The Lukewarm Stove is finally settling down for the year. There will probably be rumors throughout Spring Training, but I reckon those’ll be reported on a one-off basis, rather than in a Stove-like set. It’s kind of sad…

  • In addition to the big update last evening on Jorge Soler and the Cubs’ non-signing, there is a rumor going around that Blue Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos is headed to the DR today to see and meet with Soler. I’m not saying it’s true, but, if it is, it’s hard to see him going to all that trouble if everyone understood Soler to have a preliminary agreement in place with the Cubs. Of course, there remains a whole lot of room between “signed to a contract” (which we know Soler isn’t) and “some kind of understanding with the Cubs” (which Soler may have). And in that room might be a chance for other teams to swoop in with a compelling offer.
  • There have been more reports today about a other teams interested in Soler, including the Phillies, says Buster Olney. The Cubs, I suspect, can go toe-to-toe with all other bidders in terms of cash, but will some other team go nuts (especially if they feel like the Cubs already have the inside track)? The Cubs’ recent influx of teammates/friends of Soler’s will help if the money is close. I’m still at 51% Cubs.
  • Bruce Levine chatted yesterday and touched on a variety of rumors. Notably, he revisited a Geovany-Soto-for-Wade-Davis swap, which didn’t make much sense the first time it came up. Now, Levine agrees – he doesn’t see anything like that happening, but doesn’t rule out Soto being a trade candidate in-season. If Soto is hitting well this year (and if Welington Castillo is performing well at AAA), I think you can pretty much guarantee Soto will be a frequent subject of trade rumors.
  • Levine also noted that the Cubs have had discussions with Matt Garza about an extension (which we knew), but a sticking point between the sides is the Cubs’ refusal to offer a no-trade clause on a long-term deal (which I previously reported). The Cubs will continue to listen to offers for Garza should they come along and improve upon the unacceptable offers the Cubs received this Winter. A key injury or two in Spring Training is never something to root for, but it could certainly help the Cubs’ bargaining position.
  • Roy Oswalt is somehow still a free agent. We’ve heard at various times that the Red Sox, Reds, Rangers and Cardinals are trying to move salary to open up enough cash to sign Oswalt, but apparently none has been able yet. I presume it will happen soon enough, with Spring Training around the corner, but what if it doesn’t? Does Oswalt pull a Roger Clemens and continue to sit on the sidelines until one of his preferred destinations gets desperate? Or does he get as much money as he can from wherever he can?
  • Eric S

    Brett would you be giving the Cubs the one up on Soler if you weren’t such a Cubs Homer? The fact that the evil empire Yankees, Phillies, and now Blue Jays are in the mix for a guy that is said to have the “5 tools” and is only 19? This SCARES me a lot! I would LOVE for him to sign with the Cubs, but I feel that their grip on him is slipping every single day. The sooner he signs with us the better.

    • JB88

      Not that Brett needs a defense, but he repeatedly put the Cubs at lower odds to sign Cepedes than other teams. IOW, Brett’s a more realistic homer — he isn’t wearing rose colored shades when it comes to the Cubs landing a player.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        I’d say that’s a fair description of me: unabashed Cubs homer, but I do my best to be realistic. If memory serves, I never had the chances that the Cubs get Cespedes at higher than 30 or 35%, even when all signs were pointing to it (for about two days). As for Soler, I don’t think it’s the homerism – just looking at the evidence. And, when I say 51%, I hope it’s clear that I’m saying it’s ever-so-slightly more likely than not that he comes to the Cubs. But, like, there’s a whole other 49% there.

        • SirCub

          Yea, 51% sounds fair to me. Especially when on issues like this, most reports tend to have the word “definitely” in them. Like, he is DEFINITELY going to the Cubs, or DEFINITELY not. I appreciate your general outlook that there is DEFINITELY nothing definite, and anything can happen.

  • JB88

    Agreement in principle or no agreement in principle with Soler, my guess is that signing Soler just became more costly for the Cubs.

  • baseballet

    The Cubs need to decide if Wellington can play in the majors. He turns 25 in April and he was only given 13 big league at-bats last year. He needed a bigger trial run last year.

  • Beer Baron

    Do the Blue Jays have an advantage in the Soler negotiations because they are Canadian, and therefore not subject to US laws? Yesterday the Cubs seemed to be on the defensive to show that they were not in violation of US (and MLB) law, but now Alex Anthopoulos is allegedly traveling to the DR to negotiate with him. And I realize that the Cubs made numerous trips to visit Cespedes (and presumably Soler) in the past so maybe you can visit but not talk business? Just had me wondering…

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Anyone know if Canada has the same kind of embargo on Cuba as the U.S. does? I suppose it could make a difference – though it wouldn’t matter to MLB. Soler still isn’t cleared to sign by them.

