Kyle Schwarber Rumors

NL Central Notes: Cards Investigation, Dominguez, Wang, Schwarber

Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters that it’s too soon to know how the league will handle today’s stunning news that the FBI is investigating the Cardinals for possible involvement in last year’s Astros computer system breach. As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle was among those to report, Manfred declined to wade into the details of the matter and stressed that the federal government, not the league, was conducting the investigation. “To assume that the investigation is going to produce a particular result with respect to the Cardinals, let alone to jump to a word like cyber attack, we don’t know that those are the facts yet,” he said. “There is an ongoing investigation. We’ve been fully cooperative. Obviously any allegation like this, no matter how serious it turns out to be, is of great concern to us but it’s just too early to speculate on what the facts are going to turn out to be and what action, if any, is necessary.”

Here’s more from the NL Central:

  • Adding Matt Dominguez through a waiver claim gave the Brewers options at third base both now and in the future, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The 24-year-old has an impressive pedigree, of course, and certainly has some upside for a team that’s all but out of it in 2015. But there is a more immediate concern, too: Aramis Ramirez could be dealt this summer, notes Haudricourt, and he’ll need a replacement if moved. Of course, the club also is in need of a future replacement with the veteran set to retire, and a look at the controllable Dominguez certainly makes sense.
  • Of course, adding Dominguez meant that the Brewers had to expose lefty Wei-Chung Wang to waivers, which Haudricourt explains was a tough move to make. Milwaukee carried Wang on the active roster for all of 2014 just to take a shot on his future, but he was struggling badly this year at the Class A level. As Haudricourt explains, Wang is earning a relatively robust $300K salary (a larger salary cut from his 2014 MLB earnings was not permissible), which may be a deterrent — as is the fact that a claiming team would need to dedicate a 40-man spot (though Wang does have options).
  • Cubs prospect Kyle Schwarber is expected to have a very short first taste of the big leagues, in large part because he is likely not ready to spend regular time in the field. But that’s probably also a good thing in the long term, given that Chicago continues to give Schwarber time behind the plate rather than giving up and choosing instead to acclimate him to the corner outfield. In fact, as MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat tweets, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says the club is increasingly bullish on Schwarber’s chances at sticking as a backstop. “We’re more convinced now than ever that he’s going to catch and catch a long time in the big leagues,” said Epstein.

Cubs To Promote Kyle Schwarber

The Cubs will promote catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber for his first big league action, Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com reports on Twitter. Schwarber is expected to spend six games as the club’s DH for interleague play, and will thereafter receive his first taste of the Triple-A level.

Mar 2, 2015; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs catcher Kyle Schwarber poses for a portrait during photo day at the training center at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Schwarber, 22, was taken with the fourth overall pick in last year’s draft. Coming into the year, prospect evaluators agreed that he was a top-100 pick, though varied widely in placement. Baseball America placed Schwarber inside the top twenty prospects (19th), while Baseball Prospectus rated him 77th in the game.

Certainly, the Indiana University product has done nothing but enhance his value as a professional. He has destroyed pitching throughout the minors, putting up a composite .333/.432/.610 line over 549 plate appearances. At Double-A this year, Schwarber has slashed .318/.439/.578 while banging 13 long balls in 238 turns at bat.

Of course, the question with Schwarber was never his bat, but whether he would stick behind the plate. He’d likely only need to be an adequate defender to provide value as a catcher, though a move to the outfield or first base could also be possible in the long term. For now, of course, Chicago is giving him every chance to work as a backstop.

It appears that this is nothing more than a brief showcase for Schwarber, who really does not have an obvious roster spot to play in the big leagues. The club is set at catcher, with Miguel Montero and David Ross on hand. And while adding a power bat to the corner outfield would certainly hold appeal, Schwarber has spent just 36 games in left over his young professional career.

A huge showing at the plate or a well-timed injury could always change plans, of course. From a service time perspective, Schwarber can rack up no more than 111 days at this point, meaning he would not line up for Super Two status even if he stuck this year and never returned to the minors. Of course, every day added in 2015 will count for future years, making it harder for the Cubs to hold him back when he seems fully ready to play an everyday role in the majors.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Cubs Notes: Motte, Baez, Schwarber, Aiken

Jason Motte recorded a league-best 42 saves as the Cardinals’ closer in 2012, but thanks to Tommy John surgery and other injuries, he hadn’t saved a game since.  That changed today, when Motte handled the ninth inning in the Cubs’ 6-3 win over the Nationals.  Hector Rondon had already been brought in to pitch the eighth inning (and a tougher part of Washington’s lineup) and Pedro Strop was unavailable, leaving Motte to finish things off.  Motte entered Sunday with a 3.98 ERA, 5.8 K/9 and 1.63 K/BB rate over 20 1/3 relief innings this season.  Here’s some more from Wrigleyville…

