Chicago Cubs – MLB Trade Rumors 2019-08-22T16:20:55Z WordPress George Miller <![CDATA[Cubs’ Brandon Morrow Shut Down For Season]]> 2019-08-22T00:20:00Z 2019-08-21T21:58:07Z Cubs reliever Brandon Morrow has suffered a setback in his recovery from elbow surgery, President Theo Epstein told reporters including Jordan Bastian of He’ll miss the remainder of the season.

While the precise nature of the setback is not yet known, Bruce Levine of 670 The Score reports that Morrow will require another procedure to correct the issue. A timeline for Morrow’s recovery is not yet known.

After undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in the offseason, there were always questions whether the right-hander would be able to pitch for the Cubs in 2019, but optimism seemed to be building as Morrow built his workload up in hopes of making a September return.

Morrow’s injury history with the Cubs dates back to last season’s All-Star break, when a biceps injury cost him much of the second half of the season before giving way to elbow problems that necessitated last November’s surgery. He last pitched for the Cubs on July 15 of last year. Earlier this month, it looked as though that might change as Morrow began throwing off a mound, but his progress halted there and his Cubs tenure is effectively over.

With a 2019 return now out of the question, Morrow’s season will go down as one in which he has been unable to appear in a single game for the Cubs, who doled out $21MM in guaranteed money to bring the 35-year-old aboard after a breakout 2017 season with the Dodgers.

In light of Morrow’s recent setback, that two-year contract looks in hindsight to be an utter misstep by the Chicago front office. With a $12MM team option for 2020 that will almost surely not be exercised, Morrow will have appeared in just 35 games over his Cubs tenure—none of which came in the postseason. To be fair, Morrow has been reliable when he has been on the field—posting a 1.47 ERA in a half-season’s worth of games in Chicago—but such a drastic lack of availability paints an unpleasant picture of the Cubs’ hefty investment in the veteran.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Option David Bote]]> 2019-08-20T00:06:43Z 2019-08-20T00:06:43Z The Cubs have optioned utility man David Bote to Triple-A, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times was among those to tweet. It seems that’s the roster move to make way for the return of righty Steve Cishek.

Bote, 26, has been a constant presence on the MLB roster this year since inking a surprise extension in April. He was off to a big start but cooled off considerably over June and July. After a recent hot streak, he’s sitting right near the league average offensively with a .257/.352/.429 slash over 310 plate appearances.

Given the difficulties, it’s no surprise that Bote has lost playing time over the course of the season. He has mostly appeared at third base, with Kris Bryant moving to the corner outfield on such occasions. Defensive metrics have taken a dimmer view of Bote’s work at the hot corner than they did last year, for what it’s worth.

More than anything, this move simply represents some late-August roster management — though it is also reflective of an evolving lineup pecking order. Bote will get some steady plate appearances at Triple-A before rosters expand at the outset of September, at which time he’ll surely be summoned back to the majors. No matter how things shake out down the stretch, he’s playing on a guaranteed contract through 2024 with two additional seasons of club control via option.

George Miller <![CDATA[Cubs Activate Craig Kimbrel]]> 2019-08-18T20:34:52Z 2019-08-18T19:41:18Z The Cubs have activated closer Craig Kimbrel from the 10-day injured list, according to Jordan Bastian of He will replace Duane Underwood Jr., who has been optioned to Triple-A Iowa, on the active roster.

Kimbrel landed on the injured list with right knee inflammation, which has held him out of action for the Cubs since August 3. Since joining the Cubs, he’s gotten into 14 games with shaky results. He holds a 5.68 ERA, though that mark is certainly volatile, with Kimbrel having tossed just 12 2/3 innings. Notably, 10 of his last 11 appearances have been scoreless, though a number of blowups—largely at the hands of untimely home runs—have inflated his run-prevention numbers.

