Chicago Cubs – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-03-24T12:10:47Z 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.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Cubs Reportedly Made Late Call To Arrieta Before Signing Darvish]]> 2018-02-12T06:01:06Z 2018-02-12T04:25:21Z The Cubs “put in one last call” to Jake Arrieta before completing their six-year, $126MM deal with Yu Darvish, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.  Heyman says Epstein respectfully inquired as to whether Arrieta would have been willing to accept “a deal believed to be similar to the one offered to Darvish should Darvish turn them down.”  According to Heyman, “while Arrieta surely appreciated the gesture, he wasn’t immediately prepared to accept a six-year deal for what was believed to be for a similar annual salary.” 

    A careful reading of Heyman’s phrasing is advised, as he at no point states that the Cubs actually made a six-year offer to Arrieta.  Nor could one accurately say Arrieta turned down a six-year offer from the Cubs, as we erroneously did in an earlier version of this post.  Last Wednesday, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that “the Cubs and Arrieta barely even engaged in contract talks this winter.”  If that’s correct, it would be odd for Epstein to even have made an intimation of a six-year offer around that same time.

    It isn’t uncommon for teams or their free agents to touch base with each other one final time before either side is on the verge of a move, either out of mutual respect and/or genuine interest to see if a deal could be reached.  (For one example from this winter, Carlos Santana’s representatives kept the Indians up to date on his market just to leave open the possibility that the Tribe could’ve found the payroll space to keep Santana in Cleveland.)  It also isn’t an uncommon tactic for a team to approach several similarly-valued free agents with similar contact offers to see which, if any, accepts first.

    Certainly, it doesn’t seem that Arrieta or his agent Scott Boras felt the need to jump at the Cubs’ offer, as Boras is still confident his client will land a deal closer to the much higher price tag Boras was reportedly seeking earlier this offseason.  While the lack of free agent activity around the sport is “not traditional,” Boras said, “it seems normal (now). The free agent market is now under way. For me, it’s December 10th, not February 10th.”  Heyman gives an idea of Arrieta’s possible current asking price, writing, “Some might have seen the Cubs’ last-minute inquiry as a chance to end a difficult free-agent season happily, but others understood that Arrieta probably wasn’t going to take a much lower deal than Jon Lester’s in light of the fact that a strong case could be made he’s outperformed Lester over the last few years.”  Heyman’s “case” for Arrieta as compared to Lester is certainly worth debating.  Lester signed a six-year, $155MM deal with the Cubs on the eve of his 31st birthday, on the back of a huge walk year that resulted in a fourth-place Cy Young finish and a big market bidding war.  Arrieta turns 32 soon and is coming off a good, but not great, year.  He’s also battling a historically slow free agent market that is likely to leave at least a few big names disappointed.

    Heyman lists the Brewers, Nationals, Phillies, Twins, and Cardinals as “the most logical teams” that could still make a play for Arrieta, though he notes that the latter two clubs seem like longer shots.  Milwaukee, Washington, and Philadelphia have all been linked to Arrieta at various points this winter and, now that Darvish is off the board, Arrieta might be the top target for a Brewers team that has money to spend and a need for front-of-the-rotation pitching.  The Phillies also have a glaring rotation need but may still be a year away from serious spending (their deal with Santana notwithstanding), while the Nats would have to carve out payroll space or simply accept a big luxury tax overage in order to sign Arrieta.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Poll: Grading The Yu Darvish Deal]]> 2018-02-11T17:07:59Z 2018-02-11T16:27:42Z Unfortunately for those who follow baseball, the most popular topic in the sport this offseason has been the historically slow free-agent market. Upward of 100 players remain without contracts as spring training nears, but the good news is that the top available veteran finally came off the board Saturday.

    The six-year, $126MM agreement the Cubs reached with right-hander Yu Darvish will hopefully lead to a flurry of signings in the near future. Regardless of how the majors’ other 29 teams react, it likely concludes the offseason heavy lifting for Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, who have added Darvish, two other starters (Tyler Chatwood and the injured Drew Smyly) and a pair of established relievers (Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek) to a club that ruled the National League Central in each of the previous two years.

    Even without Darvish, the Cubs probably would have entered 2018 as the popular pick to win the division, though arguments could have been made for either the rival Brewers or Cardinals to seriously challenge for the crown. Both Milwaukee and St. Louis have been active this offseason after nearly making the playoffs last year. As things stand, though, they’re clearly looking up at a Cubs team with a set rotation (Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Jon Lester and Chatwood) and an enviable group of position players. There was speculation earlier in the offseason that Chicago would deal from its lineup and/or farm system to boost the front of its rotation, but bringing in Darvish officially took that possibility out of play.

    Along with retaining their position players and prospects, there are other other obvious benefits to picking up Darvish, including that he’s a tremendous starter who should boost the Cubs’ World Series chances in the coming years. The towering flamethrower, who emigrated from Japan in 2012, generally thrived with the Rangers and Dodgers, and there’s little reason to expect he’ll fail in Chicago in the near term. Speaking of the Dodgers, they rank as arguably the prominent concern in the NL for the Cubs (with Darvish’s help, they upended Chicago in the NLCS last season), so pilfering the 31-year-old from LA makes the signing all the more satisfying for Chicago. Plus, because Darvish was part of a midseason trade and wasn’t eligible for an offseason qualifying offer, reeling him in won’t cost the Cubs anything in draft-pick compensation or international bonus pool money.

    With Darvish now in the mix, the Cubs will say goodbye to free agent Jake Arrieta, who did receive a QO after the season. When he heads elsewhere, Chicago will nab a pick after the second round of this year’s draft in return. Of course, even though Darvish is more hyped than Arrieta and will likely end up with the bigger guarantee of the two this winter, some may prefer the latter. The soon-to-be 32-year-old Arrieta wasn’t great last season, when he alarmingly lost some velocity, but he has been the more successful of the two in recent years. During his run as a Cub from 2014-17, Arrieta ranked third among starters in ERA (2.67), fifth in fWAR (18.5) and collected a Cy Young Award (2015).

