Folks have arrived in Orlando, and the rumor mill is churning …
- Jon Morosi got everyone buzzing this morning with word that sources say the White Sox are opening to discussing trades for any of their three young, lefty starters – Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Hector Santiago. Everyone immediately blew up about Sale’s availability, given that he’s a legitimate ace under long-term control that every team in baseball (including the White Sox) should want. I don’t really see a trade happening there, and I really don’t see the Cubs getting involved. The more important point from this rumor is that the White Sox could soon alter the market for arms by making their guys available. If Sale were truly dangle, it’s a market-changer, with him – and his youth and his contract – easily being the most attractive available arm (much, much more than David Price). Even Quintana’s presence on the market (not so much Santiago) could impact the Cubs’ ability to effectively shop Jeff Samardzija. While Samardzija would seem to offer more upside, Quintana is under control for five more years and was legitimately very good last year. Heck, I think the Cubs should inquire on him.
- (Jeff Passan adds to Morosi’s piece, saying that the White Sox do affirmatively want to move a starting pitcher. Ideally it would be John Danks and his contract, but that seems unlikely. So it’s pretty safe to say that Quintana is thoroughly on the market. Something to watch.)
- Speaking of Samardzija, Joel Sherman – a New York guy, which allows me to note that the Yankees are now in on Samardzija – drops a tweet that pretty much sums up my position on Samardzija and the Cubs (forgive the 140-character-induced text-speak): “Cubs definitely talking Samardzija but price high and 1 interested exec said: ‘they will get it or just put him back on the market in July.'” Against the backdrop of two years of cheap control and a legitimate desire to get an extension done, the Cubs have no reason to feel pressured to deal Samardzija right now. That pressure eases even further when you consider that, unlike Matt Garza two years ago, Samardzija is not coming off of a world-dominating season. Instead, he’s coming off of a year with peripherals that suggest he’s as likely to break out in the first half next year as anything else. Obviously you factor in the risk of injury, but it’s conceivable that Samardzija could break out, and the Cubs could get more for him in July than they can get now. Step up your offers, other teams.
- The Phillies are “actively shopping” outfielder Domonic Brown (per Jeff Passan), preferably for a pitcher (I’m sure they’d love to land Samardzija). Brown finally put it together in 2013, and he’s cost-controlled left-handed outfield power (Cubs could use all of that). But there are a ton of warning signs, including his inconsistency before the big 2013 season (and a FanGraphs study suggests you can’t just look at the big, most recent season when projecting future performance, even for a 25/26-year-old). And then there’s the 2013 season, itself, which featured an otherworldly May (12 homers, .688 slugging) … with no walks. His season was relatively meh outside of that May (but don’t get me wrong, all months count), and he walked just 7.2% of the time. Would you take him as your starting left fielder next year on the Cubs? Absolutely. Why not, given the time line of their young outfielders? Would you trade Jeff Samardzija to get him? No way. Not as the primary return piece.
- The Dodgers are reportedly interested in David Price, which is no surprise for a variety of reasons. A lot of tangential impact here: would they also be interested in Samardzija? If they land Price, they’ll clearly be out of any Masahiro Tanaka bidding (right?). If they aren’t in on Samardzija, and take Price off of the market, that can only help the Samardzija market.
- Speaking of Tanaka, we’re going to see a new deal announced this week between NPB and MLB on the posting system, and it’s going to have a cap of $20 million on bids. The lingering question: will Masahiro Tanaka’s team post him. Still nothing definitive there, but, in my mind, it would be an upset if they didn’t. And, if he is posted, an interesting new piece from Joel Sherman suggests the Yankees might have trouble landing him even if Alex Rodriguez is suspended for the entire season, thus erasing his $25 million salary from the books for luxury tax purposes. Sherman’s math has the Yankees at about $203 million for 2014 right now, with an internal mandate to get under $189 million. Even if ARod’s suspension is upheld, that takes things down to about $178 million. Tanaka is a lock to get more than $11 million on an AAV basis, so the Yanks would have to shed additional payroll (Brett Gardner is at about $4 million, so he’d be gone) AND not spend anything more. That’s a tough trick. (But it’s the Yankees, so I’m still hoping – for purposes of Tanaka – ARod’s suspension is reduced to something like 50 or 100 games.)
- The Mariners are getting lots of calls on Dustin Ackley, per Jon Heyman. Ackley, 25, learned center field for the Mariners last year, though he’s a native second baseman. His performance has regressed as a big leaguer, but there’s still a lot to like in a buy-low opportunity. Not sure how realistic it is, but maybe the Mariners are simply ready to separate from the young man.
- An intriguing DFA target to monitor: 24-year-old Australian righty Liam Hendriks was just DFA’d by the Twins, who might look to trade him before putting him on waivers. His minor league peripherals are as fantastic as his big league numbers are bad. Thing is, all the usual “bad luck” indicators are there in spades for Hendriks in the bigs: enormous home run rate (after never giving up homers in the minors), ridiculously low LOB%, and a BABIP about 20 points higher than you’d expect it to be. Although Hendriks would require a 40-man roster spot, he does come with an extra option year left, meaning a team like the Cubs could put him at AAA and let him continue to develop (with another Hendricks) until a spot opens up. I really like him as a possibility.
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