- Brewers To Sign Neal Cotts
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Kris Bryant Rumors
- Fowler says he never discussed a long-term deal with the Astros, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. “We didn’t really talk about contract stuff — more going through the arbitration process and that whole thing,” says Fowler. “Obviously I’m going to be a free agent next year so I guess that (topic) would have been a little bit more down the road.”
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer says the two teams had been discussing a Fowler trade since last month, Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago tweets.
- The Cubs and Astros are suddenly looking to be competitive in 2015, and the Fowler trade was about making each of their rosters more complete, Eno Sarris of Fangraphs writes. The Cubs had plenty of infield talent but were thin in the outfield, and sending Valbuena to the Cubs gives them more flexibility to figure out what to do with Kris Bryant, Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez while giving them a veteran outfielder who they might also be able to extend a qualifying offer after the season. Meanwhile, Valbuena improves the Astros at third base while clearing space for some combination of Jake Marisnick and Robbie Grossman in the outfield.
- Valbuena’s departure assures that Kris Bryant will begin his big-league career at a third baseman and not as an outfielder, Rogers writes. Meanwhile, the Cubs will have Alcantara play a number of positions, remaining open to the idea that he could emerge as a starter at one of them.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tells the story of Billy Bean’s return to baseball as MLB’s newly-appointed Ambassador For Inclusion. Paul Mifsud — MLB vice president and deputy general counsel, and one of the key players in hiring Bean — said that he has experienced “a tremendous feeling of pride … using baseball to help people.”
Here are the latest notes from around the league …
- Top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant is very much on the cusp of MLB action, even if it won’t come this season, writes ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers. But it remains to be seen at what position he will end up. Bryant himself hopes to stay at third, and said he is proud of his improvements at the position this year. Meanwhile, club president Theo Epstein noted that the team will look to get Bryant some time in the outfield to “keep that fresh for him” going forward. “We think — no doubt in our minds — he can play third base and be a really good third baseman,” explained Epstein, “but we just don’t know how the roster is going to look a year from now, two years from now, five years from now.”
- Cuban ballplayers Jozzen Cuesta and Misael Siverio recently put on a showcase, and Jeff Moore of Baseball America provides an account (subscription required). Scouts came away somewhat underwhelmed by the “pedestrian performances” they witnessed, according to Moore.
- The upcoming Astros managerial search will once again be an uncertain undertaking for an organization that hopes to thrive on scientific decisionmaking, writes Ben Lindbergh of Grantland.com. GM Jeff Luhnow will need to evaluate how he interacts with his next manager, says Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, who notes that other teams (like the Athletics and Rays) seem to have been able to find smooth partnerships between forward-thinking front offices and their field managers.
The Reds have the toughest upcoming offseason of any team, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. They could lose most of their rotation following the 2015 season, they still have big commitments to Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Homer Bailey, and they’re facing dealing with three good NL Central competitors and another in Chicago that could have a very bright future. Sherman suggests the Reds consider trading Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and perhaps Jay Bruce. “We still have a small window,” Reds GM Walt Jocketty protests. “This year is disappointing because of the injuries. From the very beginning, we had 11 DL guys and eight were key. … I feel we still have a small window if the guys come back healthy.” Here’s more from the National League.
- The young Cubs are waiting for Kris Bryant to arrive in the big leagues, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “Yeah, we’re imagining what [Bryant] can do,” says pitcher Kyle Hendricks. “I mean, the whole group together. It’s definitely exciting. You can feel it. Everyone’s talking about it around the clubhouse. It’s just awesome seeing these guys coming up and having success.” There’s already plenty of buzz surrounding Jorge Soler‘s debut, and already plenty of young talent in Chicago, and yet Bryant, arguably the Cubs’ best young player, remains in the minors, where he’s hitting .296/.417/.635 in 283 plate appearances with Triple-A Iowa.
- Padres 2B/3B/OF prospect Cory Spangenberg tweets that he will be promoted to the big leagues. Spangenberg has hit .331/.365/.470 in 304 plate appearances this season for Double-A San Antonio. Spangenberg has often been overshadowed by others from his draft class — he was taken between Javier Baez and George Springer in the first round in 2011. But after a strong fourth pro season, he’s about to make it to the Show.
Top White Sox prospect and 2014 No. 3 overall draft pick Carlos Rodon has been promoted to Triple-A Charlotte, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune tweets. As anticipated, Rodon has moved quickly through the minors — he pitched 9 2/3 innings with Class A+ Winston-Salem, striking out 15 batters while walking five. The promotion to Charlotte (for whom he’ll start on Tuesday) means he’s skipping Double-A, which in turn likely means the White Sox think he’s close to being ready for the Majors. Here are more notes from around baseball.
