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I said last week that we could see an uptick in rumors before Spring Training ends, and it didn’t take long for some serious rumor-mongering to arise. Last night, I was told the Chicago Cubs have been fielding calls lately about a number of players, including Matt Garza, Geovany Soto, Randy Wells, Jeff Baker, Blake DeWitt, and especially Marlon Byrd. Teams reaching out include the Angels, Blue Jays, Braves, Indians, and Rays.

Obviously not every team is inquiring about every player, but, based on previous rumors, I’m assuming you can line up which guy(s) goes with which team(s). (A new suggestion, though, connects the Angels to Matt Garza. It’s hard to see a fit there as the Angels already have a full rotation, but I’m told the Cubs quickly escalated their efforts to scout Angels prospects. I don’t know anything more than that.)

I wasn’t going to dismiss the multi-player, multi-team rumor, but I’d intended on discussing it rather generically, given that, as I’ve said before, I believe teams are constantly placing and fielding exploratory calls this time of year, the vast majority of which never go further than that first call.

But then this morning, Gordon Wittenmyer offered up a bit that he’s been hearing on Byrd, specifically:

One major-league source said the Cubs offered Byrd — who’s in the final year of a contract that pays $6.5 million in 2012 — to the Nationals for pitching, with the Braves also believed to be discussing Byrd. Another source said the Cubs don’t appear to be shopping Byrd as much as listening to offers.

Couple that with a suggestion from the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s David O’Brien that the Braves would be wise to go after Byrd (and a follow-up comment from Buster Olney that he agreed it would be a good move), and there are some legs to the Byrd piece of this rumor set.

Byrd has been the subject of rumors dating as far back as last offseason, and the two most frequently mentioned teams have been the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals. Entering into the last year of his deal, Byrd is a prime trade candidate. He plays solid defense in center field, hits plenty well enough for the position, and is excellent in the clubhouse. The return on Byrd would vary depending on how much of his salary the Cubs are willing to eat (if it’s none, they’ll get, at most, a low-level, high-upside, probably-won’t-make-it prospect; if it’s a lot, they could get as much as a solid B prospect).

But is now the time to deal Byrd? Spring Training deals are rare because teams like to see what they have in the early part of the season before making a move. Should that be the Cubs’ thinking, too?

Nah.

The primary consideration for the Cubs on the timing of a prospective Byrd deal should be “when can we get the greatest return?” If that time is right now, the Cubs should pull the trigger. If they feel like Byrd can build his value over the next few months, or that additional openings will pop up, they should wait.

I know what you’re thinking: what about Brett Jackson? Well, I want to be clear that the Cubs should not hold up on trading Byrd in an effort to keep Brett Jackson down at AAA for a little bit longer.

Howeva.

Should the Cubs manage to trade Byrd before the season starts, I believe they should still let Jackson play at AAA for at least a month. I want to see if he really looks like he can cut his strikeouts down (he K’d in almost 30% of his plate appearances at AAA last year – that kind of rate in the bigs (where, in theory, your rate should go up) will absolutely kill you, and, in turn, your confidence). And, yes, I want the Cubs to gain that extra year of control on the back-end of Jackson’s first six years in the bigs. The value the Cubs gain, and Jackson gains, by just one more month in AAA far outweighs the loss of having Jackson put up numbers for the Cubs in April. We’ve been thinking long-term for months – it’s not time to stop now.

As for who plays center field on the big club for that month, pick your poison – Campana? Mather? Sappelt? I could accept any of them, to be candid.

  • Kyle

    I’m bored, it’s still too long until the season starts, make a trade or something.

    I’m already slipping into “let’s just be as awful as possible” mode. Dump ‘em all.

  • Crockett

    Shouldn’t you be using PA’s, Brett?!?! Ha.

    Jackson definitely needs to be in AAA til June or July, if only to delay his arb clock. This team is not likely making a push for the playoffs and saving money down the road is still a big deal.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Ha. The funny part is, I did use plate appearances (after thinking about our discussion), and then typed “at bats.”

