Theo Epstein Rumors

NL Central Notes: Epstein, Morse, Jimenez, Brewers

Even with salaries for top executives continuing to rise, Theo Epstein is still a long-term fit for the Cubs, Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago writes. “I am committed to the Cubs and could not be happier,” says Epstein, who is signed through 2016. “As for an extension, there are a lot more important things going on right now in the organization. We just haven’t gotten around to it. I am sure we will at an appropriate time.” Epstein’s Cubs are in good position to win a Wild Card spot, and he’s in the penultimate year of a five-year, $18.5MM contract. That’s a lot for an executive, but perhaps not for one with Epstein’s track record. Andrew Friedman’s contract with the Dodgers, for example, is almost twice as large, at $35MM.

Here’s more from the NL Central:

  • Michael Morse headed from the Marlins to the Dodgers and then on to Pittsburgh in an unusual series of transactions last month, but he’s happy to be with the Pirates, Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com writes. “The Dodgers did me a great favor. They told me they had to designate me, but they said they would find a good place for me,” says Morse. “I’m happy to get an opportunity with a team headed in the right direction.” The Dodgers designated Morse for assignment after taking on his contract in the Mat Latos – Alex WoodHector Olivera trade, then shipped him to Pittsburgh in exchange for Jose Tabata. Morse is off to a good start with the Bucs, reaching base in 11 of his first 24 plate appearances.
  • The Brewers view the trade of Neal Cotts to the Twins as an indirect swap for Cesar Jimenez, tweets Tom Haudricourt of MLB.com. Milwaukee claimed Jimenez from the Phillies about half a day before dealing Cotts to Minnesota. GM Doug Melvin pointed to pointed out that Jimenez, 30, has two additional years of club control. The Brewers will at least receive cash from the Twins if not a player (tweet). The two players are actually reasonably comparable in all ways except major league experience. In 429 and 2/3 innings, Cotts has a 3.96 ERA, 8.63 K/9, and 3.96 BB/9. Jimenez isn’t too far off those rates with a 4.15 ERA, 6.27 K/9, and 3.93 BB/9 in 84 and 2/3 innings.
  • Melvin also discussed the possibility of additional waiver trades, writes Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. “My gut feeling is it’s probably tough,” says Melvin of further trading. Milwaukee has put about 20 players through waivers. In most cases, the claiming team doesn’t even engage in a trade discussion – they’re just blocking a deal to another club.

Heyman’s Latest: Jays, Goldschmidt, Teheran, Chen, Epstein, Gordon, Gray

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports kicks off his weekly Inside Baseball column by chronicling the efforts of Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline. Perhaps most interesting are some of the items about trades the Jays elected not to make. As Heyman notes, the Reds asked for right-hander Marcus Stroman in exchange for Johnny Cueto, but Stroman was a deal-breaker in all trade talks with Toronto. Dating back to the offseason, the Blue Jays considered signing Craig Breslow, Joba Chamberlain, John Axford and Rafael Soriano, as well as some larger names, including David Robertson, whom they considered “closely.” (Toronto never made a firm offer to Robertson, though, Heyman writes.) The Blue Jays’ willingness to include Daniel Norris in a trade for David Price effectively shut every other team out of the market, per Heyman, as others weren’t willing to discuss their absolute top prospects. The Yankees, for instance, wouldn’t part with Luis Severino, while the Dodgers steadfastly refused to part with Corey Seager or Julio Urias.

More highlights from the article (which is worth checking out in its entirety, as there’s far more than can be recapped here with any form of brevity)…

