A word on rumors, generally: this time of year (and in November/December/January), and in the Internet age, you will be inundated by “insider” reports. Some are legit, some are not. Some come from major media types, some come from regular folks. Hell, some come from the comments on this here site. It’s important to receive all of these reports with the right perspective. They are a part of the fun of this time of year, and there is sometimes a grain of truth, but they should not be counted on as anything conclusive – either before a deal happens, or after one happens.
I mention that second one with particular emphasis: when you’re judging the things that do happen over the next couple of weeks, try not to judge them solely on the basis of the rumored things that did not happen. “What? Why did the Cubs deal that guy to that team? That other team was willing to offer Super Awesome Prospect X! Those idiots!” “I can’t believe the Cubs didn’t trade that guy at all … there were so many interested teams!” Certainly, over time, and in the aggregate, some consensus starts to build, which can fairly be considered something resembling the truth (the Rangers really are probably interested in Matt Garza, even if we can’t say for certain what they are/would have been willing to trade for him). But I would recommend that you avoid leaning too heavily on any one rumor or insider report. Try to maintain a broader lens, and you’ll be happier for it (and better informed) in a month.
- The Braves are considering their bullpen options according to Mark Bowman, and their particular emphasis is lefties. The two guys they’re looking most at, says Bowman, are Mike Gonzalez from the Brewers and James Russell from the Cubs. The first place Braves’ bullpen has been hit hard by injuries, so I think it’s safe to say they’ll do something. If it’s Russell, the price tag would certainly be interesting, for reasons we’ve discussed before: he’s go two more years of (cheap) team control after this one, he’s effective against both lefties and righties (well, maybe not so much this year, but last year he didn’t have much of a split), and he’s young enough that he could easily remain and important piece of the Cubs’ rebuild/next competitive team. Gonzalez, 35, has been up-and-down in recent years, and is a pure rental. If money this year is a consideration, Gonzalez would cost the Braves about $1 million the rest of the way, while Russell would be less than half of that. Gonzalez’s FIP is almost a run higher than Russell’s this year, too. In other words, Russell is the more valuable piece by a wide margin.
- (In tandem, Bowman notes that the Braves would also like to add a back-up infielder, preferably one that hits from the left side of the plate. The Cubs have that guy – Luis Valbuena – but he strikes you as tricky fit for many of the same reasons as Russell (cheap, two more years of control, very useful to the Cubs going forward).)
- Jon Heyman remains amazed that teams aren’t expressing more interest in Alfonso Soriano. He’s had that position for over a year now, but his sources aren’t budging, I guess.
- In the same piece, Heyman describes how Kevin Gregg’s value has taken a hit over the last two weeks. After looking unhittable for much of the season, he got roughed up a bit by the Cardinals, and saw his ERA climb almost a run and a half in the last two games before the break. He remains, to my eye, a nice bullpen option for needy teams, though not necessarily a sure-fire closer.
- Jerry Crasnick and Jeff Passan reported (almost simultaneously) that the Blue Jays are no longer expected to shop free-agent-to-be Josh Johnson. Does that mean they plan to try and stay in the race? Does it mean they’ll go all out on someone like Matt Garza? Eh, not necessarily. According to Passan, holding him as much to do with a lack of any meaningful trade value as it does with the Blue Jays’ plans for the Trade Deadline (in that case, the Jays might just hope he pitches much better in the second half, and then they can make him a qualifying offer). Either way, Johnson not developing into a nice trade chip is good news for the Cubs. And if it does signal that the Blue Jays might try to buy? Well, hey, even better.
- A little bit on Matt Garza, while you’re here: Carrie Muskat ponders the price tag on Garza and sums up where things stand; Patrick Mooney also gives an expansive take on where things stand (with a money section on the Jurickson Profar stuff, which actually came to Mooney from an industry source last week – in short, Mooney asked a Cubs official about it, and the official responded with … well, extreme disbelief); a USA Today blog says the Pirates should trade outfield prospect Gregory Polanco (a top 30 type) for Garza. The Cubs could use some upper level pitching, but I’m not sure you say no to someone like Polanco, just because he’s a position player.
- MLBTR’s Zack Links was on ESPN radio, and, among other things, he thinks the Cubs really will hold Garza right up to the Deadline to try and drive up the price. The market is so weak for any kind of impact additions, according to Links, that Garza is the “belle of the ball.” (h/t BN’er Ross) I can see the incentive to wait on Garza, but obviously we all know the flip side of the coin: risk of injury.
- Not trade related, but Ken Rosenthal is connecting impending free agent Robinson Cano to the Cubs – among other teams – because of their perceived ability to accommodate him at second base, and in the payroll. My gut tells me the Cubs won’t be involved in the 31-year-old big-money infielder, but I suppose you never know.
- Bruce Levine chatted this week, and among the non-Garza thoughts, he mentions that he does think there’s a chance that Alfonso Soriano is actually dealt this time around. The Cubs will be “generous” in how much of his contract they’ll eat, according to Levine. Levine was also on Buster Olney’s podcast this week, noting that Kevin Gregg makes for a nice back-up closer/set-up man for a contender. If you get a 5 to 7 organizational prospect for Gregg, you’re happy (I’d be ecstatic). On Nate Schierholtz, Levine and I mostly feel the same way: given his control for next year, the way he performs in a platoon, and the need next year for a credible outfielder, the Cubs might be better off keeping him.
- Tim Dierkes chatted at MLBTR, and … (1) Carlos Villanueva could be a good “under the radar” starter that is traded, though Tim pegs the odds at below 50%; and (2) the Cubs and Dodgers are the best guesses for Cuban Dalier Hinojosa (and I’d probably add Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, too).