    Even if you’d rather have Darvish than Arrieta, the contract comes with some risk for the Cubs (which you’d expect with all big-money accords). Specifically, it’s in the form of an opt-out clause after the 2019 season. If Darvish pitches well enough over the next two years to vacate the deal in favor of another trip to the market, his departure would create a sizable hole for a Chicago team that hasn’t had great success at developing starters during the Epstein era, as Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic recently detailed (subscription required).

    On the other hand, should he go downhill during the next two years and stick with his current contract, it could leave the Cubs with another expensive, declining veteran to join Lester (guaranteed $25MM after 2019, including a $10MM buyout for 2021) and outfielder Jason Heyward (guaranteed $86MM from 2020-23). The Cubs took the opt-out risk on Heyward when they signed him to an $184MM contract prior to 2016, when he was one of the sport’s foremost all-around players. Since then, his offensive game has gone in the tank, making it unlikely he’ll leave when he’s allowed to after next season or potentially at the end of the 2019 campaign.

    To the Cubs’ credit, the $126MM guarantee looks quite reasonable for Darvish, and at $21MM per year, it’s palatable from a luxury tax standpoint. During a normal winter, Darvish may have ended up with a much wealthier contract. In fact, at the start of what has since turned into a bizarre offseason, MLBTR predicted a six-year, $160MM payday for Darvish, while former FanGraphs writer Dave Cameron forecast an even richer figure ($168MM) over the same term. All things considered, then, it seems the Cubs made out rather well with this move – one they hope will help guide them back to World Series glory in 2018. What are your thoughts?

    (Poll link for App users)

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Reactions To And Effects Of The Yu Darvish Deal]]> 2018-02-11T01:24:20Z 2018-02-11T01:21:19Z It took over three months, but the premier free agent in this year’s class finally came off the board Saturday. Right-hander Yu Darvish agreed to join the Cubs on a six-year, $126MM guarantee that includes an opt-out clause after 2019. As you’d expect, a bevy of media reactions to the agreement have come in over the course of the day. Here’s a look at several…

    • When the offseason began in November, Darvish “wasn’t really” on Chicago’s radar, Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic reports on Twitter. However, it seems the Cubs benefited from this winter’s slow-moving free-agent market in this case, as it helped lead to a lower-than-expected price tag for Darvish and a major splash for the North Siders. Darvish went into the winter seeking an accord along the lines of Stephen Strasburg’s (seven years, $175MM) or new teammate Jon Lester’s (six years, $155MM), Patrick Mooney of The Athletic details (subscription required).
    • While there’s a well-known fondness between Darvish and the Rangers, with whom he has spent the majority of his career, Texas was “not even close” to landing him, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram hears. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News adds that Texas didn’t make an offer to Darvish, and the club wouldn’t even have been willing to guarantee him $75MM in total if it did. The Rangers have a glaring need for a front-end starter, but they’re not close enough to contention to splurge on one, Grant writes. Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, who has a good relationship with Darvish, spoke highly of the 31-year-old on Saturday. “I am very happy for Yu and hope he gets everything he wants,” Daniels said (via Wilson). “He will go down as one of the best pitchers in Rangers history. I expect he’s going to be very good wherever he goes.”
    • The Dodgers, Darvish’s other ex-team, made him an offer, but it fell short of the Cubs’, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required) and Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times report. Contrarily, Jon Heyman of FanRag tweets that LA was “said to have offered in the same ballpark” as Chicago. Although, signing Darvish would have made it difficult for the Dodgers to achieve their goal of staying under the $197MM luxury tax threshold in 2018.
    • Likewise, tax concerns stood in the way of a Yankees-Darvish union. New York never even made Darvish an offer, Rosenthal tweets.
    • The small-market Twins aggressively went after Darvish this winter, even meeting with him in Texas at some point, per Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. Their offer to Darvish was for at least five years and $100MM, according to Heyman (Twitter link). The Twins’ courtship of Darvish went for naught, though, perhaps thanks to their dislike for opt-out clauses and a wariness toward giving him a sixth year, writes Berardino, who adds that they could now look to top available starter Jake Arrieta. On the trade front, Rays righties Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi remain on Minnesota’s radar, relays Berardino, though he suggests the Twins would have to give up too much for the former. Meanwhile, Rosenthal reports that there’s a belief among rival executives the Twins could still add a starter via both free agency and the trade market. Along with Odorizzi, he lists free agent Alex Cobb and Astros righty Collin McHugh as hurlers who have drawn Minnesota’s interest.
    • The upstart Brewers were part of the Darvish derby, too, and the belief is that they also submitted a proposal of at least five years and $100MM, Heyman tweets. However, Rosenthal hears that Milwaukee’s offer “was not as competitive as reports indicated.” Further, Rosenthal suggests that the Brewers may have primarily been in the running just to drive up the price for the NL Central rival Cubs. Regardless, with Darvish now out of the mix, Odorizzi and the Athletics’ Jharel Cotton are trade possibilities for the Brew Crew, according to Rosenthal.
    • In addition to the previously listed Twins and Brewers, the Dodgers and the Phillies are still targeting starters in the wake of the Darvish deal, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets. Philadelphia is aggressively pursuing a short-term addition, per Mark Feinsand of Andrew Cashner, Chris Tillman, Jaime Garcia and Jason Vargas are all possibilities, Feinsand adds.
    • Keith Law of ESPN (subscription required) has mixed feelings on the Darvish pact. While it “appears to be a bargain salary,” Law has reservations about the length, contending that it’s one or two years too long, and he doesn’t regard Darvish “a pure ace.” Darvish has become too reliant on his cutter and not reliant enough on his slider, which has led to vulnerability against left-handed hitters, Law observes. However, Darvish may have “some untapped potential right now” if he leans more on his slider, per Law, who at least sees him as a significant near-term upgrade for the Cubs.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Defeat Justin Grimm In Arbitration]]> 2018-02-08T21:55:31Z 2018-02-08T20:45:57Z The Cubs have won their arbitration hearing against righty Justin Grimm, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (Twitter link). Grimm will play for $2.2MM in the coming season after filing for a $2.475MM salary.