      • Beer Baron

        I know I can buy Cuban cigars legally in Canada. For whatever that is worth.

      • JB88

        I don’t believe Canada has an embargo with Cuba. As one piece of evidence, you can fly from Canada into Cuba.

      • DocWimsey

        The US is pretty much alone on this. At any rate, you can travel freely between Canada and Cuba.

      • Noah

        I’d be curious even if you play for the Blue Jays if you have to meet US employment requirements to play in the MLB? I’d bet the answer is yes. Even if Soler signs with the Blue Jays, all their minor league affiliates are in the states. On top of that, it’s not like Soler can actually go back to Cuba just for a visit, unless the idea of spending time in prison sounds appealing to him.

      • gblan014

        I’m Canadian and no, Canada doesn’t have any sort of trade embargo with Cuba. People and goods are free to travel between both countries.

      • CF

        Canada doesn’t have the same regulations in place, but the U.S. sanctions are so far reaching (even over foreign entities) that I’d be shocked if the Blue Jays are free to negotiate with Soler without OFAC’s approval. For instance, if a U.S. citizen or entity has any significant holdings in the Blue Jays, that person/entity could be subject to criminal prosecution for having dealings with Cuba through a 3rd party (the Blue Jays). I’m sure there are U.S. citizens somewhere in the Blue Jays ownership structure or their dealings with MLB.

    • Frank

      My bet is that MLB requires all contracts under the auspices be subject to US law, regardless of which country the individual franchise calls home.

  • Luis Salazar

    I was thinking when it was reported that Cubs have come to an agreement with Soler even though he couldn’t legally be signed didn’t make much sense. What would make the Cubs think that Soler or his agent still wouldn’t listen to other potentially better offers? Until the contract is signed all bets are off.. To speculate the Cubs and Soler have some type of verbal agreement means jack IMO.

  • Noah

    There’s a lot of curiosities here. Even if the Cubs do have a wink and a nod deal with Soler, neither they nor Soler’s camp can admit it or really even imply it without potentially facing a lot of trouble from both MLB and the federal government. I just wouldn’t be surprised if the CBA states that all MLB contracts are subject to US law, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re actually the subject to the law of one state.

    I’d day the Phillies are unlikely to be major players if the price is anywhere near as high as reported. Their payroll is maxed out. The Yankees and Blue Jays could be other stories, but I can’t see Anthopolous thinking he can drop nearly $30 million on a guy who is 3-4 years away.

    But the mystery team always lurks, and we won’t know anything until he is granted free agency and the OFAC license comes through.

    • Luis Salazar

      My question is why would any team make a legit offer to him until he can sign anyways? It’s not like you can sign him at the time you are making that offer, and the only thing that can come from it is his agent using it is a bargaining chip to other teams.

  • So Ill Cub Fan

    Theo has been so secretive about everything he’s done or planned, I have to believe that most of what we’ve heard regarding Soler is media speculation. Theo has probably set guidelines, but who knows how flexible.

  • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

    Per Ben Badler, its illegal to even negotiate with him, nonetheless sign him.

    • Luis Salazar

      Exactly… So do the people speculating think that teams are just braking rules left and right? After this offseason I believe very little about where free agents are going, especially these Cuban guys. I want to see some ink on paper. But it is still fun to talk about even though it’s probably all b.s.!

    • Noah

      Norm- illegal per MLB rules or illegal per OFAC? I’d presume the former, because if it was the latter it’s pretty clear that at least the Marlins and A’s were negotiating prior to him having employment clearance from OFAC. And then if it is only illegal per MLB rules, I’d be curious how the MLB defines “negotiating.”

      • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

        I think OFAC…
        Cespedes had residency elsewhere, so that wouldn’t be apples to apples, would it?

        • Noah

          Ah, I thought Soler had DR residency, although if he did he’d probably be a free agent subject to OFAC approval.

          Well, then I’m curious how OFAC defines “negotiate.”

        • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

          The country of origin has a big play in this. The fed is still acting as if it were 1963 and Soviet nukes were on their way to Cuba, they want to make sure these guys are not communist spies.

  • Leroy Kleimola

    Thank goodness we’re getting away from these 7 year no trade clause contracts. It seemed to last forever.

