We all waited with bated breath yesterday as the non-tender deadline came and went. One person whose head seemed primed for the chopping block was Daniel Bard. I was sure that the existence of hidden camera video surveillance would ensure his return to the Cubs (and it yet might), but he was not tendered a contract yesterday, leaving him a free agent. All-in-all, three players were non-tendered and three signed contracts.
The Cubs signed infielder Donnie Murphy and catcher George Kottaras to one-year contracts Monday and tendered contracts to seven arbitration-eligible players, including Darwin Barney, Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood.
Besides Barney, Samardzija and Wood, the other arbitration-eligible players tendered 2014 contracts include pitchers Pedro Strop and James Russell, infielder Luis Valbuena and outfielder Nate Schierholtz.
Which now leaves the Cubs with 37 players on their 40-man roster, leaving room for someone else’s non-tender scraps, a Rule 5 draftee or maybe a certain Japanese pitcher.
The Yankees and Dodgers have long been viewed as the teams likely to be most aggressive in trying to win the negotiating rights for Masahiro Tanaka when (if?) a new posting system is finalized between Major League officials and their Japanese counterparts.
However, executives from two clubs that expect to at least participate in the bidding said to keep an eye out for the Cubs. An executive for one of the teams said, “They are my stealth candidate here to be really aggressive.”
The theory: The Cubs are loaded with as many high-end position prospects (Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler) as any club, but do not have pitching anywhere near that. They have tried to sign their best prime-aged starter, Jeff Samardzija, long-term, unsuccessfully, and probably will have to trade him, possibly as soon as this offseason. Meaning they will have yet another starter to replace.
As it stands right now, there is no current agreement on a posting system, so that must be worked out before Tanaka is posted.
Back on the home front, Julie heard yesterday from a source that the Cubs are more optimistic about signing Jeff Samardzija than they were a week ago. They might be even more inclined to hold on to him for awhile given the return the Tigers received yesterday in a trade with the Nationals.
Washington obtained right-hander Doug Fister from Detroit for infielder Steve Lombardozzi and left-handers Robbie Ray and Ian Krol on Monday.
Fister is 29, Samardzija 28. Fister was 14-9 with 208.2 innings pitched in 2013, with 6.86 K/9, 3.42 xFIP and 4.6 WAR. Samardzija was 8-13 with 213.2 innings pitched, 9.01 K/9, 3.45 xFIP and 2.8 WAR. Pretty similar pitchers, except for the K/9 stat. Both are still under team control for two more seasons. So who are those guys the Tigers got from Washington?
Ray is the primary piece of value here, as a young lefty with solid stuff who has already succeeded at Double-A, getting his walks under control for a 60 inning stint in the second half of the season. Combined with a velocity spike that saw him sitting in the low-to-mid 90s, Ray’s stock is up quite a bit from last year, and Baseball America just ranked him as the organization’s 5th best prospect heading into 2014, though his pronounced platoon splits and previous control issues suggest he might end up in the bullpen eventually.
Krol and Lombardozzi are filler pieces essentially. Krol’s a hard throwing youngster who fits best as a lefty specialist, and probably shouldn’t face good right-handers in critical situations at this point in his career. Lombardozzi’s a reserve infielder who isn’t much of a hitter and doesn’t have enough glove to cover shortstop, so while he’s young, the upside is pretty limited. Maybe he grows into his power and develops into an okay second baseman in a few years, but for right now, he’s kind of a replacement level bench guy without a ton of value.
In other words, very little. Dreaming of a top tier pitching prospect coming back in a Jeff Samardzija trade seems to be a little foolish now, unless the Tigers were just so determined to trade Fister for other reasons, like payroll. Either way, it appears the pendulum has swung back onto the side of a deal for Samardzija being retained.