MLB Trade Rumors » » Chicago Cubs 2017-10-22T03:08:50Z Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Latest On Chris Bosio's Firing, Potential Replacements]]> 2017-10-22T03:08:50Z 2017-10-22T03:08:50Z Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is optimistic shortstop Corey Seager will be able to return for the World Series, Ken Gurnick of was among those to report (Twitter link). “Corey doesn’t want to be denied,” Roberts said of Seager, who missed the Dodgers’ five-game National League Championship Series triumph over the Cubs with a lower back sprain. Reserve Charlie Culberson provided surprisingly excellent production at shortstop against the Cubs, hitting .455/.417/.818 in 13 plate appearances, but he’s obviously not in Seager’s stratosphere. Seager has opened his career with two superstar-caliber seasons and is likely the Dodgers’ top position player.

  • The Cubs’ firing of pitching coach Chris Bosio on Saturday was manager Joe Maddon’s decision, Paul Sullivan and Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune report. Maddon’s relationship with Bosio deteriorated as the season progressed, per Sullivan and Gonzales, who add that Mike Maddux and the previously reported Jim Hickey are candidates to serve as the Cubs’ next pitching coach. Maddux has been the Nationals’ pitching coach since 2016, but his future with the club is now in question thanks to manager Dusty Baker’s exit. Hickey, meanwhile, is also on the Cardinals’ radar, according to Sullivan and Gonzales.
Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Cubs Interested In Jim Hickey]]> 2017-10-21T23:28:29Z 2017-10-21T23:28:29Z
  • Hickey is also drawing serious interest from the Cubs, according to Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic (subscription required and recommended). He’d take over for Chris Bosio, whom the Cubs fired Saturday, and would reunite in Chicago with former Rays manager Joe Maddon. Letting go of Bosio may have been a front office-driven move, posits Sharma, who notes that president of baseball operations Theo Epsein was particularly disappointed in the bullpen’s last-ranked walk rate in 2017. The struggles of midseason acquisition Justin Wilson, who was terrific out of Detroit’s bullpen but undependable as part of Chicago’s, likely helped lead to Bosio’s ouster, Sharma suggests. Across 17 2/3 innings with the Cubs, Wilson walked 19 (compared to 16 in 40 1/3 innings as a Tiger) and logged a 5.09 ERA. Consequently, he appeared in only one of the Cubs’ 10 playoff games.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[NL Notes: Braves, Bosio, Righetti]]> 2017-10-21T18:56:02Z 2017-10-21T18:56:02Z The Braves are in an unfavorable position headed into the offseason. John Coppolella has already resigned due to a breach of MLB’s rules regarding the international players market, leaving a dark cloud hovering over the organization and rumors swirling as to whether or not John Hart will remain with the organization. Braves beat reporter Mark Bowman of writes about some of the inconveniences the organization faces due to this uncertainty. Because the Braves don’t know who will be “steering the ship”, as Bowman puts it, the club cannot yet decide on its direction for the upcoming winter. Decisions such as R.A. Dickey’s contract option and potential trades to clear a spot for top prospect Ronald Acuna are floating in baseball operations limbo. In the meantime, director of player personnel Perry Minasian and assistant general manager Adam Fisher have scrambled to learn as much as they can about the club’s assets and needs, having been with the organization for just one month. The club will hope for answers on Hart’s future in Atlanta sooner rather than later in order to gain clarity on the club’s direction for the offseason.

    More news from around the National League…

    • The Cubs have dismissed longtime pitching coach Chris Bosio, according to a tweet from Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Robert Murray of FanRag sports later confirmed the news. Bosio had been the club’s pitching coach since 2012, including earning a World Series ring with the club just last season after guiding the Cubs pitching staff to a 3.15 team ERA. Murray names Jim Hickey as a potential candidate to fill Bosio’s role.
    • Earlier today, Nightengale also tweeted that the Giants dismissed pitching coach Dave Righetti, shifting him to a role in the front office. Murray was able to confirm the reassignment of Righetti through his own sources. Righetti had been the pitching coach in San Francisco for 17 years, making him the longest-tenured pitching coach in major league baseball before his reassignment, as well as the longest-tenured pitching coach in all of Giants history. Murray notes that the club’s 4.50 ERA in 2017 can’t all be blamed on Righetti; ace Madison Bumgarner missed a large portion of the season due to a shoulder injury sustained in a dirt bike accident. According to a later tweet by Jon Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, Righetti will serve as a special assistant to GM Bobby Evans. Shea also adds that bullpen coach Mark Gardner will also be shifted to a special assignment role in the front office, while assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take on a special assistant role in baseball operations.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Theo Epstein Discusses Cubs’ Offseason Plans]]> 2017-10-21T06:29:43Z 2017-10-21T06:29:43Z Putting a wrap on the 2017 season, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein spoke with the media today (as covered by Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times and Patrick Mooney of NBC Sports Chicago, among others).

    While the Cubs did not quite live up to expectations — the team won *only* 92 games and did not return to the World Series — Epstein suggests that any failure is only relative to the lofty standards the organization now carries. The team’s competitive window is still fully open, he argues, saying that the Cubs are “really well positioned for the future.”

    That said, it’s tough to deny that the roster showed more weak points than had been anticipated — a subject also addressed today by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. With several key pitchers heading to free agency, some bullpen failings, and questions in the outfield, it seems there could be an opening for relatively significant change this offseason.

    Epstein hardly promised a shake-up, but did suggest a willingness to consider trading from a stock of players that may have been seen as mostly off-limits in the not-so-distant past:

    “Sooner or later you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club.  We’re entering a phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

    That said, the approach doesn’t seem to be one where the Cubs will select a particular player and shop them around. Rather, Epstein suggested, the organization intends to take in a wide array of possibilities — “pursue all avenues to get better” — and consider each opportunity on its own merit. Generally, he said, the team is “prepared to make some tough choices” and is interested in exploring ways to address “obvious deficits” from those areas of “real surplus.”

    It’s not to difficult to guess at some of the broad strokes here. Beyond the untouchable superstars, the team has a variety of talented young position players — Albert Almora, Ian Happ, Javier Baez, Addison Russell, and Kyle Schwarber, most prominently — that overlap to some degree with other members of the roster. And the Cubs believe they have more starting-caliber players than can receive regular time on one roster. Given the need to replace starters Jake Arrieta and John Lackey, as well as to find a new closer and add some “pure strike throwers” in the bullpen (as Epstein put it), the stage could be set for some interesting trade chatter over the winter.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Jay Hopes To Return To Cubs]]> 2017-10-20T16:07:25Z 2017-10-20T16:07:25Z Outfielder Jon Jay is a free agent this winter, but he tells Madeline Kenney of the Chicago Sun-Times that his hope is to remain with the Cubs“I love it here,” said Jay, who inked a one-year deal worth $8MM last offseason. “I cannot deny that. I absolutely love it here.”As Kenney notes, manager Joe Maddon effused praise for Jay for much of the season, highlighting his leadership and the consistent quality of his at-bats, even with two strikes. Jay was a frequent presence atop the Cubs’ lineup in the season’s final two months and ultimately finished out the year with a .296/.374/.375 batting line through 433 trips to the plate. Jay, Kenney notes, is well-liked and well-respected among his teammates. “Life isn’t about all the money and all these different things,” said Jay. “It’s about respecting people and treating people the right way. And that’s what I try to do.” The Cubs, however, do have a fairly crowded mix of outfielders with Albert Almora, Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist all vying for playing time in 2018.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Angels Acquire Felix Pena, Designate Jason Gurka]]> 2017-10-10T00:32:10Z 2017-10-10T00:26:50Z The Angels have announced the acquisition of righty Felix Pena from the Cubs. Los Angeles designated southpaw Jason Gurka for assignment to open a 40-man roster spot.

    Pena, a 27-year-old from the Dominican Republic, had made 36 MLB appearances over the past two seasons. He carries a 4.98 ERA in the majors, with 10.4 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9. Nine opposing long balls have accounted for quite a bit of the damage against him.

    For Los Angeles, this is an opportunity to take a shot on a hurler that has at times shown signs of more. He had generally produced quality results in the minors as a starter before moving to the pen and of late has boosted his strikeout numbers. Pena carries a promising 12.7% swinging-strike in the majors.

    As for Gurka, he’ll have an opportunity to test the open market if he’s not claimed. He made it up to the majors briefly late this year, but spent the bulk of the season at Triple-A. Gurka was rather impressive overall, spinning 50 2/3 innings of 3.20 ERA ball with 9.9 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9 at the highest level of the minors, but he has failed to receive extended MLB looks in the past despite quality minor-league numbers.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[joe Maddon "Baffled" By Lack Of Interest in Dave Martinez]]> 2017-10-09T03:07:31Z 2017-10-09T02:58:40Z
  • Dusty Baker is without a contract past this season, but the Nationals are “almost certain” to bring him back in 2018, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes. Baker is at the helm of a team whose NLDS matchup with the Cubs is knotted at one, but it doesn’t appear that the Nationals’ playoff performance will determine his fate. The Nats have been resoundingly successful during Baker’s two regular seasons at the helm, having gone 192-132 with a pair of division titles, though a World Series championship has eluded both them and Baker during their respective existences. Baker has managed four teams to a combined 1,863 wins, good for 14th all-time, but his lone trip to the Fall Classic (with the Giants in 2002) ended in defeat. Winning a title in Washington would earn Baker a place in Cooperstown, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo suggested to Kepner. “I think it’s probably as big for him as for anybody in the organization,” Rizzo said. “It’s important for him; he’s done everything but win a world championship as a manager. It’s a big goal for him. I think he’s a Hall of Fame manager, regardless, and that cements it if he wins a championship.”
  • Nobody in need of a manager has contacted the Cubs about bench coach Dave Martinez, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Cubs manager Joe Maddon finds the lack of interest in his longtime right-hand man confusing, saying: ‘‘He’s been around a lot of winning teams here. I see all the names [of rumored candidates], and there’s a lot of good names. But I’m telling you, to not include his name with these people just baffles me.” While the 53-year-old Martinez told Wittenmyer he’s “ready” to take the reins somewhere, he may go without an interview for the second straight year.  Martinez was a popular candidate before last offseason, Wittenmyer notes, as he interviewed for five openings in recent years.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Marlins Could Try To Deal Giancarlo Stanton To Cubs]]> 2017-10-07T23:10:35Z 2017-10-07T23:10:35Z
  • The Cubs could be a team to watch if the Marlins shop right fielder Giancarlo Stanton in the offseason, Cafardo suggests. It’s unclear whether the Cubs would have interest in the potential NL MVP, who’s due $295MM through 2028 (if he doesn’t opt out of his contract after 2020), but they have plenty of players the Marlins “would love” to acquire, notes Cafardo.

