Chicago Cubs – MLB Trade Rumors 2021-01-18T15:16:33Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Cubs To Sign Shelby Miller]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=339754 2021-01-18T03:28:14Z 2021-01-18T03:13:24Z The Cubs have agreed to a deal with right-hander Shelby Miller, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports (via Twitter).  The non-guaranteed contract will pay Miller $875K if he makes Chicago’s big league roster, with another $600K available in bonus money.  The signing will be official when Miller passes a physical.

Miller signed a minor league deal with the Brewers last winter but didn’t see any action, as he opted out of the 2020 season in August.  Since the start of the 2017 season, Miller has tossed only 82 big league innings, thanks in large part to a Tommy John procedure that sidelined him for much of 2017 and 2018.

Still only 30 years old, Miller will be joining his sixth different organization in a pro career that has seen major highs and lows.  Drafted 19th overall by the Cardinals in 2009, Miller posted very strong numbers over his first three MLB seasons — with St. Louis in 2013-14 and with Atlanta in 2015, after Miller was swapped to the Braves as part of a noteworthy trade that saw Jason Heyward go to the Cards.  Unfortunately for Miller, he was part of another blockbuster trade a year later, going to the Diamondbacks and then never again regaining his early-career form.

There isn’t much risk for the Cubs in adding Miller as a reclamation project, as Miller could be one of a few veterans brought into camp on low-cost or non-guaranteed contracts as Chicago looks for veteran rotation depth.  Beyond Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies, the Cubs’ other rotation candidates don’t have much experience — projected third and fourth starters Adbert Alzolay and Alec Mills, and then a plethora of young arms competing for a look as the fifth starter.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Cubs Avoid Arbitration With Bryant, Contreras, Davies]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=337671 2021-01-15T22:59:50Z 2021-01-15T22:49:19Z The Cubs have avoided arbitration with third baseman Kris Bryant, catcher Willson Contreras and right-hander Zach Davies, per reports from Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago and Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com. Bryant settled for $19.5MM, while Contreras will make $6.65MM and Davies will earn $8.63MM.

While the salaries of Bryant and Contreras for 2021 are now known, it’s unclear whether either will actually rake in that money as members of the Cubs. They have been stalwarts for the club throughout their careers, but with the Cubs in retooling mode this winter, both players have frequented trade rumors. Of course, this doesn’t look like the optimal time to move Bryant, a former NL MVP who put up uncharacteristically bad numbers in 2020. The Boras Corporation client only has a year of control left, though, so the Cubs may try to get what they can for him before the season starts.

The Cubs would have much less difficulty landing solid value for Contreras, who continued his run as a top-tier catcher last season. Not only is he a bargain relative to his production, but Contreras has another year of arbitration eligibility remaining.

The 27-year-old Davies is new to the Cubs, having joined them as part of their return from the Padres last month for righty Yu Darvish. Davies, who enjoyed a career year in 2020, will be eligible for free agency next offseason.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Cubs, Javier Baez Avoid Arbitration]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=337614 2021-01-15T21:36:36Z 2021-01-15T21:24:44Z The Cubs and shortstop Javier Baez have avoided arbitration with an $11.65MM agreement for 2021, Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com tweets. Baez is a Wasserman client.

MLBTR forecast a $10MM to $11.9MM arbitration salary for Baez earlier this offseason, so this deal checks in near the top of that projection. The Cubs could still try to work out an extension with Baez, though it doesn’t seem that will happen in the immediate future. For now, the 28-year-old remains on track to become a free agent after the upcoming season.

Regardless of whether an extension comes together, both the Cubs and Baez will hope for a better year out of the two-time All-Star, who posted one of his worst seasons in 2020. Baez did appear in 59 of the Cubs’ 60 regular-season games, but he batted a disastrous .203/.238/.360 (57 wRC+), recorded his worst ISO since 2016 (.158), and amassed 75 strikeouts against a mere seven walks over 235 plate appearances. That was hardly the star-level output Baez provided the Cubs from 2018-19, when he combined for a line of .286/.321/.544 (123 wRC+) in 1,206 PA and was among the most valuable infielders in the sport.

