Ian Stewart Rumors
With 40% of their innings coming from relievers, the Pirates' bullpen has been worked the hardest among all National League teams. The onus is on GM Neal Huntington to add depth at the trade deadline, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, who notes that the NL Central is "tougher than many of us expected" due to the Pirates playing .591 ball so far. Elsewhere in baseball's central divisions...
- The Royals are the frontrunner to sign 15-year-old Italian shortstop Marten Gasparini, sources tell Ben Badler of Baseball America, with the Dodgers and Cubs also showing interest. Gasparini, who turns 16 on Friday, is "expected to sign the biggest contract ever for a European amateur player," according to Badler. The speedy switch-hitter may top the $800K the Twins gave to German outfielder Max Kepler in 2009. Be sure to check out Badler's full profile of Gasparini.
- Josh Vitters is the future at third base for the Cubs, president Theo Epstein told Ian Stewart, Stewart explained to MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. That means playing time will be hard to come by for Stewart at Triple-A Iowa, where he landed after being removed from the Cubs' 40-man roster this month. Stewart wondered if the comment was Epstein's way of trying to get him to give up his contract, but the third baseman told Muskat, "It wouldn't really make sense for me to take a release or ask for free agency, because then I'd be giving up my contract, and that doesn't make sense for me financially or for my family." Stewart signed a $2MM deal to remain with the Cubs after being non-tendered in December, and hoped to be with the big league club after rehabbing a February quad injury.
- Matt Garza will make his season debut tomorrow with the Cubs in Pittsburgh, and he's eligible for free agency after the season. Jesse Rogers and Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com discussed Garza's future, with Levine suggesting, "I believe if he stays healthy the Cubs will offer him a short-term extension that could be a plus for both sides."
- The Twins "will get a close approximation of what it would be like to have Mike Trout and Bryce Harper in the same lineup" when top prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano reach their primes, writes Jim Callis of Baseball America. Asked to rank prospect tandems in terms of potential five years down the road, Callis ranked Buxton and Sano ahead of Oscar Taveras and Shelby Miller of the Cardinals, Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich of the Marlins, and Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado of the Orioles, among others.
Trade winds could be swirling around the Windy City in the coming months given that both the Cubs and White Sox are in last place in their respective divisions. Here's the latest from both Chicago teams as the focus is already turning towards the July trade deadline...
- Jed Hoyer is "not sure" if Ian Stewart has a future with the team, the Cubs GM told reporters (including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune). The third baseman was outrighted to Triple-A earlier this week and has battled injuries since signing with Chicago in the 2011-12 offseason. Stewart hit .201/.292/.335 in 202 PA in 2012 and is struggling in the minors this year. "I hope he starts playing well. I do think there is a lot of talent there… But at this point it’s going to be about performance. Potential can only take you so far," Hoyer said.
- Also from Hoyer (via Sullivan), he feels the Cubs can still turn things around before it's time to consider moving players at the deadline. "We don't want to be a seller. That's not a position you want to be in. But if you are in that position, you have to take advantage of it. You certainly hope you're looking to buy. It's a lot more fun," Hoyer said. With the Cubs in Washington to face the Nationals this weekend, Hoyer praised Mike Rizzo's job in gradually turning the Nats from also-rans into World Series contenders.
- White Sox general manager Rick Hahn was similarly optimistic about his team's chances of getting back into the pennant race. Hahn spoke to the media (including ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine) about how he feels the Sox can rebound once players return from injury and a few key hitters break out of slumps. “Our intent from the beginning was that at some point we would be a buyer,” Hahn said. “We continue to have our pro scouts out there looking and talking through ideas. At the same time it will be nice to get some of our injured players back. Trades will not be dictated by speculation, it will be a function of how we play on the field.”
- If the Chicago teams do become deadline sellers, both will have interesting trade chips in the outfield. MLBTR's Steve Adams and Jeff Todd recently looked at the trade candidacy of David DeJesus and Alex Rios, respectively.
Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Iowa, according to Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago (on Twitter). The Cubs are still on the hook for Stewart's $2MM salary.
The 28-year-old Stewart hit .201/.292/.335 for the Cubs in 2012 -- his lone season with the team. The former No. 10 overall draft pick has spent the majority of his career with the Rockies, but failed to follow up on a 2008-10 stretch that saw him hit .246/.334/.454 with 53 homers for the Rockies.
Since that time he's batted just .183 before undergoing wrist surgery last season to repair a broken bone which he reportedly played through for two years. Stewart was hampered at the beginning of the season due to a strained quadriceps muscle.
In spite of his injuries and lack of production, the Cubs re-signed Stewart this offseason after non-tendering him at the December deadline. The Cubs' 40-man roster now stands at 39.
The Cubs are 12-20 on the season, good for the second-worst record in the National League. On the plus side, four of their five starting pitchers have performed well, and the team has shown surprising power in the early going. The latest on the North Siders:
- Scott Feldman is a name to keep in mind leading up to the trade deadline and in free agency after the season, writes ESPN's Buster Olney, after the 30-year-old pitched seven strong innings to defeat his former Rangers teammates last night. Feldman has a 2.70 ERA through his first six starts, but should his peripheral stats remain steady, SIERA suggests something around 4.30 would be a better bet moving forward.
