In a radio interview on The 670 Score’s “Inside The Clubhouse” show, Theo Epstein said the Cubs are committed to Jorge Soler as a big part of their roster, CBS Chicago’s Bruce Levine reports. “We are putting our stock into his future,” Epstein said. “Barring anything [an overwhelming trade offer], he knows to ignore all the trade rumors and take it as a compliment.” Epstein praised Soler’s hitting potential and his offseason training, as Soler “is down to 225 [pounds] and is working hard on his quickness and flexibility” to improve his right field defense. The Cubs could add a defense-first backup outfielder, Epstein hinted, which probably isn’t a surprise given Soler’s inexperience and the questions about whether or not Kyle Schwarber can handle left field. Here’s some more from around baseball…
- The Brewers don’t want to sell low on Jonathan Lucroy in the wake of his underwhelming 2015 season, though they could be taking a risk by waiting to make a trade, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan writes in a piece for FOX Sports. If Lucroy’s concussion and injury history continues to diminish his ability, Milwaukee will have missed its window to recoup significant value for the former All-Star. Midseason deals for catchers are also somewhat uncommon, as it’s somewhat hard for a new catcher to instantly develop a rapport with pitchers.
- The Braves targeted Dansby Swanson even before they created room at short by dealing Andrelton Simmons, GM John Coppolella tells Fangraphs’ David Laurila. “We’ve been in talks with Arizona since the end of the 2015 season,” Coppolella said. “We hoped to get Swanson, but we didn’t know if, or how, the deal would materialize. We saw him as a fit for us, whether we made the Simmons trade or not. We just want really good players and he’s a really good player.”
- Wei-Yin Chen may have the most value of any remaining free agent pitcher, MLB.com’s Mike Petriello writes, as he has posted comparable numbers to Jeff Samardzija or Jordan Zimmermann and probably won’t cost as much. Of course, Chen and his agent Scott Boras are looking for healthy compensation for the southpaw’s services in the form of a five-year, $100MM contract.
- While opt-out clauses are usually considered to provide little benefit to a team, the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber notes that there’s certainly upside if a club can avoid paying big money to a player outside of his prime years. For instance, Lauber reports that had the Red Sox been successful in obtaining Alex Rodriguez from the Rangers in the 2003-04 offseason, they had no intention of re-signing him after he opted out of his deal (as expected) after the 2007 season. The Yankees, who did deal for A-Rod and then re-signed him to a whopping 10-year, $275MM contract after 2007, have surely regretted not letting Rodriguez walk when they had the chance.
- Blue Jays director of analytics Joe Sheehan is profiled by the Toronto Star’s Brendan Kennedy, who notes that Sheehan’s promotion to the newly-created position is a sign of the team’s increased focus on analytics under Mark Shapiro.
- The Giants are the most likely team to sign Yoenis Cespedes, MLB.com’s Jim Duquette opines. The Tigers, Orioles, White Sox and Angels round out Duquette’s list of Cespedes’ most likely landing spots.