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TC Zencka <![CDATA[Notable International Signings: 1/15/21]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=337131 2021-01-15T17:35:00Z 2021-01-15T15:43:43Z The 2020-21 international signing period is officially underway, and though this signing period is open until Dec. 15, 2021, many of the big names have already signed. Teams have long since lined up deals with newly eligible teenage players, so the news today largely represents confirmation of what was anticipated. Still, it’s a day of no small moment, particularly for the young men embarking upon professional careers.

Let’s round up some of the most notable signings of the day. Most of these agreements have been known for awhile, as both Baseball America’s Ben Badler (signings tracker; scouting links) and MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (Twitter feed; rankings) have listed each club’s expected landing spot and approximate signing bonus on their rankings for months. You can find each team’s total bonus pool and other information on the process right here. Check the above links for further information and other signings. Despite today’s announcements, many of these deals won’t become official for even a couple of weeks, notes Sanchez. Here are a few key deals:

  • Yoelqui Céspedes, OF, White Sox: The half-brother of outfielder Yoenis Céspedes, the Cuban outfielder joins a strong international tradition in Chicago with the White Sox, who currently field Cuban stars such as reigning AL MVP Jose Abreu, centerfielder Luis Robert, and third baseman Yoan Moncada. MLB.com has Céspedes ranked as the top international prospect in this class thanks to being a “a five-tool player with above-average tools across the board.” Baseball America is slightly less bullish, putting him at No. 12 on their board, noting that the pandemic limited opportunities for scouting. The 23-year-old will be one of the older prospects from this class to sign, and though he has the ability to play center, Robert’s presence in Chicago means he is probably ticketed for right. The White Sox also signed Cuban hurler Norge Vera for $1.5MM. Vera came in at No. 15 on MLB.com’s rankings. Fangraphs has Cespedes as Chicago’s new No. 25 ranked prospect, and Vera at No. 14.
  • Armando Cruz, SS, Nationals: Cruz officially joined the Nationals today for the most money the Nationals have ever paid out to single player during the international signing period, with The Athletic’s Britt Ghiroli (via Twitter) pegging the final number at $3.9MM. BA writes in their scouting report, “He’s a defensive wizard with phenomenal hands and a strong arm, combining the ability to make acrobatic, highlight plays along with the internal clock and game savvy well beyond his years.” The Nationals signed 11 international players in total, notes Ghiroli.
  • Pedro Leon, OF, Astros: Houston will pay $4MM to add MLB.com’s 7th-ranked international prospect to their system, per Sanchez. Baseball America has Leon as the top prospect of his class. Like Céspedes, the Cuban outfield is one of the older members of this class, but he brings plus speed, power, and the ability to stick in centerfield.
  • Manuel Beltre, SS, Blue Jays: The Blue Jays added perhaps the most advanced hitter of the class in Beltre. MLB.com has Beltre as the No. 24 ranked prospect in the class, signing for $2.6MM, though Shi Davidi of Sportnet.ca (via Twitter) pegs the final number to be closer to $2.35MM. The Dominican shortstop could ultimately end up at second base, Sanchez writes, but he has arm enough to stay at short.
  • Pedro Pineda, OF, Athletics: MLB Insider Jon Heyman (via Twitter) has Pineda signing with Oakland for less than $4MM, but the sum isn’t likely to fall far below that threshold. Baseball America has Pineda as the No. 11 ranked prospect in this class, writing, “Pineda is a strong, athletic, physical center fielder with a loud tool set and a power/speed threat. He has excellent speed, a fast bat and the power potential to hit 25-plus home runs.”