For the scuffling Cubs, the addition of Kimbrel to the bullpen mix should quell some nerves, especially considering the team’s recent struggles in the late innings. Kimbrel’s Chicago troubles notwithstanding, his extensive track record suggests that he’s a cut above the club’s other late-inning options, which will no doubt come into play as the division race intensifies—with the Cubs no longer pacing the field, for a change.

Underwood, for his part, has flashed some potential as a bullpen piece for the Cubs, having struck out 7 batters in his first 3 1/3 innings of 2019. While that pace is no doubt unsustainable, it may be enough to suggest that Underwood can carve out a role in a Major League bullpen after seven-plus years being groomed as a professional starter.


Dylan A. Chase <![CDATA[Kimbrel Expected To Be Activated Sunday]]> 2019-08-18T01:13:59Z 2019-08-18T01:00:26Z’s Jordan Bastian offers that the “expectation” is that Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel will be activated for Sunday’s contest with the Pirates. Signed this midseason to a 3-year/$43MM contract, Kimbrel got off to a rocky start in Chicago before a knee injury robbed him of participation in the club’s last 13 games. Through his first 14 appearances in blue pinstripes, the bearded hurler holds a 5.68 ERA across 12.2 IP. While the club is yet to announce his activation, Gordon Wittenmeyer points out that Kimbrel was on the team’s travel roster for their charter to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and is indeed expected to be activated from the injured list in time for the third edition of MLB’s Little League Classic (link).

Wittenmeyer also relays that Steve Cishek appears as though he’ll be ready to return from the IL on Tuesday after throwing another bullpen session Saturday. Both returns would be welcome news for Cubs skipper Joe Maddon, who has been tinkering with troublesome iterations of Pedro Strop, Kyle Ryan, Derek Holland, and Brandon Kintzler in late-game situations.

  • Saturday saw sidelined Nationals ace Max Scherzer throwing his second simulated game of the week, and MASN’s Mark Zuckerman reports that the legendary righty is on track to return on Thursday“He felt good,” manager Dave Martinez told Zuckerman. “He’s a little bit ornery, but that’s a good thing. Now we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.” It hardly counts as high-level baseball journalism to say that the Nationals are going to need Scherzer in peak form in coming weeks. Sitting atop the tightly packed NL Wild Card race, Washington will play 11 games before season’s end against the Brewers, Mets, Cubs, and Phillies–four teams currently chomping at their heels for the right to play in the postseason play-in game. When healthy, the 35-year-old righty has posted typically ridiculous numbers, with a 2.41 ERA, 2.09 FIP, 12.66 K/9, and 1.67 BB/9 in 134.1 innings this year.
Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Activate Kintzler, Russell; Option Almora, Norwood]]> 2019-08-16T21:03:02Z 2019-08-16T19:48:05Z The Cubs announced today that they have activated reliever Brandon Kintzler from the injured list and recalled infielder Addison Russell. In corresponding moves, outfielder Albert Almora and reliever James Norwood were optioned. (Via Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune; Twitter links.)

It’s good news for the Chicago organization that Kintzler is already prepared to return from a pectoral injury. He looked like a financial weight around the team’s neck heading into the offseason, but has turned out to be a key steadying presence in the relief corps. He has thrown 46 1/3 innings of 2.33 ERA ball this year.

Russell is back after struggling in his return to the majors earlier this year. Since his demotion, Russell has been on a bit of a hot streak, even by the standards of the contemporary offensive haven of Triple-A. In 63 plate appearances over 15 games, he’s slashing .333/.413/.647.

Meanwhile, the decision to drop Almora comes after a long run of offensive difficulty. He’s slashing just .243/.275/.396 this year. His glovework has trended down as well, at least in the eyes of UZR and DRS, leaving him as a sub-replacement-level overall performer on the season. Almora has already crossed the line to 3+ years of MLB service, so he’ll be eligible for arbitration at season’s end. He’ll need to get to work on his offensive game if he’s to regain his standing with the organization.

Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Latest On Brandon Morrow]]> 2019-08-16T02:35:36Z 2019-08-16T02:13:50Z
  • Brandon Morrow threw a live batting practice session in Arizona yesterday, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer told 670 The Score radio (hat tip to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune).  It remains to be seen if Morrow will pitch at all in 2019, though he projected a possible return in early September in his most recent update, as he had been facing hitters and wasn’t feeling any soreness in his forearm or elbow.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[2020 Vesting Options Update]]> 2019-08-12T03:54:14Z 2019-08-12T03:44:23Z With over two-thirds of the 2019 season in the books, let’s check in to see how seven players are progressing towards possible vesting options in their contracts.  For those unfamiliar with the term, a vesting option is an agreed-upon threshold within a player’s contract (usually based on health and/or playing time) that, if achieved, allows the player to alter the terms of the contract for the next season, and perhaps beyond in some cases.

    Some vesting options aren’t reported, so it could be that more players beyond this septet could also be playing towards gaining more guaranteed money or contractual freedom for the 2020 season.  For now, let’s examine just these seven names…

    Yonder Alonso, Rockies: Under the terms of the two-year, $16MM deal Alonso signed with the Indians in the 2017-18 offseason, his $9MM club option (with a $1MM buyout) for 2020 becomes guaranteed if the first baseman first passes a physical, and then hit plate-appearance benchmarks.  Unfortunately for Alonso, he has only 287 PA this season, so he’s on pace to fall well short of reaching either 550 PA in 2019 or 1100 total PA in 2018-19 — either of which would’ve caused his option to vest.

    Andrew Cashner, Red Sox: Having struggled through six starts since coming to Boston in a trade from the Orioles, the Sox have a legitimate performance-related reason for moving Cashner out of their rotation.  There would also be a financial motive involved, as Cashner’s $10MM club option for 2020 would become guaranteed if he amasses 340 total innings in 2018-19.  After today’s abbreviated outing against the Angels, Cashner now has 279 2/3 IP over the last two seasons, putting him within distant range of causing his option to vest if he keeps receiving starts.  (Incidentally, the option could also vest into a player option if Cashner hits the 360-inning threshold.)

    Sean Doolittle, Nationals: The closer finished his league-high 47th game of the season today, giving him 82 games finished since the start of the 2018 season.  Should Doolittle reach 100 games finished, the Nationals’ $6.5MM club option ($500K buyout) on Doolittle for 2020 would vest into a mutual option, giving him the opportunity to opt out of his contract and enter into free agency.  This is definitely one to watch down the stretch, since with the Nats in a postseason race and the rest of their bullpen struggling, D.C. won’t hesitate to use their closer for every save situation possible.  Manager Davey Martinez has used Doolittle in a traditional late-game role, so shifting him into high-leverage situations outside of the ninth inning to cut down on his games-finished numbers would be a risky (and controversial) tactic, to say the least.

    Chris Iannetta, Rockies: With 110 starts at catcher since the beginning of the 2018 season, Iannetta won’t reach the 220 catching starts he needed to convert the Rockies’ $4.25MM club option on his services for 2020 into a guarantee.

    Wade LeBlanc, Mariners: The unique extension signed by LeBlanc in July 2018 carried three $5MM club option years for 2020-22 that can all vest into guarantees.  That 2020 option turns into guaranteed money if LeBlanc throws 160 innings in 2019 and doesn’t have a left arm injury at season’s end.  A month-long IL stint due to an oblique strain earlier this season almost certainly ended LeBlanc’s chance at the 160-inning plateau, as he has only 98 IP thus far.  While he’s still eating a good share of innings as a “bulk pitcher” behind an opener in most outings, it seems likely that LeBlanc won’t reach his vesting threshold.