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    Jason Martinez <![CDATA[How They Were Acquired: Chicago Cubs NLDS Roster]]> 2017-10-06T21:51:38Z 2017-10-06T20:36:40Z This year, the Cubs returned much the same roster that ended the franchise’s curse by winning the 2016 World Series. Of the tweaks that were made, perhaps the most notable was the move to add Wade Davis to replace outgoing closer Aroldis Chapman (himself a mid-summer rental). By now, the story of how the team’s excellent core was compiled is rather well-known; indeed, books have been written on the general subject.

    The title defense efforts got off to a sluggish start, though, prompting some further tinkering from PBOp Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer in advance of the trade deadline. Ultimately, the Cubbies closed strong and now enter the postseason looking to regain that ’16 magic. Here’s how the NLDS roster was compiled:

    [Related: Chicago Cubs Depth Chart and Payroll Outlook]

    Even if this isn’t the Cubs’ year, this is a team that’s built to contend for some time to come. The organization will have some roster maneuvering to account for over the winter, though. Arrieta will hit the open market along with a variety of other oft-used veterans, including Lackey, Davis, Uehara, and Duensing from the pitching staff. For now, though, the focus is on an attempt at a repeat crown.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs Claim Luke Farrell From Reds, Designate Felix Pena]]> 2017-10-04T18:40:11Z 2017-10-04T18:28:48Z The Cubs announced Wednesday that they’ve claimed right-hander Luke Farrell off waivers from the Reds and designated righty Felix Pena for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

    Farrell, whose father manages the Boston Red Sox, made his big league debut with the Royals in 2017 but has bounced from Kansas City to the Dodgers to the Reds to the Cubs in minor trades and waiver claims over the past several months. His lone outing in Kansas City produced nightmarish results (five runs on seven hits and three walks in 2 2/3 innings), but he enjoyed better success in a larger sample with Cincinnati. In 10 1/3 innings as a Red, he allowed three runs on just five hits, though he also walked seven in that time. Overall, Farrell’s first taste of the big leagues resulted in a 5.54 ERA and a 9-to-10 K/BB ratio in 13 innings.

    Farrell has, however, produced solid Triple-A results in 2016-17, working to a combined 3.83 ERA with 8.5 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and roughly a 36 percent ground-ball rate in 199 2/3 innings. He has a pair of minor league options remaining beyond this season, so if the Cubs choose to keep him on the roster this winter, they could option him to Triple-A Iowa next spring without first exposing him to waivers. Alternatively, the Cubs could try to pass Farrell through waivers themselves in hopes of retaining his arm as a depth piece without the need of committing a 40-man roster spot.

    The 27-year-old Pena, meanwhile, averaged 93.4 mph on his heater in 34 1/3 innings with the Cubs this year. He also averaged a hearty 9.7 K/9 against a more troublesome 4.7 BB/9 and a sub-par 34.7 percent ground-ball rate en route to a 5.24 earned run average.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Cubs Considered Selling In July]]> 2017-10-03T02:56:47Z 2017-10-03T02:56:47Z The reigning World Series champion Cubs stumbled through the early months of the season, which led president Theo Epstein to inform teams in early July that he’d consider selling impending free agents such as Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis, Patrick Mooney of NBC Sports Chicago reports. The Cubs were at their lowest point of the season on July 9, when they dropped to 43-45 with a 14-3 loss to the Pirates in the last game before the All-Star break. Regarding his thought process at the time, Epstein told Mooney: “Not blowing it up. But when you’re five-and-a-half out, if you have a bad road trip and a bad homestand and then you’re 10-and-a-half out, absolutely, we would have sold.”  Instead, Epstein swung a blockbuster trade with the White Sox for left-hander Jose Quintana on July 13, the final day of the break. The Cubs proceeded to go 49-25 in the second half of the season to finish 92-70 and run away with the National League Central.

    More from the NL:

    • The Cardinals may deal from their surplus of outfielders this offseason, but the highest-paid member of the bunch, Dexter Fowler, seems unlikely to go anywhere. When the Cardinals signed Fowler to a five-year, $82.5MM contract last winter, they included a no-trade clause in the deal. Now, Fowler tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he and his family love their new city. He also enjoys being part of the Cardinals organization. “I see myself being here for a long time. It’s what I signed up for,” the center fielder said. “That’s what my contract says. I’m looking to build a legacy with my teammates.” Fowler had a terrific offensive season to kick off his Redbirds tenure, hitting .264/.363/.488 with 18 home runs in 491 plate appearances, but injuries limited him to 118 games and advanced metrics indicate he had a rough time in the field (minus-18 Defensive Runs Saved, minus-5.9 Ultimate Zone Rating).
    • The hammer dropped Monday on Braves general manager John Coppolella and special assistant Gordon Blakely, both of whom resigned over alleged rule violations. Their departures might not be the end, either, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more members of the Braves’ scouting department forced to resign.
    • Given that he’s close with Gary Denbo, Blakeley would have been a possibility to join the Marlins’ front office, but that’s now in question after Monday’s events, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. Denbo is currently with the Yankees, but the expectation is that he’ll join friend and new owner Derek Jeter in the Marlins’ decision-making hierarchy, Jackson notes. Meanwhile, there’s a sense that the Marlins will retain manager Don Mattingly and president of baseball operations Michael Hill, per Joe Frisaro of Hill isn’t a lock to remain in the same role, suggests Frisaro, who adds that third base coach Fredi Gonzalez could depart. The Tigers have asked to speak with Gonzalez about becoming their next manager, according to Frisaro.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Who Will Win The World Series?]]> 2017-10-01T18:01:08Z 2017-10-01T18:01:08Z Aside from Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton’s pursuit of 60 home runs, the final day of Major League Baseball’s regular season won’t bring much drama. Colorado on Saturday became the last team in the majors to clinch a playoff spot and will be one of 10 clubs vying for World Series glory over the next month-plus. Here’s a rundown of the participants by league and seeding:

    National League

    1.) Los Angeles Dodgers (record: 103-58; most recent title: 1988): The Dodgers are loaded with stars and depth, which explains how they easily exceeded the 100-win mark despite enduring a 1-15 stretch from Aug. 26 through Sept. 11. They recovered from that nightmarish 16-game showing over the season’s final couple weeks and once again look formidable entering the postseason. While the Dodgers have scored the second-fewest runs of this year’s playoff teams, they’ve still managed to pace all NL clubs in position player fWAR. Plus, with a Clayton Kershaw-fronted rotation and a Kenley Jansen-led bullpen, their staff is atop the NL in pitching fWAR.

    2.) Washington Nationals (record: 97-64; most recent title: never): The Nationals cruised to an NL East crown this year despite losing center fielder Adam Eaton in April and having to go without arguably their best player, right fielder Bryce Harper, from mid-August until late September. Harper suffered a knee injury that looked like a season-ender when it happened, and while the missed time derailed his MVP chances, he’s back to lead a lineup that also includes other standouts in Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy, Trea Turner and Ryan Zimmerman. On the pitching side, it seems ace and Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer avoided a serious hamstring injury during his start on Saturday. If that’s the case, Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez could be the premier starting trio in the playoffs. They’ll hand off to a bullpen that has featured offered plenty of shaky performances in 2017, though midseason additions Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler have helped stabilize the Nationals’ relief corps.

    3.) Chicago Cubs (record: 92-69; most recent title: 2016): At this time a year ago, Chicago was putting the finishing touches on a 103-win regular season and preparing to enter the playoffs as the odds-on favorite. Ultimately, the Cubs lived up to the billing last fall and broke a 108-year title drought in an unforgettable World Series against the Indians. They haven’t been as sharp this year, owing in part to worse performances from their pitching and defense, but are still laden with talent. There’s no shortage of quality position players on hand, including reigning MVP Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, but the Cubs will need more from their staff – particularly Jake Arrieta, who’s dealing with a hamstring issue right now, and Jon Lester.

    4.) Arizona Diamondbacks (record: 92-69; most recent title: 2001): One of this year’s surprise teams, the Diamondbacks rode an underrated starting staff and a top 10 offense (by runs scored) to a playoff berth. Starters Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Zack Godley, Patrick Corbin and Taijuan Walker have all turned in good to great seasons, which is why the D-backs’ starters lead the NL in fWAR. They also have a pair of offensive superstars in first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, though he had a horrid September that likely ruined his MVP chances, and outfielder J.D. Martinez. The latter has been a revelation since coming over from the Tigers in a July trade, having smashed 29 home runs in 61 games and batted .304/.369/.746 in 255 plate appearances. If you’re looking for a potential Achilles’ heel, no playoff entrant has a worse wRC+ (84) against left-handed pitchers than Arizona. That doesn’t seem to bode well for a team that will face the Dodgers, whose southpaws include Kershaw, Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Tony Cingrani and Tony Watson, if it wins the NL wild-card game.

    5.) Colorado Rockies (record: 87-74; most recent title: never): Primarily on account of NL MVP candidates Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, the Rockies are near the top of the league in runs scored, which is what you’d expect from a team that plays half its games at Coors Field. The Rockies managed to break a seven-year playoff skid this season largely because of an improved pitching staff that sits eighth in the majors in fWAR. Still, despite the presence of Jon Gray, their rotation doesn’t look particularly imposing relative to other playoff teams’ staffs. They do, however, feature a few highly capable relievers in Greg Holland, Chris Rusin, Pat Neshek and Jake McGee.

    (Poll link for app users)


    American League

    1.) Cleveland Indians (record: 101-60; most recent title: 1948): At 48-45, the reigning AL champions were a mere three games above .500 on July 18. Since then, they’ve run roughshod over the rest of the league en route to a 53-15 mark, including a historic 22-game winning streak from Aug. 22 to Sept. 14. The Indians lost a meaningless game to the White Sox on Saturday, but that was just their fourth defeat in the past 35 contests. Needless to say, they’re heading into the playoffs on a roll. As you’d expect, Cleveland’s roster is chock-full of excellence. MVP hopeful Jose Ramirez and all-world shortstop Francisco Lindor are at the helm of a talent-rich offense, one that supports what could be an all-time great pitching staff from top to bottom. Ace/Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber, righty Carlos Carrasco and super reliever Andrew Miller, one of the faces of last year’s postseason, deservedly grab the most headlines, but good luck finding any weak links among the other pitchers the Tribe will use in the playoffs.

    2.) Houston Astros (record: 100-61; most recent title: never): With a league-high 892 runs and a 121 wRC+, it’s a wonder how anyone gets the Astros out. Much of the damage has come from AL MVP front-runner Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, the latter of whom missed significant time earlier this season, but ancillary pieces such as Marwin Gonzalez, Alex Bregman, Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel have all been no worse than very good at the plate. And then there’s the one-two pitching punch of recently acquired ace Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, not to mention a deep starting staff/bullpen behind them. If there’s one big concern here, it’s that Houston may be the worst defensive team in the playoffs.