Several other well-regarded prospects also secured bonuses of $2MM or more, with the specifics provided here by Sanchez:

  • Rays, $3MM, shortstop Carlos Colmenarez
  • Cubs, $3MM, shortstop, Cristian Hernandez
  • Pirates, $2.3MM, outfielder Shalin Polanco
  • Tigers, $2.95MM, shortstop Cristian Santana
  • Twins, $2.3MM, shortstop Danny De Andrada
  • Angels, $2MM, shortstop Denzer Guzman
  • Marlins, $3.5MM, shortstop Yiddi Cappe
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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Danny Hultzen Retires, Joins Cubs’ Front Office]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=336754 2021-01-15T04:20:59Z 2021-01-15T04:20:59Z Former major league left-hander Danny Hultzen has retired from playing, but he’ll remain in the game as a member of the Cubs’ front office, Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports. Hultzen will work as a pitching development assistant under Cubs assistant general manager/vice president of pitching Craig Breslow.

The Mariners selected Hultzen second overall out of the University of Virginia in the 2011 draft, choosing him instead of such current stars as Trevor Bauer, Anthony Rendon, Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez and George Springer, but the pick proved to be a mistake in hindsight. While Hultzen did rank among the game’s top prospects in the ensuing couple years after his draft, shoulder injuries and the surgeries that accompanied them dogged him as a professional player. He missed most of 2013 and all of 2014, barely pitched from 2015-16 and then took 2017 off to complete his degree.

Hultzen returned to the pros in ’18 on a minor league contract with the Cubs, finally making his MLB debut in September 2019 with 3 1/3 scoreless innings. Although the Cubs then re-signed him to a non-guaranteed pact, Hultzen didn’t get back to the mound during a 2020 season devoid of minor league baseball. Now, though, the 31-year-old will have a chance to impact the organization in a different role.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Corey Kluber, Steve Cishek, Anthony Swarzak Throw For Teams]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=335343 2021-01-14T20:08:26Z 2021-01-14T13:20:59Z Jan. 14: ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that Kluber’s market could come together rather quickly with one throwing session for teams in the books. He’s not expected to require a second showcase to further demonstrate his health.

Jan. 13: Free-agent right-hander Corey Kluber held a showcase for interested teams today, and Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that relievers Anthony Swarzak and Steve Cishek both threw for teams as well. (All three are clients of Jet Sports Management, so it’s natural that they’d host the workout together.) As many as 25 teams were present, per The Atheltic’s Britt Ghiroli (Twitter link).

ESPN’s Jeff Passan notes that Kluber’s velocity topped out at 90 mph, though given where he is in the rehab process from last year’s injuries, it wasn’t expected that he’d be up to peak velocity just yet. Eric Cressey, whose strength and conditioning facility hosted the showcase, told ESPN’s Jesse Rogers yesterday that Kluber was at 87-89 mph in the prior session. Cressey suggested that Kluber is already ahead of many pitchers who’ve not yet ramped up their throwing to this point. Kluber averaged 92 mph on his heater back during his excellent 2018 campaign.

The full list of teams in attendance isn’t known, although given that this was an open look at a two-time Cy Young winner and a pair of relievers with considerable late-inning MLB experience, it’d be more notable to learn which few teams weren’t in attendance than to know which clubs were. Still, it’s at least worth noting that each of the Mets, YankeesNationals, Red Sox, Rays, Twins, Cubs, Rangers, Marlins, Tigers, Pirates, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks and Indians were all reported to be attending the showcase. Obviously, it’s not an all-encompassing list.

Broadly speaking, if Kluber is indeed at a point in his rehab that inspires confidence, one would imagine the market for him will be robust. The extent to which clubs are willing to bet on a guaranteed contract on the two-time Cy Young winner will vary, but he should easily command a big league deal with plenty of incentives on top of whatever base the highest bidder will commit.

Kluber may be something of a lottery ticket at this point, but few gambles come with such pronounced upside. From 2014-18, the right-hander was one of the game’s premier pitchers, working to a combined 2.85 ERA while striking out 28.5 percent of the hitters he faced against just a 5.2 percent walk rate. Only three of the 179 qualified starting pitchers in that time period — Chris Sale, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer — topped Kluber’s 23.3 K-BB%.

Since that time, however, he’s been limited to 36 2/3 innings by a fractured forearm (sustained when he was hit by a line drive), an oblique strain and a teres major strain. Traded from Cleveland to Texas last winter, Kluber pitched just one inning for the Rangers in 2020.

While most of the focus is understandably on Kluber, the presence of Swarzak and Cishek is certainly notable as well. Both righties are looking for rebounds of their own. Swarzak signed with the Phillies last winter but was released at the end of summer camp and didn’t sign with another club. A two-year, $14MM deal he signed with the Mets prior to the 2018 season proved regrettable, as shoulder issues torpedoed both of those seasons. However, back in 2017 Swarzak tossed 77 1/3 frames with a 2.33 ERA with 91 punchouts against just 22 walks.

Cishek, meanwhile, rattled off four straight seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA from 2016-19, leading to a $6MM deal with the White Sox last winter. He didn’t last on Chicago’s South Side, however, as he was roughed up for a 5.40 ERA in just 20 innings. Cishek’s control has been trending in the wrong direction the past couple of seasons, but he missed bats at his typical levels and didn’t see a velocity dip in 2020.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs Notes: Extensions, Kluber]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=333552 2021-01-13T02:54:21Z 2021-01-13T02:19:39Z The Cubs’ trade of Yu Darvish cleared $62MM from the books over the next three years, but Russell Dorsey of the Chicago Sun-Times writes in his latest mailbag column that it’s still unlikely the team will agree to a contract extension with any of its pending free agents prior to the start of Spring Training. Each of Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant is set to hit the market next year, and while the latter of that trio has seen his name prominently circulated in the rumor mill, Baez and Rizzo have broadly been considered extension candidates. A long-term arrangement could come together once camp is underway, Dorsey notes, but only if the “right situation presented itself.”

Of course, given that no deal has come with Baez despite years of negotiations and that Rizzo already has already signed one team-friendly deal, it’s hard to see either player inking a deal that heavily favors the Cubs. The fact that both players are coming off down seasons only further muddies the matter. Both players have considerable career earnings already and may prefer to bet on a personal rebound rather than selling themselves short after a lackluster 2020 showing.

  • The Cubs are yet another Central team that will take in Kluber’s session, Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic relays. They’re in clear need of rotation upgrades beyond Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies, but they’re not in big-spending mode. It remains to be seen whether Kluber will end up in their price range.
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Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Marlins Interested In Willson Contreras]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=333656 2021-01-12T18:10:28Z 2021-01-12T18:10:28Z The Marlins have had discussions with the Cubs about catcher Willson Contreras, according to SportsGrid’s Craig Mish (Twitter link).  There isn’t any sense that a trade might be close, as Mish describes the situation as “very fluid” considering how “the Cubs have big decisions to make across the board” (namely, trade talks involving several of their veteran players).

As you might expect, Contreras has been a key figure in these talks, as the Angels and multiple other teams have inquired about the backstop’s services.  It stands to reason that pretty much any team with a need behind the plate has at least checked in on Contreras, and Miami’s interest hints that even teams who seemed to have a catching option in place are interested in Contreras as an upgrade.

2020 was a tough season for Jorge Alfaro, acquired as part of the J.T. Realmuto trade package in February 2019 and immediately tabbed as Miami’s next catcher of the future.  After hitting decently well in 2019, Alfaro’s numbers took a significant step backwards in the shortened 2020 season, to the point that the Marlins turned to Chad Wallach as their regular catcher in the playoffs so the club could at least get some defensive stability out of the position.

The Marlins also recently signed Sandy Leon to a minor league deal and re-signed Brian Navarreto for further depth, indicating some desire on Miami’s part to address its catching mix.  Acquiring Contreras would obviously be a much more seismic move, and it seems possible that Alfaro could be part of a hypothetical trade package heading to Chicago.  Catcher Miguel Amaya is one of the Cubs’ top prospects but has yet to play above high-A ball, so Alfaro wouldn’t necessarily be blocking Amaya’s progress.  Alfaro is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and is controlled through the 2023 season.