- Top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant left Saturday’s Triple-A Iowa Cubs game with a foot injury, Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register writes (Twitter links). The injury was the result of a foul ball Bryant struck off his foot a few days ago. His foot is being X-rayed. The seriousness of the injury is unclear, but his coaches did seem to know about it before tonight. Bryant’s departure from the game set off speculation that he had been promoted to the big leagues, but it does not appear that he has been. He has a ridiculous .306/.415/.648 line in 234 plate appearances so far with Iowa.
- Two MLB insiders believe that Addison Russell will eventually become the Cubs’ starting shortstop despite the team’s surplus there, Jorge Arangure of the New York Times reports. “From what I’ve seen, [Starlin] Castro moves for sure,” says one. “Russell has the edge over [Javier] Baez.” Baez, for his part, says he enjoys playing second base.
- The Blue Jays have optioned reliever Chad Jenkins to the minors five times this season, and he’s just one of several Blue Jays who have been optioned four or more times this year, Brendan Kennedy of TheStar.com writes. Kennedy points out that the Jays have made more non-trade, non-injury roster moves than any team this season, about 40% more than the average team. GM Alex Anthopoulos says the Blue Jays option players in order to avoid having other players land on the disabled list. “We definitely haven’t used the waiver wire much this year, but we have consciously optioned players back and forth to avoid DL placements,” he says. For example, the Jays have had Liam Hendriks spot start three times in order to get their starting pitchers more rest. Of course, Kennedy writes, a limited number of players can be optioned, and so all the Jays’ roster moves can have the effect of moving one group of players up and down regardless of how they perform.
- Brewers owner Mark Attanasio says the team is trying to improve its bullpen, making waiver claims for relievers as recently as today, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy tweets. The Brewers’ bullpen got off to an extremely hot start in April but has struggled a bit since.
The Cubs promoted top prospect Kris Bryant from Double-A to Triple-A yesterday, but as MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat writes, president Theo Epstein doesn’t feel the 2013 No. 2 overall pick’s development is complete yet. Muskat spoke with manager Rick Renteria and current Cubs players Jake Arrieta and Anthony Rizzo about Bryant’s future as well. The 22-year-old Bryant, who slashed an unthinkable .355/.458/.702 with 22 homers in 69 Double-A games, didn’t seem to have a hard time adjusting to his new Triple-A surroundings; he went 1-for-4 with a two-run homer in last night’s Iowa debut.
More on Bryant and the Cubs…
- Despite Bryant’s tremendous minor league success, Epstein told reporters, including the Daily Herald’s Bruce Miles, that he doesn’t expect Bryant to be promoted to the Major Leagues this season (Twitter link). That may be disappointing for Cubs fans, but from a business standpoint there’s little harm in letting Bryant develop at Triple-A and waiting to start his service clock.
- Via Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago (on Twitter), Epstein also said that if No. 4 overall pick Kyle Schwarber‘s bat warrants fast-tracking him to the Major Leagues, the team won’t slow him down by leaving him behind the plate to develop. A catcher and outfielder at Indiana, Schwarber’s bat is said to be much closer to big-league ready than his glove behind the plate. However, the consensus seems to be that he could reach the Majors quickly as an outfielder.
- As for the team’s more immediate concerns — presumably, dealing away several veterans from the big league roster — Epstein says that trade talks remain sporadic at present, Rogers reports. “The rule of thumb is there is more speculation this time of year than actual trade talk,” said Epstein. “Teams don’t like to rush into those types of things.” While last year’s Scott Feldman deal went down in early July, Epstein said that did not mean anything for this year’s plans. The head baseball man also hinted that he hopes a healthy number of buyers could work to his team’s advantage. “The parity creates more potential buyers,” he said. “A lot of teams are out there that could be one or two players away from getting into the playoffs and doing some damage.”
- The Cubs may come to regret not locking up staff ace Jeff Samardzija when they had the chance to do so at a lower price, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times. Wittenmyer reports that, earlier in the year, Samardzija had proposed a $100MM deal while the Cubs were sitting at $60MM. Samardzija’s representatives signaled that they would split the difference, but Chicago only increased its offer by $500K. Now, with the asking price much higher, it seems as though the 29-year-old will instead be dealt, and Wittenmyer argues that the club will struggle to replace him for anything approaching a reasonable price.
