Chicago Cubs – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-11-16T19:31:09Z WordPress Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs Open-Minded On Trade Proposals]]> 2018-11-09T21:24:47Z 2018-11-09T21:24:47Z Amid fairly consistent reports on the Cubs’ limited payroll capacity this offseason, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes that the team is taking an open-minded approach to the trade market. Per the report, the team is willing to listen to offers on virtually anyone on the roster — even star third baseman Kris Bryant.

Needless to say, the fact that the Cubs evidently won’t hang up on rival organizations that inquire on Bryant is far from a suggestion that he is likely to be traded. It is jarring to see his name included in this ESPN headline — “Cubs open to trading 3B Kris Bryant” — but that doesn’t quite seem a fair encapsulation of Olney’s report. And it would remain absolutely stunning to see any deal actually come together this winter.

Indeed, as Olney points out, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein recently acknowledged publicly that neither Bryant nor star first baseman Anthony Rizzo are totally off limits, at least as a theoretical matter. That has always been the club’s stance. Notably, too, Epstein added an important proviso: “Given what we’re trying to accomplish,” he said, “it would be virtually impossible to envision the deal that would make sense to move them.”

Epstein’s statement still accurately reflects the Cubs’ thinking, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (via Twitter). Per Wittenmyer, the Cubs are not looking for deals on Bryant and are merely operating under their standard protocol. As one might expect, it “would take a shocking haul/scenario” to “consider moving” Bryant, per Wittenmyer.

Taken as a whole, then, Olney’s report has clear limits. He does say that “it’s possible that the Cubs will trade” Bryant, and that the Cubs are telling rivals they “are willing to discuss trade proposals for almost all of the players on their roster, including Bryant.” That’s not an insignificant piece of information, to be sure, but it hardly seems to support the notion — which seems to be spreading in some corners of social media — that the Cubs have a whole new direction in mind.

On its face, in fact, Olney’s report seems to say as much or more about other Cubs players. The focus on Bryant’s status, in particular, could stem from recent reports about his decision to pass on what would’ve reportedly been a massive extension, David Kaplan of ESPN Radio reported that Bryant turned down an offer worth more than $200MM, though Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic suggests that the most recent time at which such an offer might have materialized is last offseason. That’d mark the second consecutive season in which extension talks with Bryant and agent Scott Boras failed to bear fruit; SI’s Tom Verducci reported in April 2017 that the Cubs and Bryant “got nowhere” in negotiations in the 2016-17 offseason.

The decision to turn down that kind of money is interesting in its own right, of course, but Bryant already banked a record $10.85MM as a first-time arbitration player this offseason. He’s also projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn another $12.4MM this offseason and still has another two trips through the arb process remaining beyond that. Paired with a whopping $6.7MM signing bonus out of the draft and numerous endorsement deals, Bryant undoubtedly already has the financial stability to bet on himself. His current trajectory has him on pace to reach free agency at the age of 29, in advance of his age-30 season, so he’d certainly be young enough to command a massive deal in free agency after going year to year through the arbitration process and banking a sum in excess of $50MM along the way.

While much of the focus of the report is understandably on Bryant, that’s perhaps not seeing the forest for the trees. Bryant, a former NL Rookie of the Year and NL MVP, carries perhaps the highest profile of any Cubs player, but the notion that the Cubs could deal from the existing roster — juxtaposed with recent reports on the team’s potential payroll constraints — could at the very least hint at the possibility of unexpected trades involving other notable players. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein described the Cubs’ offense as “broken” after the team’s Wild Card exit and has spoken about the need to repair that element of the Cubs.