    Brandon Morrow, Cubs: Morrow’s two-year, $21MM deal carried a 2020 vesting option worth $12MM, or a $3MM buyout.  It wasn’t actually known what the terms were of this option, though since injuries have kept Morrow from pitching since July 15, 2018, it’s safe to assume the option won’t vest, and Morrow will be a free agent this winter.

    Oliver Perez, Indians: The veteran southpaw appeared in his 49th game of the season today, so barring injury, he’s a lock to hit the 55 appearances required to guarantee his $2.75MM club option for 2020.  He also seems like a pretty safe bet to lock in even more money, as that option will be guaranteed at $3MM if Perez pitches in 60 games.  The Tribe likely won’t at all mind having Perez back for another season, as the reliever continues to dominate left-handed batters.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Joe Maddon Believes He’ll Manage Cubs Beyond 2019]]> 2019-08-11T23:43:20Z 2019-08-11T23:43:20Z Joe Maddon is in the last year of his contract as the Cubs’ manager, and though speculation has run rampant for months that the team could potentially look for a new dugout leader for 2020, Maddon doesn’t sound as if he’s expecting to go anywhere.  “I’m operating like we’ll be together for a couple more years, at least.  I’m not going to sit and proclaim I’m looking to go elsewhere.  That’s not true,” Maddon told’s Jesse Rogers and other media members today, adding that he has a “very high” amount of optimism that he’ll return to the job.

    Despite rumors of discord between Maddon and the front office last fall, both he and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein have each said they hope to continue the relationship between the skipper and the team.  Maddon reiterated these feelings today, while admitting that he made a point of being more open with both the front office and his players this season.

    It’s about interactions,” he said. “It’s about communication. It’s about the ability to work together. That’s what it comes down to….This year I’ve taken it to a different level,” Maddon said. “I want to be somewhere where I want to work, too. Everything about what we do with the Cubs, you can’t beat it. It’s impossible to beat. That’s the allure for me.

    This interpersonal relationship seems to be the key factor, as Maddon noted that an extension “has nothing to do with wins and losses. If that’s the case, I would have signed a contract at the end of last season….You can’t just reduce it to wins and losses.  That makes no sense at all.”

    Today’s victory over the Reds improved the first-place Cubs’ record to 64-54, and Chicago holds a two-game lead over Milwaukee and a 2.5-game lead over St. Louis in the NL Central race.  While there’s a long way to go before the Cubs can start printing playoff tickets, the team appears to be on pace for their fifth postseason appearance in as many years since Maddon was hired as manager.  His previous four years saw the Cubs win two NL Central crowns and two NL wild card berths, and of course, the Cubs finally ended over a century of frustration by winning the World Series in 2016.

    Dylan A. Chase <![CDATA[Kimbrel "Progressing Well" In Recovery ]]> 2019-08-11T03:09:01Z 2019-08-11T03:02:51Z
  • Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel hit the injured list five days ago with knee inflammation, but he could rejoin the team for this week’s upcoming series with the Phillies, per Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Kimbrel is expected to “test” his knee with a bullpen session in Philadelphia, although it is unlikely that he will be activated when first eligible on Wednesday. After Steve Cishek’s IL placement this afternoon, Cubs fans will certainly be clamoring for Kimbrel’s recovery.
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    Dylan A. Chase <![CDATA[Cishek To Injured List With Hip Issue]]> 2019-08-11T00:53:44Z 2019-08-11T00:53:44Z Hip inflammation will send Cubs reliever Steve Cishek to the injured list, according to a report from’s Jordan Bastian. Bastian’s report characterizes Cishek’s ailment as “minor”, but one that has nonetheless been a hindrance to the righty in his last several appearances.

    Cishek, a veteran of 556 MLB games, has been a solid member of the Chicago relief corps since signing a two-year/$13MM accord with the club in December of 2017. In 54 appearances in 2019, the Massachusetts native has recorded a 3.58 ERA, despite underlying metrics that indicate that he has been the beneficiary of some good luck to this point.

