UPDATE: The Cubs have re-signed Shawn Camp to a one year deal for $1.35M. That's one less roster spot and puts the Cubs at 39. Good move to retain Camp, but now it makes an impending deal to create room even more plausible.
Warning. Take this with the proverbial grain of salt...Bruce Levine hinted during his Saturday Talking Baseball show that there is a big trade "on the horizon" with the Cubs involving young players. He didn't mention names on either side, nor did he mention a specific team, but earlier in the show Levine had talked about how the Cubs still like Chisenhall and that the Cleveland Indians like several players in the Cubs system.
In many ways, that would make some sense. Not only can the Cubs swap young players who are better fits, but maybe also take on a salary to flip later.
I suppose I could speculate all day on which team and which players but the Indians seem a potential match for those very reasons. So what would a trade involve? I'll start with young players who might fit with the Cubs philosophy and current needs, a couple of which the front office is already very familiar with.
The Indians seem to want to tear the whole thing down and start from scratch. They've been considering trading not just veterans with higher salaries, but young players like Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana. I do not think the Cubs would be extremely interested in either player, particularly Santana, who now projects more as a 1B. Cabrera plays the same position as Starlin Castro, so that is probably not a place the Cubs want to upgrade. They could take on salary, however, with guys like RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, 28, or RF Shin-Soo Choo, 30. If he should bounce back, Jimenez has a pretty tradeable contract with one year and a team option left.
Here are some of the young players who could appeal to the Cubs...
Lonnie Chisenhall, 24, 3B- A player we've talked about here before. He fits in that he's similar as a hitter to Vitters, but he does it LH with a bit more discipline and defense.
Michael Brantley, 25, CF He's just 25 and pretty much describes what the Cubs said they were looking for a LH bat who can play CF but has versatility to move positions. His defense is a bit stretched in CF but he has improved and he'd be better than DeJesus, who could stay in RF.
Justin Masterson 27, RHP - The Cubs are very familiar with Masterson as he was drafted by the Espstein/Hoyer/McLeod team back when they were all with Boston. Masterson keeps the ball down in the strike zone with his two seamer to produce a lot of groundballs. He's a fit in Wrigley.
Nick Hagadone ,26, LHP: Hagadone is a power lefty RP (93-96, plus slider)who was also once part of the Red Sox system, having been drafted in the first round supplemental draft. He showed some great strides with his control in 2011 but struggled with it at the MLB level in 2012.
As for whom Cleveland would want in return, you'd think they'd want a 3B to replace Chisenhall, so you have Josh Vitters. They'd also likely want a CF in return and the Cubs have a couple in Brett Jackson and Matt Szczur. Apart from that, they may want to exchange some young pitchers to balance the trade. Steve Clevenger may be of interest if Santana makes a permanent move to 1B.
Of course, there are also non-roster minor league players. If the Cubs want to create roster space, they'd have to acquire non-40 man roster players. Trading a pitcher who is likely to be protected, such as Nick Struck or Trey McNutt, may also make those roster decisions easier.
Another team that comes to mind are the San Diego Padres. A source of mine earlier told me to keep an eye on the Padres since the Cubs new front office knows that organization so well. San Diego also has new members in their front office and perhaps they want to put their own fingerprint on the organization.
Will Venable is another LH batter who has graded out around average in his career in CF. Venable is arb eligible and while he's a solid player, he doesn't really have the bat you like in RF. The Padres could replace him in the starting lineup with Chris Denorfia. The Padres also have a couple of young 3Bs in Chase Headley and Jed Gyorko, so there may be some depth to trade with there, though they could move the athletic Headley to the OF again. Then there is pitching. The Padres have a good pitching prospect, Casey Kelly, whom this front office is familiar with but the Cubs may also be interested in obtaining a veteran, such as Clayton Richards, that they could either keep or flip later.
The Diamondbacks are also an intriguing team as they are on the lookout for a young MLB shortstop. Cubs have one, but it would be costly to pry him lose. The D'Backs have a lot of young pitching to trade as well as some young CFs who may fit what the Cubs are looking for.
Two other teams possibly in play: The Royals are looking to acquire pitching and making a run in the AL Central. I think like the Jays situation, the Royals are getting rebuild weary after doing it for so many years. Another team is Detroit. We've talked about Rick Porcello here for almost a year now.
Of course, this is all just speculation off of a cryptic Bruce Levine statement about a big, trade on the horizon involving young players. There really isn't much to go on and thus far I haven't been able to confirm the rumor through another source.
We'll just have to sit back and wait. The deadline to protect Rule 5 major league players is tomorrow and the Cubs only have 2 open spots.
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