Scott Feldman Rumors


Free Agent Profile: Scott Feldman

Scott Feldman didn't exactly take a conventional path to his first free agent contract. As a 23-year-old in 2006, he enjoyed a solid rookie campaign in the Rangers' bullpen only to struggle through his sophomore campaign in the same role. Texas responded by giving him 25 starts in 2008, which produced an ERA over 5.00, but Feldman posted a 4.08 ERA in 189 2/3 innings in 2009. His ERA spiked back over 5.00 in 2010, and microfracture surgery on his knee caused him to miss most of the 2011 season. When he returned, the rotation was stacked, and Feldman went back to relief work. Well, for a half-season anyhow. After a 3.94 ERA as a reliever in 2011, he made another 21 starts in 2012 but saw his ERA creep north of 5.00 again.

Unfazed by his inconsistency and likely noting his more promising peripheral stats, the Cubs picked Feldman up on a low-risk, one-year deal worth $6MM (plus incentives) this past offseason.  Feldman

Strengths/Pros

Through all of Feldman's ups and downs, two things have remained constant: he has good command and he generates ground balls. Feldman's highest single-season BB/9 mark dating back to 2008 is 3.3, and he's posted a mark of 2.9 overall since that time (in 811 innings). He's never posted a ground-ball rate below 42 percent. His career mark of 47.3 is above the league average, and he's been even better in 2013, generating grounders at a 50.7 percent clip.

Feldman's career ERA of 4.56 is a near mirror image of his 4.45 FIP, 4.41 xFIP and 4.50 SIERA. An ERA in the mid-4.00s is a very reasonable expectation for Feldman, and his past three seasons of work have produced a 3.91 FIP, 3.91 xFIP and 3.95 SIERA, so there's plenty of room for optimism. The similarities between his FIP and xFIP are easily explainable -- Feldman allows homers at roughly a league-average rate (10.4 percent career HR/FB). All of his work has come for teams in hitter-friendly home parks (the Rangers, Cubs and Orioles), demonstrating that he can succeed in difficult settings.

Feldman will be 31 years old in February, making him one of the younger starters available on the market. He won't be tied to draft pick compensation, as he's ineligible to receive a qualifying offer after being traded midseason.

Feldman had Tommy John surgery as a minor leaguer back in 2003 but hasn't had any arm-related health issues since. It can be argued that he has little mileage on his arm compared to similarly aged free agents; he's thrown 900 2/3 Major League innings to date.

Weaknesses/Cons

Feldman has never been a flamethrower, but his 90 mph average on his four-seamer and 88 mph average on his cutter this season are both career-lows. As a ground-ball pitcher, he doesn't miss many bats -- his swinging-strike will rate sit between six and eight percent in any given season -- nor does he generate many strikeouts. His K/9 rate of 6.5 this season is actually an improvement over his 5.6 career mark but still lower than the league average for starting pitchers (7.2).

The inconsistent track record that I alluded to before also makes his durability a relative question mark. Feldman has never tossed more than 189 2/3 innings in a season, and he's only topped 30 starts in a season on one occasion. As it stands, he's on pace to make exactly 30 starts this season, but he won't set a new career-high for innings pitched without hurling a pair of complete games in his final two starts.

Personal

Feldman, whose father is a retired FBI agent, is an avid supporter of the Wounded Warrior project. He and his wife have also hosted charity softball events in Dallas to raise money for wounded military members and participated in fundraisers and blanket drives for anti-domestic violence organizations. Highly competitive by nature, Feldman has a fairly quiet personality and is very popular among teammates. He embodies the "every fifth day" mentality, as he always wants to take the ball, even in the face of soreness and injury.

Market

Feldman isn't going to be one of the very top starters on the free agent market, and as such he may wait until after some of the bigger names have signed to ink a deal of his own. That waiting game is a delicate balance, however, as pitchers like Joe Saunders and Brett Myers can attest to. Each waited until after the New Year to sign and settled for a one-year deal last offseason while comparable arms like Brandon McCarthy, Kevin Correia and Joe Blanton signed in December and received two guaranteed years.

Feldman's ground-ball tendencies won't scare off teams in small parks, and unlike the Matt Garzas and Masahiro Tanakas of the world, Feldman probably won't be priced out of any team's range. He could be appealing to a large number of teams looking for a quality arm to slot into the middle or back of their rotations.

