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I really didn’t think the Lukewarm Stove would still be lit by the second week of February, but, here we are.

  • With Matt Garza’s contract for 2012 settled at $9.5 million, the Chicago Cubs are theoretically able to resume discussions with teams about dealing their best pitcher. And, no surprise, the Cubs are expected to continue those discussions over the next month, and up until the mid-season trade deadline, if Garza remains.
  • Jon Morosi cites one exec who thinks the Cubs are more likely to move Garza at the deadline than in Spring Training. That doesn’t mean the Cubs won’t be willing to deal Garza in Spring Training, it simply means that an acceptable trade might not come around until the deadline. Waiting until the deadline has the obvious upside of increasing both the number of possible trade partners (a team loses a top starter to injury, or a surprise team is in a race), but it also has obvious risks (Garza could get injured, Garza’s effectiveness could drop precipitously, a number of other starters could be put on the market, etc.). On the balance, I see the risks of intentionally holding onto Garza until the deadline outweighing the possible benefit. Thus, if the Cubs get a good offer for Garza in the next few weeks, I think they’ll take it. If they don’t – and they might not – then they’ll take their chances in getting to the deadline.
  • Bruce Levine, on the radio this weekend, once again offered his belief that the Cubs will either extend Matt Garza, or trade him, by the trade deadline this year. He doesn’t see the Cubs being willing to go into the 2012 offseason with Garza under control for only one more year.
  • Levine mentioned a few teams with whom the Cubs have discussed Garza this Winter, including the Rangers, Red Sox, and Diamondbacks. We’d heard previously about the Rangers and Red Sox, but not the Diamondbacks. I would assume that those talks diminished or ceased after the D-backs acquired Trevor Cahill from the A’s in early December.
  • As I frequently remind you: players from the 2011 draft are just now starting to be able to be included in trades as players to be named later (essentially, they cannot be dealt as PTBNLs six months after they sign, and most signed in mid-August), so the pools from which teams interested in Garza could draw talent are about to get deeper. That’s also been an issue hanging at the periphery in trade talks.
  • Oh, also: Levine reported that he expects Bud Selig to make a Theo Epstein compensation decision either this or next week. Given that Spring Training report dates for the Cubs and Red Sox are coming in a couple weeks, I’d say that prediction sounds about right. The compensation fight has also impacted Garza trade talks at the margins.
  • Levine also talked about Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who is likely to be cleared to come to the States and then sign with a team in the next seven to ten days (which would allow him to come to Spring Training and at least *try* and make a team to start the year). Although the Miami media talks about Cespedes as though he’s certain to sign with the Marlins, Levine thinks the Cubs and White Sox are going to put up a serious fight. The final price tag could reach six years, and $50 to $60 million (I’m still betting on the high side).
  • Speaking of the high price tag on Cespedes, the San Francisco Giants will apparently not be bidding, and GM Brian Sabean had an interesting explanation why: “The price tag is probably beyond what his talent is.” Oh my. That could suggest that bidding has already reached a nutty level. Now, keep in mind, the Giants have two huge bills coming due in the next two years named Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, so their flexibility might not be the same as other teams in the bidding. And, let’s be honest – the price tag/talent threshold calculus is going to be different for every team, based on its available cash and on its scouting of the player in question. A high price tag to one team might look like a bargain to another.
  • The Nationals re-signed Rick Ankiel, who could platoon with Mike Cameron in center field. The Cubs were theoretically shopping Marlon Byrd to the Nats, who’ve been looking for a center fielder for some time, and it’s not clear whether the Ankiel signing will end their interest in picking anyone else up. Ankiel isn’t a particularly effective offensive player anymore, so he could easily fill a reserve role, or toil in the minors.
  • Since rumors are still swirling – calendar be damned – I might as well remind you: follow Bleacher Nation on Twitter and “like” Bleacher Nation on Facebook if you want the latest info incrementally faster than checking the site regularly (which, um, you should do that, too).
  • Tom B

    I’m still on the fence about trading/keeping Garza. If they keep him, every outing could end up deciding whether he can garner 2-3 top prospects or just 1.

    This will be an interesting side note during the season.

  • McKaley

    With as many “linkings” via media, speculation, or pure rumor. I am starting to believe the only reason we are “linked” to any of the rumors anymore is soley to drive the price up. I don’t see the cubs signing a 26 yo corner outfielder to such a hefty contract, then trading our ace to another club.