  • Paul Goldschmidt is under team control through 2019, but the D-Backs will attempt to extend him further this offseason, per GM Dave Stewart. “We want to make him a lifetime Diamondback,” Stewart told Heyman. I imagine the price tag there will be extraordinary, as Goldschmidt has gone from rising talent to unequivocal superstardom since signing his initial extension with Arizona. Heyman also reports that the D-Backs will take a shot at extending the arbitration-eligible A.J. Pollock. While not a household name, Pollock probably earns my personal vote as the most underrated player in baseball.
  • The Braves have been making an effort to shed contracts that reach beyond the 2016 season, and Heyman writes to “look for them to take offers on Julio Teheran” this offseason. Clearly, Atlanta would be selling low on a talented arm that comes with a very reasonable contract. Teheran signed a six-year, $32.4MM extension prior to the 2014 season, but he’s logged a 4.57 ERA due in part to diminished control in 2015.
  • The Orioles will make left-hander Wei-Yin Chen a qualifying offer this winter, Heyman reports. Chen might not seem like a prototypical QO candidate, but he’s a lock to turn it down, in my mind, coming off a very nice season at age 30. He should draw pretty significant interest this winter, as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd recently noted in examining Chen’s free agent stock.
  • Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein is up for an extension at an excellent time, as the Cubs’ rebuild looks to be paying tremendous dividends. Epstein has been earning about $4MM per year with the Cubs, but Heyman hears from some in the industry that the expectation is for Epstein to top Andrew Friedman’s reported $7MM annual salary with the Dodgers if and when he signs a new deal.
  • Despite a poor season for the Reds, there’s a sense among some that they may keep manager Bryan Price. The second-year Reds skipper has had to deal with the losses of Devin Mesoraco, Zack Cozart and Homer Bailey, among many injuries to others in 2015.
  • There’s been some buzz about the Tigers trimming payroll, but Heyman spoke to multiple sources close to the situation who say that talk might be overstated. One spoke specifically about the Ilitch family’s continued commitment to winning. Heyman speculatively mentions Justin Upton as a player that has previously piqued Detroit’s interest. He also lists the White Sox as a team that may show interest in Upton.
  • The Royals are serious about trying to make Alex Gordon a lifetime member of the organization. It’ll be tough for Kansas City to do so if he’s seeking something in the vicinity of Shin-Soo Choo money ($130MM), but the increased revenue they’re receiving from the Kansas City baseball renaissance could allow them to spend more than they would’ve in previous seasons.
  • The Dodgers have interest in Johnny Cueto as a free agent, and adding a right-handed arm does intrigue them. Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-jin Ryu and Julio Urias (expected to eventually join the L.A. rotation) are all left-handed, as is fellow offseason target David Price, whom Heyman terms a “more obvious target” for Friedman & Co.
  • The Brewers are serious about trying to emphasize analytics with a new GM hire, as the Attanasio family (the team’s owners) are big believers in the growing statistical trend. Mark Attanasio’s son, a former basketball player, is an MIT grad with a strong foundation in basketball analytics. John Coppolella, Thad Levine, David Forst, Mike Hazen, Billy Eppler, Michael Girsch and Jerry Dipoto are among the names that Heyman feels could be fits in Milwaukee’s GM seat.
  • “Not happening. Not even slightly,” was the response from Athletics general manager Billy Beane when asked by Heyman about the possibility of trading Sonny Gray this winter. That’s a pretty emphatic denial, and while some will recall similar comments made about Josh Donaldson last October, those came from an anonymous executive as opposed to an on-record denial from Oakland’s top decision-maker.

NL Notes: Strasburg, Mozeliak, Boras, Fernandez

Stephen Strasburg left the mound during the fourth inning of today’s Giants/Nationals game with an injury in his left side.  The Nats ace wanted to keep pitching but “given his season, so far, I don’t want to take a chance there,” manager Matt Williams told reporters, including MLB.com’s Bill Ladson.  Strasburg has already had one extended DL stint to recover from a strained left trapezius and he’s been dealing with neck and back soreness all year, which has undoubtedly contributed to his 5.16 ERA over 61 innings (though an ungainly .365 BABIP also hasn’t helped).  Here’s the latest from around the senior circuit…

