Previewing the Cubs at the non-tender deadline

Previewing the Cubs at the non-tender deadline
Is it time for Darwin Barney to move on?

Things are mostly quiet for now but there are a slew of new free agents ready to be added to the mix.   The non-tender list is made up of players who do not get tendered contracts, largely because their performance hasn't warranted the projected increase in their salary for the next season.

The list is made up of lesser known players, most of whom are backups or role players and it lacks the marquee name/star quality of the free agent list.  But that doesn't mean you can't find a gem in the pile  In fact, the Cubs picked up their starting RF'e'r, Nate Schierholtz via the non-tendered list.  He was arguably their best position player in the first half last season before tailing off toward the end of the season.

Sometimes, there is good reason why guys become non-tender candidates, as they found out with Ian Stewart and Chris Volstad.  Both players were technically acquired via trade, but both would have been non-tendered had the teams not been willing to exchange unwanted parts.

Those examples pretty much sum up the non-tendered free agents.  Sometimes they work, more often they don't or become minor role players.  Once in awhile the players make it to free agency while other times two teams will work out a deal beforehand.

The Cubs have already acquired a non-tender candidate in a minor deal in catcher George Kottaras.

Cubs players who must be tendered a contract or be set free are...

  • Daniel Bard
  • Darwin Barney
  • Mat Gamel
  • George Kottaras
  • Donnie Murphy
  • James Russell
  • Jeff Samardzija
  • Nate Schierholtz
  • Pedro Strop
  • Luis Valbuena
  • Travis Wood

Of these players, the Cubs will tender George Kottaras, James Russell, Jeff Samardzija, Nate Schierholtz, Pedro Strop, Luis Valbuena, and Travis Wood.

On the bubble are Daniel Bard, Darwin Barney, Mat Gamel and Donnie Murphy.  Of those players, Bard and Gamel are probably the most likely to be non-tendered, especially Bard after he has struggled again this winter.  But the Cubs could non-tender one or both and attempt to bring them back on a minor league deal and open up a roster spot.

UPDATE: Carrie Muskat says the Cubs expect to tender Daniel Bard.  Theo Epstein said they are committed to the talented RHP for the long haul.  If he sorts out his control issues, the Cubs may have a big, talented arm for the bullpen.

You can also think of this as sort of a deadline day where it's possible a minor deal may go down.  I think this is the case with Darwin Barney.  I'm pretty certain the Cubs will hang on to him but they may trade him for another non-tender candidate, as they did when they traded Tyler Colvin as part of the Ian Stewart deal.

Here are some of the non-tender candidates I think the Cubs should be watching...

Starting Pitchers

Not a whole lot here, but there are two former top prospects entering their age 27 season.

  • Daniel Hudson: Injury plagued, the one-time top White Sox prospect can throw pretty hard when healthy (92-94) and has the secondaries and approach to remain a starter.  But health is a big question.
  • Tommy Hanson: A former Braves top prospect, injuries have derailed his once promising career and taken just enough steam off the fastball where he now looks more like a 5th starter type.

Relief pitchers

Some former closers, a veteran strike-thrower, and a familiar lefty...

  • Andrew Bailey:  Boston has said they would tender a contract but he is coming off of an injury and joining  a crowded bullpen.  He may still be acquired via a minor deal.
  • John Axford: Not as much of a lock to get tendered as Bailey.  Axford was below replacement level last year but an xFIP of 3.56 gives encouragement that he can at least be a solid reliever next year.  He still throws in the mid 90s and he has experience in high leverage roles, so the Cubs could look to add him as a low cost veteran to the pen.
  • Scott Atchison: The former Red Sox pitcher is 37 and would strictly be a Shawn Camp type veteran stopgap in middle relief.  Put up a 1.58 ERA in relief two years ago but that rose to 4.37 last year (3.75 FIP).  His ability to throw strikes and veteran presence in a young bullpen would be his most appealing qualities.
  • Kevin Jepsen: The Angels reliever can bring it (avg. of 96 mph) and is still just 29 years old.  He'll miss bats and while he isn't terribly wild (3.6 BB/9 IP, 8.5% walk rate) , he may walk too many hitters to be a closer, but he has a good arm and can be part of that late inning mix.
  • Joe Thatcher:  Would add a much needed 2nd lefty with experience and a track record of success (3.20 ERA last season, 3.34 lifetime) with the peripherals to match.  Jed Hoyer is quite familiar with the veteran lefty as he has pitched for the Padres since 2007.

