Cubs trade options dwindling

Normally the last two weeks of spring training is a time for some last minute trade talk.  As teams begin to finalize their roster, they sometimes realize they can’t fill holes internally — or perhaps injuries decimate their roster, as it has with the Yankees.  In March, there are many teams who believe they’ll contend so there is usually a bigger market of teams with which to deal.

Yet the Cubs look like they’ll find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to pre-season deals.  First it was Matt Garza who got hurt and now it’s become clear that he will start the season on the DL.  The Cubs choices have been pared down to either trading Garza as a rental in July or looking to extend him sometime between now and the time free agency rolls around.  Next Scott Baker went down with elbow soreness and now will miss the first half of the season.  It’s doubtful team will be eager to trade for a pitcher just returning from the DL who hasn’t pitched since 2011.

Then we heard yesterday that the Yankees, who seemed a prime fit for a RH slugging bat like Alfonso Soriano, but instead chose to pursue the less productive and more highly overpaid Vernon Wells.  We have no way of knowing if the Cubs and Yankees discussed a deal, but most media sources are indicating that they did not have trade talks — at least none that they knew about.  At any rate, Wells symbolizes the Yankees  conservative strategy they’ve taken over the past couple of years.  The organization that once would do what it takes to contend year after year is now settling for flyers and holding on to prospects as if they were….well, the rebuilding Chicago Cubs.

Teams in general have been reluctant to deal for Soriano.  The Cubs briefly engaged the Phillies in an attempt to pry young OF’er Domonic Brown loose.  The Phillies, however, decided to move forward with what they had and signed Delmon Young to fill that RH hitter void.  Again, another team chose a lesser player rather than give up any kind of talent for Soriano.

For their part, the Cubs have no reason just to give Soriano away.  He’s still productive on the field and the Cubs like what he brings off the field.  In other words, he still holds value for them, so to give him away makes no sense.  Adding to this lack of urgency is that Soriano isn’t blocking a prospect.  If he were to be traded tomorrow, your starting LF’er would probably be veteran Scott Hairston.

Then there’s Carlos Marmol.  The player ESPN Chicago’s Bruce Levine thought would be traded before the season.  It makes some sense and I had also heard that Marmol was the most likely to go next, though that was last fall, before he was nearly traded for Dan Haren.  But the team that seemed to need a closer the most, the Tigers, may just end up going with rookie Bruce Rondon after all.  Even when they were talking about trading for a closer, they had more interest in guys like Luke Gregerson, Huston Street, and Andrew Bailey.  And who could blame the Tigers after their experience with their own control-challenged closer, Jose Valverde?

There seems to be greater interest in David DeJesus because of his team friendly contract, but it’s questionable how much teams will want to give up for a platoon corner OF’er with below average power.  DeJesus, like Soriano, may hold more value for the Cubs than anyone they might bring back in a trade.

The Cubs have other players who could provide value for contenders down the stretch, guys like Nate Schierholtz, Scott Hairston, Carlos Villanueva, and Scott Feldman — but again, the issue is going to be how much they can get in return for such players.  At any rate, none of those players were ever expected to go until closer to the trade deadline — if they get traded at all.

It appears likely right now that the Cubs will open the season with their current roster intact.  That may change by the trade deadline, perhaps sooner, but for now it seems that the Cubs trade chips are either hurt or don’t hold enough value to other teams, at least not enough to bring back anything worthwhile.  The Cubs have to hope now that players like Soriano and Marmol have big years as they figure once again play prominent roles. Perhaps then they’ll prove their worth to GMs around the league.  Any hopes of adding significant long-term value, however, will depend on Matt Garza and to what extent he can return to form.


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  • fb_avatar

    It's my strong suspicion that you'd have to be a very desperate GM to want any part of our crazy old Carlos.

  • In reply to James Knott:

    I think he'll be much more tradeable if he continues the strong half of last season into the first half of this season. By then it will be a smaller risk since Marmol would only have a couple months left. Unfortunately trading him as a rental means he won't bring much in return.

  • I always suspected it's going to be a desperate team at the trade deadlines that trades for either Soriano or Marmol. Marmol scares people because of his wildness and his holt and cold spell. For Soriano it's that horrible contract and few if any teams are willing to stomach any of the remaining deal left for him. As for the Yankees, I knew they would go cheap, Cashman knows he has aging team and will hold on to his top prospects like grim death.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Yanks reportedly going to pay $13M of Wells contract. They would have paid less for Soriano. For them it was almost entirely about not having to trade a prospect.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Soriano's isn't a horrible contract. With wins added approaching 6 million, Soriano hits break even with a 6 WAR over the next two years, give or take.

