There’s nothing like a good ole fashioned Lukewarm Stove, is there?
It’s not even June yet, and here we are with our third stove of the season. Of course, the fact that it’s this early in the year makes most of these rumors especially, uh, rumory, but when players and teams are connected, they’re connected.
And, since it feels fairly likely that the Cubs are going to make some sort of move at one point or another, each rumor carries slightly more weight, regardless of the time of year. So let’s check in on what’s going on around the rumor mill …
- A name making the rounds in connection to the Cubs is Yankees starter Nathan Eovaldi (originally offered by The Score’s Julie DiCaro on Twitter), which, without further exploration, would make sense on its face – a promising young starting pitcher with multiple years of control remaining? Yes, that seems to be the kind of arm the Cubs will be targeting this year. To be quite clear up front, the connection between the Cubs and Eovaldi seems tenuous at this point, though the media in New York has at least begun the discussion of what the Yankees would want if they did decided to shop Eovaldi (one speculative name: Javier Baez). Remember before you go too far with the specific names here, it’s not clear that Eovaldi or Baez is even available, or if the Yankees are even willing to sell anything off, let alone a young starting pitcher. (Or a certain top lefty reliever.)
- But that doesn’t mean Eovaldi isn’t close to what the Cubs have been looking for. Although he isn’t quite a top of the rotation pitcher, he is quite young (only recently turned 26) and is under control for a year and a half more (free agent at the end of the 2017 season). He’s also quite affordable, making just $5.6 million in 2016 and is arbitration eligible for the final time in 2017. And to be perfectly fair, he’s been quite good for the Marlins and Yankees. Although his ERA hasn’t ever been exceptional over the last four years (4.20, 4.37, 3.39, 4.30 ERA going backwards from 2015), he’s always been a guy with very stronger peripherals (3.62 career FIP) than actual results. In 2016, Eovaldi has a 3.71/3.52/3.36 pitchers slash line with the biggest strikeout rate (22.9%) and one of the lowest walk rates (6.0%) of his career, and some believe he’s really turned a corner. Acquiring a pitcher like Eovaldi would be just as much about next season as it would be about 2016. Is it something to keep an eye on and worth discussing? Sure. Is it anything more than that right now? Almost definitely not.
- On Sunday, we wrote that the White Sox and Padres may be in talks regarding veteran starting pitcher James Shields, and today, that fire gets a little more gas. Jon Heyman is reporting that the Padres are indeed fielding calls from a lot of teams on Shields, as well as several other Padres players. Although it’s early in the season, the Padres (20-32) are in last place (11.5 games back) of the NL West and are very likely going to be sellers by the August 1 deadline. Whether that selling starts now or with James Shields remains to be seen, but teams are very clearly laying ground work.
- I don’t suspect the Cubs will have any interest in Shields, but there is at least one starting pitcher from San Diego the Cubs could have interest in, even if he’s only thrown 5.1 innings in 2016: Tyson Ross. Ross has been a long time trade rumor for many teams over the past year or so, but that’s especially true for the Chicago Cubs. On top of being relatively young (he just recently turned 29) and a near top of the rotation caliber starting pitcher (2.98 FIP, 4.4 fWAR in 2015), Ross is also under control for one more season after 2016 (1.5 years of control total). An enticing package.
- But, of course, the injury is a lot to overcome. Not only does the right shoulder inflammation that has kept him out since the first week of April make you scared for his ability to pitch well, it makes you scared for his ability pitch. Period. To that end, Manager Andy Green is saying that Ross is just about ready to start playing catch again for the first time, but won’t likely make a return to the majors before the All-Star break. If he were to return after the break, the Padres would only have two or maybe three starts to show that Ross is back, healthy and effective again, before striking a deal with any other team – not an easy proposition. So, while we all (including, obviously, the Padres) wish Ross would be back sooner for the purposes of a trade, that just isn’t the reality that’s lined up right now.
- At the end of this article in the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo unleashes a series of loose rumors including one about former Cub, current Athletic Rich Hill, (who’s having a resurgent year at the age of 36, and could be one of the most attractive rentals on the market this year), Ryan Braun (who’s connected to the Astros, Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets, Giants, and White Sox), Hector Santiago, Matt Moore (a previous Cubs rumored target), Jay Bruce, and Carlos Gonzalez. The connections there aren’t Cubs-specific, but there is a lot there to unpack, so it’s worth getting up to speed.
- But can we really expect any of these rumors to be credible or to actually lead to something happening this early in the year? Well, yes and no. Over at MLBTR, Jeff Todd writes about some of the more significant early season trades that have occurred in recent memory (with a heavy focus on June). Coincidentally, two of the more significant, early-season trades to occur in the last few years have both been of the Cubs own doing (Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, and Dan Strailey, and Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop). Going back to 2012, then, you might be surprised to see how many legit names have been moved in June. It’s possible.
- Meanwhile, it’s not a major trade, but it sounds like the Blue Jays and Braves are nearing a deal involving reliever Jason Grilli.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.