A lot of folks ask me what I’m going to do for the BN Blogathon at the Trade Deadline (we’re almost to $12,000 raise for Make-A-Wish!) if the Cubs have already made all of their trades by Tuesday. Well, my initial answer is: I hope they don’t. My secondary answer is: they probably won’t. And my tertiary answer is: at a minimum, lots of other teams will be making deals. In truth, I do expect the Cubs to still have some pieces available come Tuesday and Wednesday, because the guys they’ve got left who are theoretically movable aren’t ones that teams buy early or that the Cubs feel compelled to move. In other words, I tend to think the Cubs won’t make another move until Tuesday or Wednesday. But maybe I’m just being hopeful …
- Or maybe I’m just listening to the man. Theo Epstein said this week, as the Alfonso Soriano trade was playing out, that the team is fielding lots of calls on other players, but that nothing was close. “We have received some calls on some other potential opportunities, but nothing really concrete yet,” Epstein said, per ESPN. “If we do anything, it will probably be closer to the deadline.” To that end, Epstein said there could still be more on the horizon, even if the front office is happy about how the move-guys-early strategy has played out. “There are some things we’d like to explore, and if we can find the right fit and bring value back to the organization, sure, we would be [interested],” Epstein said, per Cubs.com. “We’ve had a very active July. We set out to be proactive, especially with starting pitching. We wanted to jump the market a little and get the Feldman deal and the Garza deal done before more starting pitchers became available and flooded the market. That part of the strategy felt great.”
- Nate Schierholtz, whose name is popping up intermittently in rumors, hopes to stay with the Cubs. “I haven’t spent a second thinking about [being traded],” he said Friday, per Cubs.com. “Every year, you hear so many names thrown around …. I can’t control it. If you go a week worrying about it and you don’t get traded, it’s a lot of worry for nothing. I love it here, and I’d like to stay a Cub. Hopefully, I don’t go anywhere.” Of the plausible remaining trade pieces, Schierholtz might have the most trade value, given his production and contract (just $2.25 million this year, and another year of arbitration next year). But, not entirely unrelatedly, he might be the guy I’d most like the Cubs to keep from that group – there’s no obvious replacement in the waiting, he can provide great value again next year, and the Cubs do need to, like, actually try and produce some offense in 2014. That said, of course, if the Pirates are willing to go crazy and part with a top arm for a Schierholtz-headlined package, you make the move.
- If the Cubs do discuss Schierholtz with the Pirates, they’ll likely have a little competition in the form of Alex Rios, who has seemingly been connected to the Pirates for weeks and weeks. Jon Heyman reports that the Pirates are not on Rios’ no-trade list, and they remain interested (as are the Rangers, and a handful of other teams). Although the market is much broader than just Rios and Schierholtz in right field, if you’re strictly comparing the two, Rios gets the advantage of not being a platoon player (but, arguably, Schierholtz can hold his own well-enough against lefties that if you had to start him in that capacity, it wouldn’t kill your team – he still takes good at bats, runs the bases well, and plays good defense). Other than that, it’s Schierholtz all the way. Rios gets you the 2014 year of control, too, but at a much, much steeper price than Schierholtz ($12.5 million in 2013 versus just $2.25 million for Schierholtz; $12.5 million (plus probable $1 million buyout) in 2014 versus, what, $5 or $6 million for Schierholtz?). And then there’s the production: since May 24 – a span of 53 games – Rios is hitting just .246/.289/.332. If a Rios versus Schierholtz competition did develop over the next few days for any teams, it’s not a very close competition.
- For what it’s worth, Joel Sherman, who hears that the Cubs were indeed prioritizing the moves they’ve already made before moving on to other things, says the Cubs are “definitely listening on Schierholtz.”
- Speaking of the Pirates, they’re now without closer Jason Grilli for a month or two thanks to a forearm strain, and could look to add a reliever in addition to a bat. They don’t need a closer, per se, with Mark Melancon slotting nicely into the role, but adding a veteran arm for depth in the later innings would probably be nice. Kevin Gregg’s value has taken an obvious hit over the last few weeks, but he’s still a worthwhile reliever for a contending team. Just saying.
- James Russell – discussed in the Bullets this morning – has been getting a lot of looks, per Bruce Levine, and sources say the Orioles, Diamondbacks, and Braves are among the interested teams (at least five are interested). As a young, cheap, effective lefty in a market barren of those guys, the price tag on Russell figures to be steep, relatively speaking. He won’t net quite what Sean Marshall got the Cubs before 2012, but I reckon the asking price wouldn’t be too much lower. A couple top 10 organizational prospects or maybe even a 80 to 100 overall, perhaps? That may seem like a lot, but Russell has the look of a keeper otherwise. Might as well keep the asking price plenty high.
- With Tim Hudson out after a gruesome ankle break, the Braves are reportedly now in the market for a starting pitcher, as well as a lefty reliever (which was already a high priority). Russell obviously fits the bill on the latter need, but I’m not sure the Cubs’ one movable starting pitcher – Carlos Villanueva – is going to sufficiently interest the Braves that it would compel the Cubs to move him. Villanueva’s swing ability is a comforting thing heading into 2014, for which he’s still on a reasonable contract.
- The Indians are also looking for a lefty reliever.
- After a bench of hemming and hawing, the Phillies are going to listen to offers for Cliff Lee. About that jumping the starting pitching market thing: well done, Cubs.
- Unrelated to the Deadline, Epstein reiterated to the media, in the wake of moving on from Alfonso Soriano’s mega contract, that he’s not philosophically opposed to getting big names in free agency. “Looking ahead, I think we will acquire impact players through free agency,” he said, per CSN. “We’re just not going to build our plans around that. We’ll know when the time is right, when the fit is right, when the player is right, when the value is right, when the impact of the player is profound for our ballclub. I wouldn’t rule anything out as far as impact free-agent acquisitions. But right now our focus is on building the health of this organization.” I would say the proof is in the pudding on this approach – look at the Edwin Jackson signing this offseason. He was one of the bigger, more expensive free agents on the market, and he was very clearly not going to be the difference between competing and not competing this year. But the Cubs pulled the trigger anyway, because he fit the longer-term plan. Who might that player (or players) be this offseason? Cano? Ellsbury? Choo? I’m not really sure any of them will be a perfect fit this time around. On a lower tier, let me stake my claim now (as I believe I have before): I hope the Cubs go after Phil Hughes. He’s not going to get huge dollars, but I could see him doing well with the Cubs. And he only just turned 27.