Samardzija Stays in the Rumor Mill, Teams Contacting Tanaka and Other Cubs Notes

The front office and Jeff Samardzija continue to discuss ways for Samardzija to remain with the Cubs. Both sides have acknowledged the talks on a long term contract have taken place and both the team and Samardzija’s camp has labeled those discussions as amicable. Samardzija understands why the front office is listening to offers and at the same time he would like assurances the team is going to try to build a winner in the near future before he commits to a new contract.

Jeff Samardzija recently said the word ‘rebuilding’ is getting old. Samardzija pointed out the Cubs need to win and win soon, not only for the fans but for the players as well.

The Cubs are believed to be asking a lot in return for Samardzija. Many of the teams that were thought to be interested in acquiring Samardzija have backed down due to the front office’s high asking price. The Braves and Diamondbacks have reportedly cooled on acquiring Samardzija, while the Blue Jays could still be in the mix but Alex Anthropolous is not looking to include Aaron Sanchez and/or Marcus Stroman in a deal for Samardzija.

The Orioles are looking to add a pitcher to their rotation and have checked on free agents Bronson Arroyo and A.J. Burnett. Both starters have question marks surrounding them. Arroyo was effective in the NL Central and with National League lineups, but he would likely struggle back in the AL East. No one knows if Burnett is going to retire or pitch next season. Baltimore is interested in Burnett and is reportedly trying to persuade him to pitch near his home. The Orioles are not looking to spend big on other free agent starters such as Matt Garza, Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez according to Roch Kobatko. Plus it is doubtful Garza would be able to pass the Orioles physical. And the Orioles will not participate in bidding for Masahiro Tanaka because the Orioles’ organization does not believe in paying a fee just to sign a player. The Orioles are looking for a positive this winter, especially in the wake of the Grant Balfour debacle, and are exploring ways to add pitching to their roster. This is where Jeff Samardzija comes in.

Roch Kobatko reported the Orioles are still interested in trading for Jeff Samardzija and he remains a potential target. Kobatko said Kevin Gausman would not be included in any trade for Samardzija, but Double-A lefty Eduardo Rodriguez could be a pitcher that would interest the Cubs and possibly Double-A RHP Mike Wright.

Eduardo Rodriguez turns 21 in April and finished last season at the Double-A level. Rodriguez went 10-7 in 25 starts in High-A and Double-A with a 3.41 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP that included 125 strikeouts and 49 walks in 145 innings. Rodriguez was 4-3 in 11 starts after his promotion with a 4.22 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP (59 strikeouts, 24 walks, 59 2/3 innings). Rodriguez went 0-1 in five starts in the Arizona Fall League with a 5.52 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP (16 strikeouts, six walks and 16 hits allowed in 14 2/3 innings). Rodriguez throws a fastball in the 90-94 mph range and both a slider (80-84 mph) and a changeup (82-84 mph) that have the potential to be plus pitches according to Baseball America. Rodriguez projects as a middle of the rotation starter.

Mike Wright made one start at the Triple-A level last season after posting an 11-3 record in 26 starts at the Double-A level. Wright allowed 65 runs, 52 earned, on 158 hits with 136 strikeouts and 39 walks in 143 2/3 innings for Double-A Bowie. Wright turns 24 in January and throws a fastball in the 89-95 mph range with a slider, a changeup and a curveball. Baseball America thinks he could be a middle of the rotation starter while some in the Orioles’ organization see Wright as a back of the rotation starter or a late-inning reliever.

The Cubs should know the Orioles’ system very well due to last season’s deal that sent Scott Feldman to Baltimore for Pedro Stop and Jake Arrieta. Kubatko is not sure Dan Duquette would trade away any more pitching from the organization to add to the big league roster.

While the Samardzija rumors are still out there, the likelihood of any trade involving him before Masahiro Tanaka signs a contract would be slim at best.

Masahiro Tanaka

According to a report from Newsday, the Yankees reached out Casey Close about Masahiro Tanaka on Thursday. Marc Carig reported the “Yankees’ aggressiveness was expected, given their apparent willingness to enter a bidding war” for Tanaka. Carig also pointed out the Yankees appear willing to sail past their self-imposed $189 million cap for next season to sign Tanaka.

