healthy. I’m a fighter and a winner and I would have given you your best chance to win.'"
- Jonathan Papelbon and Ruben Amaro Jr. "deserve each other," the Inquirer's Matt Gelb writes. Papelbon has been "surly" about his tenure with the Phillies, and Amaro has been defiant about the Phillies' outlook. The Phillies are trying to trade Papelbon, but they may be stuck, not only because of Papelbon's declining velocity and peripherals, but also because general managers aren't as keen as they once were on spending tens of millions of dollars on closers.
- The Yankees' additions of switch-hitters Carlos Beltran and Brian Roberts should help balance their lineup, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. "We were too left-handed last year and [because of injury, in particular] too easy to navigate through at times," says manager Joe Girardi. "I think the switch-hitters make it tougher for the opposing manager." Beltran himself actually hit far better from the left side (.315/.362/.509) than the right side (.252/.281/.448) in 2013, although he's hit only slightly better as a lefty than as a righty for his career.
Here's the roundup of today's minor transactions, with the latest moves at the top of the page...
- The Seibu Lions have announced the signings of infielder Cody Ransom, right-hander Michael Bowden and left-handers Randy Williams and Porfirio Lopez (passed on by NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman). Seibu also annnounced the signing of righty Greg Reynolds, which we heard about yesterday.
- The Tigers signed left-hander Duane Below to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, MLive.com's James Schmehl reports (Twitter link). Below is back in Detroit after being designated for assignment last April, and he also pitched for the Marlins' Triple-A affiliate and for Korea's Kia Tigers in 2013. Below posted a 4.27 ERA, 2.14 K/BB rate and 5.2 K/9 over 78 Major League innings with the Tigers.
- The Cubs have signed outfielder Mitch Maier to a minor league contract with a Spring Training invitation, the team announced. Maier spent 2013 with the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate and posted an .882 OPS, though he only received 137 PA due to a wrist injury. Maier, 31, was drafted by the Royals with the 30th overall pick of the 2003 draft and he hit .253/.332/.346 over 1043 PA with Kansas City from 2006-11.
- The Rangers have signed right-hander Daniel McCutchen to a minor league deal, according to the Sosnick/Cobbe Sports' Twitter feed (McCutchen's agents). McCutchen posted a 3.43 ERA, 8.1 K/9 and 3.60 K/BB rate over 60 1/3 combined innings for the Orioles' Double-A and Triple-A affiliates, though his season didn't begin untl late May due to a 50-game suspension for a failed PED test. The 31-year-old Texas native has a career 4.77 ERA over 188 2/3 IP with the Pirates from 2009-12.
- The Orioles signed righty Fabio Castillo to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, the team announced. Though Castillo doesn't turn 25 until February, he already has eight years of pro baseball under his belt, posting a 4.63 ERA, 8.3 K/9 and 2.01 K/BB rate over 514 2/3 IP over his minor league career. Castillo pitched in the Giants' system in 2013 after spending the previous seven years with the Rangers.