However, if the Cubs are indeed facing payroll limitations and thus unable to play at the very top of the free-agent market for bats, then there’d be little alternative to shuffling the deck a bit by dealing some established players on the trade market. The aim, presumably, would not be to embark on any real rebuilding effort but to create some payroll flexibility while giving a still-competitive lineup something of a face lift. All things considered, it’s tough to see how a Bryant trade would really aid the Cubs’ cause.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs Re-Sign Danny Hultzen To Minor League Deal]]> 2018-11-09T19:06:05Z 2018-11-09T19:06:05Z
  • Former No. 2 overall pick Danny Hultzen has re-signed with the Cubs on a minor league pact. The left-hander spent the 2018 season in the Cubs organization but threw fewer than 10 innings in the minors as he worked back from major shoulder injuries that have utterly derailed what once looked to be a promising career. Hultzen will turn 29 later this month and has never thrown a pitch in a Major League game but will continue his latest comeback attempt and aim to break that barrier in the 2019 campaign. Those interested in learning more about the former Virginia standout are recommended to check out Hultzen’s interview with the Washington Post’s Dillon Mullan from Aug. 2017.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On Bryce Harper, Manny Machado]]> 2018-11-09T05:06:25Z 2018-11-09T05:06:25Z We took a look yesterday at some of the early chatter on Bryce Harper. While the early chatter has been less voluminous with regard to fellow superstar Manny Machado, there’s little doubt that he will have his moment as well. As the stage-setting GM Meetings draw to a close, let’s check in on some additional notes on the market’s most-hyped free agents.

    • Some eyebrows raised this evening when it was observed that the White Sox had unveiled a stage set at Chicago’s United Center featuring Bryce Harper’s name. As Chris Cwik of Yahoo Sports explains, there’s no reason to think this was the beginning of the roll-out of a signing; our readers from the south side can safely inform friends and neighbors that there’s nothing imminent. More likely, it’s part of a recruiting pitch for the popular young free agent, who is in Chicago today. The news shouldn’t be blown out of proportion, clearly, but that doesn’t mean it’s of no consequence. Evidently, the White Sox are serious enough pursuers that they have secured an in-person visit and are putting resources into a pitch. That certainly dovetails with recent reports and public statements from the organization indicating that the club is looking to spend. It also bodes well for Harper’s market that a team such as the White Sox is making a run at him even after he reportedly turned down a $300MM offer to remain in D.C.
    • As for the cross-town Cubs, all indications remain that they do not see themselves as a contender for Harper’s services, as’s Jesse Rogers reiterates on Twitter. As Rogers puts it, if the club is “playing possum,” it’s “doing a heck of a job” at selling the act.
    • It remains to be seen what stance the Giants will take with regard to Harper, particularly as Farhan Zaidi settles into his new digs atop the club’s baseball operations department. As John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, though, agent Scott Boras certainly seems to see San Francisco as a viable landing spot for his client. Harper, he says, views the organization fondly — and would not only deliver value on the field, but off of it. As for the club’s viewpoint, it’s tough to say whether Harper will be deemed a sensible target. CEO Larry Baer said “there’s no restrictions” for his new top baseball decisionmaker; whether or not to join the bidding on Harper (or other hyper-expensive free agents) is “a judgment [Zaidi] is going to need to make.”
    • Of course, as Shea highlights, and Baer himself noted, that sort of outlay did not fit the M.O. of either of Zaidi’s prior two ballclubs — even those pesky division rivals to the south. Speaking of the Dodgers, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times wrote recently that Harper is a player worthy of breaking the mold (and the bank) to acquire. Beyond his qualities as a ballplayer, Hernandez argues that Harper has the star power — and the right kind of attitude — to thrive in Los Angeles.
    • Interestingly, the Cardinals, per Jon Heyman of Fancred, “do not seem interested” in Machado despite seemingly lining up from the perspective of roster need. But there has been quite a lot of discussion in St. Louis circles as to whether Harper might be a target. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch laid out the state of affairs recently. The Cards, he says, are seen as “a factor” in the market for Harper. While some would write the St. Louis organization off due to a lack of monster contracts on their ledger, it’s worth bearing in mind that the club has entered significant bids for players such as Jason Heyward (see here) and David Price (see here) in recent seasons, and also sought to acquire Giancarlo Stanton last winter.
    • And what of the Yankees? The situation hasn’t really changed since last we checked in, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post takes a crack at thinking through how things may play out. There’s little indication at present that the New York club has any real intention of going for Harper. But Machado makes for a much more intriguing roster fit, and could prove particularly tantalizing.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Hoyer: Bullpen Depth "A Priority" For Cubs]]> 2018-11-08T02:15:20Z 2018-11-08T02:15:20Z
  • “Adding bullpen depth is a priority,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Wednesday at the GM Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif. (link via Bruce Levine of 670 The Score/CBS Chicago). Hoyer noted that, ideally, the Cubs would add some quality left-handed help to the relief corps, though he also indicated that the greater concern is simply in building a quality relief unit and the depth necessary to keep top arms fresh down the stretch. Levine writes that in addition to their pursuit of a left-handed bullpen arm, the Cubs are hoping to bring veteran righty Jesse Chavez back into the fold. Chavez, 35, posted a 1.15 ERA and a ridiculous 42-to-5 K/BB ratio in 39 innings for the Cubs after being acquired from the Rangers.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Market Chatter: White Sox, Zunino, Kimbrel, Cards, Giants, Phils, Yanks]]> 2018-11-06T19:29:22Z 2018-11-06T19:29:22Z What role will the White Sox play in this free agent market? It’s an open question whether the club will come away with any significant players, but it also seems increasingly likely that it will be heavily involved at all levels of the market. MLBTR did not pick the South Siders to land any of the top fifty free agents, but as noted in that post, the club could pursue quite a few of the players listed.’s Jon Morosi even names the White Sox as potential pursuers of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic points out the case for the Sox to spend (subscription link), while Jon Heyman of Fancred tweets that the club is expressing an inclination to “take a step forward now.” Meanwhile, on the other side of town, indications remain that the Cubs will not spend a big chunk of change this winter, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post is the latest to report (Twitter link).