  • Cardinals GM John Mozeliak tells Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he’s targeting starting pitching depth and a left-handed bench bat.  While the Cards’ rotation has been one of the best in the game this season, it’s also a pretty young staff with some pitchers who have had checkered injury histories, so Mozeliak said he has to “be aware of the potential hazards” and that “my job is to make sure if it doesn’t last, then how do you answer it?
  • Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks the July 2 prospects already signed by the Cardinals (righty Alvaro Seijas and shortstop Raffy Ozuna, both 16 years old) and how the team has evolved its forays into the international market.
  • Scott Boras tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald that he sees no reason why the Marlins couldn’t afford to keep Jose Fernandez, even with Giancarlo Stanton already locked up on a historically large deal.  “With TV rights and the general fund contribution and everything — every club, before they sell a ticket, they’re making $120 million,” Boras said.  “There’s a lot of revenue in this game to pay a lot of players and keep players at home.”  The Marlins believes that Fernandez and Marcell Ozuna both declined to pursue extensions last winter under Boras’ advice, but the agent said that his players make those decisions.
  • Cubs president Theo Epstein cautioned that his team may not make any huge moves at the trade deadline, telling reporters (including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune) that “if you look at the history of teams that go on and play in the World Series, very rarely is it (because of a) deadline deal.  We know what we’d like to do, but we’re realistic about what we might be able to do.”  Epstein also noted that some teams who are solely in the wild card hunt may not favor making a big push just to get into a one-game playoff; while he was “just speaking generally,” Epstein’s comments could relate to the Cubs themselves, who are 8.5 games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central.


Ricketts, Epstein Defend Handling Of Kris Bryant

Scott Boras’ recent comments regarding the likelihood that the Cubs will not promote his client Kris Bryant for Opening Day have added fuel to a debate that has gone on for years about when top prospects should be promoted, and how (or whether) clubs should weight service-time issues. (Bryant, of course, has added fuel of his own by hitting nine home runs in 32 Spring Training appearances.) Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein both commented on Bryant and Boras today.

  • Ricketts spoke at a luncheon in Chicago Wednesday and defended his team’s right to promote players at its discretion, writes Phil Thompson of the Chicago Tribune. Boras, Ricketts said, has “the right as a fan to express his opinions. He has the right as an agent to represent his client. But we have the right as a team to make the player personnel decisions.”
  • President of baseball operations Theo Epstein said that promoting players for the first time at the start of a season isn’t his usual approach regardless of service-time questions, via David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com. “I can say this: This is my 13th time putting a team together at the end of spring training and I have never once put a young prospect on an Opening Day roster when he had to make his major league debut,” said Epstein, who added that his approach with young players when he was GM of the Red Sox was to allow them to start their season in the minors and “get in a good rhythm” there before being promoted. Epstein suggested that the timing of a player’s big-league debut is important, and that having a player debut on Opening Day, when bad weather and lots of press attention are significant factors, might hurt the player.

NL Notes: Epstein, Diamondbacks, Brewers

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has nothing to report about whether he might soon receive an extension, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune writes. “That’s a private matter,” says Epstein. “I look at it and the club looks at it like this is going to be a longer-term marriage, and we’re not concerned about the fact there is no extension.” Epstein’s contract ends after 2016. With salaries for big-name executives increasing (Sullivan points out that Andrew Friedman got five years and $35MM from the Dodgers), Sullivan wonders if Epstein could go elsewhere after his contract expires if the Cubs’ rebuild pans out as most fans hope. Here are more notes from the National League.


Central Notes: Youkilis, Liriano, Murphy, Tigers

Recently-retired veteran Kevin Youkilis will be joining the Cubs as a special assistant, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports on Twitter. The connection will be obvious for many: Youkilis rose to prominence and made most of his impact on the field playing for former Red Sox GM and current Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.

Here’s more from the central divisions:

  • Pirates starter Francisco Liriano held talks with the Red SoxTwinsAstros, and Royals before re-signing with Pittsburgh, the lefty told Dan Zangrilli of 93.7 The Fan (Twitter links). Kansas City went as high as $36MM over three years, said Liriano, who ultimately took home $39MM from the Pirates. Interestingly, Liriano noted that he felt the qualifying offer did not significantly hinder his market.
  • If Brandon Moss and Nick Swisher prove their health this spring, outfielder David Murphy (or another roster candidate) will likely need to be dealt before breaking camp, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes. It may be hard to find a taker without eating a good bit of Murphy’s $6MM salary, should that come to pass. For now, this remains an interesting story to watch over the coming months.
  • While the Tigers do have some worrying signs in their large contracts and low-rated farm, they are not yet facing the kind of difficulties that the Phillies have found, Mike Petriello of Fangraphs writes. If nothing else, Detroit still looks to be legitimately competitive at present, and has time to prepare for a soft landing when its window does finally begin closing.