    3.) Boston Red Sox (record: 93-68; most recent title: 2013): This year’s Red Sox have deviated from past Boston teams that used the likes of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez to pound opponents into submission. In fact, this is the first playoff-bound Red Sox club since 1995 to qualify for the postseason without scoring at least 800 runs. Nevertheless, they have several especially well-rounded position players (Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi and the banged-up Dustin Pedroia, to name a few) who have done enough in the field to make Boston an elite defensive outfit. That defense supports the AL’s foremost southpaw, Chris Sale, and superstar closer Craig Kimbrel. Boston is entering the playoffs with some concerns in its rotation, though, including the recent struggles of Sale and the yearlong issues 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello has had. Fortunately for the Sox, starter Drew Pomeranz quelled some late-season concerns with an encouraging start against the Astros on Saturday.

    4.) New York Yankees (record: 90-71; most recent title: 2009): Baby Bombers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez have more than lived up to the hype this season, combining for 85 home runs and 11.7 fWAR in 1,203 PAs. Fifty-one of those long balls have come from Judge, an OPS machine and an AL Rookie of the Year shoo-in whose 8.2 fWAR leads the majors. The rest of the Yankees’ offense isn’t exactly subpar, either, as a laundry list of their other hitters have notched above-average seasons at the plate. And New York’s pitching staff could be built for October, with an incredibly strong bullpen and a rotation that features perhaps the AL’s third-best starter, Luis Severino. One of the major questions regarding the Yankees is which versions of Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka will show up in the postseason – if the team gets by the wild-card game, that is. Gray allowed between four and six earned runs in three of five September starts, while Tanaka was a mixed bag throughout the regular season. He did conclude the slate with a seven-inning, 15-K shutout against the Blue Jays on Friday, though.

    5.) Minnesota Twins (record: 84-77; most recent title: 1991): In terms of teams, there probably hasn’t been a better story during the regular season than the Twins, who were 103-game losers and owners of the majors’ worst record a year ago. Adding to the improbability of their Cinderella run to the playoffs, the Twins were sellers at this year’s trade deadline, when they dealt starter Jaime Garcia to their wild-card opponent, the Yankees, and Kintzler to the Nationals. However, Brian Dozier, Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Joe Mauer & Co. were undeterred in the face of those deals and the late-summer absence of slugging third baseman Miguel Sano, who missed over a month with a left shin injury but just returned this week. Given its relatively underwhelming pitching staff, Minnesota is obviously a long shot to claim its first World Series in 26 years. For now, the Twins are focused on the Yankees, who have historically owned Minnesota in the playoffs. But New York’s past triumphs came during series. The wild-card round is a one-off, increasing the odds of an upset. The Twins’ No. 1 starter, Ervin Santana, allowed two or fewer runs in 20 of 33 starts during the regular season. If he’s that stingy against the Yankees on Tuesday – an admittedly tall order – an upset could be in the offing.

    (Poll link for app users)


    And now for the most important question (poll link for app users)…

    Charlie Wilmoth <![CDATA[Kyle Hendricks Could Receive Hefty Arbitration Payday]]> 2017-09-30T21:22:35Z 2017-09-30T21:22:35Z
  • Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks’ first-year arbitration case this offseason will be an interesting one, says Rosenthal. Hendricks has a 2.94 ERA over 100 career games, a number that compares favorably to that of Clayton Kershaw in his first few seasons. that isn’t to say Hendricks and Kershaw are similar players, as Rosenthal points out, only that Hendricks’ first arbitration payday could be a hefty one.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[John Lackey Considering Retirement?]]> 2017-09-30T04:05:58Z 2017-09-30T04:05:58Z The Cubs’ clubhouse celebration after clinching the NL Central included some telling comments from Jon Lester, who proclaimed that John Lackey had made “probably his last regular-season start.  Here’s to one hell of a career!” before toasting his longtime teammate.  (USA Today’s Bob Nightengale has the details.)  This is the first open acknowledgement that Lackey is heading towards retirement after the season.  Lackey’s two-year, $32MM contract is up once the Cubs conclude their postseason run, and he turns 39 in October.  He struggled to a 4.56 ERA over 169 2/3 innings thanks in large part to problems with the long ball, as Lackey surrendered a league-high 36 homers and a career-high 18.3% home run rate.  Still, Lackey has enjoyed a tremendous 15 seasons in the big leagues and, coming out of the Cubs bullpen in the playoffs, he’ll look to collect his fourth World Series ring.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Agency Changes: Duensing, Groome]]> 2017-09-28T01:49:09Z 2017-09-28T01:49:09Z Cubs lefty Brian Duensing and top Red Sox prospect Jason Groome have switched representation and are now clients of the Legacy Agency, per FanRag’s Robert Murray (Twitter links). Duensing’s switch is especially pertinent, as he’s slated to hit free agency at the end of the 2017 season.

    Chicago inked Duensing to a then-surprising $2MM big league deal early in the 2016-17 offseason. While the 34-year-old had previously had some success out of the Twins’ bullpen, Duensing had a lackluster 2015 season in Minnesota and totaled just 13 1/3 innings in the Majors all of last year, logging a 4.05 ERA with the Orioles.

    The Cubs, however, saw enough to pique their interest and have been rewarded with what now looks to be one of the best one-year, Major League contracts issued last winter. Through 61 1/3 innings out of the Chicago ’pen this year, Duensing has posted a 61-to-18 K/BB ratio and a 47.3 percent ground-ball rate en route to a 2.79 ERA. Duensing has relatively even splits versus lefties and righties, though his K/BB numbers are vastly superior against lefties and he’s traditionally had problems against right-handed bats.

    As for Groome, the former No. 12 overall pick (2016) posted terrific numbers in three starts in the Low-A New York Penn League but has had more struggles in the Class-A South Atlantic League. Groome has missed bats at a high level in 2017 (11.7 K/9) but has averaged nearly five walks per nine innings and was a bit homer-prone when pitching in the more advanced of his two leagues this season (1.22 HR/9). He only just turned 19 last month, though, meaning he was routinely squaring off against considerably older and more experienced opponents.

    Both switches are now reflected in MLBTR’s Agency Database, which contains representation info on more than 2,500 Major League and Minor League players. If you see any notable errors or omissions, let us know via email:

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta]]> 2017-09-21T15:53:24Z 2017-09-21T15:23:13Z
  • Needless to say, the Cubs have seen some ups and downs from their rotation this year. Now, it’s key lefty Jon Lester who is struggling to find answers, as Patrick Mooney of writes. The battle-tested veteran has not been very effective since returning from the DL at the start of September; things came to a head last night, as he allowed seven earned runs on eight hits and three hits without recording a strikeout. Lester declined to blame any physical limitations and says he’s “not worried about” the middling results, noting that he simply needs to make adjustments as he has over the course of his successful career.
  • The Cubs will hope that Jake Arrieta is sharper when he makes his own return from the DL. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that the veteran righty, who went on the shelf right as Lester came back, feels his arm strength may actually have improved after getting some rest due to a hamstring injury. Arrieta is scheduled for two more regular-season outings, though Chicago will wait to make any final calls on the last few games of the year.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Giants Claim Pierce Johnson Off Waivers, Transfer Brandon Belt To 60-Day DL]]> 2017-09-20T17:51:56Z 2017-09-20T17:51:56Z The Cubs announced to reporters that right-hander Pierce Johnson, who was designated for assignment last week, has been claimed off waivers by the Giants. The Giants have transferred first baseman Brandon Belt to the 60-day DL to clear a spot for Johnson, per Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area (Twitter link), which definitively puts an end to Belt’s 2017 season.

    Now 26 years of age, Johnson once ranked as one of the Cubs’ very best pitching prospects and was considered the game’s No. 87 overall prospect by Baseball America in the 2013-14 offseason. The former No. 43 overall pick turned in a very strong 2.74 ERA with 9.4 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9 across two A-ball levels in 2013 in order to earn that distinction, but his star has faded since that time.

    Johnson posted similarly strong ERA marks in both 2014 and 2015, but he struggled with control in ’14 and saw his strikeout rate drop drastically in ’15. The Cubs shifted him to the bullpen for much of the 2016 season in Triple-A Iowa, but Johnson responded with a 6.14 ERA and 6.1 BB/9 through 63 innings that year (albeit with a gaudy 10.7 K/9 rate).

    The 2017 season was better, as Johnson pitched almost exclusively in a relief role and posted improvements in ERA (4.34 ERA), strikeout rate (12.3 K/9) and walk rate (4.5 BB/9). He has an option remaining beyond the 2017 season, so if the Giants carry him on the 40-man roster through the offseason, they’ll have the luxury of sending him to the minors during or after Spring Training without first needing to expose him to waivers.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Hector Rondon Likely To Miss One Week]]> 2017-09-16T05:50:59Z 2017-09-16T00:26:20Z
  • Cubs righty Hector Rondon is in need of some rest but doesn’t have anything more than a sore elbow, Bruce Levine of tweets. He’s expected to miss about a week after getting a cortisone shot. Rondon has scuffled a bit this year, working to a 4.50 ERA in his 54 frames, due in no small part to coughing up ten long balls. That said, Rondon has also managed 10.8 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9 and remains an important part of the Cubs pen down the stretch and (the team hopes) into the postseason.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[2017 Rule 5 Roundup]]> 2017-09-14T16:14:45Z 2017-09-14T14:15:17Z With just a few weeks left in the season, we have a pretty clear idea of which Rule 5 draft picks will stick with their drafting teams. At this point, having already carried the player this far and with expanded rosters easing any pressures, teams are quite likely to stay the course. Here’s how this season’s Rule 5 group has shaken out thus far:


    It isn’t official yet, but these

    • Miguel Diaz, RHP, kept by Padres (via Twins) from Brewers: As part of the Pads’ unusually bold Rule 5 strategy, the club kept three youngsters this year. Diaz, 22, has managed only a 6.21 ERA with a 31:22 K/BB ratio over 37 2/3 innings. But he is showing a 96 mph heater and will remain with the organization, quite likely heading back to the minors next season to continue his development.
    • Luis Torrens, C, kept by Padres (via Reds) from Yankees: The youthful backstop — he’s just 21 — has struggled badly on offense in limited action. Through 133 plate appearances, he’s slashing just.169/.246/.212 — with just four extra-base hits, none of them home runs.
    • Allen Cordoba, INF, kept by Padres from Cardinals: And then there’s Cordoba, who’s also just 21 years of age. He faded after a hot start at the plate, but on the whole his output — a .209/.284/.304 batting line and four home runs over 215 plate appearances — is fairly impressive given that he had never before played above Rookie ball.
    • Dylan Covey, RHP, kept by White Sox from Athletics: Technically, owing to a DL stint, Covey has only compiled 83 of the minimum 90 days of active roster time required to be kept. But he’s going to make it there before the season is up, meaning that the Sox will be able to hold onto his rights and option him back to the minors in 2018. Covey, 26, has struggled to a 7.90 ERA with 4.9 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9 over 54 2/3 innings, allowing 18 long balls in that span.
    • Stuart Turner, C, kept by Reds from Twins: Turner has seen minimal action, appearing in just 33 games and taking only 77 trips to the plate. And he’s hitting just .141/.184/.268 in that sporadic action. Clearly, though, the Reds have seen enough to believe he’s worth the trouble to hang onto.

