Cubs

Nolan Arenado's availability doesn't affect Kris Bryant's potential trade market

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USA TODAY

Nolan Arenado's availability doesn't affect Kris Bryant's potential trade market

Add another player to this offseason’s loaded third base market. Wednesday, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported the Rockies are willing to listen to trade inquiries on star third baseman Nolan Arenado.

In addition to Arenado, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is also potentially available for trade, based on several reports, while Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson are free agents.

Being “willing” to listen to trade inquires and seriously considering a deal are two very different things. Like the Cubs and Bryant, the Rockies would be foolish not to listen to inquiries regarding Arenado — or any of their players.

Arenado is a superstar and has averaged a .300/.362/.575 line, with 40 homers and 124 RBIs since 2015. Even playing in hitter-friendly Coors Field, that’s impressive. The 28-year-old has been an All-Star each of the past five years and has won seven-straight Gold Glove Awards.

In theory, Arenado’s availability affects the Cubs and Bryant’s trade market. Players like Arenado don’t grow on trees, and if teams want him bad enough, they could elect to pursue him rather than Bryant. This would take away suitors for the Cubs third baseman.

But in actuality, Arenado’s availability doesn’t change much for the Cubs.

Arenado signed a monster eight-year, $260 million deal with the Rockies in February. The Rockies may have to eat some of his salary in a trade, as it’s questionable if a team would take on Arenado’s full contract and give up a decent return package.

Example: when the Marlins dealt Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees in December 2017, Miami also sent $30 million to New York. In turn, the Yankees took on $260-$265 million of the $290 million left on Stanton’s contract, sending Starlin Castro and two prospects to Miami.

Arenado is much greater commitment than Bryant — both financially and in years. Bryant is projected to make $18.5 million in arbitration next season, a little more than half of Arenado’s $35 million salary.

There is a caveat with both players’ contract lengths. Arenado’s deal runs through 2026, but he can opt-out after 2021. Bryant is under contract through 2021, but if he wins his ongoing grievance case, he’ll hit the open market next winter.

Arenado also has a full no-trade clause, which would complicate any possible negotiations. 

Teams will have to weigh acquiring Arenado and taking on his massive salary, all while considering how he may leave in free agency in two years. The latter is true about Bryant as well, but he's the more affordable player.

And, ultimately, numerous teams are seeking a third baseman this winter. Once Rendon and Donaldson sign, the focus will shift to Arenado and Bryant for the three teams that lose out. 

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Brandon Kintzler, Cubs most consistent reliever in 2019, signs with Marlins: report

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USA TODAY

Brandon Kintzler, Cubs most consistent reliever in 2019, signs with Marlins: report

Brandon Kintzler officially won't be back on the North Side in 2020.

Saturday, ESPN's Jesse Rogers reported Kintzler has agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with the Marlins. The deal includes a $4 million option for 2021.

Kintzler was the Cubs' most consistent reliever in 2019, sporting a 2.68 ERA and 1.02 WHIP (both career highs) in 62 appearances. He was effective against both righties and lefties, the latter of which hit .163 against him.

The Cubs haven't been connected to Kintzler this offseason and have instead accumulated a plethora of low-cost, high-potential relievers. The organization has been extremely cognizant of MLB's luxury tax threshold after surpassing it in 2019 and wants to avoid becoming a repeat offender in 2020.

Kintzler becomes the second reliable reliever to depart the Cubs in free agency this winter, along with sidearmer Steve Cishek (White Sox). Pedro Strop is still a free agent, and while the Cubs have been connected to him, a recent report says the race to sign him is down to the Marlins and Rangers.

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4 Cubs crack MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects list

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MiLB

4 Cubs crack MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects list

MLB Pipeline unveiled its annual top 100 prospects list on Saturday, and four Cubs minor leaguers made the cut.

Nico Hoerner (SS; No. 51), Brailyn Marquez (LHP; 68), Brennen Davis (OF; 78) and Miguel Amaya (C; 95) cracked the list for the North Siders. It’s the first time the Cubs have had four players on the list since 2016: Ian Happ (No. 21), Eloy Jimenez (23), Albert Almora Jr. (82) and Dylan Cease (98).

So yeah, it’s been a minute.

Cubs fans are most familiar with Hoerner; the 22-year-old made his big-league debut last September in an emergency spot after Javy Báez and Addison Russell got hurt. Hoerner hit .282/.305/.436 in 20 games and held his own defensively.

Hoerner is ranked as the No. 9 overall shortstop prospect, and he’ll get an opportunity to make the 2020 Opening Day roster. With Báez entrenched at shortstop, Hoerner will shift to second base and potentially play some center field, though he's still learning the latter.

Marquez, 20, is Pipeline’s No. 9 left-handed pitching prospect. The Cubs have struggled to develop homegrown starting pitching under Theo Epstein. In fact, Marquez is the first Cubs pitcher (LHP or RHP) to crack MLB Pipeline’s top 10 pitchers list during Epstein’s tenure on the North Side.

Marquez sported a 3.13 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 22 starts between Single-A South Bend and advanced-A Myrtle Beach in 2019. The 20-year-old struck out 128 batters in 103 2/3 innings, walking 50.

Cubs senior director of player development Matt Dorey said the club has “really high expectations” for Marquez this season.

“Brailyn, his last half of last year in Myrtle was an epic run, just in terms of the raw stuff, the strikes, the breaking ball development,” Dorey said Sunday at Cubs Convention. “I think it’s a little early to decide where he’s going to start [the season], but I would guess Double-A.

“But I wanna see how he comes into camp — especially with our new pitching infrastructure — that we’re not missing anything with his delivery or anything from a pitch data perspective. We want to make sure that’s really tied before we send him out [for] a long, full season. It’s such a big year for him. But I think it would be foolish to put any cap on what he can do this year.”

Marquez allowed two earned runs or less in nine of his final 10 starts (he allowed three earned runs on Aug. 26 — the lone exception). The Cubs promoted him to Myrtle Beach on Aug. 6, where he posted a 1.71 ERA with 26 strikeouts and seven walks in five starts (26 1/3 innings).

The Cubs drafted Davis out of high school in 2018 (second round, No. 62 overall). The 20-year-old was more of a basketball player and had some Division I offers, but he ultimately signed with the Cubs and received a $1.1 million bonus.

Davis is considered to be a raw, athletic talent. He hit .305/.381/.525 with eight homers and a 160 wRC+ in 50 games with South Bend last season. He missed time after getting hit on the hand on two separate occasions.

Although Davis is listed as a center fielder (199 innings in 2019) he played left almost as frequently (193 2/3) in 2019. Pipeline projects him to make his big-league debut in 2022.

Amaya spent all of 2019 with Myrtle Beach, slashing .235/.351/.402 with a 122 wRC+ in 99 games. His defense has always been ahead of his bat, and he’s known to be an advanced catcher for his age.

The Cubs added Amaya to the 40-man roster in November in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft. However, he won’t make his big-league debut until 2021, at the earliest.

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