Lukewarm Stove: Wells, Byrd, Garza, LaHair, Soto, Soriano, Soler

Bruce Levine held a chat yesterday, and, given the uptick in rumors over the last week, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that it netted enough rumory goodness to justify a Lukewarm Stove (in late March!). Surprised or not, I’m certainly pleased.

  • A number of teams have asked about Randy Wells, which is pretty understandable – when teams see a guy, fully capable of being a back-end starter on most MLB teams, who is about to be put in the bullpen, they’re going to come calling. It doesn’t mean they’ll offer a whole lot, mind you, but they’re going to ask – and, given that Wells makes just $2.71 million this year, he does have some trade value. Bruce thinks Wells has gotten the shaft this Spring by being on the outside looking in for a rotation spot, and suggests that a trade is more likely than shuffling Wells to the pen or to AAA.
  • Bruce doesn’t see a lot of depth in the Cubs’ outfield, so trading Marlon Byrd right now might not be a great idea if the Cubs don’t want Brett Jackson in the bigs right away. While I’m not suggesting Tony Campana or Dave Sappelt or Joe Mather are as good, overall, as Marlon Byrd, I have to ask: is the downgrade from Byrd to one of those three (or a platoon) really so severe that it’s worth holding onto Byrd to start the year if the Cubs get a good offer for him? I say no way. Trade Byrd for the best possible deal whenever it comes up, and sort out the details from there.
  • Bruce doesn’t think Bryan LaHair has the range for the outfield, and doesn’t think the Cubs will seriously consider moving LaHair there if/when Anthony Rizzo is ready for the bigs. (Which, if true, makes you wonder: what do the Cubs do if July rolls around and both LaHair and Rizzo are killing it? What if no team wants to trade for LaHair? Do the Cubs just keep Rizzo in AAA? Do they bench LaHair?)
  • Conversely, if LaHair struggles, Bruce could see the Cubs filling in with Jeff Baker and Joe Mather, rather than immediately calling up Anthony Rizzo.
  • Many teams remain interested in Matt Garza, but they would have to “gut their farm system” to acquire him. Bruce doesn’t have a good sense of whether the Cubs are serious about negotiating a long-term extension with Garza, because they’ve been very secretive about that issue. That said, Bruce still believes the Cubs will trade Garza by July 31 if they haven’t signed him to an extension by then.
  • Bruce doesn’t see the Cubs as willing to trade Geovany Soto until Steve Clevenger and/or Welington Castillo get a little more seasoning. Bruce also tabs Soto as a guy who’ll have a big season.
  • Alfonso Soriano’s big Spring isn’t enough to change teams’ minds about taking him and his $54 million over three years. Bruce thinks Soriano sticks with the Cubs all season.
  • Jorge Soler! Ever heard of him? On the reason things are taking so long with the Soler: “My opinion, MLB is concerned about media reports saying he already had offers from other teams. Soler is not able to sign with a team until he is cleared by MLB. It’s been a sensitive issue.” Bruce would have an interesting point if we weren’t still waiting on Soler’s residency in the DR. In other words, if Soler isn’t  yet a resident of the DR, there’s nothing MLB could be doing to slow the process down – Soler can’t apply for free agency until he’s a resident of the DR. If, on the other hand, Soler has achieved residency, it’s possible that MLB – concerned about the appearance of impropriety about its teams negotiating with a Cuban citizen – is slowing things down so that it can put some distance between a signing and those early reports about teams like the Cubs coming to an under-the-table agreement with Soler.

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

93 responses to “Lukewarm Stove: Wells, Byrd, Garza, LaHair, Soto, Soriano, Soler”

  1. rich

    levine is nuts they should trade byrd asap! they have enough depth levine thinks he’s mr. know it all

  2. baseballet

    A question regarding Soler: If the Cubs get him and it turns out that he’s as good as they hoped, and if he plays well in the minors, under that rosy scenario how soon might we see him in the majors?

