Cubs Talking to Scott Hairston? And Other News, Notes and Rumors

Teams are beginning to scramble to fill out their rosters with pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training in just over three weeks … the Cubs report to Fitch Park in 25 days.

While the Cubs may or may not be looking to add players to the roster before camp begins, they have spoken with Scott Hairston according to a report from Jon Heyman. As reported on Sunday, Jerry Hairston Jr. confirmed his brother had spoken with the Mets, Phillies and Yankees this off-season during an interview on Talkin’ Baseball (ESPN 1000) but he would not rule out his brother signing with the Cubs due to Scott’s relationship with Jed Hoyer. Hairston has spent the last two years with the Mets and put together a .286/.317/.550/.867 slash line against lefties last season with 17 doubles and 11 home runs.

Scott Hairston is reportedly looking for a two-year, $8 million contract and is expected to make his decision this week.

Jed Hoyer discussed the Cubs’ off-season Tuesday on Comcast SportsNet and said they will “probably go forward with what they have now” unless they are able to find a bargain on a player they feel is an incredible price, then they might make an addition to the roster. Hoyer did not mention when they would announce the Carlos Villanueva signing but said, “We really do like the way our bullpen and our rotation fit together now.”

The Cubs Caravan begins on Wednesday but they still have decisions to make as the off-season begins to wind down …

One of the big free agent dominos fell on Tuesday when Rafael Soriano signed a two-year, $28 million contract with the Nationals. Soriano’s deal includes a $14 million vesting option for 2015 and includes $14 million in deferred payments. Soriano will make $7 million in 2013 and 2014 with the other $14 million paid out from 2018-2025. With Soriano off the market, teams looking for help in the backend of the pen will go in other directions.

While the Cubs were not interested in signing Rafael Soriano, now that he is off the market, it could open up a spot or two for Carlos Marmol. Dave Dombrowski said the Tigers did not seriously pursue Rafael Soriano and are prepared to begin camp with rookie, flamethrower Bruce Rondon as the team’s closer. Rondon has not pitched above Single-A.

Carlos Marmol is owed $9.8 million for the third and final year of his three-year deal.

Jed Hoyer

Report from Comcast SportsNet

Matt Garza

Matt Garza’s rehab from the stress reaction in his right elbow is going well. According to a report from Comcast SportsNet, Garza is throwing from about 150 feet and working toward throwing off the mound. Jed Hoyer said that Garza is progressing well and they do not think he will be restricted when Spring Training begins.

Alfonso Soriano

Alfonso Soriano is expected to attend the Cubs Convention this weekend and chances are he will bombarded with questions about his future with the team. The Cubs have reportedly been listening to offers for Soriano this winter. Jed Hoyer said they have been in communication with Soriano this winter and will continue communicating with him. A report from Comcast SportsNet mentioned that Soriano “should get an audience with the front office” this weekend.

Soriano reportedly would like to stay on the East Coast, if he waives his no-trade clause, and according to Patrick Mooney, Soriano “likes the idea of playing in a big market for a contender on the East Coast.” Soriano has been linked to the Phillies this off-season but Philly’s plans might have changed.

According to a report from the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Phillies are likely to stand pat on the corner outfield spots and will start the season with the players currently on their roster … Domonic Brown, John Mayberry Jr., Darin Ruf and Laynce Nix.

Chattin’ with Bruce Levine

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

  • Levine believes that Theo Epstein thinks Alfonso Soriano was better than advertised last year but the Cubs would trade Soriano in a minute if they felt they were receiving the right player in return or a team would take on the right portion of the money left on Soriano’s contract.
  • The Cubs will continue to look for third basemen if and when they deal Matt Garza. According to Levine, they would love to get Mike Olt or Lonnie Chisenhall.
  • An Arizona source told Levine that it would take Starlin Castro in order to get a player of Justin Upton’s quality. The Cubs are not in a position to trade their good, young players like Javier Baez or Starlin Castro to land a player like Justin Upton. The two sides have talked according to Levine … Kevin Towers and Theo Epstein are good friends dating back to their days together in San Diego.
  • The Cubs number one priority appears to be moving Carlos Marmol before they look at signing any other relief pitchers.
  • When asked about possible surprises at the upcoming Cubs Convention, Levine said the only surprises for the Cubs right now would be trading Alfonso Soriano and/or Carlos Marmol. The Cubs are hoping to receive some good, young players in return for Soriano and Marmol and at the same time, free up positions for their younger talent. The Cubs would like to get back a young pitcher or outfielder that is ready to compete at the big league level for Soriano.

