lukewarm stoveExecutives, agents, players, and media are on their way to Orlando, Florida for this year’s Winter Meetings, which start tomorrow. Last week was crazy active, and, while this week probably won’t match it, the rumors will be all over the place. It’s still the Winter Meetings, after all. And, hey, a surprising Shin-Soo Choo pursuit could spice things up. Going into the meetings, no one saw the Cubs going after Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson last year, either …

  • Color me relieved by Cubs President Theo Epstein confirming that the outstanding needs for the team as the front office heads to Orlando include not only the bullpen, but also a starter and an outfielder (ESPNChicago). The starter isn’t really a surprise, since there’s an open spot in the rotation (ahead of Chris Rusin and Carlos Villanueva as depth), and since there’s a particular Japanese righty who might soon be available. The outfielder piece is what really relieves me, given that it would be plausible for the Cubs to decide to enter 2014 with Junior Lake in left, Ryan Sweeney in center, and Nate Schierholtz in right. Not that plausible = good. The Cubs don’t have many spots at which they can add a significant bat, which is what they need more than anything else (especially heading into 2015). Maybe that outfielder is Shin-Soo Choo. Maybe that’s a reach. (If the Cubs added Choo, Masahiro Tanaka, and John Axford, how quickly do folks change their tune about the Cubs’ approach? … that said, I’m still not sure that team projects as much more than a .500 team, and I’m not sure that’s realistic, even if each move makes sense in terms of The Plan.)
  • Jon Heyman also hears that the Cubs are in on free agent reliever John Axford, who is looking for an opportunity to close. He mentions the Orioles and Mariners, as well. I dug into Axford’s last two seasons and prospects for a turnaround here. You can expect that Axford’s agent will be burning up cell minutes this week.
  • Bruce Levine wonders if the Yankees could look at Darwin Barney as a possible platoon/late-inning guy at second base for the Yankees (I’d add that he could probably still play above average defensive shortstop). With Brendan Ryan and Kelly Johnson already in the fold, I don’t think I see it for them. Then again, Buster Olney says the Yankees probably will look to add an infielder by way of trade. If the did consider Barney, I doubt the Cubs would look for much in return, given that they’ll likely look to open up second base for either Javier Baez or Arismendy Alcantara over the next 12 months.
  • Shi Davidi writes that Jeff Samardzija is certain to remain under consideration by the Blue Jays as they look to pick up an arm. Nothing really new there, but it’s a local Toronto report, so I guess it’s additional smoke.
  • The Phillies really want to move Jonathan Papelbon, the Cubs need a closer, and the Cubs’ front office has familiarity with Papelbon from his Boston days. Perfect fit, right? Well, setting aside Papelbon’s contract, which pays him $26 million over the next two years (or $39 million over the next three years if he stays a closer and finishes a reasonable number of games), there’s the problem of Papelbon’s vanishing strikeout rate – it fell from the low 30% range (awesome) to the low 20% range last year (not great for an elite reliever). There’s also his velocity, which has declined from the mid-90s to the low-90s over the past few years. The question you have to ask is, if 33-year-old Papelbon were a free agent today, how much would you be willing to give him? Two years and $10 million or three years and $15 million, maybe? If the Phillies want to eat enough salary to make that happen – and don’t demand much of anything in the way of a return – then sure, you consider it. I don’t see much value there.
  • Something’s probably gonna give in the Dodgers’ outfield, and Matt Kemp’s agent thinks it could be a trade of his client. If so, here’s hoping Kemp winds up on a team that was otherwise considering Shin-Soo Choo. (If the Dodgers ate enough salary, as I’ve discussed before, I think Kemp would be an intriguing option for the Cubs (for some of the same reasons Choo would be).)
  • YourResidentJag

    And the Astrodome is no more. At one time, a marvel of MLB ballparks, now gone.

    • Rebuilding

      8th Wonder of the World. First place I ever saw a game – Mike Scott outdueled Rick Rueschel 1-0. RIP Astrodome

  • YourResidentJag

    @ChrisCotillo is going to be on MLBNetwork tomorrow morning- i’m officially fangirling!! Congrats, bucko.

    • YourResidentJag

      This was a tweet BTW. Ducks!

    • Luke

      My only fear regarding the rise of Cotillo is that it’s going to be turned into a Disney movie.

      • YourResidentJag

        You’d be wise to infer that.

