Cubs Rumors: Castro, LaHair, Garza available; Samardzija not

I'm not the biggest fan of Bob Nightengale of USA Today.  I think he's a rumor monger who throws a lot of stuff out there to get readers and most of the time, it misses the mark.  I also don't think he, of all people, would have access to the Cubs front office.  That being said, he wrote an article saying that everyone except Jeff Samardzija is available.  That includes Starlin Castro, whom he says is available for two impact prospects.

That isn't exactly news.  I don't think anyone is untouchable, but as I've maintained for a long time, it's going to take a heckuva deal to pry Starlin Castro loose.

But saying nobody is untouchable and anyone can be traded for the right group of players is not news either.  You could say that about any player in baseball.

Now, apart from receiving a ridiculous offer, I think there's only one reason to trade a 22 year old, all-star SS who's cost-controlled for the next several years.  It's if you don't think he can stay at SS long term.  He can play SS now, as his 11.6 UZR suggests, but will he outgrow the position and have to move to 3B where he'll need to develop power and his lower OBP becomes an issue?  That would be the gamble the Cubs would have to take and it's a huge one.  Despite the low walk total, he's already an above average offensive player now at age 22.  Given that he's doing it while playing a good defensive SS makes him a valuable player already.  ZiPS projects him to be a 4+ WAR player and he's nowhere near his peak years.  That's the kind of player you want to keep, not trade -- unless you're utterly blown away to the point where you think the other team has lost their collective mind.  So speculate away on who those impact players would be, but don't hold your breath on that one.

The presence of Javier Baez may also be a factor, but do you really gamble trading an impact SS to count on a 19 year old who just started low Class A ball -- and whom many think won't stay at SS long term anyway?

It's going to take several things for a Castro trade to happen:

  1. The Cubs don't think he'll be able to stay at SS long term
  2. The Cubs would have to believe that his approach will not improve as he matures and that he won't develop the power to be an asset at another position.
  3. Another team who badly needs a young SS
  4. That team has to believe he'll stay at SS for the long haul. Not just think, they need to believe strongly enough to think about dealing multiple impact prospects.
  5. That team has to have multiple impact prospects to begin with -- and ones with a good chance of making the majors soon.

That's an extreme longshot in my book, so much so that it's almost certainly not something that's even being considered.

UPDATE:Multiple reports now denying Castro is available.  (Gee, another B.S. rumor from Bob Nightengale, who whoulda thunk?)

It's also interesting as to how far Jeff Samardzija has come.  His career looked to be at a crossroads after two consecutive horrendous season.  Many scoffed at the idea that he could become a starter (we didn't).  That it would even be suggested that he would be the only untouchable on the team would have seemed laughable not too long ago.  Now some scouts have compared him to Florida Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson, who was a #1 starter entering his prime years before his injury.  Even we didn't think he'd be that good.

The other name that might raise some eyebrows is 1B Bryan LaHair.  Like Castro, he's been one of the Cubs top offensive players and is cost-controlled well into the years where the Cubs should be competitive.  The differences with LaHair is that a younger, perhaps better version is waiting in Anthony Rizzo and 2) LaHair is already 29, so he'll be cost-controlled but he'll be well past his prime by the end of his contract.  He may be a better fit for a team set to win in the next 2-3 years, especially since it's questionable how long he can be viable in the OF as he ages and gets slower.  Will a team be willing to give up much for a career minor league player who has had basically one great month in his MLB career?  It's more likely the Cubs would try and find a taker for Alfonso Soriano, but as we know, that really isn't going to be easy unless the Cubs eat about 80% of that remaining contract (about $38M)

Then, of course, there's Matt Garza.  Garza is right on the edge of what the Cubs want.  On one hand, he's young (28), relatively cheap as compared to his production, and should still be in his prime/peak years by the time the Cubs become relevant.  The concern is that he will become a free agent after next season and the Cubs will have to decide whether they should sign him to an extension or pick up younger players that will be cost-controlled.  That would allow the Cubs to funnel financial resources to other areas.  The Cubs will probably have to scale back their asking price a bit to be able to trade Garza, but they should still get at least one impact prospect and another 2 or 3 good young players.  The Cubs may feel less pressure to recoup what they've lost as Hak Ju Lee now has a less than .300 OBP and slugging, while Chris Archer continues to walk nearly a batter per inning and seems destined for the bullpen long term.  It should also serve as a lesson learned.  Just because you trade a pitcher for a good package of prospects, it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get impact major leaguers out of such a deal.  Everyone thought the Cubs gave up too much at the time, and while it's early, it's difficult to project Tampa getting even one above average starter out of the deal.

