Cubs rumors

UPDATE: Looks like Kevin Towers jumped the gun on saying Peavy is willing to go to the Angels or Yankees, as Peavy's agent Barry Axelrod denies the report. Axelrod said Peavy may consider either team but it would require a healthy dose of extra compensation.

CBS's Scott Miller talks about the golf game between Hendry and Towers and throws Rich Hill's name into the mix.


- Bruce Levine reported on the radio talks between the Cubs and Padres centered around Sean Marshall, Felix Pie, Ronny Cedeno and Jose Ceda.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that's not enough.

The Trib's Dave Van Dyck  quotes a scout saying the Cubs lack the talent the Padres want but has a source that also mentions Felix Pie, Ronny Cedeno and others. It goes on to say that it's definitley Peavy OR Dempster for the Cubs and not Peavy AND Dempster. He finishes it off by mentioning that he believes Wood would be the better bet to get signed before the Nov. 13th exclusive negotiating window ends.

- In a separate article, van Dyck says the Cubs have some interest in Raul Ibanez.

- To add to the fun, Peavy has added the Anaheim Angels and New York Yankees to his list of teams he'd consider waiving his no-trade clause. It does say that Peavy would still prefer one of the 5 N.L. teams he originally listed - Houston, St. Louis, Chicago, Atlanta or Los Angeles.

- Chris DeLuca at the Sun-Times throws the Cubs hat in the CC sweepstakes if he doesn't resign with the Brewers. Greg Maddux is currently leaning towards retirement as well.

Baseball's fourth season is about to warm up and I'll try and summarize all the gossip every couple of days.

- Ken Rosenthal says that Ryan Dempster won't sign with the Cubs before the Cubs exclusive negotiating window closes on November 13th. A rather wise move by him and his agent. There's no reason not to test the waters and see what is actually available for him as rival teams cannot discuss money over the next two weeks. He still may very well sign with the Cubs on a hometown discount, but that discount will be based on what the prevailing market is offering. Rosenthal speculates a four year deal for Dempster with the Cubs interested in three years. Rosenthal also speculates that if the Cubs cannot resign Dempster, they'll up their efforts on Jake Peavy, which sounds like a grand plan to me.

The Padres called, the Cubs said they're interested, and it's a possibility.

According to a West Coast source, the Cubs are the
Padres' best option for a trade partner if for no other reason than
they're not the Dodgers, who are Peavy's first choice, and they're not
the Braves, who at this point are saying they won't deal their best

That's the latest from Barry Rozner of The Daily Herald and I'd probably put a lot more stock into it if it was from Bruce Miles, but it should make the offseason rather interesting. Rozner doesn't believe the Cubs have the pitching prospects that the Padres are looking for, and if you consider Jeff Samardzija and Carlos Marmol as untouchable, I'd have to agree. He then goes batshit crazy by suggesting Sean Marshall and Felix Pie to the Padres and then dumping Jason Marquis and another prospect or two to a third team that would land the Padres the elite pitching prospect that they so crave.

While I agree that dumping the bulk of Jason Marquis' contract for next year would be crucial in trying to acquire Peavy and resigning Ryan Dempster, there will be no good player being exchanged for Jason Marquis and the near $10M he's owed.

The entire TCR staff is still in mourning, what can we say, we take this shit personally. A relatively decent rumor though has gone through the wires as we start prepping for the most inconsequential regular season ever for the Cubs - the 2009 season. Because even if the Cubs are  fielding an All-Star at every position, win 120 games and outscore their opponents by five runs a game, none of that shit will matter to anyone until they win some playoff games and get to the World Series.

As for the rumor, the Padres are suffering some money problems as one of their owners is in the middle of divorce proceedings that may cause him to sell his 49% stake in the club.  The Padres debunked that rumor...sort of, but nonetheless San Diego is a pretty small market and are coming off a 99-loss season with not a whole lot of talent to build upon. They did have quite a few injuries last year, but not enough to warrant that bad a season.

(Yeah, that headline really happened)

The Sun-Times is reporting that Jim Hendry has been working the phones the last month with Billy Beane and the A's to try and pry Rich Harden from them. Of course, the A's are just four games back in the wild card and six back in the AL West and have one of the better run differentials in the league. So being a seller isn't necessarily a foregone conclusion, and don't be surprised if this rumor lasts until July 31st.

