Cubs Roster Moves

TheJedi took away some of the Blackhawks thunder this morning by finally ridding the Cubs of long-time heart attack-in-waiting, Carlos Marmol. The Cubs will have 10 days to trade him or he'll be released, either way the Cubs are going to be on the hook for the bulk of the rest of what he's owed (around $5M). They also announced that the suspension of Ian Stewart was upheld and he's been released as well. There were earlier rumors that the two sides were discussing a settlement, so I'm unsure if he'll get all of the money still owed to him or just a portion. Brian Bogusevic is the next up on the Price is Right and will take Marmol's spot on the 40-man.

The Cubs have reinstated 3B Ian Stewart from the 15-day DL and have optioned him to AAA Iowa. (Stewart came into the 2013 season with one minor league option year left).

Stewart suffered a strained quad in an intrasquad game at HoHoKam Park in February, and missed the entire 2013 MLB Cactus League Spring Training schedule. He was placed on the Cubs MLB 15-day Disabled List on March 31st (retro to 3/22), and was left behind at Extended Spring Training when the Cubs left Arizona at the end of March.

Stewart hit 200/250/267 in 16 PA at Extended Spring Training, and then was moved up to AAA Iowa on a minor league "rehab" assignment on April 14th, where he has hit an ice-cold 091/255/114 in 58 PA. 

Since the maximum number of days a position player can spend on a minor league rehab assignment is 20 (it's a maximum of 30 days for pitchers), May 3rd is the end of the assignment (time that was spent at Extended Spring Training prior to going to Iowa is not considered part of the minor league rehab assignment). However, a club does not have to reinstate a player to an active roster after the conclusion of a minor league rehab assignment if the player is not healthy enough to play (like if the original injury or illness reappears and/or was aggravated or if a different injury occurred during the course of the rehab assignment).   

Because Stewart made his debut on an MLB 25-man roster more than three years ago, Optional Assignment Waivers had to be secured before he could be optioned to the minors. Optional Assignment Waivers are revocable (meaning the request can be withdrawn if the player is claimed), and once secured they are good for the entire waiver period. So Stewart can be sent back & forth to the minors without any restrictions (that is, he can be recalled and then be optioned to the minors again anytime during the current waiver period without Optional Assignment Waivers needing to be requested & secured each time). The current waiver period just started this past Tuesday, and it doesn't end until 4 PM (EDT) on July 31st.

BTW, although Optional Assignment Waivers had to be secured before Stewart could be optioned to the minors, Stewart did NOT have to give his consent to the assignment. Only players who have accrued at least five years of MLB Service Time must give their consent before they can be optioned to the minors, and Stewart (if he had remained on the 15-day DL or if he had been reinstated to the 25-man roster instead of being optioned) would not have reached five years of MLB Service Time until July 31st. (And now that he's been optioned to the minors, Stewart reaching five years of MLB Service Time will be even further delayed).

The Cubs today will make some roster moves including the return of everyone's least favorite closer since Mel Rojas.

According to Twitter, the moves will be Darwin Barney being reinstated from the disabled list to begin his 2013 scrappy campaign. He'll be joined by 37-year-old Cody Ransom, which will give Barney a nice peak into his MLB future while also rescuing us fans from anymore Brent Lillibridge at-bats(he's been DFA'd). Throw in Steve Clevenger's move to the 60-day disabled list and there are your position player updates.

C: Castillo, Navarro

INF: Rizzo, Barney, Castro, Valbuena, Gonzalez, Ransom

OF: Soriano, DeJesus, Schierholtz, Hairston, Sappelt

On the pitching side, Kameron Loe and Kevin Gregg join the team, they'll take the roster spots of Hisanori Takahashi(DFA'd) and Rafael Dolis(optioned). At the going rate, Loe or Gregg will either be closing or on the disabled list by the end of the week.

SP: Samardzija, Jackson, Wood, Villanueva, Feldman

RP: Camp, Russell, Marmol, Loe, Gregg, Bowden, Rondon

Barney gets the start tonight versus lefty Derek Holland, with Travis Wood taking the mound for the Cubs. Sappelt 8/Castro 6/Rizzo 3/Soriano 7/Hairston 9/Castillo 2/Barney 4/Gonzalez 5/Wood 1 are your starting 9.

