As we head into the holidays, we are hitting a bit of a calm before the expected storm that will be the winter meetings. We've mentioned early and often that this is going to be a trade-happy offseason and there are signs of that already. We've seen a couple of significant trades already, including the Prince Fielder - Ian Kinsler blockbuster as well as a trade that may affect the Cubs down the line (David Freese for Peter Bourjos). UPDATE: 1:02: Source tells me to expect the Nats, Pirates, and Jays to get aggressive soon on Jeff Samardzija. UPDATE 11:44: The Cubs have signed a few players to minor league deals. We've already mentioned infielders Chris Valaika and Jeudys Valdez. They have also signed OF Casper Wells and RHPs Carlos Pimentel and Paolo Espino.
Casper Wells has some MLB experience and will get thrown into the mix as the Cubs look for a RH complement for current starters Ryan Sweeney and Nate Schierholtz and, possibly, Bryan Bogusevic. Wells is a solid defensive OF with some plate discipline and raw power, but a long swing and some injuries have slowed his development. It's an intriguing pickup and at the very least should provide depth at the AAA level Carlos Pimentel is still young and will turn 24 in about a week. He hasn't been considered a top prospect with the Rangers but he has put up good strikeout numbers, including a 9.41 K/9 IP rate in AA last year. He honed his command a bit, getting the walks down to 2.85 per 9 IP and put up an 8-7 record with a 4.09 ERA (3.95 FIP). I would expect him to be part of the depth at Iowa this year. Paolo Espino is 27 and formerly a member of the Indians organization. He has had trouble making it past the AAA level, though like Pimentel, he has put up good K/BB ratios recently. Last year Espino struck out 9.87 batters per 9 IP while walking just 2.47. He went 4-6 with a 3.92 ERA (3.23 FIP) shuttling between the bullpen and rotation. His build is more suited for the bullpen, so he will likely provide some AAA depth as well.
There will be more to come and even the national media is beginning to float out an idea that we wrote about first back on November 13th -- the possibility of the Cubs and Orioles matching up on a Matt Wieters-Jeff Samardzija deal.
- ESPN's Jim Bowden speculates on 5 possible trades (insider only) for Matt Wieters, who he views as having very high value and believes he's worth a top end starter or significant prospect package. He names the Cubs as one possible destination in a deal straight up for Jeff Samardzija. We know here that that won't work for the Cubs, who are on the lookout for pitching and that would leave them worse off than they began. While the Cubs could use a lefty bat, they already have a good young cost-controlled catcher in Welington Castillo, so such a deal would present them with a non-advantageous position of teams knowing they have to trade Castillo. It reminds me in some ways of the Padres acquiring Yonder Alonso while they still had Anthony Rizzo on their roster. It forced them to take a chance on an oft-injured reliever in Andrew Cashner, and while it may yet pay off for them, most think they could have gotten more than a high risk arm in exchange at the time. In fact, the Cubs aren't interested in a straight up deal at this point so until the Orioles expand it to include significant young pitching (i.e.. Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy), then I see this as a long shot. Alternatively, Bowden suggests a prospect package, perhaps involving Jorge Soler or C.J. Edwards, and while that alleviates short term pitching worries, the Cubs aren't about to give up top prospects for a position that they have zero urgency to fill.
- Dave Sappelt was released today in a move that shouldn't surprise anyone as the Cubs grew increasingly disenchanted with the outfielder. They removed him from the 40 man roster during the season and didn't call him up in September. The writing was pretty much on the wall as he was repeatedly passed over for promotion in the second half of the season. He got a few opportunities here, but he wasn't able to capitalize on them and will now have to try and find a new opportunity with a new organization. Travis Wood is now the only remaining member of the Sean Marshall trade -- yet it still looks like a very good trade for the Cubs right now.
- The A's have outrighted 2B Scott Sizemore for assignment. I liked Sizemore as a prospect and think the 28 year old could have been a nice short term fit at 2B, but health is a serious question. Sizemore had a season ending ACL injury for the second straight season last spring and it's uncertain whether he'll be 100%.
- Throwing spitballs here...It's extremely doubtful the Cubs will be in on David Price this offseason but seems to me we should not rule out the Texas Rangers just yet. They still have a lot of parts that would entice the Rays including a surplus of middle infielders (Luis Sardinas, Rougned Odor), a young catching prospect in Jorge Alfaro (a long term need the Rays have been trying to fill unsuccessfully for years), and even a ready-made, low-cost LHP replacement in Martin Perez. Seems like there could be a potential match there. Despite the recent deals made with the Cubs, the Rangers have a deep system and have retained enough depth to make at least one more blockbuster deal, whether it be Price or Giancarlo Stanton or any of the other big names on the market. The trade for Prince Fielder signals this team is in win-now mode after years of near misses and they seem to be willing to pay both in terms of salary and prospects to give themselves a shot in the next 2-3 years.
- Mauricio Rubio of World Series dreaming writes a thoughtful piece on the steroid situation.
- As usual, great stuff from Smokies on Radio on Cubs Fall League prospects Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, and Dallas Beeler. Includes video interviews. Check it out!
- Help Wanted? I'm considering bringing in a contributor for the winter meetings this season as we try to keep track of transactions around the league. Interested applicants have to be social media savvy and be able to quickly find transactions on media such as Twitter as it happens. They also have to be able to be committed to dedicating significant time during the hot stove season while being able to work in what should be a fast-paced environment in the short term. Writing experience isn't a requirement but you must demonstrate an ability to write. Lastly, an understanding and respect for the culture of this blog is essential, so regular contributors and readers would have a built-in advantage. This is a non-paying gig so you have to love the Cubs, love baseball, and it's a good opportunity for exposure if you are interested in blogging/writing with us long term or perhaps on your own at some point down the road. If interested, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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