    So far in 2019, the Chicago bullpen has seen more movement than O’Hare International–following this injured list placement, Pedro Strop and Tyler Chatwood are the only active relievers left from the Cubs’ Opening Day lineup. It doesn’t appear, however, that Cishek will be sidelined for a long period, and the club may soon welcome back Craig Kimbrel in time for its upcoming series against the Phillies.



    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Anthony Rizzo Discusses Contract, Future]]> 2019-08-09T05:39:04Z 2019-08-09T05:39:04Z With up to two years of club control remaining, “there’s not much urgency” for Anthony Rizzo or the Cubs to explore a new contract, the first baseman told Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday. As you’d expect, however, the franchise icon hopes to ink a long-term pact with the Cubs sometime in the next couple years.

    “I do want to stay here. I do want to be a Cub,” said Rizzo, who celebrated his 30th birthday Thursday.

    Unlike most players, Rizzo landed a hefty contract toward the beginning of his career. Early in the 2013 season, just over a year after Chicago acquired Rizzo from San Diego in what became a steal of a trade, the Cubs locked him up to a seven-year, $41MM guarantee. Rizzo is in the last of those guaranteed seasons at the moment, but as of now, the Cubs are sure to exercise his $16.5MM options for each of the next two years. Thanks to the money he has collected (and will continue to collect) on his current deal, Rizzo told Wittenmyer he’s “set, financially,” which is an important reason he doesn’t feel the need to push for another payday yet.

    Now in his eighth season with the Cubs, Rizzo’s enjoying yet another strong campaign, having slashed .284/.389/.511 with 21 home runs in 473 plate appearances. Since he first graced Chicago’s lineup, Rizzo has batted .275/.374/.494 with 211 HRs, 28.5 fWAR and three All-Star nods over 4,880 PA. He also helped the Cubs to an elusive world championship in 2016, and is generally regarded as one of the best people in baseball.

    Rizzo’s near-spotless track record doesn’t mean the Cubs will pony up for him when the time comes, as plenty can change before his control expires. However, if he stays on his current track, Rizzo may have a case for a nine-figure contract soon. The archrival Cardinals handed fellow superstar first baseman Paul Goldschmidt a five-year, $130MM extension prior to this season, which could give Rizzo something to aim for. That accord won’t kick in until next year, Goldschmidt’s age-32 season.

    While Goldschmidt has posted a better career than Rizzo in terms of individual numbers and awards, the latter hasn’t been that far below him since breaking out in 2014. Rizzo has actually been the superior player this year to Goldschmidt, who’s now amid the worst season of his career. Of course, if Goldschmidt’s unexpected slide continues, it could influence the Cubs to tread lightly on a bank-breaking Rizzo deal. Even though Rizzo has provided the Cubs immense on- and off-field value throughout his career, he acknowledged to Wittenmyer that “this is a business, and it’s as cutthroat as ever, right now especially – all sports, not just baseball.”

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Cubs Sign Chih-Wei Hu To Minors Deal]]> 2019-08-08T22:47:28Z 2019-08-08T22:47:28Z The Cubs have signed right-hander Chih-Wei Hu to a minor league contract, according to Roster Roundup.  Hu had been pitching in the Indians’ farm system before being released from that minors deal in late July.

    After posting a 3.52 ERA, 8.2 K/9, and 3.00 K/BB rate over 23 relief innings with the Rays in 2017-18, Hu was dealt to Cleveland last November but struggled badly with Triple-A Akron this season.  Hu managed only a 7.18 ERA over 57 2/3 innings (starting nine of 18 games), thanks in large part to 18 home runs allowed.  The Tribe outrighted Hu off their 40-man roster in early July, so it seemed like a change of scenery was probably inevitable.