Position Players

A couple of talented but underperforming outfielders caught my attention as possible non-tender/minor trade candidaes...

  • Travis Snider: The Pirates have said they intend to hang on to Snider but they have no room for the LH hitter. They may just be trying to work out a deal.  Snider has a decent approach and good power potential.
  • Drew Stubbs: Athletic, fast, and a solid, versatile outfield defender with some pop and patience, he could complement a heavily LH outfield and give Junior Lake more development time in AAA.

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  • Hasn't Junior Lake already spent considerable time in the minors? I'm not sure how much time MLB quality players typically spend on the farm, and maybe more time at AAA would help. I'd prefer to see him on the Cubs since he's an exciting player.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    I agree. It is silly to keep Lake at Iowa. He has already proven he can hit at MLB level. For that matter, Vitters should be our other RH outfielder. We will stink anyway. May as well give the former #3 pick a chance to play LF. Why sign other teams garbage when we have two kids who we should give a chance to in what already is shaping up as a last place season. At least yet another high draft pick in 2015.

  • In reply to Craig:

    He really only hit MLB pitching for the first few weeks. Once pitchers figured him out, he really struggled. It's easy to forget he was rushed last year. At any rate, I don't think he should be given gthe job. He still needs to earn it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree. Those of us who have watched Lake in the minors know that he has glaring weaknesses he needs to work on at the plate. I'm a fan of his but like you say, he has to earn it and make the adjustments. He can hit a fastball, though.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    what do you mean by "still needs to earn it". If that means he has to prove it in Spring Training, I have to disagree. ST is pretty useless for evaluating players. I don't mind deciding who the 25th man is in ST, but to decide who is the starting LF or CF on a handful of meaningless games would be silly.

  • In reply to Andrew:

    I have never advocated spring training as a proper time to evaluate players. I mean earning it in the general sense. He needs to show he can have a more consistent approach and play better defense. Part of that is over the winter and part of it is in ST. Players aren't evaluated on stats there because the sample is too small, but you can get a feel for how the player is progressing in terms of defense and approach and quality of ABs/contact at the plate. If he is putting up poor ABs and struggling in the field, then he needs to go to AAA and refine those skills and earn his way back up.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    He was injured in ST last year and once healthy played in 40 games @ AAA before being called up out of necessity. He's exciting for sure, but he is not a finished product. He's still very raw in the outfield, gets by on his tools alone and MLB pitchers started figuring him out too.... He could benefit tremendously by spending the 1st half in Iowa.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    He is an exciting player, but not sure he's a finished product. He really struggled at the end of the year.

  • I Remember Thatcher was pretty good a couple of years ago, had a delivery very similair to former Pale Hose releiver Kelly Wunch. Seems to have similair arm problems also.

  • Stubbs is intriguing.

    Ironically, Carrie Muskat has an article on her blog stating that Cubs committed to bard for the long term and will tender him. I thought that was odd given what we have collectively been thinking. Sorry no link.

    I think we are entering that faze where we have lots of "fringey" guys that aren't worth anything in a trade, but have enough value that they'll be claimed if we waive them. We're probably going to lose a couple at the rule 5 draft too.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Interesting. Thanks Hoosier. Well then, I think we can scratch him off the list.

    If anyone has a link, please send it over.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Never mind, found it!

  • I'd steer clear of Tommy Hanson. He's always had mechanical problems in my opinion, and when he was with the Braves, there were rumors (for what that's worth) down here about work habits, coachability, etc.