    1. Luke

      Most analysts seem to think he’ll need at least two years in the minors.  That would put him in Chicago in 2014.  Beyond that we can’t say until we can get some minor league game data on him.

      1. Noah

        And two would be pretty much absolutely speeding through the minors. It’s hard to tell how advanced he is at this point, though, and whether he should start in Peoria or Daytona if he comes to the Cubs. The scouts probably know this, but we only get information from them through Goldstein/Law/etc.

  3. Spencer

    Unrelated to the post, but it was in the comments earlier this morning:

    EPIC LULZ at the typo.

    1. EQ76

      it did feel like 901 losses though.

  4. Cheryl

    If LaHair is killing it, like you said, and they have Dan Vogelbach (sp?) in the wings it seems like it would make more sense to trade Rizzo rather than LaHair (Again, that is if Vogelbach is the real deal.).

    1. TWC

      Cheryl, we all know you’re insanely stoked on Vogelbach, but even if he was killing it in the minors, he’s got at least 2 or 3 years until he hits the majors.  Why on earth would they resign a 30-year-old LaHair (he’s a free agent after this season) and ditch Rizzo, rather than lose LaHair and keep a low-cost controlled Rizzo until Vogelbach’s ready to start (if ever)?  I think it’s fair to assume that Rizzo would still have plenty of value to other teams in 2-3 years, while he’s still under cost control.

      1. David

        How could LaHair be a free agent? He wouldn’t even have two years of ML service time in after this year.

        1. TWC

          I’m greatly paraphrasing (because I don’t know the specifics) but MLB Rule 55 allows for players who have been in the minors for >6 seasons to be allowed free agency.  LaHair was drafted in 2002, and was granted free agency by the Mariners in 2009.

          EDIT:  This, from TCR(scroll wayyyy down for it):  MLB RULE 55: Sometimes called a “Six-Year Minor League Free-Agent,” a minor league player qualifies for free-agency under MLB Rule 55 if the player has spent all or any part of at least seven separate seasons on a minor league club’s Active List and/or Disabled List (including all or parts of any season spent on Optional Assignment to the minors), and/or if the player has been previously released in his career and his present contract (known as a “second contract” even if it’s his third or fourth minor league contract) has expired.

          1. David

            Right, but that would only apply if he was a minor leaguer. If he spends the year with the Cubs, he wouldn’t be a free agent unless they tried to send him down. And at this point, I would think that it would required waivers of some sort.

            Maybe we’re just making different assumptions, and I’m assuming that he’s going to be with in the majors all year.

      2. Cheryl

        What I’m thinking of is the transition to Vogelbach. How can Rizzo be kept for two to three years? LaHair could be done in that time period. If LaHair doesn[‘t make it, then you have a problem with Rizzo, Put him at first for three years? He’d be 24. What’s the solution if Vogelbach is the real thing? Even if Mather were to play first, it would be an easier transition to Vogelbach. I see Vogelbach as the future at first base, not LaHair and not Rizzo.

        1. DocWimsey

          heh, again, you are not just counting this chicken before it’s hatched: you are counting it before the egg is laid! Quite frankly, I’m not sure the rooster has even entered the room….

          If Vogelbach is legit, then the Cubs have the luxury of trading him or Rizzo in 3-4 years. That would be a nice “problem” to have. But it’s not an issue now, and the FO should work under the assumption that Vogelbach will be as memorable in 20 years as Earl Cunningham is today.

          (For comparison, *that* FO started planning the Sandbert -> Ty Griffin transition right away…..)

        2. TWC

          It’s foolish to trade away (or force a new position on) a near-ML-ready player [Rizzo] because of a possible, 3 or 4-year distant conflict at the same position [Vogelbach].

        3. Kyle

          Vogelbach is a second-round pick who has barely played as a pro. At this point, the odds of him never getting a single plate appearance in the majors are better than even.

        4. Joe

          What I don’t get is why you don’t think Rizzo is a solution. Isn’t he widely considered one of, if not *the* best first base prospect in the entire league?