The Cubs claimed 29-year old RHP Guillermo Moscoso off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays today

Moscoso had a fine rookie season for the Oakland Athletics in 2011, going 8-10 with a 3.38 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP, allowing just 102 hits in 128 IP, with a 38/74 BB/K. He was then traded to the Colorado Rockies along with LHP Josh Outman for OF Seth Smith in January 2012.

Moscoso had a horrible year in 2012, however (6.12 ERA and 1.72 WHIP in 23 games and 50.0 IP for the Rockies, but with a very decent 2.70 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP away from Coors Field), and was demoted to AAA Colorado Springs, where he continued to struggle (6.13 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP in 18 games and 95.1 IP). 

He was claimed off waivers by the Kansas City Royals last November, and then was claimed off waivers again (this time by Toronto) earlier this month. He was ineffective in five Spring Training outings for KC and TOR (12.86 ERA and 2.57 WHIP).

The Cubs probably noticed Moscoso while scouting eventual Rule 5 pick Hector Rondon, because Moscoso was Rondon's teammate on the Caracas club in the Venezuelan Winter League this past off-season, putting up a 3.10 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in 29 IP (26 hits allowed and a 7/18 BB/K).  

Moscoso's 2012 troubles might be at least partly attributable to his being an extreme fly ball pitcher, probably not the best characteristic to have if you're playing half your games in the thin air of Denver or Colorado Springs. But even so, why would the Cubs claim Moscoso and waste a 40-man roster slot on a struggling 29-year old pitcher who is out of minor league options?

Well...

 

Last week, the Cubs outrighted Tony Campana off thier 40-man to make room for Scott Hairston. Today, the Diamondbacks agreed to give up two pitchers for the speedster...RHP Erick Leal and RHP Jesus Castillo. Judging by the quality going out, I wouldn't expect much on the quality coming in, but maybe the Cubs unearth one of those diamonds in the rough. Leal, a 6'3" righty out of Venezuela, will be playing his age 18 season and Castillo is a 6'2" righty also out of Venezuela and will be playing his age 17 season. In both cases, plenty of time for them to learn the "Cubs Way." Nick Piecoro had both of them in a write-up on some of the D'Backs international signings from back in late 2011 that you can view here and see some video. Here are the quotes from the D'Backs international scouting director Carlos Gomez at the time:

Re: Castillo ($250K signing bonus)

“He’s about 6-2, 165, 170 pounds. He’s long, lean and all kinds of projectable. He has a loose, cool rhythm about him, really free and easy. His fastball ranges from 82-89 mph, but he pitches 85-86 right now. I think he has a chance to throw a lot harder. His best secondary pitch is his changeup and the breaking ball isn’t bad. The spin is there, but it needs work and consistency. He gets really good extension, almost jumps off the mound. We think he can start; we see starter’s arm action and delivery from him.”

Re: Leal ($75K signing bonus)

“He’s 6-3, 180 pounds. He has a nice delivery, a nice arm action, and the highlight again is the breaking ball. He’s a kid who can spin it. It’s 74-76 mph already and his fastball is 86-88. He has the physical size, the delivery, a breaking ball and a present, useable fastball for his age. He’s one of those guys who looks like he might have slipped through the cracks. A lot of that same type of guy was going for more earlier in the year. His delivery is pretty balanced, but he drives pretty aggressively out front; he really gets over his front side well. You can tell the extra breaking ball spin he gets is a function of his finish.”

Something is better than nothing and Crazy Legs was always a lot closer to nothing in my in opinion.