The Marlins‘ offensive improvement from 2013 to 2014 has been enormous, as Dave Cameron of Fangraphs points out in a piece for FOX Sports. They’ve gotten help from newcomers Casey McGehee, Garrett Jones and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. But the Marlins’ offensive resurgence has truly been a team effort — they’ve also gotten a big bounce-back season from Giancarlo Stanton, plus solid contributions from Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich (who’s now headed to the DL with a back injury) and Derek Dietrich. Their offense is the main reason they’re still above .500 despite the loss of Jose Fernandez to elbow trouble. Here are more notes from the National League.
- Top prospect Gregory Polanco just keeps hitting for the Pirates, with 12 hits in his first six games. SportsCenter points out (via Twitter) that Polanco is the first Pirate to have hits in each of his first six games since Roberto Clemente in 1955. The Pirates promoted Polanco on Tuesday, possibly delaying his arrival until after the likely Super Two threshold. Polanco had one hit in each of his first three games, then had five, including a decisive two-run homer, in the Pirates’ 13-inning game in Miami Friday.
- Kris Bryant has dominated so far this season at Double-A Tennessee, but the Cubs want to keep his performance so far in perspective, writes Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. “I think we try to keep in context that a year ago at this time he wasn’t even a signed player yet. We had just drafted him,” says Cubs executive Jason McLeod. “He has had two very good months at Double A, but still, only two months. … Obviously he has been really, really good and forcing us to take notice of his performance.” Bryant, the second overall pick in last year’s draft, has hit .357/.460/.709 in 291 plate appearances at Double-A.
The Cubs have reached agreement on a $6.7MM deal with No. 2 overall pick Kris Bryant, according to Jim Callis of Baseball America (via Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier today that the two sides were close to striking a deal.
Bryant, who is being advised by Scott Boras, had a monster junior season in which he belted 31 homers and catapulted up the 2013 draft board. The third baseman/outfielder will be the latest promising position player to join the Cubs' stash, joining shortstop Javier Baez and outfielders Jorge Soler and Albert Almora.
Heyman heard in late June that the two sides weren't close to an agreement. Bryant and Boras were said to be seeking a bonus greater than the $6.7MM assigned pick value, while the Cubs wanted a deal for just over $6MM.
Boras said yesterday that was confident that a deal would be struck in advance of the mid-July deadline. Some speculated that it could go until the eleventh-hour with Bryant being the final holdout of the first round, but the two sides have hammered out the framework for a deal with days to spare.
Bryant's pick came as a surprise as the Cubs were widely expected to select whichever top pitcher the Astros passed on (Jonathan Gray or Mark Appel). Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com and Keith Law of ESPN.com had Bryant ranked as the second-best prospect in the draft while Baseball America had him ranked third. BA writes that Bryant's best tool is his plus-plus right-handed power and notes that his athleticism should allow him to stick at third base.
The Cubs are very close to signing No. 2 overall pick Kris Bryant, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The deal isn’t officially done, but the University of San Diego product is expected to receive the biggest bonus under the new system that began last year, topping Mark Appel‘s $6.35MM pact with the Astros.
Bryant, who is being advised by Scott Boras, had a monster junior season in which he belted 31 homers and catapulted up the 2013 draft board. The third baseman/outfielder will be the latest promising position player to join the Cubs’ stash, joining shortstop Javier Baez and outfielders Jorge Soler and Albert Almora.
Heyman heard in late June that the two sides weren’t close to an agreement. Bryant and Boras were said to be seeking a bonus greater than the $6.7MM assigned pick value, while the Cubs wanted a deal for just over $6MM.
Of the six trades made during the first week of July, the Cubs were involved in four of them. The most recent trade occurred last night, as the Cubs shipped right-handed bench bat Scott Hairston to the Nationals for pitching prospect Ivan Pineyro. The Cubs are expected to continue stockpiling young players this month in more trades. The latest on the team:
- The Dodgers and Indians both believe Matt Garza will be traded and have been "heavily scouting" the right-hander, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports. The Giants and Rangers are also scouting Garza's start tonight (Twitter links). The Dodgers' continued involvement is interesting given their recent acquisition of Ricky Nolasco, though it's probably no surprise that the Dodgers are again targeting as many notable players as possible.
- The Cubs have been quick to trade players after signing them as free agents in the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer era, but Hoyer said today on a conference call he doesn't think free agents will shy away from the team for that reason. "I would hope that we cease being sellers on an annual basis," Hoyer explained, also noting that each situation is taken on an individual basis and, for example, "A lot of places weren’t willing to guarantee [Scott Feldman] a rotation spot coming off a so-so year in Texas." MLB.com's Carrie Muskat has the full quotes on her blog.
