Chicago Cubs – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-05-21T04:57:07Z WordPress Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Addison Russell Discusses Trade Speculation]]> 2018-05-20T18:28:38Z 2018-05-20T18:28:42Z There has been speculation about the Cubs pursuing Orioles shortstop Manny Machado in a deal that could cost the North Siders their current shortstop, Addison Russell. But Russell told Patrick Mooney of The Athletic (subscription required) and other reporters Saturday that he’s not sweating those rumors. “As far as the trade rumors, if it happens, it happens. But I really don’t pay them any attention,” he said. “The only time I really even hear about them is the media bringing it up to me.” Unsurprisingly, the 24-year-old Russell also made clear that he’d like to remain with the Cubs, who originally acquired him from the Athletics in a 2014 blockbuster with the Athletics. Russell has since emerged as a solid starter, not a superstar like Machado, but trading him to acquire the latter would mean surrendering his three-plus years of control for a few months of control over Machado. Of course, it would also boost the Cubs’ World Series chances for this season, thus creating a conundrum for Chicago’s brass if it actually does discuss a Machado-Russell trade with Baltimore.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[No Timetable For Jason Heyward's Return]]> 2018-05-13T21:43:16Z 2018-05-13T21:43:57Z
  • Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward won’t come off the seven-day concussion DL on Monday, Carrie Muskat of relays. It’s unclear when Heyward will be ready to go, as manager Joe Maddon said Sunday that there’s no timetable for his return. In better news for the Cubs, right-hander Yu Darvish will take the ball against the Braves on Tuesday, per Muskat. Darvish will end up missing the minimum, then, after going on the 10-day DL retroactive to May 4 with flu-like symptoms.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Select Contract Of Justin Hancock]]> 2018-05-09T19:05:41Z 2018-05-09T19:05:41Z The Cubs have selected the contract of righty Justin Hancock, per a club announcement. He’ll be making his way onto an MLB roster for the first time.

    Outfielder Mark Zagunis is also coming up to the active roster after briefly debuting in 2017. In corresponding moves, the Cubs have optioned righty Jen-Ho Tseng and southpaw Rob Zastryzny.

    It’s obviously a big day for Hancock, who was originally selected by the Padres in the ninth round of the 2011 draft out of Lincoln Trail College in southern Illinois. At that time, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer was at the helm in San Diego.

    Hancock has worked exclusively out of the bullpen since landing in the Cubs organization in the deal that sent Matt Szczur to the Friars. He continued to struggle with command last year but seems to have righted the ship thus far in 2018, with 14 1/3 innings of 3.77 ERA ball over which he has recorded 19 strikeouts against just four walks.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Expect To Inquire On Manny Machado]]> 2018-05-09T13:37:00Z 2018-05-09T13:24:19Z Bob Nightengale of USA Today provides an interesting look at the post-playing career of Hall-of-Famer Andre Dawson, the slugging outfielder best remembered for his time with the Cubs and Expos. The Hawk now operates a funeral home with his wife in the Miami area, a surprising turn for a legendary ballplayer. Fans of the former great will certainly want to read the entire piece, which paints a compelling picture of Dawson and his new line of work.

    • The summer trade picture is only just starting to take shape, but Manny Machado obviously represents a key component. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams wrote recently, it is hard to imagine the Orioles won’t end up trading him before he reaches free agency at season’s end. And the Cubs are shaping up to be an interesting fit, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Indeed, per the report, the Chicago organization has plans to discuss Machado with the O’s once the trade window begins to open. Of course, that’s hardly surprising and hardly suggests that the Cubs are a favorite. As Wittenmyer notes, the club has a relatively diminished upper-level talent pool to draw from in making a deal; while indications are that ownership is willing to green-light an aggressive approach, it’ll still be tough to pull off a deal. And the Cubs surely won’t be alone in pursuing Machado, who could be seen as a difference-maker for numerous rosters around the game.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs Place Jason Heyward On 7-Day DL]]> 2018-05-09T03:41:35Z 2018-05-08T22:09:13Z
  • The Cubs announced today that outfielder Jason Heyward has been placed on the 7-day concussion DL. Infielder David Bote is back up from Triple-A to take his spot on the active roster for the time being. Heyward collided with the right-field wall over the weekend when attempting to rob former teammate Dexter Fowler of what wound up being a walk-off home run in the 14th inning of Sunday’s game against the Cardinals (video link). Interestingly, manager Joe Maddon tells reporters that Kris Bryant could see some time in right field while Heyward is sidelined (Twitter link via’s Carrie Muskat).
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Place Yu Darvish On 10-Day DL]]> 2018-05-08T00:15:23Z 2018-05-08T00:15:23Z The Cubs have placed righty Yu Darvish on the 10-day DL, per a club announcement. He is dealing with the flu.

    Without knowing more, it would rate as a surprise if the treatment for this common illness mandates anything other than a brief respite. At this point, though, there’s not much of an indication of what kind of an absence the club expects.

    Of course, there’s a broader slate of concerns surrounding Darvish, who joined the Cubs on a six-year, $126MM contract over the winter. He has allowed twenty runs in thirty frames over his first six starts with his new team. Perhaps, then, this DL placement will also allow the veteran hurler a chance at a more general re-set.

    Darvish has carried a strikeout rate of 11.1 K/9, right at his typical level. But he’s getting swinging strikes on just 9.4% of his offerings, which is well off his career average, while doling out an uncharacteristic 4.8 free passes per nine. Plus, Darvish has been rather prone to the long ball (1.80 HR/9, 20.0% HR/FB).

    It’s hard to know just what has gone wrong for Darvish thus far. Arm speed isn’t the problem, as he’s throwing both his four and two-seam fastballs harder than ever. His typically excellent slider has not been clicking, and he has seemingly experimented with throwing the pitch harder — but with less movement — over the course of the year. (See here, here, and here.) Darvish is also fiddling with his pitch mix, without yet finding the answer.

    Clearly, getting Darvish back to full health is only a part of the puzzle now facing the Cubs. It’s also unclear just what the club will do to replace him in the rotation. A corresponding move has not yet been made.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Inside The Cubs' Hitting Coach Change]]> 2018-05-07T04:58:44Z 2018-05-07T04:58:44Z
  • Phillies hitting coach John Mallee “was totally surprised” at being replaced as the Cubs’ hitting coach after last season, he tells Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.  Though manager Joe Maddon praised Mallee’s work, the Cubs’ decision to part ways with Mallee and hire Chili Davis seemed due (as Maddon and Theo Epstein explain) to an organizational preference for more of a well-rounded hitting attack, as opposed to Mallee’s more launch angle-based philosophy.  It seems like there could be a bit of a learning curve to the new approach for Cubs hitters, as the team’s offensive numbers are down over the first six weeks of the season.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Mikolas On Offseason Interest From The Cubs]]> 2018-05-05T17:50:54Z 2018-05-05T17:50:26Z
  • While many Cards fans were skeptical of the team’s two-year, $15.5MM deal with righty Miles Mikolas this offseason, but the 29-year-old has gone a long way toward proving his doubters wrong with a 2.70 ERA and a 31-to-2 K/BB ratio through his first 40 innings back in the Majors. Mikolas chatted with the Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold about the Cardinals’ offseason pursuit of him, revealing that the division-rival Cubs were also in pursuit of his services before they “cooled of” and eventually struck up a deal with Tyler Chatwood“I guess they didn’t want me that bad,” said Mikolas of the Cubs. “I guess they thought it would be more fun facing me than having me on their staff. They figured they’d take their chances.”
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs To Sign Lane Adams]]> 2018-05-05T04:54:58Z 2018-05-05T04:54:58Z The Cubs have reached agreement on a minor-league deal with outfielder Lane Adams, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Twitter). He had recently elected free agency after being removed from the Braves’ 40-man roster.

    The 28-year-old Adams will provide some outfield depth to a Chicago organization that has struggled to produce runs of late. But it does not appear as if he’ll be an immediate factor at the MLB level.