    Grimm, who earned $1.825MM in 2017, struggled to a 5.53 ERA with 9.6 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 1.93 HR/9 and a 43.1 percent ground-ball rate in 55 1/3 innings for the Cubs last year. The 2017-18 offseason marks his third winter of arbitration eligibility, though due to his status as a Super Two player, he’ll be eligible once more next offseason before reaching free agency upon the completion of the 2019 campaign.

    Grimm represented the last unresolved arbitration case for the Cubs, who had previously cut deals to avoid a hearing with Kris Bryant, Tommy La Stella, Kyle Hendricks, Addison Russell and Justin Wilson.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On Market For Lance Lynn]]> 2018-02-08T18:58:36Z 2018-02-08T18:58:36Z Free agent hurler Lance Lynn has received interest from “seven or eight teams,” according to a report from Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. His former team, the Cardinals, is not one of them.

    Lynn, of course, declined a qualifying offer from St. Louis at the start the offseason. It seems the club is now content to allow him to leave, knowing that it’ll receive a draft choice after the Competitive Balance Round B selections so long as Lynn signs before this year’s draft.

    Clearly, Lynn is worthy of punting some draft compensation. But while the CBA’s new qualifying offer rules have generally put that matter on the back burner, parting with draft value is still a factor in any free agent case. (MLBTR has run down what draft picks each team would need to sacrifice to sign a qualified free agent such as Lynn.)

    As we’ve noted of late, Lynn has had a quiet offseason but remains an easy-to-visualize fit with quite a few organizations. Among the teams showing some level of interest, per Goold, are the Brewers and Cubs — two teams that are plenty familiar with Lynn from his lengthy stint with the Cardinals. The article also rounds up reported interest from other quarters, mentioning the Orioles, Twins, Nationals, and Mets as plausible suitors. Indeed, a run through MLBTR’s log of posts involving Lynn shows no shortage of possibilities.

    Lynn himself discussed the situation with Goold, though he declined to get into specifics on teams. You’ll want to read the entire piece, as it’s loaded with interesting information and discussion, but generally Lynn suggests he feels comfortable preparing as normal despite his lack of a contract. “I haven’t missed anything,” he said. “There’s nothing really to worry about — at this moment.”

    Goold also examines Lynn’s value against prior open-market players, suggesting the Tigers’ signing of Jordan Zimmermann — five years and $110MM, with strong no-trade protection — as a comp. While there’s certainly an argument to be made for that kind of analogy given Lynn’s bottom-line results, the view of MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes — as explained first in the MLBTR Top 50 Free Agents list and expanded upon in his free agent profile of Lynn — is that the veteran righty isn’t quite in that stratosphere, due in large part to concerns with the peripherals. MLBTR has pegged Lynn for a four-year deal in the $14MM or $15MM annual range, citing a variety of teams as plausible fits on paper.

    In large part, the overall market picture remains much the same as it was when Dierkes set out to evaluate things before the action got underway. Just how Lynn’s situation will shake out, though, is even more difficult to predict now than it was then. The overall tenor of Lynn’s comments, and Goold’s reporting, suggests that this free agent case is not particularly close to resolution.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Have Had Little Contact With Jake Arrieta]]> 2018-02-07T21:18:19Z 2018-02-07T19:08:32Z
  • As for Jake Arrieta, we have not heard a ton of public chatter. There isn’t much new, it seems, but Nightengale does suggest that one hypothetical possibility isn’t likely: the incumbent Cubs have “barely even engaged in contract talks” with their former staff ace, per the report. That is not very surprising, of course. The sides already know one another (and their respective bargaining positions) quite well. And it’s clear that, while a reunion has always remained hypothetically possible, both team and player intended to explore alternatives during the winter. Still, it’s notable that they have evidently not circled back around to one another to this point.
  • ]]>
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[NL Central Notes: Grimm, Brewers, Reds]]> 2018-02-06T16:41:23Z 2018-02-05T20:08:18Z The Cubs and Justin Grimm will have an arbitration hearing this week, reports ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers (Twitter link). The right-hander filed for a $2.475MM salary for the 2018 campaign, while the Cubs filed at $2.2MM (as seen in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker). The two sides haven’t been able to make any progress in their talks, per Rogers, so they’ll head to what will be the Cubs’ first arbitration hearing in the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer era. Grimm, who earned $1.825MM in 2017, struggled to a 5.53 ERA with 9.6 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 1.93 HR/9 and a 43.1 percent ground-ball rate in 55 1/3 innings for the Cubs last year. The 2017-18 offseason marks his second winter of arbitration eligibility as he heads into his age-29 season.

