stoveThe offseason is actually here!

  • You’re going to hear a lot about Starlin Castro this offseason. That was likely to be true regardless of whether Javier Baez exploded up the ranks last year, or whether Castro crapped the offensive bed. But with those two things happening in tandem, Castro mentions project to go off the charts. According to Matt Cerone (who was a forerunner in proving that your site can have “Blog” in the title and still be considered a quality enterprise), the Cubs are making Castro available this offseason, and they’re looking for at least one top pitching prospect in the deal. And the reason putting such a deal together is going to be nearly impossible? Cerone concludes that, presently, Castro is not worth Zack Wheeler (“not even close”). And I can’t blame him, given Castro’s disastrous 2013 season. But from a Cubs evaluator’s perspective, one who knows the tinkering that went on with Castro this year, I’d say that Wheeler, alone, isn’t enough for Castro. Not even close. Castro turns 24 next year, and is under control through 2020 at a relative bargain price. Maybe he never bounces back, and that “bargain” becomes a noose. But if he returns to 2010-12 form (not even taking a step forward)? Getting a single Zack Wheeler for Castro could prove a horrible move.
  • That is all to say: unless the Cubs are so down on Castro that they’re willing to take a “buying low” price on him, or unless there’s at least one team out there willing to pay for his potential, making a trade will not be possible. But, hey, never rule out the possibility that the Cubs just want to dump him, or that there are teams out there who can see past 2013.
  • The Angels are desperate for pitching, but lavish spending over the past few years has them right up against the $189 million luxury tax cap (under which they’d like to stay). That means trades, and they are reportedly willing to shop guys like Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, or Peter Bourjos. I know it’s easy to start wondering whether Trumbo could passably handle left field or whether Bourjos could finally hit well enough to justify starting his superior outfield defense, but you’ve first got to wonder whether the Cubs have the right kind of pitching to deal with the Angels. The Cubs aren’t moving Jeff Samardzija in that kind of deal, and I can’t seem them dealing Travis Wood at all. Edwin Jackson probably isn’t moveable right now, and I think the Cubs probably still want to see what they have in Jake Arrieta. That could leave someone like Carlos Villanueva, who is priced right, but who is best utilized as a swing man. I don’t really see a great fit here.
  • You can expect the Dodgers to be in on Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka, because obviously. That’s actually not just whimsical blogspeak – part of the reason the Dodgers are rumored to be in on Tanaka is because them being in on a high-priced player is self-fulfillingly obvious at this point.
  • (Interesting aside on Tanaka: unlike with other big name free agents (Ellsbury, Cano, Choo), where reported Cubs interested is tending to come from non-Chicago sources, the national guys and other non-Chicago guys are not listing the Cubs as among the teams interested in Tanaka. That, despite the fact that a number of Chicago-based sources have said the Cubs will be pursuing him. I don’t yet have a working theory on that disconnect, but I need not develop one to know that this front office will want to at least make a bid on Tanaka, pending any impending posting system changes.)
  • A report out of Boston has the Cubs listed as one of a handful of teams possibly interested in catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia should the Red Sox not make him a qualifying offer (and thus untethering him from free agent compensation). The Red Sox indeed might not make him that offer, which would make his price tag rise considerably on the free agent market. That’s the double-edged sword about qualifying offers that no one seems to articulate: the Cubs and other teams would be on him if he’s not tied to compensation? Sure, because they don’t lose a pick and pool money. But then he becomes much more expensive … so maybe it would have been a better deal if he were tied to compensation. That’s how markets work: eventually, they gravitate to the appropriate price as assets are better valued. In theory, the difference in Salty’s price tag if he is or isn’t tied to compensation is … you guessed it, the value of the lost pick and pool money. (In which case, if the Cubs did want Salty (or other comp-tied free agents), they better hope he does get a qualifying offer, because the value of the pick they’d lose (a second rounder) is much lower than the pick that would be lost by most other bidders.)
  • It sounds like Jacoby Ellsbury has quietly dealt with a relatively serious hand issue for the better of the second half of 2013, or maybe that’s what Scott Boras wants bidders to think. For now, Ellsbury will remain on the radar around these parts, as the Cubs are continuously tied to him in national rumors, even if I strongly doubt they will make a serious play for him.
  • While the Cubs might be the favorite to land Korean righty Suk-Min Yoon, it sounds like the Twins have been keeping close tabs on him for a while and are very serious about pursuing him. That article is a worthwhile read for additional information on Yoon’s repertoire and health. The 27-year-old dealt with a number of shoulder issues last year, which cost him dozens of innings, and may have drained a couple MPH off his already-not-super-fast fastball.
  • YourResidentJag

    A good reason not to sign Tanaka: Jeff Passan ‏@JeffPassan 4m
    What will he cost? One exec suggested Masahiro Tanaka could fetch $100M in posting fee alone. Others: more like $75M.

