More Roster Moves on the Horizon for the Cubs … and Other News, Notes and Rumors

When the off-season began, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer said they were looking to add at least two starting pitchers, an outfielder, a third baseman, a veteran back-up catcher and relievers to the Cubs roster. The Cubs added two players to the roster this week and there are more roster moves on the horizon.

The Cubs announced the signing of catcher Dioner Navarro on Friday. The Cubs inked Navarro to a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $1.75 million that includes $250,000 in performance bonuses. The addition of Navarro means if healthy, Welington Castillo will start the year with the big league club and Steve Clevenger is likely bound for Iowa. Castillo is out of options while Clevenger has three minor league options remaining.

The Cubs also signed Scott Baker to a one-year contract. Baker said he expects to be ready to start the season on the active roster but Baker underwent Tommy John surgery last April and it is unlikely he will begin the year in the Cubs rotation. Epstein and Hoyer are looking to add starting pitchers and have recently been connected to Francisco Liriano, Rick Porcello, Brandon McCarthy and Shaun Marcum.

The Cubs have other roster decisions to make with the November 20 deadline to set reserve lists at the major and minor league level to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft just three days away. The Cubs have two open spots on their 40-man roster.

Rick Porcello
If all of the reports and rumors are correct, the Cubs have been interested in acquiring Rick Porcello from the Tigers for nearly a year now. Porcello was rumored to be in the discussions with Detroit for Matt Garza, then Darwin Barney and according to George Ofman, the Cubs are one of the teams talking to the Tigers about Rick Porcello.

Ofman tweeted Thursday night that the Cubs remain interested in Porcello. This is the second connection made between the Cubs and Tigers this week. Bruce Levine mentioned the possibility of Nick Castellanos playing third for the Cubs during his weekly chat. The next day Ofman connected Porcello to the Cubs again.

Rick Porcello is coming off a 10-12 season with the Tigers. In 31 starts, the 23-year old right-hander posted a 4.59 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP. Porcello allowed a career-high 226 hits and issued 44 walks while striking out 107 batters. Many feel the Tigers’ poor defense contributed to his rough year. Porcello is arbitration eligible for next season (Super 2 in 2012) and does not hit free agency until after the 2015 season.

Rick Porcello gave his number to Torii Hunter on Friday after Hunter’s deal with the Tigers was announced. Porcello asked Hunter to make a donation to the victims of Hurricane Sandy in exchange for his number. Porcello lives in New Jersey.

Scott Baker
One of the newest Cubs joined Jeff Joyce and Mike Stanton during MLB Roundtrip (MLB Network Radio/XM Radio) on Thursday night. Scott Baker was very open about his recovery from Tommy John surgery and why he signed with the Chicago Cubs.

After discussing the recent announcement of Miguel Cabrera winning the AL MVP over Mike Trout (Baker said that Cabrera would have received his vote for MVP due to the ballpark and the fact he just mashes the ball), Mike Stanton congratulated him on signing with the Cubs and asked how his arm is doing. Baker quickly replied, “My arm is doing great actually.” Baker explained that he is taking ownership of this rehab and trying to make sure he is ready to pitch.

Baker said he talked with several guys that had Tommy John surgery, including Joe Nathan. Baker explained that his conversations with Nathan led him to choose Dr. Altcheck to perform the surgery. He did not know at first he was going to need Tommy John until he went under the knife. Baker thought he was just going to get the flexor tendon cleaned up. Baker found out that the UCL was useless and that was the reason the flexor tendon kept flaring up. Baker pitched with pain for several years and when the pain stopped he knew something was wrong. Baker acknowledged that despite the rehab program being monotonous, he knows it is strategic and has long as he follows doctors’ orders, he will have a full recovery.

Once Baker became a free-agent, the Cubs showed very strong interest. Baker explained that things stalled out with the Twins and several teams showed interest. Baker acknowledged that there were teams probably “just kicking the tires” but there was serious interest from several teams, including the Cubs. He was looking for a place he could be successful next year and he thinks the Cubs is the right place for him.

Scott Baker admitted that he did not want to sign a multi-year deal or a one-year contract with an option. Baker said he let all of the teams know he was only looking for a one-year deal. Baker wants a chance to re-establish himself then come out again [free agency] and test the market. There were several teams that were interested in signing him to a one year contract but he feels the Cubs are the right situation for him.