    Adams has been a productive hitter in limited action since landing with the Braves in advance of the 2017 season. He slashed .270/.345/.460 with six home runs in 143 plate appearances in Atlanta. That’s the most extensive MLB time the former Royals farmhand has received in his career, though clearly he did not receive much time while he was on the active roster.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Maddon: Cubs Not Considering Happ Demotion]]> 2018-05-04T03:58:58Z 2018-05-04T03:54:52Z Despite Ian Happ’s alarming struggles at the plate — he’s hitting .233/.282/.384 with a mammoth 46.2 percent strikeout rate through 78 plate appearances — Cubs skipper Joe Maddon says the team is not discussing the possibility of optioning the young switch-hitter to Triple-A Iowa (link via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times). Per Maddon, the 23-year-old is frustrated by his lack of contact but handling the struggles quite well. Maddon acknowledges that it’s difficult to get all of his young hitters into the lineup but maintains that the best place for Happ to right the ship at the plate is with the big league club for the time being.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Jake Arrieta On Declining Cubs’ Offer]]> 2018-05-02T17:12:00Z 2018-05-02T17:12:00Z In a chat with Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, Phillies hurler Jake Arrieta verified prior reports that Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein made a last-ditch offer before the team agreed to terms with Yu Darvish.

    Arrieta, who ultimately signed with the Philadelphia organization later in the winter, tells Wittenmyer that he does not really believe that Epstein expected to get a deal done when he called with a “take it or leave it” proposal of six years and $120MM. That statement reflects previous reporting on the perceptions of both sides to that conversation.

    While he emphasized that he harbors no ill will at all toward Epstein or the Cubs organization, Arrieta says that approach was a non-starter, even though he had yet to receive a formal contract offer to that point:

    “[T]hey weren’t willing to negotiate at all, and that wasn’t acceptable for me,” Arrieta tells Wittenmyer. “I bet on myself just like I have my entire career and ended up getting a good deal.”

    Arrieta, of course, is referring to the three-year, $75MM guarantee he took down from the Phils. He obviously preferred the higher average annual value but also emphasized in his comments that he expects to play longer than that in Philadelphia. Arrieta’s deal includes a provision that allows the Phillies to add on two years at a salary of $20MM or more (depending upon escalators) per season.

    The veteran hurler certainly exuded confidence in his chat with Wittenmyer, which is well worth a full read. Among other things, he discussed his leadership efforts with the Phillies and flatly rejected the idea that there’s any concern with how he’ll age — or how his velocity will hold up — over the course of his new contract. To the contrary, Arrieta suggests his new organization will receive an exceptional player. “There’s not many like me,” he tells Wittenmyer. “… I don’t care what the situation is, I bet on myself to get the job done.”

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Cubs Activate Ben Zobrist, Option David Bote; Bryant Back In Lineup]]> 2018-04-28T15:17:53Z 2018-04-28T15:17:18Z Ben Zobrist has been activated from the 10-day disabled list and will bat seventh today against the Brewers, Bruce Levine of reports. Kris Bryant will also make his return to the lineup after sitting out for a few days following a hit-by-pitch injury. In a corresponding move, the Cubs have optioned third baseman David Bote to Triple-A Iowa.

    Zobrist was off to an impressive start in 49 plate appearances, accruing a .326 average and .408 on-base percentage before a lower back strain sent him to the DL. Though landed there on April 21st, he was eligible to return today because the move was retroactive to April 18th.

    Bryant was hit in the head by a 96-MPH fastball on Sunday and has been held out of the lineup as a precaution ever since, even though he’d been cleared of all concussion symptoms on the same day he suffered the injury.  “This is about a young man’s life and how he feels 30-40 years from now, so I’m all into that … Getting him back on the horse is always a good thing, obviously, so I think he’s going to be fine,” manager Joe Maddon had said of the injury on Thursday.

    The 25-year-old Bote made just nine plate appearances in Zobrist’s absence, and managed just one hit while striking out three times. It was Bote’s first taste of the major leagues; he’s been a career Cubs farmhand since the club selected him in the 18th round of the 2012 draft. He’ll head back to Triple-A for the time being, where he’s got a .511 slugging percentage on the young season.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Cubs Send Scouts To Watch Rays]]> 2018-04-23T00:48:43Z 2018-04-23T00:48:43Z
  • Evaluators from the Cubs and Cardinals were recently on hand to watch the Rays last week, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.  The Rays’ limited payroll capability could make them sellers regardless of their record, though the team is also off to a slow 8-13 start overall (though Tampa has won five of its last six games).  It isn’t known what players were being watched, though the Cubs have been heavily linked to Chris Archer in the past while the Cardinals had strong interest in Alex Colome this offseason.
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Injury Notes: Zobrist, Despaigne, Ohtani]]> 2018-04-21T14:24:23Z 2018-04-21T14:24:23Z Ben Zobrist says he’s headed to the DL to tend to a minor back injury, via Jesse Rogers of ESPN. There doesn’t seem to be any serious concern, but Zobrist has missed the past few games due to the injury, so the Cubs appear to be proceeding with caution. They’ll be able to make the move retroactive by a few days, so it seems unlikely he’ll be out for very long. The versatile Zobrist is in the third year of a four-year, $56MM contract with Chicago. He’s certainly off to an impressive start; in 49 plate appearances so far this season, the veteran has hit .326/.408/.465 with more walks (six) than strikeouts (5). For the time being, players like Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr. and Ian Happ will likely continue to get an extra game here and there to plug the gaps created by Zobrist’s absence

    A pair of additional injury notes elsewhere in MLB…

    • The Marlins officially placed 31-year-old righty Odrisamer Despaigne on the DL last night (along with fellow reliever Chris O’Grady), as we noted in our daily roster roundup. The reason was a strained forearm, which is always a concerning injury when it comes to pitchers. According to Joe Frisaro of, Despaigne had the following to say about his injury: “I first felt it tight when I was warming up in the bullpen. I tried to keep going with it. When the game started, it’s when I started to feel the pain.” For the Marlins, it’s yet another development that thins out an already-shaky pitching staff.
    • Two-way Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani appears to be making progress in regards to his blister issues. Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets that Ohtani feels his blister is “recovering”, and that he’s on schedule to make a start on Tuesday in Houston. Fletcher also notes that Ohtani worked with pitching coach Charlie Nagy in a bullpen session, and came away with some things he can use (presumably to prevent a re-aggravation of the injury).
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Place Eddie Butler On 10-Day DL]]> 2018-04-21T02:31:33Z 2018-04-21T01:48:47Z
  • The Cubs have placed long reliever Eddie Butler on the 10-day DL with a groin strain. He turned in four strong appearances to open the year but has been knocked around in his last two and now owns a 4.30 ERA over 14 2/3 innings, with ten strikeouts against five walks. There’s no reason at this point to believe that Butler will be sidelined long. Fellow righty Luke Farrell received the call to take the open active roster spot. He, too, ought to be able to give the team innings in some volume when needed, as he’s stretched out to start.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Activate Anthony Rizzo]]> 2018-04-18T03:34:44Z 2018-04-18T02:20:18Z As expected, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo was activated from the DL after a minimal time away from the team. But plenty of other players are still hurting, so we’ll take a spin around the league to catch up on the latest injury news of note:

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Poll: Service Time Considerations]]> 2018-04-16T02:57:23Z 2018-04-16T02:57:23Z It’s no secret that talent alone doesn’t necessarily dictate when top prospects will reach the major leagues. Ballclubs have significant financial and competitive incentives to keep top prospects down in the minors even when they’re hitting the cover off the ball, or embarrassing every opposing batter from the mound. These incentives are a by-product of MLB’s service time regulations.

    For those unfamiliar, the basic concept is as follows: players accrue service time for each day spent at the MLB level, even if they’re on the major league disabled list. After a player collects six years of service time, he’s eligible for free agency.

    Things get far more complicated from there, however. MLB has specific regulations in place to account for partial seasons, since the vast majority of players are promoted at some point in the midst of the season. Perhaps the most significant aspect of these regulations (and certainly the most controversial) is that a player doesn’t get a full season’s worth of service time if he spends 12 days in the minors.

    That seemingly short amount of time is the difference between the Cubs keeping Kris Bryant under team control through 2020 or 2021, which was (unofficially) the reason the team elected to keep him at Triple-A to start the season. At the end of 2020, Bryant will fall exactly a day shy of qualifying for free agency, giving the team the rights to one more of his prime seasons.