    • Wilbur

      Amen …

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    I’m hoping that Castillo won’t be spending much time in Iowa.  He should be on the major league bench, starting a game or two a week, and learning the pitching staff.  At this point I’m not worried about stunting his offensive development; I’m more concerned about his game calling.  If he is going to take over the starting job when Soto leaves, some time watching and learning on the major league bench won’t hurt him at all.

    • CubFan Paul

      i kind of disagree, for the reasons you mentioned: only starting a game or two a week, stunting his offensive development and his game calling. I’d rather Clevenger be Soto’s backup because he’ll get more left-handed at bats off the bench with his versitility. & when Soto gets traded Clevenger takes over for the rest of 2012 while Castillo works on his “game calling” (the big one) and keeps his bat/offense fresh all year in Iowa ..If Clevenger works outs that gives the Cubs 2 starting catchers for 2013/trade bait

      • Kyle

        I’m too lazy to look it up right now, and I get them confused. Between Clevenger and Castillo, which one’s the one with a little HR potential?

        That’s Clevenger, right? He should be starting in AAA because he has some offensive upside.

        Castillo is just a guy who you don’t mind being the backup and it’s nice to have him cheap instead of having to pay for a veteran in that spot, but I don’t think he has any offensive potential to realize so there’s no worry about stunting his development sitting on the MLB bench.

        • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

          Clevenger is the better hitter, but I think Castillo actually has more power. It’s a little hard to say right now; Clevenger’s power has been going up since he started catching full time.

      • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

        So long as Castillo or Clevenger are in Chicago to start the season, I’m content. I think Castillo is the more likely to make the cut, but Clevenger does make more sense. I can go either way, so long as it is one or the other. Whoever misses out on the major league job starts in Iowa.

        And it might not be a good idea to rotate them in and out of Chicago. Get Clevenger and Castillo both time starting in Iowa and backing up in Chicago.

        • CubFan Paul

          agreed. i like that we have positive/quality depth somewhere

      • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

        And I disagree with you, the Catcher position is the one spot on the diamond where I wouldn’t mind having a prospect come up to be a backup. There is so much that goes on between the ears that a rotation of 2 days on the bench learning and observing and 1 day starting would be a good way to ease someone into the starting catching role when you have a starter like Soto.

  • DocWimsey

    On notes related to Soler, ESPN’s trio of Olney, Law & Bowden rank that Cubs 13th for projected performance over the next 5 years. This is based on weighted importance of current roster, the farm system, finances, management, and mobility of contracts. The Cubs rank (shockingly) 25th in current roster and 19th in farm systems, which are what drag them to the middle. The trio are big Theo fans and they like the Cubs financial situation. The Cubs actually rank 11th in contract mobility: yes, there are a couple of big ones left, but most are off the books soon.

    Soler fits into 3 of these categories, although you can be that any team scoring well in management and finances is going to feel that their system could use Soler no matter how good it currently is.

  • fearbobafett

    pretty sure the blue jays swooped in on SS A Hecvenia (sp) when it was assumed a lock that he was headed to the Yankees to be Jeter’s future replacement. So i would be worried about it.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I think Hechevaria was one of the examples Kevin Goldstein gave of a pre-arranged deal before the kid could actually sign. Not sure that was this kind of swoop job.

  • Smitty

    Would it really be better for Castillo to get every day at bats in Des Moines or start learning his pitching staff from the bench and be that backup? It would get him the needed at bats to prepare him. what are everyone’s thoughts? We know what he can do in the minors.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Don’t forget, if Castillo is starting everyday in Iowa, that probably means Clevenger goes back to Tennessee for a year.  Between Castillo and Clevenger, one needs to be in the majors, and one in Iowa.  Long term, I think Clevenger is the better major league backup.  He bats left handed, is a pretty good hitter, and can fill in at first and third.

  • ty

    Wellington at times is more a backstop than a receiver–having watched him play many games in extended spring training and instructional league in the fall. If he makes it hats off to Jody Davis for hours and hours of tutoring. Strong kid with good work ethic but but very prone to some strange errors.

