Scott Feldman Rumors
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
With one-fourth of the season in the books, let's have a look around some injury situations and how they might impact the developing trade market.
- The Cardinals and Yankees provide an interesting case study as we enter the second quarter of the season. Both have excellent records and lead their division. Both have sizeable payrolls as well as large portions of those payrolls sitting idle on the DL. Both have had to insert players onto their active roster that they did not anticipate. But, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch well explains, the source of those substitute bodies has been drastically different. While the Yankees spent well over $20MM to bring in players like Lyle Overbay, Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells -- all of whom are 34 or older -- the Cards reached into their minor league system. Remarkably, St. Louis has plugged all of its holes with players making league minimum, including young pitchers John Gast, Shelby Miller, and Seth Maness.
- The Goold piece also includes some valuable insight from GM John Mozeliak. According to Mozeliak, amongst the team's Double-A and Triple-A rosters, "there is almost at any one position, if we needed help at the big leagues, someone we could call on from there." He acknowledges that such cheap, youthful depth cannot always be achieved, and says the team is prepared to pursue other markets as necessary. "I don't want us to go down the path where we feel like we've created this functional model and don't utilize a really robust pro scouting model that makes sure we understand the trade market and understand the free agent market. We can't be scared of those." Yet, by looking internally first, the team has managed to retain salary flexibility to add outside impact down the line. "This organization's way now of staying healthy is not being tied to those outside markets to fill needs," says Mozeliak. "Having some young players step up like they are now gives us additional flexibility when we're going to need it."
- The Cards' internal depth will once again be put to use with starter Jaime Garcia now staring at a strong possibility of season-ending shoulder surgery, writes Goold. Even with fellow starter Jake Westbrook also stuck on the DL, the team has multiple options among its current relief corps and Triple-A rotation that make a look outside the organization unlikely. Of course, it remains to be seen whether Garcia's replacement(s) can match his strong start to the year. He had thrown 55 1/3 innings of 3.58 ERA baseball to open the season. Veteran starter Chris Carpenter is increasingly shaping up as a viable mid-season option for the club. But any setback in his surprising recovery, or hiccups among the team's young hurlers, could lead St. Louis to consider eventually utilizing some of its salary reserves and young minor league depth in a trade.
- The Braves are another National League contender dealing with injured arms. As Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com's Matt Snyder writes, Eric O'Flaherty appears likely to join fellow setup man Jonny Venters as a season-ending Tommy John patient. While the team seems likely to utilize internal options to fill in for the present, the loss of its two late-inning lefties leaves the team with just one southpaw in the pen, Luis Avilan. Ultimately, then, Atlanta could be forced to explore the trade market to re-establish its depth as the season wears on.
- Teams shopping for starters at the trade deadline appear likely to find a limited supply of attractive arms, says ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required). Two Cubs pitchers headline the developing market, with Scott Feldman shaping up as the surprise top option at the moment. (Matt Garza, of course, will begin his potential audition on Tuesday.) In addition to several other well-documented trade candidates in Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins and the Astros' Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell, Olney pegs the Padres' Jason Marquis and Edinson Volquez as likely available. Meanwhile, Bartolo Colon of the Athletics and Cliff Lee of the Phillies could also be dealt, writes Olney, with the A's having other internal options and the Phils still weighing how to proceed with their excellent (but expensive) 35-year-old co-ace.
Ken Rosenthal's new video for FOX Sports offers a variety of trade tidbits on the Cubs, Brewers and Marlins.
- Matt Garza of the Cubs makes an intriguing trade candidate, but Rosenthal says that one can't rule out the possibility that the Cubs will keep Garza and extend him a qualifying offer at the end of the season, hoping to collect draft-pick compensation. Scott Feldman might also be traded, but Rosenthal notes that his peripherals indicate he has been lucky so far.