  • The Cubs announced that prospect Javier Baez suffered a non-displaced fracture in his ring finger and will miss 4-8 weeks of action.  Baez was injured while attempting a steal during Triple-A Iowa’s game today.  The one-time elite prospect was enjoying a very nice year in the minors (eight homers and a .314/.387/.540 slash line in 155 PA), though this injury, combined with defensive and strikeout concerns, will certainly hamper his chances of a return to the majors.
  • The Cubs will require a designated hitter as they have seven games in AL ballparks over the next two weeks, and CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney suggests that calling up top prospect Kyle Schwarber would be a creative way to address this need.  Schwarber is having a big year at Double-A, and promoting now would give him a taste of the majors without causing any real service time concerns (as presumably Schwarber would be sent back down once the Cubs are through their road interleague schedule).  ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers doubts Schwarber will be called up since the team already has Chris Denorfia on hand, Schwarber has yet to face even Triple-A pitching and there’s obviously no guarantee that the rookie will be able to provide immediate help.  “Are the Cubs willing to use 10 days for curiosity or the best chance to win?” Rogers rhetorically asks.
  • Some clubs have ruled Brady Aiken out of their draft plans given the prospect’s recent Tommy John surgery, but Cubs amateur scouting director Matt Dorey tells Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times that “it would be really irresponsible not to look at” Aiken’s latest medicals.  If Aiken is healthy, the Cubs would potentially land a first-overall caliber talent with the #9 overall pick.  On the flip side, Wittenmyer observes that Theo Epstein has drafted position players with his top pick in 10 of the 12 years he has spent running front offices.


NL Central Notes: Cueto, Gonzales, Schwarber, Baez

After missing his start on Sunday, Reds ace Johnny Cueto underwent an MRI on the injured joint today (as FOX’s Jon Morosi tweeted he would earlier this morning), but agent Bryce Dixon said after the fact that the test revealed no tears or structural damage (Twitter link via C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer). The news is a sigh of relief for all parties involved, as a serious arm injury for Cueto would hurt his standing as one of the top free agents on the upcoming open market, whereas an injury would hurt the Reds’ chance of righting the ship and potentially eliminate their best trade chip should they sell off veteran pieces this summer.

Here’s more from the NL Central…

  • Another NL Central hurler got somewhat worse news than Cueto, as Cardinals left-hander Marco Gonzales has been diagnosed with a shoulder impingement that will sideline him for three weeks, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Gonzales will receive an anti-inflammatory injection in the coming days and has otherwise been prescribed rest to allow the injury to heal. Gonzales will need to alter his workouts and preparation tactics, Goold notes, as they may have had a part in the injury. Gonzales and the training staff will look for areas of weakness in the shoulder that can be improved — a similar endeavor to the one undertaken by Michael Wacha last summer (though the two have different shoulder injuries).
  • Kyle Schwarber‘s name doesn’t get bandied about as much as other promising young Cubs bats such as Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Javier Baez, but VP of scouting and player development Jason McLeod feels that Schwarber has a chance to impact the team in 2015, if necessary (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat). Selected fourth overall in last year’s draft, Schwarber entered the year as a consensus Top 100 prospect (Baseball America ranked him as highly as 19th), and he’s demolished Double-A pitching this year, batting .305/.440/.595 with 10 homers in 166 plate appearances. Said McLeod of the catcher/outfielder: “If there was a need for [Schwarber] to come up here and help this team win later this year, I think he could do it.” Of course, I should note that while I listed Schwarber as a catcher (in at least a part-time capacity), the belief of many scouts is that the lefty slugger will have to move off the position for defensive purposes. The Cubs have continued to give him reps behind the plate in an attempt to maximize the value of his bat.
  • Also within Muskat’s piece, McLeod notes that the team feels that Baez is athletic enough to play in the outfield, though there are no plans to move him there in the works. He also likens righty Yoervis Medina, acquired in the Welington Castillo trade, to Pedro Strop before Strop gained the consistency he’s shown with the Cubs over the past two seasons.

Cubs Notes: Baez, Russell, Schwarber

Two of the NL’s top clubs begin a three-game series today at Wrigley Field when the Cubs host the Nationals.  Beyond just sharing impressive records, ESPN.com’s Ken Woolums notes that the Cubs have gone about their rebuilding process in a manner similar to how the Nats have reconstructed their roster prior to their current run of two NL East titles in the last three seasons.  Here’s more on the Cubs…