    Still In Limbo

    • Kevin Gadea, RHP, selected by Rays from Mariners: Gadea has not pitched at any level this year owing to an elbow injury. He’ll remain with the Tampa Bay organization for the time being, but will still need to be carried on the 40-man roster over the offseason and then on the active roster for at least ninety days for his rights to permanently transfer.
    • Armando Rivero, RHP, selected by Braves from Cubs: It’s the exact same situation for Rivero as for Gadea, though he has had shoulder problems.
    • Josh Rutledge, INF, selected by Red Sox from Rockies: This was not your typical Rule 5 move. Boston snagged the veteran infielder after he signed a minors deal with Colorado. He ended up seeing minimal MLB time owing to injuries and his season ended recently with hip surgery. Rutledge is eligible for arbitration this fall and isn’t likely to be kept on the 40-man roster regardless.
    • Anthony Santander, OF, selected by Orioles from Indians: Since he only made it off of the DL late in the summer, Santander can accrue only 45 days on the active roster. If Baltimore wants to keep him, then, it’ll need to put him on the Opening Day roster next year. Santander has seen minimal playing time thus far, recording two hits in twelve trips to the plate, though he put up impressive numbers on his rehab assignment.

    Kept By Other Means

    • Daniel Stumpf, LHP, signed with Tigers after electing free agency upon return to Royals: This is another unusual situation. As a previous Rule 5 returnee, Stumpf was eligible to elect free agency upon being returned to his original organization. That’s just what happened when Detroit sent him back to Kansas City; the southpaw then turned around and re-signed a MLB deal with the Tigers. He has ended up turning in a rather productive year, posting 32 1/3 innings of 2.78 ERA ball with 8.6 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 at the major-league level and showing even more impressive numbers during his time at Triple-A.

    Already Returned

    • Tyler Jones, RHP, returned to Yankees by Diamondbacks: Jones has thrown rather well at Triple-A since going back to the New York organization, posting 10.7 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 in 63 2/3 innings, though he has also allowed 4.38 earned per nine.
    • Caleb Smith, LHP, returned to Yankees by Brewers: Smith ended up earning a 40-man roster spot and spending some time in the majors after showing quite well as a starter in the minors. But he has been knocked around in his 18 2/3 MLB frames on the year.
    • Justin Haley, RHP, returned to Red Sox by Twins (via Angels): The 26-year-old didn’t stick with Minnesota, allowing a dozen earned runs in 18 innings before being returned to Boston. But he has thrown well since landing back at Triple-A Pawtucket, posting a 2.66 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 44 innings over seven starts.
    • Tyler Webb, LHP, returned to Yankees by Pirates: Webb also gained a 40-man spot with the Yankees after showing some intriguing K/BB numbers at Triple-A. He was ultimately dealt to the Brewers.
    • Aneury Tavarez, OF, returned to Red Sox by Orioles: Tavarez played his way back up to Triple-A upon his return to his former organization, but has hit just .244/.292/.400 in 145 plate appearances there.
    • Glenn Sparkman, RHP, returned to Royals by Blue Jays: Sparkman was bombed in his one MLB appearance and has been limited to just 30 1/3 minor-league frames due to injury.
    • Hoby Milner, LHP, returned to Phillies by Indians: Another player who has risen to the majors with the organization that originally let them leave via the Rule 5, Milner has turned in 24 1/3 frames of 1.85 ERA ball in Philadelphia. Of course, he has also managed just 15 strikeouts against ten walks in that span.
    • Mike Hauschild, RHP, returned to Astros by Rangers: The 27-year-old righty struggled badly in his eight MLB frames. Upon returning to the rotation for Houston’s top affiliate, Hauschild has uncharacteristically struggled with free passes (5.3 per nine).
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs Designate Pierce Johnson For Assignment]]> 2017-09-14T00:30:36Z 2017-09-14T00:16:26Z The Cubs announced on Wednesday that they’ve designated right-hander Pierce Johnson for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for fellow righty Jen-Ho Tseng, whose contract has been selected from Triple-A Iowa.

    Now 26 years of age, Johnson once ranked as one of the Cubs’ very best pitching prospects and was considered the game’s No. 87 overall prospect by Baseball America in the 2013-14 offseason. The former No. 43 overall pick turned in a very strong 2.74 ERA with 9.4 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9 across two A-ball levels in 2013 in order to earn that distinction, but his star has faded since that time.

    Johnson posted similarly strong ERA marks in both 2014 and 2015, but he struggled with control in ’14 and saw his strikeout rate drop drastically in ’15. The Cubs shifted him to the bullpen for much of the 2016 season in Triple-A Iowa, but Johnson responded with a 6.14 ERA and 6.1 BB/9 through 63 innings that year (albeit with a gaudy 10.7 K/9 rate).

    The 2017 season was better, as Johnson pitched almost exclusively in a relief role and posted improvements in ERA (4.34 ERA), strikeout rate (12.3 K/9) and walk rate (4.5 BB/9). He has an option remaining beyond the 2017 season, so he could very well draw interest from other clubs in need of pitching depth that can afford to exercise more patience with the once touted right-hander than the Cubs can afford to at this juncture.

    The 22-year-old Tseng, meanwhile, currently ranks as the Cubs’ 13th-best prospect in the estimation of Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of Chicago signed the Taiwanese righty to a $1.625MM bonus as an 18-year-old amateur back in 2013, and he’s enjoyed success at each stop as he’s risen through their minor league ranks. Tseng split the 2017 campaign between Double-A and Triple-A, logging a combined 2.54 ERA (including a 1.80 ERA in 55 Triple-A innings). He’s averaged a combined 7.6 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 this season, and his ground-ball rate spiked from 39.4 percent in 90 1/3 Double-A frames to 53.1 percent in his 55 frames in Iowa.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Free Agents That Have Boosted Their Stock On One-Year Deals]]> 2017-09-12T15:20:11Z 2017-09-11T17:19:10Z With the offseason looming, it’s easy to focus on the top free agents this winter will have to offer. We at MLBTR reinforce that line of thinking with monthly Free Agent Power Rankings that profile the top names slated to hit the open market and ranking them in terms of earning power.

    Settling for a one-year contract isn’t an ideal route for most free agents, but that doesn’t mean that those (relative) bargain pickups can’t bring significant on-field impact to the teams with which they sign. While none of the players on this list received all that much fanfare when signing, they’ve all provided some notable benefit to the teams that made these commitments:

    • Kurt Suzuki, $1.5MM, Braves: Suzuki languished in free agency for several months as players like Jason Castro, Matt Wieters and Welington Castillo all generated more attention from teams and fans. However, it might be Suzuki that has provided the most bang for buck on last winter’s catching market. The 33-year-old has had a surprising career year in Atlanta, hitting .266/.344/.507 with 15 homers to date. Some have been quick to suggest that Atlanta’s new homer-happy stadium has benefited Suzuki, and while that may be true to an extent, he’s hit for more power on the road than at home. He’s put himself in position for a possible two-year deal this winter, but if he has to settle for one yet again, it should come at a higher rate.
    • Adam Lind, $1.5MM, Nationals: An awful 2016 season and an overcrowded market for corner bats created some questions about whether Lind would have to settle for a minor league contract late last winter. He ultimately secured a guaranteed deal, but it came with just a $1MM base and a $500K buyout of a mutual option. For that meager commitment, he’s given the Nats 267 plate appearances with a .297/.352/.490 slash to go along with 11 homers. Like Suzuki, that might not land him a starting role, but it could land him multiple years as a complementary bench piece.
    • Chris Iannetta, $1.5MM, Diamondbacks: Iannetta has not only rediscovered his power stroke in 2017 — he’s made it better than ever. The 34-year-old’s .249 ISO is a career best, and he’s slugged 14 homers. While that’s still four shy of his career-best with the 2008 Rockies, Iannetta’s 14 big flies this year have come in just 272 PAs, whereas he needed 407 to reach 18 back in ’08. He’s also bounced back from a down year in the framing department and been above average in that regard, per Baseball Prospectus.
    • Jhoulys Chacin and Clayton Richard, $1.75MM each, Padres: The Friars signed four starters for $3MM or less last winter — Jered Weaver and Trevor Cahill being the others — and have received a combined 345 innings out of this pair. Chacin’s run-prevention (4.06 ERA) and strikeout rate (7.44 K/9) have been better, while Richard has 13 more innings (179 total), superior control (2.6 BB/9) and superior ground-ball tendencies (59.1 percent). Neither is going to be mistaken for much more than a back-of-the-rotation stabilizer, but both have done enough to garner larger commitments on the upcoming open market.
    • Brian Duensing, $2MM, Cubs: I doubt I was alone in being surprised to see Duensing, 34, land a Major League deal last winter on the heels of a lackluster season in the Orioles organization. Duensing, though, has quietly been outstanding for the Cubs. In 54 2/3 innings, he’s logged a career-high 9.05 K/9 rate with 2.30 BB/9 and a 47 percent ground-ball rate en route to a 2.63 ERA. He’s held lefties in check reasonably well, but the first time in his career he’s also striking out right-handed batters at a lofty rate. In fact, the .211/.276/.317 that righties have posted against him is actually weaker than the .256/.300/.388 slash to which he’s limited left-handed bats.
    • Matt Belisle, $2.05MM, Twins: Belisle’s inclusion is arguable; he’s posted a pedestrian 4.36 ERA with 8.55 K/9, 3.69 BB/9 and a 42.2 percent ground-ball rate. Those numbers are largely skewed by a putrid month of May, however. Since June 3, Belisle has a 2.25 ERA with nearly a strikeout per inning and improved control and ground-ball tendencies — all while stepping into higher and higher leverage roles. He’s now serving as the Twins’ closer and has a 1.54 ERA with a 29-to-5 K/BB ratio since July 1. He’ll be 38 next season, so the earning power here isn’t sky-high, but he’s probably earned a raise, barring a late collapse.
    • Logan Morrison, $2.5MM, Rays: Few players have benefited more from one-year, “pillow” contracts in  recent memory than Morrison, who has parlayed his $2.5MM deal into a .248/.355/.529 batting line and a 36-homer season campaign to date. Morrison only just turned 30 years old, so he’ll have age on his side this winter as well. A three- or four-year deal seems plausible for Morrison even with the diminished recent market for corner bats.
    • Alex Avila, $2.5MM, Tigers: Avila hasn’t been as excellent with the Cubs as he was with the Tigers, but he’s still among the league leaders in hard contact and exit velocity — both of which have beautifully complemented his always-terrific walk rate (15.9 percent in 2016). With 14 homers under his belt and a batting line that grades out roughly 25 percent better than the league average, per context-neutral metrics like OPS+ (124) and wRC+ (127), Avila could vie for a multi-year deal and/or a starting job this offseason.
    • Joe Smith, $3MM, Blue Jays: Smith’s K/9 has nearly doubled, from 6.92 in 2016 to 11.86 in 2017, and he’s posted a dramatically improved 1.82 BB/9 this year as well. Smith has also served up just three homers in 49 1/3 innings of work, and his 3.10 ERA, while solid, is actually representative of some poor fortune in the estimation of fielding-independent metrics (1.97 FIP, 2.35 xFIP, 2.34 SIERA). He’ll be 34 next year but should top that $3MM mark and could net the second multi-year free-agent deal of his career.
    • Andrew Cashner, $10MM, Rangers: MLBTR’s Jeff Todd recently took a more in-depth look at Cashner, noting that his strong 3.19 ERA isn’t backed up by his K/BB numbers. Cashner’s complete lack of missed bats — he has the lowest swinging-strike rate and second-lowest K/9 rate of qualified MLB starters — is going to limit his earning power. But, he’s undeniably been better than he was in 2016, his velocity is comparable to last season and he’s limited hard contact quite well. A multi-year deal is certainly a possibility this offseason.
    • Carlos Gomez, $11.5MM, Rangers: Gomez’s production hasn’t reached the star levels it did in 2013-14, but he’s been a better performer at the plate this season. A spike in his OBP (from .298 to .337) is due largely to a massive increase in the number of pitches by which he’s been hit, which is less encouraging than if he’d upped his walk rate considerably. However, Gomez has also shown quite a bit more power in 2017 than he had in recent seasons (.208 ISO in ’17 vs. .153 in ’15-16 combined), and Defensive Runs Saved feels he’s improved in center field as well. Gomez won’t see the massive payday he looked to be on pace for after 2014, but he’s still young enough to notch a multi-year deal this winter.

