The Rumor Mill, a Minor Signing and Other Cubs News and Notes

The rumor mill heated up on Thursday as the discussion around the game focused on where the remaining free agents will sign. There are several players on the market tied to draft pick compensation looking for jobs as end of the year draws near … and one of those players was linked to the Cubs again.

The Cubs reportedly signed free agent Hisanori Takahashi to a minor league contract that includes an invite to big league camp and have yet to announce the signings of Carlos Villanueva and Edwin Jackson … or the move needed to clear space on the 40-man roster.

Michael Bourn

The Cubs were listed as one of three teams (Mariners and Rangers) that would be able to afford and would benefit by signing Michael Bourn. Ben Lindbergh’s report outlined why Bourn would make sense for the Cubs.

David DeJesus is currently listed as the Cubs’ centerfielder and Brett Jackson will start the season in Iowa and is not a sure thing. Lindbergh pointed out that with signing Nate Schierholtz, the Cubs might need to trade Alfonso Soriano first and he referenced the report from earlier in the off-season that the Cubs spoke to Scott Boras about his client. Despite the fact they are a couple of years away from contending and it could be a longshot for the Cubs to sign Bourn, they have been aggressive in the free agent market this off-season and if Bourn’s asking price drops he could be an option for the Cubs.

Michael Bourn turned 30 on Thursday and could be looking at a five-year, $75 million contract. Bourn turned down the Braves qualifying offer and while the Cubs’ first round pick in the draft is protected, the Cubs would lose their second round pick if they were to sign Michael Bourn.

Chattin’ with Bruce Levine

Mr. Talkin’ Baseball held his weekly chat Thursday on ESPN Chicago, here are the highlights:

  • Levine has not heard any new rumblings about Carlos Marmol or Alfonso Soriano. Levine thinks some teams might have a different perspective on both players as Spring Training approaches.
  • The Blue Jays and Rangers are the two teams that have always had the most interest in Matt Garza. Levine thinks both teams would still be very interested in Garza … if he is healthy in Spring Training. The Cubs could go as far as to have a private workout during the spring for teams interested in Garza. Levine is sure the Cubs would insist on Mike Olt from the Rangers in any deal for Matt Garza.
  • The Cubs are projecting Travis Wood as a starter right now and they feel Carlos Villanueva has a huge upside and could be a sleeper as a starter.
  • Shaun Marcum may still be on the Cubs radar, it depends on whether or not they feel comfortable about Matt Garza’s situation. The Cubs are preparing rotations with and without Matt Garza.
  • Levine was told the Cubs initially asked the Angels for Peter Bourjos and an infielder for Carlos Marmol and were rejected.

Non-Roster Invites to Spring Training

The Cubs reportedly agreed to terms on a minor league contract with Hisanori Takahashi that includes a non-roster invite to big league camp. If the report is accurate, the Cubs will have several interesting relievers in camp this spring on non-roster invites.

Takahashi would join relievers Cory Wade and Jensen Lewis in Cubs’ camp on non-roster invitations along with Andrew Carpenter, Edwin Maysonet, Brad Nelson, J.C. Boscan, Brian Bogusevic, Alberto Gonzalez and Johermyn Chavez. Blake Parker also received a NRI but he is recovering from the same injury as Matt Garza (stress reaction of right elbow) and his progress this winter is unknown.

The full list of non-roster invitees to Spring Training should be released in early January.

The Outfield Rumor Mill

Justin Upton appears to be back on the block according to Jon Heyman. While the Cubs have not been linked to Upton this off-season, if Upton is indeed available for the right package of players, the Cubs could be losing a team or two that might be interested in Alfonso Soriano. According to Heyman, the Phillies, Rangers, Yankees and Rays are among the teams that could be in the market for an outfielder.

Justin Upton or Jason Kubel figure to be traded at some point this off-season … despite the bad numbers Kubel put up on the road last season.

Alfonso Soriano has been connected to the Phillies, Orioles, Rangers and Yankees this off-season and some think the Rays should be interested as well.

Cubs New Batting Practice Caps

The Cubs batting practice cap will have a new design this year according to a report from ESPN. All 30 teams received a new look, which should be unveiled in Spring Training.

CubsSpringHats2013

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Quote of the Day

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  • Tony_Hall

    With the Cubs not guaranteeing Stewart’s contract, is it possible that they have a wait and see deal with the Rangers for during spring training, based around Garza and Olt.

    This would give the Cubs their 3B, and the Rangers would be able to wait and see if Garza is healthy and still give them the draft pick compensation if he leaves via FA after 2013. Basically, the deal they were going to do at the trade deadline, but Garza got injured.