    Bad. Not terrible.

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    I believe Soriano's age is hindering any potential trade to an NL team, as well. Who wants a 37 year old playing LF? Last season was his only as a Cub where he played over 140 games in LF. His days in the OF might continue to dwindle.

  • This is probably true. It may be easier to trade him late in the season for the stretch run if he's healthy and productive - and then pay a big portion of his salary for the next year.

  • I sure hope I'm wrong, but I fear a substantial decline in Sori's numbers this year.

    And, yeah John, as we were signing all these middling FAs to one year deals and everyone was patting our FO on the back for acquiring short term assets to convert to long term assets, I was wondering why anyone thought they'd bring anything of value in return. There's a reason we were able to get these guys cheap and for one year deals.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    At this point those short term assets haven't played any games to increase their value. That is the point of short term assets, you buy low on a player(s), and during the season, if they play above their past level a team that has a need may give you more value back in return. If they don't play above their past level you won't increase your value back in return, except for a team that is desperate.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    We will be able to convert some of these short term assets into long term assets IF they play well and IF we pay the bulk of their remaining salaries.

    If Hairston hits 270 with 15 home runs by the end of July, and the Cubs are willing to pay just about all his remaining salary, I would expect they could get more for him than they got for Jeff Baker in July of last year.

    The Cubs are assuming the risk of paying players that may or may not succeed. If one of the 4 or 5 have a good year, they should be able to trade him for a young player. They certainly won't be able to trade him for a Baez or a Soler, but they probably can get a Staring Peralta or two, or even a Villebuena.

    The new labor agreement has made the procurement of extra prospects extremely difficult, and trading long term assets for short term assets is one of the last ways of doing so, and the minor league system has always been a numbers game. The more decent prospects you have, the more likely it is that one or more will develop.

    The Cubs took a number of gambles. It looks like Baker is not going to turn out well this year, and that money will be lost, but Villenueva is looking pretty good, and may command a decent return this July. If so, the Cubs are better off than if they had not signed the two of them.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    That's very possible.

    I don't think the Cubs thought any of the players they signed this offseason, with the exceptions of Jackson and Baker, would bring a lot of value in return. And I don't think they'll trade Jackson and I'm not sure the plan wasn't to keep Baker either. For me they were just getting players that have the potential to outperform what they paid for this year -- and without hindering the long term plan. Any prospects they get in a deal would be a bonus.

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    I hope once Garza proves he's healthy (fingers crossed) that we add Soriano to the Rangers deal.

    As much as Theo talks about getting value, he's 37 with a lot of injury history. He probably works better as a pot-sweetener than a stand-alone trade.

    Rangers are a perfect fit, too. Warm weather, small field, and his power would work great there. He would probably DH most of the time but if they need him in left, I believe Rangers Park has a smaller left field than Wrigley.

    If no one wants him at 37, 38 will be a real joke.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    The Rangers signed Lance Berkman to be their DH, don't think they will want Soriano. They also have Olt and Profar that will be hard to keep out of the lineup later in the year, which can have a ripple effect on the other positions, giving them a surplus of options for DH.

    Soriano is not going to the Rangers for even free, as a pot sweetner, or as the main piece.

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    In reply to The Cubs Way:

    Berkman hit 2 HRs last year. He's as old as Sori but hasn't aged nearly as well. He's old and he's busted.

    Josh Hamilton was their primary DH last year. Berkman isn't exactly keeping an iron grip on that spot.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    He was hurt last year.

    He went 2-2 for a homer and 3 RBI's yesterday.

    7 hits in his last 14 AB's

    275 - 2 HR's - 9 RBI's and a 475 slugging this spring.

    He only needs to stay healthy until Profar or Olt or both are ready to come up and force their way into the lineup.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    And that's my point, they already have their 37 year old player to fill a role, why would they give up anything and more cash to get Soriano. They would use Profar or Olt before doing that.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Soriano has more value to this team than to be used as a "pot-sweetener." See Tom's article from last week.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    I think the Cubs will have to structure a deal where it's painless to dump Soriano in 2014 -- and that gets easier for the Cubs later in the season after they've already paid most of his 2013 salary.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If he was in his last year of his contract now the cubs could probably trade him, paying most of his contract of course. But I don't think its the money its the roster flexibiltiy, carrying him on the 40 man roster between this coming season and next is the sticking point. Think of the trouble teams go to to protect players and not have them claimed. These are among your teams most valuable prospects, or among them, and you'd be risking having to lose one 40 man prospect for a player you may not even be sure you'll want a year from now. So that is giving one prospect to the cubs in the trade up front, and then probably losing another prospect off the back end of your 40 man roster next off season, so that doubles the cost in prospects for making the trade for sori.