    2. Eric

      Vogelbach is most likely 3-4 years away. Cant really worry about that right now.

      1. Noah

        I think the real way to put it is that we’ll have no way to know if Vogelbach is the real deal until he reaches AA. You just can’t tell that much about unathletic guys who are going to need to provide such a high amount of their value with the bat until they start facing better pitchers in the high minors. And the VERY earliest I’d expect to potentially see Vogelbach in AA is at the beginning of 2013, and that’s if he absolutely kills it in Peoria to start the season, is sent to Daytona mid-season, and kills it there. More likely he spends most of the season in Peoria, gets a bit of time in Daytona to end the season, then starts 2013 returning to the FSL.

        1. DocWimsey

          Or, another way of putting it: a guy is not “waiting in the wings” unless he’s been playing well at AA ball or better.

          1. Noah

            Quite true. I just think a lot of Cub fans are a little overhyped on Vogelbach. Yes, he has huge power potential and reportedly has a pretty advanced approach at the plate. But it’s really hard to even get to the majors as a bat only player. That bat has to be really, really good.

            I think it’s one thing with an athletic guy. You can look at Matt Szczur, who will just start in AA this season, and say that even if he doesn’t hit much he is a good enough athlete to add enough on the basepaths and in the field to be a reserve outfielder. If Vogelbach doesn’t both get on base and hit for power, his odds of even reaching the majors will be somewhere between slim and none.

            1. Steve

              You said “slim” and Volgelbach” in the same sentence. That might be the only time in his yet undecided career that you EVER hear that.

            2. Cedlandrum

              I believe Szczur will and should start the year in Daytona.

              1. Noah

                I believe he should start at Daytona as well. I was just going by where he was listed on the official site rosters (last I checked a day or two ago he was on Tennessee’s). He could definitely use a couple months more at High A.

                1. JohnZ

                  he may be cut, released

    3. The Dude Abides

      i’m not holding my breath that both lahair & rizzo are killing it by mid july in their respective leagues but if they are it will give us a chance to see the management style of sveum & theo working with a positive experience.

  5. rich

    epstien knows what he’s doing i believe he’ll make the right calls contrary what levine say’s

  6. Smitty

    Does anyone find it strange that the Braintrust hasn’t made an effort to discuss the Garza extension at all?

    Is it a game of chicken they are playing right now? If Garza comes out gangbusters we can get a much better deal than what we are being offered now. If he doesn’t come out ganbusters and struggles, like he did last year to start the year, we can discuss the extension and possibly get a better deal on that end.

    What does everyone think?

    1. Eric

      I’d still like to see him dealt. I’m a huge Garza fan but I think by the time this team is ready to contend on a regular basis he’ll be in his early 30′s. If the Cubs can get several pieces that can help them down the road than I think they should deal him.

  7. Joshua

    It look like the Rangers are moving Kojii. It’d be nice to get some insurance in the bullpen, plus gives the Cubs more freedom with Marmol without a lot of commitment. I’d like to see this done, and if Lahair is killing it, why mess with anything? Max his value out but if someone makes an offer you can’t refuse, why hold back?

  8. Chef

    IF (big if) LaHair and Riz are both killing it in June/August, what are the chances that LaHair could make a suitable transition to 3B? I’m not exactly stoked on Stewart’s chances on batting over .225, and doubt that Vitters/Lake/ et al will be ready to step up there. Yes, I intentionally ignored the fact that DeWitt is available. He’s not an everyday player in my opinion.

    1. Luke

      Minimal.  If LaHair is pushed off first for whatever reason, his only likely destination is left field.

      1. Stinky Pete

        Sooooooooooo what if LaHair, Rizzo AND Soriano are killing it in June/July?

        1. Beer Baron

          Then we all give props to the Mayans because the end of the world is indeed coming

  9. Norm

    Vogelbach is so far away he shouldn’t even be thought about yet.
    LaHair cannot play 3B.
    If LaHair and Rizzo are tearing it up, I would bet LaHair gets time in the OF, regardless of what Levine thinks.