- Garza perhaps the best available starting pitcher, has "opened a lot of eyes the way he's thrown the last four, fives times out," said Hoyer. Garza, a 29-year-old in his contract year, has allowed only three runs over his last 30 innings and takes on the White Sox tonight at U.S. Cellular Field.
- Both the Cubs and Nationals will receive a player to be named later in the Hairston trade, but Hoyer told reporters that component "will not affect the balance of the deal."
- Third baseman Kris Bryant is one of five first-rounders who remains unsigned; the Cubs drafted him second overall. Hoyer was reluctant to provide an update on negotiations with adviser Scott Boras, but said, "We’re confident we’ll get it done. We’ll make it an exceptionally fair offer. If Kris wants to be a Cub and be a professional baseball player, I’m confident we’ll get a deal done. Sometimes it takes a deadline to make a deal, and we have a deadline coming up shortly. In a lot of ways, I think it’s a plus at this point." Draft guru Jim Callis of Baseball America expects all five first-rounders to sign by Friday's deadline.
- 18-year-old Taiwanese righty JenHo Tseng, ranked #29 on Jesse Sanchez's top 30 international prospect list for MLB.com, is "known for his upright, quick delivery and a fastball that has reached 95 mph." The Cubs have emerged as the favorite for Tseng, tweets Sanchez, and he's expected to command at least $1.5MM. Assuming Eloy Jimenez's $2.8MM deal with the Cubs is finalized, and the Cubs add Tseng at around $1.5MM, they appear a lock to exceed their bonus pool by more than 10% even if they max it out by acquiring more pool space. As explained by Ben Badler of Baseball America, the penalty for going 10-15% over the pool is a 100% tax on the overage and, more importantly, a $500K per player cap in the 2014-15 spending period. 15% or more means a $250K cap.
Here is the latest news on draft and international signings as we look ahead to the July 12 deadline for Rule 4 draftees to sign. You can keep track of signings from the draft's first round right here. Only five players — Kris Bryant (Cubs), Colin Moran (Marlins), Phil Bickford (Blue Jays), Hunter Renfroe (Padres), and Aaron Judge (Yankees) — remain unsigned. As Jim Callis of Baseball America recently explained (subscription required), the changes to the draft system have sapped the signing period of its former deadline drama. Last year, for instance, only six first-rounders waited to sign until the last day, just three of those lasted until the last hour before the deadline, and only one (Mark Appel) did not end up signing.
- Among the unsigned first-rounders, Callis tweets that he expects all to sign. While he thinks Bickford will ultimately ink with the Blue Jays, Callis does say (via Twitter) that he is the most likely of the five to pass up a deal.
- The Jays are also angling to convince a late-round choice, such as Jake Brentz, Sam Tewes, or Rowdy Tellez, to forego college and join the organization, explains Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Toronto has cleared about $1.3MM of bonus pool availability after locking up second-rounder Clinton Hollon for $701k under slot. Davidi says that the club is expected to sign first-rounder Bickford for close to slot value, leaving the team free to spend the rest of its cash on one of its hard-to-sign picks.
- While Bryant remains the highest choice yet to sign, the Cubs remain confident that they will lock him up, GM Jed Hoyer told David Kaplan in a WGN Radio interview (Twitter link). Likewise, Callis opined (via Twitter) that Bryant will sign, though it may take until the deadline.
- Even as the Cubs finish up their draft signings, the team remains heavily involved in the international amateur market. Top overall international prospect Eloy Jimenez has yet to formally sign with Chicago despite reportedly agreeing to terms, which MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez says signals that the Cubs are paying close attention to the penalties for going over the allotted international bonuses. (Twitter link.) Concurring with MLBTR's Steve Adams' breakdown of the Cubs' international expenditures, Sanchez also provided some added background on the situation in a separate piece.
- We also just learned that the Jays' AL East-rival Red Sox have cleared a similar amount of cash. Callis tweets that Boston will "definitely" spend up to its slot totals and may also go into the tax penalty space up to the point of sacrificing a draft choice.
- The Angels are still working to sign 12th-round, high-school righty Blake Goins, tweets Callis. The club can go up to $472k before hitting any penalties, and could pay Goins as much as $621k before it would have to sacrifice a draft pick to sign him.
- Likewise, with their available funds, Callis tweets that the Reds appear to be targeting 14th-round choice Willie Abreu. The University of Miami commit reportedly has a power bat and arm.