      • Serious Cubs Fan

        I’m surprised ESPN has done a special and Chris Cotillo yet…. Seriously I’m calling it that they will in the next 2 years

        • Serious Cubs Fan

          Actually I take that back. ESPN sometimes has a big problem giving credibility to guys that break a story before their guys break the story and Cotillo recently has been beating their guys on breaking news quite a bit recently

  • Ballgame

    Thank you Brett for referring to Kemp as a viable option. I will continue pumping up the idea of trading for him and it’s nice to at least hear it being mentioned as a possibility. The value is there and if he can stay healthy it’s the type of move that can change the landscape of the ML team…let’s go boys!

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also hears that the Phils are shopping Papelbon, adding that there’s a belief that the Phils would like to reallocate Papelbon’s salary to a starting pitcher

    • Serious Cubs Fan

      Sounds like the Phil’s might be clearing salary by trading Papelbon to make a run at Tanaka

  • Mike F

    So let’s just throw this out. Cubs could add a premium LHB, Papelbolm, Anderson and hang on to Jeff, for less than the 300M it will take for just Choo and Tanaka. Fo the record, I think it just BS and shows how quickly the lectures about the plan can change when a 31 soon to be 32 Choo and Tanaka, likely over 300 M together get thrown out there. Where are the empty eyed children of the plan now?????

    I like the aggressive sound, but am not a huge fan of either Choo ior Tanaka. I won’t complain if it is true, just sounds to me suspicious lacking a lot of substance, but time as in soon will tell.

    I think Alcanata will get traded and the surprised WM bb for the Cubs will involve a 23 year old player.

    • baldtaxguy

      Not sure Tanaka is inconsistent with “The Plan” – the version (or portion) being that they invest in players long term that have a good chance at contributing when talent from the organization reaches Chicago.

      Choo may be inconsistent, especially in terms of a lost draft choice. But his OBP is possibly something this FO is willing to invest all-in … in. I am not crazy about a lost pick, but I look at this as securing a veteran offensive OF now with solid tools when the other OF positions (in two plus years) likley will have younger, growth players (Soler, Almora, with Lake as 4th). Balance for today and for tomorrow within the OF offensively.

      Your last sentence may be a victim of late night posting – who or what will be “surprised”?

  • Mark

    Sign tanka sign choo trade for kemp sign axlrod… I think we would be some what

    • Serious Cubs Fan

      Not a fan of overpaying for Choo and losing a draft pick for it. Axelrod isn’t sure fire rebound, Kemp is aging and expensive and will take quite a bit to acquire him. Not even to mention he’s highly injury prone. (I also think you are forgetting about the Cubs current budget restraints)

      The only thing I really agree with is signing (overpaying) for Tanaka. He’s a 25 yr old #2 type starter who isn’t even in his prime yet, and will be entering it while we are hoping to compete in 2-3yrs.

      • Mrs. Howell

        SCB 3:23am. Best analysis I have seen on this. Of course, that’s because I agree!

      • Chad

        1. You don’t know how much it will take to get Kemp, as you said he is oft injured which could make him cheaper
        2. Could he bounce back? Maybe, what if he doesn’t have to play CF anymore?

        Lots of unknowns with Kemp. I think if he’s cheap enough (Vogelbach/Russel) and maybe some salary relief that he’d be worth a shot. You have to assume the FO would do their homework on his medicals (they did with Haren), so if they did acquire him it should be thought that he is healthy.

  • rockin’ dawg

    It’s Axford. I’m all for trading for Anderson and Kemp, if the price isn’t too high.

  • walterj

    Yes to Kemp , no to Choo .

  • http://permalink papad1945

    No ChooKemp.

  • johnny chess Aka 2much2say

    Choo, Alcantara, Baez, Bryant, Rizzo, Schierholtz, Lake, Castillo
    Trade Castro, Barney,
    Tanaka Shark Garza/Ubaldo Jackson

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  • Chad

    I may have missed this answer, but what would it take to pry Kemp out of LA. That intrigues me, but what would it cost in prospects? Soler, Alcantara? Less/more? I would hope less, because I think the cubs could take most, if not all of Kemp’s salary. Thoughts?

    • dumbledoresacubsfan

      I’m not really sure, exactly, what type of deal it would take to get Kemp. But I’d be open to a deal involving Vogelbach and Russell.