    The conversation has once again resurfaced (though admittedly to a lesser extent) in regards to Braves prospect Ronald Acuna. Although the 20-year-old annihilated Grapefruit League pitching to the tune of a .432/.519/.727 batting line with four homers and four steals, Lane Adams and Peter Bourjos made the opening day roster while Acuna was reassigned to minor league camp. He’s now been down long enough to give the Braves control over him for an additional season.

    It’s hard to blame teams for managing the service time of top prospects in this way, especially a Braves club that has little chance to contend this season as it is. From a pure baseball standpoint, the fraction of a WAR that Acuna might have contributed in those first 12 days (it’s worth noting that he’s off to a .152/.222/.182 start in Triple-A) is worth tens of millions less than the WAR total he’s likely to post in the year 2024.

    On the other hand, the system is hardly fair to the players. At its core, it seems absurd that a single day of service time can cost a player the additional seven or even eight figures he could have earned if his final arbitration season had instead yielded open market value for him.

    There wouldn’t seem to be an easy solution to the issue, either. There’s not exactly a midway point between becoming a free agent and being under team control for an additional season (though the Super Two regulations at least guarantee players more arbitration dollars if they’ve accrued a significant portion of a seventh year’s service time). One could say that 12 days is an awfully small percentage of a season and that players should gain the full year even if they spent 20 days, 30 days, 40 days, etc. in the minors, but no matter what, it’d always come down to one day making a multi-million dollar difference in value.

    What do you think? Should the service time rules change, or are they perfectly reasonable the way they are now? (Poll link for app users)

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Details On The Cubs' Late Call To Jake Arrieta]]> 2018-04-14T14:59:13Z 2018-04-14T14:59:13Z The Cubs were known to have made “one last call” to Jake Arrieta’s agent Scott Boras before signing Yu Darvish, and FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman provided some new details on that exchange.  Theo Epstein proposed a “theoretical” offer of six years and $120MM to Arrieta if, and only if, things did not work out with Darvish.  Epstein reportedly didn’t seriously think Arrieta’s camp would take the offer, and the executive was “just making the call to show respect” to a player who was such a major factor in Chicago’s recent success.  Even if Darvish had turned the Cubs down, it still doesn’t seem as if Arrieta and the team would’ve been able to come to an agreement, as Arrieta simply wanted a larger average annual value than Chicago was willing to offer (due to their desire to stay under the luxury tax threshold).  The Cubbies also are said to have put $48MM over four years on the table for Alex Cobb earlier in the winter before putting pen to paper with Darvish, and Heyman speculates that the Cubs might have eventually become interested in Alex Cobb had they missed out on both Darvish and Arrieta.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Chris Coghlan Set To Join Cubs' Top Affiliate]]> 2018-04-13T04:12:31Z 2018-04-13T03:46:15Z In a minor signing that flew under our radar at the time, the Cubs picked up veteran infielder/outfielder Chris Coghlan on a minor league contract just prior to Opening Day (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney). The 32-year-old Coghlan has batted just .190/.292/.307 over the past two seasons but was a productive bat for the Cubs in 2014-15, hitting .265/.346/.447 in 935 plate appearances. As Mooney noted, his late signing sent him to extended Spring Training to open the season, though Coghlan seems likely to eventually join Chicago’s Triple-A affiliate in Iowa.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Select Contract Of Efren Navarro]]> 2018-04-10T17:50:49Z 2018-04-10T17:50:49Z The Cubs have selected the contract of outfielder/first baseman Efren Navarro, per a club announcement. He’ll take the roster spot just vacated by Anthony Rizzo, who’s headed for what the team hopes to be a brief DL stint.

    Navarro, who’ll soon turn 32, has seen action in five MLB campaigns. But his next trip to the plate will only be his 350th at the game’s highest level. Navarro carries a career .243/.306/.334 batting line.

    Unsurprisingly, the results have been better in the upper minors. Navarro has maintained a .303/.370/.427 slash through nearly 3,500 plate appearances over eight seasons at Triple-A.

    Clearly, Navarro is going to need some good fortune — and a good showing — to carve out a sustainable role at the major-league level with the Cubs. Barring any intervening changes in the health situations of other players, he’ll likely end up being bumped from the roster upon Rizzo’s return to action.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Place Anthony Rizzo On 10-Day DL]]> 2018-04-10T19:02:47Z 2018-04-10T16:29:51Z Anthony Rizzo’s back issues have forced the Cubs to place him on the 10-day DL, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Tribune tweeted and has since been announced. But it seems there’s little reason to anticipate a lengthy absence for the first baseman, who nearly avoided a stint on the shelf altogether. The move was backdated to Friday the 6th, so Rizzo — who has averaged 154 games annually since the start of the 2013 season — is already less than a week away from being eligible to be reactivated.

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Injury Notes: Healy, Sheriff, Rizzo, J.C. Ramirez]]> 2018-04-08T18:49:06Z 2018-04-08T18:49:06Z Mariners first baseman Ryon Healy showed up to the team’s clubhouse today in a walking boot; he twisted his ankle in a postgame workout, says Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. It’s been described as a “pretty bad sprain”, and Healy will have an MRI soon. The expectation seems to be that he will require a DL stint, though the severity of the injury is unclear at this time. Healy provided the heroics in last night’s win; it seems likely that Dan Vogelbach will receive everyday at-bats in his absence.

    More injury items from around the league…

    • Cardinals left-hander Ryan Sheriff has been placed on the DL with a toe injury; the team has recalled right-hander John Brebbia from Triple-A Memphis in a related move. Sheriff was added to the roster with the news that Brett Cecil would be out for an extended period of time; he allowed one earned run in his 2 2/3 innings of work this season. Sheriff also managed a 3.14 ERA last season in 14 1/3 innings of work for the Cardinals.
    • Anthony Rizzo has missed a couple of games for the Cubs due to back tightness, says Carrie Muskat of The first baseman’s back has evidently been bothering him ever since the club’s trip to Cincinnati. Rizzo has just three hits (including one home run) in 32 plate appearances to begin the season.
    • J.C. Ramirez is officially headed to the DL with forearm issues, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets. We noted earlier that the righty had been experiencing forearm tightness; he now joins fellow Angels starters Matt Shoemaker and Andrew Heaney on the disabled list, leaving the club incredibly thin in the rotation beyond Garrett Richards, Shohei Ohtani and Tyler Skaggs. Parker Bridwell and Nick Tropeano seem to be the likeliest candidates to get rotation attention, but for the time being the club has recalled relievers Felix Pena and Eduardo Paredes (righty reliever Akeel Morris was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake).
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Claim Cory Mazzoni]]> 2018-03-30T05:02:41Z 2018-03-30T05:02:41Z The Cubs have claimed righty Cory Mazzoni off waivers from the Dodgers, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). That’s a reversal of a recent transaction in which the 28-year-old went from Chicago to Los Angeles.

    Mazzoni has had no success in minimal MLB opportunities and was knocked around this spring. He’s also not far removed from a significant shoulder surgery that limited him to just two appearances in 2016 and 38 1/3 total innings last year. Evidently, though, these large-budget contenders have identified something about the former second-round draft pick.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Dodgers Designate Trayce Thompson, Claim Cory Mazzoni From Cubs]]> 2018-03-27T21:35:25Z 2018-03-27T21:08:58Z The Dodgers have claimed right-hander Cory Mazzoni off waivers from the Cubs, the team announced on Twitter.  Mazzoni has been optioned to Triple-A.  To create roster space, outfielder Trayce Thompson has been designated for assignment in a corresponding move.

    Thompson posted an .896 OPS over 135 plate appearances as a rookie with the White Sox in 2015, and came to L.A. as part of the three-team trade with the Sox and Reds (the same deal that also sent Todd Frazier to Chicago and Scott Schebler to Cincinnati).  Between that rookie performance and a strong start as a Dodger in 2016, it looked as if Thompson was on his way to becoming a key piece in the Los Angeles outfield, though his season was prematurely ended by a pair of back fractures.  Still hampered by injury and recovery last season, Thompson hit .212/.269/.363 over 369 PA at the Triple-A level and appeared in just 27 games for the Dodgers.

