Lukewarm Stove: Offseason Pitching, Soriano, Jackson, Baez, Valbuena, Garza, Hamilton

The Lukewarm Stove continues to take on a decidedly “offseason” flavor, as the Cubs plod toward the end of the 2012 season …

  • Dale Sveum was recently asked about his expectations for the offseason. Specifically, does he think the Cubs will be adding pitchers to the big league rotation? “Yeah on a realistic basis you’re looking at seeing who’s out there and then it could be more than that,” Sveum said, per Doug Padilla. “Whatever resources we have to spend sometimes and you go from there, but there is obviously some pieces that we have to put together and the more competition and the more you have the better off you’re going to be.” I doubt the Cubs add any big name type pitchers, but I similarly doubt – quite strongly, actually – that they’ll open 2013 without at least a new face or two in the rotation. But, if you read between Dale’s lines, when asked if he thinks his bosses will go after pitching in the offseason, he’s answering, “OMG YES MOAR PLEEZ KTHXBYE.”
  • Nick Cafardo thinks that teams who were considering Alfonso Soriano midseason this year really missed the boat by not getting a deal done. He cites a “talent evaluator” for that opinion, and suggests that Soriano could still be a quality middle-of-the-order bat for most teams, while playing adequate left field. That sound you’ve heard over the last month is the market for Soriano’s services this Winter expanding. The Cubs, should they wish to move Soriano for a prospect and a little bit of salary relief, will probably have options.
  • Doug Padilla talked Cubs this week, and among his thoughts: (1) The Cubs won’t bring in a veteran center fielder in the offseason to compete with Brett Jackson for the job in 2013 – in other words, while they might bring in a veteran 4th outfielder, the center field job is Jackson’s; (2) I like Doug, but I think he really flubbed a question about the types of free agent pitchers the Cubs will pursue this offseason (Doug says the Cubs will be looking for “guys who are young and about to break through,” which, like, so is every team ever; the Cubs, in free agency, will be looking for middle tier starter types who could rebound and provide trade value mid-season – I think Doug was thinking about trades, in which case, yeah); (3) Doug doesn’t expect ticket prices to drop in 2013 (which would, I think, be a pretty tough sell given the last two years and the expected 2013 team (I’m not saying the Cubs are doing the wrong thing rebuild-wise, but you have to be sensitive to the wallets of your fan base – there is a breaking point)); (4) 2014 is the probably the earliest we see the Cubs kicking the tires on “big name” free agents; (5) Doug sees the “dream” future infield as Anthony Rizzo at first, Javier Baez at second, Starlin Castro at short, and Junior Lake at third (Lake’s defense at third would have to be pretty awesome to justify that – I could just as easily see the Cubs dreaming about Christian Villanueva at third, or Baez there with someone like Roni Torreyes at second); (6) trading Soriano in the offseason is still a tall task given the artificial restrictions his no-trade rights place on the market (no team in the West save for the Dodgers, no rebuilding teams); and (7) Matt Garza likely starts 2013 with the Cubs.
  • Bruce Levine also chatted, and … (1) He thinks the Cubs could make Jeff Samardzija an extension offer this Winter, though no deal is likely given Samardzija’s three remaining arbitration years (I’d say the limited track record as a starter – albeit a good one – and the fact that he’s already got quite a bit of cash in his pocket are the bigger reasons you won’t yet see an extension); (2) Bruce spoke to three different scouts about Javier Baez, all of whom saw him as Major League ready within a year and a half (which I take to mean mid-2014), which is pretty awesome, given that he’ll be just 21 at that time; (3) All three scouts, by the way, see Baez as capable of handling shortstop in the big leagues; (4) Bruce suggests the Cubs try to get their big league players to participate in a 10-ish day minicamp before the holidays in the offseason (in the Dominican Republic, perhaps? Pretty nice facilities being built there … ) to work on things like pitch selection (yes!) and small ball philosophy (hmm); (5) Bruce agrees with Doug, and says he’d be shocked if Brett Jackson is not the Cubs’ starting center fielder on Opening Day 2013; and (6) Bruce reiterates that he gets the sense from the Cubs that they view Luis Valbuena as a potential future contributor (in the sense that they need to give him at bats now to continue developing him).
  • Ben Nicholson-Smith also did some chatting over at MLBTR, getting a jump on the offseason. No overt Cubs bits, or even obviously connectable Cubs bits, but it’s always interesting to survey the broader rumor landscape. Makes for a more informed offseason. His prediction for Josh Hamilton? Nine years, $215 million. Before you scream that he’ll never get that much, keep three things in mind: (1) Hamilton is easily the top free agent in a really weak class; (2) every year we think the biggest contract handed out is ridiculous, and yet it keeps happening – at some point, that stops being “ridiculous” and starts being “normal;” and (3) I think salaries are going to keep trending up in the wake of the new CBA and the rash of extensions. I think Hamilton tops out at eight years, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get eight years and $180 to $200 million, which is really insane if you think about it.