    Notable exceptions: Neither Welington Castillo nor Greg Holland is included on this list, though both have provided good value to their new teams (Castillo in particular). While their contracts are often referred to as one-year deals with a player option, that type of contract is no more a one-year deal than Jason Heyward’s eight-year, $184MM deal with a third-year opt-out is a three-year deal. Both players were guaranteed the possibility to be under contract for two years, and those agreements are considered two-year deals for the purposes of this list.

    Jerry Blevins has also given the Mets terrific value on his one-year, $6.5MM deal, but the club option attached to that deal is a veritable lock to be exercised, so he’s unlikely to hit the free-agent market again following the season.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Cubs Activate Willson Contreras From 10-Day DL]]> 2017-09-10T17:24:57Z 2017-09-10T17:24:57Z
  • The Cubs announced that catcher Willson Contreras has been activated from the 10-day disabled list.  Manager Joe Maddon told’s Carrie Muskat (Twitter links) and other reporters that Contreras is available to play, though the team will only gradually work him back into the lineup, such as not using Contreras for a full game.  Contreras has been sidelined for the last month due to a hamstring strain, which interrupted a very strong season for the 25-year-old.  Prior to the injury, Contreras had posted a .274/.342/.519 slash line and 21 homers over 378 plate appearances, spending the bulk of his time at catcher but also playing a few games in both corner outfield and infield spots.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Willson Contreras Nearing Return]]> 2017-09-10T01:42:43Z 2017-09-10T01:42:43Z
  • Cubs catcher Willson Conteras has been out with a hamstring strain since Aug. 9, but manager Joe Maddon suggested Saturday that he’s closing in on a return. “It’s not impossible [he could be activated on Sunday], but I don’t know that it’s going to happen,” Maddon said, per Carrie Muskat of “It’s just a matter of when you talk to him, ’How are you seeing the ball? What do you feel like at the plate? How does the leg feel?'” Although Conteras has been among the majors’ best catchers this year, the first-place Cubs have managed to increase their lead in the NL Central during his absence from 1.5 games to three. Among the reasons: Fellow backstops Alex Avila and Rene Rivera, both of whom joined the Cubs as recent acquisitions, have filled in with aplomb offensively.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Links: Nicasio, Baez]]> 2017-09-07T04:57:38Z 2017-09-07T04:17:19Z
  • There are a few more details available on the strange circumstances that led to the Cardinals acquiring reliever Juan Nicasio from the Phillies earlier today– but without the ability to utilize him in the postseason. A team other than the Cards won the claim for Nicasio when the Pirates put him on trade waivers in August (only to pull him back when no deal was reached), per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). Rather, it may actually have been yet another NL Central rival — the Cubs — that had the highest-priority claim on Nicasio last month, per Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — which would mean the Cards bypassed a shot at adding him at that time. In any event, St. Louis did place a successful claim this time around, when the Phillies ran him through trade waivers after acquiring him via outright waivers on the last day of August, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets.
  • Javier Baez’s elevated play in the place of the injured Addison Russell has been a boon for the Cubswrites ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers. Manager Joe Maddon feels that Baez’s status as a part-time player earlier in his career has been to his benefit. “If he had [played 30 games in a row] two years ago, he would have buried himself,” the skipper tells Rogers. “…I don’t think he would have made the same adjustments at the plate. You would have seen a lot more mistakes on defense. … You would not have seen the same baserunning.” Since taking over as the starting shortstop, Baez is hitting .292/.350/.522 with seven homers — albeit with a 28% strikeout rate (par for the course for the free-swinger) and a .366 BABIP (which isn’t entirely sustainable). Eventually, Chicago will have to sort out playing time for both Russell and Baez, though that likely falls into the “good problem to have” category for the Cubs.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Will Venable Retires, Joins Cubs’ Front Office]]> 2017-09-06T16:49:06Z 2017-09-06T16:49:06Z The Cubs announced on Wednesday that former Major League outfielder Will Venable has been hired as a special assistant to president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer. The team’s press release also notes that Venable has now formally retired from his playing career.

    According to the release, Venable will “contribute to all elements” of the Cubs’ baseball operations department. More specifically, his duties will include visiting the team’s minor league affiliates to work with players both on and off the field as well as assisting in the evaluation of amateur talent leading up to the MLB draft in June.

    “I’m extremely grateful Jed and Theo have given me the opportunity to learn from them and all of the great people in the Cubs organization,” said Venable in an accompanying statement. “As my playing days have come to an end, I look forward to exploring new ways to have a positive impact on the game. I am excited to be part of the Cubs family and their amazing tradition.”

    Venable, 35 next month, will see his career officially come to a close after parts of nine seasons in the Major Leagues. Through 3,146 plate appearances, the Princeton University grad batted .249/.315/.404 with 81 homers, 118 doubles, 39 triples and 135 steals. Venable saw time at all three outfield spots in the Majors and drew positive grades at each in terms of Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating. His best year came in 2013, when he hit .268/.312/.484 (126 OPS+) with 22 homers and 22 steals for the Padres.

    In the end, Baseball-Reference pegged his career at 12.9 wins above replacement, while Fangraphs was slightly more bullish at 13.7. Between his contractual salaries and his signing bonus out of the draft as a seventh-rounder, Venable earned more than $14MM as a player. We at MLBTR wish the best of luck to Will in his new career path.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Jake Arrieta Out 7-10 Days With Grade 1 Hamstring Strain]]> 2017-09-06T02:27:31Z 2017-09-06T02:25:55Z 9:25pm: Arrieta told reporters after tonight’s game that the MRI revealed a Grade 1 strain of his right hamstring (video link via ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers). The right-hander will miss at least one start and possibly two with the ailment, but it doesn’t sound as if there’s any long-term risk.

    Sept. 5, 7:00pm: Arrieta is very likely to miss his next start, per’s Carrie Muskat, but there has yet to be any indication that he’ll require a lengthy absence from the mound. Arrieta underwent an MRI today, though the results from the test aren’t yet known. Arrieta said before tonight’s game that it was likely a cramp that caused him to exit.

    Sept. 4, 6:33pm: For now, at least, it seems Arrieta may have dodged a significant injury. He thinks he may even be able to take his next start, Gonzales tweets, and might not even need an MRI.

    4:35pm: There’s still no diagnosis, but Arrieta is receiving treatment to his right hamstring, the team announced (via Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, on Twitter).

    4:26pm: Cubs righty Jake Arrieta was pulled from his outing today in the third inning after seemingly suffering an injury to his right leg. He tried to throw a warm-up pitch after the issue arose, but was not able to carry on.

    Needless to say, there’s no way of knowing at this point whether there’s any reason for long-term concern. The Cubs have only announced what was obvious to the naked eye: Arrieta left with “an apparent right leg injury.”

    But at this stage of the season, even relatively minor injuries can be quite important. Arrieta, the National League’s Pitcher of the Month for August, is expected to help lead the rotation down the stretch and into the postseason.

    Despite some iffy moments earlier this year, Arrieta currently owns a 3.36 ERA over 158 innings, with 153 strikeouts and 52 walks. That overall body of work — and his track record of durability — had also seemingly set him up for quite a lucrative foray into free agency at season’s end.

    At this point, there’s not much the Cubs or Arrieta can do but wait and hope for the best. No matter the severity of the injury, the team can’t add an outside pitcher and utilize him the postseason; the deadline for doing so was August 31st.

    While Chicago could in theory still acquire a starter just to help out during the month of September, there’s no real reason to do so. The Cubs had six quality options for the rotation, so won’t need to worry about depth.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Mariners Claim Hannemann, Frankoff; Curtis Designated; Phelps To 60-Day DL]]> 2017-09-04T19:55:09Z 2017-09-04T19:41:12Z 2:41pm: The Mariners announced that they’ve not only claimed Hannemann off waivers from the Cubs but also right-hander Seth Frankoff, who was designated for assignment last Friday. In order to clear spot on the 40-man roster, Seattle has transferred David Phelps to the 60-day DL and designated lefty Zac Curtis for assignment. Phelps’ placement on the 60-day DL will end his season.

    Frankoff, 29, made his big league debut with the Cubs this season but tossed only two innings. He’s spent the bulk of his career in the Athletics’ minor league ranks and has pitched to a 4.40 ERA with 9.2 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9 through 116 2/3 innings in Triple-A Iowa this year — mostly out of the rotation (21 starts, three relief appearances).

    Curtis, 25, was acquired alongside Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger in last winter’s Taijuan Walker trade with the D-backs. He made just three appearances with the Mariners’ big league club and spent the remainder of the season with Triple-A Tacoma. The DFA of Curtis comes as at least a moderate surprise, as he’s worked to a respectable 3.51 ERA through 51 1/3 innings with Tacoma, where he’s averaged 10.5 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9 with a 40.9 percent grounder rate.

    The loss of Phelps is an unfortunate development for the Mariners, who traded four minor leaguers (albeit only one that was especially well-regarded) in order to obtain him from the Marlins earlier this summer. Phelps has been very good in Seattle when healthy, allowing just three runs with 11 strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings as a Mariner.

    However, a right elbow impingement will prevent him from appearing again this season. On the plus side for the Mariners, Phelps is controlled through 2018, so there’s hope that he can return to play an important role in next year’s relief corps.

    1:39pm: The Mariners have claimed outfield prospect Jacob Hannemann off waivers from the Cubs, reports Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (on Twitter). MLBTR had just reported that Hannemann would lose his 40-man roster spot, though it seems that his removal and subsequent placement on waivers was already in the works. He’ll land on Seattle’s 40-man roster.