    Elsewhere in the division…

    • The Brewers have the capacity to add to their payroll even after acquiring Christian Yelich and signing Lorenzo Cain, Jhoulys Chacin, Boone Logan and Matt Albers this offseason, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel“Mark wants to do what’s in the best interests of the organization,” GM David Stearns tells Haudricourt. “He has made that very clear throughout my time here and even before I got here. He’s going to be supportive of the baseball process. He’s going to be supportive of investing when it’s warranted.” That said, Haudricourt notes that a top-of-the-market offer for a free agent like Yu Darvish still doesn’t seem likely, per Haudricourt, and the Brewers do want to leave some room for in-season moves, should the need arise.
    • Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey, Brandon Finnegan and Luis Castillo will head into Reds camp as the top four rotation options, writes’s Mark Sheldon, but the competition for the fifth spot is “wide open.” Tyler Mahle, Sal Romano, Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett, Cody Reed, Jackson Stephens and 2017 setup man Michael Lorenzen will all vie for that job. (Presumably, a return to the bullpen would be in order for Lorenzen should he not win the final spot, whereas the others would likely head to Triple-A Louisville.) “We want to make sure we have depth in our starting rotation, and we’ve got a lot of good, young guys with options that we still believe in as starters,” said GM Dick Williams. “…I would also leave the door open that out of [the fifth starter’s mix], there is a possibility, like last year, that you could see someone appear in the Major League bullpen just to get exposure and to help the team.”
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Cubs Seeking Pitching Depth]]> 2018-02-04T03:42:33Z 2018-02-04T03:42:33Z
  • The Cubs are “still looking to add depth” to their pitching staff, general manager Jed Hoyer tells Jesse Rogers of “That’s an annual thing you think about. You prepare for injuries even if some years you go unscathed,” he continued. Starting depth does appear to be an issue at the moment for the Cubs, who lack battle-tested options beyond their current projected rotation of Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Jon Lester, Tyler Chatwood and Mike Montgomery. Of the other healthy starting possibilities on their 40-man roster, only Eddie Butler brings significant experience in the majors, though he hasn’t been particularly successful. Of course, the Cubs would help their cause quite a bit by signing Yu Darvish (who remains on their radar) or bringing in another high-profile starter via free agency or trade.
  • ]]>
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Latest Reactions to Slow-Moving Offseason]]> 2018-02-03T20:01:03Z 2018-02-03T16:28:12Z The offseason continues to move painfully slowly. With spring training on the horizon, there’s not much time left for the staring contest between teams and players to break. Indeed, the past week has yielded more news by way of shouting from players, agents and union reps than by way of actual major league signings. We’ve collected some of the reactions from around the baseball community…

    • As one might expect, the colorfully hyperbolic Scott Boras has offered his input on the subject (via Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports), comparing the market phenomenon to the act of murder. “The difference between an accident and murder is intent,” Boras says. “Teams are intentionally murdering seasons and fans are dying with it.” Boras also says that the biggest issue is competition, adding that losing is only acceptable if there is an actual effort to win.
    • “The list of available free agents could fill out a 25-man roster and contend for a playoff spot,” writes Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. Dodd also includes quotes from Peter Moylan, which provide some interesting insight into the point of view of a lower-tier MLB free agent. Moylan describes his situation in terms of the uncertainty, telling Dodd that the only thing that is a “little frustrating” is the unknown. Moylan’s examples of the unknown include not knowing where he’ll be in two weeks, not knowing where he’ll be playing during the regular season, and the resulting inability to line up housing for either. The 39-year-old righty pitched to a 3.49 ERA across 59 1/3 innings last year for the Royals, and has publicly stated his desire to remain with the team.
    • The MLBPA is “laying the dynamite around itself” with its threats of spring training boycotts and accusations of collusion, writes Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. Davidoff describes Brodie Van Wagenen’s recent statement as a “boiling point of sorts,” and wonders what can possibly be accomplished by all this “saber-rattling.” Davidoff seems to downplay the anger and threats from the union and player representatives, pointing out (by way of recent words from Brandon Moss) that they chose to sign a collective bargaining agreement that rewards tanking and penalizes clubs for spending too much.
    • Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated opines that the players “bargained for luxury, not labor” in his take on the subject. Verducci also highlights Moss’ words, describing the current CBA as “the deal that stiffened the soft cap created by a luxury tax threshold that hasn’t come close to keeping up with growth in revenues and payrolls.” He adds that the union celebrated something of a “Pyrrhic win” in its prevention of an international draft, which Verducci calls a bluff.
    • The mystery of the bizarre offseason before us can’t be solved by simply crying “collusion,” Ben Nicholson-Smith of writes, drawing attention to multiple factors in this offseason’s pace in a piece that’s definitely worth a full read. Some of those factors include a logjam at the top of the market (perhaps caused by CBA incentives for teams to tighten their purse strings), and the perceived value of youth in baseball.
    • For his part, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer is surprised that he’s headed to Arizona with so much offseason left to go. In an interview with Jesse Rogers of ESPN, Hoyer chalks the hot stove freeze up to something that seems quite simple on the surface: both players and teams feel justified in their positions. “Every team has their internal rankings,” he tells Rogers. “Every team has their evaluations which they will never reveal. Those rankings guide them through the market. Both sides of the market can always move or activate and free things up. To this point, we haven’t gotten there.”
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Latest On Cubs' Pursuit Of Yu Darvish]]> 2018-02-01T23:02:56Z 2018-02-01T23:02:56Z
  • Yu Darvish is still on the radar for both the Cubs and Dodgers, though with some caveats.  Chicago “seem to be hoping that Darvish will choose them for reasons that are not economic,” which implies that Darvish would drop his asking price to play for a World Series contender.  In the Dodgers’ case, there is “some ambivalence by at least some” at the ownership level about bringing Darvish back in the wake of his well-publicized struggles during the World Series.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs, Peter Bourjos Agree To Minor League Deal]]> 2018-02-01T18:05:04Z 2018-02-01T18:04:44Z 12:04pm: Bourjos will earn a $1.45MM base salary if he makes the big league roster with the Cubs, MLBTR has learned (Twitter link).

    11:57am: The Cubs have agreed to a minor league contract with outfielder Peter Bourjos, reports Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). The Dishman Sports Group client will be invited to Major League Spring Training and vie for a reserve job with the reigning NL Central champs.

    Bourjos, 30, spent the 2017 season with the Rays and appeared in 100 games, hitting .223/.272/.383 with five homers and five steals in 203 plate appearances. A fleet-footed veteran known for his outfield range, he drew positive marks for his glovework both in center field and in right field last season with Tampa Bay.