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

72 responses to “Lukewarm Stove: Offseason Pitching, Soriano, Jackson, Baez, Valbuena, Garza, Hamilton”

  1. John Moore

    Brett, Any news on Stewart, does he figure into Cubs plans at all?

    1. ry34

      hopefully not.

  2. Stevie B

    You want to hear my crazy opinion?? I say we should sign Hamilton.

    We are going to compete within the next 3-4 years and that bat would be the cornerstone.

    No, I am not subjected to random drug testing.

    1. Cub Style

      He is an absolutely, god awful, day player.

    2. fester30

      He’s 31, turns 32 in May. A guy making that much into his late 30s just sounds like a bad contract waiting to happen. That’s one of those paying for past performance sort of things the Cubs’ current management has said they’d like to avoid. Just too much risk. Soriano is a great example. Sure, he’s productive this year, but I don’t think he’s ever lived up to the value of his contract, and there are still years left on it. That kind of money becomes an albatross hanging around a team’s neck. Some team who figures they’re one left-handed power bat from winning it all next year will sign him.

      1. Dustin S

        Thinking the same thing. An 8 or 9 year contract for a 31 year-old who’s had his share of health problems seems like something I wouldn’t want to touch with a 10-foot pole. I do really like Hamilton and respect the personal problems he overcame to be successful though.

        As far as the Cubs in FA this year, I’m not expecting anything more than longshot gambling on a couple of cheap Shawn Camp-type reclamation players. If the Cubs high-level minors weren’t so thin now I’m not even sure they’d do that. But Sveum could use at least a few more warm bodies to fill-in for 2013. Theo won’t say it, but the goal is getting through 2013 with the hope that the Baez/Almora/etc. guys might start making it up in 2014. Then after that we might start to see some action in FA to fill-in where it will actually help. Until then I think hoping for quick FA help is wishful thinking.

    3. Chris

      If they were closer, I’d say it wouldn’t be bad to consider. But there are so many holes in this team right now that by the time they are all filled, Hamilton is probably a declining player with a bad contract, and you have a Soriano-type situation all over again. Factor in the number of OF prospects that they are high on, and I’m not sure Hamilton would have a spot in a future OF. And lastly, he’ll be a Type A free agent and that would cost the Cubs the 2nd round pick in the draft. There is no way the FO signs a Type A free agent, losing a draft pick in the process. The whole point of this horrible season was to rebuild the farm system, either by trading veterans or stockpiling high draft choices.

  3. Matty V

    I hope the Cubs can find someone who wants Soriano this off-season. I think he’s done a good job of increasing his value this year. He has (mostly) played hard during a lost season. His production has been solid and his defense is noticeably improved. Given his age, I’m not sure his value can go up much more next season. I think it’s pretty safe to assume there’s no way Garza is traded in the off-season. He hasn’t thrown a pitch since July and no one will want to gamble that he’s healthy, or if they do, they won’t give up much for him. I’m hoping he comes back strong in the spring and either signs an extension, or brings in a haul of prospects.

  4. Cub Style

    Texas was probably incredibly happy when LA got Crawford, effectively pulling them out of the Hamilton sweepstakes.

  5. mudge

    ken williams traded for an injured jake peavy. why couldn’t garza pass a physical, do some throwing and start the year elsewhere? it didn’t seem like a major injury.