Wallace Matthews reported that “a bunch of teams, including the Yankees, have made their initial inquires to Close.”

Teams that inform MLB and NPB they are willing to pay Rakuten the $20 million release fee have until Jan. 24 to negotiate a deal with and sign Tanaka to a contract. This process should go down to the wire as Casey Close tries to find the best deal, and team, for Masahiro Tanaka. Matthews reported the sources he spoke with do not expect “anything substantial until sometime after New Year’s Day” on the Tanaka talks.

The Yankees, Cubs, Rangers, Diamondbacks, Astros, Mariners, Dodgers, Red Sox, Angels, Phillies and Braves could all be part of the bidding for Tanaka, plus the always-present ‘Mystery’ team.

Bob Nightengale reported team officials he spoke with indicated Tanaka will cost a minimum of $17 million a year and Jim Bowden was told Tanaka is looking for $17-$20 million per season on a five-six year deal. C.J. Nitkowski brought up the AAV’s for Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish with the posting fees added in on Twitter. Matsuzaka’s AAV was $17.1 million and Darvish ended up with a $17.9 million AAV, again with the posting fees added to their contracts. Nitkowski thinks Tanaka’s AAV could be $21-22 million which would put a six year deal at $109 million and a seven-year contract at $130 million, plus the $20 million release fee.

Former big leaguer, C.J. Nitkowski spent time pitching in Japan and fills in from time-to-time on MLB Network Radio. Nitkowski discussed Tanaka on Thursday night and mentioned that he might want to sign with a team in which he is the number one pitcher on the staff. If that is the case, a few of the teams might not be able to offer what Tanaka is looking for.

The Cubs could offer the chance of having a rotation being built around him and Jeff Samardzija. The other teams thought to be in on Tanaka have pitchers that would slot ahead of him in the rotation, with the exceptions of the Yankees if C.C. Sabathia continues his slide and both the Diamondbacks and Braves. The Dodgers’ rotation has Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke at the top of their staff. Jered Weaver (Angels), Yu Darvish (Rangers), Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma (Mariners), Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels (Phillies) and Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz (Red Sox) would be ahead of Tanaka in their respective rotations.

Jon Daniels downplayed the Rangers’ possible interest in Tanaka during an interview with Jim Bowden and Casey Stern during Inside Pitch (MLB Network Radio) on Friday afternoon. Daniels said he would not comment about Tanaka when Bowden asked if the Rangers would be involved in the bidding for him. Daniels did say he is “a little more focused on adding depth to the staff than somebody at the top.”

Jose Veras

The Cubs announced the signing of Jose Veras to a one-year contract for $4 million that includes a club option for the 2015 season on Friday. Veras’ deal includes an incentives package worth $750,000 based on games saved and finished. And the club option for 2015 is for $5.5 million with a $150,000 buyout.

With Jose Veras officially with the team, the Cubs’ 40-man roster stands at 40 players.

News and Notes

Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks tweeted on Friday that five of the top seven prospects on BP’s top 101 prospects for 2014 will be shortstops … Carlos Correa (Astros), Addison Russell (A’s), Francisco Lindor (Indians), Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox) and Javier Baez (Cubs). Parks considers Javier Baez one of the top five prospects in the game and three of the Cubs’ top prospects will be ranked among the first 25 prospects in BP’s Top 101.

Former Cubs’ farmhand, RHP Guillermo Moscoso signed with the Yokohama BayStars and will pitch in Japan next season. Moscoso was 7-5 in 17 starts for Triple-A Iowa last season with a 3.93 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP after the Cubs claimed him off waivers from the Blue Jays in late March. The Cubs traded Moscoso to the Giants for cash considerations on July 26 and he went 2-2 in 13 games, two starts, for San Francisco with a 5.10 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP.

Jim Bowden listed the Cubs as a possible destination for Matt Garza along with the Angels, Yankees, Orioles, Diamondbacks and Blue Jays. Bowden thinks the Angels would be the best first for Garza.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

[amazonjs asin=”1118459237″ locale=”US” tmpl=”Small” title=”Baseball Prospectus 2014: Fifth Edition”]

Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax