We're halfway through the meetings and things are starting to pick up for the Cubs. We'll start with a lesser rumor. Joel Sherman says the Cubs are in on Logan Morrison and would put him in the outfield. Sherman says the Marlins are prioritizing 3B. This makes sense on a lot of levels. First, John said a week ago that the Marlins were interested in the Cubs 3B prospects. Second, we've talked about the need to add an impact left-handed bat to the mix, and Morrison certainly provides that. Outfield is interesting as Morrison was never a great defensive outfielder and two knee surgeries doesn't seem likely to help that. They'll almost certainly stick him in left. Morrison is a former top prospect (#20 on BA's 2010 list) who has really struggled to get going in the majors. After a hot start in 2010, he has really struggled but he has two things that would really endear himself to the Cubs. First of all, as already mentioned, he's left handed. Second, he consistently takes walks posting a career OBP almost 90 points higher than his career BA. He's also cost controlled for the next three seasons. Morrison has quarreled with the Marlins and certainly that's understandable given how crazy things are on that team right now. The question for the Cubs is how much he's at fault for and how much is on the Marlins. I imagine the memory of Ian Stewart is guiding the Cubs moves in this situation.
The big story, of course, is Jeff Samardzija. As John said last night, there is some speculation within the industry that Samardzija could be traded by the end of the day. The Cubs have scheduled a meeting with him today. The meeting could be to appraise him of the situation or to give him one last chance to accept the Cubs extension offer. There are said to be four or five teams in on him. Rumors are sprouting up about Samardzija's likely landing spot but we can't confirm any of them at this point. This could become a very big day for the future of the Cubs. In other news,
9:00 UPDATE: We have to come up with titles now?
- (Mike) Either the Yankees love Brett Gardner or dislike Brandon Phillips, but they reportedly turned down a one-for-one swap.
7:00 UPDATE: We have a signing!!
- Maybe it doesn't warrant the exclamation points, but the Cubs signed LH reliever Tommy Hottovy to a minor league contract with a spring training invite. Hottovy is a former Red Sox farmhand and has had a cup of coffee with them in 2011 and the Royals in 2012. He's a finesse lefty with a fringy fastball, a curve, and a change. He'll be added to the mix and perhaps provide depth to the LH relief core.
UPDATES 5:00 PM
- Sahadev Sharma is in Orlando and got some great quotes from Theo. Theo says 2 most important forms of currency in game right now is massive payroll flexibility and surplus of young major league ready talent. (1) If you look at Cubsright now, we’re not yet where we need to be in either of those areas ... But we’re going to, we’re getting there. (2) We bring in lots of revenue already, but there’s potential for so much more. Between the TV negotiations & the Wrigley project we’re going to realize a lot more revenue. It’s going to happen, hopefully with a winning team helping too. (3) I promise you, when that happens, we will be significantly more active. I’m not going to promise you that we’ll run out and sign the most expensive free agents or do 9-figure deals left & right. But I promise we’ll be in a much better position to put a very deep and very talented team on the field with lots of depth and redundancy. (4) Theo says he has an 'internal feeling' of when this will happen, but they lack certainty because development of kids isn't guaranteed. (5) As well as variables on business side: how quickly Wrigley and TV situation are resolved. (6) He's essentially restating his comments from prior years about how the baseball plan and the business plan are lining up. Once he gets the minor league system he wants, the revenues need to be there to give him payroll flexibility. At least from this, it sounds like he's confident it will happen, even if it's clearly causing frustrating among Cubs fans both on the boards here and in the bars along Clark St. For those who say that we can't count on prospects because there are no guarantees, Theo acknowledges that in this quote. But he sees that as a delay and not a failure.
This is ugly work. This was a complete renovation and a lot of things need to be fixed. Not just the scouting and development but also making Wrigley a modern park both in terms of amenities and the team's ability to monetize it. But, for tonight anyway, Theo is telling us that the work is proceeding and sees the finished product coming together.
UPDATES 4:00 PM
- (John): On the other hand, there is no imminent deal with Samardzija on any front. Carrie Muskat had a couple of quotes from Theo Epstein here and here,
""There's no trade imminent, and we'll see what happens. We hope he's here for a long time. The situation now is Jeff's our Opening Day starter and that's how we're moving forward". Translation: The Cubs have not gotten the kind of offer it would take to make them trade their best starter. For all the talk about trading Samardzija, it's obvious the Cubs value him very highly and aren't going to settle for less than they believe he's worth. One by one we've heard teams drop out today -- a clear indication that the Cubs have no intention of panicking and settling on an offer. It's pony up or wait until the deadline -- or maybe the Cubs get a deal done. Whatever the case, not trade is happening below the Cubs asking price. (Mike) I'm getting serious deja vu between this situation and the Matt Garza situation two years ago. We have the favorite (Tigers, Blue Jays) who is involved in serious talks with the Cubs, some great young players names being thrown around (Jacob Turner and Nick Castellanos & Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman), and pundits were writing columns about Theo overvaluing his pitcher. At the end of the day, Theo didn't get the offer he wanted and Matt Garza started the season on the Cubs. But for supremely bad luck, that would have brought in Martin Perez and Mike Olt and did bring in C.J. Edwards. I have to believe that Jeff Samardzija will follow in Garza's footsteps so we can do this all over again in July.
- (Mauricio) And of course, in the context of all the stuff we've heard about Roberto Hernandez and the Cubs pursuit of him, Gordon Wittenmyer gives us news that the Cubs have a few offers out and a potential trade offer is on the table. (John) To add to this Sahadev Sharma tweets that the Cubs have offers out on a RP, a SP, and a trade offer on a position player. Any guesses?
- (Mauricio) Amanda Rykoff brings us the news that the MLB Rules Committee has banned home plate collisions. Ruling is subject to final review.
UPDATES 3:00 PM
- The Cubs are interested in Roberto Hernandez, whom you may know better as Fausto Carmona. I had him on my list of 5 pitchers the Cubs could pursue back in early November. The Cubs are expected to bid on the first choice (Masahiro Tanaka) and they did pursue 2nd choice Josh Johnson. Tanaka and Hernandez are the two unsigned pitchers left from that list. Here is what I said back then, "No, not that Roberto Hernandez. This one is the former Fausto Carmona, which we can all agree was a much more interesting name. There are some more ghastly results-oriented numbers here as Hernandez went 6-13 with a 4.89 ERA. But as always, those kinds of numbers don't tell the whole story. Carmona is no longer the hard throwing pitcher he once was, but he can still work in the low 90s which he plays up with an effective change-up. Hernandez had all sorts of issues with the long ball (a huge 21% HR/FB rate), but if Bosio can work with him to help pound the lower part of the zone as he has with other Cubs pitchers, we could see a drastic improvement. He can be a solid 4 guy who puts up an ERA in the 3.50-3.75 range if he can keep the ball in the park better." I also mentioned him in our winter meetings preview. One scout I spoke with liked him as a buy low candidate with potential for a bit of upside, though he did worry about how his propensity to leave the ball up would play at Wrigley.
- Much ado about Scott Boras' comment. In response to Jesse Rogers question, "Asked Scott Boras if there was any indication the Cubs would spend money right now. He answered with a sly smile: "Well, It appears as though we're looking at the all day sucker so maybe next year." He then claimed that all-day sucker was his metaphor for the rebuilding process -- that it "would take a long time to dissolve". Maybe, but I can't help thinking he didn't mean it that way. Could be interpreted in a lot of ways, but I'll leave it at that for now. I will say Boras makes a living parsing out words and meaning, so when he says "all-day sucker", I hardly think it's an accident.
UPDATES 2:30 PM
- Jim Bowden: Jed Hoyer would not confirm or deny that Cubs are a mystery team on Choo SXM. He's really not saying a whole lot here and this office is so secretive I doubt Jed would come out and say they aren't in on Choo even if they aren't. But... we do know that Choo is exactly the kind of player the Cubs would like to add. Left handed outfielders are a need as partially reflected by the interest in Morrison. Personally, I don't see it at the numbers being thrown around but this at least raises the possibility of a Choo acquisition.
UPDATES 2:00 PM
- (Mike) Forget LoMo. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald has Morrison going -- where else -- to Seattle for RHP Carter Capps, who has a 5.04 ERA but a much stronger 3.53 xFIP underlying it. However, he was victimized by home runs in Seattle, which makes me wonder if xFIP might be a little deceiving here. (John) Can someone please explain to me what's going on here? The Marlins non-tender a perfectly good young, in prime RP in Ryan Webb, then go out and replace him by trading Logan Morrison? They just gave up one of their few trade chips for a lateral move they didn't have to make. As for the Mariners, they also signed 1B Corey Hart. It seems they almost have to trade for David Price now and it's probably going to cost them Walker if they do.
UPDATES 1:30 PM
- (Mike) Ken Rosenthal with an interesting tweet. Sources: #BlueJays have looked into #Rays' Price, #Cubs' Samardzija. Consider prices to be too high. Asked often about Sanchez, Stroman. First of all, it tells us something we've suspected, the Cubs are unwilling to make a move with Toronto without one of their two top prospects, possibly both. However, one way to interpret the tweet is to say that the Blue Jays want to look for a cheaper option before buying on Price or Samardzija. If the Blue Jays do drop out, it obviously decreases the odds that Samardzija is dealt over the offseason. The Pirates, however, would still be in play and they have the prospects and the needs to match up well with the Cubs.
- (Mike) Cross Justin Masterson off the available pitcher list. Terry Francona apparently called Masterson personally this morning to tell him he was staying put.