    Clearly, the White Sox are an interesting team to watch. Even if it’s arguably a bit premature for significant investments, it certainly doesn’t hurt that they play in the sport’s worst overall division. Elsewhere …

    • The competition in the AL West seems to be driving the Mariners to sell. It’s unclear as yet how deep the cuts will go, but talks are already opening up. The M’s are chatting with the Rays about catcher Mike Zunino, per Rosenthal (via Twitter). With two years of control remaining, the 27-year-old backstop presents an interesting alternative to the free agent market for catchers. He’s an inconsistent but high-powered offensive performer who is generally seen as a quality defender.
    • The Cardinals and incumbent Red Sox are among the suitors for veteran closer Craig Kimbrel, according to Jon Morosi of Kimbrel is among the players who appear to be candidates to land earlier-than-usual contracts, by Morosi’s reckoning. (He mentions a few possible landing spots for others on his list, though it’s not apparent that the connections are based upon more than his analysis.)
    • Certainly, it seems the motivation is there for the Cardinals to pursue significant players. As Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes, the St. Louis front office is looking hard at ways to improve. GM Mike Girsch says the team has a competitive roster as things stand, but wants to exit the offseason with “a division-leading roster.” The piece is full of worthwhile reading for Cards fans, particularly those interested in gaining some perspective on the team’s market positioning in relation to Harper and Machado. All told, it seems reasonable not to rule the Cards out as a possible pursuer of any free agent.
    • Manny and Bryce are popular considerations for most teams, of course, even if they won’t realistically be pursued by all that many organizations. The Giants are perhaps a likelier suitor than may be evident from a passing glance, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. While the San Francisco organization struggled last year, has quite a few big contracts on the books, and doesn’t currently have a GM in place, Shea says that this kind of ownership-driven decision could still be pursued.
    • Lost in the hype for those popular young free agents is the never-ending search for pitching. While the rotation was and is a strong suit for the Phillies, that doesn’t mean they can’t improve. Indeed, as Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia writes, it could make sense for the organization to use some trade assets to add a starter — in addition, of course, to pursuing a superstar position player on the open market. Salisbury tabs southpaws Robbie Ray of the Diamondbacks and James Paxton of the Mariners as two particular names to watch.
    • Likewise, as they consider their pitching options, the Yankees will look at the still-developing trade market. Per Heyman, via Twitter, the Yanks have at least some level of interest in the top arms that have newly entered the sphere of trade candidates. New York’s brass will meet with their counterparts with the Indians, who are dangling Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. The Yankees are also said to have some interest in Paxton. Those three are among the game’s better starters, so it’s hardly surprising to hear the connections.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Will Not Pursue Offseason Extension With Joe Maddon]]> 2018-11-06T02:15:08Z 2018-11-06T02:15:08Z Though Cubs manager Joe Maddon is entering the final season of his contract, the organization will not explore an extension during the offseason to come. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein announced the news, which Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times was among those to cover (via Twitter).