Contreras, meanwhile, has two arbitration seasons left and is projected to earn between $5MM-$7.4MM for the 2021 season.  It’s a very reasonable price for one of the sport’s better overall catchers, a two-time All-Star who continued to post solid (.243/.356/.407 in 225 PA) hitting and framing numbers last season.  Landing such a productive player on short-term control would be a fit for any team, but particularly a Marlins organization that is starting to stretch its payroll a bit as the Fish have become competitive.  After acquiring Starling Marte at the trade deadline and exercising his $12.5MM option for 2021, Miami has yet to swing any major moves this winter, mostly focusing on lower-level bullpen additions.

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TC Zencka <![CDATA[Cubs Have Discussed Kris Bryant With Blue Jays]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=331814 2021-01-12T03:04:14Z 2021-01-12T03:04:14Z
  • The Blue Jays have touched base with the Cubs about the cost of acquiring former NL MVP Kris Bryant, tweets MLB Insider Jon Morosi. At this point, it was practically qualify as oversight if the Blue Jays hadn’t checked in on Bryant, as they’ve made inquiries into just about every big name on the market so far this winter. The two sides haven’t discussed a potential deal for a few weeks, however, suggesting that Bryant constitutes something closer to a back-up plan for the Jays. The Cubs don’t appear particularly close to moving Bryant, so Toronto likely has time to explore their other options before circling back, should Bryant ultimately become a more appealing target.
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    TC Zencka <![CDATA[MLBTR Poll: Will The Nationals Unlock Kyle Schwarber’s Potential?]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=330145 2021-01-11T18:50:20Z 2021-01-10T03:20:53Z In a sport known for its protracted regular season and voluminous historical records – playing for a franchise that had been without a championship crown for over a century – Kyle Schwarber established his legacy over a seven-game stretch of the 2016 playoffs. Though he only appeared in five games of the World Series, physical perseverance, inspired play and a confident batting eye turned Schwarber into a Chicago legend at the tender age of 23. His presence as a designated hitter for road contests at Progressive Field played no small part in turning the tide on a 3-1 series deficit (though starting Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks in consecutive games didn’t hurt either). Schwarber reached base in half of his 20 plate appearances, and the Cubs won three of four games in Cleveland to take the crown.

    While the baseball community largely recognizes that playoff performance is not predictive – nor repeatable – Schwarber is living proof that small samples, at times, do prove enduring. Schwarber will be memorialized for generations in Chicago for his appearance against the Cleveland Indians in 2016.

    His myth-making return from season-ending injury is also a warning against our tendency to muddle the narrative of heroes. In that World Series, Schwarber did lengthen the lineup and provide a fear factor that was easier to see in real-time than in box scores after the fact, but it’s fair to wonder if his impact in Cleveland didn’t unwittingly get conflated with his status as a top prospect and his gargantuan output in the 2015 playoffs, when he hit .333/.419/.889 with five home runs in nine playoff games. The years since have only further complicated our ability to manufacture a compact narrative for Schwarber as a ballplayer. For starters, even a .136/.321/.273 line with just one home run, one RBI, two runs scored, and a negative championship win probability over 10 playoff games since 2016 hasn’t totally erased his reputation as a “championship proven” bat.

    Further, his stat line in any given year is like an optical illusion (is he black and blue or white and gold?). His production hasn’t matched his reputation, and the advanced metrics don’t match the on-field production. In 2018, Schwarber hit a high-water mark by measure of 3.2 fWAR despite a .238 batting average and career-low 41.5 hard hit percentage. In 2019, he actualizes his “slugger” persona with a .531 slugging percentage, 29 doubles, and 38 home runs. He posted new highs with a 120 wRC+, .282 ISO, and 50.9 hard hit percentage – the third-highest mark in the Majors. The total package still amounted to just 2.1 bWAR/2.6 fWAR – solid numbers, but shy of the line for a presumed All-Star.

    Then 2020 happened. His launch angle plummeted, and his .219 BABIP, .204 ISO, .188/.308/.393 line, and 90 wRC+ were all career-worst numbers. When the Cubs non-tendered him rather than pay the projected $7MM to $9MM in arbitration, few were surprised.