- Alfonso Soriano has only one year left on his eight-year, $136MM contract, which could make him a more attractive trade target than in years past, Rosenthal notes, but Soriano also has a no-trade clause, allowing him to control his destination.
- The Brewers, meanwhile, have fewer trade options, Rosenthal argues. Corey Hart is hurt, Rickie Weeks is in the midst of a poor season, and Aramis Ramirez is owed $16MM in 2014 and has a $4MM buyout on his mutual option the following season. The Brewers will be "reluctant" to trade Yovani Gallardo, whose contract carries him through next season and gives the Brewers an option on his services in 2015.
- The Marlins have received calls on relievers Steve Cishek, Ryan Webb and Mike Dunn, Rosenthal reports.
Several player agents tell Larry Stone of the Seattle Times that the Mariners' chances of attracting free agent hitters have improved now that Safeco Field's fences are being moved in. That said, while the shorter fences will help, "players look at all of those factors, but in the end, it still comes down to where they can get the best contract. And it always will," one agent says.
Here are some items from a very busy day in baseball....
- The Dodgers met with Zack Greinke on Thursday, tweets Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports.
- In an interview with 1500 ESPN Twin Cities radio (via Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN), Twins assistant GM Rob Antony said his team will likely pursue free agents over trades at the Winter Meetings. "We probably don't have a lot of pieces that we do have to trade for starting pitching [with Denard Span now gone]," Antony said. "We'll probably be a little more aggressive and spend our time at the winter meetings talking to agents rather than clubs."
- Russell Martin said the Yankees told him they didn't have the money available to match Pittsburgh's two-year/$17MM offer, reports David Waldstein of the New York Times. The Yankees didn't make Martin an offer and have yet to make any offers to position players this offseason, reports ESPN's Buster Olney (both links are to Twitter).
- The Yankees aren't likely to pursue either A.J. Pierzynski or Mike Napoli, reports Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York.
- The Pirates considered pursuing Napoli but didn't think he could stay healthy and effective as a full-time catcher in the NL, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- The Royals offered Ryan Dempster a two-year, $26MM contract but are no longer bidding on the Canadian right-hander now that his price tag has risen, reports Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. At least six teams besides Kansas City have been connected to Dempster this offseason.
- Also from Dutton, the Royals offered Scott Feldman a one-year, $4.5MM deal before the righty agreed to a one-year, $6MM contract with the Cubs earlier this week.
- MLB.com's John Schlegel lists 10 potential bargain signings on the free agent market.
- The week's minor league transactions are recapped by Matt Eddy of Baseball America.
- Orioles GM Dan Duquette tells MASNsports.com's Mel Antonen (Twitter link) that negotiations with Nate McLouth and Joe Saunders have been a "little slow" to develop.
The Cubs announced that they agreed to sign right-hander Scott Feldman to a one-year contract. Feldman, a client of agent Matt Brown, obtains a base salary of $6MM with $1MM in incentives, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports (on Twitter).
Feldman appeared in 29 games for the Rangers this past season, making 21 starts and pitching as a reliever eight times. He finished the season with a 5.09 ERA, 7.0 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 42.2% ground ball rate in 123 2/3 innings. In parts of eight seasons with the Rangers, Feldman has a 4.81 ERA with 5.4 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. His best season came in 2009, when he posted a 4.08 ERA in 189 2/3 innings and won 17 games.
Dave Cameron of FanGraphs identified Feldman as one of the best buys available for teams seeking value at the back of their rotations, explaining that Feldman resembles Brandon McCarthy in many ways. Feldman joins Scott Baker, Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and others in the Cubs' projected rotation.
By signing Baker and Feldman, GM Jed Hoyer has addressed one of the Cubs' most pressing offseason needs -- rotation depth -- in a meaningful and affordable way. Like Paul Maholm, who signed in Chicago last offseason, Hoyer's additions figure to provide average or better than average production on contracts that don't limit the Cubs in the long-term.
ESPN.com's Buster Olney first reported the sides were nearing a deal.