Ryan Dempster is the most likely big name to be traded.  He seems amenable to waiving his 5 and 10 rights to help the team.  I think he'll be in demand, but the Cubs would be doing very well to get a top 100 prospect out of the deal, perhaps it's more likely they can pick up multiple young players with potential, as they did for Sean Marshall.

Other possibilities include recent acquisitions Ian Stewart and David DeJesus.  DeJesus in particular, could bring a worthhile return and may be an easier path to open up a spot for LaHair in the OF.  It may be contingent on whether the Cubs think Brett Jackson could be ready soon, but even if he isn't, we've seen that Tony Campana can be productive in short bursts.  The Cubs will also likely find takers for solid reserves such as Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker.  Once he gets healthy, Geovany Soto becomes a possibility as well.

So even if Nightengale is just blowing smoke, it is a topic worth discussing since the Cubs will be making changes starting next month.   While a trade of Castro is not going to happen,  nobody is truly untouchable and the Cubs will at listen on anybody, if nothing else to open up some dialogue about other players.  But then again, we probably already knew that.

UPDATE 2: Epstein shot down that speculation, according to, by saying that "Starlin Castro is the type of player we're looking to build around. There has been no trade consideration with him, whatsoever."

"I never understood why there would ever be an untouchable," Epstein said on Monday. "All you're doing is limiting your opportunity. That said, there are core pieces that it's almost impossible to foresee moving. You would have to be completely blown away to even contemplate it."

"I think everybody knows what we're trying to do. We're trying to build a nucleus of talented young players who can form a core of being an annual contender. If you have a piece like that, the only way you contemplate ever moving him would be to get multiple back of that same caliber and those deals are hard to make. I think we're looking to identify the core, continue to add to it and build around it."

I'd have to say I agree with Theo 100% here.  But somehow I don't think this will end the speculation.


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  • Castro makeup wise is more Soriano than Sandburg. Lahair may fall somewhere between Huffpaur and Fielder and Rizzo is most likely better and ready. Lahair would be a great pick up for a team competing now in need of middle of the order first baseman. Samardzija has made Garza available for the right package. If any of those happen the Cubs are officially in a serious rebuild.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I actually see a lot of similarities between Castro and Sandberg. Both are hard workers, both quiet guys with an intensity they hide beneath the surface, they are both so smooth and athletically gifted that they make everything the do look easy.

    Soriano is a hard-worker and a nice guy -- like the other two, but there's more of a diva type quality with him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I hope that you right about the similarities. I think Soriano is more of a follower than diva. Last year he had Zambrano and Ramirez and this year Sveum.

  • Nightengale is simply following (IMO) the ESPN trail in which Olney and co. threw out the "deal Castro rumor". Blah, blah, blah.

    Something which raised my eyebrows: In ESPN's "Franchise Player Draft", Rick Sutcliff chose Samardzija with the 26th pick.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Didn't see that, wow! I did see that Castro was chosen 8th overall, ahead of guys like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and vets like Ryan Braun.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Also agree on that Olney trail, which to me was just his own speculation. I like Olney, he's a good guy but I he was off base on that one.

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    Oh boy, we get to bash the Nightengale. Where do we start?

    Nightengale needed something to justify his existence to his editor. He didn't really have anything. So he made it up. Come to think of it that sounds a lot like Phil Rogers and Steve Rosenbloom. Should I go on?

    Trade Castro: Okay, no one is untouchable, but two top prospects isn't going to get it done. For example, let say Texas decided they needed Castro for whatever reason. They, of course don't, but I use them because they arguably have the best system in all of baseball. What is Texas going to have to pay to get this deal done. Well, Jurickson Profar would just be the starting point. Mike Olt probably is a must have as well, but it doesn't end there. Cody Buckel probably is going to be insisted upon, and so is Justin Grimm. I left Martin Perez and Neil Ramirez off because they're having awful years, but my point is that you don't give up a cost controlled player with the talent of Castro without getting that kind of haul back.