    Maddon, who was hired just after the end of the 2014 season, has already served four of the five years covered by his initial contract. Now 64 years of age, Maddon has been at the helm for a period of remarkable success. The club has a .597 winning percentage and one World Series title in that span.

    That success has not come without whispers of some internal tension, though it’s always hard to know how much stock to put in that kind of talk. For his part, Epstein has made clear that he’s not looking to make a change in the managerial role and has continue to praise Maddon. Still, it’s plenty notable that a new deal won’t come until late in the 2019 season (or thereafter), if at all.

    Today Epstein emphasized again that this isn’t a final decision, as Wittenmyer also covers (Twitter links). “We’re not running away from Joe in the least,” he said, “but given that we all have things that we’re working on to get more out of this team and to be one game better than we were last year, this is the appropriate move.”

    Interestingly, the top Chicago baseball decisionmaker also made clear that this is a “pivotal year” for the organization as a whole, not just Maddon. “It’s time to produce or else there’s a chance for significant change for the group,” he said, seemingly referring to all levels of the organization including the front office. (Of course, Epstein and his key lieutenants are under contract through 2021.) It’s a bit of a harsh assessment given how well things have gone, but it seems that Epstein (and also, perhaps, his own bosses) are looking to keep expectations high entering an interesting offseason.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Cubs Still Deciding Addison Russell’s Fate]]> 2018-11-04T23:47:33Z 2018-11-04T23:41:32Z Shortstop Addison Russell received a 40-game suspension last month for a violation of Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy, but that won’t necessarily conclude his tenure with the Cubs. While it appeared last month that the Cubs would indeed cut ties with Russell, they haven’t yet made a decision on his future, Patrick Mooney of The Athletic reports (subscription required).

    According to Mooney, Chicago’s currently doing its “own due diligence, outreach and additional research” on Russell, who earned a suspension a couple weeks after his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy, alleged that he abused her verbally, emotionally and physically during their marriage. Even though Russell called the allegations “completely false” when they were leveled against him in late September, he opted against appealing MLB’s punishment. As a result of that 40-game ban, which began Sept. 21, he’ll sit out the first month of the 2019 season.

    In the wake of his suspension, the 24-year-old Russell looked like either a trade or a non-tender candidate for the Cubs this offseason. That may not end up being the case, but if Chicago does non-tender him, it would need to do so by the Nov. 30 deadline. As of now, Russell’s projected to earn $4.3MM via arbitration for 2019. Considering Russell has been a capable starter for most of his career and the Cubs are dealing with a lack of financial flexibility, that price tag looks palatable from the team’s perspective.

    Regardless of his salary, retaining Russell would understandably open the Cubs up to harsh criticism – especially after president Theo Epstein offered his support to the victim last month and said that “we all have an obligation to be part of the solution” with respect to domestic violence issues. For the Cubs, being part of the solution in this case could mean keeping Russell and trying to help rehabilitate him, as Mooney writes that he may benefit from the team’s “overall structure” – which includes a mental skills department and the “progressive” Epstein.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Outright Gore, Freeman; Claim Jack Reinheimer From Mets]]> 2018-11-02T23:37:57Z 2018-11-02T21:19:20Z The Cubs announced today that they have outrighted outfielder Terrance Gore and infielder Mike Freeman from the 40-man roster. Meanwhile, the club has added infielder Jack Reinheimer via waiver claim from the Mets.