    With Chris Taylor and Yasiel Puig slated for everyday duty in center and right field, the Dodgers had a multitude of options for the left field and backup outfield spots, including Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson, Enrique Hernandez, Andrew Toles, and prospect Alex Verdugo.  It could be that the Dodgers’ inability to trade Kemp and his big contract led to Thompson’s situation and the roster crunch, as it seems as though Kemp and Pederson will begin the year in a righty/lefty platoon in left field.  Thompson is out of options, which makes the Dodgers’ decision to designate him rather than just keep Toles and Verdugo in the minors something of a curious one, as now L.A. could lose Thompson to any team that issues a claim for his services.

    Mazzoni has been rocked to the tune of a 17.28 ERA over his 16 2/3 career big league innings, and he missed almost all of 2016 recovering from shoulder surgery.  The righty is switching teams for the second time this offseason, as the Cubs previously claimed him off waivers from the Padres back in November.  A second-round pick for the Mets in the 2011 draft, Mazzoni has a 3.72 ERA, 9.1 K/9 and 4.02 K/BB rate over 373 frames in the New York and San Diego farm systems, working exclusively as a reliever the last three seasons.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Cubs Notes: Maddon, Hendricks]]> 2018-03-27T18:12:36Z 2018-03-26T00:59:04Z Joe Maddon aims to keep managing for at least five more years, which would take him beyond both his current deal with the Cubs and past his 68th birthday, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. (Maddon had previously made similar comments to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag.) The Cubs have yet to speak to Maddon about an extension, with GM Jed Hoyer that any discussions between the two sides won’t be made public, though there isn’t yet any immediate need for talks given that Maddon is still under contract through the 2019 campaign.  At age 64, Maddon is the oldest manager in baseball, though by all appearances he still connects with younger players as well as any skipper.  His clear desire is to stay with the Cubs, as Maddon said “I can’t imagine doing this anywhere else, I really can’t.  I’m very loyal to groups.  It also comes down to whether the Cubs want me or not, too. That’s really what it comes down to.”

    • Kyle Hendricks isn’t scheduled to hit free agency until after the 2020 season, and the Cubs right-hander tells The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney (subscription required) that he isn’t yet thinking about a potential contract extension with the team.  While Hendricks is taking a broader look at the game’s overall business due to his role as the Cubs’ assistant MLBPA representatives, his view when it comes to his own performance is “If you do the things out on the field, it’s going to end up taking care of itself.”  Hendricks will earn $4.175MM this season after agreeing to a deal to avoid arbitration with the Cubs, and his emergence as a front-of-the-rotation starter certainly puts him in line for more healthy salaries before he reaches the open market, unless Chicago looks to lock him up beforehand.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Chris Gimenez Has June 1 Opt-Out Date]]> 2018-03-25T14:08:31Z 2018-03-25T14:08:29Z
  • Cubs catcher Chris Gimenez has a June 1 opt-out date in the minor league contract he signed over the winter, Bruce Levine of 670thescore tweets. Gimenez isn’t on the Cubs’ season-opening roster, but he’ll give them some veteran depth behind Willson Contreras and Victor Caratini for at least a couple months.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Victor Caratini Will Be Cubs' No. 2 Catcher]]> 2018-03-25T13:48:38Z 2018-03-25T01:37:46Z
  • The Cubs are going with Victor Caratini, not Chris Gimenez, to back up starting catcher Willson Contreras, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Thanks to his well-known rapport with new Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish from their days in Texas, Gimenez seemed like the front-runner for the job at the outset of spring training; instead, he’ll head to Triple-A Iowa, per Wittenmyer. The 24-year-old Caratini, whom ranks as the Cubs’ No. 8 prospect, hit .254/.333/.356 across 66 plate appearances during his first MLB action last season.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs To Release Peter Bourjos]]> 2018-03-23T22:27:52Z 2018-03-23T22:22:51Z The Cubs will release outfielder Peter Bourjos, according to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic (via Twitter). Chicago decided not to add him to the active roster in order to keep an additional reliever.

    Soon to turn 31, the fleet-footed Bourjos could still hold appeal to other organizations as a reserve outfielder — particularly those looking for a player capable of lining up in center. He posted a .317/.356/.366 slash in his 45 plate appearances this spring.

    Bourjos has enjoyed some high-quality MLB campaigns in the past, but has functioned more as a light-hitting reserve in recent seasons. In his best season, a 2011 effort with the Angels, Bourjos posted a 114 wRC+ and graded as a high-end fielder and baserunner.

    The output has generally declined in all areas of late. Metrics have viewed Bourjos more as a solid than a great defender in recent seasons. While he still gets high marks for his overall baserunning, Bourjos hasn’t really been a major threat to steal of late. And he owns only a .231/.288/.366 batting line over the past four campaigns.

    Tim Dierkes <![CDATA[Offseason In Review: Chicago Cubs]]> 2018-03-23T18:25:27Z 2018-03-22T16:40:54Z This is the latest entry in MLBTR’s 2017-18 Offseason In Review series.  Click here to read the other completed reviews from around the league.

    The Cubs landed the biggest prize of the 2017-18 free agent class, and stayed entirely within free agency for pitching staff upgrades.

    Major League Signings

    Trades and Claims

    Notable Minor League Signings

    Notable Losses

    Cubs 25-Man Roster & Minor League Depth ChartCubs Payroll Overview

    Needs Addressed

    After the Dodgers denied the Cubs’ bid to return to the World Series, a coaching staff shake-up was the first order of business for Chicago.  Longtime pitching coach Chris Bosio was the first casualty, with hitting coach John Mallee being fired shortly thereafter.  Jim Hickey, with his history of serving as Joe Maddon’s pitching coach with the Rays, replaced Bosio.  Chili Davis takes over for Mallee.  The Cubs also lost Dave Martinez, who was hired to serve as the Nationals’ manager.

    The Cubs spent much of November and early December courting Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani.  While they were one of seven finalists, the Cubs were a long shot as a National League club located in the Midwest.  Once Ohtani chose the Angels, focus turned to the Cubs’ more likely free agent pursuits, which centered entirely on pitching.  Starters Jake Arrieta and John Lackey became free agents after making 60 starts for the 2017 club, and the Cubs sought to replace them from outside of the organization.  After coming up short on a very different pitcher out of Japan, returning expat Miles Mikolas, the Cubs signed former Rockie Tyler Chatwood to a surprisingly large contract for a pitcher coming off a 4.69 ERA.  Cubs president Theo Epstein later explained to Jon Greenberg of The Athletic in late January, “He was really popular. A lot of teams saw beyond his basic performance stats and looked deeper into his ability. He was at the right price point and had a ton of suitors, so that drove the price up.”  Now that he’s out of Colorado, Chatwood has several things going for him: his age (28), his ability to induce groundballs, and a fastball approaching 95 miles per hour.  Though it was surprising to see Chatwood land at nearly $13MM a year, he’s a solid upside choice to replace Lackey.

    Throughout the offseason, the Cubs declined to close the door on former ace Arrieta, though they didn’t make much effort to bring him back, either.  Though the Joe Maddon/Jim Hickey connection to free agent Alex Cobb led many to predict a match with the Cubs, the team instead aimed higher for their other rotation addition with a run at Yu Darvish.  At the same time, the Cubs quietly made a different free agent signing with a Maddon/Hickey connection, lefty Drew Smyly.  Smyly had undergone Tommy John surgery in June of 2017, and was signed with an eye toward the 2019 rotation.  If Smyly returns to full health and ability for 2019, the Cubs will have a good kind of problem on their hands in that they’ll have six established starting pitchers under control for that season.

    According to Epstein, it was around the December Winter Meetings that the Cubs realized “we might be in a position to end up at least being a contender for Darvish with a contract that we could tolerate,” reported Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.  Cubs brass met with Darvish in Texas, and it seemed possible the two sides could hammer out a megadeal before the end of the year.  Instead, the Cubs’ December dealings, aside from Smyly, were the bullpen additions of Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek.  Morrow, 33, will serve as the Cubs’ closer.  While his contract is reasonable, the risk comes in the Cubs’ reliance upon a pitcher with Morrow’s lengthy injury history and heavy 2017 postseason workload.  Given the volatility of relievers, the contract itself is no riskier than those given to Wade Davis, Mike Minor, Jake McGee, Bryan Shaw, Tommy Hunter, Juan Nicasio, and others.