Predicted Contract

It's tough to foresee Feldman earning himself three guaranteed years on the open market given his inconsistent innings totals, but his 2013 can't be ignored. He's posted a 3.49 ERA with 6.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 50.7 percent ground-ball rate to this point, which should be enough to land a two-year deal at a slightly higher rate than the $7MM he'll bring home this year after hitting his incentives. Perhaps his agent, Matt Brown of Pro Prospects Inc., could compromise by pushing for an easily attainable vesting option for a third year based on innings pitched.

Ultimately, Jeremy Guthrie's three-year, $25MM contract from last year could be his ceiling, but I predict that Feldman will sign a two-year, $17MM contract with a vesting option for a third season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Cubs Notes: Garza, Free Agents, Bryant, Tseng

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. 



Reactions To The Feldman-Arrieta Trade

Earlier today, the Orioles acquired Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger from the Cubs in exchange for Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop and two international bonus slots. Here are some reactions and related news to the first significant trade of this year's trading season...

  • MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reports that Arrieta has two year and 99 days of service time, meaning that the Cubs can avoid Super Two status if he accumulates less than 53 days of service time this season (Twitter link). If Arrieta picks up fewer than 73 days of service time, he will be controllable through the 2017 season.
  • Dave Cameron of FanGraphs provides an excellent, in-depth analysis of the trade, noting that Feldman should net the Orioles an extra 1.0-1.5 wins above replacement, which is a critical upgrade over their internal rotation options. From the Cubs' point of view, Arrieta is a nice gamble, but the deal is really about the long-term future, Cameron writes. He agrees with the assessment of Baseball America's Ben Badler that the Cubs are clearly stockpiling international money to add top international prospect Eloy Jimenez after signing Gleyber Torres earlier today.
  • Orioles executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette told Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio that he didn't want to trade prospects whose capabilities are unknown at this point. The O's parted with Arrieta and Strop because they believe they know what those arms are capable of (Twitter link).
  • The Padres tried to acquire Arrieta, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, but it sounds like the Cubs fully intend on hanging onto him rather than including him in other deals.
  • The Red Sox weren't in on Feldman, according to Sean McAdam of CSNNE.co (on Twitter). Feldman could have appealed to Boston had the rotation faded as the trade deadline drew nearer, but they weren't interested at this time.
  • Cubs closer Kevin Gregg told MLB.com's Carrie Muskat that he couldn't believe the Cubs were able to acquire both Arrieta and Strop in the trade. Gregg offered high praise for the talent of both players, noting that a change of scenery could help Strop. Manager Dale Sveum expressed excitement to Muskat about acquiring a power arm like Strop that was part of baseball's best bullpen in 2012.



Orioles Acquire Feldman, Clevenger For Arrieta, Strop

The first domino of trade season has dropped, as the Orioles acquired righty Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger from the Cubs today for righty Jake Arrieta, reliever Pedro Strop, and international bonus pool money, according ESPN's Keith Law.  The Orioles sent international bonus slots 3 and 4 to the Cubs, according to the team.  That amounts to an additional $388,100 for the Cubs, who started with an international bonus pool of $4,557,200 and picked up another $784,700 from the Astros while sending $209,700 to the Dodgers.  This is the first MLB trade involving international bonus pool money.  After being involved in three international bonus pool-related trades today, the Cubs added $963,100 to their pool.

USATSI_7267750

The Cubs signed Feldman, 30, to a one-year, $6MM deal in November.  He was a prime candidate to be flipped by the 35-45 Cubs, since a qualifying offer in the $14MM range would likely have been too steep after the season.  He's now ineligible for such an offer.  Feldman owns a 3.46 ERA, 6.6 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 0.99 HR/9, and 50.7% groundball rate in 91 innings this year.  "Feldman is a proven starter with postseason experience who should help stabilize our rotation for the second half," Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said in a statement.  Those nine postseason relief appearances came in 2011 with the Rangers, Feldman's organization since being drafted in '03 prior to signing with the Cubs.  He joins an Orioles rotation that ranks 13th in the American League with a 4.79 ERA and currently features Jason Hammel, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, and, when healthy, Wei-Yin Chen.  Duquette told reporters including MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli that he doesn't see any more outside moves.

