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.