    • Shawon O’Meter

      That is interesting and would be terrific. We have to continue to maximize our assets by turning them into prospect hauls. As much as I love Garza a healthy Garza obviously maximizes a potential prospect haul better than anyone. Great job to Team Theo rebuilding the staff so Garza can be traded and the rotation should still be respectable.

      • http://www.facebook.com/rich.hood.144 Rich Hood

        I think that any talk of trading Garza should only be for a MLB ready prospect and a potential front line starting pitcher. I don’t see that value for Garza yet. Maybe the market picks up in the spring maybe not. Right now I can not see a case where trading him makes sense. I would rather have the pick I think at this point.

        • mutantbeast

          Id take Olt for Garza, straight up. Olt has been a top-line hitter for the last 3 years, and he plays a position we need.

          • Cubs4ever

            Have you actually looked at Olt’s stats? He hasn’t exactly torn it up and it would be a terrible trade to give up a Matt Garza for only Olt. Here is what he has hit so far. 2010 in low A he had a .293 avg. 2011 in RK and high A he hit a combined .264 avg. 2012 in AA he hit .288 and when promoted to big club in 40 PA he hit .158. He can turn into a solid MLB player but he is not a star. They would need to get back alot than Olt for Garza.

        • Tony_Hall

          A supplemental round pick in 2014 for Matt Garza…..that is by far the worst outcome of the Matt Garza decisions that could happen.

          • http://www.facebook.com/rich.hood.144 Rich Hood

            You do not think a pick that is as high as 31 would be worth more than a guy that some scouts think has hit his ceiling at Triple A? The article on fangraph the other day went into good detail about Olt and he is not a sure thing. They actually were saying he is going to be traded because if he is moved off his position at 3rd his bat might not keep him at elite prospect level. I would rather have a healthy Garza with a chance to extend him or let him walk after a qualifying offer than an over hyped might be.

            http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/mike-olt-and-prospect-golden-rules/

          • Cubs4ever

            Agreed about Olt. See his stats below.

          • Tony_Hall

            Rich – I would rather get a near or already major league ready prospect, that has a much higher chance of succeeding than another draft pick that is a big risk.

            Now, I don’t think the trade would be Olt for Garza. It will take more to get Garza than that, and that is why (along with an untimely injury) is still a Cub. But if they can trade Garza and get the type of return a pitcher of his status should bring back, then, yes I want that over a singular draft pick.

          • Cubs4ever

            Yep. They would need to get a combination of Justin Grimm,Luke Jackson,Cody Buckel or Martin Perez with an Olt. Maybe a 3 for 1. I like Jackson and Buckel because they miss bats. Perez is closest to majors. There is definately a fit with Rangers and once Garza throws some innings in spring training something could get done.

          • daverj

            Olt plus one of the pitchers (not Perez though) is probably the best we could do for garza.

        • Brp921

          I think we can be confident that the front office will either get good value for Garza or keep him and extend him. If they were going to give players away Soriano and Marmol would both be gone. I can’t see them letting Garza walk for a draft pick either, unless he’s just totally unreasonable and he doesn’t seem to be.

      • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

        Agreed, Theo and Co have knocked the rebuild out of the park so far. What they’ve been able to do in such a short time period is nothing short of astounding. I really believe in 5 years our system will be the envy of the MLB.

        • daverj

          Agreed. It’s great to see someone who can see what’s happening here. Too many Cubs fans want to take the Jim Hendry approach and spend on the top free agents out there today. I’m tired of losing and unfortunately the only way out of the current mess is a very slow rebuilding process.

          • Brp921

            Are you saying they shouldn’t have signed Jackson or offered Sanchez? Should they just keep the freed up payroll they had this year? I’m not trying to be sarcastic and I don’t want them to mortgage the future on overpaid over the hill players, but I don’t see the point of intentionally losing just to get a high draft pick who may or may not make it in the big leagues, when you have the money to be competitive. The moves they’ve made this year are not going to hurt the team down the road and will help them now. I have been a proponent of a rebuild for a long time but this year they have had the opporunity to spend money to bring talent in, without hurting the rebuild and I’m glad they did. I just wish there could have been a power hitter available without the compensation problem.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            They’re not losing on purpose. That idea is preposterous. They’re just not trying to win more games at any expense when it still won’t be enough to get them in the playoffs. I know you didn’t mean that they are trying to lose on purpose I just keep hearing the idea and it’s so loony it cracks me up. Like Theo sits in his office with Jed as some Rachel Phelps-esque characters trying to dream up ways to lose more games. It’s so over-the-top and reactionary, to say it undermines the baseball IQ of anyone who supports the farcical notion is an understatement.