    I think if the cubs really want to deal him, they should buy out the last year of fonsi's contract now, then they can trade him this year and maybe not have to eat as much money in that one year deal. It might work out cheaper overall in salary and you may be able to get a prospect back more readily for a one year sori deal than a two year ( because the acquring team won't be losing a guy off their 40 man next off season).. That is why I think teams that could use his bat as a dh aren't willing to make the deal, they think they can get a one year guy that will work just as well, like berkman, and not lose the 40 man roster flesxiblilty.

  • Garza is our only big trading chip. If we can't get much in return for him then try to sign him to a 3 year contract.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I agree. And if the Cubs can't trade him and he shows he's healthy and back to his old self, I'd make that QO to make sure they get something in return.

  • Well,... we could do worse than running to at least the trade deadline with Soriano manning LF most days,.... with the platoon half of DeJesus (He's hitting very well this Spring),... and with the electric/erratic combo that is Marmol as closer. If we get the Marmol of the end of last season,... that's a more than passable closer on a team that is not likely to contend anyway.

    Until Brett Jackson is deemed ready for a regular CF/OF job - neither Soriano or DeJesus is blocking anybody. The only one that Marmol is blocking at this point is our 'shiny new' Japanese closer import,... who hasn't gotten a proven track record in MLB at this point.

    With Garza/Baker down for a while,... looks like we have our rotation set,... let's play ball.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Agree on all counts Dr.Kaz.

  • I think the point John's making is that the Cubs may have valuable chips to trade to other teams, but those players first have to *build* value during the course of this 2013 season. Right now, they're not worth as much to other teams as they are to the Cubs.

    Even if Soriano repeats his 2012, if Marmol doesn't blow any saves, and if DeJesus is productive, there's still a prevailing conservatism among GMs, who are scared to deal their best prospects.

    That may be, but a lot can change in a few months. Clearly, the Yankees aren't going to be a worthwhile trading partner, because Cashman looks like he's getting ready for a lengthy rebuild. But there are other teams who may decide that this is the year they've got a shot, and so maybe they will deal for a few of our veterans.

    That being said, it's probably not realistic to hope we can land a talent like Vizcaino with what we have to offer in veteran contracts. Fine. We have a lot of pieces in place; it's just a matter of developing them, dealing redundant prospects for those who play a position of more value to our team and then signing the right free agents.

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    In reply to Taft:

    The Cubs only received Vizcaino from the Braves for two reasons: 1) He had Tommy John surgery and 2) The Braves have a vineyard of pitchers.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    Those are certainly the two reasons why the Cubs got Vizcaino. And perhaps we can get another Vizcaino for similar reasons from another team for another player in July.

    I don't think anyone thinks we will be able to trade Soriano for Trout. But that isn't the goal. The goal is to stock your system with enough Villenuevas, Peraltas, Rosscaps, etc that some of them develop into good major leaguers.

    Every deal doesn't have to be a home run to be successful or advantageous.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    Actually, the main reason the Cubs landed Vizcaino is that Atlanta wanted a pitcher who was ready to enter their rotation right away, with no significant injury history. We could offer them Paul Maholm.

    The reason it's unrealistic to expect a Vizcaino-like return on a trade this season is because we probably won't have a Maholm to deal. Garza and Baker are damaged goods. Feldman or Villanueva don't have a track record.

    Pitching depth or not, the Braves' willingness to deal Vizcaino makes me anxious about his ability to make a full recovery. If we deal one of our vets for a prospect this year, it'll probably be for prospects who have even more risk than Vizcaino.

  • In reply to Taft:

    That's definitely a big part of it. I think the Cubs are having some difficulty trading these players because the Cubs actually want something of value in return. Given that there is no financial difficulty in keeping them and no roster urgency to trade them, I think that's the right stance.