    The 26-year-old Hannemann has split the 2017 season between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, hitting considerably better at the more advanced of those two levels. Through 322 PAs with Iowa, Hannemann has slashed .265/.324/.404, though his rough stretch in Tennessee drags his cumulative batting line down to a less palatable .240/.312/.372.

    Baseball America rated Hannemann as Chicago’s No. 23 prospect this past offseason, writing that he has 70-grade speed and is the “best athlete in the Cubs system.” However, he also has a fringy arm in the outfield, per their report, and has never demonstrated that much power in the minors.

    Hannemann’s speed and defensive ability are traits that the Jerry Dipoto-led Mariners have prioritized, as evidenced by this regime’s acquisitions of players such as Jarrod Dyson, Mitch Haniger and Ben Gamel (among others). With that trio lining up for starting duties, plus Guillermo Heredia, Danny Valencia and Taylor Motter all representing outfield options on the bench, it’s not clear if Hannemann will receive the opportunity to join the Mariners as a September call-up. But, he was only just added to the Cubs’ 40-man roster this past winter, meaning he has two minor league options remaining and figures to compete for a job next spring.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Pirates Claim Jack Leathersich]]> 2017-09-04T18:48:19Z 2017-09-04T18:48:19Z The Pirates announced that they have claimed left-handed reliever Jack Leathersich off waivers from the Cubs and optioned him to Triple-A Indianapolis. Leathersich, 27, had been designated for assignment over the weekend as the Cubs tweaked their 40-man roster to accommodate the arrival of some September promotions.

    Leathersich debuted with the Mets back in 2015 but missed the latter portion of the season due to Tommy John surgery. He worked his way back to throw 23 1/3 innings across multiple minor league levels last year and has had a strong season with the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate in 2017. Through 44 1/3 innings this year, he’s pitched to a 2.84 ERA and averaged a whopping 14.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Leathersich, though, has also averaged 5.7 walks per nine frames pitched, and control has long been an issue for the southpaw. He’s averaged nearly 15 K/9 over the life of his professional career but has also averaged 5.0 BB/9.

    The Pirates will have about four weeks to potentially bring Leathersich up to the Majors and get a look at him with expanded September rosters in place, if the team wishes. Leathersich does have a minor league option remaining beyond the current season, so the Bucs can take a look at him next spring and option him to Triple-A without needing to risk exposing him to waivers. Of course, that also assumes that he’ll survive the winter on Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster, which is far from a given.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs To Designate Jacob Hannemann, Select Contract Of Taylor Davis]]> 2017-09-04T18:20:05Z 2017-09-04T18:15:32Z The Cubs are set to select the contract of catcher Taylor Davis and will designate minor league outfielder Jacob Hannemann for assignment to clear a roster spot, MLBTR has learned. Baseball America’s John Manuel first tweeted that Davis was going to be selected to the big league roster.

    The 27-year-old Davis has gained some notoriety for his penchant for staring down television cameras at every opportunity (video link via Twitter), but he’s also had a fine season with Triple-A Iowa. In 406 plate appearances, he’s slashed .297/.357/.429 with six homers, 27 doubles and a triple to his credit thus far. Davis also has more than 800 innings of experience at first base and more than 200 innings at the hot corner over the past few years in the minors, so he can give the Cubs some versatility off the bench with expanded September rosters in place.

    Hannemann, 26, has split the 2017 season between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, hitting considerably better at the more advanced of those two levels. Through 322 PAs with Iowa, Hannemann has slashed .265/.324/.404, though his rough stretch in Tennessee drags his cumulative batting line down to a less palatable .240/.312/.372. Baseball America rated Hannemann as Chicago’s No. 23 prospect this past offseason, writing that he has 70-grade speed and is the “best athlete in the Cubs system.” However, he also has a fringy arm in the outfield, per their report, and has never demonstrated that much power in the minors.

    Charlie Wilmoth <![CDATA[Cubs Designate Jack Leathersich For Assignment]]> 2017-09-02T16:50:42Z 2017-09-02T16:50:15Z The Cubs have designated lefty Jack Leathersich for assignment,’s Carrie Muskat tweets. The move clears space on the team’s 40-man roster for newly acquired outfielder Leonys Martin.

    The 27-year-old Leathersich has spent most of the season at Triple-A Iowa, posting a 2.84 ERA, 5.7 BB/9 and an eye-popping 14.6 K/9 over 44 1/3 innings. Those numbers, combined with the fact that Leathersich has options remaining, could win him some attention on the waiver wire. He does, however, have limited big-league experience, and he struggled in brief duty with the Cubs earlier this season. The Cubs acquired Leathersich on a waiver claim from the Mets in the 2015-16 offseason, later re-signed him to a minor-league deal, then added him to their 40-man roster last winter.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Addison Russell Aggravates Injury]]> 2017-09-02T13:41:38Z 2017-09-02T13:41:38Z
  • Cubs shortstop Addison Russell hasn’t played in a game since Aug. 2 due to an ongoing case of plantar fasciitis, and manager Joe Maddon informed the media that he’ll be out for another three weeks after aggravating the injury during a rehab assignment (link via’s Carrie Muskat). An MRI confirmed the setback. With Russell on the shelf for another three weeks, the Cubs will continue to lean on Javier Baez as their primary shortstop, though Chicago also selected the contract of versatile utilityman Mike Freeman yesterday. Freeman isn’t likely to see many starts, but he gives Maddon some depth at the position and some insurance in the event of an injury to Baez. Here’s more from the Central divisions.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs Select Maples, Freeman From Triple-A; Rosario, Frankoff Designated For Assignment]]> 2017-09-01T16:58:03Z 2017-09-01T16:41:19Z The Cubs have designated right-handers Jose Rosario and Seth Frankoff for assignment to clear roster space for righty Dillon Maples and infielder/outfielder Mike Freeman, whose contracts have been selected from Triple-A Iowa. Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune tweets that another move will be on the horizon, as recently acquired Leonys Martin will join the team tomorrow. Martin is not presently on the 40-man roster.

    Maples will join the Cubs’ roster having received his share of fanfare. He currently ranks 14th among Cubs prospects at (albeit in a system that has been depleted by trades and by the graduation of many young talents to the big league roster). Maples was also highlighted by MLBTR’s Jason Martinez in his most recent edition of Knocking Down The Door.

    The 25-year-old Maples has been a strikeout machine across three minor league levels in 2017, working to a combined 2.27 ERA with 14.2 K/9, 5.3 BB/9 and an enormous ground-ball rate (north of 62 percent). Control is obviously an issue for Maples, though Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of note that his occasionally triple-digit fastball and pair of plus breaking pitches make Maples a potential closer if he can ever find a way to more consistently repeat his delivery and improve his control.

    Freeman, who recently turned 30, has been up and down with the D-backs, Mariners and Dodgers over the past two seasons. He’s batted a meager .123/.206/.193 in 61 big league plate appearances, but he’s a lifetime .312/.377/.420 hitter in nearly 1500 Triple-A plate appearances and can play all over the diamond. He’s primarily been a second baseman, but Freeman has significant experience at shortstop and in center field. He’s also seen time at third base, first base and in the outfield corners, making him a flexible bench option for manager Joe Maddon down the stretch.

    Rosario has been limited to 17 1/3 innings this year because of injuries and has pitched just 50 2/3 innings above Class-A Advanced despite the fact that he just turned 27. Rosario missed the entire 2015 campaign due to Tommy John surgery and has a career 4.84 ERA with 7.9 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9 in the minors.

    Frankoff, 29, made his big league debut with the Cubs this season but tossed only two innings. He’s spent the bulk of his career in the Athletics’ minor league ranks and has pitched to a 4.40 ERA with 9.2 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9 through 116 2/3 innings in Triple-A Iowa this year — mostly out of the rotation (21 starts, three relief appearances).

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs Acquire Leonys Martin]]> 2017-09-01T04:18:16Z 2017-09-01T04:05:08Z The Cubs announced to reporters just before tonight’s deadline for postseason roster eligibility that they’ve acquired outfielder Leonys Martin and cash from the Mariners in exchange for a player to be named later or cash (Twitter link via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times).

    Leonys Martin | Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY SportsThe addition of Martin will give the Cubs a fleet-footed reserve outfielder to serve as a pinch-runner and/or late-inning defensive upgrade, at the very least, over the season’s final month. While such players aren’t rostered throughout the bulk of the regular season, the month of September is its own animal; rosters expand to 40 beginning Sept. 1, allowing teams the luxury of having this type of highly specialized player on board.

    Of course, Martin isn’t that far removed from being regarded in considerably better fashion. He logged a .247/.306/.378 batting line with 15 homers and 24 steals as Seattle’s primary center fielder in 2016. While that line checks in below the league average, Martin’s glove and baserunning prowess still allowed him to check in at 2.2 wins above replacement, per Fangraphs. And from 2013-14, Martin contributed more than six total WAR thanks largely to his speed and defense.

    While those heights appear likely to be squarely in the past for Martin, he’s posted a strong .307/.348/.494 batting line with 11 homers and 25 steals in 87 Triple-A contests this season. He’s earning $4.85MM this year after avoiding arbitration last offseason, but the inclusion of cash from the Mariners surely indicates that they’re picking up the majority of the tab on that salary. Martin seems a likely candidate to join the Cubs’ big league roster in the very near future, where he’ll look to improve on the dismal .174/.221/.287 slash he’s posted through 122 plate appearances in the Majors this year.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest On Justin Verlander]]> 2017-09-01T13:37:46Z 2017-09-01T03:28:52Z 10:47pm: The Tigers are “still busily working [the] phones,” tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today, with Verlander’s status as yet uncertain.

    10:27pm: There are a variety of reports emerging late that paint a somewhat confusing picture. Detroit News journalist Chris McCosky said a deal was close with the Astros, only to report shortly thereafter that Verlander had nixed the proposed arrangement (links to Twitter). Now, McCosky says it’s not clear if Verlander exercised his no-trade clause or if the Astros backed out. Jon Morosi of MLB Network (via Twitter) and Mark Berman of FOX 26 (via Twitter) had also suggested that a deal was getting closer.

    9:05pm: The Cubs still aren’t willing to meet the Tigers’ asking price, per David Kaplan of CSN Chicago (via Twitter). Chicago is believed to be the only team willing to take on most or all of Verlander’s salary, per’s Jesse Rogers (Twitter link), though indications remain that a deal is not likely at this late stage.

    8:16pm: One source tells ESPN Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link) that talks involving Verlander are believed to be “dead” with less than three hours to go before the deadline to add players with eligibility for postseason rosters.

    6:24pm: The Cubs and Astros — two teams with prior reported interest — spoke with Detroit today, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports (via Twitter). Both learned that the Tigers’ asking price on Verlander has not changed. Whether or not either of those two hypothetical suitors remains engaged on Verlander is not clear.