    Hu has always been an extreme fly-ball pitcher, so it could be that the changes to the baseball used in Triple-A leagues this season have turned his fly-ball issues into a potentially insurmountable problem.  Still, given the solid numbers he posted in the minors prior to 2019, there’s little risk for the Cubs in seeing if they can correct Hu’s problems.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Could Cubs Re-Sign Nicholas Castellanos?]]> 2019-08-08T05:17:49Z 2019-08-08T05:17:49Z Outfielder Nicholas Castellanos is only about a week into his Cubs tenure, but Patrick Mooney of The Athletic (subscription link) wonders if the free agent-to-be will work his way into the team’s plans past this season. Castellanos has excelled at the plate over a rather small sample of work as a Cub, and as Mooney explains, the former Tiger has taken a liking to his new franchise. While the 27-year-old Castellanos will be one of the top hitters in the upcoming winter’s free-agent class, a lack of defensive value figures to limit his earning power. The price could be palatable enough for the Cubs to retain him, but it wouldn’t be ideal that Castellanos would have to remain a full-time outfielder in a DH-less league.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs Sign Jonathan Lucroy]]> 2019-08-07T21:25:36Z 2019-08-07T21:23:49Z 4:23pm: The Cubs announced the signing. Davis has been optioned to Triple-A to open a roster spot, and Lucroy will join the team tomorrow.

    2:25pm: The Cubs are set to sign catcher Jonathan Lucroy following his release by the Angels, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports (via Twitter). Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this week that Chicago had interest in Lucroy after he’d been designated for assignment by the Halos.

    Jonathan Lucroy | Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    The Cubs dealt away Martin Maldonado prior to the trade deadline but suddenly found themselves with a unexpected need for help behind the plate when Willson Contreras went down with a hamstring injury that is expected to cost him four weeks of action. Lucroy will step in and share catching duties with Victor Caratini in Contreras’ absence.

    Lucroy, now 33, was a thorn in the side of the Cubs and their fanbase for when he was one of the best all-around catchers and a two-time All-Star for the division-rival Brewers. Those days are a distant memory at this point, however, as Lucroy has seen both his bat and his defensive skills erode in recent seasons. Dating back to 2017, he’s authored a well below-average .250/.317/.353 batting line despite spending ample time in hitter-friendly settings in Colorado and Texas (78 OPS+).

    Defensively speaking, Lucroy was among the game’s best at preventing steals in 2016 (39 percent), but he’s been league average in the three subsequent seasons. His once-elite framing numbers now check in below the league average, and Baseball Prospectus rates Lucroy as the game’s weakest pitch blocker.

    It’s not a terribly appealing profile, especially relative to Lucroy’s peak years, but he’s an experienced backstop who can at the very least be considered an upgrade over current backup Taylor Davis. Caratini was also spiked in the hand in last night’s game, though he didn’t come out of the game and the Cubs have given no reason to be concerned about a trip to the injured list for the young switch-hitter.

    Lucroy will only cost the Cubs the prorated portion of the league minimum — about $158K between now and season’s end. The Angels will be spared that sum but remain on the hook for the remaining $797K or so of Lucroy’s $3.35MM base salary this season. Lucroy will be a free agent once again this offseason.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs Place Kintzler On IL, Activate Strop]]> 2019-08-06T23:50:07Z 2019-08-06T23:50:07Z
  • The Cubs swapped out one right-hander for another Tuesday, placing Brandon Kintzler on the 10-day IL due to right pectoral inflammation and activating righty Pedro Strop in his place. The 35-year-old Kintzler has rebounded from an awful 2018 run with Chicago (7.00 ERA in 18 innings) to post a 2.33 ERA with 7.8 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 0.78 HR/9 and a 53.3 percent ground-ball rate in 46 1/3 innings out of the ’pen in 2019. Right-handers must wonder whether to bother stepping into the box against Kintzler, as they’ve managed just a .133/.200/.233 batting line against him this season. Lefties have had more success but still own a lackluster .245/.297/.382 line against Kintzler.
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