    Gore and Freeman were each added to the Chicago 40-man owing to late-season considerations. The former is a standout baserunner, the latter a quality defender. Both players appear to qualify as minor-league free agents.

    Reinheimer, meanwhile, is a 26-year-old utilityman who is capable of lining up at shortstop. He showed some life at the plate in a 16-game run with the Mets’ top affiliate late last year, though he has mostly been a palatable-but-unexciting hitter at the Triple-A level, with a .278/.343/.371 slash in 1,376 total plate appearances.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs Exercise Cole Hamels’ Option, Trade Drew Smyly To Rangers]]> 2018-11-02T16:32:16Z 2018-11-02T16:30:26Z 11:30am: The Rangers have formally announced the acquisition of Smyly and a player to be named later in exchange for a different player to be named later. The Cubs have also announced the moves.

    9:42am: The Cubs will exercise their $20MM club option on left-hander Cole Hamels today and also trade fellow left-hander Drew Smyly to the Rangers, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). Late last night, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that a long-term deal between Hamels and the Cubs was unlikely and that the team could make a move to clear some salary before agreeing to pay Hamels at a $20MM rate for the 2019 season.

    Cole Hamels | Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

    Hamels will step into the rotation spot that had been earmarked for Smyly when he signed a two-year, $10MM deal with Chicago last offseason. Rehabbing from Tommy John surgery at the time, Smyly inked a back-loaded, two-year contract that calls for a $7MM salary in 2019. However, Hamels’ eye-opening resurgence to nearly ace-level status with the Cubs presented Chicago with what it clearly deems a preferable alternative to Smyly.

    The Cubs have been weighing all week whether to exercise Hamels’ option or opt for a $6MM buyout. The wrinkle in that scenario is that, under the terms of the trade that sent Hamels to Chicago, the Rangers would be on the hook for the buyout sum. That Texas would pay the $6MM buyout seemed little more than a formality at the time; there was little thought that Hamels would pitch well enough to merit a $20MM salary for the upcoming season.

    In essence, then, the reportedly forthcoming trade is a somewhat creative means of the Cubs retaining Hamels while still receiving the benefit of the same level of financial compensation from the Texas organization — if not a bit more. The Rangers will absorb either all of Smyly’s $7MM salary or, speculatively speaking, could agree to pay $6MM of that sum with the Cubs eating $1MM in cost in order to keep the dollars at the same level they’d have been had Texas merely paid the buyout.

    In the end, the Rangers will receive a desperately needed rotation piece, while the Cubs will retain the former Phillies ace who immediately won the hearts of Cubs fans with an otherworldly run of success following the trade. Hamels allowed just five runs, total, through his first seven starts with the Cubs and finished out the season with a 2.36 ERA in 76 1/3 innings for the Cubs.

    While his 82.3 percent strand rate isn’t sustainable and points to some degree of regression, Hamels nonetheless looked legitimately improved following the trade. He should slot comfortably into the middle of a Cubs rotation that’ll also feature Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and a hopefully healthier Yu Darvish in 2019. The Cubs also have Mike Montgomery on hand as a valuable safety net for the rotation as well as righty Tyler Chatwood, though his three-year contract has been a bust to this point. It seems likely that the Cubs could look for opportunities to unload the remaining $25.5MM on that ill-fated signing this offseason in order to further clear some salary.

    That, perhaps, is the largest remaining question at play here. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has been vocal about his desire to improve an offense that, as he put it, “broke” late in the 2018 season and certainly in the team’s National League Wild Card loss to the Rockies. It’s seemed fair to assume that the Cubs would be prepared to spend aggressively as a means of doing so, either by investing in the free-agent market or looking at established bats on the trade market.

