Lukewarm Stove: Garza, Pujols, Fielder, Cespedes, Buehrle, Murphy, Cubs’ Plans

It’s been a couple days since the last Lukewarm Stove update, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t much to say…

  • When he left the GM meetings yesterday, Theo Epstein shared his thoughts on how the meetings helped the Cubs’ offseason plans. He didn’t exactly spill the beans, though, saying only that “It was productive …. [and] we have a better understanding of potential opportunities.” Hopefully that doesn’t mean “we have a better understanding of just how undesirable a number of our trade pieces are.” As you’ll recall, the prevailing rumor has the Cubs willing to listen to offers on any and all of their Major League players.
  • Speaking of the Cubs listening on valuable players, the Yankees have checked in on what it would take to land Matt Garza from the Cubs, according to Joel Sherman (I’ve heard the same thing from a Cubs source – and the Yankees aren’t alone, obviously). Sherman quotes a Cubs official who says it’s “very, very unlikely” that the Cubs will move Garza. For my part, I hear that if the Yankees were willing to discuss a handful of their very best young players (Montero, Romine, Banuelos, Betances types), the Cubs would listen more closely.
  • According to multiple reports, the new collective bargaining agreement is complete, and will be announced on Monday. Hard slotting sounds like a no-go, but there will be some kind of tax on teams that spend above slot recommendation on picks (sigh). Still unclear what will happen to draft pick compensation, though it’s certain to be changed significantly.
  • The Cubs had scouts – and Jason McLeod – in the Dominican Republic this week to observe and work out Cuban star Yoenis Cespedes (among other prospects). The hype machine on Cespedes continues to churn, as every report from scouts says he’s looking good in these workouts, and thus, his asking price is climbing. According to sources, the 26-year-old outfielder is hoping to get more than $60 million over eight years when he becomes a free agent in a couple weeks. That would be an enormous investment in a guy who could prove to not have the skills necessary to play (let alone play well) in MLB. Most think he can play well in the bigs, though, and getting his prime years at less than $8 million per year might not be a terrible risk to take.
  • Tim Brown says a source tells him there are three teams actively in on Albert Pujols right now – the Cardinals, the Marlins, and a third team, whom Brown guesses is the Rangers or the Cubs. Given the inordinately large contract that it will take to get Pujols out of St. Louis (he can get nine years and over $200 million from the Cardinals, and it will take an offer far exceeding that to woo him), his age (32 next year), and his relative decline (OPS+ has fallen three straight years), I still don’t see the Cubs in on him.
  • Rumor had it that Pujols had decided to re-sign with the Cardinals, with an announcement coming today. The rumor originated with a St. Louis radio station, but has been largely debunked. Could be the Pujols is still mulling his offer from the Marlins, but that’s believed to be for less than $200 million over nine years.
  • Speaking of the Marlins, sources say the organization is not just screwing around in free agency – they’re dead serious about landing some big names for some big dollars. It only takes one irrational team to drive up salaries around baseball.
  • The question on everyone’s lips: will the hiring of Dale Sveum help bring Prince Fielder to the Cubs? I’ve been asked this question a dozen times since Sveum become a serious candidate for the Cubs, and my answer is always the same. Sveum’s presence could be, at most, a tie-breaker between two clubs who make Fielder similar offers, and have similarly well-equipped teams. Money will talk, and, to a lesser extent, so will the chance to win. I don’t see the Cubs being or matching the top bidder for Fielder, so I don’t see Sveum’s presence mattering. Fielder reportedly wants eight years and $200 million. That’s more per  year than Pujols might get.
  • Theo Epstein doesn’t tip his hand with respect to Fielder: “I’m not going to comment about any free agents or anything like that,” Epstein said when asked about the Sveum-Fielder connection. “But I don’t think that [relationship] was unique. I think the relationship Dale has with Prince is the relationship he had with a lot of those players over there.” So, either the Cubs are getting all of the Brewers, or none of them. Got it. (I kid.)
  • The mysterious “person close to Epstein” has returned, and says Mark Buehrle is the kind of player Epstein would like to go after. ”Healthy, innings, commands the strike zone. I can see them in on him.” Good defense and good leader for the young players, too.
  • A decision on whether 25-year-old Japanese ace Yu Darvish will be posted is expected in the next two weeks. It’s no secret that the Cubs have some interest in Darvish, depending on the price, but it’s possible Darvish will not come to the States at all this year. Most still believe Darvish will be posted, but Jeff Passan says there’s a chance Darvish will decline to participate as a way of protesting the posting system, which takes money out of the player’s hands, and gives it to his Japanese team.
  • One top Asian pitcher has already decided not to be posted this year – 25-year-old Korean, Suk-Min Yoon.
  • One area the Cubs might be active? Players in their arbitration years not tendered contracts by their team (i.e., players between three and six years of service time whom their current teams deem too expensive to offer a contract). MLBTR has a list of possible non-tender candidates, which might be worth pouring over a bit.
  • Andrew Friedman expects to get plenty of calls about Tampa Bay’s pitchers this Winter, but isn’t in a hurry to trade any of them. Of course, he said the same thing last Winter before dealing Matt Garza to the Cubs.
  • Versatile 26-year-old Daniel Murphy is “available” according to the Mets. Murphy, who isn’t eligible for arbitration until 2013, was excellent in part-time duty in 2011, hitting .320/.362/.448 (though beware the huge .345 BABIP) while playing at first, third, second, and a little in the outfield. Even though the Cubs already have a handful of utility players like Murphy, few could possibly slide into a starting role like Murphy could with the Cubs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Cubs have some interest.
  • Make sure to “like” Bleacher Nation on Facebook and follow it on Twitter to get the latest Cubs rumors during the hot stove season.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