    Overall, Bourjos hasn’t matched the .271/.327/.438 slash he posted in a promising 2011 season with the Angels, but he’s a career .241/.298/.382 hitter that brings a glowing +37 Defensive Runs Saved and +48.3 Ultimate Zone Rating to the table in 4007 1/3 innings of center field work in the Majors (albeit with much of that positive working coming prior to 2014 hip surgery).

    He’ll head to Spring Training and hope to land a backup job in an outfield mix that includes Albert Almora Jr., Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber. Both Ben Zobrist and Ian Happ figure to be in the outfield mix for the Cubs as well, giving Bourjos a pair of switch-hitters with whom to compete. Bourjos has more experience in center field than anyone else on the Cubs’ roster, though, and he’d make for a useful right-handed pairing with Schwarber or Heyward should the Cubs see fit. He struggled against lefties earlier in his career but has hit them at a .278/.320/.406 pace over the past couple of seasons.

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 1/28/18]]> 2018-01-29T02:42:29Z 2018-01-29T02:42:29Z We’ll use this post to keep track of today’s smaller-scale MiLB transactions…

    • The Cubs have signed first base/outfield type Efren Navarro to a minors deal, Anthony Fenech of Baseball America tweets. He’ll also receive a spring training invite. The Angels originally drafted Navarro in the 50th round of the 2007 draft, but his most recent MLB action came with the Tigers last season. During that campaign, he hit .230/.319/.377 while striking out a whopping 30.4% of the time across 69 plate appearances. If there’s any reason for optimism regarding Navarro, it stems from his 11.6% walk rate last season, which is a considerable improvement upon that during his time with the Angels (around 8%). The 31-year-old has also spent time in the upper minors of the Cardinals’ and Mariners’ farm systems.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 1/26/18]]> 2018-01-27T03:48:29Z 2018-01-27T03:45:15Z Here are Friday’s minor moves from around the league…

    • Chris Cotillo of SB Nation has the news of yet another minors deal, this time a pact between the Twins and Andy Wilkins. The lefty-hitting first baseman has 72 plate appearances and one homer to his name at the big league level (with the White Sox and Brewers), though his career .124/.194/.224 slash line perhaps paints a better picture of his MLB performance thus far. And yet, taking into consideration the 29-year-old’s .254/.358/.474 performance with the Twin’s Double-A affiliate last year, there might still be cause for optimism surrounding his potential to provide value for Minnesota.


    • The Cubs have elected to bring left-hander Michael Roth to the organization on a minor-league deal, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reports (Twitter link). Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports tweets that Roth will be paid a $560K salary if he’s able to crack their big-league roster. The former ninth-round pick is entering his age-28 season; he’s made 22 total MLB appearances out of the bullpen for the Rangers and Angels, along with a single start for the latter. He owns a career ERA of 8.50, though run-prevention estimators such as xFIP (4.46) and SIERA (4.04) suggest his actual skill set isn’t quite in line with those disastrous results. Roth has also spent time at the Triple-A affiliates of the Rays, Giants and Indians.
    • The Indians announced that they’ve signed right-hander Preston Claiborne to a minor league deal and invited him to Spring Training. The 30-year-old Claiborne tossed two innings for the Rangers in 2017 and has a total of 73 1/3 innings of Major League work under his belt — all but last year’s two innings coming with the Yankees in 2013-14. The former 17th-round pick has a career 4.05 ERA with 7.4 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 42.7 percent ground-ball rate. Claiborne owns a lifetime 3.09 ERA in 102 Triple-A innings, including a stellar 1.89 mark in 38 innings ith the Rangers’ affiliate last season.
    • The Rays have agreed to minor league deals with catcher Johnny Monell and righty Forrest Snow, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter links). Monell, 32 in March, has 61 MLB plate appearances on his resume, most of which came with the 2015 Mets when he hit .167/.231/.208. He’s a career .278/.350/.460 hitter in part of five Triple-A seasons. Snow, 29, has never appeared in the Majors and carries a lackluster 4.84 ERA in parts of seven Triple-A campaigns. However, he’s posted sub-4.00 overall ERAs in each of the past two seasons and thrived in the Venezuelan Winter League last offseason. Snow has significantly bolstered his strikeout rate and lowered his walk rate as well over the past two seasons. Both Monell and Snow will be in Major League camp with the Rays this spring.
    • Tampa Bay also picked up right-hander Ryan Weber on a minor league pact, tweets SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. The 27-year-old has big league time with the Braves and Mariners. Weber logged a scintillating 0.85 ERA, 1.1 BB/9 and 72.5 percent ground-ball rate in 31 2/3 innings with Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate last year, though his 5.4 K/9 mark wasn’t nearly as impressive. Weber appeared in just six games (five starts) all season in 2017 thanks to a biceps strain that kept him on the disabled list for most of the year.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Epstein On Free Agency, Morrow, Core]]> 2018-01-26T03:46:28Z 2018-01-26T03:46:28Z Though it has undeniably been a slow winter, the Cubs have been among the more active organizations in baseball, signing Tyler Chatwood, Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek and Brian Duensing all to multi-year deals. Still, as fans and pundits alike muse on the pace of free agency, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein revealed this week that the Cubs’ front office is in a similar boat.

    In a must-read interview with The Athletic’s Jon Greenberg (subscription link), Epstein says that the glacial offseason and various theories to explain it are a frequent topic of conversation — within the front office and also with players and agents. “We’re all saying to each other, ‘I can’t believe nothing has happened’ and we’re discussing reasons why,” Epstein tells Greenberg.

    It seems that those inside the game are chewing on theories much like the rest of us. We’ve addressed the slow-moving market several times throughout the winter — see, e.g., here and here — while emphasizing that it’s difficult to pinpoint causes or effects at this point. It’s somewhat interesting and notable to hear Epstein himself express similar uncertainty; what’s occurred (or not) to date has certainly set the stage for an unprecedented period of activity before the start of Spring Training and, ultimately, the 2018 season.