No names were mentioned, but you'd have to imagine that Beane would like somthing similar to the six for two swap he pulled for Dan Haren.

The article also states the Cubs are looking for a lefty for the bullpen with Eyre spending more time on the disabled list than the roster to this point and Neal Cotts being Neal Cotts.

The recently released Jim Edmonds should clear waivers on Wednesday and it looks like the Cubs are going to bite. The move would likely send Felix Pie to the minors and give Edmonds the majority of playing time in a center field platoon with Reed Johnson.

[UPDATE 4:00 PM]:Ruz has added his take, at the bottom of the article.

So it's understandable that the Cubs want to upgrade center field right now. It seems to be the only weak spot in the lineup and some of our guys are certainly going to regress substantially from their early season success. But could the Cubs actually find someone to upgrade with?

A tale of the 2008 tape after the jump...

Two quick notes from Gordon Wittenmeyer...

The Cubs are getting enough interest from other teams in outfielder
Matt Murton that a deal might get done by the end of the weekend to
keep the Cubs from having to send the .296 career hitter to the minors.

They're just making sure no injuries occur today and Murton will most likely be out of here.

The battle between lefties Sean Marshall and Carmen Pignatiello for Eyre's vacated spot is going down to the final day.

Manager Lou Piniella said before Friday's late game that each lefty
would get an inning of work during the two-game set against Seattle.

It seems Lou really want to give Marshall every chance to win that spot, even though Pignatiello has easily outperformed him this spring.

Rotoworld had a blurb today that Kevin Frandsen is taking a break from playing shortsop. This is on the heels of Omar Vizquel being sidelined with a knee injury. Rotoworld speculates the Giants will probably be looking for a shortstop by the time spring training is ending and it made me think the Cubs might be able to help them out.

As previously mentioned, by a number of folks including our own Arizona Phil, center fielder Rajai Davis is out of options and could possibly fill that right-handed hitting, three-spot outfielder the Cubs have been searching for since the offseason began. A speedster, who is known for playing hard at all times, his major and minor league numbers suggest that, at the very least, he's not immune to taking a walk. The Cubs, of course, have a shortstop named Ronny Cedeno who happens to be also out of options.

So Jim Hendry, if you're out there, go ahead and contact me and I'll let you know where to send the consulting fee once this goes through.

The Detroit Free Press is reporting that the Cubs and Tigers have had "general discussions" about getting the Tigers some bullpen help. The Cubs are, of course, in the market for a right-handed hitting, three-spot outfielder.

The Cubs have considered adding a right-handed hitter who is capable of playing centerfield. Whether coincidental or not, Brandon Inge is expected to start in center for Detroit this afternoon against Philadelphia.

I should note that the Tigers played the Astros today and Inge does not show up in the box score and I see no mentions of a split-squad game, so it's entirely possible that the writer is whacked. 

The article also mention Marcus Thames, but Leyland seems to like him, and he's not really suited for centerfield supposedly. 

Of course, the same could be said of Brandon Inge, who came up as a catcher and has played third base most of his career. He has played some outfield, including 20 games at center (most of those in 2004). But is this what the Cubs had in mind? 

Somehow I doubt it, but I did hear one of the local Detroit press guys on XM radio a few weeks back saying that Inge could TRULY play all eight positions on the diamond and excel at most of them. Unfortunately, Inge has stated his unwillingness to be a platoon player or semi-regular. Not to mention he had a truly awful season offensively last year(236/312/376) and has a rather hefty contract (signed through 2010 with over $19 MM left on his deal). But if the numbers could work and if the game was based on theory, he wouldn't be a bad player to have around. In reality, it's doubtful this rumor will go anywhere...which would put it up there with most of the Cubs offseason hot stove talk.

By way of Gordon Wittenmyer in the Sun-Times, Lou Piniella talks about the importance of finding days off for Soriano, Ramirez, Lee, et al.

Hmmm, sounds like what you could use, Lou, is a “super sub.”

Meanwhile the 26th Cub, Brian Roberts, showed up for Orioles camp and got to choose between discussing his as yet unrealized trade to the Cubs and the presence of his name in the Mitchell Report.

Have the Chicago/Baltimore talks cooled to the point that the supposed principals aren’t even thinking about it any more? Andy MacPhail claims he spoke to Roberts Tuesday morning and the subject didn’t even come up.