  • In reply to GAHillbilly:

    Thanks GA for the local insight! I was surprised when the Braves seemed to give up on him so quickly, but in that light, it makes sense.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The Braves have "their way" the same as most teams and if a player isn't with the program, they move him, no matter who he is. Omar Infante is an example. The rumors with him were that "he didn't fit in with the clubhouse". And when Bobby Cox was the manager, crossing him was a sure ticket out of town. Most players loved playing for him but there's always exceptions.

  • Stubbs and Hudson would be of interest I'm sure to Cubs brass. The list of non tenders here I find difficult too see most on this list as non tenders. Bard ,Barney along with Murphy could be casualties. I'd like to see Theo work a trade using Barney as the centerpiece of a deal,(yes tongue firmly implanted in cheek,lol). Alcantara hopefully makes the 2014 25 man roster he provides a little pop just based on his MiLB #' s. As Joe Pesci would say more "yute" needed on the Cubs.

  • In reply to TheRiot2:

    That will never happen.

    1). Barney would fetch a PBTNL at best for now, or possibly another non-tender type. people forget that under Jaramillo, Barney posted 276/.313/.353 in 2011. I think he gets at least part of this year to see if he can turn things around offensively. While his 2011 season isn't anything to get excited about, pair that with his GG defense and you've got a real asset again.

    2). Epstoyer has been pretty adamant that players would have to dominate a level to short-change their required 500 AB's guideline. This is typically something that only "special" players will do. I like Alcantara, but no way is he special enough to short-change, much less skip a level. I could see him struggling with MLB pitching and would likely slash similar to Barney without the defense....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I disagree, Alcantara has hitting tools that Darwin could only hope for, including strong hands, bat speed, and second deck power. I agree that Arismendy will probably need all his AAA to fully develop that gifted package on both sides of the ball.

  • In reply to TheRiot2:

    Hey Riot the Indians are going to tender Stubbs.

  • Hudson and Hanson are both worth a shot. If Arrieta is worth a contract based on his velo and inconsistency I would think that either or both of these two are worth it on their past performance.

    I'll also be pretty surprised if Matt Gamel is tendered a contract. Bard, OK I can see that, due to the history both personal and performance and considering what the current bullpen is made of. But a former top prospect that has never reached his hype? There is enough position player clutter as it is.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    It hurts Gamel that he lacks versatility defensively. If he can't play 3B or the OF corners, then he's tough to carry on an NL roster.

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    In reply to JohnCC:

    Its not just about velo with Arrieta. His entire repertoire is borderline filthy unlike the two you mentioned. Also he has been healthy. Something else Hudson/Hanson havnt been able to achieve.

    Apples and oranges.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I am in favor of Arrieta and really hopes he can put it together, but completely filthy inconsistency is just as much a problem (see EJax) as consistent injury. I wasn't aware that Hudson had his second TJ last summer. That's definitely shaky ground, but he is just 26 and his last and only healthy full season, 2011, was pretty a nice debut season. Which is a lot more than Viscaino has done...I know more Apples and Bananas.

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    In reply to JohnCC:

    I do agree that Hudson would be worth taking a flyer on. I'd stay far far away from Hanson though for reasons others have already stated.

    To be honest though I'd rather see what we have in guys with good stuff like Cabrera, River (who is being converted to starter) or Grimm. Rather see them in the rotation than any of these non-tender pickups.

  • John, it seems like Jesse Rogers from ESPN, says Donnie Murphy has a 50/50 chance to be tendered, especially because he has some sort of lucrative offer from a team in Japan, so if the Cubs want to give him a chance in Japan, like they did LaHair, they could non-tender him.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Excellent stuff. Thanks. I am of the mind that players like Murphy should capitalize on these kinds of performances and set themselves up for life financially. They'll never be able to do that here in the U.S. as utility infielders.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed. These guys are doing this for their livelihood and if they have a chance to set themselves up, they need to take it.

