- Both Jake Arrieta and Cubs GM Jed Hoyer spoke to ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers about the complicated factors that go into a a theoretical extension for Arrieta. The 2015 Cy Young winner was candid about the fact that he knows he’ll be paid handsomely next winter barring any form of injury or sudden decline. Arrieta again mentioned that there’s little reason for any player — himself or anyone else — to take a discount on a contract with free agency just six months away. Teammate Anthony Rizzo, too, weighed in on the matter and suggested that no one in the clubhouse would blame Arrieta for pursuing maximum dollars. “He has enough money to last him the rest of his life,” said Rizzo. “”What he gets a year from now is going to be icing on the cake. … But he’ll try to set the bar for the next guy just like the guy before us did.” The Cubs will soon have to try to find ways to retain as much of their young core as possible, with Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Kyle Hendricks all nearing arbitration. And, as Rogers notes, at some point the team will have to at least consider tearing up the remainder of Rizzo’s contract and attempting to make him a Cub for the remainder of his career.
The Cubs’ rocky relationship with former star Sammy Sosa — or, perhaps, the lack thereof — has been well documented. But Sosa himself hasn’t been much willing to discuss it, until participating in a chat with MLBTR contributor Chuck Wasserstrom at his personal blog. Sosa admits to some mishandling of the end of his tenure with the Cubs, saying: “My intention was to finish my career in Chicago. … The only thing we cannot do is turn back time. We can’t do that. But hey, we have to move forward. I understand I made a mistake. I regret it, definitely, but I have to move on.” There’s quite a bit of interesting information for Cubbies fans to digest; you’ll want to give the interview a full read.
Here’s more from the National League:
- Nationals manager Dusty Baker strongly hinted that the club will look to find a taker for catcher Derek Norris after agreeing to terms with Matt Wieters, as Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post tweets. “There’s always someone looking for a front line catcher,” the veteran skipper said of Norris. The addition of Wieters creates an immediate glut at the catching position for the Nats, who also employ reserve Jose Lobaton and prospect Pedro Severino. While the immediate speculation turned to the youthful Severino, who’d be a much more likely candidate to help the Nats address another need at the major league level than is Norris, he still has options and likely maintains an important place in the team’s long-term picture at the catching position.
- Over at Fangraphs, Dave Cameron opines that the Nationals’ deal with Wieters doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. While the price is reasonable enough, says Cameron, it’s just not clear that Wieters represents a significant enough upgrade over Norris to make it worthwhile. I’d note that the maneuvering could make greater sense if Washington were instead considering parting with Lobaton, whose switch-hitting capabilities aren’t as useful with a fellow two-sided hitter joining the mix, though the above-cited comments from Baker suggest that’s not the likely outcome.
- In his own look at the Wieters move, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports suggests that the signing was largely driven by the special relationship between agent Scott Boras and the Nationals’ ownership group. As discussed in our post on the deal, Boras and the Nats have linked up on a variety of contracts in recent years, often coming to fruition when the super agent sits down with principal owner Ted Lerner. As Rosenthal puts it, “Nats ownership … operates to its own rhythm, with Boras frequently calling out the beats.”
- NBA legend and part Dodgers owner Magic Johnson has taken over as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, and you can find all the details at MLBTR’s sister site, Hoops Rumors. Despite his new duties, Johnson’s role with the baseball organization won’t change, Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reports (Twitter links). “Whenever we need Magic, he’s been available,” says Dodgers president & CEO Stan Kasten. “That won’t change.”
- Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki suffered a bruised knee in a collision with fellow outfielder Brandon Barnes today, as Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports (links to Twitter), though it was perhaps notable for reasons other than the actual injury. The ageless Ichiro is expected only to miss a few days, but did require — incredibly — the very first training-room treatment of his 16-year MLB career. Teammates used the opportunity not only to mark that occasion, but also to have some fun at Barnes’ expense. A note, signed by Ichiro, was left at his emptied locker informing him that he had been cut loose and wishing him good luck in Korea.
- Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber caught a bullpen session Friday for the first time since he tore multiple knee ligaments last April and informed Carrie Muskat of MLB.com on Sunday that he “loved it.” Schwarber realizes that he must “take it slow with the knee and the injury and everything like that,” though, and likely won’t do much catching this season with Willson Contreras and Miguel Montero on Chicago’s roster. “I’ve got to be ready at any time to come in late in the game from left field to maybe come catch and give those guys a blow,” Schwarber said. “It’s not like I’m going to be the everyday starter.”
Whether the Cubs extend right-hander Jake Arrieta prior to free agency next winter will be up to president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, chairman Tom Ricketts told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. “They have the right perspective on what they have to put a great team on the field this year but have a longer term perspective in realizing decisions that affect this year might hurt us in a few years,” said Ricketts, who added that the reigning World Series champions will be “thoughtful and strategic” in deciding when to exceed the luxury-tax threshold. The Cubs spent past the mark for the first time last year, but they’re on track to avoid the penalty this season, estimates Jason Martinez of Roster Resource and MLBTR. Allowing Arrieta to walk in free agency next year would help the Cubs stay under the limit in 2018, too, though they’d also lose the 2015 NL Cy Young winner and one of the game’s top starters. It seems that will happen, however, as Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras, could push for a $200MM-plus deal. In the meantime, Arrieta will make $15.6375M in his final year of team control.
Cubs hurler Jake Arrieta still expects to talk to the team about an extension before free agency and believes a deal is possible, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. However, Arrieta noted that extension talks aren’t his No. 1 priority as he focuses on his health and on the team’s chances of replicating last year’s World Series victory. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein, too, said he planned to meet with Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras, but as Wittenmyer explains, an extension still feels like a long shot. Boras has already compared Arrieta to right-hander Max Scherzer, who signed a seven-year, $210MM contract with the Nationals two winters ago. Wittenmyer writes that the Cubs aren’t likely to be open to a mega-deal — Jon Lester is just two years into his own $155MM pact — which could lead to Arrieta landing elsewhere in the long run. For the time being, Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago tweeted yesterday that there are no talks scheduled between Boras and the Cubs.
- The Cubs passed on matching the Royals’ offer to Travis Wood and on matching the recent commitments made to Jerry Blevins (by the Mets) and Boone Logan (by the Indians) in large part because they’re saving their resources for the summer trade market, writes CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney. “There were some relievers who became available on shorter deals late that we were interested in early on (with) those types of deals,” said president of baseball ops Theo Epstein. “But they weren’t really ready to commit yet to the shorter deal. And then by the time it rolled around late in the offseason, we kind of spent our money.” Epstein specifically cited a desire for “flexibility for in-season moves” and added that the baseball operations department had some “self-imposed limitations” late in the winter. As such, it doesn’t sound as if Cubs fans should expect much in the way of significant additions to the roster between now and Opening Day.
- The Cubs are set to find out today whether slugger Kyle Schwarber will be cleared to get behind the plate, though the organization plans to be cautious regardless. As Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune tweets, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein put it in colorful terms, saying that “we’ll walk before we squat.” Regardless, Schwarber is expected to spend the bulk of his time in left field while serving as at most a third catcher, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets.
After one of the most tumultuous offseasons in recent history, left-hander David Rollins has cleared outright waivers, tweets Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Rollins will be in Major League Spring Training as a non-roster invitee, where he’ll compete for a spot in the Chicago bullpen.
There are players in Rollins’ boat every offseason — those who are seemingly deemed a fringe 40-man roster candidate by multiple clubs but bounce from team to team as those clubs make other roster maneuverings. (Casper Wells and Gonzalez Germen come to mind as a couple of names that have recently ridden the DFA carousel for much of the offseason.) Rollins, though, is among the most extreme examples of that situation, having been designated for assignment a staggering six times this winter.
“At the end of the day, it’s a business. I get it,” Rollins told ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick last week after his sixth DFA. “But I’m still a human. I keep thinking, ’Teams like me enough to pick me up, but nobody wants to take a chance on me.’ It’ll play games with your head, that’s for sure.” Rangers GM Jon Daniels, who has twice claimed Rollins this winter, weighed in on the matter to Crasnick as well, noting that some kind of limitation on the waiver process has at least been discussed at the annual GM meetings, though no rule has been agreed upon. Rollins’ agent, Jonathan Maurer, also spoke to Crasnick about the difficulties the process can place on certain players. (The entire piece is well worth a read, as it’s rife with quotes from multiple vantage points on the matter.)
