The Cubs seem to be intent to on playing Monopoly with the entirety of future position prospects as rumors from Buster Olney indicate they may be in the lead to acquire Cuban outfielder/infielder Rusney Castillo. Own the entire board and they'll have to come to you and pay overmarket prices for your property.

I can't say I gave much credence to the Castillo rumors and I certainly wouldn't be surprised by the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers or mystery team swooping in when all is said and done, but it sure would fit with the philosophy of acquiring assets to build the club. Anyway, you can find some good info on Castillo from Baseball America or this SB Nation article, but here's the Cliff Note's version.

He's Cuban, he's 27 years old, hits from the right side. He's just 5'9" and weighs in at 205 pounds, but word is he added about 20 pounds of muscle recently and can hit a few over the fence now, although he's pegged as a line drive doubles hitter. Most envision him as a center fielder, although he played right field as well. He did play the infield a few years back and a select few think he might be able to stick at second base, but that's definitely not going to be his position with the Cubs. The speed is there, grading anywhere from 60-80 with a 50 arm and he seems to have some on-base skills with a 319/383/516 slash line (51 home runs and 76 stolen bases) in 360 games in the Cuban league, although no idea how that'll translate here. If they do, he could be the top of the order threat that the system seems to be missing. He's at the right age to play now and the Cubs, while seemingly bursting with prospects, do have some wiggle room in the outfield the next season or two depending on who pans out and stays healthy.

We'll see how this works out and what money he gets, but he seems to offer some skills that the major league team could use the next couple of years (legit center field skills, speed, lack of strikeouts, on-base skills). Now whether those translate is another question of course, but that's the game of risk vs. reward they play everyday.

The 2014 Arizona Fall League schedule has been released and rosters should be announced later this month.

The Arizona Fall League (AFL) is an MLB developmental league (approximately equivalent to "AA") that operates for six weeks after the conclusion of the MLB regular season. It features a 32-game "regular season" schedule plus an All-Star Game (formerly called the "Rising Stars Game," but now known as the "Fall Stars Game") at the end of the 4th week, and the AFL Championship Game (pitting the winner of the East Division versus the winner of the West Division) at the end of the 6th and final week. 

There are three games scheduled every day Monday through Saturday during the AFL regular season (there are no games on Sunday), beginning with Opening Day on the second Tuesday following the conclusion of the MLB regular season (which is October 7th in 2014) and extending up through the Thursday of the 6th week. (No regular season games are scheduled the day of the Fall Stars Game).  

The Cubs usually assign some of their better prospects to the AFL. Depending on what positions the Cubs are asked to fill on the Mesa squad, I would not be surprised to see some combination of position players and pitchers such as:

The Cubs reportedly will be recalling Matt Szczur (AKA "Scrabble") from AAA Iowa tomorrow (Sunday), and so the 25-year old outfielder should be making his MLB debut sometime soon after that.


There's not much in Cubs news or even anecdotes to pass on at this time. Rosenthal had a video report that Jon Lester's Boston teammates believe he'll sign with the Cubs, but that'll have as much weight as a feather this offseason. The Tigers may be down another pitcher in Justin Verlander, and I wonder if Edwin Jackson would be of any interest. The Cubs would probably have to pay a lot of salary and get little in return, but worth a phone call probably. As for the current team, Operation Draft Pick is moving along nicely...currently in the 4th spot (which will actually be the 5th spot in the draft because of the Astros extra pick). It's a tight race with 45 games to go and with Alcantara, Hendricks and Baez out there with something to prove, I expect them to drift farther back than closer to a #1 pick.

The Cubs worked out a deal with the Miami Marlins for the aforementioned former top prospect Jacob Turner. In return, minor league relievers Tyler Bremer and Jose Arias will go to the Marlins. Turner's a work-in-progress, work that will have to be done at the major league level and in the offseason since he's out of options. But the "stuff" still seems to be there, now it's up to Bosio and Turner of course to try and figure out the command issues and an out pitch.

Speaking of former top prospects, Chris Archer is back in town and about ready to pitch against the Cubs. He's having quite the nice season with a 3.45 ERA (3.25 FIP), with a 8 K/9 rate and a miniscule 0.41 HR/9 rate. The walks are up a bit at 3.45 BB/9, but that's actually quite good for Archer. At the time of the deal for Garza, I thought the Cubs paid a bit too high a price, but understood the logic behind the deal. And it was quite the divide at the time in the comments and over the years. In hindsight, the Cubs obviously whiffed on the deal and if I knew how much of a dick Matt Garza was, I would have even more against it, but old Internet arguments need not ever be settled. All I know is that Archer sure would look good going forward for the next 4 years on this team.

Well my browser crashed in midst of typing out something longer, but here's the quick version.

- Javier Baez debut was very Javier Baez. Lots of K's, lots of power and lots of swinging.

- Cubs activate Kyuji Fujikawa and put Nate Sureouts to rest, DFA'ing him.