      I think you play to the advantages on this kind of deal–dude’s been hurt a ton and they need to shed some outfield weight. If they’re looking for a bench player, throw in Lake and take Russell out to include in a package with Samardzija.

      I want Kemp.

      • Brains

        Trading Shark + a second tier prospect for Kemp, even with his health issues, would alleviate some of the pitiable reputation that the FO has built recently. If they’re looking for a salary dump, the Cubs are looking for absolutely anything at all to regain some legitimacy.

        • Chad

          Is it really going to take Shark to get Kemp? Not sure I like that unless there is massive salary relief coming, and still not a fan. If Samardzija goes away there needs to be a reputable SP prospect in return. Could Shark/Russell net Kemp and Zach Lee? Then I’d listen, but the cubs can’t lose Shark without getting a pitching prospect in return (in my opinion). Now, since I don’t believe the cubs will get the SP prospect they want I hope they can sign Shark. I don’t think the salary is the sticking point, but I think it’s the NTC. I hate NTC, but hopefully in a few years the cubs are not trying to trade players so it wouldn’t be an issue.

          I have been on the trade Shark bus for a while, but if they can’t get the return just let it ride. Try again this July or next offseason or try to extend then as well. Oh the fun of December.

          • Brains

            just for the record i would resign shark, since he’s a solid #3 pitcher at the right age. but he’s been insulted by the FO (they seem to like to insult their pitchers before they try to trade them) and leaked their lowball offer. so he’s out of here. hopefully for someone good.

            • Brains

              for the name droppers – among pitchers who felt insulted before they left theo’s organization: dempster, garza, marmol, gregg, shark…. that’s kind of all of them isn’t it? theo’s a great PR agent but not a great people person.

              • Chad

                Just curious, how do you know they all got insulted? And I still am not convinced that Shark is gone. I think it is mostly the NTC causing the issues, not the money.

                • Luke

                  He doesn’t. It is taken as a point of faith among a certain crowd around here that 5 years / $55 million, since it only averages to $11 million a year, is insultingly low. They won’t accept that the first two years of that are arbitration years and that, as a result, you can’t compare the total average value to free agency prices and that other recent signings make 5 years/$55 million a perfectly valid starting point for the negotiations. They’d rather just use the “insult” line as another vector for attacking the front office.

                  It’s probably best just to ignore them.

                  • Brains

                    if you care about “baseball”, i.e. players and communities, a front office is only as good as they strengthen those two things. it’s a business yes, but a business built around community building.

                    if both are constantly miffed, i don’t see why in the world we should have loyalty to the front office first. it’s like people view baseball as a vicarious ladder-climbing at their 9-5 jobs. do i think theo wants to piss off pitchers? no. but he wants to be the unchallenged boss, and he’s been given bad tools by the owners to do business. that combo has built some bad blood with his players.

              • caryatid62

                Anytime a team is unwilling to pay a player who believes he is worth it, feelings will get hurt. The GM’s job is not to make guys feel good–it’s to put the best team on the field he can. If Epstein/Hoyer fail at that, they can be judged. No one should care one iota if players (especially those leaving the organization) feel good about themselves.

                (By the way, I don’t buy the initial argument at all anyway. Marmol’s issues had absolutely nothing to do with the front office. The organization went out of it’s way to accommodate Dempster, and there is little (if any) evidence that Garza was unhappy. Furthermore, Garza is not (and has never been) considered to be an upstanding, rational and calm individual anyway, so even if he did feel disrespected, it was likely an overreaction.)

                • Brains

                  see now you’re insulting your *own* players too, on behalf of administrators. this is a terrible precedent for fandom, to look down on the players we’re supposed to root for because office dwellers want to maximize profits.

                  • caryatid62

                    You also have a problematic understanding of the word “insulting.” Identifying the manner in which a player is perceived is neither insulting nor complementary–it is an observation of conditions.

                    You’ve also conflated two concepts that have nothing to do with one another. “Maximizing profits” and “treating players well when they’re leaving” are mutually exclusive concepts that can exist independently. I wrote absolutely nothing about “profits” in my response.

                    Finally, players’ jobs is to produce victories on the field, and I root for them to do exactly that. I do not have any vested interest in whether or not they feel as if they are “disrespected” when leaving the organization. Their lives and feelings about their jobs (especially on the way out) are none of my business.