...we have rumors. 

Ken Rosenthal throws a few bones out there about the Cubs, including Coco Crisp and Brian Roberts talk. To fill my monthly MVN quota, I will be posting the full excerpts below:

The Cubs do not view Crisp as a viable alternative if they fail to acquire Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts; Crisp's .329 career on-base percentage makes him ill-suited for the top of the order, and the Cubs don't want a center fielder who might block Felix Pie or Tyler Colvin; they would prefer a platoon partner such as the Rangers' Marlon Byrd.

And on Roberts...

Trading Roberts would be the logical next step in the Orioles' tear-down, but even though the team finally is on the verge of sending Erik Bedard to the Mariners, a Roberts deal might not quickly follow. The Orioles and Cubs have spoken infrequently over the past several weeks, sources say, and while some Cubs officials believe that a deal remains possible, others aren't so sure. The Orioles are likely to insist on Pie, a player the Cubs are not willing to move in a package for Roberts ...

At least the last sentence about not willing to move Pie is encouraging.

On Saturday Texas Rangers observer Jamey Newberg of The Newberg Report reacted to this story at regarding the Cubs' interest in 30-year-old outfielder Marlon Byrd and the possibility that Matt Murton could be headed for the Rangers.

Newberg theorizes that Murton could join David Murphy in a platoon tandem that would man left field for the Rangers. But Newberg believes the Rangers would have to package at least one solid prospect along with Byrd before the Cubs would bite.

"...Murton is probably out of position anywhere other than left.

"That defensive limitation is the only reason I can conceive of that the Cubs would entertain the idea of moving Murton for Byrd, who is adequate in center field. While both players can probably help a contending team in 2008, the four-year age difference would be significant for a team looking not so much at what sort of noise it can make this season but more at a longer-term fit, like Texas.

"Whether you believe Byrd's breakout in 2007 (.307/.355/.459, 70 RBI in two-thirds of a big league season, but .269/.310/.417 after the All-Star Break) was a mirage, it's hard to argue that at age 30 he's a player to build with (especially now that his ability to play center field is no longer pivotal here). On the other hand, with Chicago believing it can win now and wanting a right-handed hitter capable of sharing center field duties with 22-year-old lefthander Felix Pie, Byrd makes some sense. I just can't imagine the Cubs would trade Murton for him without demanding a legitimate prospect tossed in."