News, Notes and Rumors

The Rays are looking for another bat according to a report from the Tampa Bay Times. The Rays are likely to fill the need through free agency and not a trade.

According to Ken Rosenthal, the market for Kyle Farnsworth heated up on Tuesday in the aftermath of Rafael Soriano signing with the Nationals. The Cubs were rumored to be interested in Farnsworth, who has narrowed his choices from six to three teams … but it is unlikely that the Cubs will add a former closer to their bullpen mix.

According to a report from the Sun-Times, Starlin Castro will not play for the Dominican Republic in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

Speaking of the WBC, there will be tighter pitch counts for the upcoming tournament than in previous years. Pitchers will be limited to 65 pitches in the first round, 80 in the second and 95 in the semi-finals and finals. In 2009, pitchers could throw 70 in the first round, 85 in the second and 100 in the semi-finals and finals. Click here for a report on the rules changes for the World Baseball Classic.

Tim Wilken will be one of the many scouts in the Dominican Republic this week for the second annual MLB Prospect League international showcase for players eligible to sign on July 2.

The Cubs eliminated service charges on six and nine game plans that go on sale January 23. The Cubs also worked with Topps to create a brand-new set of 82 cards with Cubs players in a year they did not exist. Season-ticket holders will receive the entire set and the Cubs are the only team that had a set made.

ESPN released their 2013 Sunday Night Baseball Schedule on Tuesday … the Cubs will be on the Worldwide Leader on July 14 hosting the Cardinals to close out the first half of the season.

The Kane County Cougars and Tennessee Smokies will be on hand at the Cubs Convention this weekend … and Comcast SportsNet will televise the Opening Ceremonies of the 2013 Cubs Convention.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

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  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    I embedded the video of Jed Hoyer again just a while ago. I am not sure what happened and why it did not publish the first time. I apologize to everyone that might have been wondering what was going on …

  • John_CC

    Thanks Neil. And man, it’s a good thing the WBC changed that pitch count rule, the 2009 limit in the finals was a little high!

    “In 2009, pitchers could throw 70 in the first round, 85 in the second and 1000 in the semi-finals and finals.”

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Thanks for catching … corrected.

  • Aaron

    You have to think that the Tigers need to hedge against a rattled (most likely) Rondon in his first experience above A ball. There aren’t too many guys that can make that leap and not be rattled. While entirely different pitchers, Lendy Castillo is a case in point, and so is David Patton. Rondon throws much harder than them, and had more success in A ball, but still, it’s worth considering.

    Therefore, I believe a deal centered around Marmol, Barney or Brett Jackson (but not both) should be enough to get Castellanos, and possibly someone like Crosby or Smyly. Obviously, the Cubs could throw in Lake as well for a sweetener to that deal or perhaps someone like Travis Wood (if they get one of those pitchers), but Marmol alone given his past dominance and closing experience should be enough to get Castellanos.

    Castellanos is blocked at 3B (Cabrera), 1B (Fielder), DH (Martinez), and OF. He has nowhere to go.

    As for Soriano, the Cubs should do everything in their power to deal him to the Phillies. Since they’d already have Castellanos, they could look to make a blockbuster deal with Soriano, Vitters, Brett Jackson, and possibly Travis Wood (if he wasn’t dealt to the Tigers) for Brown, Kenny Giles, Biddle (or Austin Wright…depending which one they’d give up), and Larry Greene (described in scouting reports as having Ryan Howard power, but better mobility for the OF).

    Cubs clear 3 roster spots with addition of Brown and subtraction of the rest, which allows greater flexibility. While Greene is certainly a project, for his age, he demonstrated great patience, and averaged a hit per game, which cannot be said for Jackson. Vitters doesn’t fit with the team, plus they’d have Castellanos anyway. Giles gives them a power arm for relief (reportedly 97-99 mph), Biddle gives them a young lefty for the rotation, and Brown gives them an immediate option for the OF while Greene is a long-term option.