  • die hard

    Always liked Oswalt…has Maddux like toughness…and chip on shoulder that as bad as Zambrano but difference is hes loved by his teammates as he saves the chip stuff for the opposition…why not the Cubs?…would be good for him to be on the staff for 2 years and show kids how to work…then when hes toast, become pitching coach…

  • http://bleachernation loyal100more

    it does seem his time has come to be productive or for the club to look into options. his age and his last season in the minors suggest in my opinion that he is ready to take the next step and at minimum be the back up… get familiar with the staff and take some major league at bats… this seems to be the logical next step in his development

  • Eric S

    Keep in mind I meant no ill will using the word “Homer” in my response. Just wanted to let you know that. I just wanted to get your take on the chances we actually sign this kid. When it comes to the Cubs being the favorites for anyone, I’m always giving the Cubs the edge, because as far as I’m concerned they should always be the favorite. They should’ve been the favorites for Fielder (not worth 9 years) Cespedes (bad contract in the making for the A’s high risk low reward) and other players. But as Heman reported last night on “Real or Rumor” and you confirmed today the Cubs are “likely” as Heyman put to land Soler. And 51% and likely give me at least a little optimism.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      No problem at all – I am a homer, in a sense. I know you didn’t mean anything bad by it.

  • http://bleachernation loyal100more

    how about cubs win WS in 2015… MVP- jorge soler… CY-concepcion

  • Ron

    While the departure of the Luke warm stove will be sad, we will soon get to say helloo to the series-she-view!

  • Bric

    “If Soto is hitting he’ll be the topic of various trade discussions…” That’s about as simple as it gets. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case since his rookie season. I still chuckle when thinking of the posters last summer who were talking about him “getting a metric ton” of prospects if the Cubs were to trade off everyone. Never happen.

    Short stop and catcher may be the hardest positions to play but look at the teams that mattered last year and the catchers they had- the Cardinals, Rangers, Giants, Brewers, etc. In July the only position teams in contention are going to look at is more pitching. Every other trade is basically a mid year luke warm stove.

    • http://Www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      2010 was just as good as 2008, if not better. People leave that out for some reason.

      • Bric

        I’m not a big stats guy so numerically that may be true. I’m just basing my assertion on the lack of interest any other team publicly had on him at the time. I get that we fans might have access to only 1% of the private talk between teams but I gotta believe if there was any legitimate interest in him it would have been all over this site and many others.

        • http://Www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

          We need to hope he has a 2008/10 year in him. If so, could be valuable.

        • DocWimsey

          There would not have been public interest in Soto in 2010. Although he was having a good season, he was still very much under team control and the Cubs could afford to go through arbitration with him as well as free agency. The cost of a young, inexpensive, team-controlled, high OPS catcher on a team that genuinely thought it was going to compete next year was going to be astronomical.

          Soto’s dismal 2011 had a lot to do with bad luck. Of his 96 hits, only 53 were singles. When he hit the ball without getting an HR or double (i.e., creaming the ball), he had less than a 21% chance of getting a single. We expect slow runners to do a little worse than average on this score, but nowhere near that bad. If Soto seemed to be lining out and hitting into hard ground outs a lot, well, that’s because he must have been!

          • SirCub

            Good example of the stats supporting what you see in the game. Anecdotally, it seemed like Soto was lining out a lot last year. Here is a dumb question though. Are there some players that are just better at hitting the ball where the defenders aren’t (and therefore, some that are worse (ie- Soto))?

            • TC

              There are many factors that determine a player’s BABIP (batting average on balls in play). Speedy players tend to have higher BABIPs, while slow ones have lower BABIPs. Other factors included the type of hitter a player is; fly ball hitters will post much lower BAIBPs because around 75-80% of all fly balls are outs, while significantly lower percentages of grounders and line drives are converted into outs. So a slow, fly-ball tendency hitter would, in theory, post low BAIBPs.

              However, FanGraphs would suggest that Soto is not a flyball hitter. He’s got a career .97 GB/FB ratio, meaning that he’s only *ever* so slightly more of a flyball hitter. More importantly, he’s got a career 20.4% Line-Drive Percentage, which is actually strikingly large. SO, while his speed may contribute to lower BABIPs, they really shouldn’t be as absurdly low as they were last year. He’s probably going to have a bounce-back year.

              The LD% is the really important one to look at for most hitters, as line drives fall for hits around 80% of the time. So, yes, some hitters are simply better at hitting the ball where defenders aren’t, they just happen the same guys who hit the ever-loving bajeezus out of the ball on a consistent basis (see: Miguel Cabrera)

  • Bric

    Good point. With a new coach and plenty of new young faces Soto, Marmol, and Byrd could all have good first halves that would make them much more apealing to other teams.

  • mysterious4th

    All of us cub fans can take a sigh of relief…..the giants seem to signing Ramon Ortiz! That’s one less piece of depth off the table that the cubs don’t need! Maybe some way garza, dempster, wood, volsted, and wells (yes I project this as the starting rotation to break camp) can all toss some damn good ball this year and we have a surprise rotation since our offense doesn’t project to be all that great. Well, unless they play some good and clever small ball.

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