- Cubs put in claim for RHP Jacob Turner, former Tigers top prospect and recently put on waivers by the Marlins. He is out of options already at age 23 which will make keeping him tough, but probably worth the chance. While he's sporting an ugly 5.97 ERA this year, the FIP is 4.00 and the velocity seems to be staying consistent. He can't seem to stay healthy, but which pitchers can at this point in the game? The K rates aren't very exciting and whatever made him the #26, #22 and #21 prospect in baseball according to Baseball America in 2010, 2011 and 2012 may not still be there, but might as well let Bosio take a crack at fixing him. He'll get a chance until the end of the year, a winter of work and next spring before Cubs really have to make a decision with him. Between him, Doubront, Wood, Jackson, Hendricks, Strailly and whatever other scrap heaps the Cubs muster, the back-end of the rotation and depth seem to be in good hands. Maybe the Cubs will pony up a ridiculous deal for Lester, Scherzer or Shields afterall.

Of course, I should mention the Cubs and Marlins actually have to work out a deal for Turner in the first place, but considering his $1M salary and the Cubs most likely willingness to take most, if not all of it on, I don't expect that to be an issue.

Cubs 47-63 Rockies 44-67
#Alcantara, CF *Blackmon, LF
Baez, 2B #Adames, SS
*Rizzo, 1B Arenado, 3B
Castro, SS *Morneau, 1B
Ruggiano, RF Stubbs, CF
*Valbuena, 3B Rosario, C
Castillo, C Barnes, RF
Lake, LF LeMahieu, 2B
Wood, P *Anderson, P

It's not only Javier Baez day, but a battle for draft pick status!!! I only have one prediction for tonight, at some point Javier Baez will swing out of his shoes trying to launch one over the mountains. Should be fun...

 

The deadline for "non-waiver" (unrestricted) trades is 4 PM (Eastern) on July 31st. No trades can be made between 4 PM and 5 PM (Eastern) on July 31st, and then beginning at 5 PM (Eastern) on July 31st and extending through to the conclusion of the MLB regular season, Trade Assignment Waivers must be secured before players on MLB 40-man rosters can be traded. (Waivers are never required to trade a player on a minor league reserve list).

Yesteday, the Cubs acquired LHP Felix Doubront for a player to be named later from the Boston Red Sox. A trade that I like a whole lot presuming the PTBNL isn't much and considering Doubront's ability to strikeout many hitters. A move to the NL Central certainly won't hurt his numbers either.

Today, the deadline has been rocking and the Cubs big moves were out of the way earlier in the month, but they have just traded Bonifacio and James Russell to the Braves. In return, they got catcher Victor Caratini, the Braves second round pick from last year. Here's what Sickels had to say about him before the season:

10) Victor Caratini, 3B-C, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Solid line drive hitter with good strike zone judgment, hit just one homer in the Appy League but some scouts believe that the homers will come in time. Others aren’t sure, but at least he has a good eye. Will be interesting to see how he adapts defensively.

After the jump, a breakdown of some of the other trades from the last few days...

The AZL Diamondbacks took advantage of four walks (including three bases-loaded walks that forced-in three runs) to plate seven runs in the 5th inning, and cruised to a 12-6 victory over the AZL Cubs Monday night at Cubs Park at Riverview Park in Mesa, AZ.

Gleyber Torres grounded out to end the game, but before that he reached base four consecutive times (single, walk, RBI single, and RBI triple) on the heels of last night's game at Salt River Fields when he reached base all six times he batted (two singles, two doubles, and two walks), for a total of ten consecutive Plate Appearances over the two games without being retired. 

2014 13th round draft pick Kevonte Mitchell (Kennett HS - Kennett, MO) continued his hot hitting, lacing three singles, while also stealing a base, scoring two runs, and collecting an RBI. He also made a fine running catch in CF. Torres, Mitchell, and Eloy Jimenez (who walked twice) are easily the top three position player prospects on the AZL Cubs right now (no others even close).  

Cubs top pitching prospect RHP C. J. Edwards (Tennessee 7-day DL - right shoulder inflamation) got the start for the Cubs (his second AZL rehab start) and worked 3.2 IP (62 pitches - 35 strikes), allowing one run on one hit and three walks with six strikeouts (four swinging and two looking) and a 4/1 GO/FO.

 

Well, he passes the eyeball test with flying colors. Entering the ballpark in the top of the first you know something new has been added to the home team as soon as you fix on the leggy right fielder. Clear from the mezzanine behind home plate you can’t help but notice that pair of long, thick Cuban stogies as he lopes under the game’s first out.

Survival of the fittest and all, and Darwin Barney has just been naturally selected off of the Cubs 40-man roster. So Emilio Bonificaio is activated and Barney gets DFA'd, with Alcantara and Bonifacio both in the starting lineup tonight. Barney will end his Cubs career with over 2000 PA's (holy shit..really?) and a place in the Hall of Cubs Punch Lines. I'm sure a stand-up guy and all and his glove work was spectacular, but he was the hitting equivalent of the sad trombone. But on this day, we celebrate his Cubs career, let's take a fond look back.

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