Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have said in the last week the Cubs are looking for starting pitching. Reports have indicated the Cubs are working the phones trying to make a deal or two. The problem is there are less than a handful of sellers right now. Alex Anthopoulos and Sandy Alderson have also pointed out in recent days how few options are available on the market.
The Cubs lack of depth has been exposed as Theo Epstein mentioned Friday. “We are thin beyond our top four guys at the big league level. Even small depth moves are important to us right now.”
The Cubs would prefer to add players they would control beyond this year. While the Cubs have not ruled out trading for a rental, that would not be ideal and fit within the front office’s long-term plan.
As Rosenthal pointed out, Niese has not been very good this season and is owed a lot of money ($9 million in 2016, $10 million club option for 2017 with a $500,000 buyout). Niese is 3-7 in 14 starts with a 4.12 ERA, 1.52 WHIP and 4.39 FIP. Niese has been slightly better on the road (1-5 in eight starts with a 4.02 ERA and 1.51 WHIP) than at Citi Field (2-2 in six starts with a 4.25 ERA and 1.53 WHIP). And he bounced back from a shaky May to post a 0-2 record in his last four starts with a 3.46 ERA and 1.38 WHIP.
Rosenthal gave the impression the Mets would like to use Niese as a way to acquire a shortstop. Rosenthal did not mention any names and said it would likely take Niese being included as part of a larger package to acquire the type of shortstop Sandy Alderson would like to add to his roster.
This is not the first time over the last calendar year the Cubs have been connected to Jon Niese. The Mets do not want to give up any of their top young arms to acquire a bat and have been trying to find a taker for Jon Niese. While the mainstream media undervalues the Cubs’ shortstops, Theo Epstein’s front office does not.
Jim Salisbury talked to Cole Hamels about the trade rumors and speculation that are surrounding him. Hamels admitted he hears the talk and it “makes him laugh.”
Hamels explained to Salisbury that the Phillies front office has not approached him about trade possibilities. Hamels said that he is not in control of the situation, Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro Jr. are.
Hamels said, “I have not been approached. When I’m approached, then I can make a decision and provide an answer about a team.” Hamels added, “But I’m open-minded on everybody and everything.”
The Blue Jays and Astros are on Hamels no-trade list but he wouldn’t necessarily block a deal to either team. He only gets nine teams to choose from each year that he would not block a trade to. The Cubs, Cardinals, Nationals, Braves, Padres, Dodgers, Mets, Yankees and Rangers are the nine teams on his pre-approved trade list.
According to Jim Salisbury, the Phillies have been listening to proposals for Hamels “for months.” And the Phillies are “ready to pull the trigger when they get one they like.”
What was labeled as a showcase for Cole Hamels in the Bronx did not go very well for the lefty. Hamels faced the Yankees last Wednesday at The Stadium and was rocked. Hamels gave up five runs on eight hits in five innings, the second time in three starts Hamels allowed five runs on eight hits.
Outside of a start against the Pirates, Hamels has not been as sharp of late. Hamels is 0-2 in his last four starts with a 4.32 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP (12 runs on 25 hits with nine walks and 30 strikeouts). Some are questioning if all of the rumors have just gotten to him. Hamels next start is Tuesday.
The Yankees are one of the teams that are still very much interested in Hamels according to several reports. But Jon Heyman reported the Yankees were not in on Hamels as of Thursday. According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees may make a run at a big-name starting pitcher. Sherman listed Hamels, Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake as the starters the Yankees could try to acquire.
According to Joel Sherman, the Rangers interest in Hamels “is more smoke than fire” but several teams, the Cubs are believed to be one of them, continue to monitor Hamels.
The Phillies have not “lowered their heavy prospect demands” for Hamels according to Sherman’s report. And Jim Salisbury reported the Rangers unwillingness to part with either Nomar Mazara or Jorge Alfaro in a package for Hamels, along with the financial commitment, is what could keep a deal from being made between the two teams.
The consensus around baseball is that the Phillies, while one of the few teams that are in sell-mode right now, will wait to move Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon until Andy MacPhail is in place and has time to assess the situation.
LHP Scott Kazmir is having a good season for the surging, but still last place Athletics. And while he might not be going anywhere, he is high on the list of several teams looking for an upgrade in the rotation. Kazmir is 4-5 in 15 starts with a 2.79 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 3.52 FIP (85 strikeouts, 33 walks and 75 hits allowed in 90 1/3 innings). Kazmir appears fine after tightness in his shoulder forced him to skip a start.
