Lukewarm Stove: Fielder, Garza, Cespedes, Darvish, Crawford, Soto, Marmol

Bruce Levine held a little pre-Thanksgiving chat, in which he dropped some interesting and relevant hot stovey-type things…

  • Levine was blunt when asked about the prospect of the Cubs pursuing Prince Fielder: “I expect the Cubs to be big players for Fielder.” To Bruce’s credit, he’s been banging the Fielder drum since early in the offseason, when most others (me included) didn’t think Fielder would be a target. I’ve since changed my tune, due in part to some chatter I’ve heard, and in part to the CBA changes, which will necessarily force teams like the Cubs to spend more of their organizational dollars on Major League payroll. The question, of course, remains: do the Cubs believe Fielder can stick at first base long-term, into his 30s? A related question, I suppose: is Fielder the next Mo Vaughn – a studly, beefy hitter who fell apart in his early 30s?
  • The Cubs are “definitely in play” for both Yoenis Cespedes and Yu Darvish (who has yet to be posted, and, thus, isn’t technically yet available), as expected.
  • The Cubs are listening to offers on Matt Garza, and Levine discusses the Rangers (as noted here previously) as a primary suitor. “I think the Cubs will explore every issue that makes sense,” Levine said. “Texas has some of the best young players in the game, and if you remember, Texas was the other team most interested in Garza when he signed with the Cubs. The Cubs would be foolish not to at least listen to a package of prospects Texas might throw at him. It costs you nothing to listen.” For what it’s worth, I’ve heard that virtually every team in baseball – save the Phillies, Braves, and Rays – is at least minimally interested in Garza, which only underscores the point: the Cubs lose nothing by listening to offers. If that many teams are interested, maybe a blockbuster offer comes through.
  • Levine revealed that the Cubs spoke to CJ Wilson’s agent at last week’s GM meetings – of course, so did a number of teams – but Levine still thinks the Cubs will pursue Mark Buehrle, if they go after an older pitcher.
  • Someone asked about the Cubs pursuing a trade for Carl Crawford as a bad contract swap, but Levine bizarrely answered that Crawford would cost “a big name like Castro,” even after Crawford’s down year. Um … que? I can only assume there was a joke in there somewhere that was lost in translation. Presently, I have a hard time believing the Red Sox wouldn’t give Crawford away for free if they could be rid of his contract.
  • Levine offers a great anecdote about one of the new regime’s first questions upon taking the keys: what deals were left on the table at the trade deadline. The one Levine mentions is a deal with the Pirates for Geovany Soto, in whom the Pirates were “very interested.” I’d say it’s fair to wonder whether they might still be “very interested.”
  • Levine believes Carlos Marmol has a great deal of trade value, because other teams view his poor 2011 as merely a reflection of overuse.
  • The Cubs probably aren’t looking for a stopgap at 3B, instead hoping to find a long-term replacement for Aramis Ramirez. Levine mentions that DJ LeMahieu might get a shot, because he’s solid at 3B defensively (to which I’d say, if it’s all about defense, Blake DeWitt is also excellent defensively at 3B).
  • Levine doesn’t see the Cubs shopping Marlon Byrd, regardless of what happens with Brett Jackson or an additional outfielder, because the Cubs view Byrd as a cheap ($6M), good, fourth outfielder, capable of playing all three positions, even if he’s not starting in center field.

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

77 responses to “Lukewarm Stove: Fielder, Garza, Cespedes, Darvish, Crawford, Soto, Marmol”

  1. Fishin Phil

    Soto to the Pirates made a ton of sense at the deadline last year, and I was disappointed that we didn’t pursue it.  The Pirates were actually still in it at that point, and had lost approximately 23 catchers due to injury last year.  Hell, I think if we had timed it right we could have gotten Maholm for Koyie Hill.

  2. Chris84

    I love/hate this time of year. All of these great rumors flying around, but it takes forever for things to pan out/happen. It’s like knowing there’s Christmas presents in the house and you know where they’re hidden, but they’re wrapped already and you can’t open them until Christmas morning.