    But the Nationals paid him $10MM for the 2021 season anyway – and that wasn’t shocking either. After all, Schwarber’s batted ball numbers have made him a popular bounce-back candidate among the Statcast crowd, and it’s not hard to see why: His resume includes finishing in the 95th percentile by exit velocity in 2019 and 2020, the 92nd percentile by barrel percentage in 2017, 2018, and 2019, and that 99th percentile mark by hard hit percentage in 2019.

    At the same time, it’s worth considering how much of a role his subpar speed and 28 percent career strikeout rate play in his “under-performance.” He’s not the worst defender in the world, but negative three defensive runs saved in each of the last two seasons doesn’t inspire confidence that he’ll become a plus on that end of the field. Of course, with Victor Robles beside him in the outfield and Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, and Stephen Strasburg (hopefully) missing bats on a regular basis, the Nats seem to believe he doesn’t have to be a gold glove candidate. Besides, should the designated hitter make its way permanently to the National League, he may not have to spend every day in the grass.

    The Nationals hope a reunion with Dave Martinez will provide Schwarber a comfortable environment to reset after a disappointing final season in Chicago. Beyond his relationship with Martinez – his bench coach for the first three years of his career – Schwarber will have a new social circle with whom to yuk it up about the ins-and-outs of hitting. That group will include hitting coach Kevin Long, his collegiate buddy Trea Turner, fellow new kid Josh Bell, and phenom Juan Soto. MLB.com’s Jessica Camerato provides video of Schwarber himself breaking down his new team (via Twitter).

    Still very much in his prime entering his age-28 season, Schwarber may yet fulfill the legendary potential he established in the 2016 World Series. Given the new faces in the division and the now-rote proficiency of the three-time defending division champion Braves, the Nationals are counting on a big season from Schwarber to help the franchise rebound from a difficult 2020.

    All that said, let’s keep this simple. Will Dave Martinez and the Nationals be able to unlock Schwarber’s potential and see him become a devastating middle-of-the-order presence? Or will Schwarber’s Statcast profile continue to betray him as he hits the ball hard but not often enough to truly classify as an elite bat?

    Of course, there are many different ways to skin this cat, so let me offer this final framework as one way to simplify. Schwarber’s value proposition is his bat. By wRC+, which attempts to measure offensive contribution, adjusted for park and league, Schwarber has created 13 more runs than the average player over his career. As noted above, his career-high over a full season is 120 wRC+. But he also produced a 131 wRC+ over 273 plate appearances as a rookie in 2015. For context, 35 players posted a wRC+ higher than 130 in 2019, 24 managed that mark in 2018. Can Schwarber be one of those guys in 2021?

    (poll link for app users)

    (poll link for app users)

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Mets, Cubs Had “Recent Trade Talks” About Kris Bryant]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=327174 2021-01-09T18:22:12Z 2021-01-09T18:21:08Z TODAY: “The Mets and Cubs have not spoken in several weeks,” according to SNY’s Andy Martino, and it doesn’t seem likely that the Mets will reignite negotiations about Bryant now that Lindor has been acquired.  However, there is “increasing industry chatter” that Bryant could be traded somewhere “as soon as this weekend.”

    JANUARY 7: With one blockbuster trade already in the books for the Mets, could another headline-grabbing swap be in the works?  The Mets and Cubs have had “recent trade talks” concerning a possible Kris Bryant deal, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.

    The specific timing of these discussions isn’t known, and it could be possible that the Mets were only looking at Bryant as a fallback option if the Francisco Lindor trade didn’t happen.  Still, given how aggressive the Amazins have been in seeking out high-level talent this offseason, acquiring Bryant on top of Lindor, Carrasco,  Trevor May, James McCann, and any potential other additions can’t be ruled out.

