July has arrived! That means it’s only slightly less insane that the rumor mill is churning as aggressively as it is. Speaking of rumors, don’t forget to get ready for this year’s BN Blogathon, which will have me sleep-deprived for up to 36 hours on July 30 and 31. Check out the details here, and how you can help out a great cause!
- The chances that the Cubs make a move before the All-Star Break (July 12)? I’d have pegged it at 50%, and Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein – who is in a slightly better position than I to know – put it largely the same way. “Judging by the amount of calls that are going on, I would say the number of pieces we potentially have available, and the opportunities that might present themselves for us to get better, yeah, I’d say 50/50,” Epstein told the media, per Cubs.com, when asked about a pre-All-Star Break deal. I find Epstein’s comment more interesting for the candid confirmation that the Cubs are going to sell-sell-sell with a potentially large number of pieces. No, it isn’t a surprise, but it’s another in a long line of frank admissions from this front office, and it is appreciated.
- When it comes to making a deal this far in advance of the Trade Deadline, as we’ve discussed, the holdup isn’t the Cubs’ unwillingness to make a move (obviously). But to trade a key chip this early, the Cubs would have to be bowled over. Why? For two primary reasons: (1) the market of affirmative buyers has not yet fully developed, so the Cubs would be selling now without knowing how much more they could have gotten later; and (2) the buyer is getting an extra month of use of the player. The reason we don’t see deals early, generally-speaking, is because Number One is a much more powerful consideration than Number Two. Yes, that extra month drives up the price of a player, but what really generates a great return is the competition that exists in bidding for a limited commodity. When Matt Garza, for example, is gone, he’s gone. As more teams decide they need a Matt Garza, the price artificially inflates (and the effect is even more pronounced as the Deadline approaches, because the window to land your Garza is shrinking). So, circling back, that’s why the Cubs aren’t about to deal one of their best pieces this early unless the return is so cat’s pajamas that there cannot be any regret later. (Yes, you risk injury or ineffectiveness, but, with expiring contracts, the risk is probably worth it. I’ll concede that the risk of injury or a fall-off in performance has to be a part of the timing calculus, as well as not wanting to compete with your own merchandise at the Deadline. But I’m getting far afield here.)
- Ken Rosenthal says the Cubs are “all but certain” to deal Matt Garza, Scott Feldman and Kevin Gregg (I’d agree), but are less inclined to move outfielders David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz, thanks mostly to the Cubs’ relatively cheap control remaining for 2014. As I’ve said many times before about the Cubs’ outfield situation, without a prospect emerging as a clear outfield replacement for 2014, the Cubs could go into next season having to replace every single outfield position if they were to deal all of Alfonso Soriano, DeJesus and Schierholtz. Guys like Ryan Sweeney (injured and a free agent) and Brian Bogusevic are interesting pieces to hang onto, but they aren’t really ideal candidates to be a lock for a starting job out of the gate in 2014 (if the Cubs hope to compete next year, anyway). So, against that backdrop, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the Cubs hang onto one or both of Schierholtz and DeJesus. The latter is currently rehabbing a shoulder strain, but could be back in time for the Deadline, and the former is killing the ball in a platoon role. They’ve got value, but the Cubs aren’t going to deal them unless that trade value exceeds their value to the Cubs in 2014 (which, because of the contracts and the organizational state, is rather high).
- Speaking of Schierholtz’s trade value, though, Nick Cafardo says there has already been a lot of interest in him so far this year. He makes just $2.25 million this year, and has one year of arbitration left next year. When utilized as the Cubs have (the right-handed portion of a platoon), he can be exceedingly valuable, especially if the power uptick this year is legit. He plays good defense in right field, runs the bases well (even if he’s not a fast guy), and he can hit. Considering the contract status, there’s a lot of value there – whether it is to the Cubs, or to a potential trade partner.
- Jon Heyman offers a trade season primer, with the teams that will sell, the teams that might sell, the players that will go, the players that might go, etc. It’s a fun primer, and the Cubs are heavily, heavily represented. An interesting name that pops up frequently is Scott Hairston, the Cubs’ right-handed outfield bench bat who is suffering from a severe case of BABIP-induced bad-luck-itis. Perhaps other teams see through the negative variance and recognize him for what he is: a very capable bench bat and fill-in starter who has, historically crushed lefties. He’s on a favorable contract (two years and $5 million), but his value simply has to be down from where it was after his surprisingly good 2012 season. Although I wouldn’t put it past the Cubs dealing Hairston – or a team having interest in adding him – his name is not one I’d expect you to hear too much over the next month. I think it’s more likely that the Cubs will hope for a rebound in the second half (well, not even a “rebound” – just a positive regression) before shopping him in the offseason or gladly using him off the bench again in 2014.
- Speaking of Heyman, he implied in a tweet today (and Chris Cotillo flat out said) that the Cubs may actually be getting interest in Carlos Marmol, who is currently in DFA limbo. Like, actual trade interest. I still strongly suspect that Marmol will end up being released before signing on with another team. But stranger things have happened. If the Cubs did pull off a trade involving Marmol, you need to understand that the return will not be particularly notable. Even getting the fringiest of fringe prospects would be a jaw-dropper.
- Cuban free agent starter Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is a free agent to MLB, and the final step in his availability to teams is in process, per Jesse Sanchez. The US Government is dealing with his unblocking license, which could come through as early as this week. The 26-year-old righty, in whom the Cubs are interested, is expected to sign quickly after he’s unblocked.
- An involved scout tells George A. King what we’ve been hearing for days – it “looks like the Dodgers” will land Gonzalez. Yes, the Cubs are interested, but it’s hard to see them – or anyone – outbidding the Dodgers if they’re all in. Still, I doubt the Cubs would have sent so many scouts to watch Gonzalez’s last start in Mexico on Friday if they didn’t feel they had any chance of signing him.
- Troy Renck says the Rockies are interested in Scott Feldman and Kevin Gregg. I discussed their interest in Matt Garza this morning, though the fit there is harder to see than with Feldman and/or Gregg, where the expected prospect return is lower.