    1. Noah

      Agree on all fronts. LaHair can’t be that much defensively worse than Soriano in LF. And if he makes up for it by bringing a much bigger stick against RHPs, it will likely be a good tradeoff.

    2. RicoSanto

      IF Lahair is tearing it up , Rizzo will not be called up. Because of his stint in San diego
      If the want to save a year on his clock and many millions he cant come up I think until late August.When have the cubs had 2 very good players poised to start soon Rizzo and Jackson. This is what Theo did in his first few months.The answer probably would be 1960 and 61 Wiilliams and Santo

  10. Bric

    I’m glad Levine mentioned Mather at 1st. I’ve wondered why more people haven’t seen this happening. I was never on board with handing Lahair the job before ST and if Mather continues to hit he’s gonna need a place to play without seriously downgrading the defense. I can see him being the regular 1st baseman by mid May and Lahair headed back to Iowa.

    1. DocWimsey

      Most people realize that Mather’s ST numbers are meaningless, that is why. Well-run organizations do not use ST as an audition for starting jobs; indeed, any time there is an audition for any role then it is usually is a tacit admission that you do not have a real solution for that role.

      1. Bric

        Doc, respectfully, I can’t wait for the season to start to we can end this pointless debate about whether ST stats are meaningless and sample size and all the rest of it.

        The reason is because I can assure you that if we could ask Mather, Lahair, Sveum, right now if ST production (maybe not the box score stats but the production itself) is important they would say YES. Don’t think for a second that Lahair’s sitting in the dugout thinking “It’s okay if I go 0 for 4 today. I’ve already got a job. I’m just working on some things.” Stas and production is critical to these guys and their jobs. So, yes, they are important to them, whether they admit it or not. Or they’re complete morons.

        1. Noah

          They’re meaningless because spring training success is completely unpredictive of success in the regular season.

        2. Norm

          But the STATS mean nothing. If LaHair goes 0-4 but those four balls were line drive rockets caught before LaHair could even get out of the batters box, that’s a good sign, despite the 0-4.
          Process is more important than results.

          1. Bric

            Anybody got Trevor Miller’s cell number so we can end this debate? Unless he was just looking for a 3 week paid vacation I’m pretty sure his ST numbers meant more to him then the process itself and the results it produced.

            When you’re being paid to do a job a 0 never looks good, a hot line drive that’s caught is just a loud out, and if (as a rookie) you not looking over your shoulder at the other 7 guys trying to take your job you won’t be keeping it for long. Unless, of course, you’re producing, which is what he’s just started to do. Whether he continues to or not is the question and I’m thinking he’ll be on a fairly short leash.

            1. drew

              I cant speak for the FO, but I would imagine theyd be looking at more than just stats in regards to someone like Miller.

              For instance, they may have watched some video on him pitching successfully and/or gathered data on his pitch location or speed, and used ST to see if he still “had it” or not, using it as sort of a benchmark.

              As with many transactions at this level, id imagine they arent as easy to judge as you or I tend to make them out to me.

        3. Kyle

          I don’t care what ballplayers think about baseball analysis. Their job is not baseball analysis, they did not become ballplayers because they were good at baseball analysis, and in fact they are best at their jobs when they believe a lot of things about baseball that aren’t true.

          1. Noah

            Well, I wouldn’t say that’s always true. It depends on the player. Brandon McCarthy’s recent success is reportedly at least significantly due to changing nearly everything about the way he pitched after he started learning modern analytics. But for most players, I’d agree, but that’s in part because too many of them have absolutely no interest in the subject.

            1. DocWimsey

              But that also reflects a shift in conventional wisdom. To combat high home run rates, pitching coaches preached: “strike guys out.” That fed the fire: pitching for K’s means yielding a lot of FB when contact is made.

              Somebody realized that GBs are HR about twice a year in blooper-reel plays, and began preaching “pitch for grounders.” A few guys listened: and it slowly has begun to spread.