...but not playing dead. I still haven't gotten all my thoughts together about the Jones signing, but I will say the more I think about it the less I hate it. I hope to be able to post a bit on that topic tomorrow, but for now the comments needed to be rolled over. Instead of re-hashing that, though, I want to bring Arizona Phil's trade musings out of the comments. I'm not usually a fan of blue-sky trade talk, but Phil had a couple of ideas that not only seemed good for the Cubs, but seem like they'd make some sense as well:
The player I think now most likely to be traded now is Matt Murton, either in a deal for Bobby Abreu or in a deal for Miguel Tejada. That's why Hendry felt he had to jump on Jacque Jones before Jones went elsewhere.I think ideally Hendry wants Dusty to play Jones in LF, where his below average arm is less of a negative factor. And Hendry would probably want to acquire a stud middle-of-the-order run producer to hit between Lee and Ramirez, with Jones hitting 6th (or at least 5th against RHP, or 6th against LHP). Hendry must knows by now what it would take to do it, and that he thinks he now has the offer it would take to get either Miguel Tejada or Bobby Abreu. It probably starts with Matt Murton, and would include other players like Jerome Williams and Ronny Cedeno (if it's a deal for Tejada) or Rich Hill (if it's a deal for Bobby Abreu). I suspect Barry Zito would be part of a deal for Abreu, and that Hendry has that part already in place. Remember, if the Cubs acquire Tejada or Abreu and pay all of the player's salary (minus Barry Zito's salary), the Orioles and Phillies would have money left over to either sign (although most of the better FAs are already gone) or make a deal for a replacement run producer. If acquiring Barry Zito is crucial to getting Abreu and possibly even as part of a deal for Tejada, the Cubs are in a good position to make Oakland a tempting offer. If you look at what Oakland took back for Tim Hudson (Juan Cruz, Dan Meyer, and Charles Thomas) and Mark Mulder (Dan Haren, Kiko Calero, and Daric Barton), trading Barry Zito to the Cubs for Matt Murton, Rich Hill, and either Michael Wuertz, Roberto Novoa, or Jerome Williams would be a very similar type deal, certainly a better package than what they got back from Atlanta for Hudson. And then the Cubs could trade Zito and Felix Pie to the Phillies to get Abreu, or Zito, Pie, and Cedeno to the Orioles to get Tejada. The Phillies and Orioles could use the $5m differential in 2006 salaries between Abreu and Zito or Tejada and Zito to acquire a replacement run producer.
To recap, Phil is suggesting: * Trade Matt Murton, Rich Hill, and one of Wuertz, Novoa or Williams to the A's for Barry Zito Then, * Trade Zito and Felix Pie to the Phillies for Bobby Abreu OR trade Zito, Pie and Ronnie Cedeno to the Orioles for Miguel Tejada I have a problem with the Orioles scenario, in that it leaves the Cubs short one outfielder, and with both Murton & Pie gone, it would seem to put Corey Patterson back in the starting lineup, which I'm not in favor of. Personally, I'd be happy with the Philly version of this trade as long as the Cubs got a prospect from the A's along with Zito. I'm not really in favor of trading four or five young guys away and not getting any young guys in return, even if Abreu was the result. I'd love to see someone like Jairo Garcia come over, but he wouldn't have a shot at making the 'pen. I wonder if the A's would part with someone like someone like second baseman Kevin Melillo or left-hander Dallas Braden?
Jim Hendry has seemingly made it something of an off-season priority that his Cubs avoid going into 2006 with Todd Walker manning second base. Hendry picked up the $2.5m team option that they hold on Walker for this upcoming season, but he seems not just open to trading Walker, but rather intent upon it, so much so that he's recently been guilty of talking about the keystone position as vacant, as though Walker had already departed the organisation. He hasn't yet, but he's reportedly been openly shopped around the league, with the Cubs not particularly happy with his ability to "catch the ball". The Cubs aren't exactly off-base with such an assessment of Walker's defence: the truth is that it's never been particularly good. His range is unremarkable, his glove isn't particularly golden, and his troubles turning the double play do cost the team runs. As a result, no one is particularly happy with his ability to "catch the ball". On the whole, he's slightly below par when it comes to playing defence, and second base is one of the more important defensive positions. That is problematic. Second base though is also a position where offence is notoriously hard to come by: over the last two years, major league second sackers have hit a meagre .272/.329/.413. Todd Walker, on the other hand, has hit .290/.354/.471 since he joined the Cubs, though Carlos Lee and unnecessary platooning have limited him to just 239 games. That kind of offensive production has made Walker one of the best offensive players at his position, with only Jeff Kent, Chase Utley and Marcus Giles really outperforming him with the bat. What Walker has given away in the field then, he's made up for and then some in the batter's box, establishing himself as comfortably above average. His salary in the last year of his contract, $2.5m in 2006, is comfortably below average, and as such he represents the kind of superb value that teams should be striving for, not striving to give away. None of that is to say that the Cubs should completely disregard the idea of trading him. Walker will turn 33 in May next year, and if his offence slips, as is entirely possible, with his defence not getting any better, he will be a significantly less valuable player. Indeed, his value may never be higher than it is right now, what with the numbers he's put up over the last two years, and, as such, especially at his salary, he makes an attractive trading chip. He's also just one year away from free agency, and the Cubs probably want more of a return than draft pick compensation. Finally, in Jerry Hairston, the Cubs have a decent enough alternative with which to replace him. All the same, none of that justifies the approach that the Cubs so far seemed to have pursued, one of making it entirely clear that he's not wanted around come next April, not least because the Cubs appear more inclined to give the second base job to Neifi Perez (with Cedeno at short) than to Hairston. The $5m contract Neifi's still celebrating says that much. The Cubs are not in a position right now where they can afford to give away much offence, and that's the biggest reason why a Todd Walker trade doesn't make the sense it otherwise might. Presently the most likely lineup scenario for next year sees Murton and Pierre accompanied in the outfield by a reasonable but unspectacular bat in right field, acquired either via free agency or the Walker trade, plus Cedeno and Neifi/Hairston up the middle, the pitcher batting ninth, and not much on the bench capable of stepping in and playing every day. That, as far as I'm concerned, is a completely unacceptable scenario. I'm all for giving the youngsters the chance, but one of the reasons why you put up with whatever they put up is the fact that they're earning just a little over $300k apiece, giving you the opportunity to re-invest the money you'd otherwise have spent filling the positions on impact players elsewhere on the roster. If the Cubs aren't doing that, because they've not had the foresight to avoid a situation where there are no impact players left for them to actually spend their money on, and are instead surrounding the kids with mediocre at best veterans, they're not going to score many runs even in best case scenarios. And we'll be back where we were at last year, entirely dependent upon the health and supreme effectiveness of our pitching staff. How did that work out for us in 2005 again?

