Two more of the Cubs’ off-season storylines have surfaced, even without a manager or a coaching staff in place. And both involve pitchers that were in the Cubs’ rotation a year ago.
According to a report from Buster Olney, the Cubs and Diamondbacks will continue talking about a trade that would send Jeff Samardzija to Arizona. Rumors last July indicated the D-Backs called the Cubs about the availability of Jeff Samardzija and once Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer asked for Archie Bradley and Tyler Skaggs the conversation quickly ended. While Skaggs had another disappointing stint in the majors, Bradley is considered one of the top pitching prospects in the game.
There is a good possibility the Cubs will try to move Samardzija this off-season in order to maximize his value if they are not able to sign him to a contract extension. Samardzija is under team control for two more seasons. Samardzija figures to at least double his pay from last season ($2.64 million plus $125,000 bonus for reaching 200 innings pitched) in his second year of arbitration eligibility.
The front office tried to sign Samardzija to an extension last winter but Samardzija reportedly turned down an extension worth more than $30 million. Samardzija said he wanted to prove he could pitch an entire season in a rotation before inking a long term deal. Plus, as previously reported, Samardzija could be looking for a no-trade clause in any deal he signs.
If the Cubs cannot work out a long term, team friendly deal, the front office will shop their Opening Day starter. Samardzija is coming off an inconsistent season in which he set career highs in innings pitched (213 1/3), starts (33) and strikeouts (214).
Jeff Samardzija turns 29 in January, and if the Cubs decide they must move him, he should net a good return to help with the pitching staff moving forward.
While the Cubs could be listening to deals for Jeff Samardzija, the front office could be talking to Travis Wood about a long-term contract according to Comcast SportsNet. Travis Wood was one of the bright spots, at the big league level, last season and is coming off a career year. Wood is arbitration eligible for the first time after making $527,000 in 2013.
Travis Wood was the Cubs’ lone representative in the All-Star game, and while that may not mean what it used to, the honor will be brought up by Wood’s agent, Frontline, this off-season. Wood is coming off a 9-12 season with a 3.11 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. Wood could have finished the year with a sub-3.00 ERA if not for a bad inning against the Cardinals in his final start of the season. Wood set career highs in starts (32), innings pitched (200) and strikeouts (144).
Travis Wood was the Cubs’ most consistent starter last year and has been mentioned as part of the core that the front office plans to build the big league team around. Wood turns 27 before pitchers and catchers report to Mesa in February.
If the Cubs viewed Samardzija as a $30-plus million pitcher last winter, what would it cost the Cubs to buy out all three of Wood’s arbitration years and at least one of his free agent years? Would a four-year, $32 million contract wrap up Wood and give the Cubs cost certainty for the young southpaw?
Masahiro Tanaka’s unbeaten streak came to an end in Game 6 of the Japan Series on Saturday night. Tanaka took the loss, his first in 30 starts dating back to last August, after allowing four runs on 12 hits and one walk in nine innings. Tanaka threw 160 pitches over the nine innings. But Tanaka was not done for the series.
Tanaka followed up his nine-inning, 160-pitch outing on Saturday by picking up the save in Game 7 on Sunday. Tanaka threw 15 pitches in the ninth to lock down the first Japan Series title for the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
David Waldstein, the Yankees’ beat reporter for the New York Times, reported on Sunday there is “now some concern about Tanaka’s arm, not because scouts have seen anything wrong, but because of the sheer workload.”
Masahiro Tanaka should be posted as soon as the new posting rules are worked out between the two leagues.
The Cubs activated Arodys Vizcaino, Kyuji Fujikawa and Mat Gamel from the 60-day DL on Monday. All three players were on the 60-day DL and did not count against the 40-man roster. With all three players being activated, the Cubs 40-man roster stands at 37 players.
The Cubs did not extend qualifying offers to their four free agents. Scott Baker, Dioner Navarro, Matt Guerrier and Kevin Gregg became eligible to sign with any of the 30 big league teams at 11:01pm CDT on Monday night.
Reports have indicated the Cubs would like to re-sign Scott Baker. As for Dioner Navarro, his career year appears to have priced him out of Chicago. Kevin Gregg and Matt Guerrier could return on minor league deals but the Cubs do not appear to be interested in bringing either relief pitcher back on a Major League contract this winter. Guerrier has interest in re-signing with the Cubs on a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training so he can compete for a job.
Monday was the deadline for teams to offer their free agents qualifying offers. Players have one week to decide or accept the $14.1 million qualifying offer. If the player chooses to reject the offer, the player can sign with any team but the player’s new team will forfeit a top draft pick. The Cubs select fourth in next June’s draft so signing a free agent that turned down a qualifying offer would cost them their second round pick, along with the slot money for the pick.
Three players of the 13 players that received qualifying offers have been tied to the Cubs by the mainstream media … Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Shin-Soo Choo. All three players are expected to reject the offers.
The one player that did not receive the qualifying offer that could have interest to the Cubs is Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The Cubs have been connected to Saltalamacchia for multiple reasons. Not only is the front office looking for catching help but there is familiarity with Saltalamacchia. Theo Epstein acquired Saltalamacchia from the Rangers in July of 2010.
The 28-year old switch-hitting catcher is coming off his best year in Boston. Saltalamacchia hit .273/.338/.466 with 40 doubles and 14 home runs in 121 games.
The front office is expected to address the lack of catching in the system this winter. But if Dioner Navarro is too expensive, would Jarrod Saltalamacchia fit in their budget?
Carlos Beltran, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, Curtis Granderson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Hiroki Kuroda, Ervin Santana, Mike Napoli and Kendrys Morales were the other 10 players that received qualifying offers on Monday.
News, Notes and Rumors
Ken Rosenthal took a look at what it might cost for a team to acquire David Price this off-season. The Cubs were mentioned as a possibility but the Cubs’ system lacks pitching prospects that would have to be included in a deal for David Price.
The Cubs’ new facility in Mesa will see its first workouts by Cubs players this week. According to a report from Carrie Muskat, several minor league players have been invited to take part in sessions with strength and conditioning coach Doug Jarrow. The facility is scheduled to open on Dec. 1.
Free agents, free agents and more free agents … here is the latest list of big league players on the market from Baseball America.
Baseball’s Hall of Fame announced its Veterans Committee nominees on Monday. Bobby Cox, Billy Martin, Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa are on the list for induction this year along with Marvin Miller and George Steinbrenner.