So the Cubs are going to sign Scott Hairston, but since the deal isn't official we don't really have comments from TheJedi on his exact purpose. Chances are though, he'll platoon with DeJesus and Schierholtz and be the thunder off the bench late in games. And if they happen to trade Alfonso Soriano at some point, he might just be the starting left fielder. The 33-year old usually puts up OPS numbers around the mid 700's, most of it playing in pitching friendly parks like Oakland, San Diego and Citi Field, although he did start out his career in Arizona. The deal at 2/$5M with up to $1.25M in perfomance bonuses each season is reasonable enough in today's baseball economics, there's also something about another extra $1M being tacked on per year as well. It's probably bad news for Dave Sappelt's hopes of making the Opening Day roster, but doubtful the outfield will stay healthy all season, so he'll probably get his chance. If you're looking for 2 good reasons to like the deal, it's a career .825 OPS versus lefties(.867 last year) and that for his career he sees 3.85 pitches per plate appearance (closer to 4 the last 2 seasons). So another efficient, if not spectacular move by TheJedi.

And then the great 40-man mystery has been solved, although another is awaiting once they deal with Hairston's spot. But last year's Rule 5 pick-up Lendy Castillo has been DFA'd to make room for Carlos Villanueva. If no other team wishes to use up a 40-man spot on him, and he pitched rather poorly this winter, he'll likely be outrighted and wander the Cubs's farm system this season.

According to Patrick Mooney of CSN, the Cubs added OF Brett Lillibridge and OF Darnell McDonald on minor league deals today with spring training invites. They also agreed to a $930K contract with Luis Valbuena, thus avoiding arbitration.

 

Check out the left sidebar for some of the other NRI's to spring training courtesy of Arizona Awesome.

 

UPDATE: Carrie Muskat tweet says Cubs talking to Edwin Jackson and Villanueva, but no deal done with either. And so we wait...


Jon Heyman (and others) are reporting that the Cubs have signed SP Carlos Villanueva, formerly of the Toronto Blue Jays. The 29-year old swingman ran up career highs in innings (125.1) and games started(16) last year for the Blue Jays. Depsite a fastball that won't get over 90 too often, he manages nearly 8 K/9(7.8 to be exact) for his career and a 3.1 BB/9. He's a bit prone to the long ball with a 1.3 HR/9 rate for his career (although his HR/FB% rates are a little higher than the norm) and has a 4.26 career ERA between the Brewers and Blue Jays over 7 seasons (306 games, 56 of those started).

Much like the addition of Scott Feldman, he's being applauded by many of the saber-folks as a good low money risk play this offseason.

We'll see what the money is in this case, but seems like another shrewd, yet unspectacualr move for the Cubs. I don't know if he's been promised a rotation spot, but more likely he'll just be one of the competitors for a spot in spring training and obviously someone comfortable with moving to the pen if and when necessary. Now let's see if Twitter didn't jump the gun again.

LHP Jeff Beliveau was Designated for Assignment yesterday, and 3B Ian Stewart has been officially added to the 40-man roster, so now the Cubs just need to clear one more slot for free-agent OF Nate Schierholtz.


Although it might sound strange, the Cubs could outright Stewart to the minors (but with an NRI to Spring Training) to make room for Schierholtz on the 40, just like when they outrighted Manny Corpas to the minors last off-season in January just a month after he signed a major league contract and was added to the 40-man roster in December.


The Cubs added another short term contract tonight, signing outfield Nate Schierholtz on a one year deal for $2.25M that includes $500K in incentives. As Arizona Phil pointed out, they actually retain the rights to Schierholtz for two seasons as he's only at a little over 4 years of service time. Along with the signings of Scott Feldman and Scott Baker, the Cubs have added over $14M in payroll for next season, almost what they were paying Carlos Zambrano to not play for them.

The Cubs say Schierholtz will start in right field, but could very well platoon with Dave Sappelt. He'll be playing his age 29 season next year and accumulated a 257/321/406 slash line between the Giants and Phillies last year in 269 PA's, good for a 104 OPS+. The good news if they do platoon him is that he put up a more robust 287/360/466 line against righties last year for a 120 OPS+ in 201 PA's last year. But then of course anything can happen in 200 plate appearances. But in 2011, he put up a 288/340/461 line that was good for a 115 OPS+ in 294 PA's. But then anything can happen in nearly 300 PA's. As the years get smaller in numbers, so does his stat line and for his career in 1098 PA's, his slash line is 266/319/413 and a 101 OPS+ against righties. Now 1100 plate appearances carries a little more weight, but the trend is certainly favoring Schierholtz and the Cubs' decision.