    I believe we paid Concepcion (sp.) Becuase he is a lefty, young, and tons of ceiling. I do see Soler as that kind of player, and another to which the cubs may actually try and corral. Not cespedes. Which, at the same time Theo and company are very close to the vest, and will keep us guessing until you see ACTUAL reports of where these kids sign

  • http://aeonimaging.com Cubbie Blues

    For what it’s worth MLBN was doing a top ten now CF. Their “shredder” (they won’t disclose the formula) has Byrd as #9 CF right now.

  • die hard

    A package including Castro to the Giants for one of their two top pitchers and keeping and extending Garza would make more sense if building a winning staff is a goal and given it appears Cubs system seems to have over abundance of SS.

    • Andrew

      that trade doesn’t make sense for the cubs. Lincecum and Cain come with MUCH higher price tag than Castro will have for at least a few years. Cain’s a free agent next offseason and I believe Lincecums not too far behind. This would be a god awful trade for the cubs.

    • Brady

      Trollolololololol

  • Noah

    I wouldn’t exactly trust Brian Sabean’s views on how much a player is worth on the free agent market, considering he’s given some of the worst free agent deals in history. He rivals Hendry for poor choices to give a ton of money to, and he wasn’t under an owner’s order to increase payroll to increase the team’s value prior to sale.

  • Oliver dehart

    Cespedes NO. NO
    Not needed..talent untested at major league level.
    Do not waste The money?

    Soler. Absolutely…Can bring through minors , finish training
    At higher level…much less financial exposure.

    • Phil

      Solder seems a lot more sense for what the Cubs are planning.

      • CubFan Paul

        …then who’s your RBI guy? the Slugger in the lineup in 2012/near future? Ian stewart?

        • Kyle

          Bryan LaHair for the first three or four months, then Anthony Rizzo.

          • CubFan Paul

            i know, i know. but that’s only 1B maybe LF too. cespedes would be a nice addition to the outfileld while soler develops. If Soler develops quickly, within 3yrs then that’s a *good affordable* problem to have #assets

  • steve

    BREAKING NEWS!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Betternews says Garza will not be traded.

  • Phil

    I’m a big fan of this website. Thanks for all your updates!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, Phil.

  • JR 1908
  • rcleven

    Rick Ankiel was signed to a minor league contract. I see this move only as insurance for not better option. The question is what do the have to offer for a 1 year contract on Byrd. It may not be Byrd but this in no way takes them out of market for an every day center fielder.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’m inclined to agree. I still think, though, that the return on Byrd – if the Cubs ever do move him – is not going to be more than salary relief, and a low-level decent prospect (B-/C+).

      • rcleven

        Not thinking salary relief angle. Opens at least one 40 man roster spot in a all ready crowded outfield. I don’t think White Sox will be serious bidders for Cespedes. So it comes down to Chicago and Miami. Cubs have a few options for center even if they don’t acquire Cespedes. Trade Byrd for lower level prospect and use money saved to sign Soler.

  • pfk

    The Marlins can justify a higher salary because he will put fans in the seats, which he really wouldn’t do in Chicago. If he was a native of Poland, he’d put lots of fans in the seats of Wrigley.

  • ThereWillBeCubs

    If Garza could only go 10-10 last year with good peripherals and terrible run support/multiple blown saves from the bullpen, how do you think he’s gonna fare this year with the 2012 team? I’m starting to lean towards moving him sooner than later too. This team might be improved on defense but I still don’t expect them to win very many games (i.e. provide run support).

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      I think the time where SP’s were graded on Wins and Losses is over.

      • MichCubFan

        Well put.

    • Kyle

      He’s a huge wild card. The peripherals were great, of course. The problem is that it’s the only time in his career he’s had peripherals anywhere near that level. I don’t know if he can sustain it or not.

      The fact that he relied much more on breaking balls last year intrigues me. It could mean that he’s figured out a new way to pitch that is a huge breakthrough for him. It could also mean an increased strain on his arm (injuries) or a cheap trick that teams will have figured out this year.

      • DocWimsey

        The peripheral that was most important was his GB frequency: Garza showed a significant increase in grounders. His big drop in HR per batter faced exceeds that slightly, but not significantly: that is, although the frequency of flyballs leaving the yard was a little lower, we cannot say that the rate was.

        Garza’s K/BF went back to his 2009 levels, but part of that certainly is that one in 9 batting slots was the pitcher. His BB/BF have not deviated from a constant rate over the last 3 seasons.

        If Garza’s BABiP returns to normal next year, then his K/9 will drop even if his K/BF does not. However, that will mean more Cubs wins, too.

  • ThereWillBeCubs

    Norm, while I mostly agree with your statement, the players aren’t robots. I find it hard to believe that if a young pitcher (hypothetically) starts the season 0-5 that his confidence won’t be rattled. At the least he might press to be more perfect, especially if the bullpen is letting him down.