  • Javier Baez has a .944 OPS in 99 Triple-A plate appearances this season, yet ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers wonders if the former top prospect can find playing time with the Cubs no matter how well he’s hitting.  Baez has been splitting time between second base and shortstop in the minors, though the Cubs are obviously set at both positions with Addison Russell and Starlin Castro.  Of course, questions remain about Baez both defensively (he already has 11 errors, nine at short) and offensively (he has 24 strikeouts in his 99 PA, and nine walks) and thus the Cubs could decide he’s expendable; Rogers notes that shifting Baez between two positions could be an audition for other teams just as much as it has to do with his development.  That said, Rogers also observes that the Cubs are under no pressure to swing a deal now and have plenty of time to figure out how to best deploy their numerous young talents.
  • Rogers hears from league sources that the Cubs have repeatedly turned down offers for Russell and have no interest in trading him.  If Chicago does decide to move a notable middle infielder, then, it would have to be Baez or Castro.
  • Kyle Schwarber is another prospect who has often been rumored to eventually change positions, though Cubs director of player development Jaron Madison tells Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register that Schwarber will remain a catcher.  “With all the work he’s done in the offseason and spring training and big league camp, and going into this year and what he’s done so far this year, we’re more certain than ever that he’s going to stay behind the plate long-term. We’re committed to that right now,” Madison said.
  • Madison discusses several Cubs minor leaguers within that same piece, including Baez.  The team doesn’t have any plans to use Baez at any positions besides second and shortstop for now, Madison said.  There has been some speculation that the Cubs could make room for Baez by moving him to third and shifting Kris Bryant to left field, though Baez has never played the hot corner in his pro career and Bryant has only three innings under his belt in left.

Quick Hits: Workman, Ogando, Rockies, Loria

Twins outfielder Byron Buxton is the top prospect in baseball, per MLB.com’s top 100 prospects. The Cubs have two prospects in the top five – Kris Bryant (second) and Addison Russell (fifth). The Dodgers have three in the top 13 – Corey Seager (seventh), Julio Urias (eighth), and Joc Pederson (13th). The Cubs and Twins are the two teams with five prospects in the top 50. Here’s more news from around the league.


Cubs Notes: Bryant, Schwarber, Trades, Samardzija

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.

Cubs Sign First-Rounder Kyle Schwarber

1:38pm: The team has officially announced Schwarer’s signing.

11:20am: The Cubs have agreed to a below-slot bonus with first-round selection Kyle Schwarber, reports MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat (via Twitter). He will sign for $3.125MM, which is nearly $1.5MM shy of the $4.621MM allotment that came with the fourth overall choice.

Arguably the best college bat available, Schwarber was nevertheless something of a surprise choice at fourth overall. While he is said to have good hit and power tools at the plate, the real question is whether or not the Indiana University product can stay behind it defensively. As MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo wrote in rating Schwarber as the 16th-best available prospect, he could ultimately move to the outfield (or, presumably, first base) since his throwing and receiving skills are considered below average.

Baseball America, ranking him 17th overall, noted that Schwarber had improved his work at catcher over time and likely has the athleticism needed to shift to left field if he can’t continue that trajectory. ESPN.com’s Keith Law, meanwhile, placed the 6’0, 240lb left-handed swinger at 26th on his final board.

As Callis notes (Twitter links), the deal with Schwarber works to the advantage of both parties. Schwarber will take down a bigger bonus than he would have if taken in the middle of the draft, while the Cubs can put the slot savings towards other choices. In particular, the club selected a series of high school arms with its fourth through sixth-round choices — Carson SandsJustin Steele, and Dylan Cease — who could require above-slot bonuses to forego college. Callis opines that the Cubs are likely to land each member of that trio. Chicago entered the draft with $8.35MM and change in available slot space.


Post-Draft Links: Aiken, Schwarber, Davidson, Verdugo

The first day of the 2014 draft is complete, and as many expected, the Astros selected high school left-hander Brady Aiken with the No. 1 overall pick. The team is in no hurry to sign Aiken, however, the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich reports (Twitter links). Still,the Astros are understandably excited about the player they drafted. “This is the most advanced high school pitcher I’ve ever seen in my entire career,” says GM Jeff Luhnow. “He has command like I’ve never seen before.”

Here’s more from the draft’s first day…

  • The Cubs turned some heads by selecting Indiana catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber with the fourth overall pick, but scouting director Jason McLeod told reporters that Schwarber was No. 2 on the team’s draft board all along. ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers quotes McLeod (on Twitter) as saying that Schwarber trailed only Aiken on their board, though as the Chicago Sun Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer tweets, McLeod did acknowledge that the pick will save them some money. The Cubs are expecting him to sign quickly.
  • Braves top pick Braxton Davidson says he will sign rather than attending UNC, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Davidson’s slot — No. 32 overall — carries a $1.7054MM value, per Baseball AmericaI spoke with Davidson as part of MLBTR’s Draft Prospect Q&A series.
  • Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish hears that the Dodgers and No. 62 overall pick Alex Verdugo already have an agreement in place, and the ASU commit will not be attending college (Twitter link). VP of amateur scouting Logan White tells MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick that Verdugo, a two-way prospect, will start as a center fielder and convert to pitching if he doesn’t hit well (Twitter link).
  • MLB.com’s Corey Brock spoke with Padres scouting director Billy Gasparino and got the impression that the team will shift its focus on jump on some arms tomorrow (Twitter link). San Diego drafted a pair of bats today in UNC shortstop Trea Turner and prep outfielder Michael Gettys.

Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.