    However, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted this morning that other teams have gotten the sense that the Cubs’ payroll flexibility is far more limited than one might think. If that’s the case, moving Chatwood or some other money could be something of a prerequisite for further additions. Even with Smyly off the books, Hamels’ salary will push the Cubs’ payroll north of the $200MM mark (when factoring in arbitration-eligible players and pre-arb players) — quite possibly close to the $206MM luxury tax barrier; Smyly’s contract came with a $5MM luxury tax hit, whereas Hamels’ deal after the option is exercised effectively becomes a seven-year, $158MM contract and would carry a $22.5MM luxury hit. The maximum capacity of the Chicago payroll remains unknown, but the Cubs have already pushed into record territory by exercising Hamels’ option, and the offseason has yet to truly begin in earnest.

    Drew Smyly | Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    As for the Rangers, while Smyly’s health is an unknown, he’s the type of arm they can dream on as they strive to cobble together a rotation after virtually everything possible went wrong on their starting staff in 2018. Mike Minor and Smyly are the only real locks for the Texas rotation next season, but Smyly brings significant upside to a team whose internal options beyond Minor were otherwise uninspiring.

    General manager Jon Daniels will still need to add further established options and depth pieces to the starting staff, as the current best options after Minor and Smyly look to be Ariel Jurado, Yohander Mendez, Adrian Sampson and Austin Bibens-Dirkx. None of that quartet has found success at the big league level yet, and most of the bunch even struggled in the upper minors.

    The further upshot for the Rangers is that as they enter a possible transitional or rebuilding phase, Smyly could very well emerge as a coveted trade asset on the summer market. Smyly hasn’t pitched since the 2016 season due to ongoing injury troubles — most notably the aforementioned Tommy John surgery — but he sports a career 3.74 ERA with 8.7 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.22 HR/9 and a 36.3 percent ground-ball rate in 570 1/3 innings. Smyly has shown flashes of brilliance at times and looked like a potential impact starter — perhaps never more so than when starring for Team USA in the most recent World Baseball Classic — though he’s yet to consistently tap into his talent while also struggling to stay on the field.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest On Cole Hamels’ Option, Cubs’ Payroll]]> 2018-11-02T12:43:49Z 2018-11-02T12:43:50Z Nov. 2: ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that other teams have gotten the sense that the Cubs’ payroll flexibility is considerably more limited this offseason than many might expect. The sense, per Olney, is that the team will have to “spend very carefully to affect upgrades for the 2019 season.”

    That’d explain to an extent why the Cubs would prefer to shed additional salary before electing to retain Hamels. It’d be a departure from standard operating procedure for Epstein & Co., and from a broader perspective, it does raise some questions about the team’s ability to play for top-of-the-market free agents.

    Nov. 1: The Cubs still hope to keep Cole Hamels, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (Twitter link), but there may be some steps taken before formally bringing him back. A multi-year contract between the two sides, at this point, is “unlikely,” per Rosenthal, who notes that the Cubs might make a trade to clear some salary off the books before exercising their $20MM option on Hamels.

    It’s not immediately clear why the Cubs would feel the need to shed salary before picking up the option. Chicago dipped under the luxury tax threshold this past season, and Hamels’ $20MM salary for the 2019 campaign wouldn’t have any bearing on the team’s 2018 luxury tax ledger. Beyond that, Chicago appears poised to spend in perhaps significant fashion this offseason as president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer and the rest of the front office look to upgrade a roster that fell shy of expectations when it lost the National League Wild Card game to the Rockies. Given the fact that they’re already likely to add to the payroll, it’s curious to see the suggestion that salary must be shed before free agency truly begins in earnest.

    That’s not to say that there isn’t salary the Cubs would prefer to jettison. The remaining $100MM+ on the contracts of Yu Darvish and Jason Heyward certainly aren’t movable right now, but the remaining $25.5MM on Tyler Chatwood’s contract could perhaps be flipped for a different bad contract (or paid down to some extent in a salary dump deal). The Cubs would probably prefer not to pay $5MM for Brandon Kintzler’s 2019 season, either, after the righty struggled in Chicago following a trade from the Nationals.