    2:29pm: While Detroit is indeed asking around about Verlander trades, FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweets that a trade of Verlander remains “possible but not probable.” As of yesterday, Tigers brass was reportedly not optimistic about reaching a deal for Verlander.

    1:49pm: The Tigers are in “active discussions” on the possibility of a Justin Verlander trade in advance of tonight’s deadline for postseason roster eligibility, reports Jon Morosi of (Twitter links). Per Morosi, each of Verlander, Shane Greene and Alex Wilson is in play as the Tigers are “making clear” to other clubs that they are embarking on a rebuild.

    The inclusion of Greene and Wilson is surprising, if for no other reason than it suggests that both affordable relievers have perhaps cleared revocable waivers. Morosi doesn’t explicitly state that, but both would need to have cleared in order to be discussed in trades or, at the very least, have been claimed off revocable waivers in the past day or so (which would leave Detroit able to negotiate with only the claiming team). The Astros have remained in contact with the Tigers regarding Verlander over the past 48 hours, Morosi further adds.

    Detroit is already on the verge of unloading one massive contract, as the Tigers have reportedly agreed to trade Justin Upton to the Angels. Certainly, the Tigers will be looking for more than just salary relief in exchange for Verlander, who has been dominant over the past couple of months after a slow start to the season, however. Verlander is owed $56MM from 2018-19.

    Jason Martinez <![CDATA[Knocking Down The Door: Anderson, Gonsalves, Lopez, Maples, Walker]]> 2017-08-28T20:56:16Z 2017-08-28T19:03:11Z “Knocking Down the Door” is a regular feature that identifies minor leaguers who are making a case for a big league promotion.

    Brian Anderson, 3B, Miami Marlins (Triple-A New Orleans) | Marlins Depth Chart

    Brian Anderson | Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsSince a mid-July promotion to Triple-A New Orleans, the 24-year-old Anderson has been hitting like someone who knows he’s auditioning for a Major League job. In 29 Pacific Coast League games, the right-handed hitting third baseman is slashing .350/.420/.631 with eight home runs and 12 multi-hit games.

    Dee Gordon and Martin Prado will presumably be on the trade block this offseason, and the Marlins wouldn’t pull the trigger on dealing either player without knowing if they have a potential in-house replacement (Prado could move to second base if Gordon is traded). If there is a Marlins prospect who is a candidate to step into a starting role in 2018, it would be Anderson, a former third-round draft pick. Calling him up in the near future and giving him 100+ plate appearances would give the Marlins a much better idea of how capable he is of becoming their starting third baseman next season.

    Stephen Gonsalves, SP, Minnesota Twins (Triple-A Rochester) | Twins Depth Chart

    A shoulder injury that pushed Gonsalves’ season debut to mid-May could be a blessing in disguise for him and the Twins. While most starting pitching prospects are usually close to their innings limit in August and not expected to contribute much at the Major League level in September and beyond, Gonsalves is at 109 2/3 innings after his latest start. Considering that he threw 140 innings during a breakout 2016 in which he appeared very much on the fast track to the Major Leagues, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s pitching for the playoff-contending Twins late this season.

    The 23-year-old lefty was recently promoted to Triple-A following a dominant 28-start stint in Double-A (161 2/3 IP, 2.28 ERA, 6.1 H/9, 3.3 BB/9, 10.3 K/9) over the past two seasons. After posting back-to-back quality starts, Gonsalves struggled in his third Triple-A outing before bouncing back with another stellar effort over the weekend (6 IP, ER, 7 H, BB, 6 K). The Twins are currently in possession of a Wild Card berth with Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee serving as their fourth and fifth starters, respectively. If they’re going to hold on, they might need to turn to their farm system one more time. Gonsalves could be the difference maker.

    Jose Lopez, SP, Cincinnati Reds (Double-A Pensacola) | Reds Depth Chart

    The 23-year-old Lopez is only three months removed from pitching in the High-A Florida State League, but there are already several reasons to believe that he’s not far away from the Majors. After allowing 15 earned runs in his first 27 innings with Double-A Pensacola, the right-hander has been one of the best pitchers in the Minor Leagues. In his last 10 starts, he has a 1.24 ERA with 4.8 H/9, 1.6 BB/9 and 8.0 K/9. He’s completed at least six innings and hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs or five hits over that span.

    During Lopez’s first crack at the upper minors, he’s shown an ability to make adjustments, miss bats, throw strikes and pitch deep into games—he has a 68.5% strike rate and hasn’t thrown more than 96 pitches in any of his 10 consecutive quality starts. Tyler Mahle, who made this list on May 1st and June 27thbecame the 15th Reds’ pitcher to make a start in 2017 when he made his MLB debut yesterday. Lopez deserves to be the 16th.

    Dillon Maples, RP, Chicago Cubs (Triple-A Iowa) | Cubs Depth Chart 

    The Cubs appeared to solidify what was already a deep and talented bullpen by acquiring lefty Justin Wilson at the trade deadline. Wilson has been mostly ineffective, however, while the team’s other key relievers have been unreliable, to put it kindly, over the past few weeks. It’s not quite a major area of concern at this point, considering the track record of the group, but it’s probably alarming enough to at least take a look at adding a reinforcement from the Minors, even one that began the season in High-A.

    Maples’ rise didn’t begin immediately after the team converted him to a reliever a few years back. His numbers out of the ’pen were unimpressive in 46 appearances in the low minors from 2015-16, but something has apparently clicked in 2017. In 51 appearances across three levels, including his last 16 with Triple-A Iowa, the 25-year-old has a 2.74 ERA, 6.2 H/9 and 14.3 K/9. The walks are a concern (5.3 BB/9), but he’s only walked more than one batter in three of his combined 30 appearances in the upper minors. It’s also worth noting that Carl Edwards Jr. had a 6.0 BB/9 in 24 Triple-A appearances last season but went on to finish the year as one of the best relievers on the World Series champs.

    Christian Walker, 1B/LF, Arizona Diamondbacks (Triple-A Reno) | Diamondbacks Depth Chart

    Walker’s already difficult path to the Majors could not have taken a worse turn during the past offseason. With limited at-bats available in Baltimore behind Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, the right-handed hitting first baseman was designated for assignment in February. The likelihood of a better opportunity lied ahead. But it never came. By the time the regular season started, he had been claimed on waivers by three different teams—Braves, Reds and Diamondbacks—that employed superstar first basemen who rarely miss a game. In late March, he was designated for assignment a fourth time, only to clear waivers and remain with the Diamondbacks.

    To his credit, the 26-year-old did not let the limited opportunity and removal from the 40-man roster affect him at the plate. After putting up what would be slightly below-average numbers for a first baseman in Triple-A during parts of the previous three seasons, Walker has taken his game to another level in 2017. In 565 plate appearances, he’s been the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A version of Paul Goldschmidt, slashing .312/.384/.609 with 32 homers and 34 doubles. While the Pacific Coast League is more hitter-friendly than the International League, where Walker played previously, his improved walk and strikeout rates (145 BB, 406 K from ’14-16; 58 BB, 97 K in ’17) are indications that a better approach at the plate has helped lead to his success.

    A September call-up is in the cards as the D-backs have gotten very little from their pinch-hitters in ’17 (.636 OPS), but they’d also do Walker a huge favor by either trading him in the offseason to a team where he has a chance to play or removing him from the 40-man roster—assuming he’s added in September—so he can opt for free agency.

    Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[NL Central Notes: Cardinals, Reds, Cubs]]> 2017-08-24T23:17:55Z 2017-08-24T23:17:55Z The Cardinals see “a need” in the closer role in the wake of Trevor Rosenthal’s Tommy John surgery, but GM Mike Girsch tells’s Jen Langosch that “there’s not a ton we can do about it” this year. While the club is still looking to see if there’s a late-inning arm to be had, he suggested, it’s just not likely that one will be found with another week to go until the end of August (after which players who are traded cannot appear on a postseason roster). But the Cards will look to bolster the pen over the winter, Girsch said, with the precise direction still to be determined — based in part upon how things go the rest of the way and what the market bears.

    • In other Cardinals-focused coverage, Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch takes a look at the immediate replacement options for Rosenthal. And his colleague, Derrick Goold, analyzes the organization’s possible September call-ups. GM John Mozeliak says that the organization is rich in upper-level talent that could contribute down the stretch. Goold’s examination goes into great detail on the thought process, and is well worth a read — even for fans of other teams.
    • With somewhat less fanfare, for obvious reasons, the Reds also recently lost a key pitcher for the rest of the season: righty Scott Feldman, who required knee surgery. Feldman ended up taking down $4MM in total for his 2017 season, Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes — with incentives boosting his $2.3MM base salary. He’ll likely be as affordable, if not moreso, this coming winter, though Feldman did post solid results before his knee started barking. He also seemingly left a good impression, with manager Bryan Price crediting Feldman as “a tremendous competitor, though the skipper also hinted that the organization will be aiming to minimize the health risk in building out its rotation over the winter.
    • The Cubs have several relatively unheralded players that could make big contributions down the stretch,’s Jesse Rogers writes. Swingman Mike Montgomery and infielder Tommy La Stella have already made an impact while filling in for injured regulars, Rogers notes, while the team may yet hope for a late charge from struggling relievers Hector Rondon and Justin Wilson.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Sign Scott Carroll To Minor League Deal]]> 2017-08-24T02:41:22Z 2017-08-24T02:39:32Z
  • Righty Fernando Rodriguez has joined the Red Sox on a minors deal. He was cut loose by the Cubs earlier this summer after a brief but promising showing at Triple-A, where he allowed four earned on nine hits and just one walk while striking out 13 in 11 2/3 innings. Rodriguez has thrown over two hundred MLB innings, mostly with the Athletics and Astros.
  • The Cubs have signed righty Scott Carroll to a minors pact. He had not previously appeared this season after seeing time with the White Sox over the past three seasons. In 168 1/3 frames as a swingman with the southside Chicago organization, Carroll worked to a 4.60 ERA with 5.0 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Brewers Claim Aaron Brooks From Cubs]]> 2017-08-23T01:16:00Z 2017-08-23T01:16:00Z The Brewers have claimed right-hander Aaron Brooks off outright waivers from the Cubs, MLBTR has learned (Twitter links). He’ll join Milwaukee’s Triple-A affiliate for the time being. Brooks was designated for assignment over the weekend when the Cubs picked up Rene Rivera from the Mets.