Arrieta, 27, was due for a change of scenery.  The Orioles drafted him out of Texas Christian University in the fifth round in 2007, and he never realized the promise that had him ranked as the 67th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America prior to the '09 season.  In 358 innings in his Orioles career spanning 2010-13, Arrieta posted a 5.46 ERA, 7.0 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, and 1.21 HR/9.  A strong Spring Training this year netted him the Orioles' fourth starter job, but he was demoted to Triple-A by late April.  After shaking off shoulder tenderness, he has bounced up and down since.  Arrieta's last two Triple-A outings, presumably scouted by the Cubs, have gone well.  He works around 95 miles per hour and BA once said he had the potential for three plus pitches, so the Cubs have an interesting arm with which to work.  He'll head to Triple-A Iowa for the Cubs.  Arrieta currently has two years and 99 days of Major League service time, so he needs 53 days to be eligible for Super Two status after the season and 73 to be eligible for free agency after 2016 rather than '17.

Strop, 28, will join the Cubs' big league bullpen.  His poor control caught up to him this year, as he has a 7.25 ERA, 9.7 K/9, 6.0 BB/9, 1.61 HR/9, and 48.4% groundball rate in 22 1/3 innings.  He hit the DL in late May with a lower back strain, returning June 8th.  Strop was signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Rockies in '02, and signed with the Rangers after being released in '08.  He made his big league debut with Texas, later joining the Orioles in 2011 to complete the Mike Gonzalez deal.  Strop works around 96 miles per hour, so the Cubs received a pair of power arm projects in this trade.

Clevenger, 27, was born and raised in Baltimore, and his agent told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports the trade is "almost a dream come true."  He'll head to Triple-A Norfolk for now.  He hit .327/.426/.596 in his short time with the Cubs' Triple-A team this year, spending time on the 60-day DL with an oblique strain.  He made the Cubs' Opening Day roster but suffered the injury in mid-April.  Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish first reported that Clevenger appeared to be on the move. 

Tim Dierkes contributed to this post.  Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Rosenthal's Latest: M's, Yanks, Roenicke, Rays, Cubs

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has a lengthy new article discussing All-Stars, some of the game's top young hitters and a plethora of hot stove info. Here are some highlights...

  • Rival executives around the league are critical of the Mariners for rushing their top prospects, but Rosenthal notes that Nick Franklin has been more than up to the challenge, and Brad Miller earned his promotion with his minor league performance. Regarding the struggling Mike Zunino, GM Jack Zduriencik told Rosenthal: "We planned all along to get Mike to Seattle at some point in July ... He wasn't expected to be a big contributor offensively if it was now, July, September ... but he has held his own, and what he is receiving now will set him up for 2014 and beyond."
  • Multiple scouts have questioned the work ethic of the Brewers' players, with one telling Rosenthal "there's a lot of quit on that team." Rosenthal writes that it isn't manager Ron Roenicke's fault that Ryan Braun, Corey Hart and Aramis Ramirez have been injured, but the negative reports could be an "ominous sign" for Roenicke. Rosenthal tweets a correction, noting that Roenicke is signed through 2014, not through 2013 as he initially reported.
  • The Yankees aren't planning a fire sale, but if they did, they'd have some of the most attractive trade chips in the game. The Yankees could part with Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, however, and Rosenthal adds Curtis Granderson's name to the mix, assuming the injured outfielder gets healthy in time.
  • The Rays aren't looking to add a starting pitcher with both David Price and Alex Cobb likely to return in the near future. If the Rays make any moves at all, they'll be for impact players regardless of position.
  • The Cubs are "all but certain" to trade pending free agents Matt Garza, Kevin Gregg and Scott Feldman, but they're not in a rush to deal Nate Schierholtz and David DeJesus, both of whom are controlled beyond 2013. 



NL West Links: Puig, Feldman, Rockies, Francoeur

The legend of Yasiel Puig added another chapter today as the Cuban phenom went 4-for-5, stole two bases and finished a homer shy of a cycle for the Dodgers in their 6-1 win over the Phillies.  Puig collected 44 hits in June, the second-highest hit total in a calendar month for any rookie in MLB history --- the only rookie with more hits in a calendar month was a player you might've heard of by the name of Joe DiMaggio.  Though the Dodgers are still just 38-43 on the season and in last place in the NL West, they're only four games behind the first place Diamondbacks.  Here's the latest from this tightly-packed division...