          • Brp921

            Agreed…

          • cubs1967

            they lost on purpose. not seeing that is asinine. so they TRIED to win and lost 101 games…………please.
            i’m still confused as to what theo did so far that is great? he had the 6th pick and took almora. was kinda of a no brainer.
            trading garza for olt is stupid. where does baez play? or lake? cubs need pitching not more hitters.
            theo paid the most for soler; any GM could of done that.
            he pissed away 8M on concepcion who sucks.
            baez-vogelbach-devoss-maples-dunston jr all came from Hendry when he was ALLOWED to pay the going rate or more for the draft. in the past he was TOLD by the tribune to spend on the MLB team.
            vizcaino could become a closer; not a starter; which would weaken the maholm trade.
            and villeneuva plays either 2b or 3b; both the most crowded in the minors and the pitcher is a big IF for the dempster trade.
            and this year he has the 2nd pick for losing on purpose.
            so far; nothing too astounding. just mostly luck for having high draft picks or money to spend.
            and his draft does not compare to the JH draft the year before. and remember nothing from the 2012 trade deadline helped in 2012 or 2013.

          • Brp921

            They would have had to take the payroll through the roof last year to add significant free agents, as the good ones got crazy money, so I’ll give them a pass on that.

          • http://www.facebook.com/rich.hood.144 Rich Hood

            I understand what your saying about players being of the old regime. I get it. Now lets be realistic.

            The old regime had no strategy or real development plan (not saying this one has a good plan but time will tell).

            The problems with the minor league system stemmed from wanting to brag about winning instead of making major league ready players. So money is only part of the problem that has been the cubs system for years the other part is being able to have kids ready to compete and the last GM was totally inept at getting them ready to do that.

          • Dorasaga

            Money has never been THE problem. Mis-allocation of ANY money was the problem. It’s not a problem anymore, thanks to a real plan.

            We’ve been talking about the Chicago Cubs, not Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates spent on “B-rated” players in July, and their half-season ride always backslid since, due to their miscalculated effort of bad trades.

          • daverj

            I have no problem with signing Jackson for 4 years at $52 mil and would have been fine with the Sanchez signing at 5/$75 mil. Those are reasonable contracts and both of those guys could help when the Cubs are competitive in a couple years. What I have been against is signing guys like Pujols and Fielder to 10 year, $200+ million contracts or Greinke for $150+ million. There were many Cub fans advocating for Pujols and Fielder last year.

          • Brp921

            I got you now, and I agree with you about the length of the contracts for Pujols and Fielder.

        • GaryLeeT

          WOW. Sure you don’t want to wait until the Cubs lose less than 100 games before you sing their praises?

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            2013 wins and losses are irrelevant to what I’m praising. If we don’t make the playoffs I don’t care if we lose 80 or 100. It’s all about setting us up for sustained success and I think we’re well on our way to establishing that.

          • GaryLeeT

            What you are praising hasn’t produced anything yet, and there is no guarantee they will. That’s my point. Like the 83, and 86 win W.S. Champion Cardinals proved, it can happen in any given year when a team wins more than they lose. Unlike you, I will never accept losing, and a bad product. No fan of a major market team should.

          • cubs1967

            Amen brother!

          • Brp921

            I do not accept losing either (though I have been a Cub fan for over forty years now lol) and I agree that any given year a team can get hot at the right time and win it all, that’s one of the great joys of the game. I agree with the idea of trying to produce the best team they can in the present, but making the future of the team the priority. I don’t think there was a lot they could have done about last year since they were stuck with such a high payroll, but I would have been livid if they hadn’t spent the money freed up this year to improve the team. You have to always be ready to catch that “lightening in the bottle”. But they did spend the money, and the team is better, at least on paper. That’s all we can ask. I will always be critical of this regime, as I have been in the past, or any future regime, when I feel like they’re not doing well, but I will also give them credit when I feel it is due, and I think right now we are headed in the right direction. I don’t know what next year will hold, but I’m getting some of the old excitement back and I havn’t had that for awhile.

          • triple

            Gotta love that elitist/”I’m better than you” attitude for only accepting the best product. I’m sure you’ve never finished in 2nd place in anything.

          • GaryLeeT

            I’m not quite sure how wanting a person to expect more from the team’s management, makes me appear as though I am “better than” them. However, since you are handing out labels, what do call people who feel they have the ability to judge someone’s real life character from a few lines written on a sports blog?