    A hip injury cost Brooks the majority of the 2016 season, and he’s struggled with Triple-A Iowa thus far in 2017. Through 138 innings there, Brooks has posted a 6.20 earned run average, though his 6.9 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 48.7 percent ground-ball rate and 4.29 xFIP all offer a bit more cause for optimism than his bottom-line run prevention numbers. Brooks had a solid year in 2015 with the Triple-A affiliates of the Royals and Athletics, pitching to a 3.56 ERA with 7.8 K/9 against 1.6 BB/9. With rosters set to expand in September, it’s possible that Brooks’ residence on the 40-man roster could lead to a September look audition with the Brewers.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Montero On Departure From Cubs, Rizzo's Comments]]> 2017-08-21T16:56:16Z 2017-08-21T16:56:16Z
  • Miguel Montero told Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times that he doesn’t have any hard feelings toward the Cubs organization — neither the front office nor his former teammates — following his abrupt dismissal earlier this summer. On his final day as a Cub, Montero called out Jake Arrieta and other Cubs hurlers for being slow to the plate with their deliveries, and the Cubs quickly designated him for assignment. Former teammate Anthony Rizzo went on to suggest that Montero’s comments were those of a player that was being “selfish.” Montero called Rizzo a “great player” and a “good teammate” and said that he harbors no ill feelings toward him for the comments, even if he does disagree with the sentiment. Montero revealed that five clubs were in touch with his agent about a possible fit in anticipation of him potentially being released, though that never happened, as the Cubs agreed to a trade that sent him to Toronto before waiving him. If I was really that bad guy they said I was, the teams aren’t interested in bad guys,” said Montero.
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    Charlie Wilmoth <![CDATA[Cubs Claim Rene Rivera From Mets]]> 2017-08-19T15:54:30Z 2017-08-19T15:34:20Z The Cubs have claimed catcher Rene Rivera off waivers from the Mets, the teams have announced. To clear space for Rivera on their roster, the Cubs have designated righty Aaron Brooks for assignment.

    Rivera is the latest veteran to leave the Mets this month, following the trades of Jay Bruce, Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson. The 34-year-old Rivera has hit a modest .230/.278/.391 in 187 plate appearances this season and has never been an outstanding hitter, with a career .215/.266/.340 line in parts of nine big-league seasons with the Mariners, Twins, Padres and Rays in addition to the Mets. He has, however, long rated as a strong defender and framer, two skills the Cubs surely value. (The Cubs had, in fact, been connected to Rivera before they acquired Alex Avila last month.) With Willson Contreras on the DL with a hamstring strain, Rivera will presumably back up Avila. He is making $1.75MM this season and is eligible for free agency at season’s end.

    The 27-year-old Brooks arrived from the Athletics organization prior to the 2016 season and initially looked like he would provide good starting pitching depth, but he missed most of that season with a hip issue and hasn’t been the same since, posting a 6.20 ERA, 6.8 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 and 27 home runs allowed in 138 innings this season with Triple-A Iowa. He pitched for the Royals and A’s in 2015 but has not appeared in the big leagues since.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs Place Jon Lester On Disabled List]]> 2017-08-18T18:13:58Z 2017-08-18T18:13:58Z The Cubs announced that they’ve placed left-hander Jon Lester and right-hander Justin Grimm on the 10-day disabled list due to left shoulder fatigue and an infected right index finger, respectively. It’s the first trip to the disabled list for Lester since 2011. Left-hander Rob Zastryzny and right-hander Felix Pena have been recalled from Triple-A Iowa to fill the two roster spots.

    Lester was rocked for nine runs (seven earned) on seven hits and a walk in 1 2/3 innings yesterday against the Reds, and his afternoon ended with him calling for the trainer to come to the mound. The Cubs expect Lester to return by Sept. 1, writes USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, and manager Joe Maddon didn’t sound overly concerned when discussing the injury with Nightengale and other reporters.

    While even a short-term injury for Lester is significant for a Cubs team that has a small 1.5-game lead on the NL Central, the fact that the 33-year-old doesn’t have any structural damage in his shoulder comes as a relief for the club. For the time being, fellow southpaw Mike Montgomery will step into Chicago’s rotation. Zastryzny, then, will fill Montgomery’s spot and give Maddon an additional lefty in the ’pen behind Justin Wilson and Brian Duensing.

    The 2017 season has been a struggle for Grimm, 29, who served as a solid setup piece for the Cubs from 2014-16 but has limped to a 5.40 ERA through 43 1/3 innings this year. Grimm has seen his K/9 rate dip from better than 11.0 to 9.6 in 2017. His BB/9 rate has also spiked to 4.8, and he’s been more homer-prone than ever before in his career.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs Expect Lester To Miss One To Two Starts]]> 2017-08-18T14:46:21Z 2017-08-18T14:46:21Z Jon Lester’s start yesterday lasted just 1 2/3 innings and ended with the Cubs lefty calling for the trainer before exiting with an 8-0 deficit. The Cubs’ initial diagnosis on Lester was tightness in his left lat muscle, though he headed out to see a specialist in Chicago yesterday afternoon. Following that examination, the Cubs are hopeful that Lester will only miss one to two starts, according to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. Even a quick absence of that nature could mean a 10-day DL stint for Lester, and Sullivan notes that left-hander Mike Montgomery would step into the rotation in the interim.

    • The knee injury that landed Reds righty Scott Feldman on the disabled list last month has resurfaced and could potentially end his season, writes Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Feldman was candid in telling the Cincinnati media, “If it doesn’t get any better, I don’t think I can pitch like that anymore.” Feldman served up five homers to the Cubs in fewer than four innings before exiting yesterday’s game. Feldman’s fastball was sitting at 82 mph in that rocky outing, Buchanan notes, and the veteran acknowledged that he’s “not really feeling too confident” about the outlook of the injury. This isn’t Feldman’s first bout of troubles with his right knee; the right-hander underwent microfracture surgery on that same knee back in 2011 and tore a meniscus in that same knee four years later with the Astros.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 8/16/17]]> 2017-08-16T19:34:50Z 2017-08-16T19:34:50Z Here are some of the latest minor moves from around the game, courtesy of Baseball America’s Matt Eddy except where otherwise noted:

    • The Mariners outrighted right-hander Christian Bergman to Triple-A after he cleared waivers, per a club announcement. Bergman, 29, had the right to opt for free agency now or at the end of the season; given that he’s now listed on Tacoma’s roster, it seems he’ll wait and consider the latter option when the time comes. Bergman, 29, has thrown 51 1/3 innings on the year for Seattle, working to a 4.91 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9.
    • Outfielder Daniel Robertson will return to the Indians on a minors deal after being designated for assignment and then released, the club announced. The 31-year-old has appeared in each of the past four MLB campaigns — each time with a different team.  This year, he took 88 plate appearances for Cleveland, slashing .225/.287/.338. While it’s not clear whether Robertson will factor at the major league level again this year, the fleet-footed, high-contact 31-year-old could conceivably make for a useful bench piece once rosters expand in September.
    • The Diamondbacks have added right-handers Andury Acevedo and Louis Coleman on minors deals. Acevedo, who’ll soon turn 27, was intriguing enough to land a 40-man spot with the Cubs a few years back, but has yet to show any consistency on the mound in the upper minors. As for Coleman, who threw 48 innings of 4.69 ERA ball last year for the Dodgers, he’ll return to Arizona after briefly testing the open market. He has worked to a 2.05 ERA with 10.6 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 over 57 innings this year in stints with the D-Backs’ and Reds’ top affiliates.
    • Heading to the Reds on a minors deal is slugging outfielder Adam Walker. He has bounced around via waiver claims and minor-league deals of late, seeing time in three organizations thus far in 2017. All told, he has compiled a tepid .185/.220/.410 batting line — with a dozen home runs but also 88 strikeouts against just ten walks — in his 241 plate appearances in the upper minors.
    • The White Sox released infielder Grant Green, who had previously seen brief action in the majors this year with the Nationals. On the season, Green owns an overall .232/.306/.300 slash over 245 plate appearances at the Triple-A level with those two organizations. The 29-year-old was once considered a notable possible contributor with the Athletics and Angels, but has managed only a .248/.283/.336 batting line in his 353 trips to the plate in the majors.
    • Six-year MLB veteran Collin Cowgill has been released by the Padres. Cowgill, 31, joined the organization on a minors deal over the winter, but never earned a crack at a return to the majors. He carries a .235/.297/.390 slash through 220 plate appearances
    • Finally, the Rangers have released lefty Bobby LaFromboise and righty Jaye Chapman. The former has made 27 MLB appearances and shown some intriguing numbers at times, but struggled last year at Triple-A with the Phillies and was sidelined for much of the current season. The 30-year-old Chapman, meanwhile, is looking to work back toward the majors for the first time since his lone stint back in 2012. But he was hit hard in his 36 2/3 innings at Triple-A Round Rock, with a 6.63 ERA and 6.9 K/9 against 5.2 BB/9.
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Latest On Koji Uehara's DL Placement]]> 2017-08-13T18:34:40Z 2017-08-13T18:34:40Z
  • Even at the age of 42, the Cubs’ Koji Uehara has been a quality reliever this year, but “there’s concern that this could be the end of the road,” Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. Uehara went on the disabled list Wednesday with a neck strain, though there aren’t any indications that it’s a major injury (via Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune).  Before his DL placement, Uehara allowed an earned run in four of his most recent six appearances.  He still owns a palatable 3.55 ERA over 38 innings, though, with 10.66 K/9 against 2.61 BB/9.  Uehara, whom the Cubs signed to a one-year, $6MM deal last winter, suggested prior to the season that he wanted to pitch through at least 2018, which would give him an even 10 seasons in Major League Baseball.  This would match the 10 years he pitched professionally in his native Japan.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Willson Contreras To Miss Four To Six Weeks]]> 2017-08-11T22:09:54Z 2017-08-11T22:09:25Z TODAY: The team has announced that Contreras is dealing with a moderate strain that will likely cost him four to six weeks of action (h/t Jesse Rogers of, via Twitter)

    YESTERDAY: The Cubs avoided a “worst case scenario” with the hamstring injury catcher Willson Contreras suffered Wednesday, but he’s still likely to miss anywhere from two weeks to a month, reports Jesse Rogers of

    Fortunately for the Cubs, they acquired a quality fallback in former Tigers catcher Alex Avila prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Still, the loss of Contreras is a worrying development for a 59-54 club that’s clinging to a 1.5-game lead over both the Cardinals and Brewers in the National League Central. The Cubs have disappointed in the wake of last year’s World Series-winning campaign, but Contreras has carried his excellent 2016 offensive showing into this season. The 25-year-old has slashed .274/.342/.519 and belted 21 home runs over 374 plate appearances, and his .245 ISO leads all regular catchers. Defensively, Contreras has thrown out a league-average 28 percent of attempted base stealers, though Baseball Prospectus indicates that his framing work has regressed since last season.

    Avila, meanwhile, has only totaled nine at-bats and one hit (a home run) as a Cub since they landed him last month. But the 30-year-old was in the midst of an offensive revival before the trade, thanks to an increase in fly balls and his signature plate discipline. The left-handed hitter has been a liability against southpaw pitchers, though, and he hasn’t fared well as a framer. It’s possible the Cubs will scour the August waiver market for a complement, then, with right-handed-hitting catchers Kurt Suzuki (Braves), Nick Hundley (Giants) and A.J. Ellis (Marlins) as potential movers. For at least the time being, Victor Caratini will return from Triple-A to back up Avila. The 23-year-old Caratini,’s sixth-ranked Cubs prospect, debuted earlier this season in Chicago and picked up 28 PAs.