        4. DocWimsey

          Whether the ball players think that ST is important is not very germane to the issue of who starts: the Cubs players are not going to vote on that. It is what the front office and the manager thinks that is relevant.

          And that means that, for this topic, ST stats are not (or should not be) very relevant. The FO dubbed LaHair the starter when they decided to acquire Rizzo instead someone who could plainly start in 2012.

          1. Bric

            Doc, what are you saying? If all of these games and the players’ performance in them means nothing, that the players are simply pawns being moved about by management in a predetermined master plan, then why bring in FAs like Trevor Miller at all? If so, we truly are screwed.

            That makes the Cubs more like Disneyland, moving the people around through the busiest rides to make the most money rather than a professional sports team trying to put those most deserving on the field. Obviously the Cubs is a huge business that winning doesn’t seem to affect.

            But check out a Rays ST game for example. Those guys don’t have what we have and it shows. In the 15ish year existance they’ve done far more than the Cubs with a far smaller fan base, less merchandising, way less salary and against harder competition. Maybe we should stop using cop outs like ST doesn’t matter and take a page out of their book.

            1. DocWimsey

              The Rays’ success has nothing to do with ST. It has everything to do with both good scouting and a bit of luck with a high proportion of their good prospects coming through. Their ST’s are not auditions: Desmond Jennings could play as well as possible last year and they weren’t going to start him because they wanted to retain another year of control. It was the same thing with Matt Moore.

              All of these games are an anachronism. Remember, the original purpose of ST was not mass auditioning, but working winter flab off of players who had not been doing anything athletic in several months. Even in “the old days,” most teams (and especially the good teams) penciled in the same guys as they had played the prior year. Indeed, the veterans watched out for themselves: they often did what they could to protect the jobs of other veterans.

              Now, are teams making decisions about essentially interchangeable players? Sure. Whether you have a Campana or a Mather as your 25th guys makes no real difference. But only bad management would use ST (or September) to decide on the starters. Teams like the Rays certainly do not.

    2. TWC

      I would think it’s very unlikely that LaHair goes back to AAA if he fails/flails at starting 1B this year.  If he’s struggling, and Rizzo’s not ready to take over, why would the Cubs send him to AAA to take time away from Rizzo?  He’d be released.

      1. Bric

        That’s true. I was thinking the option would be to waive him and if he doesn’t get picked up he could go back to AAA (given his years of service for the Cubs) but I’m not sure if that option would be available. Or, as you say, he’d just get released.

    3. Noah

      Joe Mather is terrible. 49 meaningless spring training at bats in Arizona, many of them against minor league pitchers, do nothing to prove otherwise. I’ll be extremely pleasantly surprised if Mather is anything resembling a major league ballplayer, but wholly expect him to end up in Iowa or released by mid-May, maybe earlier.

      1. Cooper Rushing

        Way to be optimistic!

    4. Joe

      If Stewart can’t swing it, what about Mather at 3rd on a regular basis, at least until his bat goes cold/drops to his career standards? Or would Baker/Dewitt be the default go-to for the 3B replacement?

  11. Frank

    No reason not to move Wells. We have plenty of back end rotation depth. I’m actually wondering why there’s been no Dempster trade talk. Here’s a very solid mid rotation guy who’s very doubtful to be a Cub beyond 2012.

    1. Noah

      Not sure he wants to be traded. He has 5-10 rights, so he can block a trade. He might be more willing to look at it later in the season if he can move from a noncontending Cubs team to a contender. But I know he has a daughter who deals with a very difficult long term illness, so he might be of the mind that he doesn’t want to move her around much. I don’t know if his family comes with him to Chicago for the season, though, or just has one home the daughter stays at full time.

      1. Bric

        Wells doesn’t seem old enough to 5-10 rights but you might be right.

        1. Noah

          Sorry, I meant Dempster has 5-10 rights. That’s why there might be no trade talk regarding Dempster.