Baker feels good about pitching with the Cubs. He knows the Cubs did not have the type of season they would have liked last year. Baker spoke with Theo Epstein and the coaching staff and thinks the Cubs will be cautious with him through the rehab process. As for pitching at Wrigley Field, Baker said if he makes the pitches he’s capable of then there will not be a problem.

Scott Baker and Matt Garza were teammates for a short time in Minnesota. Baker did not speak with Garza before signing with the Cubs but plans to talk to him and a few of his other new teammates.

Baker said he is on track to be ready to go when Spring Training begins. He is already long tossing and will begin his mound progressions in a month or two. Baker explained that will take him into Spring Training. Baker is hoping to treat his Spring Training starts as his rehab starts but he is not sure if the Cubs are going to let him do that or not. He has to play it [rehabbing the elbow] by ear and not try to act like the injury never happened.

Scott Baker strained his elbow ligament in college. He feels blessed and fortunate to have made it 11 years without having surgery. Baker said he has nursed the ligament and elbow so long that he is looking forward pitching without pain and without having to worry about it [the elbow] anymore. Baker is looking forward on just focusing on pitching.

Scott Baker said there is no doubt in his mind that he will have a full recovery.

News, Notes and Rumors
Miguel Socolovich has an agreement in place with the Hiroshima Carp to pitch in Japan next season. The Cubs claimed Socolovich off waivers from the Orioles in August and he finished the year on the Cubs’ active roster. Socolovich dealt with arm issues over the last month of the season but finished the year healthy. The Cubs outrighted him off the 40-man roster in October.

According to a report from Bruce Levine, Brian Harper will soon be named the Iowa Cubs’ hitting coach. Harper managed the D-Cubs last season. The Cubs are expected to announce the managers and coaching staffs for the entire minor league system in the near future.

The Arizona Fall League’s regular season ended on Thursday. Logan Watkins created quite a buzz in a short time after he replaced Javier Baez on the Solar Sox’s roster. Matt Szczur, Nick Struck, Dae-Eun Rhee, Kevin Rhoderick, Rubi Silva and Tony Zych are done playing ball for the remainder of the calendar year.

Dale Sveum thought Welington Castillo was probably the team’s most improved player during the second half according to a report from Comcast SportsNet.

Matt Garza views the dustup between him and Dioner Navarro as a turning point in his career. Garza said he embarrassed himself and the confrontation led to temper-management consulting according to the Sun-Times. Garza and Navarro later became inseparable.

According to a report from Comcast SportsNet, the players are already concerned about getting off to a good start next April, so the team will not become sellers at the trade deadline.

Not only did the AFL come to an end Thursday, Camp Bussie also broke for the holidays.

Passes for the 28th Annual Cubs Convention are on sale and for the first time, the yearly event will be at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. According to the Vine Line, the weekend convention begins at 1:00pm CST on Friday … four hours earlier than the event has begun in the past.

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Quote of the Day

"Now there's three things you can do in a baseball game: You can win or you can lose or it can rain." - Casey StengelĀ 

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  • Aaron

    Looking at the Rule 5 eligibles….one has to think a trade is in the works.

    Why? Because the following guys are almost surely going to be picked up if they’re not protected:
    McNutt
    Watkins
    Whitenack
    Batista

    The following guys are long-shots to get selected, but still might be considered:
    Villanueva
    *Kirk
    *Antigua
    *Burke
    (*-not necessarily because they are fully prepared, but because they’re fairly projectable lefties)
    Bour
    Peralta
    Rosario
    Liria

    The Cubs really need to clear up to 4 spots. If they don’t believe they can land a Castellanos or Chisenhall via trade, then it’s quite possible they will protect Villanueva. Or, if they trade Vitters between now and the 20th, then it’s possible they protect him as added insurance.

    In the Rule 5, pitchers are always the most likely to be picked up, especially if they have power stuff. This makes it especially dangerous to leave Peralta, Rosario, Whitenack, and McNutt unprotected, but mark my words…if they aren’t protected, at least one of them will be taken.

    • Ripsnorter1

      Let’s mark those words and see what happens. I don’t think they will be picked off the roster…but I could be wrong.

      Here’s a question: who would you say we can safely drop off the roster? I’d say these are the bottom 4 spots. The question is whether or not these bottom 4 are better than your 4 pitcher you want to protect.