    1. Chris

      It’s highly unlikely the Cubs trade Garza in the offseason due to his current depressed value. However, there is one caveat to that. Some teams may desire to acquire Garza in the offseason to ensure they receive draft pick compensation if he bolts via free agency after 2013. If the Cubs can somehow demonstrate he’s healthy in January, his highest value may be prior to the season starting. With the new CBA, a free agent to be must be with the team for the entire season if that team is to receive draft pick compensation should he leave the following year. What I don’t know is when that starts. Could they demonstrate he’s healthy in spring training, and then trade him before the regular season? We need a CBA expert to weigh in.

      1. King Jeff

        Good point about the draft pick, something I hadn’t considered.

        1. donnie kessinger

          Yes – great point.

  6. Njriv

    I think if the Cubs want to trade for a pitcher this offseason or require more young, high upside talent and the other team wants Barney in some type of package deal, I think the Cubs should pull the trigger. The Cubs have a bunch of 2nd baseman in their system like Watkins, Torreyes, Amayia, Bruno and even Baez could move over to second. They have a lot of options and at least one of these guys should pan out if they don’t obtain another option on a trade.

    1. Chris

      I would think that they would pull the trigger on a deal like that. The question is, what team is going to offer enough to make it worthwhile to trade Barney? I believe he was discussed in package deals with the Tigers, but that’s really the only rumor that had any legs involving him. I think anybody but Castro, Rizzo, and Samardzija are available for the right price. But who’s a good fit for a .260-hitting defensive 2B? It would have to be a team with other offensive weapons that sees the value in his defense. The Tigers filled their hole at 2B already. Maybe somebody looks at him as a SS, but he doesn’t have a rocket arm for the position. They do have a ton of middle infield talent coming up, but until they are ready for major league action, Barney has more value as a Cub than dumping him for a middling prospect.

      1. wilbur

        I think you’re right if you limit Barney only to 2B. I think I have heard comments that Barney would be as good at SS as 2B. Someone may want a very good glove that hit’s .250/.260 and doesn’t cost a lot as their everyday SS.

    2. New Guy

      And if you bring back Stewart and slide Valbuena to 2nd (if he is indeed in the Cub’s plans) then Barney becomes expendable.

      1. Kyle

        But why would you want to do that? That might just manage to make the defense and offense both worse.

    3. Kyle

      Ewww. Padilla aside, I don’t see Baez as a 2b.

      And no, I don’t think you can be reasonably sure that you get a MLB second baseman out of the rest of that bunch. Those aren’t bad prospects, but they aren’t particularly impressive ones either.

      1. Drew7

        I agree. Baez at 3B is probably most likely for a dream scenario.

        While I don’t think you can be “reasonably sure” one of those 2B prospects will pan out, I think there’s a pretty good chance you see at least a guy equally as valuable as Barney.

        1. Kyle

          I think that’s pretty hopeful. Even if you tone down the defensive metrics, Barney’s been close to an average-value starter the last two seasons. It’s asking a lot to assume that the random collection of MIF prospects that pretty much every club has will turn into that.

          And even if they do, not a player on that list is closer than two years away

          1. Drew7

            I think Watkins sees Chicago for a good part of 2014. After that though, you’re right.

      2. Flashfire

        Okay, let’s completely forget about Torreyes. What does Amaya have to do to be considered “impressive?” Go .298/.381/.496 in the NWL as a 19-year-old with some truly spectacular defensive plays thrown in for good measure? Okay, he’s done that.

  7. cubchymyst

    I’m not expecting the cubs to be to active for free agency. What I’m curious about right now is the rule 5 draft this winter. I found a list of cubs players eligible on a website, http://www.thecubreporter.com/rule-5-draft-eligibility, can someone with more knowledge then me let me know if this list is accurate.

    1. King Jeff

      It’s not complicated. Players are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft who are not on their team’s MLB 40-man roster and were signed at >18 years old and have been in the organization for four years; or were signed at age 18 or younger and have been in the organization for five years.