- The Cubs have not missed a start from college righties Mark Appel or Jonathan Gray, but they have expanded their search beyond those two, GM Jed Hoyer told Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM yesterday. The Cubs draft second overall next month, and despite Hoyer's lip service, they're widely expected to take Appel or Gray after the Astros pick.
- Asked by reporters why reliever Carlos Marmol continues to get chances, Hoyer instead offered that Marmol has been "ridden hard by a number of managers here" as an explanation for the former closer's struggles (via Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com). Given his $9.8MM guaranteed salary, the Cubs are presumably reluctant to release Marmol.
- Asked whether $52MM man Edwin Jackson is a candidate for the bullpen when Matt Garza returns, Hoyer ducked the question, noting that surplus starting pitching "always seems to take care of itself and we're a ways away from having to deal with that kind of issue." Rogers feels that allowing Jackson to stay in the rotation due to his contract, at the expense of a better-performing starter, sends a poor message to the team. I wonder, though, what kind of message would be sent to future free agents if the Cubs make a large four-year commitment to a pitcher and demote him to the bullpen after fewer than ten starts. Regarding Hoyer's comment, the Cubs are really only two healthy weeks away from having to deal with the rotation surplus, as Garza should be ready to return after two more rehab starts.
- "An apparent lack of commitment" is behind Ian Stewart taking his allowed 72 hours to report to the Cubs' Triple-A Iowa team on his optional assignment, since Stewart had already been playing with the club on his rehab assignment, opines Rogers. Stewart, earning $2MM this year, recently finished rehabbing a left quad injury. UPDATE: Stewart did report back with Iowa yesterday, tweets Rogers.
- Padres third baseman Chase Headley "would be perfect for the Cubs," suggests Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Cubs have three premium position player prospects in Javier Baez, Albert Almora, and Jorge Soler, and for me it's difficult to picture a Headley trade without one of them and equally difficult to imagine Hoyer and Theo Epstein parting with one during a non-contending season.
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.
St. Patrick's Day is as much of a baseball holiday as Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Labor Day thanks to former Reds GM Dick Wagner. Tom Singer of MLB.com chronicles how the baseball tradition of wearing the green came about 35 years ago. Elsewhere from the Reds and the rest of the National League:
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty expects a decision in the next few days on whether Aroldis Chapman will pitch out of the bullpen or be moved into the starting rotatation, reports MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. Chapman stated publicly he wants to close, which didn't sit well with Jocketty. "We don’t let every player tell us how they want to be used," the GM told MLB.com.
- Ian Stewart's lingering left quad injury could affect his chances at making the roster and how the Cubs build their bench, writes MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. Brent Lillibridge, Luis Valbuena, Edwin Maysonet, and Alberto Gonzalez are competing to fill that void while manager Dale Sveum mentioned Steve Clevenger could be an interesting option and added the team is watching all the waiver wires.
- The Rockies are giving serious consideration to making Nolan Arenado their starting third baseman with one club official telling Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com "it’s a tough call." If Arenado receives the nod, Rosenthal believes incumbent third baseman Chris Nelson could be used to acquire a veteran starting pitcher.
- Within the same piece, sources tell Rosenthal the Rockies want to move Ramon Hernandez and are willing to assume some of his $3.2MM salary to facilitate a trade.
- Don't expect the Braves to have any interest in the recently released Matt Diaz because there isn't a need right now, tweets David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- The Marlins have returned Rule 5 selection Braulio Lara to the Rays, reports Joe Capozzi of The Palm Beach Post. The left-hander appeared in four games for the Marlins this spring throwing four innings allowing two earned runs on five hits with two strikeouts and two walks.
Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers says he has discussed a contract extension with first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, according to AZCentral.com's Nick Piecoro. Goldschmidt is represented by Joe Sambito of SFX. Piecoro quotes a source saying that it would be "a surprise" if Goldschmidt and the Diamondbacks were to strike a deal in the near future, however. Last month, the Diamondbacks attempted to initiate talks with Goldschmidt, but Goldschmidt had indicated that he wanted to go year-to-year in an attempt to build up more value.
Goldschmidt, 25, would be eligible for arbitration after the 2014 season and eligible for free agency after the 2017 season. MLBTR's Extension Tracker reveals that, in the past five years, no first basemen with between one and two years of service time have signed long-term deals, so establishing a baseline value for Goldschmidt is difficult. (Goldschmidt himself had told Towers in February that he wanted to build up more service time before discussing an extension in order to get a clearer sense of who is "peer group" was.)
Allen Craig, who recently signed a five-year, $31MM extension with the Cardinals, shares passing similarities with Goldschmidt as a hitter, but also has a year more service time than Goldschmidt. Craig will make $11MM in the final guaranteed year of his contract. Replacing that year with a pre-arbitration salary for the first year of a potential Goldschmidt deal produces a starting point of five years and $20.5MM, which would cover all of Goldschmidt's remaining pre-arbitration seasons. The Diamondbacks would presumably also want to add a team option or two at the end of the deal, giving them the chance to buy out one or more of Goldschmidt's free agent years.
