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Posted on: January 9, 2012 7:34 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 11:17 pm
 

Garza-to-Tigers rumors persist

By Matt Snyder

Just over an hour ago, I surmised that the Cubs' reportedly strong interest in Paul Maholm was a true sign that they were set to deal Matt Garza (UPDATE: The Cubs have indeed signed Maholm). Sure enough, a report from Dave Kaplan of Comcast Chicago says that the Cubs and Tigers are "down the road in discussions" on a trade proposal that would send Garza to Detroit.

At this point, it wouldn't be surprising if Garza just wanted to be traded in order get the rumors overwith. His name has been bouncing around the rumor mill for the better part of six weeks. The Blue Jays and Yankees have also been mentioned quite heavily in Garza rumors. In any of those respective rotations, he would most likely slot as a No. 2 starter.

If the Cubs did trade Garza and sign Maholm, the best bet is their five-man rotation for the 2012 season is set with Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Travis Wood, Maholm and Chris Volstad (with Andy Sonnanstine as the injury replacement). The season is going to be one of transition anyway, so the Cubs would then see what they had in the latter four while Dempster would be a free agent following the season -- and perhaps he fetches a prospect or two before the trade deadline in July.

As for the Tigers, they're built to win right now, having lost the ALCS to the Rangers last season. Garza bolsters the rotation behind reigning Cy Young and MVP winner Justin Verlander, along with Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. Would the Tigers cough up top prospect Jacob Turner? There have been conflicting reports on that, but it's a good bet that's who Cubs bosses Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have their eyes on.

Turner, 20, is a right-handed pitcher who had a 3.44 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 110 strikeouts in 131 minor-league innings last season, across Double- and Triple-A. Many scouts believe he profiles as a frontline starter once his development is complete.

Garza, 28. was 10-10 with a 3.32 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 197 strikeouts in 198 innings pitched. Between poor run support and a pretty terrible defense behind him, however, Garza pitched much better than his raw numbers would indicate.

Even if this report is inaccurate, don't expect Garza's name to be removed from rumors until either he is traded or the Cubs' season begins.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: January 6, 2012 2:11 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 3:54 pm
 

Cubs, Padres exchange Cashner, Rizzo



By Matt Snyder


The Cubs have traded highly-touted pitcher Andrew Cashner along with outfielder Kyung-Min Na to the Padres for highly-touted first baseman Anthony Rizzo and pitcher Zach Cates, the clubs announced Friday.

This deal is very notable for two particular reasons. First of all, it's a continuation of both teams' complete offseason makeovers under new leadership. That is especially interesting in this particular trade, because the Padres have a new general manager specifically because the Cubs do. Once Theo Epstein took over as Cubs team president, he hired Padres GM Jed Hoyer to be the new Cubs GM.

The second interesting part of this trade is that both (main) players are guys who have been ranked as top 100 prospects in baseball and haven't yet had long enough stints in the majors to see what they're capable of in the long term.

Cubs, Padres offseason trades
Rizzo, 22, was the major piece in the trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston, but new Padres' general manager Josh Byrnes seemed ready to move on from Rizzo after acquiring Yonder Alonso from the Reds in the Mat Latos trade.

“The acquisition of Yonder Alonso provided us the flexibility to make this trade and acquire a quality, young power arm in Andrew Cashner,” said Byrnes in a release. “We are happy to add a pitcher with the pedigree of Cashner and an outfielder with the athleticism of Na.”

Cashner, 25, was the Cubs' first-round pick in 2008. He's a hard-throwing right-hander. He won the Cubs' fifth starter job out of spring training last season, but injured his rotator cuff during his first start of the season and was unable to come back until September. On the season he had a 1.69 ERA and 0.66 WHIP with eight strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings. It's worth noting that he's moving to Petco Park, one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the majors.

But questions remain. Can he really be a starter, or just a one-inning reliever? His rotator cuff issue last year worried some. And on a conference call Friday afternoon, Byrnes said Cashner will be a reliever in 2012. Perhaps an eighth-inning setup man for Huston Street, but Byrnes said he's not ready to anoint Cashner with that role just yet.

Rizzo hit .331/.404/.652 with 26 homers and 101 RBI in 93 Triple-A games last season, but struggled mightily in his 153 major-league plate appearances (.141/.281/.242). He certainly benefits from moving out of Petco Park and into Wrigley Field, of course. It's extremely unlikely the Cubs would trade Cashner for Rizzo and still make a run at Prince Fielder, so those rumors need to die now. As for any Bryan LaHair fans, we have good news. Hoyer said on a conference call that Rizzo will open the season in Triple-A and LaHair will be the first baseman on opening day.