  • Bill

    Hendry gave up on young players to quickly like Felix Pie who knows if the cubs would of worked with him a little more and let him develop at the ml level maybe he could of became somebody.instead they just gave him a handful of at bats and decided he couldn’t play.

    • Cubbie Blues

      What is his excuse now then? He is still playing with the Pirates organization in AAA.

  • FarmerTanColin

    A lot of interesting buy low candidates are emerging. I think a Castro trade could be beneficial but I still would avoid it. Stephen Drew signing might make it more plausible but doubtful.

    Other guys that I could see them going after are Chris Young, Jason Kubel, maybe even Chris Capuano and Johan Santana are looking like low risk signings. Kurt Suzuki could have a role as well.

    • ruby2626

      Just an opinion but I want no part of anyone with the last name Drew. The brothers would play in Tibet if they got a dime more there than they could get in the states.

    • cubzfan

      Yes, I hope they can trade Lake for someone interesting and then sign Young to be the RH part of a platoon with Schierholtz. Dude has crazy splits.

      How about Arrieta, Lake, and a middling prospect (e.g., Dustin Geiger) for Dexter Fowler?

      • Terencemann

        Delmin Young? Had a . 684 ops vs lhp last season and doesn’t belong in the outfield.

  • Barry

    Bruce Levine ‏@MLBBruceLevine
    Brad Ausmas seen in Chicago . Will interview with Cubs today. Ausmas always high on Cubs list.
    More than just smoke here guys?

  • YourResidentJag

    Sign ALL the players: Peter Gammons ‏@pgammo 5m
    Industry sources; Dodgers’ strategy to acquire Price and Tanaka .

  • Ballgame

    I’d be extremely worried trading Castro could come back to bite us. He’s 23 and a hitting machine (note: not ’13). They tried to alter his approach this year and it didn’t work. He’ll be back to his original approach next season which will allow his avg. to get back above .300. Dude’s a natural hitter and this will be his 5th season. He has mental lapses in the field, but he’s admitted fault every one of those times which shows he’s holding himself accountable. I understand the right deal will make any player tradable, but trading Shark would make way more sense to me then trading Castro. Castro is locked up and Shark is gonna be due up, plus I think either player would yield same type of package…

    • TK

      I agree. Give Castro 1 more year, allowing him to be him. I think he’ll hit again. Im more concerned with Rizzo than Castro.
      I could c the Cubs trading with LAA for Trumbo (or Bourjos) for Shark, but I think it’d have to be bigger than that…we’d need a deal involving others (minor leaguers or another team) that would bring us a young stud near MLB ready SP. With an offensive turnaround at 1B and SS, with the potential of Baez and Bryant possibly making it to MLB at some point in 2014, Trumbo and a young stud SP could be the launch pad for the start our sustained success.

  • Noah_I

    I wouldn’t really get the Cubs signing Salty. They have a quality, young, cheap starting catcher in Castillo, and Salty’s not a meaningful improvement, although he should expect both starter playing time and pretty good money. Castillo didn’t show big platoon splits, with his OPS actually being higher against RHPs due to a high BABIP against them. But his walk rate only took a minor dip when facing same handed pitching, and his K rate only saw a minor increase. Plus, his ISO against right handed and left handed pitching was identical.

    I just wouldn’t get the move.

    • Professor Snarks

      Yeah, unless there is something we don’t know about, it doesn’t seem like the best use of money.

      But, if we do sign him, can we prohibit him from throwing to 3rd base?

    • Mike F

      It is not that complicated. They clearly want to get another LHB. They also appear to have laid the groundwork for some trades for either a pitcher or a bat and Castillo is a player who has value and will be part of a trade. Makes a lot of sense then if you factor those things. A left hitting catcher who can hit a little has a lot of value especially on this roster.

  • Die hard

    Castro is not a winner and thus he’s tradable

  • jim

    How many years to playoffs? 5, 8?

  • Moises Canchola

    If the Cubs could get Mark Trumbo they should invest time in trying to get him and trade away Bryan LaHair jr. Aka Anthony Rizzo. That would be great to see the Cubs land Trumbo, Ellsbury and a Santana incentive built contract that may mean that the Cubs may be closer to their rebuild goal then everyone is expecting, and if it doesnt work Trumbo and Ellsbury are future pieces to hang on to and Santana can be traded midway through the year like they usually do. Plus U. Jimenez just came on the market another pretty good arm. And those guys can serve as mentors to the new guys

    • mjhurdle

      Yes, the Cubs should definitely spend time jettisoning the 1.5 WAR player in order to trade for the 1.2 WAR player. that makes TONS of sense.

