Starlin Castro Rumors

Cubs Attempted To Acquire Carlos Carrasco, Tyson Ross

The Cubs aimed high at the trade deadline but ultimately settled for pitchers Dan Haren and Tommy Hunter, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. According to club president Theo Epstein, “the two main players we focused on late ended up not getting moved.” Epstein went on to say that he was aggressive in offering both quality and quantity for top major league talent.

Sources tell Wittenmyer that the two players the Cubs focused upon were pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Tyson Ross. Neither was traded. It was rumored that the Indians were merely gather information about Carrasco’s value while the Padres have been criticized for not knowing “what they really wanted.”

Since signing a four-year, $22MM extension over the offseason, Carrasco has pitched to a 4.03 ERA with 9.90 K/9 and 1.91 BB/9. ERA estimators believe he should be at least a full run better than his ERA, as evidenced by a 2.84 FIP. The 28-year-old also has two affordable option years. It’s hard to imagine that the Indians don’t view Carrasco as a building block. However, it is pragmatic to entertain offers at his physical peak.

Ross agreed to a $5.25MM contract in his second year of arbitration. As a Super Two player, he’ll be eligible for free agency after the 2017 season. Ross has followed up a breakout 2014 with a solid 3.38 ERA, 9.66 K/9, 4.30 BB/9, and a 63 percent ground ball rate.

The Cubs also aggressively shopped shortstop Starlin Castro, but they found few takers. Javier Baez was one of the players discussed as part of a Carrasco package. Meanwhile, the Braves expressed interest in Jorge Soler while discussing Julio Teheran and other young pitchers. Overall, it’s clear that high quality, club controlled pitching is a top priority for Chicago.


Stark, Crasnick On Mariners, Cubs, Ross, Padres, Chapman

The Mariners and Cubs have had recent trade talks, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter), though he’s yet to ascertain which specific players were involved. The conversations didn’t center around Starlin Castro, Crasnick continues. Clearly, there could be a wide range of targets at play here, though the Cubs have been connected to pitching upgrades in both the rotation and the bullpen.

Some more trade notes from a couple of ESPN’s top reporters…

  • In today’s Rumor Roundup over at ESPN, Jayson Stark writes that other teams view Tyson Ross as the Cubs‘ top trade target. Chicago likes Andrew Cashner but considers him a fallback option, should the price for Ross become too steep. Both Castro and Javier Baez have previously been of interest to the Padres, although Castro’s stock is way down. Stark also reported today that the Cubs are now “aggressively” shopping Castro.
  • From that same piece, Stark adds that other clubs believe Justin Upton, Cashner and Joaquin Benoit are the most likely players to be traded by the Padres, and one particular executive to whom Stark spoke feels it’s “likely” that Craig Kimbrel will be traded as well. In a followup tweet, Stark adds that the number of people who feel Kimbrel will end up with the Yankees is “amazing.” New York already possesses a dominant late-inning duo in the form of Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances. Adding Kimbrel to the mix would give them a trio to rival the three-headed bullpen monster (Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera) that the Royals rode to the World Series in 2014. The Astros, too, like Kimbrel, according to Stark. However, Houston wouldn’t want to take on all of the money he’s owed.
  • Stark also tweets that the Reds are still discussing Aroldis Chapman with teams, but the price remains very high. At this time, the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Giants and Astros are all in the mix for Chapman, who is earning $8.05MM in 2015 and is controlled via the arbitration process for the 2016 season.

Cubs Aggressively Attempting To Move Starlin Castro

The Cubs are aggressively shopping shortstop Starlin Castro, reports Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. Chicago is “trying to include” him in “any deal” with other clubs, per the report.

Chicago has long been rumored to be considering a move involving the up-and-down 25-year-old infielder. Castro was told yesterday by manager Joe Maddon that he did not need to worry about being dealt, but as Bruce Levine of CBSChicago.com reported, it was never clear that Maddon’s words were meant as any kind of assurance going forward.