                    • Brains

                      sounds like an official office press release. how about going to the game and rooting for a double, and being disappointed when we lose?

                    • caryatid62

                      I know posts like this are your thing around here, but it’s really not all that interesting, so I’m going to move on now.

        • dumbledoresacubsfan

          You think it takes Shark [and] another prospect to land Kemp?? To me, that seems a bit much for an injury prone player who’s barely been able to do anything the last two years.

          If it takes Shark to land Kemp, I’d say stay away–unless I’m missing something and it’s worth it to drop Shark and risk Kemp (I don’t think it is…)

        • greenroom

          Have you seen Kemps numbers these last 2 years? No way I would do this deal. If Shark goes on to be a steady 2/3 starter, the FO is bad. Kemp keeps the same numbers he has had these past 2 yrs, the FO is bad. In your years of experience relative to the front office, please do tell, the reasons behind your critique and the legitimacy of this move.

          • Chad

            Or Kemp could become the all-star he has been when he is not injured? Tough to say. Again I’m not a fan of this deal unless Lee comes back as well, which I don’t see happening. I think Kemp could be had for prospects, but I just don’t know which ones? I like the Vogelbach and Russel approach.

            • Greenroom

              Yeah Chad, I am with you on this one. Kemp was an amazing player. But I think the key here is, was. I just don’t think he has it anymore. I could be wrong, its happened a few times :) But I do think your idea of a Vogelbach or Russell could work. High risk, high reward. I just think some people will grill the front office one way or the other. and that original comment was for Brains.

              • Brains

                well, let’s put this into perspective. i see people here constantly harping on players, even 19 year olds in development. they harp on hendry. they harp on coaches even when they’re doing a good job with a bad team. they harp on the stadium. they even harp on old style, which is blasphemous.

                but why don’t the people responsible for molding the team and doing hiring/firing ever get held responsible? so i direct my attention at the obvious. that bad management leads to bad organization. is it totally their fault? i don’t think so, but comeon guys. this man crush has gone too far, to the point where half of you root for theo, not the cubs.

                in fact, by my take some of you clearly hate the cubs, the team, and love the prospect of vicarious ownership/GM power more than baseball.

          • http://deleted cub2014

            Kemp is 20mil per year, if healthy he would fit very
            nicely in the #4 spot. If not healthy you have to pay
            him 20mil per year thru 2019!

            If the Dodgers will pay half his salary and take a
            relief pitcher, 4th outfielder and a quality prospect
            then I would do it. Otherwise, a very risky move.

        • Voice of Reason

          Why would you trade shark for Kemp??????


          • Brains

            i wouldn’t, i would resign shark. but the signal has been made, they’re going to trade him. so we might as well get a veteran presence in the clubhouse with electric talent.

          • Voice of Reason

            Trade Shark for three solid prospects, not for Kemp.

            If you want to trade for Kemp, then all you’ll need to give up is a marginal prospect at best. Nothing special at all.

            Why? Because we’re taking on quite a bit of money with Kemp. Even if we cover the salary to where it costs us $15 million a year, that’s still a lot of money for a fragile player.

            There is no way they will trade Shark for Kemp.

      • Brian

        I think this implies trading Shark and Russell elsewhere, while landing Kemp for Lake and other prospects?

        • dumbledoresacubsfan

          I’d be open to either, to be honest.

          If we could grab Kemp for Lake and Vogelbach (and probably a little salary) and package Samardzija and Russell somewhere else for impact SP talent, I think that’s win/win.

          I like Schierholz a lot, but with Kemp (even with the loss of Lake), we could amp up shopping him. Add him to the Shark package and add an outfielder to the deal or figure something else out. I like an outfield with Schierholz, Sweeney, and Kemp for the time being.

          • dumbledoresacubsfan

            Which implies Kemp stays healthy enough to play every day/close to every day. So yea, we’d probably still need to add something unless we’re okay with Bogusevic, Ha, Jackson, Vitters taking on time if needed (I think I may be okay with that).

            • Mike Feeney

              The thing with Kemp is that the last 2 years he’s been hurt. The 4 years before that he played basically every day. And he’s on the good side of 30. But as far as I can tell he isn’t a great defensive centerfielder. Personally I am on the fence about Kemp. I like new toys and all star caliber new toys. But I wouldn’t want to loose any top tier prospects to get him.

