Chicago Cubs Rumors
The Diamondbacks consider Masahiro Tanaka to be their "No. 1 target" and are serious suitors for the Japanese ace, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports. Had Arizona not acquired Mark Trumbo, the Snakes were open to spending the $140MM that agent Scott Boras said it would've taken to sign Shin-Soo Choo, and Rosenthal notes that D'Backs management could instead invest that money (the $20MM posting fee and a $120MM contract) towards landing Tanaka. The D'Backs could have an extra source for information on Tanaka in the form of scout Rick Short, who played with Tanaka from 2007-09 on the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
You can click here for some Tanaka news from earlier today, and here are some more items from around the NL West...
- Also from Rosenthal's piece, Arizona could be more motivated to sign an ace like Tanaka in free agency since they found the Cubs' and Rays' respective asking prices for Jeff Samardzija and David Price to be too high, Rosenthal notes, not to mention the fact that Price will become more expensive in his final two arbitration-eligible seasons. The D'Backs rate Tanaka higher than other free agent arms like Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana.
- Hanley Ramirez and the Dodgers have reportedly been discussing an extension this offseason and ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon looks at some of the factors involved in giving Ramirez a major new deal.
- In a Giants-related mailbag, MLB.com's Chris Haft argues that the Giants should've given Brett Pill more time to prove himself rather than give those at-bats to Jeff Francoeur last summer. Pill's rights were recently sold to the KIA Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization and his deal with the club was just finalized today. As Haft writes, "the sense here is that the Giants jettisoned Pill without fully discovering what they had in him."
- Buster Posey is just one season into his multiyear extension with the Giants and he's still owed $157MM over the next eight seasons. While it's far too early to place a verdict on this contract, Grant Brisbee of the McCovey Chronicles argues that the Giants may have saved money by locking Posey up last March as opposed to this offseason, as San Francisco might've had to offer their star catcher a nine- or even a ten-year deal in the $200MM threshold.
In this week's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the Orioles owe it to their fans to take a shot at a championship by bolstering the roster. The O's moved Jim Johnson to save on his expected $10MM salary for 2014 but the nixing of Grant Balfour's deal leaves them without a proven closer. The Orioles, with a few fixes, could be exciting and fun to watch, but they need more if they want to win it all. More from this week's column..
- Cafardo cautions not to sleep on the Red Sox in the Masahiro Tanaka hunt and one AL scout says it’s the perfect time for the Red Sox to strike. “They have veteran pitchers in the final year or two years remaining on their deals,” he said. “They’ll be clearing out a lot of payroll soon. I know they feel they have good young pitching on the horizon, but Tanaka should be a very good No. 2 or No. 3 starter on any staff. I would think with their emphasis on pitching, they would get into it.” The Yankees, Cubs, Rangers, and Dodgers figure to be the most aggressive and the Angels, Phillies, Royals, and Blue Jays are expected to get into it.
- Will the Red Sox's experience with Daisuke Matsuzaka scare them off of Tanaka? “I don’t think that can enter their thinking. I’m sure they would have gone after Yu Darvish in retrospect,” said one National League GM.
- Cafardo recently spoke with a few GMs who feel the Yankees may wind up with Ubaldo Jimenez, even if they land Tanaka. “He had an excellent second half, has great stuff, and he has the type of personality that would fit New York,” one GM said. “He doesn’t let things get to him. He’s good at shrugging off things and turning the page.” If the Yankees ink both pitchers, it's pretty difficult to see them staying under the $189MM mark.
- Nelson Cruz is the best available free agent among position players, but his demand of four years at $75MM has turned off teams. While other PED guys such as Jhonny Peralta have cashed in, teams are worried that Cruz, who more relies on his power is of greater concern for teams who worry that being off the stuff could hurt his power numbers.
- John Lackey’s name has come up consistently this winter, but the Red Sox aren’t motivated to deal him. That could change, but the club is enthused about his $500K option for 2015.
- It'll be interesting to see if the Yankees can move Ichiro Suzuki given their crowded outfield. The Giants remain a possibility, Cafardo writes.
- The Dodgers could still trade from their outfield surplus. When it comes to Matt Kemp, of course, teams want to see how he rebounds from shoulder and ankle surgeries.
- With Brian McCann aboard and Francisco Cervelli as backup, Yankees catcher Austin Romine is very much available.
- Johan Santana is getting closer to making a decision on a minor league deal with a team. There’s been some speculation about the Twins since Santana still resides in Fort Myers, Fla., where the Twins have spring training. A small-market team such as the Astros could also have some interest.
The Cubs caught lightning in a bottle with a revitalized Kevin Gregg for much of the 2013 season, but they'll have a more consistent option in place next season in the form of Jose Veras. Chicago officially announced the signing of Veras to a one-year deal with a club option for the 2015 season today. The Praver/Shapiro client will reportedly earn $3.85MM and has a $150K buyout on a $5.5MM option, making a total guarantee of $4MM. Veras, who will serve as Chicago's closer, can also earn $750K worth of incentives based on games finished.
The 33-year-old posted a 3.02 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 with a 41.8 percent ground-ball rate in 62 2/3 innings between the Astros and Tigers, collecting a career-high 21 saves along the way. The right-hander drew interest from multiple clubs this offseason including the Rockies and Astros.
Veras spent the first four months of the season as Houston's closer before being shipped to the Tigers in July for outfield prospect Danry Vasquez and a player to be named later who turned out to be right-hander David Paulino. Detroit turned down a $4MM option on the veteran, but he would up getting the same guaranteed money out of the Cubs, plus a $150K buyout from Detroit, $750K of incentives from Chicago and a chance at a healthy raise in 2015.
Though Gregg served as Chicago's closer for much of the season, the team relied on a number of late-inning options that did not fare well. Carlos Marmol struggled once again, Shawn Camp was unable to replicate his 2012 magic and found himself released and Japanese acquisition Kyuji Fujikawa wound up requiring Tommy John surgery after just 12 innings with the Cubs. Veras will join Pedro Strop, James Russell, Blake Parker, Wesley Wright and presumably Carlos Villanueva in the Cubs' bullpen. Other internal options include Arodys Vizcaino, Hector Rondon, Brooks Raley and Justin Grimm. Fujikawa should return at some point this season as well.
The Astros were said to be pushing hard to get Veras back in the organization and the fondness seemed mutual. "It feels like family there," Veras said of Houston. "It’s a young team and they’re hungry to win. I feel part of the team. I doesn’t mater to me if we won or lose. When you play as a team and everybody cares, that’s the best part for me." Alas, Veras will be moving on to a new club, his eighth team in the past six seasons.
Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com first reported the $4MM guarantee and the $5.5MM club option (via Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported Veras' exact 2014 salary, the additional incentives and his 2015 buyout. Heyman also reported that Veras will serve as Chicago's closer (All Twitter links).
Steve Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
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.