    January came and went without a Darvish deal, part of one of the strangest offseasons in this website’s history.  Instead, the Cubs spent that month coming to terms with star third baseman Kris Bryant on a record arbitration deal, and also completing their bullpen additions by bringing lefty Brian Duensing back on a mild discount.  The Cubs’ bullpen holdovers are Duensing, Carl Edwards Jr., Mike Montgomery, and Pedro Strop.  Replacing Wade Davis, Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm, and Koji Uehara are Morrow, Cishek, a full season of Justin Wilson, and perhaps Eddie Butler and a less-established arm.  It feels like the Cubs could have added one more late-inning piece to the pen.

    The Cubs saved their biggest splash for February, when they agreed to a six-year, $126MM deal with Darvish.  The Dodgers, Twins, and Brewers were among the teams the Cubs beat out for the righty.  Darvish’s $21MM average annual value was surprisingly low.  We had expected an AAV in the $25-27MM range, given previous contracts signed by David Price, Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Stephen Strasburg, and the Cubs’ own Jon Lester.  Like other big market teams, the Cubs are intent on staying below the $197MM competitive balance tax threshold, and the sixth year given to Darvish helped accomplish that.  From Darvish’s point of view, the opt-out after 2019 has significant value: about $20MM, estimates MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.  Darvish will be 33 when the clause comes due, and he’ll have to decide whether he can top four years and $81MM on the 2019-20 free agent market.

    Questions Remaining

    The Cubs appear to have $13MM or less for trade deadline acquisitions.  Regarding his trade deadline payroll flexibility, Epstein said, “We do have some, not a ton.”  Epstein admitted, “One of our goals was to put the team together this year in a way that would maybe allow us to reset under the CBT threshold.” This is not actually a reset, since the Cubs were not over the CBT threshold in 2017.  Regardless, it’s possible the luxury tax threshold stopped the Cubs from assembling a super bullpen despite their relief pitching problems in the playoffs.  Aside from the health of Morrow, much depends on southpaw Justin Wilson, who flopped after joining the Cubs last year at the trade deadline.  It’s difficult to say exactly why the Cubs didn’t acquire additional relievers – it may be that they’re completely satisfied with their bullpen as it stands, or don’t mind waiting until July to re-evaluate.  But since the CBT threshold may have been a factor in their bullpen budgeting, let’s explore it further.

    The Cubs may be willing to exceed next year’s $206MM CBT threshold, but aim to be considered a “first-time CBT payor.”  Second-time payors pay 30% on the overage, while first-time payors pay 20%.  Avoiding the CBT threshold in 2018 also affects what the Cubs would have to surrender next year upon signing a qualified free agent.  They’d give up their second-highest draft pick regardless, but avoiding the threshold allows them to keep their fifth-highest pick and also have their international signing bonus pool reduced by $500K instead of $1MM.  I have to ask of the Cubs, Yankees, and Dodgers: why does this difference in penalties matter so much?

    Say the Cubs had gone all out and also signed Addison Reed and Mike Minor this winter, adding $17.7MM to the 2018 payroll.  That would put the team’s 2018 payroll at $202MM for luxury tax purposes.  Say they spend another $12MM on midseason acquisitions and end at $214MM for 2018.  That means they’d pay a tax of…$3.4MM.  Basically a rounding error for this franchise.  Paying the tax for a potential 2018 overage is irrelevant at this spending level.

    Therefore, this has to be all about being a first-time payor in 2019 rather than a second-time payor.  If you’ll indulge me, let’s play that out for a team with a massive $275MM payroll in 2019.  On a $275MM payroll, a first-time CBT payor is penalized $28.525MM, while a second-time payor is penalized $36.15MM.  If a team is conceding being a first-time payor in 2019 (as the Cubs seem to be), being a second-time payor only results in less than $8MM in additional tax, even at a very high payroll level.  Carrying that hypothetical payroll level forward for yet another season would result in a larger hit, but it would still be less than $14MM, and from that point forward the tax rate would be the same for an organization that stayed over the luxury line.  Ah, but what about the draft pick penalty for exceeding the 2019 second surcharge threshold of $246MM?  That’ll knock your 2020 draft pick back a full ten spots.  Meaning, a good team has to pick at #37 instead of #27, something like that.  Compared to the previous CBA, where draft picks as high as 11th overall were surrendered for signing certain free agents, dropping ten spots doesn’t seem that bad.

    Large market teams are treating the CBT thresholds as lines they absolutely cannot cross. Or at least that they cannot cross for consecutive years.  Rather than take that at face value, we need to ask whether the CBT thresholds are being used as a convenient excuse to spend less. The tax can be hefty, no doubt, and it is understandable that organizations already facing max penalties — particularly those that often spend well over the threshold — would look for an opportunity to reset. But the timing of entering CBT payor status does not appear to be a particularly compelling limitation on spending in and of itself.

    My payroll tangent aside, the Cubs also have the question of a possible position player logjam.  On his decision not to trade anyone, Epstein told Greenberg, “We explored a lot of a different possibilities, but in the end there just wasn’t a deal available that would give us a fair return back. We didn’t want to take less talent or control just to add a pitching prospect. Balancing the roster wasn’t that fundamental to make a bad deal happen.”  The Cubs can’t be faulted for declining to sell low on Kyle Schwarber, who dedicated himself to an offseason conditioning program in the meantime.  If all of the Cubs’ many outfield and second base candidates stay healthy at once, which is unlikely, Maddon may need to make the tough decision to bench his two underperforming veterans, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist. Even if that comes to pass, it’s likely preferable to taking less than fair value for a controllable young player or finding the depth lacking if is tested.


    The Cubs were able to use an opt-out clause for Darvish to lower the AAV on his contract, helping the team stay below the competitive balance tax threshold.  They were able to accomplish this because other big market teams had even less space under that threshold, and small market teams couldn’t match the Cubs’ bid.  They also brought in an intriguing and relatively young fifth starter in Chatwood, resulting in what looks to be the best starting rotation of the Epstein regime.  While fresh faces in the bullpen were a given, the volatility of relief pitching makes it unclear whether the Cubs did enough in that area.  Otherwise, the team remains stacked with high quality position players.  The Cubs will likely tangle with the Nationals and Dodgers for the NL pennant once again.

    How would you grade the efforts of Epstein and company? (Link for app users.)

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Mariners Claim Dario Alvarez From Cubs]]> 2018-03-21T20:46:24Z 2018-03-21T20:29:28Z The Mariners have claimed left-hander Dario Alvarez off waivers from the Cubs, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times tweets. Alvarez will head to minor league camp with his new organization, and he’ll give the Mariners 38 players on their 40-man roster.

    Alvarez, 29, debuted with the Mets back in 2014 but saw little action with them. He ended up throwing just five innings with the Mets over two seasons. Alvarez then moved on to Atlanta and Texas, where he combined for 43 frames from 2016-17. All told, Alvarez has pitched to a 5.06 ERA/5.07 FIP in the majors and logged 11.44 K/9, 4.13 BB/9 and a 38.2 percent groundball rate. Alvarez has struggled against hitters of either handedness during his short big league career, having allowed a .378 wOBA versus righties and a .356 mark to lefties.

    Despite Alvarez’s subpar production at baseball’s highest level, the Cubs signed him to a major league contract early in the winter. But he wasn’t able to stick in Chicago after allowing six earned runs on seven hits and six walks, with 11 strikeouts, over 7 1/3 spring innings. He’ll try to return to the majors with the Mariners, whose projected season-opening bullpen features fellow lefties Marc Rzepczynski and James Pazos.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs To Release Justin Grimm]]> 2018-03-15T19:25:23Z 2018-03-15T19:06:24Z The Cubs have released right-handed reliever Justin Grimm, reports Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago (Twitter link). Grimm had previously lost an arbitration hearing against the Cubs, resulting in a $2.2MM salary for the upcoming season. However, since arb contracts aren’t fully guaranteed, the Cubs can cut him and owe him 45 days of termination pay based on the pro-rated portion of that base salary — a sum of about $541K.