    Related to that is recognizing what other teams value. The Yanks have been much more reluctant to deal prospects, perhaps sensing that they'll need to rebuild soon, as Steve implied above. The Tigers aren't going to want a wild, hard-throwing reliever because they already have one -- and they also had one last year. I'd think if they'd deal for a closer at this point, they'd want a guy who throws strikes.

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    If Soriano can put up another solid 2-3 months of offense, and show that the bat weight drop helped (and he is healthy, of course), he will have value to someone for a year and a half. I have thought the Rays would make an offer for him...they could use his abilities, but it comes down to Friedman. He collects young talent, rarely deals it.

  • In reply to Ray A:

    Agreed on all counts, Ray. We can talk about what the Cubs value but we have to understand what other teams value too. The Rays value their prospects, so do the new Yankees. I think either team would have loved to have had Soriano, but not enough to deal a solid prospect or two.

  • "It appears likely right now that the Cubs will open the season with their current roster in tact."

    Does this mean the roster is going to be tactful? That it will have tact during a trade negotiation process? Did you maybe mean intact?

  • In reply to chuckwh:

    Of course I did. Thanks for pointing out the typo. I'll correct that. Do you have anything to add to the subject?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Sounds like he wants the editing job, eh?

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    Not really a surprise. I figured spring trades were unlikely after Garza went down. I do like the DDJ for the competitive balance suggestion, though. That seems to have upside for both teams. I'm just hoping, if we're out of it, Garza, Feldman, and Villaneuva are all pitching respectably at the trade deadline.

  • Serious question, how has Vernon Wells been traded twice, yet Soriano is still a Cub?

  • In reply to CubsML:

    He has more worth.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Quite the opposite. When he's in the Angel outfield, he's blocking a better player. So he has negative value to the Angels, which means they are willing to eat his salary and take back a bag of used golf balls just to get him off the roster.

  • In reply to CubsML:

    It does boggle the mind a bit doesn't it? Particularly when considering that 1st trade to the Angels. That was a massive over-pay.

    I think this 2nd trade to the Yankees is all about the fact that the Angels will probably get a pretty fringy guy back from the Yankees and the Cubs are holding out for something of value.

    But what is a bit of a head-scratcher to me is why you go after Wells to begin with. If I were the Yankees, I'd take a look at guys like Bogesevic or MacDonald, etc. before taking on that dead weight particularly since their need is likely short term (i.e. Granderson will come back in a couple of months, etc.). In other words, I get hanging on to your prospects, but why take on that guy which limits your flexibility in the rebuild and doesn't really give you much in return?

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    I read an article that the Angels are going to pay the entire 2014 salary, and that his salary paid by the Angels won't count against the Yankess salary cap.

    This, in addition to paying half of his 2013 salary. So I don't think the Yankees lose much, if anything, in flexibility. They pay 1/2 of his wages for this year, for what will likely amount to 1/2 season of contribution. Anything over and above that is gravy. Free gravy....

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    You're right. I guess what I mean is that they have him on the 40 man potentially blocking someone else. It's not that big of a deal, but even with the financials that you say, I'd rather put someone else in there on a 1 year make good type of deal. Maybe that's just my preference and I'm obviously not a GM for a reason. heh

  • In reply to CubsML:

    one year deals

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    Most of the prospects we'd get in trade wouldn't offer immediate help. It will exciting, however, if some of our AAA talent emerges. BJax, Lake, Struck , Watkins, Vitters or Rusin-got a few lottery tickets-need one or two to hit.

    I also predict the Yanks will suck out of the gate and Jeter will just retire. Maybe Rivera too

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    With the Yanks opening up the season with ARod (hopefully for good) out, Texaria down, Granderson down, Jeter down for a while, and having let Swisher & Ibanez go over the winter, having traded Montero, having Posada retire, and having to depend on Youklis, an aging Ichiro, Cano and castoffs for offense,...

    The Yanks are going to struggle and be out of the picture early this season. Their rebuild is likely going to be at least as unpretty as the Cubs has been,... but could be mediated and moderated a bit by overspending on a few FAs during the rebuild.

  • Garza has been hurting for a long time and is not yet throwing off the mound. I'm not convenced that he won't need surgery on that elbow before he can think about being healthy. He needs to show that he can pitch this year to save his career. Baker too.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I don't think it's his elbow that is bothering him.