It has previously been reported that the Cubs discussed Castro with teams like the Phillies and, more recently, the Padres. Chicago is reportedly looking hard at adding pitching, with at least some interest in more controllable pieces (such as Tyson Ross), though it’s unclear at present where the team is most focused in its efforts to strike a deal.

It’s also somewhat hard to read how other teams will value the still-young, up-the-middle player. At times, his contract — which has four years and $38MM left after this year (plus an option) — has looked like an asset. But now that he’s in the midst of a second disappointing campaign in the last three years (.237/.271/.305 over 406 plate appearances in 2015), that deal looks more like a reasonable risk than a great value.



Cubs, Padres Talked Castro; Cubs Not In On Shields

8:57pm: In their conversations with the Padres, the Cubs have been focused on Ross, per a Rosenthal tweet. As he notes, that isn’t exactly surprising. The 28-year-old has been rather excellent dating back to 2013, and comes with two more seasons of control. There’s a good argument to be made that his contract is the organization’s single most valuable asset.

As Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier today, a wide variety of teams have interest in Ross, including the Blue Jays, Astros, Dodgers, and Rangers.

8:02pm: Whatever other talks the teams may have had, Chicago is not making a run at Shields, Buster Olney of ESPN.com tweets.

7:35pm: The Cubs have had discussions with the Padres regarding shortstop Starlin Castro, Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports report on Twitter. San Diego does not look like a traditional buyer, but as noted in MLBTR’s overview of the shortstop trade market, the team makes sense as a future-oriented acquirer at the position.

Castro is still just 25, though he’s playing in his sixth big league season. He is owed $37MM over the next four seasons and can be controlled with a $16MM option in 2020 ($1MM buyout).

That contract once looked like an asset, but after a second rough campaign in three years, it looks more like a reasonable risk. Castro owns a .233/.268/.302 slash over 399 plate appearances, which falls well below his roughly league-average career output. He’s generally regarded as a mediocre defender at short, and metrics suggest he’s slightly to firmly below average in that department.

It’s not clear what kind of deal would be considered, but San Diego has a number of players who could hold appeal to the Cubs. Morosi suggests the possibility of a swap of James Shields, which holds at least some plausibility (as a starting point, at least) since both are owed significant future money and could arguably be better fits for the current needs of the other club. But he gave no indication that there is anything to that idea other than his own analysis.

Looking at the San Diego roster for other pieces that could be intriguing to the Cubs — whether or not as part of any deal involving Castro — the rotation certainly seems the place to focus. We’ve heard plenty in the past about the need for a rotation addition in Chicago, and both Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner are younger, controllable pieces that have been mentioned as possible trade pieces. On the rental side, Ian Kennedy should hold some appeal and could also be a theoretical fit for Chicago. Outfielder Will Venable and reliever Joaquin Benoit are two more pending free agents that could make sense.

Should the Cubs make a major move, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has explained that it would likely be for a controllable piece. (Via ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers; links to Twitter.) While the team is entertaining rental options, it seems unlikely to pay a steep price to add a premium player that will hit the open market after the season.

“If we do something on the bigger end, it will involve players that will help us beyond this year,” said Epstein. “If we do something on the smaller side, it will probably be more for a rental. And if we do nothing, it will be because we couldn’t find anything rational that we could actually do.”

As for as larger possible moves go, we’ve heard the Cubs linked to Cole Hamels of the Phillies at various times. Per Morosi, via Twitter, the team is only on the “periphery” of the Hamels market at present.


Heyman On Padres, Tigers, Cubs, Phillies, Orioles, Sox, Reds, Marlins, Yankees

The real question facing the Padres at present is not whether to buy or sell, but how far to go in moving pieces, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. At least one rival GM expects the club to “sell big,” and Heyman says that San Diego is “offering around” closer Craig Kimbrel and starter James Shields, both of whom are under long-term control. While the former would figure to have a wide market, potentially including the Blue Jays, Nationals, and Dodgers, another GM says that he believes the club would have to chip in cash to move Shields. That may indicate that he could become an August trade piece, Heyman suggests, because he could well clear waivers. San Diego is interested in adding a young shortstop, he goes on to note, and has looked at several of the Brewers options (Jean Segura, Luis Sardinas, and top prospect Orlando Arcia).