    Grimm, 29, struggled to a 5.53 ERA through 55 1/3 regular-season innings last year, due largely to a drastic spike in his home run rate. After averaging just 0.7 HR/9 with the Cubs from 2014-16, Grimm yielded an average of 1.95 homer per nine innings last season. This spring, he’s allowed a pair of homers and walked four in four innings with the Cubs.

    Outside of the problem with the long ball, though, Grimm’s numbers weren’t entirely unappealing. He still averaged 94.9 mph on his fastball and posted a strong 9.6 K/9 mark with a slightly below-average 43.1 percent ground-ball rate. His average of 4.4 walks per nine innings pitched was a step backward from his 2016 numbers but an improvement from the 2015 season.

    Overall, Grimm has been a largely durable source of strikeouts with questionable control as a member of the Cubs’ middle relief contingent, dating back to the 2013 season when Chicago acquired him from Texas in the Matt Garza swap. An infection in his finger cost him a period of 10 days this past August, and his lone other DL stint was a month-long absence for forearm inflammation early on in 2015.

    Subtracting Grimm, who was out of minor league options, from the bullpen mix could pave the way for fellow out-of-options right-hander Eddie Butler to make the club. The 27-year-old Butler posted better bottom-line numbers last year (3.95 ERA in 54 2/3 innings), though he did so with an ugly 30-to-28 K/BB ratio. He’s had a much sharper spring thus far, however, and his prior work as a starter could make him better-suited for multi-inning relief appearances.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Cubs Likely Finished With Major Acquisitions]]> 2018-03-12T05:09:09Z 2018-03-12T05:09:09Z
  • The Cubs are probably done their major offseason shopping, The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney writes (subscription required), as the team is likely to save its remaining money for potential in-season additions.  By Mooney’s calculations, Chicago has roughly $13MM left for the trade deadline without going over the $197MM luxury tax threshold.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Cubs, Ian Happ Unable To Agree To Salary]]> 2018-03-11T20:26:01Z 2018-03-11T20:25:35Z
  • The Cubs renewed second baseman/outfielder Ian Happ’s 2018 salary for $570K on Sunday, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago-Tribune tweets. It’s a noteworthy development because it’s the first time the Cubs weren’t able to reach an agreement on a salary with a pre-arb player since president Theo Epstein took the reins in 2011. Nevertheless, there are “zero hard feelings” between the Cubs and Happ, general manager Jed Hoyer said. Happ, 23, debuted in the bigs in 2017 and slashed .253/.328/.514 with 24 home runs across 413 plate appearances.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Hire Chris Denorfia, Matt Murton]]> 2018-03-10T04:02:14Z 2018-03-10T03:43:33Z The Cubs have a pair of former players entering their front office, per a club announcement. MLB veterans Chris Denorfia and Matt Murton have been named, respectively, as special assistant to the president/GM and baseball operations assistant. Denorfia, a ten-year big-leaguer, spent just one year in Chicago — his final campaign in the majors, 2015. Murton, meanwhile, broke into the majors with the Cubs but mostly found success abroad as a member of Japan’s Hanshin Tigers.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Cubs Notes: Heyward, Int'l Prospects]]> 2018-03-05T04:16:15Z 2018-03-04T22:54:50Z
  • Jason Heyward’s struggles since joining the Cubs have almost reached the point of historical oddity, as “this type of production drop during a player’s prime is nearly unprecedented, especially when injuries aren’t a factor,” The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma writes (subscription required).  Heyward has just a .243/.315/.353 slash line over 1073 PA for Chicago, as opposed to the .268/.353/.431 he posted in 3429 PA with the Braves and Cardinals over his first six seasons.  Sharma cites a few other players who went through similarly sudden early declines, and only former Dodgers and Expos outfielder/first baseman Ron Fairly was able to entirely rebound and again become a productive hitter.  Still, Heyward has been working with new hitting coach Chili Davis and the Cubs are still hopeful that he can regain some of his old stroke.
  • Major League Baseball recently held a showcase for some of the top international prospects who will become available when the 2018-19 international signing window opens on July 2.  In a subscription-only piece, Baseball America’s Ben Badler (two links) has the breakdown of some of the pitchers who made a particular impression, with some of these young arms already linked to such teams as the Cubs, Diamondbacks, Marlins, and Phillies.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Central Notes: Moustakas, Bryant, Miley, Freese]]> 2018-03-03T01:41:16Z 2018-03-03T01:41:16Z It has long been suggested that the White Sox would make for an interesting match with free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas, but we’ve seen little in the way of a clear connection. But now there’s evidence at least that the sides are “staying in touch,” in the words of Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). Whether that means the South Siders have real interest that would drive a significant offer, of course, is not yet clear. Presumably, the club would be intrigued mostly in a value proposition of some kind, perhaps in a multi-year scenario. While few outside observers believe the Sox roster is primed to compete in 2018, Moustakas would boost the quality in the short term and (more importantly) is young enough that he could be installed as a solid asset for future seasons. With little in the way of clear demand from contenders, this remains one of the more intriguing fits on paper.

    • Cubs star Kris Bryant says this winter’s slow-moving free agent market has spurred him to take labor issues seriously, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes“I need to study up, have my voice heard, continue to learn, because this is going to affect us for years to come,” says Bryant. His own delayed promotion to start the 2015 season has obviously played a role in spurring his attention to the subject. It’s an interesting read on one of the game’s brightest young players, who says he and other players are readying to take a more proactive role. “I think with this next [CBA] things are definitely going to change, and there’ll definitely be more fight on our side just because we’re going to get the chance to experience the effects of some of the things we agreed to,” says Bryant.
    • The Brewers rotation still has plenty of questions at the back end; indeed, many fans would still like to see an outside addition to provide one answer. As things stand, though, there’s a camp battle underway with quite a few participants. Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wrote yesterday that, while it’s still plenty early, both Wade Miley and Brent Suter have made favorable initial impressions. In Miley’s case, at least, it might even be that his showing already makes him an odds-on favorite to crack the roster. He has over a thousand MLB innings under his belt, after all, and the Brewers might well lose him through an opt-out (he’s an Article XX(B) free agent) if they don’t ultimately put him on the 40-man. Of course, there’s plenty of time yet for candidates to rise and fall in camp.
    • Pirates third baseman David Freese had some salty words for the organization earlier in the winter, but he tells Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that they weren’t directed at finding his way to another team. Rather, it seems, Freese was making a call for all in the organization to recommit to winning — a possibility he says he believes in, particularly with the recent acquisitions of Corey Dickerson and Kevin Siegrist. Freese also says he understands he’s not likely to command the lion’s share of the time at third base. “I’ve had a good run in the big leagues,” he said, “and I just want to go out there and win some games.”
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 3/2/18]]> 2018-03-02T21:36:47Z 2018-03-02T21:36:47Z We’ll track the day’s minor moves here:

    • The Cubs have added righty Allen Webster on a minors pact, according to Chris Cotillo of SB Nation (via Twitter). Now 28, Webster was once a highly regarded prospect. But he struggled to a 6.13 ERA in 120 1/3 MLB innings between 2013 and 2015. And he has been knocked around over the past two seasons in stints with Korea’s Samsung Lions and the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate. In his first crack at the game’s highest level, with the Red Sox, Webster showed a 95 mph four-seamer and 94 mph sinker. But he lost two miles per hour on both offerings over the next two seasons. And though he has shown some ability to get swings and misses, control has been a big problem for Webster, who was in the zone on just 40.3% of his pitches in the majors. Here at MLBTR, Webster is perhaps best known for being included in both the August 2012 Dodgers-Red Sox blockbuster and the rather less memorable 2014 Wade Miley swap that sent Webster from Boston to the Diamondbacks.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Market Notes: Upton, Archer, Realmuto, Holland, Lynn]]> 2018-03-02T17:21:47Z 2018-03-02T06:09:17Z Over at The Athletic, Pedro Moura held a fascinating conversation with Angels slugger Justin Upton. (Subscription link.) There’s plenty of interest in the chat, though Upton’s comments on free agency are of particular interest and relevance. The thrust of his sentiment is that teams seem to be looking to score free-agent value rather than identifying and “courting” players they actively wish to employ. “Teams don’t value players as people anymore,” says Upton. “They value them as a number on a sheet of paper.”