    The idea that Samardzija, who only has two months of great baseball to show for all this time, is untouchable is totally ridiculous. He'll go before Casto does, and for a lot less.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    LOL...and agreed. Goldstein just tweeted something similar to what many of us have said. "HIGHLY unlikely, but nobody is untouchable"

  • these are my favorite type of articles to read, great job john!

    just a few thoughts:
    castro- not going anywhere, we'd have to get one of those "off limits" prospects (i.e. profar, bundy, sano, etc.) and then some to unload him and i really just dont see that happening.

    lahair- would be a great get for the l.a. dodgers. he could bat in front of kemp and eithier or in between them, forcing pitchers to go after him (which hes proved to be costly). i think theyd give us something worthwhile because loney has been awful and lahair will be paid so little going forward.

    garza- i dont think were gonna get what we want in a trade. try and sign him, unless his demands are outrageous an extension should get done.

    dempster- we owe it to him to trade him. i think torontos a great spot considering hes canadian, theyre trying to contend and they need a veteran pitcher. theyve got catching and pitching depth in the minors and i think aj jiminez (great defensive catcher) and a high upside pitching prospect in the 12-20 range would do it. considering there depth at both positions, there need for veteran pitching and our lack of depth at both positions i think this trade works out extremely well for everyone.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Thanks Josh! We'll probably have more trade related articles in the next two months. That's been on the backburner for us since no real rumors (not that his rumor was real either).

    I'm thinking LaHair and Dempster could be the most likely as well. But LaHair only if they get something worthwhile. I think they wouldn't mind seeing LaHair and Rizzo together, but they'd have to get rid of Soriano, probably, since it would hurt the defense if they were both out there.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree. They'd have to get something worthwhile to move LaHair, but the Dodgers would make a lot of senses. They might make a lot of sense for Dempster as well. Harang has been terrible outside of Dodger stadium, and that has to be a concern. The problem is the Dodgers system might not have what the Cubs are looking for. Zach Lee would be a good start though.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    the dodgers system is pretty weak, i dont think they have nearly what it would take to get dempster, which is why i suggested toronto.

    but i think they have enough to get us what we'd want for lahair and/or possibly maholm.

  • So Shark is off the table, but Starlin is not?? In my opinion Nightendouche made his column as ridiculous as possible to get readers to read. Any player should be available anyways, but it doesn't make it realistic...

  • In reply to JR Cubbies:

    I think this sums up my feelings in 3 sentences!

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    I though this was interesting in light of the discussion. Kaplan isn't entirely without a point. If someone comes a calling about Castro, they should listen. It's possible they could get an offer that blows them away.

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    The way teams have been valuing prospects the last 2-3 years, I find it hard to believe someone would offer anything that blows the front office away.

    Chicago is a big market, can afford Castro, and needs at least one star player to help sell tickets and give a reason to watch the team while they rebuild. Rizzo might grow into that type of player but Castro is already that guy.

    That said, I haven't watched a game now for two weeks. It's a weird feeling. My father has Alzheimer's and lives with me and he watches every game, so I hear it in the background around the house and it's impossible to not know if they won or lost each day. But other than missing the sport, I'm not finding myself missing the Cubs. That's probably pretty easy since they've been pretty bad the last month.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Best wishes to your father...As for the Cubs, they've been awful, but you've missed a couple of good ones lately, especially on Wednesday.

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    In reply to Just Win:

    I'm going through the same thing with my mother so you have my sympathies.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Nobody said they shouldn't listen, but the Cubs aren't looking to trade Castro. It just doesn't make sense. We can be hypothetical and say that nobody is untouchable and there's a chance someone makes a big offer But you could say that about any player in baseball. but the reality of it is that it's almost certainly not going to happen.

    I seriously doubt it's even under consideration. The likelihood you get someone as valuable as Castro considering production, age, cost control, position value, and potential impact is almost negligible. It's not like he's a 2012-2013 player like Garza or Dempster. He'll be under control and in his prime when the Cubs are ready to contend.

