The family and I are traveling again today, so there may not be Bullets this morning (possibly later today). The Lukewarm Stove is smoking, though, so there’s plenty to discuss …
- Them Diamondbacks looooove outfielders. After trading away Chris Young to limit themselves to five starting-caliber outfielders (Justin Upton, Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra, A.J. Pollock and Adam Eaton), the Diamondbacks up and surprised everyone by signing Cody Ross to a three-year, $26 million contract.
- On the one hand, the signing is good for the Cubs’ Alfonso Soriano market, as the Diamondbacks were definitely not a potential trade partner for the Cubs (and, indeed, one of the most public possible partners – the Phillies – were really interested in Ross). On the other hand, the move probably replaces Ross on the market with Jason Kubel, whom the Diamondbacks will now look to trade. Kubel, 30, is similar to Soriano in many ways offensively, is in the same range defensively (Soriano is arguably better now, but good luck convincing folks of that), but is under contract for just one year at $7.5 million (plus a $7.5 million option in 2014 with a $1 million buyout). So, he may be a more attractive trade candidate to some teams than Soriano, even at $5 million per year for Soriano. At best, I’m thinking this signing was probably a tiny bit on the plus side for the Cubs’ market, but only slightly. Mostly neutral.
- The Diamondbacks outfield situation is worth watching also because I still like the idea of Parra coming over to the Cubs. He’s young, versatile, a great defender, and has offensive upside. A great many teams would be interested, but the Cubs would probably be particularly interested in a “bridge” guy like Parra, who could take them to the era of Jorge Soler/Albert Almora (assuming those guys become ready and big league regulars, which obviously is a mighty assumption). Pollock or Eaton would be interesting, too.
- The Pirates have finally traded closer Joel Hanrahan – he’ll be going to the Red Sox in a six-player deal, according to reports, which will include another player coming from the Pirates, and outfielder Jerry Sands, pitching prospect Stolmy Pimentel, and two more players (one of whom might be reliever Mark Melancon). It’s hard to judge the trade without knowing the identities of all of the players, but it’s starting to look like a relatively weak return for the Pirates, given that Sands might never be a even a fringe big league regular, Pimentel really isn’t much of a pitching prospect (great name, though), and Melancon seemed like he was really broken last year.
- The deal is interesting because it could set the market for a Carlos Marmol trade, assuming the Cubs eat enough of Marmol’s $9.8 million salary to put him in the same price range as the $7ish million Hanrahan is expected to make in 2013 through arbitration. The two pitchers, each in his early 30s (Marmol just turned 30, Hanrahan just turned 31), are under control through 2013 only. Each is coming off a decent season, though Hanrahan’s was better in almost every way. Each is somewhat inconsistent, though Marmol much, much more so. Further, Hanrahan’s 2011 and 2009 seasons were absolutely dominant, while Marmol’s 2011 was weak, and his 2010 was excellent. On the balance, it’s pretty clear that Hanrahan is the superior pitcher so, unless the Cubs make Marmol very cheap, they can’t expect a better return than the Pirates just got … whatever it ends up being. We’ll have to keep a close eye on this one.
- Buster Olney says that J.P. Howell might be close to making a decision, and the lefty reliever appears to be leaning toward the Nationals. The Cubs have been mentioned as one of his suitors.
- UPDATE: The Indians reportedly have come to terms with Nick Swisher on a four-year, $56 million deal with an option for a fifth year. The Mariners – who yesterday signed 40-year-old Raul Ibanez – had also been interested in Swisher, as well as potentially the Rangers, so you have to wonder if they’ll now go full bore on someone like Michael Bourn. It could also open up the market even more for someone like David DeJesus or Alfonso Soriano, depending on where he’s willing to go.