As with Cashner, Rizzo has questions as well. Is his swing too long to be a star in the majors? What did Byrnes and other Padres' front-office people see that made them want to pounce on Alonso and deal Rizzo so quickly?

Still, for now at least, this deal seems to make a good deal of sense for two ballclubs trying to completely alter the franchise.

The other two players involved appear to be throw-ins. Cates, 22, was 4-10 with a 4.73 ERA and 1.36 WHIP last season in Class A. Na, 20, hit .268/.358/.312 with 20 stolen bases in 83 games across four levels last season -- with most of his time spent between Rookie Ball and Class A.

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Posted on: January 4, 2012 6:09 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2012 8:49 pm
 

Marlins agree to trade for Carlos Zambrano



By Matt Snyder


The Cubs have agreed to trade volatile and highly-paid starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano to the Marlins, with an announcement coming as soon as Thursday, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman has learned. The preliminary deal is that the Cubs would pick up the overwhelming majority of the $18 million Zambrano is owed for 2012 and that starting pitcher Chris Volstad is headed to the Cubs. Multiple reports indicate the Cubs will pay $15 million to the Marlins.

New Cubs president Theo Epstein has been publicly saying he'd give Zambrano one last chance in Chicago throughout the entire offseason. In fact, earlier Wednesday on a Chicago radio show, Epstein said that he was "skeptical" but would give Zambrano a chance to prove he's changed. It's not too surprising that he would be putting off that vibe publicly while privately trying to rid his club of a past cancer, though.

For stretches, when Zambrano could remain healthy and well-behaved, he produced as a frontline starting pitcher. He's a three-time All-Star who finished exactly fifth three times in NL Cy Young voting. After anger management sessions midseason in 2010, he closed the season in lights-out fashion, going 8-0 with a 1.24 ERA. But then Zambrano walked out on his team last August after getting ejected from a game in Atlanta. Then-general manager Jim Hendry basically kicked Zambrano off the team, sending him away and placing him on the restricted list.

Cubs/Marlins coverage
Considering this and the fact that Zambrano is owed such a lofty salary next season, it's easy to see why Epstein wasn't so quick to cut ties with Zambrano for nothing. But it's possible Zambrano's long-time friendship with new Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen made the deal easier to consummate.

Guillen was specifically asked about Zambrano during the Winter Meetings and said the two exchange text messages everyday.

"Every time I talk to Zambrano," Guillen said, "all of a sudden people think I'm talking about contracts or moving him to the Marlins. That's tampering."

He then joked: "We do that on the side, not around people."

So while Guillen hasn't publicly courted Zambrano, it's obvious the two are great friends and would love to work with each other. Thus, the no-trade clause shouldn't be much of an issue.

The Marlins already have a top two in the rotation in Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. With Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco around, they could feasibly slot Zambrano as the fifth starter in an attempt to alleviate any pressure he'd put on himself.

Volstad, 25, was 5-13 with a 4.89 ERA and 1.43 WHIP last season. He was once a fairly-highly touted prospect but hasn't made a great transition to the majors, aside from a solid rookie campaign (6-4, 2.88 ERA, 1.33 WHIP in 2008).

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: January 1, 2012 2:12 pm
 

Jason Frasor traded back to Blue Jays

By Matt Snyder

For the second time this winter, the White Sox have shipped a relief pitcher to the Blue Jays. This time around, it's Jason Frasor headed back to Toronto in exchange for minor league pitchers Myles Jaye and Daniel Webb, the White Sox have announced.

The two clubs also made a trade during the Winter Meetings, sending closer Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays. Also interesting here is that Frasor was traded to the White Sox by the Blue Jays in July. He's made 475 career appearances, 455 of which came with the Blue Jays, so Frasor is definitely back where he's familiar.

Frasor, 34, had a 3.60 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in 60 innings last season, but he was much better (2.98 ERA, 1.25 WHIP) with the Blue Jays. He was really bad for the White Sox after the deal. So maybe the change of scenery was bad and he'll recover now that he's back with the Jays.

Jaye is a 20-year-old right-hander. He went 3-3 with a 3.00 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 54 innings in Rookie Ball last season.

Webb is a 22-year-old right-hander. He was 4-5 with a 5.48 ERA in 67 1/3 innings last season, all but 1 1/3 of which were in Class A. He also threw 1 1/3 innings in Rookie Ball.