    I don't understand the eagerness to trade for prospects when Castro is as young as most of them and has already proven it at the highest level.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Oh, I don't disagree, but they should still listen, and then they can laugh and hang up.

  • I'm sick of this Castro trade talk. From a marketing standpoint, Castro is the only marketable player on the team. I also don't understand why everyone (CSN, Kaplan, etc.) continues to bash his defense. Defense is not only errors (which he has continued to improve each year). His range is top three in baseball and has made some amazing plays this year on defense, and he is top 5 in UZR/150. He has also has led the NL in putouts and assists the last 2 years. Sure he has mental lapses, but every day he is getting better at it. Honestly, no one is going to give the Cubs enough valuable for them to ever trade him, and there is no point in making the rebuilding process take any longer than needed.

  • In reply to cubsfan4life:


  • This season is setting up perfectly for the Cubs. Every team in the AL and NL East will consider themselves to be playoff contenders by the time the trade deadline comes, so there should be plenty of teams willing to pay to improve themselves for the stretch run. In particular, all of those teams who were bidding for Oswalt should now be interested in Dempster and Garza.

  • In reply to GoSox:

    Agreed. I think the Cubs should listen on those two and try to build a young core around Samardzija, Castro, Rizzo, and a couple of others, maybe even Garza if they don't get a good offer. But they're better off trading Garza or Dempster if they can get surplus value in return.

  • Re Dempster, I would expect him to be dealt. I sure everyone realizes he is a FA at the end of the year, so it would be a "rental" deal for the receiving team. This may limit what we can get for him, although the new playoff system may change the dynamics. I only mention this because some have dissed the Lilly deal from a few years ago, but that was also a "rental" deal at the time.

    A second point: Rogers (yes, I know, but he said it wasn't his idea, so it may have some merit) wrote yesterday about the possibility of dealing Sori to the Indians, since their DH Hafner is on the DL for an extended period (knee surgury). Rogers in part dismisses the idea, since he does not seem to think the Cubs will eat the rest of Sori's salary to get a deal done, but I think most here agree that would not be a hinderance if we could get something decent in return. So I will throw this out the trustworthy Cubs Den writers and readers: Is this reasonable speculation? What could we expect in return?

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    I think Soriano to the Indians is reasonable, but not very likely. The Indians are trying to win this thing and they have a shot with Detroit struggling. Not many big bats are going to be available and Soriano can replace some of Hafner's production, if not his OBP skills. Carlos Lee is another guy out there, though, and his contract will be easier to work with since it's his last year.

  • Just for fun, let's imagine this is Sori's stat line at the end of June:

    .290 /.360/.600
    15 HR's, 35 SO's, and 20 BB's.

    Assume a team was willing to give up a prospect in the top 15-ish of their system. How much salary do you eat if you are the Cubs? The rest of the 38mm? $30mm?

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    If Sori can go on one of his patented hot streaks at the right time, that would be great.

    Cubs may still have to eat as much as 38M only because teams know he's such an up and down guy and I think they'd like the freedom to move on if his knees finally gave out.

    He really needs to be a DH to extend his career, imo. He looked like he was really hurting the other day in LF. It was almost painful watching him run down an extra base hit.

  • I have noticed Soriano's hurting knee just walking around the field, and it takes him a few strides to get going in left and the bases. He looks like Dawson out there.

  • Campana's productive and not just in short bursts. I'm guessing Jepstein knows this as I'm guessing their equations are probably more refined than what the mainstream ones are.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    I don't actually know. Just speculating there on what they might be thinking.

    Campana isn't a big guy and was never a great prospect, so he's the kind of player who will probably always have to prove himself. No doubt he's an exciting player and maybe he does play well if he's given the job full time.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think what they need is not just an OBP, but an O2BP, and O3BP. Lot of times he'll get on 1st and steal his way to 3rd with less than 2 outs. Sends the run expectancy through the roof. Kind of a funny commentary on what a mistake it is to keep Campana out of the lineup - Campana did exactly that last game or the game before, stole 2nd and 3rd, and then the two peeps who've been getting his playing time in center lately, Mather and Johnson, came in and didn't even make contact, leaving Campana stranded.

  • I can see the Samardzija untouchable part of this being this smart front office's way of getting more back for Samardzija. They're good poker players.

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