  • Tom U

    After reviewing the Boston-Pittsburgh trade, a player that can interest the Cubs and be gotten cheaply could be Gaby Sanchez.

    The Cubs currently have no back-up first baseman. It seems unlikely that minor leaguers Josh Vitters or Greg Rohan will be considered ready, and both have experience at first. The only other players coming to the big league camp with any experience at first are Brian Bogusevic and Brad Nelson, and neither are considered a shoo-in for the roster. At 6-foot-1, 190 lbs. Edwin Maysonet may also considered, but has never played there.

    In acquiring Jerry Sands, the Pirates have a player that is both younger and has more power than Sanchez. In fact, he is like a right handed version of their incumbent first baseman, Garrett Jones.

    It looks as if the league has caught up with Sanchez since his back-to-back 19 home runs seasons in 2010 and 2011. However, he could be useful in the limited role of a back-up, and he may even end up being cut by the Pirates.

    Incidentally, the son of a former Cub, Ivan DeJesus Jr., could be a steal for Pittsburgh. He hit well for Albuquerque in 2012 (.295/3/33) and is currently raking in Puerto Rico (.353/3/23 in 34 games). He is a better offensive player than the Pirates’ current infield back-ups of Jordy Mercer, Chase d’Arnaud, and Josh Harrison.

    • daverj

      Tom –

      Great post. I like Sanchez and think he still has the potential to be a starter who could hit .270ish with 20 HR. I know he played a fair amount 3B in the minors. Could he handle it at the major league level or is his defense too weak there?

      • Tom U

        At .906, Sanchez’s fielding percentage at third is around the same as Vitters and Rohan. However, Sanchez hasn’t played at third since 2009.

  • http://profiles.google.com/jchickenlegs paul john catanese

    I predict Zambrano is finished as a major leaguer, no one will pick him up, any objections?

    • paulcatanese

      To clarify my post. I was indicating that Zambrano was thru, and deservedly so, not that the Cubs should look into him,(which I know they wont do).

  • paulcatanese

    new batting practice hats? Will that make them hit better?

    • cubs1967

      no-but the batting practice pitchers will look better!

  • Brp921

    With all the discussion about signing Michael Bourne it brings a question to mind. What happens if nobody wants to lose a draft pick to sign him? Granted it probably won’t happen, but if it does what are his options? Can he still accept the qualifying offer from the Braves? Will they be able to make him a really low take it or leave it offer that he has no choice but to accept? That would make Boras an idiot in that case:-). What is the rule?

    • Vivid_Reality

      He can not accept the qualifying offer. There was a deadline for all qualifying offers to be accepted that passed before the off season really started. Therefor he really isn’t tied to the Braves at all. If they made him a lowball one year offer, he would just laugh it off and take his one year ten-fifteen mil offer from another team.

      • Brp921

        How does the compensation rule work though, is the second half of my question. If no one was willing to give up a draft pick to sign him ( I know that’s unlikely) would the Braves, at this point, lose a pick to sign him? Nothing against Michael Bourne, but I would love to see that happen to Boras. Can someone explain how that would work.

        • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

          There is not a way for a team to get around giving up a draft pick to sign Michael Bourn. This is part of the new CBA. There is nothing a team could say or do to keep from giving the Braves a draft pick for him.

          So if a team signs Bourn to a one-year ‘pillow contract’, it would still cost them a draft pick … sorry, but there is no way around it.

          The Braves would not lose a pick, they would just have re-signed the player.

          • Brp921

            Thanks Neil, that is the answer I was looking for, Scott Boras would really have put himself in a bad position if he convinced Bourne he could get a big contract and it ends up no one is willing to give up the draft pick. Atlanta could get him back for a song.

          • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

            You’re more than welcome …

            The other concern about Bourn is that he is the next Chone Figgins.

            Last year Bourn put up a .274/.348/.391/.739 line with 26 doubles, 10 triples and a career high nine home runs. Bourn also set a career-high in walks (70) and strikeouts (155) while playing at 29 years old.

            Figgins put up a .298/.395/.393/.789 line with 30 doubles, seven triples and five home runs in his walk year … but was two years older and worked a career-high in walks (101) while striking out 114 times at 31 years old.

        • Vivid_Reality

          No, any player can re-sign with the team that made them a qualifying offer without any penalty towards the team.

        • GaryLeeT

          I think Boras has done more damage to the game than any other single person in recent history. How sweet was it to see E. Jackson fire Boras, and then promptly sign the longest term deal of his career? I hope it’s the beginning of a growing trend.

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