    As noted, the Cubs have signed four players to multi-year deals already and may yet add a fifth — they’re reportedly pursuing Yu Darvish, among other free-agent pitchers — and Epstein offered some interesting insight into several of his signings to date. Though he dishes on several moves, his comments on the Morrow signing seem particularly worthy of further exploration.

    Morrow, he states, was told at the time he signed that “he was our closer unless somehow, we were able to bring back Wade Davis.” (That didn’t happen, as Davis inked a three-year, $52MM contract with the Rockies.) The statement not only lends clarity to Morrow’s role but also seemingly casts doubt on the possibility of the Cubs acquiring another high-end reliever, be it free agent Greg Holland or a trade candidate such as Tampa Bay’s Alex Colome.

    Morrow’s two-year, $22MM deal with the Cubs would’ve been little more than fantasy this time last year, as the 33-year-old was coming off a string of up-and-down seasons that were proliferated by injuries. He ultimately settled for a minor league deal with the Dodgers and proved to be one of the best such signees all winter, parlaying a dominant bullpen run into a two-year deal and a ninth-inning gig.

    It’s worth noting that Epstein stressed the Cubs see it as a true ninth-inning role for Morrow. Much in the way the team limited Davis to one-inning stints in the ninth inning (or later in extra innings), Morrow will be deployed primarily for clean innings in save situations. Epstein’s comments on Morrow’s usage are perhaps his most interesting of all, as he outwardly expressed that the team will take suboptimal usage on a nightly basis for a better chance [for Morrow] to stay healthy over the course of seven months.”

    Of course, beyond free agency, the Cubs were expected to be players on the trade market this offseason, as Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer acknowledged early in the offseason that they’d have to be open-minded when it came to potentially trading some young position players (e.g. Albert Almora, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, Ian Happ) if presented with the opportunity to add a controllable young arm for the rotation. Such opportunities never presented themselves, at least not to the extent that the Cubs saw fit to surrender any of those young hitters in trade talks with a rival club. While some would argue that the Cubs are left with a surplus, Epstein & Co. see things differently.

    “It’s not a coincidence the Royals, us and the Astros all developed a position player core that came up together, went through adversity together, learned to win at the big league level, lost in the postseason and then came back in the postseason to win a championship,” Epstein explains. “…We’re sticking with our identity rather than do deals we didn’t like.”

    While it seems reasonable to presume that the organization has not fully ruled out trades involving these players — indeed, the Cubs were reportedly a finalist for Lorenzo Cain, which might’ve been the prelude to a deal — it certainly sounds as if Epstein expects to keep the position-player unit intact into camp. But that doesn’t mean things won’t get interesting. With plenty of payroll space left to work with, the Cubs remain a looming presence on the free agent market — both this year and next. (After all, as Epstein notes, this offseason presented a “puzzle” in part because it comes “before a really deep, impactful free agent market next year.”)

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs Sign Mike Freeman, Kyle Ryan To Minor League Deals]]> 2018-01-25T17:38:44Z 2018-01-25T17:38:44Z The Cubs announced 19 non-roster invitations to Major League Spring Training today (Twitter link), with infielder/outfielder Mike Freeman and left-hander Kyle Ryan standing out as new additions on minor league contracts. Freeman is repped by BASH Baseball, and Ryan is a client of Frontline.

    [Related: Updated Chicago Cubs depth chart]

    The 30-year-old Freeman saw time with the Cubs, Mariners and Dodgers in 2017, appearing at all four infield positions but mustering just a .100/.182/.183 slash in 66 trips to the plate. Freeman’s jack-of-all-trades status on the defensive end of the spectrum and quality on-base numbers in Triple-A have made him a desirable commodity to round out 40-man rosters over the past couple of seasons, though. He played every position other than catcher at the Major League level in 2016-17 and has a career .312/.377/.420 batting line in parts of four Triple-A seasons.

    As for Ryan, the 26-year-old southpaw has appeared in the big leagues in each of the past four seasons with the Tigers, totaling 128 innings of 3.87 ERA ball. Ryan, though, has averaged just 4.9 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 in that time, and his average fastball checks in just south of 89 mph. To his credit, he’s logged a 54 percent ground-ball rate in the Majors and averaged just 0.77 HR/9 in the Majors. Ryan doesn’t come with a discernible platoon split, as lefties have hit him at a .272/.322/.406 clip while righties have batted .256/.335/.390. He’s worked as both a starter and reliever in the past, so he could provide some depth in either category for the Cubs.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On Cubs' Pursuit Of Starters]]> 2018-01-24T16:18:32Z 2018-01-24T14:22:14Z
  • Over at The Athletic, Patrick Mooney has a pair of articles (subscription links) regarding the market’s two top pitchers. The Cubs have plenty of money left to work with, he notes, and have seemingly remained engaged with Yu Darvish for much of the winter. That said, there are still alternatives for both team and player; Mooney says the Cubs have other scenarios in mind and notes the possibility of mystery teams in Darvish’s market. It’s less clear, Mooney suggests, that there’s a realistic path back to Chicago for Jake Arrieta. As MLBTR’s 2018 Free Agent Tracker shows, Darvish and Arrieta are just a few of the many starters still available; remarkably, the Cubs’ early agreement with Tyler Chatwood still paces this winter’s market for rotation contracts.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest On Pursuit Of Yu Darvish]]> 2018-01-25T03:15:37Z 2018-01-24T03:01:28Z Jan. 23: The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney writes that there’s “a sense” that Darvish’s talks with interested parties have gained momentum recently. Moreover, Mooney writes that Darvish’s options are “not limited to the teams identified publicly” — meaning the Cubs, Twins, Rangers, Brewers, Dodgers and Yankees. Darvish remains a focus for the Cubs, according to Mooney, who adds that a reunion with Arrieta “appears to be a long shot.”