    Bryant is projected to earn $18.6MM in his final year of salary arbitration — like Lindor, Bryant is another high-salaried player who is a season away from free agency.  While Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer claimed that payroll considerations weren’t “the focus” of Chicago’s recent deal of Yu Darvish to the Padres, multiple reports have indicated that the Cubs are trying to cut salary, and that pretty much every expensive veteran of note is a potential trade candidate.

    While the Cubs surely want a good return back for trading the former NL MVP, the Mets could have an edge in trade talks (at least in terms of the quality of prospects surrendered) simply by offering to take Bryant’s entire contract off of Chicago’s books.  Hypothetically, the Mets could also send an experienced Major League player back to the Cubs as part of a Bryant trade, akin to how the Cubs picked up Zach Davies from San Diego in the Darvish deal.

    Moving an experienced player would help make Bryant a cleaner fit into New York’s everyday lineup, as the Mets have projected starters at each of his four potential positions — first base (Pete Alonso), third base (J.D. Davis), and the corner outfield spots (Michael Conforto, Dominic Smith).  It’s safe to assume that Conforto isn’t going anywhere, and the Mets aren’t likely to move Alonso and his four years of team control for just one year of Bryant.  Davis and Smith are more plausible trade candidates, particularly if the Mets were to also sign George Springer and create a further outfield surplus.  Signing Springer could also turn current center fielder Brandon Nimmo into a trade chip, but the Mets could probably like to hang onto Nimmo as a backup option up the middle.

    Bryant’s trade value, of course, is further impacted by his underwhelming 2020 performance.  Hampered by multiple nagging injuries all year, Bryant appeared in only 34 of Chicago’s 60 games and hit .206/.293/.351 with four home runs in 147 PA.  That small sample size doesn’t and shouldn’t erase Bryant’s superstar numbers from 2015-19, but it certainly doesn’t help the Cubs in their attempt to get maximum value back for one year of Bryant’s services.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Cubs Interested In Mets Prospect Francisco Alvarez]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=329568 2021-01-09T16:54:13Z 2021-01-09T16:53:13Z
  • As rumors swirl about Kris Bryant trade talks between the Cubs and Mets, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports (via Twitter) that Chicago has a particular interest in Mets catching prospect Francisco Alvarez.  Currently ranked by MLB Pipeline as the 58th-best prospect in all of baseball, it isn’t surprising that the Cubs (and probably many other teams) would like to have Alvarez in their farm system, particularly if Willson Contreras might also soon be dealt away from Wrigleyville.  In regards to a Bryant trade, it seems unlikely that New York would deal Alvarez for just one year of Bryant’s service.  Even with James McCann now signed to a four-year deal, Alvarez might still be the Mets’ catcher of the future since he is only 19 years old, so the Mets surely have their eyes on grooming Alvarez to be ready by the time McCann’s contract is up.
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    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Angels Interested In Willson Contreras]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=326200 2021-01-06T15:38:31Z 2021-01-06T15:23:30Z The Angels are making a bid to reunite manager Joe Maddon with his World Series winning backstop in Chicago Willson Contreras, writes the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. No deal is imminent, but the match is certain to raise a few eyebrows because of the potential fit between the two clubs. Given the recent return for ace Yu Darvish, the Cubbies would seem interested in restocking a thin farm system (though it’s possible they consider that box now checked). The Angels, conversely, have a clear need for some gravitas behind the plate and an earnest desire to win now.

    For Los Angeles, Max Stassi may miss the beginning of the season, and neither he nor Anthony Bemboom are established regulars. They made a run at James McCann earlier this offseason before he signed with the Mets. Contreras would be a huge upgrade as an elite offensive catcher who has continued to find his way defensively. He earned 2 runs from extra strikes in 2020 while averaging the second fastest poptime among all catchers. His arm also profiles as above-average, if a tad error-prone in the past. Contreras caught 35% of would-be base-stealers in 2020, well above the league average of 25%.