  • http://punshouse.com Nate Corbitt

    The guys on “First Pitch” on XM this morning were talking about how now would be the perfect time to try to unload Soriano on an AL club, especially if the Cubs are still willing to eat most of his salary. Any chances of that happening?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I think the Cubs have been trying that for months. Teams just aren’t willing to take on more than a few million (total, not each year) in salary, and, at that rate, the Cubs believe they’re better off keeping him.

      • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

        Agree, unloading Soriano for less than $5M a year in savings is probably a net wash at best. Soriano, for all of his faults on the field, still sells merchandise and if trading him for salary relief only makes that a wash then you are better off keeping him considering he isn’t directly blocking any prospects.

        Since Jackson won’t be hurt by staying in Iowa for another couple months it is best to wait until Byrd can be moved to bring up Jackson. Oh, and the Cubs would be devoid of anyone on the roster who could be counted on for more than 20 homers and if we want ANY shot at contention, we will need.

  • Crockett

    With Vlad still bouncing around FA, I doubt it.

  • Justin

    I believe a player has to be a on a team an entire season in order to gain a comp pick. Should that be true it would be further motivation for teams to obtain Byrd before the beginning of the year as he likely gains a B-level supp pick.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      You are correct about the entire season part, but there are no longer any Type B’s. Only way to get a compensatory pick at the end of the year is to offer the free agent a one-year contract at a rate the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball ($11 or $12 million, if memory serves). Byrd won’t be getting that kind of offer, so compensation isn’t a consideration.

      • Spencer

        And the player must have been on your team for the entire season.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          …says the first sentence of my and Justin’s comment? :)

          • Spencer

            my b. long couple days at school.

    • CubFan Paul

      Good point. With sappelt, Mather & campana in the fold Byrd should definitely start the season elsewhere

  • Keith

    If the Cubs are truly in talks with the Nationals for Byrd, I would like to see them piece something together for John Lannan. He has been on the trade block most of the winter and wasn’t even suppose to make their rotation until Wang was injured. Plus they took him to arbitration and he lost which always seems to create bad blood for that team and player.

    • Crockett

      Why would you want Lannan? He’s terrible. Yes, his ERA was good, but all his peripherals and advanced metrics were pretty bad. He’s a low K/high BB SP. Plus, the Cubs are loaded with SP options right now.

      This would be a really, really bad move.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      Cubs already have John Lannan. His name is Paul Maholm.

      • Keith

        That is true. Just don’t see our pitching being that stable. Any young depth we can add to the pitching for a player that is out the door the better.

      • DocWimsey

        Then we just need Paul McCirtney, George Hurrison and Richard Sturkey…..

        Seriously, how much is Byrd worth? I think that he’s worth a little more to the Nats than to the Braves (the Braves have Bourne), but I still do not see Byrd bringing back huge talent.

        • Katie

          Loved this one, as a Beatles nut!

  • CubFan Paul

    Whether it’s Garza, Soto, Wells, Baker, DeWitt, or Byrd we can rebuild the farm quickly with talented A ball players & ML ready players (t.wood, volstad, sappelt, rizzo)

  • Keith

    Lannan is still young and is like Ted Lilly was when cubs signed him and everybody thought it was a horrible pickup. He puts up consistent numbers and is still under team control through next year. We have a lot of starting pitchers but none that are consistent. Lannan’s 3.70 ERA is less than every pitcher we have except Garza.

    • Crockett

      His ERA was more a fluke that anything. And ERA is not a great indicator of a pitcher’s ability and/or success. He’d be our 7th best SP option right now if I was ranking them. That means, even with a Garza trade, he’s not in the rotation.

      • Keith

        How could you call his ERA a fluke when he had ERA’s of 3.91 and 3.88 in 2008 and 2009 with over 200 and almost 200 innings pitched. The only fluke is his 2010 ERA of 4.65 which is still better than almost every starter we had last year. All the other SP’s you are mentioning with the exception of Demp, Garza and Maholm are questionable starters and would be a career year to have a 3.70 ERA.