Here are more highlights from the column:

  • Heyman hears that the Tigers are still weighing their options, too, and have not decided to sell. The club could even add an arm, he says, and is likely to see how its next two series play out before reaching a final conclusion.
  • While the Cubs are indeed willing to consider including Starlin Castro or Javier Baez in a deal for Cole Hamels of the Phillies, a source tells Heyman that the team would not be interested in moving both to add the lefty. Philadelphia’s plans for Hamels remain something of a mystery, but per the report the club may be backing down from its previous high-end demands from clubs like the Dodgers (Corey Seager or Julio Urias) and Red Sox (Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart).
  • There is now virtually no chance that Phillies lefty Cliff Lee will try to make it back this year, and he appears likely to retire over the winter.
  • As they approach the deadline and look ahead to free agency, the Cubs have some limitations on their spending capacity but will nevertheless try to add David Price (at least once he hits the open market). Meanwhile, the team has at least some interest in Reds starter Mike Leake as a trade piece but are somewhat hesitant to pursue rental options. While the Giants have plenty of rotation options, they too have considered Leake.
  • While we’ve just heard a suggestion that the Orioles could reverse course, Heyman says that they are still weighing outfield additions. The team has considered rental pieces like Marlon Byrd, Gerardo Parra, and Justin Upton. And he suggests that Carl Crawford or Shane Victorino could make sense as well; presumably, Baltimore would only be interested in either if their current clubs paid down a good bit of salary.
  • The Orioles intend to make qualifying offers after the season not only to Matt Wieters and Chris Davis, but also to lefty Wei-Yin Chen. The 30-year-old never seemed like a qualifying offer-level player, but was strong last year and has put up even better results in 2015 (while significantly outperforming his peripherals, it should be noted).
  • The Red Sox have received no trade interest in struggling first baseman Mike Napoli, says Heyman, but has gotten hits on Victorino as well as bullpen arms Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa.
  • The White Sox are looking to add some volume if they deal righty Jeff Samardzija, says Heyman. Chicago would like to pick up four young pieces in any trade.
  • While the Marlins have fielded interest in righty Tom Koehler and super utilityman Martin Prado, the club is not interested in dealing either player at present. Meanwhile, Miami is open to dealing veteran Dan Haren, but has rebuffed at least one club that asked for money to be sent along with him.
  • The Yankees are looking at both second base and top rotation candidates, says Heyman, but don’t feel a pressing need to add in either area. New York has no interest in veteran Diamondbacks infielder Aaron Hill, he adds.
  • Be sure to check out the rest of the piece for more notes on many of the teams around the league.

Latest On Phillies: Hamels, Papelbon, Utley

The Phillies are honing in on a decision on lefty Cole Hamels, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com writes. There is at least some consideration being given to holding onto Hamels, per the report.

“This isn’t do-or-die for us,” says GM Ruben Amaro Jr. “In the end, it’s about, ‘What is the return?’ and, ‘Is this the right return?’ If it is, we’ll move forward. And if it’s not, we won’t.” 

There are about six clubs still in talks with Philadelphia on the club’s staff ace, per Stark. But sources from other teams indicate that they believe the Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Rangers are most likely to land him. We heard yesterday that the Astros were also still in the mix, along with Los Angeles and Texas.

Regarding the interest of the Dodgers, Stark says that Philly has asked for as many as six quality prospects in a package that would not include top youngsters Corey Seager and Julio Urias. While Los Angeles won’t give up that volume, per the report, the industry consensus is that the Dodgers are in the lead.

As for the Cubs, rival executives tell Stark that Chicago is offering a deal centered around Starlin Castro and/or Javier Baez (though it’s unclear whether both would conceivably be included together). But Philadelphia is not enthused about either player. The Red Sox, meanwhile, just sent top evaluator Allard Baird to watch Hamels throw and obviously have a stacked farm from which to deal. While they (like the Rangers) don’t really profile as a traditional buyer, Boston could still act with the future in mind.