  3. Cliffy

    The Cubs will have 10,250,000 to spend on the 2012 June draft if my math is correct. Last place Astros get 11,500,00 down to NY Yankees at 4,500,000. It appears via this each position down from the Astros would have 250,000 less per slot. The Cubs spent over 11 million last year on the draft with a few big reach people. They should be able to work well within that amount. See link for story. Feel free to blast me if I have messed up the math.

  4. Cliffy

    It should be noted that amount is the most that could be spent on the 1st 10 rounds without being subject t to penalty.

    1. Kyle

      You can’t sign anyone after the 10th round for more than 100k without dipping into that pool, as well.

  5. Jack Nugent

    Honestly, I think Levine’s remarks on Crawford/Castro are more reflective of him being sorta clueless. Same goes for what he said about Fielder. Pretty sure you don’t need to look that hard for quotes from one or both of Theo and Jed where they all but explicitly stated they won’t be big time players for Fielder.

    I don’t care what Levine says. I’d be shocked if the Cubs aggressively pursue Fielder.

    1. CubFan Paul

      “Pretty sure you don’t need to look that hard for quotes from one or both of Theo and Jed where they all but explicitly stated they won’t be big time players for Fielder”

      ..acually, I haven’t seen even one of those quotes. and I’ve definitely seen a few that say the Opposite

      1. DRock

        Agreed, Paul. Jack, where is your source?

        1. Jack Nugent

          It might take a little work for me to find the article, but as I recall Theo essentially said “there’s a time and a place to make a big play on a free agent, and now isn’t that time.” Like I said– he didn’t explicitly say “we’re not going after Prince,” but if you read between the lines, it seemed pretty clear at the time they were gonna rule him out.

          This was in the Tribune.

          1. Adam H

            I understand where you are coming from and read that article as well. On the other hand though, you HAVE to replace the offensive production from silver slugger Aramis Ramirez AND Carlis Pena. The cubs, at the moment don’t have ANY big offensive threat in the middle of their lineup. They said in another article that large market teams don’t go through a re-building process. That tells me that they WILL go after a big bat like Fielder. And ever since they signed Pena to a 1 year deal last year, I anticipated the reasoning for that being because of Pujols and Fielder being free agents this year. If they don’t go after Fielder, then maybe someone like David Wright with LeMaheiu playing first. They also need a RF cause I don’t think Colvin is the answer. And they badly need SP. Maybe Gio Gonzalez? I know people want a bigger name pitcher, but he’s a solid lefty at a much cheaper option. And with all the holes they have, more viable. I expect a couple pretty big trades (I.e. soto and Garza) to help stock the farm and fill some holes. We’ll see what happens. I can’t wait for next season to start already and have complete trust in the best front office in baseball IMO.

    2. DRock

      I would be shocked if they do NOT go after Fielder. Epstein wants to build for the future WHILE being competitive and trying to win the World Series every season. We cannot do that with our current lineup and they have to pursue a big time FA or make a trade to fill the holes left by Aramis and Pena. I think from the way Epstein and Hoyer talk, they will NOT be going after Pujols (not paying past performance) but instead makes perfect sense to go after Fielder who is still young and coming into his prime. We need a left hand bat and he would absolutely RAKE at Wrigley. I will be extremely shocked and disappointed if we do not at least agressively pursue Fielder.

    3. art

      Jack, i agree. Theo and GM say pitching and D win, and that’s true, so fielder is not an answer. the hitting will come from other sources. this team, as it stands now is not the team they will go to war with in 2012, and depending on how the season goes, it will not be the same team that ends 2012. be patient, sit and watch them work.

  6. Jack Nugent

    Also, giving DJ LeMahieu the starting 3B gig would be a profoundly terribly decision, the sort of which I’d like to believe this front office is immune to. DJL just isn’t ready, period. He’s got a ton of work to do with his secondary skills before he can be seen as a legit option for 3B.

    1. Luke

      I’ve got to disagree. He isn’t polished by any means, but he could hold the job down. I’d rather see him at second, though.

