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.
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