    With two years of team control remaining, the two-time All-Star catcher may be the Cubs’ best available trade chip, however, which could slow any trade talks as they look to milk the most out of any return. He’s a firestarter, fan favorite, and a leader of the team. Besides, having sent Victor Caratini to San Diego as part of the Darvish deal, moving Contreras would also leave them imperiled at the catching spot. The organization likely views Miguel Amaya as a future starting catcher, but he’s not likely to open 2021 with the Major League team. Likewise, Ethan Hearn and Ronnier Quintero are interesting prospects, but neither has played about Rookie Ball. Contreras and the 21-year-old Amaya are the only catchers currently on the Cubs 40-man roster.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Cubs Release Colin Rea]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=325378 2021-01-05T14:29:16Z 2021-01-05T14:28:52Z The Cubs have released right-hander Colin Rea, according to the MLB.com transactions page.  Rea avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $702.5K deal with Chicago on December 2 (the day of the non-tender deadline), but he will now look to sign a new contract with a Japanese team, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets.

    The 30-year-old Rea tossed 14 innings for the Cubs last season, posting a 5.79 ERA, 16.1% strikeout rate and a very solid 3.2% walk rate.  Rea started two of his nine outings but was much more effective as a reliever, as seven of Rea’s nine earned runs allowed in 2020 came during his 5 1/3 innings as a starter.  It’s probably safe to assume he’ll look to rebuild his stock as a starting pitcher in Japan, as the bulk of Rea’s pro experience (161 of 203 games) in the majors and minors as come as a starter.

    Those 14 innings for Chicago represented Rea’s first MLB action since 2016, as he spent the previous two seasons in the minors with the Cubs and Padres and missed all of 2017 recovering from Tommy John surgery.  Rea’s arm problems stand out as a major what-if for Padres fans, as a seven-player trade in July 2016 that originally sent Rea to the Marlins was partially reversed since Miami felt Rea was already injured at the time of the swap, so Rea was returned to San Diego and the Padres sent another pitcher involved in the deal back to the Marlins — that pitcher was future Reds ace Luis Castillo.

    With Rea gone, the Cubs are short another starting candidate as they prepare to roll out an overhauled rotation in 2021.  Free agent departures and the trade of Yu Darvish to the Padres will set Chicago up with a projected rotation of Kyle Hendricks, Zach Davies, Adbert Alzolay, Alec Mills, and a host of young candidates vying for the fifth spot.  It seems likely that the team will add another veteran to the mix, though probably someone on a minor league deal or on a low-cost MLB contract.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Cubs Sign Adam Morgan To Minor League Contract]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=323655 2021-01-04T19:29:33Z 2021-01-04T19:29:03Z JANUARY 4: Morgan’s deal comes with a $900K base salary if he makes the majors, with additional incentives available, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link).

    JANUARY 3: The Cubs have signed left-hander Adam Morgan to a minor league deal with an invitation to Chicago’s big league spring camp, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury (Twitter link).

    Morgan chose to become a free agent after the Phillies outrighted him off their 40-man roster at the end of the season.  It was effectively an early non-tender, as Morgan was arbitration-eligible for the third time this winter and wasn’t likely to be retained.  After posting a 5.54 ERA over 13 relief innings for Philadelphia in 2020, Morgan underwent flexor tendon repair surgery in October. Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune has good news on Morgan’s recovery timeline, tweeting that Morgan is “expected to be game ready sometime in March.

    On a minor league deal, there isn’t much risk for the Cubs in monitoring Morgan’s health and seeing if he can contribute to their bullpen at some point next year.  A familiar face will be waiting for Morgan in the pen, as former Phillies pitching coach Chris Young is entering his second year as Chicago’s bullpen coach.

    Morgan has posted some decent numbers since becoming a full-time relief pitcher, delivering a 3.97 ERA, 2.84 K/BB rate, and 9.6 K/9 over 133 2/3 innings from 2017-19.  Homers have been a consistent issue, as Morgan has a 1.5 HR/9 over his career and allowed three home runs during the smaller sample size of his 2020 workload.  Morgan has some pretty significant career splits (left-handed batters have a .640 OPS against him, but righty swingers have an .859 OPS) but he could provide some help to a Cubs relief corps that is thin on reliable southpaw options.

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