The potential big Cubs trade that never materialized
Every year before the non-waiver deadline, I write that we should expect the unexpected. Something will happen to make our heads spin. Something always does.
Here is an example of a trade that recently was discussed but never got close, and would have amounted to a bombshell if it had come to fruition.
The scenario, according to major-league sources, unfolded like this:
The Cubs tried to acquire left-hander Drew Pomeranz before the Padres sent him to the Red Sox for Class A right-hander Anderson Espinoza — simple enough.
The Cubs’ plan, though, wasn’t to keep Pomeranz, who is under club control through 2018. No, the Cubs wanted to spin Pomeranz for a starter who is under even longer team control.
I could not determine the identity of that starter — it was a pitcher whose “name is not out there (publicly), and probably is not going anywhere now,” one source said.
In any case, the Cubs balked at the Padres’ request of infielder Javier Baez for Pomeranz, believing it too high a price. The second part of the deal — the spinning of Pomeranz for the unidentified starter — would not necessarily have worked, either.
So, what does all this tell us?
• The Padres like Baez, which is not exactly a secret — they also tried to land him before last year’s non-waiver deadline, according to a report at the time from MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.
• And the Cubs, even though they are second in the National League in rotation ERA, are open to adding a starter under long-term control.
Javier Baez (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Such a pitcher would not necessarily fit into the team’s immediate plans — the Cubs’ top five starters have taken all but one turn this season — but that pitcher certainly could be part of the club’s future.
This trade did not happen. Hundreds of other proposed deals will not happen. But as I was saying, our heads will be spinning soon.
Jerry Manuel, former manager of the White Sox and Mets, is like many in baseball, concerned about the relatively small percentage of African-Americans playing the sport.
But Manuel, a member of the on-field diversity task force established by former commissioner Bud Selig in 2013, intends to take a major step to address the problem.
Manuel, rather than rejoin a major-league staff or resume his career as a television analyst, wants to do something completely different — become the manager at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU).
For starters, he pursued the job at Alabama State, but the school promoted assistant coach Jose Vazquez instead, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
“I thought, 'If I intend to make a difference, I need to be the one to do it,'” said Manuel, who works for baseball as a youth programs consultant. “'If I’m going to make a change, it has to be me.'”
Manuel, 62, is spending the next two weeks at baseball’s second annual Elite Development Invitational at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla. The events, funded by both the players and clubs, hosts more than 200 young people, ages 13 to 17, from minority or underserved backgrounds in a program geared toward elite training and instruction.
Jerry Manuel (Jim Luzzi/Getty Images)
It was while attending similar events over the past several years that Manuel became aware not just of the small percentages of African-Americans playing Division I baseball, but also the small numbers even at HBCUs.
“I thought, 'That’s ridiculous,'” Manuel said. “It kind of worried me a little bit. I said, ‘What can we do?’”
His initial thought was to hold clinics at HBCUs, encourage players, encourage coaches. But quickly, Manuel determined that he needed to do more.
As a manager, Manuel would be in position to recruit players from baseball’s various youth programs, make a difference in their lives academically and in some cases prepare them to play professionally.
“He’s a former big-league manager. He could probably do things with a higher profile,” said Tony Reagins, the former Angels GM who is baseball’s senior vice-president of youth programs.
“For him to take a step back and say, ‘I want to help these young people get the opportunity,’ it’s pretty important.”
To hear Manuel tell it, he had no choice.
“I know I have to go down this path,” he said. “I can’t expect anybody else to do this.”
Kyle Schwarber (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
One rival executive said that he is “100 percent” certain the Cubs will keep Kyle Schwarber, no matter how many times the Yankees ask for the slugger in a trade for Andrew Miller.
Schwarber is the Yankees’ principal target, according to ESPN, but the Cubs love Schwarber’s makeup and left-handed power, and think he could develop into one of the 10 best hitters in the game.
The exec cited another possible motivation for the Cubs to hold on to Schwarber as well.
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, shortstop Addison Russell and center fielder Albert Almora Jr. all are represented by Scott Boras, who generally prefers his clients to shun contract extensions in favor of establishing their values on the open market.
This is hardly an immediate concern: Bryant and Russell are not eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season. But perhaps the Cubs are more confident they could strike a long-term deal with Schwarber, who is represented by Excel Sports.
At first glance, the Astros’ signing of Cuban free agent Yulieski Gurriel would figure to make the team more open to moving Triple A third baseman Colin Moran.
Gurriel mostly has played third, and the Astros’ top offensive prospect, shortstop Alex Bregman, could move to the outfield next season because the team’s infield is so crowded.
Moran, though, offers something the Astros mostly lack going forward — a left-handed bat. Gurriel and Bregman both are right-handed. So are second baseman Jose Altuve, shortstop Carlos Correa and right fielder George Springer. Among the team’s other controllable hitters, only first baseman A.J. Reed bats left.
Colin Moran (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
The Astros, by the way, loved what they heard about Gurriel’s makeup, and believe that at 32 he could serve as a role model for the team’s core offensive players, all of whom are 26 or younger.
Right-handers Doug Fister, 33, and Scott Feldman, 32, fill that type of role for the pitching staff, and lefty Dallas Keuchel, 28, also is exceptionally mature.
The Orioles, as they search for a starting pitcher, are in roughly the same position as the Marlins, who one rival executive says will be unable to obtain anything more than a rental unless they trade off their major-league roster.
The problem for the Orioles is that a back-end, potential free-agent starter from the NL — say, Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, Rockies lefty Jorge de la Rosa or even Padres righty Andrew Cashner — might get chewed up in the AL East.
The O’s have been open to trading right-hander Dylan Bundy in the past, and perhaps the only way for them to land a controllable starter would be by dangling him again.
Such a move, though, could prove counter-productive.
Dylan Bundy (Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)
Bundy, after throwing just 63 1/3 innings the past three seasons due to injuries, will need to be handled carefully for the rest of the season, whether he remains in the rotation or returns to the bullpen. But team officials rave about his baseball IQ, and believe that he will be even better next season once they allow him to resume throwing his slider.
The Tigers also are in a difficult position as they look for a starter; their best prospects are at the lower levels, and their payroll already is at nearly $200 million. Then again, who knows what owner Mike Ilitch might do if the team remains in contention?
“Their budget is a moving number,” one rival executive cracked. “And it usually moves north.”