          Wells does not have 5-10 rights, and won’t for 7 more seasons, if he is able to hang on one team for the last 5 of those seasons.

          1. Bric

            Okay now I get the daughter reference. I wasn’t sure about that point either.

  12. Eric S

    Hey Brett, Here’s a crazy idea! What about putting one of Lahair or Rizzo over to the hot corner if they are both killing the ball and Stewart fails? Not sure how much of a difference first and third are, but that plan did backfire on the Cardinals when they tried to move Fat Albert over to the hot corner in a failed experiment. Worth a shot! Unless you take your chances on Lahair being Soriano-esque in the outfield, and hopefully the rest of the guys can pick up some bad defense.

    1. Noah

      Huge difference between first and third. This is defensive spectrum, from most difficult to least difficult: C, SS, 2B, CF, 3B, RF, LF, 1B.

      Some think catcher should be left out of the spectrum because it’s a very different beast, but LF is a much easier position to play than 3B. LaHair would be almost certainly be atrocious at 3B. And unless he intends to hit like Miguel Cabrera, any offensive contribution he makes at 3B could be cancelled out by how terribly he would be there defensively.

      1. KidCubbie

        Just ask Cabrerra about the move from 1st to 3rd. He did the switch and immediately took a beamer to the eye. Its a much different beast. I would try Rizzo at third before i ever would Lahair, but neither one of them will play it. Stewy is good at 3B, no reason to move him.

        1. npnovak

          Idk why I have to keep bringing this up on this site, but Rizzo is left-handed. He won’t even take BP grounders at 3rd

          1. KidCubbie

            Damn your right. I wasnt even thinking about that. They wouldnt move anyways.

    2. npnovak

      Rizzo is left-handed. And LaHair…no.

  13. Mike

    RE: Bullet #2

    Totally agree on the marginal value of Byrd. Depending on how you feel about advanced statistics, Byrd was worth around 2 wins last year. So if one of the other options at CF can play at even a replacement player level, it’s not going to cost you THAT much.

    Two wins is a lot if you think the team is going to win 85+ games. If you don’t (and I don’t) what’s the realistic difference between say 78 and 76 wins?

  14. The Dude Abides

    the cubs have no depth at all in the of. most of their players who are mentioned are backups on bad teams like the cubs. they also said byrd would only bring back a questionable probably not going to make it prospect in return so it’s a salary dump. trade byrd dump the salary and stick jackson out there for the year if he’s good fantastic if he struggles he get’s it out of the way in what looks like a long year to be a cub fan

  15. art

    agree on the Byrd thing, take the first offer and run, lol. as for the range in OF, could LaHair be any worse than Soriano? or Murton/Fox/Dunn? take the first decent offer for Soriano and wish him well.

    1. Joe

      How do you define “decent”?

  16. Cheryl

    Question. When and how should you judge how good the draftees are? Some say three years is what it takes to develop. Yet others say you shouldn’t look that far in the future for a player to pan out.

  17. Eric S

    Good rule of thumb on the draft is five years later. The grade a team gets is usually on what they developed five years after a guy was drafted. Last year? The Cubs had one player from their 2006 draft class make the major leagues in Veal and he was awful in the Pittsburgh system with an ERA over 7.00. Which is why a lot of experts stated the Cubs 2006 draft class as an F.

  18. Cooper Rushing

    What’s the return on Randy Wells looking like?

  19. Ryan

    Id guess somewhere like what byrds would be

  20. RunningCub

    Reed Johnson for center field starter anyone?

  21. Ryan

    wonder if the Cubs have any interest in Casey Blake on a minor league deal in case Stewert struggles

    1. Spriggs

      Man, I hope not. I’ve always had a big dislike for that guy. Reminds me of when the Cubs got Ken Reitz. He was hard for me to root for. I just hate getting guys that blow who I never liked to begin with.

    2. Cooper Rushing

      I think Mather is a better option to aid Stewart if he’s struggling then Casey Blake would be.