              • dumbledoresacubsfan

                Yea, I mentioned his injuries earlier–that’s the tough part about gauging his positives if signed.

                But I don’t think you put him in Center. You put him in Right and give him the corner spot. Let Sweeney and one of the youngers platoon center to bridge the gap (unless we’re able to add someone else) and move Schierholz to Left (or vice versa on Kemp/Schierholz).

                But I think of all our good prospects, Vogelbach is the easiest to part ways with (though I’d love to hold on to him for a couple years when MLB decides to grant the NL the DH). If you can put a deal together with him and Lake for a guy like a Kemp, I can’t see why not. Granted, that’s a big if.

                • Brains

                  these are good careful points, but what’s the other options at this point? would you rather give choo essentially the same contract? i see these guys as dramatically tiered. kemp, when healthy, is substantially better. and there’s no guarantee at 32 that choo wont have health problems. or, for that matter that kemp wont be in good shape by spring. not signing a player because they might get injured or have been injured in the past means turning baseball into a game of “sit down and sit still”.

                  • dumbledoresacubsfan

                    I agree almost completely. I just don’t think Choo is the right player for the Cubs (of course, I don’t speak for them). On paper, Choo is a great fit and provides quite a few things we could use now–and [could] be a great bridge.

                    However, I think we could get some salary relief from the Dodgers–not that they need it–but they need to get rid of at least one outfielder, so we play to that advantage. Now, if we can get Choo for a substantially lower cost (and just money), get him and drop the Kemp talk–but I like [the version inside my head] Kemp’s potential more than Choo’s.

                • dumbledoresacubsfan

                  By the way, I’m also implying that I’d like to see Schierholz get more playing time and not be platooned [as much].

                  If I recall, one of the things he was upset with other teams about was his lack of playing time. He got more of it this year (and whether or not his insane production was simply a product of platooning), I think he earned more playing time and should get it. At least give him a chance at hitting pitchers who throw with their other hand–he’s done it before.

                  • Brains

                    i agree, if he’s on the team and we haven’t upgraded the position, give the man a shot! i pull for every guy on the roster to make it.

                  • mjhurdle

                    I think they did a really good job with Nate last year.
                    He had a career high in ABs with 464. For comparison, everyday starters Elsbury and Choo had 577 and 569 respectively.
                    464 ABs in a year is pretty good for a guy that hit .170 against lefties last year, not sure i would want them giving him any more, especially if most of them come against lefties.

                    • dumbledoresacubsfan

                      Good point.

                      My qualm with platooning guys is that, obviously they’ll have a lower BA against people who throw with the other hand–they aren’t getting any practice hitting against them.

                      Everyday playing time means seeing pitches from every angle. If you practice hitting a lefty, chances are, you’ll get better at hitting a lefty. Sure, his overall BA and OBP may go down a tinge, but he’d hit more HRs and drive in more runs.

                      Also, I think Ellsbury and Choo both missed at least a little bit of time last year, didn’t they?

                • Mike Feeney

                  Not sure how likely it is and if it’s worth discussing at this point. But would Kemp’s arm play in right? It’s about a 55 or 60 at best? Would likely play better in left I would think. I guess it depends on who is in right but Nate has a pretty strong arm.

                  End of the day though I don’t care where he ends up. If the package is right I would love to have Kemp. Seems like a Theo/Jed type of buy. Could be a little cheaper because of injury history and the Dodgers clogged outfield. If he was picked up relatively cheap and stayed healthy it would obviously be a massive upgrade.

                  • dumbledoresacubsfan


                    But yea, if his arm can’t handle Right, put him in Left. We survived with Soriano out there, I’m sure Kemp could do it, too.

                  • hansman

                    “It’s about a 55 or 60 at best?”

                    Assuming you are talking about the 20-80 scouting scale, a 55-60 arm would be plenty fine in RF.

              • Greenroom

                Good points, Mike and Dumbledore

          • Chad

            This would be the ideal situation.

            • dumbledoresacubsfan

              The thing is–I don’t think it’s really that difficult to accomplish, either. The hard part in these discussions (I think) would mostly be about the money.

              But I think the trades would benefit both teams and wouldn’t be that hard to agree on player-wise.

              Of course, then you have to factor in other teams with other packages (which obviously makes it more difficult), but I think it’s a plausible scenario.