Stark goes on to discuss some other, less likely suitors as well as the impact of the team’s upper-level front office transition on trade talks. It’s a lengthy and information-packed piece that you’ll want to read in full for all the latest on Hamels.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia is obviously also listening to offers for closer Jonathan Papelbon. According to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter), however, the Phillies are having trouble gaining “traction” on a deal. Papelbon’s $13MM option for next year, which is all but certain to vest at this point, “remains a sticking point,” per the report. Stark also adds (on Twitter) that, despite prior interest, the Blue Jays, Cubs, and Dodgers are not presently involved with talks regarding the reliever.

Meanwhile, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com provides an update on veteran second baseman Chase Utley, who says he is progressing as he works his way back from a sprained right ankle. As Salisbury notes, Utley could profile as an August trade piece if he can return to health and show increased productivity. While Philadelphia rebuffed the Dodgers and Marlins last winter when they asked about Utley, explaining that he was not interested in waiving his no-trade protection, Salisbury says that the 36-year-old “seems to have softened his position” on being dealt since that time.


Cubs Notes: Baez, Bryant, Russell, Maddon, Castro

Earlier today, Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago appeared with host Jeff Todd on this week’s edition of the MLBTR Podcast, and the two discussed a variety of Cubs topics, from the Welington Castillo trade to Starlin Castro and the team’s rotation. For Cubs fans (and others) who have already checked that out, though, here are a few more notes on the team that sits four games back in the NL Central and currently leads the Padres 3-0…

  • Infielder Javier Baez has hit well at Triple-A this season, posting a .296/.375/.423 batting line in 80 plate appearances, but there doesn’t seem to be any rush to get him back to the big leagues at this time. Via David Kaplan of CSN Chicago (on Twitter), GM Jed Hoyer said that the Cubs “…want to take our time on Javy Baez. He is playing well, but we want to let him continue to keep working right now.” Addison Russell has seen most of the time at second base, where many thought Baez would play this season. After some early struggles, Russell has settled in and is hitting .273/.333/.455 over a 22-game stretch.
  • Speaking of Russell, agent Scott Boras, who represents both Russell and Kris Bryant, praised the Cubs organization prior to tonight’s game, writes Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. Boras feels that both Bryant and Russell have “dramatically” improved since joining the team, leading him to praise the organization’s developmental techniques. Boras said that his main gripe in Spring Training was that he wanted Bryant to know that his fate wasn’t pre-determined (presumably, that is, to know that he wouldn’t be reassigned to minor league camp at the end of Spring Training). He also praised manager Joe Maddon for his communication skills and work with young players. “Joe Maddon is a talent,” said Boras. “He’s very good at giving the players a focus at a variety of levels of their careers. And that has a lot to do with why they’re performing so well in their careers.”
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports feels that the Cubs should think twice before considering a trade of Castro. Rosenthal spoke to a number of Castro’s teammates as well as Maddon, assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske and president Theo Epstein — all of whom feel that the 25-year-old has made strides in terms of maturity, preparedness and defense this season. Rosenthal notes that with $37MM owed to Castro from 2016-19, his contract is highly affordable as well. Of course, Castro has struggled at the plate early this year, as even after a pair of singles tonight he’s hitting .272/.304/.346, which translates to a wRC+ of just 76 (24 percent worse than the league average).

Rosenthal’s Latest: Redmond, Cubs, Harvey, O’s, White Sox

It would be foolhardy for the Marlins to fire manager Mike Redmond this early in the season, opines FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal in his latest notes column. Redmond is well-respected among the industry, Rosenthal notes, and he cannot be blamed for the fact that Henderson Alvarez is injured and Mat Latos has struggled so greatly. (Latos’ diminished velocity is likely a significant culprit in that regard.) Rosenthal writes that owner Jeffrey Loria needs to realize that the unstable culture he creates by cycling through managers so willingly is part of the problem in Miami.