    Meanwhile, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets that a rival exec who has recently been in contact with the Twins expressed some doubt about Minnesota’s willingness to sign Darvish if it means pushing  into the $150MM territory.

    Jan. 22, 10:45pm: The Cubs are “having active talks” with Darvish, according to a report from the Associated Press. That said, it’s also clear from the report that there is no agreement in place.

    Speculation surrounding the connection between Darvish and the Cubs already increased earlier tonight, as it emerged that the club has a deal in place with catcher Chris Gimenez — who once forged a strong bond with Darvish when the two played with the Rangers.

    2:01pm: Free agent righty Yu Darvish has received “at least” one five-year offer, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). Crasnick does not specify if the five-year offer is the one which he’s reportedly received from the Brewers, though Milwaukee is indeed one of the teams in the mix for Darvish, per the report. The Twins, Rangers, Cubs and Dodgers are also in play at the moment, he adds.

    Earlier this month, Darvish was reportedly choosing among six teams — the Twins, Rangers, Cubs, Yankees and Astros, with one mystery team added to the bunch by Darvish himself (on Twitter). The Dodgers were later reported to remain in the mix for Darvish, and it now appears that the Brewers have joined the pursuit while the Astros are out of the picture after their acquisition of Gerrit Cole.

    There’s no mention of the dollars in Crasnick’s report, and the lack of context makes it difficult to assess the situation. Much has been made this offseason of teams preferring to sign free agents to shorter-term deals at a higher annual value, and if that’s the case with Darvish’s five-year offer, then perhaps the overall value of the deal isn’t that far from early offseason expectations. (Many pundits, MLBTR included, projected six years for Darvish at the beginning of the offseason.) If the AAV is on the low end of the spectrum, however, then it perhaps isn’t difficult to see why Darvish and his reps at Wasserman have yet to jump on the contract.

    With just about three weeks until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, there are still well over 100 free agents that need to find homes, so at some point one would have to imagine that either agents or clubs will begin to blink, setting the stage for a flurry of activity. There’s no evidence that Darvish and his agents are close to doing so at this juncture, though it stands to reason that his signing could have a trickle-down effect of sorts. Many of the same teams vying for his services have been linked to Alex Cobb and Jake Arrieta, and once those pieces fall into place, the remaining free-agent starters on the market could conceivably begin to come off the board.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Agree To Sign Chris Gimenez]]> 2018-01-23T01:11:55Z 2018-01-23T01:11:55Z The Cubs appear to have a minor-league deal in place with catcher Chris Gimenez, which the University of Nevada baseball club (his collegiate team) tweeted recently and SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo confirms on Twitter. Other terms of the agreement are not yet known.

    While minors pacts with veteran catchers typically aren’t very exciting, this one comes with some added interest. For one thing, Gimenez currently projects as the Cubs’ top reserve option behind regular Willson Contreras, with Jason Martinez of Roster Resource projecting that Victor Caratini will open the year at Triple-A.

    Of much more speculative (but also more intriguing) note is the fact that Gimenez has an excellent relationship with reputed Chicago pitching target Yu Darvish from their joint time with the Rangers. Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press has covered this topic from the Twins’ point of view, but it’s an interesting read for any fan — particularly those interested in possibly seeing Darvish at Wrigley.

    Gimenez, clearly, is a target in his own right. The personable 35-year-old is fresh off of a quality season in which he ran a .220/.350/.382 batting line in a career-high 225 plate appearances. He has typically not hit at quite that level, but comes witha  solid defensive reputation, too. Though his framing metrics slipped in ’17 in the eyes of Stat Corner, Gimenez drew good marks from Baseball Prospectus and has typically graded around league-average in that area.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Do Cubs Need To Bolster Rotation?]]> 2018-01-23T06:23:15Z 2018-01-22T23:54:26Z
  • While the Cubs have given every indication that they are still looking at starters, current righty Kyle Hendricks says the rotation doesn’t need to be improved, as Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The Cubs, after all, have four established starters along with the capable Mike Montgomery. Of course, the depth chart behind that group is questionable, and the team would no doubt prefer to upgrade over Montgomery — turning him into a useful reliever who’d be the first man up in the event of injury — rather than settling for a pure depth option.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Re-Sign Brian Duensing]]> 2018-01-22T22:43:03Z 2018-01-22T22:40:23Z JANUARY 22, 4:40pm: Duensing’s salary is split into two equal installments, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). Incentives based upon appearances can boost the annual rate by as much as $1.75MM, maxing out if and when Duensing takes the ball for the 65th time.

    11:05am: Duensing has passed his physical, as the team has now formally announced his two-year contract. Chicago’s 40-man roster now sits at 39 players.

    JANUARY 17: The Cubs have agreed to a two-year deal to bring back lefty Brian Duensing, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). If finalized, it’ll guarantee the southpaw $7MM, per the report. Duensing is a client of the Legacy Agency.

    Aug 9, 2017; San Francisco, CA, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Brian Duensing (32) in a game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

    Duensing, who’ll turn 35 years of age before the start of the 2018 season, was targeted by the Cubs last winter. He justified the team’s faith, turning in a quality season on a $2MM salary. Evidently, Duensing also enjoyed his time at Wrigley; per Heyman (via Twitter), Duensing had the chance to earn “significantly more” with other organizations this winter but chose instead to return.

    Despite his encroaching age, the results certainly justify the contract. Duensing is fresh off of a 62 1/3-inning campaign in which he carried a 2.74 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. He also allowed just one earned run on one hit in his five postseason appearances.

    In many ways, Duensing’s 2017 work represented a continuation of his typical efforts, as he sat in his usual range of fastball velocity (92 to 93 mph) and continued to bring a starter’s arsenal to bear in the bullpen. He continued a trend in pitch usage, utilizing his offspeed mix (slider/curve/change) more than half the time for the first time in his career, but generally continued down a path he had already embarked upon.