        • Crockett

          ERA was a fluke when compared to peripherals and advanced metrics. For instance, his WHIP was awful. His K/BB was awful. His FIP and xFIP were horrendous for a guy with a 3.70 ERA.

          • Keith

            One year is a fluke 3 out 4 years is not, that now becomes a trend. He is a 200 inning guy and his ERA will at least keep you in the game. He is one of those left handed pitchers that everyone knocks because they are not flashy like Lilly and Jamie Moyer and the next thing you know they have over 200 wins. Not saying he will and I doubt the Nationals would trade him for Byrd either way.

            • Kyle

              If something can happen once, why can’t it happen 3 times out of 4?

              • Keith

                Which is the difference between a fluke and a trend. One time is a chance occurrence 3 out 4 years with an injury the 4th year is not a chance occurrence.

                • Kyle

                  So once a fluke happens once, some sort of magical force prevents it from ever happening again in a short time frame? Sort of like how lightning is supposed to work?

                • DocWimsey

                  Hmmm, a trend has a definition, whereas “fluke” does not! It’s easy to model trends. A constant rate is just the special case of a trend hypothesis where some modifier (e.g., the rate gets X times better or worse each year) is set to 1 or 0, depending on the equation. It’s very easy to reject or accept a trend hypothesis.

                  What we really need to do is determine the probability of Lannon’s last 4 ERAs given his peripherals (and given the correlations between peripherals and ERA). You then need to plot it against the probabilities of all other pitchers to see if it really standsout. For example, if there is a one in 400 (p=0.0025) chance of seeing this, then it will stand out from a cluster of (say) 100 or so other pitchers who’ve wracked up similar innings.

              • DocWimsey

                It can, but it is improbable if the difference between Lannon’s ERA & peripheral stats is really flukish. For example, if the probability of his “true” ERA being less than 4.0 is ≤0.25, then there would be less than a 5% chance of getting 3 of 4 seasons with an ERA under 4.0.

                My guess is that the peripherals might be masking something like a high groundball rate that make a lot of his hits singles. However, those numbers are out there.

    • Gabriel

      Ted lilly strikes a ton of guys out and walks very very few. He is faaaaar better than Lannan.

      • Keith

        Walks WHIP
        2004 TOR 32 32 12 10 0 0 0 2 1 197.1 171 92 89 26 89 168 4.06 1.32 .230
        2005 TOR 25 25 10 11 0 0 0 0 0 126.1 135 79 78 23 58 96 5.56 1.53 .272
        2006 TOR 32 32 15 13 0 0 0 0 0 181.2 179 98 87 28 81 160 4.31 1.43 .254

        Lilly is definitely a better picture now but here are his stats before he joined the Cubs for 12 million per year. And strikeouts can be overrated if you can get someone out with less pitches, saves the bullpen.

  • Cliffy

    Your trade rumor postings, with un-named sources are my favorite story lines. I wish we had more of them.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Can only have as many as I actually hear.

      • Joe

        Aw, you’re not making them up??? ;) I KID!

  • Kevin

    Byrd is fun to watch so unless another club pays all his salary and gives us a good prospect in return then I would hold off trading him,

    • CubFan Paul

      That’s not how real baseball trades work for mid 30′s players..

  • Dan

    Trade Byrd and get something nice in return, like a young potential 3rd starter. Play Joe Mather in center and keep going with him until he shows major signs of slippage.

  • PKJ

    With Jackson’s K rate, should we be worried that he’s Corey Patterson with a little bit bigger walk rate?

    • CubFan Paul

      If Patterson walked more he’d have a starting job

      • Crockett

        Disagree with this premise.

        Jackson’s more favorable comp is a less powerful, more athletic Adam Dunn.

        • Kyle

          CF playing Mark Bellhorn?