A few more notes from Rosenthal’s latest column…

  • In the video atop his column, Rosenthal notes that Cubs top prospect Addison Russell has begun playing some second base and may eventually get a look there in the Majors. However, because he is their best defensive shortstop, Russell may eventually push Starlin Castro to third base and Kris Bryant to the outfield, or his arrival may lead to a trade of Castro.
  • Rosenthal writes about former Mets GM Omar Minaya’s decision to draft Matt Harvey with the seventh pick in the 2010 draft. The team had been deciding between Harvey and Chris Sale, but the Mets, like many other clubs, had some reservations about whether or not Sale would last as a starter. Minaya became convinced of Harvey after watching him in an April start at the University of Miami, though as Rosenthal notes, others in the front office/scouting department, including Marlin McPhail, Rudy Terrasas and Bryan Lambe all played large roles as well. Interestingly, Rosenthal adds that the White Sox were thrilled to get Chris Sale at No. 13, as they feared the Royals would select him fifth overall. Kansas City instead selected Cal State Fulelrton infielder Christian Colon.
  • Delmon Young told the Orioles that he wanted to regain some of his lost athleticism, and so the team had him work extensively with outfielder-turned-executive Brady Anderson in Spring Training. Young was the first to the clubhouse every day during Spring Training and is now has the fastest 10-yard dash time on the Orioles, per manager Buck Showalter. Rosenthal also notes that Everth Cabrera told the O’s that he knew advanced metrics pegged him as a below-average defender, and he expressed an interest in improving in that area. Baltimore is working with Cabrera to correct a tendency to retreat with his hands and “baby” the ball, as Rosenthal put it.
  • The White Sox weren’t as successful in upgrading their catching position as they’d have liked, but for the time being, they’re content with Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto. Rosenthal notes that while Welington Castillo is widely believed to be available, the Sox and Cubs rarely make trades.

NL Notes: Papelbon, Kimbrel, Padres, Castro

The Padres expressed some mild interest in Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon earlier in the offseason, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Obviously, San Diego no longer looks like an even hypothetical landing spot for Papelbon. It seems likely that Papelbon’s greatest appeal will ultimately lie with a club that suffers an injury or wants a chance to add late-inning depth over the summer.

Here’s more from the National League:

  • With the Padres having taken on significant salary commitments and given up young talent to acquire Craig Kimbrel from the Braves, reactions to the move have been divided somewhat between front office and uniformed personnel, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney writes (Insider link). Atlanta has the backing of most executives, says Olney, while players and coaches have understandably focused on the impact that Kimbrel could have in San Diego.
  • The Padres received immediate trade interest in their bullpen after adding Kimbrel, as Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. “Within minutes, probably, of the (Kimbrel) deal, four or five teams have checked in,” said GM A.J. Preller. “So that’s part of making the deal. Hopefully, you add depth and it may help us in another area down the road.” Of course, that depth could be put to use either to fill in the pen or to shore up another area of need via trade.
  • The shortstop position is an obvious area to watch for the Cubs, but Olney says (in the above-linked piece) that it may not all be positive. Starlin Castro has proven he can hit, but Olney says there are real concerns about how committed he is to grinding things out on defense. Chicago informed other teams this winter that it was open to trade scenarios involving the 25-year-old.

NL Notes: Castro, Catchers, Padres

8:32pm: Castro has been cleared of any involvement in the shooting by the Dominican General of National Police, tweets Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com.

12:53pm: Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro’s agent, Paul Kinzer, denies reports that Castro was arrested following a shooting in the Dominican Republic, Paul Sullivan and Gregory Pratt of the Chicago Tribune write. Six people were injured in the shooting, which took place at a nightclub early Saturday morning. Kinzer says Castro went to the police station voluntarily to clear his name, but police told him they had video proof that he wasn’t involved. As Sullivan notes, it’s the second time in less than a month that Castro has had to speak to police about a shooting in the Dominican — police cleared Castro in a separate incident three weeks ago. Here are more notes from around the National League.