      So here are my bottom 4 spots on the roster:

      1. Casey Coleman. IMO, he’s not a ML pitcher. He’s coming off an injury. RISK IT.

      2. Byran LaHair. He hit .202 in the second half, with .303 slugging. From a 1B/OF. Gone.

      3. Why protect Vitters? (I know…they’d never drop Vitters because he’s a high draft pick). But He’d have to remain on the choosing team’s roster all year. And there is no way he is ML ready. He hit .121 in 109 AB and was severely overmatched. One thing about Vitters, though: he stole 2 bases with zero CS. Brett Jackson? Zero stolen bases with 3 CS. Go figure.

      4. Ian Stewart. Injured. Non roster invitee, imo.

      But the only other option is to drop Matt Szczur off the roster. And frankly, I don’t think Szczur is going to make it because he hasn’t the hit tool. He’s another good looking kid with not enough stick to make it to the show.

      As for a trade with Detroit, I’d say that the FA market at 3B is so weak that making a trade is the only real solution. Castellanos would be interesting if he’s ready to play at the ML level.. But he is NOT READY, either.

      • Tony_Hall

        Vitters would not be part of the Rule V draft, he would go through waivers and would be taken as he would just have to be added to their 40 man roster, he still has options left.

        I can see Coleman, Lahair, and Stewart being released. Stewart, even if they want him back, could be released taking the chance no one will want to pay his arbitration number, then resign him later in the off season.

        The others I see as possible to release – Concepcion, Raley, Rusin. Concepcion would likely clear waivers with $3M still owed to him, and one of either Raley or Rusin could be released, as we actually have young depth in Iowa’s rotation.

        The young guys like Szczur, Lake, Vitters, BJAX, Soler just no chance they will release any of them. Trade maybe.

        The other likely to be be dropped are Gutierrez or Putnam. Last ones to be added as another teams cuts, could be released.

        One thing this FO has shown is a very keen timing on when to release guys, when there is the best chance to pass through waivers. The longer they wait, the less likely teams are going to have a roster spot available themselves, that they aren’t saving for their own Rule V pick. The question then becomes do they like the player the Cubs drop versus one they can get in the Rule V, versus their teams short or long term goals.

      • Tony_Hall

        The trade that matches up best is with the Indians for Chisenhall. Chisenhall is ready and the Indians can wait a little longer for Vitters, as they have 3B covered. Chisenhall and Vitters are similar type players, so it may not be a 1 for 1 trade, but he shouldn’t cost much more than Vitters.

        • Aaron

          I don’t like Chisenhall for a variety of reasons. He’s the spitting image of Vitters, only left-handed, and slightly older….but unlike Vitters, he doesn’t have the contact grade that he has. I would much rather make a splash in a blockbuster deal for Castellanos, who is blocked not only by Cabrera at 3B, but Martinez at DH, and Jackson, Hunter, and the highly regarded Garcia in the OF. Where does he play?

          Especially for a team that completely bombed in the World Series, and nearly blew their season earlier because of defense….I don’t think you want Castellanos moving to the OF over Garcia or 2B.

          It makes a TON of sense for the Tigers to trade Castellanos.

          It also makes sense for them to land a Gold Glover in Barney, improve their pen with Marmol and Russell, and develop Vitters and Szczur in the wings in case of injury.

          • Tony_Hall

            I don’t believe Chisenhall is a long term piece, but as far as finding a starting 3B, for 2013, he is a possibility. If the thought is to trade for a 3B of the future, then Castellanos is the better choice.

      • Aaron

        I think you’re right on 3 of the 4 players you mentioned (Vitters being the exception).

        What I don’t understand is both the prior regime, and the current regime’s fascination with Coleman. It’s not like he can handle MLB, because he’s had his opportunities, and has never shined. Additionally, he’s coming off injury. Why would you protect him?

        LaHair makes no sense whatsoever to protect. If Rizzo gets hurt this year, they always have Bour waiting in the wings (provided he’s not taken in the Rule 5). LaHair already refused a move to 3B the team requested, so he’s probably worn out his welcome with them…in addition to his dreadful 2nd half.

        Stewart wore out his welcome long ago by not sticking with the team during the season.