        • yield51

          The comp. on Jackson that I thought fit the best was Ray Lankford. High BB’s, high K’s good speed, and a little pop. If he can become a player of that caliber, I think we will all be happy for the next 6 or so years in CF/RF.

          • Crockett

            I think this is a pretty fair comp, though I think Jackson will only put up .240-.260 BA’s every year. And you’re right, if he does turn into Ray Lankford with above-average CF defense, I think we’d all be ecstatic.

    • Kyle

      We should get down on our knees and pray that he’s Corey Patterson with a better walk rate.

      • Crockett

        Which year of Corey Patterson? 2005? 2007? Even with more walks, Patterson had major flaws. I hope (but am not optimistic) that Jackson is a better overall player.

      • DocWimsey

        Somehow that sounds oxymoronic…… Seriously, BJax projects to be a Mark Reynolds type. The K’s will keep his BA low, but his high walk rate could keep his OBP around 0.350.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      More K’s for Jackson

  • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

    Garza to the Angels for Trout, Pujols and $260M, Byrd to the Nationals for Harper, Strasburg and both Zimmermans, Soriano to the Braves for Teheran and $50M

    Bingo, GM’d.

    • Katie

      You’re so smart! Get Theo on the phone pronto!

  • Eric

    How long does Rizzo have to stay at AAA to avoid super 2 status? Not that I’m in a hurry to rush him…

  • TeddyBallGame

    Wow, this is great stuff. Put a legit rumor out there and everyone is all over it. These discussions are great and only get me more fired up for the season. Regardless of who is traded, when, I think it’s a no-brainer to keep both Rizzo/Jackson down in the Minors until we save that extra year on the backend of their deals…I want to see those two as much as anyone, but let them feel less pressure down there, we save a year on both, and ideally they’re hitting full stride when we call them up. I like Byrd in CF, so unless we get a prospect that has a chance, I say keep him. It’s not like we’re shredding payroll to save $$ for next year. Soriano is an entirely different story. Trade him within the first few months of the season, put LaHair in LF and call up Rizzo to play 1B. It’s a different kind of feeling KNOWING we have capable prospects ready to produce when they’re called up!!!

    • Joe

      I dig most of this. Soriano isn’t tradeable, but he still has value even to the Cubs, so that’s all good. Although I wish we could trade him this year, I can’t imagine he’ll become more tradeable as he ages EVEN MORE. :P Probably we just have to endure until the Cubs are ready to bench/release him, which won’t happen for a while just yet. Maybe late 2013?

  • Pat

    I’m skeptical of any starters getting traded this close to the start of the season. Sounds to me like the club putting it out there that these guys are available.

    Didn’t we hear this past offseason that there were “multiple teams” showing interest in Soriano? I know we heard similar things about Fukodome the last couple offseasons he was here. Dewitt, really? No one wanted him a few weeks ago when he was going through wavers but now they want to give up a player to get him? It doesn’t make sense.

    About the only player listed above I could see involved in actual talks at this time of the year is Garza.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      “Didn’t we hear this past offseason that there were ‘multiple teams’ showing interest in Soriano?”

      Indeed we did. Because there were. That a guy has not been traded is not proof that there were no discussions. The problem was, no team was willing to pay a lick to get Soriano. They wanted him, essentially, for free.

      I don’t know how else to say it – teams make calls on guys for many reasons, and most of those calls are merely exploratory. Calling a team to see what’s up on Blake DeWitt is a far cry from a team calling and saying, “dudes! you’ve GOT to trade us Blake DeWitt.” For all we know, they could be calling to see if the Cubs were planning on bouncing him again.

      • Pat

        So your contention is that trade leaks like this should always be taken at face value?

        All I’m saying is that front offices often leak things to the media for alternate reasons. In this case I would not be surprised that these are all guys they wouldn’t mind moving – and by putting it out there that there have been talks on these players (regardless of whether they are serious talks) you might force the hand of someone with a need who is playing things more slowly than you would like.