  • The Rockies have already been connected to a few notable pitchers in trade rumors and now Cubs right-hander Scott Feldman can be added to the list, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports.  That said, the Rockies don't want to give up prospects for "a rental starter who is not going to re-sign" and Feldman is a free agent this winter.  MLBTR's Steve Adams noted that Feldman's solid ground-ball rate (50.7%) would make him a good fit at Coors Field as part of a Trade Candidate piece earlier this month. 
  • The difficulties of pitching at Coors Field make the Rockies "hypersensitive" about trading for pitching, Renck writes.
  • If Drew Pomeranz and Roy Oswalt pitch well as starters, Renck reports that the Rockies will cool their search for starters and instead focus on the bullpen.  The team is prepared to add payroll but it could resemble their 2009 trades for Rafael Betancourt and Joe Beimel that helped Colorado win the NL Wild Card.
  • The mention of Jeff Francoeur's name to Giants executives has drawn "a lot of scrunched faces and worries about his outfield play", Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets.  Francoeur was designated for assignment by the Royals on Saturday and could fit the Giants' rumored desire for a right-handed outfield bat.
  • In NL West news from earlier today, the Giants and Diamondbacks are two of the teams scouting White Sox right fielder Alex Rios, the Dodgers designated Matt Guerrier for assignment, the Rockies signed Xavier Nady and Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune shared a collection of Padres notes.



Cubs Ready To Sell

We're just under six weeks away from the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. At this point, many teams are still attempting to determine whether or not they're buyers or sellers, and the addition of a second Wild Card in each league has made that a longer process than it was in the past. However, ESPN's Buster Olney has spoken to rival evaluators who have said that the Cubs are "open for business" and ready to sell (ESPN Insider required and recommended).

The Cubs are 13 games below .500 and 17 games out of first place in the National League Central as of this morning, so their stance is a clear one. Nate Schierholtz, Kevin Gregg, Scott Feldman, David DeJesus (when healthy), Alfonso Soriano, James Russell and Matt Garza are the names that figure to be on the trading block as the Cubs field calls, writes Olney. His piece also includes much more info on potential matches for the Cubs and which divisions may be the first to become active on the trade front.

My take on the Cubs' situation: Being the first team to sell pieces has its advantages and disadvantages. Obviously, the Cubs will have more teams to work with at this juncture. Early in the trading season, with so few teams ready to declare themselves sellers, buyers will have few other places to turn. Trading for a player like Garza or Feldman right now would give the acquiring team an extra few starts from the pitcher they're trading precious prospects for. Acquiring a position player in late June as opposed to late July could mean an extra 20 to 30 games out of that player.

On the flipside of the coin, teams may not be as desperate right now as they would be in the final hours leading up to the deadline. Oftentimes, big deals go down with just hours or minutes to go before the trade deadline, as teams have decided that one final push is worth the risk. Recent examples of July 31 blockbusters include both Hunter Pence trades, the Ubaldo Jimenez trade and the White Sox's acquisition of Jake Peavy. Each of these deals included high-profile prospects being exchanged for star-caliber players, though obviously not all of them worked out.

Injuries can also occur in the next month that would make buyers out of teams who are currently not looking. Conversely, one of the Cubs' trade chips could incur an injury, which would leave president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer one less piece to work with.

Selling pieces early takes away some of the "desperation" leverage from the Cubs, but it also will likely increase their number of suitors, creating more competition for their players. Epstein and Hoyer will have to determine how to walk that line over the next several weeks as they look to build toward the future.



Trade Candidate: Scott Feldman

It's been a disappointing 2013 for the Cubs, but the rotation has had little to do with that fact. Cubs starters have pitched to a 3.62 ERA this season -- the seventh-best mark in the Majors. Scott Feldman has been a huge part of that, posting a 2.84 ERA in 66 2/3 innings (11 starts).  Feldman

While Feldman isn't likely to sustain a sub-3.00 ERA, his season hasn't been entirely smoke and mirrors. His swinging-strike rate, while still below the league average, is among the best of his career, as is his first-pitch strike rate. He's inducing grounders at a 51.5 percent clip and demonstrating better command (2.7 BB/9) than he showed as a member of the Rangers' rotation from 2008-12.

