Lukewarm Stove: The Impact of a Nelson Cruz Suspension, and Chatting About Cubs Rumors

stoveThe PED news yesterday sparked in me some unscrupulous thoughts, particularly as the news related to Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz. If it’s true that he’s been receiving PEDs from that Miami clinic, and if there’s enough evidence of it, he can be suspended by MLB without a positive drug test. That is all to say that, it’s possible the Rangers could, as a product of that news, be without Cruz for 50 games next year. Does that make them even more desperate to make a move in this offseason of despair?

My mind immediately went to Alfonso Soriano, who couldn’t replace Cruz directly in right field, but could replace Cruz’s right-handed power bat (and they’ve got the outfielders available to shuffle things around and make it work). It’s conceivable, though local speculation has the Rangers filling the possible void internally, probably by putting Mike Olt out there. It doesn’t sound like a re-invigorated pursuit of Michael Bourn is in the cards, but you can bet Scott Boras is calling (and you can bet the Rangers are going to want to know what’s to come with respect to Cruz as soon as possible).

As with all of these stories that touch only on the periphery of things that could impact the Cubs, it will be interesting to see how it develops.

Now with a more typical Lukewarm Stove entry …

Bruce Levine chatted yesterday, and shared his usual mix of thoughts:

  • When asked about the likelihood of a Carlos Marmol trade, a Matt Garza trade, and an Alfonso Soriano trade, Bruce said, “Marmol should be gone before opening day. He’s been a tremendously durable reliever and someone will give the Cubs what they want in return. Garza would have to pitch probably into May or June before the Cubs would consider trading him, in order to get optimum value back. With Garza it could still go either way. They could trade him by the deadline or sign him to an extension. At this point, some team will have to lose one of their RBI producers before the Cubs are able to deal Soriano in a mutually satisfying trade. As far as the trades go, Marmol has 5 teams he can veto and Soriano can veto any deal because of his 10 & 5 rights.” That’s basically what Bruce has always said about Marmol, but it’s a bit of a change of course on Garza. Previously, Bruce seemed to be of the mind that a Spring trade involving Garza was possible. I still think the outfield/DH market, as it stands today, would support an attractive Soriano trade. It might not happen, but the conditions are there.
  • On Marmol, the Cubs are likely to be looking for young pitching or a third baseman.
  • The Cubs missed out on Justin Upton because they didn’t have enough young talent, according to Bruce. Given the deal the Diamondbacks ended up accepting, I have a hard time accepting that – if the Cubs were absolutely determined to get Upton, and the no-trade clause wasn’t an issue – the Cubs couldn’t have put together an acceptable package. Ultimately, they didn’t have a Prado, and they didn’t have a Delgado. To me, it’s more a matter of the Diamondbacks preferring those guys than it is a matter of the Cubs not having enough talent.
  • “Ideally,” the Cubs would like to deal Alfonso Soriano, but replacing his offense is difficult. Scott Hairston doesn’t do it, and is better used in a mix-and-match role.
  • Bruce guesses that one of Dave Sappelt or Tony Campana will ultimately be DFA’d to make room for Scott Hairston (if no trade is available, I agree). Levine guesses it’ll be Sappelt, because of Campana’s game-changing speed. I lean the other way, because Sappelt can help you in other ways (totaling more than one way). That said, the Cubs will have been observing Campana’s development this offseason (including physical development), so they’ll have a better eye to this right now in the offseason than we will.
  • The breakout player in 2013 might be Brett Jackson, says Bruce, but probably not until the second half of the year.
  • The rebuild will take five to eight years. Um … nah. I mean, it depends on what you mean by “rebuild,” but anyone suggesting that the Cubs don’t expect to be a playoff contender until 2016/2017 is mistaken. It may (unfortunately) play out that way, but that is by no means the considered goal. I’m now firmly locked on the idea that we’re going to see a 2014 team that, on paper in Spring Training, looks like it could be a playoff team.
  • Bruce thought Starlin Castro looked a bit taller and stronger at the Cubs Convention (hopefully eschewing any concerns that he was going to get complacent now that he’s received his big contract).
  • David Price won’t be a trade target next offseason, because the Cubs aren’t going to want to gut the system for him.
  • Bruce offers a TV contract tidbit of huge importance that I’ve never heard before, and will have to flesh out in a dedicated post at some point in the future. Here’s the quote: “Until 2019 the Cubs cannot put any of their games on any other cable outlet. That means that if they opt out of their WGN deal either Comcast Sports Net picks up the remainder of those games, or the Cubs take those games to another non-cable station.” I can tell you that, if true, this is a big issue, because the Cubs’ ability to negotiate with CSN for those newly-available games after 2014 (when the WGN deal expires) will be fairly hampered. Another non-cable channel is simply not going to bid huge dollars. I think this whole thing is going to get resolved some other way, but I’ll get into that another time. This is the Lukewarm Stove.
  • written by

    Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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