Quick Hits: Epstein, Butler, Billingsley

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts told Mully and Hanley of 670 The Score (via Levine) that he is interested in having extension talks with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. The 40-year-old executive joined the Cubs just over three years ago on a five-year deal. Here’s more from around the big leagues.

  • The Royals are not ruling out the possibility of bringing back DH Billy Butler, reports Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star. While Kansas City obviously did not value him at his $12.5MM option, and had hoped to give some DH time to Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez, Mellinger says that Butler’s play down the stretch and in the postseason has changed the club’s thinking. Of course, his .770 OPS over the season’s last 62 games was hardly world-beating production for a bat-only player, but it did hint that his previous excellence at the plate may still be found. Mellinger theorizes that Kansas City could be willing to guarantee Butler eight figures on a two-year deal, though the lifetime Royal would probably need to forego better offers to stay — which he did say was a possibility earlier in the year.
  • Free agent righty Chad Billingsley has changed his representation to Octagon’s Steve Hilliard, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). He had been a client of Dave Stewart, who of course has given up the business as part of his new career move. Billingsley, still only 30, has missed virtually all of the past two seasons with multiple elbow surgeries. In spite of his health struggles, Billingsley should draw plenty of interest as a buy-low candidate.

Theo Epstein On Trading Samardzija, Hammel

Yesterday, the Cubs set off fireworks in the baseball world when they agreed to send Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics for top prospect Addison Russell, outfield prospect Billy McKinney, and pitcher Dan Straily.  In a conference call earlier today, Cubs President Theo Epstein spoke fondly of both starters and thanked them profusely for their effort while in Chicago.  Samardzija will be under contract with Oakland through 2015 but Hammel will hit the open market after the 2014 season.  I asked Epstein if he might circle back to the 31-year-old whom he signed to a reasonable one-year, $6MM deal earlier this year.

You know, Jason left a great impression while he was here, but he’s an Oakland A now,” Epstein said.  “We just wish him well with Oakland all the way through October.

While word of the trade leaked out late last night, the deal between Chicago and Oakland was actually agreed to mid-afternoon yesterday.  A’s GM Billy Beane first reached out to Epstein “about a month ago” to let him know that they wanted to be aggressive this year, particularly in acquiring pitching, and asked him to keep the A’s in mind when it came to Samardzija and Hammel.  Epstein quickly realized the two clubs didn’t match up “one-for-one” in a deal involving Samardzija and Russell, but they managed to expand the deal in yesterday’s talks to something that worked for both sides.

Russell is one of the top prospects in baseball and gives the Cubs a nice return for their pitchers, but Epstein is hopeful this will be the last time they find themselves on this side of a summer deal.

We thought a lot internally as we went through this process that we hope that this is the last year that we’ll be obvious sellers at the deadline.  And, nothing would make us happier than aggressively adding to the big league team and enhancing chances for a World Series,” Epstein said.  “We repeated to ourselves that this type of move is not something that we want to do.

Of course, the addition of Russell gives the Cubs something of a glut at shortstop on the surface.  However, even with Starlin Castro at the big league level and two top-100 prospects in Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara waiting in the wings, Epstein says no one will be changing positions right away.

The nice thing about having impact players who are athletic, can play in the middle of the field, and can hit is that it gives you options.  You can never have too many shortstops and you look around baseball and you see some of the best outfielders in the game came up as shortstops and the same for the best third basemen and second basemen.  We feel that Baez is a shortstop but we’re also comfortable that he can play second base or third base or outfield if he has to.  Addison Russell has versatility to play all over the infield, Bryant can also go out to right field with a relatively smooth transition, Alcantara can play shortstop or second base or be one heck of an outfielder…They can all fit on the field together,” said the Cubs president, who went on to say the acquisition of Russell had “nothing to do” with Castro.

Ultimately, the Cubs feel you can never have too much of a good thing and they have a plan in place to make sure everyone is utilized.  Of course, as Epstein himself said, there also figures to be plenty of trades in the club’s future.


Cubs Notes: Epstein, Barney, Samardzija

The Cubs begin a series at Fenway Park tonight, getting back in action following a rare Sunday off-day.  The club played a doubleheader on Saturday in order to keep Sunday free for Chicago’s Pride Parade, which could’ve created a traffic jam in the Wrigleyville area had the Cubs been playing as originally scheduled.  MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat takes a look at the history of Sunday baseball, and passes along the historical note that the Cubs were off on a Sunday for the first time since 1932.