      1. Jack Nugent

        DJ LeMahieu has 7 home runs in 1132 career minor league ABs, and he’s walked in ~6% of his ABs.

        I rest my case.

        1. Luke

          He’s not likely to ever develop significant power due in large part to his swing. That’s part of why I’d prefer him at second; he doesn’t have the power to play third. He’s also a contact hitter who isn’t likely to ever draw a bunch of walks.

          But he is a solid defender who is projected to hit for average with plenty of doubles and steal 15+ bases a year. He could hold down third if the Cubs really needed it, but like I said earlier, I’d rather have him on second.

          1. Jack Nugent

            FWIW– I was operating the manual scoreboard at Jackie Robinson Ballpark in Daytona when LeMahieu launched what had to have been a 400+ foot homer clear over my head. He’s got some raw power that he just hasn’t learned to tap into yet.

            I can also tell you first hand that he was choking up on his bat considerably while he was in Daytona, so that’s another piece of evidence that he just needs to retool a little bit for him to reach his power potential.

            Physically, there’s a lot to like about him as a ballplayer, but results matter, and so far he hasn’t gotten the sorta results that say “future everyday third baseman.”

            1. hogie

              “He runs average, plays the game well and is going to have some power down the road,” Wilken said of LeMahieu. “But it’s going to be a few years. It’s going to be three to four years in my mind before you see that he has that kind of pop.”

              “He handled the bat really good in the Cape Cod League (last) summer. He hits the ball really well to the other side of the field. When you know you’ve got a guy that can hit the ball the other way that well … the hitting instructors will tell you that nine times out of 10, this guy will have a chance to pull the ball with authority as he gets older and stronger.”

              CCO prospect profile after 2010

              It doesn’t say when this quote is from, but I would assume from when he was drafted in 2009. Isn’t it a common quote among scouts that power is the last thing to develop? If his improved speed and patience in the AFL sticks, then it won’t be long.

              1. Luke

                Power is almost always the last thing to develop.

                Given his size, LeMahieu should eventually develop as much as 20 HR pop, but that inside out swing of his will have to be reworked to make it happen I think. That may yet be an option, and if that happens he could be a solid candidate for third. As is, without retooling the swing, he’d be just fine on second. I’d rather get him in the majors everyday on second next season than leave him in the minors for an extra year or two rebuilding his swing with the idea of moving him to third, but I can see the argument for delaying him and waiting on the power to show up.

    2. john

      What better work then to play him.
      The Cubs are in rebuild mode.
      Play the Prospects that fill the holes.
      That way you’ll know what you have and
      not wait around year after year.

  7. Cliffy

    Just doing a quick recap Cubs spent approximately 6.7 million on the first 10 rounds last year.

  8. Mike Foster

    “Who do you see the cubs hiring as Pitching coach/Bench coach?
    Bruce Levine
    (1:16 PM)
    Chris Boscio and Ed Sedar are possibilities. Boscio is the former pitching coach in Seattle and Sedar is a major league coach with the Brewers.”

    Brett, is Bruce not reading Bleacher Nation? Or am I missing something here? Thanks.

  9. Cliffy

    With the Astro’s moving in 2013 the schedule might look something like this. Does this make Soriano easier to trade to a NL team?

    72 games in division (4 other teams x 18 games each)
    60 games intraleague opposite division play (10 other teams x 6 games each)
    30 games interleague (10 other teams x 3 games each)

  10. Cliffy

    QT @SI_JonHeyman: slot numbers for 1st 6 picks r $7.2M, 6.2M, 5.2M, 4.2M, 3.5M, 3.2M. final pick of 1st round will have $1.6M slot. #cba

    Cubs will have 3.2 million available for their 1st pick in 2012.

  11. Morgan

    Cubs should go after Ian Steward to play 3rd. Still yound and a change of teams might help him out, And soto to the Pirates, who would we get back

    1. hardtop

      ugh, stewart is terrible. had one half of a mediocre year. i’ve seen him play more than i care to admit or remember. yuck.