- (Mike) Typed with one hand as I eat my nutritious lunch of Krispy Kreme doughnuts: Jon Heyman reports that Corey Hart is going to the Mariners on a one-year deal where he will hit behind Robinson Cano. In addition to the obvious "Welcome to Seattle, Robby" jokes, this might open things up a bit. The Brewers and possibly other teams were supposedly waiting on Hart to make a decision.
UPDATES 12:00 PM
- (Mauricio) Scratch the Nationals off the Potential Russell Suitors list. They acquire Jerry Blevins for Billy Burns. Blevins is a weird lefty in that he has reverse platoon splits. He's better against righties. Burns was the Nats MiLB player of the year in 2013. (Mike) Blevins is also an ex-Cub farmhand, going from the Cubs to the A's in the Jason Kendall deal back in 2007. Another one of Billy Beane's nice gets in seemingly forgettable trades.
- Heard that both the Royals and Diamondbacks are out on Jeff Samardzija but there is still interest from a few teams, including the Jays and Pirates. (Mauricio) I guess my half baked and totally illogicalYordano Ventura dreams are shot to hell.
- (Mike) Jon Heyman has the Twins and Angels in on Garza, as well, though he points out that nothing is imminent. The Twins and the Angels would be a better landing spot from the Cubs perspective because neither team is seriously connected to Jeff Samardzija. The Twins are probably the best because there is no chance they will move prospects in a Samardzija deal. From Theo's perspective, the ideal situation would be the Diamondbacks left looking for a pitcher with Samardzija the only option on the market.
- (Mauricio) We're hearing some rumblings that the Cubs will be involved with Masahiro Tanaka again. This FO plays it tight to the chest but it makes sense that they're interested.
- (Mauricio) Jeff Passan tweeted that Max Scherzer is "definitely in play." This could affect the market for Jeff Samardzija if teams would rather focus on Scherzer. Earlier today David Price also indicated that he's not interested in signing an extension with the Mariners if he were to be traded there. (John): If the Tigers trade Scherzer, I'm confused. Wasn't the point of the Fielder deal and then taking their lumps on a Fister trade to free up salary space to extend Scherzer? I'm not exactly sure what the Tigers are doing anymore.
- (Mauricio) According to Ken Rosenthal Drew Stubbs is possibly seen as surplus in Cleveland. Given the Cubs current OF situation and the possibility that Nate Schierholtz is traded I would be interested in seeing Stubbs in a Cubs uniform for 2014.
- (Mike) Bob Nightengale has Shin Soo Choo asking for a 7-year, $140 million contract. We'd heard last week the Cubs were interested in bringing in Choo but there's no reason to believe they would be at all interested at that price point.
- (Mike) Ken Rosenthal reports that 2B Brandon Phillips is on the table this offseason. As a Dusty Baker-style player who clashed with the media under Baker, it's easy to see why both sides may want to move on.
- (John): Spoke to one scout who believes Logan Morrison would be serviceable in the OF and believes in that bat. Feels he could use a change of scenery. We mentioned Morrison as a potential Cubs target last month though we had some reservations about his ability to play the OF. If he can be serviceable, I'd be very interested in taking a flyer on that bat.
- (John): An interesting player that is available for a starting pitcher is Colby Rasmus. Rasmus is a talented player entering his prime years and had a 4.8 WAR season in 2013. He hits LH with some pop and discipline, but can play much better defense than Morrison. Rasmus isn't a buy low candidate, however. He's arguably coming off his best season and he only has one year of cost-control left. But with the Cubs lack of LH prospects in the minors, could Rasmus be agreeable to an extension and fit long term?
- (John): Some more stuff on Kenta Taeda. One scout said that Maeda needs his movement and offspeed working and when it is, he can pitch like a #3 or #4 guy, but could also work as a change of pace type in the bullpen. Another scout was a bit lukewarm. Said Taeda sits 89-90, peaks 91 and may not have enough oomph on that fastball to survive in MLB. Pegged his ceiling as a #4 and may be more of a bullpen arm.
- Jim Bowden says the Angels offseason moves have saved the team roughly $10 million, which may allow them to add Matt Garza or Masahiro Tanaka at $14-15 million next season.
- Ken Rosenthal had a series of tweets on the Price to the Mariners rumor: Just saw David Price's agent, Bo McKinnis, in lobby. Asked if Price would consider extension with #Mariners. Said no. Asked McKinnis if Price would consider extensions with other teams. Said yes. Asked which clubs. He declined to answer. McKinnis' comments do not rule out a Price trade to #Mariners. Price under club control two more years. M's would have him for that long. This certainly doesn't help the trade any, as the Mariners would likely want to extend Price after giving up significant talent for him. Jon Heyman reported yesterday that, while the Mariners may have taken Taijuan Walker off the table, Mike Zunino could be on it.
- Jayson Stark says ex-Cub Matt Garza could sign soon. The Diamondbacks appear to be major players.
- Chris Cotillo has a list of guys to watch for signings today: Jerry Hairston Jr, Bronson Arroyo, Jamey Wright, Corey Hart, Omar Infante, and Matt Garza.
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