Frasor will be part of the bridge to Santos, along with also-newly acquired Darren Oliver and Casey Janssen.

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Posted on: December 29, 2011 12:27 pm
Edited on: December 29, 2011 12:28 pm
 

Under new Cubs regime, patience is the word



By Matt Snyder


Back when the Cubs first hired Theo Epstein to be the club president, I wrote that we shouldn't expect to see a short-term fix to a currently badly flawed team and organization. "The band-aid-on-a-broken-leg approach got Jim Hendry fired, so there's no way [Cubs chairman] Tom Ricketts would hire Epstein to do the same thing," I wrote.

It's now a few months later and we've seen a bevy of moves by Epstein, but none of them are big names. David DeJesus, Ian Stewart, Travis Wood, Andy Sonnanstine and Manny Corpas will hardly be mistaken for Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols, Jonathan Papelbon and C.J. Wilson anytime soon.

In that same article I referenced above, I wrote that Epstein had three possible routes to take in building the Cubs. I incorrectly guessed he'd try to win now while also building the foundation. Instead, Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have elected to take the long, slow rebuild route. It would appear any veteran with trade value is going to be dealt (Matt Garza and Marlon Byrd likely the next two, while one would expect the likes of Carlos Marmol, Geovany Soto and Ryan Dempster to be available by the trade deadline in July) as Sean Marshall already has been.

Now, it's awfully tough to tell a fanbase that has never seen a World Series championship (I mean, there can't possibly be a 110-year-old Cubs fan that remembers when he was seven, right?) to be patient, but that's how it has to be. The franchise needed a complete overhaul, and the process has begun. Give Ricketts credit for hiring a guy and giving him enough leeway to take as long as he needs to rebuild the organization. In return, the fans need to be patient and keep their eyes on the prize. Ricketts, Epstein and Hoyer are trying to slowly build one of the best farm systems in the majors while also being able to put together a massive payroll that dwarfs those of the competitors in the NL Central.

Cubs offseason
One would expect most fans to be open-minded about the situation. Thankfully, I couldn't find any "fire Theo Epstein" boards on the Internet (at least not from his Cubs perch) just yet. Our @EyeOnBaseball Twitter account did receive a deluge of messages from a disgruntled fan last week, though. The fan wanted Epstein fired immediately because he didn't sign Pujols and Mark Buehrle while also keeping Aramis Ramirez. I'm betting this kind of short-sighted sentiment is in the minority, but let's be realistic here. The Cubs were 71-91 last season. They have a mediocre farm system. Any attempt to make a quick fix would handcuff the franchise.

Let's keep all of this in mind when the 2012 Cubs suck. Any they will. They are going to be really bad. Any veteran performing well will probably be flipped to a contender in July (picture the Astros last season trading Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn while also shopping Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers). The fans who abandon the Cubs after a bad 2012 season aren't the real ones. The fans calling for the heads of Ricketts, Epstein and Hoyer aren't the ones with foresight. No, the real fans are the ones who will realize it's a rebuilding process and that the new braintrust is building the foundation through all these trades and can expect a top five overall draft pick in 2013. Also realize the Cubs, who can likely afford a player payroll of $150 million, only have $33.05 million committed in salaries in 2013 (Cot's Contracts).

Remember, this is a process. It's one that will likely transform the Cubs into a major player in the National League landscape -- possibly by as early as 2013. You don't change a century-plus loser into a winner by spending money like Montgomery Brewster (who, funnily enough, wore a Cubs jersey) just to fill two or three of dozens of holes. For now, the Cubs are a sleeping giant. In a few years, they might just be the Evil Empire of the NL Central.

As for the fans, listen to Axl Rose: "All (you) need, is just a little patience."

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: December 22, 2011 4:34 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 10:15 pm
 

Gio Gonzalez traded to Nats for four prospects



By Matt Snyder


The Washington Nationals have landed left-handed starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman has confirmed. In return, the A's will receive a veritable killing that is usually reserved for an ace-type pitcher. Tommy Milone, Brad Peacock, Derek Norris and A.J. Cole are headed to Oakland's system in a trade that was first reported by ESPN.com. In fact, Peacock and Milone are probably going to be thrown into the A's starting rotation. UPDATE: CBSSports.com's Scott Miller reports that the Nationals will also get right-handed pitcher Robert Gilliam.

"It's 99 percent done," Gonzalez said (Associated Press). "It's pending a physical and I'm just waiting to hear from my agent."