Here are more notes from the National League.
- A return to form by Brian McCann will likely ensure that the he signs with a new team next winter, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. McCann, who is recovering from labrum surgery, will likely return to the Braves' lineup about two weeks into the season. Some of McCann's old teammates tell Rosenthal that McCann was unhappy last season, when he played through injury and hit only .230/.300/.399, down from .270/.351/.466 in 2011. A phone call from GM Frank Wren to McCann after the season may have helped improve the relationship between the team and its star catcher, but that might not matter once he becomes a free agent at the end of the season. If McCann hits well in 2013, the Braves might not be able to afford him, Rosenthal says; if McCann hits poorly, the Braves might not want him, at least not an expensive long-term deal.
- The Nationals added Rafael Soriano this offseason, but not a lefty reliever, despite the departures of Sean Burnett and Tom Gorzelanny, MLB.com's Marty Noble notes. That likely leaves Zach Duke as the only lefty in the Washington bullpen. But manager Davey Johnson, who can count on tough righty relievers like Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Craig Stammen in addition to Soriano, says it's no problem that the Nats didn't acquire another lefty. "I don't have room for another lefty reliever," he says.
- Cutting Ian Stewart, who is suffering from a quad injury, doesn't make sense for the Cubs, Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago argues, since the savings from cutting Stewart would be insignificant. The Cubs can avoid paying most of Stewart's one-year, non-guaranteed contract if they release him in Spring Training, but the entire cost of the deal is just $2MM.
Much-maligned outfielder Jeff Francoeur doesn't blame Royals fans for their criticism of the James Shields / Wil Myers deal, Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star reports, even though Myers would likely have taken playing time away from Francoeur himself. “[W]hen we traded Wil — why the heck did we do that? — I sit there and say, ‘As a fan, looking from the outside, I’d lead that criticism.’ For fans, looking from the outside, I don’t blame them," Francoeur says. “I had a terrible year." Francoeur hit .235/.287/.378 in 2012 as the Royals' starter in right field. Here are more notes from throughout the AL Central.
- Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony admits the Twins have made mistakes in their attempts to find middle infielders, Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. Antony laments the trade of J.J. Hardy to the Orioles and describes Alexi Casilla's tenure with the Twins as "so frustrating." Antony also says the Twins "failed" with Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Shortstop Pedro Florimon and second baseman Brian Dozier are next in line to try to stabilize the Twins' middle infield. If Florimon wins the job, he will be the Twins' eighth 2013 Opening Day shortstop in eight years. Minnesota's Opening Day second baseman will be its sixth in seven years.
- After spending 2012 as a reliever, Brett Myers is happy to be part of the Indians' rotation, Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal writes. Myers, who pitched at least 216 innings in both 2010 and 2011, isn't sure why the Astros used him out of the bullpen. “I still don’t know why. They asked me to do it, and I didn’t want to fight them about it. It was one of those things where you do what’s best for the team,” he says. The Indians signed Myers to a one-year, $7MM deal with a club option, and he's assured a job as a starter.
- Ian Stewart's injured quad complicates his pursuit of the Cubs' third base job, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Stewart will be out for ten to 14 days. His contract isn't guaranteed, and the Cubs could save $1.67MM by cutting Stewart by March 16 and $1.5MM by cutting him prior to Opening Day. Luis Valbuena would likely be in line for Stewart's starting job in such a scenario, and could win playing time over Stewart even if Stewart is healthy.
4:24pm: The deal is non-guaranteed, a source tells Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. The Cubs will be off the hook for the $2MM deal if he is released in spring training.
3:32pm: The Cubs are set to re-sign third baseman Ian Stewart, sources tell Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (via Twitter). It's a one-year, $2MM deal for the Reynolds Sports Management client, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. The deal also includes $500K of incentives.
The 27-year-old is said to be back to full health after playing with a broken bone in his wrist for the last two years. During that stretch, Stewart has had a .183/.272/.289 slash line with five home runs in 338 total plate appearances. Before the injury, Stewart owned a career .245/.332/.451 slash line in four seasons with the Rockies.
12:24am The Marlins' trade of Yunel Escobar to the Rays earlier tonight was prompted by the fact that Escobar approached the club saying he was not comfortable at third base just days after telling them otherwise, writes Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post.
Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said that Escobar's $5MM salary will be re-invested toward finding a suitable third base replacement, either via free agency or trade. Earlier today it was reported that the Marlins have interest in Mark Reynolds, and the team has also been linked to Jack Hannahan tonight, though Hannahan's salary certainly won't approach the $5MM mark. For now, the Marlins aren't close to anything, says Capozzi.
Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel notes, via Twitter, that Zack Cox will get a look in Spring Training but likely isn't ready. The Marlins acquired Cox in exchange for Edward Mujica this past July.