As for defense, he's played most of his games in right field, although he did step his toes into center field last year for the Phillies a lucky seven times. If you belive in such things as UZR, they seem to be favorable towards Schierholtz.

Overall, considering the price...it's a pretty decent deal. A well-managed platoon can be very advantageous and maybe Schierholtz can keep up his slash line over 400 or more PA's. If not, he's cheap enough to be a bench player or trade bait and certainly won't be blocking anyone that may force themselves into the lineup (here's looking at you Brett Jackson).

 

 

The 2012 MLB Rule 5 Selection Meeting (AKA "Rule 5 Draft") will be held tomorrow morning in Nashville.

According to Wittenmyer, the Cubs will non-tender 2 of their 5 arbitration eligible players.

The tweet seems to indicate Ian Stewart is one of those two, which leaves M. Garza, J. Samardzija, J. Russell or L. Valbuena as the other. It would seem obvious that Valbuena would be that other, as he's hardly a great loss if they can't resign him for less. I imagine the Cubs would be happy to sign Stewart back for less, but he may very well want to test the market.

 

Hardball Talk is running a list of non-tenders so far, a list of players the Cubs may look into signing, so keep checking back there.

The only other news of note is that Jessie Rogers will take over the ESPN Chicago Cubs beat from Doug Padilla next season, who is moving over to the White Sox. Rogers was covering the Blackhawks beat, which means he had a lot of free time lately.

The Cubs add to their stable of pitchers today, by signing RHP Scott Feldman to a one year deal for $6M, plus $1M in incentives according to various sources. Feldman seemed to be a popular target among Cubs armchair GM's this offseason for reasons unbenknownst to me, but TheJedi seemed to concur. He's certainly cheap enough and getting away from that Texas park and the AL should theoretically help, although his career road vs. home ERA defies conventional wisdom (4.40 at home vs. 5.24 on the road).

Career-wise he's 39-44 with a 4.81 ERA (95 ERA+) and 5.4 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9 peripherals. Last year, apparently after recovering from micro-fracture surgery on his knee, his ERA was a robust 5.09 in 132.2 IP. His career high in innings was in 2009 with 189.2 IP. That happened in 2008 when he went 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA (114 ERA+). In the 4 seasons that he's been able to muster at least 20 starts, his ERA+ are 84, 114, 82 and 89 (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012).

Regardless of those less than spectacular numbers, it's a cheap enough deal that it's hard to get too worked up about it. It's certainly not going to get anyone excited about the season, but should provide some decent depth and the possibility of some upside much like Paul Maholm last year.

BRIEF UPDATE: A most excellent article from Fangraphs comparing Feldman vs. B. McCarthy with bonus tweets from McCarthy about how he changed his style to emulate Feldman and calling him the best bargain this offseason.

Today was the deadline to add players to the 40-man so they wouldn't be eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft. The winners were: RHP Trey McNutt, RHP Robert Whitenack, 3B Christian Villanueva and INF Logan Watkins. Nick Struck seems to be the only surprise name left off the 40-man additions...enjoy the Astros! To make room for the additions, Bryan LaHair was desginated for assignment and RHP Carlos Gutierrez was waived and assigned to Iowa after clearing waivers (I swear I don't even know who that is). LaHair is apparently going to sign to play in Japan.

The Cubs also traded RHP Jake Brigham (acquired in the trade for Geovany Soto) right back to the Texas Rangers for RHP Barret Loux and a player to be named later. Brigham allegedly has an elbow injury according to Bruce Miles, so that would explain why the Cubs are getting such high upside with Loux as it must be a reworking of the Soto deal (mighty nice of the Rangers). Loux was a former first round pick of the Diamondbacks (6th overall in 2010) out of Texas A&M. After agreeing on a $2M deal with the D'Backs, the club backed out citing an issue with his elbow and shoulder and the Rangers signed him for $312K later that year as a free agent. 2 years later, he put up a 14-1 mark in AA for the Rangers on a 3.47 ERA (7.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9) and Texas League pitcher of the year honors.

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