While Rollins has yet to experience much in the way of Major League success — he has a 7.60 ERA in 34 1/3 Major League innings — he’s a fairly hard-throwing left-handed reliever with a solid minor league track record. Rollins has averaged 92 mph on his fastball in the Majors, and he owns a 2.82 ERA with 7.1 K/9 against 1.2 BB/9 in 60 2/3 innings at Triple-A in his career. The former Rule 5 pick does have an 80-game PED suspension issued back in 2015 hanging over him, but that hardly seems to have curbed interest in him.
Though the offseason has undoubtedly been exhausting for Rollins, he’ll now at least have some peace of mind as he heads to Spring Training with the Cubs in hope of securing a spot in the big league bullpen. That looks to be an uphill battle, as the Cubs project to have Brian Duensing and one of Mike Montgomery or Brett Anderson in the bullpen. Additionally, they’ve reportedly made an offer to bring Travis Wood back into the mix, and Rob Zastryzny also remains on the 40-man roster.
FEB. 13: FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweets that Wood is expected to make a decision on his new team in the very near future — possibly as soon as today.
FEB. 12: The Cubs have made contract offers to Travis Wood, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter links), though the Padres and two other teams are also still in the mix for the free agent lefty. The Yankees aren’t one of the other teams; New York reportedly checked in on Wood recently, though the Yankees weren’t considered to be top candidates for his services.
Wood’s market has begun to generate more buzz in recent days, though the veteran southpaw has seen his name pop up in rumors for much of the winter. Besides the Yankees, Padres and Cubs, the Marlins and Blue Jays were also linked to Wood at different times this offseason, and either of those clubs still makes sense as one or both of the mystery teams pursuing the left-hander (though Miami has made a number of other pitching additions).
Wood’s history as a starter has drawn interest from multiple teams looking at him as rotation help, with the Padres included in that list. The Cubs would be looking to use Wood as a swingman, while it isn’t known what role the other two suitors intend Wood to fill.
For the first five seasons of his big league career, Wood was a durable and mostly effective starter for the Reds and Cubs before transitioning into a relief role for Chicago during the 2015 season. He posted tremendous numbers as a reliever in 2015 and continued to get good results last year, posting a 2.95 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and 1.96 K/BB rate over 61 bullpen innings. Thanks to such factors as his low strikeout rate and a .215 BABIP, however, advanced metrics (4.54 FIP, 4.83 xFIP, 4.46 SIERA) painted a less-impressive picture of Wood’s season.
Looking at the Cubs’ left-handed options, Mike Montgomery and Brett Anderson are vying for the fifth spot in the rotation, with Brian Duensing and Rob Zastryzny in line for potential bullpen jobs with the loser of the fifth starter battle. The Cubs could feel more comfortable with a familiar face like Wood in a swingman or spot starter role rather than relying on several other more inexperienced depth options (Zastryzny, Eddie Butler, Alec Mills, Ryan Williams).
The Cubs and right-handed reliever Pedro Strop have reached a deal to avoid arbitration, tweets Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Strop’s 2017 salary will be $5.5MM – a little above the $5.3MM midpoint. As MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker shows, Strop had been seeking $6MM, while the Cubs’ $4.6MM offer came in well below that figure.
MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected Strop would receive $5.5MM via arbitration on the heels of a third straight excellent season. Strop, 31, logged a sub-3.00 ERA (2.85, to be exact) and at least 20 holds (21) for the third consecutive year. He also posted tremendous strikeout and walk rates of 11.41 and 2.85, respectively, to go with a lofty 58.5 percent ground-ball mark. Injuries limited Strop to 47 1/3 regular-season innings, his lowest total since 2011, but he did get solid results over 5 2/3 playoff frames for the World Series champions. In postseason series wins over the Giants, Dodgers and Indians, Strop struck out three and yielded two earned runs on three hits and one walk.
With Strop’s salary now set for 2017, the Cubs have settled with all of their arbitration-eligible players. Strop could be entering his final season with the club, as he’s scheduled to become a free agent next winter.