    The deal works for the Phillies, especially with their aging rotation, because Wood could just slide right in to give them an option in the event (likely event) of an injury. It gives them a younger (and likely better option for Brown in their eyes) OF option in Jackson, and with Soriano, it gives them a power righty bat which they desperately need. Vitters fills a need for them next year when Young’s contract is up, plus, with Sandberg on their staff, they might figure that he could work with Vitters on his defense to get him to a respectable level.

    I like both deals from both teams’ perspectives. Sure, losing Barney would hurt the Cubs defensively, but only marginally, considering they have the more offensive Watkins (who also plays good defense) to insert in his spot. The Cubs could also sign a remaining veteran FA to hedge against a drop-off like Kelly Johnson or Freddy Sanchez.

    Having said all that, I HIGHLY doubt any of this will happen, considering what Hoyer recently said…that he didn’t expect any movement. Of course, they’ve kept things tight-lipped, so that’s to be expected, but it really does seem like they’re comfortable with the team as constructed right now.

    • John_CC

      I like the Tigers deal idea. I think you are absolutely right, they cannot go into the season relying solely on an A pitcher to close the big leagues. Especially since they intend to contend. The Tigers will need someone at the back end with some experience once the games really start to matter. So maybe come July your move will become a possible reality. Let’s hope so.

      • Aaron

        The Tigers move makes the most sense of the two deals, but even the Phillies one makes a lot of sense too.

        With the Tigers bad IF defense last year, poor relief pitching (and subsequent void this year), you have to like that trade from their standpoint, even though they’re giving up quality players too. With Castellanos and Crosby (assuming they don’t trade Smyly), prospects are suspects as many on here have said over and over again, and their window to win is closing, much like the Phillies…..

        which is also why that deal makes sense from their perspective. With Utley, Howard, Rollins, Young, Halladay, Lee, etc. all on the wrong side of 30…..they have maybe 1, possibly 2 years left to get another championship. Soriano, ironically has just 2 years left on his deal. Vitters is still young too, and could fill in at 3B after Young leaves (which he’s already indicated after the trade happened that the will not resign with the Phillies after the season). With Jackson, they’d also have a MLB-ready OF to step in if their other young OF-ers struggle.

        From the Cubs’ perspective in both these trades, sure it’d hurt to lose 30 hr, 100 RBI from Soriano, Gold Glove defense from Barney, and solid closing experience from Marmol….But with Soriano and Marmol, they’re earning too much relative to their production, and do not factor into the future plans, and with Barney, he’s a defense-first 2B with average speed and absolutely no value offensively.

        Here’s how the Cubs shake out next year without them:

        Garza
        Samardzija
        E Jackson
        Baker
        Feldman (based on promise made when he signed supposedly)
        ***(Vizcaino will join after a trade)

        Fujikawa
        Camp
        Russell
        Villanueva
        Dolis
        Bowden
        H. Rondon

        C-Castillo, Navarro
        1B-Rizzo
        2B-Watkins, Stewart (don’t discount him for the bench, folks…he’s played 2B and 3B at the MLB level)
        SS-Castro
        3B-Castellanos, Valbuena
        LF-Brown
        CF-Schierholtz, Campana
        RF-DeJesus, Lake

        That might not seem appealing now, but when you look at it in 2-3 years, it becomes a lot more appealing:
        Garza
        Samardzija
        E Jackson
        Biddle
        Smyly (crossing fingers)

        C-Castillo, Navarro (would have to re-sign)
        1B-Rizzo
        2B-Castro (yes, position switch)
        SS-Baez
        3B-Castellanos
        LF-Greene
        CF-Almora
        RF-Soler

        My guess, actually is if Baez progresses to the point where he’s not making as many errors at SS, that Castro will be dealt to the Marlins for Stanton….just call it a hunch. I think the Cubs view Baez as the stronger competitor with more range, speed, and power. In that case, I believe Alcantara might be ready and would be inserted at 2B.

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

          I love this idea. It works out for all people involved. I especially like the idea of getting Biddle and Smyly for our rotation in 2014. That would give us a surplus of arms maybe enough to actually put a legitimate offer for Price. Johnson,Maples and Castro maybe?

        • gary3411

          Tigers wouldn’t trade Castellanos for Marmol if the Cubs ate every cent of the contract AND gave them even more money. Neither would I that is nuts Marmol hasn’t put together a full season of major league quality pitching in years.

          Without money eaten, I don’t think Marmol is really worth anything much at all. On the free market he wouldn’t even get 10 million.