The Cubs are one of the teams that have been linked to Kazmir. Last week, Bruce Levine even reported Scott Kazmir was one of the pitchers the Cubs are targeting.
The Astros are one of the many teams looking for starting pitching and have been heavily connected to Scott Kazmir in recent weeks. According to Peter Gammons, there is a buzz in the Astros’ organization about a potential Kazmir deal.
Once Billy Beane decides to start making deals, Scott Kazmir is expected to be one of the first players he trades in order to max out his value.
The Cubs made a late push in the off-season to sign RHP James Shields. Joe Maddon tried to get one of his favorite players to sign with his new team, but Shields picked San Diego instead and said the Cubs were his second choice to the Padres.
It has not gone has planned for the Padres. A.J. Preller created headlines in the off-season with all of his moves but to this point the roster he assembled has struggled and he has already fired Bud Black.
Buster Olney reported that “some rival officials wonder if the Cubs would be a perfect landing spot for Shields” if the Padres decide to sell before the deadline.
There is a lot of speculation right now on what the Padres will do over the next month. With the way Shields’ contract was structured it is hard to see how the Cubs would want to give up any prospects and take on the money. Shields is owed the remainder of his $10 million salary for this season. And starting in 2016, Shields’ contract calls for a yearly salary of $21 million through the 2018 season. Shields has an opt out after the 2016 season and there is a $16 million club option for 2019 that includes a $2 million buyout.
After a good start to the year (2-0 in five starts with a 2.90 ERA and 1.13 WHIP), Shields started struggling in May (4-0 in six starts with a 4.34 ERA and 1.29 WHIP) and has been awful of late. Shields is 1-2 in his last five starts with a 5.52 ERA and 1.60 WHIP.
It is really difficult to see how James Shields could be an option for the Cubs with better options, such as David Price and Jordan Zimmermann, five months away from free agency.
More Pitching Rumors
• According to Nick Cafardo, the Red Sox could decide to trade RHP Clay Buchholtz. The 30-year old righty (turns 31 on Aug. 14) is one of the few positives for the Red Sox this season. Buchholtz is 5-6 in 15 starts with a 3.68 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 2.72 FIP. Buchholtz has allowed 97 hits with 23 walks and 91 strikeouts in 93 innings. Buchholtz has two more years of club control on the extension he signed with Theo Epstein in April 2011. Buchholtz has a $13 million club option ($245,000 buyout) for 2016 and a $13.5 million club option ($500,000) for 2017. There has not been a connection to the Cubs made by the mainstream media. If the Sox make Buchholtz available, will Theo Epstein or Jed Hoyer make the call to Ben Cherington?
• RHP Aaron Harang is one of several veterans the Phillies are expected to move before the trade deadline. Harang is having a solid season for a bad team. The veteran right-hander is 4-10 in 16 starts with a 3.56 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 4.02 FIP. Harang has given up 90 hits with 26 strikeouts and 72 strikeouts in 101 innings. With the injuries the Cubs are dealing with in the rotation and the history Jed Hoyer has with Harang (Padres, 2011) it would not come as a surprise if he is linked to the Cubs in the near future. The Cubs were rumored to be interested in Harang prior to the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Harang is a free agent after the season and is owed around $2.5 million on the one-year, $5 million contract he signed with Philly in January.
• According to a report from ESPN New York, the Mets are willing to overpay for a hitter but nothing is available.
• Not long after the news hit the wire that OF Giancarlo Stanton broke the hamate bone in his left hand/wrist, multiple reports surfaced suggesting the Marlins could trade RHP Mat Latos and/or RHP Dan Haren. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer tried to trade RHP Carlos Marmol to the Angels for RHP Dan Haren in November 2012. The deal fell apart shortly after it was leaked. Haren was sent from the Dodgers to the Marlins, against his wishes, this past winter. Haren is having a good year for Miami (6-5 with a 3.38 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 4.26 FIP … 76 hits, 18 walks and 70 strikeouts in 93 1/3 innings) while the Dodgers foot the bill for his entire $10 million salary for this season. The Cubs have not been connected to Haren by the mainstream media.