58 responses to “Lukewarm Stove: Garza, Pujols, Fielder, Cespedes, Buehrle, Murphy, Cubs’ Plans”

  1. funkster

    8 years for Cespedes? I dunno about that.

  2. Max

    I like Murphy. I could see him being an asset. Any early rumors on coaching staff? I’d really like to see us land a solid pitching coach, especially if we can get some leadership like Buerhle in the rotation.

  3. Zach

    I think the the Cubs should try and get Lucas Duda, a first baseman from the Mets. Because the Mets already have Ike Davis there.

  4. mb1.0.2

    First time posting to this site…checked it out here and there up until the Epstein rumors started flying around, now I check it several times a day. Love the writing, Brett; you make for interesting reading! This is now my go-to site for Cubs news, info, and lively discussions. Thanks so much for what you do. As a Chicago transplant in Houston, I need a site like this, ha.

    I’d like to see the Cubs get as many quality youngsters regardless of who they give up, so long as the return will out-weigh the expense. That’s why I feel completely safe about players like Castro and to a lesser degree Garza. I don’t think you can guarantee such a strong upside in prospects to outweigh either of those two players’ potential. Following the team this off-season feels like a completely different animal than previous years…I feel like this isn’t the team I know. I’m used to going after big names on bigger contracts. This shift is a welcomed change.

  5. JulioZuleta

    I think 6/40 is more realistic on Cespedes. At his relatively advanced age for a “prospect” I could see a deal maxing out at 5/35. If that was the case, I think it’s worth a shot.

    1. Luke

      I’d do 6/40 for him, but I’d rather do something like 3/26. If he works out, then extend him. The downside would be the higher per year dollar amount if he doesn’t work out.

    2. BD

      I wonder if somebody might go 4 or 5 years, but with 2 or 3 team options tacked on.

      1. Luke

        I think he’d insist on them being mutual options, at least. No player wants to risk getting trapped in a $6 million option when he’s putting up $15 million numbers (for example).

        But I’d still do a three year deal with three mutual options in a heartbeat… if the price were right.

        1. hansman1982

          what I wouldnt mind seeing is a 8 year deal with a team option for the 6th and mutual options for 7 and 8 that would include some hefty incentives

    3. JulioZuleta

      And I hate to make the now cliched, yet relevant point that he is “at least” 26.

      1. Luke

        We’ve got some data on him from his international tournaments as a player for Cuba, and I’m not sure Cuba would have had any incentive to make him appear younger than he really is when listing him in those tournaments. I they could make him appear older than he really is, I suppose, depending on the international age restrictions at the highest level. I’d have to look up a few things on that front.

        I’m not sure if in this case, because of his history on the Cuban national team, if that age is more or less credible than in other cases.

        It is a point well worth making, but I would not be surprised if it is less of an issue in this case.

        1. Jeff

          Jose Contreras also played in international tournaments, and I’m pretty sure his age was fudged.   A pretty clear reason that Cuba would do this is to make some of them eligible for the teams that played in the Olympics and the under 18 world championships.  There are a number of tournaments with age limits, and I don’t think Cuba is above changing some documents to make players eligible.

  6. Luke

    James Loney as a potential non-tender? Interesting. He’s not the best defensive first baseman on the market (by a long shot), but he’s not the worst either (Hello Mr. Fielder). He’s also a tough out with a career OPS+ of 108. I’d be interested if he hits the free agent market.

    I’ve always kind of like Tony Gwynn Jr. but the Cubs have no use for him.

    On the pitching side, none of those names jump out at me, but there are several that I could see being as asset as a bullpen option or a spot starter. The Cubs are pretty much set in those departments, though. Still, I could a few of them being invited to spring training.

