Although there isn’t a ton of activity directly impacting the Cubs right now, there’s a great deal of tangential impact to discuss, given recent movement …
- So, that A’s/Diamondbacks/Marlins trade (well, technically, a series of trades) that went down this past weekend is interesting for the Cubs in a number of respects. In case you missed the details, the A’s picked up Chris Young from the D-Backs, the D-Backs picked up Heath Bell (and cash) from the Marlins, and there were peripheral pieces sprinkled throughout (Cliff Pennington went to the D-Backs as well, and I suppose he has some value as a defense-first middle infielder). But Young, Bell, and Cash were the big three in the deal. Sub-bullets:
- That Bell was movable certainly makes you wonder how things would shake out for Carlos Marmol on the trade market. Bell is owed $21 million over the next two years, and the Marlins ate $8 million of that to move him (and received a “meh” prospect in the process). That puts Bell at $6.5 million per year for the next two years for the D-Backs. Marmol is owed $9.8 million next year, but only next year. Thus, the total commitment to Marmol is less than that of Bell (the amount the D-Backs took on, that is). How do they stack up as pitchers? Bell was inarguably the better pitcher in 2011, but was inarguably far worse in 2012 (each was excellent in 2010, with the edge going to Bell). Factor in Marmol’s hot second half (which wasn’t just numbers – he actually look good, having both quality velocity on his fastball and quality bite on his slider), and it’s debatable whose 2013 picture looks brighter. You also have to consider that Bell just turned 35, while Marmol just turned 30. Who’s more valuable going forward, considering age, performance, and contract? Gut tells me it’s Bell (one bad year in a new place, more consistent track record; Marmol has been erratic and arguably declining for a couple years now), but it’s really, really close. So what does this deal tell us about Marmol’s trade value? I think it says he can be traded, and could even net a decent (top 25 in the system type) prospect if the Cubs ate a few million in salary – because then, suddenly, Marmol becomes a younger version of Bell on a one-year commitment, rather than two. (Of course, maybe a team would actually want more control of Marmol … but not at a $7+ million annual clip.)
- As for the crowded D-Backs outfield situation, does dealing Young – who would have made some sense for the Cubs as a lottery ticket (as I predicted, he was dealt for little more than salary relief) – mean Arizona is all set? Not quite, says Ken Rosenthal, who believes Justin Upton will still be dealt. Remember, though, that Upton has the Cubs on his no-trade list, so before even starting that discussion, accept two things in getting Upton: (1) the offer would have to *start* with Javier Baez, and (2) the Cubs would probably have to agree to ink Upton (who, yes, is just 25, but is coming off a down year) to a big, big, big extension for him to approve the deal (he’s currently under contract for three more years and $38.5 million). That doesn’t mean it’s impossible (usually I poo-poo these kind of outlandish suggestions, but there is some plausibility here, given the Cubs’ young core, theoretically open outfield spot, and tons of payroll space).
- On the A’s outfield side, Billy Beane says he doesn’t intend on dealing an outfielder, but with Young, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Seth Smith and Coco Crisp, they’ve got an obvious glut (even with Smith DH’ing regularly). Easy bet says Crisp will be dealt, and the Cubs will kick the tires – they’re in the market for a center fielder, and they had interest in Crisp last year. Crisp, who turns 33 next week, was decent in 2012 – 105 OPS+, good defense – and is owed $7 million in 2013 (with a $7.5 million option for 2014 with a $1 million buyout). Unfortunately for the A’s, the outfield market is the one area that free agency looks primed to provide a fair number of quality options this year. They might have to move Crisp for scraps.
- So, the Nippon Ham Fighters (they fight ham! (no, not really)) drafted Shohei Otani yesterday in the NPB draft, which provides an interesting twist to the question of which teams will be able to try and sign the 18-year-old Japanese prospect. Nippon Ham holds his rights now until the end of March 2013 (the window to sign him), which means that he can’t sign with an MLB team until at least then, if he doesn’t end up signing with Nippon Ham. Is it enough of a delay to get the Cubs back in the mix? Maybe, if Otani can wait a few more months after that to sign when the next international signing period opens up on July 2. In case you missed that whole discussion, here you go. (There’s some debate about how hard and fast the rule is that says MLB teams can’t swoop in and sign Otani right now – some say it’s just a gentlemen’s agreement that teams might be willing to break, others say it’s, like, a rule-rule. We’ll see what happens.)
- Nick Cafardo says the Giants will shop playoff reliever Tim Lincecum this Winter. Obviously the memories of him as the best starter in baseball aren’t that cold, but this year was a disaster, both in results and velocity. He’s under control for just one year, and is a super expensive $22 million. A team might bite, but what are they really getting? The hope that he bounces back and then the right to negotiate a huge extension with him if he does bounce back? There’s a lot of ugly there.
- (Cafardo also mentions that the Yankees should take a look at Matt Garza, among other number two starter types.)
- Junior Lake trade bait? Yes, says Phil Rogers – and anyone else who questions Lake’s development, despite all the raw athletic ability in the world. I would be very surprised if Lake, who is already on the 40-man roster, is a Cub come Spring Training. Call that a hunch.