        I’ll amend here a state that I could also see a legitimate chance of a Randy Wells trade, as he is better than the 4 and 5 starters on many teams, including the Cubs.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          “So your contention is that trade leaks like this should always be taken at face value?”

          Of course not. I don’t know how you got there from what I said.

          Teams talk about a bazillion possibilities. Maybe it’s Team A just floating that they might trade a guy. Maybe it’s just Team B checking to see if they can get a guy for cheap. Maybe it’s just Team A trying to plant the thought in Team B’s head that Team A might be looking to do Thing X. And maybe the leak is a totally team-driven load of crap to spur interest.

          I’m saying only that the interest in Soriano was real – it just happened to be the “we’ll take him if you’re dumping him for nothing” kind of interest. As for this crew of players, I have no doubt that teams are legitimately interested in Byrd, Garza, Baker, and Soto at the right price. Why wouldn’t they be? And if you’re throwing out the baby just because Blake DeWitt is in the bathwater, let me suggest that it’s possible teams like what they’ve seen from him in Spring Training, have changed their tune, and would now gladly claim him on waivers.

  • Cheryl

    What about a relief pitcher? The Braves have always been strong in pitching. Is there a good prospect available?

  • Kbreezy

    If the rumor is true that the Angels want Garza, they’re going to have to give up a lot in return. Especially since Jed has talked about signing him to a long term deal. I’m guessing Theo will say something like “You want Garza? We want Trout.” That is where it will end.

  • ty

    The cubs could throw a dart at a list of young angel prospects and come out a winner. They are loaded in every category. Spending the day at Tempe Complex is like a candy store–no team attracts more scouts on a daily basis. Trout should be un-touchable but their owner is hands on and he wants it all this year. Give us anyone of about five prospects plus pitcher John Hellwig and seal the deal. Garza hard to replace but this club is so screwed he can not save us in the next four years. This rumor could be the real deal and as I said the owner is way too much hands on for the Angels comfort.

  • kubphan82

    I can handle strikeouts… As long as the P/PA is high, meaning BJax is working the count. The problem I saw with BJax this ST is he didn’t face a full count, at all. And with 2 strikes he had a BA/OBP of .091

    He needs AT LEAST some time in the minors, hopefully thinking about those numbers. I look forward to his arrival in Chicago, but it can wait.

    • Cedlandrum

      You have to consider the sample size. He walks too much to not have a high P/PA

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yeah – strikeouts, alone, are not necessarily a problem. The problem is what they indicate – that a kid isn’t making contact when it counts. And the less you make contact, the lower your batting average (for obvious reasons), and, in turn, the lower your OBP (which matters more).

  • Bric

    If the Cubs could get either Sean Burnett or Drew Storen for the Nats in return for Byrd and about 75% of his salary they should jump on it. Burnett’s a little bit of a hot head but is basically Sean Marshall light. Storen’s also looked good in the few times I’ve seen him. I suppose Lannan would even be an option if you only let him pitch 1 inning per game. Afternoons in Wrigley are long and hot enough without him taking his usual 15 to 18 minute breaks between each pitch.

    • CubFan Paul

      Storen is a local Indiana kid. his dad would be stoked if he was traded to the Cubs, Reds, Sox or somewhere close

  • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

    I wouldn’t expect much more than a AA prospect in the 10-20 range (for the Cubs) if Byrd is traded.
    Definitely NOT a Drew Storen.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Ditto on both counts. I’d be thrilled with a AA prospect in the 10-20 range.

      • Bric

        Okay so Storen’s probably a stretch but Burnett might be got. I believe he was traded from the Pirates to the Nats for McCutcheon that I think also included Morgan so it was kind of a multiple attitude problem deal but the Nats have since closed the books on Morgan and if I recall, have thrown his name out there a couple of times, too. They obviously want more “good guys” on thier staff which is why they’re looking at Byrd. I’m thinking they’d move Burnett in a heart beat for a good reason.