    2. Chris

      The site you reference has been pretty spot-on with the Rule 5 stuff in the past. Eyeballing the list, I don’t see anything too shocking. There are a few pitching prospects that a team like the Astros might take a shot at on this list, so it’ll be interesting to see what roster moves the Cubs make to free up space on the 40-man roster for any of these guys. Right now, I see 8 or 9 guys that they could remove from the 40-man to clear up some space for protecting guys. That doesn’t factor in taking guys off the 60-day DL. Guys like Garza, Vizcaino, Stewart. So realistically, they protect 4-5 pitchers likely to be picked from this list. A middle reliever is always the easiest type of player to hide, so in my mind they are going to protect lively-armed pitchers like Starling Peralta, Trey McNutt, Felix Pena, Jose Rosario. And maybe a position player like Cristian Villanueva, just to be safe. The trick will be to project which guys are more likely to be taken and protect the guys from that list you don’t want to lose. They will probably lose someone, but it can’t be someone that they’ll regret later. Conversely, if they find guys on other teams more valuable than guys they have already, they may leave more unprotected so they can draft their own Rule 5 players. The jury is still out on Lendy Castillo over Ryan Flaherty and Marwin Gonzalez.

  8. JulioZuleta

    HE’LL NEVER GET THAT MUCH!

    1. King Jeff

      Never say never, it’s possible.

  9. Spencer

    I’m sure free agent pitchers will be crawling over each other to sign with a bad baseball team for half a season.

  10. Kevin_Gallo

    Doug also said that there wasn’t Straberg type player anytime soon in the draft. Which isnt true in 2014 draft there will be a LHP named Carlos Rondon from NC state. He throws in the mid to low 90s and has hit 97. He is just nasty.

    1. BluBlud

      As a Wolfpack, I say yay to that.

    2. BluBlud

      BTW, its Rodon.

  11. MightyBear

    No way in the world should the Cubs sign Hamilton.

    1. TWC

      They should have never let him go the the Reds in the first place!

      /sarcasm

      1. Tommy

        TWC – are you an MMORPG player? You’re emoting! EQ or WoW?

  12. Drew7

    Work on their small-ball philosophy? C’mon, Bruce…

  13. Timmy

    I would love to have Hamilton for the next 4 years but he’s moody and inconsistent, and there’s no question that the last 3 or more years of an 8 year+ contract would literally be money thrown into the wind. A 5 year 100 mil contract isn’t crazy for a guy who can still hit 40 homers and 130 RBI after a 2 month slump.

  14. Patrick W.

    I’ll be surprised if the White Sox don’t make a serious run at Josh Hamilton. Paul Konerko turned 36 yesterday. Slot Hamilton in for OF for his 32-35 years, then slowly transition to DH. Not a smart move, but not a move I would be surprised by at all.

    1. Patrick W.

      Wouldn’t be surprised at, and Konerko turned 36 on Saturday.

  15. John

    Hamilton was prearranged with the Reds in the rule 5 draft- there was an arrangement between JH and the Reds front office- we took him for the reds as a favor and cash- we did not even consider keeping him due to his history- 20/20 is great but we were so bad we were drafting ahead of the reds and helped them.

  16. Fastball

    there is no way Stewart gets a sniff of Cubs camp. Sveum has made comments about his not being with the team. He has disappeared because he is gone for good. I don’t want to see him. He sucked and if they want to give somebody a million dollars give it to the bat boy or the ball boy. Stewart is garbage. Why would anyone assume just because he had surgery that he is going to be able to swing a bat next year. To me they way everyone is concerned about how this team is going to spend every last dollar there is no way he gets back in the fold. May as well flush a million down the toilet and forget about it.

    1. Tommy

      Isn’t the league minimum $414,000? I don’t think signing Stewart for another year at $1M would be a stretch at all. He’s certainly got a good enough glove and enough power to warrant a bench spot if nothing else.

  17. Fastball

    You could whack 20 players off this 40 man roster and protect the ones that need protecting and still have room to add several. We have very little talent on the 40 man especially in the pitching department.

    1. Luke D

      You could whack 20 players off.

      Pretty sure that’s what Cindy Sandberg did.

      1. TWC

        HEY-O!

  18. Fastball

    Why do we consider Samardja an untouchable? Because he has some arbitration years left? He isn’t that good. But if someone wanted him bad enough to make a trade for him and we could something nice in return I take it. He is not an Ace and he is not a no. 2. He is a real good no. 3 and that’s if he can repeat this year again next year. That’s a big if.

    1. Drew7

      If he repeats this year, he is a very solid #2 – 24th in FIP, 17th in xFIP in all of baseball. I think you’re selling him a bit short.