      • Moises Canchola

        You know what you are right I didnt see his batting avg or his WAR stats but never the less I def feel Rizzo is not the best option at 1st. He needs to go maybe domt get Trumbo but get someone that def can be the number 3 hitter at first cuz this Rizzo was the savior was bs. And to think i still remember when people were complaining about Sosa’s terrible stats his last year here and they are better than any player on the team right now.

  • Mrs. Howell

    Castro. Why oh why do you guys want to repeat the mistakes of the past and trade a player at his lowest value in 3 years. That’s how previous management did it. These guys have to be smarter than that!

  • Jason P

    Possible the Cubs FO is looking at Castillo’s BABIP and thinking “Now would be a good time to sell high”? It would explain why the Cubs keep being mentioned as possible destinations for Saltalamacchia and to a lesser degree, McCann.

    • Jason Powers

      I just can’t see plunking 35-40M+ into Salty.

      Catching we should trade for a prospect we can see in 1-2 seasons. Sign a backup that is cheapish but does either defense, power, or on-base as a plus-tool. 2 years.

      But will see.

      • TOOT

        Yes. That is NOT going to happen. Another good rumor at best.

    • Scotti

      Saltalamacchia’s BABIP was G O O F Y high this year:

      .372 and 50 points over his career norms (including 2013). Castillo, on the other hand, has basically repeated his high BABIP.

      • Jason Powers

        That’s a reason why the connection is rather odd.

        By the same token, Corner OF David Murphy is worth a shot as an OF sign.
        his adv metrics seem pretty consistent too (Swing stats)

        • Jason Powers

          His BABIP was .227.

      • TOOT

        So what’s your position on Castillo? I think he is pretty good fit. He has learned, can hit, can lead, and is cheap.

        • Scotti

          Castillo is core, period.

          • TOOT

            I’ll go along with that for sure.

          • Jason Powers

            Too quick to call the race. 652 PAs is 1 complete year that he got over 4. And he aint Albert Pujols or Yadi. And Yadi was only catching 120 games a season in his first few years.

            And the lack of any depth in the Cubs chain, makes Castillo so valuable (and we saw two catchers STL and CHI) get hurt in August, that you best sign someone that can handle starting regularly too, just in case.

            Contingency planning.

            • Scotti

              “Too quick to call the race. 652 PAs is 1 complete year that he got over 4.”

              Whoa, He’s been a good prospect for years and Rizzo was labeled “core” after far, far fewer PA. Core doesn’t mean you’re an All-Star. Core means that your are a young, talented all-around player who can be built around. That’s Welington Castillo to a T.

              “And he aint Albert Pujols or Yadi.”

              And they aren’t Babe Ruth, so?

              “And Yadi was only catching 120 games a season in his first few years.”

              Is Molina available or something? No. Saltalamacchia is. He isn’t worth it and he wasn’t catching 120 games until he was, uh, well he’s never caught 120 games in a year. For the record, Molina only caught 120, or more, once in his first five years.

              Molina, BTW, was an OPS+ 70 guy his first four years (he’s been 113 since). So Yadi wasn’t exactly Yadi, either. Welington, again, is 103 OPS+ for his career thus far and he’s an excellent defender. He doesn’t have to be Yadi–he can be Welington.

              I have no problem with a contingency guy, but forcing a non-fit like Saltalamacchia makes no sense whatsoever. Yes, he’s a switch hitter. Problem is that he can’t switch hit (career .206/.267/.332/.599 as a RHH–that sucks and his .263/.327/.469/.795 isn’t special against righties, either). Castillo, OTOH, is solid against both R and L (.256/.326/.392/.718 and .310/.388/.451/.838, respectively).

              Prior to this year (and his .372 BABIP), Saltalamacchia was a career 95 OPS+ guy. That is okay for a catcher but nothing to write home about. He’s going to cost money coming off his goofy BABIP year. No, thanks. Find someone who is good defensively and who isn’t too embarrassing with the bat.

              • Jason Powers

                Scotti I NEVER stated I wanted SALTY.

                “I just can’t see plunking 35-40M+ into Salty. ” that was me dude. That’s not an endorsement, that’s an EL PASO.

                In fact, it was the other Jason who mentioned the connection.

                But I don’t disagree on your thinking on him. But please, how bout you know what I think before you take me to task on it. Got it?

                So yes, we have Welington, but put some perspective on that.

                And quote me saying I ever wanted Salty. Find that before you lecture on his BABIP…and his non-fit. I wasn’t defending the other Jason as much as I was being considerate with the “will see.”

                Don’t read acceptance EVER into my ‘will see’.

        • Jason Powers

          Position: he’s got the job – but we need a second one.