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    A pulled muscle in his side won't give him a healthy elbow. Stick a fork in him.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    True, but a pulled muscle in his side requires treatment and time, not an elbow surgery. I think he'll be back in the 2nd half of this season which is fine. It still gives the Cubs time to evaluate if they want to extend him or let him walk. The only thing this doesn't do is give the Cubs an option to trade him. But even if they did, they wouldn't get much (injury history and the fact that he is only controlled until the end of the year). In other words, while this hurts the Cubs competitiveness in the 1st half of the year, not much else has changed.

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    Good point. It's just that he has been the shelf for 8 months and is to be there a couple more. Getting hard to be optimistic. I fear a structural problem(partial tear).

  • fb_avatar

    If anyone's interested, I currently have 2 spots left in my Yahoo H2H fantasy baseball league drafting online tonight at 6 p.m. Chicago time.

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    Yahoo League ID # 18845, Password 2012.

  • I've accepted the fact that Sori is likely to play out his career in Chicago, and we could actually do a lot worse than keep him. He's worth more to us than what anyone is willing to pay. Part of that is the new CBA and all the restraints it imposes. If he continues to rake like he did last year, and the Cubs eat most/all of his salary then that may change.

    I think teams who feel they're in contention will part with prospects more willingly at the trade deadline than they will in the Spring. If Marmol replicates the 1/2 half of last year, he will be needed by someone....

    I still think all the short term FA signings have played out like the FO have prepared for. They weren't sure what they would get early from Garza & Baker, so Villanueva was a necessity. I always viewed these signings as hope for the best, but plan for the worst from our FO. So if Baker & Garza return by mid-year, we could possibly have Villanueva, Feldman, Wood, and maybe Rusin as potential SP trade chips....

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    Brewers sign Lohse.

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    I saw that. I'm trying to figure out the logic behind that one.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I agree. Haven't seen the terms yet.

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    Brewers fans seem about as happy with Doug Melvin as Royals fans are with Dayton Moore. Tim Brown is apparently reporting multi-year deal.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I saw that. Did Boras do it again?

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    3/33 is on MLBTR.

    Someone needs to fire Melvin before he general manages again.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Here's Milwaukee beat writer:

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think Brewers' fans aren't too happy.

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    Marlins sign Koy E. Hill.

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    The Marlins are looking to seriously challenge the Astros for Carlos Rodon. Well played, Cheapskates Loria, well played.

  • I don't think it's a horrible deal. 11mm/per is pretty cheap for a starter these days. A few trips to the HGH clinic should keep him going till he's 37. :)

    Shame about that 17th pick and the lost draft dollars though.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    They need a starter. They are bad at drafting and developing pitchers.

  • The real trade chip is Starlin Castro. He signed a very tradeable contract. The real question is there one team out there that has 2-3 top quality prospects and maybe 1 major league ready player.

  • In reply to ucandoit:

    You can't rebuild a team by trading core players.... We NEED long term assets. A cost controlled 23yo all-star SS signed long term is what we NEED... Not handful of prospects that may or may not it to the MLB level....

  • In reply to ucandoit:

    I agree.

  • In reply to ucandoit:

    Ideally we can get a cost-controlled all-star at a premium position, maybe someone around 23 years old?

    Castro isn't going anywhere. The price to obtain him would be prohibitive.

  • In reply to ucandoit:

    10% prospect success rate (defined by a 3+ WAR player). So I guess we'll need 10 top prospects in return for Castro, not 2 or 3.

    Trade Castro......please. Let's throw in Rizzo and Samardzija while we're at it.

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    You're right about the Marlins.

  • Posted wrong page, my bad.
    I realize the Cubs want "actual value" back. But why does value have to be prospects? Isn't a ton of free'd up cash that they can spend on players when they are actually trying to win value? How much money is Soriano's clubhouse presence worth on a team that's going nowhere? $13 million? $15 million? $20 million? If the Yanks are willing to relieve the Angels of $13 mill of one of the worst players in the league. How much straight cash could the Cubs save in a deal that they could use on other free agents down the line for Sori? Obviously the Cubs aren't getting good prospects back for him. Why not try to get some cash money back you can use elsewhere... Just my thoughts.

  • I never hear about the Cubs considering trading Barney. He doesn't produce offensively. And he's cheap. We might be able to get some value for him since he had that amazing defensive year last season...I guess the problem is we don't have a legit backup for him at the moment? Am I crazy?

  • In reply to StalinCastro:

    I don't think the Cubs will shop Barney but I'm sure they'd listen. The feeling here is teams aren't willing to compensate the Cubs with what they feel is fair value for a cost-controlled, elite defensive player who is just entering his prime years.

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