        • Bric

          My bad, the head case in question was Lastings Milledge, not Andrew McCutcheon.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        What about Steve Lombardozzi?  He’s a switch hitter who could either back up Barney and Castro now, or possibly step in and replace Barney.  With a minor league career .369 OBP and 74 steals, he could possibly lead off for the Cubs.  He’s also blocked in Washington.

        • CubFan Paul

          The Cubs have to be heavy in the trade market for LHP (both relief & starting)

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            I think we’re going to see the Cubs shift hard toward left-handed pitching over the long-term, so yeah, I agree.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Seems like the kind of guy who’s plausible. Also seems like the kind of guy who could take over for Barney if his glove were good enough. Doesn’t look studly with the bat, but certainly offers more upside than Barney. I guess the glove’s the thing on a kid like that.

        • chris margetis

          Didn’t he play second for the Twins when they beat the Cardinals in the WS in 87?

  • rocky8263

    My only real frame of reference for ML trades comes from Hollywood. Seemed pretty straight forward. Brad Pitt telling the other GM his guy was available give me the first name that comes to mind in return. Loved that movie. Brad Pitt at his age doing all those pull ups!

  • Dumpgobbler

    Don’t know if I’m in love with Garza to the Angels. You have to assume Trout is off the table ,as he should be. What would a deal look like? Garrett Richards would be in there I’d think. Then you’d have a bunch of names including Segura, Lindsey, Cowart and Hellweg.
    Honestly.. I would ask for Trout. A deal with the Angels shouldn’t get doen in my estimation.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Other than Trout, the Angels don’t have that great of a farm system.  The level of talent drops off pretty fast.  I really can’t see them giving up Trout.

      If they would deal Garrett Richards and Johnny Hellweg, I think a deal could happen.  I’d want to see at least one or two other solid prospects in the deal, though.  Jeremy Moore would probably be on my shopping list. Still, even with that I don’t think other teams would have too much difficulty out bidding the Angels.

      • Dumpgobbler

        Would you do Peter Bourjos, Garrett Richards and Johnny Hellweg for Garza?

        • hansman1982

          With Bourjous, what would you then do with Jackson? Glancing at the stats, Bourjous appears to be no better than Jackson with fewer K’s, BB’s and Homers but a year of service time already.

          Richards is interesting and is in the top-100 but Hellweg isn’t anything to write home to Mom about.

          I think the Cubs could do much better for Garza.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          I would, but it isn’t ideal.

          Bourjos has some power, but his game is more about speed.  I have some concerns about his ability to get on base enough to use really that speed, but even if he never posts an OBP over .320 his speed and defense will keep him well employed.

          What I’d really like to see the Cubs acquire in an outfield prospect is left handed power.  Of course, if the Cubs believe then can sign Soler, then their priorities when exploring Garza trades are going to be different.

          Regardless, any deal with Anaheim, if it doesn’t include Trout, I think should have both Richards and Hellweg.

          • Richard Nose

            Trumbo (for RF/any corner sub or replacement), Richards, and Hellweg? Gewwwww.

  • die hard

    Back up the truck is what I say….anyone with more than 3 yrs in the bigs should be traded or released…..then we can chalk up the season to tryouts for next year…at least our expectations wont be artificially raised every time Soriano goes on one of his homer binges or Dempster manages to go more than 7 innings two games in a row or Soto throws out a base stealer etc….

    • TWC

      I know you’re pretty familiar with the rules of baseball and all, but you really appear to have very little idea of how the game actually works.

      • MichiganGoat

        Rules are for mortals

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Ha.

    • Brady

      *facepalm*

  • Ryan

    If Garza were to get traded would you allow a 24 hr window for them to try and sign an extension with the new team if it ment a better prospect? Also I expect some deal to be made simply because of the Cubs 40 man situation.

  • Rylan

    I’m already voting for Joe Mather to get the Captain’s ‘C’ on his jersey this year.

    • Spencer

      Random, but who was the last Cubs Captain? Sosa? or maybe D-Lee?

      • Joe

        D-Lee, pretty sure. Maybe Dempster? Or is Captain always a position player?

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