Sunday afternoon means watching the Bears, but in between all the play stoppage, here are some news and notes to remind you that opening day is less than 4 months away.
One name is off the market, though I never really saw Phil Hughes as a strong option for the Cubs and at 3 years and $24M, that strikes me as a bit of an overpay for a pitcher who has underachieved his entire career and is coming off a poor season.
I'd asked about Hughes earlier in the offseason and a scout told me that he didn't think his pitching style fit with the Cubs and their ballpark. His delivery and release point are such that he tends to leave the ball up in the zone -- and that may play okay early in the season in Wrigley, but not as much during the summer months.
Anyway, on with some Cubs related news...
Of course, we'll talk Samardzija, as he continues to dominate the news, but the Cub may have a couple of less costly ways to obtain good young pitching -- and they can do it from areas of depth rather than subtracting from the potential core of the team.
The Latest On Jeff Samardzija
Nick Cafardo reiterates that the Cubs prefer to sign Jeff Samardzija and while I don't doubt him, I think it's becoming more of a question of whether they can sign him, not whether they want to get a deal done. Of course, whether they can sign him is loosely framed statement in itself. Of course they can sign him, it's a matter of whether they can extend his deal at a length and financial amount which makes sense for them as an organization. The sticking point between the two sides comes down to agreeing what represents good value.
Bruce Levine reported earlier on the Score (h/t CCO) that the Cubs made another offer but it was once again turned down, though I don't have anyone else to confirm that. If that is true, it only confirms what I'm saying about Samardzija above. The Cubs are obviously still trying but the two sides can't seem to agree.
At some point in the near future, the Cubs need to decide if signing him is still possible. If they decide it is not, that changes the equation completely. While the Cubs may indeed prefer to have Samardzija for the long term (and by that I mean beyond 2015), he is less valuable to them if they think he will only be around for 2 years. At that point he becomes a short term player on a team with a goal to win and sustain success in the long term. He is only a core piece if he is going to be around beyond 2015 and in absence of that, they need to make an exchange where they can secure help for the long term.
Brett Anderson's potential availability may impact Cubs
I think the Brett Anderson situation could well impact the Cubs one way or another. Anderson is a pitcher that I've been quietly monitoring for awhile. I said this about him a couple of weeks back,
Another name that could be interesting is Brett Anderson, LHP of the Oakland A's. Anderson had his option picked up, so he is not a free agent, but the As already have 5 solid starters (in addition to Anderson) in Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily, Tommy Milone, and Sonny Gray. Its also believed the A's want to re-sign Bartolo Colon. That could leave the A's with a surplus of starting pitching and one of those odd men out could be Anderson.
Anderson has been injury plagued in his career but when healthy, he has shown solid 91-94 mph velocity to go with a good slider and change. Last year he was just 1-4 with a 6.04 ERA, but an xFIP of 3.26 bodes well for some improvement in his performance next year. Perhaps the Cubs can buy low here and add a second, in-prime, lefty to their staff -- and the fact that he was once considered a top of the rotation type prospect doesn't hurt either.
Buster Olney is saying now that that is indeed the case (insider required), pretty much echoing my sentiments above as far as Anderson's potential availability. This affect the Cubs in two ways: One, the Cubs could certainly take a flyer on a 27 year old with good stuff and a history of success and two, he presents a potentially cheaper alternative to Samardzija as a trade option for other teams.
I asked Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus about whether he thought Brett Anderson could still be a good pitcher. His response was,
I've always been a fan. The injuries are an obvious concern, and the combination of body/athleticism/delivery doesn't always make it easy for him to repeat his mechanics. But he's a good risk/reward type.
Given his age, talent, low cost, and the fact he throws with his left hand makes him a pretty good fit with the Cubs in my opinion, and it has the fringe benefit of taking some potential competition off the market.
I have no idea what it would take to obtain Anderson, but it's not hard for me to picture the A's being interested in some of the Cubs more disciplined minor league bats.
Marlins may offer Cubs less costly LH SP alternative, looking at Cubs 3B depth
The Cubs have a potential surplus at 3B with Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Christian Villanueva, Mike Olt, and Jeimer Candelario all potential starters at that position. One scout told me a while back that if the Cubs were to deal young players, it may well come from their depth at 3B. Well it seems the Marlins are looking for a young 3B and, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, they like the Cubs prospects at the position...
The Marlins like some of the Cubs’ prospects and look for the teams to talk in the coming weeks, with Miami potentially offering pitching. The Cubs have multiple third base prospects at Double and Triple A, including former first-round picks Javier Baez (who has been playing shortstop) and Mike Olt and emerging Christian Villanueva. Baez would require the most in a trade; he hit .282, with 37 homers and 111 RBI in Single and Double AA.
The Marlins just drafted Colin Moran but you wonder if perhaps they believe he profiles best at 1B defensively in the long term.
As for what the Cubs could get in return, the Marlins do have some interesting young pitching, led by LHPs Andrew Heaney, Bryan Flynn, Adam Conley, and Justin Nicolino, along with RHP Jose Urena. Heaney is easily the best of the group but is not obtainable without Baez, so that may rule him out, but the Marlins have depth and some interesting possibilities.
Nicolino had success at advanced A ball before receiving a promotion to AA in the second half. Despite Nicolino's poor ERA at the AA level, an unsustainably high BABIP (.386) and low strand rate led to that 4.96 mark, but his FIP at that level was a very respectable 3.33.
He has an 88-92 mph FB which peaks at 94. He throws with good downward plane, a trait the Cubs seem to prefer, and his fastball has good movement which helps play up that solid velocity. His calling card is his change-up however, and he also mixes in a big curveball.
Flynn is an enormous LHP at 6'8", 245 lbs and he reached the bigs last year but got knocked around a bit in his 4 starts. As you might expect, Flynn can throw pretty hard, reaching 95 mph but more often sitting in the low 90s. He also has a good slider. He posted a 2.86 ERA (3.05 FIP) after dominating AA in 4 starts. He's big league ready and there is some upside there.
Conley has an average fastball (88-92) though he has shown more velocity in the past. He had great success at the AA level, finishing at 11-7 with a 3.25 ERA (2.95 FIP). He sows some inconsistency with his delivery, command, and breaking stuff but has the makings of a #4 starter with the possibility of being a #3 if it all comes together.
The Marlins also have some solid RHP prospects to consider...
Outside of Andrew Heaney, Urena may have the highest upside in the bunch. He shows a live arm and can reach 97 and throws strikes (1.74 walks per 9 IP, 4.7% walk rate) and he has an advanced change-up to go with it, but the lack of a good breaking ball and questions about stamina may relegate him to the bullpen.
An aggressive pitcher who uses his 6'2", 195 lbs frame well, creating good downward plane and pounding the lower part of the zone, another pitcher who fits the Cubs profile. Sclafani throws strikes (1.68 BB/9IP, 4.6% walk rate)with a low 90s fastball that can reach 96 and an above average slider. Change-up is an average pitch but good enough to profile him as high as a #3 starter.
A trade with the Marlins could be a less painful way to bolster the minor league pitching depth. Personally I like Nicolino the best of the group, as does Kevin Gallo, but there are some intriguing arms here that the Cubs could pick up as the two teams exchange areas of organizational depth for need.
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