  7. johnbres2

    the tweets on Cespedes are saying “his asking price is between $35-$50 million.” None of the tweets mention the number of years. Is it just me, or is the figure completely meaningless when not tied to a length of years? Brett–you mentioned years and I appreciate that–as that gives the needed perspective. Very often reporters just throw out a figure with no duration-context to give it meaning.

  8. oswego chris

    I think I would be more willing to gamble on Cespedes than on Darvish. Japan stars have a very inconsistent track record….in fact Hideo Nomo was really the only pitcher to sustain success, and his success was moderate at times…

    I will be fine if the Cubs don’t go after either…

    1. Deer

      The problem has often been that Japanese pitchers come here just past their prime, after they’ve been pitching for several years in Japan. Daisuke was dominant in Japan, and was pretty good in Boston until he got hurt. If he had arrived 2-3 years earlier, most would have a different opinion of him. Kuroda has been solid for LA. Darvish is only 25, so he may give you more good years overall.

  9. Cliffy

    QT @ESPNChiCubs: Cubs blog: Sveum says he could help land Fielder

    Not sure if this is the way to go . Thoughts?

    1. johnbres2

      Cliffy, I think the issue regarding Fielder is confusing to us Cub fans right now. On the one hand, we have bought into the new regime’s concept of building a home-grown organization, and plugging in a free agent here and there where there might be a missing part. On the other hand, Theo has made it clear that each year is “sacred” and that they are not intending to simply give up on the next two years. Consequently, we are not sure where getting the idea of Fielder fits in.

      Who is to say that the Cubs couldn’t put a much better team on the field next year? We basically don’t have a first baseman, and that of course is a big part of this puzzle. You bring in Fielder in his prime for 6-8 years and that problem is solved, relatively permanently. We are set at short. You add another piece or so through trades, get another decent pitcher, and it is not impossible that we could be competitive next year. Granted, there are a lot of “ifs” to this assumption.

      I guess I am just willing to go along for the ride, with Theo driving the boat. So far, he sure as hell seems to know what he is doing.

      1. Max

        Although I think bringing in Fielder could make us more competitive next year, I don’t think it gets us to the playoffs. And, if he starts disintegrating as he ages (overweight folks tend not to age very well), then we would have wasted a lot of money that could have been better put to the long term health of the organization. I am a fan of the idea of us taking the next two years to really develop the younger guys into a solid, competitive club. We’ll need to spend some money on free agents, but I think putting more resources into the farm system in the short term is a much better investment with greater dividends in the future.

  10. hansman1982

    RICH HILL IS ON THE LIST GETITDONEJIMBO – oh wait, we have a competant GM now…

    1. JasonB

      There could be some interesting names on that list. A number of former promising guys who haven’t lived up to their potential (Stewart, Loney, etc.) – could be worth a look.

      I know we don’t like planned platoons, but a lefty like Stewart may look good next to a righty like Baker at 3B.

      1. Lou

        Like to see Loney in a Cubs uniform. Also, Joe Saunders (LHP from Arizona) would be a solid pickup for the SP rotation.

        1. JasonB

          Saunders is fine if we don’t pay too much for him. He isn’t a great pitcher – he’s kind of a not good version of Mark Buehrle because his control isn’t as good.

          1. chris margetis

            Saunders lives down the street from me and I don’t want him on the Cubs. Last I saw him pitch at Wrigley he gave up 8 in 4 I thnk.

    2. Scotti

      FWIW, the last GM to give Rich Hill a contract is one Theo Epstein.

  11. Cheryl

    If he’s considered the best Cuban player in a long time, the cubs will probably take a chance on him. They may offer him a seven year contract with mutual options for his sixth and seventh years. But there would have to be some type of protection for the cubs. They don’t want to be stuck with a guy who doesn’t pan out. Say they sign him and start him out with a year in the minors. He’d have to prove himself. Maybe they even put him on the forty man roster then call him up in July. From the time he’s called up he must continue to make the grade as a major leaguer. After that first year, he gets that seven year contract with mutual options in the sixth and seventh year. So with the year of proving himself plus the seven year contract, he gets eight years. Is this feasible?

    1. die hard

      unless he is slam dunk guaranteed to be in the top ten of national league over next 5 years, Id say pass on this one. That should be criteria for any free agent being considered. Better than average will not cut it as Cubs minors may have many with this bta potential. Need to let them play for an entire year in bigs to see what they have or not. One wild card is Astros have to retool for AL while playing NL ball. Could lead to them making some interesting moves including inquiring about Soriano for future DH. He would hit well there if plays 80 games as DH there.

      1. R.I.P. SANTO

        the Astros are set at DH with( cub killing ) Carlos Lee

  12. Alex

    I’d rather see the Cubs go after Jorge Soler than Cespedes. Soler is younger with a higher ceiling.

    1. Luke

      I’ll take both.