  • I prefer Snider over Stubbs, probably because he's still only 25, but Stubbs can play CF, something we're lacking.... I also would welcome Andrew Bailey with open arms as well as Joe Thatcher... And between the starters, I rather take my chances with Hudson... I think Hanson's velocity has been on a steady decline in recent years.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Snider appears to have some upside left. I like Stubbs as a RH hitter and I think he's a role player at this point but agree in that Snider would be the better long term play.

  • In reply to Caps:

    I like Stubbs as a late inning defensive replacement/PR type. He can play any OF position and he's got wheels. The bat is pretty underwhelming but as a 25th man he could be pretty useful. I'd think you'd be looking at paying for nothing more than 1/2 WAR with him though.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Snider is intriguing because he was the jays top prospect and made the MLB team at age 20. But he's bounced back and forth since then and then was traded away. There's potential there for sure. makes you wonder what inside scoop Theo/Jed may have since it was John Farrell who sent him down his last time right before the jays traded him....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    There's still hope that Snider is just a late bloomer.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Agreed, but I think the FO has some insight here through their friend Farrell... Also, the pirates traded for him and I don't see them just giving up and letting him walk so it depends on what we have to give up... Whereas with Stubbs, I was thinking of it more as a sign and drive like we did with Nate. We need his speed too.

    We need to find some power potential though ans Snider certainly fits that bill...

  • I will be awfully surprised if Arizona does not tender a contract to Daniel Hudson. If it did happen, I would expect the Cubs and thirty other teams to make every effort to sign him immediately.

    Would be an excellent target for a swap of players before the deadline.

  • In reply to Greg Menke:

    Agreed. I'd be surprised as well. He's probably more of a trade candidate than a guy who is going to be flat out non-tendered.

  • I'm probably an exception, but l wouldn't care if the Cubs didn't sign any of those free agent position players. I know that the team had a letdown after the trade deadline, but I liked that group and would like to see what they can do with Renteria(+coaches). I'd like Lake, Murphy, Watkins, and Barney back with Vitters added. I believe that they would win more games. We will be mixing more youth as the year progresses. The Cubs are probably not ready to compete and none of those new names make a big difference.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I have to say I wouldn't be heartbroken if the Cubs didn't pick up any of these guys, but there's a few I'd like to add as either role players or upside plays. It doesn't hurt to try if you are unsure of what you have in house. And as much as I like the idea of giving Lake, Vitters, etc. a shot, I don't feel quite yet comfortable with them if Cubs have to rely on them for any extended time.

  • I should add that as far as OF'ers, the Cubs have some in-house RH hitting candidates, including Lake, Vitters, Casper Wells, and now Darnell McDonald. It's not a necessity and its an area the Cubs have addressed already to some degree.

  • Oh no!! There goes Kazmir!!! A favorite of mine!! Well, that only means the A's now add to their surplus of pitching, hopefully they can deflect one of them to us.

  • In reply to Caps:

    I was hoping he'd be this year's Feldman...A's adding to surplus makes Anderson even more available?

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    It seems like it, especially because Kazmir is another lefty.

  • In reply to Caps:

    2 years, $22M for Kazmir...I would've been just fine with the Cubs giving him that.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Actually a touch higher than I would have expected, but pretty much every SP has signed for more than I thought, so it's probably right in line...

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    well, the Cubs would theoretically have had to offered at least a little more than that, and probably alot more than that. Why sign with a team looking at last place for the same money you can get from a contender?

    I bet the Cubs would have had to come up to 25 million

  • In reply to Cubmadness:

    Very true...which would have pushed the deal into the overpay category on an AAV and made him harder to flip if they went that route. But on a two year deal, it wouldn't exactly be crippling.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    I'm wondering how the value of the (hopefully inevitable) deal with Scott Baker is going to be affected by the recent free agent pitcher signings.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Well this Kazmir signing takes another arm off the FA market. Samardzija rumors may also heat back up. If the Cubs do go after Anderson, I hope they are smart about it & don't cave to ridiculous demands.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    RE: I hope they are smart about it & don't cave to ridiculous demands.