Stats like FIP (3.86), xFIP (3.82) and SIERA (3.91) all figure Feldman to be a useful rotation piece even if his peripheral stats catch up to his ERA. Feldman's skill set and strong results thus far figure to make him an attractive trade chip over the next six to seven weeks, particularly for teams looking to bolster their starting rotation without breaking the bank.

Feldman, 30, signed a one-year, $6MM contract with the Cubs this offseason, and probably had a pretty good idea that he could see his name on the market if things didn't go well on Chicago's north side. That's clearly been the case, as the Cubs currently have a 25-35 record that puts them 14.5 games out of first place in the NL Central.

Plenty of contenders have rotation issues, and the Cubs' early standing as a seller could actually benefit them. With two wild card spots now attainable in each league, teams are more reluctant to part with talent early in the summer. The Cubs, however, likely have no delusions about their current status. Contending teams with rotation issues include the Orioles, Giants, Indians and Rockies, to name a few. Feldman's high ground-ball totals would seem to be particularly appealing to teams like Baltimore and Colorado, who play in very homer-friendly environments.

Feldman won't be the best name on the market, but Hoyer and Epstein could look for a high-risk, high-reward return as they did last season when they acquired Arodys Vizcaino (who was on the DL recovering from Tommy John surgery) for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson. If they're looking to maximize their haul, it might be worth it to package Feldman with another trade candidate like David DeJesus (who I examined as a candidate a month ago) or even Matt Garza.

If they prefer to move Feldman on his own, they should still be able to get some useful pieces. For example, last July, the Twins shipped Francisco Liriano (and his 5.31 ERA and 5.0 BB/9) to the the White Sox for infielder Eduardo Escobar and left-hander Pedro Hernandez. Prior to 2012, Baseball America ranked Escobar as Chicago's No. 10 prospect and Hernandez as the Padres' No. 23 prospect (he was later traded to the Sox for Carlos Quentin). Feldman's numbers are vastly superior to Liriano's, so the Cubs could look to land a solid top 10 prospect from another team as well as a second in the 10-15 range.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Hoyer On Bullpen, Walks, Feldman, Soriano, Draft

Cubs GM Jed Hoyer was on Buster Olney's podcast for ESPN today; here are some highlights.