    Of course, Upton forewent a chance at returning to the open market by agreeing to a deal with an organization he was comfortable with. Here’s the latest on the unusually high number of quality free agents still not in camp and other market notes:

    • The likelihood remains that the Rays will enter the season with Chris Archer on the staff, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reports among other notes. That’s due in no small part to the team’s lofty asking price; one rival executive suggests that the Tampa Bay front office “wanted our whole farm system” to move Archer. The club has given that impression publicly, too. Senior VP of baseball ops Chaim Bloom reiterated that the expectation is to hang onto Archer and others in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link). He added that the internal expectation is that it will begin to reap the rewards of an effort over recent years to bolster the farm depth while still trying to compete at the MLB level.
    • It has remained interesting to consider whether the Nationals might pry catcher J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins. But there isn’t much recent indication of serious talks, and Heyman indicates that’s due to what seems to be a big gulf in the sides’ valuations. Washington won’t give top prospects Victor Robles and Juan Soto, per the report; while the club might part with young infielder Carter Kieboom or outfielder Michael Taylor, it seems Miami was asking for too much additional talent to be included in a package.
    • The outfield market has certainly delivered some surprises thus far. Heyman says Jarrod Dyson spurned an early two-year, $14MM offer, though a source tells MLBTR that is not accurate. Dyson ultimately signed for $7.5MM with the Diamondbacks. It remains to be seen what’ll happen with players such as Carlos Gonzalez and Jon Jay, each of whom were rated among the fifty best free agents this winter by MLBTR. Heyman says the Indians are still looking at right-handed outfield bats, though it would surely be a surprise for the team to plunk down any meaningful money to make an addition. Perhaps the trade route could still hold some surprises, though that’s pure speculation on my part.
    • Veteran reliever Greg Holland might have overplayed his hand in spurning the Rockies earlier in the winter. Colorado was willing to give him something approaching the three-year, $51MM deal the team ultimately inked with Wade Davis, Bob Nightengale of USA Today suggests in an appearance on the podcast of Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. It’s premature, perhaps, to declare that Holland won’t be able to top that number, though it’s frankly difficult to see where that level of interest might come from — as MLBTR’s Steve Adams has recently explained.
    • Holland’s list of suitors is in question at the moment. One thing that seems clear, per Heyman, is that the Cubs aren’t planning on making a surprise run at the closer. Rather, Chicago seems largely committed to utilizing Brandon Morrow in the ninth inning and is likely to hold back its remaining payroll reserves for potential mid-season additions.
    • So, how low could the remaining pitchers go? Presumably there’s a point at which some bidding would occur. But it’s notable that, per ESPN 1500’s Darren Wolfson (podcast link), the Twins expressed interest in Lance Lynn in the range of just $10MM to $12MM over two seasons. Just how that level of interest came about and was expressed isn’t clear. The team has also made some fairly notable recent commitments and may just not have much more payroll flexibility. And it certainly shouldn’t be taken as evidence of Lynn’s current market value. Still, it’s interesting to learn that’s the current extent of Minnesota’s interest.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Sign Danny Hultzen]]> 2018-03-02T02:16:18Z 2018-03-02T02:16:18Z The Cubs have agreed to a minors pact with one-time top prospect Danny Hultzen, as Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune recently reported. His contract provides for a $600K salary in the majors with up to $150K in available incentives, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter).

    Of course, any thought of cracking a major-league roster is secondary to regaining health for Hultzen, who originally inked a $8.5MM guaranteed deal with the Mariners in August of 2011. Seattle removed him from its MLB roster after the 2015 season and he has not appeared in a professional contest since 2016.

    Drafted as a polished left-handed starter out of the University of Virginia, Hultzen — who’s now 28 years of age — mostly dominated the opposition inthe upper minors. Over 169 2/3 innings of professional ball, he carries a 2.86 ERA.

    Unfortunately, major shoulder injuries — including procedures in 2013 and 2016 — have totally derailed Hultzen’s career. He decided to finish off his college degree and prepare for one more attempt at a return, as he discussed his ordeal last fall in an interesting chat with Dillon Mullan of the Washington Post.

    Needless to say, the Cubs won’t be counting on anything from the hard-luck southpaw. Indeed, a Mariners doctor is said to have advised Hultzen not to attempt pitching anymore as he went in for his 2016 surgery. But the talent is obviously there and it’s easy to root for a player who once seemed a sure thing to reach and a good bet to thrive in the majors.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Cubs Pursued Miles Mikolas]]> 2018-02-25T22:59:27Z 2018-02-25T22:59:27Z
  • The NL Central rival Cubs were among the suitors the Cardinals beat out over the winter for the services of right-hander Miles Mikolas, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Mikolas, a former Padre and Ranger, joined the Redbirds on a two-year, $15.5MM deal after a tremendous run in Japan from 2015-17. The fact that the Cardinals’ spring training base is in Jupiter, Fla., Mikolas’ hometown, helped them win the derby, according to Goold. The 29-year-old Mikolas is now all but guaranteed a spot in the Cards’ rotation, along with Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha Adam Wainwright and Luke Weaver. The Cubs, on the other hand, made out well anyway, ending up with Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Cubs Made Addison Russell Available In Trade Talks]]> 2018-02-17T23:00:38Z 2018-02-17T23:00:38Z Addison Russell was made available in various Cubs trade talks over the offseason. a rival official told Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.  It should be noted that “made available” is quite different than openly shopping a player, as it isn’t any surprise that the Cubs at least explored the possibility of moving Russell or other notable names over the course of the winter.  Theo Epstein even said during his end-of-season chat with reporters that his team would consider trading from areas of depth to address other needs, though it’s interesting to note that the Cubs have yet to make any trades this offseason, instead turning to free agency to add starting and relief pitching.  Russell, for his part, considers Chicago’s position player depth to be “a beautiful thing,” and is pleased to still be in a Cubs uniform.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Cubs Sign Shae Simmons]]> 2018-02-16T18:04:44Z 2018-02-16T18:00:43Z Feb. 16: The Cubs have formally announced the signing of Simmons to a one-year, split Major League contract. He’s been placed on the 40-man roster, with left-hander Drew Smyly (recovering from Tommy John surgery) moving to the 60-day DL to create a roster spot.

    Feb. 14: The Cubs have signed righty Shae Simmons to a split contract, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports (Twitter links).  The deal will pay Simmons $750K if he cracks Chicago’s Major League roster, and $120K if he remains in the minors.  The contract will be official once Simmons passes a physical, according to’s Carrie Muskat.

    That last detail is an important one given how Simmons has been plagued by injuries for the better part of three years.  Simmons looked good as a hard-throwing rookie with the Braves in 2014 but then underwent Tommy John surgery in February 2015.  Beyond just the usual 12-15 month recovery timeline for that procedure, Simmons’ return by halted by a variety of injury setbacks, and then further halted by a forearm strain that kept him out of action for a large chunk of the 2017 season.  Over the last two seasons, Simmons has tossed only 14 1/3 total innings.

    The Mariners acquired Simmons and Mallex Smith for Luiz Gohara and lefty prospect Thomas Burrows in January 2017, though Simmons’ forearm problems kept him from developing into any sort of a real weapon out of Seattle’s bullpen.  The M’s non-tendered Simmons last December, ending his tenure with the team after just 7 2/3 innings and a 7.04 ERA.