          • Aaron

            You’re joking, right? All you have to do is look at a recent trade to show what a decent closer is worth nowadays:

            Hanrahan-31 yr old closer, coming off great year
            Holt-24 yr old IF, decent bat

            for….

            Pimentel-former top starting pitching prospect of Red Sox
            Sands-capable OF/1B with power, but never given a full-time opportunity
            DeJesus-decent reserve IF
            Melancon-capable closer in his own right coming off down year in new league

            Ummmm…pretty sure Marmol could fetch the same/if not better than that, especially when you combine Barney in that package, plus possibly Jackson. Marmol is younger, has more K ability, and has also proven himself. He walks more guys, sure, but he has better stuff than Hanrahan.

            I think you’re being a little unfair with Marmol’s trade value. If a guy like Castellanos is clearly blocked like he is, and you have a position of need, then you make that deal. It’s kind of like the Cubs’ predicament with Garza. He certainly has upside like a Castellanos, but the Cubs have rotation depth now, and can move him, even if his value is slightly diminished. Just look at Castellanos….while not due to injury, his stats at AA in 79 games…the majority of his season actually last year (albeit he was young at 20 yrs old) were pitiful at: .264/.296/.382, 7 hr, 25 RBI, 14 walks vs 76 K’s…oh, and 15 errors to boot (no pun intended). Ironically, the oft-attacked Josh Vitters produced a nearly identical line in a similar amount of games at the AA level at age 20…only with about 30 less K’s.

            You could make the case that Castellanos is overhyped. Does that help put this into better perspective for you?

          • Cubs4ever

            Do you really think Miguel Cabrerra will be playing 3rd base long term where he would be blocking someone?

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

            So who moves to accommodate him? Lets see Fielder? Nope way too much money and length on that contract to move him so he stays at first.

            Vmart? Nope he just now is getting back from knee surgery and is the full time DH. Not going anywhere for two more years.

            So with Cabrera there is only 2 options, put him a corner OF or 3rd base. He perfers 3rd so that is where he will stay for now.

            After 2014 when VMarts money and spot comes open then you can see a change with Cabrera and or Fielder but today the kid is blocked.

          • Cubs4ever

            The kid is not ready now! Cabrera plays 1 more year at 3rd and then DH’s. Castellanos is still in minors in 2013.

          • John_CC

            Good thing he’s owed less than 10 million, and even less come July. And the Cubs are willing be to eat some of his salary to get Castellanos in return. And it still makes sense for both teams.

            So back to the hater drawing board for you!

          • Aaron

            Agreed, plus, like I said, in my proposal they include Barney, which makes them even more likely to pull the trigger on this deal.

          • John_CC

            yep

  • John_CC

    So the Mets are offering Hairston 1 year and $2MM! I guys split vs. LH is worth more than that. He would be a good, cheap platoon partner for Schierholtz and maybe BJax…

  • Ripsnorter1

    I don’t believe the Tigers will even start the season with a Single A pitcher as their closer. They have hundreds of millions of dollars invested in personnel, and they want to skimp on a closer? Nah!

    Marmol would be a good fit. Nick Castellanos would be okay, but he’s just had half a year at AA and hit .264 and slugged .382, so he’s probably not ready for another two years.

    Let’s check Marmol’s 2012 stats….everyone, it seems, on the CCO is ready to dump him for nothing.

    BA vs RH hitters: .177, and slugging was .260.

    HE’S AWFUL!

    BA vs LH hitters:.221 and slugging .356.
    TERRIBLE!

    Yes, he walked batters in the first half. So let’s check the second half and see how he did….

    2-1 record.

    1.52 ERA

    29 IP

    17 BB

    20 H

    39 K

    1.247 WHIP

    Not too bad….

    No. I don’t think we need to throw in Barney or anyone else to get this shot in the dark prospect Nick Castellanos. Marmol alone would be a generous offer.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Travis Wood….

    1st half….4-3….3.05 era

    2nd half…2-10…5.07 era

    Maybe he ought to convert to the Sean Marshall role…..

  • Ripsnorter1

    Need a catcher? Geo. Kotteras has just been DFA’d. What’d it cost us to get him to back up Castillo?

    • John_CC

      They have a capable 29 year old veteran in Navarro.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Might need a third catcher during the year–like last year.

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