    I really don't think we have to worry about that with this Front Office.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Hmmm, well here's hoping that you are right. They did have one hiccup of a trade in my humble opinion. They seem to have made some better trades as they've come along here. So I will share your confidence until proven otherwise.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Yeah, that's not to say that they won't make mistakes, after all they are only human (although they do use computers to help them analyze player value). I just meant that I don't think we have to worry about them "caving to ridiculous demands" with a huge overpay. I think they have a very good idea of player value.

  • I always liked Daniel Hudson, with his youth and stuff before injury they could take a look.

  • I'm ok with whatever moves they makes as long as they get the
    roster down to 39 by the Rule V draft day.

  • Many of the comments on this topic are discussing merits of using non-tenders from other teams versus giving some of the Cubs older prospects (examples: Lake, Vitters, Jackson,Grimm,Cabrera,etc) an extended look the big league level.
    Interested to know benefits of additional training at AAA level. How would those who follow minor leagues closely characterize AAA level? When I look at AAA rosters, I see many older, post-injury pitchers who throw junk hoping for one last chance at majors. I wonder about benefits of additional games at AAA level

  • In reply to Rosemary:

    I think it really depends on the player and I think it applies more to hitters. I see it essential for someone like Baez (or Lake), who is still developing his approach. It will do him good to face pitchers who will know how to set him up. Better to learn against guys who know how to set you up but don't have the overwhelming stuff to blow you away. It's an incremental step. On the other hand, I can see guys like Bryant and Almora needing less time there.

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    If the Cubs trade Barney who would play 2B? Valbuena? Or would they go after Omar Infante until Alcantara is ready?

  • In reply to Michael Canter:

    My guess is Valbuena or Watkins, depending on what happens at 3B.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Watkins career would probably be better served by spending more time in Iowa.

  • The Cub Reporter tweeted Daniel Bard's stats in the Puerto Rican league are the worst I've ever seen...

    In 3 appearances:

    .1 IP (yes he never got out of an inning), 7 ER, 9 BB, 4 Wild Pitches, and 3 Hit Batsmen


  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    and Jesse Rogers just reported that Bard will be Non-Tendered.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Yep, just added that on. I told him I think Cubs will try to re-sign him on smaller deal, probably minor league with ST invite. Mooney tweeted something similar as well.

  • That's the million dollar question. Even if they didn't trade Barney. Who do you think has the greater trade value, Barney or Valbuena?

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    At this time, I don't think either would bring as much value back in a trade as the value they currently provide the Cubs.

  • You've got to wonder how much of a "Honeymoon" Renteria will get. Sveum got about a season and a half. Maybe half a season? Then, what will be the expectations for next season? It's Year 3 of the rebuild (after 101/96 loss seasons). Probably under .500 but still needs to show progress, maybe 70-75 wins?

  • In reply to VaCubFan:

    With some fans I'm guessing he'll get about the same amount of time as Sveum but with the org it will depend on how well he develops the kids -- and I'd say some fans will give him a longer leash if that happens as well.

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    Really don't get the scorn heaped on Barney. Is he the second coming of Ryno? Of course not. But he's not the second assistant water boy some people make him out to be. He had a bad offensive season last year - can we name any other Cubs that also did? THIS team is offensively challenged and probably cang afford to carry an all-glove no-bat fielder - that doesn't mean that NO team needs him. There will be a team out there that has a rotation full of ground-ball pitchers but can't take advantage of them because if a porous middle infield, that has enough other offense to be able to carry a Barney. He certainly can be a legit deal-sweetener - just ask emartinez. If there were a non-tender candidate out there that was 1 year removed from a 4.8 WAR, gold glove season, people here would be all like, "hey! Low risk, high reward! Let's get him!" But because he's Darwin Barney, he's "useless."

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