On the Washington end, they are getting a 26-year-old lefty who isn't eligible to be a free agent until 2016. Gonzalez was 16-12 with a 3.12 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 202 innings last season for the A's. Of course, he also led the majors with 91 walks. Still, he's pretty tough to hit, holding opposing hitters to a .230 batting average and .336 slugging percentage last season.

With Gonzalez alongside Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, the Nationals have a formidable trio to lead their rotation for several years. Further, with John Lannan and Chien-Ming Wang -- and Ross Detwiler as insurance -- the Nats have a very strong rotation top to bottom. They are coming off their best NL East finish since the move to Washington -- third place -- as they'd previously finished in last place five times and fourth place once.

Gilliam, 24, appears to be a throw-in. He was 12-7 with a 5.04 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in High-A ball last season. He did strike out 8.5 batters per nine innings, though.

More Hot Stove
As for the A's, they are clearly rebuiling, just as we've known all winter. They already traded All-Star pitcher Trevor Cahill to the Diamondbacks and are still rumored to be close to trading closer Andrew Bailey.

This deal will go a long way toward setting up the future, and -- as I mentioned earlier -- Milone and Peacock probably step into the rotation with Brandon McCarthy and two others (Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden are still recovering from season-ending surgeries) immediately.

Milone is a 24-year-old left-hander. He was 12-6 with a 3.22 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 155 strikeouts in 148 1/3 innings in Triple-A last season. He was then promoted to the big-league club and made five starts, with decent success. He had a 3.81 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 26 innings with 15 strikeouts and four walks (and two of those were intentional).

Peacock was pretty dominant last season at three different levels. The 23-year-old right-hander started the season in Double-A, where he went 10-2 with a 2.01 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 129 strikeouts in 98 2/3 innings. He then struck out a batter per inning in Triple-A for nine starts and was moved up to the Nationals. In 12 big-league innings, Peacock only gave up seven hits and one run (0.75 ERA).

Norris, 22, is a high-on-base, power-hitting catcher. Last season, he hit just .210 but had a .367 on-base percentage with 20 home runs in Double-A. He also stole 13 bases and threw out 40 percent of would-be base-stealers.

Cole, 19, is a bit away from the bigs but has high upside according to many scouting services. The 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher went 4-7 with a 4.04 ERA for Class-A Hagerstown last year, but he also struck out 108 batters in 89 innings.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.


Posted on: December 20, 2011 1:23 pm
 

Mets, Rockies discussing possible Young trade

By Matt Snyder

The Colorado Rockies are discussing a trade with the New York Mets that would ship Eric Young Jr. to New York, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman has learned.

Young, 26, hit .247/.342/.298 for the Rockies last season. Yes, that's a slugging percentage of less than .300, which is abysmal. Young does have great speed, though, as he stole 27 bases in 31 attempts. Unless the Rockies trade Seth Smith, Young is stuck as the Rockies' fifth outfielder, so dealing him could mean they keep Smith as the extra outfielder behind Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer. Smith could then start when Cuddyer spells Todd Helton at first.

Young's fit on the Mets would appear to be as the fourth outfielder and also insurance for newly-acquired center fielder Andres Torres, who struggled last season. Fernando Martinez is also in house, but the New York Post reports the Mets are considering shopping the formerly-hyped prospect.

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Posted on: December 19, 2011 8:49 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2011 8:55 pm
 

Add the Nationals to list of Gio Gonzalez suitors



By Matt Snyder


A's starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez has been one of the hottest names swirling through trade rumors this offseason. It's not a rumor, it's reality, that he's on the block. CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler reported last week that the Tigers, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rangers and Reds were among the suitors for Gonzalez. Oakland general manager Billy Beane is shooting for the stars, too, because Knobler reported that the A's asked the Marlins for blossoming slugger Mike Stanton. And now we can add the Nationals to the mix.

Hot Stove League
Knobler confirmed that Washington has talked about a swap for Gonzalez, after a report from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports stated the Nats are "pushing hard" and talking about dealing four players for Gonzalez.

Also, with the Reds having acquired Mat Latos, you can cross them off the list of suitors. If the Rangers or Blue Jays land Japanese phenom Yu Darvish -- the two clubs are the reported favorites -- you can cross another name off the list. Still, it looks like the A's could end up being a big winner as things stand, with so many teams looking to add one more starter and a dearth of names available through a trade or free agency.

Gonzalez, a 26-year-old left-hander, was 16-12 with a 3.12 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 197 strikeouts in 202 innings last season. Good numbers, but he also led the AL with 91 walks and plays half his games in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the majors. Last season his home ERA was 2.70 and his road ERA was 3.62.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com