Two Lukewarm Stoves in one September week? That’s a sad, sad record …

  • Apropos of little more than a few statements from Blue Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos suggesting doubt about Carlos Villanueva‘s ability to be a starting pitcher over the course of a full season, I’m wondering if the free-agent-to-be could be a good Cubs target this offseason. He’s flown largely under the radar as even a middle tier type starter, thanks in large part to the fact that he’s split his time between the pen and the rotation in the last couple years, but Villanueva is certainly putting up good numbers in Toronto this year (3.48 ERA, 1.213 WHIP, 2.66 K/BB, 4.19 FIP (that one’s a bit meh)). He’ll turn 29 in November, and it’s possible he’ll be specifically seeking out an opportunity to start somewhere, and would eschew more lucrative offers as a reliever in favor of, for example, a one or two year deal during which he’ll be given a full and fair opportunity to show he can be a starter (something the Cubs could obviously offer in 2013). One red flag on Villanueva? His career ERA in the pen is 3.76, while his career ERA in the rotation is 4.57. That rotational figure has improved this year, though, to 3.58 (13 starts).
  • Bruce Levine chatted earlier this week and offered some offseason thoughts on the Cubs: (1) Bruce keeps beating the Bryan LaHair to Japan drum, which may have legs – the Cubs control his rights, so if they feel like they don’t need him next year, and interest on the trade market is tepid, they can sell him to a team in Japan (with whom LaHair would work out a contract, and make more money than he’d be making in the States); (2) Jorge Soler and Javier Baez aren’t likely on the big team by 2014 (recall, last chat, Bruce cited three scouts who said Baez would be with the big team in a year in a half, which I called quite aggressive – that would be mid-2014) thanks in large part to the Cubs’ preference for getting prospects at least 500 at bats at AAA; (3) Dale Sveum is “absolutely” back next year, and his coaches have done an excellent job with what they were given; (4) if the Cubs eat enough of Alfonso Soriano’s deal to make him a $6/7 million player in 2013 and 2014, they might be able to get a decent prospect or two in return; (5) Shaun Marcum could be a target for the Cubs (again, it’s the concept of the middle tier starting pitchers whom the Cubs can get on one or two year deals, and potentially trade); (6) Bruce doesn’t think the Cubs will want to pay Chris Volstad the $3 million he’d get in arbitration next year, and says instead the Cubs will try to move him (who’s trading for Volstad? it seems like he’s at least as likely to be non-tendered as traded; I suppose if the tender deadline in early December comes, the Cubs will have to decide whether they think there’s a market for Volstad at $3 million – if not, he’ll be non-tendered and the Cubs might try to re-sign him at a lesser rate); and (7) the Cubs like Darwin Barney’s “intangibles.”
  • Ben Nicholson-Smith chatted over a MLBTR about the broader MLB rumor landscape, and among his thoughts: (1) David Wright is not likely to be made available this offseason, and instead is more likely to be extended long-term by the Mets; (2) Felix Hernandez, ever the gigantic trade rumor, won’t be traded this Winter; (3) the Phillies, Reds, Rangers (if Josh Hamilton leaves, which Ben doesn’t think is likely), Nationals, and Braves figure it be in the mix for Michael Bourn; (4) four years and $40 million is going to be far too much to give Kyle Lohse, regardless of his 2012 season; (5) BJ Upton probably does not return to the Rays next year; (6) the White Sox might be forced to bring Kevin Youkilis back in 2013 at his $13 million option price because of the lack of alternatives out there; (7) Jake Peavy, if the Sox decline their option, probably won’t get more than a two year deal at a high annual value; (8) the Rays could entertain offers for James Shields and David Price; (9) Justin Upton is likely to be traded this offseason; and (10) the Padres could “name their price” if they traded Chase Headley.


  • Nicholson-Smith did offer one heavily Cubs-focused thought: Darwin Barney has clear and definite trade value, be it to a team that values his defensive ability, a team that needs a second baseman, and/or a team that values the cheap years of control on his contract. The Cubs may not be interested in dealing Barney right now, without an obvious replacement ready, but they’ll have to consider it if there’s pitching coming back in the other direction. Could the Cubs actually get a quality, young starting pitcher (someone better than, by way of example, Travis Wood) for Barney? Feels like the answer is no, but that’s what I think it would take for them to pull the trigger this Winter.

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