        Here are a few other names that could possibly be dropped from the 40-man:

        Brigham
        Gutierrez (remember, he’s coming off injury)
        Concepcion
        Raley
        Rusin (at one point, I thought his deceptive delivery would play out well at the MLB level, but he got absolutely torched)
        Putnam

        That could potentially open up 8 total spots (in addition to the 2 they have left). I don’t see the point in having Putnam for sure, and I don’t see why they’d keep both Raley and Rusin, especially since they already have Travis Wood at the MLB level, supposedly have an offer out to Liriano….and have Kirk and Antigua (better versions of them) waiting in the wings. I also don’t see the point in protecting Brigham or Concepcion. you could make a case for Gutierrez and pen depth, but when I examine roster decisions, I ALWAYS look at who I would rather have:

        Whitenack vs Brigham= Whitnenack
        McNutt vs Putnam= McNutt
        Kirk vs Concepcion= Kirk

        …..get what I’m saying? And if you look at their stats side-by-side, it’s not even close. I don’t think you’d find a single scout in the game that would rather protect the latter players in the scenarios I just listed above.

        I hope Team Theo learns from last year’s mistakes in the Rule 5, as they most certainly could have used Gonzalez and Flaherty…and while not Rule 5….even LeMahieu, who was dealt for Stewart.

        Like I said…I just get a feeling a trade is about to go down, and here are the likely candidates:

        Garza (though probably during ST to increase value)
        Barney
        Marmol
        Russell

        Vitters
        LaHair
        Soriano
        Clevenger

        If you were to handi-cap it, I would say the top 5 on that list are the most likely to be dealt. I would’ve said Soriano would be near the top, except he invoked his no-trade already, and the team has very limited options at this point, because he wants to play in warm weather, and doesn’t want to DH. They probably can’t get good value for him, so they’d rather hand onto him until Jackson, Szczur, Soler, and others force their hand. The reason I included Russell in that list, even though I wouldn’t want to trade him at this point, is because next to Marmol, Garza, and Samardzija, he’s the only other pitcher with good value.

        And while Barney just won a Gold Glove, and continues to add power, he’s never going to fit the mold for their ideal hitter. They can’t have a lineup full of hackers, so he’s likely going to be dealt. The important thing to keep in mind, is that the Cubs have a LOT of guys coming up through the system that are better than Barney with the bat, but more importantly, might be just as good as him with the glove with the proper instruction.

        Here’s a trade I would make in a heartbeat with the Tigers:

        Marmol, Barney, Szczur, Russell, and Vitters

        for

        Rondon, Oliver, Porcello, Castellanos, and Schotts

        We now know that Marmol is worth a frontline starter…albeit one coming off a down year. Porcello is NOT that guy…and that’s why they’d have to include Oliver as well to off-set that. The Tigers could then insert Crosby into their rotation if they absolutely needed to, but they’d still have Smyly (whom I’d prefer, but doubt they’d trade). The Cubs would have to include Russell to make it worth their while, especially since the Tigers pen was dreadful all year for them. Rondon would essentially be dealt for Barney, Castellanos for Vitters, and Schotts for Szczur.

        What this trade does is it opens a net of 2 spots on the Cubs 40-man roster

        • Aaron

          Also, with that trade, the roster would likely look like this:

          Garza (dealt in ST if he’s healthy…and then Vizcaino/Cabrera would be inserted)
          Samardzija
          Baker
          Oliver
          Travis Wood (or even better if they land Liriano)

          Rondon-closer
          Dolis-set-up
          Chapman
          Bowden
          Beliveau
          FA
          FA

          C-Castillo, Navarro
          1B-Rizzo
          2B-Lake, Watkins
          SS-Castro
          3B-Castellanos, Valbuena
          LF-Soriano
          CF-Sappelt, Campana
          RF-DeJesus, FA

          Anyway…fun to think about. That’s how I’d see it shaking out if a trade like this went down. I think they’d try to sign a Broxton, or Soria (or both) for the pen, then someone like Victorino for the OF, in which case Sappelt and Campana would go to the bench.

        • Tony_Hall

          I bet you would make that trade in a heartbeat, but I don’t believe the Tigers would even consider it.

    • Tony_Hall

      It is very likely we will have a player taken in the Rule V draft, maybe even 2. Of course the team has to keep them on their 25 man roster all season, or be able to DL them like we did with Castillo and sneak them to September when rosters expand. 25 man roster spots are pretty valuable and teams don’t take them lightly. So even if a player is taken, they still might make it back during the year.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Former Cubs Scott Maine was picked up by the Miami Marlins.
    Hmmmm.

    They unloaded their roster and picked up Scott Maine. Great arm. Lousy control. If only he could pull off a Jeff Samardzija and learn control over the off season.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Melky Cabrera got $16 million from the Blue Jays. Lots of dough. I suspect it was more than the Cubs would have paid. I don’t know that, of course.