          Cubs just had a good combo of Navarro and Castillo. If Navarro won’t sign again for under 8M for 2 years, you can do:

          1) Brayan Pena is 32. Switch hitter. Makes contact. Very cheap fit. Not great, but he’s passable defense and offense. No pop or OBP plus.
          2) Carlos Ruiz? But he’s much older, and will likely want 10M plus.
          3) Geovany Soto – walks over 10% in 2013? Has pop (ISO .221) BUT K% is 32%. RH who Knows Chi town. Will also want cash. May not like Chicago anymore.
          4) Kurt Suzuki – BABIP was .245. Makes contact, low K rate. Push with glove, could bounce back on the glove.

          That’s your cheap options.

          Outside of that, you got

          • YourResidentJag

            That or you pick one up in a trade that involves Shark or Castro.

            • Jason Powers


              Padres – hedges
              mets – plawecki
              Yankees – murphy or sanchez

            • TOOT

              Yikes! You’re tough negotiator.

          • Scotti

            For $8 million over 2 years I’ll strap on the Tools of Ignorance one final time…

  • mysterious4th

    The Cubs are looking for help in the pen. I wonder is Matt Thornton is somebody that will catch the FO’s eye. He’s effective against lefties so that could help the workload for Russel.

  • Assman22

    At Fall Stars game…Bryant and Soler are even bigger in person…look like football players…Stroman’s slider is wicked especially at his height, likely a closer in the bigs if you ask me…have yet to see Almora in person…Hedges will be solid for years to come…

    • YourResidentJag

      WHO ARE YOU????

      • Jason Powers

        Hes batman! Or assman….
        Hedges…if he can hit .250 and get walks that will be his ticket. Great fundamentals behind the dish.

        • YourResidentJag

          Well, Michael Keaton does like baseball.

          • Jason Powers

            Got the ref!

            “Every dance with the devil by the pale moon light?”

            “Riddle me this, riddle me that, who’s afraid of the Chicago Cubbies?”


        • Assman22

          For sure on Hedges…what at arm…nice seeing Soler get on base as much as he did against good pitching…Bryant’s contact is the hardest I’ve seen in awhile…hit a laser to RF that had the pop sound of a homer…

          • Jason Powers

            Soler, not to get people crazy, looks like Vladimir Guerrero. I’d take 75% of Vlad.

            • Turn Two

              Doubt your scouting report from your initial reaction to seeing a player will lead to mass hysteria…no offense

              • Scotti

                New around here, huh? ANYTHING can turn into mass hysteria. Even a cup of coffee from Starbucks.

            • Assman22

              Had a Raul Mondesi comp initially…Vlad would certainly be a nice ceiling, all depends on his bat maturation…

              • Jason Powers

                Raul Mondesi – awesome arm, speed, power for 8 years…then he hit 30.

                I would take that too. 😉

                Soler I suppose is a 2015 hope???

                • Assman22

                  A lot to love about Soler and Baez but a lot left to prove…both could flame out given their batting approaches…Bryant and Almora look to be much closer to sure bets for the bigs…

                  • Mike F

                    I agree completely. I don’t think either Bryant or Almora will bust, I don’t know they will be SS but they won’t bust. And I agree on Baez and Soler. Soler especially is a big big talent, but he’s a boom/bust type. He’s got the explosive hands body type and speed with his hands I like, but you have to translate that into consistently hitting in the ML.

                    What are you hearing on the Cubs offseason? Do you buy all the little sisters of the poor whining people are doing? Does it fit what you hear?

                    Best Assman…..

                  • Jason Powers

                    I agree. I am not on Soler yet. Needs A+, AA at-bats.

                    Good talks all, assman, Mike, et. al.

                  • hansman

                    I think Almora is A LOT closer to the bigs than people think.

                    • TOOT

                      Based on what?

                    • cms0101

                      He played 60 games in low A ball this season. Even Byron Buxton, a better player from the same draft class, will only make it to AA next season. How close do you think Almora is exactly?

          • X The Cubs Fan

            Hey, you’re back! Any rumors or just commenting?

  • Jason Powers

    Bryant scores! East down 7-2….AFL

  • Assman22

    Cubs will continue to use a wait-and-see approach to free agency as they have with the manager interviews…will be in on a couple big name FA’s but will not be suckered into high-octane bidding wars…will continue to go after B+/B free agents with high upside…FO knows where they stand and will not rush their plans…shopping for high risk/high reward closer…

    • caryatid62

      In other words, another winter of people using “we were second highest bid!” as a justification for missing out on top players.

      • Assman22

        Perhaps…Epstein and Hoyer badly want to get Ellsbury in a room together…both feel they can get him if he tests FA…

        • Mike F

          Couldn’t agree more, he would likely be their little girl with curls…..

  • jt

    So maybe the piece in The Den is test balloon to get the attention of the Ellsbury camp?