  13. Tyler

    When do the Cubs have to decide who to put on the 40-man roster


  14. MightyBear

    Brett, I’d like to see an article on pitching coaches available and who you would like to see the Cubs get. Maybe an obsessive pitching coach watch. In your spare time. LOL

    1. Max

      I agree about the pitching coach watch. I’m still catching up on my baseball knowledge since I kind of checked out by May these past two years. Who is good? Who is available? I assume we’ll try to raid other staffs and not just available guys? Also, to help some of us follow the off-season activity, I’d be interested in seeing a post about where the Cubs’ biggest positional needs are, both long and short-term. I know that’s probably pretty elementary for this crowd, but it could still be useful for some of us in tracking Theo’s activity.

      1. Hawkeye

        Aren’t we jumping the gun?   Riggins isn’t even gone yet.   Maybe Sveum will review the tape of his two visits to the mound last year and see that he did indeed keep is cool and show no emotion.

        1. MightyBear

          Maybe Theo and the boys will change their minds and hire Quade back. Riggins was terrible and needs to go to. They need to get somebody in there who emphasizes throwing strikes. Cubs have been leading the NL in walks allowed for years. That shit has to stop.

        2. MichiganGoat

          Riggins contract expired a couple of weeks ago, he was on a one year contract. That’s why there has been no formal announcement.

          1. Hawkeye

            MG, I sure do hate when you come in on your high horse acting like a big shot dropping your accurate facts around here because you thought they would add value and clearity to the conversation.  I tell you what, some peoples kids…

            1. JasonB

              MG is a fun hater :)

            2. MichiganGoat

              Just keepin you damn whipper snappers off the grass

              1. Hawkeye

                I think it’s time you update your avatar picture.

                1. Jeff

                  Don’t you think it’s time you updated yours?


                  1. MichiganGoat

                    Well done Jeff :)

  15. Cliffy

    QT @Ken_Rosenthal: Cespedes expected to establish temporary residency in DR between Nov. 25 and 30. Should be declared free agent shortly thereafter. #MLB

  16. Kyle

    Cubs add Lake, Vitters, Szczur, and Beliveau to the 40-man to protect them from the Rule V draft.

    I don’t know if that’s a complete list, but if it is, I’d be awfully worried about Flaherty being taken.

    1. Cheryl

      Flaherty isn’t on the list I saw.

      1. hansman1982

        Possible compensation for Theo? I wouldn’t like it and would rather they send LaMahieu if they are going to send a nearly ready prospect but not the worst in the world.

        1. Max

          Aren’t they tabling compensation talks until after Rule 5 draft? If they intend to send Flaherty to Boston, wouldn’t they need to protect him until then? I’m still trying to figure out Rule 5 strategy, but is it possible to drop Hill and protect Flaherty? I would think given our depth at catcher we could afford to risk Hill. And, given his relative skill level, I’m not sure we’d mind seeing him go.

  17. die hard

    Minor tweak….Barney for Smoak of Seattle

  18. Cliffy

    Theo interview coming up on Kap’s show. Sweum’s interview was great.

    1. johnbres2

      Cliffy, I agree, it was great to hear Sveum get conceptual today about pitch counts and errors working together, about hitters developing ability to get the best pitch to hit out of the part, etc. He was really rolling more throughout the day.

  19. Cliffy

    QT @harrypav: Here’s Big Z’s game

    Link for Zambrano live.

  20. Mike Foster

    If Pujols signs with Miami, does that mean he won’t mow my lawn anymore?????

  21. Michael

    This is what the cubs need to do.
    They need to work from the ground up. Meaning from the inside-out.

    If you look at the Philadelphia Eagles play football, they worked from the outside to the inside. They have 2 great cornerbacks, a free safety that can and did play cornerback, they got a new quarterback, and they got a new running back. The main position that they are missing is… The OFFENSIVE LINE. The line is the most important position in the entire football league.

    That connects to the Chicago Bulls too. They were going to get Lebron James but when he went to the Heat the Bulls changed their game plan. They went to Carlos Boozer, then they went to the bench, and after they claimed all of those players they went to defensive players. Look at them. They were at the top of the league by the end of the season.

    Now for the Cubs, They don’t need Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols. They need pitching. They can get: Aaron Harang, Freddy Garcia, Mark Buehrle, Brad Penny, Tim Wakefield (Who may follow Theo Epstein’s footsteps), and Chris Young. Those are the top starting pitchers that are free agents. Now, Relief Pitchers/ Closers: Heath Bell, Jonathan Broxton, Ryan Madson, Darren Oliver, Francisco Rodriguez, and Kerry Wood. Those are the top relief pitchers that are currently free agents. All of those free agents are top notch free agent pitchers. How about Theo steps up and signs one of those top pitchers??