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lukewarm stoveI’m not certain, but with this morning’s Jeff Samardzija rumor, it kind of feels like the meat of rumor season is getting underway (albeit earlier than usual). Something in the air. A charge. A flavor.

  • Edwin Jackson is under team control through 2016 at just $11 million per year (he was given an $8 million signing bonus up front), and is just 30-years-old. Were his results with the Cubs matching his other performance indicators (FIP, most notably), we’d all be giddy that the Cubs made such a savvy signing. As it is, I recognize that there’s disappointment, and his contract is described by some fans as more of a burden than a benefit (seems like the truth lies in the middle, but whateves). This rumor is for you guys: Gordon Wittenmyer says that Jackson, with his recent hot stretch, has been drawing interest from teams looking to add pitching this Summer. Of course, Jackson got bombed out in San Diego last time out, which probably dampened any enthusiasm (though I really doubt a team is going to make an acquisition decision based on one start, in either direction), but he could get back on track today with a good start in San Francisco.
  • That all raises the question – probably a controversial one – of whether dealing Jackson right now even makes sense, absent a legitimately good return. With Jeff Samardzija expected to be dealt, and Jason Hammel a free agent after the year (or dealt), the Cubs would have just two returning starting pitchers if they also moved Jackson (and that’s assuming Jake Arrieta cements himself in the rotation by the end of the year). Maybe that’s not a horrible thing, given the interesting options on the free agent market after this year and some of the upper-level/bullpen prospects who could factor into the rotation next year. But, as the front office has said repeatedly, you’ve got to have way more than five quality starting pitchers to get through a season in good shape. If the Cubs hope to compete in 2015, having Jackson at $11 million is actually a pretty nice buffer to have in place. He’s durable, he’s going to be worth at least a couple wins (in terms of WAR), and he’ll do an adequate job at the back of the rotation, if nothing else. I’m not so sure I’d like to see the Cubs shipping that off solely to save some money. Obviously if he nets you something interesting, well, then, that’s a different discussion.
  • Patrick Mooney discusses Darwin Barney’s future as a possible trade piece. Given the Cubs’ positional situation in the big leagues and the upper minors (and Barney’s upcoming second trip through arbitration), this was almost certainly going to be Barney’s last year with the Cubs regardless of how it played out, which makes his struggles at the plate all the more frustrating for both the Cubs and Barney. In all likelihood, wherever he finishes the season, Barney is a strong non-tender candidate, meaning that he’s going to be a free agent. A solid performance this year could have avoided that, or at least set him up for a nice contract. As it stands, the Cubs will have trouble getting much value for Barney, despite his fantastic defensive ability, unless he can start hitting a little more. He’s hitting .294/.324/.382 over his last 11 games, for whatever that’s worth. Hopefully, however this shakes out, Barney gets a chance to succeed – seems like a good dude.
  • The Royals are hanging around .500 a year after going all out to try and compete in 2013. You have to wonder whether they’re going to be buyers or sellers come July (James Shields would certainly be an interesting rental for competitive teams if the Royals are out of it, and you know Shields would love to be traded in that situation, making him ineligible for draft pick compensation after the season)). They seem to have avoided a serious Yordano Ventura injury so far, but, at 6.5 games out in the AL Central, and three games below .500, they could wind up selling if they don’t get hot over the next month. Given the theoretical chance that they could want to buy from the Cubs (top pitching prospect Kyle Zimmer just went down with a long-term lat injury, muddying their asset picture), obviously the hope is that they can hang around for a while. If not, Shields could quickly become a competitor on the Samardzija/Hammel market.
  • It’s too bad the Cubs don’t have a superfluous and successful outfielder or two – the Red Sox are desperate for some help out there as they watch their season fade a bit.
  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulous tells Peter Gammons on the prospect of acquiring a pitcher via trade to shore up his team’s rotation: “We are pretty much maxed out in terms of payroll, but more important, we cannot keep trading our young pitchers. We also have to be realistic about whom we can extend if we make a trade for him.” Anthopoulous seems to be pretty clearly talking about guys like Jeff Samardzija and David Price right there. But, if you’re cynical, you figure that’s just him sending a message to the Cubs and Rays, rather than him saying the Blue Jays won’t go after Samardzija or Price.

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