    However, while it’s natural that the Chicago front office would want to shed some of those onerous financial commitments, it’s unclear why they’d need to move any money before picking up Hamels’ option. Exercising Hamels’ option would push the Cubs’ payroll well north of the $206MM luxury tax line for the upcoming season, but there’s been no indication that remaining south of that line is any sort of target for the organization. And even if the team isn’t comfortable with the idea of adding Hamels at $20MM and then spending aggressively in free agency, the Cubs could simply exercise Hamels’ option and then look for means by which to shed some unwanted contracts (e.g. Chatwood, Kintzler) after the fact.

    Perhaps there’s more at play here than meets the eye — speculatively speaking, ownership may want a rotation piece cleared out before committing such a lofty payday to Hamels, for instance — but the takeaway that the two sides aren’t likely to strike up a multi-year pact is significant in and of itself. There’s been some speculation that Hamels and the Cubs could work out a multi-year arrangement that would lower the annual rate but still promise Hamels additional guaranteed money. That scenario, it seems, will not come to fruition.

    The Cubs, then, are faced with the decision of agreeing to pay Hamels $20MM next season or opting for a $6MM buyout. The Rangers are on the hook for that buyout money as part of the trade that sent Hamels to Chicago in the first place, so while the opportunity exists for the Cubs to swoop back in and re-sign Hamels even after he hits the open market, one would imagine that the Rangers would take some umbrage to that scenario, even if there’s technically no wrongdoing on the Cubs’ behalf.

    Frankly, this dilemma for the Cubs was largely unforeseeable at the time of the trade; when the deal went through, it looked like little more than a glorified salary dump that would give the Cubs a durable back-of-the-rotation starter. Hamels’ massive home/road splits gave some hope that he could fare better in a new environment, but few would’ve expected that he’d return to borderline ace status following a change of scenery. That’s precisely what happened, though, as the soon-to-be 35-year-old lefty allowed just five runs through his first seven starts in Chicago and posted an overall 2.36 ERA in 76 1/3 innings after the trade. Hamels benefited from an unsustainable 82.3 percent strand rate, so some regression is to be expected, but he was a vastly better pitcher with the Cubs — so much so that the $20MM option to which few paid any mind at the time of the deal is now a fascinating wrinkle to the onset of free agency as the deadline to make a decision looms.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs Exercise Club Option On Pedro Strop]]> 2018-11-01T22:14:55Z 2018-11-01T21:43:46Z The Cubs have exercised their 2019 club option on right-hander Pedro Strop, the team announced. He’ll earn $6.25MM for the upcoming 2019 campaign and will be a free agent next offseason, barring a further extension of his contract.

    It was an easy call for the Cubs to retain Strop on a relatively modest one-year commitment, as the righty turned in a stellar 2.26 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9 and a 46.1 percent grounder rate through 59 2/3 innings of work. Strop did miss some time late in the season due to a hamstring injury, but he returned to pitch for the Cubs in the National League Wild Card game despite not being 100 percent at the time. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein told reporters after the fact that Strop’s gutty performance exemplified why the right-hander was “such a big part of the heartbeat of this team.”

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs Claim Johnny Field From Twins]]> 2018-11-01T20:45:07Z 2018-11-01T20:45:07Z The Cubs announced Thursday that they’ve claimed outfielder Johnny Field off waivers from the Twins.

    Field, 26, split the 2018 season between the Rays and Twins, making his big league debut for the former and eventually landing with the latter via a series of waivers claims. The former fifth-round pick (Rays, 2013) totaled 233 plate appearances last season and hit .222/.254/.403 with nine homers, 13 doubles and four steals. Field punched out an alarming 72 times against just seven walks in that time, though he also saw time at all three outfield spots and posted slightly above-average overall marks.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs Exercise Jose Quintana’s Option, Claim Jerry Vasto From Royals]]> 2018-10-31T20:51:15Z 2018-10-31T20:18:28Z The Cubs announced Wednesday that they’ve exercised their $10.5MM club option over left-hander Jose Quintana and claimed left-handed reliever Jerry Vasto off waivers from the Royals organization. It’s the first of two options that the Cubs hold on Quintana, who’ll turn 30 in January. Chicago also has an $11.5MM option on the lefty for the 2020 season.