    Despite the injuries and the control problems that have plagued Simmons throughout his career, the Cubs have little to lose in taking a flier on the 27-year-old.  Simmons has shown flashes of dominance when healthy, including some dominant numbers (2.06 ERA, 12.6 K/9) over 131 1/3 career minor league frames.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Mike Montgomery Wants To Remain With The Cubs]]> 2018-02-15T03:01:07Z 2018-02-15T03:01:07Z
  • Reports back in December indicated that Cubs swingman Mike Montgomery wanted to be a full-time starting pitcher, though the southpaw told reporters (including Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times) that he was just indicating his preference rather than demanding a role change.  “It wasn’t like, ’Hey, make me a starter or I get traded,’ ” Montgomery said.  “It wasn’t that black and white.  It was just, ’Hey, I want to be a starter.’….I think it’s obvious I want to do that, and I think it’s just a matter of time and place and situation.”  Chicago’s addition of Yu Darvish would seem to bump Montgomery back into his swingman spot, yet that hasn’t changed his feelings about remaining a Cub.  I definitely want to be here.  I know I want to be a starter, but, look, being a part of this team the last couple years, it’s a special group, and we not only have a good team, but I’ve never had more fun playing baseball,” Montgomery said. 
  • Also from Wittenmyer’s piece, he notes that the Cubs have been getting trade interest in Montgomery since the Darvish signing, with the Phillies and possibly other teams calling about Montgomery’s availability even long before Darvish came to Wrigleyville.  Philadelphia’s interest isn’t a surprise, as the Phils have seemingly checked in on just about every controllable young starter that could conceivably be a trade candidate.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Epstein On Signing Of Yu Darvish]]> 2018-02-14T15:51:22Z 2018-02-14T14:45:35Z With the Cubs introducing righty Yu Darvish yesterday, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times covers the key takeaways. Other teams dangled six-year offers of similar value, per Wittenmyer, though it seems that interest at a higher price point simply did not develop. Whether that means the Cubs secured a relative bargain or simply reflects the league’s valuation of an excellent but hardly flawless pitcher, the bottom line is that Darvish represents a major addition to one of the game’s best rosters. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says the team was pleasantly surprised to be able to land Darvish at a rate that still kept the overall payroll under the luxury tax line. He also noted that the team will now have limited capacity for taking on salary during the course of the season. While Epstein framed the matter as one of managing the team’s short and long-term spending ability, those comments seemingly indicate that the luxury line is functioning as a soft ceiling this year for yet another top MLB organization.

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Cubs Sign Yu Darvish]]> 2018-02-13T18:20:02Z 2018-02-13T17:45:59Z TUESDAY: The Cubs have announced the deal.

    It breaks down as follows, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter): $25MM in 2018, $20MM in 2019, $22MM apiece in 2020 and 2021, $19MM in 2022, and $18MM in 2023. That allocation means that Darvish will face at least a four-year, $81MM decision (depending upon escalators) when his opt-out opportunity arises.

    Per Nightengale, also, the full no-trade protection extends through the first four years of the contract.

    SUNDAY, 4:05pm: Darvish has a full no-trade clause for part of the deal, then it switches to a 12-team list, per Jon Heyman of FanRag (Twitter link).

    1:50pm: Darvish has the ability to block a trade to nearly every team, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. Additionally, in any year of the contract, he could earn $2MM extra with a Cy Young Award or $1MM if he finishes second to fifth in the voting.

    SATURDAY, 6:02pm: Darvish’s opt-out comes after the 2019 season, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets.

    5:17pm: The Cubs and Yu Darvish have agreed to terms on a contract that will bring the righty to Chicago, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports on Twitter. The deal guarantees the Wasserman client $126MM over six years (though the total value can reportedly reach $150MM via escalators), and is pending a physical. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that the contract also includes both an opt-out clause “earlier than three years into his contract” and no-trade protection (Twitter link).


    With Darvish in the fold alongside Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks and Tyler Chatwood, the reigning NL Central champs will have one of the more complete (and formidable) rotations in all of baseball. Thanks in part to that group, they should enter the upcoming season as the favorites to win the division again, despite the aggressive moves the rival Brewers have made this winter.

    In Darvish, who divided last year between the Rangers and Dodgers, the Cubs are getting a hurler who in 2017 ranked as the majors’ 16th-best pitcher by fWAR (3.5) and 12th-best in terms of strikeouts per nine innings (10.08). He also racked up 186 2/3 innings, his most since 2013, and pitched to a 3.86 ERA/3.83 FIP. He figures to replace Jake Arrieta near the front of the Cubs’ rotation. Because Darvish was part of a midseason trade, the Dodgers could not issue him a qualifying offer to begin the winter. Consequently, reeling him in won’t cost Chicago any draft-pick compensation or international bonus pool money.

    Of course, the impact of this signing sends ripples far beyond the NL Central alone. MLBTR had ranked Darvish as the best available free agent among our top 50 (Tim Dierkes & Co. actually predicted he’d end up with the Cubs). This deal could well mean that many other free agent dominoes will begin to fall soon. In particular, many have theorized that teams may have been waiting for Darvish to sign before moving onto lesser free agents such as Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn. The Dodgers, Twins, and Brewers had all reportedly made serious offers for Darvish; they’ll now have to set their sights on other options.

    The contract itself is by far the largest ever given to a free agent in February. Although the total guarantee is significantly south of the $160MM we predicted he’d receive back in November, the deal itself could perhaps ease some of the ongoing tension between the players union and MLB, which has escalated to a boiling point in recent weeks due to teams’ unwillingness to meet the asking prices of many top free agents. There has perhaps been as much focus on the glacial pace of the offseason as there has been on the free agents themselves, and the Darvish signing is certainly a step in the right direction.

    On the other hand, the top four remaining free agents are now J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Jake Arrieta and Mike Moustakas – all of whom are clients of Scott Boras. With the super-agent firmly in control of the top of the market, there’s no guarantee that other pieces will fall into place any time soon.

    [RELATED: Updated Cubs Depth Chart/Team Payroll]

    Darvish’s major league career started out in spectacular fashion. After the Rangers spent over $100MM between salary guarantees and posting fees in order to sign him out of Japan prior to 2012, he rewarded them by delivering two consecutive seasons of at least 4.5 fWAR. The talented righty was on his way to another fantastic campaign in 2014, but had to be shut down in August due to elbow issues. Those issues ultimately led to a Tommy John surgery in March of the following year, meaning the ace didn’t take the mound for the Rangers for nearly two years.

    When Darvish made his return on May 28, 2016, he picked up right where he left off. In 287 innings since that date, all Darvish has done is strike out 341 hitters while walking just 89. His 3.70 ERA and 3.49 xFIP during that span are among the best marks in the major leagues, and he’s posted the 14th-best soft contact rate in the major leagues during that span.

    Of course, Darvish’s solid 2017 season was unfortunately covered in shadow by his dreadful World Series performance with the Dodgers. He faced 22 Astros hitters across his two starts while recording just 10 outs and allowing eight earned runs. Darvish was saddled with the loss for both of those games, one of which was the seventh and final game of the series.

    However, while his bellyflop is perhaps the most prominent impression left in the minds of Dodgers fans, there are a number of important factors to consider. The first and perhaps most obvious is that 3 1/3 innings is an incredibly small sample size, particularly against a juggernaut Astros offense that also tore through pitchers like Chris Sale in the same postseason. Another is that many Astros hitters went on record saying that Darvish was tipping his pitches in Game Seven; they could tell whether he was going to throw a cutter or a breaking ball by watching whether he adjusted his grip on the ball before bringing it to his glove. Finally, the two World Series starts were Darvish’s 36th and 37th of the season, which is especially notable because he hadn’t pitched a more than 150 innings in a season since 2013.

    Darvish’s pitch arsenal is one of his most unique assets. According to Brooks Baseball, he threw a four-seamer, slider, sinker, curve, cutter, change-up and splitter during the 2017 season. While the sinker and change-up were each utilized less than 2% of the time, such an expansive repertoire sets Darvish apart from other MLB aces. Fortunately for him, he’ll once again be reunited with catcher Chris Gimenez. The two played together during their years with the Rangers, where Gimenez had great success working with Darvish and his arsenal. The Cubs signed Gimenez to a minor-league deal about three weeks ago, though whether that factor had any impact at all on Davish’s decision is a guessing game at this point.

    While there’s a chance Darvish will pitch to Gimenez in 2018, it seems likely most of his work will come with starting catcher Willson Contreras. The 25-year-old expressed excitement about the Darvish deal on Twitter, noting that he “can’t wait to catch” the four-time All-Star.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.