    2. Scotti

      No one is ever “untouchable” but Samardzija has very, very special stuff and he has taken steps to harness it over the last two years (3.53 ERA, 262.2 IP, 221 H, 25 HR, 106 BB, 267 K, 112 ERA+, 1.245 WHIP, 7.6 H/9, 0.9 HR/9, 3.6 BB/9, 9.1 K/9). If not for his disastrous June (the team had him throwing curves instead of his slider), he’d be contending for the ERA title and be a dark horse for Cy Young.

      He is also a horse going 7 or more IP over half of his starts this year and 9 of his last 13. He wants the ball and has the stuff/command/control to go deep while keeping his arm fresh.

      SAMARDZIJA IS A VERY SPECIAL COMMODITY who happens to play a position where the team is weakest (starting pitching). He clearly has ace stuff and selling now would be selling prior to, barring injury, what should be his best years.

    3. baldtaxguy

      His situation is very consistent with the direction of rebuilding the team and the timing for developed player to hit Wrigley. And I believe he will be better next year.

  19. JR

    If Jayson Werth can get 7 yrs 126 mill. anything is possible..

    1. Flashfire

      That’s looking like a decent signing — he may just be the last piece to bring a title to Washington.

      1. JR

        Are you serious? I guess if he tears it up in the post season, and helps them win a championship it’s an ok signing. But it seems pretty bad, with minimal production right now..

        1. Flashfire

          .308/.390/.464

          He’s getting on base nearly 4 out of every 10 times up. That’s just fine.

          1. Kyle

            People have become way too obsessed with the idea of perfect contract efficiency. Werth is a good ballplayer and the contract is not crippling. Anything beyond that is too clever by half.

          2. DocPeterWimsey

            Johnson also is being smart and leading off with Werth, while putting some speedy lOBP guys lower in the order.

            Regardless, if Werth helps the Nats reach post-season a couple of times and helps build up a fanbase in DC, then he’ll have been worth the $$$$. (It is sort of sad that Nats stadium was emptier for the Cubs series than Wrigley will be this weekend….)

        2. Drew7

          Every (good) team will have a few guys making more $ than what they are worth, which is another reason why building a good farm system is critical: for every Worth, the Nationals have a handlful of guy like Harper, Espinosa, and Desmond (among many others) that produce way above what they make.

  20. coal

    Regarding ticket prices – I predict that the Cubs will actually raise ticket prices, but in a subtle way that allows them to take the position that they aren’t raising them. I see the premium games (Sox, Cards, Interleague, summer weekends) becoming more expensive, and the April/May/September games becoming less expensive. I could see them reducing the price on the cheapest cold weather April night game so that they can get the PR about “family of 4 can still afford to go to a game” – but I predict a slight increase in an 81 game season ticket plan, possibly coupled with some sort of “bonus” to season ticket holders (e.g., discount over equivalent single game seats). Just my prediction.

  21. RicoSanto

    Torreyes had a terrible year.The only way Barney moves off 2nd is for Baez. I saw Baez play twice and he is not near the SS Castro is. I know he is very young and will improve

    1. Flashfire

      How do you get “terrible year”?

    2. Njriv

      Look at Torreyes stats before and after the break. It was like two different seasons, he was a hitting machine.

      1. Flashfire

        And he was 2 to 3 years younger than his competition in a hitters league. The falloff in August is a little disturbing, but that could just as much be exhaustion after a long year. Certainly not minor league player of the year, but also not “terrible.”

        1. Flashfire

          Bah, pitchers league.

  22. kelly

    David Wright in a Cub uniform would look real nice.

    1. Flashfire

      The Mets hold the option. Even they aren’t that crazy.

  23. DEEP PURPLE

    Evan Meek wouldn’t be a bad scrap heap pickup now that he was designated for assignment. All-Star in 2010, average gas 94, 2.74 e.r.a. If they wait to invite him as a non-roster invitee, he would have more tasty options available than the Cubs in the off season. Can’t ever have enough quality arms to compete for jobs in the bullpen when your team has one complete game all year.

    1. Stevie B

      Deep, the Cubs have a TON of …oh wait, you said QUALITY arms….sorry.