  12. pfk

    After watching Theo & Co. in action and reading between the lines, here’s my prediction:
    The Cubs will pay top dollar and sign Fielder. They will sign Cespedes. They will sign Darvish. Soriano will be gone, Soto traded. Marmol traded. Zambrano traded. A good glove at third (either a kid or a vet) with some batting upside but the bat not that big of a deal. An athletic good fielding vet with speed at second, bat not that big a deal. Castro at short with a big bat. Fielder at first – a huge bat. Jackson, Cespedes and Byrd in the outfield – all good bats. A good defensive catcher who calls a good game (Soto is widely known to not only be a sub par glove but lousy at calling a game) good bat not needed. Garza, Darvish and Dempster are 1,2,3 starters. One homeboy and one FA for 4th and 5th spots unless the FA is top shelf and goes into the top 3 and Dempster moves down a notch. The Cubs need a first baseman, a big bat, a showpiece slugger who excites the fan base and the team – that all adds up to Fielder, who has at least another 4 good years left. And that all adds up to the Cubs being very very competitive. Cards will win division, Cubs and Brewers in a close fight for second.

    1. Cheryl

      Like Brett, I think its realistic but I have my doubts about Fielder. If they could get him for just four years it would be worth it and have LaHair as a bat off the bench or a sub in left or right field or first. But they may decide to give LaHair a chance at first base and concentrate the money elsewhere. Besides Cespedes and Darvish what about the other international player? If they get those three, I’d say they did well.

  13. deej

    Brett – question….

    Why would we shop and trade Garza, and then turn around and dump a ton of money on Yu or CJ? Garva would net prospects in a trade.. but he isn’t that expense, right? And he was strong all year.

    CJ and Yu both come with red flags (CJ’s division change and post season bomb, and Yu a first time MLBer).. and both are going to cost and arm and a leg to sign.

    Just wondering your thoughts….

  14. Toosh

    I was wrong on the arbitration deadline time. What was the concensus?

  15. Ramy16

    Happy Thanksgiving Brett and fellas!!!… I am thankful for being a Cubs fan my whole life!! And man have we taken abuse over the years!!! Lol
    Everybody have a great and safe thanksgiving!!!

  16. Cliffy

    Junior Lake starting at shortstop for Estrellas de Oriente in the DWL tonight. Maybe they are trying to hit the fast forward button with him for 2012.

    1. Luke

      I’m glad he’s playing. That kid has more talent and better tools than almost anyone in the system, but he is awfully raw. I wish he were playing third, though. If he gets to the majors as a Cub, that’s almost certainly where he’ll be playing.

      1. BetterNews

        Yes, but isnt it “generally” accepted that the move from SS to third is easy and the experience at SS actually increases the “range” of a potential 3rd baseman?

  17. Toosh

    I believe the correct deadline for the Cubs to offer arbitration to their FAs is 11 p.m. CST. Of course they can offer, or say they won’t offer, earlier.

  18. Toosh

    OK. The Cubs offered arbitration to Ramirez and Pena. Now it’s up to those players and their agents to accept or decline. The Cubs did not offer arbitration to Wood. I’d like to see them work something out with him.

    1. Luke

      I’m not too surprised by any of these decisions. Ramirez will turn it down and the Cubs will get the pick. I tend to think Pena will turn it down as well, but even if he does accept it won’t hamstring the Cubs at all. If they sign Fielder, they can most likely trade Pena for a nice return.

      Wood will either be back or retire. I’d not be surprised if the framework of a deal with Wood has been reached, but that the two agreed to not finalize it until after the Winter Meetings for roster flexibility reasons.

  19. Nisshin Maru

    Joey Votto will be a free agent in 2014. In my opinion the Cubs should find a short term solution at 1st until then. Big market teams will be tied up with their repsective 1st base contracts (and two more once Fielder and Pujols sign) thinning the market on potential suitors. This would also be a more reasonable time to sign a big time free agent based on the notion that Theo and company will have a couple years to build up the farm system and retool the major league staff.