The trade went down a while ago now, but one of my favourite pitchers, Jermaine Van Buren, now gets paid by the Boston Red Sox, and here's my take... Van Buren has pretty impressive stuff. He works off a good fastball that sits comfortably in the 91-93mph range, and compliments that with an assortment of breaking stuff: an above average slider, a decent curveball, a changeup. He likes to throw all his pitches, he's a real fighter out there on the mound, and, of course, he has his funky delivery, which means he's extremely fun to watch. It's a delivery that's very herky-jerky drop-and-drive. Because there are so many idiosyncratic movements to it, he finds it very difficult to repeat. Some of the time he's absolutely fine, and though his delivery still looks eccentric, it's thoroughly balanced throughout, and he ends up facing the plate, ready to field the ball. Some of the time though he completely loses his balance mid-delivery and he ends up in a quite ridiculous position, facing left field. Because he tries to keep watching the ball, for obvious reasons, a lot of the rotation in his body and hips in such instances comes very late, and is extremely violent and uncontrolled. His right leg falls completely across his body, and it drags the rest of him around with it, away from the mound. Naturally, in such a position, he'd be completely unable to field the ball. But most of the time Van Buren's delivery falls somewhere between those two extremes, unbalanced but different most times, yet not quite as exaggerated in terms of the position in which he ends up and how ridiculous he looks in the process of getting there. The real problem that Van Buren's poor mechanics cause him is not so much that he sometimes can't field his position, because that's not that important. The real problem, besides his delivery maybe making him more susceptible to injury, though he's a big strong guy, is that most of the time he isn't capable of putting the ball exactly where he wants, and so he's liable to walk a few more hitters than he should. But that's something that you just have to put up with, because attempts to remodel and restrain his delivery (made by the Rockies, for instance) have compromised the rest of his natural game, which certainly has a lot to recommend it. Not least his numbers over the last two years -- a 1.98 ERA in 123 innings (67 hits allowed, 8 home runs, 147 strikeouts), mostly at AA and AAA. Baseball America named him the Triple-A relief pitcher of the year for 2005. Although I think that Van Buren could fashion for himself a pretty decent career as a major league middle reliever, and although he's got three option years left and will be cheap for quite a while yet, and as such should be very handy as the last man in a bullpen, I'm not that disappointed to see him leave the Cubs. We don't have room in our bullpen to accomodate him after the Howry and Eyre signings, and he'd have only seen the time in the major leagues that he deserves in case of injury. As such, he was a perfect trading chip - potentially useful to some one else, but not a great fit for the Cubs, especially because we already have more than enough relievers with good stuff but problems with their control. I am though very disappointed that Jim Hendry parted with him for nothing more than a PTBNL in a deal that he forced upon himself with yet more shoddy management of his 40-man roster. Van Buren could have been used in a package deal to land us something of worth. Instead he was shipped out in a hurry, probably not netting much of a return, just because Hendry, needing to clear roster room, thought him expendable. He was, but less so than a number of guys Hendry's hung onto (Mitre and Wellemeyer in particular, both out of options, plus one of Soto and Reyes, since we have four catchers on the forty), and he was more valuable than some of the other guys that Hendry's hung onto (Koronka and Macias in particular), and if Hendry hadn't made a number of entirely needless additions to the 40-man roster (Dopirak and Moore in particular), there wouldn't have been a roster crunch in the first place. Of course, the entire deal depends on the PTBNL, who still hasn't been named. But my suspicion is that the Red Sox went a little bit of the way to avenging the loss of Matt Murton with this nice piece of opportunitism. Best of luck with the Red Sox, Jermaine.


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