  • The Cubs' bullpen sports a 4.26 ERA, 13th in the National League.  Hoyer knows it needs to get better, and espoused his philosophy: "A big part of it is drafting power arms and having a surplus and inventory of those kind of guys. Usually you draft starters in the draft, and a lot of the best relievers are failed starters and I think you have to really do that year after year after year. I think that's how you end up with a good bullpen. Going out in the offseason and deciding, OK, we're going to spend money on the bullpen, that's a total fool's errand."  Hoyer splurged on Kyuji Fujikawa for two years and $9.5MM this offseason, and he's having Tommy John surgery this month.
  • Regarding the Cubs' inability to draw walks, Hoyer said, "We've got to change up the whole culture. The culture of the Cubs was always, swing early in the count, walks were never something that was emphasized. It's a really slippery slope, you don't want to have a bunch of passive hitters on your team. At the same time, walks are indicative of a good approach at the plate, and we don't have that. We've tried to bring in hitters...Rizzo has a good approach at the plate, DeJesus is excellent, Nate Schierholtz, Valbuena's a good on-base guy. But a lot of the guys we inherited have struggled with that adjustment, and something we have to keep on pounding away at. We've said, if guys we inherited aren't going to do that, we have to find other people because we're just not going to win baseball games if we don't get on base more."
  • It's not true that the Jim Hendry regime ignored walks and OBP til the very end, however.  The Cubs led the NL in walks in 2008, when they won 97 games.  They spent big money on Kosuke Fukudome prior to that season because of his approach at the plate, and signings like Milton Bradley and Carlos Pena were of a similar mindset.  Regarding Hoyer's comment about "guys we inherited," Starlin Castro, Welington Castillo, and Alfonso Soriano all have walk rates below four percent this year.  Then again, so do Schierholtz and Scott Hairston.  And at .334 in his Cubs career, Rizzo hasn't been an OBP machine either.
  • Though Hoyer suggested the team will replace low-OBP players, shortstop Starlin Castro (.294 this year) isn't considered part of the problem.  "He'll figure out the on-base thing," said Hoyer, who says Castro is "just in a slump right now."
  • If there was any doubt, it sounds like the Cubs will be trade deadline sellers once again.  "If you are in a situation where you're not going to compete that year, and you have players that aren't signed for the next year, you're doing a disservice not to acquire young players at that time," said Hoyer.  The Cubs' impending free agents include Matt Garza, Scott Feldman, Carlos Marmol, Dioner Navarro, Shawn Camp, Kevin Gregg, and Ryan Sweeney, while David DeJesus has a club option for 2014.  Hoyer noted that the draft is a line of demarcation, after which teams start talking trade in earnest.
  • The Cubs convinced Feldman to sign by offering an opportunity.  "We told him flat out this winter when we recruited him that he'd be in the rotation and we'd try to give him as many starts as possible," said Hoyer, who admitted being able to offer that kind of opportunity is one of the few nice things about being in a rebuilding situation. 
  • Though the Cubs have "never really been in a huge hurry to move" Alfonso Soriano due to his positive clubhouse influence, Hoyer admitted, "At some point, it may make sense."  Hoyer feels that Soriano might welcome a trade for a chance to get a ring.  Hoyer said Soriano, who has a full no-trade clause, has not given the Cubs a list of teams, preferring to take it on a case-by-case basis.  Back in February, Soriano told reporters there were "six or seven" clubs he's named to the Cubs as acceptable trade destinations, teams in the "east or center."
  • The Cubs pick second in Thursday's draft, and Hoyer noted, "We've really made a concerted effort not to let that #2 pick derail the rest of the draft."  The Cubs have narrowed their list down to four college players, thought to be Mark Appel, Jonathan Gray, Kris Bryant, and Colin Moran.  Tomorrow or even on draft day, Hoyer and company will whittle their list and take the best player on their board that doesn't go to the Astros first overall.
  • How have Hoyer and Cubs president Theo Epstein done since taking over in fall 2011?  Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald judges their major moves.



NL Central Notes: Pirates, Feldman, Mujica, Francisco

The Pirates' record sits at 33-20, and while Fangraphs' Dave Cameron doesn't think the Bucs will keep playing .623 ball for the rest of the season, the team's expected regression shouldn't be enough to keep them from playoff contention, or at the very least their first winning record since 1992.  Of course, last year's Pirates also looked good before completely falling apart after the All-Star break, so Pittsburgh fans shouldn't count their chickens until their club actually posts that 82nd victory. 

Here's the latest from the NL Central...

  • Cubs right-hander Scott Feldman could be a major trade chip this summer, ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine writes.  An AL scout tells Levine that Feldman is "one of those pitchers that you don't get that excited about unless you watch him over a period of starts.  He has really commanded his pitches this season and you see the confidence and consistent outings from him."  Feldman signed a one-year, $6MM contract with Chicago last winter and has rebuilt his value by posting a 2.82 ERA, 7.57 K/9, 2.68 K/BB and 50.6% ground ball rate through 10 starts.  (The advanced metrics indicate a bit of luck, as Feldman also has a 3.92 FIP, 3.78 xFIP and a .254 BABIP.)  The Cubs "may be reluctant" to move Feldman, Levine notes, though they would likely make a trade in exchange for a quality prospect.
  • The Cardinals' trade for Edward Mujica last July has turned into a steal, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes.  The Cards added Mujica as bullpen depth last year and he has surprisingly blossomed into an elite closer after the club's other end-game options all had injury or performance issues.  Zack Cox, a 2010 first-round draft pick, was sent to the Marlins for Mujica and is hitting .298/.398/.381 at Double-A Jacksonville.  MLBTR's Steve Adams recently looked at how Mujica's performance has greatly enhanced his free agent stock for the coming offseason.
  • John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link) doesn't see the Reds making a play for Juan Francisco now that the third baseman has been designated for assignment by the Braves.  Francisco was originally signed by the Reds and played three seasons in Cincinnati before being dealt to Atlanta for J.J. Hoover in April 2012.  The left-handed hitting Francisco makes sense on paper as a complement to Todd Frazier, though I'd suspect the Reds would prefer to keep Frazier playing every day.









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