    Duensing has generally been tough to square up as a reliever, holding opposing hitters to a .254/.322/.372 slash when he enters from the pen. He was reliable against both lefties and righties in 2017, but he has done that at times previously. Duensing’s 10.3% swinging-strike rate last year was the second highest mark in his career, though that fell mostly in line with prior output. And he carried a solid 48.6% groundball rate in 2017 that doesn’t stand out from his career average, either.

    In large part, then, credit is due to the Cubs for recognizing Duensing as an under-appreciated hurler, rather than tweaking his approach. The team will hope that the success can continue even as he continues to age. While the expectation will presumably remain that Duensing will work in a relief role, perhaps it doesn’t hurt that he has a background as (and, as noted, continues to use the pitch mix of) a starter.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Still Weighing Addition Of Reliever]]> 2018-01-16T18:04:53Z 2018-01-16T17:12:36Z
  • Though the focus still seems to be on the rotation, the Cubs arguably also need another significant reliever, Patrick Mooney argues in The Athletic (subscription link). Chicago might conceivably go bigger with a bullpen addition if it settles for more of a depth starter, says Mooney, who notes that GM Jed Hoyer acknowledged recently that the club could still add to the relief corps.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Ricketts On Slow Offseason, Cubs' Free Agent Pursuits]]> 2018-01-16T06:00:14Z 2018-01-16T04:08:58Z
  • Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts was dismissive of the notion that collusion has slowed the free-agent market in an interview with Patrick Mooney of The Athletic (subscription required & recommended). Ricketts pointed out that in previous years, some teams have somewhat quietly inked new television deals or had those deals kick in, which has led to unexpected spending. (Ricketts doesn’t mention instances by name, though that was very likely a component in the D-backs’ signing of Zack Greinke, for instance.) Asked about the possibility of further spending for his own team, Ricketts replied: “Theo has the resources to do whatever he needs to do to win on the field. …  I don’t know what’s going to happen with the guys that are out there, whether it’s a good fit for us.” Mooney also chats with newly promoted AGM Scott Harris about the slow offseason.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Joe Maddon Not Worried About Contract]]> 2018-01-14T18:06:15Z 2018-01-14T18:04:58Z
  • It doesn’t appear as though Joe Maddon and the Cubs have any talks about an extension, though the manager said during this weekend’s Cubs Convention (as reported by The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney) that he doesn’t “ever try to strike up those kind of conversations….I believe if we take care of our own business properly, that’s the kind of stuff that takes care of itself. I’ve always relied on that thought. So I’m not concerned about that. I am a Cub right now. And I want to be a Cub for many years to come.”  Maddon is under contract through the 2019 season, so there isn’t any immediate need for either side to press for extension negotiations already.  Maddon’s comments also make it seem as if he has no plans to retire anytime soon, which is notable given that he turns 64 next month.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Kris Bryant "Would Love" For Cubs To Sign Bryce Harper]]> 2018-01-13T19:56:59Z 2018-01-13T19:56:59Z
  • The Cubs and third baseman Kris Bryant haven’t engaged in long-term extension talks this winter, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told Patrick Mooney of The Athletic on Friday (subscription required/highly recommended). The two sides avoided arbitration Friday when Bryant agreed to a $10.85MM salary – a record amount for a first-time arb-eligible player. While Bryant won’t become a free agent for at least four seasons, Nationals superstar right fielder Bryce Harper could hit the market next winter. If Harper does become a free agent, Bryant informed Mooney he “would love” for the Cubs to sign him. The two have been close friends since childhood, which could help the Cubs if they attempt to recruit Harper.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Cubs Still Looking To Add Pitching, Have Not Ruled Out Arrieta]]> 2018-01-13T19:31:42Z 2018-01-13T06:19:47Z
  • The Cubs are “not done” and are focused especially on the pitching staff, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said today (via’s Jesse Rogers). He said it’s still possible the organization will pursue “depth moves” or that it will add “another real quality pitcher.” Is free agent Jake Arrieta still a possibility? “We’ve never ruled anything out with him,” says Epstein, as’s Carrie Muskat tweets.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Unresolved 2018 Arbitration Cases]]> 2018-01-13T03:05:53Z 2018-01-13T00:02:01Z We’ve covered a whole lot of arbitration deals today, many of them reached before today’s deadline to exchange filing figures. Some other agreements have come together after team and player submitted their numbers. It’s still possible, of course, that these situations will be resolved before an arbitration hearing becomes necessary. (At this point, we seem to lack full clarity on teams’ approaches to negotiations after the filing deadline. And most organizations make exceptions for multi-year deals even if they have a file-and-trial stance.)

    Some situations could even be dealt with in short order. As things stand, though, these unresolved arbitration cases could turn into significant hearings. (As always, MLBTR’s 2018 arbitration projections can be found here; you will also want to reference MLBTR’s 2018 arbitration tracker.)

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cubs Avoid Arbitration With Kyle Hendricks]]> 2018-01-13T06:28:47Z 2018-01-12T21:10:22Z
  • The Cubs have struck a deal with lefty Justin Wilson, agreeing to a one-year, $4.25MM pact, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter link). Wilson, who had been projected at $4.3MM, will be a free agent next winter. The Cubs alsoagreed to a $950K salary with infielder Tommy La Stella, tweets’s Carrie Muskat. La Stella was projected to make $1MM in his first offseason of arbitration eligiblity and can be controlled through 2020. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs have agreed to a $4.175MM salary, per Nightengale (on Twitter). That sum comes in a fair bit shy of his projected $4.9MM projection as a first-time eligible player. The Cubs control Hendricks through the 2020 season. Chicago also agreed with Addison Russell, per Wittenmyer (Twitter link). The shortstop will receive $3.2MM for the coming season.
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