    While Quintana may not have performed at quite the level the Cubs had hoped, picking up his option was a flat no-brainer, as even in a “down” season (by his standards), he turned in 174 1/3 innings of 4.03 ERA ball with 8.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and 1.29 HR/9 with a 43.2 percent ground-ball rate. Durable and largely consistent year over year, Quintana took the ball on 32 occasion for the Cubs, marking his sixth consecutive season with 32 or more games started. Even if he doesn’t return to the peak form he showed with the White Sox, having Quintana on a one-year deal with an affordable club option for the 2020 season is still quite a nice value for the Cubs.

    Vasto, 26, made his MLB debut with the Rockies in 2018 but appeared in just one game and tossed only two-thirds of an inning before being traded to Kansas City in exchange for backup catcher Drew Butera. Vasto was hit hard in his first season of Triple-A duty in 2017 but has turned in considerably more promising results with Colorado’s top affiliate in 2018: a 3.16 ERA, 10.7 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 0.73 HR/9 and a 43.5 percent ground-ball rate in 37 innings. The southpaw tossed just one scoreless inning with Kansas City’s Triple-A club before joining the Major League bullpen, where he allowed one earned run with three strikeouts and one walk in 3 2/3 innings of work.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Brandon Kintzler To Exercise Player Option]]> 2018-10-31T17:47:16Z 2018-10-31T17:47:16Z Righty Brandon Kintzler will exercise a player option to remain with the Cubs, according to Jesse Rogers of (via Twitter). That had been the expected outcome for the veteran reliever.

    Kintzler’s contract, signed last winter with the Nationals and traded to the Cubs at the 2018 trade deadline, included successive option clauses. The club first had a shot at a $10MM option. If that was declined — as it was, by the Chicago organization — then Kintzler got a chance to take a guaranteed $5MM salary rather than returning to free agency.

    Given his struggles down the stretch, it’s no surprise that Kintzler elected to keep the money in hand. In 18 frames over 25 appearances, he coughed up 14 earned runs on 27 hits while managing just a dozen strikeouts against nine walks.

    That’s not to say that there isn’t any hope of a rebound. After emerging as a late-inning presence with the Twins, Kintzler had been productive with the Nats. In his 68 2/3 frames in D.C., between the trade deadlines of the 2017 and 2018 campaigns, he worked to a 3.54 ERA. In spite of consistently marginal strikeout numbers, Kintzler’s heavy sinker has typically produced excellent groundball numbers and allowed him to avoid the long ball.

    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Hamels Open To Possible Extension]]> 2018-10-30T17:02:13Z 2018-10-30T17:02:13Z
  • Cole Hamels is open to signing an extension with the Cubs, or at least that’s the impression 670 The Score’s Bruce Levine came away with after speaking with his agent, John Boggs. The Cubs have until Thursday to decide whether to pick up Hamels’ $20MM option for the 2019 season or let the Texas Rangers pay his $6MM buyout. His impressive turnaround with the Cubs (12 starts, 2.36 ERA, 3.59 xFIP) leads many to believe the team option will be exercised, but nothing official has come down from Chicago yet. If the Cubs do pick up the option, they could begin negotiating an extension as early as Friday with the soon-to-be 35-year-old lefty. In theory, the Cubs could decline their option and negotiate a new contract with Hamels from there. This is unlikely, however, as the Rangers would be on the hook for the $6MM buyout, and they’d have grounds to file a grievance in that circumstance. However it happens, we should know by Thursday if Hamels will play his 2019 home games at Wrigley Field.
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