    • Kyle

      The fact that athletes aren’t robots is exactly why it won’t matter.

      Of course it depends on the individual, but most people will tend to believe things that paint themselves in a positive light. If you tell the 0-5 kid that it’s not his fault, just run support, then he’ll probably believe it.

      It’s sort of an outgrowth of the fundamental attribution error:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error

      Things that happen to us are the results of our circumstances. Things that happen to other people are because of their innate qualities (or so we tell ourselves).

      So while everyone else sees 0-5 guy as a loser because he loses, 0-5 guy sees the run support and tells himself it’s not his fault (and in this case, he’s right).

      • ThereWillBeCubs

        Hi Kyle, thanks for your input/jargon. I’ve heard of the fundamental attribution error. Social psychology is not a hard science, and although it’s interesting as hell, you can’t say with any certainty that the kid will not internalize blame after 1, 5, 10, or even 20 losses.

        W/L is a team stat, but confidence is tied with success. FAE is probably a factor in maintaining confidence (I pitched well, my team let me down) but that won’t hold up for a long losing streak/season.

        I think actually in sports, athletes are MORE willing to accept blame (maybe just for interviews) in the interest of protecting their teammates.

        • ThereWillBeCubs

          Anyway, my point was that I agreed with Brett that the chance of Garza out performing or matching his 2011 season probably didn’t out weigh the risk of regression. He may already be at peak value and the 2012 club is going to lose a lot of games. I was simply stating that players aren’t necessarily well-behaved like statistical formulas, and that his tough breaks might well continue throughout this year.

          He supposedly has a reputation for being hot headed although he handled himself well last year.

  • rocky8263

    Polish kids are all about the soccer. First generation don’t really care and their children have had little exposure. I live in a predominately Polish suburb walking distance to the Addison bus end of the line . The cats ass for any Cubs fan smart enough not to drink and drive.

  • King Jeff

    The Miami media thinks that every Miami sports team is going to sign or trade for every available star that comes available, regardless of if the team has the resources or not. I have been reading articles for the past year or so that suggest that the Heat could conceivably trade for Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, or Deron Williams without giving up Bosh, James, or Wade. They were absolutely convinced that Pujols was either coming here(Miami) or re-signing with the Cards. Now they are absolutely convinced that a) Cespedes is going to be a Marlin, and b) Petyon Manning is going to be the next Dolphins qb. I take anything I read with any ties to South Florida “media” with a grain of salt. I like Cespedes, and wouldn’t mind seeing him signed as long as they don’t use the excuse of overpaying Cespedes to preclude themselves from future free agents. I’m sick of hearing about how they couldn’t afford CC Sabathia or Cliff Lee because of the money they already had committed long term. If it’s above market, fine, just don’t give him an albatross deal.

    • Quintz

      KJ makes a good point. South Florida thinks they are in on everything since the NBA FA PowerBall win. Baseball ain’t basketball and I’d not be surprised that after the sheen of the crazy Marlin attacking a gay bar automated statue thing in centerfield wears off, they will be drawing worse than….well……the Florida Marlins.

  • DCF

    Honestly I’m kinda getting tired of these kind of Garza/Cespedes rumors.
    The Cubs made it clear weeks ago they are only trading Garza if they find an idiot overpaying massively for him and there’s no indication whatsoever they changed their mind.

    Regarding Cespdes, I doubt the Cubs have any other “link” to him than their intention of driving up the price. No way in hell Theo/Jed are taking a $60 million gamble on an A-ball veteran.

    • Quintz

      I agree, he very well could be a fantastic player, but where the Cubs seemed to be positioned “philosophically”, Cespedes really doesn’t make much sense. I’d be stunned and at the same time, kind of excited if they signed him (I realize that made very little sense).

    • cls

      I agree, I wish there were more Soler rumors than Cespedes rumors. He’s the one I’m really curious about. Wonder when he plans on signing…

      • Toosh

        Has he even established residency? Can he be signed?

        • cls

          I have no idea. Haven’t seen anything anywhere on him really. I’m hoping someone has some info and can provide, but it’s been really quiet on the Soler front.

  • cubsin

    Soler hasn’t yet established his residency in the DR. Once that’s completed, he can then request that MLB declare him a free agent. Once he’s a free agent, he can negotiate with MLB teams, but still can’t sign. For that, he needs Homeland Security’s stamp of approval (what Cespedes is currently waiting for) to enter the country. THEN he can sign a contract.

    One further caveat: Soler knows he won’t see much if any action in Spring Training before the minor league camps open, so he’s got a bit more time to get things done.

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