Here’s the latest from the north side of Chicago…

  • Theo Epstein denied rumors that he will leave the Cubs after his contract expires following the 2016 season, he tells Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.  While some speculate that Epstein has been upset at the lack of Major League resources he’s been given by the Cubs, he “insists he will be here as long as the Cubs want him,” Sullivan writes.
  • Two scouts aren’t impressed by Darwin Barney‘s bat, telling Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune that while Barney is a good fielder, “if he can’t hit in the National League, what makes anyone think he can hit in the American League?”  Barney has only slashed .198/.243/.284 in 174 PA this season and could be non-tendered if he can’t improve at the plate.  Gonzales feels Barney’s time with the Cubs is probably nearing an end, though it could come via a trade if he can hit enough to get a look from another team.
  • Also from Gonzales’ reader mailbag piece, he expects the Cubs “to wait as long as possible” for the best offer before trading Jeff Samardzija or Jason Hammel.  He thinks Samardzija might even not be moved until the offseason if necessary, though this would lessen this trade value as a new team would only have him under contract for the 2015 season.
  • The Cubs haven’t gotten much production out of their veteran outfielders, and Gonzales expects maybe one (at most) of Nate Schierholtz, Justin Ruggiano, Ryan Sweeney, Chris Coghlan or Ryan Kalish to be back next season and Chicago will look for more veteran upgrades.  Since Sweeney is owed $2MM for 2015 and the others are all on one-year or minor league contracts, I’d suspect Sweeney is the favorite to return, though $2MM isn’t so large an amount that the Cubs couldn’t eat it if necessary.

Red Sox Notes: Bogaerts, Saltalamacchia, Offseason

The Red Sox can clinch a world title at Fenway Park for the first time in 95 years if they win tonight's Game Six against the Cardinals.  Though all eyes are focused on the World Series, here are a few hot stove notes out of Boston…

  • Xander Bogaerts' strong World Series has more or less cemented his place in the Red Sox lineup next season, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes.  Bogaerts' right-handed bat and ability to play shortstop gives the Sox breathing room in case Stephen Drew and Mike Napoli aren't brought back, and Britton doesn't think the team will bother bringing in a veteran to compete with Bogaerts at shortstop.
  • Jarrod Saltalamacchia reiterated that he wants to stay with the Red Sox over the long term but he admitted to ESPN Boston's Joe McDonald that he may have played his last game for the team.  "You don’t want to leave but at the same time it’s one of those things where it’s baseball. If it goes in that direction you can’t control it. I haven’t thought too much of a destination, but it’s definitely hit me a few times that this could be the last time," Saltalamacchia said.  The catcher has had a tough postseason both offensively and defensively and was benched for Games Four and Five of the World Series.  Though MLBTR's Tim Dierkes' prediction of a four-year, $36MM free agent contract for "Salty" was made before the playoffs began, the catching market is thin enough that Saltalamacchia's October struggles probably won't hurt him that much.
  • Theo Epstein has kept a low profile during the World Series but CBS Sports' Jon Heyman notes that Epstein deserves credit for building the core of this Red Sox team during his tenure as general manager, not to mention helping groom current GM Ben Cherington.
  • Would the Red Sox still be in the World Series if Anibal Sanchez, Francisco Liriano, Hiroki Kuroda, Cody Ross, Nate Schierholtz and Joakim Soria had been their big additions of the 2012-13 offseason?  WEEI.com's Rob Bradford looks at how the Sox considered all of these names last winter.
  • Whatever luster Boston may have lost as a free agent destination last offseason has surely been regained by the club's success, manager John Farrell told repoters (including WEEI.com's Alex Speier).
  • The Red Sox improved team chemistry surely helped their turn-around but a few league executives tell The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro that the narrative has been bit overblown.  The Diamondbacks are a team that seem to be ranking chemistry as a high priority and other clubs may follow in seeking out good clubhouse personalities like Jonny Gomes, “but if people think [Gomes] is the new market inefficiency, they are going to be disappointed," an NL executive says.